A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 11

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Slowly the footsteps came closer, as though the three persons were approaching with extreme caution.

"Perhaps they heard us," I whispered to Tom Dawson, and he nodded. "If they are natives what shall we do?"

"We'll have to trust to luck, lad. I would rather fight to the end than become a prisoner again."

"So will I fight."

I had a club which I had been using in knocking over game, and this I held ready for any emergency which might present itself. Slowly the three newcomers came closer, then stopped short, and we heard not another sound.

I must confess that my heart leaped into my throat, as I had a mental vision of a tall Tagal sneaking up behind me and running me through with his cruel spear. Were the newcomers trying to surround us?

Five minutes passed,—it was more than an age to me,—and still the silence continued, broken only by the birds as they fluttered from tree to brush. From a distance came the incessant hum of millions of tropical insects, but to this sound I had long since become accustomed.

"Begorra, Oi don't see nothin at all, at all!" came in a rich Irish voice not a dozen yards away from me. "If they be haythins, where are they?"

"Matt Gory!" I burst out. "Matt Gory, is that you?"

"The saints be praised, it's Oliver Raymond!" came from the delighted Irishman, and now he rushed forward and literally embraced me. "I was afther thinkin' ye was one av thim villainous Tagals!"

Gory was followed by Watt Brown and Captain Kenny. The second mate was also delighted to see me. Captain Kenny, however, merely scowled, and then turned to Dawson and Ah Sid.

Our various stories were soon told, and we learned that the newcomers had also intended to hunt up a small boat. "I intended to cut down a sapling and hoist some kind of a sail," said Watt Brown. "Sailing down to Subig Bay will be far better than to make the journey overland, especially during these trying times."

Watt Brown had had one advantage over us. He had met a Spaniard who could speak a little English, and from this man had learned a good deal that was decidedly interesting.

"The natives have made war on the Spaniards tooth and nail," he said. "Not only the neighborhood around Manila, but the whole of the island of Luzon is up in arms. General Aguinaldo had under him something like forty to fifty thousand Tagals, Philippine Spaniards, and others, and they have declared for independence. They swear they will pay no further taxes to the Spanish."

"But all people have to pay taxes," I ventured.

"Yes, but not as the Filipinos do, my boy. They are taxed for about everything they eat and everything they drink, and they pay a tax for doing business. They can't cut down a tree, or shear a sheep, or pull down cocoanuts without paying a tax to the government. Besides this, they have also to pay large sums of money to the Church, and so they are kept poverty-stricken from year to year. I don't blame 'em for revolting, as it is called."

"Spain is having her hands full just now," remarked Tom Dawson. "The war in Cuba is ten times worse than the war here, I'm thinking."

"That Spaniard I met was very angry against us Americans," resumed Watt Brown. "He said Americans are aiding the Cubans, and if we didn't look out Spain would punish us for it."

This caused Dawson to laugh. "Ha! ha! The idea of Spain doing anything to Uncle Sam," he said. "I reckon we can take care of ourselves, every trip."

How right he was later events proved.

As there were now six of us, we worked with more confidence. Each of us had a good club, and we provided ourselves with stones that were jagged of edge, to use in case of sudden attack. Ah Sid also made himself a sling shot out of a pliable tree branch and showed us what he could do with this weapon by bringing down a pigeon with a stone at a distance of fifty yards.

It was nearly nightfall by the time we had brought in our birds, pigeons, and fish and cooked them. In the meantime Watt Brown had been as good as his word and had rigged up a small mast and a sail on the Mollie, as he had dubbed the craft. The sky was clear and it promised to be moonlight, and we decided to leave the coast as soon as we had eaten supper, which would be our last meal on shore for probably three or four days, if not a week.

"We must keep our eyes peeled for those Tagals," remarked Tom Dawson, as we squatted around the camp-fire. "If we don't they may surprise us, and then our cake will be dough."

The Mollie lay ready for shoving off, so we could leave at the first sign of danger. As we ate we discussed the situation and what the future was likely to bring forth.

"I shall demand that the Spanish government give me protection to take the Dart into a proper harbor," said Captain Kenny, who was now, perforce, perfectly sober. "Those Tagals have no legal claim to the wreck."

"But they must have some claim," I answered.

"No claim whatever—and I can prove it," returned the captain, as he glared at me.

"How can you prove that, captain?" asked Tom Dawson. "Every man of us left her — there is no gainsaying that."

"Never mind; I can prove they have no claim upon her," was the captain's answer, but further than that he would not say.

Our supper was scarcely concluded when the moon came up over the rim of the sea, as white as new silver. We began our preparations to embark without further delay. As we worked I saw Captain Kenny eye me in a strange manner that gave me a cold chill, and I resolved to be more than ever on my guard against him.

Our provisions and ourselves made as much of a load as the Mollie could safely carry, and at the last moment some cocoanuts had to be left behind. Water was stored away in the bucket which had been used for bailing out the craft and in hollow stalks of bamboo, the latter making first-class receptacles. The cooked things were wrapped in palm leaves and covered with damp seaweed.

The captain, the two mates, and Matt Gory took the oars, and a few well-directed strokes took the Mollie out of the cove and well on toward the opening in the line of breakers. "We'll have to row and watch out, too, since the boy can't do anything," grumbled Captain Kenny. I firmly believe, had he had his way, he would have left me behind.

"Watch for the opening, Oliver," said Tom Dawson. "You can do that as well as anyone." I did as directed, and before long the dangerous line of coral was passed and we were riding the long stretches of the China Sea as safely as though crossing the Bay of San Francisco.

Fortunately, not only Captain Kenny, but also Dawson and Brown, could read the stars with ease, so but little trouble was experienced in holding to a course which was certain to bring us down to Subig Bay sooner or later. The wind was favorable, and the sail being hoisted the oars were shipped, and we took it easy under the pale gleaming of the Southern Cross.

"We may as well divide up into watches," suggested Tom Dawson, and after some talk it was decided that he, Matt Gory, and myself should stand the first watch of four hours, while the captain. Watt Brown, and Ah Sid took the second watch of equal length.

In this manner the night passed without incident, for when I slept I did so between my two friends, so I was safe from any evil designs that Captain Kenny might have upon me, even had he dared to carry them out while the second mate was on watch with him.

Sunrise found us still in sight of land, at a point where the mountains of Luzon ran directly down into the sea. The air was filled with a bluish mist, and by ten o'clock was oppressive to the last degree.

"It's a good thing we have the sail," I remarked. "Nobody could possibly row in this awful heat."

"The sail may not do us any good presently," answered Watt Brown.

"Why not?"

"Don't you see how the wind is dying down?"

The second mate was right, and presently the sail flapped idly against the stumpy mast. Tom Dawson looked at the oars, picked up one of the blades, let it fall again, and shook his head. "Too blasted hot, no use of talking."

"I think I would rather lay under the shadow of yonder mountain than out here all day," said Brown. "What do you say, boys; shall we pull for the shore?"

A vote was taken, and it was found that even Captain Kenny preferred land to that boiling and sizzling sea. But he declined to row. "Let the boy take a hand," he said.

I was willing, and I think I can safely say that I made fairly good progress. "I can run an engine or a steam launch, but I never had much of a chance at a row- or sail-boat," I explained.

"By the way, what is taking you to Manila, if I may ask?" questioned the second mate curiously.

"It's partly business and partly pleasure. You know my father is a member of the firm of Raymond, Holbrook & Smith, manufacturers of engines and sugar-making machinery. I wanted a vacation and was sent to Hong Kong and Manila, to get the fresh air and learn the business at the same time."

"You say you can run an engine?"

"Oh, yes, I can run almost anything that goes by steam," I laughed. "I take to it naturally, although I don't intend to become an engineer. Now if the Dart had only carried a steam or naphtha launch, we would have been all right," and here this talk came to an end. Finding a landing at the mountain side was not easy, for the waves ran up strongly against those rocks, which, in some places, were a hundred feet in height. But we discovered a small canyon, or split, and ran into this, a delightful locality, as shady as it was cool and inviting. Again the boat was beached, and we hopped ashore, I, however, never dreaming that that was to be my last trip in the little craft.