A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 26
THE FIGHT IN THE OFFICES.
"Longley, look out!"
Such was the cry which broke from my lips, as I leaped to my feet.
At the same moment, I picked up a chair standing near and hurled it at the arm thrust through the window bars with all my might.
By pure good luck my aim was true, and the seat of the chair struck the Spaniard's hand such a smart blow that he gave a howl of pain, dropped stick and dagger, and fell back out of sight.
"What is the matter?" came from Longley, as he scrambled up from under the articles just mentioned. At the same time Dan and Matt Gory also arose.
"The window—a Spaniard wanted to knife you," I answered, and turned up the light.
"This is the worst yet," said the clerk, as he picked up the stick and examined the weapon fastened to it. "By thunder! Ramon Delveraz!"
"Ramon Delveraz! What do you mean by that?" queried Dan.
"Here is the name on the dagger handle. Ramon Delveraz is one of the Spaniards who are trying to drive us into quitting these offices, so that their land company can take possession of this whole block."
"The man was a short, stout fellow with a heavy beard."
"It must have been he! The scoundrel! Where is he now?"
Longley rushed to the window and looked out. Nobody was to be seen. Then he ran to the front of the room.
"There he goes!" he cried, pointing to a retreating figure. "Oh, but I will pay him back for this when the excitement is over."
The incident had banished sleep for the balance of the night, and we talked over the situation until daylight.
The sun came up clear and hot, but the streets remained deserted, excepting for the soldiers on guard. One of these came up to the doors below and tried them to see if they were locked. Longley spoke to him out of the window, but he did not answer.
"They are ugly and there is no telling what they will do next," said the clerk. "It's lucky they do not know that you are here."
"Won't those would-be plunderers tell them of our arrival?"
"They do not know but what you belong here."
Slowly the day wore along, growing hotter and hotter, until at two o'clock the rooms were like a bake oven.
"This is nothing," said Longley, after hearing me complain of the heat. "It is only ninety-six degrees to-day. Sometimes it is a hundred and ten in the shade."
"I wouldn't want to live here very long," I answered. "It would take all the starch out of a fellow. I don't wonder that the natives are lazy."
"Oh, some of them are no good anyhow," said he. "They won't work, but spend their time in sleeping, smoking, and in attending cockfights and bullfights. Cockfighting, you know, is the national sport."
"And it is a wicked, cruel thing, Longley. I don't see how a man can call himself a man and put in his time looking at one rooster trying to tear another to death with steel spurs."
"It is all that you say of it, and so is bullfighting."
"I'm glad we haven't any such national sports," I went on. "Baseball and football are good enough for me."
"They laugh at baseball and call it baby's play."
"Never mind, it isn't inhuman, and their fights are."
"Fortunes are won and lost on bull- and cockfights. I have heard of thousands of pesetas changing hands as the result of a single contest."
"That makes it all the worse. I don't want to see or hear of such fights," I concluded, and I meant what I said. I think these contests an everlasting disgrace to Spain and every other nation that permits them.
To fill in our time we helped Longley prepare the mid-day meal and enjoyed the best the stock of provisions on hand afforded. Our coffee was native grown, and, seasoned with condensed milk, made as good as drink as the best of Java.
"This island could have a splendid coffee trade if it would only wake up," said Longley. "Just see what the Dutch have done for Java. The Spaniards are away behind the times."
"Spain is a nation of the past," said Dan. "I have heard father say that she will never regain the valuable prestige which she has lost. Her possessions are dropping away one by one, and in time she won't be able to hold even the mother country together."
"It's because she don't trate the people roight," broke in Matt Gory. "She takes ivery cent fer taxes an' church purposes, and they be strapped, an' git nothin' fer it. A mon as has a constant drain on his pocket-book wid no recompense, is apt to git mad sooner or later and rise up an' swat somebody."
We all roared at these quaint remarks, yet recognized their truth.
"Spain will wake up when it is too late," said Longley. "The people——"
He stopped off short as a loud knocking below reached our ears. Going to the window he reported three Spanish soldiers below.
"Hide, all of you!" he continued, and rushed to a side wall. Opening a door, he showed us a secret closet and we entered.
Slowly the minutes passed as we heard him go below and hold a short and spirited conversation. Then came a struggle and the report of a pistol.
"Here, I can't stand this!" cried Dan. "He is in trouble and——"
"We must help him," I finished, and leaped out into the room. Longley had armed us with pistols, and we descended the stairs on the double-quick with the weapons in our hands, and Gory tumbling after us.
Longley stood leaning against a counter in the rear office, the blood flowing from a wound in his side. Near him stood the three Spaniards, one with a pistol which still smoked from the discharge.
Without hesitation we opened fire and as the three pistols rang out two of the Spaniards went down, one shot in the side and the other in the breast. At once the office began to fill with smoke.
"Down with all—of—them!" gasped poor Longley. "Don't—let—them—get—away or you are—lost!" and then he fainted from loss of blood.
We had seen the two soldiers fall and now all three of us rushed through the smoke at the third fellow. Again a pistol shot rang out, and a bullet touched Matt Gory on the arm. But that was the last time that that Don ever pulled a trigger, for the Irishman fired in return and he fell headlong, shot through the heart.
"Lock the door!" I cried, to Dan, and he leaped to do as bidden. Then, seeing that the two Spaniards on the floor were incapable of doing further harm, I turned my attention to poor Longley and carried him to a rattan lounge which stood in a corner.
It was no easy task to bind up the clerk's wound. By the time it was accomplished the two Spaniards who had been knocked over were coming around. Soon one of them began to yell feebly for assistance.
"This will never do!" whispered Dan. "We'll have the guards down on us in short order. Gag them."
"I know a better trick," I answered, and stepped over both men with my pistol. "Silence!" I commanded, and pointed the weapon at first one and then the other.
My meaning was clear even if my word of command was not, and with a shiver of terror the fellow who had been calling out relapsed into silence.
"Help me!" came faintly from Longley, and he sat up and stared about him. "Wha—what has occurred? I—I thought I was shot down!"
"You were," answered Dan.
"And those three villains?"
"Two are wounded and lie yonder and the third is dead."
"Thank heaven for that!" And then unable to hold himself up longer, the clerk sank back again.
Soon we heard the tramp of a dozen feet outside and there followed a loud knocking on the door. We became as quiet as death.
"Open the door!" came the order, in Spanish, but nobody moved, while Dan and I and even Matt Gory, wounded as he was, kept our pistols ready for use.
"Open the door!" came the order a second time. Then a brief discussion followed. "The shooting must have come from elsewhere," said a Spanish officer: and the patrol outside marched on.
As I could not understand the talk, Dan translated it. "If we keep quiet for awhile I think we'll be all right," he said.
And we did keep quiet, for an hour or more. But nobody came near the offices during that time, and at last we considered ourselves, for the time being, safe.