A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 12

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CHAPTER XII.


ATTACKED IN THE CANYON.


A good sleep during the night had rested me thoroughly; so, while the others sat around, talking or smoking "home-made" cigars, made out of some native tobacco which Matt Gory had secured during his wanderings, I started up the canyon on a short tour of exploration.

"I've heard that there is gold on this island," I laughed, when Tom Dawson asked me where I was bound. "I'm going to strike a bonanza."

"Look out that you don't stir up some wild animal big enough to chew you up," he yelled after me.

The canyon was filled with brushwood and vines, with here and there heavy clusters of tropical flowers, so odoriferous that they were positively sickening. Some of these flowers, I afterward learned, can readily put one to sleep if you sit by them long enough.

I found an easy path to the top of the canyon, at a point where the walls were fifty to sixty feet high and three times as far apart. At the top was a patch of smooth ground, back of which began the upward slope of the mountain.

I kept my eyes open for wild animals, but nothing of size presented itself, although I detected something moving near the mountain top, probably some Philippine goats. There were countless birds, and in a dark corner of the canyon I roused up half a dozen bats, none of which, however, offered to molest me.

Coming to a truly beautiful spot, where a tiny mountain stream formed a waterfall that leaped and danced in the sunshine striking through some flowered brushwood, I threw myself down and gave myself up to reflection.

What a variety of adventures had I passed through since leaving home! In Hong Kong the days had not passed without incident, and now here I was, cast away on the island of Luzon, minus my money and the documents I had been intrusted to deliver, and in a land that was practically in a state of war.

And yet I knew absolutely nothing of the important events which were transpiring in what might be called the outer world. I did not know that the war between Spain and the inhabitants of of Cuba had reached its height and that the relarelations between Spain and the United States had culminated in the total destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, and that we were on the verge of war with the Spaniards in consequence. Nor did I know how my father was suffering in Cuban wilds, as related in "When Santiago Fell." Perhaps it is a good thing that I did not know about my parent's condition, for I would have worried a good deal, and worrying would have done no good.

From day-dreaming over the present I began to speculate on the past, on my schoolboy days,, and on the great interest I had taken for several years in steam engines, machinery of all sorts, and in big guns. Guns, such as were used in the forts on our Pacific seacoast, had particularly interested me, and I had studied them in all of their details, never once dreaming how useful this knowledge was to be to me.

From day-dreaming I fell into a light doze, from which I awoke with a start to find the form of a man leaning over me. The man had clutched my arm and this had aroused me. One glance showed that the man was Captain Kenny.

"Now I've got the chance I'll serve you as I served Holbrook!" he hissed into my ear, and hurled me over the edge of the canyon down to where the mountain torrent struck the rocks far below.

"Don't!" I managed to gasp; but that was all. I felt myself dropping through space, made a vain clutch at some brush which scraped my cheek, and then struck heavily on the rocks—and knew no more. When I recovered my senses it was pitch-dark around me and a light rain was falling. At first I could not collect myself and did not attempt to stir. Where was I, and what had happened?

The flowing of water over one arm aroused me, and, making examination, I found that I was lying half in and half out of the mountain torrent. Had I fallen into a little different position I must surely have drowned. As a matter of fact my hair showed that I had fallen head first into the water, but had by some unconscious movement saved myself from a watery grave.

It was fully a quarter of an hour before I felt able to sit up, much less stand on my feet. I ached in every joint, and my head was in such a whirl that I could scarcely see.

"Oh, what a villain Captain Kenny is!" were the first words that crossed my lips. "I'll get square with him as soon as I can join the others again!" Alas! little did I then realize that my companions had hunted for me in vain, and that a band of Tagals had made it necessary for them to set off in their boat without me, taking with them the guilty captain, who had never opened his lips concerning his perfidy.

By the darkness I knew it was night, but what part of the night I could not determine. Yet I thought it could not be late, and that I must try to get back to the shore, no matter how much pain it cost me.

I arose to my feet to make a disheartening discovery. My left ankle was badly wrenched and much swollen, and to walk on it was out of the question. Here was a new difficulty, and I must confess that I could scarcely hold back the tears as I felt my helplessness. Perhaps this may seem childish to some of my readers, but they must remember that it is no fun to be cast away in a savage land, away from your friends, and in the condition in which I found myself.

Not without considerable pain and exertion, I dragged myself to a place of shelter beneath the overhanging rocks of the canyon. Here it was dry, and the winds had swept in a quantity of dried leaves which made a fairly comfortable couch. The exertion necessary to reach this place caused me to swoon.

When I was again myself, it was daylight, but still raining—a fine drizzle that was little more than a mist. Looking at my ankle I saw that the swelling had gone down a bit, and I presently found that I could stand upon it, although the operation was far from a pleasure. The rain had collected in a hollow close at hand, and here I got a drink and bathed my bruised head and lower extremity. I might have eaten some light food, but nothing was at hand, excepting some berries which were strange to me, and which I did not dare to touch for fear they might prove poisonous.

Slowly the hours came and went and still I remained under the cliff, a prey to many disturbing thoughts. What were my companions doing? Would they come up the canyon in search of me, or would they sail off and leave me to my fate?

Toward nightfall several shots in the distance disturbed me. They did not come from the shore, but from still further up the canyon. I listened intently, bat nothing but silence succeeded the discharge of firearms.

The night which followed proved a long one. For several hours I could not get to sleep for thinking of my position, but finally I fell into a deep slumber that lasted far into the next day.

The sun was now shining brightly and the birds and insects had again taken up their songs and hummings. I arose and stretched myself, and was pleased to note that I could walk fairly well and that my brain was clear, even though my head still felt sore.

I directed my footsteps down the canyon to the seashore, coming out at the spot where I had left Dawson and the others encamped. Nothing remained but the charred embers of a camp-fire, which had been built to cook some fish.

I say nothing remained. There was something else there that filled me with horror. It was a long Tagal spear, and its barb was covered with blood. The sands were filled with countless tracks of bare feet.

"There has been a fight here," I murmured, and ran to the water's edge. The Mollie was gone, but whether taken by friends or the enemy there was no telling.

For a long while I stood on the sands speculating upon the new turn of affairs. I was now left utterly alone, that was clear. What should I do?

Without a boat a journey by water was out of the question. If I tried to gain Manila by a trip overland I felt that I would either become lost in the mountains or else fall into the hands of the warlike Tagals.

"I'll follow the shore to Subig Bay," I concluded, and in an hour was on my slow and painful way, after a morning meal of half-ripe plantains which were far from palatable.

By noon I concluded that I had covered four or five miles, having had considerable difficulty in getting past the mountain which cut off the beach for the space of two or three furlongs. It was now growing so hot I was compelled to seek shelter in the forest, and here put in the time by bringing down half a dozen birds, which afforded me nearly as many meals.

The next four days were very much alike. I continued on my way, past Iba and several other settlements. At the place named, I almost ran into the lines of the native rebels and saw a pitched battle from afar, in which, as I afterward ascertained, ten insurgents and six Spaniards were killed and twice that many were wounded.

The end of the fourth day found me at the entrance to Subig Bay, and here I rested for several hours. Lying on the north shore I saw half a dozen ships at anchor, one of which, a two-masted schooner, flew the Stars and Stripes.

"If I can get to that craft I'll be safe," I said to myself. "I'll watch her and see if anybody comes ashore."

On the following morning I saw the schooner move slowly for the entrance to Subig Bay. Running with all speed for the point of land between the bay and the China Sea, I waved my hands frantically and was at last gratified to see that somebody on board had noticed me. Presently the schooner came to anchor again, and a small boat put out for the beach.

As the boat came closer I uttered a cry of amazement and delight, for at one of the oars sat a person I had not expected to see for many days to come. It was Tom Dawson.