A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 25
FOUR WOULD-BE PLUNDERERS.
"To break into the offices!" burst from my lips.
"Th' haythins!" muttered Matt Gory. "Just let me be afther gittin' a-hould of thim! Oi'll spile their looks so their own mothers won't know thim!" and he shook his club determinedly.
"You are certain there is no mistake, Dan?"
"Positive, Oliver. It seems one of the rascals once worked for the firm and he knows all about the affairs. He is certain Longley is sleeping in an upper front room, and he has a false key to one of the back doors."
"They cannot be doing this by authority, Dan. Hadn't we better notify the guard?"
"And get arrested for our pains? No, let us beat them at their own game. We are three to four, and Longley will make the count on both sides even. I am not afraid of them, even if they do carry daggers. Such cutthroats are generally cowards when cornered."
By this time we were out on the street and stalking after the rascally quartette, who moved on close to the low, overhanging buildings.
There was an electric light on the corner, but instead of burning brightly it fizzed and spluttered as such lights often do. The authorities had great trouble in keeping them lit at all, as many reckless men tried to turn the whole of Manila in darkness, that they might plunder the houses and stores with impunity.
"There are our offices!" whispered Dan, pointing to them. "See, the four men are moving through the alleyway."
"Let us kape 'em out of the buildin'!" whispered Matt Gory. "Come on, we'll knock 'em out at the first round, so we will!"
He started on a run, and before either Dan or I could stop him, had tackled the first of the would-be plunderers. Crash! down came the heavy club, and the Spaniard sank down, almost overcome.
The others turned in surprise and set up a low shout. Then, with several vile exclamations, they hurled themselves on Matt Gory and bore him to earth.
This was more than Dan or I could stand, and we leaped in, and blows from our sticks rained down thickly. I hit one Spaniard over the head and another on the shoulder, and then slipped down in a pool of water which the darkness had hidden from view.
By this time, however, Matt Gory had again arisen and as one of the rascals made for me, the Irishman threw him backward with such a shock that his dagger flew some distance from his hand. In a twinkle Gory had secured the weapon.
"Now thin, run, ye haythins, or Oi'll be afther carvin' yez into bits!" he bawled, and made such a determined lunge at one of the Spaniards that he did run for his very life, leaving his tattered shawl behind him.
The racket in the alleyway had aroused Harry Longley, as well as several others residing in the neighborhood. An upper window was blocked up, and Longley inquired, in Spanish, as to what was the row.
"Help us, Longley!" cried Dan. "It is Oliver Raymond, Dan Holbrook, and an Irish friend. We have been attacked by thieves!"
"You!" burst out the clerk. "Come to the door and I'll let you in."
The clerk disappeared and we heard him run downstairs, and there followed the scraping of a key in a lock. As the door fell back Longley appeared, pistol in hand.
"Begone, or I'll fill you full of holes!" he shouted, in Spanish.
"Caramba! The game is up!" came from one of the Spaniards, and making, final and ineffectual passes at us with their daggers, they ran out of the alleyway and down the street.
"Come in! come in before it is too late!" went on the clerk, and we leaped into the back office. He immediately closed the door and locked it. All was pitch-dark and we had to feel our way around.
In a few brief words we explained the situation, to which he listened impatiently, his ear meanwhile inclined toward a heavily barred window, which, as is usual in this country, had no glass.
"Yes, I have the money here still," he said. "But it is not in the safe. It is where they cannot find it, even if they search for hours."
"You have buried it?" whispered Dan.
"Yes, and cemented the flooring over it. I was bound to protect our firm's interests, no matter what happened."
"You shall lose nothing by your actions," I returned warmly. "Father and the other partners shall know of your bravery."
"It has been a constant excitement ever since Commodore Dewey brought on that battle," went on Harry Longley. "It's a pity he lost so many men."
"Why, he didn't lose a single man," said Dan.
"He didn't! Why, they have it reported in Manila that he lost two ships and four hundred sailors."
"You ought to know better. Couldn't you see the battle?"
"No, the Spanish soldiers drove everybody indoors on penalty of death. It is also reported that another Spanish fleet will soon come here to wipe Dewey out."
"I don't know anything about that," I said. "But if the fleet comes I reckon our commodore can take care of himself."
"So he can, every thrip!" put in Matt Gory. "Oi'll foight wid him meself, next toime, so Oi will!"
"Plundering is becoming a common thing here," resumed Harry Longley, as he led the way to his apartments above. "Last night four offices and six stores were looted. The Spanish authorities try to catch the offenders when the places belong to the English, French, or Germans, but if an American is robbed they merely wink the other eye, as the saying goes."
"Do they offer you any protection at all, if you promise to keep out of the fight?"
"They do, in words, but that is as far as it goes. An American is not safe here, no matter if he gives up all his arms and swears to remain neutral. The Dons hate the very sight of us. They never wanted us here in the first place and now they are bound to drive us out—if they can."
"But they can't," finished Dan. "I'll tell you all, Uncle Sam is bound to stay here. Mark my words and see if I am not right."
Since we had left him, Longley had had natives working at the offices, and each window was barred more heavily than ever, while some of those on the lower floor had been covered entirely.
"You see, I am bound to hold the fort," he smiled grimly. "I don't want to leave this ground. It is in dispute, as you know, and the Spaniards would like nothing better than to take possession. This is the ground mentioned in those documents lost on the Dart."
"I wish I could find the Dart and get the documents and the money back," I answered, somewhat bitterly.
We were a good deal exhausted and partook eagerly of the hot coffee, rice cakes, and other things which Longley set before us. He had stocked up with sufficient provisions to last for a month, and among his stores were two barrels of water.
"You see, the rebels may cut off the water supply from the reservoir," he explained. "If they do, people in Manila will be in a bad shape all around."
"Cannot the Spanish soldiers protect the water works?"
"I don't know. They used to have their hands full with the rebels alone. Now they have us Americans to fight in addition."
Longley had but a single cot at hand, and as all could not sleep on that, we told him to keep his resting place and proceeded to make ourselves comfortable on the floor.
It would have been well had one or another remained on the watch, but Dan, Gory, and I were thoroughly fagged out, and Longley had been on guard the night before.
"We'll risk it," said the clerk, as he passed around such blankets as he possessed, not for coverings, as it was too warm for that, but to be made up into such couches as our ingenuity could devise.
We turned in about eleven o'clock and I slept soundly until a little after three in the morning. I awoke with a start and knew at once that some noise had aroused me. I listened, but all was as silent as the grave, excepting for the snoring that came from Matt Gory's corner.
"Something is wrong," I thought, and turned over in the direction of the barred window, close to Longley's couch. There was a faint light, and the sight that I saw filled me with horror.
A man hung to the bars from the outside. In one hand he held a sharp dagger tied to a stout stick. The dagger had been passed into the room and the man was on the point of sticking the dangerous-looking blade into Longley's breast!