A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 17

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CHAPTER XVII.


I MEET COMMODORE DEWEY.


"Help!"

That was but the single word I uttered as the sharp blade dangled before my eyes and burnt itself on my brain. I felt that I was about to die—that an unknown Chinese assassin was about to slay me.

But in a twinkling the scene changed. Dan heard me go down, stopped, and turned back.

"Let him alone or I will shoot!" he cried, in Chinese, for he had picked up a good deal of the language while living in Hong Kong. His pistol came out, and the muzzle was thrust upon the Celestial's yellow neck.

The touch of the cold barrel of steel seemed to paralyze the Chinaman, and he fell back. "No shoot!" he mumbled. "No shoot!" And picking himself up, he sped away in the gloom as if a demon was after him.

"The cowardly sneak!" cried my chum. "If he—come!"

Another cry ahead had rung out, and away he went, with me behind him. My heart was in a flutter, not knowing what was coming next.

But soon the whole cause of the trouble was revealed. An American naval officer had been waylaid by three Chinese footpads. One had run away—the fellow I had encountered—but the others remained, and they had the officer on his back and were going through his pockets.

"Let up, or I will shoot!" said Dan, and flourished his pistol. At the same moment I stumbled over the officer's sword and picked it up.

"Shoot them! the villains!" moaned the officer. He had received a heavy cut over the temple from which the blood flowed profusely.

"Stop, I say," commanded Dan, and now the two Celestials turned. One aimed a blow at Dan, but I cut him short with the sword." Then my chum fired, and the rascal dropped his club, and of a sudden both took to their heels and disappeared in the darkness and mist.

We followed the Chinamen for a distance of fifty feet, then returned to the officer, to find that he had sunk down beside a wall in a heap. His eyes were closed and he did not move.

"He looks as if he was dead," said Dan soberly. "He's got an awful cut over the eye."

"Perhaps he has only fainted," I returned "Let us bind his head up without delay.

We took our handkerchiefs and strips from the linings of our coats and set to work instantly, meanwhile laying the officer down on a patch of soft dirt close to the wall. We had just finished binding up the wound, when the sufferer stirred.

"Help!" he murmured. "Oh, my poor head!"

"You are safe, sir," I said. "The Chinamen have fled."

"Is that true? Thank God! They wanted to kill me for the few pounds I have in my pocket."

"Are you wounded otherwise than in the head?" asked Dan.

"I—yes—one of them hit me in the leg, the left one,—it pains a good deal. Oh, my head!" And the officer fell back once more.

I proceeded to make him as comfortable as possible, while Dan scurried around for some water. In the meantime the houses and shops in the neighborhood remained closed, having been shut up at the first signs of an encounter. In Hong Kong, if anything goes wrong, the native inhabitants always pretend to know nothing about it.

When the officer felt strong enough to talk connectedly he told us that he was Clare Todd, belonging to the cruiser Olympia, of Commodore Dewey's squadron.

"I am a lieutenant of marines," he explained. "I am on shore leave, stopping with my aunt, Mrs. Nelson, on Queen Street. Why these footpads attacked me I do not know."

"One of us had best call a carriage," said Dan. "You can't walk to your aunt's home."

"I do not wish to go back to my aunt's. I must report for duty on the flagship without delay, for our squadron has orders to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible, on account of the war, and this being a neutral port."

"More of the war," smiled Dan grimly. "Well, supposing we have you taken to the dock?"

"That will suit very well. But who are you who have done me such a great service?"

"My friend can tell you that, while I hunt up the carriage," said Dan. "Look out for more footpads," he added, and hurried away.

I soon introduced myself and told Lieutenant Todd about Dan. He had often heard of the firm of Raymond, Holbrook & Smith, and had met Mr. Holbrook once, in San Francisco.

"I shall always remember you for what you have done for me," he said warmly. "It was brave."

Soon Dan came with the carriage, a curious turnout, which, however, need not be described here. As the lieutenant was in no condition to travel alone, we agreed to accompany him to the dock at which he said one of the small boats belonging to the Olympia was in waiting, not only for him, but for half a dozen others.

The drive was a short one through the dark and almost deserted streets. When the dock was gained, we found that a steam launch was there, in command of an under-officer and three men.

"Well, well, Todd, you've had quite an adventure!" exclaimed the officer of the launch, who seemed to be a personal friend of the marine. "It's a lucky thing these Yankee lads came to the rescue."

"That is true, Porter. They are as brave as lions."

"Then they had better enlist with us," was the laughing reply. "We need that sort of backbone, now."

"I'd like to enlist with you first-rate!" I burst out. "Especially if you sail for Manila to wake the Spaniards up there."

"I reckon we'll hunt up old Montojo, where-ever he is, young man. As soon as he gets sailing orders, Commodore Dewey won't give him one bit of rest."

So the talk ran on for several minutes, and then several other officers arrived, among them Commodore Dewey himself, a well-built man of about sixty, of fine naval bearing. He looked greatly surprised to see Clare Todd with his head tied up.

"You want to be careful in the future," he said, when the lieutenant of marines had told his story. "We can't afford to lose any men just now. So these lads assisted you?"

"They did, Commodore, and they are as plucky lads as I ever met."

"Oh, our American lads are always plucky!" smiled the commodore, who, as I afterward leearned, was one of the most warm-hearted of commanders.

"Commodore Dewey, I hope you are going to Manila to settle the Spaniards there!" I burst out impulsively.

"Are you particularly interested in having me go to Manila?" was the somewhat quick question put in return.

"I am, sir," and in a few words I explained why.

"Well, there is no telling where we may get before this war is over, Raymond," he said, when I had finished. "I shall certainly do all in my power to protect American interests, wherever they may be. But we must be off now." He turned to the under-officer in charge of the steam launch. "Cast off from shore!"

"Good-by!" shouted Clare Todd, and we said good-by in return, and leaped to the wharf. There we stood still to watch the departure of the launch, but the craft did not budge.

"What's the matter?" demanded the commodore, as he saw the engineer working over the miniature engine.

"The valve is out of order, sir," was the answer. "We ought to have a new one."

"Can't you run the launch back to the ship?"

"I'll try my best, sir."

I listened to this bit of conversation with interest, for, as I mentioned before, I was deeply interested in engines. As the engineer continued to work over the parts I came closer.

"Excuse me, but won't you let me take a look at that engine?" I said. "I know how these things are built."

"Certainly you can look at it," answered the commodore, and once more I leaped on board.

"Can't do anything with a split part," growled the engineer, a fellow named Graves. "A boy like you——" He did not finish, but looked a good deal disgusted.

I took the lantern and got down on my knees. The cap over the valve was split, as he had said, and something had shifted below. It was certainly a "teasing" breakdown, but, luckily, I had seen such a fracture remedied before.

"A clamp over the plate will do the business," I said.

"Yes, but there is no clamp on board," was the answer.

"Have you a couple of wrenches?"

"We have one wrench."

"And a coil of wire?"

"Yes, there is wire."

"Then that will do. Here, we will clamp up this end first, and bind it with wire. Then we'll clamp this end up, and leave the wrench on, and I'll wager you can carry a half pressure of steam easily."

"I don't think," began Graves, when the commodore silenced him.

"Try the boy's scheme," he said, for he had studied a little of steam engineering himself, at Annapolis, years before.

It did not take long to put my plan into operation, I looking to it that the wire was wound just as I wanted it, and the wrench set in exactly the right place. Steam was all ready, and when I had concluded, the engine carried a few pounds over half pressure without a sign of giving way.

"She's all right now," I said. "Only watch that wrench and see that it doesn't slip."

"I declare, you're quite a genius!" laughed the commodore. "I think I had better take you with me."

"All right; I'll go!" I answered, half in jest and half in earnest. "I know something about guns as well as about engines."

"You are certainly the kind we want," was the pleasant response. "Good-night, and good-by until we meet again!" And as the steam launch moved away, the commodore waved his hand pleasantly, and Dan and I took off our hats to him in return. Soon the darkness swallowed up the little craft.

"Dan, I wish I was going with him!" I burst out impulsively. "A cruise on a man-o'-war, especially in war times, would just suit me."

"So say I, Oliver," answered my chum.

"Hurrah for the American Navy!"