LEIPZIG THEODOR WEICHER, PUBLISHER
NEW YORK THE BAKER & TAYLOR CO., SALES AGENTS 33 EAST 17TH STREET (UNION SQUARE)
COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY THEODOR WEICHER
COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY THE BAKER & TAYLOR CO. All rights reserved
ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL, LONDON
Published, January, 1909
THE TROW PRESS, NEW YORK
CHAPTER I.—IN MANILA 1
II.—ON THE HIGH SEAS 34
III.—HOW IT BEGAN 49
IV.—ECHOES IN NEW YORK 61
V.—FATHER AND SON 69
VI.—A NIGHT IN NEW YORK 77
VII.—THE RED SUN OVER THE GOLDEN GATE 96
VIII.—IN THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH 105
IX.—-A FORTY-EIGHT-HOUR BALANCE 121
X.—ADMIRAL PERRY'S FATE 142
XI.—CAPTAIN WINSTANLEY 171
XII.—ARE YOU WINSTANLEY? 185
XIII.—THE REVENGE FOR PORTSMOUTH 192
XIV.—ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WHIRLPOOL 206
XV.—A RAY OF LIGHT 211
XVI.—THROUGH FIRE AND SMOKE 217
XVII.—WHAT HAPPENED AT CORPUS CHRISTI 228
XVIII.—THE BATTLE OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS 243
XIX.—THE ASSAULT ON HILGARD 272
XX.—-A FRIEND IN NEED 286
XXI.—DARK SHADOWS 295
XXII.—REMEMBER HILGARD 306
XXIII.—IN THE WHITE HOUSE 312
Every American familiar with the modern international political horizon must have experienced a feeling of solid satisfaction at the news that a formidable American fleet was to be dispatched to the waters of the Pacific, and the cruise of our warships has been followed with intense interest by every loyal citizen of our Republic. The reasons that rendered the long and dramatic voyage of our fleet most opportune are identical with the motives that actuated the publication of this translation from the German of a work which exhibits a remarkable grasp of facts coupled with a marvelously vivid power of description. It is no secret that our ships were sent to the Pacific to minimize the danger of a conflict with our great commercial rival in the Far East, if not to avert it altogether, and Banzai! it seems to me, should perform a similar mission. The graphic recital, I take it, is not intended to incite a feeling of animosity between two nations which have every reason to maintain friendly relations, but rather to call the attention of the American people to the present woeful lack of preparedness, and at the same time to assist in developing a spirit of sound patriotism that prefers silent action to blatant braggadocio. That the Pacific Ocean may become, in truth, the Peaceful Ocean, and never resound to the clash of American arms, is the devout wish of one who believes—implicitly—with Moltke in the old proverb, Si vis pacem, para bellum—If you wish for Peace, prepare for War.
As usual, it had begun quite harmlessly and inconspicuously. It is not my business to tell how it all came to pass, how the way was prepared. That may be left to the spinners of yarns and to those on the trail of the sources of history. I shall leave it to them to ascertain when the idea that there must be a conflict, and that the fruit must be plucked before it had time to ripen, first took root in the minds of the Japanese people.
We Americans realize now that we had been living for years like one who has a presentiment that something dreadful is hanging over him which will suddenly descend upon his head, and who carries this feeling of dread about with him with an uneasy conscience, trying to drown it in the tumult and restlessness of daily life. We realize the situation now, because we know where we should have fixed our gaze and understand the task to the accomplishment of which we should have bent our energies, but we went about like sleep-walkers and refused to see what thousands of others knew, what thousands saw in astonishment and concern at our heedlessness.
We might easily have peeped through the curtain that hid the future from us, for it had plenty of holes, but we passed them by unnoticed. And, nevertheless, there were many who did peep through. Some, while reading their paper, let it fall into their lap and stared into space, letting their thoughts wander far away to a spot whence the subdued clash of arms and tumult of war reached their soul like the mysterious roll and roar of the breakers. Others were struck by a chance word overheard in the rush of the street, which they would remember until it was driven out by the strenuous struggle that each day brought with it. But the word itself had not died; it continued to live in the foundation of the consciousness where our burning thoughts cannot enter, and sometimes in the night it would be born afresh in the shape of wild squadrons of cavalry galloping across the short grass of the prairie with noiseless hoofs. The thunder of cannon could be heard in the air long before the guns were loaded.
I saw no more than others, and when the grim horrors of the future first breathed coldly upon me I, too, soon forgot it. It happened at San Francisco in the spring of 1907. We were standing before a bar, and from outside came the sounds of an uproar in the street. Two men were being thrown out of a Japanese restaurant across the way, and the Japanese proprietor, who was standing in the doorway, kicked the hat of one of them across the pavement so that it rolled over the street like a football.
"Well, what do you think of that," cried my friend, Arthur Wilcox, "the Jap is attacking the white men."
I held him back by the arm, for a tall Irish policeman had already seized the Jap, who protested loudly and would not submit to arrest. The policeman took good hold of him, but before he knew it he lay like a log on the pavement, the Japanese dwarf apparently having thrown him without the least trouble. A wild brawl followed. Half an hour later only a few policemen, taking notes, were walking about in the Japanese restaurant, which had been completely demolished by a frenzied mob. We remained at the bar for some time afterwards engaged in earnest conversation.
"Our grandchildren," said Arthur, "will have to answer for that little affair and fight it out some day or other."
"Not our grandchildren, but we ourselves," I answered, not knowing in the least why I said it.
"We ourselves?" said Wilcox, laughing at me, "not much; look at me, look at yourself, look at our people, and then look at those dwarfs."
"The Russians said the same thing: Look at the dwarfs."
They all laughed at me and presently I joined in the laugh, but I could not forget the Irishman as he lay in the grip of the Jap. And quite suddenly I remembered something which I had almost forgotten. It happened at Heidelberg, during my student days in Germany; a professor was telling us how, after the inglorious retreat of the Prussian army from Valmy, the officers, with young Goethe in their midst, were sitting round the camp fires discussing the reasons for the defeat. When they asked Goethe what he thought about it, he answered, as though gifted with second sight: "At this spot and at this moment a new epoch in the world's history will begin, and you will all be able to say that you were present." And in imagination I could see the red glow of the bivouac fires and the officers of Frederick the Great's famous army, who could not understand how anyone could have fled before the ragged recruits of the Revolution. And near them I saw a man of higher caliber standing on tiptoe to look through the dark curtain into the future.
At the time I soon forgot all these things; I forgot the apparently insignificant street affray and the icy breath of premonition which swept over me then, and not until the disaster had occurred did it again enter my mind. But then when the swords were clashing I realized, for the first time, that all the incidents we had observed on the dusty highway of History, and passed by with indifference, had been sure signs of the coming catastrophe.
"For God's sake, do leave me in peace with your damned yellow monkeys!" cried Colonel Webster, banging his fist on the table so hard that the whisky and soda glasses jumped up in a fright, then came down again irritably and wagged their heads disapprovingly, so that the amber-colored fluid spilled over the edge and lay on the table in little pearly puddles.
"As you like, colonel. I shall give up arguing with you," returned Lieutenant Commander Harryman curtly. "You won't allow yourself to be warned."
"Warned—that's not the question. But this desire of yours to scent Japanese intrigues everywhere, to figure out all politics by the Japanese common denominator, and to see a Japanese spy in every coolie is becoming a positive mania. No, I can't agree with you there," added Webster, who seemed to regret the passionate outburst into which his temperament had betrayed him.
"Really not?" asked Harryman, turning in his comfortable wicker chair toward Webster and looking at him half encouragingly with twinkling eyes.
Such discussions were not at all unusual in the Club at Manila, for they presented the only antidote to the leaden, soul-killing tedium of the dull monotony of garrison duty. Since the new insurrection on Mindanao and in the whole southern portion of the archipelago, the question as to the actual causes of the uprising, or rather the secret authors thereof, continually gave rise to heated discussions. And when both parties, of which one ascribed everything to Japanese intrigue and the other found an explanation in elementary causes, began to liven up, the debate was apt to wax pretty warm. If these discussions did nothing else, they at least produced a sort of mental excitement after the heat of the day which wore out body and mind alike, not even cooling down toward evening.
The Chinese boy, passing quickly and quietly between the chairs, removed the traces of the Webster thunderbolt and placed fresh bottles of soda water on the table, whereupon the officers carefully prepared new drinks.
"He's a spy, too, I suppose?" asked Webster of Harryman, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder at the disappearing boy.
"Of course. Did you ever imagine him to be anything else?"
Webster shrugged his shoulders. A dull silence ensued, during which they tried to recover the lost threads of their thoughts in the drowsy twilight. Harryman irritably chewed the ends of his mustache. The smoke from two dozen shag pipes settled like streaks of mist in the sultry air of the tropical night, which came in at the open windows. Lazily and with long pauses, conversation was kept up at the separate tables. The silence was only broken by the creaking of the wicker chairs and the gurgling and splashing of the soda water, when one of the officers, after having put it off as long as possible, at last found sufficient energy to refill his glass. Motionless as seals on the sandhills in the heat of midday, the officers lolled in their chairs, waiting for the moment when they could turn in with some show of decency.
"It's awful!" groaned Colonel McCabe. "This damned hole is enough to make one childish. I shall go crazy soon." And then he cracked his standing joke of the evening: "My daily morning prayer is: 'Let it soon be evening, O God; the morrow will come of itself.'" The jest was greeted with a dutiful grunt of approval from the occupants of the various chairs.
Lieutenant Parrington, officer in command of the little gunboat Mindoro, which had been captured from the Spaniards some years ago and since the departure of the cruiser squadron for Mindanao been put in commission as substitute guardship in the harbor of Manila, entered the room and dropped into a chair near Harryman; whereupon the Chinese boy, almost inaudible in his broad felt shoes, suddenly appeared beside him and set down the bottle with the pain expeller of the tropics before him.
"Any cable news, Parrington?" asked Colonel McCabe from the other table.
"Not a word," yawned Parrington; "everything is still smashed. We might just as well be sitting under the receiver of an air pump."
Harryman noticed that the boy stared at Parrington for a moment as if startled; but he instantly resumed his Mongolian expression of absolute innocence, and with his customary grin slipped sinuously through the door.
Harryman experienced an unpleasant feeling of momentary discomfort, but, not being able to locate his ideas clearly, he irritably gave up the attempt to arrive at a solution of this instinctive sensation, mumbling to himself: "This tropical hell is enough to set one crazy."
"No news of the fleet, either?" began Colonel McCabe again.
"Positively nothing, either by wire or wireless. It seems as though the rest of the world had sunk into a bottomless pit. Not a single word has reached us from the outer world for six days."
"Do you believe in the seaquake?" struck in Harryman mockingly.
"Why not?" returned the colonel.
Harryman jumped up, walked over to the window with long strides, threw out the end of his cigarette and lighted a new one. In the bright light of the flaming match one could see the commander's features twitching ironically; he was on the warpath again.
"All the same, it's a queer state of affairs. Our home cable snaps between Guam and here, the Hong-Kong cable won't work, and even our island wire has been put out of commission; it must have been a pretty violent catastrophe—" came from another table.
"—All the more violent considering the fact that we noticed nothing of it on land," said Harryman, thoughtfully blowing out a cloud of smoke and swinging himself up backward on the window-sill.
"Exactly," rang out a voice; "but how do you account for that?"
"Account for it!" cried Colonel Webster, in a thundering voice. "Our comrade of the illustrious navy of the United States of America has only one explanation for everything: his Japanese logarithms, by means of which he figures out everything. Now we shall hear that this seaquake can be traced to Japanese villainy, probably brought about by Japanese divers, or even submarine boats." And the colonel began to laugh heartily.
Harryman ignored this attempt to resume their recent dispute, and with head thrown back continued to blow clouds of smoke nervously into the air.
"But seriously, Harryman," began the colonel again, "can you give any explanation?"
"No," answered Harryman curtly; "but perhaps you will remember who was the first to furnish an explanation of the breakdown of the cable. It was the captain of the Japanese Kanga Maru, which has been anchored since Tuesday beside the Monadnock, which I have the honor to command."
"But, my good Harryman, you have hallucinations," interrupted the colonel. "The Japanese captain gave the latest Hong-Kong papers to the Harbor Bureau, and was quite astonished to hear that our cable did not work——"
"When he was going to send a cablegram to Hong-Kong," added Harryman sharply.
"To announce his arrival at Manila," remarked Colonel Webster dryly.
"And the Hong-Kong papers had already published descriptions of the destruction caused by the seaquake, of the tidal waves, and the accidents to ships," came from another quarter.
"The news being of especial interest to this archipelago, where we have the misfortune to be and where we noticed nothing of the whole affair," returned Harryman.
"You don't mean to imply," broke in the colonel, "that the news of this catastrophe is a pure invention—an invention of the English papers in Hong-Kong?"
"Don't know, I'm sure," said Harryman. "Hong-Kong papers are no criterion for me." And then he added quietly: "Yes, man is great, and the newspaper is his prophet."
"But you can't dispute the fact that a seaquake may have taken place, when you consider the striking results as shown by the cable interruptions which we have been experiencing for the last six days," began Webster again.
"Have we really?" said Harryman. "Are you quite sure of it? So far the only authority we have for this supposed seaquake is a Japanese captain—whom, by the way, I am having sharply watched—and a bundle of worthless Hong-Kong newspapers. And as for the rest of my hallucinations"—he jumped down from the window-sill and, going up to Webster, held out a sheet of paper toward him—"I'm in the habit of using other sources of information than the English-Japanese fingerposts."
Webster glanced at the paper and then looked at Harryman questioningly.
"What is it? Do you understand it?"
"Yes," snapped Harryman. "These little pictures portray our war of extermination against the red man. They are terribly exaggerated and distorted, which was not at all necessary, by the way, for the events of that war do not add to the fame of our nation. Up here," explained Harryman, while several officers, among them the colonel, stepped up to the table, "you see the story of the infected blankets from the fever hospitals which were sent to the Indians; here the butchery of an Indian tribe; here, for comparison, the fight on the summit of the volcano of Ilo-Ilo, where the Tagala were finally driven into the open crater; and here, at the end, the practical application for the Tagala: 'As the Americans have destroyed the red man, so will you slowly perish under the American rule. They have hurled your countrymen into the chasm of the volcano. This crater will devour you all if you do not turn those weapons which were once broken by Spanish bondage against your deliverers of 1898, who have since become your oppressors.'"
"Where did you get the scrawl?" asked the colonel excitedly.
"Do you want me to procure hundreds, thousands like it for you?" returned Harryman coolly.
The colonel pressed down the ashes in his pipe with his thumb, and asked indifferently: "You understand Japanese?"
"Tagala also," supplemented Harryman simply.
"And you mean to say that thousands——?"
"Millions of these pictures, with Japanese and Malayan text, are being circulated in the Philippines," said Harryman positively.
"Under our eyes?" asked a lieutenant naively.
"Under our eyes," replied Harryman, smiling, "our eyes which carelessly overlook such things."
Colonel Webster rose and offered Harryman his hand. "I have misjudged you," he said heartily. "I belong to your party from now on."
"It isn't a question of party," answered Harryman warmly, "or rather there will soon be only the one party."
"Do you think," asked Colonel McCabe, "that the supposed Japanese plan of attack on the Philippines, published at the beginning of the year in the North China Daily News, was authentic?"
"That question cannot be answered unless you know who gave the document to the Shanghai paper, and what object he had in doing so," replied Harryman.
"How do you mean?"
"Well," continued Harryman, "only two possibilities can exist: the document was either genuine or false. If genuine, then it was an indiscretion on the part of a Japanese who betrayed his country to an English paper—an English paper which no sooner gets possession of this important document than it immediately proceeds to publish its contents, thereby getting its ally into a nice pickle. You will at once observe here three improbabilities: treason, indiscretion, and, finally, England in the act of tripping her ally. These actions would be incompatible, in the first place, with the almost hysterical sense of patriotism of the Japanese; in the second, with their absolute silence and secrecy, and, in the third place, with the behavior of our English cousin since his marriage to Madame Chrysanthemum——"
"The document was therefore not genuine?" asked the colonel.
"Think it over. What was it that the supposed plan of attack set forth? A Japanese invasion of Manila with the fleet and a landing force of eighty thousand men, and then, following the example of Cuba, an insurrection of the natives, which would gradually exhaust our troops, while the Japanese would calmly settle matters at sea, Roschestwenski's tracks being regarded as a sufficient scare for our admirals."
"That would no doubt be the best course to pursue in an endeavor to pocket the Philippines," answered the colonel thoughtfully; "and the plan would be aided by the widespread and growing opposition at home to keeping the archipelago and putting more and more millions into the Asiatic branch business."
"Quite so," continued Harryman quickly, "if Japan wanted nothing else but the Philippines."
"What on earth does she want in addition?" asked Webster.
"The mastery of the Pacific," said Harryman in a decided voice.
"Commercial mastery?" asked Parrington, "or——"
"No; political, too, and with solid foundations," answered Harryman.
Colonel McCabe had sat down again, and was studying the pamphlet, Parrington picked at the label on his whisky bottle, and the others remained silent, but buried in thought. In the next room a clock struck ten with a hurried, tinkling sound which seemed to break up the uneasy silence into so many small pieces.
"And if it was not genuine?" began Colonel McCabe again, hoarsely. He cleared his throat and repeated the question in a low tone of voice: "And if it was not genuine?"
Harryman shrugged his shoulders.
"Then it would be a trap for us to have us secure our information from the wrong quarter," said the colonel, answering his own question.
"A trap into which we are rushing at full speed," continued Webster, laying stress on each word, though his thoughts seemed to be far in advance of what he was saying.
Harryman nodded and twisted his mustache.
"What did you say?" asked Parrington, jumping up and looking from Webster to Harryman, neither of whom, however, volunteered a reply. "We are stumbling into a trap?"
"Two regiments," said Webster, more to himself than to the others. And then, turning to Harryman, he asked briskly: "When are the transports expected to arrive?"
"The steamers with two regiments on board left 'Frisco on April 10th, therefore—he counted the days on his fingers—they should be here by now."
"No, they were to go straight to Mindanao," said Parrington.
"Straight to Mindanao?" Colonel McCabe meditated silently. Then, as though waking up suddenly, he went on: "And the cable has not been working for six days——"
"Exactly," interrupted Parrington, "we have known nothing, either of the fleet or of anything else, for the last six days."
"Harryman," said Colonel McCabe seriously, "do you think there is danger? If it is all a trap, it would be the most stupid thing that we could do to send our transports unprotected— But that's all nonsense! This heat positively dries up your thoughts. No, no, it's impossible; they're hallucinations bred by the fermented vapors of this God-forsaken country!" He pressed the electric button, and the boy appeared at the door behind him. "Some soda, Pailung!"
"Parrington, are you coming? I ordered my boat for ten o'clock," said Harryman.
"As early as this, Harryman?" remonstrated Webster. "You'll be on board your boat quite soon enough, or do you want to keep a night watch also on your Japanese of the— What sort of a Maru was it?" he broke off, because Colonel McCabe pointed angrily at the approaching boy.
"Oh, nonsense!" growled Webster ill-humoredly. "A creature like that doesn't see or hear a thing."
The colonel glared at Webster, and then noisily mixed his drink.
Harryman and Parrington walked along the quay in silence, their steps resounding loudly in the stillness of the night. On the other side of the street fleeting shadows showed at the lighted windows of several harbor dens, over the entrance to which hung murky lamps and from which loud voices issued, proving that all was still in full swing there. There were only a few more steps to the spot where the yellow circle of light from the lanterns rendered the white uniforms of the sailors in the two boats visible. Parrington stood still. "Harryman," he said, repeating his former question, "do you believe there is danger——"
"I don't know, I really don't know," said Harryman nervously. Then, seizing Parrington's hands, he continued hurriedly, but in a low voice: "For days I have been living as if in a trance. It is as if I were lying in the delirium of fever; my head burns and my thoughts always return to the same spot, boring and burrowing; I feel as though a horrible eye were fixed on me from whose glance I cannot escape. I feel that I may at any moment awake from the trance, and that the awakening will be still more dreadful."
"You're feverish, Harryman; you're ill, and you'll infect others. You must take some quinine." With these words Parrington climbed into his gig, the sailors gave way with the oars, and the boat rushed through the water and disappeared into the darkness, where the bow oarsman was silhouetted against the pale yellow light of the boat's lantern like a strange phantom.
Harryman looked musingly after the boat of the Mindoro for a few minutes, and murmured: "He certainly has no fever which quinine will not cure." Then he got into his own boat, which also soon disappeared into the sultry summer night, while the dark water splashed and gurgled against the planks. The high quay wall, with its row of yellow and white lights, remained behind, and gradually sank down to the water line. They rowed past the side of a huge English steamer, which sent back the splash of the oars in a strange hollow echo, and then across to the Monadnock.
Harryman could not sleep, and joined the officer on duty on the bridge, where the slight breeze which came from the mountains afforded a little coolness.
* * * * *
On board the Mindoro Parrington had found orders to take the relief guard for the wireless telegraph station to Mariveles the next morning. At six o'clock the little gunboat had taken the men on board, and was now steering across the blue Bay of Manila toward the little rocky island of Corregidor, which had recently been strongly fortified, and which lies like a block of stone between gigantic mountain wings in the very middle of the entrance to the Bay of Manila. Under a gray sail, which served as a slight protection from the sun, the soldiers squatted sullenly on their kits. Some were asleep, others stared over the railing into the blue, transparent water that rippled away in long waves before the bow of the little vessel. From the open skylight of the engine room sounded the sharp beat of the engine, and the smell of hot oil spread over the deck, making the burning heat even more unbearable. Parrington stood on the bridge and through his glass examined the steep cliffs at the entrance to the bay, and the bizarre forms of the little volcanic islands.
Except for a few fishing boats with their brown sails, not a ship was to be seen on the whole expanse of the water. The gunboat now turned into the northern entrance, and the long, glistening guns in the fortifications of Corregidor became visible. Up above, on the batteries hewn in the rocks, not a living soul could be seen, but below, on the little platform where the signal-post stood near the northern battery, an armed sentry marched up and down. Parrington called out to the signalman near him: "Send this signal across to Corregidor: 'We are going to relieve the wireless telegraph detachment at Mariveles, and shall call at Corregidor on our way back.'" The Corregidor battery answered the signal, and informed Parrington that Colonel Prettyman expected him for lunch later on. Slowly the Mindoro crept along the coast to the rocky Bay of Mariveles, where, before the few neglected houses of the place, the guard of the wireless telegraph station, which stood on the heights of Sierra de Mariveles, was awaiting the arrival of the gunboat.
The Mindoro was made fast to the pier. The exchange of men took place quickly, and the relief guard piled their kits on two mule-carts, in which they were to be carried up the steep hillside to the top, where a few flat, white houses showed the position of the wireless station, the high post of which, with its numerous wires, stood out alone against the blue sky. The relieved men, who plainly showed their delight at getting away from this God-forsaken, tedious outpost, made themselves comfortable in the shade afforded by the sail, and began to chat with the crew of the Mindoro about the commonplaces of military service. A shrill screech from the whistle of the Mindoro resounded from the mountain side as a farewell greeting to the little troop that was climbing slowly upward, followed by the baggage-carts. The Mindoro cast off from the pier, and, having rounded the neck of land on which Mariveles stood, was just on the point of starting in the direction of Corregidor, when the signalman on the bridge called Parrington's attention to a black steamer which was apparently steaming at full speed from the sea toward the entrance to the Bay of Manila.
"A ship at last," said Parrington. "Let's wait and see what sort of a craft it is."
While the Mindoro reduced her speed noticeably, Parrington looked across at the strange vessel through his glasses. The ship had also attracted the attention of the crew, who began to conjecture excitedly as to the nationality of the visitor, for during the past week a strange vessel had become a rather unusual sight in Manila. The wireless detachment said that they had seen the steamer two hours ago from the hill.
Parrington put down his glass and said: "About four thousand tons, but she has no flag. We can soon remedy that." And turning to the signalman he added: "Ask her to show her colors." At the same time he pulled the rope of the whistle in order to attract the stranger's attention.
In a few seconds the German colors appeared at the stern of the approaching steamer, and the signal flag, which at the same time was quickly hoisted at the foretopmast, proclaimed the ship to be the German steamer Danzig, hailing from Hong-Kong. Immediately afterwards a boat was lowered from the Danzig and the steamer stopped; then the white cutter put to sea and headed straight for the Mindoro.
"It is certainly kind of them to send us a boat," said Parrington. "I wonder what they want, anyhow." He gave orders to stop the boat and to clear the gangway, and then, watching the German cutter with interest, awaited its arrival. Ten minutes later the commander of the Danzig stepped on the bridge of the Mindoro, introduced himself to her commander, and asked for a pilot to take him through the mines in the roads.
Parrington regarded him with astonishment. "Mines, my dear sir, mines? There are no mines here."
The German stared at Parrington unbelievingly. "You have no mines?"
"No," said Parrington. "It is not our custom to blockade our harbors with mines except in time of war."
"In time of war?" said the German, who did not appear to comprehend Parrington's answer. "But you are at war."
"We, at war?" returned Parrington, utterly disconcerted. "And with whom, if I may be allowed to ask?"
"It seems to me that the matter is too serious to be a subject for jesting," answered the German sharply.
At this moment loud voices were heard from the after-deck of the Mindoro, the crew of which were swearing with great gusto. Parrington hurried to the railing and looked over angrily. A hot dispute was going on between the crew of the German cutter and the American sailors, but only the oft-repeated words "damned Japs" could be distinguished. He turned again to the German officer, and looked at him hesitatingly. The latter, apparently in a bad temper, looked out to sea, whistling softly to himself.
Parrington walked toward him and, seizing his hand, said: "It's clear that we don't understand each other. What's up?"
"I am here to inform you," answered the German sharply and decisively, "that the steamer Danzig ran the blockade last night, and that its captain politely requests you to give him a pilot through the mines, in order that we may reach the harbor of Manila."
"You have run the blockade?" shouted Parrington, in a state of the greatest excitement. "You have run the blockade, man? What the deuce do you mean?"
"I mean," answered the German coolly, "that the Government of the United States of America—a fact, by the way, of which you, as commander of one of her war vessels, ought to be aware—has been at war with Japan for the last week, and that a steamer which has succeeded in running the enemy's blockade and which carries contraband goods for Manila surely has the right to ask to be guided through the mines."
Parrington felt for the railing behind him and leaned against it for support. His face became ashen pale, and he seemed so utterly nonplussed at the German officer's statement that the latter, gradually beginning to comprehend the extraordinary situation, continued his explanation.
"Yes," he repeated, "for six days your country has been at war with Japan, and it was only natural we should suppose that you, as one of those most nearly concerned, would be aware of this fact."
Parrington, regaining his self-control, said: "Then the cable disturbances—" He stopped, then continued disjointedly: "But this is terrible; this is a surprise such as we— I beg your pardon," he went on in a firm voice to the German, "I am sure I need not assure you that your communication has taken me completely by surprise. Not a soul in Manila has any idea of all this. The cable disturbances of the last six days were explained to us by a Japanese steamer as being the result of a volcanic outbreak, and since then, through the interruption of all connections, we have been completely shut off from the outside world. If Japan, in defiance of all international law, has declared war, we here in Manila have noticed nothing of it, except, perhaps, for the entire absence, during the last few days, of the regular steamers and, indeed, of all trading ships, a circumstance that appeared to some of us rather suspicious. But excuse me, we must act at once. Please remain on board."
The Mindoro's whistle emitted three shrill screeches, while the gunboat steamed at full speed toward Corregidor.
Parrington went into his cabin, opened his desk, and searched through it with nervous haste. "At last!" He seized the war-signal code and ran upstairs to the bridge, shouting to the signalman: "Signal to Corregidor: 'War-signal code, important communication.'" Then he himself, hastily turning over the leaves of the book, called out the signals and had them hoisted. Then he shouted to the man at the helm: "Tell them not to spare the engines."
Parrington stood in feverish expectation on the bridge, his hands clinched round the hot iron bars of the breastwork and his eyes measuring the rapidly diminishing distance between the Mindoro and the landing place of Corregidor. As the Mindoro turned into the northern passage between Corregidor and the mainland, the chain of mountains, looking like banks of clouds, which surrounded Manila, became visible in the far distance across the blue, apparently boundless surface of the Bay, while the town itself, wrapped in the white mist that veiled the horizon, remained invisible. At this moment Parrington observed a dark cloud of smoke in the direction of the harbor of Manila suddenly detaching itself from below and sailing upward like a fumarole above the summit of a volcano, where it dispersed in bizarre shapes resembling ragged balls of cotton. Almost immediately a dull report like a distant thunderclap boomed across the water.
"Can that be another of their devilish tricks?" asked Parrington of the German, drawing his attention to the rising cloud, the edges of which glistened white as snow in the bright sunshine.
"Possibly," was the laconic answer.
The wharf of Corregidor was in a state of confused hubbub. The artillerymen stood shoulder to shoulder, awaiting the arrival of the Mindoro. Suddenly an officer forced his way through the crowd, and, standing on the very edge of the wharf, called out to the rapidly approaching Mindoro: "Parrington, what's all this about?"
"It's true, every word of it," roared the latter through the megaphone. "The Japanese are attacking us, and the German steamer over there is the first to bring us news of it. War broke out six days ago."
The Mindoro stopped and threw a line, which was caught by many willing hands and made fast to the landing place.
"Here's my witness," shouted Parrington across to Colonel Prettyman, "the commander of the German steamer Danzig."
"I'll join you on board," answered Prettyman. "I've just despatched the news to Manila by wireless. Of course they won't believe it there."
"Then you've done a very stupid thing," cried Parrington, horrified. "Look there," he added, pointing to the cloud above the harbor of Manila; "that has most certainly cost our friend Harryman, of the Monadnock, his life. His presentiments did not deceive him after all!"
"Cost Harryman, on board the Monadnock, his life?" asked Prettyman in astonishment.
"I'm afraid so," answered Parrington. "The Japanese steamer which brought us the news of the famous seaquake has been anchored beside him for four days. When you sent your wireless message to Manila, the Japanese must have intercepted it, for they have a wireless apparatus on board—I noticed it only this morning."
The Mindoro now lay fast beside the wharf, and Colonel Prettyman hurried across the gangway to the gunboat and went straight to Parrington's cabin, where the two shut themselves up with the German officer.
A few minutes later an excited orderly rushed on board and demanded to see the colonel at once; he was let into the cabin, and it was found that he had brought a confirmation of Parrington's suspicions, for a wireless message from Manila informed them that the Monadnock had been destroyed in the roads of Manila through some inexplicable explosion.
Parrington sprang from his chair and cried to the colonel: "Won't you at least pay those cursed Japs back by sending the message, 'We suspect that the Japanese steamer anchored beside the Monadnock has blown her up by means of a torpedo?' Otherwise it is just possible that they will be naive enough in Manila to let the scoundrel get out of the harbor. No, no," he shouted, interrupting himself, "we can't wait for that; we must get to work ourselves at once. Colonel, you go ashore, and I'll steam toward Manila and cut off the rogue's escape. And you"—turning to the German—"you can return to your ship and enter the bay; there are no"—here his voice broke—"no mines here."
Then he rushed up on the bridge again. The hawsers were cast off in feverish haste, and the Mindoro once more steamed out into the bay at the fastest speed of which the old craft was capable. Parrington had regained his self-command in face of the new task that the events just described, which followed so rapidly upon one another's heels, laid out for him. An expression of fierce joy came over his features when, looking through his glass an hour later, he discovered the Kanga Maru holding a straight course for Corregidor.
As calmly as if it were only a question of everyday maneuvers, Parrington gave his orders. The artillerymen stood on either side of the small guns, and everything was made ready for action.
The distance between the two ships slowly diminished.
"Yes, it is the Japanese steamer," said Parrington to himself. "And now to avenge Harryman! There'll be no sentimentality; we'll shoot them down like pirates! No signal, no warning—nothing, nothing!" he murmured.
"Stand by with the forward gun," he called down from the bridge to the men standing at the little 12 pounder on the foredeck of the Mindoro. The Mindoro turned a little to starboard, so as to get at the broadside of the Japanese, and thus be able to fire on him with both the forward and after guns.
"Five hundred yards! Aim at the engine room! Number one gun, fire!" The shot boomed across the sunny, blue expanse of water, driving a white puff of smoke before it. The shell disappeared in the waves about one hundred yards ahead of the Japanese steamer. The next shot struck the ship, leaving in her side a black hole with jagged edges just above the waterline.
"Splendid!" cried Parrington. "Keep that up and we'll have the villain in ten shots."
Quickly the 12 pounder was reloaded; the gunners stood quietly beside their gun, and shot after shot was fired at the Japanese ship, of which five or six hit her right at the waterline. The stern gun of the Mindoro devoted itself in the meantime to destroying things on the enemy's deck. Gaping holes appeared everywhere in the ship's side, and the funnels received several enormous rents, out of which brown smoke poured forth. In a quarter of an hour the deck resembled the primeval chaos, being covered with bent and broken iron rods, iron plates riddled with shot, and woodwork torn to splinters. Suddenly clouds of white steam burst out from all the holes in the ship's sides, from the skylights, and from the remnants of the funnels; the deck in the middle of the steamer rose slowly, and the exploding boilers tossed broken bits of engines and deck apparatus high up into the air. The Kanga Maru listed to port and disappeared in the waves, over which a few straggling American shots swept.
"Cease firing!" commanded Parrington. Then the Mindoro came about and again steered straight for Manila. The act of retribution had been accomplished; the treacherous murder of the crew of the Monadnock had been avenged.
When the Mindoro arrived at the harbor of Manila, the town was in a tremendous state of excitement. The drums were beating the alarm in the streets. The spot where only that morning the Monadnock had lain in idle calm was empty.
* * * * *
The explosion of the Monadnock had at first been regarded as an accident. In spite of its being the dinner hour, a number of boats appeared in the roads, all making toward the scene of the accident, where a broad, thick veil of smoke crept slowly over the surface of the water. As no one knew what new horrors might be hidden in this cloud, none of the boats dared go nearer. Only two white naval cutters belonging to the gunboats lying in the harbor glided into the mist, driven forward by strong arms; and they actually succeeded in saving a few of the crew.
One of the rescued men told the following story: About two minutes after the Monadnock had received a wireless message, which, however, was never deciphered, a dull concussion was felt throughout the ship, followed almost immediately by another one. On the starboard side of the Monadnock two white, bubbling, hissing columns of water had shot up, which completely flooded the low deck; then a third explosion, possibly caused by a mine striking the ammunition room and setting it off, practically tore the ship asunder. There could be no doubt that these torpedoes came from the Japanese steamer anchored beside the Monadnock, for the Kanga Maru had suddenly slipped her anchor and hurried off as fast as she could. It was now remembered that the Japanese ship had had steam up constantly for the last few days, ostensibly because they were daily expecting their cargo in lighters, from which they intended to load without delay. It was therefore pretty certain that the Kanga Maru had entered the harbor merely for the purpose of destroying the Monadnock, the only monitor in Manila. Torpedo tubes had probably been built in the Japanese merchant steamer under water, and this made it possible to blow up the Monadnock the moment there was the least suspicion that the Americans in Manila were aware of the fact that war had broken out. Thus the wireless message from Corregidor had indeed sealed the fate of the Monadnock. The Kanga Maru had launched her torpedoes, and then tried to escape. The meeting with the Mindoro the Japanese had not reckoned with, for they had counted on getting away during the confusion which the destruction of the Monadnock would naturally cause in Manila.
As a result of these occurrences the few ships in the roads of Manila soon stopped loading and discharging; most of the steamers weighed anchor, and, as soon as they could get up steam, went farther out into the roads, for a rumor had spread that the Kanga Maru had laid mines. The report turned out to be entirely unfounded, but it succeeded in causing a regular panic on some of the ships. From the town came the noise of the beating of drums and the shrill call to arms to alarm the garrison; one could see the quays being cleared by detachments of soldiers, and sentries were posted before all the public buildings.
American troops hurried on the double-quick through the streets of the European quarter, and the sight of the soldiers furnished the first element of reassurance to the white population, whose excitement had been tremendous ever since the alarm of the garrison. The old Spanish batteries, or rather what was still left of them, were occupied by artillerymen, while one battalion went on sentry duty on the ramparts of the section of the town called Intra muros, and five other battalions left the town at once in order to help garrison the redoubts and forts in the line of defense on the land side.
The town of Manila and the arsenal at Cavite, where measures for defense were also taken, thus gave no cause for apprehension; but, on the other hand, it was noticeable that the natives showed signs of insubordination toward the American military authorities, and that they did not attempt to conceal the fact that they had been better informed as to the political situation than the Americans. These were the first indications as to how the land lay, and gradually it began to be remembered that similar observations had been made within the last few days: for example, a number of revolutionary flags had had to be removed in the town.
The Americans were in a very precarious position, and at the council of war held by the governor in the afternoon it was decided that should the Filipinos show the slightest signs of insurrection, the whole military strength would be concentrated to defend Manila, Cavite, and the single railway running north, while all the other garrisons were to be withdrawn and the rest of the archipelago left to its own devices. In this way the Americans might at least hope, with some chance of success, to remain masters of Manila and vicinity. The island was, of course, proclaimed to be in a state of siege, and a strong military patrol was put in charge of the night watch.
A serious encounter took place in the afternoon before the Government building. As soon as it became known that proclamation of martial law had been made the population streamed in great crowds toward the Government buildings; and when the American flag was suddenly hauled down—it has never been ascertained by whom—and the Catipunan flag, formerly the standard of the rebels—the tri-color with the sun in a triangular field—appeared in its place, a moment of wild enthusiasm ensued, so wild that it required an American company with fixed bayonets to clear the square of the fanatics. The sudden appearance of this huge Catipunan flag seemed mysterious enough, but the next few days were to demonstrate clearly how carefully the rebellion among the natives had been prepared.
When the officers of the garrison assembled at the customary place on the evening of the same day, they were depressed and uneasy, as men who find themselves confronted by an invisible enemy. There was no longer any difference of opinion as to the danger that threatened from the Mongolians, and those officers who had been exonerated from the charge of being too suspicious by the rapid developments of the last few hours were considerate enough not to make their less far-sighted comrades feel that they had undervalued their adversaries. No one had expected a catastrophe to occur quite so suddenly, and the uncertainty as to what was going on elsewhere had a paralyzing effect on all decisions. What one could do in the way of defense had been or was being done, but there were absolutely no indications as to the side from which the enemy might be expected.
The chief cause for anxiety at the moment was furnished by the question whether the squadron which had started for Mindanao was already aware of the outbreak of war. In any case, it was necessary to warn both it and the transports expected from San Francisco before they arrived at Mindanao. The only ships available for this purpose were the few little gunboats taken from the Spaniards in 1898; these had been made fit for service in all haste to be used in the harbor when the cruiser squadron left. Although they left much to be desired in the way of speed—a handicap of six days could, however, hardly have been made up even by the swiftest turbine—there was nevertheless a fair chance that these insignificant-looking little vessels, which could hardly be distinguished from the merchant type, might be able to slip past the Japanese blockading ships, which were probably cruising outside of Manila. This, however, would only be possible in case the Japanese had thus far ignored the squadron near Mindanao as they had Manila, for the purpose of concentrating their strength somewhere else. But where? At any rate, it was worth while taking even such a faint chance of being able to warn the squadron, for the destruction of the Monadnock could have had no other reason than to prevent communications between Manila and the squadron. The enemy had evidently not given a thought to the rickety little gunboats. Or could it be that all was already at an end out at Mindanao? At all events, the attempt had to be made.
Two gunboats coaled and slipped out of the harbor the same evening, heading in a southeasterly direction among the little islands straight through the archipelago in order to reach the eastern coast of Mindanao and there intercept the transport steamers, and eventually accompany them to Manila. Neither of these vessels was ever heard from again; it is supposed that they went down after bravely defending themselves against a Japanese cruiser. Their mission had meanwhile been rendered useless, for the five mail-steamers had encountered the Japanese torpedo-boats east of Mindanao three days before, and upon their indignant refusal to haul down their flags and surrender, had been sunk by several torpedoes. Only a few members of the crew had been fished up by the Japanese.
As a reward for his decisive action in destroying the Kanga Maru, the commander of the Mindoro was ordered to try, with the assistance of three other gunboats, to locate the commander of the cruiser squadron somewhere in the neighborhood of Mindanao, probably to the southwest of that island, in order to notify him of the outbreak of the war and to hand him the order to return to Manila.
The gunboats started on their voyage at dawn. In order to conceal the real reason for the expedition from the natives, it was openly declared that they were only going to do sentry duty at the entrance to the Bay of Manila. Each of the four vessels had been provided with a wireless apparatus, which, however, was not to be installed until the ships were under way, so that the four commanders might always be in touch with one another, and with the cruiser squadron as well, even should the latter be some distance away.
The next morning the gunboats found themselves in the Strait of Mindoro. They must have passed the enemy's line of blockade unnoticed, under the cover of darkness. At all events, they had seen nothing of the Japanese, and concluded that the blockade before Manila must be pretty slack. On leaving the Strait of Mindoro, the gunboats, proceeding abreast at small distances from one another, sighted a steamer—apparently an Englishman—crossing their course. They tried to signal to it, but no sooner did the English vessel observe this, than she began to increase her speed. It became clear at once that she was faster than the gunboats, and unless, therefore, the latter wished to engage in a useless chase, the hope of receiving news from the English captain had to be abandoned. So the gunboats continued on their course—the only ships to be seen on the wide expanse of inland sea.
In the afternoon a white steamer, going in the opposite direction, was sighted. Opinions clashed as to whether it was a warship or a merchant-vessel. In order to make certain the commander of the Mindoro ordered a turn to starboard, whereupon it was discovered that the strange ship was an ocean-steamer of about three thousand tons, whose nationality could not be distinguished at that distance. Still it might be an auxiliary cruiser from the Japanese merchant service. The commander of the Mindoro therefore ordered his vessels to clear for action.
The actions of the strange steamer were followed with eager attention, and it was seen that she continued her direct northward course. When she was about five hundred yards to port of the Mindoro, the latter requested the stranger to show her flag, whereupon the English flag appeared at the stern. Eager for battle, the Americans had hoped she would turn out to be a Japanese ship, for which, being four against one, they would have been more than a match; the English colors therefore produced universal disappointment. Suddenly one of the officers of the Mindoro drew Parrington's attention to the fact that the whole build of the strange steamer characterized her as one of the ships of the "Nippon Yusen Kaisha" with which he had become acquainted during his service at Shanghai; he begged Parrington not to be deceived by the English flag. The latter at once ordered a blank shot to be fired for the purpose of stopping the strange vessel, but when the latter calmly continued on her course, a ball was sent after her from the bow of the Mindoro, the shell splashing into the water just ahead of the steamer. The stranger now appeared to stop, but it was only to make a sharp turn to starboard, whereupon he tried to escape at full speed. At the same time the English flag disappeared from the stern, and was replaced by the red sun banner of Nippon.
Parrington at once opened fire on the hostile ship, and in a few minutes the latter had to pay heavily for her carelessness. Her commander had evidently reckoned upon the fact that the Americans were not yet aware of the outbreak of war, and had hoped to pass the gunboats under cover of a neutral flag. It also seemed unlikely that four little gunboats should have run the blockade before Manila; it was far more natural to suppose that these ships, still ignorant of the true state of affairs, were bound on some expedition in connection with the rising of the natives. The firing had scarcely lasted ten minutes before the Japanese auxiliary cruiser, which had answered with a few shots from two light guns cleverly concealed behind the deck-house near the stern of the boat, sank stern first. It was at any rate a slight victory which greatly raised the spirits of the crews of the gunboats.
Within the next few hours the Americans caught up with a few Malayan sailing ships, to which they paid no attention; later on a little black freight steamer, apparently on the way from Borneo to Manila, came in sight. The little vessel worked its way heavily through the water, tossed about by the ever increasing swell. About three o'clock the strange ship was near enough for its flag—that of Holland—to be recognized. Signals were made asking her to bring to, whereupon an officer from the Mindoro was pulled over to her in a gig. Half an hour later he left the Rotterdam, and the latter turned and steamed away in the direction from which she had come. The American officer had informed the captain of the Rotterdam of the blockade of Manila, and the latter had at once abandoned the idea of touching at that port.
The news which he had to impart gave cause for considerable anxiety. The Rotterdam came from the harbor of Labuan, where pretty definite news had been received concerning a battle between some Japanese ships and the American cruiser squadron stationed at Mindanao. It was reported that the battle had taken place about five days ago, immediately after war had been declared, that the American ships had fallen a prey to the superior forces of the enemy, and that the entire American squadron had been destroyed.
At all events, it was quite clear that the squadron no longer needed to be informed of the outbreak of hostilities, so Parrington decided to carry out his orders and return to Manila with his four ships. As the flotilla toward evening, just before sunset, was again passing through the Strait of Mindoro, the last gunboat reported that a big white ship, apparently a war vessel, had been sighted coming from the southeast, and that it was heading for the flotilla at full speed. It was soon possible to distinguish a white steamer, standing high out of the water, whose fighting tops left no room for doubt as to its warlike character. It was soon ascertained that the steamer was making about fifteen knots, and that escape was therefore impossible.
Parrington ordered his gunboats to form in a line and to get up full steam, as it was just possible that they might be able to elude the enemy under cover of darkness, although there was still a whole hour to that time.
Slowly the hull of the hostile ship rose above the horizon, and when she was still at a distance of about four thousand yards there was a flash at her bows, and the thunder of a shot boomed across the waters, echoed faintly from the mountains of Mindoro.
"They're too far away," said Parrington, as the enemy's shell splashed into the waves far ahead of the line of gunboats. A second shot followed a few minutes later, and whizzed between the Mindoro and her neighbor, throwing up white sprays of water whose drops, in the rays of the setting sun, fell back into the sea like golden mist. And now came shot after shot, while the Americans were unable to answer with their small guns at that great distance.
Suddenly a shell swept the whole length of the Mindoro's deck, on the port side, tearing up the planks of the foredeck as it burst. Things were getting serious! Slowly the sun sank in the west, turning the sky into one huge red flame, streaked with yellow lights and deep green patches. The clouds, which looked like spots of black velvet floating above the semicircle of the sun, had jagged edges of gleaming white and unearthly ruby red. Fiery red, yellow, and green reflections played tremblingly over the water, while in the east the deep blue shadows of night slowly overspread the sky.
The whole formed a picture of rare coloring: the four little American ships, pushing forward with all the strength of their puffing engines and throwing up a white line of foam before them with their sharp bows; on the bridges the weather-beaten forms of their commanders, and beside the dull-brown gun muzzles the gun crews, waiting impatiently for the moment when the decreasing distance would at last allow them to use their weapons; far away in the blue shadows of the departing day, like a spirit of the sea, the white steamer, from whose sides poured unceasingly the yellow flashes from the mouths of the cannon. Several shots had caused a good deal of damage among the rigging of the gunboats. The Callao had only half a funnel left, from which gray-brown smoke and red sparks poured forth.
Suddenly there was a loud explosion, and the Callao listed to port. A six-inch shell had hit her squarely in the stern, passing through the middle of the ship, and exploded in the upper part of the engine-room. The little gunboat was eliminated from the contest before it could fire a single shot, and now it lay broadside to the enemy, and utterly at the latter's mercy. In a few minutes the Callao sank, her flags waving. Almost directly afterwards another boat shared her fate. The other two gunboats continued on their course, the quickly descending darkness making them a more difficult target for the enemy. Suddenly a lantern signal informed the commander of the Mindoro that the third ship had become disabled through some damage to the engines. Parrington at once ordered the gunboat to be run ashore on the island of Mindoro and blown up during the night. Then he was compelled to leave the last of his comrades to its fate. His wireless apparatus had felt disturbances, evidently caused by the enemy's warning to the ships blockading Manila, so that his chances of entering the harbor unmolested appeared exceedingly slim.
The Japanese cruiser ceased firing as it grew darker, but curiously enough had made no use whatever of her searchlights. Only the flying sparks from her funnel enabled the Mindoro to follow the course of the hostile vessel, which soon passed the gunboat. Either the enemy thought that all four American ships had been destroyed or else they didn't think it worth while to worry about a disabled little gunboat. At all events, this carelessness or mistake on the part of the enemy proved the salvation of the Mindoro. During the night she struck a northwesterly course, so as to try to gain an entrance to the Bay of Manila from the north at daybreak, depending on the batteries of Corregidor to assist her in the attempt. Once during the night the Mindoro almost collided with one of the enemy's blockading ships, which was traveling with shaded lights, but she passed by unnoticed and gained an entrance at the north of the bay at dawn, while the batteries on the high, rocky terraces of Corregidor, with their long-range guns, kept the enemy at a distance. It was now ascertained that the Japanese blockading fleet consisted only of ships belonging to the merchant service, armed with a few guns, and of the old, unprotected cruiser Takatshio, which had had the encounter with the gunboats. The bold expedition of the latter had cleared up the situation in so far that it was now pretty certain that the entire American cruiser squadron had been destroyed or disabled, and that Manila was therefore entirely cut off from the sea.
The batteries at Corregidor now expected an attack from the enemy's ships, but none came. The Japanese contented themselves with an extraordinarily slack blockade—so much so that at times one could scarcely distinguish the outlines of the ships on the horizon. As all commerce had stopped and only a few gunboats comprised the entire naval strength of Manila, Japan could well afford to regard this mockery of a blockade as perfectly sufficient. Day by day the Americans stood at their guns, day by day they expected the appearance of a hostile ship; but the horizon remained undisturbed and an uncanny silence lay over the town and harbor. Of what use were the best of guns, and what was the good of possessing heroic courage and a burning desire for battle, if the enemy did not put in an appearance? And he never did.
When Parrington appeared at the Club on the evening after his scouting expedition he was hailed as a hero, and the officers stayed together a long time discussing the naval engagement. In the early hours of the morning he accompanied his friend, Colonel Hawkins of the Twelfth Infantry Regiment, through the quiet streets of the northern suburbs of Manila to the latter's barracks. As they reached the gate they saw, standing before it in the pale light of dawn, a mule cart, on which lay an enormous barrel. The colonel called the sentry, and learned that the cart had been standing before the gate since the preceding evening. The colonel went into the guard-room while Parrington remained in the street. He was suddenly struck by a label affixed to the cask, which contained the words, "From Colonel Pemberton to his friend Colonel Hawkins." Parrington followed the colonel into the guard-room and drew his attention to the scrap of paper. Hawkins ordered some soldiers to take the barrel down from the car and break open one end of it. The colonel had strong nerves, and was apt to boast of them to the novices in the colonial service, but what he saw now was too much even for such an old veteran. He stepped back and seized the wall for support, while his eyes grew moist.
In the cask lay the corpse of his friend Colonel Pemberton, formerly commander of the military station of San Jose, with his skull smashed in. The Filipinos had surprised the station of San Jose and slaughtered the whole garrison after a short battle. Pemberton's corpse—his love for whisky was well known—they had put into a cask and driven to the infantry barracks at Manila. Parrington, deeply touched, pressed his comrade's hand. The insurrection of the Filipinos! In Manila the bells of the Dominican church of Intra muros rang out their monotonous call to early mass.
ON THE HIGH SEAS
The Tacoma was expected to arrive at Yokohama early the next morning; the gong had already sounded, calling the passengers to the farewell meal in the dining-saloon, which looked quite festive with its colored flags and lanterns.
There was a deafening noise of voices in the handsome room, which was beginning to be overpoweringly hot in spite of the ever-revolving electric fans. As the sea was quite smooth, there was scarcely an empty place at the tables. A spirit of parting and farewell pervaded the conversation; the passengers were assembled for the last time, for on the morrow the merry party, which chance had brought together for two weeks, would be scattered to the four winds. Naturally the conversation turned upon the country whose celebrated wonders they were to behold on the following day. The old globe-trotters and several merchants who had settled in East Asia were besieged with questions, occasionally very naive ones, about Japan and the best way for foreigners to get along there. With calm superiority they paraded their knowledge, and eager ladies made note on the backs of their menus of all the hotels, temples, and mountains recommended to them. Some groups were making arrangements for joint excursions in the Island Kingdom of Tenno; others discussed questions of finance and commerce, each one trying to impress his companions by a display of superior knowledge.
Here and there politics formed the subject of conversation; one lady in particular, the wife of a Baltimore merchant, sitting opposite the secretary of a small European legation who was on his way to Pekin to take up his duties there, plied him with questions and did her level best to get at the secrets of international politics. The secretary, who had no wonderful secrets to disclose, had recourse to the ordinary political topics of the day, and entertained his fair listener with a discussion of the problems that would arise in case of hostilities between America and Japan. "Of course," he declared, vaunting his diplomatic knowledge, "in case of war the Japanese would first surprise Manila and try to effect a landing, and in this they would very likely be successful. It is true that Manila with her strong defenses is pretty well protected against a sudden raid, and the Japanese gunners would have no easy task in an encounter with the American coast batteries. Even though Manila may not turn out to be a second Port Arthur, the Americans should experience no difficulty in repelling all Japanese attacks for at least six months; meanwhile America could send reinforcements to Manila under the protection of her fleet, and then there would probably be a decisive battle somewhere in the Malayan archipelago between the Japanese and American fleets, the results of which——"
"I thought," interrupted a wealthy young lady from Chicago, "I thought we had some ships in the Philippines." The diplomat waved his hand deprecatingly, and smiled knowingly at this interruption. He was master of the situation and well qualified to cast the horoscope of the future—and so he was left in possession of the field.
The lady opposite him was, however, not yet satisfied; with the new wisdom just obtained she now besieged the German major sitting beside her, who was on his way to Kiao-chau via San Francisco. He had not been paying much attention to the conversation, but the subject broached to him for discussion was such a familiar one, that he was at once posted when his neighbor asked him his opinion as to the outcome of such a war.
Nevertheless it was an awkward question, and the German, out of consideration for his environment on board the American steamer, did not allow himself to be drawn out of his usual reserve. He simply inquired what basis they had for the supposition that, in case of war, Japan would occupy herself exclusively with the Philippines.
The secretary of legation had gradually descended from the clouds of diplomatic self-conceit to the level of the ordinary mortal and, overhearing the major's question through the confusion of voices and clatter of plates, shook his head disapprovingly and asked the major: "Don't you think it's likely that Japan will try first of all to get possession of the prize she has been longing for ever since the Peace of Paris?"
"I know as little as anyone else not in diplomatic circles what the plans and hopes of the Japanese Government are, but I do think there is not the slightest prospect of an outbreak of hostilities in the near future; there is, accordingly, not much sense in trying to imagine what might happen in case of a war," answered the German coolly.
"There are only two possibilities," said the English merchant from Shanghai, one of the chief stockholders of the line, who sat next to the captain. "According to my experience"—and here he paused in order to draw the attention of his listeners to this experience—"according to my experience," he repeated, "there are only two possibilities. Japan is overpeopled and is compelled to send her surplus population out of the country. The Manchuria experiment turned cut to be a failure, for the teeming Chinese population leaves no room now for more Japanese emigrants and small tradesmen than there were before the war with Russia; besides, there was no capital at hand for large enterprises. Japan requires a strong foothold for her emigrants where"—and here he threw an encouraging glance at the captain—"she can keep her people together economically and politically, as in Hawaii. The emigration to the States has for years been severely restricted by law."
"And at the same time they are pouring into our country in droves by way of the Mexican frontier," mumbled the American colonel, who was on his way back to his post, from his seat beside the captain.
"That leaves only the islands of the Pacific, the Philippines, and perhaps Australia," continued the Shanghai merchant undisturbed. "In any such endeavors Japan would of course have to reckon with the States and with England. The other possibility, that of providing employment and support for the ever-increasing population within the borders of their own country, would be to organize large Japanese manufacturing interests. Many efforts have already been made in this direction, but, owing to the enormous sums swallowed up by the army and navy, the requisite capital seems to be lacking."
"In my opinion," interposed the captain at this juncture, "there is a third possibility—namely, to render additional land available for the cultivation of crops. As you are all no doubt aware, not more than one third of Japan is under cultivation; the second third, consisting of stone deserts among the mountains, must of necessity be excluded, but the remaining third, properly cultivated, would provide a livelihood for millions of Japanese peasants. But right here we encounter a peculiar Japanese trait; they are dead set on the growth of rice, and where, in the higher districts, no rice will grow, they refuse to engage in agriculture altogether and prefer to leave the land idle. If they would grow wheat, corn, and grass in such sections, Japan would not only become independent of other countries with respect to her importation of provisions, but, as I said before, it would also provide for the settlement of millions of Japanese peasants; and, furthermore, we should then get some decent bread to eat in Japan."
This conception of the Japanese problem seemed to open new vistas to the secretary of legation. He listened attentively to the captain's words and threw inquiring glances toward the Shanghai merchant. The latter, however, was completely absorbed in the dissection of a fish, whose numerous bones continually presented fresh anatomical riddles. In his stead the thread of the conversation was taken up by Dr. Morris, of Brighton, an unusually cadaverous-looking individual, who sometimes maintained absolute silence for days at a time, and who was supposed to possess Japanese bronzes of untold value and to be on his way to Hokkaido to complete his collection.
"You must not believe everything you see in the papers," he said. "If the Japanese were only better farmers, nobody in Japan need go hungry; there is no question of her being overpeopled, and this mania for emigration is nothing but a disease, a fashion, of which the government at Tokio, to be sure, makes very good use for political purposes. Whoever speaks in all seriousness of Japan's being overpeopled is merely quoting newspaper editorials, and is not acquainted with the conditions of the country."
Dr. Morris had scarcely said as much as this during the whole of his two weeks' stay on board the Tacoma. It is true that he had got to know Japan very thoroughly during his many years' sojourn in the interior in search of old bronzes, and he knew what he was talking about. His views, however, were not in accord with those current at the moment, and consequently, although his words were listened to attentively, they did not produce much effect.
The conversation continued along the same lines, and the possibility of a war again came up for discussion. The German officer was the only one to whom they could put military questions, and it was no light task for him to find satisfactory answers. He could only repeat again and again that such a war would offer such endless possibilities of attack and defense, that it was absolutely impossible to forecast the probable course of events. The Shanghai merchant conversed with the captain in a low tone of voice about the system of Japanese spies in America, and related a few anecdotes of his experiences in China in this connection.
"But one can distinguish between a Jap and a Chinaman at a glance," interrupted the son of a New York multi-millionaire sitting opposite him. "I could never understand why the Japanese spies are so overrated."
"If you can tell one from the other, you are more observant than the ordinary mortal," remarked the Englishman dryly. "I can't for one, and if you'll look me up in Shanghai, I'll give myself the pleasure of putting you to the test. I'll invite a party of Chinamen and ask you to pick out from among them a Japanese naval officer who has been in Shanghai for a year and a half on a secret, I had better say, a perfectly open mission."
"You'll lose your bet," said the captain to the New Yorker, "for I've lost a similar wager under the same circumstances."
"But the Japanese don't wear pigtails," said the New Yorker, somewhat abashed.
"Those Japanese do wear pigtails," said the Englishman with a grin.
"What's up?" said the captain, looking involuntarily towards the entrance to the dining-saloon. "What's up? We're only going at half speed."
The dull throbbing of the engine had indeed stopped, and any one who noticed the vibration of the ship could tell that the propeller was revolving only slightly.
The captain got up quietly to go on deck, but as he was making his way out between the long rows of chairs, he met one of the crew, who whispered to him that the first mate begged him to come on the bridge.
"We're not moving," said some one near the center of the table. "We can't have arrived this soon."
"Perhaps we have met a disabled ship," said a young French girl; "that would be awfully interesting."
The captain remained away, while the dinner continued to be served. Suddenly all conversation was stopped by the dull howl of the steam whistle, and when two more calls followed the first, an old globe trotter thought he had discovered the reason for the ship's slowing down, and declared with certainty: "This is the third time on my way to Japan that we have run into a fog just before entering the harbor; the last time it made us a day and a half late. I tell you it was no joke to sit in that gray mist with nothing to do but wait for the fog to lift——" and then he narrated a few anecdotes about that particular voyage, which at once introduced the subject of fog at his table, a subject that was greedily pounced upon by all. London fog and other fogs were discussed, and no one noticed that the ship had come to a full stop and was gradually beginning to pitch heavily, a motion that soon had the effect of causing several of the ladies to abandon the conversation and play nervously with their coffee-spoons, as the nightmare of seasickness forced itself every moment more disagreeably on their memories.
A few of the men got up and went on deck. A merchant from San Francisco came down and told his wife that a strange ship not far from the Tacoma had its searchlights turned on her. No reason for this extraordinary proceeding could be given, as the officers seemed to know as little about it as the passengers.
The fourth officer, whose place was at the head of one of the long tables, now appeared in the dining-saloon, and was at once besieged with questions from all sides. In a loud voice he announced that the captain wished him to say that there was no cause for alarm. A strange ship had its searchlights turned on the Tacoma, probably a man-of-war that had some communication to make. The captain begged the passengers not to allow themselves to be disturbed in their dinner. The next course was served immediately afterwards, the reason for the interruption was soon forgotten, and conversation continued as before.
"But we're not moving yet," said a young woman about ten minutes later to her husband, with whom she was taking a honeymoon trip round the world, "we're not moving yet."
The fourth officer gave an evasive answer in order to reassure his neighbor, but, as a matter of fact, the ship had not yet got under way again. To complicate the situation, another member of the crew came in at this moment and whispered something to the officer, who at once hurried on deck.
It was a positive relief to him to escape from the smell of food and the loud voices into the fresh air. It seemed like another world on deck. The stars twinkled in the silent sky, and the soft night air refreshed the nerves that had been exhausted by the heat of the day. The fourth officer mounted quickly to the bridge and reported to the captain.
The latter gave him the following brief order: "Mr. Warren, I shall ask you to see that the passengers are not unnecessarily alarmed; let the band play a few pieces, and see that the dinner proceeds quietly. Make a short speech in my stead, tell the passengers what a pleasant time we have all had on this voyage, and say a few words of farewell to them for me. We've been signaled by a Japanese warship," he continued, "and asked to stop and wait for a Japanese boat. I haven't the slightest idea what the fellows want, but we must obey orders; the matter will no doubt be settled in a few minutes as soon as the boat has arrived."
The officer disappeared, and the captain, standing by the port yardarm on the bridge, waited anxiously for the cutter which was approaching at full speed. The gangway had already been lowered. The cutter, after describing a sharp curve, came alongside, and two marines armed with rifles immediately jumped on the gangway.
"Halloo," said the captain, "a double guard! I wonder what that means?"
The Japanese officer got out of the cutter and came up the gangway, followed by four more soldiers, two of whom were posted at the upper entrance to the gangway. The other two followed the officer to the bridge. A seventh man got out of the boat and carried a square box on the bridge, while finally two soldiers brought a long heavy object up the gangway and set it down against the wall of the cabin in the stern.
The Japanese officer ordered the two marines to take up their stand at the foot of the steps leading to the bridge, and with a wave of his hand ordered the third to station himself with his square box at the port railing. At the same time he gave him an order in Japanese, and the rattling noise which followed made it clear that the apparatus was a lantern which was signaling across to the man-of-war.
"This is carrying the joke a little too far. What does it all mean?" cried the captain of the Tacoma, starting to pull the man with the lantern back from the railing. But the Japanese officer laid his hand firmly on his right arm and said in a decisive tone: "Captain, in the name of the Japanese Government I declare the American steamer Tacoma a lawful prize and her whole crew prisoners of war."
The captain shook off the grasp of the Japanese, and stepping back a pace shouted: "You must be crazy; we have nothing to do with the Japanese naval maneuvers, and I shall have to ask you not to carry your maneuver game too far. If you must have naval maneuvers, please practice on your own merchant vessels and leave neutral ships alone."
The Japanese saluted and said: "I am very sorry, captain, to have to correct your impression that this is part of our maneuvers. Japan is at war with the United States of America, and every merchantman flying the American flag is from now on a lawful prize."
The captain, a strapping fellow, seized the little Japanese, and pushed him toward the railing, evidently with the intention of throwing the impertinent fellow overboard. But in the same instant he noticed two Japanese rifles pointed at him, whereupon he let his arms drop with an oath and stared at the two Japanese marines in utter astonishment. The lantern signal continued to rattle behind him, and suddenly the pale blue searchlight from the man-of-war was thrown on the bridge of the Tacoma, lighting up the strange scene as if by moonlight. At the same time the shot from a gun boomed across the quiet surface of the water. Things really seemed to be getting serious.
From below, through the open skylights of the dining-saloon came the cheers of the passengers for the captain at the close of the fourth officer's speech, and the band at once struck up the "Star Spangled Banner." Everybody seemed to be cheerful and happy in the dining-saloon, and one and all seemed to have forgotten that the Tacoma was not moving.
And while from below the inspiring strains of the "Star Spangled Banner" passed out into the night, twenty Japanese marines came alongside in a second cutter and, climbing up the gangway, occupied all the entrances leading from below to the deck—a double guard with loaded guns being stationed at each door.
"I must ask you," said the Japanese officer to the captain, "to continue to direct the ship's course under my supervision. You will take the Tacoma, according to your original plans, into the harbor of Yokohama; there the passengers will leave the ship, without any explanations being offered, and you and the crew will be prisoners of the Japanese Government. The prize-court will decide what is to be done with your cargo. The baggage of the passengers, the captain, and the crew will, of course, remain in their possession. There are now twenty of our marines on board the Tacoma, but in case you should imagine that they would be unable to command the situation in the event of any resistance being offered by you or your crew, I consider it advisable to inform you that for the last ten minutes there has been a powerful bomb in the stern of the Tacoma, guarded by two men, who have orders to turn on the current and blow up your ship at the first signs of serious resistance. It is entirely to the advantage of the passengers in your care to bow to the inevitable and avoid all insubordination—a la guerre comme a la guerre."
The Japanese saluted and continued: "You will remain in command on the bridge for the next four hours, when you will be relieved by the first mate. Meanwhile the latter can acquaint the passengers with the altered circumstances." And, waving his hand toward the first mate, who had listened in silent rage, he added: "Please, sir!"
The officer addressed looked inquiringly across to the captain, who hesitated a moment and then said in suppressed emotion: "Hardy, go down and tell the passengers that the Tacoma, through an unheard-of, treacherous surprise, has fallen into the hands of a Japanese cruiser, but that the passengers, on whose account we are obliged to submit to this treatment, need not be startled, for they and all their possessions will be landed safely at Yokohama to-morrow morning."
Hardy's soles seemed positively to stick to the steps as he went down, and he was almost overcome by the warm air at the entrance to the dining-saloon, where the noise of boisterous laughter and lively conversation greeted him.
"Halloo, when are we going on?" he was asked from all sides.
Mr. Hardy shook his head silently and went to the captain's place.
"We must drink your health," called several, holding their glasses towards him. "Where's the captain?"
Hardy was silent, but remained standing and the words seemed to choke him.
"Be quiet! Listen! Mr. Hardy is going to speak——"
"It's high time we heard something from the captain," called out a stout German brewer from Milwaukee over the heads of the others. "Three cheers for Mr. Hardy!" came from one corner of the room. "Three cheers for Mr. Hardy!" shouted the passengers on the other side, and all joined in the chorus: "For he is a jolly good fellow." "Do let Mr. Hardy speak," said the Secretary of Legation, turning to the passengers reprovingly.
"Silence!" came from the other side. The hum of voices ceased gradually and silence ensued.
"First give Mr. Hardy something to drink!" said some one, while another passenger laughed out loud.
Hardy wiped the perspiration from his brow with the captain's napkin, which the latter had left on his plate.
"Shocking!" said an English lady quite distinctly; "seamen haven't any manners."
Hardy had not yet found words, but finally began in a low, stammering voice: "The captain wishes me to tell you that the Tacoma has just been captured by a Japanese cruiser. The United States of America are said to be at war with Japan. There is a Japanese guard on board, which has occupied all the companionways. The captain requests the passengers to submit quietly to the inevitable. You will all be landed safely at Yokohama early to-morrow and—" Hardy tried to continue, but the words would not come and he sank back exhausted into his chair.
"Three cheers for the captain!" came the ringing shout from one of the end tables, to be repeated in different parts of the room. The German brewer shook with laughter and exclaimed: "That's a splendid joke of the captain's; he ought to have a medal for it."
"Stop your nonsense," said some one to the brewer.
"No, but really, that's a famous joke," persisted the latter. "I've never enjoyed myself so much on a trip before."
"Be quiet, man; it's a serious matter."
"Ha! ha! You've been taken in, too, have you?" was the answer, accompanied by a roar of laughter.
An American jumped up, crying: "I'm going to get my revolver; I guess we can handle those chaps," and several others joined in with "Yes, yes, we'll get our revolvers and chuck the yellow monkeys overboard!"
At this point the German major jumped up from his seat and called out to the excited company in a sharp tone of command: "Really, gentlemen, the affair is serious; it's not a joke, as some of you gentlemen seem to think; you may take my word for it that it is no laughing matter."
Hardy still sat silent in his chair. The Englishman from Shanghai overwhelmed him with questions and even the Secretary of Legation emerged from his diplomatic reserve.
The six men who had gone to get their revolvers now returned to the dining-saloon with their spirits considerably damped, and one of them called out: "It's not a joke at all; the Japanese are stationed up there with loaded rifles."
Some of the ladies screamed hysterically and asked complete strangers to take them to their cabins. All of the passengers had jumped up from their chairs, and a number were busily engaged looking after those ladies who had shown sufficient discretion to withdraw at once from the general excitement by the simple expedient of fainting. In the meantime Hardy had regained control of himself and of the situation, and standing behind his chair as though he were on the captain's bridge declared simply and decisively: "On the captain's behalf I must beg the passengers not to attempt any resistance. Your life and safety are guaranteed by the word of the captain and the bearing of our crew, who have also been forced to submit to the inevitable. I beg you all to remain here and to await the further orders of the captain. There is no danger so long as no resistance is offered; we are in the hands of the Japanese navy, and must accustom ourselves to the altered circumstances."
It was long after midnight before all grew quiet on board the Tacoma; the passengers were busy packing their trunks, and it was quite late before the cabin lights were extinguished on both sides of the ship, which continued her voyage quietly and majestically in the direction of Yokohama. The deck, generally a scene of cheerful life and gaiety until a late hour, was empty, and only the subdued steps of the Japanese marines echoed through the still night.
Twice more the searchlights were thrown on the Tacoma, but a clattering answer from the signal lantern at once conveyed the information that all was in order, whereupon the glaring ball of light disappeared silently, and there was nothing on the whole expanse of dark water to indicate that invisible eyes were on the lookout for every ship whose keel was ploughing the deep.
The Tacoma arrived at Yokohama the next morning, the passengers were sent ashore, and the steamer herself was added as an auxiliary cruiser to the Japanese fleet.
HOW IT BEGAN
Ding-ding-ding-ding—Ding-ding-ding-ding—went the bell of the railway telegraph—Ding-ding-ding-ding——
Tom Gardner looked up from his work and leaned his ax against the wall of the low tin-roofed shanty which represented both his home and the station Swallowtown on the Oregon Railway. "Nine o'clock already," he mumbled, and refilling his pipe from a greasy paper-bag, he lighted it and puffed out clouds of bluish smoke into the clear air of the hot May morning. Then he looked at the position of the sun and verified the fact that his nickel watch had stopped again. The shaky little house hung like a chance knot in an endless wire in the middle of the glittering double row of rails that stretched from east to west across the flowery prairie. It looked like a ridiculous freak in the midst of the wide desert, for nowhere, so far as the eye could reach, was it possible to discover a plausible excuse for the washed-out inscription "Swallowtown" on the old box-lid which was nailed up over the door. Only a broad band of golden-yellow flowers crossing the tracks not far from the shanty and disappearing in the distance in both directions showed where heavy cart-wheels and horses' hoofs had torn up the ground.
By following this curious yellow track, which testified to the existence of human intercourse even in the great lonely prairie, in a southerly direction, one could notice about a mile from the station a slight rising of the ground covered with low shrubs and a tangled mass of thistles and creepers: This was Swallowtown No. 1, the spot where once upon a time a dozen people or more, thrown together by chance, had founded a homestead, but whose traces had been utterly obliterated since. The little waves of the great national migration to this virgin soil had after a few years washed everything away and had carried the inhabitants of the huts with them on their backs several miles farther south, where by another mere chance they had located on the banks of the river. The only permanent sign of this ebb and flow was the tin-roofed shanty near the tracks of the Oregon Railway, and the proud name of Swallowtown, fast disappearing under the ravages of storm and rain, on the box-lid over Tom Gardner's door.
Tom Gardner regarded his morning's work complacently. With the aid of his ax he had transformed the tree-stump that had lain behind the station for years into a hitching-post, which he was going to set up for the farmers, so that they could tie their horses to it when they came to the station. Tom had had enough of fastening the iron ring into the outer wall of his shanty, for it had been torn out four times by the shying of the wild horses harnessed to the vehicles sent from Swallowtown to meet passengers. And the day before yesterday Bob Cratchit's horses had added insult to injury by running off with a board out of the back wall. Tom was sick and tired of it; the day before he had temporarily stopped up the hole with a tin advertisement, which notified the inhabitants of Swallowtown who wanted to take the train that Millner's pills were the best remedy for indigestion. Tom decided to set up his post at midday.
He stopped work for the present in order to be ready for station-duty when the express from Pendleton passed through in half an hour. From force of habit and half unconsciously, he glanced along the yellow road running south, wondering whether in spite of its being Sunday there might not be some traveler from Swallowtown coming to catch the local train which stopped at the station an hour later. He shaded his eyes with his right hand and after a careful search did discover a cart with two persons in it approaching slowly over the waving expanse of the flower-bedecked prairie. Tom muttered something to himself and traipsed through the station house, being joined as usual by his dog, who had been sleeping outside in the sun. Then he walked a little way along the tracks and finally turned back to his dwelling, the trampled-down flowers and grass before the entrance being the only signs that the foot of man ever disturbed its solitary peace. The dog now seemed suddenly to become aware of the rapidly approaching cart and barked in that direction. Tom sent him into the house and shut the door behind him, whereupon the dog grew frantic. The cart approached almost noiselessly over the flowery carpet, but soon the creaking and squeaking of the leather harness and the snorting of the horses became clearly audible.
"Halloo, Tom!" called out one of the men.
"Halloo, Winston!" was the answer; "where are you off to?"
"Going over to Pendleton."
"You're early; the express hasn't passed yet," answered Tom.
Winston jumped down from the cart, swung a sack over his shoulder, and stepped toward the shanty.
"Who's that with you?" asked Tom, pointing with his thumb over his right shoulder.
"Nelly's brother-in-law, Bill Parker," said the other shortly.
Nelly's brother-in-law was in the act of turning the cart round to drive back to Swallowtown when Tom, making a megaphone of his hands, shouted across: "Won't the gentleman do me the honor of having a drink on me?"
"All right," rang out the answer, and Nelly's brother-in-law drove the horses to the rear of the station.
"Yes, the ring's gone," said Tom. "Bob Cratchit's horses walked off with it yesterday. You can hunt for it out there somewhere if you want to."