A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 15

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CHAPTER XV.


BACK TO HONG KONG.


The main streets of Manila are but few in number. There are two devoted largely to business, and three or four that have some handsome residences and public buildings upon them. But all of the other highways, so-styled, are simply what in a United States city would be styled alleyways, the sidewalks being but two or three feet wide and the wagon way just about broad enough for two hand carts to pass each other. On each side, the ramshackle dwellings project over the walks, cutting off light and air that are absolutely essential to health and cleanliness.

Dan and I had to cross one of the main streets, but this passed, we lost no time in diving into an alleyway that was as dark as Erebus. On and on we went until we brought up plump against the broadside of a warehouse.

"We can't go any further," I exclaimed.

"Can it be possible that we've got into a blind pocket?" queried Dan. "Come over here."

I did as requested, and soon learned that we had indeed entered what the French call a cul-de-sac. On all sides were warehouses, and the only opening to the narrow highway was that by which we had entered.

"The soldiers are coming!" I whispered, after listening. "Can't you hear their footsteps?"

"I can, Oliver. Hang me if I know what to do. I wish I had that gun," Dan went on, for he had thrown the Mauser rifle away.

I ran up to the warehouse and felt of the boards. Soon I came to the casement of an upper doorway, an opening used for hoisting goods in and out of the warehouse. I snatched at the lower edge, pulled myself up, and soon stood in the frame, which was five or six inches deep.

"Come up here," I whispered to Dan, and helped him to a position beside me. Once we were in the doorway, we pressed as far back as possible and waited.

Soon three soldiers came up, one carrying a lantern and all armed with rifles. All talked excitedly in Spanish, but it was in a Luzon dialect and even Dan could not understand them.

The soldiers searched around the alleyway for fully ten minutes, and once almost flashed the lantern rays up into our faces. But we remained undiscovered, and presently they ran out of the cul-de-sac, thinking they had not tracked us aright.

"Gosh, that was a narrow escape!" I murmured, when they had departed.

"Don't crow, Oliver; we are not yet out of the woods. Those fellows may be waiting for us up there," and Dan pointed to the alley's entrance.

"I wonder what sort of a building this is," I went on, and turning around began an examination of the door. Presently my hand touched a rude wooden latch and the door fell back, sending us flying onto a floor white with flour and dirty with a dozen other kinds of merchandise.

Shutting the door behind us, we pushed our way among numerous boxes and barrels until we came to the front of the warehouse. Here there was a long, low shed, extending to a dock fronting the Pasig River. The shed was also filled with merchandise, and at the end of the dock lay half a dozen lighters such as the Filipinos use in carrying goods from the river docks to the large vessels lying in Manila harbor.

"We are on the Pasig," announced Dan. He read the inscriptions on several of the boxes. "This warehouse belongs to an English firm named Carley & Stewart, and these goods are consigned by them to Hong Kong, per steamer Cardigan."

"The Cardigan!" I exclaimed. "Why, she sails to-morrow. I saw the announcement on a card down at the office."

"If that's the case it will be a good chance to get back to Hong Kong, Oliver."

"I don't want to go to Hong Kong yet, Dan. I want to get my rights."

"So do I, but——"

"But what?"

"You know how we fared at the prison. Supposing we are caught again? That spy will swear we are rebel sympathizers, and then it will go hard with us, you may be certain of that."

We talked the matter over for fully an hour, sitting on a couple of boxes in the long shed. Then both of us grew sleepy and resolved to remain where we were and let the morrow take care of itself.

At daylight several workmen put in appearance, among them an Englishman who looked as if he would prove friendly. Watching our opportunity we called him to one side, and made a clean breast of the situation.

"My advice is to get on board of the Cardigan by all means," he said. "Don't you know that you Americans are going to have a lot of trouble with these Spaniards now the Maine has been blown up?"

This was the first we had heard of the destruction of the Maine, and we asked him for particulars. The Englishman knew but little, yet he said that the Americans held to it that the Spaniards had done the dastardly deed.

"And I shouldn't wonder but that may mean war for your country," he added.

"If war come, Spain will get whipped badly," returned Dan.

The young Englishman brought us some breakfast, and we at last decided to go on board of the Cardigan. "But don't tell the captain you escaped from prison," he said. "If you do, he won't dare take you off. Secure your passages and then turn up missing when the revenue officers come on board."

This we considered excellent advice and followed it out. A lighter, loaded with hemp bales, took us to the steamer, an ocean "tramp" of 2000 tons' burden, and we lost no time in presenting ourselves to Captain Montgomery.

"Want passage to Hong Kong, eh?" he said. "Why don't you go on the regular mail steamers?"

"We have some private reasons," answered Dan. "What will the passage money be?"

Captain Montgomery studied our faces for a moment.

"Aren't criminals, are you?" he said sharply.

"Do we look like criminals?" I demanded.

"Can't go by looks nowaday, lad. Last year I had a man beat me out of twenty pounds and he looked like a parson, he did indeed."

"We are not criminals," answered Dan. "We want to get out of Manila for political reasons, if you must know."

"Americans, eh?"

"Yes, sir—and not ashamed to own it."

Captain Montgomery held out his hands.

"I'll see you through, boys. I've got a bit of American blood in me, too, on my mother's side. Twelve pounds apiece takes you straight to our dock in Hong Kong,—and no more questions asked."

As we were out of funds we had to consider what would be best to do about paying the twenty-four pounds. I solved the difficulty by addressing a note to Harry Longley asking an advance of thirty pounds, to be put in Captain Montgomery's care. This would leave Dan and me three pounds each—about fifteen dollars—until we were safe in Hong Kong once more. The message was carried by an under officer of the Cardigan, and the money was obtained from our Manila representative without trouble, Longley being glad to learn of our escape.

The Cardigan was to leave her anchorage in front of Manila at four o'clock in the afternoon, and an hour before that time hatches were closed and the Spanish revenue officers came on board for a look around. There was an Englishman, his wife, and three children on the deck.

"Who are those?" asked the leading revenue officer.

"They are to be passengers," answered Captain Montgomery. "Unless you say they can't go."

"Who are they?"

The officer was told and the Englishman was brought up for inspection. Apparently it was all right, and after a tour of the steamer, the Spaniards left.

Dan and I had meanwhile waited in the cabin in much anxiety. We remained below for the balance of the day, and when we came up late in the evening, the lights of Corregidor Island shone far behind and we were standing out boldly into the China Sea.

"Good-by to Luzon!" I cried. "My stay on that island was short and bitter."

"I wonder if we will ever see the Philippines again?" mused Dan.

"Perhaps so, Dan. I don't much care. But I would like to get my things from the Dart."

"So would I, Oliver. But even such a loss is preferable to a long term spent in a Spanish prison."

"True, but——" I drew a long breath. "I want to get square with those Dons, as they call them, and with Captain Kenny."

The weather was of the finest, and day after day passed quickly, as the Cardigan skimmed over the sea on her northwest course. As we sat on the deck in our camp-chairs I wondered what would happen when we got to Hong Kong, and if trouble would really come between Spain and the United States because of the destruction of the Maine and the war in Cuba. Little did I dream of all the fierce fighting that was so close at hand, and of the parts Dan and I were to play in the coming contest.