E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
DAVE DARRIN AT VERA CRUZ
Fighting with the U.S. Navy in Mexico
H. IRVING HANCOCK
CHAPTERS I. Ready for Fight or Frolic II. At the Mercy of a Bully III. The Junior Worm Turns IV. The Ward-Room Hears Real News V. Watching and Waiting—Behind the Guns VI. First to Invade Mexico VII. Dave Darrin to the Rescue VIII. Disobedience of Orders IX. Cantor Finds His Chance X. Dave is Stung to the Quick XI. A Brother Officer's Whisper XII. The Man of the Evil Eye XIII. "After the Rascal!" XIV. A "Find" of a Bad Kind XV. Ready for Vera Cruz XVI. In the Thick of the Snipping XVII. Mexicans Become Suddenly Meek XVIII. In the House of Surprises XIX. A Traitor in the Service XX. The Skirmish at the Diligencia XXI. A Rescue and a "Facer" XXII. Playing Birdman in War XXIII. The Dash for the Traitor XXIV. Conclusion
READY FOR FIGHT OR FROLIC
"Do you care to go out this evening, Danny boy?" asked Dave Darrin, stepping into his chum's room.
"I'm too excited and too tired," confessed Ensign Dalzell. "The first thing I want is a hot bath, the second, pajamas, and the third, a long sleep."
"Too bad," sighed Dave. "I wanted an hour's stroll along Broadway."
"Don't let my indolence keep you in," urged Dalzell. "If you're going out, then I can have the first hot bath, and be as long about it as I please. Then I'll get into pajamas and ready for bed. By that time you'll be in and we can say 'good night' to each other."
"I feel a bit mean about quitting you," Dave murmured.
"And I feel a whole lot meaner not to go out with you," Dan promptly assured his chum. "So let's compromise; you go out and I'll stay in."
"That sounds like a very odd compromise," laughed Darrin. "On the whole, Dan, I believe I won't go out."
"If that's the way you feel," argued Dalzell, "then I'm going to change my mind and go out with you. I won't be the means of keeping you from your stroll."
"But you really don't want to go out," Dave objected.
"Candidly, I don't care much about going out; I want that bath and I'm tired. Yet in the good old cause of friendship—-"
"Friendship doesn't enter in, here," Dave interposed. "Danny boy, you stay here in the hotel and have your bath, I'll go out and pay my very slight respects to Broadway. Doubtless, by the time you're in pajamas, I'll be back, and with all my longing for wandering satisfied."
"Then, if you really don't mind—-"
"Not at all, old chap! So long! Back in a little while."
Through the bathroom that connected their two rooms at the Allsordia Hotel, Dave Darrin stepped into his own apartment.
Having donned coat and top-coat, Darrin picked up his new derby hat and stepped to his room door. In another half minute he was going down on the elevator. Then he stepped into the street.
Dave Darrin was young, healthy, happy, reasonably good-looking. His top-coat and gray suit were well tailored. Yet, save for his erect, military carriage, there was nothing to distinguish him from the thousands of average well-dressed young men who thronged Broadway after dark on this evening in late March.
For perhaps fifteen blocks he strolled uptown. All that he saw on that gaily lighted main thoroughfare of New York was interesting. It was the same old evening crowd, on pleasure bent.
Then, crossing over to the east side of Broadway, Dave sauntered slowly back.
Laughing girls eyed the young naval officer as he passed. Drivers of taxicabs looked the young man over speculatively, as though wondering whether he might be inveigled into going on a, to them, profitable round of New York's night sights. Human harpies, in the form of "confidence men"—-swindlers on the lookout for prey—-glanced but once at the young naval ensign, then looked away. Dave Darrin's erect carriage, his clear steady eyes, his broad shoulders and evident physical mastery of himself made these swindlers hesitate at the thought of tackling him.
Through the occasionally opened doors of the restaurants came the sounds of music and laughter, but Dave felt no desire to enter.
He was several blocks on his homeward way, and was passing the corner of a side street quieter than the others, when he heard a woman's stifled cry of alarm.
Halting, bringing his heels together with a click, and throwing his shoulders back, Darrin stopped on the corner and looked down the street.
Five or six doors away, close to a building, stood a young woman of not more than twenty-two. Though she was strikingly pretty, Dave did not note that fact in the first glance. He saw, however, that she was well dressed in the latest spring garments, and that her pose was one of retreat from the man who stood before her.
That the man had the external appearance of the gentleman was the first fact Darrin observed.
Then he heard the young woman's indignant utterance:
"That is a taunt not often thrown at me," the young man laughed, carelessly.
"Only a coward would attempt to win a woman's love by threats," replied the girl, more calmly, though bitterness rang in her tone. "As for you, I wish to assure you that I am quite through with you!"
"Oh, no, you're not!" rejoined the annoyer, with the air of one who knows himself to be victor. "In fact, you will do very much as I wish, or your brother—-"
"You coward!" spoke the girl, scornfully again.
"If your brother suffers, your pride will be in the dust," insisted the annoyer, "and, remember, I, alone, can save your brother from disgrace."
"I am not even going to ask you to do it," retorted the young woman. "And now our interview is over. I am going to leave you, and I shall not see you again. I——-"
"Going to leave me, are you?" leered her tormentor. He stepped forward, holding out his hand, as though to seize the young woman's wrist, but she alertly eluded him.
"If you try again to touch me, or if you attempt to follow me," warned the young woman, "I shall appeal for assistance."
So absorbed were the disputants in their quarrel that neither had noticed Darrin, standing on the corner.
The tormentor's face flushed, then went white, "Make your appeal," he dared, "and see what happens!"
Again he attempted to take the girl by the wrist.
"Can I be of service, madam?" inquired Darrin, as he strode toward them.
Like a flash, the annoyer wheeled upon Darrin, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"Young man," he warned, threateningly, "the best thing you can possibly do will be to make yourself scarce as quickly as possible. As for this young woman——-"
The tormentor moved a step nearer to the young woman, whose face had turned very pale.
Dave slipped quietly between them.
"As this young woman does not wish to talk with you," Darrin suggested, "you may address all your remarks to me."
While the two young men stood eyeing each other Darrin noted that the young woman's annoyer was somewhat taller than himself, broader of shoulder and deeper of chest. He had the same confidence of athletic poise that Dave himself displayed. In a resort to force, it looked as though the stranger would have the better of it.
Yet this stranger seemed suddenly deprived of much of his assurance. Plainly, there was some good reason why he did not wish to fight on this side street so close to Broadway.
"Madam," inquired Darrin, half turning, "may I have the pleasure of escorting you to your friends?"
"If you will call a taxi——-" she began, eagerly.
At that moment a fareless taxicab turned the corner of Broadway and came slowly down the street.
"Hold on, chauffeur!" cried Darrin, in a voice of command. Then, as the cab stopped at the curb, Dave turned his back upon the tormentor for a moment, while he assisted the young woman into the taxicab.
"Do you feel satisfied to go without escort," asked Darrin, "or may I offer my services in seeing you safely to your home?"
"I shall be all right now," replied the young woman, the troubled look in her lustrous brown eyes vanishing as she favored her unknown defender with a smile. "If the driver will stop, two blocks from here, I will direct him where to take me."
"Step aside, boy!" ordered the unknown man, as he tried to brush Dave away and enter the cab.
It was no time for gentle measures. Ensign Darrin's right fist landed heavily on the face of the stranger, sending him prone to the sidewalk.
At a wave of Dave's hand the chauffeur started away. Scenting trouble, the chauffeur drove as fast as he could down the side street, making the round of the block, then heading into Broadway and going uptown, for the young woman had called out her destination.
As for the stranger whom Dave had knocked down, the fellow was on his feet like a flash. Ignoring Darrin, he tried to dash down the side street after the taxicab.
"Step back!" ordered Dave, catching hold of the fellow, and swinging him around. "You're not going to follow."
"I must have the number of that taxicab," cried the stranger, desperately.
"Too late," smiled Dave, as he saw the taxicab turn the next corner. "You won't learn the number. I happened to see it, though," he added incautiously.
"Give it to me, then," commanded the other. "I'll overlook what you've done if you truthfully give me the number of that taxicab. Find that girl I must, and as early as possible. Though I know her well, and her family, too, I do not know where to look for them in New York."
Dave, without a word, turned as though to walk toward Broadway.
"Give me that taxi's number," insisted the stranger.
"I won't," Dave returned, flatly.
"Give me that number, or——-"
"Or what?" drawled Darrin halting and glancing contemptuously at the furious face before him.
"Or I'll pound the number out of you!" came the ugly challenge.
"Go ahead," Dave invited, coolly. "I don't mind a fight in the least, though perhaps you would, for I see a policeman coming up the street. He would be bound to arrest both of us. Perhaps you have better reasons than I have for not courting the activities of the police."
It was plain that a fearful, even though brief struggle, took place in the stranger's mind before he made reply to Dave's taunt.
"I'll find you again, and the next time you shall not get off so easily," muttered the other. "Depend upon it, I shall see you again!"
With that the stranger walked toward Broadway. Smiling, Dave strolled more slowly after him. By the time the naval ensign reached the corner of that great artery of human life, the stranger had lost himself in the crowds of people that thronged Broadway.
"If I see him again within twenty-four hours, I think I shall know him," laughed Darrin. "My first blow put a red welt on his cheek for purposes of identification."
Then Darrin finished his walk, turning in at the Allsordia.
Dan Dalzell had also finished his bath, and lounging comfortably in his pajamas, was reading a late edition of the evening newspaper. "Have any fun?" asked Ensign Dalzell, glancing up.
"Just a little bit of a frolic," smiled Darrin, and told his chum what had happened.
"I'm glad you punched the scoundrel," flared Danny Grin.
"I couldn't do anything else," Dave answered soberly, "and if it weren't for the shame of treating a woman in such high-handed fashion as that fellow did, I'd look upon the whole affair as a pleasant diversion."
"So he's going to look for you and find you, then settle up this night's business with you, is he?" demanded Dalzell, with one of the grins that had made him famous. "Humph! If he finds you after ten o'clock to-morrow morning, it will be aboard one of our biggest battleships and among fifteen hundred fighting men."
"I'm afraid I shall never see him again," sighed Dave. "It's too bad, too, for I'm not satisfied with the one blow that I had the pleasure of giving him. I'd like to meet the fellow in a place where I could express and fully back up my opinion of him."
"I wonder if you'll ever meet him again?" mused Dalzell, aloud.
"It's not worth wondering about," Dave returned. "I must get into my bath now. I'll be out soon."
Fifteen minutes later Darrin looked into the room, saying good night to his chum. Then he retired to his own sleeping room; five minutes later he was sound asleep.
No strangers to our readers are Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell "Darry" and "Danny Grin," as they were known to many of their friends. As members of that famous schoolboy group known as Dick & Co. they were first encountered in the pages of the "Grammar School Boys Series." All our readers are familiar with the careers in sport and adventure that were achieved by those splendid Gridley boys, Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Greg Holmes, Dan Dalzell, Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton. The same boys, a little older and twice as daring, were again found in the pages of the "High School Boys Series," and then immediately afterward in the "High School Boys' Vacation Series."
It was in the "Dick Prescott Christmas Series" that we found all six of our fine, manly young friends in the full flower of high school boyhood. A few months after that the six were separated. The further fortunes of Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes are then found in the "West Point Series," while the careers of Darrin and Dalzell are set forth in the "Annapolis Series," just as the adventures of Reade and Hazelton are set forth in the "Young Engineers Series."
At Annapolis, Darrin and Dalzell went through stirring times, indeed, as young midshipmen. Now, we again come upon them when they have become commissioned officers in the Navy. They are now seen at the outset of their careers as ensigns, ordered to duty aboard the dreadnought "Long Island" in the latter part of March, 1914.
Certainly the times were favorable for them to see much of active naval service, though as yet they could hardly more than guess the fact.
General Huerta, who had usurped the presidency of Mexico following the death—-as suspected, by assassination—-of the former president Madero—-had not been recognized as president by the United States. Some of Madero's friends and former followers, styling themselves the "Constitutionalists" had taken to the field in rebellion against the proclaimed authority of the dictator, Huerta. The two factions had long fought fiercely, and between the two warring parties that had rapidly reduced life in Mexico, to a state of anarchy, scores of Americans had been executed through spite, as it was alleged, and American women and children had also suffered at the hands of both factions.
Lives and property of citizens of European governments had been sacrificed, and now these European governments looked askance at the Washington government, which was expected to safeguard the rights of foreigners in Mexico.
To the disappointment and even the resentment of a large part of the people of the United States, the Washington government had moved slowly, expressing its hope that right would triumph in Mexico without outside armed interference.
This policy of the national administration had become known as watchful waiting. Many approved of it; other Americans demanded a policy of active intervention in Mexico to end the uncertainty and the misery caused by the helpless of many nations, who were ground between the opposing factions of revolution in Mexico.
With this brief explanation we will once more turn to the fortunes of Ensigns Dave and Dan.
At 6.45 the next morning the telephone bell began to tinkle in Dave's room. It continued to ring until Darrin rose, took down the receiver, and expressed, to the clerk, on duty below, his thanks for having been called.
"Turn out, Danny Grin!" Darry shouted from the bathroom. "Come, now, sir! Show a foot! Show a foot, sir!"
Drowsily, Dalzell thrust one bare foot out from under the sheet.
"Are you awake in sea-going order, sir?" Dave asked, jovially.
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Then remain awake, Mr. Dalzell, until I have been through the motions of a cold bath."
With that Darrin shut the door. From the bathroom came the sounds of a shower, followed by much splashing.
"Turn out the port watch, Mr. Dalzell," came, presently, through the closed bathroom door. "The bathroom watch is yours. Hose down, sir."
With that Dave stepped into his own room to dress. It was not long before the two young naval officers left their rooms, each carrying a suit case. To the top of each case was strapped a sword, emblem of officer's rank, and encased in chamois-skin.
Going below, the pair breakfasted, glancing, in the meantime, over morning newspapers.
Just before nine-thirty that same morning, our young naval officers, bent on joining their ship, stepped along briskly through the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
It was really an inspiring place. Sailors, marines and officers, too, were in evidence.
In the machine shops and about the docks thousands of men were performing what once would have passed for the work of giants. Huge pieces of steel were being shaped; heavy drays carried these pieces of steel; monster cranes hoisted them aboard ships lying at the docks or standing shored up in the dry docks. There was noise in the air; the spirit of work and accomplishment pervaded the place, for word had come from Washington that many ships might soon be needed in Mexican waters.
Eight dreadnoughts lay at their berths. Even as the boys crossed the great yard a cruiser was being warped in, after an eighteen-thousand mile voyage.
Alongside floating stages in the basins lay submarines and torpedo boat destroyers. A naval collier was being coaled. A Navy launch was in sight and coming closer, bearing a draft of marines bound for duty on one of the battleships.
Every sight spoke proudly of the naval might of a great nation, yet that might was not at all in proportion with the naval needs of such a vast country.
"It does an American good, just to be in a place like this, doesn't it?" asked Danny Grin.
"It does, indeed," Dave answered. Then, his bewilderment increasing, he turned to a marine who stood at a distance of some sixty feet from where he had halted.
"My man!" Dave called.
Instantly the marine wheeled about. Noting the suit cases, with the swords strapped to them, the marine recognized these young men in civilian attire as naval officers. Promptly his hand sought his cap visor in clean-cut salute, which both young ensigns as promptly returned.
"Be good enough to direct me to the 'Long Island,'" Darrin requested.
"Yes, sir," and the marine, stepping closer, led the way past three large buildings.
"There she is, over there, sir," said the marine, a minute later, pointing. "Shall I carry your suit cases, sir, to the deck?"
"It won't be necessary, thank you," Darrin replied.
"Very good, sir," and again the marine saluted. Returning the salute, the two young officers hurried forward. As they strode along, their eyes feasting on the strong, proud lines of the dreadnought on which they were to serve, their staunch young hearts swelled with pride. And there, over the battleship's stern, floated the Flag, which they had taken most solemn oath to defend with their lives and with their honor, whether at home, or on the other side of the world.
In both breasts stirred the same emotions of love of country. Just then neither felt like speaking. They hastened on in silence. Up the gang-plank they strode. At a word from the officer on deck, two young sailors, serving as messengers, darted down the plank, saluting, then relieving the young officers of their suit cases.
Up the gang-plank, and aboard, walked the young ensigns. First the eyes of Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell sought the Flag. Bringing their heels together, standing erect, they faced the Stars and Stripes, flying at the stern, bringing their hands up smartly in salute. The officer of the deck returned to the youngsters the salute on behalf of the Flag.
Then Darrin and Dalzell approached the officer of the deck.
"I am Ensign Darrin, and I report having come aboard, sir," said Dave. Dan reported his own arrival in similar terms.
"My name is Trent," replied the officer of the deck, as he extended his right hand to each, in turn. "I hope you will like all of us; I know we shall like you."
Then to the messengers Lieutenant Trent gave the order to carry the suit cases to the rooms assigned to the two new ensigns. Dave and Dan followed the messengers through a corridor that led past the ward-room. The messengers halted before the curtained doorways of adjoining rooms, bags in left hands, their right hands up in salute.
"This is your room, sir," announced the messenger, in the precise tones of the service, while Dan's messenger indicated the other room.
"Some kind fate must have given us adjoining rooms," laughed Dave, when he realized that the two doors stood side by side.
As Darrin passed into his new quarters his first glance rested lovingly on the breech of a huge gun that pierced the armored side of the dreadnought.
"That's great!" thought the young ensign, jubilantly. "I shall have an emblem and a constant reminder of my duty to the United States!"
His second glance took in the polished top of a desk, over which hung an electric light.
There is no door to an officer's room; instead, a curtain hangs in place, screening the room from outside view. At one side, in the cabin, was another curtain, this screening the alcove in which lay the berth.
But Darrin did not stop to study his new quarters just then. There was a duty first to be performed. Opening his suit case, he took out the trousers and blouse of the blue undress uniform. Into this he changed as rapidly as he could, after which he brushed his hair before the little mirror, then put on his cap.
Next he fastened on his sword belt, after which he hung his sword at his side. An anxious head-to-foot glance followed, and Ensign Darrin found himself spick and span.
Now he stepped to Dan's door, calling in:
"May I come in, old fellow?"
"I'll be in a strange state of mind if you don't," Danny Grin answered.
Ensign Dalzell was putting the finishing touches to his own rapid toilet.
"I'm going to help myself to your card case," announced Dave, who already held a card of his own. Adding Dan's to that, Ensign Darrin stepped to the doorway, glancing quickly about him.
"Sentry!" Dave called.
"Sir!" answered a marine, stepping forward and giving the customary salute.
"Pass the word for a messenger, sentry!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
In a twinkling the messenger arrived, saluting.
"Take these cards to the captain, with the respectful compliments of Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell, and state that they await his permission to report to him."
"Aye, aye, sir."
In less than a minute the messenger returned, stating that the captain would receive them at once.
Captain Gales, a heavily-built, stately-looking man of fifty, rose from his desk in his office as the two young ensigns stepped through the door. The young men saluted their commander, then stood rigidly at attention.
"Mr. Darrin?" asked the captain, extending his hand, which Dave promptly clasped. Then Dan was greeted.
"Glad to have you with us," was all the captain said. Then, to the marine orderly who stood just within the door: "Show these gentlemen to the executive officer."
"He didn't ask after our folks, nor even if we liked the looks of the ship," Dalzell complained, in a whisper, as they followed the orderly.
"Be silent, Danny Grin!" urged Darrin, rebukingly. "This is no time for jesting."
Commander Bainbridge, the executive officer, received the young officers in his quarters. He proved to be more communicative, talking pleasantly with them for fully a minute and a half after the young men had introduced themselves, and had turned over to him the official papers connecting them with this dreadnought's personnel.
"Let me see, Mr. Dalzell," said Lieutenant Commander Bainbridge, referring to a record book on his desk, "you will be in Lieutenant Trent's division. Find Mr. Trent on the quarter deck and report to him. Mr. Darrin, you are assigned to Lieutenant Cantor's division. I will have an orderly show you to Mr. Cantor."
Dan departed first, walking very erect and feeling unusually elated, for Dalzell had thoroughly liked the appearance of Trent in their brief meeting, and believed that he would be wholly contented in serving under that superior.
While Dave's quarters were on the port side of the ship, Cantor's proved to be on the right side.
The messenger halted before a curtained doorway, rapping.
"Who's there?" called a voice inside.
"Messenger, sir, showing Ensign Darrin to Lieutenant Cantor, sir."
"Then you may go, messenger. Darrin, wait just an instant won't you, until I finish my toilet."
"Very good, sir."
A moment later the hail came from within.
"Right inside, Darrin!"
Dave entered, to find a somewhat older officer standing with extended hand. But Ensign Darrin could not believe his eyes when he found himself faced by the man who had annoyed the young woman on the night before—-and that annoyer standing there erect and handsome in the uniform of a Navy lieutenant!
AT THE MERCY OF A BULLY
Their hands met, but in light clasp, without pretense of warmth.
Then Darrin fell back, bringing his right hand mechanically to a salute as he mumbled:
"I am Ensign Darrin, sir, and have been ordered, by the executive officer, to report to you for duty in your division."
"Very good, Mr. Darrin," rejoined the lieutenant. "My division goes on watch at eight bells noon. You will report to me on the quarter deck at that time."
"Very good, sir."
With a quick step Lieutenant Cantor reached the curtain, holding it slightly aside and peering out into the passage-way. His face was red, but there was one portion that was redder still.
"I see," Dave reflected, "that Cantor still wears the welt that I printed on his cheek last night. But it staggers me," he thought, gravely, "to find such a fellow holding an officer's commission in the Navy."
Satisfied that there were no eavesdroppers near, Lieutenant Cantor stepped back, facing the young ensign, whom he looked over with an expression of mingled hate and distress.
"I believe we have met before," said Cantor, with a quick, hissing indrawing of his breath.
"To my very great regret, we have, sir," Darrin answered, coldly.
"And you behaved abominably, Darrin!"
"You interfered," Lieutenant Cantor continued, "with one of the most important affairs of my life."
"Yes, sir? With one of the most shameful, I should imagine, sir."
Ensign Darrin's tone was officially respectful, but his glance cold. He felt no respect for Cantor, and could see no reason why he should pretend respect.
"I had a strong belief that I should see you again," Cantor continued, his gleaming eyes turned on the new ensign.
"You knew me to be of the Navy, sir?"
"I did not, Darrin, nor did you know me to be of the Navy. Otherwise, it is not likely that you would have behaved as you did."
"If I had known you to be the fleet admiral, Mr. Cantor, my conduct could not have been different, under the circumstances."
"Darrin, you are a fool!" hissed the division officer.
"I am much obliged to you, sir, for your good opinion," Dave answered, in an even voice.
For an instant the lieutenant frowned deeply. Then his face cleared. His glance became almost friendly as he continued:
"Darrin, I think it probable that you will have a chance to repair your bad work of last night."
"Last night you told me that you had noted the number of the taxicab in which the young woman escaped me."
"I did, sir."
"Perhaps you still remember that number. Indeed, I am sure that you must."
"I do remember the number, sir."
"What was it?" asked Cantor, eagerly.
"That number, sir, so far as I am concerned," Ensign Darrin answered, tranquilly, "is a woman's secret."
"It is a secret which I have a right to know," Lieutenant Cantor went on pressingly.
"The number, sir, I would not dream of giving you without the permission of the young woman herself," Darrin answered, slowly. "As I do not even know her name, it is unlikely that I shall be able to secure that permission."
"Darrin, it is my right to receive an answer to my question," insisted Cantor, his eyes glittering coldly.
"You will have to find out from some one other than myself, then," was Dave's calm answer.
"Darrin, you force me to tell you more than I really ought to tell. I am going to marry that young woman!"
"Is the young woman aware of your intentions, sir?" Dave demanded, quietly.
"Yes! Darrin, I tell you, I am going to marry that young woman, and it is most imperative that I should see her as early as possible. Give me the number of that taxicab, and I can find the driver and learn where he took her. Now, what are you smiling at, Darrin?"
"It struck me, sir, that you should already know the address of a young woman whom you are engaged to marry."
Lieutenant Cantor repressed an exclamation of impatience and bit his lips.
"Of course I know her home address," he deigned to reply, "but she is not a New Yorker. Her home is at a considerable distance, and I do not know where to find her in New York. Give me that taxicab number and I shall be able to secure shore leave. By this evening I shall have found her."
"You do not expect me to wish you luck in a matter like this, sir?" Ensign Darrin inquired.
"I expect you to give me the number of that taxicab, and at once," replied Cantor. He did not raise his voice, but there was compelling fury in his tone.
"I have already declined to do that, sir," Dave insisted.
"Darrin, do you realize that I am your superior?" demanded the lieutenant.
"I am aware, sir, that you are my superior officer," Darrin answered, with strong emphasis on the word "officer."
"And you refuse to please me in a trifling matter?"
"Pardon me, sir, but from the little that I saw and heard, I cannot believe that your discovery of her address would be regarded by the young woman as a trifling matter."
"Do you persist in refusing to tell me that taxicab number?" hissed Lieutenant Cantor.
"Sir, as a gentleman, I must," Dave rejoined. For a full half minute Lieutenant Cantor stared at his subordinate in speechless anger. Then, when he could command his voice somewhat, he resumed:
"Oh, very good, you—-you young—-puppy!"
Another brief interval of silence, and the lieutenant continued, in a crisp, official tone:
"Mr. Darrin, go to the division bulletin board and get an accurate copy of the roster of the division. Also make a copy of our station bills. You will then report to me on the quarter deck just before eight bells, noon."
"Aye, aye, sir! Any further orders?"
Cantor stood there, an appealing look in his eyes, but Dave, saluting, turned on his heel and went out.
"So that is the fellow who is to teach me the duties and the ideals of the service," Dave Darrin reflected, disgustedly, as he stepped briskly around to port. "A magnificent prospect ahead of me, if I must depend upon the instructions and the official favor of a bully and a scoundrel like Cantor! And he can make it hot for me, too, if he has a mind to do so! Don't I know how easy that ought to be for him? I shall have, indeed, a lot of pleasure in my service on this ship, with Cantor for my division officer!"
Mindful of orders, Darrin's first act was to copy the division roster and the station bills. These he took to his room, placing them in a drawer of the desk, for future study. For the present, he wanted to get out into the open air.
Though Ensign Dalzell had been directed to report on the quarter deck, he was not now there. Dave walked about by himself until Lieutenant Trent came over and spoke to him.
"Dalzell is busy, I suppose, sir?" Dave inquired.
"Forward and below, directing the stowage of stores," replied Trent. "Have you been detailed to a division yet, Mr. Darrin?"
"Yes, sir; to Lieutenant Cantor's division."
"Ah, so?" inquired Trent. He did not say more, from which Dave wondered if Trent did not like Cantor. If such were the case, then Darrin's opinion of Lieutenant Trent would run all the higher.
"Cantor is a very efficient officer," Trent said, after a pause, not long enough to be construed unfavorably.
Dave did not answer this, for he could think of nothing to say.
"Some of our newest youngsters haven't wholly liked him," Trout went on, with a smile. "I fancy that perhaps he works them a bit too grillingly."
"After four years at the Naval Academy," smiled Ensign Darrin, "it puzzles me to understand how any officer can resent grilling."
"You'll find life very different on one of these big ships," Lieutenant Trout continued. "You will soon begin to realize that we are in a cramped atmosphere. With fifteen hundred officers and men abroad there is barely elbow room at any time, and sometimes not that."
"This ship looks big enough to carry a small city full of people," Darrin smiled.
"See here!" Trent stepped to the starboard rail, looking forward.
"Just look ahead, and see the magnificent distance to the bow," continued the officer of the deck. "We call a ship 'she,' Darrin, and let me assure you, 'she' is some girl! Look at the magnificent length and breadth. Yet, when we are at sea, you will soon begin to realize how cramped the life is."
After chatting a little longer with Lieutenant Trent, Ensign Darrin started forward along the decks, taking in all he could see of this huge, floating castle.
Presently he returned to the quarter-deck, but Lieutenant Trent was busy with a lieutenant of the marine guard. Dave stepped inside. Almost immediately he heard a step at his side. Glancing around, Dave looked into the face of Lieutenant Cantor.
"A while ago I noticed you talking with Trent," Dave's division officer remarked, in a low voice.
"Did you discuss me?"
"What did you say, Darrin?"
"I mentioned that you were my division officer."
"Did Trent say anything?"
"Mr. Trent said that you were a very efficient officer."
"Did you tell him anything—-about—-er—-about last night?"
"Nothing," Dave answered.
"Positive about that?" insinuated Cantor.
"Sir," Dave answered, "I am an officer and, I trust—-a gentleman."
"Then you told Trent nothing about last night?"
"I have already told you, sir, that I didn't."
"Nor to anyone else on this ship?" pressed the lieutenant.
"I told Dalzell, last night, that I had met with a stranger who was——-"
"That will do!" snapped Cantor.
"Very good, sir."
"Have you told Dalzell about me since coming aboard?"
"I have not."
"And you won't?" pressed Cantor.
"On that point, sir, I decline to pledge myself," Darrin responded, with unusual stiffness.
"Darrin, do you want to make an enemy?"
"Mr. Cantor, I never, at any time, wish to make an enemy. I am not trying to make one of you."
"I will regard that as a promise from you," returned Cantor, then moved quickly away.
"It would have been better," murmured Darrin, softly, turning and regarding the moving figure, "if you had heard me out. However, Mr. Cantor, though you are not now here to hear me say it, I did not promise silence. Yet it is difficult to conceive what would make me open my mouth on the subject of last night's happening. I have never been a tale-bearer, and, much as I may despise that fellow, and the affront that he offers the Navy, in remaining in the service, I fancy his secret is safe from all—-except Dalzell. Danny and I haven't yet begun to have secrets from each other."
Presently Dan Dalzell, wearing his sword and pulling on his white gloves as he came, appeared, walking aft. There was time only for a smiling nod, for Dave suddenly remembered, with a start that it was time for him to report for change of watch.
Hastening down the passage-way Dave hung his sword on, then hastily rummaged the suit case for a pair of white gloves that he had previously tucked in there.
Hastening, he reached the deck just as the watch was being changed. With quick step Ensign Darrin took his momentary post. Then, when the old watch had gone off duty, Lieutenant Cantor turned to his subordinate with a frown.
"Ensign Darrin, you made a bad beginning, sir," declared the new watch officer, crisply. "In the future, I trust you will be more mindful of the responsibility of an officer in setting his men an example in punctuality. If this occurs again, sir, I shall feel it my duty to turn in report of your negligence!"
Several men of the watch and two of the marine guard hoard this rebuke administered. Dave Darrin's face flushed, then paled from the humiliation of the rebuke. Yet he had been guilty of an actual breach of discipline, minor though it was, and could not dispute Cantor's right to reprove him.
"I very much regret my negligence, sir," Dave answered, saluting, but he bit his lip in the same instant for he realized how thoroughly his superior officer enjoyed the privilege of administering the rebuke.
From inside Dan Dalzell heard the words.
At once, on the stroke of eight bells, the mess signal was hung to the breeze. While that flag flew no one was admitted to the battleship unless he belonged on board.
Then appeared a little Filipino mess servant, who asked Dave and Dan to follow him to their assigned seats.
"Am I permitted to go to mess, sir?" Dave asked of Lieutenant Cantor.
"Yes," was the short answer.
While the signal flew the sergeant of the marine guard was in charge at the quarter-deck gang plank. There was no need of a commissioned officer there.
To their delight Darrin and Dalzell found themselves assigned to seats at the table together.
Lieutenant Trent stepped down, introducing the new arrivals to the officers beside whom, and opposite whom they sat.
"I was sorry to hear you get that calling down," Dalzell whispered to his chum, as soon as that was possible under the cover of the conversation of others. "Why did Lieutenant Cantor seem to enjoy his privilege so much?"
After a covert glance, to make sure that he was not in danger of being overheard, Darrin replied, in an undertone:
"Lieutenant Cantor was the man of whom I told you last night."
"Yes," Dave nodded.
"But it seems incredible that an officer of our Navy could be guilty of any such conduct," Dalzell gasped, his eyes large with amazement. "Are you sure?"
"Didn't you notice the welt on Mr. Cantor's cheek?" Dave asked, dryly.
Danny Grin nodded, then fell silent over his plate.
After the meal Lieutenant Trent saw to it that both the new ensigns were introduced to such officers as they had not met already.
"We can't possibly remember all their names—-scores of 'em!" gasped Dan, as the two young officers stood outside the mess.
"We'll learn every name and face before very long," Darrin answered. "But I mustn't stand talking," Dave went on, as he again hung his sword at his side. "I'm on duty, and can't stand another call-down."
"Are you going to tell what Cantor did last night?" Dan queried.
"No; and don't you tell, either!"
"Small fear of my babbling your business, David, little Giant!" assured Dalzell. "You are strong enough to go in and slay your own Goliath."
Drawing on his white gloves, Dave Darrin stepped alertly to the quarter deck, to find himself facing the frown of Lieutenant Cantor.
THE JUNIOR WORM TURNS
"Wonder what my man has in store for me?" flashed through Dave's mind, as he saluted his division commander.
But Cantor, after returning the salute, merely turned away to pace the deck.
Presently, however, the lieutenant stepped over to Darrin, when the pair had the quarterdeck to themselves.
"Are you going to tell me?" murmured the lieutenant, his burning gaze on the frank young face before him.
"Tell you what, sir?" Dave asked.
"That taxicab number?"
"When I have decided that a given course of conduct is the only course possible to a gentleman," Ensign Darrin replied, "I have no further occasion to give thought to that subject."
"Darrin, you might make me your friend!" urged his superior officer.
"That would be delightful, sir."
"Darrin, don't try to be ironical with me!"
Dave remained silent.
"If you don't care for me for your friend, Darrin," Cantor warned him, "it is possible, on the other hand, to make an enemy of me. As an enemy you would not find me wanting either in resource or opportunity."
"Have you any orders for me, sir?" asked Darrin, coolly. That was as near as he could come, courteously, to informing Cantor that he wished from him none but official communications.
"Pardon me, sir," said Cantor, and stepped away to salute Commander Bainbridge, who had just appeared on the quarter-deck. There was a low-toned conversation between the two officers. Then, as the pair exchanged salutes, and Bainbridge went on to the captain's quarters, Lieutenant Cantor came back to his selected victim.
"Darrin, you will go below and finish the watch, loading stores in the number four hold. I will pass the word for the petty officer who will have charge under you, and he will show you to the hold. If you wish you may put on dungarees, for it is rough work down there."
"My baggage has not come aboard, sir," Dave replied. "This is the only uniform I have."
In his perturbed state of mind, it did not occur to the young ensign that he could draw dungarees—-the brown overall suit that is worn by officers and crew alike when doing rough work about the ship, from the stores, nor did Cantor appear to notice his reply.
The messenger came, and brought Riley, the coxswain of one of the gigs.
"Coxswain, Ensign Darrin will take charge of the shipping of the stores in number four hold," Cantor announced. "Show him the way to the hold and receive his instructions."
Dave was speedily engaged between decks, in charge of tire work of some twenty men of the crew. At the hatch above, a boatswain's mate had charge of the lowering of the stores.
"It would be a pity to spoil your uniform, sir," declared Coxswain Riley. "If you'll allow me, sir, I'll spare you all of the dirtiest work."
"To shirk my duty would be a bad beginning of my service on this ship," smiled Darrin. "Thank you, Coxswain, but I'll take my share of the rough work."
The hold was close and stifling. Although a cool breeze was blowing on deck, there was little air in number two hold. In ten minutes Darrin found himself bathed in perspiration. Dust from barrels and packing cases hung heavy in that confined space. The grime settled on his perspiring face and stuck there.
"Look out, sir, or you'll get covered with pitch from some of these barrels," Riley warned Dave, respectfully.
"One uniform spoiled is nothing," Dave answered with a smile. "Do not be concerned about me."
Officer and men were suffering alike in that close atmosphere. By the time the watch was ended Dave Darrin was truly a pitchy, soiled, perspiration-soaked sight.
Danny Grin, who reported to relieve his chum, looked rough and ready enough in a suit of dungarees that he had drawn.
"I should have had brains enough to remember that I, too, could have drawn dungarees," Dave grunted, as he and his chum exchanged salutes. Then the relieved young officer hastened above to report the completion of his duty to his division commander, who would be furious if kept waiting.
Dave glanced toward Cantor's quarters, then realized that the lieutenant must still be on the quarter deck.
In his haste to be punctual, Darrin forgot his sword and white gloves, which he had left in his own cabin on the way to duty between decks. Without these appurtenances of duty on the quarter-deck, Darrin made haste aft, found his division commander, saluted and reported his relief.
"Mr. Darrin," boomed Cantor, in a tone of high displeasure, "don't you know that an officer reporting to the quarter-deck when in any but dungaree clothes, should wear his gloves and sword. Go and get them, sir—-and don't keep me waiting beyond my watch time when I have shore leave!"
Again red-faced and humiliated, Ensign Darrin saluted, wheeled, made haste to his quarters, then returned wearing sword and gloves. This time he saluted and made his report in proper form.
"Mr. Darrin," said his division officer, scathingly, "this is the second time to-day that I have had to teach you the things you should have learned in your first week at Annapolis. You are making a bad beginning, sir."
Dave saluted, but this time did not answer in words.
"You may go, Mr. Darrin, and hereafter I trust to find in you a more attentive and clear-headed officer."
Lieutenant Cantor did not hold his tone low. It is the privilege of an officer to rebuke an enlisted man publicly, and as severely as the offense warrants, and it is the further privilege of an officer to make his rebuke to a subordinate commissioned officer as sharp and stinging as he chooses.
Saluting, without a word, Darrin wheeled and walked to his quarters.
"Cantor will certainly have abundant opportunity to make things warm for me," reflected Darrin, as he sat down before the desk in his cabin. "I wonder what I am to do, in order to keep my self-respect and keep my hands off the fellow. It would probably end my career in the Navy if I struck him on this ship."
For some minutes Darrin sat in a rather dejected frame of mind, reviewing his first acquaintance with this official cur, and the things that had happened on shipboard since.
"I suppose I could ask for a different detail," Dave mused, forlornly. "Undoubtedly, though, I wouldn't get the detail, unless I gave what were considered sufficiently good reasons, and I can't tell tales on my division commander, cur though I know him to be."
In the passage outside, sounded passing footsteps and a laugh. Dave felt his face flush, for he recognized the voice of Lieutenant Cantor.
"Danny Grin is a good chum," reflected Darrin, "but in this affair he can't advise me any better than I can advise myself. I wish I could talk freely with some older officer, who knows shipboard life better. But if I were to go to any older officer with such a tale as I have, it would——-"
"In, Mr. Darrin?" sounded a cheery voice, and Commander Bainbridge, the executive officer, stood in the doorway, bringing young Darrin to his feet in prompt salute.
"I was passing, Darrin, and so I called," announced the executive officer. "Otherwise, I would have summoned you to my office. Lieutenant Cantor has secured shore leave until eleven o'clock to-night. As we are busy aboard, Mr. Cantor's division is due for watch duty at eight bells this evening. As Mr. Cantor has shore leave you will report as officer of the deck until relieved by Lieutenant Cantor on his return to the ship. At any time between now and four bells report at my office and sign for these instructions."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Returning the ensign's salute, the executive officer next regarded Darrin's untidy appearance with some displeasure.
"Mr. Darrin," Commander Bainbridge continued, "I note that you must have been on hard duty. No officer, after being relieved, is entitled to retain an untidy appearance longer than is necessary. You should have bathed, sir, and attired yourself becomingly. Neatness is the first requisite in the service."
"I shall be glad to do that sir," Dave answered, respectfully, "as soon as my baggage comes aboard. At present this is the only uniform I have."
"That alters the case, Mr. Darrin," replied the executive officer, kindly. "In case, however, your baggage does not arrive between now and dinner-time, you will not be warranted in going to the ward-room, unless you can borrow a uniform that fits you as well as one of your own."
"I shall be very careful on that point, sir," Dave answered, respectfully, with another salute, returning which Commander Bainbridge departed.
Ten minutes later Darrin's baggage was delivered. In their proper places the young ensign hung his various uniforms, placed his shoes according to regulation, and stowed his linen and underclothing in the wardrobe drawers.
After this a most welcome bath followed. Dave then dressed with care in a fresh blue uniform, stepped to the executive officer's office and signed for his evening orders.
There was time for fifteen minutes in the open air, after which Dave returned to his quarters to dress for dinner. This done, he stepped outside, knowing that the summons to the wardroom would soon come.
At first Dave was the only officer at that point. Commander Bainbridge soon joined him.
A desperate thought entering his mind, Dave addressed the commander as soon as his salute had been returned.
"Sir, may I ask you a question connected with my own personal affairs?" he asked.
"Certainly," replied the executive officer.
"I was wondering, sir, if it would be wise for me to seek counsel from an older officer if at any time I found myself threatened with trouble, or, at least, with unpleasantness."
"It would be a very wise course on your part, Darrin," replied Commander Bainbridge, though he regarded the ensign's face with keen scrutiny. "An older officer should always esteem it a pleasure, as well as a duty, to advise a younger officer. I take an interest in all the officers of this ship. If there is anything in which I can advise you, you may command me."
"Thank you, sir. But, if you will permit me to frame an instance, if the advice that I asked of you might tend to prejudice you against one of your subordinate officers, would it be wiser for me to seek counsel of some officer not higher in rank than the officer whom I have just supposed?"
"That is to say, Mr. Darrin, that the advice you might otherwise wish to ask of me might be taken in the light of a complaint against an officer who is one of my subordinates, and against whom you would not wish to carry tales? In that case, you would, by all means, show good judgment consulting a younger officer. But remember, Darrin, that not all men are equally wise. Be very careful whom you select at any time as adviser. And remember that, for any advice that you may properly ask of me, you may come to me without hesitation."
"Thank you, sir. I trust you realize how deeply grateful I am to you," Dave protested earnestly.
As other officers came up, Commander Bainbridge cut the discussion short by turning to greet the arrivals.
Dinner in the ward-room was the formal meal of the day. The table, covered with snowy damask, glittered with crystal and silver. Silent, soft-moving little Filipinos, in their white mess suits, glided about, serving noiselessly.
At the head of the table sat Commander Bainbridge, the executive officer, for the captain of a battleship dines in solitary state in his own apartments. On either side of the executive officer sat the other officers, in two long rows, according to their rank. On either side of the Commander were seated the officers with rank of lieutenant commander. Next to them were the lieutenants, senior grade. After them came the lieutenants, junior grade. At the foot of the table was a group of ensigns, the lowest in rank of commissioned officers of the Navy.
Course followed course, and good humor prevailed at the officers' table. Now and then a good joke or a witty sally called forth hearty laughter. Here and there officers, dismissing laughter for the time being, talked of graver matters.
Danny Grin soon found time to murmur the question:
"How did you get along with your tyrant this afternoon?"
"No better," Dave answered, moodily.
"Did he rake you over the coals again?"
"Yes." Then Darrin detailed the circumstances.
"I am afraid he has it in for you, all right," muttered Danny Grin, scowling.
"He'll report me as often as he can, I don't doubt," Dave replied. "If he can bring me up before a general court-martial, all the better."
"I'm sorry you're not in Trent's division," Dan sighed. "He's a gentleman—-a regular, sea-going officer."
"Sea-going" is the highest praise that can be given in Navy circles.
"If I were in Trent's division, probably you'd have fallen under Cantor," Darrin suggested.
"That would have been all right," nodded Dalzell, cheerily. "Cantor has no direct cause to hate me, as he has in your case. Besides, I'd do a good many things to a mean superior that you wouldn't. If I had to stand watch with Cantor, and he tried any queer treatment of me, I'd find a way to make his life miserable. I believe I've shown some skill in that line in the past."
"You surely have," Darrin nodded. "But I don't like to spring traps for my superior officers to fall into."
"Not even in self-defence?" challenged Dalzell.
"Not even to save myself," Darrin declared. At eight bells, in Lieutenant Cantor's absence, Darrin took the watch trick alone as officer of the deck until six bells, or eleven o'clock that night.
There was not much to do. Now and then a shore leave man, sailor or marine, reported coming on board. Darrin made a note of the man's return and entered the time. Twice, a messenger brought some small order from the executive officer. Yet it was a dull watch, with the ship docked and nothing of importance happening.
"Cantor will soon be back," thought Dave, at last, slipping out his watch and glancing at it under the light that came from the cabin. His timepiece showed the time to be five minutes to eleven.
But a quarter of an hour passed, and no Lieutenant Cantor appeared. More time slipped by without the lieutenant's return.
"That doesn't sound much like the punctuality that is required of a naval officer," Dave told himself, in some disquiet.
Then finally a step was heard on the gangplank. Lieutenant Cantor came briskly up over the side, halting on the deck and saluting toward the stern, where the colors flew until sundown.
"Mr. Darrin, I've come on board," reported the lieutenant, turning in time to catch Dave's salute.
He stepped closer, to add:
"You will enter a note that I came on board at 10.58."
"The time is eleven-forty, sir," Dave reminded his superior, at the same time displaying his watch.
"Note that I came on board at 10.58," insisted Cantor, frowning.
"Sentry!" called Dave, briskly.
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"Note the time on the chronometer inside," Darrin ordered.
"Aye, aye, sir." Then, returning the marine sentry answered:
"It's eleven-forty, sir."
Dave made the entry of the lieutenant's return.
"You infernal trouble-maker," hissed Cantor, as the sentry paced on. "You dragged that sentry into it, just so you would have supporting testimony of the time I came aboard! I'll pay you back for that! Look out for trouble, Mr. Darrin!"
THE WARD-ROOM HEARS REAL NEWS
Hurrying to the now empty office of the executive officer, Cantor made correct entry of his return to ship on the record, then hurried to his own quarters, and with almost the speed of magic, slipped into his undress uniform, belted on his sword, and appeared smartly on the quarter-deck.
For two minutes he paid no heed to Darrin, save to return the salute with which the young ensign greeted his superior's return to command of the deck.
Presently, however, Lieutenant Cantor stepped over to say in an undertone:
"Darrin, you have made the wrong start, and I see that you are bound to keep it up."
"I am trying to do my duty, sir," Darrin returned. "I could not consent to make a false official return."
"Officers often have to do that for each other," Cantor went on, in the same low tone, "and they do it willingly as between comrades."
It was on the tip of Darrin tongue to retort that he didn't believe any true officer, being a man of honor, could stoop to making a false official report. Yet he instantly thought better of it, and forced back the sarcastic retort that rose to his lips.
"You're not going to succeed in the Navy, sir," Cantor continued, then, seeing the young ensign's face still impassive, he added, with a malicious leer:
"Since you are determined to make an enemy of me, Darrin, I shall do my best to see to it that you have short shrift in the service."
"Of that I haven't a doubt," Dave returned, but he caught himself in time and said it under his breath.
Then came the changing of the watch. Trent and Dalzell appeared and went on duty.
Formally, Dave wished his division commander good night, Cantor answering only with a grunt.
Returning to his stateroom, Dave threw off belt and sword, hung up his cap, then sat down in his desk chair, leaning back and steadily regarding the breech of the great gun.
"I wonder if any other young officer in the service is at the mercy of such a brute," Darrin asked himself, wretchedly. "I love good discipline, but there's one thing wrong with the service, and that is, the ease with which a dishonorable officer can render the life of his subordinate miserable. It ought not to be possible, and yet I don't see any way of preventing it. I wish I could talk with a gentleman like Lieutenant Trent, but he would only regard me as a tale-bearer, and after that he would have no use for me. One thing I can see clearly. Cantor is likely to have me broken and kicked out of the service if I am forced to remain in his division week after week."
Then, realizing that his time was slipping away, Darrin hastily undressed and got into his berth. It was a long time, though, before sleep came to him.
In the morning Lieutenant Cantor was obliged to listen meekly to a long discourse by the executive officer on the virtue of punctuality in a naval officer. The offender told of a car block in New York that had made it impossible for him to return on time.
"Lieutenant Cantor," returned the executive officer, dryly, "a careful officer will allow himself sufficient margin of time to make it morally certain that he can be back to his duty on time. Now, sir——-"
But at this moment an apprentice messenger, standing in the doorway, his right hand drawn up in salute, attracted the gaze of Commander Bainbridge:
"The captain" compliments, sir; will the executive officer report to him at once."
"That is all—-for the present—-Lieutenant Cantor," said Commander Bainbridge, rising from his chair and hastening out.
"And all this, on account of a puppy of a junior who will not use sense and reason at the request of a superior officer!" ground Cantor between his teeth. "I shall pay Darrin for this, and for that greater insult, too."
Some minutes before the call to breakfast was due, Darrin and Dalzell appeared from their quarters and walked aft to where a group of the "Long Island's" officers stood. Three or four of them had newspapers in their hands.
"It's time the government did something!" exclaimed one lieutenant commander, testily.
"We're going to do something, soon," asserted another officer, with a snap of his jaws.
"When?" demanded a third officer, while several men laughed derisively.
"We'll have to," continued the second speaker. "Every day the Mexican situation becomes worse. The usurper, Huerta, is becoming more of a menace all the time. He has no regard for the rights of any one, but himself. And he is unable to do more, in the field, than to accept defeat after defeat at the hands of the rebels under that former bandit chief, 'Pancho' Villa. Both the so-called Federals and the rebels, in Mexico, are doing their best to make Mexico a hotbed of incurable anarchy. Scores of American citizens have been murdered ruthlessly, and American women have been roughly treated. British subjects have been shot without the shadow of an excuse, and other foreigners have been maltreated. This country claims to uphold the Monroe Doctrine, which prevents European nations from interfering with force in affairs on this continent. If that is the case, then the United States must put an end to the numberless outrages against Americans and Europeans that take place every week in Mexico. That once orderly republic, Mexico, is now nothing better than a school for instruction in wholesale murder and in the ruthless riding over of the rights of all aliens residing or traveling in that country. These aliens have every right to protection."
"Quite true," remarked another officer. "But what has that to do with the United States? What has there been in our conduct during the past three or four years to indicate that we would take any strong-handed action to make life and property safe in Mexico?"
"We shall soon interfere," predicted the former speaker, confidently. "Affairs in Mexico are now nearing a crisis. The United States will no longer be called a civilized and honorable nation if Army and Navy men are not sent to Mexico to uphold our government and the rights of American citizens living there."
"Do you think, Holton, that will happen before you and I have been put on the retired list as white-haired rear admirals?" asked another officer, half-jeeringly.
"You will find," insisted Lieutenant Holton, "that we shall soon be listening to the thunder of our American naval guns at Vera Cruz, Tampico, or some other port on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico."
"Hurrah!" came from the throats of a dozen officers, but the cheer was not a very confident one. Too long had the United States been patient in the face of one insult or injury after another. General Huerta, in Mexico City, and Carranza and Villa, in the west and north of that country, had headed factions, neither of which seemed to care about Mexico's good name in the world at large. Maltreated Americans demanded punishment of the Mexican offenders, but the United States had been engaged in patiently waiting and watching, only once in a while sending a feeble protest either to the Federal or the Constitutionalist leaders in that murder-ridden country of Mexico.
Mess-call sounded to breakfast. The officers filed into their places at table; then, on observing that the executive officer was not in his place at the head of the table, they remained standing by their chairs.
A minute afterward Commander Bainbridge entered with brisk stride, going to his place and giving the seating signal as he said:
"Pardon my tardiness, gentlemen; the captain detained me on a most urgent matter."
After that the buzz of conversation broke loose. Breakfast orders were taken by the white-coated, noiseless Filipino servants. When all had been served, the executive officer glanced up, then rose.
"The attendants will withdraw," he ordered. "Orderly!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" responded the marine orderly on post just inside the door.
"As soon as the attendants have gone outside, orderly, you will chose the door from the outside, and remain there to keep any one from entering the room."
"Aye, aye, sir!" responded the orderly, who then followed the last attendant outside, closing the door after him.
"Gentlemen," continued the executive officer, remaining standing, "Captain Gales sent for me this morning, to make a most important communication. With his approval I am going to tell you something of what he said. In a word, then, this ship is ordered to be fitted for a cruise to Mexico in the shortest time possible. Within three or four days we must be on our way to Mexican waters.
"We are to go with bunkers filled with coal. We are to carry abundant clothing supplies for tropical service. We are to carry all the large and small arms ammunition that we can stow away. We are to take on food supplies to our fullest commissary capacity. In a word, we are to go prepared for any emergency.
"Now, gentlemen, on account of our departure at the earliest moment, every officer will be needed on board all the time. Unless for some extraordinary reason, shore leave will not be granted to any officer. The watch-word will be 'hustle.' Thank you, gentlemen, for your attention."
In an instant there was clamor in the wardroom. Twenty officers spoke at once, then subsided. Finally only the voice of Lieutenant Commander Denton was heard as he inquired:
"Sir, are we entitled to ask any questions?"
"I will answer any questions that I may properly," smiled the executive officer.
"We are going to Mexico, sir, in fighting trim, are we not?"
"I think what I have already said will indicate that," came Commander Bainbridge's reply.
"Has anything happened in Mexico," continued Denton, "which makes it imperative for us to fight there?"
"Nothing, so far as I know," answered the executive officer, "other than the usual daily outrages that are disgracing the fair name of Mexico."
"Then nothing of unusual importance has happened, which would make us sure that we are heading for Mexico on a definite fighting errand?"
"I have no knowledge that we are actually going to fight in Mexico," replied Commander Bainbridge. "It has occurred to me that this ship, and others of the line, are being ordered to Mexico as a hint to Federals and rebels alike that the United States possesses force enough to bring all Mexicans to their senses."
Having made this last reply, Commander Bainbridge touched a button. The ward-room door was thrown open, and the mess-servants once more entered.
But now a new note crept into the talk. The fact that the "Long Island" was to carry to Mexican waters full supplies of all kinds, including small and large ammunition, was enough to satisfy these officers of the Navy that the government at Washington had an important move on hand, and that move was expected to bring about armed conflict between the two countries.
"Now, am I a dreamer?" demanded Lieutenant Holton of those about him.
The two most excited officers present were also the newest on hoard the "Long Island." At the thought of active service against an enemy, Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell fairly tingled.
"This is the greatest news we could possibly get," beamed Danny Grin, turning to his chum.
"It seems too great to be true," replied Ensign Darrin. "Danny, the Mexicans have been boasting that we don't dare tackle them and stir up that Mexican hornet's nest. If we get a chance, the American Navy will show them—-and the world—-something well worth remembering!"
Both Darrin and Dalzell had already been notified that they were detailed to "day duty" for that day. This meant that they would have no watch duty to stand, but would be employed through the day, while watch duty fell to the lot of others.
While Dalzell was to go below, with Trent, aiding in the storage of shells in the magazine, Darrin was ordered to report to Lieutenant Cantor to supervise the oiling of mechanisms of the guns of Cantor's division, and, later, to perform other important duties.
"Your face is flushed," sneered Cantor, when he found an opportunity to speak aside with Dave. "You are dreaming of active service in war, perhaps."
"Yes, sir," said Dave, simply.
"Look out that war service doesn't bring you disgrace, instead of honor or glory," warned Cantor, darkly.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"You have made me your enemy, and I am a good hater," retorted Lieutenant Cantor.
"You will be under my orders, and I may find a chance——-"
Lieutenant Cantor finished only with an expressive shrug of his shoulders.
Though Dave Darrin felt a tremor of uneasiness, his eyes flashed back honest indignation and contempt for so unworthy a superior officer.
WATCHING AND WAITING—-BEHIND BIG GUNS
April, in the tropics!
Four miles off the coast of Mexico, east of the historic port of Vera Cruz, the United States dreadnought, "Long Island," moved along at slow cruising speed.
The few days out from New York had brought marked changes in climate. While people in New York found the weather still cold, here in Mexican waters, officers and men alike were in the white uniforms of the tropics—-all save those whose work below compelled them to wear dungarees.
On the bridge forward, two officers paced at a time. During the night hours there were always three there.
Aft, on the quarter-deck, marines were going through the rifle gymnastic drill. In some of the divisions officers and men were busy at the big gun drills. Others were cleaning a ship that always seemed spotless. The few that were off duty gathered wherever they could find room, for a battleship at sea, with her full complement of officers and men on board, is a crowded affair.
No other ship of the American fleet was in sight, but two operators, constantly on duty in the wireless room, kept the "Long Island" in constant touch with a score of vessels of the United States Navy.
"Have you any idea what we're doing here?" asked Danny Grin, as he and Dave met on the superstructure.
"No idea whatever," Ensign Darrin admitted. "I have noticed, though, that the officers on the bridge keep a constant lookout ashore. See; two of them, even now, have their binoculars trained on the shore."
"I don't see anything over there," replied Dalzell, "except a house or a small village here and there. I looked through the binoculars a little while ago, and to me it appeared a country that was about nine-tenths swamp."
"In the event of sending landing parties ashore," Dave hinted, "we might have to fight in one of those swamps. When it comes to fighting in the tangles and mazes of a swamp, I fancy the Mexicans have had a whole lot more experience than we have had."
"Why should we have to send landing parties so far from Vera Cruz?" Dan demanded, opening his eyes.
"We're only forty or fifty miles east of Vera Cruz," Darrin went on. "Danny boy, Vera Cruz is supposed to have a garrison, at present, of only about eight hundred of General Huerta's Mexican Federals. But suppose it was rumored that the Americans intended to land at Vera Cruz. Isn't it likely that the garrison would be greatly increased?"
"Let 'em increase their old garrison," smiled Dalzell, contemptuously. "The first landing parties from our fleet would drive out any kind of a Mexican garrison that Huerta could put in that town."
"Exactly," nodded Dave, "and then the Mexicans would naturally fall back."
"We can chase 'em," asserted Ensign Dalzell.
"Certainly, but a large force of Mexicans might fall back along the coast, through the swampy country we are now facing."
"In that case," argued Dan, "we wouldn't have to follow the brown rascals on foot. We could use the ship to follow 'em, and land and fight where we found 'em."
"To be sure," Ensign Darrin agreed. "But the Mexicans, knowing their own swamps, would have considerable advantage. They might have part of their force retreat, drawing us further and further into a swamp, and then have another force get between us and our ships."
"Let 'em try it," retorted Dan Dalzell, grimly, "If there is anything new that the Greasers want to know about American methods of fighting, our fleet is full of officers who are willing to be patient instructors. But take my word for it, Dave, if the Mexicans ever try to draw us into one of those swamps, they'll learn so much about real Yankee fighting that it will be fatal to all the Mexicans who take the instruction from us!"
"That's all very good," Darrin nodded, thoughtfully. "Still, we shall make a greater success of operations in the swamps if we study them as much as possible at present."
"I hope the study will soon be followed by a recitation," grinned Dalzell. "I feel that I'm going stale with so much study. Now, if we could only hear a few shots, and then fall in with an advancing firing line!"
"You bloodthirsty wretch!" rebuked Ensign Darrin, but he smiled in sympathy.
"This waiting and watching grows wearisome," groaned Danny Grin.
"But we're watching behind big guns," returned Dave Darrin, grimly. "Surely, when our ships are down here in such force, and others are being rushed through preparation before coming into these waters, there must be something more in the air than the ordinary kind of watching and waiting. Cheer up, Dan! Before long you'll hear some of our big guns speak, and you'll hear the rattle of small arms, too."
"Understand, please," begged Dalzell, "I'm not bloodthirsty, and I abhor the very thought of war, but, since we're doing all the watching and waiting, I wish these Mexicans would hurry up and start something!"
Trent climbed to the superstructure. Then, catching sight of his juniors, he came toward them.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Watching," sighed Dave.
"And waiting," added Danny Grin.
"Then perhaps you youngsters will be interested in the news of what's going on under this superstructure," suggested Lieutenant Trent.
"What's happening below?" demanded Dalzell. "More watching—-and waiting?"
"Why, I have an idea that we won't have to wait much longer," replied Trent, smiling at the eager faces before him. "I've just learned that, for the last twenty minutes, Captain Gales has been standing in the wireless room, and that Commander Bainbridge is with him. They are, so I hear, having a hot and heavy wireless talk with Admiral Fletcher."
"A little talk, as a relief from so much watching and waiting, eh?" asked Darrin, dryly.
"Why, I believe that the talk is going to lead to something real," replied Lieutenant Trent, trying hard to keep the flash of excitement from showing in his own eyes. The fact is, something has happened."
"Don't 'string' us like that!" urged Danny Grin. "Why, Trent, the American Navy, and the Army, too, has been waiting for three years or more for something to happen. But so far it has all happened on the Mexican side. Don't tell us, at this late day, that the United States is going to start anything to happening on the other side."
"There's something up," Trent insisted. "I don't know what it is; I haven't an idea of the nature of the happening, but of this I feel rather sure,—-that now, at last, the Mexicans have done something that will turn Yankee guns and Yankee men loose."
"I wonder if you're any good as a prophet, Trent?" pondered Dan, studying his division officer's face keenly.
"We'll wait and see," laughed the lieutenant. "If there really is anything in the wind, I think we'll have a suspicion of what it is by mess-hour to-night. A little more watching and waiting won't hurt us."
"Hear that commotion on the quarter-deck?" demanded Dave, suddenly. "I hear a lot of talking there. Come on. We'll see if waiting is about to be turned into doing."
Trent walked slowly aft. Still chatting with him, Dave and Dan kept by his side. Then they stood looking down upon the quarter-deck.
Presently two messengers came running out, looking eagerly about them. One messenger, catching sight of the three officers on the superstructure, came bounding up the steps, halting and saluting.
"Compliments of the executive officer," announced the messenger; "Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell are directed to report to his office immediately."
"Perhaps you'll hear the news at once," murmured Trent, as his juniors left him.
When the two ensigns reported to him, Commander Bainbridge was pacing the passageway outside his office.
"The captain is awaiting us in his office," said the executive. "We will go there at once."
The instant he entered the captain's quarters, Darrin had sudden misgivings of some impending misfortune, for Lieutenant Cantor, very erect, and looking both stern and important, was talking in low tones with Captain Gales.
"Now, what has the scoundrel found to fasten upon me?" Ensign Dave Darrin wondered, with a start. "And how has he managed to drag Dan into it?"
FIRST TO INVADE MEXICO
"Gentlemen," began Captain Gales, seriously, though there was a pleasant smile on his face, "I imagine I have extremely pleasant news for two of you. Commander Bainbridge and Lieutenant Trent have already some idea of the news, but I will go over it again for the benefit of all here."
"I may go on breathing again," Dave thought grimly. "Then this communication can hardly be in reference to any complaint that Cantor may have lodged against me."
"Messrs. Cantor, Darrin and Dalzell will tonight," resumed the captain, "lead the first expeditions by United States forces that have been made in a great many years."
Had war been declared? Both Dave and Dan fairly jumped with eagerness.
"A letter, coming by some mysterious, round-about route," continued Captain Gales, "has reached the American consul at Vera Cruz. An American party, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. John Carmody and two small sons, and of Mrs. Sarah Deeming and two daughters nineteen and sixteen years of age, came down by muleback from the plateau some three weeks ago. Carmody is a planter up in that part of the country, and the Deemings were his guests. Different bands of bandit raiders have visited the Carmody plantation from time to time within the last two years, stealing stock and supplies, and levying money blackmail, until Carmody found himself practically ruined, unless the present crops should turn out well.
"Three weeks ago Carmody learned that it was high time for isolated Americans to reach the protection of some large town. Attended by two peons (native laborers), and travelling on mule back, the party started through the mountains for Vera Cruz. Four hours out from the plantation the party was halted by a score of men led by a brigand named Cosetta, who is reported to be the right hand man of the notorious Zapata himself.
"Cosetta, it appears, believed that he could force Carmody to pay a large indemnity, in money, for the release of himself and family and their woman friends. First of all, the Americans were taken to a house near a deserted sugar mill, somewhere on the coast opposite us. This sugar mill stands on a lagoon, and that is as much of a description as Carmody could furnish in his hastily penned letter. But we know that there are, along this part of the coast, three such deserted sugar mills, each standing on a lagoon.
"Plainly, the Carmodys must be in the house near one of these three mills, but which one it is we cannot even guess. Admiral Fletcher sent me the news two hours ago, by wireless. Ever since then we have been in earnest communication upon the subject, and now I have my orders in the matter."
"It would be possible, of course, for us to visit each one of these lagoons in turn. However, if we visited the wrong mill first, these bandits undoubtedly have some means of signaling to comrades. Our landing party might be observed, and the news of the attempt at rescue would be signaled by fires or otherwise, and the discovery of our designs would undoubtedly result in the Carmody party being butchered at once.
"Acting under the orders of Cosetta, or, I might say, under his threats, Mr. Carmody has sent appeals in every direction he could think of for the funds to pay the hundred thousand dollar ransom demanded for the party. These requests have been carried on through agents of Cosetta, but none of the appeals have borne fruit. Wearied, Cosetta has announced that on a certain morning, if the ransom has not arrived, Carmody and all the members of his party, even including the children, shall be shot and buried in hidden graves. There is little doubt that Cosetta will carry out his threat, and to-morrow morning is the time set for this wholesale murder."
Fire flashed in the eyes of the Navy officers who heard this announcement.
"As you may be certain," continued Captain Gales, "Admiral Fletcher has wired me that this proposed atrocity must be prevented, and the American captives rescued at all hazards. Now, attend me while I show you the detail chart for this part of the coast."
Captain Gales turned to his desk, where the map was spread.
"Here, as you will see," he continued, "is a sugar mill belonging to the Alvarez plantations. Ten miles to the eastward of the Alvarez mill is the Perdita mill; ten miles to the westward of the Alvarez mill is the Acunda mill. To-night there will be no moon. At nine o'clock we shall lie to off the Alvarez mill, and three sixty-foot launches will be lowered to the water. Lieutenant Cantor will command one of these launches, Ensign Darrin another and Ensign Dalzell the third. Each launch will carry one automatic gun, and a landing party of a corporal, six marines, a petty officer and twelve seamen. Each party will be armed, but, gentlemen, I must caution you as to the extreme seriousness of any conflict on shore, or of firing, even though your fire is not directed at human beings. These are days when our relations with Mexico are of an extremely delicate nature. If we send an armed party on shore, and its members fight, it will be difficult, indeed, for our government to make the claim that an act of war was not committed on the soil of a nation that is, at present, at peace with us. The consequences of a fight are likely to be grave indeed. Therefore, the officer in command of each landing party is especially warned that the rescue of the American prisoners must be accomplished by strategy, not by fighting."
Captain Gales looked keenly at each of the three young officers concerned, to make sure that they understood the full gravity of the situation.
"Strategy, remember—-not fighting," Captain Gales repeated. "Now, the 'Long Island' will not go within four miles of the coast. Yet, despite the darkness to-night, it is likely that a craft as large as this ship would be noted from the shore, and her errand suspected. That might result in the execution of the American captives before aid could reach them. So, when we reach a point opposite the Alvarez mill, Lieutenant Cantor's launch will be put over the side first, while the ship continues under slow headway."
Lieutenant Cantor will lie to, while the other two launches are being lowered. Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell will then steam back and report to Lieutenant Cantor. Under slow speed it will take the launches, commanded by the two ensigns, each about an hour and ten minutes to reach their respective lagoon destinations. It will take the lieutenant just under thirty minutes to reach the Alvarez lagoon. Ensign Dalzell will go to the Perdita lagoon, and Ensign Darrin to the Acunda lagoon. Forty minutes after Dalzell and Darrin have steamed away, Lieutenant Cantor will run in to the Alvarez mill. Our launches are not likely to be observed from shore, where the 'Long Island,' if she remained in these waters, would be sure to be seen and recognized.
"Therefore, after dropping the steamers, we shall go ahead at cruising speed and not return opposite the Alvarez mill until called by a rocket, which Lieutenant Cantor will send up as soon as the rescue has been accomplished—-or has failed. But, gentlemen"—-here Captain Gales' voice sank low, yet vibrated with intense earnestness—-"all of you will realize the extreme importance of your mission, and the awful consequences of failure. Therefore, I feel certain that none of you will break the Navy's long list of traditions for zealous, careful, successful performance of duty. Lieutenant Cantor will be in command of the expedition, as a whole."
For some minutes the officers remained in the captain's quarters, discussing further the important work of the coming night.
As no instructions for secrecy had been asked or expected, Commander Bainbridge soon told the news to a few of the "Long Island's" ranking officers, who, in turn passed it on.
"Of all the luck that some officers have!" groaned Lieutenant Trent, as he passed Dave Darrin. "How did you work it, Darrin, to secure one of the details for to-night that any subordinate officer on this ship would have been delighted to see come his way?"
"I don't know," Dave laughingly admitted.
"Darrin, are you hard up?" asked Lieutenant Holton, five minutes later.
"I have a few dollars left," Dave smiled.
"If you can get me shifted to your detail for to-night I'll reward you with a month of my pay," promised the lieutenant.
"Thank you," Dave smiled, gravely. "Even if the change could be easily arranged, I'm afraid I wouldn't give up my chance for six months' pay."
"No chance for me, then," sighed Holton. "I can't remember that I ever had six months' of my pay together at one time."
"Darrin," exclaimed Lieutenant Commander Denton, still a little later, "I never realized that you had so much impudence! The idea of a mere ensign leading such an expedition ashore to-night! I wanted that myself."
"I am not at all sure that my performance will be one of glory," smiled Darrin.
"It won't, if Cantor can manage to queer you in any way," murmured Denton to himself, as he moved on.
In the ward-room that evening the "impertinence" of two new ensigns in capturing such prized details was commented upon with a great deal of chaffing. Even Lieutenant Cantor was declared to be much too young to be entrusted with such important work.
At eight o'clock the fortunate lieutenant and ensigns were once more sent for, to go over the map and instructions with Captain Gales.
At nine o'clock, just before the "Long Island" was abreast of the Alvarez mill, the first launch was cleared away and lowered, falling behind and lying to.
Then Darrin, with his own crew, went down over the side to the launch towing alongside. It was Coxswain Riley who stood by to catch the young commanding officer's arm.
"Hullo, Coxswain," was Dave's greeting. "Are you to handle the launch to-night?"
"No, sir," Riley answered, saluting. "I am the petty officer in charge of the seamen. Coxswain Schmidt handles the launch, sir."
As soon as his party had hurried aboard, Darrin gave the order to cast off. Under slow speed astern the launch joined Lieutenant Cantor's craft.
"I'm glad that I'm to have you on shore tonight with me, Coxswain," said Dave, heartily.
"Thank you, sir," answered the coxswain, saluting and actually blushing with pleasure.
Soon after Dan's launch ranged up with the other two, and the "Long Island" was vanishing in the distance ahead, not a light showing, for it is the privilege of the commander of a war vessel to sail without lights, when the interests of the services may be furthered thereby. Nor did any of the launches display lights.
As each of the boats was to run at slow speed, it was hoped that each landing party would reach shore without detection.
Lieutenant Cantor went over the instructions once more, talking in low tones across the water.
"And above all, remember that there is to be no fighting," Cantor added, impressively, looking straight into Darrin's eyes.
"Punk orders, when each man is provided with a hundred rounds of rifle ammunition, and when each automatic gun is supplied with two thousand rounds!" grumbled Coxswain Riley, under his breath.
"Gentlemen, you will now get under way," ordered Lieutenant Cantor. "You will remember each sentence of your instructions!"
Silently, two of the launches stole away into the night, bound east and west, while the third launch awaited the time to start shoreward.
On Darrin's launch there was little talking, and that in whispers. Dave had made a most careful study of the map, and felt certain that he could give the course straight into the lagoon on which the Acunda mill stood.
"Coxswain Schmidt," said Ensign Darrin, in a low voice, when still some four miles away from the proposed place of landing, "when you are close enough to shore to signal the engineer, you will do so by hand signal, not by use of the bell. Seaman Berne will watch for your signals, and convey them to the engineer."
"Very good, sir," replied both coxswain and seaman.
"Probably it won't be my luck to find the American captives at the Acunda plantation," murmured Darrin.
None the less, when he at last sighted the lagoon, his heart began to beat excitedly.
Under reduced speed, now, the launch stole into the lagoon. Less than a quarter of a mile from shore the sugar mill, deserted since the rebellion first took acute form, stood out dimly against the dark sky.
To within a hundred and fifty yards of the mill the launch ran, then swung in at a nearly ruined old wharf.
Ensign Dave Darrin was first to step ashore, signing to his men to follow him with all stealth.
"Corporal," Darrin whispered, "unless summoned later, you will stand by the launch with your men, to prevent it being rushed in case the bandits are abroad to-night. Coxswain Riley, you will form your men loosely and follow me, keeping about a hundred yards to the rear, making no sound as you advance."
Officer and men were all in dark uniforms, which in the blackness of the night would not be seen at any distance, whereas the white tropical uniforms would have immediately betrayed the raiders.
About seven hundred feet beyond the sugar mill Darrin had already located the house. Like the old mill, the residence was in darkness. Not a light shone, nor was there a sound to be heard.
"This eerie stretch of ground makes one think of a graveyard," thought Darrin, with a comical little shiver, as his left hand gripped his sword scabbard tightly to prevent it clanking against his left heel.
He turned to look behind him. Riley and twelve armed seamen were following him like so many unsubstantial spectres.
Past the mill, and down the road to the house strode Darrin, but his moving feet made hardly a sound.
A little before the house ran a line of flowering tropical hedge. Darrin gained this, and was about to pass in through an opening in the hedge when a figure suddenly appeared in the darkness right ahead of him.
A rifle was leveled at the young ensign's breast, and in a steady voice came the hail that set the young ensign's heart to beating fast:
It was the Spanish challenge—-"Who goes there?"
DAVE DARRIN TO THE RESCUE
Dave's sword hung at his side. His revolver was in its scabbard over his left hip, but just out of view of the sentry.
As to his being in uniform, he realized that the night was so dark that there was little danger of his nationality being discovered.
All these thoughts flashed through his mind in a twinkling, as they should with a good officer.
Darrin's course of action was as swiftly decided.
"Amigo," he replied, tranquilly. "Amigo de los prisoneros!" (Friends of the prisoners).
By the time the second explanation had left his lips Dave had bounded forward, struck aside the rifle, and had gripped the sentry by the throat, bearing him to the ground.
A blow from one of the young ensign's fists, and the fellow lay still.
Espying trouble from the rear, Coxswain Riley started his men on a swift run toward the spot. In a few moments the sentry, doubtless badly scared, had been gagged, and bound hand and foot with the handy hitches of jack tars.