A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 24

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"Now where?" asked Dan, after we had halted and listened with all our ears to learn if we were being followed.

"To Manila, as was our original idea," I answered. "But you may not want to go that way," I added, to Matt Gory.

"Sure an' Oi'll go wid youse b'ys," answered the son of Erin, with a grin. "Oi'm afther makin' a soldier of forchune av meself, and he made a mocking bow at which both Dan and I laughed.

"We may be very useful to Longley in Manila" I continued. "He may be having more than his hands full to protect the firm's interests. He said he had about six thousand dollars in the big safe that he did not care to place in the Spanish bank, and——"

"You are right, Oliver, we must get into Manila somehow, to help Longley, if for no other purpose. The thing of it is, which is the best way to do it?"

"Let us get as close to the city walls as we can first and then arrange our plans," I suggested, and this was speedily agreed to, for there was no telling what might happen before we came in sight of the capital city of Luzon.

From a distance came a constant firing, which told us that the rebels and the Spaniards were having a full-fledged fight. But presently, as we moved along, this died away in the distance.

Pony riding just suited Dan and me, but it went hard with Matt Gory, who had never ridden before. "Sure, an' the hard saddle will be afther cuttin' me in two," he groaned. "An' the baste prances so he'll have me insoides turned out before we come to a halt this avenin'!"

"Move with the pony," I suggested, and gave him a practical illustration, but he was not cut out for saddle riding and made a sorry figure even when doing his best.

It had threatened a shower and soon it was raining in torrents. We kept to the road for half an hour longer, when it grew so deep with water and mud that we had to draw off to one side.

"I see a shelter beyond," said Dan, pointing it out. "And not a soul is in sight. Come on," and he led the way.

It was an open shelter, built of long poles thatched with palm. There had been a house close by, but this was tumbled down into decay. We rode our ponies under the shelter and, dismounting, tethered them to some trees which acted as corner posts.

The rain continued throughout the noon hour and for some time after, and it was not until nightfall that we continued our journey. In the meantime we had refreshed ourselves with some plantains found in the vicinity, and allowed the ponies to feed upon whatever was to be found in the neighborhood.

Nightfall found us close to the Spanish lines, and we resolved to abandon our steeds, so turned them loose, feeling that they would soon find new masters.

We were moving along in the gathering darkness when we heard the creaking of a water buffalo cart, heavy, awkward-looking things common to all parts of the Philippines. Soon the cart came in sight, drawn by two buffalo cows, hitched up tandem. On the seat of the turnout sat a sleepy-looking native, wearing only a shirt, trousers, and broad-brimmed straw hat. The cart was partly filled with straw, and on top rested a pile of yams and other vegetables, and a bag of cocoanuts.

"I'll wager he's bound for Manila!" whispered Dan. "I wonder if he can't smuggle us in!"

"Let us stop him and see," I returned. "I believe all of these natives are against the Spaniards, even though they may not like the idea of American rule."

We leaped forward, and while Matt Gory held the leading cow, Dan and I hurried to the seat of the cart. Roused up, the native was taken completely by surprise and stared at us in open-mouthed wonder.

Dan quickly asked him if he was bound for the market place in Manila and he answered in the affirmative. Then my chum told him of what we wished to do, at which the native grinned.

"Get into the cart if you will, and hide," he said, in Spanish. "But remember, if Spanish officers find you, I know not that you were there."

"We agree," answered Dan, and the straw was lifted up and all three of us made places for ourselves. Of course the hiding place was a damp and by no means pleasant one, but this could not be helped, and as it was our own choice nobody grumbled.

The progress of the cart had been slow before, but with the added weight it crawled along at a snail's pace. As long as the darkness served to hide us, we held up our heads for air, but with the first appearance of the electric lights of Manila, we dove out of sight.

"We are entering the town," whispered Dan, as the clumsy cart creaked over a bridge. "I think we'll be safe in ten minutes more."

He had scarcely finished when there came a loud command to halt, and the native brought his cart to a standstill. A brief parley followed, and a couple of Spanish guards came up to the cart and calmly confiscated several cocoanuts from the bag. Then the turnout was allowed to proceed in the direction of the market place.

"Now is your time," whispered the driver to Dan, as we passed through a rather dark portion of a thoroughfare. "Drop out and you will be safe."

"Here is something for your aid," whispered my chum in return, and handed him a Mexican silver dollar, much to the native's delight, for such a piece, even though worth but fifty cents, is a good round sum in the Philippines.

Dan then dropped from the tail-end of the cart and Matt Gory and I followed. An alleyway was close at hand and we darted into this, to plan out our next movement.

"We are a good half mile from the offices," said Dan. "And I must confess I don't know the way."

"Sure an' mebbe youse would have done better to have stayed in th' cart," said the Irish sailor. "Howsomeever, lead on an' Oi'll be afther followin' ye!"

"Let us move on along the streets until we see some signboard," I suggested. "We know what street the offices are on, and the number."

"That is so, Oliver. All right, come ahead;" and again Dan led the way.

"It's a regular Donnybrook Fair town," said Matt Gory. "Oi'm afther gittin' me a club!" and he picked up a stick lying in a gutter. Before long Dan and I armed ourselves in a similar manner.

As I have mentioned, Manila was now under military rule, and at every other street corner we came in sight of a soldier, walking slowly back and forth or lounging idly against a door-post smoking a cigarette on the sly and talking to some pretty native damsel. To pass these guards unobserved was by no means easy.

"Here is the right street!" exclaimed Dan, after a quarter of an hour had passed. "The numbers show that we cannot be more than four or five squares away from the offices."

"Does that clerk live be thim offices?" queried Matt Gory.

"Yes, he has two rooms upstairs," I answered. "If that money is still in the safe he must certainly be staying there to guard it."

Another block was passed, when Dan clutched me by the shoulder, and likewise pulled the Irish sailor back. "Look!" he whispered.

We gazed in the direction he pointed, and saw four men huddled together in a corner of a rambling business building, not half a block away from the offices of Raymond, Holbrook & Smith. They were talking earnestly. Each wore a light, night cloak over his shoulders, and as one of them, raised this covering, we caught the gleam of a dagger handle sticking from his breast.

"By Jove! they are up to something; that's as sure as you are born!" ejaculated Dan.

"They be Spanish assassins!" muttered Matt Gory. "Sure an' they look loik thim villains we used to see in the ould picture books!

"See, they are moving over this way," I said, a second later. "We must get out of sight, or we'll be discovered, and they may hand us over to the guard."

I looked around, and saw a narrow opening between two business buildings. Into this we crowded, behind a pile of half-broken hogsheads and other rubbish. Hardly had we settled ourselves than the four evil-looking fellows took another stand not ten feet away from us.

An animated conversation ensued, of which I understood only a few words. But Dan caught the drift of the talk, and grabbed my arm so tightly that I knew at once that something out of the ordinary was on the way. Five mmutes later, the strangers moved off once more.

"The villains!" gasped my chum, as soon as he felt safe to speak. "Do you know what they are planning to do? They are going to break into our offices, kill Harry Longley if necessary, and then loot the safe!"