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Title: A United States Midshipman in the Philippines
Author: Yates Stirling Jr.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE PHILIPPINES ***


[Illustration: _SOME ONE TURNED ON THE CURRENT_]



  A
  UNITED STATES
  MIDSHIPMAN
  IN THE
  PHILIPPINES

  _by_

  Lt. Com. Yates Stirling Jr. U.S.N.

  Author of

  “A U.S. Midshipman Afloat”
  “A U.S. Midshipman in China”
  “A U.S. Midshipman in Japan”
  “A U.S. Midshipman in the South Seas”

  [Illustration]

  Illustrated _by_ Ralph L. Boyer

  THE PENN PUBLISHING
  COMPANY PHILADELPHIA
  MCMXIII



  COPYRIGHT
  1910 BY
  THE PENN
  PUBLISHING
  COMPANY

  [Illustration]



Introduction


The writer has attempted to describe in this volume the life of two
young midshipmen of the United States Navy, serving in a small gunboat
in Philippine waters.

The fighting between the United States troops and the lawless bands
of Filipino bandits (for they were bandits, more or less, after
Aguinaldo’s army had been dispersed) was in most cases “hand to hand”
and to the death. The navy had but small share in this war, but in some
instances the helpful coöperation of their web-footed brothers saved
the soldiers from embarrassing situations.

Midshipman Philip Perry and his classmate at Annapolis, Sydney Monroe,
first made their appearance in “A United States Midshipman Afloat.”
They had a part in stirring adventures during one of the frequent South
American revolutions. Here they became involved in diplomatic intrigue,
and had some success; but unfortunately diplomatic successes cannot
always be proclaimed to the world.

“A United States Midshipman in China” told of the adventures of the
same boys in China during a threatened uprising of fanatical Chinese
against the foreigners. Here again diplomacy counseled silence, and
their reward for saving the day was a mild rebuke from their admiral.
One of the principal characters in all three books is Jack O’Neil, a
typical modern man-of-war’s man.

These books are written in an endeavor to portray the life led by young
officers in the naval service. The writer’s own experiences warrant
the belief that the incidents are not unusual. The midshipmen are not
merely automatons. To one of Napoleon’s pawns an order was an order,
to be obeyed, right or wrong. But the doctrine, “their’s not to reason
why” when “some one has blundered” is no longer accepted as an excuse
for poor results. In these days of progress we court-martial an officer
who stubbornly obeys an order, when he knows that to do so will injure
the cause he has sworn to uphold.

Further account of the boys’ stirring adventures will be found in “A U.
S. Midshipman in Japan” and “A U. S. Midshipman in the South Seas.”



Contents


      I. THE START FOR PALILO                      9

     II. A POLITE CAPTOR                          25

    III. A LEAK OF MILITARY INFORMATION           41

     IV. LANDED IN CAPTIVITY                      54

      V. CAPTAIN BLYNN MARCHES                    71

     VI. THE “MINDINAO”                           83

    VII. THE GUNBOAT COÖPERATES                  101

   VIII. THE PRIVILEGES OF RANK                  119

     IX. THE KATIPUNAN SOCIETY                   138

      X. IN THE SHADOW OF A SUSPICION            158

     XI. A TRAITOR UNMASKED                      175

    XII. THE MIDSHIPMEN RECONNOITRE              189

   XIII. UNWELCOME COMPANIONS                    212

    XIV. CLEVERLY OUTWITTED                      225

     XV. A NIGHT OF ALARM                        241

    XVI. A FILIPINO MARTYR                       259

   XVII. A DARING PLAN                           277

  XVIII. A RIVER EXPEDITION                      292

    XIX. A WILLING CAPTIVE                       308

     XX. THE STRUGGLE FOR THE STRONGHOLD         324

    XXI. THE GUNBOAT TAKES A HAND                336

   XXII. THE ESCAPED OUTLAW                      346

  XXIII. COLONEL MARTINEZ                        355

   XXIV. THE GUNBOAT ON GUARD                    366

    XXV. CONCLUSION                              377



Illustrations


                                                PAGE

  SOME ONE TURNED ON THE CURRENT      _Frontispiece_

  HERE WAS FREEDOM WITHIN HIS GRASP               69

  “I AM IN COMMAND HERE!”                        126

  “HELLO, HERE ARE SOME CANOES!”                 205

  UP THE FACE OF THE CLIFF                       288

  HE GAZED DOWN INTO THE STILL FACE              333

  A MAN STEPPED SILENTLY FROM BEHIND A TREE      356



A United States Midshipman In the Philippines



CHAPTER I

THE START FOR PALILO


The “Isla de Negros,” a small inter-island steamer, lay moored
alongside the dock in the turbulent waters of the Pasig River, the
commercial artery of the city of Manila. As the last of its cargo was
noisily carried on board by a swarm of half-naked stevedores, the
slender lines which held the steamer to the stone quay were cast off,
and with many shrill screeches from its high treble whistle the steamer
swung its blunt bow out into the strength of the current.

On the upper deck of the vessel, clad in white naval uniforms, two
United States midshipmen stood in silent contemplation of the activity
about them. They watched with undisguised interest the hundreds
of toiling orientals; resembling many ant swarms, traveling and
retraveling incessantly between the countless hulls of steamers and
lorchas and the long rows of hastily constructed storehouses facing
the river frontage. Here and there stood a khaki-clad sentry, rifle
in hand and belt filled with ball cartridges, America’s guardian of
the precious stores now being idly collected. Into these spacious
storehouses the sinews of war for the army of occupation were being
hoarded to be afterward redistributed among the small steamers plying
between the metropolis, Manila, and the outlying islands of the
archipelago.

The American army in the Philippines, always too small for the
stupendous task before it, was at last, owing to the added disaffection
of the tribes in the Southern islands, receiving the attention from
home which had long been withheld, and its numbers were being increased
by the arrival of every transport from the far-away homeland.

“We are here at last, Syd,” Midshipman Philip Perry exclaimed, a ring
of triumph in his voice as he turned toward his fellow midshipman,
Sydney Monroe. Friends of long standing were these two; for four
years at the Naval Academy at Annapolis they had been companions and
classmates, and during the past year they had together witnessed
stirring service in South America and in China.

“We’ve missed nearly six months of the war,” Sydney replied
querulously; “from the last accounts, Aguinaldo is on the run. Why,”
he ended mirthlessly, “the war may be over before we even see the
‘Mindinao.’”

“Pessimistic as usual,” Phil laughingly retorted; “where we are going,
in the words of the immortal John Paul Jones, they ‘haven’t begun to
fight.’”

The steamer had now swung her bow down river, and the chug of the
engines told the lads that they were fairly started on their voyage
to Palilo, the capital of the island of Kapay, where the gunboat
“Mindinao” was awaiting them.

“Hello, what’s this?” Phil exclaimed, while the engine bell rang with
throaty clanks, and the chugging of the engines ceased. The two lads
leaning inquiringly over the rail, saw a small navy launch steam
alongside the moving steamer; then a tightly lashed bag and hammock
were thrown on deck, and finally from the depths of the white canopied
awning there appeared the familiar form of a sailor, who sprang nimbly
on board, waving a parting good-bye to his mates, while the launch
swung away; and again the “Negros’” engines chugged noisily.

“Jack O’Neil!” the two lads cried, their faces beaming with surprised
pleasure as they grasped the newcomer’s hand.

“It’s me, sir,” the sailor declared ungrammatically though heartily,
highly delighted at his enthusiastic reception. “Telegraphic orders
from the admiral to report to Midshipman Perry, commanding the gunboat
‘Mindinao.’”

“But where’s your old ship, the ‘Monadnock’?” Sydney questioned
blankly. “We looked for her this morning as we came in on the cattle
boat from Hongkong. Is she in the bay?”

“Sure, sir, she is,” returned O’Neil, “over there at Paranaque keeping
the ladrones out of the navy-yard with her ten-inch guns. They made a
rush for it once, about six months ago, then the gugus had an army
and we were kept guessing; but a few brace of hot ten-inch birds,
exploding near them from our coffee kettle of a monitor soon made
’em change their minds. They decided they hadn’t lost nothing at the
navy-yard after all. But,” he ended, the enthusiasm dying out of his
voice, “that, I said, was six months ago; we’ve been bailing out there
ever since, awnings furled, guns loaded, expecting to be boarded every
night.” He made a gesture of utter disgust as he stopped.

“They don’t know anything, these gugus,” he began again, seeing that
his friends didn’t understand his disjointed explanation; “they won’t
try to board a man-of-war. They’ll attack you on shore; but as for
paddling out in their canoes to capture a steel monitor, it’s too
absurd. Yet we stood watch on and watch off every night waiting for
’em to board. Do you blame me, sir, for feeling happy when I got these
orders?” tapping his telegram against an awning stanchion. “This means
life again; like we had in the dago country and up with them pigtailed
chinks.”

The midshipmen slapped the loquacious sailor joyfully on the back.

“You’re not half as glad to be with us as we are to have you,” Phil
exclaimed frankly. “We’re just aching for something worth while--we’ve
been roasting up on the Yangtse River since you left us, doing nothing
except watch the grass burn up and the water in the river fall. I never
felt such heat.”

While the Americans were talking the little steamer slipped noisily
down the busy river and out on the bay made famous by Admiral Dewey on
that memorable May morning.

Corregidor Island lifted itself slowly out of a molten sea to the
westward. The “Negros’” bow was pointed out through the southern
channel, passing close to the precipitous island, standing like an
unbending sentinel on guard between the wide portals of the Bay of
Manila.

“A few guns over there on Corregidor would soon stop this talk of
our waking up some morning and finding Manila at the mercy of an
enemy,” Phil declared after studying the landscape earnestly. “But
these islands are too far away for our people at home to take much
interest. Half of them would be glad to see another nation wrest them
from us.--Hello! there’s one of those native lorchas,”[1] he added as
his keen eye discovered a sail some miles away almost ahead of their
steamer; “we passed one coming in this morning on the ‘Rubi.’ I looked
at her through the captain’s spy-glass; her crew were the ugliest
looking cutthroats I’ve ever seen. They reminded me of that picture
‘Revenge.’ Do you know it?” he asked suddenly turning to Sydney, and
then describing the picture in mock tragic tones: “A half score of
scowling Malays, in the bow of their ‘Vinta’; their curved swords in
their mouths and their evil faces lustful with passion and hope of
blood, approaching their defenseless victims. I hope the captain gives
them a wide berth, for I haven’t even a revolver.”

The Americans had so far discovered but few people on board the
steamer; the captain and pilot were on the bridge while on the lower
decks there were scarcely a dozen lazy natives, listlessly cleaning the
soiled decks and coiling up the confused roping.

“Do you think we are the only passengers?” Sydney asked as they entered
their stateroom to make ready for the evening meal.

Phil shook his head.

“No, there must be others, for I heard a woman’s voice in a cabin near
ours.”

As they again emerged on deck and walked aft to where their steamer
chairs had been placed, a young Filipino girl rose from her seat
and bowed courteously to the two young officers. Phil noticed as he
saluted that she was a remarkably pretty girl of the higher class
dressed in becoming native costume, and from her dark eyes there shone
intelligence and knowledge.

“Have I one of the señor’s chairs?” she asked in excellent Spanish. “It
was very stupid of me to have forgotten mine.”

Both lads remarked at once the air of good breeding and the pleasing
voice; the guttural lisp so common in the Malay was lacking. She could
not have appeared more at her ease and yet they saw by her dark skin
and straight black hair that no other blood than the native flowed in
her veins.

“This is my small brother,” she explained as a slight lad of about
seven came toward them from behind a small boat, resting on the skids
of the upper deck. “He is my only companion,” she added half shyly.

The midshipmen were at a loss how to talk to this girl of an alien
race. If her skin had been fair they would have welcomed her gladly,
seeing before them a pleasant two days of companionship before they
would arrive at their destination; but she belonged to a race whose
color they had been taught to believe placed her on a social footing
far beneath their own.

The girl seemed to divine the hesitancy in the midshipmen’s manner, and
for a second a slight flush spread over her dark cheeks.

Phil was the first to recover and break the embarrassing silence,
heartily ashamed of himself for his boorish manner.

“We are glad, señorita,” he commenced haltingly in Spanish which had
become rusty through lack of practice, “to have you use our chairs, and
also,” he ended lamely, “to have you with us. I fear we are the only
passengers.”

A few moments later a servant announced dinner, and the four took
their seats at a table spread on the upper deck after the custom of the
tropics.

“The captain will not be with us,” the girl explained as Phil’s eyes
rested inquiringly on the seat at the head of the table; “he begs that
we will excuse him, for he is navigating the ship through the entrance
to the bay.”

They sat down in silence; Phil’s seat was next to this remarkable girl.

In a few moments both lads had quite forgotten that her skin was dark,
so skilfully did she preside over the plentiful board, attentive to
their wants with the natural grace of one accustomed to dispense
hospitality.

“Juan and I are on our way to Palilo to join our father,” she explained
after the meal had fairly started. “I am very much concerned over
the bad news I have heard. Oh! I hope we shall not have war in our
beautiful island,” she added appealingly, “but the Filipinos are so
ignorant; they will follow blindly where they are led, and so many of
our educated men are at heart bad.”

“There has been some fighting there already?” Phil questioned.

“Yes,” she answered, “but it has been only guerilla warfare so far. My
father fears that reinforcements may come from the north. The natives
in Luzon are of the Tagalo race, and if they come after being driven
from their island by the American troops, we shall have the horrors of
war on Kapay.”

The midshipmen’s eyes sparkled; they were just about to express their
delight at this possibility when they suddenly realized that she was of
the same blood as those they were wishing to fight.

Phil was the first to see the reproving look in the girl’s eyes.

“You must not blame us, señorita,” he hastened to say apologetically.
“You see fighting is our business; we look for it the same as a
merchant looks for trade or a fisherman for fish.”

“I think your ideas are wrong, señor,” she replied quickly, but in a
caressing tone, to soften the sting. “Your duty is not necessarily
to fight, but to prevent fighting. The sisters in the convent taught
us that a soldier’s duty was to uphold the honor of his country. If
fighting only will accomplish this duty, then it is just to fight, but
in this case no honor is at stake. How can our people hurt the honor of
a great nation like yours?”

Phil blushed half angrily, half in shame. This girl of a dark race had
the temerity to tell him what was his duty, and he was defenseless, for
she was in the right.

“It is true, señorita, what you say,” Sydney came to the rescue, “but
peace for us is very monotonous, always the same eternal grind. War is
exciting; it stirs the blood and makes men of us.”

“Yes, señor,” the girl answered in a low, hard voice, “and it arouses
all the evil passions in us. We forget all our training, all our
ideals, all our instincts for good, and give way to the instincts of
the beasts. My people in war are not men, señor, they are demons.”

While the girl was talking the steamer had drawn closer to the lorcha
which Phil had sighted earlier in the afternoon. The night was not
bright; a crescent moon cast a dim light on the hull scarcely a hundred
yards on the weather bow. The breeze had freshened, and with wind free
the lorcha’s sails bellied out, giving it a speed almost equal to that
of the steamer.

“Why doesn’t he give that sail a wider berth?” Phil exclaimed suddenly
as the girl’s voice died away. “If she should yaw now, she’d be into
us.”

“Look out!” Sydney cried in alarm as the lorcha suddenly sheered to
leeward and the great mass of tautening canvas careened toward the
unsuspecting steamer.

The midshipmen were on their feet in an instant, while O’Neil came
running up from the deck below.

The Spanish captain, calling loudly to all his saints to witness that
it was not his fault, jammed the helm to starboard, throwing the
steamer’s bow away from the rapidly approaching lorcha. The engine bell
clanked riotously, as the excited Spanish captain rang for more speed.
Then the Americans’ blood froze in their veins, for the chugging of
the noisy engines had ceased in a wheezy wail, and the “Negros” lay
helpless, almost motionless in the path of the strange sail to windward.

The lads looked at each other in consternation. The suddenness of the
emergency had rendered them powerless to act.

“Was it only a stupid blunder? Or was it by design that the silent
lorcha had shifted its helm and stood down upon the demoralized
steamer?” were the questions that came into their minds.

A guttural hail from the lorcha accompanied by a fusillade of
rifle-shots put an end to all doubt.

“Pirates!” O’Neil gasped as he dislodged an iron crowbar from a boat
skid. “And there isn’t a gun among us.”

A bright glare suddenly darted from the bridge of the steamer as some
one turned on the current for the search-light, and the Americans saw
in the bright beam a motley crew of natives lining the lorcha’s rail,
their eager bodies crouched ready to spring upon the deck of their
helpless victim.

“Tagalos,” the girl cried out in sudden alarm as she instinctively put
her small brother behind her, shielding him from the flying bullets.

“Don’t do it, sir,” O’Neil commanded hoarsely as Phil started
precipitously forward. “We can’t stand them off, we’re too few. Here
we can make a stand if they attack us. We can’t save the ship.”

The lads saw at once the wisdom in O’Neil’s advice. No power could save
the ship from the terrible onslaught of that savage horde. The two
vessels came together with a mighty crash, and the air was rent with
harsh cries of triumph as the captors leaped on board, firing their
guns and slashing with their sharp bolos. The cries for mercy from the
cringing crew were soon swallowed up in the shrieks of pain and anger
as the vengeful victors satisfied their inherent love for blood.

The triumphant natives scaled the bridge deck, and in the bright glow
from the search-light, the Americans were horrified to see those on the
bridge, in spite of their hands held aloft in supplication, cruelly
butchered where they stood.

The Americans in mortal dread pressed their bodies close within the
deep shadow of the boats. The blinding glare from the search-light
aided them in their attempt to hide from the searching eyes of their
assailants. Phil and Sydney had manfully lifted the native girl and
her brother into the boat behind them and stood their ground ready to
protect them with their lives. So this was to be the end of their hopes
for adventure?--to be butchered, unarmed and in cold blood by a band of
lawless murderers.



CHAPTER II

A POLITE CAPTOR


The Americans were not kept long in suspense, although to the anxious
boys, huddled helplessly in the shadow of the boat, the time seemed
hours until the victorious and jubilant natives moved aft, bent on
annihilating those whom they believed were hiding from their search.

O’Neil grasped his weapon firmly, while the lads made a mental resolve
to seize the arms of the first natives within reach and sacrifice their
own lives as dearly as possible.

Suddenly the beam of the search-light swung directly aft, revealing to
the pirates the defenseless band of spectators to the recent tragedy.

The helpless passengers were confident now that all was over. As if in
broad daylight, they were visible to the outlaws. A volley from their
rifles would send them all to death.

Blinded by the bright light, they could but speculate as to the
movement of their enemies, but they well knew that they must surely be
advancing slowly, only awaiting the word to throw themselves on their
helpless victims.

What could be done? Phil realized only too vividly that something must
be done and quickly. A false move would condemn them all. Once those
wild men, steeped in the blood of the innocent, had commenced, even the
power of their leader could not stop them.

Then a girl’s voice, clear and commanding from behind them, made the
Americans gasp in wonder. O’Neil with his great club raised to strike
the misty figures just beyond his reach stiffened. The girl’s words
were unintelligible to the Americans, but to the advancing natives they
were like a flash of lightning from out of a clear sky. They stopped
short, and for a few seconds a deep silence reigned. The girl was
speaking in her native tongue. Phil cast a swift glance behind him; she
stood boldly upright in the bow of the boat, like a beautiful bronze
statue. The light threw her face in high relief against the black
background of sky. He saw the flashing eyes, the quivering straight
nostrils, and the scornful curve of her mouth. She finished speaking,
and still the silence was unbroken. From the gathered crowd the leader
advanced, his hand held above his head in mute sign of peace. Phil
could scarcely believe his eyes, but the girl’s low voice in his ear
caused his heart to beat tumultuously.

“He has accepted your surrender.” She spoke in Spanish. Then, with her
hands placed lightly on Phil’s shoulder she jumped down to the deck and
advanced to meet the native leader. At a few paces from her he halted,
and the Americans held their breath in wonder to see the bandit bow
low before her, raising her hand to his lips. Then he turned and gave
several harsh commands to his followers, who quietly dispersed.

Inside of but a few minutes the lorcha had disappeared in the night and
the “Negros” resumed its journey, the noisy engines chugging away just
as faithfully under their new masters.

The Americans, as they gathered about the table to finish the meal long
forgotten in the excitement of the attack, marveled at the outcome of
the affair.

“Who can she be?” Sydney whispered. “Why, she orders the ladrone leader
around as if she were a princess.”

Phil was about to reply when the girl herself appeared from the
shadows, followed by the native chief.

The lads regarded him with a mixture of feelings, admiration for his
soldierly bearing and disgust at the thought of the wilful butchery
they had seen him permit on the bridge of the steamer.

They recognized at once that these two were of the highest caste among
their people. The man’s face, almost perfect in contour, except in the
cruel lines of the mouth, beamed hospitably upon them.

The girl spoke quickly, breathlessly.

“Colonel Martinez wishes to meet the brave Americans who would have
fought unarmed against overwhelming odds and who had no thoughts of
asking for quarter.”

The Americans bowed, but the Filipino advanced, his hand outstretched.
Phil took it with almost a shudder. Why had this hand been withheld
while the Spanish captain and his officers were asking for mercy
scarcely five minutes before? Yet he knew that he had no choice but to
take the proffered fingers; he and his companions were in the power of
this man, the lines of whose mouth told what might happen if the native
leader’s pride was offended.

After shaking hands, Colonel Martinez went straight to the point. “You
belong to the country of our enemy, and being such you must remain
prisoners of war. We shall land at Dumaguete to-morrow, and if you will
give me your solemn parole not to bear arms against us, I shall send
you with an escort and safe conduct to Palilo. If not, I must send you
to the headquarters of my superior, General Diocno.”

Phil as spokesman bowed.

“We shall not give you our parole, colonel,” he said emphatically. “We
prefer to remain prisoners of war.”

“As you will,” the insurgent answered coldly, but his swarthy face
betrayed his admiration. “I shall assure you of my good offices with
our general. And now, I shall leave you, but I warn you that your lives
will be in danger if you leave this deck, or if you make the slightest
attempt to thwart my plans. I shall have your belongings brought back
here. You see I can take no chances, and I appreciate that you three
Americans are no mean antagonists.” He cast a look of admiration at
O’Neil, who had been listening in silence, his muscular fingers still
clasping the stout crowbar with which he would like to have brained
this pompous little Filipino.

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Mr. Perry,” O’Neil exclaimed with a wry
smile after the officer had departed, “and I guess it was a good thing
the girl knew how to get the ear of that there little bantam rooster.
In another minute, I’d have brained one of them, and then those words
she spoke would have had as much chance to be heard as the chairman’s
voice in a state convention.”

The Americans’ belongings were brought to them from their cabin by
several evil-looking natives, and very soon all were comfortable under
the awning, protected from the wind by the boat against which an hour
ago they had been about to make their last stand.

The sun awakened the Americans at an early hour the next morning. While
they were sipping their morning coffee, the lads gazed in admiration
at the beautiful scenery about them. The little steamer had during
the night wound its way past myriads of small islands, now but black
smudges astern. The high mountains of Kapay Island rose boldly from the
sea on their starboard hand. Ahead, becoming more distinct, was the
shore line toward which the steamer was now traveling at an increased
speed as told by the more rapid chugging of her engines.

“Hello,” Phil exclaimed as he cast a glance toward the bridge,
“something’s happening.”

Sydney and O’Neil followed his gaze. There on the bridge were Martinez
and the native pilot, who had apparently been spared in the attack of
the night before. Martinez was walking up and down excitedly, casting
an anxious glance ever and again off on the port quarter.

It was O’Neil who was the first to discover the reason for the evident
excitement of their captors.

“Smoke,” he exclaimed laconically, characteristically jerking his thumb
toward the islands astern fast being swallowed up in the glassy sea.
“They ain’t taking no chances. That stretch of shore yonder,” he added,
his gaze on the shore line ahead, “must be the mouth of the Davao
River.”

The lads gazed eagerly at the faint curl of smoke astern, but it gave
them but scant encouragement, for it was only too evident that before
the stranger, if it were one of the many small gunboats patrolling the
islands, could hope to get within gunshot of the “Negros,” the steamer
would have crossed the shallow bar of the Davao River and be safe from
the pursuit of the deeper vessel.

“If we could only stop her,” Phil lamented. “Smash those rickety
engines or haul fires in the boiler.”

O’Neil in answer cast a comprehensive glance at the sentries on guard
on the upper deck. The evil-looking natives were squatted in plain
sight, their loaded rifles held tightly in their brown fingers.

“Oh! for three good Krag rifles,” Sydney cried petulantly; “we could
clear this deck and then jam the steering gear there, and by the time
they could overpower us the gunboat, if it is one, would make them
heave to.”

In a short time the girl and her brother joined them, and the native
guards arose and moved farther away.

“It is one of your gunboats,” she announced smiling mischievously
at the evident pleasure of the midshipmen; “Colonel Martinez has
recognized her through his telescope. She is giving chase, but
Dumaguete is now scarcely twenty-five miles ahead, so I fear there will
not be a rescue.”

Phil calculated quickly. If Martinez could see the gunboat with his
glass to recognize her she could not be over ten to twelve miles
astern. The “Negros’” best speed was ten knots, which meant two and a
half hours before she could reach the river bar. He knew that several
of the gunboats were good for fifteen knots. If this were one of the
fast ones, which he earnestly prayed it was, in two hours and a half
the gunboat would be up to the “Negros.” His face brightened as these
figures awakened his hopes.

While the Americans went through the pretense of breakfast the “Negros”
steamed swiftly toward the shore, and they saw with rising hopes the
white hull of a large vessel raise itself slowly out of the deep blue
of the tropical sea.

Phil eyed the Filipino girl questioningly. He could tell nothing from
her sphynx-like face. Would she be glad to be rescued from this band
of outlaws or was she at home and safe among them? The respect shown
her by the leader and his men seemed to point to the conclusion that
she was of importance among her people. He knew not what were those
crisp words spoken the night before to prevent the fierce onslaught of
the natives, but they had calmed the storm. She had saved their lives,
that much was certain; and for that, even though she was at heart in
sympathy with this band of pirates, he owed her his gratitude.

His whole heart rebelled against the thought of captivity among the
insurgents. He knew it would be a living death. Poorly nourished and
without the necessities of life; exposed to the savage temper of a
people whose spirits fluctuated more rapidly than a tropical barometer,
there seemed but little to live for. Perhaps death would be happier!
His thoughts dwelt upon the stories he had heard of the atrocities
committed by this same Diocno upon American soldiers who had been
captured. Some of them he had buried alive in an ant-hill all but their
heads, with their mouths propped open and a train of sugar leading
to their swollen tongues. A cold shiver ran down his spine as his
imagination pictured the agony of these men as they slowly died.

“It’s the ‘Albany,’” O’Neil cried joyfully a minute later, “and do you
see the bone in her teeth? She’s making nearly twenty knots. Why, it’s
all over but the shouting. These little yellow runts will look well
when they are lined up against the wall at Cavite and shot for piracy.”

Phil held up his hand to demand silence from the excited sailor. He did
not know how much English the girl might know, and the ladrone leader
might learn the dire wish of the sailorman for him and his followers.
Then if the “Negros” escaped, his anger could be vented upon the
Americans. But the girl’s face did not betray that she had understood
the meaning of O’Neil’s words. The “Albany” was fast approaching, but
Phil knew that O’Neil must be overestimating the cruiser’s speed; the
most she could make, without special preparation, would be fifteen
knots, but, and his joy welled up into his eyes,--her six-inch guns! He
had seen them fired with accuracy at four miles.

The shore line ahead had now become distinct. The deep cut in the
surrounding hills betrayed the presence of the Davao River as it flowed
through them to the sea. Groves of high-topped palm trees appeared, a
deeper green against the emerald background, while the water stretching
toward them from the land polluted the sea with a dull brown stain--the
muddy water of the river. The town of Dumaguete could not be seen,
but from the curls of rising smoke, Phil knew it must be beyond the
first bend of the river and screened from view by the spur-like hill
stretching its length from the mountains behind to the water’s edge.

The girl sat between the two midshipmen, her small brother innocently
unconscious of the tragedy being enacted about him, playing joyfully
about the decks. Phil watched the child as a relief to his overanxious
mind. He had dislodged a wedge-shaped block of wood from under the
quarter boat, and was using it to frighten a large monkey which was
eying him grotesquely from on top of the tattered awning. The monkey
apparently did not enjoy the game, for he suddenly flew screeching at
the boy, his mouth opened viciously. The boy in his haste to escape
dropped the block of wood almost on Phil’s foot and the midshipman
determinedly placed his foot upon it. In that instant an idea had
occurred to him. His pulse beat faster, as the thought flashed into his
mind. He would use it as a last resort, even though it would bring the
howling mob of natives vengefully about their heads.

“Now she’s talking,” O’Neil exclaimed grimly, as a flash and a puff
of brownish smoke belched from the bow of the distant cruiser. The
Americans arose to their feet, their eyes held fascinatingly on the
cruiser. They knew that a hundred-pound shell was speeding toward
them at a speed of a mile in three seconds. The Filipino girl sat
unconcernedly sipping her coffee. She was as yet ignorant of the
meaning of that flash from a vessel nearly five miles away.

Far astern a column of water arose in the air and the distant shock of
the discharge came to their expectant ears.

Phil saw with sinking heart that the “Negros” had entered the
discolored water from the river. Ahead less than two miles the
ever-present bamboo fish weirs showed the commencement of the shallows
of the Davao River. His hopes died within him. The cruiser was not
making the speed he had hoped. She would hardly be in range before
the “Negros” had put the high spur of land between her and the enemy.
The cruiser, apparently seeing the quarry was about to escape, opened
a rapid fire in hopes of intimidating or crippling its prey; but the
range was too great. The shells hissed close to the stern of the
fleeing vessel; the boasted accuracy of American gunners was lacking.

“If she was only a thousand yards closer,” O’Neil cried in bitter
disappointment. “It’s only a matter of luck at this distance. Look
out,” he yelled as a shell struck the water with the noise of an
express train, within fifty feet of the fleeing “Negros.”

The Filipino girl’s face blanched, while the boy ran cowering to his
sister’s side. The danger to them seemed almost supernatural. The
girl’s lips moved, and Phil saw that she was praying. For a moment a
fear seized him. The thought of their danger was certainly unnerving.
A single shell exploding near them would send them all to eternity.
The fish weirs were now abreast the ship and the “Negros’” bow was
being guided into the narrow, tortuous channel of the delta. The
Filipino pilot on the bridge spun his steering wheel from side to side,
following the twisting channel. The quadrant with its rusty chain,
connecting the wheel and the rudder, clanked loudly at Phil’s feet. Now
was the time to put his daring plan in operation. He saw that the four
guards had taken refuge behind the boats, from which they peered out
with frightened eyes at the oncoming cruiser, dodging out of sight at
each screech of a shell. They had apparently forgotten the prisoners
whom they were guarding, for their rifles and belts were resting on
the hatch several yards away.

“When I give the word, you jump for those rifles and belts,” Phil said
in a low, intense voice, glancing covertly at the terrified girl at his
side. “I am going to jam the steering quadrant. When you get the guns,”
he continued, “take cover behind the boats. It may cost us our lives,
but anything is better than imprisonment among these people.”

O’Neil and Sydney breathed a gasping assent to the bold plan. Phil
watched carefully the quadrant; he saw it move slowly over until it
was hard astarboard. He reached down, grasping the boy’s block of wood
under his foot, then slid it slowly, amid the terrific noise of a
passing shell, toward the quadrant. He knew the wedge would hold the
rudder over and the “Negros,” unable to steer, would ground on the
edge of the channel, thus leaving her helpless to be captured by the
cruiser. He opened his mouth to give the signal for his companions to
act, when a shrill warning cry sounded in his ears and he was roughly
drawn back into his chair and the wedge dropped from his hands a foot
from its goal.



CHAPTER III

A LEAK OF MILITARY INFORMATION


Brigadier-General Wilson sat at his desk in the headquarters building
at Palilo. In the spacious corridors outside orderlies hurried to and
fro, carrying messages from the several officers of the staff whose
offices joined that of the general.

Before him was a chart of his military district, and while he pondered
he juggled a score or more of different colored pins with little tags
attached to them. Those pins with blue heads represented soldiers of
his command in the field against the enemy while the ones with the
green heads were the ladrones or insurrectos, whom he had been fighting
without success for nearly six months.

“They jump about as if they were mounted in balloons,” he exclaimed
testily as he drew out several green-headed pins and replaced them in
accordance with recent information in other localities on the map. The
big headquarters clock ticked away in silence, while the gray-haired
veteran again lapsed into thought over his problem.

“Here are two regiments in the field,” he complained querulously;
“Gordon with two companies at San Juan, Baker with a company at
Binalbagan, Anderson and a battalion at Barotoc, Huse and a company
at Estancia, Pollard with two companies at Kapiz, Shanks with three
companies at Carles, Stewart with his rough-riders at Dumangas and Bane
with his two battalions as a flying column. That ought to give us some
results, and yet what have we to show for it?”

The general raised his thoughtful eyes, as his orderly’s step sounded
on the soft matting at his side.

“A telegram,” he exclaimed with a show of interest. “Tell Major Marble
I wish to see him,” he added, tearing open the yellow envelope.

“Whew!” he whistled in sudden consternation as he read the unwelcome
message. “They not only avoided Gordon but attacked San Juan in his
absence, cutting up ten of his men left to guard the town. This thing
has got to be stopped. There is a leak somewhere and I am going to put
my hand on it before I send out another expedition.”

He pushed the chart back on his desk and rose suddenly to his feet.

“Major,” he cried as the adjutant-general’s active figure entered the
office, “we are all a set of ninnies. Don’t start and look indignant,
sir,” he added in mock severity. “You are as bad as the rest, but Blynn
there is the worst of us all, for he can’t do what he’s employed to
do--you and I are only plain, blunt soldiers, while he is supposed,”
with fine scorn, “to be in addition lawyer and detective; a regular
secret service sleuth and all that.

“Here, read that,” he ended throwing the telegram on the desk. “You
see it’s the same old story, and ten more men butchered through our
stupidity.”

The general paced up and down his office with quick, energetic steps.

“I’ve a good mind to go out in the field myself,” he exclaimed, half to
himself. “I am tired of these silly, costly blunders.” Then he glanced
through the open door into the next office to his own. “Come here,
Blynn!” he hailed.

A stout, dark-visaged officer arose from a desk littered with countless
papers and came energetically toward him.

The older officer’s eyes roamed searchingly over his judge-advocate
general’s strong, massive frame; he gazed with kindling eyes at the
bronzed cheeks, the unbending directness of his black eyes, the firm
set to the bulldog jaws. Here surely was no weakling. He waved his hand
toward the adjutant-general, standing in stunned silence, the telegram
crumpled in his hand.

“That may interest you,” the general exclaimed as he turned away.

“The information was first hand, sir,” Captain Blynn’s bass voice
insisted after he had straightened the paper and read the unwelcome
message. “There’s been a leak.”

“Of course there’s been a leak,” the general announced hotly, “any
idiot would see that, but where? Where? that’s the question!”

Captain Blynn returned to his desk and drew out a bundle of papers
from a locked drawer. He glanced over them hurriedly. Every word was
familiar to him. Could he have made a mistake? Every witness whom he
had examined had given the same information. These natives had not
been coerced; they had come to him of their own volition. Espinosa had
vouched for each. Then he stopped, the papers fell from his hand to the
desk. No! it could not be possible! Espinosa was surely loyal. That
much was sure. For the space of a minute he was lost in thought. “I
shall test him,” he muttered, while he pressed a bell at his side.

“Tell Señor Espinosa over the telephone that I shall call on him in an
hour on important business,” he instructed the orderly who answered his
summons.

An hour later Captain Blynn mounted the high stairs of the wealthy
Filipino’s dwelling.

“Buenos Dias, El Capitan,” Señor Manuel Espinosa cried delightedly as
he pushed a chair forward for his visitor. But the smile died quickly
on the native’s face as Captain Blynn waved away the chair impatiently,
almost rudely, and in his typical way jumped into the very midst of the
matter in hand.

“Señor,” he exclaimed angrily, “I’ve been betrayed! Do you understand?”
he cried menacingly, his flashing eyes fixed on the crafty face
opposite him, while he shook his big, strong fist before the eyes of
the startled Presidente of Palilo. “Betrayed, that’s the word, and if
I can lay my hand on the hound, I’ll swing him to the eaves of his own
house-top.”

Señor Espinosa was silent, his crafty, bead-like eyes regarding closely
the angry, excited face of the judge-advocate.

“Captain Gordon went on a wild-goose chase, and when he returned he
found the insurgents had been in San Juan in his absence. Ten soldiers,
American men, were caught, trapped, and butchered. The natives who
brought me the information were vouched for by you and now you’ve got
to prove to me that you’re not a sneaking traitor!”

The captain’s words tumbled one after another so fast that the little
Filipino could grasp only half their meaning, but the last could not
be misunderstood. His brown face turned a sickly yellow, while his
frightened eyes sought instinctively for some weapon of defense from
this terrible American, who was strong enough to tear his frail body
limb from limb.

“Ah, señor capitan, is this your much-boasted American justice?” he
gasped in a weak voice. “Am I then judged guilty without hearing my
defense?” His voice became stronger as he proceeded. “Let us look over
this calmly,” he begged. “I, myself, have been betrayed. In embracing
the American cause, I have made many enemies among my people. I live
constantly in fear of assassination.” He stopped abruptly, his voice
choking and his eyes filled with tears of self-pity.

Captain Blynn had dealt with many different classes of men in his
twenty odd years of service. He had been a terror to the ruffians on
the Western frontier where he had been stationed during the several
Indian wars. The “bad men” had said when they had found Blynn against
them, “We might as well own up--we can’t fool Blynn.”

But here was a case that baffled him. In the hour before going to
this house he had after deep thought believed that after all Espinosa
was a traitor, and he had avowedly intended to force him to confess
his treason; but now in spite of these resolves, the captain was
weakening. After all might not the Filipino be innocent? At all events
he would listen to his defense.

Captain Blynn dropped his muscular hands, which had been creeping
menacingly toward the thin yellow throat of the Presidente, and sat
down suddenly in the chair which the native had previously offered him.

“Go on!” he ordered harshly. “I’ll suspend judgment, but remember, if
you can’t prove your innocence, I’ll give you water. Do you understand,
water! I’ve never given it, and I don’t believe in it, but if you can’t
show me how these men were butchered, I’ll fill you up to the neck with
it.”

Espinosa wetted his lips with his tongue and swallowed hard, but the
captain by taking the proffered chair had removed the native from the
terrifying influence of those powerful twitching fingers which he had
seen ready to throttle him, and he, in proportion to the distance away
of the cause of his fear, grew bolder.

“The señor capitan must know of my sincerity,” he pleaded in a weak
voice. “Have I not taken the oath of allegiance to the United States?
Do I not know the punishment for breaking that oath?”

Captain Blynn nodded his head. “Go ahead,” he commanded impatiently;
“cut that out, give me the unvarnished story.”

“The information which I gave you and which was sworn to by three
witnesses came from Juan Rodriguez,” Espinosa continued, dropping his
voice to a whisper and approaching closer to the American. Then he
stopped and glanced covertly at his listener’s startled face.

“Juan Rodriguez!” the judge-advocate general exclaimed half rising in
his excitement. “Then you believe that he has deliberately furnished
false information of the insurgents’ movements?”

While the two were talking a servant brought refreshments, which the
army man waved impatiently aside. Espinosa helped himself and as he did
so he followed his servant’s eye to a tightly rolled piece of paper
inside the salva. He drew it out hastily, unrolling it in silence,
feeling rather than seeing the captain’s eyes upon him, then he read
the few lines written therein. Here was a chance to redeem his good
name or at least save himself for this time from the fierce American.
He asked a question in the native language and received a monosyllabic
answer.

“This is very important,” he exclaimed suddenly turning to the American
officer. His voice was now joyful, full of confidence. “Two hundred
riflemen have landed at Dumaguete from Luzon. To-night they will be
encamped on a hill near Banate. You can attack them there before they
can join Diocno.”

Captain Blynn jumped to his feet, reaching out for the paper; he took
it, scrutinizing it closely--then stuck it quietly into his pocket.
Espinosa held out a trembling hand, bent upon regaining the note, but
Captain Blynn had turned away, picking up his hat and whip from the
table behind him.

“I shall myself go in command of this expedition,” he announced gruffly
as he moved toward the stairs, “and I shall expect you to accompany me,
señor. We shall start at sunset.”

Señor Espinosa feebly murmured his willingness, and after waiting
to see the burly figure of his visitor pass out through the wide
entrance, he turned and called for his servant.

“Tell the messenger I will speak to him,” he said as the muchacho
noiselessly entered.

A moment later a ragged native stood tremblingly before him, twisting
his dirty head-covering in his nervous hands.

Espinosa seated himself luxuriously in the chair recently vacated
by Captain Blynn. He had now regained his old confidence and cruel
arrogance, while he fired question after question at the uncomfortable
native.

The Presidente sat motionless in his chair long after his messenger
had gone. His servant came noiselessly into the room several times
but tiptoed away, believing his master was asleep. But Espinosa was
far from sleep, his brain was actively at work. How could he hold his
position and yet remain undiscovered to this terrible Captain Blynn? He
shuddered as he remembered those big hands as they worked longingly to
grasp his slender neck. He was not a fighting man; the inheritance of
his father’s Chinese blood mixed with the cruelty in the native strain
qualified him only for plotting. Others could do the fighting. His
brain and cunning would furnish them the means and opportunity. But
Rodriguez--he was too honest, and knew too much; he stood a menacing
figure in his path as the leader of his people. He had, however, set
the train of powder on fire, and now he would watch it burn. Once
Rodriguez was removed there were no others strong enough to thwart
him. Even Diocno bowed to his superior sagacity. Then he could cast
off this halter that he felt tightening about his neck. With Diocno
and Rodriguez out of the way, he could make terms with these childlike
Americans, and then with his fortune made shake the dust of the islands
forever from his feet.

An hour before sunset he arose and dressed himself for his ride,
ordering his servant to have his horse ready. The messenger had three
hours’ start; that would insure the escape of the Tagalos. Captain
Blynn would find that his information was true. He could not blame him
if the enemy had taken alarm and fled. As for the other matter, if the
Americans would only arrest Rodriguez he would see that he did not
interfere with his cherished plans for power. As he buckled on his
English made leggings, he whistled gaily an old Spanish air, one he
had heard in Spain; in his mind he saw the brightly lighted theatre,
the richly dressed people in the boxes. Some day he would be rich and
he would then be able to recline in a gilded box and cast disdainful
glances at an admiring crowd.

His joy would have been indeed short-lived and his castles in Spain
would have fallen as flat as the surface of the sea on a calm day if
he could have known that at that moment his messenger was lying dead
in the trail but half-way to his destination, suddenly overcome by the
terrible scourge of the camp, cholera.



CHAPTER IV

LANDED IN CAPTIVITY


Phil was too angry and humiliated to do more than glare at the girl who
had so cleverly thwarted him in his daring plan to strand the steamer.
His companions had started to spring toward the coveted rifles of their
enemy, but now they sank back into their seats and hopelessly looked
into the menacing muzzles of these same rifles in the hands of the four
aroused sentries. The girl had risen to her feet, her face flushed with
excitement; she raised her hand to the natives, motioning them to put
up their weapons.

Phil scrambled to his feet and sheepishly dropped again into his chair.
His breathing was quick and his eyes dilated with suppressed rage and
mortification. At that moment he could have quite forgotten his natural
instinct of gallantry and would have taken pleasure in throttling this
slight girl who had come between them and freedom.

“They would have all been shot,” she said in quick accents of
excitement. “You see I can understand a little English. I could not be
a traitor to my own blood as long as I had power to prevent it.”

For answer Phil gave her a look of loathing.

The girl recoiled under his menacing glance.

“I am sorry for you,” she hastened to add, “for now Colonel Martinez
will have to keep you closer prisoners, unless you give me your word
that you will not again try to prevent the escape of the steamer.”

Phil shook his head savagely, his eyes on the steering quadrant within
easy reach of his hand. The girl waited breathlessly for an answer,
then finding none was forthcoming she gave a sharp command in her
own language and immediately the four sentries closed in around the
Americans, their rifles pointed toward their prisoners.

“For goodness’ sake, Phil,” Sydney exclaimed in an agony of doubt,
“don’t be foolhardy. We are absolutely in their power. See,” he cried
desperately, “the ‘Albany’ has stopped and sheered away. She has given
up the chase.”

Phil realized that Sydney was right--nothing could be gained by giving
in to his rash anger. He saw that O’Neil had dropped the crowbar and
had been led away by two of the natives, going as peacefully as a lamb.
However his pride stood in the way of an outward surrender, and instead
of agreeing to make no attempts to disable the steamer he arose and
moved away from the tempting steering quadrant.

The “Negros” had meanwhile threaded her way among the dangerous shoals
and was now in the river; the cruiser had disappeared behind the land.

A great crowd of natives ashore had witnessed the escape of the steamer
from the war-ship and these lined the banks of the river shouting
joyfully as the “Negros” steamed quietly to the bamboo pier in front of
the village.

As soon as the dock had been reached, the girl dismissed the guards and
the Americans once more gathered about the breakfast table.

A few moments later Colonel Martinez, his face wreathed in smiles, left
the bridge and joined them.

“You are to be given the freedom of the town,” he said as he took a
cup of coffee from the servant’s hands and sipped it gratefully, “but
I warn you if you attempt to escape you will be shot, and even if you
escaped, without guides you would be lost in the jungle and be killed
by ladrones.”

Phil bowed his head in sign of submission. They were certainly
prisoners, without hope of rescue.

“To-morrow morning,” Colonel Martinez added, “we shall leave the
village and march inland. I have already sent to notify our leader that
I have successfully arrived. I think for your own good it would be
wiser for you to remain on board here until we start. I do not trust
the temper of the people. Americans are not just now in favor.” He
finished with an amused smile on his face.

After their captors had left them, the three terribly disappointed men
sat bemoaning their fate.

“We might just as well make the best of it,” Sydney philosophically
assured the others. “There certainly isn’t any way to escape that I
can see. After all, we’ve been in just as tight places and have come
out of them; we don’t make matters any better by crying over spilled
milk.”

“If that girl hadn’t betrayed us,” Phil moaned, “we would have been on
board the ‘Albany’ this minute.”

“Mr. Perry,” O’Neil broke in apologetically, “it ain’t like you
to be unfair to anybody, most of all a woman. These are her own
people--Colonel Martinez must be a friend of hers, or otherwise we
wouldn’t have been living to see the ‘Albany.’ If she had only been an
ordinary native girl, these ladrones wouldn’t have stopped and bowed
and scraped and then given us the freedom of the after deck of the
ship. No, sir, she’s a person of consequence. She saved our lives and
then afterward she saved the lives of Colonel Martinez and his band
of cutthroats, for if they had fallen into the hands of the crew of
the ‘Albany’ they would have all been shot or swung at her yard-arm.
Seizing this merchant ship and killing her captain is piracy.”

“I think O’Neil is right,” Sydney exclaimed patting the sailor on the
back enthusiastically. “The girl’s all right--I’ll take my hat off to
her every time.”

“It was my own stupidity, I suppose,” Phil declared, his face sobering
slightly. “I thought she was too frightened to know what was happening;
in fact I really didn’t believe she would understand what I intended
doing.”

“Who do you suppose she is?” Sydney asked eagerly. “Isn’t it queer she
has never told us her name?”

“It probably wouldn’t aid us if she had,” Phil replied; “she’s probably
the daughter of some rich Filipino, who holds a fat position under our
civil government. By the way she talked when we first met her I thought
she was dead against war, yet she appears to know and welcome these
cutthroat Tagalos with open arms.”

“There you go, Phil,” Sydney admonished, “unfair again. She has so far
shown herself willing to help both sides. In your heart, when you’ve
recovered from your disappointment and humiliation at being handled so
roughly by a girl, you’ll see that she acted in a way that was just to
both the insurgents and ourselves.”

The next morning at daylight the Americans were up and dressed, ready
for the march with their captors.

“Colonel Martinez has secured enough horses for you and your companions
to ride,” the girl told them as a half dozen small Filipino ponies were
led down to the end of the wharf. “Your belongings will be carried
by natives whom he has secured, so I hope you will not be put to too
great hardships. The soldiers are used to marching, but for those
unaccustomed to the country it is very tedious.”

Phil thanked her not ungraciously. He had during many hours of a
sleepless night brooded over the situation and had awakened with much
kindlier thoughts for this girl than he had held the night before.

The Americans, with Colonel Martinez, the girl and her brother
rode at the head of the long file of armed insurgent soldiers. As
the procession passed through the streets of the town the natives
gathered and gave excited and enthusiastic yells of pleasure. Great
curiosity was shown as to the white captives, but Colonel Martinez took
precautions that they should not be disturbed by the evident dislike
of the people. Phil read hatred in many eyes as they wended their
way through the curious crowds, and he quite believed the insurgent
colonel’s words that they would not be safe among them.

The trail which they were following led steadily inland, and constantly
climbed above the level of the sea. After a few miles had been covered
all signs of habitation disappeared, the country was bleak and barren
of cultivation. At first they had passed through groves of cocoanut,
banana and many varieties of tropical fruit trees and afterward the
velvety green of rice fields lay on either hand, but now the earth
was scorched and brown, the high jungle bush lay thick on either side
of the trail. The Americans realized the hardships of a campaign in
such a country against a wild and determined foe. They had marched for
about four hours without a rest when a signal of warning was given from
scouts in front. The leader stopped, giving a low order to a soldier at
his elbow.

“What is it?” Phil breathed, forcing his pony forward eagerly.

“They’ve seen something,” O’Neil whispered; “probably a company of our
soldiers on a ‘hike.’”

The Americans were ordered to dismount, and a dozen riflemen quietly
surrounded them. Colonel Martinez spurred ahead while the entire band
dissolved in the jungle, leaving the trail clear. Scarcely twenty feet
from the trail the Americans were roughly seized, their hands secured
tightly behind their backs and gags were forced into their mouths. They
submitted peaceably. Suddenly, scarcely fifty yards away, a column
of khaki-clad soldiers appeared marching down the trail. Phil caught
a glimpse through a vista in the dense brush of these men, swinging
lightly along, ignorant of the presence, so near them, of over two
hundred armed enemies. His pulse beat fast and his heart seemed ready
to burst within him. Were these Americans walking innocently into an
ambush? He tried to scream a warning, but he emitted no sound save a
faint gurgle, which his guards heard, and for his pains struck him
down with their knees until he lay with his face pressed close to the
prickly earth. He could hear the tramp of shod feet and an occasional
snatch of a song. Once he heard a sharp command in English and at
another time a jest which called forth local laughter. It seemed an
age since he had seen the head of this column appear, and yet the
earth trembled under the tread of a multitude of feet. Finally the
sounds died away. The soldiers had passed, and no attack had been made.
After a long hour of waiting their guards brought out the Americans
and unbound their hands, taking out the cruel gags from their mouths.
Colonel Martinez appeared, still mounted upon his small gray pony.

“I am very sorry,” he said politely, “but I could not run the
risk of detection. That was Colonel Bane with two battalions of
the Seventy-eighth Infantry. I had been warned that he was in the
neighborhood. I was not strong enough to attack him.”

Phil could have cried aloud at the utter uselessness of this warfare.
Their movements heralded far and wide whenever a column moved, in a
country well-nigh impenetrable, how were the Americans ever to put down
this ugly rebellion?

At sunset the band halted and went into camp. Phil saw that the site
selected was a strong one and one that could be easily defended from
attack if the attackers came by trail, and there seemed no other way
through the impenetrable brush.

“We shall remain here until my messenger returns,” Phil overheard
Colonel Martinez say to the girl. “Will you wait until your father
sends for you, or will you accept an escort from me?”

“I shall remain here,” she said; “the morning should bring my own
people.”

Shortly afterward the girl took her brother’s hand and led him away
to the part of the camp that had been set aside for her own use, and
Colonel Martinez joined the disconsolate Americans.

“The señorita,” he said as he sat down on the ground near Phil, “has
told me of the brave conduct of my prisoners, and I wish it were in
my power to set you free. I have known many American navy men before
this war began and my treatment by them has always been courteous and
considerate. I have the power to take your parole, and knowing the
hardships which you must undergo as prisoners among our soldiers I
advise you to give it. To-morrow morning you can be on your way to
Palilo.”

It was certainly a grave temptation, but the midshipmen knew that in
giving their parole all hopes of taking part in the war would vanish;
and then, the insurgents not being recognized as belligerents, the Navy
Department might even see fit to order them to break their parole.

“Thank you, señor,” Phil finally replied. “We shall take our chances
as your prisoners. We shall always remember your considerate treatment
of us, and if by the chances of war the situation is reversed you can
count on us to repay our obligations to a chivalrous enemy.”

“If you and your companions were to remain in my keeping,” the Filipino
answered, a pleased smile on his face at Phil’s subtle compliment, “I
should have no concern, but I must give you over to the mercies of
General Diocno; he is a Tagalo, and has known nothing but war since
his youth; he would never surrender to the Spaniards, and for years a
price has been upon his head; he is said to be cruel to those who fall
into his hands.”

Phil shuddered at the frank words of his captor. He saw in the
earnestness of his face that this gruesome information was being given
for the Americans’ own good.

“Your friends,” the colonel continued, “will doubtless attempt a
rescue, and that will only add to your danger.”

After Colonel Martinez had said good-night Phil told his companions of
the unpleasant and disquieting reports concerning their future captor,
but nothing could shake O’Neil’s good spirits.

“It’s all in the game, Mr. Perry,” he said philosophically. “They can’t
do more than kill us, and as we’ve got to die some day, it might just
as well be in Kapay as any other place. But as long as we’ve got our
senses and our strong arms, there are going to be some little brown men
hurt before I give up my mess number.

“What I’ve been trying to study out,” the sailor continued, seeing the
two lads still silent, “is how all those American soldiers could pass
along that trail and not find out that this band of natives had just
left it. Where are all the old Indian fighters we used to have in the
army?”

Phil and Sydney both raised their heads, a look of surprise in their
faces.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Sydney exclaimed. “Our trail must have been
there; the native soldiers all go barefooted and leave but indistinct
tracks on this hard soil, but our pony tracks must have been in plain
sight.”

“The solution is,” Phil broke in sadly, “those men were volunteers, the
Seventy-eighth Infantry, the colonel said; there probably wasn’t an old
soldier among them. They fight like demons when they see the enemy, but
are as helpless as children against a savage foe skilled in woodcraft.
If that had been a battalion of regulars there’d have been a fight and
we would now be free, or,” he added with an unconscious shiver, “dead
there in the jungle, for the native guarding me would have been only
too happy to stick his bolo into me.”

O’Neil had already rolled himself in his blanket, apparently resigned
to the tricks of fate, and the midshipmen, realizing, after their long
day’s ride in spite of their troubled minds, that they were in need
of rest, were soon comfortably settled on the bundles of dry grass
given them to lie upon. As Phil dropped into a troubled sleep, he was
conscious of the four native guards, pacing to and fro just outside of
ear-shot. These four men were all that stood between them and liberty;
for once they had escaped, he felt confident that O’Neil could be
depended upon to follow the track of those half a thousand soldiers who
had marched past so carelessly only a few hours before.

After what seemed an incredibly short time, although he had slept for
hours, he awakened with a start; sitting bolt upright, he gazed quickly
about him. A faint streak of light in the eastern sky told him the
night had nearly passed. His brain, keenly alive, grasped for a reason;
what had stirred him to wakefulness? All was quiet about the camp. The
guards were no longer on their feet, but he could see their shadowy
forms squatting on the ground, their rifles in their hands. With a
disappointed sigh, for what he did not know, he dropped back upon his
bundle of straw, but he soon found he was too wide awake for more
sleep. He finally arose, stretching himself as though just awakened,
and by an impulse which he was powerless to disobey, walked slowly
toward the guards. As he advanced he saw with surprise that they did
not move. Stealthily he went on until he stood over the nearest one,
squatting naturally, the butt of his rifle between his bare feet. The
guard was sound asleep. Farther on he saw in the dim mysterious light
of early dawn that the other three were also silently sleeping, their
bodies propped up against the trunks of the dwarf pine-trees. Phil’s
heart beat fast. Here was freedom within his grasp. He leaned forward,
seizing the rifle barrel of an unconscious guard, drawing it slowly
from his relaxed fingers. The butt still rested between his feet and as
he slowly, steadily drew the rifle toward him, the sleeping native’s
body settled itself inch by inch upon the ground.

[Illustration: _HERE WAS FREEDOM WITHIN HIS GRASP_]

A twig snapped close by, sending the blood coursing through his veins
while his hand shook from the sudden start. Terrified he cast his
startled eyes into the jungle behind him. The dim shadow of a man
stood scarcely a hundred yards away, silently watching him. In the
dim light the figure seemed of heroic size. He retreated toward it and
back to his sleeping companions, the rifle clasped in his hand. Then
suddenly the silence was broken by a volley of rifle-shots and the hiss
of bullets sounded everywhere about him. Stunned, unable to explain
the meaning of this, he dropped to the ground and lay silent, his face
in the straw of his bed. The next second a line of shouting, excited
khaki-clad men streamed past, firing their rifles as they charged upon
their hidden native foes.



CHAPTER V

CAPTAIN BLYNN MARCHES


As night fell, Captain Blynn led his battalion of regulars from
their barracks, across the bridge and on to the trail leading to
the northward of Palilo. The American officer rode in the lead, the
Filipino Presidente at his side. The soldiers behind him, eight full
companies, each under its own officer, swung along with the long,
untiring step of the American soldier. They each knew that before the
night was over and the sun had lifted its fiery head above the misty
mountains to the eastward twenty miles of rough trail must be covered,
and then they had been promised to be brought face to face with an
enemy whose shadows they had chased during these many long, tiresome
months.

Espinosa, as he rode in silence by the side of the big American,
chuckled inwardly at the fruitlessness of this expedition. “These
childlike American dogs,” he thought, “they will arrive in time to see
the smouldering fires where our men have cooked their morning rice,
while they will be high in the hills, looking down on them derisively,
and possibly will fire a few shots at long range to show their
contempt.”

Captain Blynn’s restless gaze contemplated his companion from time to
time as the native signaled the right trail. They were now in a narrow
defile between two hills that rose precipitously to a height of over a
thousand feet. Captain Blynn, as he contemplated his surroundings with
a soldier’s eyes, drew his revolver from its holster and laid it gently
across the pommel of his saddle.

“A nice place for an ambush,” he said in a low, insinuating voice. “I
suppose, señor, you are prepared to stand before your Maker.”

The native shuddered. He saw only too clearly the accusation and threat
in this terrible American’s words. If there was to be an ambush, he
knew nothing of it, but if a single hostile shot was fired, he would
pay the penalty with his life.

The Filipino forced an uneasy laugh. “As far as I know, señor capitan,
there are no insurgents this side of Banate.”

“For your sake, I hope you are right,” the American replied. “As you
see, I am taking no chances. You are our guide; if you get us into
trouble, you pay, that’s all.”

Captain Blynn ordered a halt and called a lieutenant from the leading
company.

“Take ten men, Simpson,” he said, “and act as the point. If you are
attacked, retreat and fall back on the main body.”

Lieutenant Simpson picked his men quickly and disappeared quietly
down the trail. Captain Blynn watched them until swallowed up in the
darkness, and then set the long line in motion again. Every soldier
took, instinctively, a tighter grip upon his musket, and loosened the
sharp sword bayonet from its scabbard. Each knew that when “Black Jack”
Blynn took precautions there was reason to scent trouble.

Half-way through the defile a guarded whistle of warning came to
Blynn’s ears from the point. As one man the long column halted; the
soldiers’ heavy breathing was distinctly audible above the tremor
of the metallic rattling of accoutrements. Each soldier sought his
neighbor’s face for a key to the solution of the problem. Blynn,
motioning Espinosa to follow, rode silently forward. In the trail a
hundred paces ahead he saw Lieutenant Simpson bending over a dark
object.

“What is it?” Blynn asked in a harsh whisper.

“A dead native,” Simpson answered shortly. Espinosa was off his horse
instantly; bending down quickly he struck a match, illuminating the
native’s dead face. He started, turning a sickly yellow. His heart
stopped beating, and his knees shook under him, but Captain Blynn
was too much occupied with the silent figure to notice the peculiar
behavior of his guide. They turned the dead man over, revealing the
terrible havoc accomplished in but a few hours by the tropical scourge.

“Poor chap!” Blynn exclaimed. “Only a common ‘Tao’ stricken by cholera
and dead before he knew what had hit him.”

They moved the body off the trail, and again the command was set in
motion.

In the flash of the match Espinosa had recognized his messenger
although his face was horribly disfigured by his last mortal suffering.
He shuddered at the consequences of this man’s death--Martinez would
not get his warning message and would fall into the trap set for him.
He, Espinosa, could never explain his actions. He would doubtless pay
for this treachery with his life. But his cruel mind was instantly made
up as to his future actions. He feared this American too thoroughly
not to take them to the place where the Tagalos under Martinez were
encamped; above all else Captain Blynn must be made to believe that he
was sincere; all depended upon that. Everything must be sacrificed for
his final great ambition. Martinez would not be taken alive. That was
a necessity, he would see to that. Once he was killed his part in the
night’s expedition must remain a secret among the Americans.

Casting from him his first fears he straightened his slight frame and
rode boldly, with head erect, beside the American leader.

One hour before sunrise Captain Blynn disposed his command in a single
circular line about the base of a high hill; its sides were covered
with a dense jungle while a single trail led to the top.

Under the guardianship of Espinosa the command moved forward, straight
up through the high clutching brush; the men were so close to each
other that their neighbors on each side were always in sight. Captain
Blynn and one company marched fearlessly up the trail. A few feet from
where the round top hill had been cleared he halted and waited for the
remainder of his men to join him. His enemy’s camp was silent, but
his keen eyes could discern shadowy forms lying prone on the ground.
He searched for a sentry, but no movement could be seen. Were they
all asleep, believing themselves secure in their surroundings? No!
there directly in front of him he saw a white figure standing upright
beside a dark form on the ground. This must be an officer, for the
native soldiers do not wear white--something familiar in the pose and
cut of the uniform struck him. Could it be possible, was it a navy
uniform? At that instant the soldiers on both sides reached the edge
of the clearing. As yet the enemy were unaware of their presence. Not
a moment must be lost; they must attack at once. Firing his revolver,
Captain Blynn plunged forward, straight toward the white-clad figure.
Several of his men passed him while he stopped to find why the figure
had thrown itself face downward in the grass at the discharge of his
revolver.

The next moment he was shaking hands with three almost tearfully joyful
fellow countrymen.

As soon as Phil realized that they were again free his thoughts were
for the Filipino girl and her little brother. Was she in danger?
With the rifle he had taken from the sentry in his hands, he rushed
anxiously in the direction that he believed she might be found. He
recognized some of her belongings on the ground at his feet, but the
girl had vanished. Fearful at the thought of finding them killed by his
own people, he sought her everywhere, repeatedly risking his life as
the terrified natives, finding themselves trapped, flung at him with
their long, sharp knives or discharged their weapons almost in his
face. He gave them but little heed, not giving a thought to the reason
why he had not been killed, although a faithful sailor at his elbow was
the only tangible cause. A score of times O’Neil had saved his young
officer at the risk of his own life.

A small group of struggling men on the right near the edge of the
jungle suddenly caught his restless eye and desperately he plunged
downward toward them. On the ground two men struggled in a death
embrace, while the girl and her brother stood wild-eyed with fright,
unwilling spectators to the fierce duel. Phil gave a gasp of relief
as he stood beside the girl. The two combatants uttered no sound save
their sharp gasps for breath while they struggled for supremacy. Phil
saw with wonder that the men were both natives and then for the first
time realized that they were alone; no soldier was within a hundred
yards of them. Behind them the soldiers were relentlessly, stubbornly
herding the natives into a mass of flashing, frenzied humanity at the
top of the hill.

“It is Colonel Martinez,” the girl gasped seizing Phil’s arm. “Oh, save
him, señor, he will be murdered.” Phil saw the other native, by an
effort almost superhuman, free his right arm, and in it a bright blade
flashed in the dim light. The girl’s appealing face looked into his for
an instant, and the next moment the lad had thrown himself between the
two men; seizing the hand with the knife he bent it slowly backward,
finally wrenching it from its firm grasp. O’Neil was beside him. The
sailor caught the two natives as if they had been fighting dogs and
held them for a second in his powerful arms clear of the ground.
Espinosa fell limply as the sailor released his hold, and lay breathing
heavily, too exhausted for speech. Colonel Martinez quickly regained
his revolver, and was immediately the man of action. He gazed boldly
at the Americans, his revolver held menacingly, and the while edging
slowly away from his captors. Phil turned his eyes to the figure on
the ground and the angry glare he received disconcerted him; the next
second as he looked about him he saw that Colonel Martinez had gone;
from the gloom of the jungle he heard the rustle of brush and caught a
glimpse of misty forms. He raised his rifle half-way and then lowered
it. In his heart he rejoiced that he had not taken him prisoner.

In the next second Espinosa leaped toward him. Phil was stunned by a
stinging blow; but before it could be repeated O’Neil interposed and
Espinosa had measured his length on the ground.

“Where did Colonel Martinez go?” Phil asked quietly.

“I didn’t see,” O’Neil answered, his face as solemn as that of a judge.

Phil smiled and put out his hand. The two men exchanged clasps. “I
believe he would have done as much for us,” Phil said.

Before the sun had risen above the sea to the eastward, the fight was
over. But few of the enemy had escaped. Asking no quarter, fighting to
the last man, they had died as they had lived. Two hundred rifles were
the spoils of the fight.

Captain Blynn and the midshipmen were seated after their victory on the
bloody battle-field, while the lads gave a hurried account of their
capture.

Suddenly from the grass a horribly disfigured face confronted them.
It was Espinosa. His cunning gave him counsel that he must control his
ungovernable temper. He could gain nothing by accusing these Americans
of wilfully aiding Martinez in his escape. “I am sorry to inform you,
señor captain, that Colonel Martinez escaped. These gentlemen can tell
you the details. I was about to kill him. They doubtless had good
reasons for permitting him to escape.”

Captain Blynn turned quickly to the midshipmen, a surprised look on his
face at the words of his guide.

“Is this true?” he asked angrily.

Phil felt as he had before the court-martial that had tried him for
disobeying orders.

“I alone am to blame, captain,” the lad replied quietly, after an
effort. “I saw these two men on the ground and separated them, seeing
they were both natives. This man attacked me afterward, so of course he
was knocked down.”

“But it was Colonel Martinez! His capture is worth far more than all
these men and rifles,” the captain exclaimed angrily, pointing to the
heaps of slain being laid side by side in the narrow trench dug by the
soldiers.

“He escaped,” Phil said, his throat dry, but his eyes looking
fearlessly into those of the enraged officer.

“You will have to explain this, sir,” Captain Blynn cried hoarsely,
cutting short any explanation. “You are under my command here. If you
have deliberately allowed this man to escape, I shall prosecute you to
the utmost of my power, and you know the articles of war sufficiently
to understand the penalty for such an unauthorized act.”

Phil was stunned; but his conscience had acquitted him of all guilt.



CHAPTER VI

THE “MINDINAO”


Captain Blynn rested his tired soldiers until the cool of the evening
and then the march was begun back to Palilo, carrying with them the
spoils of the fight.

The judge-advocate general, in spite of the complete victory, was
not friendly to the Americans whom he had rescued from a torturing
captivity. The escape of the Filipino leader, Colonel Martinez, was
indeed a severe blow to his pride. Both Sydney and O’Neil, while giving
the officer their gratitude for their deliverance, were hurt at his
stern attitude toward Phil.

“Why did you allow him to escape?” Sydney asked as they were riding
side by side along the back trail which the soldiers had taken the
night before.

Phil looked at his friend, a hurt expression in his eyes.

“He was armed,” Phil said quietly, a catch in his voice which he
could not control, “and I knew he would not be taken alive. I couldn’t
kill him,” he added, “before the girl’s eyes, and there seemed no
other way. Something tells me that there is a strong blood tie between
those two. I can’t explain, Syd,” he cried in confusion. “It may sound
sentimental, but the look in the girl’s eyes when she realized what
might happen made me lower the muzzle of the rifle to the ground.”

Sydney was silent. He believed implicitly in Phil and if opportunity
had offered he was sure that he would have acted the same.

“But why didn’t you give Captain Blynn your reasons for allowing this
insurgent to escape? You must see how he now views the occurrence and a
word from you would have set matters straight.”

A sudden anger came into Phil’s face. “I would have told him all, but
you saw how he cut off my explanation and arraigned me before that
despicable spy Espinosa. After that a mule team couldn’t drag the story
from me. I’ll tell it in good time, but not to Captain Blynn. Syd,”
he added confidingly, “I don’t like that fellow Espinosa’s looks. He
reminds me of a domesticated coyote. He will bite the hands that feed
him some day. You see if he doesn’t!”

“I haven’t any use for these men who are traitors to their own
countrymen,” O’Neil joined in as he rode up alongside of Phil, the
trail having widened to allow three abreast. “The soldiers tell me he
is the white-haired old boy with Captain Blynn. It was he that betrayed
the Tagalos. How he gets his information no one seems to know. Did
you notice,” he asked suddenly, “the expression on his face when I
dragged him away from the insurgent colonel? He wanted that man’s life
the worst kind, and the girl’s too, I guess. We’ve made an enemy, Mr.
Perry,” the sailor added decidedly, “and one who won’t soon forget us.”

Phil gave a mirthless laugh.

“I don’t mind making that sort of an enemy,” he said, “but we shall
have to keep our eyes open hereafter, I suppose, for Señor Espinosa.”

It was broad daylight before the expedition arrived in Palilo and after
a formal parting from the other Americans, which O’Neil described
as “the frozen mit,” the naval men separated from the soldiers and
took the street leading to the water-front. There in front of the
quartermaster’s depot they saw the gunboat “Mindinao” moored snugly to
the stone jetty.

A wave of pride swept through Phil’s body as he took in the trim
outlines of his command, one of which any lad would be proud to be
captain.

A score of curious faces peered at them from the gunboat as they drew
rein at the gangway and dismounted.

An exclamation of surprised inquiry met their ears from the
quarter-deck of the vessel and a second later Ensign Marshall was
wringing their hands warmly.

“Well, if this isn’t luck,” he cried. “I am partly packed and there’s a
steamer for Manila this afternoon. But,” and he stopped, precipitously
gazing with frank astonishment at their soiled and mud-stained
uniforms, “where did you come from? I expected you by boat.”

While the Chinese servants set before their hungry eyes a tempting
breakfast, Phil and Sydney in turn gave Marshall the exciting incidents
of their journey from Manila. O’Neil meanwhile had turned forward and
was at once the centre of an admiring crowd of sailors; his big voice
and hearty laugh sounded distinctly over the quiet water-front.

“If you aren’t the luckiest lambs I’ve ever seen,” Marshall laughed
admiringly; “you’re a regular lodestone, the three of you. Everything
you touch turns to excitement. Now I’ve been here for three months,
most of the time cooling my heels at the dock with no one to talk to
except a lot of hayseed volunteers who haven’t even been to sea, and
now you come along and relieve me and I suppose, ‘presto,’ there’ll be
something doing at once.”

“I hope not until we can get a little sleep,” Phil exclaimed, smiling
at Marshall’s sincerity. “I am sleepy enough to drop off standing up.”

“Well,” Marshall said as he pushed back his chair and arose from the
table, “I’ll be finished packing in an hour, and then you can read your
orders and take command. I don’t want to miss that boat, for she makes
easy connections with the transport for home. Think of it, Perry, home!
Doesn’t it sound fine?” Then, seeing that the name had not stirred
his listeners to a great degree of enthusiasm, he exclaimed, “Well,
if you’d been living by yourself for nearly a year and hadn’t seen
anything but these natives, home would sound good to you, too.”

The lads were soon asleep in steamer chairs under the quarter-deck
awning, while Marshall busied himself with his packing. The Chinese
servants moved about noiselessly and with deft hands quickly filled the
two open trunks. Finally Marshall remade his toilet and appeared spick
and span in a fresh and spotless white uniform.

Refreshed by even this short nap the midshipmen opened their trunks,
which had been carried over nearly sixty miles of rough country on the
shoulders of stalwart native carriers, and in an incredibly short time
appeared on deck as fresh in appearance as if they had both stepped
from the proverbial band-box.

A shrill whistle sounded on the gunboat followed by the call, “Lay aft,
everybody.”

The men filed aft on the miniature quarter-deck, lining themselves
obediently on each side, and there waited.

A smile stole irrepressibly to Phil’s face. Here on board this tiny
ship, scarcely a hundred feet long and of a little over one hundred
tons displacement, the far-reaching navy regulations were being carried
out with as much form and punctiliousness as they would be on the
biggest battle-ship.

In a graceful speech Marshall bade farewell to his small crew and then
he unfolded the paper in his hand signed by no less a personage than
the admiral commanding the Asiatic fleet.

“You are, upon the reporting of your relief, Midshipman Philip Perry,
U. S. Navy, detached from the command of the U. S. S. ‘Mindinao’ and
will proceed immediately to Manila, reporting your arrival, for passage
to your home, to the senior officer present.”

As soon as Marshall’s voice died away, Phil began to read his
own orders, which he had kept safely pinned to the inside of his
breast-pocket during the last few exciting days.

“You are hereby detached from the U. S. S. ‘Phœnix’ and will proceed
to Palilo, Island of Kapay, Philippine Islands, and upon your arrival
assume command of the U. S. S. ‘Mindinao’ as the relief of Ensign
Charles Marshall, U. S. Navy.”

For a moment there was complete silence, broken in an instant by a
hoarse voice.

“Three cheers for Captain Marshall.”

From twenty-five strong chests the cheers were given, while the happy
man honored blushed with pleasurable pride and manly tears welled to
his eyes. And then Phil’s turn came to blush and look confused, and as
he said afterward, foolish, when the same loud voice proposed, “Three
cheers for Captain Perry.”

Immediately the cheering was over the boatswain’s mate’s pipe sounded
shrilly and the men, touching their caps respectfully, returned to
their quarters forward.

The lads saw Marshall sail away on a small island steamer similar to
the one on which they had commenced their journey four days before and
then returned to sit upon the quarter-deck of their gunboat and enjoy
the intense gratification of being their own masters on their own ship.

“Think of it, Syd. If I want to get under way all I have to do is to
tell the machinist to get up steam and off we go. It’s like having
your own yacht,” Phil exclaimed contentedly, leaning back luxuriantly
in his chair and cocking his feet up comfortably on the rail. “Let me
see,” he added banteringly, “I am the captain; you are the executive
officer, navigator, ordnance officer, all the watch officers and the
chief engineer. Don’t you feel heavy with all those titles?”

Sydney smiled happily. “Well, if the ‘old man’ doesn’t expect too much
of a poor midshipman, I’ll do my best to uphold the dignity of them
all,” he replied.

After they had settled themselves in their new homes and had inspected
every foot of the clean, trim little craft, admired the powerful
battery of six long three-pounder guns, with auxiliaries of two
one-pounders and a much sinned-against Colt gun, they started over the
gangway bent upon paying their respects to the general commanding the
troops in the military district of Kapay.

It was with a decided feeling of uneasiness that Phil sent his card by
the orderly to the general. He knew that Captain Blynn had before this
given his superior officer a full account of his expedition and he felt
sure that the escape of Martinez with his consequent blame had not
been forgotten in the telling. However, his high spirits could not be
easily dampened by even these sinister thoughts. His greatest ambition
had been achieved. Was he not the commander of an American man-of-war?
He was not even under the command of that awe-inspiring figure he could
see dimly at the desk, on whose shoulders the direction of an army
rested.

In spite of this feeling of independence the lad’s pulse beat faster as
the orderly beckoned him to enter the general’s office.

A short, sharp-featured officer, whose hair and beard were as white as
his spotless clothes, arose from his chair and gave a welcoming hand to
the visitors in turn, inviting them in silence to be seated.

Phil fidgeted restlessly in his chair, while the general paced slowly
toward the open window and back again to his desk. Phil was on the
point of speaking several times, but each time he waited, seeing in the
army man’s face that he was about to speak.

“Captain Blynn has made his report,” came in metallic tones from the
old campaigner, “and I am deeply distressed to hear that you, Captain
Perry, deliberately allowed a prisoner to escape; one whom above
all I wished to lay my hands on. Blynn is for asking the admiral to
court-martial you at once; but I am sure you must have some good reason
for your action.”

He ended and glanced questioningly at the abashed Phil.

“My reason was,” the lad blurted out, his feelings much hurt at the
severe arraignment, “that in order to capture Colonel Martinez, I would
have had to kill him in cold blood. I couldn’t bring myself to do it
for he had behaved handsomely toward us while we were his prisoners.”

“But,” the general retorted, “Señor Espinosa would have saved you the
trouble if you had not interfered.”

Phil’s wrath blazed forth.

“How did I know that the man who was about to murder Martinez was a
traitor to his own people? I saw the two natives on the ground, one
with a knife upraised to bury it in the body of a man lying helplessly
beneath him, and then when I had separated them with the help of a
sailor, I saw that Martinez was armed, and I knew by a glance at his
face that he could not be taken alive.” The lad stopped suddenly,
the girl’s face coming suddenly before his eye. Did the general know
of her? He remembered that her presence at the scene had not been
mentioned. Had Espinosa failed to discover her presence? If not, why
had he failed to mention her in his report to Captain Blynn?

General Wilson’s parchment-like face betrayed a suspicion of a smile
while he listened patiently to the midshipman’s impetuous defense of
his own actions.

“Captain Perry,” he said slowly, “after you have been fighting these
natives longer your sensibilities will become more blunted. The excuse
of allowing an enemy to escape simply because you did not wish to kill
him would be laughed at by those who have been through these six months
of fighting. But,” he added, “I respect the delicacy of the situation
and shall tell Captain Blynn that I approve of your actions.”

Phil’s gratitude was fully expressed in the look he gave the officer as
he murmured his thanks.

“I do not wish you to believe,” the general added hastily, “that I
approve of useless bloodshed, but in a warfare such as has been forced
upon us the higher instincts of generosity to a fallen foe have but
small place. It is an eye for an eye with us now.”

As the general finished speaking the adjutant-general, Major Marble,
entered and greeted the newcomers warmly. Both the lads had known him
in their Annapolis days.

“Major Marble will give you the situation,” the general said as the
midshipmen shook his hand in parting. “I suppose you are ready to get
under way on summons.”

Phil answered promptly in the affirmative.

The major took the lads to his own comfortable quarters, facing the
Plaza, and then told them briefly of the perplexing conditions under
which the general was struggling.

“The insurgents will only fight,” the major told them earnestly, “when
they can surprise us, and with these untrained volunteers that has been
very frequent of late.”

The midshipmen told him how the American troops had marched
unsuspectingly past Colonel Martinez’s party the day before Captain
Blynn attacked them.

Major Marble shook his head sadly.

“Colonel Bane is not a soldier and never will be. He has blundered into
more traps than any officer in the island.”

A heavy footfall sounded on the stairs. Major Marble stopped talking
suddenly, and walked quickly to the door as Captain Blynn’s stalwart
figure emerged from the stairway. “Come here, Blynn,” he called.

The judge-advocate general approached; upon his face was a good-natured
smile which changed suddenly to an ugly frown as he caught sight of
his brother officer’s guests. He would have turned sullenly away,
but Major Marble put out a restraining hand. The lads had risen to
their feet. Phil felt his own face suffuse with blood as he caught
the glint of annoyance in Captain Blynn’s eyes. The midshipman turned
his back quietly and looked out the window. A moment later he heard
the captain’s heavy tread in the hall and a door slam loudly. When he
turned Major Marble’s face was pale and his blue eyes flashed angrily.

“Blynn’s a boor, sometimes,” he hastened to apologize. “I’ve heard
the story. He’s so absorbed in his work that any one who thwarts him
arouses his dislike. He cannot see the human side. He’s a veritable
bull in a china shop. He and Espinosa are doing splendid service. All
of our success so far has been through their secret service work.
You’ll be friends after you’ve been here a while. Martinez’s escape
hurts his pride just now. Martinez is something like the man with the
iron mask. He comes from Luzon, but no one knows who he is. We have
wired Manila and they answer that they know of no insurgent officer
of that name. Yet he’s here, and from all accounts has been expected.
Most of his party were destroyed by Blynn, but about seventy-five
are believed to have escaped, and Espinosa says that his followers
are landing every day in the neighborhood of Dumaguete. I think the
general’s plan is to have you cruise off there in hopes of intercepting
some of their war parties.”

Phil had composed his ruffled feelings and listened eagerly while Major
Marble was talking. His heart sank within him as there flashed through
his mind thoughts as to whom Martinez might be. Maybe no less a
personage than Aguinaldo himself, or General Rios, had been within his
grasp. Small wonder that Captain Blynn was put out at his escape. Yet
he could not have done otherwise with the girl’s beseeching, pleading
eyes upon him.

After leaving Major Marble’s quarters the lads took a turn around
the small Spanish town, loitering before the many shops and gazing
admiringly up at the great churches, gray with age. They finally hired
a carramata, the native cab, and drove through the city and out on the
military road, begun by the Spaniards years before but, as was the
custom of the country, never finished. As they drove into the Plaza
on their return they came face to face with Señor Espinosa, riding a
blooded horse which was prancing and pawing the earth, and making vain
attempts to unseat its rider. Espinosa drew rein and bowed pointedly
and courteously to the Americans.

“Señores,” he called eagerly, “may I have a word with you?”

Phil ordered his cochero to stop, while Espinosa dismounted, throwing
his reins to a small native gamin near by. The native advanced to the
carriage hat in hand and with as much ceremony as if he were about to
speak to some exalted personage.

“I am extremely mortified at my actions of yesterday,” he exclaimed in
his fluent and grandiloquent Spanish. “I have just seen the general. I
abjectly apologize for my rudeness. May I count upon the friendship of
the señores?” he asked in a suave, appealing voice.

Phil flinched unconsciously. He felt as if some reptile was drawing him
toward him against his will. Espinosa’s eyes were mild and his smile
was urbane; yet he felt that treachery was hidden behind this mask of
friendliness. Espinosa read the struggle in the lad’s eyes and for an
instant the mildness died in his own and a savage gleam took its place,
but Phil’s gaze had wandered, and this vision of the true man was lost.

“I don’t bear you any ill will for that,” Phil replied, his voice
unconsciously accenting the last word. “I suppose you felt you had been
cheated of your victory over Colonel Martinez.” Then the lad stopped
suddenly, a question trembling on his lips. Why should he not ask
it? Wherein was the harm? “Who was the girl with him?” Phil suddenly
questioned.

Espinosa’s face paled and in his eyes fear crept. “The girl,” he
gasped, “was there a girl?”

Phil nodded. “Yes, and her small brother; they came on the steamer with
us.”

“And escaped with Martinez,” Espinosa exclaimed excitedly. “I didn’t
see her; it was too dark. While I was struggling I thought I heard a
woman’s scream, but afterward I saw only Martinez.”

Phil saw the native was unduly agitated. What did it mean? How and why
had the presence of this woman so greatly excited him?

As the midshipmen drove toward their ship this question was still in
Phil’s thoughts.

“Is Espinosa playing a double game?” he asked Sydney suddenly. “Does he
fear detection by his own people? Does he believe that Martinez did not
recognize him and that his identity as a traitor is safe?”

Sydney shook his head over the mystery.



CHAPTER VII

THE GUNBOAT COÖPERATES


As the two midshipmen stepped over the gangway of the “Mindinao” a
figure arose from a seat on the quarter-deck and hurried eagerly toward
them.

“I’ve been waiting an hour for you,” Major Marble exclaimed excitedly.
“The general wants you to start as soon as possible for Binalbagan.
Baker’s men have had a fight; we got some news, and then the wire was
cut; our signal corps men have already gone out to find the break.
Tillotson and fifty men will be on board inside of an hour.”

The midshipmen’s eyes opened wide with excitement.

“We’re getting up steam, sir,” O’Neil volunteered. “I thought something
was in the wind when I seen the major come aboard, so I asked him and
he told me what we was to do.”

“Good for you,” Phil exclaimed, throwing an appreciative glance at the
trusty boatswain’s mate.

“Baker is in the field and a sergeant and twenty men are holding the
post,” Major Marble continued, “but if the natives are in great force
such a handful cannot last long.”

An hour later, Lieutenant Tillotson, a thin, blonde-haired youngster,
marched his khaki-clad men on board and joined the little group of
officers about the table on the quarter-deck.

Phil gave the young soldier a look of close scrutiny as he unbuckled
the revolver from about his slim waist and laid it on the hatch top.
There was nothing soldierly in the newcomer’s appearance, and Phil
unconsciously gave a sigh of disappointment. On the officer’s collar
between the crossed rifles was a single numeral.

“And a regular, too,” he thought.

“Good luck,” Major Marble cried as he passed over the gangway on to the
dock while the gunboat heaved up its anchor from the muddy bottom of
the river and steamed swiftly for the outer harbor.

Phil studied carefully the chart in his miniature wheel house forward.
“Ninety miles,” he mused as he stepped off the distance to Binalbagan.
“At this speed we’ll be in by daylight.”

The three sat long over their dinner on the cool quarter-deck, while
the gunboat sped rapidly along the coast of Kapay. Forward, the
soldiers and sailors fraternized, speculating upon the morrow’s work.

The naval men’s faces were keenly excited. The long-looked-for fun had
commenced. They were almost willing to hope that Captain Baker’s men
were having a stiff time of it, so that the guns of their boat could
have a chance to speak their disapproval to the insurgents. Lieutenant
Tillotson sat coolly contemplating his coffee cup. To him these
expeditions meant but one thing: discomfort.

“What’s the chance for a fight?” Sydney asked the army man.

Tillotson shook his head. “None,” he replied, “unless we can catch them
by surprise. This gunboat would scare off an army of insurgents. They
don’t like them.”

“But we shall surprise them,” Phil cried enthusiastically. “We’ll get
there before daylight, hit the enemy from behind and crumple him up. I
dare say, though, the fight will be finished before we arrive.”

Tillotson shook his head. He was non-committal. “News travels fast in
this country, and it’s only twenty-five miles by road to Binalbagan,”
he said.

“Have you been there?” Phil asked, all interest.

“No,” Tillotson replied carelessly.

“What is your plan?” Phil inquired quickly.

Tillotson eyed the lad, his blue eyes wide with astonishment, while a
superior smile curved the corners of his mouth.

“Plan?” he asked. “Why, just to land, that’s all; isn’t that enough?”

“Yes, but,” Phil urged, “it’ll be dark, and if fighting is going on,
we may get between the two fires. I got myself in that fix once, and I
know how it feels.”

Tillotson’s eyes opened wider. He took a closer look at this young
midshipman.

“What does he know of being under fire?” he thought. Tillotson was a
first lieutenant; he had served in Cuba and in the Philippines, but
his active duty until his assignment to the regiment whose number he
now wore on his collar had been only at a desk at headquarters.

“What service have you seen?” he inquired of Phil in a patronizing
voice. “Were you in the battle of Santiago, or Manila Bay, perhaps?”

“No--not those,” Phil answered quickly, awe in his voice; “only a few
skirmishes, that’s all,” he added sheepishly, “in South America and in
China.”

“Have we then had trouble in those places recently?” Tillotson inquired
in mild surprise, and in a voice calculated to annoy his listeners.

“Not very lately,” Phil answered; “the South American trouble was
over a year ago and in China about six months ago. They were only
small rumpuses. I dare say you didn’t hear about them.” Phil’s pride
was touched, for he knew that many papers had given full and even
exaggerated accounts of both fights, and his name and Sydney’s had been
glowingly mentioned.

“I suppose I must have been out in the field at the time,” Tillotson
explained indifferently, “so I didn’t see the papers.”

“Hadn’t we best make up a plan of just how we’re going to do this
thing?” Phil urged, returning to his point and being guided by his
training at the Naval Academy, which had taught him to be methodical in
all things.

Lieutenant Tillotson regarded the lad coldly. “You can plan for
yourself,” he replied. “I’ve been fighting these insurgents for some
months and my men know my plans by heart: they comprise just one word:
‘Forward.’”

After the lieutenant had gone to his cot and was sound asleep, the
midshipmen adjourned to the brightly lighted chart house to discuss the
situation.

“This rank business is what is hurting the army and navy too,” Phil
exclaimed testily. “Just because a man has one more stripe on his
sleeve he thinks he knows more than every one below him, and considers
a suggestion from a subordinate unpardonable insubordination, almost
akin to mutiny. Well, Mr. Tillotson can keep his own plan, but, Syd, I
am going to work out our end of it.” While Phil spoke he drew the chart
toward him and glanced carefully at the land in the neighborhood of
Binalbagan.

“Do you see that marsh behind the town?” he exclaimed suddenly to
Sydney whose eyes were upon the chart. “That’s probably mangrove, and
they can’t get through that, so if they’re attacking, it’ll be from
the side. If Tillotson lands his men to the northward and we take a
position to the southward we ought to make a big haul. I told O’Neil to
have the Colt gun ready and if it comes out as I hope it will, we’ll
land it there,” pointing to a spot on the chart showing a low hill to
the left of the town.

Sydney agreed heartily with Phil’s plans, and berated soundly the
attitude of the army man.

“I suppose,” Phil said in apology for him as they parted, one to turn
in, the other to keep watch until midnight, “that he’s had so much
fighting he’s grown careless.”

At midnight Phil was awakened, and relieved Sydney on the bridge, while
the latter went below to get a few hours’ sleep before he would be
needed in the work to be accomplished. Phil gazed through the darkness
ahead of the gunboat; the dim outline of the land along which they
were traveling could be seen on the port hand. The coast was bald and
he knew he could without danger run as close as he desired to its
precipitous cliffs. The more he thought of the scornful carelessness
of the young lieutenant the angrier he became. What right had he to
consider such an expedition one to require no plans? What if he landed
in an ambush?

“He should consider the lives of his men,” he exclaimed hotly.

The midshipman already knew that a large part of the garrison were
not at Binalbagan, having gone on an expedition to the north coast; a
sergeant and twenty men had remained to guard the men’s barracks and
supplies, to say nothing of the natives who had professed friendship to
the Americans and lived close under their protection. These poor souls,
Phil knew, were between two fires; if the soldiers were defeated they
would be killed by their enraged countrymen, while if their countrymen
claimed and received aid from them they would at once be put in prison
by the Americans, and yet if they refused to subscribe to the cruel
demands of the insurgents their lives would pay for their rashness as
soon as they wandered outside of their village.

He paced restlessly the silent bridge. His men he could see sleeping
under the awning just below him. The man at the wheel, his eyes on the
compass, and the lookout on the forecastle were alone awake and alert.
The hours dragged by. A faint blush of dawn was visible on the eastern
horizon when Phil through his powerful night-glass could recognize the
chief landmark near the town of Binalbagan, a deep notch in the rugged
coast hills through which the river in the season of rains flowed to
the sea. It was as yet too dark to discover the town, and Phil knew
that the hull of the gunboat could not be seen from shore until the
sun had almost risen above the horizon. The last point of land was
rounded, and the gunboat’s bow was directed toward the locality where
he knew the town was even then in the throes of an attack from a savage
enemy. His heart rose in his throat as his mind dwelt upon the gruesome
possibilities if the handful of soldiers had been overpowered by their
numerous foe. It was almost with a sigh of relief that, as the gunboat
approached nearer the shore, he indistinctly recognized the faint
flashes of flame from rifle fire. At least the soldiers, or some of
them, were still alive.

All hands had been called, and on the deck of the “Mindinao” there was
a scene of great activity. Boats were cast loose and supplied with the
accessories of war. A grim Colt gun was mounted on its tripod ready to
be carried ashore to hurl its five hundred shots a minute at the foe.

Lieutenant Tillotson, after a rapid inspection of his men, approached
the two midshipmen on the bridge. Phil had slowed the gunboat. With
a leadsman in the chains, calling out the depth of water, he was
now steering directly for the small, serpent-like flashes showing
distinctly against the dark background of the hills.

“It looks like a big fight,” Phil exclaimed excitedly as the lieutenant
reached his side.

“These people make a lot of noise,” the latter replied nervously. “I
am not afraid of their rifles; the bolo is their weapon. By Jove!” he
exclaimed, after taking another long look at the scene. “It is a big
fight. I’d no idea they had so many rifles on the island. My fifty men
won’t be a drop in the bucket.” He turned upon Phil, alarm in his eyes.
“I shan’t land under that fire. Our men are doubtless intrenched in the
convent and can hold out till daylight, then when it gets light enough
to see, you can easily drive the insurgents off with your guns.”

Phil gazed at the army man in undisguised surprise. What did he mean?
Was this the same Tillotson whose only order was “forward”? Here they
were, undiscovered, with fifty soldiers, a Colt gun and a gunboat. It
was a chance a landing party seldom had to deal its enemy a severe blow.

“There must be five hundred riflemen surrounding the town,” Tillotson
continued, with more assurance, believing from Phil’s silence that he
had agreed with his plan of attack. “It would be foolhardy to risk my
men against such odds.”

“He does think of his men, then,” Phil thought contemptuously.

The gunboat had now stopped and lay motionless on the quiet sea.
Without orders four boats fully manned with ready sailormen were
noiselessly lowered from the davits. Stalwart arms lifted the Colt gun
and placed it in the bow of a cutter. Phil gave a last careful search
through his glass at the shore line, scarce a thousand yards away.
He could see the shadowy form of the big white cathedral from which
tongues of flame darted incessantly. To the right the long, low convent
building was silent. The soldiers had seized the church and inside its
shelter they were making their last stand. Phil was assured that they
would be safe until their ammunition was exhausted, and his experience
had taught him that soldiers in such straits, unless there was an
officer to control them, would use up their last cartridge before
thinking of the dire consequences. To husband ammunition was not their
concern. Even as the lad gazed the enemy’s flashes appeared closer to
the cathedral. They were closing in; a final rush might land these
savages under the very walls of the church. His hand shook violently
and almost a sob escaped him as a bright flame suddenly appeared on the
convent roof.

“They have set the convent on fire,” Phil exclaimed in an awed whisper.
Then he turned fiercely on the army man.

“What are your plans now?” he asked almost roughly.

Lieutenant Tillotson drew himself up stiffly.

“At sunrise all will be clear,” he angrily insisted. “It would be worse
than murder to land now; as you said last night,” he added, seemingly
grasping at a straw, “we would be between two fires.”

Phil gave him an impatient glance. “Come on, Syd!” he exclaimed
eagerly, leading the way down from the bridge.

O’Neil had his four boats ready at the gangway; two for the soldiers
and the others for the men of the gunboat who could be spared from the
guns.

The lads gripped each other’s hand in silence as Phil stepped on the
gangway ladder leading to the boat. The soldiers by one accord had
crowded aft, their rifles in hand and cartridge belts bulging with
extra ammunition. Some had even filled the inside of their blue flannel
shirt with more precious cartridges.

“Aren’t we going, sir?” the sergeant asked, gazing through the darkness
for his lieutenant.

Phil shook his head. He was too angry to speak. Then suddenly without
command the soldiers filed, at first hesitatingly, casting anxious
glances behind them, into the awaiting boats.

“Syd,” Phil said in a low, tense voice, “you know the plan. Keep those
cordite shells away from our own men. Get as close in as you can; don’t
hesitate to run her ashore if necessary. If I am not mistaken we’ve got
these natives in the closest box they’ve ever been in.”

The four boats waited in silence at the gangway. Phil had taken his
place with O’Neil in the boat carrying the Colt gun.

“Tell Lieutenant Tillotson we’re ready,” Phil said in his natural voice
to Sydney on the gangway.

Lieutenant Tillotson strolled aft slowly, his eyes on the streak of
dawn ever increasing in the eastern sky.

“Come on, Tillotson,” Phil said harshly; “we’ve wasted too much time
already.”

Lieutenant Tillotson stopped on the gangway and glared angrily at the
composed midshipman below him.

“I’d like to know,” he sneered, “what business a midshipman has to give
orders to his superior officer.”

“I’ll give you one more chance, Tillotson,” Phil said in a stern, tense
whisper; he did not wish the men to hear. He could see even in the dim
light the surprised, incredulous look on the faces of his sailors.
“Will you please get aboard?”

The lieutenant remained motionless, a dark scowl on his face.

“Shove off,” Phil ordered harshly.

The boats cleared the gangway. The sailors dipped their oar blades,
ready to follow the leading boat in which was Phil and the trusty Colt.

“Come back here,” the lieutenant cried, seeing he had gone too far. But
Phil’s jaw was set and he turned to him a deaf ear.

“It’s his own fault,” Phil confided to O’Neil at his side. “I didn’t
order his men in the boats; they got in without orders, as any decent
men would do. What is it, O’Neil, just pure cold feet?” he asked
suddenly.

“Partly that, sir,” O’Neil answered, “but Lieutenant Tillotson is not a
coward; he’s just overcautious and a bit of a braggart. He didn’t like
attacking in the dark.”

The four boats pulled with oars muffled in toward the dim shore. Phil
steered his boat for a point behind the long fringe of flashes, where
the insurgent firing line was established, creeping ever closer to
the handful entrenched behind walls that would soon be too hot to
hold them. He had abandoned his first plan and now was landing all of
his mixed command to the left of the town. If he could land without
discovery, the first the enemy would know of his presence would be the
horrifying, crackling report of the machine gun.

“There, steer for that,” Phil breathed as a mound-like hill took shape
out of the darkness.

With eyes straining and faculties alert for the first premonition of
danger, Phil directed his boat forward. The gunboat had been swallowed
up in the night astern. The shore grew more distinct. The church now
stood out prominently, silhouetted against the background of flames
from the burning convent. Even as he gazed the gun fire from the church
seemed to slacken and against the bright glow he could see indistinctly
natives swarming toward the burning building. Their number seemed
myriad; surely those could not be all riflemen. Then he turned cold as
he suddenly grasped the sinister meaning--they were bolo-men. For each
rifleman, at least four natives armed with bolos are assigned. They are
the guardians of the precious rifle. To obtain an insurgent gun, five
men must be slain. These men, armed with weapons in the use of which
every native is proficient, were advancing to rush upon the trapped
men when the heat of the fire and the smoke had driven them from the
shelter of the church’s protecting walls.

So intent had Phil been that the boat, before he realized it, had
grounded on the sandy beach and the men had jumped overboard into the
shallow water. Once on the beach, he superintended the securing of the
boats and then led the way toward the point he had selected for the
first position to be occupied. The enemy were only a few hundred yards
away, but so intent were they on the accomplishment of their cruel
purposes, that the shadowy forms of the men from the sea, stealing
quietly through the short grass and against a background of darkness,
were not discovered.

Phil’s quick eyes suddenly discovered some one approaching from a
direction away from the enemy. He gripped his revolver firmly, not
knowing how many more men might be behind the figure discovered. As the
Americans approached the newcomer, a native suddenly raised his hand
and called loudly:

“Amigo, hua carta.”[2]

A blow from O’Neil’s revolver butt was the answer, while Phil grasped
the letter which had been held in the stricken man’s hand, placing it
carefully in his breast-pocket. Then a warning cry rang out, followed
by a rifle-shot, the hot blast of which almost burned Phil’s cheek,
while a wiry form struck boldly right and left with his keen blade in
the very midst of the startled Americans.



CHAPTER VIII

THE PRIVILEGES OF RANK


“There was two of ’em, captain,” the infantry sergeant exclaimed, in
that purely official calm voice for which the army non-commissioned
officers are noted even under the most trying and hazardous
circumstances, while he pushed away the body from beneath his feet,
after making sure the native was not shamming. “They was messengers,
telling the gugus of the coming of the gunboat, I reckon.”

The small band of soldiers and sailors moved cautiously through the
rank grass and sparse cocoanut palms. The enemy before the town had
been too much occupied to discover the disturbance in their rear.

Phil saw that the fire had grown apace and now the conflagration
threatened the entire town, but the greatest danger was to the church,
for the dawn breeze was carrying the hot, stifling smoke and flame
high on the church walls. It would be but a matter of minutes before
the church itself would be on fire. The sun was slowly approaching the
horizon; Phil saw the broad white band of light stretching across the
eastern sky. Out on the water to the right of the town the lofty spars
and smoke-stack of the “Mindinao” were indistinctly visible; Sydney was
ready to begin his allotted work when the day had broken so that he
could recognize friend from foe.

“If that fellow Tillotson hadn’t funked,” the midshipman whispered
fiercely, his teeth set firmly, “and we could have had his men to the
right of the town, we could have flayed ’em alive. Now they’ll all
escape past the gunboat--unless we let the gunboat open the ball and
drive them all this way.--I’ll do it,” he cried determinedly.

They had now reached the grassy-topped mound, the Colt gun placed in
battery, and the first string of cartridges fed into its steel maw.

“Sergeant,” Phil commanded tersely, “deploy your men to the right and
left, and take shelter. Don’t fire without orders.”

The sergeant saluted and gave a quick, sharp command. The soldiers
melted from sight. This was a new experience for them. Six months in
the islands and the only real fights they had seen were included in
a few shots at the disappearing brown men after they had fired their
volley from ambush, killing and wounding several of their comrades. Now
here were over five hundred yelling natives worked up to the wildest
pitch of savage triumph before their eyes, within range of their trusty
guns, and as yet no orders to fire.

“Stop your grumbling,” O’Neil overheard the sergeant tell one of his
soldiers in language more forceful than polite. “This is something
that your thick skulls can’t savvy. It’s naval strategy. Wait till
the ball opens and every mother’s son of you can prove his claim to a
sharpshooter’s medal.”

When all was ready, Phil could only wait patiently for the sun to give
Sydney enough light for his gunners to see to shoot, but meanwhile
he saw with ever-increasing impatience that the enemy was gradually
closing in about the church and convent. If the dawn were too long
coming! If the terrible, irresistible rush came before Sydney had
opened fire, then their attack would have failed, for the loss of
twenty American soldiers could not be repaid by the death or capture
of the whole insurgent army. It seemed to the awaiting midshipman that
hours must have passed since his men had entrenched themselves on this
small hillock. Surely the sun had stopped in its movement around the
earth! The flames in the town became higher and the smoke arose in
greater volume while the crackling of burning bamboo added its sinister
sound to the discharges of the rifles, ever drawing nearer the besieged
garrison. With heart beating rapidly and youthful indecision stamped on
his face, he gazed anxiously at the “Mindinao.” He breathed a sigh of
partial relief as he saw she was close inshore and was clearly visible.
Surely it was light enough to see, or if not yet the enemy must soon
discover the presence of the unwelcome and much-feared visitor. When
they fled, their retreat would be toward where he and his machine-gun
and sixty-five American rifles were awaiting them.

Moisture stood out on the youngster’s forehead in great beads and his
tongue lay like cotton against the roof of his mouth.

“I couldn’t have stood it another second,” he breathed, as a jet of
flame shot out from the gunboat’s bow and a sharp report followed by
thunderous reverberations awakened for the first time an unknown terror
in the hearts of the savage attackers, and brought courage and joy to
the hopeless men inside the stifling walls of the church.

The little gunboat belched flame from her three-pounders and the eager
and delighted watchers on the mound of earth, clustered about the Colt
gun, gazed with admiration and awe as the high explosive shells tore
great gaps in the earth, scattering the demoralized natives in all
directions. The avenue of escape to the right was closed; the enemy
dared not approach nearer that death-dealing war-ship, and with one
accord, an uncontrolled, terrified mob of human beings, without method
or leaders, they turned and retreated directly toward the mound on
which Phil and his men were impatiently awaiting them.

O’Neil had taken his place at the Colt gun. Seated in the bicycle
saddle, he squinted carefully down the massive rifle barrel, while
the seething mass of brown came ever closer. When the insurgents had
arrived at a distance of two hundred yards, Phil gave the order “Open
fire,” in a voice scarcely recognizable as his own, it trembled so with
excitement.

Bang--bang--bang, faster than one could count, resembling the
explosions in the cylinders of a high power touring car, only
infinitely louder and more sonorous, the Colt gun hurled a solid leaden
stream of bullets into the charging mass.

As coolly as if he were merely steering a boat, O’Neil played the
leaden hose on the startled enemy. They went down like chaff before the
reaper; while from behind urging them onward, the cordite shells of the
gunboat, which had followed them, burst with terrific havoc.

Throwing down their rifles--it did not enter their heads to ask for
the quarter which the Americans would have been only too willing to
give--they turned inland directly toward the burning town.

“Cease firing,” Phil cried out in alarm, as he saw suddenly appear,
almost in the path of the routed natives, the small band of men who
had come so near death at their hands. Rifles in hand, the relieved
soldiers advanced toward the now terrified insurgents and poured a
deadly fire into their already mortally stricken ranks.

“Come on,” yelled Phil, leading the way on a run, followed by his men.
“We can bag them all in that swamp.” But the lad did not realize what
fear can do for a native Filipino. The Colt gun on the left where
O’Neil had advanced it on the run, and the rifles of the threescore
jubilant soldiers lent wings to their enemy’s feet as those finding
themselves miraculously spared from instant death plunged into that
impenetrable mangrove thicket. Volley after volley was fired in the
direction in which they had disappeared, and the crash of the bullets
could be distinctly heard, but no white man could have followed where
they fled.

The sun was now above the horizon and the light of day showed a
gruesome sight to Phil’s eyes. Many hundreds of natives lay dead or in
their death agonies on the sandy soil. The doctor from the garrison
and his assistants attempted to help the sufferers, but after one
hospital man had been maimed for life by a wounded native to whom he
was administering, there could be little more to do. Graves were at
once dug in the little cemetery back of the church and there they were
placed one on top of the other in long rows and then the earth was
thrown on top and covered with rock to keep out the hungry mongrel
dogs, more savage even than their masters.

The fight had hardly terminated before a small boat came quickly ashore
from the gunboat. Phil’s good spirits left him as he saw Lieutenant
Tillotson come swaggering up to the group of soldiers and sailors.
Sergeant Sweeney, who had been in command of the small garrison,
had been excitedly giving Phil the details of the attack, when the
lieutenant’s flushed, angry face brought him to a sudden stop.

“Well, sergeant,” he cried in an insolent harsh voice, “make your
report to me; I am in command here; this man has no standing.”

Phil was so stunned at the words that he didn’t understand or at least
realize its meaning.

Then his righteous anger and loathing welled into his throat.

[Illustration: “_I AM IN COMMAND HERE!_”]

“How dare you talk of me that way before your men?” he cried, his face
pale as death, and his strong fists clinched.

“Well, who are you, anyway?” Tillotson exclaimed swaggeringly. “A
midshipman!--ashore you have no status, so from now on please mind your
own business.”

“Come on, sir,” O’Neil whispered, grasping firmly but respectfully
Phil’s arm. The sailor felt the lad’s muscles standing out like
whip-cords. He foresaw that something was about to happen. “Don’t spoil
all our fun, sir. If you hit him, which he richly deserves, you’ll lose
your ship, and where will Mr. Monroe and Jack O’Neil be then?”

In spite of his anger and mortification the remark of his favorite
brought a faint smile to Phil’s face.

“I guess you’re right, Jack,” he replied, his voice shaking with
emotion, calling him unconsciously by the name which he always used in
his thoughts, and allowed himself to be led away.

The midshipman called his men together and walked quietly toward the
beach, while Lieutenant Tillotson took entire charge of gathering up
the spoils.

“The lieutenant’s compliments, sir,” spoke an orderly at Phil’s side as
he was about to step into his boat to go to the “Mindinao,” where at
least he did have some status. “And he says, he orders you to send your
men to report to him to put things in order.”

Phil turned on the messenger fiercely, and then in time remembered the
soldier was but the innocent bearer of this insolent command.

“Come on, O’Neil,” the lad said with a tone of humiliation in his
voice, leading the way back toward the burning town. “I suppose I must
pocket my pride. I am only a midshipman, after all, and on shore here I
am under his orders.”

After Sydney had anchored the gunboat he hailed a boat from the shore
and soon stood by Phil’s side. The fire was quite beyond their control
and inside of a few hours a great part of the nipa town was in ashes.
By almost superhuman efforts most of the supplies and ammunition of the
garrison were rescued, and piled in the little plaza in front of the
church, where tents were pitched and all preparations made to receive
the soldiers of Captain Baker when they returned from their expedition
to the northward. In interrupted and fragmentary sentences Phil told
Sydney of the insults offered him by the army man. Sydney’s eyes blazed
in anger.

“The dastardly coward,” he exclaimed after the story had been unfurled
before him. “While you were risking your life, he was sitting on the
quarter-deck apparently glad to be in a place of safety, and now he
comes and wants to reap all the reward. I don’t see how he has the face
to appear before his men.”

“He’s not a regular, anyway,” Phil exclaimed in a relieved voice.
“O’Neil says the sergeant told him he was some rich politician’s son,
a black sheep, appointed in a regular regiment. That explains him
somewhat.”

“He’s a yellow dog, that’s what he is,” Sydney exploded, “and I’d like
to tell him so to his face, and I will, the first chance I get.”

“No, you won’t, Syd,” Phil said firmly; “remember ashore here we’re
under his orders. Don’t give him an opportunity to make it unpleasant.
It’s bad enough as it stands.

“There’s where we can be of service,” he suddenly exclaimed as his eye
followed the trailing end of a wire. “The telegraph instruments were
saved and are over there in the grass; we’ll connect up and see if we
can get Palilo.”

After a half hour’s work with the help of the single signal corps
man, the instrument had been remounted inside of a tent and the lads
watched eagerly as the operator endeavored to call up headquarters. The
instrument clicked rhythmically for a fraction of a minute and as it
ceased the receiving relay clicked loudly in return.

“The line’s O. K., sir,” the soldier said as his hand rested on the
sending key, and he looked up for orders. “Shall I tell Palilo that
we’re all right?”

Phil was about to answer when he suddenly remembered the stinging words
of the lieutenant. Pocketing his pride once more he shook his head.
“Report to the lieutenant that the line is through,” he said as the two
lads turned away.

A few moments afterward, while they stood outside the tent they heard
the clicks of the sending key. Each listened intently; not with any
idea of eavesdropping but because on board ship it had been a custom
formed in their Annapolis days to read all signals. In this way they
both had perfected themselves in all forms of signaling and could read
in all codes.

  “_To Adjutant-General, Palilo_:

  “I attacked insurgents besieging garrison at daylight. Placing the
  gunboat on one flank, I sent guard with Colt gun on the other. Attack
  was a perfect success. We have captured nearly two hundred rifles. We
  have no casualties. Baker still away.

                                                            “TILLOTSON.”

The midshipmen read the message, their eyes opening wide with wonder as
the busy little instrument proceeded.

“Well, of all the nerve!” Phil exclaimed as the signature was reached.
“I attacked, I placed the gunboat, I sent guard. But where was he?--he
doesn’t say, does he!”

At noontime the midshipmen found themselves unwilling guests at
Lieutenant Tillotson’s table for the midday meal. Phil had asked
permission to withdraw his men on board ship but the lieutenant had
curtly refused.

Napkins were a luxury not supplied, and after finishing his dinner,
consisting of wholesome army rations, Phil drew out of his pocket his
handkerchief to use in place of the missing square of linen. The letter
taken from the dead native fell at his feet. The excitement and worry
of the last few hours had driven the knowledge of its presence from his
mind.

Tillotson’s keen eye was upon the letter and he stretched out his hand
for it in stony silence. Phil gave it up instantly. The lieutenant
broke the seal and ran his eyes quickly over its contents. His face
showed keen interest as he read; then he put the letter carefully
into his own pocket. The midshipmen regarded him with interest, half
expecting to hear the purport of its contents; but were disappointed,
for in a few minutes he arose and left them without a word.

“The rest of the garrison are returning, captain,” O’Neil announced,
joining the midshipmen after his dinner with the soldiers. “You can see
their dust down the beach.”

The lads watched with ill-concealed delight, much to Tillotson’s
discomfiture, the arrival of Captain Baker and his eighty dust-covered
soldiers. As they swung into the Plaza, apparently for the first time,
they realized that something extraordinary had happened, for they
quickened their pace and Captain Baker, unable to control his anxiety
further, shouted eagerly to ask what had happened.

Tillotson, assurance in his every motion, walked out to meet him.

Phil could not refrain from comparing these two figures--one that of
Captain Baker, alert, muscular, tanned by the sun, his uniform dirty
and stained by travel, with grime on his soldierly countenance, while
the other, slender, his clothes neat and of a dandified cut, seemed
more in place in a drawing-room than in the jungles of the Philippines.

“I saw the gunboat when we struck the beach below there,” Captain Baker
exclaimed, his anxiety relieved after Tillotson had assured him all was
safe, and he advanced hand outstretched, a hearty smile of greeting on
his strong face. “Is this the new captain of the ‘Mindinao’? I am glad
to meet you both,” he said as he shook the hands of the midshipmen in
turn. “I suppose we are once more indebted to the navy.”

Tillotson frowned. “I have fifty men with me,” he exclaimed
protestingly. “Of course the gunboat was useful in bringing us here and
shelling the beach.”

“What’s become of all the town natives?” Captain Baker asked suddenly.

“They all left town yesterday morning,” the sergeant replied. “That’s
how we knew that all was not going just right.”

“The cowardly beggars!” Captain Baker exclaimed. “You’d have thought we
were their best friends. Well, I suppose they’ve got to look out for
themselves. Have you buried all the bodies?” he asked suddenly.

“Yes, sir,” Tillotson replied, “but your sergeant has the names of all
those he recognized; apparently there were some of the town people in
the attack.”

Captain Baker nodded his head, a sorrowful expression on his face. “Who
can we trust among these people?” he said in a low voice as he scanned
the list handed him. “Even my own servant against us. Pedro might have
stuck a knife in me any night he wished.”

“A telegram, sir,” the captain’s orderly announced handing him a sheet
of paper.

“Send gunboat ‘Palilo.’ If desirable retain Tillotson and men.”

Captain Baker read the message aloud, then his soldier eye gazed
intently at the lieutenant. The inspection from the expression on the
captain’s face had not been reassuring; however, in a second he turned
a smiling face to Phil.

“Captain Perry, I am sorry I am not to have the pleasure longer;
however, I am deeply grateful to you and the navy for saving my men.
Tillotson, you can return; I’ll keep your men.”

Lieutenant Tillotson’s face, which had become sorely troubled as the
telegram had been read, suddenly cleared. Phil felt that he would
have died if a soldier of Captain Baker’s standing and reputation
had even hinted at his uselessness, as he had at this hard-skinned,
self-satisfied lieutenant.

After a night’s run the “Mindinao” was again tied up to the dock at
Palilo. On the trip down the lads had left their unpleasant passenger
severely alone, while he had spent his evening writing, filling sheet
after sheet of paper with closely spaced lines.

“Official report of a spectator,” Sydney whispered loud enough
purposely for Tillotson to hear. The latter looked up and scowled.

After breakfast the next morning Phil reported at the general’s office.
Major Marble received him with a grave face.

“For the land’s sake, Perry! What have you done to Tillotson? He
denounces you in scathing terms in his official report to the general;
accuses you of weakening his authority before his men; humiliating him
on your own ship; deliberately shoving off from the ship without him
because he did not approve of the entire plan which you devised without
his concurrence, and lastly reports you for insubordination when under
his orders ashore and treating your superior officer with contempt. In
fact,” Major Marble ended, “he has started at the top and gone to the
bottom of all the military offenses.”

Phil gasped in astonishment. Major Marble stood gazing compassionately
at his young friend, apparently hoping to hear him clear up the
mystery. But Phil was silent. He must have time to think.



CHAPTER IX

THE KATIPUNAN SOCIETY


After Phil had reached his ship he scarcely remembered how he had
behaved to his anxious and sympathetic friend, Major Marble. The boy’s
mind was dazed. He had not believed that Tillotson would dare make
charges against him, but now that they had been made, how should he
act? The mere words of each charge were only too true but Phil felt
that he had had strong and sufficient reasons for acting as he did. But
now he must refute these charges or else go before a court-martial.
But how could he refute them? There was but one way and that was to go
to General Wilson and tell his story, which would be corroborated by
Sydney. It would be tantamount to telling the general that one of his
officers was an arrant coward and unfit to be trusted with hazardous
expeditions. And even then the charges would still hold. They were true
in substance, every one of them. As commanding officer of a gunboat
Phil was within his rights when he laid his plans as to where the
attack of the gunboat should be and the locality to land his own men;
but he could only advise the army man from his nautical experience as
to where the best place would be to land the soldiers in order that
their coöperation might be harmonious. Lieutenant Tillotson was free to
accept his suggestions or refuse them as he saw fit. So long as they
were both afloat the army officer could give no orders to him, nor
could Phil give orders to his superior in rank. To the anxious lad it
was certainly a perplexing situation. His conscience was quite clear
upon the soundness of the plan he had proposed, and he felt that in
carrying it out they had struck a severe blow at the insurrection and
had saved the beleaguered garrison. The lieutenant’s action might in
feeble minds be excused through the plea of caution, but no strong man
would hesitate to say that it was a case where caution should not have
been considered.

Sydney was beside himself with indignation when he learned of the
spiteful charges of the lieutenant and was for seeking him out and
bestowing personal vengeance, but Phil dissuaded him from any such rash
act.

“I should have ordered his men out of the boats,” Phil said bitterly,
“when I saw Tillotson was not coming. We might have won without them,
although they were a great comfort, and if the Colt gun had gone back
on us they would have been a necessity.”

“What will you do?” Sydney asked, exasperated at the apparent
indecision of his friend. “Tell the straight story to the general and
he’ll make it hot for that dandified gentleman soldier.”

“The worst of it is,” Phil replied gravely, “Tillotson is the son of
an influential man in the Philippine government, and if he takes our
part the general will incur the father’s displeasure, for a father will
never believe wrong of a son. A general has been suspended for less,
and that would ruin his army career. I think our best plan is to try to
compromise with Tillotson, and if he won’t listen to reason then ask
the general to send us to another part of the island.”

Major Marble, as much as he disliked the task, was in duty bound
to hand this report to the general through his judge-advocate
general. Captain Blynn believed he was a fair man and was proud of
his reputation of being scrupulously honest, yet when he read this
arraignment of the young midshipman, a smile, almost of pleasure,
passed over his face. Here was a case in which he took the greatest
delight. The captain instinctively disliked Tillotson. He saw that he
did not have the making of a soldier, and this expedition had been one
of the few with which he had been entrusted. On another occasion his
command had suffered severely from an ambush of bolo-men, and there had
been vague rumors that Tillotson had not behaved as it was traditional
a ----th Infantry officer should, but there had been nothing official,
thanks doubtless to his father’s influence. As Captain Blynn read he
recognized the work of a law graduate. Each charge was described at
length in an enclosed letter. Undoubtedly the circumstances were true.

“Queer youngster, that fellow Perry,” Captain Blynn exclaimed almost in
admiration as he finished and folded the communication preparatory to
laying it before his chief. “He’s got grit, but I fear bad judgment.
I could never see why he allowed that Martinez to escape. Espinosa
says it was deliberate. Well, he must pay for his ill-judged acts. I
don’t want any one about here who’s going to have qualms of conscience
about killing a Filipino who won’t surrender. He handled that attack at
Binalbagan splendidly, though,” he thought. “But I am afraid we’ve got
to make an example of him.”

As Captain Blynn approached the general’s office, he caught the sound
of voices from within, and soon saw that the midshipman himself was
talking earnestly with the general. Captain Blynn was not deterred;
with him business was business and here was the officer charged with a
grave offense.

“I have a letter here, sir,” he said in his cold, official voice
addressing his chief, “written by Lieutenant Tillotson, making very
serious charges of misconduct against Midshipman Perry.”

“Captain Perry has just told me that he had heard of these charges,”
the general replied in an annoyed voice. “It seems to me, Perry, you
have stirred up quite a hornet’s nest in the few days you have been in
Kapay.”

Phil blushed furiously, and his eyes flared forth his indignation at
such an unfair remark. Especially as he could make no answer to an
officer of such rank.

The general adjusted his glasses and read from beginning to end the
report placed on his desk by the captain; then he glanced up, a puzzled
look on his deeply lined face.

“This is a very ugly business,” he said sharply. “We have no time to
investigate such matters. We are busy putting down this rebellion. Yet
such conduct as charged in this report, Mr. Perry, cannot go unheeded.
There’s but one thing to do,” he continued after a moment’s thought.
“Wire to the admiral at Manila and request your detachment for private
reasons.”

“That would be a tacit acknowledgment that I am in the wrong,” Phil
cried out, his voice trembling with anger at the injustice in the
general’s words.

“Read this letter,” the general said brusquely, “and if you can clear
yourself do so before Captain Blynn and myself.”

Phil took the letter and read page after page of incriminating evidence
against him. It told of the disagreement as to the plan of landing and
the time of landing. Then of the departure of the expedition from the
gunboat, when the accuser claimed that Phil had deliberately shoved off
without him, “doubtlessly jealous of being outranked,” the report read.
Then of his insubordination ashore after the attack when he, Tillotson,
had taken charge of the work of clearing up the battle-field. Of the
withdrawal of the sailors and their refusal to help until an imperative
order had been sent the midshipman not to go to the gunboat, but to
return and give aid to the soldiers.

Phil’s heart thumped as he read. The report was untrue in so far as
the imputations on his reasons were concerned, but the incidents were
only too true, and except by bringing a charge of cowardice and calling
soldiers and sailors to corroborate him, he could not deny the report.
Tillotson’s report stated further that both midshipmen had during the
return trip acted toward him in a manner which lessened the respect of
the sailors for him. That one of them had made remarks derogatory to
his character as a soldier.

Phil handed the report back, his eyes swimming. His anger was rife
within him and he dared not speak.

“This is a case for a Court of Inquiry,” Captain Blynn said to the
general, “but I cannot see how an army court can decide on the case of
a naval officer. Mr. Perry apparently cannot deny these charges, so
if he is disinclined to wire the admiral, I suggest that you send a
message asking to have him relieved.”

The general nodded his head in the affirmative and Captain Blynn
withdrew to prepare the fatal telegram.

“I am sorry, Mr. Perry,” the general said, his face softening. “I have
heard of your fight, and it was a masterpiece. I believe you have the
stuff in you; but insubordination cannot be condoned. You must learn to
obey and be respectful to officers higher in rank.”

“Why couldn’t he tell the general just how everything had happened?” he
thought as he listened to the kindly voice, “not to ask that he might
retain his ship but simply to clear his name of this cloud.”

Captain Blynn appeared, telegram in hand, which he laid before the
general for his signature.

“Before I send this,” the latter said turning to Phil, “see Lieutenant
Tillotson yourself, and if he is willing to withdraw this report I
shall forget the incident.”

Phil left the office, knowing that it was but a respite. He had passed
Tillotson on the street when on the way to the general’s office and had
saluted and spoken, but his greeting had been ignored.

It was dark when Phil left the headquarters building and walked toward
the docks. As he passed slowly through a narrow street, the forbidding
windowless walls towering over him with here and there a dark alleyway,
where an assassin might lurk, he instinctively felt for the handle of
his navy revolver lying in its holster slung to his left hip. At the
end of the street near the river and but a few paces from the gunboat
he saw a calesa drawn up, its curtains drawn closely, just beyond the
glare of a street lamp, and he was surprised to see a hand wave to him
from the gloom inside.

Stepping cautiously to the side of the awaiting vehicle, he heard his
name called in a familiar woman’s voice. It was the unknown girl of the
“Negros.”

“Señor Perry, may I speak to you?” she inquired excitedly in Spanish.

Phil took her outstretched hand eagerly, forgetting for the moment his
own trouble.

“What is it, señorita?” he asked eagerly.

“Come to-night to the northeast corner of the Plaza, at nine o’clock;
bring some of your men with you. Maria Rodriguez will show her
gratitude to the brave American officers.” He would have detained her,
to learn more, but her sharp command to the alert driver had come
before he could recover from the startling summons and the next moment
the calesa was racing madly up the street.

Full of his news, he boarded the gunboat and confided to Sydney the
girl’s message.

“Maria Rodriguez,” Sydney exclaimed. “She’s the daughter of Juan
Rodriguez, the wealthiest Filipino in Kapay. I wonder what’s up? Her
father, you know, refuses to join the insurgents, and yet will not aid
the Americans, and the general will not molest him. He lives on his
estates just beyond the city on the river.”

O’Neil was summoned and told to make up a party of five good men to
accompany them and then the midshipmen sat down to dinner; but neither
had an appetite for food.

Phil told Sydney of the outcome of his visit to the general and the
latter was cast down with gloom.

“I shan’t stay without you,” he asserted. “Can’t something be done? Is
there no way to make this man Tillotson back down?”

Phil shook his head. “I shan’t try. I’ll just take my medicine. It’s
bitter, but every one who was there knows that he was in the wrong.”

Nine o’clock saw the small party at the northeast corner of the Plaza.
The city seemed deserted. There was no one on the streets. Suddenly
the clanking of a sword was heard and the sailors slunk quietly out of
sight into the shadow of a near-by doorway.

“It’s Lieutenant Tillotson,” Phil whispered, “inspecting sentries; he’s
officer of the guard to-night.”

After the officer had passed, the party waited anxiously for several
minutes and then a native appeared walking slowly toward them from a
cross street. He stopped fifty yards away and beckoned; then turned
quickly and walked away.

Phil and Sydney leading, they followed the vanishing figure ahead of
them. He guided them through street after street, leading farther and
farther away from the occupied part of the city. Suddenly the native
stopped, beckoned with his hand, and entered a doorway of a pretentious
Filipino dwelling.

“Your men must wait here, señor; it is the señorita’s order,” the
native told the lads. “The officers are to come with me.” He raised his
finger to his lips to caution silence. “If we are discovered it will
mean death, señor.”

“What’s the game, sir?” O’Neil asked eagerly, not having heard the
whispered words of the native.

“You’re to stay here out of sight,” Phil explained quietly. “If we need
help I’ll fire my revolver.”

With a parting caution the midshipmen stealthily followed their guide
up the street, hugging the dark shadow of the houses, and entered the
wide archway of a large native building. Inside was total darkness, and
it needed all their confidence in the girl who had invited them to come
to still their awakening suspicions.

The guide gave a low whistle and the slight sound caused their hearts
to beat faster amid the profound silence within.

“Señores, you have come,” a woman’s musical voice dispelled their
fears. “Please step this way; I am sorry there can be no light.”

Phil quietly led the way in the direction of the voice, and his eyes
soon discerned the figure of the girl, a darker object among the
surrounding gloom. He felt a warm, confiding hand in his, and allowed
himself to be led deeper into the blackness of the building.

The midshipmen followed blindly; their eyes, unaccustomed to the
darkness, could see nothing. They knew from an occasional contact
with a wall that they were in a narrow passage and from the damp odor
they knew it must be some depth below the ground. Several times their
heavily shod feet slipped on the muddy floor, and occasionally they
could hear the tinkly drip of water. The passageway led gradually
downward, the dampness increasing.

Finally the girl stopped and the sound of the heavy breathing of the
four people filled the narrow limits of their surroundings.

“These are underground passages, built years ago during a threatened
uprising of the natives against the Spaniards,” Señorita Rodriguez
whispered. “This passage leads to the secret chamber of the ‘Sociedad
de Katipunan.’ To be present at a meeting the penalty for a non-member
is to take the oath or suffer death. Only the direst necessity has
brought me here to-night. I have no right to ask you, señores,” she
said pleadingly, “to take this great risk for my sake, and if you so
decide we can now turn back. Lopez, my father’s trusted patron, will go
with me.”

“We will go with you, señorita,” Phil answered without a second’s
hesitation. “What are we to see?” he asked, unable to control his
curiosity at the mystery of it all.

“Come, you shall discover for yourself,” she said as she moved forward,
her hand still in Phil’s, while Sydney held his companion by the coat
sleeve and Lopez, as noiseless as an Apache, brought up the rear. “The
meeting will not take place for some time, and meanwhile we shall have
time to talk.”

Silently they moved forward until presently, from the sound of their
footfalls, Phil knew that the walls had receded and that they had
entered a large chamber.

“The stairs, señor,” Maria whispered, and the lads found themselves
mounting earthen steps. Again their feet struck wooden boards and they
knew that they had ascended from the passage and were in a large room
directly over the one which they had just left.

“This is the old Spanish inquisition room,” the girl said in a low
voice, “and a fitting meeting-place for the Katipunan murderers. But
come, they may be here any moment.”

Phil admired the daring of this frail girl. She had led them into the
very nest of these traitorous outlaws, for it now dawned upon him what
was the true meaning of these meetings.

“Do they enter the same way as we have come?” he asked anxiously,
casting an apprehensive glance behind him.

“No,” Maria answered, a smile on her face as she felt the lad’s hand
tremble imperceptibly on her own. “We are not in the room; it is beyond
us, as you shall see soon. We are in a covered gallery which is secret
and known to but few even of the society. The passage through which
we came has not been used for years, and until last night was closed
with earth. Lopez has spent all day with some of his most trusty men
clearing it in order that we might pass.”

Phil cautiously peered about him, but his eyes could not penetrate
the darkness. He knew that his feet were on boards, and that his hand
rested upon a wall which was rough and dry. Then suddenly as if by a
flash of lightning a vivid picture of his surroundings was shown him.

“They are coming,” Maria whispered in a startled voice. “Lie down and
for your life do not speak.” The next second all was again blackness.
The lads and their companions had noiselessly thrown themselves down on
the floor and were holding their breath in an agony of suspense. The
cool handle of Phil’s revolver, which he had unconsciously drawn from
its holster, brought back his confidence. At least they would not die
without some injury to their enemy.

Again came the flash of light; it flickered and seemed on the point of
extinction, and then continued dimly. Phil recognized that this time
the match had not gone out in the room over which their gallery looked,
and that a candle was dimly burning. Then another and another candle
was lighted and little by little the great room was exposed to their
view.

Figures of men could be seen clustered about a table in the far end
of the hall, some seated in chairs, but most of them on the ground in
native fashion, while beyond the table was a niche in which an image
glittered. The midshipmen soon discovered that it was an exaggerated
emblem of the Katipunan society which they had seen on insurgent flags;
the sun within a flaming triangle, all of pure silver.

A noise of feet and guarded voices came to their ears as the room
slowly filled with men. As the light from the many candles shone upon
their faces the anxious watchers saw that each man was masked.

After an interminable interval of time all was hushed and a man arose
from a seat near the symbol of the society and beckoned one of the
others to approach.

Phil felt the girl beside him tremble violently, and give a sharp gasp
of pain.

“Garcia,” she breathed, “my father’s trusted friend.”

“Our unknown brother,” the leader said in Spanish, which Phil was to
learn was the accepted language of the society, “has been summoned to
join our society; his name is recorded secretly in the recording book;
his number is one thousand and ten.” The leader then drew from his
scabbard a sharp glistening bolo and circled it with the adroitness
of a juggler about the head of the newly enrolled member. Gradually
one after another of the masked natives arose, their keen-bladed bolos
held aloft, while in single file they moved slowly with a rhythmical
dancing step toward the silent “one thousand and ten.” As they advanced
a weird chant broke from twoscore throats. It was not loud, but the
volume filled the high vaulted chamber and lent an uncanny air to the
mysterious initiation. It seemed to Phil as he watched, his eyes
fairly bulging from their sockets, that the unfortunate man would
surely be severed into a thousand pieces by these fierce, savage
fanatics, but he stood silent, his arms folded across his breast, while
his eyes gleamed in exultant excitement.

Slowly the members danced by their new comrade and returned to their
seats.

Then the new member, by sign from the leader, advanced and prostrated
himself before the emblem.

“The sign of giving his life to the cause,” Maria whispered. Then she
stiffened and a stifled sob broke from between her clenched lips as the
voice of the speaker filled the room.

“Rodriguez has refused the summons. He is no longer our friend. He has
gone over to the despised Americans. Through him our men were attacked
and killed at Banate, and also at Binalbagan. He holds his servants
from joining our cause only through fear. Once he is removed they will
all join us.”

“It is all untrue!” Maria’s voice, clear, low, and distinct, sounded
through the room, and at once the assemblage was on its feet, gazing
distrustfully at each other. Phil’s hand had grasped the girl’s arm
with a grip of steel, fearing that in her indignation and anger she
would expose herself to the view of these twoscore traitors.



CHAPTER X

IN THE SHADOW OF A SUSPICION


Phil’s heart beat tumultuously as he laid a restraining hand on Maria’s
arm to prevent her from rising up from the floor of the gallery. The
instant the girl’s indignant, vibrating voice was heard an uncanny
silence fell upon the masked men. Each looked fearfully at the other.
Every man mistrusted his neighbor. The girl’s heavy breathing sounded
ominously loud in the lad’s ears, and he was dumb with apprehension
that she would sacrifice them all by a second outburst of passionate
denial. They dared not move. There was naught to do but wait. If the
society determined upon a search then their one chance was to make
a dash for the passageway, and hold the angry men at bay with their
revolvers. O’Neil and his five men were near the entrance, and Phil
felt sure that their cause was not altogether desperate.

After an interval that seemed hours the leader’s voice broke the heavy
silence.

“Who dared deny that Rodriguez has betrayed his people?” he cried.

Phil’s strong fingers pressed firmly the girl’s arm and his eyes begged
obedience.

The masked men sat as if turned to stone. No sound broke the stillness.

A loud knock on the door behind the speaker brought the assemblage to
their feet in sudden fear. Phil saw that many had drawn their bolos,
while others stood ready to extinguish the long rows of candles.

A challenge was called and answered, and the next second the door was
opened from within and a native entered. Phil beheld in admiration
the air of grace and fearlessness while he advanced boldly toward the
startled leader.

A smothered exclamation from Maria caused the lad’s eyes to travel
quickly to her face. She was staring, a horrible dread stamped on her
face, while she murmured in a trembling voice: “Mi Padre!”

So this was Juan Rodriguez, who had been denounced but a moment since
by the terrible Katipunan society, come to answer in person to the
charge!

Another native followed him closely; neither were masked, and Phil
recognized, in startled wonder, Colonel Martinez.

“Fellow countrymen,” Rodriguez exclaimed in a loud, commanding voice,
“I have obeyed your summons, but I shall not join the society. I
shall never take sides in this war until I feel in my heart that to
do so will better my countrymen. You who are deceiving the Americans,
pretending that you are loyal and yet aiding your countrymen to kill
them, doubtless believe that you are doing your country a service, but
I know that in the end you will bring terrible suffering on our people.
Take the field and fight openly and honorably, and you will be treated
by your enemy as a brave antagonist, but fight with a knife, stabbing
your enemy in the back, under the guise of friendship, and the end is
surely the gallows tree.”

A murmur of harsh voices filled the room as Rodriguez stopped speaking.

All eyes were turned to this striking figure, as the light from many
candles revealed the finely moulded face, flashing eyes and firmly
chiseled lips and chin.

As Phil watched, his eyes opened wider in dread. The leader had edged,
during the long speech, nearer and yet nearer to Rodriguez. Martinez
was standing silently on the other side. Phil’s anxious gaze caught
the flash of brightly polished steel in the hands of this masked
native, now but a few feet from his intended victim. Maria saw, but her
voice was frozen within her. Phil gauged the distance to the would-be
murderer, for his intention was only too evident. It was not over fifty
paces. Surely it was possible; he had often practiced at that distance.
His revolver was now pointing at the Katipunan leader, whose hand could
be seen to be stealthily rising. Phil steadied one shaking hand with
the other and pulled the trigger. The loud report of the discharge
was deafening, and below in an instant all was the wildest confusion.
Swiftly all lights were extinguished and the room was plunged into inky
darkness.

“Come,” Phil urged excitedly, “we must get O’Neil and save Juan
Rodriguez.”

Blindly they felt for the stairs and quickly descended; then hand in
hand they ran along the dark, slippery tunnel. Reaching the street Phil
gave a low whistle, which soon brought O’Neil and his men.

“Did you fire a shot?” the sailor asked anxiously. “We thought we heard
one, but it seemed a long ways off.”

“Yes,” Phil replied, “but follow us; there’s work to be done; the
señorita’s father is in danger.”

Led by the native, Lopez, each sailor with his revolver drawn sped
down the narrow street. At the corner they saw a small band of men
approaching. Phil halted his party and waited ready to attack if they
turned out to be enemies. The next moment Maria had thrown herself
into her father’s arms, and was sobbing hysterically, while his native
followers withdrew to some distance and stood on guard in respectful
silence.

Phil and Sydney wrung the hand of their former captor Martinez.

“What would Captain Blynn say now?” Phil exclaimed laughingly as O’Neil
too squeezed the colonel’s hand until the latter winced. “He’d shoot us
for traitors sure.”

Sydney smiled. “It would be rather difficult to explain the situation,”
he replied, the drollness of the meeting suddenly striking him.

“You saved my life, señor,” Rodriguez exclaimed suddenly, as Maria led
him to the Americans. “My daughter has told me all. I do not know how
she could have gone where she did, or how she found out that I had been
summoned, but bringing you there has shown that often one’s greatest
enemy lives in one’s house and eats his bread. I came this evening
bringing with me my own men, for I know these blackguards too well to
trust myself alone. As all were masked I recognized no one, but I have
suspicions as to many and especially he who you probably have killed,
for he fell limply at my feet just before the lights were extinguished.”

A sudden pang of remorse came into Phil’s thoughts.

“Colonel Martinez came with me as my friend and protector,” said
Rodriguez, “and although he is an enemy within your lines I ask that he
be allowed to withdraw in safety. You see,” he added with a smile, “we
had no idea of meeting those who would recognize him.”

Phil as the leader of the Americans gave a ready assent. He well knew
that a strict interpretation of his duty required that he arrest
Colonel Martinez on the spot and take him prisoner before the general,
but intuitively he realized that to do so would hurt the American
cause. He felt that Rodriguez had reached a crisis in his avowed
intention of neutrality. By arresting Martinez after this appeal Phil
might lose the government a valuable friend, now wavering between his
loyalty to his own people and the more earnest duty of fighting against
them to protect them from the domination of this treacherous band of
murderers.

“Good-bye, señores,” Maria cried eagerly, as her father signified his
intention to depart. “I can never thank you enough for what you have
done to-night. If your bullet,” she added earnestly, “has silenced
forever that terrible leader of the Katipunan society, my father will
be in no further danger.”

“Can you pass through the lines?” Sydney asked, “or shall we vouch for
you?”

“If it is not too much trouble,” Rodriguez replied gratefully. “My
carriage is just there, and we are then near the last patrol. The
general has allowed me free conduct always, but this disturbance may
have aroused suspicion, so I shall be grateful for your services.”

The mixed party of sailors and natives walked briskly through the
silent streets. The carriage drawn by two fast horses was reached, and
Maria, her father, and Martinez entered, while Lopez mounted the box
and drove slowly forward followed by the Americans on foot.

A loud American challenge suddenly brought the horses on their haunches.

“Halt! Who comes there?”

“Officer,” answered Phil.

“Advance one, and be recognized,” the sentry called.

Phil walked slowly forward until he was within ten paces of the alert
soldier.

“Halt.”

Phil stopped in his tracks.

“I guess you’re a naval officer,” the soldier said in a puzzled voice.
“You’re too young to be a brigadier-general, although you’ve got a star
there on your shoulder-strap.”

Phil smiled.

“Yes, sentry, I am Captain Perry of the gunboat.”

“Sure, sir, you can pass me, any time,” the soldier exclaimed gladly.
“That was certainly great work you done in Binalbagan. All the boys is
talking about you two officers and Jack O’Neil. I’d like to meet him;
he must be a corker.” The sentry had grounded his rifle and now stood
at ease talking sociably, very much at home with the young midshipman.

“He is here,” Phil replied. “If I may pass my party, I’ll call him.”

“Certainly, captain, anything you say goes with me,” the sentry
returned enthusiastically.

The carriage, followed by the band of a dozen natives, drove down the
street away from the city. Phil caught a wave of a hand from the window
as he turned and started for the gunboat and his bunk, for it was near
midnight.

O’Neil had stopped to shake hands with the admiring sentry and he soon
overtook them.

In silence they marched to the ship. So much had happened, crowded
into such a short space of time, that the lads wanted a chance to think.

The next morning while Phil and Sydney were at breakfast on the small
quarter-deck of the “Mindinao” Captain Blynn crossed the gangway from
the dock. He walked to where the lads had risen from their chairs
to greet him. Refusing their offer of breakfast with an impatient
movement of his hand he sat down in the proffered seat held for him by
the attentive Chinese steward. Both lads saw in his grave face that
something unpleasant had happened to account for this early morning
visit. The army man did not keep them long in suspense, and had his say
with his usual directness.

“Lieutenant Tillotson, the officer of the guard yesterday, is missing.
His bed shows that he did not sleep in it at all last night. I have
investigated the case as far as I have been able, and I find that no
one passed through the sentries except a closed carriage and a squad of
Filipinos. This sentry says that you and Mr. Monroe vouched for them.
Tillotson was last seen an hour before this time by a sentry at the
bridge whom he visited. As soon as I heard of the carriage episode I
cautioned the sentry to say nothing. I wanted to see you and clear up
that part before I investigated further.”

Phil sat speechless in his seat while the judge-advocate general
talked on earnestly. Tillotson had disappeared! How could he have been
forcibly carried past the numerous guards stationed at every outlet of
the garrisoned city? He must surely still be within the town.

“Do you suspect foul play?” Phil questioned. “Would the enemy have
the daring to make way with him inside the town? Why should he alone
be molested? And, besides, he carried his revolver, and could not be
struck down without being able to fire a warning shot.”

“One sentry,” the captain replied quickly, “reported having heard
a shot from the part of town near the sea, but he said it was very
indistinct, and after all he was not sure.”

Phil and Sydney exchanged glances and the captain looked up sharply, a
faint suspicion entering his thoughts.

“What I’d like to know,” he added coldly, “is who was in that closed
carriage; the sentry says there were four people.”

Phil flushed as he read the insinuation in the captain’s voice.

“Juan Rodriguez, his daughter and a Filipino overseer by the name
of Lopez,” he answered promptly, but he lowered his eyes before the
direct, searching gaze of the judge-advocate general. The presence of
Colonel Martinez need not be told. It would but complicate the case and
not aid in the search for Tillotson; but the army officer knew human
nature too accurately, and Phil was too poor a hand at telling less
than the truth.

“There was besides a Filipino with the driver?” he questioned pointedly.

Phil shook his head in the negative.

“Was this Lopez within the carriage with Señor Rodriguez and his
daughter?” the captain asked curtly, and Phil felt as if he were on the
witness stand having the whole truth dragged from him. He might just as
well make a clean breast of it. Before those piercing black eyes, he
found that he was not good at dissembling.

“Lopez was driving,” Phil said blushing furiously in mortification at
being so easily tripped in his testimony. “The other occupant of the
carriage was Colonel Martinez!”

If a bombshell had exploded at Captain Blynn’s feet he could not have
appeared more astounded.

“And you passed this insurgent officer out of our lines?” he asked
incredulously.

Phil nodded, his throat dry and his mind stunned with a sudden fear.

“This is certainly a queer proceeding!” the army man exclaimed. “I
cannot fathom it. Do you realize what you have done? Can you not see
that Lieutenant Tillotson’s disappearance will be laid at your door?
But surely,” he added, “there is some explanation which you can make?
You could hardly be so foolish as to plot against the life or even the
liberty of a brother officer.”

Phil gave a sudden exclamation of surprised indignation, and with
flashing eyes he turned angrily on his accuser.

“I didn’t see your meaning at first,” he said in a low, intense voice
but one that carried distinctly over the ship. “How dare you to
insinuate this to my face and on board my ship?--Captain Blynn, there’s
the gangway!” he cried sternly, his face now deathly pale but his jaw
set firmly.

Captain Blynn rose hurriedly from his chair, his dark face swollen
with passion; his black eyes flashed, while his strong hands clutched
his chair nervously. He was about to speak, but Phil cut him short,
pointing his finger toward the exit to the deck.

“I hope, Captain Blynn,” he said quietly though his lips were
trembling, “that you will see the uselessness of further talk and will
go ashore as I have bid you.”

“You confounded little whipper-snapper!” the captain exploded
wrathfully. The stern judge-advocate was unused to such treatment; he
had always bullied those under him and in a measure by the very force
of his will, many of those senior to him in rank. But angry as he was
he realized that the midshipman was quite within his rights. He was on
board his own ship, and there he was supreme.

“Captain Blynn, I hope it will not be necessary for me to have you
escorted across the gangway,” Phil reiterated, his voice showing
perfect control of temper. The lad glanced forward meaningly to where
many of the crew had collected, intently listening to the heated
colloquy between their young captain and this big, blustering army
officer.

Then a voice from the dock made both the combatants turn suddenly and
gaze in surprise at the general, who, unobserved, had stopped abreast
them and had been an amused spectator of the discomfiture of his
judge-advocate.

“I’ll tear up that telegram as soon as I get to the office,” he
exclaimed chuckling gleefully; “and, Blynn, you’d better come ashore
here before Captain Perry pitches you over the gangway.”

Captain Blynn had but one great fault and that was his inability to
consider that anything mattered outside of his beloved work. Ruthlessly
he would trample over those in the way of success. Once he was on the
trail of a wrong-doer, he would follow it fearlessly until the culprit
was behind bars.

Doubtless if Captain Blynn had stopped for just a moment and considered
the young officer before him, he would not have cut him to the quick
by an insinuation so cruel. To do the brusque captain justice, he
had regretted his words immediately he had spoken and seen the look
of injured innocence and anger in Phil’s face, but the masterful way
in which Phil had turned the tables on him was too much for the army
man’s temper and hence the invective. In his heart he did not really
believe that Phil was guilty of plotting against Tillotson. Without
the interruption from the dock he might even have apologized to the
spirited young navy man, but the general’s words injected a salutary
humor into this dramatic situation and made him see how untenable and
cruel was the attitude he had assumed. His face softened and an apology
of a smile struggled for place on his sun-tanned countenance. “You’re
dead game, youngster,” he exclaimed impetuously. “I believe you’re on
the level, only you’re a bit too reticent; anyway, here’s my hand, and
from now on we’ll work together instead of at cross purposes.” He took
the surprised midshipman’s hand and shook it heartily.

“Come up to the office at ten o’clock,” he added as he walked toward
the gangway, the smile having disappeared and the alert business
expression taking its place on his face.

The midshipmen watched him cross the gangway and join the general, who
had been taking his usual morning exercise before going to his office,
and as the two walked along apparently deep in conversation an orderly
stopped them, handing a telegram to the general. The lads saw him open
it and read and then pass it to Captain Blynn. Both turned as if by
a mutual impulse and glanced toward the gunboat, then changing their
minds apparently, they again turned and walked briskly toward the
headquarters building.

“Something in the telegram concerns us in some way,” exclaimed the
analytical Sydney. “I wonder what it said?” But Phil’s mind was too
much occupied in thinking of the chameleon character of his new friend
to give more than a passing thought to the contents of the telegram.



CHAPTER XI

A TRAITOR UNMASKED


“How dared he accuse me of knowing about Tillotson’s disappearance?”
Phil exclaimed as he sought unsuccessfully a solution to the mystery.

“I don’t believe he really suspected us,” Sydney replied deprecatingly,
“but it must have struck him as odd to say the least that you should
pass an insurgent officer through the guards. You didn’t tell him why
you did it or even give him any of the circumstances. I think it was
natural that he should act as he did.”

“I didn’t realize,” Phil said half laughing, “how queer it must have
seemed to him. Well, I’m going up and make a clean breast of it.

“Have you any suspicion as to the identity of the man I shot?” Phil
suddenly asked.

“I thought at once of Espinosa,” Sydney answered, “but I’m not sure;
he talked in a voice that was not familiar, but that may have been
feigned. Think of it,” he exclaimed, “those masked men are all in the
employ of our government. They have taken the oath of allegiance and
yet they are plotting to massacre our soldiers.”

“It seems queer,” Phil exclaimed in a puzzled voice, “that the meeting
and Tillotson’s disappearance should happen the same evening. Do you
suppose it was only a coincidence?”

Sydney shook his head.

“Let’s get Captain Blynn to unravel that,” he answered. “He’s not half
as clever as some believe, not to have discovered in six months what we
have in less than two days. But remember, we promised Señorita Maria to
say nothing of her share in the work.”

An hour later the lads had laid their startling discoveries before the
judge-advocate.

“How many of these men did you count?” he asked excitedly, after he
had listened with rising indignation to the account of the Katipunan
meeting and the accusation against Rodriguez.

“About forty, I should say,” Phil answered.

“I don’t understand,” the captain exclaimed aloud, “why Espinosa has
not told me of the existence of this society. Of course I knew it was
active elsewhere, but I had no idea they would dare plot against us
within our lines.”

“Have you never suspected Espinosa?” Phil asked quietly.

“Yes, once,” the captain answered, after a moment’s hesitation, “but
I found I was mistaken. He would not have led us against this fellow
Martinez if he had been a traitor. I have the note here which I took
from Espinosa that gives the information. It is in Visayan but I have
translated it.” He handed the scrap of paper to Phil, who read it and
passed it back.

  “Colonel Martinez and two hundred men encamp to-night at Barotoc Hill
  near Banate en route to join Diocno.”

Phil pondered over the words of the message. Then he remembered the
terrible personal attack of Espinosa against Martinez. Was this a clue
to his betrayal? Were Martinez and Espinosa personal enemies?

“No,” the captain continued assuredly. “Espinosa has aided us in every
way. It was through him that we sent Captain Gordon to the north to
prevent more of these deserters from Aguinaldo’s army landing. He has
kept us well posted on the movements of our enemy.”

“But still,” Phil insisted, “there have been no big fights and we’ve
lost a number of men cut up through surprise.”

“That’s due in a great measure to the country and the inexperience of
our volunteer officers,” the captain explained readily.

“Are you so sure of the honesty of Rodriguez?” he asked suddenly. “I
have heard it insinuated that he aspires to the leadership if Diocno
were removed.”

Phil was about to cry out his assured belief that Rodriguez was
sincere, but with the words on his lips he hesitated. He had seen
Rodriguez but once, and to be convinced of his honesty after such a
short acquaintance would sound ridiculous. He saw that Maria’s part
would have to be told if Captain Blynn was to be convinced.

“I have every reason to believe in his sincerity,” Phil said instead.
“I can understand Spanish and I heard the leader denounce him as a
traitor to the natives. Then I heard Rodriguez’s eloquent appeal to the
men against their two-faced dealings. He surely had the courage of his
convictions, for every hand there was against him.”

“Yes, the general had him down here the other day,” the captain said,
“and he was impressed the same way. He’s a power among the lower
classes, although he has many enemies among the educated ones.”

Captain Blynn had been holding a telegram in his hand while the above
conversation was taking place and now he passed it over in silence for
Phil to read.

  “Colonel Martinez is not the name of insurgent officer that left
  Manila about the time of sailing of steamer ‘Negros.’ Our secret
  service men are sure that he is the noted outlaw ‘Remundo.’”

“So you see,” the captain said not unkindly, “you have twice allowed
this desperado to escape.

“But now,” the captain continued, “what we’ve got to do is to break up
this secret society and find poor Tillotson if he is still alive. I can
hardly believe that they have been able to carry him away unless it was
by water. However, Espinosa should know of this. I will send for him to
come here at once.”

The captain rang his bell and sent the orderly who answered for the
Filipino.

The midshipmen sat silently waiting while the judge-advocate returned
to his interrupted office work.

The orderly soon returned, reporting that Señor Espinosa was not at his
house, and that his servant reported that he had not been home since
the evening before.

The midshipmen exchanged knowing glances. Was Espinosa then the leader
whom Phil had shot?

“Come!” Captain Blynn exclaimed, starting up from his chair. He led the
lads down to his carriage at the door and motioned them to enter. Then
giving an address to the driver they went whirling through the narrow
streets.

After a ten minutes’ drive the carriage stopped in front of a large
Filipino house. Without knocking the army man pushed open the door
intruding his great bulk into the room.

A half dozen natives arose from the floor, sudden fear in their faces
as they saw the officers.

“Señor Cardero,” the captain said in a quiet voice, “where has Señor
Espinosa gone?”

“I do not know,” the native replied sullenly.

The captain glared fiercely at the small brown man before him; then he
reached out a strong hand and caught the native fiercely by the neck,
shaking him as a dog would a rat. The little man turned a sickly color
and his teeth chattered, but the bullying American held him closely
while his eyes flashed angrily as he questioned him. “Tell me, where is
Señor Espinosa?”

“He is hurt, señor commandante,” the native cried out finally in a
terrified voice after he had regained his breath. “It was an accident.
I do not now know where he is, but he is not in the city.”

The midshipmen were overjoyed at this news. So Espinosa was
the Katipunan leader and spy. Phil glanced at the surprised
judge-advocate, a light of triumph in his eyes.

“Captain Perry,” the captain ordered hurriedly, “you and Mr. Monroe
stay here and guard these rats; I am going to have every native of
prominence in the town arrested at once. Thanks to you, we have at last
found the leak.”

Throwing the cringing native from him, he strode out of the door, and
the lads heard the rumble of his carriage wheels as he drove rapidly
away.

After the captain’s menacing presence had been removed the half dozen
captive Filipinos showed signs of restlessness, and once or twice
Phil surprised a covert glance toward a dark corner of the large
living-room. Both lads felt the responsibility of their position. They
knew that they were outside of the line of sentries, almost beyond the
sound of firearms. It seemed to Phil that the captain was over-reckless
in coming with only themselves into the haunts of a probable enemy.
Both lads were armed, their revolvers were held ready in hand and
their prisoners knew full well that Americans were dangerous shots.

The inside of the room was but dimly lighted by a single oil wick,
and the darkness became blacker toward that part of the house where
no windows had been cut. Phil had heard the captain give instructions
to his orderly as he left headquarters to have a guard follow the
carriage. But would the guard be sent here to aid them, or would
Captain Blynn send them elsewhere to make arrests?

“Let’s get out of this trap,” Phil whispered anxiously to Sydney at his
side, his idea being to order the men at the point of his revolver to
pass out to the street.

Suiting the action implied in his words, Phil opened the door leading
from the living-room. He saw by the aid of the additional light from
outside that the five men had cautiously and stealthily moved backward
toward the wall nearest them, and were apparently supporting their
weights upon it. Suddenly he felt a jar and read in the eyes of the
Filipino nearest him revenge battling with fear. Then the floor shook,
and grasping Sydney by the shoulder Phil threw himself bodily through
the open door as the floor of the building crashed down twenty feet
into the cellar below. The natives, he could see, were hung on the wall
like so many old coats, while through the bamboo floor on which he
and Sydney had just stood numberless bamboo spears bared their sharp,
venomous points. The lad shuddered as he realized the murderous trick
which had failed. If they had fallen with the floor, heavily weighted
as it was with stones at the side, and resting on supports, which
had been dislodged by a rope in the hands of one of the villains now
hanging on the wall of the room, they would at this moment be lying
pierced through and perhaps dying before the eyes of their cruel enemy.

He raised his revolver and covered the nearest cringing native, a
terrible anger in his eyes. In another second he would have pulled
the trigger, but Sydney’s hand closed firmly over his wrist, forcing
his revolver upward and the ball sped harmlessly over the terrified
native’s head.

“They are more valuable alive,” Sydney exclaimed to Phil’s angry cry
of protest. “Come, let’s get outside before more of this hinged floor
is loosened. We can better prevent their escape in that way.”

Phil followed his companion down the bamboo stairs and into the
street, where a crowd of curious natives had gathered on hearing the
startling shot. The lads moved their weapons menacingly, not knowing
or trusting the temper of the crowd which backed away cringingly from
the Americans. A glance down the street brought a glad cry from the
midshipmen as they saw a squad of soldiers advancing from the direction
of headquarters. A loud voice in the Visayan tongue from the building
they had just left was answered by many excited voices in the gathered
crowd, and then several women advanced slowly, holding up their
hands in sign of peace, their bodies close together as if for mutual
protection. The lads scarcely noticed the approach of the women, so
occupied were they in watching the building in which were imprisoned
five of the traitors who had been biting the hand of the master
that fed them. A swift glance over his shoulder showed Phil that
the advancing women were scarce ten paces away from Sydney, who was
guarding one corner of the house, while he was some thirty feet away,
guarding the other three sides. The soldiers were not over a block away
and hastening toward him; he could hear the rattle of their gun slings,
and the thud of their heavy shoes on the hard road-bed. Then again as
he cast an uneasy glance at this line of women his heart froze within
him while his voice failed, for he had caught a fleeting glimpse of a
savage face peering over their shoulders.

“Look out for yourself,” Phil cried, directing his revolver at the line
of women and firing blindly. In that second his disgust and wrath were
so great at the dastardly strategy under the guise of friendship that
he would not have felt a qualm of conscience if one of these unnatural
women had fallen before his bullet.

The women halted, sudden fear on their faces, while from between them
dashed a half dozen savage natives armed with bolos. As they charged
on the surprised midshipmen they cried out lustily in their guttural
language the war-cry of the bolo-man who has received the charm of the
Anting-Anting which to his superstitious mind makes him invulnerable
against the Americans’ bullets. They came boldly on while Sydney jumped
backward quickly to Phil’s side and the two lads emptied the contents
of their revolvers into the mass of naked brown men flourishing their
keen blades above their heads in an endeavor to close with their hated
foe. The women had run screaming with terror back to the safety of the
crowd, taking refuge within the densely packed houses.

With their revolvers empty and but three of their half dozen assailants
writhing in the road, the plucky midshipmen faced the onrush of the
fanatics. Converting their revolvers into clubs, they awaited what
seemed to them certain death. Their one hope for safety lay in running
away from the charging bolo-men and toward the soldiers now scarce two
hundred yards away, but turn their backs on an enemy they could not.

Within ten feet of the midshipmen the fanatics suddenly stopped and a
fear crept into their superstitious faces. The next second, to the
lads’ astonishment, their sharp swords dropped from nerveless fingers,
and the three natives prostrated themselves in the dust of the road.

The lads gazed in startled wonder, scarcely believing their eyes.



CHAPTER XII

THE MIDSHIPMEN RECONNOITRE


The midshipmen were so utterly astonished at the actions of their
fanatical enemies that they could only gasp out their surprise in one
heartfelt word of relief. Then a familiar voice at their elbow awoke
them from their stupefied inactivity. It was in Visayan and they turned
to gaze into the impassive face of Rodriguez.

“I have ordered them to escape,” he added in Spanish, casting a quick
glance toward the squad of soldiers. “Poor fellows, it would be a pity
to kill them, for they are but acting under orders.”

The lads were too grateful to their rescuer for saving their lives to
make useless inquiries as to why his influence could be exerted over
the acts of their enemy. Phil’s first thought was for the men whom the
captain had left them to guard.

“Surround this house,” he commanded, and the sergeant in charge gave a
short command and led the way himself to the rear of the large native
building.

“It is too late, señor commandante,” Rodriguez said shaking his head;
“they have all escaped through the rear door and are by now safely
away.”

The midshipmen ran quickly up the steps and gazed disappointedly into
the gloom beyond. The floor still lay at the bottom of the cellar, the
bamboo spears sticking half-way through, but the natives had gone. The
back door stood open and to the ground was a jump of twenty feet. They
had safely escaped while the lads were engaged defending themselves
against the attack of the bolo-men.

“I am on my way to see General Wilson,” Rodriguez announced after a
search had failed to disclose any signs of the fugitives, “and offer my
services.”

“Do you mean that you will fight with us against the insurgents?” Phil
asked in glad surprise.

“Yes, from now on I shall aid the Americans to restore order in the
island of Kapay,” Rodriguez replied, pleased at the cordial reception
given him by the two midshipmen.

Together the party made their way back to headquarters in search of
Captain Blynn.

“It was providential that I happened along,” Rodriguez said after they
had passed through the sentries; “those bolo-men knew me and obeyed my
sign. I see,” he added smilingly, “that you are already arresting the
traitors.”

“We were not very successful with Señor Cardero and his friends
yonder,” Sydney exclaimed ruefully, “but I suppose we should be
thankful to have gotten off so easily.”

“Cardero is one of the craftiest of our outlaws,” Rodriguez returned.
“It is a marvel to me how he could have remained unmasked so long. Of
course,” he added, “I have known of this intrigue for some months, but
until they deliberately plotted against my life I could not betray
them.”

“Have you discovered who is the Katipunan leader who tried to murder
you last night?” Sydney asked excitedly.

“Yes,” Rodriguez replied. “You have doubtless guessed that he was
Espinosa. I know it now for sure. He has gone to Matiginao, where
there is a strong fort, and is in command of all the insurgent forces
there. The bullet only crippled him last night, and I hear he is
rapidly recovering. General Diocno was murdered last night in his bed
and no doubt I should have shared the same fate.”

They were by this time at the headquarters building, and were glad to
find that Captain Blynn had returned. The midshipmen informed the army
man of their luckless adventure and stood in silence expecting to hear
his harsh rebuke for allowing such important prisoners to escape, but
he only grasped their hands and congratulated them upon their rare good
fortune.

“By George,” he exclaimed excitedly, “we’ve been contentedly living
over an active volcano. It’s a marvel we haven’t all been massacred
long ago.

“Every native of any consequence in the town has departed,” he added
sadly.

“Rodriguez with you, and wishes to aid us?” he cried gladly, as Phil
told of the intention of the wealthy native. “Well, that certainly is
cheering news.”

Rodriguez came into the office and stood with dignified bearing before
the big judge-advocate.

“So you are tired of being neutral?” the army officer said pointedly in
Spanish. “Do you wish to occupy the position just vacated by our mutual
friend Espinosa?”

Rodriguez drew himself up proudly while the midshipmen gasped at this
harsh arraignment.

“I do not blame you, señor,” the native answered, no evidence of
anger on his placid face. “I know that you can have but little reason
to trust the honesty of the men of my race. But I do not desire a
position. I am now ready to take the field with my men, heretofore
neutral. I have three hundred rifles.”

“You are ready then to take the oath of allegiance?” Captain Blynn
asked in official tones.

“Yes, señor, and keep it,” Rodriguez returned, his eyes unflinching.

“Have you any news that will lead to our knowing the whereabouts of
Lieutenant Tillotson?” Blynn asked.

“Ah, I have,” the native answered eagerly. “I was about to ask you--my
spies report a captive with Espinosa.”

The Americans gave sighs of relief. At least Tillotson was alive.

General Wilson received Señor Rodriguez with marked courtesy and
appointed him on the spot a colonel in command of his own men whom he
offered to enlist as native troops, rationing and feeding them from
army funds, but Rodriguez declined the latter, agreeing to defray all
expenses.

The midshipmen insisted that their new ally should go down to the dock
and inspect the gunboat, so after explaining to General Wilson that
they would like to be absent for a few days on reconnaissance work, the
three strolled leisurely down the street.

“Where is Colonel Martinez?” Phil asked after they had arrived on board
and the Chinese servant had brought refreshments.

Rodriguez shrugged his shoulders and pointed toward the interior of the
island.

“Will he serve under Espinosa as leader?” Sydney asked incredulously.

“Who knows?” Rodriguez answered evasively.

The lads saw that their friend had reasons for being non-committal and
tactfully ceased their interrogation, yet inwardly they were consumed
with curiosity. Espinosa had attempted to kill Colonel Martinez on the
morning of Blynn’s attack, and now would they serve amicably side by
side against a common enemy?

The hour for lunch arrived, and as Rodriguez was not leaving for
several hours to return to his home up the river he gladly accepted the
midshipmen’s pressing invitation to eat with them.

Phil had made up his mind to explore the river, though this idea was
unformed in his mind when he left headquarters.

During the meal the midshipmen questioned their guest about Espinosa’s
impregnable stronghold and of its approach by water.

“There is a trail from my ranch to the foot of the mountain,” Rodriguez
replied thoughtfully, “but it will be filled with traps, and will be
dangerous if Espinosa hears an attack is to be attempted. The river
flows through a narrow gorge at Matiginao, and from the cliffs huge
boulders can be dropped into the river many hundred feet below.

“The gunboat!” he exclaimed in amazement, after Phil had questioned
in regard to the depth of water. “If it were possible!” Rodriguez
glanced admiringly at the heavy cannon mounted near him. “Yes, with
this gunboat in the river the tops of the cliffs could be swept, and
soldiers could scale the difficult trail unopposed, and once through
the narrows the trail leading from the stronghold could be commanded by
the cannon to cut off the retreat of the insurgents. It is wonderful!
But the bridge, Señor Perry,” he ended, his voice betraying his sudden
disappointment; “it is strongly built and a gunboat cannot pass.”

“If I find there’s water enough to float the ‘Mindinao,’” Phil replied
assuredly, “the bridge will not stand in the way long.

“Does your daughter know the country?” Phil asked earnestly.

Rodriguez gazed a full minute at his questioner before he answered.

“Every foot of it,” he added; “she was born near the stronghold. But
what is your intention, señor? This is no work for a woman.”

Phil would willingly have bitten off his tongue for having led him
into such an embarrassing situation. He could not tell Rodriguez that
he wanted Maria because she alone would he trust as a guide on the
perilous mission which he had made up his mind to make.

Major Marble fortunately arrived at this moment and saved the lad from
becoming more deeply involved. He gave them the latest news.

“Tillotson’s father is keeping the wires hot,” he told them. “We are
ordered to spare nothing to recapture him, but of course we shall do
that anyway. The general has wired back the good news the señor has
brought, that Tillotson is believed to be a prisoner and alive.”

Before the party dispersed, Phil confided to his hearers his plan to
explore the river and his intention to start that very night.

“Then you will visit me on my ranch?” Rodriguez exclaimed gladly.
“Everything I have is at your service,” he added with the grandiloquent
air of a Spanish gentleman.

Phil nodded gratefully, realizing that unlike the Spaniard, whose form
of address the native copied, Rodriguez made no empty offer.

“I believe,” the lad continued, a spark of enthusiasm in his voice,
“that a gunboat of the tonnage of this vessel is capable of reaching
the insurgent stronghold.”

“If you can accomplish that,” Major Marble exclaimed excitedly, “you
and your ‘Mindinao’ will make an enviable name for yourselves, for once
that stronghold is taken we shall have many surrenders throughout the
island.”

“Why not force the insurgents to concentrate on Matiginao,” Phil asked
earnestly, “and attack them there?”

“The general has already sent out orders,” Major Marble told them,
smiling at the lad’s eagerness, “to attack the insurgents wherever
they can be located and for all the troops to concentrate on Palilo,
leaving small garrisons in the towns to guard the peaceful natives. He
is working up a big plan to attack this stronghold with a large force,
and will undoubtedly take the field in person. He is determined to
rescue Tillotson, and will give Espinosa no rest until he is captured
or killed.”

The midshipmen listened in delight to this plan, which fitted in so
well with their own ideas.

The major soon departed, promising short work in destroying the bridge
if the lads discovered the river to be navigable above the house of
Rodriguez.

O’Neil was ordered to have a boat’s crew of four men ready to leave the
gunboat at one o’clock at night. The distance to Rodriguez’s ranch was
somewhat over fifteen miles and the lads did not desire to be seen, so
they would pass at night and be safely within friendly land by sunrise.
Rodriguez left them soon after to return by land and promised a hearty
welcome on their arrival up the river.

Promptly at one o’clock the expedition started. O’Neil had provided the
usual gear for surveyors; a compass, a lead line, and also a rifle for
each man and a revolver for himself.

Silently they shoved off and rowed with muffled oars up the river, and
under the bridge, built substantially in the days of the Spaniards. “A
few charges of dynamite would settle it,” Phil thought.

Already O’Neil had uncoiled his lead line and was sounding in the
channel of the river.

“It’ll be a cinch, sir,” the boatswain’s mate exclaimed after several
soundings had given him no less than four fathoms of water. “Seven feet
is all we need and we can carry that for miles until the mountains
commence to go up steep; then there’ll be rocks to look out for.”

Mile after mile was pulled in silence except for the light dip of the
oars and the dull, almost soundless splash of the lead as it was heaved
a short distance forward of the boat.

The midshipmen gazed with apprehension at the forbidding banks of the
river. The rank tropical foliage would conceal an army. Riflemen might
lie concealed and fire without the slightest fear of discovery.

Gradually the river narrowed, but the depth of water did not grow less.

It was just before dawn when the boat arrived at the bend behind
which, by the description given them, would be the landing pier of the
Rodriguez ranch.

In a half hour the boat was being cared for by one of the many willing
attendants and the sailors were escorted to the palatial residence of
Señor Rodriguez.

It was the señorita who came first to meet her old friends.

“Now we are fighting together,” she exclaimed gladly, “and I would like
to go out as a man and help.”

Phil thought that nothing so far had deterred her. She had seen as much
fighting as most men and had withstood it bravely, and he said so to
her.

“You might be valuable, señorita, to put courage in men’s hearts,”
Sydney added smiling, “but you would not be very formidable as a
soldier.”

Maria bit her lips vexedly.

“I can shoot as well as a man,” she cried half angrily, “and I can ride
a horse and paddle a canoe. What more is needed?”

“Something which is not in your makeup,” Phil answered admiringly. “You
are not vindictive and are not cruel. But you can do us a favor, if you
will. We want to explore the country between here and Matiginao.”

Maria clapped her hands with joy.

“I know every foot of the country,” she cried eagerly. “You couldn’t
have better guides than my little brother and I. But,” she added, her
voice becoming lower and a fear in her eyes, “my father is now an enemy
to the ladrones and insurgents, and it is unsafe to wander away on the
lonely trails.”

Phil and Sydney exchanged glances as much as to say, “There is your
woman’s argument. One moment she wants to fight and the next she speaks
of danger.”

Señor Rodriguez welcomed the midshipmen, and together all sat down to a
large table where a delicious breakfast was served.

Phil saw his men were provided for, as he intended leaving them behind,
and after breakfast Maria led the party out where five finely bred
horses were held by native grooms.

Maria and Juan, who sat his pony as gracefully as if he were a part of
the animal, led the way across the open fields surrounding the ranch
houses. Then they plunged into a path cleaving the giant trees of the
tropical jungle. Limbs of trees brushed their faces and great care was
necessary to prevent themselves from being unhorsed.

Phil’s idea was for the boat to wait until dark, and then row up the
river as far as possible and return by morning, in order that the
general could be informed of the feasibility of the plan and the work
of destroying the bridge started. His party, meanwhile, were bent
on following this trail toward Matiginao, to reach the ranch before
the boat and wait for it. He realized that they were running a great
risk, but he believed the necessity for the information was worth the
risk run. The trail led mostly within sight of the snake-like river.
They passed many dwellings, most of them deserted of all save hungry
mongrels and starving pigs.

“This seems to be a fine trail,” Sydney said surprisedly, as they
walked their horses two abreast.

“It leads but five miles further,” Maria replied, “and from where it
ends, all other trails are those made by animals, and followed seldom
by men.”

At a brisk trot Maria started ahead. The jungle bent away from the
road, leaving a high arched canopy over the heads of the travelers,
through which the tropical sun shone with sullen impotence.

“There is a small bungalow up here,” the girl announced in pleasurable
anticipation. “We shall have our lunch there. Before the big house was
built we lived there.”

“How long has it been since you were there?” Sydney asked in sudden
anxiety, the fear entering his mind that it might now have other
occupants.

“Not for years, señor,” the girl replied in a low voice. “It is very
lonesome, besides there are many pulijanes[3] in the mountains.”

The house soon appeared through the thick grove of cocoanut palms with
its unkept lawn sloping gently to the river. The grass in front of the
house was overhead high, and everything had grown wild and in luxuriant
profusion. The house itself was in ruins.

While Maria and little Juan had taken charge of the horses and tethered
them amid a good repast of alfalfa, the two lads strolled down to the
river.

“Hello, here are some canoes!” Phil exclaimed; “and they’ve been
tied here recently,” he added anxiously, as he saw clearly the fresh
footprints and the grass trodden down near the landing.

[Illustration: “_HELLO, HERE ARE SOME CANOES_!”]

The lads’ intention had been to investigate the depth of the water in
the river, but their startling discovery made them forget all else
save the visible evidence that a small body of men had recently landed
at this very spot and had taken the almost obliterated trail to the
abandoned house. Maria and her brother might even now be prisoners
among their enemy. The two midshipmen gazed at each other through eyes
wide with apprehension. What was to be done?

“We can’t desert the girl,” Sydney declared, gazing at the trodden
grass. “Otherwise we might reach the horses and escape before they
discover us.”

“Come,” Phil exclaimed, “there are not many of them, and maybe,” he
added reassuringly, “they are not all armed.”

The two lads walked noiselessly toward the house along the dim trail.

The building was now in plain sight. The wide porch with its profusion
of clinging vines was deserted. The long flight of bamboo steps was
half in ruins. To the right not a hundred yards distant their horses
were standing, their noses deep in the rich grass.

At the foot of the steps the midshipmen halted. There was a mysterious
silence in the air about them and they imagined that from the deserted
building unfriendly eyes were peering down upon them.

Phil gave a sigh of relief as he saw Maria, leading little Juan, come
slowly through the tall grass toward them from the neighborhood of the
horses. He made up his mind quickly. Nothing further could be gained
here, and the evidence that others had been on this spot very recently
was too strong not to take the warning. He caught Sydney’s arm and
wheeled him away from the house. The lads had not taken a half dozen
steps before a shrill cry from Maria riveted them in their tracks. Over
their shoulders they saw that now the porch was filled with natives who
were pointing their rifles at them menacingly.

“Come on, we might as well face them,” Phil whispered, his teeth
tightly clenched and with his hand on his pistol.

Turning, Phil led the way back to the steps, and there he halted,
glancing inquiringly at the unfriendly guns covering him.

A native, apparently an officer, dressed in a dull gray cotton uniform,
walked slowly toward him down the rickety steps.

“How dare you insult me and my friends on my own door-step?” Maria’s
voice was high pitched in anger. “These gentlemen are my guests. By
what right are you here?”

The Filipino officer had stopped half-way on the steps in surprise,
his revolver held in front of him. Unconsciously he dropped its muzzle
toward the ground and regarded the girl in unfeigned admiration.

“Pardon, señorita,” he said apologetically, using the Spanish of the
higher classes of Filipinos. “You, then, are Señorita Rodriguez, and
I ask your forgiveness for my rudeness. I thought these señores,”
indicating the two midshipmen with a nod of his head, “were Americans
and my enemies.”

Phil’s ears were startled by a loud peal of laughter, and he gazed in
almost horror at the girl, believing that she had become hysterical.
But a glance at her smiling face showed that her nerves were well in
hand. An angry flush suffused his face as it crossed his mind that this
was a trap of her own laying. But he blamed himself instantly for even
entertaining such a thought. What would she say? She must acknowledge
that he and Sydney were Americans, naval officers, though they were not
in uniform, having on khaki riding suits. Phil’s hand slowly drew out
his revolver from its holster, while his eyes were turned now on the
averted face of the native officer.

“From what part of the island have you come?” Maria asked quickly, the
smile of superiority still on her face and Phil saw that to the native
the smile was disconcerting.

“I am just from Matiginao,” he replied. “I came for fresh meat. To
forage on your father’s land.”

The smile died on Maria’s face, but luckily the native had withdrawn
his eyes and was regarding closely the young men before him.

Maria felt that the Filipino officer must know of her father’s enmity
to his new leader, Espinosa. Then as the native’s eyes again traveled
to her face the smile reappeared.

“I see all white men are to you Americans. These señores are my guests.
I vouch for them,” she told him in a confiding voice. “It was a natural
mistake for you to make, Señor----” she stopped questioningly, and he
supplied the name. “Salas, colonel in the Filipino army, señorita, at
your service,” he said bowing gallantly.

Maria had not guessed at the officer’s identity although she knew most
of the important leaders, having known them as a girl at her father’s
house before the war had begun. Now the mention of his name almost made
her heart stop beating. This frail creature, with the face and figure
of a boy, was feared by all who had fallen under his control. He had
won the unenviable reputation of being the most cruel of the insurgent
leaders, first in Luzon under Aguinaldo and then on the island of
Kapay. He was scarcely older than Phil, and yet he held the rank of
colonel.

“Your name, señor,” she smiled, “is one well known throughout Kapay.
In appearance you are not the ogre that you are painted.”

Colonel Salas’ white, even teeth gleamed between his thin lips. He
felt himself the master of the situation. Here was the proud daughter
of Rodriguez complimenting him. His small soul was nourished by the
thought that he was feared by all.

“Then, señorita,” he said, “if you do not consider me an ogre, will you
and your English friends accept the offer of a share in my frugal meal?
It is now ready inside.”

The midshipmen had watched with beating hearts this plucky girl’s brave
fence with the subtle native and as he pronounced the word English he
glanced at the silent lads. Phil thought he saw a gleam of joy in his
cruel eyes.

“They do not speak Spanish?” he asked, shrugging his shoulder
expressively as much as to answer the question himself in the negative.
It was better so; one could play the game better than two and the lads
now knew that Maria was an adept in diplomacy, and could be depended
upon to make a better and intelligent fight for their lives. That
their lives were in danger was but too evident to the lads. The native
soldiers still covered them with their rifles, and Colonel Salas had
moved to Maria’s side as they had talked, leaving the line of fire
quite clear. A word from him and a score of bullets would be tearing
through their bodies. Did the officer believe that they were English?
Had he already seen through the deception, and made up his mind to
maneuver so as to kill them at the least risk to himself and men? Phil
gauged the distance between himself and the insolent face of this young
colonel and resolved that the word of command to his men to fire should
be a dear one for the smiling colonel.



CHAPTER XIII

UNWELCOME COMPANIONS


The lads indeed found themselves in an awkward predicament. Just the
faintest thread really bound them to life, for they saw in the cruel
expression in the eyes of the Filipino officer that nothing would
delight him so much as to have these white men shot. Phil very much
feared that in spite of his cordial words this boyish native had before
now guessed the truth. However there was nothing to do but remain
silent and inactive. Phil had a great desire to speak to Sydney in
English, but he feared this dapper little Filipino might have learned
enough of that language to understand what he might say.

With his cold eye on the midshipmen the native officer gave a gruff
command to his men behind him on the porch. Phil’s hand moved a hair’s
breadth, and the revolver muzzle on his hip pointed squarely at the
body of Colonel Salas, while his finger pressed ever so slightly the
trigger. For the fraction of a second their eyes met. Then the lad saw
with relief that the soldiers had lowered their guns and were filing
through the door into the house. With a deft motion he allowed his
revolver to slip noiselessly back into its holster.

Colonel Salas had already turned and was leading the way up the steps,
Maria and her brother following, and the midshipmen bringing up the
rear.

“Do you think he suspects us?” Sydney whispered.

“He must,” Phil answered hurriedly. “Be careful, Syd,” he added
anxiously. “We’ve got to fight our way out. There seems no other way.
There are twenty of them against us two.”

At the top of the steps Salas turned and looked questioningly at the
midshipmen. Phil dared not meet his eye for fear that the little native
would see the anxiety which he strove to hide.

On the floor of the big room a cloth had been spread and a repast set
out.

With a graceful wave of his thin hands Colonel Salas made a sign for
all to be seated and took, himself, the place beside Maria. Phil sat
on the other side of Maria, while Sydney and little Juan were placed
opposite.

Their brisk ride had given them all an appetite, but the terrible
predicament in which they now found themselves had quite taken away
their relish for food. The lads did their best to appear undisturbed,
but any one with half an eye could have seen the restlessness behind
their forced tranquillity.

It is not the Filipino custom to talk while eating, and it was not
until his dish was emptied that Colonel Salas broke the awkward silence.

“Your English friends are very fond of adventure,” he said suddenly.
“Our camp is only a league up the river, and would be well worth a
visit. I did not intend to return so soon, but I shall be glad to take
you there. You can return to-day or remain until to-morrow morning.
It is the strongest fortified camp in the islands, and has never been
successfully attacked. You can see where three Spanish regiments were
annihilated by having rocks rolled down upon them.”

Phil’s heart beat faster. Here was the very opportunity he had wished
for. If they could only see this camp with their own eyes; photograph
the surroundings in their minds; test the depth of the water and the
width of the channel, would it not be worth the fearful risk they
would run? Then the thought of Espinosa drove the possibility of such
a hazardous undertaking from his mind. They would then surely be
recognized even if they had not been already, and he shuddered to think
of the penalty. What was his astonishment when Maria agreed gladly to
the plan.

“That would be fun, wouldn’t it?” she cried in English, appealing to
the utterly bewildered lads.

“Bueno! We can ride to ‘El Salto de Diablo’ (the devil’s leap), and
there I shall have ‘bankas’ ready to take us to the foot of the trail,”
Salas returned delightedly as he left them to instruct his men sleeping
on the shady porch at the back of the house.

“Do you realize what you are doing?” Phil muttered excitedly. “At any
moment he may discover who we really are. Suppose word should come
to him from the city? We must not accept his invitation,” he ended
hurriedly.

“I fear,” Maria whispered, “that he already suspects who you are, and
for that reason I have accepted. If I refused we are already in his
hands, and what can we do against his twenty rifles?

“We must act it out, and, if opportunity offers, escape. Above all,
don’t show by sign or word that you suspect him and don’t show how much
Spanish you know,” she ended fearfully, as she saw Salas approaching
with several of his men.

Phil’s heart beat like a trip-hammer at this disquieting belief of
Maria. She was certainly keen. By what system of argument had she
arrived at such a conclusion? To Phil Salas had appeared to believe the
story told by the girl. Sydney and Juan had listened attentively to her
words.

In a short time the party were in motion. A horse had been captured
from the herd of those that had run wild during the absence of their
owner, and Salas sat it well. Phil thought he had never seen such a
graceful horseman. The wild horse reared and plunged in its efforts to
unseat the rider, but he could not be disturbed. The native followers
formed about them, and the party moved slowly along the uneven road.

After a half hour’s ride, Salas ordered a halt at the base of a bluff
several hundred feet high. The midshipmen gazed with inward emotion at
the towering cliffs ahead of them, through which ran like a torrent the
muddy Tubig River.

“From here we must go by banka,” the outlaw explained. “My men will
go on foot, for they are accustomed to the rough trail; but for the
señorita it would be impossible.”

One of the natives approached his chief timidly, and spoke a few short
sentences in a frightened voice.

On hearing the man’s words, Salas’ face darkened in anger and he struck
him brutally with his heavy whip. The startled native recoiled in
terror from his incensed master.

“He tells me that there is but one banka ready,” he explained
apologetically; “the other bankas are at the foot of the trail two
miles up the river. The ones we used this morning I left at the ranch.
I am sorry, but as only five can go in this boat some of the party
must walk. Who shall it be?” he asked abruptly.

“There are just five of us,” Maria suggested enthusiastically. “My
brother and I are at home with a paddle and surely the señor colonel
has often propelled his own boat.”

Salas glanced keenly at the girl’s face. He saw nothing there save
youthful eagerness for adventure.

“As you wish,” he replied carelessly. “It’s a tedious journey: two
miles against the swift current. My men are used to it.”

But Maria’s mind was set upon their going together. Phil pondered upon
what her plan might be. The river was now narrow and the colonel’s men
would always be within hail.

“What shall we do with our horses?” Phil questioned. “Are we to return
here?”

“I shall leave some men here with them,” the Filipino leader assured
him. “We shall either return by the way we came or else over the trail.

“Vamos,” he concluded, waving his hand toward the large canoe which two
of the natives were holding close up to the steep river bank.

Maria took her place in the bow while the others distributed themselves
evenly upon the frail low seats, grasping their paddles ready to
balance the boat when it was cast adrift in the swift current.

Salas stood undecided upon the bank; his men had gone over the trail
leading through the almost impenetrable jungle between them and the
high palisade upon which was the outlaw’s stronghold.

“Leave the horses here,” he said finally to his two men, “and go back
to the palm grove and bring up one of the canoes we left there this
morning.”

Phil from his seat in the stern of the banka caught a significant look
flung to him out of the eyes of the girl who was seated in the bow, her
head bent gracefully backward regarding the Filipino leader. In the
rear of Maria was little Juan, his small hands grasping a paddle, much
too large for his strength.

“Give the señor your paddle, Juan,” the girl ordered, then turning
to Salas she added persuasively, “Sit behind Juan, señor. I’m afraid
he might fall overboard and I don’t know what my father would do if
anything should happen to him.”

The outlaw smiled and took the empty seat, taking from the boy’s
unwilling hands the large paddle.

“Bueno,” he exclaimed, while the two men released the boat, pushing it
gently away out into the stream.

Under the strong strokes of four paddles, for the midshipmen were both
expert, having owned canoes at the Naval Academy, the native boat swept
swiftly through the water. To avoid the strength of the current the
canoe was steered close in to the steep bank under the protecting shade
of the overhanging trees. Great crocodiles basking on the muddy banks
were passed, the animals slinking away as the boat approached, their
long tails lashing furiously in their haste. Monkeys filled the trees,
whistling and jabbering fearlessly as the boat passed under them.

While Phil exerted himself manfully at his paddle, his thoughts busily
sought a plan to escape the enforced hospitality of Salas. A great fear
filled his mind as he dwelt upon the horrors of imprisonment among
these lawless men. To Sydney and him it would eventually mean death,
and to Maria and her little brother a long and dangerous imprisonment
and harsh treatment. But why had not Salas made them prisoners at once
if he suspected their real identity? Phil did not guess that the outlaw
had read defiance and action in the midshipmen’s eyes, and alert as the
outlaw’s faculties had become to scent danger even though carefully
concealed, he had detected the stealthy motion of Phil’s hand when he
had been confronted by his men. Salas was not a coward, but he had
realized instantly that if he ordered his men to open fire, unless the
first shots killed the Americans, he himself would fall the victim of
their vengeance. So he was biding the time when he would have them safe
without danger to himself.

The boat had now covered nearly half the distance. Phil wondered what
he could do. The slight figure of the outlaw, seated upon the low
thwart just in front of him, was so temptingly close and apparently
so unconscious of any threatening danger. The native’s revolver lay
in its holster just within reach of the lad’s hand, the flap securely
buttoned upon its polished handle. Phil realized that when Salas
expected treachery his first act would be to capsize the canoe. Being
a strong swimmer the native doubtless believed he could reach the
bank first and have at his mercy those still struggling in the water.
To attempt to unbutton the flap of the holster and take the revolver
without the owner’s knowledge was impossible. Phil needed both of his
hands to wield the heavy paddle and if he stopped paddling Salas would
at once suspect treachery. His heart rose in his throat and his pulses
throbbed painfully as a bold plan flashed suddenly into his thoughts.
It seemed the one chance of escape. At the rate the boat was going it
would soon be at the foot of the trail to the stronghold where Salas’
men would be waiting in force to escort them up the steep incline to
the top of the mountain. A huge crocodile lay asleep about a hundred
yards ahead and this sight had awakened the plan to action in Phil’s
mind.

“Go slowly,” he whispered loud enough to be heard by all in the boat.
“Let’s see if we can’t get a shot at that big crocodile over there.”

Salas slowly drew in his paddle, laying it across his knees, while his
hand went back to the holster strap.

“You keep paddling slowly, Syd, and the señorita can prevent us from
capsizing when we fire,” the lad continued eagerly. His own revolver
still rested in its holster, while his eyes were bent upon the outlaw’s
hand fumbling with the buttoned flap. Mentally he measured the slight
figure before him and then the frail boat in which they were seated.
The terrible risk he was running came to him almost overpoweringly.
Overboard in this river full of hungry crocodiles was unnerving enough
to those who could swim, but Maria had said that her small brother
could not, and for him death in this swift current would be assured.
With his own paddle resting on his knees he braced his feet cautiously
but firmly on the round of the bilge so as to put an equal pressure
on each side. The outlaw, with his eyes on the crocodile as yet
undisturbed in his doze, had succeeded in releasing the flap; his thumb
and forefinger grasped lightly the revolver handle, drawing it slowly,
thoughtfully, from its cover. Phil’s hand was partly raised, as if he
held his revolver ready to shoot at the formidable animal. He muttered
a silent prayer that the crocodile would not awake before his plan had
succeeded. He felt that out of the corner of his eye the outlaw was
watching him, but Phil’s hope was that his act would be so swift and
unexpected that Salas would have no time to avoid it and jeopardize the
lives of those in the boat.



CHAPTER XIV

CLEVERLY OUTWITTED


As Salas’ hand slowly drew his revolver from its holster, Phil’s right
hand with the speed of a mongoos seizing its prey clutched the slender
wrist of the outlaw; the lad’s left hand had moved deftly to the slack
of the native’s strong khaki trousers, and the next second he had
raised the surprised Filipino from off his seat and held him for an
instant balanced in the air.

“Turn her down-stream,” the midshipman ordered in a hoarse voice, as he
flung the struggling man into the water clear of the rocking boat.

Maria by a well-timed stroke had instantly spun the canoe about, and
all four bent desperately to their paddles. Phil saw the broad-brimmed
sombrero of their enemy floating on the surface and a fear instantly
filled his thoughts that Salas might not swim. The next second he was
reassured; the head of the native covered with thick black hair could
be plainly seen swimming toward the far shore; the menacing presence of
the crocodile had deterred him from attempting to reach the land but
a few strokes away. Every second the lad expected to hear a loud call
for help from the outraged officer. Phil, over his shoulder, measured
the distance yet to be gained by the struggling native. Why had he not
cried out a warning to his men? Surely they were within hearing; the
trail over which they had gone must be but a short distance from the
river.

Under the straining muscles of the midshipmen, helped by the swiftness
of the current, the canoe sped toward the grassy slope where their
horses were waiting. A bend in the river, and the swimmer disappeared
from sight.

“Why hasn’t he given the alarm?” Phil demanded nervously. “What does it
mean?”

“He will as soon as he reaches shore,” Maria gasped breathlessly. “The
monkeys when they fall in the water always scream, so Salas knows
better than to signal to all the crocodiles within hearing.”

Little Juan, try as he would, could not keep up with the furious pace
set him by his companions, and he lay quietly balancing himself in the
boat and gazing about him with frightened eyes.

The skiff was run full speed against the steep bank of the river, and
the midshipmen clutched eagerly the loose earth until Maria and her
brother had gained the shore. Then to their expectant ears there came a
loud halloo! from up the river.

“There’s no time to be lost,” Phil urged excitedly as he darted ahead
to where their horses had been tied. A sickening fear took possession
of him until he had climbed to the top of the slope.

“They’re here!” he cried joyfully, as he saw the five horses grazing
contentedly.

The midshipmen lifted Maria and her brother upon the backs of their
horses, cutting loose the hempen lariats with which they had been
tethered.

“Lead the way, señorita,” he cried hurriedly; “we must not spare
ourselves.”

For one second Phil lingered. The fifth horse, if he left it there,
would afford the means of catching other horses to pursue them; for he
knew that a single outlaw would not dare attempt to follow. With a few
swift strokes of his knife he severed the bridle and then with his open
hand struck the restless animal across the flanks. As he swung himself
into his saddle he saw it plunge eagerly away into the dense jungle,
happy to be again free of its domestic yoke.

As the lad dashed ahead after his companions, he heard the low moaning
note of the concha (a shell bugle), a signal of warning used by the
ladrones of the mountains. The sound was insidious. It seemed to come
from a long way off. Yet Phil knew the operator could not be a mile
away. The low tones were known to travel many miles, even farther than
the high notes of a bugle. To those whose ears had not been trained to
listen to the warning note, the sound might be mistaken for the coo
of a wood pigeon. The lad’s heart leaped as he foresaw that the two
men who had gone to bring the missing canoe were between them and the
only avenue of escape and their trained ears had already heard the
warning sound. If they had started back in the boat when they heard
the warning, they would remain concealed until the fugitives had drawn
within close range and then would open fire upon them. Even though the
persons of the party might escape the hastily aimed shots, the great
bulk of a horse could never escape and the crippling of one animal
would mean at the least their recapture, and probably death to all four.

With the energy of despair he drove his horse forward to join those in
the lead. Breathlessly, trembling with his terrible anxiety, he reached
Maria’s side.

“Do you know of any other road?” he gasped. “There!” he exclaimed
hopelessly, as a low coo came from the direction of the bungalow, “they
have answered.”

“I know of a road,” the girl returned breathlessly, “but it is across
the river, and is very narrow and uneven.”

Phil gazed frantically at the swift current as it appeared
intermittently through vistas in the trees while they sped along. Once
across undiscovered they would be safe.

“But Juan, he cannot swim; he will be afraid,” he cried hoarsely.

“Never fear for him. It was necessary Colonel Salas should think so
in order to persuade him to sit in front of you. He fell into my trap
very obligingly,” she returned, a half smile curving the corners of her
mouth.

“The river then is our only chance,” Phil declared decidedly. “It will
be death for us all to attempt to pass the two armed outlaws.”

“These horses are all good swimmers,” Maria answered hurriedly. “Just
hold on to the saddle and give them their heads. I know where we can
land, so follow me. Look out for Juan,” she ended in sisterly fear.

As Maria, followed by the midshipmen and Juan, forced her horse to
enter the forbidding river, a fusillade of rifle-shots sounded from a
point in the river some thousand yards above them, and the smack of
bullets struck the water close to the horses’ forefeet. A new danger
now confronted the fugitives. Those above them had discovered their
intention to cross the river. Fortunately as yet they were beyond the
effective range of rifles, but if the two men at the ranch should
discover the move they were making to put the river between them and
their enemies, they could quickly cross in their canoe and locate
themselves in the path of escape.

The horses drew back at first, erecting their ears and neighing
timidly, doubtless scenting the huge crocodiles hidden in the rank
growth upon the banks.

Phil heaved a relieved sigh as he saw Maria’s horse emerge from the
water on the far side, and scramble up the steep bank, the dripping
girl clutching securely the saddle.

Little Juan behaved like a veteran, guiding his horse with a gentle
hand across the current until the animal’s feet took the bottom on the
other side and when the horse’s back emerged, he was sitting again
securely in the saddle.

Just as Phil, the last to reach the shore, gained the steep ascent,
a sharp crack of a rifle, followed by a loud smack as the bullet dug
itself into the muddy soil, announced that those at the ranch had also
discovered their presence. As Phil drew himself into the saddle shaking
free his reins, a single swift glance down the river showed him the
two natives running toward the palm grove where the canoe was tied. A
few swift strokes and they would again bar the way.

“Come, Syd, we must ride ahead,” Phil cried in a fever of dread, as he
dashed by Maria and her brother. “Never mind what happens, señorita,
you ride on as fast as you can go,” he continued earnestly as Sydney
spurred ahead to join him. “We’ve got to turn those fellows back,” he
explained breathlessly. “If they succeed in getting across they will be
able to stop us completely.”

As the midshipmen galloped madly down the rough trail toward a clearing
in the trees from which they could get a clear view of their enemy,
both drew their revolvers and held them in readiness.

“Look out for your horse, Syd,” Phil continued; “he’ll probably balk
when we fire and to be unseated now would mean the end.”

As the two horsemen came into view of the boat the two natives,
half-way across the river, suddenly dropped their paddles. Two flashes
of flame and a light, filmy smoke told that their bullets had been
sent speeding in the midshipmen’s direction. But fortunately the
rocking canoe had spoiled their aim. The missiles sang harmlessly above
the lads’ heads.

On a mad gallop the two midshipmen rushed out upon the clearing,
revolvers in hand. As if on drill, the two horses were drawn back upon
their haunches and the Americans’ weapons spoke furiously--shot after
shot struck about the panic-stricken natives. They first attempted to
paddle away, but the close hiss of the bullets became more than their
waning courage could stand. Forgetting their rifles in their mad fear,
they jumped overboard and dived below the surface of the water, while
the empty canoe, in the grasp of the current, went sailing swiftly
down-stream, forever beyond their reach.

With wild exultation the midshipmen turned and raced after their
fleeing friends.

Darkness overtook them long before they could again recross the river
and take the wide trail on which it was possible to ride with greater
speed.

It was after midnight before the great house of Señor Rodriguez loomed
up ahead, and after they had been stopped a number of times by the
vigilant sentries they gained the hospitable roof.

After a hearty supper, which Maria insisted upon their eating, Phil
declared his wish to return to Palilo.

“But your boat has not returned,” Maria insisted. “You must sleep here
to-night, then you can return in the morning.”

Phil knew that O’Neil would not return until he had reached a depth of
water in the river too shallow for the gunboat to pass. How far would
he have to go? Maybe to the cañon beneath the insurgent stronghold.
In that case he could scarcely expect them before morning. A slight
uneasiness filled his thoughts, but he tried to put it aside, for
O’Neil’s ready resourcefulness could get them out of almost any
difficulty.

“It is important, señorita,” Phil declared firmly, “that I should
return to-night. I will leave a message for my men to follow down on
their return. May I have a boat or a couple of horses?” he asked.

Maria spoke a few words to an attendant.

“Lopez will guide you,” she answered. “I am sorry you will not stay,
but you, of course, know best.”

Señor Rodriguez, after he had been told of the miraculous escape of
the explorers, shook the lads warmly by the hand, and thanked them for
taking care of his two children.

“It was the other way around,” Sydney cried in admiration. “Your
daughter really saved us and herself, too. If it had not been for her
we should have blundered into a fight with the ladrones and been killed
for our pains.”

The old man shook his head thoughtfully.

“Salas, eh? So he is with Espinosa. The two blackest rogues we have in
the islands. You are lucky to be free of them.”

“How many men have you guarding your plantation?” Phil inquired, his
mind bent upon the possibility of an attack.

“I have five hundred men, but only three hundred rifles,” Rodriguez
replied. “Captain Blynn will send sufficient guns to arm all the men
by to-morrow. I do not fear an attack until after Espinosa is more
recovered. My spies report that he is still suffering from his wound.
I suppose I must expect an attack eventually,” he added sadly, gazing
lovingly at his daughter and little son.

Within the hour, Lopez appeared and reported all was ready for the trip
to Palilo.

“If you want more men,” Phil suggested, “I can speak to Major Marble,
the adjutant-general. But I, myself, hope soon to be anchored off your
house in the ‘Mindinao.’”

Lopez’s old eyes opened wide. “A gunboat has not been for many years up
this river,” he said gravely. “The Spaniards built the bridge after the
bloody fight at Matiginao over thirty years ago. It is said that many
rocks were placed in the channel by the natives at that time, and after
the Spaniards found the river was blocked for their gunboats they built
that bridge to endure. It is all of stone and iron. A steam-launch can
barely pass through the archway.”

Phil’s heart sank. The channel blocked with rock! If this was true only
a careful survey could assure safety for the gunboat. The lead might
easily miss the shallow places while the gunboat would discover the
obstruction for the first time with its frail bottom.

The lad shook hands with the dignified old man. They regarded him
almost with reverence. Had they not seen him stand bravely before a
score of his countrymen, who he knew would like nothing better than
to murder him, and tell them boldly that he was for the right even if
to be so would cause him to be called a traitor! Now he had declared
for the American cause and almost every influential native’s hand was
against him.

Maria went with them to where the grooms held their horses.

“Señorita, we can never thank you enough,” Phil declared gladly. “You
are forever putting us in your debt.”

“Ah, you have forgotten the night you saved Colonel Martinez,” she said
softly, and Phil imagined in the moonlight that her eyes shone brighter.

“By Jove, Phil!” Sydney exclaimed eagerly a moment later, after they
and Lopez had swung themselves into their saddles and were trotting
down the broad roadway, “I didn’t believe it was in any girl to have
such grit, least of all one of her race. How on earth did you come to
think of such a trick as you played on that dapper little colonel?”

Phil smiled deliciously.

“That was planned telepathically between the señorita and me,” he
replied. “She purposely sat in front of Salas and I was placed behind
him; reason one. She knew that I knew if Salas remained in that
canoe we would all be made prisoners, and as Espinosa would be our
jailer--well! The crocodile was sent by a kind Providence, but if not
one way it would have been another. The idea occurred to me and I
firmly believe that she divined what I was about to do, for did you see
her spin the canoe about so as to get out of the colonel’s reach when
he was sent floundering in the water? She first induced him against
his caution and better judgment to trust himself alone with us in one
canoe.”

“But why didn’t he disarm us?” Sydney questioned perplexedly.

“I dare say he wonders why he didn’t too, by now,” Phil laughed. “Maria
threw him quite off the scent, apparently. These brown fellows are
very keen on dramatic scenes, and he doubtless thought it would be a
fine situation to spring the fact that we were prisoners when we had
arrived in Espinosa’s presence.”

The guide Lopez rode silently at their side. The lads were too much
occupied to give him more than a passing thought until the road emerged
from the woods of the valley and wound gradually around a hill which
was half-way between Rodriguez’s ranch and Palilo. Their conversation
had flagged; for the first time they realized that they needed sleep.
After their hard ride they felt tired and stiff. By mutual consent they
stopped on the crest of the hill. Phil took out his watch and held it
up to the moon’s rays.

“Two o’clock!” he exclaimed. “Not much sleep for us to-night.” Then a
look in Lopez’s face caused him alarm. He saw the native, eyes intent
on the horizon from which they had come and his hands pressing forward
his ears, apparently trying to intercept a sound which he had either
heard or imagined.

Phil was about to ask an eager question but before he could speak he
was answered by a distant rumble from the direction of the ranch. Again
and again the slight sound trembled on the still night. Like statues
silhouetted against the sky, for a second or more the three men sat
transfixed with apprehension. Then as one man they whirled their
horses about and galloped madly back over the road in the direction
from which they had come. That far-distant sound could have but one
interpretation;--the Rodriguez ranch was being attacked, and they might
be needed.



CHAPTER XV

A NIGHT OF ALARM


After the midshipmen had ridden away Maria returned to the large
living-room to bid her father good-night. A new pleasure had come
into her life, and what was more natural than that she should wish to
share it with him? These frank, young Americans had proved themselves
to be of a quality which she had not thought existed outside of the
story-books of her childhood. She believed that in their friendship
her father’s difficulties would melt away. Juan Rodriguez, interested
as he had always been in the political trials of his country together
with the management of his vast estates, from which he had reaped great
riches, like most Filipinos of the upper class, had treated his only
daughter more as a heaven-sent treasure rather than as a daughter to
confide in and in whom to seek womanly sympathy in his perplexities.
Her principal care had been for her brother, Juan, the pride of the
old man’s life. Upon this seven-year-old boy the greater part of his
affection was centred. Maria was not at all sleepy, and, seeing a light
in her father’s bedroom, she slipped in quietly to pour out her heart
to the stern but kindly parent.

On the threshold she stopped in startled amazement. Her slippered feet
had made no sound and the door as she pushed it open caused him to
glance up in annoyed surprise. She saw her father on his knees in the
corner before several heavy iron-bound chests, and their opened covers
displayed to her anxious eyes a great wealth of gold and silver coins.
More money than her young imagination had ever dreamed of.

As Rodriguez’s eyes encountered the startled look in his daughter’s
face, an expression of stern annoyance came into his own as he snapped
the huge lids shut and rose to his feet.

“Why do you keep all that money here?” she asked anxiously.

Her father looked worried at the question.

“All the money I have is in those chests, daughter,” he answered in a
low voice. “It has been buried, but when Garcia deserted me, Lopez
and I dug it up and brought it in here. I fear these native banks, and
if I should be robbed by the insurgents I would leave you and Juan
penniless. My lands are valuable, but these,” pointing to the chests,
“contain the most of my wealth. My ambition is to take my children
abroad, away from this turmoil and strife where they can see the world
and be educated in a way befitting the blood in their veins.”

Maria put her arms about the old man’s neck and kissed him fondly.
“Father,” she began, her eyes smiling with happiness, “I came in to
speak to you of the two young men who have just left us. Tell them of
your troubles and I know they will be able to solve the difficulty.”

Rodriguez smiled sadly.

“Your knights, child, I see have already been endowed with magic
powers,” he answered lovingly, patting her smooth black hair, “but we
have a cruel and unscrupulous enemy against us, and I am sure by now
he knows of the existence of this treasure. Garcia and I were the only
ones who knew where it was buried, and I trusted him as a brother but
he has deserted and betrayed me. Lopez is from the people, but his
honesty and loyalty are beyond doubt. Captain Blynn knows that this
money is here and has promised to send a company of soldiers to take it
to safety in the government vaults at Palilo. I had hoped he would be
here before now,” he ended in a worried tone.

“Why bury it?” Maria exclaimed. “Our American friends would gladly take
it on the gunboat, where it will be perfectly safe.”

Rodriguez’s face lighted up.

“I will ask them to-morrow,” she added as she kissed her father in
parting, “and now don’t lose any sleep over your troublesome gold.” She
turned, a happy smile on her face, and glided noiselessly to the door,
to enter her own room; she stopped and the smile froze on her face and
the fear within her made her faint; she clutched reeling at the door
and steadied herself. The face of a man had been pressed against the
dark glass of the window in her room, and she knew instantly that he
had seen through the opened door the three coveted chests of treasure.
She passed her hands across her face in horror, hoping that it was but
a trick of the imagination, conjured up by her anxiety. But no, the
face had been too vividly distinct. As she had entered the darkness
of her room, for an instant the light from her father’s lamp had been
reflected on the intruder’s face, and in that terrible moment she had
recognized her father’s former confidant, but now his enemy, Garcia.
She stood panic-stricken, at a loss how to act. To give the alarm might
insure her father’s death. Perhaps the enemy had made their way within
and were at that very moment concealed in the great vacant rooms, lying
hidden in the darkness waiting until the household were all asleep,
and then murder and robbery would be their aim. If she told her father
now, she knew that he would fearlessly and at once give the alarm and
call for his armed men to protect him. Then a thought made the blood
freeze in her veins, as her active mind sought for the means Garcia
had employed to pass her father’s sentries. There could be but one
solution. Garcia had sowed dissension among her father’s retainers. How
many of his men could now be trusted? While she stood in terrified
silence, a loud knock on the outside door caused her young body to
tremble in mortal terror. What could it mean? Who would come at this
hour in the morning? She saw her father make ready to answer, for the
servants all slept in a house adjoining.

“I’ll open it,” she cried, trying to disguise the tremble in her voice,
and with shaking limbs she crept down the stairs. Holding her breath,
she listened. Then she drew back the bolts in trembling haste and threw
wide the door.

O’Neil and his tired companions, the boat’s crew, stood in open-eyed
wonder as this wild-eyed but now joyous girl dragged them inside and
again barred the door.

“What’s the trouble, señorita?” O’Neil asked in calm surprise.

She put her finger to her lips and led them into the dining-room, where
the remnants of the midshipmen’s supper still remained. The five men
fell upon the food ravenously while Maria stood by, fear and hope in
turns showing in her dark eyes.

She told them of the trip up the river and the escape from the ladrone
leader, then of the valuable treasure in her father’s room and the
face she had seen at the window. After she had finished she watched
O’Neil’s face as if it were an oracle and she a petitioner before it.
The boatswain’s mate ate for several minutes in silence.

“Where are your men posted?” he asked suddenly.

“They are divided into four companies, one at each of the outposts,”
she answered.

“Does any one except your father and Colonel Martinez know of Garcia’s
treachery?” he asked.

“Yes, two, Lopez and Lukban,” she replied, “and they are both away from
the ranch. Lopez has just gone to Palilo with our friends.”

“That’s bad,” the sailor exclaimed, a cloud on his otherwise
expressionless face. “Then your men believe that Garcia is still their
friend? He has, of course, accomplices among them and his object surely
must be the treasure. He has discovered that it has been dug up, and
now knows it is in your father’s room. I do not believe there is any
immediate danger unless at the same time the insurgents are to make an
attack in force.”

The girl listened eagerly, nodding her head in agreement with the
wise words of this cool and calm American. O’Neil’s companions,
understanding no Spanish, had finished their meal and were dozing
contentedly in their chairs.

“Have you a servant you can trust?” O’Neil asked after a moment’s
thought.

“My maid, Inez,” she answered.

“All right; give her a revolver and tell her to go to each company and
quietly wake the men and tell them to get ready immediately to repel an
attack. If she is in danger of being captured by a lurking enemy tell
her to use the revolver. I’ll leave two men with you and your father,
while I’ll take two to try to bag this Garcia.”

Maria listened eagerly, hope rising as the sailor clearly outlined his
plan of action. She was sure Inez could be depended upon. Quietly she
flew up the stairs. As she passed her father’s room she saw that he had
retired, but had left the light burning for her. She stopped a second,
listening to his easy breathing. He was asleep. Then she went through
her own room, a chill passing through her as her eyes turned in fear
toward the window.

She took hold of Inez’s arm and shook her into wakefulness. The old
woman, who had nursed Maria as a baby, sat up rubbing the sleep out of
her eyes.

“Keep quiet,” Maria whispered in a commanding voice. “We are all in
danger of being murdered. I want you to take this revolver and go to
each outpost, tell the officer on guard that it is Señor Rodriguez’s
order to form his men to repel an attack at once. If you fail fire the
revolver as a signal to us.”

The old woman rose to her feet trembling violently. She counted her
beads, murmuring her prayers, but there was never a word of fear or
hesitancy.

“Good, Inez,” Maria whispered, kissing the old wrinkled face. The girl
saw it was set determinedly, yet a great and unknown terror looked out
of her appealing eyes. But the girl knew that she would be the safest
messenger. No one else could be depended upon like Inez, and she would
sacrifice her old life willingly to help her beloved master.

When Maria again entered the dining-room O’Neil had turned out the lamp
and was ready to carry out his daring plan.

“Two of my men will remain here with you, señorita,” he told Maria as
she held open the door. “We’ll soon bag this fellow Garcia, if he’s
still hanging about.”

O’Neil, followed cautiously by his two men, walked slowly about the
great house. As noiselessly as Indians they crept within its shadow,
straining their eyes toward the portico and covered porches above their
heads. There still remained the light in the room above where the girl
and her two protectors were doubtless now guarding her father and his
treasure. While O’Neil stood listening eagerly, a shadow crossed the
windows; it moved slowly inch by inch. The house was silent. Off to his
left O’Neil could hear a babble of excited voices and the rattle of
military accoutrements. Inez’s warning had been given and the native
soldiers were hastening to their stations to repel an enemy. The
shadow slowly crossed and disappeared and then the light was suddenly
extinguished. O’Neil was about to seek further when a noise from above
arrested his attention. He recognized at once that a sash was being
opened slowly. Then as he watched a dark figure appeared and dropped
noiselessly to the porch roof a few feet below the window. Quietly it
lowered itself to the edge of the roof and then with the agility of an
acrobat or a sailor climbed down the post near which the boatswain’s
mate and his men were standing. The next moment two powerful arms
enfolded it and a cry of fear was promptly stifled.

Then from the dark shadow of the woods to the northward came a volley
of musketry, followed by the war-cry of the bolo-man.

Hastily binding their prisoner with their neckerchiefs, the sailors
flung him on to the porch and rushed to join the defenders scarcely
four hundred yards away. Rodriguez had carefully laid out his plan of
defense, and before the attacking enemy could come to a hand to hand
fight, over three hundred yards of cleared land must be traversed.
As O’Neil and his men reached the trenches where the native soldiers
were excitedly firing blindly into the night, he could see a bobbing
line of men rapidly running across this open space, firing as they
advanced. Hastily surveying his surroundings, he saw that on one flank
was the river defended by a company of men and on the flank away from
the river was still another company. The excited native officers were
shouting orders to their men, the purport of which O’Neil could but
guess. The bobbing figures seemed in vast numbers and they advanced
rapidly in spite of the fire from the trenches. Suddenly the company
from the river bank left its post and came at double time to the middle
of the line of defense. O’Neil and his men had seized a rifle each
from lifeless hands and were elbow to elbow--vociferously haranguing
the men, cautioning them to aim at the constantly moving enemy. Before
they could realize its significance, a line of men arose suddenly from
the short grass, only a few score of yards in front of the trenches,
to which point they had crawled unobserved, while the defenders had
been firing at the visible enemy. The next second this avalanche of
naked humanity had cleared the intervening yards and were hacking at
the surprised defenders with their sharp bolos. Their friends in their
rear still kept up a brisk fire and many of the bolo-men suffered by
it. O’Neil suddenly found himself occupied by three fanatics bent upon
his destruction, while his companions near him were in as perilous
a position. Throwing away his empty rifle he drew his revolver and
fired unerringly at the nearest native. Then seizing the fallen man’s
bolo he rushed upon his other two assailants. So fierce had been the
onslaught of the bolo-men that they had surged into and even beyond the
rifle-pits, leaving a trail of destruction in their path.

The bolo-men, now at close quarters with those in the trenches, made
good use of their keen-bladed knives, but Rodriguez’s men, familiar
with the method of attack of these fanatics, appeared to flee, and then
turning shot their would-be pursuers down by the score. O’Neil and his
companions were in these few exciting minutes many times in peril of
their lives but soon the last of the attacking horde lay gasping on the
grass behind the intrenchment and the sailors and their dusky allies
were again in comparative security awaiting grimly the final attack of
the bobbing figures some hundreds of yards in their front, from whose
direction a hail of bullets whistled incessantly. O’Neil felt himself
all over hardly believing that he had escaped unscathed. The sailor
during his many years of service had never seen a fight more desperate.
He had frequently heard of the insurgent method of employing bolo-men;
using their riflemen as a screen, the practically unarmed horde, who
believed that their “Anting-Anting” charms rendered them invulnerable,
crawling snake-like, unobserved beyond their firing line until they
reached the rifle-pits of their enemy. Now he felt sure the attack on
the ranch would fail. Rodriguez’s natives had successfully weathered
the bolo rush, which they had learned to fear most. He did not know the
numbers of the attackers, but if they could be held off until morning
the soldiers who had been promised from Palilo to guard Rodriguez’s
treasure would surely be there to turn the tide in their favor. By the
fire from the trenches surrounding the ranch house on all sides except
that covered by the river, beyond which was an impenetrable swamp,
he knew that their line had not been broken. With a lighter heart
he counseled the natives near him to be careful of their ammunition,
setting them an example by firing deliberately only when a target
native exposed himself in the clearing in front of them. So much
occupied were those in the trenches that they failed to see several
great canoes land near the pier, and their occupants in single file
noiselessly steal toward the ranch house.

Again and again the insurgents made their onslaught, but each time were
received unflinchingly and driven back in confusion across the cleared
ground, many being left dead or dying on the field.

A disheveled, terrified figure came running from the house toward the
trenches; it glanced about wildly seeking some one and then threw
itself at O’Neil’s feet, clasping his legs tightly, almost upsetting
him among the stiffening bodies of the dead on the floor of the trench.
In the dim light he recognized the woman Inez who had courageously
spread the alarm among the native soldiers and her incoherent words
filled the sailor’s heart with dire forebodings.

“Oh, señor, save my master,” she cried; “he is in mortal danger.”

O’Neil bent down and unclasped the woman’s hands and lifted her to her
feet, but her body crumpled and the American saw with a sob of horror
that Inez had done her last service to the Rodriguez family; a bolo
cut on her old body had claimed her among the victims slain in this
unnecessary war.

The boatswain’s mate laid the woman’s body aside and with a score
of willing men started on a run for the house. Half-way there they
stopped precipitously, hardly believing their eyes, a great fear in
their hearts, for from the river there came a noiseless band of men,
dim shadows under the gloom of the trees. O’Neil counted them as their
silhouettes crossed a vista in the trees, and his hopes died within
him. Here was a new enemy, striking from the rear. The men in the
trenches could not leave their positions; to do so would allow many
hundreds of the insurgents to sweep the ranch.

“Forward!” he cried; “we must reach the ranch house first.”

He saw that this was their only hope to save the inmates.

Then a cry of joy leaped from his lips as tongues of flame leaped from
the vicinity of the house, directed upon the advancing men from the
river. He heard an order given sharply in the English tongue and a
volley shattered the darkness asunder.

“American soldiers!” he cried jubilantly.

O’Neil and his men had meanwhile circled away from the river in hopes
of making a rush for an entrance; now with sudden consternation O’Neil
saw that the appearance of the soldiers from the river would place
him in the line of retreat of those now surrounding the ranch house.
Selecting the protection of a tree trunk he called upon his men to do
likewise. He heard the order “Charge” given in the silvery peals of a
bugle and the next moment the terrified natives were fleeing directly
toward him, the hindmost slashing with their bolos those in front of
them in their mad haste to seek safety. Then the drumming of hoof-beats
was heard and three horsemen appeared suddenly from the night,
emptying their revolvers as they came into the fleeing savages.

A woman’s scream pierced the night and the figure of a man silently
dropped from the roof and disappeared in the darkness.



CHAPTER XVI

A FILIPINO MARTYR


Phil and Sydney were hard pushed to keep up with the native as he
spurred his horse forward over the dark road.

“The ranch is being attacked!” Lopez cried in a voice of fear. “My poor
master will surely be killed!”

Phil’s thoughts were only for the frail girl whom he had begun to look
upon as his own especial charge. He knew the cruelty of the Filipinos
when once their anger was aroused and he believed that her part in
Espinosa’s betrayal must now be known to that treacherous leader.
Probably Colonel Salas himself formed a part of the attacking force,
and the lad thought fearfully of the vengeance he would take upon the
helpless girl if she fell into his hands. As they approached the ranch,
the volume of fire increased alarmingly.

“They are in force!” Phil exclaimed, his heart sinking within him as
he urged his tired mount forward.

The ranch with its surrounding orchard of fruit trees now lay just
below them and the white road winding down the hill glistened in the
dim moonlight. Tongues of flame darted here and there from the shadows
of trees and shrub, even close to the house itself, while further in
the background toward the river a line of flame resembling fireflies
on a summer evening told him the soldiers of Rodriguez were stubbornly
resisting the main attack from their solidly built trenches. As they
plunged madly down the hill road, his alert eyes tried to disentangle
the situation. He saw many moving figures flitting through the trees,
the moonlight glinting on their bright bladed bolos, while toward
the river a long line of flashing rifles told of a rescue party
approaching, from whom the flitting figures were fleeing.

Three white figures appeared suddenly from behind a tree close to the
retreating bolo-men and the lad’s heart gave a great leap of joy as he
recognized even in the dim light the stalwart figure of O’Neil.

Then as he charged forward with his companions close beside him,
Maria’s cry made his heart sink and at the same instant he saw
the figure of a man emerge from the house and dart away after the
retreating bolo-men.

“Where are we needed?” a familiar voice shouted from the company which
had now halted at the house, and the anxious lads, after firing their
revolvers in vain at the fleeing figure, were shaking Captain Blynn’s
hand.

“In the trenches, sir,” O’Neil volunteered eagerly. “They are hard
pushed, sir.”

Captain Blynn gave a hurried order and his company of American soldiers
rushed eagerly toward the thick of the firing, followed by O’Neil and
his men. All were eager to again try conclusions with the elusive foe.

Phil and Sydney followed the anxious Lopez to the house. As they
entered the hall they were horrified to find everything in confusion.
The furniture was wrecked in many places, and there were blood-stains
on floor and wall, showing there had been a terrible struggle. A light
was burning dimly in an alcove. In the corner lay the white form of
an American sailor mutilated and dead. Further up the stairs they saw
the other poor sailor breathing his last. Clearing the body with a
bound the lads gazed with sinking heart upon the dead face of Señor
Rodriguez, lying on the floor of his bedroom, while all about him was
confusion and ruin.

“Where is the girl?” Sydney asked in a faint, fearful voice.

“Señorita!” Phil called hopelessly.

A faint sob came to their ears from an inner room. Rushing in they
found the girl on the floor, her hands and feet securely bound. About
her mouth a gag had been placed, but it had fallen, leaving the mouth
free.

They quickly released her and placed her tenderly on the bed.

“She managed to get off the gag and scream,” Phil whispered with
admiration, “before she fainted. Bring that light, Syd, she may be
hurt.”

The light was soon brought, and the lads were relieved to find that she
was unharmed.

Lopez meanwhile had stayed at the bedside of his dead master, moaning
piteously. The noise caught the girl’s ear as she awaked from her
stupor under the administration of the midshipmen.

“It was Espinosa himself,” she exclaimed in an anguish of sorrow.
“They forced the door and killed the brave sailors. My father defended
himself but he is no match for five men. Espinosa struck him down from
behind. I ran to guard little Juan, but they caught me and bound me.”

“The money is gone too,” groaned Lopez. This to him seemed as great a
sorrow as the death of his master.

“They lowered it out the window,” Maria said. She entered her father’s
room, walking unsteadily between the two midshipmen, and knelt in
prayer before her father’s couch.

Phil’s eyes fell before those of the girl as she arose dry-eyed and
calm. He saw the anguish in her face, however, and vowed that he would
lighten her task wherever it lay in his power.

“Is Juan safe?” Lopez asked suddenly, his mind at last grasping the
horrible calamity which had fallen on his master’s house and realizing
that his first duty was with the living.

The girl nodded.

“Inez brought the alarm that the house was surrounded. She hid the
boy and herself. Espinosa searched for him and his intention was to
carry us both away as his prisoners.” Then a sudden fear came into her
voice and her eyes flashed with excited terror. “He said that Colonel
Martinez had been killed. Is it so?”

The lads shook their heads.

“We have no news, Maria,” Phil said kindly. “No, it cannot be so. It
was but prompted by this cruel man to taunt you.”

She sighed hopefully.

“If he had known of this attack and was alive he would have prevented
it,” she exclaimed suddenly, her hope turning to dejection.

While they were talking the fusillade slowly diminished and soon ceased
altogether and in a short time Captain Blynn’s voice was heard in the
hall below.

In the large living-room the army and navy men sat, until the daylight
sifted in through the shell windows, talking of the perplexing
situation, while Maria was made to go to bed and sleep. The doctor who
accompanied the captain regarded her with eyes of grave concern.

“She must not be overexcited. She is outwardly calm but her heart acts
queerly. It may snap at any moment,” he had told the lads.

“I have received a long letter from your friend, Colonel Martinez,” the
captain exclaimed to the midshipmen after disposing of a steaming cup
of coffee. “He said he would willingly surrender to General Wilson if
the price on his head were removed, and he sent me papers and documents
which I have already sent to the governor-general in Manila which prove
Martinez’s innocence of certain crimes committed in Luzon and implicate
a Filipino now high in the good graces of the government.”

Phil thoughtfully sent Lopez to Maria to tell her of Captain Blynn’s
news and then gave Captain Blynn the story of the recent tragedy on the
floor above.

“Poor Rodriguez,” the captain murmured. “If he had taken the other
side he would now be alive. The money,” he added, his face troubled--“I
am too late. I promised him I would come, but I was delayed by
important matters with the general.”

“A search at once,” Phil exclaimed rising hastily from his chair; “they
can’t have gone far with those heavy chests.”

Lopez smiled grimly.

“Señor, it would be impossible to follow them. By now the treasure is
either carefully hidden or else in a banka hurrying up the river to
Espinosa’s stronghold. We must capture Espinosa; where he is the money
will be also.”

“Quite right, Lopez,” Captain Blynn agreed. “It’s not pleasant to hike
in this country at night either, young man,” he added to Phil, whose
sudden show of excitement in the prospect of another fight had died
down; “every trail is trapped, and I don’t relish a green bamboo spear
through me even for all old Rodriguez’s money. Espinosa undoubtedly has
planned this attack carefully and in the darkness we would simply be
wasting our time and be losing sleep.

“Some of our friend Espinosa’s plotting, in the light of this affair,
is now quite plain. Rodriguez was in his way, and so is Martinez, but
I don’t exactly see why; and this attack was made easy through his
winning of Garcia, the trusted friend of Rodriguez. But how did he
learn of this money?”

“Why,” Phil exclaimed, a scowl on his face, “Lopez tells me that Garcia
alone knew of its existence and coveted it, and readily persuaded
Espinosa to help him obtain it and share it. With that amount of money
they can make this war very difficult for us or they can escape with
their booty to Hongkong.”

“Well,” said the captain yawning outright, “I must get some sleep. The
bridge is clear; I’ll wait here until you bring up the gunboat. The
general is coming himself to look over the ground. We’ve had reports
that the rebel army is massing at Matiginao, where supplies for a year
have been collected.

“We’re going to have the biggest fight in the history of the war,” he
added in a sleepy voice as he lay full length on the wicker lounge. “By
the way, old man Tillotson promises all kinds of rewards to any one
who will rescue his son. He’s coming down himself--sailed from Manila
the day after he got the news.”

Although the midshipmen and their men would have liked nothing better
than to follow Captain Blynn’s example for a few hours’ nap, they felt
that the startling news that the entire rebel army was collecting
upon Matiginao made it imperative for them to leave the situation at
the Rodriguez ranch in the hands of Captain Blynn and return to their
gunboat. So far their work had not been crowned with success. True,
they had exposed a traitor, but in doing so the American soldiers had
acquired a new and sagacious enemy in Espinosa. The remaining members
of the Katipunan society had taken flight, and had fled before the
vengeance of Captain Blynn whom they all hated and feared. Rodriguez
had been killed, and enough gold to continue the war indefinitely had
been taken almost before their eyes, and they had been powerless to
prevent it. This was not a pleasant retrospective dream in which to
indulge as they watched in silence the even breathing of the complacent
army man.

“We seem so powerless against them,” Sydney complained. “Our enemies
are everywhere. One moment the natives about us seem friendly, and the
next they are sticking us in the back with knives. When we start on an
expedition the enemy know just how many men we have and where we are
going, so there can be no surprise, while they always take us unawares.”

“But now, it’s different since Espinosa and the Katipunans have been
forced to leave Palilo,” Phil exclaimed. “In the last few days Captain
Blynn says our soldiers in the provinces have surprised several bands
of insurgents. So you see they have ceased to be kept posted by spies
at headquarters.

“Espinosa is collecting all his men in Matiginao with the idea of
safety and a hope of being able to capture Palilo before the two extra
regiments arrive, but General Wilson will checkmate him by withdrawing
half his men to surround him in his mountain stronghold. Now we have
some chance; before, they simply knew when we were coming, and if they
couldn’t meet us with three times our number they kept out of the way.
But come,” he added suddenly jumping to his feet, “we are wasting
time.”

The Americans returned down the river in their cutter, this time the
midshipmen taking turns at the oars, and it was nearly eight o’clock
before they stood once more on the deck of the “Mindinao.” The bodies
of the dead sailors were sent at once to the army hospital for burial.

“Major Marble has been here twice to see you, sir,” the quartermaster
informed Phil; “he said he’d return again in an hour.”

“Breakfast first,” Phil shouted to the Chinese steward, who came aft,
smiling blandly at the return of his officers, steaming coffee in hand.

While they were still at table Major Marble arrived, and was told all
the news of the river.

“The audacity of those beggars,” he exclaimed, “attacking in force
within ten miles of headquarters. It’s a shame, the few men we are
allowed to cover this entire country. The general sees now that what
is needed is concentration, but if we withdraw our entire garrisons
from the towns it will mean that the innocent people there who have
befriended us will suffer.”

“I suppose you are right, major,” Phil said thoughtfully, “but in war
it seems to me that one can’t stop to consider the feelings of innocent
people where the success of the cause is concerned. Espinosa has twice
as many troops as the general, and they are fighting on their home
soil. They know every footpath. Some are not armed with a rifle but
are far more dangerous to us with their bolos and fanatical bravery.
We did not see his stronghold, I am glad to say,” he smiled grimly at
the words, “but we know that one thousand men held it successfully
against five times that number of Spaniards a generation ago. From what
I have seen I say concentrate every available man and crush this fellow
Espinosa before he gets any stronger.”

Major Marble nodded his head in agreement with the views of the young
navy man.

“If we could always do what our military training dictates,” he
answered sadly, “this war might not have begun.”

“I shall go up the river in an hour,” Phil announced, “and if the
general wishes I shall be honored to have him on board.”

“The general is waiting anxiously to know that,” the major replied
promptly; “that was my mission here, but your exploits so interested me
I had nearly forgotten my mission.”

Within the hour the “Mindinao,” flying the blue flag with one white
star at her main truck in honor of her distinguished passenger, General
Wilson, cast off from the dock and steamed up the river.

“That was a fine piece of work,” Phil exclaimed in admiration, as
he examined the cleverly constructed drawbridge built within the
twenty-four hours by the army engineers. Its width was just sufficient
to admit the “Mindinao.”

Phil stood on the bridge beside the man at the wheel, piloting the
gunboat through the ever-changing shoals, while O’Neil in person heaved
the lead in the chains, calling out the depth in feet.

After leaving the town the river ran through several miles of nipa
swamp land, the home of the carnivorous land crab, the crocodile and
the bandit Filipino. The gunboat continued cautiously, Phil keeping
the sharp bow within the deep water, sometimes so close to the thickly
wooded shore that he could have reached out and touched with his hand
the overhanging trees.

Before noon the “Mindinao” had anchored off Rodriguez’s ranch and
the general and party were landed to view the scene of the recent
fight. The shore was lined with curious and excited natives, those of
Rodriguez’s men, who had been spared from the fierce attack. To them
the presence of the gunboat so far up the river was almost a miracle.
They pointed knowingly at the big guns and clapped their hands in
savage joy at the thought of what they could do against the enemy.

Captain Blynn had taken the situation in hand and had distributed the
soldiers of his company to reinforce the native companies. A feeling of
relief was now manifested by all. They were confident that no attack
would be attempted while the gunboat’s guns frowned menacingly out
there in the river.

“That’s worth a regiment,” Captain Blynn exclaimed as he saluted the
general and helped him from the “Mindinao’s” cutter to the bamboo
pier, pointing to the graceful white ship, standing sharply against the
dark background of jungle grass and banana trees. As they walked toward
the house Captain Blynn dropped behind and took Phil’s arm confidingly.

“After you had gone my men found a native tied up in all sorts of
sailor knots with silk neckerchiefs, just under Rodriguez’s window.
Señorita Rodriguez recognized him at once as a former friend of her
father who she said had betrayed him. He was pretty well frightened
and to save his skin, for he believes we are going to kill him, he has
offered to show us the trail to Espinosa’s stronghold.”

Phil shook his head in mystery.

“I don’t know how he got there, unless----” He turned and called O’Neil
from the boat. “O’Neil, do you know anything about a native securely
bound with sailor neckerchiefs?”

“Sure, sir. It was the one that crawled out of the window,” he
explained hastily; “the young lady saw his face spying on her father.
His name is Garcia.”

“Do you know,” the captain said knowingly, “that he is the only
prisoner captured? There wasn’t a single wounded man in sight this
morning. It isn’t the custom of the country, you see.”

Phil involuntarily shuddered. “How callous one becomes,” he thought,
“in war time. Think of maybe a hundred wounded men cruelly butchered by
brother natives.”

Before they reached the house the party was startled by a rifle-shot
from behind them. Glancing about quickly they saw a large canoe manned
by natives appear from behind the trees and paddle directly for the
gunboat; a large white flag flew prominently from the bow of the boat.
Phil and Captain Blynn walked quickly back and sent O’Neil and his
cutter out to learn the meaning of the flag of truce. The general and
the rest of the party halted and waited, eager to see what this strange
move might mean.

The boat came quickly back and Phil took a letter from a native’s hand
scanning it with beating heart. “For the general,” he said.

All watched the general break the seal and fumble with his glasses.
It seemed ages before he finished the few short lines and handed the
letter to Captain Blynn.

  “Lieutenant Tillotson is my prisoner. I will surrender him safely in
  exchange for the deserter Colonel Martinez. If you attack me I shall
  have him shot.

                                                             “ESPINOSA.”



CHAPTER XVII

A DARING PLAN


Phil stood silently by, his mind occupied over the details of a daring
plan.

The exchange proposed by Espinosa was out of the question, even if
Colonel Martinez had surrendered, which he had not done up to the
present time; and until his sins in Luzon were forgiven Phil knew that
he preferred his liberty. But this threat against Tillotson’s life
worried Phil. Espinosa was sufficiently cruel to carry it out, he was
sure.

Leaving the group of officers, who were still pondering over the
contents of Espinosa’s communication, Phil went in search of Maria.
There were points in his plan which she could throw light upon.

He found her in the house, heavy-eyed with sorrow and loss of sleep,
but she greeted him with a smile and waited patiently until the room
was empty before signing him to speak, for she saw that he had
something of importance to communicate.

“How much dependence can we put upon Garcia as a guide?” he asked
eagerly. “I have a plan, and all depends upon whether he can be trusted
to lead us against Espinosa, if not willingly, then under intimidation.”

“Before they killed my father and carried away the treasure,” the girl
answered, a spark of excitement entering her dull eyes, “Espinosa and
Salas got the information necessary for their work from Garcia, bound
and helpless where your sailors had left him. They refused to liberate
him and hoped he would be killed by the Americans. You can be sure,”
she added, “that he will take keen pleasure in running his enemies to
earth.”

“And now for my favor from you,” the lad continued in a lower tone; “as
Garcia will take Lopez’s place as guide for the soldiers to the trail
up the mountain, I want twenty-five of your men whom you would trust
to the death, under the command of Lopez, to take O’Neil and me as
prisoners to Espinosa’s camp.”

The girl gave a low exclamation of surprised horror, regarding Phil
fixedly, half believing the lad was out of his mind.

“I mean it,” he exclaimed earnestly. “It’s the only chance we have
of saving Tillotson’s life. Your men must pretend to have deserted
after the death of their master,” he dropped his voice as he saw the
look of pain in Maria’s eyes at the mention of her father’s sad fate.
“Lopez will claim to have taken us prisoners and then deserted to the
insurgents. It’s a good plan,” he cried enthusiastically, “and is sure
to be successful.”

Maria paled at the mere thought of such rashness, but seeing Phil could
not be moved from his avowed intention, she gave her consent grudgingly.

The general was not so easily convinced. His natural and inherent
cautiousness could not be changed even under the combined persuasion
of the midshipman and his staff officers, Major Marble and Captain
Blynn, who were both enthusiastic over the conception of such a daring
strategy.

“The very impertinence of it will make it successful,” Major Marble
exclaimed. “They will not believe that one could be so rash as to
willingly place his life in danger.”

“You’ll have to stay with the gunboat,” Phil explained to Sydney, who
was visibly put out that he too could not be allowed to go. “I shall
take only O’Neil. The general has ordered that all the soldiers who can
be spared from the garrisons throughout the island be despatched to
rendezvous here and will need the ‘Mindinao’ to carry troops and shell
the stronghold from the river. If you find it possible take her through
the cañon; there is a trail on the other side from the westward. If you
are successful we shall have them between our two parties.”

That evening Maria and her small brother followed their father’s body
to his grave in the family cemetery. The general himself read the
solemn burial service and a company of American infantry fired three
volleys over the grave of the murdered patriot.

General Wilson established his field headquarters in the house of
mourning and before three o’clock of the next day the first of the
detachments of soldiers arrived and went into camp on the river slope.

“We shall have about one thousand rifles for the attack,” Captain
Blynn told the midshipmen, after Phil had unfolded to him and Major
Marble the details of his plan to rescue Lieutenant Tillotson, “and by
to-morrow afternoon they should all be assembled here. The general,”
he added, “is very much worked up over Espinosa’s threat, and realizes
that it is not an empty one, but he still refuses to allow you to take
this terrible chance.”

Within a short time Phil was summoned to the general’s room.

“I cannot allow you to take this risk,” he said kindly, a light of
admiration in his eyes. “Why should two American lives be jeopardized
to save one? And perhaps some will say that Lieutenant Tillotson does
not deserve such a sacrifice at your hands.”

“That makes me more anxious to take the risk,” Phil urged. “We did not
part friends, and I can’t help feeling that our quarrel has had some
part in his misfortune.”

Under the confiding influence of the general’s manner, Phil told of his
affair with Tillotson, doing his best to make a good case for his one
time enemy.

The general shook his head thoughtfully.

“It is very hard for me to allow you to undertake such a rash
adventure,” he answered, putting his hand affectionately on the
midshipman’s shoulder, “but war is war, and if pluck will bring
success, Tillotson’s life will be saved. Tell me now,” he added,
seating himself and motioning Phil to a chair, “how far you have worked
out the details of your plan, for every point must be covered; there
must be no loophole for failure. Can you expect that each of your
twenty-five men will keep the secret after they have mixed with the
enemy?”

Phil outlined each step as he had thought it out during the last
anxious twenty-four hours, while the general listened, his face grave
and thoughtful.

They would start after nightfall, and by sending men ahead to announce
their coming would be received by the insurgents with acclamation. They
would spend the next day at the camp and Lopez would endeavor to keep
his men from mixing with the enemy, and the next night the gunboat
and as many troops as the general could muster would lay siege to the
stronghold. The remainder Phil had not thought out. Chance alone
must decide the outcome, but he hoped to save Lieutenant Tillotson’s
life and their own, and maybe by Lopez and his men commanding the top
of the trail they could aid the American troops in their fight for
the stronghold. When the attack was made he would use Lopez’s men to
prevent Espinosa from carrying out his threat against Tillotson’s
life. The gunboat must use its fire against the fortifications, but be
careful to direct its shell to the left of the stronghold, for he hoped
that his own men would be at the right near the trail leading down the
precipice.

“There are a great many chances for failure,” the general said
thoughtfully as Phil finished, “but with your energy and perseverance I
believe you will win.” He shook the lad’s hand warmly in parting.

“I wish I could go with you,” Maria said sadly as Phil bade her
good-bye; “but you can put your full trust in Lopez. It was he who
betrayed the Katipunan society to me to save my father’s life. How he
got the information I do not know, but if his act were known his life
would be forfeited.”

Without ceremony Phil and O’Neil, their hands tied securely with ropes
made fast to their bodies and held in the hands of the make-believe
deserting natives, filed along the narrow trail leading parallel to the
fast flowing river. Two messengers had been sent ahead to notify the
insurgent leader of the joyful tidings of the important captures. Their
progress was rapid, and inside of three hours the house which had been
the scene of Phil’s and Maria’s strategy was reached. There the party
waited.

After what seemed an interminable time to the anxious prisoners, a
challenge suddenly broke the stillness of the dismal woods and Phil’s
old enemy, Colonel Salas, stood before him. A great joy shone from his
dark vengeful eyes as he beheld the bound prisoners.

“My chief will be delighted to receive such distinguished visitors,”
he laughed, kicking Phil viciously as he lay helpless upon the ground.
“That is for your cleverness of yesterday,” he snarled. “We’ll see you
are kindly treated. We shall give you all the refined initiations that
we can think of to make your stay with us pleasant and then----” He
stopped with a significant gesture.

“O’Neil,” Phil whispered after Colonel Salas had left him to join
Lopez, who had assembled his men ready to advance, “I am afraid we are
in for a pretty bad time of it. But if I ever get the opportunity I’ll
make that little brown piece of pomposity pay for that kick he gave me.”

“Well, sir,” O’Neil replied evasively, “I may have been in worse
situations--no doubt I have--but this one seems rather more
complicated. I think we’ll have many kicks and worse to pay back before
we can call our bodies our own and not footballs for these little brown
brothers to score with.”

After a rapid parley the party were again in motion. Phil and O’Neil
were roughly seized by two natives and forced ahead up the trail. Two
or three times Phil’s foot slipped into yawning holes at either side of
the trail, but each time he was dragged back to safety by the natives
behind him.

“This whole place is trapped,” O’Neil whispered, pointing to where his
foot had uncovered the top of a square hole some six feet deep, the
lantern carried by a man in front betraying to view the green bamboo
spears at the bottom.

Phil shivered as he gazed down on the pointed sticks as sharp as a
needle, and poisoned, he knew, with a deadly vegetable sap that would
kill within the hour.

“Be careful, Mr. Perry,” O’Neil cautioned in a low, anxious voice.
“These men know where the traps are, and will try to catch you if you
make a misstep--but they might fail,” he added with a shudder.

A halt was called suddenly as they moved through a densely wooded
section of the level trail, while several of Colonel Salas’ men moved
cautiously ahead and appeared to work quietly in the jungle. After a
few minutes they reappeared and signaled for the column to proceed.

“Spring traps,” O’Neil informed the midshipman. “They’ve detached them
from their springs. If we hadn’t known they were there one of us would
have caught his foot in a piece of innocent looking vine which would
have pulled a trigger and sent twenty or more spears across the trail
with force sufficient to penetrate a pine board.”

Phil half wished that he had not volunteered for this nerve-racking
ordeal. After all what did he owe Tillotson? Had not the army man tried
to injure him in every way? Yet the lad knew for that very reason he
had asked to be allowed to risk his own life to rescue him. Then he
thought suddenly of O’Neil. His stalwart form was just ahead of him,
dimly outlined in the darkness. Had he acted generously to this brave
and willing sailor?

“O’Neil, I am mighty sorry I brought you along,” he exclaimed suddenly.

O’Neil stopped in his tracks so suddenly that the two brown men bumped
their heads with some force against his back and cried out with
surprise.

“Why, sir!” he answered in an aggrieved tone. “Have I done anything to
displease you, sir?”

Phil laughed outright, only to be prodded by the sharp bayonets of his
captors for his incautiousness.

“If that’s the way you feel about it,” he said, “I am glad you are
here.”

Inside of ten minutes, conversation was impossible, for they needed
all their breath for the precipitous climb up the face of the cliff
leading to the top of the mountain. The natives on each side of the
prisoners pulled and pushed them up the jagged and rocky trail until
their bodies were bruised and their skin torn in many places by the
cruel cactus and “Spanish bayonet,” which seemed to have been planted
by nature as a further difficulty for those who dared to ascend the
secret trail to the insurgent stronghold.

After many rests, out of breath, footsore, bleeding and tired, the top
was reached and with scant courtesy O’Neil and Phil were thrown into a
nipa shack, where they fell unceremoniously on top of a sleeping human
being who awakened with a cry of alarm and fear, striking at them with
his manacled hands.

“It’s Lieutenant Tillotson,” O’Neil exclaimed gladly, as he rolled away
to the farthest side of the small hut, to put himself out of reach of
the startled prisoner.

“Who are you?” came from the figure, in a weak voice. “Yes, I am
Lieutenant Tillotson. Tell me I’m not dreaming. Didn’t I hear a white
man’s voice?”

[Illustration: _UP THE FACE OF THE CLIFF_]

Phil could see him dimly by the light of the camp-fire outside. The man
had been completely cowed. What terrible torture had been inflicted to
cause him to become such an abject figure, groveling before them, his
voice hollow, and in his eyes a light of unreasonable fear?

“It is Midshipman Perry and O’Neil from the gunboat, Tillotson,” the
lad whispered. “We hope to save you if you will keep quiet and do just
what we tell you.” Phil could have wept in pity at the sight of the
physical wreck before him. He was shocked at the sight. Tillotson’s
eyes were dull and the face empty of hope.

“You don’t know what you are saying,” he answered in a monotonous
voice. “No one can be saved who is brought to this place. Death is the
one avenue of escape. Oh! No one knows of the tortures I have endured
from that fiend’s hands.” Then his face lit up for a second as he
raised himself from the ground and stared at Phil, who had approached
and stood looking down pityingly upon him. “How can you save me? Oh,
tell me the truth. Are you not prisoners also?”

Phil seated himself by the side of the unnerved man and begged him to
be calm and reserve his strength. After a few moments he told him of
the plan and his hopes for success.

“Let us pray for success,” the captive cried weakly. “I had determined
to throw myself off the cliff rather than undergo another day’s
torture.”

Tillotson talked for an hour, gruesomely dwelling on the details of his
horrible treatment by Espinosa. He told of his mission to the spy, with
the letter which Phil had taken from the dead messenger at Binalbagan.
The message was in Espinosa’s own handwriting, and warned the attackers
of the gunboat’s approach.

“I see now that I have been repaid for my stupidity,” he moaned. “I
believed that I could unmask him and earn the thanks of the general,
but first I wished to get from him a full confession and implicate
his accomplices. I showed him the letter and told him I would call at
his house after visiting the sentries.” The overwrought officer broke
down and sobbed for several minutes before continuing. “I was a child
in his hands; I did not know his power. His followers trapped me and
carried me away by water, bringing me to this awful place. Every day
some new torture is devised for me. To-day I was suspended by my neck
with only my toes on the ground. That was the worst so far. I don’t
know what it will be to-morrow,” he ended with a shudder.

Phil tried to console him as best he could, but a great fear had
entered his thoughts. If this terrible punishment had been meted out
to Tillotson, what would the treacherous and cruel Espinosa devise for
him? Surely something many, many times more horrible.



CHAPTER XVIII

A RIVER EXPEDITION


After Phil and his party had gone on their hazardous mission, Sydney
went aboard the gunboat to make ready for the work which had been left
in his hands. He felt it keenly that he could not share this dangerous
expedition, but there was some consolation in the knowledge that O’Neil
was with Phil.

Another detachment, footsore and tired from its forced march from a
distant post, had arrived at the ranch, and the two staff officers were
untiringly arranging all the details for the attack in force.

Sydney, upon his arrival on the gunboat, gave orders that all
obstructions be cleared away from the guns, and directed the placing of
iron sheeting to protect the officers and men who would be, with him,
exposed on the gunboat’s bridge.

The plan of attack was to divide the force of soldiers; the gunboat to
carry as many of the men as her limited deck space would accommodate,
and the remainder were to go by trail, guided by Garcia. A sufficient
force would remain to guard the ranch, to which point supplies were on
their way up the river from Palilo.

General Wilson would command the expedition in person from on board the
gunboat.

At sunrise Sydney was awake, and already the camp ashore was alive
and the lad saw the companies drawn up, their rifles stacked, eating
their morning meal. Hurriedly dressing he was rowed ashore, but before
leaving he had ordered all his boats to be lowered for transporting the
soldiers to the gunboat.

“Major Lukban, one of Rodriguez’s officers, will go with you as a
guide,” Captain Blynn informed the lad as he stepped ashore. “He
was wounded in the attack on the ranch, but he is well enough to go
on the gunboat, and he knows the navigation of the river. He is now
questioning an insurgent officer who was brought in by one of our
companies; they captured him in a village several miles from here.

“Lukban is like a wild beast; they have just told him of Rodriguez’s
murder by Espinosa and Salas, so I suppose we had best keep an eye on
this unfortunate prisoner.”

Captain Blynn led Sydney down to the basement of the ranch house. The
midshipman, when his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, gave an
exclamation of surprised horror as he saw a half-strangled native on
the floor with several others astride his heaving chest. Sydney noticed
the wounded major in a chair, looking down upon his victim, a savage
smile on his face.

“It’s not strictly orthodox,” Captain Blynn whispered as he saw the
horror in Sydney’s eyes, “but it’s effective.”

“A little more,” Major Lukban ordered in a cold voice, after nodding a
welcome to the newcomers.

Sydney saw the native at the prisoner’s head slowly pour the water
which he held in a bamboo cup between the prisoner’s teeth. The
unfortunate man choked, while the veins in his neck stood out like
whip-cords. His eyes turned glassy and staring, while his colorless
face became a sickly blue.

“You’ll kill him,” Sydney cried aghast. “It shouldn’t be allowed,
captain,” he appealed, turning to the army man.

“Don’t you worry, Monroe,” the captain answered calmly, “he knows
within a few drops of how much the man can stand--watch!” he added
quietly, as the natives raised the prone captive to a sitting position
and struck him smartly on the back with their open hands. The native
coughed and sputtered; gradually his color returned and he drew great
gasping breaths.

After the prisoner had returned to a comparatively normal condition,
the inquisitor reached out his hand and struck him smartly across the
cheek. Where his hand had fallen, a white imprint was left, dying out
gradually, as the sluggish blood flowed back again.

“This is the ‘water cure,’” Captain Blynn observed as Major Lukban
fired question after question at the thoroughly cowed and now
tractable prisoner. “He will exact a confession from him which will
give us all the information we need. If you or I did this we would
be court-martialed and maybe dismissed but----” He ended with an
expressive shrug.

Sydney turned sick at the sight of a human being tortured beyond
endurance and a fear rose in his mind as he thought of poor Phil in
Espinosa’s hands. As he watched, the native appeared to hesitate
in answering a question, but a wave of Lukban’s hand, bringing the
attending natives and the water cup nearer, caused him to answer the
question immediately. Once the native refused to answer and then
despite his cries of fear and struggles almost superhuman, he was
forced back upon his back, and his jaws pried rudely open with a stick,
while the bamboo cup was poised menacingly above his open mouth.

The next moment the cup was sent spinning from the native’s hand and
Sydney had jerked the captive to his feet, and stood flushed with anger
and excitement between him and his torturer.

“I shan’t stand by and see any more of this torture,” he exclaimed
forcefully. “It’s a disgrace for us to allow it.”

Captain Blynn shrugged his shoulders, while Lukban glared angrily at
the indignant champion.

“But, señor, I must have that question answered,” he declared. “It
will not injure him, and it may save us many lives.”

“What was the question?” Captain Blynn asked.

“Whether there is a third trail from the stronghold and how it may be
reached,” he answered. “You see, captain, if there is we must guard it,
for otherwise all will escape us.”

Captain Blynn nodded, glancing amusedly at Sydney’s excited face.

“I am afraid, major, that question must remain unanswered,” he said in
a level tone, turning and leading the way out.

Sydney turned the half-drowned prisoner over to one of Captain
Blynn’s soldiers with orders to guard him carefully and to allow no
interference by their native allies.

By nine o’clock two hundred men had been embarked on the gunboat and
five hundred more had started under the command of Captain Blynn along
the trail leading up the river; Garcia as leader was at their head.

In the party on the gunboat were General Wilson, Major Marble and
Major Lukban; the latter, still sullen and angry with Sydney for his
unwarranted presumption in making him discontinue his torture, stood
with his former victim on the bridge of the “Mindinao.”

Sydney headed the vessel into the narrow channel, cautiously picking
his way through the numerous shoals; one minute the gunboat clung
closely to the steep river bank on one side and the next it was
scraping the overhanging trees on the other side.

From the masthead the lookout kept the soldiers on shore in sight,
and Sydney regulated his speed to just keep pace with them. He
thought often and with grave concern of Phil. What luck had he had?
His heartbeats quickened as he vaguely wondered if he were alive! He
realized the terrible cruelty of the Filipino leader, and Espinosa had
reason to hate the young naval man!

The small house, where the midshipmen had unexpectedly met Colonel
Salas, flashed into view as they rounded a bend in the river, and from
the bridge Sydney could discern with his glasses far in the distance
the enemy’s stronghold, Matiginao, “the impregnable.”

As the gunboat swept slowly by close inshore the soldiers waved their
campaign hats in silent salute to their formidable navy ally.

“This, from here on, is unknown river, sir,” Sydney reported to the
general, sitting calmly talking with his adjutant-general.

The general nodded and answered with a smile.

“All right, admiral, I am entirely satisfied to rely upon your
judgment.”

Major Lukban had during the gunboat’s progress up the river stood by
Sydney’s side, showing his appreciation of the lad’s navigation at
intervals by a silent nod, while at the same time he kept one guarding
eye upon his captive, whose crafty, sullen eyes roved incessantly along
the wooded slopes of the narrowing river.

“This is not new to you then, major?” Sydney asked suddenly, as he
directed the ship’s head toward a large dead tree which stood out a
lone sentinel on a rocky point ahead.

“As a boy I was brought up on this river,” the native replied sadly.
“Then many thousand of my people lived in plenty and happiness along
its banks.”

“Where have they all gone?” the lad inquired interestedly, his eyes
gazing about for the signs of a deserted population.

Lukban pointed to the tall mountains ahead of them.

“Time and again the Spaniards have endeavored to drive out the outlaws
from yonder stronghold, and the poor people who made their living
on the river were mercilessly preyed upon by the war parties of the
contending factions, until none were left. Juan Rodriguez alone has
managed to remain, but only by his fearless courage and the devotion of
his followers. Neither side cared to provoke him in his security until
Espinosa coveted his lands and his money and, who can say, maybe his
beautiful daughter.”

“Maria!” Sydney exclaimed.

The native lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Espinosa has had but one ambition all his life; to marry the daughter
of Rodriguez; but she scorned him, and to save her from his persistent
attention, Señorita Maria was sent away to Manila to school. Now he has
robbed her of her father and stolen the treasure which had been hoarded
for her. For many years Espinosa has been the head of the outlaws of
Kapay. Holding positions of trust under Spanish rule, he directed
the rebel movements and prevented their annihilation by the Spanish
columns. This identical work he has attempted under the American rule,
but his treachery has at last been exposed. Until he openly threatened
the life of Rodriguez, none of us dared to thwart him. His murderers
are everywhere, and his society of the Katipunan is far-reaching.
Nowhere in the archipelago is one safe from their vengeance. Maria,
woman as she is, has been marked for the assassin’s knife if she
continues to refuse to become the wife of its leader. Garcia,
Rodriguez’s trusted friend and overseer, was lured by terrible threats
of vengeance and hopes of reward to betray his benefactor. He had been
chosen by the society to commit the repulsive crime of murdering his
friend. He came to the Rodriguez house intending to kill the father and
carry away the daughter into captivity, which would have been for her a
living death. Through the administering of the water and the voluntary
confessions of Garcia, I have found out every motive which has actuated
both Espinosa and Garcia. The would-be murderer entered the room of
his victim, but in the light of the lamp could not bring himself to
murder his lifelong friend. He at least had remaining some of the
kindlier feelings in his heart. Turning out the light he was about to
despatch him with a swift dagger thrust as he lay innocently sleeping;
then hearing a noise on the stairs he withdrew into the darkness of an
adjoining room. It was Señorita Maria and the two Americans who had
remained to protect her. Seeing that to stay would mean discovery,
he escaped by a window, intending to meet Espinosa and his men as
they stole through the uproar of the bolo attack and tell him of the
locality of the treasure. Espinosa is a leader of no mean order. His
attack on the ranch was masterfully executed. Even though wounded, he
came unhindered through the thick of the attack, with his body-guard
of twenty faithful men. These were the ones who entered the house and
carried away the treasure chests.

“When Garcia, escaping, reached the ground, your trusty boatswain’s
mate, O’Neil, was on the spot.”

Major Lukban’s eyes were on his restive captive as he talked in low
tones to Sydney.

“We must keep an eye on him,” he continued. “He has given me so much
information that he would be killed if he fell into Espinosa’s hands.
Knowing the danger he runs, acting as our guide, he may attempt to
escape.”

The “Mindinao” was now where the dapper little colonel had taken his
involuntary bath. The river had become sensibly narrower and the shores
more treacherously rocky.

The captive suddenly turned and excitedly spoke to Major Lukban in the
native language, his gaze meanwhile roving over the cliffs just visible
ahead.

Lukban gave Sydney the man’s words in Spanish:

“He says the gunboat can pass through the cañon, but you must keep
close to the left hand shore to avoid the huge rocks which the
insurgents will hurl from the top of the stronghold.”

Sydney’s heart beat faster. They had not as yet come in sight of the
whirling maelstrom of water as it hurled itself through the narrow
gorge, but the top of the cañon was in plain sight. One huge boulder
dislodged from the heights, striking the deck of the “Mindinao,” could
easily pierce her frail steel shell.

“Will you go through on the gunboat, sir?” Sydney asked the general
eagerly as the “Mindinao” rounded a bend in the river, and the muddy
racing water loomed ahead straight as if nature had laid a ruler along
its path. About a mile away the other end of the cañon appeared, a
white streak of light between the sombre rocks.

The general regarded him in surprise.

“How would you expect me to go?” he asked, a twinkle appearing in his
eyes for a fraction of a second.

“I was thinking of the danger, sir,” the lad added hurriedly in
apology. “They’ll probably throw rocks down on us.”

“The commanding general cannot always be three miles in the rear,” the
veteran replied, now smiling broadly.

Sydney had sent word to the engine room that he desired all speed
possible and despite the current against them, the wooded shores were
passed quickly.

“To your guns,” he called in a clear voice without a note of
excitement. “Major,” he added turning to the adjutant-general, “some of
your best shots might take station to pick off the enemy on the cliffs.
Those on this end I hope will be Phil and his friendly natives.” He
turned suddenly pale as the possibility occurred to him of shelling his
own people.

The gunboat sped swiftly toward the cañon. Through glasses the jagged
rocks at the top could be seen covered with a curious crowd of natives.
Several sharp reports came muffled to his ears. The soft coo of
the alarm concha vibrated above the stillness. He called his three
gun-pointers up on the bridge and cautioned them with painstaking care
of their important duty. “Shoot at the middle and the left; Captain
Perry is on that mountain and I hope at this end. All three will fire
together and I will control from here.”

The men listened gravely and returned to their guns.

“Load,” Sydney ordered harshly. The breech-blocks clicked shut and the
crew stood expectantly alert. The soldiers, unaccustomed to artillery,
unconsciously edged away from the three bow guns.

“Set your sights at 1,500 yards,” Sydney directed, at the same time
giving a signal to the helmsman to hold the ship steady on her course.

“Fire when you’re on, aim at the edge of the rock,” he said in a tense
voice.

The three guns roared almost in unison and three black dots winged
swiftly out toward the frowning cliffs ahead of the gunboat. Three dull
brown splashes suddenly appeared just under the edge of the cliff and
the reverberations died out slowly to an unearthly wail.

“Seventeen hundred,” the lad cried out sharply, for the shots had
fallen short of the mark.

The sight-setters corrected their sights by a swift movement of the
wheel under their hand and the air was again rent by the discharges.

“Fine shots,” the general exclaimed excitedly as he leveled his glass
at the top of the mountain where the three shells had exploded,
scattering the rock and dirt in all directions and causing the
inquisitive insurgents to hurriedly seek shelter.

“Rapid fire,” Sydney ordered calmly and his voice had scarcely died
away when a puff of white smoke belched from the stronghold.

The lad’s heart almost stopped beating. Artillery he did not fear, if
he could return the fire. He was confident that he could take care of
himself with those three unerring guns, but this gun of the enemy was
mounted just where Phil had warned him not to shoot. He sickened at the
thought of disobeying the order, yet there was the menacing screech of
the shell in his ears, as it struck the water only a few hundred yards
ahead of his approaching gunboat.

What else could he do? The gun must be silenced before the “Mindinao”
could proceed, and the gorge was only a thousand yards ahead.



CHAPTER XIX

A WILLING CAPTIVE


The sun was high the next morning before Phil awakened from his sound
sleep. He had tossed on his hard bed listening to the half morbid
ravings of poor Tillotson. Ever before him was the fear that after all
he would be unable to save him. He knew only too well the difficulties
that must be overcome before a rescue were possible. He recalled the
difficult trails over which he and O’Neil had been led. At every point
they had been under the eyes of unseen men on top of the mountain and
within the range of modern rifles. There was not a tree nor rock large
enough to offer cover to the men who on the morrow would assault the
stronghold. His heart ever beat faster as he pictured the fight in his
imagination: The natives behind intrenchments, cornered, no retreat
open to them, fighting with the courage of despair; and the American
soldiers, fearlessly charging upward, giving no heed to the danger at
the top. On the summit, the lad knew, it would be a fight to the death.
The part he was to play had seemed only too simple in the light of day,
but now in the silence of the night, bound as he was hand and foot, and
guarded by cruel enemies who would gladly shoot him down at the first
show of force, all seemed different. O’Neil’s healthy body had long
since been wrapped in slumber and when Phil’s feverish eyes opened he
was up and seated calmly by the lad’s side.

“There are over a thousand of these gugus here in the camp,” he
exclaimed as Phil with difficulty arose and endeavored to stretch his
cramped limbs. “I have been spying from the door there, and I see Lopez
has encamped his men right at the top of the trail, and the men who
were there have been sent somewhere else. The natives who are guarding
us are our own men, and one of ’em tried to stick his bayonet in me
when I asked him for some water to wash in. I wish they were not so
careful of appearances,” he added with a grim smile.

This was certainly cheering news. Lopez then had won his first point
with the insurgent leader. Espinosa had believed his story.

Lieutenant Tillotson still lay like a log, completely overcome from
exhaustion, caused by his torture of yesterday. Phil looked with
compassion on the weak, boyish face; he was breathing evenly, but his
skin was of an unhealthy pallor.

“He looks ill, sir,” O’Neil declared as Phil turned away with a sigh.
“A few more days will do for him. He’s got too sensitive a nature for
soldiering.”

The doorway was darkened by the entrance of two natives. Phil regarded
them coldly as they advanced, and led him not ungently by the arm out
into the sunshine. There they cut his binding cords and gave both him
and O’Neil a bucket of water to wash in. They had been on the point of
arousing Tillotson by a cruel kick, but through Phil’s insistence, they
left the shack without disturbing the sleeping man.

After eating and enjoying a scanty breakfast, the two Americans
surveyed with great interest the scenes about them.

“Do you see that gun there, sir?” O’Neil exclaimed, suddenly nodding
his head toward a Spanish howitzer mounted on the cliff just to the
right of the trail. “It’s manned by Espinosa’s men!”

“That’s bad,” Phil replied anxiously; “and you notice, it commands the
river.”

“Good-morning,” in Spanish from behind them caused Phil to swing about
quickly and gaze into the amused but wicked eyes of Colonel Salas. “So
we are to have the pleasure of your company as our guest, after all?”
the Filipino continued tauntingly. “General Espinosa is making great
preparations for your reception. It is needless for me to tell you how
delighted he is that you have changed your mind. He was very angry at
me for not insisting on your coming with me the other day.”

Phil regarded the little native, a fine scorn in his eyes. He would
have liked nothing better than to have answered him in the same
ironical vein, but he realized that to do so and anger him would only
make more difficult their position.

“He will be here to pay his respects shortly,” Salas continued
ironically. “Ah! here he comes now.”

With his heart beating fast and the muscles in his throat tightening,
Phil saw Espinosa sauntering toward them. He was dressed in the uniform
of a Filipino general, made in the Spanish fashion, of a mouse-colored
duck with a rolling collar, on which a silver star glistened. He came
slowly forward, a wicked smile on his face.

“Señor Perry! So! I have you now in my power?” he said in a low, hard
voice. “I knew that my time would come. Your cleverness caused me
some inconvenience. Colonel Martinez is still to be accounted for.
But”--and he shrugged his shoulders--“that is but a matter of days.
You can see that I am now master of the situation. I shall annihilate
your untried, inefficient volunteers with as much ease as I can kill
flies on the wall of a butcher shop. Your general dare not call in his
men from the garrisons in the north. After I have worn out and killed
those sent against me, then I shall attack Palilo itself. Then when I
have the city in my hands and your general has withdrawn or surrenders,
I shall wire to Manila my willingness to accept civil government. I
shall go through the form of surrendering to the vanquished Americans,
and shall be made the governor of Kapay. I shall then carry on my
authority under your own flag. Is it not a very clever plan? Ah, there
is one point that I have forgotten, a governor of an island as rich as
Kapay must have a suitable dwelling. Very well. Señor Rodriguez is no
more; his house is vacant and adequate for the worthy purpose; and the
señorita--how well the title of wife to the governor of Kapay would
become her!

“So you see, señor, after all, Espinosa has lost nothing,” he ended
with mock politeness.

Phil glared angrily at this vain, boastful Malay half-breed. How dare
he even think of marrying a girl like Maria Rodriguez? Phil knew that
she would rather die first.

“Every man in the American army will fight you to the last fence,” Phil
exclaimed savagely. “Your villainy and treachery are too well known
among even your own people, who serve you only through fear. You will
never be made a governor under the civil government. That won’t aid you
to carry out your vengeful purposes upon those whom you might choose
to call your enemies.”

Espinosa’s face paled slightly, and his eyes kindled in anger.

“I am sorry that I cannot allow you to remain alive to see my prophecy
come true,” he replied with a cruel shrug. “And before I am found out,
as you Americans say, and displaced, I shall have enough money put
aside in banks outside of the Philippines to live in ease and luxury
for the remainder of my life.

“These thoughts,” he added, “may cheer your last hours. It should be a
pleasure to you to know that you haven’t done me as much harm as you
supposed.”

Phil glared at his tormentor, a bitter hatred in his eyes. How cleverly
had this half-breed played upon the credulity of the Americans! For
months this despicable native had ruled over both the warring parties;
on one hand controlling the native bands of insurgents, telling them
how, when and where to attack their enemy and then by his plausible
words and treacherous cunning had exerted sufficient influence
over General Wilson and his aides to enable him to so dispose the
scattered American troops as to make them impotent, helpless against
the insurgent ambushes and attacks. The lad noticed with a certain
satisfaction that the native wore his left arm in a sling. Was that
then the effect of his shot the night of the meeting of the Katipunan
society? How he blamed himself for not having taken a more careful aim;
he remembered with disappointment that when he had pulled the trigger
of his revolver, his aim had been to the left of Espinosa’s body.
Phil’s gaze was not lost on the half-breed. With a snarl he glanced
down at his almost helpless arm.

“For this I took Rodriguez’s life with my own hands, although Garcia
had been chosen for the deed,” he exclaimed darkly, “and for this I
shall force his daughter to become the wife of Manuel Espinosa.”

Phil gasped, a flood of angry blood mounting to his temples.

“It was I who fired the shot,” the lad cried exultantly, “and the next
time you won’t get off so easily.”

Espinosa in sullen rage regarded the angry midshipman through his
slit-like eyes.

“You?” he cried in unfeigned surprise. “How did you get there?”

“I was there,” Phil replied quickly, a keen satisfaction entering his
thoughts at being able to beard the lion in his den, “and afterward
exposed you to the general--but,” he asked suddenly, “why did you
desert? If you hadn’t we would have had a pleasant little hanging party
in the Plaza the next morning.”

Espinosa was evidently enraged at the lad’s daring words.

“You are brave,” he said suddenly, a spark of suspicion coming into his
mind, “to speak this way before me knowing that I can have you hung, or
tortured, by simply giving the order.”

“I know your yellow soul too well,” Phil declared in answer, “to
believe that anything I might say now would influence the plan for
revenge which you have already made. But I am curious to know why you
left Palilo so suddenly. Did you believe that Rodriguez would betray
you?”

The outlaw glared at the midshipman, his hands twitching longingly to
take forcible hold on his tormentor.

“Because of that shot,” Espinosa answered finally, “I feared there
might have been an enemy at the meeting and I feared Captain Blynn’s
hand,--I would give a box of old Rodriguez’s gold to have him here a
prisoner,” he added, a flash of terror in his eyes.

“He may be here any moment now,” Phil said quietly. Then he would have
bitten off his tongue as he saw the sudden gleam of suspicion in his
enemy’s eyes.

Espinosa gave the lad a searching look. “What do you mean?” he asked
casting a glance of fear about him.

“Oh, nothing,” the lad answered carelessly, “only he knows you killed
Rodriguez, stole his money and tried to carry off his daughter; also
by this time he will know that I’m a prisoner in your hands. And if
for no other reason, you hold Lieutenant Tillotson, and his father is
overturning the war department to rescue him. You made a bad fist of it
there.”

Phil had been watching the native leader’s anxious face, as he glanced
about him as if half fearing the big American to appear suddenly from
the ground. He now saw it light up with keen enjoyment as his eyes
encountered something which amused him. Looking up quickly the lad
uttered an exclamation of horror as he realized with overwhelming
force the true position in which he had placed himself and his trusted
boatswain’s mate.

O’Neil, bound hand and foot, had been triced up, his toes just resting
on the ground, and his strong bronzed face swollen and blue from a
strangling rope knotted about his neck, the end thrown over a framework
apparently built for this diabolical torture.

Phil turned his face away. He saw as through a red mist the throngs
of curious natives who had quickly gathered to see their enemy slowly
murdered before their eyes.

Espinosa gave a guttural order and immediately Phil was seized and
forced to gaze at the revolting torture of his companion.

“We shall not kill him yet,” Espinosa said, while he smiled in keen
delight at the discomfited midshipman. “I have promised my men a field
day. We have many amusing ways of treating our guests,--but,” he added,
“before your turn comes I wish some information which I know you can
give.

“Where is General Wilson?” he asked anxiously, “and is it true that
your gunboat is in the river?”

“Where are your scouts?” Phil exclaimed haughtily. “Ask them, not your
prisoner.”

“I choose to ask my prisoner,” the native retorted with a meaning
glance at those who held Phil’s head turned so that he must see out of
the tail of his eyes the cruel suffering of O’Neil.

“Your prisoner does not choose to answer,” the lad declared stoutly.

The next second Phil was jerked suddenly upon his back, and his hands
and feet hauled out, spread eagle fashion to stakes driven in the solid
ground. He was quite helpless, and the pain in his arms and legs was
excruciating. He opened his mouth to cry out when quickly a wedge of
hard wood was inserted, holding his jaws wide apart.

He closed his eyes and stiffened his muscle in a supreme endeavor to
withstand the pain and prevent himself showing his suffering to the
delighted natives.

“Now maybe you will consider your answer--Colonel Salas, a little water
may loosen his tongue,” he heard the cruel voice of Espinosa say.

A horrible fear overcame the lad. The water cure was to be given
him. He was to be half drowned. To be made to feel all the torturing
sensations of a drowning man; not once but many times, until his
spirit was broken and he would answer questions which would make him
traitorously injure his own cause. His eyes opened, and he saw dimly
Espinosa’s mocking face above him. The sun had flamed forth from under
a cloud and burned down unmercifully on his staring eyes. He noted
vaguely that it had passed the meridian. Then a terrible fear came into
his mind. Where were the gunboat and the soldiers? Surely by this time
they would have made their presence known. Had the gunboat run aground
and the expedition been delayed? Would a delay mean death to him and
O’Neil or only one more awful day of diabolical torture?

“If you will cease torturing my man,” Phil said with difficulty through
his wedged jaws, “I will answer your questions.”

Espinosa laughed cruelly.

“So you would dictate your own terms,” he cackled. “Colonel Salas, just
a few cupfuls. Captain Perry seems thirsty.”

Phil swallowed the water as it was poured down his throat, holding his
breath long intervals at a time. It seemed to him that the water was
never ending; he had swallowed quarts and yet he drank. Finally he
could swallow no longer and yet the cruel hand above him poured the
liquid without ceasing into his wide open mouth. The water splashed
and ran out. He managed yet to breathe by contracting the muscles of
his throat and then taking a slow breath but even then he felt the
irritation of a few drops of water in his lungs and he knew if he
coughed, as he must in a second, that all the water in his throat and
mouth would enter his windpipe and fairly choke him. A feeling of
suffocation oppressed him, as if a heavy weight lay pressing on his
chest. He knew as yet he had not suffered, that this was but a taste of
what was to come. Once more, this time as if from a great distance, he
heard the cold, sinister voice of the half-breed.

“Before it is too late,” he said, “will you answer my questions?”

Phil opened his eyes and gazed at his tormentors. Then he closed them
and steeled himself to what was to come.

He felt his nose held securely by muscular fingers and his head thrown
back, making a reservoir of his mouth, which was kept full of water.

Just before he closed his eyes Phil had taken a full breath and now
with his lungs full of air he knew that the agony was less than two
minutes away. Strong swimmer as he was, he knew that was the limit of
his endurance, and then afterward would come the sickening sensation
of water agonizingly breathed into his lungs. Congestion would follow
and if there was any trouble with his heart it would stop. If not,
the cruel Colonel Salas who, with a delighted smile, was pouring the
water, would stop and free the lad’s mouth of water, permitting him to
regain his breath, working over him as if he were a half-drowned man,
and after he had been brought to by artificial respiration, the cruel
torture would be begun again and carried out until he agreed to do his
enemy’s bidding.

Those two minutes were the longest in the lad’s life. His entire past
flashed before his eyes and he shed tears of disappointment at the
thought that this might be his death. He wondered how much time had
passed. Then he began to count the seconds, but soon stopped in horror;
it was too much like self-destruction. He held his breath now tightly,
allowing just a little air at a time to escape through his throat. He
opened his eyes once or twice, but he could see nothing but a fiery
sun overhead. He had the sensation that his entire body was swelling.
Every vein seemed to have hardened. The sweat poured from his forehead,
stinging his eyes.

He could hold his breath no longer. His blood throbbed painfully in his
temples. An awful nausea overcame him, and he gasped for air.

Then a sharp sound as of the discharge of a cannon sounded in his ears
and he fought and struggled with the strength of a score of men for the
precious air.



CHAPTER XX

THE STRUGGLE FOR THE STRONGHOLD


While Phil and O’Neil were being tortured by Espinosa, Lopez had kept
watch from his station, guarding the trail leading up the precipitous
mountain from the valley below. His eyes fascinatedly held upon the
scene in front of him had nevertheless guardedly turned backward,
scanning anxiously the wooded foothills below him and the vista of
the river as it entered the cañon. As yet no signs of the rescuers
were visible. He trembled when he saw that Espinosa had determined to
give the midshipman the water torture. But few white men had survived
its harshness. Lopez’s face wore an increasingly anxious look as the
minutes dragged into hours. The sun had passed the meridian and was
dipping slowly in the western sky. His own men had not left their
posts; each understood his duty; Rodriguez’s faithful followers alone
had been selected to guard this southern bastion of the stronghold.
The faithful native could see a handful of Espinosa’s men at the
howitzer mounted to command the approach by water and farther along
the edge of the precipice small knots of men squatting under shelters
of bamboo. These latter he knew were to dislodge great boulders,
which had been delicately balanced ready to be thrown downward, five
hundred or more feet, into the racing river. Those who dared to enter
the treacherous waters of the cañon must run the gauntlet of these
huge rocks, but Lopez knew that the Americans would take any risk to
reach the trail leading away from the stronghold and further into the
mountain fastness, over which the trapped insurgents would endeavor to
escape.

Several hundred natives, their weapons in hand, had gathered about
their cruel leader. Every eye was turned in rapt enjoyment toward the
delighting spectacle of the torture of a despised American. None save
Lopez and his faithful guards had observed the glint of steel far down
in the valley below. None save he discerned two small white poles
creeping along above the high trees on the river bank. He glanced
uneasily toward the torture. Phil was on his back securely bound, while
Colonel Salas held above his head a long bamboo cane filled with water.

Lopez whispered an order to a native sergeant and the latter
noiselessly edged his way in the direction of the sailor, now
apparently senseless, deserted by those who had been torturing him, now
that they were being indulged in a more interesting spectacle.

Lopez, his heart beating and his bronze face set determinedly, watched
the two topmasts of the gunboat as they traveled toward the bend in
the river. The next second the “Mindinao’s” white bow came slowly,
majestically from behind the land and turned gracefully up the river
toward the cañon. At the foot of the trail khaki-clad figures suddenly
appeared and mounted slowly up the narrow path. He could see the guides
in front clearing and uncovering the treacherous man traps. His men
had now seen the approaching deliverers and their black eyes snapped
excitedly. Any one with half an eye would have known that something
out of the ordinary was going forward. The eager brown soldiers of
Rodriguez moved about restlessly, glancing excitedly down into the
valley below them. Fortunately the leader and his followers were too
absorbed in watching the suffering of poor Phil to take heed of the
strange behavior of the deserters from Rodriguez.

Lopez saw the little gunboat stop suddenly in the river and he observed
plainly groups of men at the bow guns. Then came a flash of flame from
her white hull and a reverberation which shook the mountain stronghold
to its foundation.

The tortured and half-dead Americans were forgotten; their captors had
rushed away to see the meaning of this interruption. It was but the
work of an instant for the watchful Lopez to sever with a few swift
strokes of his bolo the cords that bound his white chief. O’Neil was
likewise cut down, and the two nearly lifeless men were dragged to the
safety of that part of the stronghold guarded by Lopez and his small
band.

Shell after shell came speeding up from the gunboat, and meanwhile the
khaki-clad soldiers, unobserved, toiled onward up the slope.

“To your posts,” Espinosa cried out in alarm. “Open fire with that
gun.” The surprised and terrified leader raved like a madman, taking
all to task for their stupidity. Phil had been released so promptly,
while all was uproar and confusion, that as yet the insurgents had
not realized that Lopez and his men were against them. Espinosa, in
a fever of excitement, himself ran to the howitzer and with his own
hands pointed and fired the first shot. But that was the last shot the
gun would ever fire, for Lopez with a number of his men pushed quietly
forward, cutting its binding ropes and shoved it over the edge of the
cliff from which it crashed downward to the river below.

Espinosa turned aghast and met the cold, defiant eye of Lopez. In them
he read his doom. Lopez’s sharp bolo was already circling about his
head. But the next second it had flashed harmlessly by and rattled on
the rocky ground. Fearful of his life Espinosa had dodged the blow
aimed at him and had taken flight, screaming as he ran for his men to
open fire on the traitors. The shells of the gunboat seemed to fall in
every part of the stronghold and the havoc of their explosions was
terrible to witness; but the small band under Lopez remained unharmed.

Mad with fear, the natives who had been witnessing Phil’s torture, upon
hearing the terrifying words of their leader and seeing the awful havoc
behind them caused by the bursting shell, charged boldly on the natives
in their front, believing that in that direction lay their one avenue
of escape, but a well directed volley from Lopez’s men made them recoil
in disorder.

Like one who is chained, powerless in the grip of an unnerving
nightmare, Phil felt rather than saw the wild scenes about him. He
heard the sharp rattle of musket fire and the sonorous discharge of
cannon, the wild, vibrant cries of the natives as they dashed now
forward and again retreating from the clash of contact and the avenging
strokes of bayonet and bolo. By a mighty effort he struggled to his
feet and leaned heavily for support upon the bamboo frame of his
prison. His lungs seemed on fire and a red mist was still in his eyes.
The riot of forms about him confused his brain and made him dizzy.
Then his eyes fell upon the body of O’Neil lying on the ground where
the natives had dragged him; the cruel marks of the rope stood out in
blue welts on his muscular neck. His eyes were closed, but the lad saw
with joy that he was alive. He knelt by the sailor’s side ministering
to him as tenderly as if he were a child. Then in great anxiety he saw
that Lopez’s men were slowly giving ground. Stubbornly they fought, but
the overwhelming ranks of the enemy, now alive to the actual conditions
and spurred forward by their leaders, came frantically forward across
the open ground.

Phil dragged the senseless body of the sailor back until they were on
the very edge of the hill and then a sight which made him mad with joy
caused him to stand upright and swing his hat jubilantly, unheeding the
leaden missiles on all sides. There scarcely a hundred yards below him
struggling forward and upward was Captain Blynn and his five hundred
soldiers. Dropping the sailor’s head he rushed madly into the company
of loyal natives.

“Charge them,” he cried, beside himself with eagerness, for he saw
that if the enemy, one thousand strong, should obtain possession of the
top of the trail the struggling men below would never reach the top
alive, and their retreat could mean but one thing--a rout and massacre.

The natives did not understand the lad’s words, but his meaning was
only too plain as he snatched a rifle from the ground and led the
remnant of that plucky band.

The next moment he was in the midst of the shrieking horde. In
his nostrils was the reek of the Malay, almost sickening in its
overpowering pungency. Blow after blow at his body he warded off with
the barrel of his rifle.

Now the savage horde had given way and his men had quickly closed in,
warily protecting their flanks, knowing full well the cunning of their
enemy. To his left the lad saw hundreds of natives hurling rocks into
the river below them, and he cut a lane toward them, yelling to the
loyal natives to prevent what he feared would be the destruction of his
ship. From below the ominous rattle of a Colt gun gladdened his heart
and he saw with delight the men on the cliffs flee in terror, leaving
great boulders balanced menacingly on the very edge of the abyss. An
American cheer rang out from behind him and he became dizzy with joy
at the good news it brought. He read in the natives’ eyes a look of
terror at the sudden appearance of an unlooked for enemy, and at the
same instant he realized that if he and his loyal natives were to be
saved he must extricate them from this dangerous position between the
fire of the two opposing forces. He looked wildly about him for Lopez,
but he was nowhere in sight, and already the soldiers had begun to
open a withering fire in their direction. Mad with their exertions,
brought suddenly face to face with the enemy, the soldiers would have
no discretion; friend and foe alike were mixed in one writhing mass of
brown.

Then a sinister face showed itself on his right hand and all thoughts
of safety were thrown to the winds. Espinosa, the tyrant and murderer,
was within his reach. With a score of men as a body-guard he was
hurrying away, deserting the field of battle. The midshipman pressed
against the enemy to his right, fighting his way even through the
remnant of the loyal natives, crying out to them to follow, while
behind him he could hear the heavy footfalls of the soldiers.

[Illustration: _HE GAZED DOWN INTO THE STILL FACE_]

A body brushed him nearly off his feet and he turned toward it, his
rifle raised as if to ward off an expected blow and then as his eyes
fell upon the disheveled figure, he gave a cry of delight.

“O’Neil,” he shouted above the noise of the fighting, as he put his arm
about the great figure to steady himself from the force of the impact
from the khaki-clad soldiers pressing eagerly upon them.

“There’s that devil,” the sailor cried in smothered rage, and Phil saw
with astonishment that O’Neil had naught but his bare hands though
the lust of battle was in his eyes. The horror of his recent torture
pressed heavily on his mind and he was bending every exertion to reach
the retreating insurgent leader.

So closely did the Americans press their foes that the lifeless body of
Lieutenant Tillotson was abandoned, and Phil stopped, kneeling at his
side and gazed down into the still face. There was a deep wound in the
neck. Phil saw that the troubled spirit had been released. Ahead the
pursuers had stopped and were firing fiercely in the direction of the
retreating enemy.

“We can’t allow Espinosa to escape,” the lad cried, aghast as he
regained his men and saw with horror that many lay moaning on the
ground.

“They’re intrenched there, sir,” a sergeant exclaimed. “It would be
suicide to charge them;” but Phil had gone too far and had suffered too
much to be stopped by any thoughts of discretion or danger.

“Charge, I say,” he cried; “that murderer Espinosa must not escape.”

The sergeant from his security on the ground gazed up at the lad,
believing quite properly that he had lost his mind, but before he could
be stopped, Phil was beyond reach, charging blindly forward, while from
the intrenchments came a volume of fire which it seemed folly to face.

The seasoned old sergeant shook his head knowingly, but when an officer
orders a charge there is but one thing to do.

As one man the line arose from its shelter and raced madly after the
midshipman.

Hand to hand they battled--the natives with a courage born of
desperation, for their backs were almost at the sheer edge of a
precipice. Slowly they gave way before the onslaught of the Americans.

Phil and O’Neil fought shoulder to shoulder and the lad in his weakened
condition, bleeding profusely from a score of wounds, never more sorely
needed the help that the brave sailorman could give.

“He’s getting away,” O’Neil cried out in an agonized voice as the
stubborn defenders fell one by one before the avenging bayonets.

The natives died bravely, in fanatical fervor, fighting to the last
man, not wishing nor asking for quarter. O’Neil and Phil at last stood
upon the brink of a yawning chasm while they saw, far below them, and
just disappearing within the shadow of the woods, a small band of
natives, while there dangled from the rocks at their feet the severed
end of a rope--the leader’s road to safety.



CHAPTER XXI

THE GUNBOAT TAKES A HAND


Sydney gazed in consternation at the black speck clinging to the top of
the cliff. His hands trembled excitedly as he held his glasses to his
eyes focusing upon this spiteful piece of artillery.

“We’ve got to silence that gun,” he said in a hoarse voice to Major
Marble at his side, as he rang the engine room telegraphs for full
speed astern. “They can’t miss us, and one shell would sink us. Yet
Phil and O’Neil are probably there.”

“There are our men, general,” Major Marble reported, pointing to a
creeping point of color just emerging from the jungle and showing
itself against the neutral tints of the treeless mountainside.

“Make up your mind quickly, Mr. Monroe,” the general exclaimed
anxiously. “Shell it, or else let’s try to get by; we can’t afford to
leave the neck of the sack open for Espinosa and his cutthroats to
escape.”

Sydney saw there was no way out of the situation, save to silence
the battery:--one shot through the boiler of the “Mindinao,” and the
gunboat with all on board would be killed by the explosion or else
drowned in the madly racing current of the river.

“Take a few shots at that gun,” he ordered hoarsely. The gun-pointers
when they heard the spiteful hiss of the enemy’s shell had, as though
by an order, ceased their fire and waited obediently for the command
which they felt sure the midshipman would give. They did not relish
being fired upon and not allowed to return the fire.

Sydney’s glasses were upon the cliff: he saw a group of struggling
figures about the cannon, and then to his surprise and joy the black
object detached itself and dropped swiftly to the water six hundred
feet below.

“Don’t fire,” he cried out quickly, but the gun-pointers through their
sight telescopes had also been watching the struggle about their target
and had waited.

The lad rang up full speed ahead and again the gunboat sped toward the
cañon.

“Open fire on the left flank of the hill,” Sydney ordered.

The three-pounders barked, and shell after shell was sent against the
gathering crowds forming to attack the mere handful on the right, where
the trail ended. The soldiers under Captain Blynn could now be plainly
seen plodding upward.

Sydney’s boyish nerves were at the highest pitch of excitement. He
realized that he was to perform one of the most difficult feats of his
life, and he had the life of a general of the army in his keeping. An
error of judgment on his part would send them all to their deaths. He
glanced searchingly at the frowning cliff, now scarcely a thousand
yards away. He could plainly see that at the top a fierce fight was
raging. The narrow gorge ahead seemed barely wide enough to permit the
gunboat to pass, and above it, he knew only too well great boulders
were standing ready to be dropped like meteors on the frail deck of the
“Mindinao.”

“Are you ready there with the Colt gun?” he called loudly to the
sailors in the foretop, where the gun was mounted.

There was no answer; a glance aloft showed him the crew of the gun
grouped anxiously about it.

“Jammed again, I suppose,” he exclaimed.

Closer and closer loomed the cañon.

“Look out for the prisoner,” Sydney cried out as he saw the native,
his hands on the rail, about to leap overboard. Major Marble was
near enough to grasp him and the next minute ready hands had bound
him securely to the rail and from there he gazed up in terror at the
rapidly approaching cliffs.

“There goes the first one,” Sydney exclaimed excitedly as a great
boulder swayed unsteadily and then rolled slowly over the edge of the
chasm and descended with the speed of a shooting star. Every man on the
gunboat was on his feet; above them now was the camp of the outlaws,
and several hundred such boulders were there ready to be dropped upon
their defenseless heads. The firing of the “Mindinao’s” guns had long
since stopped as the elevation was much too great.

With a terrific splash which hurled the water completely over the bow
of the gunboat, the first rock took the water; but another and another
followed it in rapid succession, and so close did they fall that
Sydney felt the rushes of air caused by their passage. General Wilson
stood calmly by as unconcerned as though he were only a spectator at
a display of fireworks. Major Marble paced rapidly across the bridge,
his hands nervously clutching a rifle which every few seconds he would
discharge at the frowning cliffs above him.

To add to the danger there now came the song of enemy’s bullets while
the water near the gunboat became disturbed as if from the fall of
hail. Occasionally there was heard a commotion forward and a man sorely
hit would be carried below decks to be attended by the hospital corps
located in the men’s quarters.

Many of the soldiers and sailors had now opened fire with their
rifles, but the falling rocks disconcerted them. Suddenly the Colt gun
commenced its sharp drumming discharge. Sydney glanced aloft. He could
see his crew directing the stream of lead slowly covering every point
of the cliff ahead.

A cry of delight rose from the Americans, and a cheer broke out from
the anxious but relieved men as they noted the immediate effect of the
leaden stream. As it swept along the cliffs, those who stood ready to
project the balanced rocks upon the heads of their enemy had taken
fright, and instead of waiting until the gunboat was immediately
beneath them, had in their impatience let go their rocks, and they were
falling harmlessly in the water ahead of the gunboat. Sydney steered as
near the opposite shore as he dared, fearing that a boulder might have
closed the channel. On top of the cliff the sound of strife could still
be heard.

Major Marble and Major Lukban anxiously questioned the prisoner. He
alone knew the whereabouts of the trail which Espinosa and his men
relied upon to furnish an avenue of escape in case the stronghold
was successfully attacked. The Filipino officer held his revolver
threateningly before the frightened native’s eyes.

“If you allow us to pass it, I’ll have no mercy,” he exclaimed.

The “Mindinao” had now emerged from the dangerous cañon and the sound
of firing above became less distinct.

General Wilson was becoming impatient. He had held himself well in
hand to steady the officers and men under him during the trial through
which they had passed so successfully. Now his anxiety was more than he
could keep to himself. He rushed up to the cringing native, taking him
roughly by the shoulders and crying out to him in English, a language
unintelligible to the terrified prisoner.

But the general’s act was crowned with success. The insurgent soldier
had steeled himself against the threats of Major Lukban, even
reinforced as they were with the deadly revolver held to his head, but
the wildly gesticulating general had put a terrible fear into his soul.
Like all orientals he reverenced and feared rank, and this taciturn
American general had so suddenly turned upon him that he was too
frightened to do aught else but tell the truth.

“Back there is the place,” the native cried in his own language, and
Major Lukban in feverish haste translated the man’s words, while
Sydney swung the gunboat about, reversing his engines at full speed to
keep from grounding on the rocky shores, and giving small thought to
the dangers of the madly racing current.

Within ten minutes, which seemed ages to the eager Americans, the
“Mindinao” was anchored in the river and the troops were landed.

Major Lukban with the guide, whose hands were securely bound to prevent
his escape, led the party through the tangled underbrush over the
secret trail which without the aid of one who had been there before
would have been impossible. Tediously the distance was covered, the
sounds of battle ever becoming more distinct. General Wilson’s age was
no handicap to him as he eagerly pressed forward behind the native
guides.

The enemy, by the volume of rifle fire which came down to the ears
of the anxious column of soldiers, were making a desperate stand to
recover the advantage lost by the suddenness of the surprise, and
so absorbed were they with Captain Blynn’s men that those under the
general’s command stood on the level plateau of the mountain before
their presence was discovered. The sight of this unexpected force
turned the tide for the Americans and the terrified insurgents threw
away their arms and huddled together, expecting to be executed by their
enemy without mercy.

General Wilson quietly controlled his eager soldiers, bent upon
annihilating these treacherous brown men now within their power. The
soldier mind knew but one style of warfare with a savage foe. No
quarter had been the insurgent watchword. Kill! kill! had frequently
rung in their ears as the fanatical hordes had charged down upon them
on many a battle-field.

“Cease firing!” General Wilson’s commanding voice rang out above the
discharges of musketry, and the bugles signaled the order across the
battle-field. “Major Lukban, tell them no harm will come to them if
they submit without further resistance,” he cried to the native officer
at his elbow, pointing toward the panic-stricken hundreds.

The Filipino major calmly walked forward, his hands held above his head
in sign of peace, and raised his voice in his native language. A hush
fell upon the babbling throngs, while the terror in their eyes slowly
died out and they dropped on their knees, giving thanks for their
miraculous deliverance.

Major Marble and the native officer went fearlessly among the natives,
leading them to a point near the river, and placed guards over them
to prevent their escape and then, seeing that a struggle was still
going forward on the eastern side of the mountain, gathered a force of
soldiers about him and hastened to aid those still in the throes of
combat.

Almost out of breath the reinforcing column arrived in time to greet
Phil and O’Neil standing on the brink of the precipice and hear their
exclamations of disappointment at the escape of the coveted insurgent
leader.



CHAPTER XXII

THE ESCAPED OUTLAW


Lukban was the first to recover from the stunning news that Espinosa
had, by a miracle, escaped out of the Americans’ hands when all outlets
were supposed to have been covered.

“He doesn’t dare stay in Kapay,” the native exclaimed after Phil had
explained to the general the manner of his escape. “The natives fear
him, but without his followers and with the incumbrance of Rodriguez’s
treasure, the dangers he must face will make him do his utmost to leave
the island.”

General Wilson listened intently, his eyes wandering over the
victorious battle-field behind him where Captain Blynn’s men were
quietly disarming the now docile natives.

“I fear we cannot stop him now,” General Wilson said disappointedly,
“but I suppose we should be satisfied with our victory. This means the
end of the war on Kapay.”

Lukban had turned and was earnestly engaged in conversation with Lopez,
and then he asked several eager questions of Garcia, who had joined the
group. Finally he turned to General Wilson, his black eyes snapping
with renewed eagerness.

“Lopez wishes to follow him,” he exclaimed excitedly. “He will take his
hundred men, who are only too anxious to see him captured and punished
for his many crimes, and especially for the murder of Señor Rodriguez.
If he is pressed closely he will make for the nearest point of escape
which by the trail is Banate. This Garcia assures me was his intention
if he was defeated. Garcia wishes to go with Lopez, and he can arrange
a signal by fires on the hill behind the swamps to be seen by the
gunboat at sea. The gunboat must go down the river at once and at sea
await the signal. Espinosa must attempt his escape by proa to Megras.
It is only fifty miles away and if he reaches there he will be safe for
the time among his friends living on that island.”

Phil’s face suddenly beamed in smiles as Lukban’s plan slowly unfolded
before him. Highly delighted, he shook hands enthusiastically with the
speaker, until the latter cried out in pain from the well meant but
rough show of appreciation.

“Major Marble and I will return with you at once,” General Wilson added
quietly to Phil after he had in but a few words approved the proposed
plan. “Blynn can settle the question of prisoners. I’d like to have
Espinosa behind bars before I wire to Manila giving them this news.”

Phil solemnly told of the sad fate of Lieutenant Tillotson and the
general shook his head mournfully.

“Maybe it is better so,” he whispered half to himself, but to Phil,
standing close by, these words from the old soldier’s heart came
distinctly.

A detail of men carried the body of the dead officer across the
battle-field, and as they passed solemnly through the joyful troops who
had collected to cheer the white-haired veteran, the soldiers became
suddenly silent as their eyes fell upon the stretcher and were told the
identity of that figure underneath the flag. None had reverenced the
officer in life, but in death all were anxious to render respect.

Phil told the general of the pitiful plight of Lieutenant Tillotson,
and of the cruel manner of his death, and generously praised the
doubtful courage of the army man.

“It’s a glorious end for a soldier,” General Wilson murmured. “I have
always felt that I could welcome it, and now,” he added disappointedly,
“I shall probably die in my bed like an ordinary citizen. My career is
almost over; in another year I shall have left active service behind.”

While the general and his party climbed down the difficult trail to
reach the gunboat at anchor in the river below them, Lopez and Garcia
with their trusty company had nimbly descended the almost precipitous
side of the mountain and were eagerly following the trail of the
fleeing insurgent and his ill-gotten spoils.

The “Mindinao” steamed fearlessly down the river, her flag at half-mast
in honor of those whose mortal remains lay covered on the quarter-deck;
the soldiers who had given their lives in the attack on the most
formidable of insurgent strongholds. Phil and O’Neil were given
prompt attention by the surgeon and several ugly wounds were carefully
dressed. Phil was glad to relinquish his command to Sydney and remained
luxuriously in his cot.

At Rodriguez’s ranch the gunboat stopped and reverently landed the dead
heroes, to be buried in the cemetery, and here General Wilson and his
adjutant-general disembarked to return to Palilo by road.

Just as the “Mindinao” started ahead, after landing her passengers,
on its way to the mouth of the river, a native canoe paddled rapidly
from the landing, and ran up alongside of the gunboat. An excited hail
came from its occupant, answered by an angry cry from Major Lukban
who turned, his face deathly pale, and his hands trembling, to the
midshipmen at his side.

“Señorita Maria is missing,” he gasped.

The midshipmen were stunned at the suddenness of this unexpected and
disquieting news. Maria captured! What did it mean?

Lukban declared that his first duty was to his young mistress and the
lads heartily approved of his desire to be landed to attempt to trail
the lost girl and her brother.

The excited native was brought on board from his canoe and told the
eager men the meagre details of her loss.

She and Juan had gone out to the cemetery in the morning, and had not
returned. A search had been made in the afternoon and the footprints
of men had been discovered, showing that the girl had fallen into the
hands of a party of natives.

The midshipmen bade good-bye to their native friend who entered the
canoe and paddled shoreward, and then Phil rang for full speed ahead on
the engines.

“The loyalty of these natives to the Rodriguez family is touching,”
Sydney exclaimed in admiration. “Garcia alone betrayed his friend; but
he did it through superstitious fear of the Katipunan society. Lopez is
as staunch as a rock, and Lukban, you can see, would lay down his life
willingly for his young mistress.”

Two hours later the “Mindinao” had steamed through the harbor of Palilo
and turned her bow northward.

During the night Sydney and O’Neil took turns with Phil in standing
watch on the gunboat’s bridge, carefully searching the shore for the
signal agreed upon with Lopez. Would he succeed in coming up with the
fleeing outlaw?

The night wore slowly along and morning dawned clear, finding all three
of the Americans up and on the bridge of the rapidly moving vessel.

No sails were in sight. A wide expanse of water was before them, while
on the port hand the low swamp land of Banate was in plain sight.

Phil steered his ship in toward the bamboo town nestling in the hollow
of two small hills in the midst of the swampy mouth of the Mani River.
As they approached, the Americans could discover naught but the usual
listless life of a Filipino village.

“I’ll patrol here,” Phil said, as he steered further offshore.

All day long the gunboat steamed backward and forward over fifteen
miles of coast line. An occasional sail was sighted and overhauled,
only to find in it a handful of frightened fishermen.

As night approached the gunboat was brought to a stop in the centre
of the line of patrol in order that it might be at an equal distance
from all possible points of departure, in case Espinosa had eluded his
pursuers.

“If he has a proa in waiting, hidden in the swamps of one of these
estuaries, he will choose night for his escape,” Phil declared as he
studied his inaccurate chart, “and at night he can easily elude us, for
it is too dark to see a half mile. Our only hope is that there will be
no wind, and if the air is sufficiently calm we can hear the dip of
oars for miles.”

Phil stationed his sailors as lookouts everywhere, with orders to
listen alertly and make known to him if they heard the slightest sound.

The night drew on. The others had gone below for their broken night’s
sleep, and Sydney was alone on the bridge. A half dozen lookouts were
alert, peering into the night, their energies bent on catching the
faintest sound from the distant shore.

Suddenly Sydney’s ears caught a dull sound which seemed to come from
the direction of the land. He listened intently, his breath held
tight. The dawn wind brought to his nostrils the sweet damp smell of
earth mingled with the pungent odor of smoke from the early morning
fires of the villagers.

All lights were extinguished on the “Mindinao” and the midshipman knew
that the vessel was, even at a short distance, invisible.

Now the sound came distinctly to his ears. It was the steady dip of
oars and their rattle in the locks. He could hear the low muffled swish
as the blades shook themselves clear of the water.

Several of the lookouts reported in whispers the presence of the
strange craft.

Gradually the sound approached, the boat invisible, while slowly the
gray streak of dawn spread in the east. The sound was now located ahead
and the boat appeared to be traveling fast, doubtless propelled by both
oars and sail. Was it only a fisherman going out early to spread his
nets? Or was it the outlaw Espinosa attempting escape, and carrying off
Rodriguez’s gold and the more precious treasures, Maria and Juan?

Sydney sent one of the men to call Phil to the bridge immediately.



CHAPTER XXIII

COLONEL MARTINEZ


Maria watched with a heavy heart her young friend Phil Perry go
cheerfully away to put himself in the hands of the cruel native leader
in his endeavor to save the life of a brother officer.

“I never expect to see him alive again,” she whispered sorrowfully to
her small brother as he stood with big round eyes of wonder gazing at
the military preparations for the attack on the insurgent stronghold.

The next day she and Juan gazed wistfully after the long column of
khaki-clad American soldiers as they filed silently past the ranch
house, taking the trail over which she and her American friends had
ridden so merrily but a few days before.

The guard left at the ranch, consisting of two companies of soldiers,
quietly stationed its sentries and took up the monotonous routine of
guarding the many supplies which were arriving by boats from Palilo.

For several long hours the girl brooded over the situation, wondering
how she could aid the friends for whom she had learned to hold a high
regard. Bemoaning the fate that had made her a helpless woman, she
took Juan by the hand and strolled away up the wooded slope toward the
family burying grounds where the body of her father peacefully rested.
Reaching the newly made mound she placed upon his grave the handful of
flowers which she had gathered. In her heart was a great bitterness.
Juan, too young to appreciate the magnitude of his loss, chased
gleefully the monkeys which chattered in the trees about him, leaping
almost into his arms as they eluded his embrace. Following her brother
Maria listlessly strolled farther into the gloom of the forest.

Suddenly a low whistle from deeper in the woods attracted her
attention. With startled eyes she stopped, her head erect and her bosom
heaving in sudden fright.

[Illustration: _A MAN STEPPED SILENTLY FROM BEHIND A TREE_]

A man stepped silently from behind a tree and walked toward her. With a
glad cry she ran to him. It was the officer known to the Americans
as Colonel Martinez.

“I have heard,” he said sorrowfully as the girl incoherently sobbed
the sad news of her father’s death. “I would have come sooner, but I
believed the Americans would have been strong enough to prevent it.”

“His last words were for you, Gregorio,” Maria whispered as he patted
caressingly her straight black hair. “He hoped that you would follow
his example and surrender to General Wilson. Why do you not take your
own name again?”

“Sister,” the insurgent officer answered earnestly, “when my father
disowned me for fighting under Aguinaldo in the north, I took the name
of Remundo, and because I would not surrender after most of my men had
been killed or captured I have been declared by the government of the
islands an outlaw, and a price was put on my head. I am accused of many
crimes of which I am not guilty. I have an enemy, who now stands high
in government favor. It was he who harried the country using my name
falsely, and for his deeds I am blamed. Captain Blynn has my written
proofs. So you see I could not comply with our father’s wish before,
but now I am willing to lay down my life in order that Juan Rodriguez’s
soul may rest in peace, which it cannot do until his murderer has
received his just punishment.”

While they talked Gregorio Rodriguez had taken the small hand of Juan
in his own, leading his sister along a tiny trail away from the river.

“I have a few trusty followers awaiting me a short distance beyond,”
he added, “and I wish you both to come with me. Your lives are too
precious to allow you to be out of my sight.”

Maria smiled happily and pressed her brother’s hand.

After a quarter of an hour’s walk the forest opened and they found
themselves in the midst of a company of native soldiers. The men arose
from the ground as their leader passed, doffing their hats to the woman
walking so proudly with their officer. Gregorio stood silently in their
midst, holding up his hand to demand attention.

In a few short lines he told his men of his real identity and of the
horrible murder of his father by Espinosa; of the expedition which he
had watched start out to attack the stronghold. To serve their best
interests, he told them he should surrender with his force to the
Americans, who would give them all fair and honorable treatment. Then
he raised his voice and excitedly cried:

“Those who still desire to fight against their own interests under a
traitor and a murderer may go forth unmolested. At once!” he cried,
pointing to the trail leading inland, while his black eyes flashed.

Not a man gave ground; all looked trustfully up to their leader.

“Viva los Americanos,” one shouted and the woods rang with their lusty
cheers.

“Will you come to the ranch with me and surrender there to the
Americans?” Maria asked, after the cheering had died away.

Gregorio shook his head.

“My first quest is Espinosa,” he replied earnestly. “At once we shall
march toward the stronghold. If he is captured or killed in the battle
I shall seek General Wilson and surrender myself and men. If Espinosa
escapes I shall follow him to the death.”

Maria knew the native spirit too well to attempt to urge her brother to
give up this perilous quest of their father’s murderer, so she bowed
her head submissively.

An hour saw the band on the march, with Maria and Juan mounted on two
ponies; quietly the native soldiers led by Gregorio Rodriguez circled
the Americans encamped at the ranch and struck the trail taken in the
morning by Captain Blynn and his five hundred soldiers.

Long before they came in sight of the stronghold the distant rumble of
musketry and the thunder of artillery told them of the struggle at the
top of the mountain.

Despairing of reaching the battle-field by the treacherous trail
already covered by the Americans, Gregorio led his party to high ground
across the valley from Matiginao. They arrived breathlessly at the
summit and viewed the distant figures of men fighting in a hand-to-hand
struggle.

Maria gasped in fear as she comprehended the awful sight of the
struggle.

“The Americans are victorious,” Gregorio exclaimed excitedly as he
saw the wave of khaki sweep from two sides across the broad plateau.
He saw the native insurgents huddled together in the centre of the
American soldiers. But his eager eyes followed a small band of
Americans and natives on the right of the mountain; he saw the natives
in front of them give way slowly, contesting the battle-field foot by
foot, while behind them he saw several score more of natives reach the
edge of the plateau and rapidly disappear down the sheer side of the
cliff.

“They are escaping,” he cried in sudden alarm. “See, they are holding
the Americans back to give those fleeing time to escape. It’s
Espinosa,” he shouted hoarsely, beside himself with apprehension.

Between him and the valley at the foot of the precipice, Gregorio knew
were many miles of impenetrable jungle, through which there was no
trail. Yet he must push through this formidable barrier in an effort to
cut off his enemy’s escape. Calling up one of his trusty lieutenants he
gave Maria and Juan in his charge.

“Take the trail and join the Americans,” he ordered his sister.
“Come,” he commanded, selecting a score of men by a motion of his
hand. In another minute Gregorio, followed obediently by his selected
followers, had plunged through the dense woods straight down the
mountainside toward the avenue of escape over which Espinosa would soon
be traveling, while Maria and her guard left their place of vantage and
headed for the distant mountain top now in the hands of Captain Blynn
and his victorious men.

Laboriously, but spurred forward by the eagerness of their leader,
Gregorio and his small band toiled through the dense jungle. The
distance was slowly covered and, almost exhausted, they were finally
rewarded by reaching the trail leading from the stronghold to the
northward.

Gregorio uttered an exclamation of surprise as his knowledge of
woodcraft told him that a large force of men had recently passed over
this road. Surely he had seen but a few score escape from the plateau.

Nothing daunted, in the lead, he urged his men forward. He would
attack, no matter what were the odds against him. Espinosa should not
escape!

After several hours of strenuous marching a straggler was found on the
side of the trail and after a hasty interview gave the anxious native
the good tidings that Lopez was ahead on the same quest as himself.

Hurrying forward, most of the time on a run, he overtook his father’s
faithful servant just before darkness arrived, and together,
unsparingly, they urged onward their tired men.

Gregorio’s keen eyes were ever on the trail; in his heart was a
desperate resolve. The thought of escape of Espinosa maddened him
beyond endurance. The newly made grave in the family burying grounds
spurred him on to almost superhuman exertions. Lopez, hardened as he
was to toil in the fields, kept pace with his untiring young master,
but many of the pursuing natives were left far behind.

“We are nearly to Banate,” Lopez said intensely as they saw the high
jungle slowly merge into nipa swamp. The cocoanut palms were becoming
more and more infrequent and the mud of the trail clung to their tired
feet.

So silently had they approached the little settlement at the foot of
the hills rising from the delta of the river that the sudden barking
of a dog caused them to stop in consternation.

With eyes open wide with anxiety and apprehension, Gregorio and Lopez
pressed onward through the narrow street. They saw the natives were not
as yet awake, the houses were closed and no human being was visible. On
the ocean beach they saw many native boats hauled high above the tide.
Anxiously they visited each in turn, but all were abandoned.

The sandy soil gave them no news of their quarry. Many footmarks
were evident, but the tracks were so crossed and recrossed that even
Gregorio gave up all hope of learning from them the direction taken by
Espinosa and his men.

Gregorio stood in deepest dejection at the edge of the beach; his eyes
sorrowfully scanned the dark waters. Had Espinosa turned off into
the jungle, allowing him to go by, chuckling in his sleeve at the
cleverness of his ruse? or had he embarked, and was he now sailing
rapidly away toward freedom and wealth? Many of the straggling natives
had now gathered about their chief and waited for his orders. They had
ruthlessly entered the huts of the sleeping villagers and had dragged
several of them trembling before their leaders.

“But a half hour ago a large proa was launched from down the beach,” a
native villager spoke up. “It had been waiting, and we were commanded
to keep indoors on penalty of being shot. Through my bamboo shutter I
saw it start.”

Gregorio waited for no further words. Hastily turning to Lopez and
Garcia he cried eagerly:

“Light three fires on the top of the hill, the signal to the gunboat.”
Then without spoken orders a half score of men helped the anxious
Gregorio launch one of the small fishing boats lying high on the beach.
As Lopez and his men hurried away, the native boat, with Gregorio at
the helm, hoisted its bamboo sail to catch the light morning breeze and
disappeared into the night.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE GUNBOAT ON GUARD


“There’s a fire ashore there, sir,” a lookout called in an eager voice
as Phil accompanied by O’Neil stepped on deck, and the midshipman’s joy
was unbounded as he saw three points of light gradually grow into three
unmistakable fires.

“The signal,” he exclaimed. “We’ve got him. He can’t escape us now.”

Eagerly he listened to the sweet music of those hollow sounds caused
as he knew by the play of the oars in their rowlocks. Scarcely a half
mile away was Espinosa, blissfully unconscious of the presence of his
sentinel gunboat. Then a great fear came into his mind as he thought of
the cargo the approaching boat might be carrying. Were Maria and her
brother captives of this cruel villain?

The anxious midshipman rang the engine bell for full speed ahead and
the little gunboat quickly leaped to life. Espinosa was as good as
captured. Inside of an hour day would break.

“Keep a sharp lookout,” he shouted. The gunboat’s bow had turned
directly for the sound of the passing boat and he did not know at what
moment it would appear suddenly from out of the darkness ahead.

Sydney and O’Neil stood beside Phil as the gunboat rushed forward.

“That’s Espinosa, all right,” O’Neil exclaimed joyfully as he went
below, after taking a look about him, to get the forward three-pounder
ready.

The two midshipmen strained their ears in vain into the night, but no
sound of their quarry was evident.

The gunboat was again stopped and the word passed for silence. A
stillness crept over the gunboat. The sailors stood alert, silent in
strained attitudes of listening, but no sound could be heard to cheer
the now depressed Americans.

“They’ve stopped rowing,” Sydney exclaimed, “and with this breeze they
must be going away from us fast.” The midshipmen gazed at each other in
consternation. What should be done? Should they steam ahead blindly,
awaiting the day? Might not the proa have discovered the presence of
the gunboat and changed its course? Both knew that ten miles to the
eastward treacherous coral reefs covered the sea, through which the
gunboat must navigate cautiously, even if it were possible to go at
all. Was the outlaw again to escape? Then their attention was attracted
by a new sound as the chug of oars came to their ears, but this time
from a direction opposite to that taken by the first boat.

“It’s a second boat,” Phil exclaimed in a troubled voice. “What can it
mean?” The noise of the approaching boat came closer and closer and
then suddenly out of the night a great sail appeared, while a Spanish
hail drifted across the waters:

“Espinosa is in a proa ahead of us. This is Colonel Martinez.”

Both lads recognized their friend’s voice, even before he declared his
identity, and now with his mind made up that he must act quickly, Phil
called back:

“I shall steam directly ahead for the reefs; stand by to take a line.”

The active natives caught the tow-line heaved to them from the stern
of the gunboat, and the “Mindinao” at full speed raced toward the gray
in the eastern sky, while the proa astern lowered her sail and leaped
joyfully in tow of the steamer.

O’Neil stood like a statue at the bow’s gun, his eyes endeavoring to
pierce the gloom ahead. His eager eyes were conscious of the growing
light. Farther and farther his range of vision grew; now a mile of
sea on either bow was in sight, but barren of sail. Then from out the
dissolving mist, the sailor saw a dim shadow and knew that the quarry
at last was found and in easy range.

“I see her, sir,” he hailed joyfully. “Can I give her a polite
invitation to heave to?”

“Don’t hit her, O’Neil,” Phil answered excitedly; “put a shell as close
as you can. She’s nearly up to the reefs.”

A roar and a blinding flash was O’Neil’s answer to his captain’s words.

Shell after shell was hurled after the fleeing boat but the Americans
could see no inclination to obey the order of the challenge. Now
silhouetted against the eastern sky, with a great spread of sail,
Espinosa was straining everything to escape. From out the sea ahead a
fiery sun arose, throwing its brilliant light into the eyes of those on
the gunboat.

“Be careful, O’Neil,” Phil urged earnestly. “Señorita Rodriguez may be
in that boat.”

“She’s safe with our soldiers,” Sydney called from the deck below, at
hearing his friend’s caution. “I’ve just talked with Martinez astern.”

“Put a shot in that boat,” Phil cried, and the roar of the
three-pounder echoed his words.

Then suddenly a gentle tremble of the “Mindinao” made her young captain
turn pale, as he rang for full speed astern.

“We’re on the reef,” he cried in anguish. “What shall we do? Hit her,
O’Neil,” he called beside himself; “he must not escape.”

Sydney had rushed aft with several sailors close at his heels and
taking the tow-line of the native boat astern, they hauled it up clear
of the backing screws until the outrigger was alongside the gangway.

“Make room for ten of our sailors,” he shouted to Martinez. “We want
men who know how to shoot.”

While the water boiled above the swiftly revolving propellers slowly
hauling the gunboat backward from its perilous position on a coral
reef, all but two of the natives in the fishing boat climbed nimbly
aboard and ten eager sailors, their rifles in hand, scrambled in.

The sharp detonations of the three-pounder added to the confusion of
the scene.

As he saw the “Mindinao” was again afloat, Phil turned his eyes to the
fleeing enemy. The boat, still untouched, was sailing swiftly away with
an ever-increasing breeze behind it. Then his eyes opened in surprise
and joy as he saw what Sydney had been doing.

“Come on, O’Neil, she’s nearly out of range,” he called excitedly. The
sailor turned, took in the situation at a glance and seizing a rifle
from a sailor near him followed his captain.

“She’s dropped her sail,” he cried, as a swift look over his shoulder
to mark the effect of the last shot revealed but a small black speck on
the water.

“I am sorry, Syd, but I must leave you to look out for the ship,” Phil
said as he leaped for the side of the native boat and grasped Colonel
Martinez’s hands. “Keep us in sight and see if you can work her through
the reefs.”

Sydney drew a long face, but he appreciated that Phil’s greatest desire
was to be in at the death, when Espinosa was captured.

The boat shoved off and the bamboo sail, far bigger in proportion than
the sails carried by American boats, was quickly hoisted. The boat
appeared to skim over the surface of the water. The gunboat slowly
dropped astern, but now the proa had again hoisted its sail and the
distance between the two boats seemed to be ever the same.

“We’ll catch him if we have to chase him the whole fifty miles of water
and then some,” O’Neil cried angrily. “I don’t see how I could have
missed him.”

Phil smiled feebly. “You were beginning to get pretty close,” he said.
“They lowered their sail so as to offer a smaller target for you to aim
at.”

“I thought I’d done it with a shell,” the boatswain’s mate replied
disappointedly. “Well, if we get within the range of this little piece
of iron,” patting his rifle, “I’ll take great pleasure in writing my
initials on that Espinosa’s yellow carcass.”

The midshipman did not take this soft-hearted sailorman seriously. In
a fight, he knew he was as brave as twenty men, but with a vanquished
enemy he was as gentle as a woman.

“If we can catch him alive, I don’t wish to kill him,” Phil answered
now, in Spanish, to include Rodriguez, who had not understood the
declarations of the disappointed sailor.

“I claim the privilege of doing that, Señor Perry,” the colonel replied.

Phil regarded him sternly. The native looked into the midshipman’s eyes
unwaveringly.

“Why should you?” the lad asked.

“Ah, señor, I had forgotten,” the native said earnestly, taking
his revolver from its holster and holding it butt forward to the
midshipman. “Colonel Remundo in Luzon, Colonel Martinez in Kapay, and
now Gregorio Rodriguez, surrenders to you as a prisoner of war.”

Phil looked aghast, while O’Neil mumbled inarticulate nautical phrases
of surprise.

“Are you then Maria’s brother?” the lad asked.

Gregorio nodded his head slowly, still holding his revolver for Phil to
take.

“Put your revolver back,” the midshipman ordered peremptorily. “You
and I never have been enemies--except for a very short time,” he added
as the remembrance of those two anxious days after his capture on the
“Negros” came into his mind. “Anyway, we have now the same objective,
that murderer yonder, but,” and he lowered his voice to a cold, hard
tone, “you shall not kill him if we can capture him alive. I forbid it.”

Gregorio’s black eyes blazed, and despite the avowed friendship of the
native, O’Neil reached hastily for his revolver. Then as suddenly the
native mastered himself and with a shrug turned away his telltale eyes.

“I know how you feel, colonel,” Phil declared conscious of the passion
in the native’s soul, “but I’d rather have it done regularly. We’ll try
him by a military commission for treason and hang him in the Plaza in
Palilo as a warning to all traitors.”

Slowly the fishing boat overhauled the bigger craft. Now the distance
was but five hundred yards. The sun had risen and shone down on the
green opalescent water. A report of a rifle-shot startled the Americans
who had settled themselves for a long and monotonous chase.

“So they are going to offer resistance,” Phil exclaimed.

“Yes; let him have it, O’Neil,” he added as the sailor threw the muzzle
of his piece forward and looked questioningly at the midshipman.

O’Neil’s rifle cracked and a figure standing on the rail near the mast
doubled up and fell forward in the boat.

A fusillade of shots followed from the fleeing boat, the bullets
hissing in the water dangerously near the dozen huddled Americans.

“We can’t allow this,” Phil exclaimed uneasily; “they can’t miss us if
we get any closer.

“Open fire!” he ordered suddenly.

Ten rifles were discharged almost as one, and as quickly fired again
and again. The sharp rattle of the breech-blocks was continuous.

By this time the Americans had approached abreast the enemy, but
above its rail no human being was visible. Had all been killed by the
unerring shooting of Phil’s men?

Scarcely twenty yards separated the two boats. The larger craft, with
sheets slacked, sailed silently onward. The helm swung idle; the hand
that had steered it probably now lay limp in the bottom of the proa.
Phil rose cautiously, his hand grasping the sail; he placed his foot
on the high gunwale in an endeavor to discover the state of the enemy
concealed in the bottom of the boat. As he drew himself up above his
companions, the two boats slid noiselessly nearer and to the lad’s
horror he suddenly found himself looking squarely into the black muzzle
of a pistol. Behind it burned the cruel eyes of Espinosa, while on the
latter’s face was a leer of triumph.



CHAPTER XXV

CONCLUSION


Scarcely a second elapsed between the time Espinosa had leaped to
the proa’s deck and the discharge of his revolver, but in that
second Phil had seen the awful havoc among the traitor’s followers.
Espinosa himself, sorely wounded as he was, could hardly have helped
hitting his mark. Phil was conscious of a shot from his own boat
almost simultaneously with a sharp pain in his left shoulder, and saw
the would-be slayer pitch forward into the sea. In that second the
outriggers of the two boats came together and Gregorio and his two
natives quickly jumped on board to lower the captured vessel’s sails,
while O’Neil put the helm of his own craft over to bring the wind ahead
and stop their progress.

Phil balanced himself on the sail of the boat, his eyes following
the bubbles which closed over the body of the wounded man. Then a
trembling seized him as a great black fin protruded from the water and
the sun’s rays reflected deep red against the green of the reef.

“Sharks,” he cried hoarsely, balancing himself with a great effort, for
he had been about to plunge overboard to rescue his enemy.

O’Neil as if by intuition had seized the lad by the foot and forcibly
hauled him back into the boat.

The two boats were soon secured together and the Americans, putting
aside their weapons of destruction, looked down pityingly upon the
terrified natives huddled together in the bottom of the proa. Many were
wounded by the Krag bullets and several had died not knowing pain, so
swiftly had death come. Far astern a black curl of smoke marked the
gunboat.

All hands turned to willingly and administered to the stricken enemy
and soon all the wounded were made as comfortable as possible, their
bleeding stanched, while the two boats were being steered toward the
west. The treasure was found hidden under the footboards of the proa
and this treasure had sealed the traitor’s doom, for in carrying it he
had delayed his flight, allowing Gregorio and Lopez to all but overtake
him.

Inside of two hours the “Mindinao,” steaming cautiously between the
numberless shoals, took the Americans and their captives on board and
was steaming joyfully back to Palilo with her glad tidings.

The wound in Phil’s shoulder turned out happily to be but a glancing
blow and under Sydney’s administration he suffered only the
inconvenience of carrying his arm in a black silk sling about his neck.

As Phil brought his gunboat for the last time to her berth, there on
the dock stood General Wilson and his aides, and before the gangway had
been down a moment they came on board to praise the work of the navy
men, and hear the thrilling story of the end of Espinosa.

A sad-eyed stranger in civilian’s clothes stood silently by as Phil
modestly told how the outlaw had died. Then he grasped the lad’s hand
while the general murmured a name which made the young man blush as if
with shame. He stood in the presence of Lieutenant Tillotson’s father.

“My boy,” the bereaved man said in a low voice, “you have a father’s
blessing. The general has told me of your unselfish and reckless act in
a vain endeavor to save my son.”

Phil turned away to hide his emotion.

Mr. Tillotson, taking the body of his son, sailed the following day for
Manila.

For ten days the “Mindinao” remained quietly at her dock, while from
all over the island there came to Palilo to surrender to the general
small bands of insurgent soldiers. Gregorio Rodriguez, the acknowledged
leader after Espinosa’s death, had sent word to all his captains to
stop fighting, and their obedience was instant.

One evening somewhat over a week later, on board the “Mindinao” a
dinner party was in progress. The happy general, a weight of care
lifted from his shoulders, sat on Phil’s right, while about the board
were the well-known faces of his friends. O’Neil, barred by naval
etiquette from partaking at his captain’s table, in the shadow of the
night, stood near, hanging on every word spoken. The Chinese servants
with smiling faces flitted between the galley and the quarter-deck.

Maria sat between the two midshipmen, and the sadness in her eyes still
lingered, but a look of admiration would kindle as she talked to each
of her two friends in turn.

General Wilson held in his hand two unopened telegrams which had just
been handed him by an orderly.

The general tore one of the yellow envelopes and ran his eye hurriedly
over the contents.

“My congratulations, governor,” he exclaimed, as he passed the paper to
Gregorio Rodriguez.

The native could hardly believe his eyes, for these were the words he
read:

“Gregorio Rodriguez appointed civil governor of the Island of Kapay
to-day by the governor-general.”

Rodriguez rose to his feet and strode quietly to the general’s side.

“General Wilson,” he said reverently, “this fulfils my father’s dearest
wish. I would that he could know.” Then he dropped on one knee and,
much to the surprise of the gray-haired prosaic veteran, raised the
blue-veined hand to his lips. Maria remained seated, but her dark eyes
beamed lovingly on her brother.

Then the other telegram was opened and a smile appeared on the
warrior’s face.

The lads were consumed with impatience, for by the look in the
general’s eyes they realized it concerned them. He read the message.

  “I am appointed ambassador to Japan. Have selected Blynn as military
  attaché and Midshipmen Perry and Monroe naval attachés to our
  embassy. Wire their answers.

                                                            “TILLOTSON.”

The midshipmen’s hearts beat fast and they were about to cry out their
delight, when the tearful face of Maria caught their eye; and instead
Phil answered soberly, “I doubt if we have sufficient rank to accept.”

O’Neil had heard enough, and as he moved forward toward his hammock
slung on the forecastle he murmured gruffly:

“I can’t let ’em go alone. They need me to look out for them.” And Phil
and Sydney, had they heard, would have said he was right.


Other books in this same series are:

  A UNITED STATES MIDSHIPMAN AFLOAT
  A UNITED STATES MIDSHIPMAN IN CHINA
  A UNITED STATES MIDSHIPMAN IN JAPAN
  A UNITED STATES MIDSHIPMAN IN THE SOUTH SEAS



FOOTNOTES:

[1] A lorcha is a Filipino schooner; its sails are usually made of
a rough canvas, yellow in color, manufactured from a native fibre,
usually hemp.

[2] “Friend, a letter.”

[3] Pulijanes--ladrones, outlaw



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.



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