A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 14

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CHAPTER XIV.


THE ESCAPE FROM THE PRISON.


"What does this mean?" demanded Dan, who understood what was said, even though I did not.

"What is up, Dan?" I queried.

"They want to arrest us as rebel sympathizers."

"Great Caesar's ghost! Why, we——"

"We talked too much on the street. Don't you remember?"

By this time the four soldiers had advanced upon us until we were penned in one corner of the office.

In vain Harry Longley expostulated. The Spanish spy who had followed us would not listen and demanded our immediate arrest.

I must confess that the sudden turn of affairs confused me. I had yet to learn the real blessings of "free speech," as we understand it in the United States.

"You are in a pickle, truly," said the clerk. "I hope they can't prove anything against you." "I suppose we did talk a little too much," I answered bitterly. "What will they do with us?"

"They'll do what they please, from fining you a dollar or two to shooting you over in the Lunetta," answered Longley. The Lunetta is a public park, and here more than one rebel had already been executed.

"Supposing I decline to be arrested?" I went on.

"You'll run the risk of being shot on the spot."

By this time two of the soldiers had caught me by the arms. The other two made Dan their prisoner.

We tried to argue, but all to no purpose, the Spaniard who had made the charge stating that we could do our talking when brought up before the court.

"We may as well march along," said Dan helplessly. "These fellows evidently mean business."

"I'm not going to prison if I can help it," I answered desperately.

"We will see about zat!" cried the Spanish spy. "March, or I order ze men to shoot!"

"I shall escape the first chance I get," I whispered to Dan.

"So will I," answered my companion, and a look passed between us which each understood thoroughly.

"I'll help you if I can," whispered Harry Longley.

He was permitted to say no more, indeed, it was hardly safe to say anything, the Spanish spy being half of a mind to arrest the clerk, too.

We were marched from the office by a back way and across a narrow street lined with warehouses. Here we came in contact with a number of native and Chinese laborers, who eyed us curiously, but said nothing. As a matter of fact, arrests of foreigners were becoming frequent in Manila.

Ten minutes of walking brought us to a fine building—at least fine in comparison to those which surrounded it. This was the jail in which we were to be confined until brought up for a hearing.

We entered the jail yard through a gate to a tall iron fence. Beyond was a wide, gloomy corridor, the lower floor of the jail being on a level with the street. A guard passed us after hearing what the spy had to say, and we were conducted to a room in the rear.

"What a horrible place," were my first words to Dan, as I gazed around at our surroundings. The room was filled with the smoke of the ever-present cigarette, for it must be remembered that in the Philippines women as well as men smoke. To this smell of tobacco was added that of cooking with garlic, for garlic is the one vegetable that is never missing from the pot.

A dozen prisoners stood and sat around, some in deep anger and others in sullen silence. One, an Englishman, was nearly crazy.

"Hi'll show them who Hi am!" he bawled. "Hi'll sue them for a 'undred thousand punds damages, so Hi will!"

"What did they arrest you for?" I asked.

"What for? Nothing, young man, absolutely nothing. Hi said it was a beastly country, not fit for a 'og to live in, and then they collared me. But Hi'll show them, blast me hif Hi don't!" and he began to pace the floor at a ten-mile-an-hour gait. Soon a guard came in and threatened him with a club, and he collapsed in a corner.

There were no seats vacant, and Dan and I took up our places near a window, which was barred with half a dozen rusty-looking iron sticks set in mortar which was decidedly crumbly. As we stood there I tried one of the bars and found I could wrench it loose with ease. I mentioned the fact to Dan.

"Look out of the window and tell me what you see," he returned, and I looked.

"I see a guard at the corner of the jail and another near the fence."

"Exactly, and both armed with Mauser rifles, eh?"

"They are certainly armed."

"Then what chance would we stand to escape, even if we pulled those bars from the window?"

"A good chance—at night, when they couldn't see us."

"By Jove, Oliver, that's an idea worth remembering. But we must be careful, or——"

Dan did not finish, for he had noticed that a fellow prisoner was listening intently to all which was said.

"He may not be a prisoner at all," he said later on. "He may be another Spanish spy. My idea is that the woods are full of them."

"I've no doubt but that you are right," I returned.

The day passed slowly and so did that which followed. We had expected an immediate hearing, but it did not come.

"I don't like this," growled my companion. "Every prisoner is entitled to appear before the court. I shall demand a hearing at once, or appeal to the American consul for aid."

Accordingly he notified the jailer that we wanted to see somebody in authority without delay.

For reply the Spaniard grinned meaningly and shrugged his shoulders.

"Señor must wait," he said, in broken English. "All de court verra busy; no can hear you till next week."

"But I demand a hearing," insisted Dan. "If I don't get it I shall write to our American consul about it."

"Write to consul, eh? Who carry de lettair, señor? Not me surely," and with another grin the jailer walked away and left us to ourselves. We now realized how it was—we were in the hands of enemies who would do with us just as they saw fit.

The next day it began to rain and by nightfall it was pouring down steadily. There was neither thunder nor lightning and the firmament was, to use an old simile, as black as ink. Supper was served to us at seven o'clock, a beef, rice, and garlic stew that neither of us could touch. "I'll rather starve," was Dan's comment.

By ten o'clock the majority of the prisoners were sound asleep, the Englishman snoring loudly and several others keeping in chorus with him. "Let them snore," said I, "it will help drown any noise we may make."

Dan and I had secured our places directly beneath the window previously mentioned, and now, standing on tiptoes, we worked at the bars with an old fork and a rusty spoon we had managed to secrete from our jailer.

Ten minutes of twisting and turning and I had one iron bar loose, and using this as a pry we soon forced three others, and then the opening thus afforded was large enough to admit the passage of a man's body.

"Now out we go!" I whispered. "I'll drop first and, if the coast is clear, I'll whisper to you and you come, but wake the others first, so that they can have a chance to escape. The more get away the better it will be for us to escape recapture."

I leaped to the window sill, turned and dropped outside. All was deserted around the window and I gave a soft whistle. Instantly Dan followed me, after kicking half a dozen in their sides to wake them up. "Out of the window, all of you!" I heard him cry, and then he landed beside me, and both of us ran for the high iron fence I have previously described.

"Halte!" came the sudden command, in Spanish, and from out of the gloom emerged a guard, with pointed gun. He must have seen Dan, for he ran full tilt at my companion.

Seeing this I made a circle and came up in his rear. With a quick leap I was on him, placed my hands over his mouth and bore him to the ground. Then Dan leaped in and we tore his gun from his grasp.

"Silence, on your life!" said Dan, and the fellow must have understood, for he did not utter a sound. Then we continued to the fence, and, not without some trouble, leaped over.

By this time the alarm had broken out in the jail and several lights flared up. The other prisoners must have tried to escape, for we heard a wild yelling and half a dozen shots. The latter aroused the entire neighborhood, and citizens and soldiers came running in from all directions.

"We've got to leg it now!" I cried. "Come, on, Dan."

"But in what direction?" he gasped, for climbing the tall fence had deprived him of his wind.

"Any direction is better than staying here. Come," and I caught him by the hand. By this time we heard several soldiers making after us, and away we went at the best speed at our command.
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"THERE THEY ARE," HE SAID IN SPANISH, POINTING TO DAN AND ME. "ARREST THEM AS REBEL SYMPATHIZERS."