A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 27
A LETTER OF GREAT IMPORTANCE.
During the time which passed Dan and I attended to both Longley and Matt Gory's wounds, and also did what we could for the two Spaniards. The dead man was placed in the cellar.
As I have mentioned, the Irish sailor's wound was not a serious affair, and he soon insisted that he was as ready for fighting as ever. Longley, however, was in bad shape, and I felt he ought to have a doctor's attention.
"Tell me where I can find a doctor and I'll go for him," I said, and he gave me the necessary directions, and I slipped off by a back alleyway.
Luckily I found the medical man at home. He was an Englishman and readily consented to come over to the offices and do what he could for Longley.
"They should not harm him, since he is not in this fight," said the doctor. "Do you imagine they mistreat Spaniards in San Francisco and New York so? It is against international rules of war and Spain will gain nothing by such a course."
"They are bound to drive our firm from Manila, if they can. This is more of a personal than a national difficulty."
"Still, they should treat you fairly."
An examination proved that Longley needed rest and quietness if he was to recover. The physician said if the clerk was removed to his home he would take care of him. We debated the matter, and resolved to remove Longley at nightfall.
"And as soon as he is gone you had better turn those two wounded Spaniards over to their own people," went on the medical man. "I'll make sure that they don't unearth Longley, even if they hunt for him, which will be doubtful."
The removal was made without trouble, the Spaniards having their hands full at the front, watching Commodore Dewey's ships and his marines and the rebel troops, which were pressing closer and closer to Manila.
As soon as Longley was safe we did as Dr. Harkness advised, turned the Spaniards out, laying them on a side street, where they were soon picked up by a guard. The offices were then locked up, and the doctor said he would place them under the British flag for protection.
At midnight Dan, Matt Gory, and myself were once again on the streets of the city, not knowing which way to turn or what to do.
"Shall we go back to the ship?" queried Dan.
"Perhaps it might be as well," I said. "But we may be captured at the city wall."
However, we determined to try our luck, and set off in the midst of a rising storm. As we moved onward, we heard a number of shots from a distance, and presently found ourselves in the midst of a mass of natives who were running for their lives.
"There has been an uprising!" cried Dan, after questioning a native. "Let us go along. We can escape better in the crowd than if we keep alone."
We rushed along the street, and presently found ourselves among at least two hundred Filipinos of all sorts and conditions. Some were armed with rifles, but the majority carried nothing but clubs, spears, and long knives, such as were used on the plantations.
Coming to the river, a rush was made over the bridge, and then began a flight to the north, up a road that was six inches deep with mud.
"Now let us get out of this!" whispered Dan, and we gradually drew to one side, like tame horses withdrawing from a wild herd.
The rain had now stopped, but it was still pitch-dark, and soon we had left the natives fleeing to the north of us, while we turned eastward.
"Listen!" exclaimed Dan, as a strange sound reached our ears, above the rising wind. "What is that?"
"It must be a cry for help!" I answered.
"Let us be afther investigatin'," put in Matt Gory. "We may be able to do some feller-critter a big turn."
The cries seemed to come from a hillside ahead, and we mounted this through dense brush that dripped with water.
"There is a hut ahead," said Dan. "The cries come from there."
"It must be a native in distress," I returned, and moved on in advance.
"Help! help!" came suddenly, in an English voice, and we quickened our pace, feeling that one of our own soldier or sailor boys might be in distress.
When we reached the bamboo hut a strange sight met our gaze. On his back lay a white man of at least seventy years of age. Kneeling on his breast was a Tagal with drawn knife, while another Tagal knelt at the old man's side, trying to pull a money bag from his grasp.
"Hi! stop that!" I called out, and, rushing in, kicked one of the Tagals so heavily in his side that he rolled over and over on the earthen floor.
At this the second native leaped up and rushed at me with his knife. But, before the blade could descend, Dan fired at him, and his arm fell helpless at his side.
"Help me; they have—have murdered me!" gasped the old man, and turned over on his side in pain, showing an ugly cut on his neck. With a fierce mutter the Tagal I had kicked got up and rushed at Dan, clutching him by the throat and running him up against the wall of the hut. But now Mat Gory leaped in, and a blow from his pistol stretched the rascal senseless. Seeing this, the native who had been shot took to his heels and disappeared into the darkness outside.
There was a dim lantern burning beneath the roof of the hut, and this light was now turned up, that we might see more of this strange situation.
"I am—am done for," gasped the old man. "That villain has torn my neck to pieces!"
"Let us bind the wound up," I answered tenderly. "Have you any rags handy?"
"Never mind—I know I cannot live. I—I—can I trust you?"
"You can," answered Dan. "Have you a message to leave?"
"I have. You are Americans?"
"So am I. My name is Gaston Brown. I have a son, a sailor, Watterson Brown, who——"
"I know him—Watt Brown. He was second mate of the Dart," I ejaculated.
"So you know Watt?" The old man's eyes brightened for an instant. "So much the better. I have something for my son. If I die will you deliver it?"
"I will—if I can."
"We will do our best," added Dan, and Matt Gory nodded.
"Sure, an' we were all on the Dart wid yer son," added the Irishman.
"I cannot leave Watt much money; but I have a precious letter for him. That letter must not be lost. Will you defend it while it is in your keeping?"
"Yes," I answered. "But hadn't you better acquaint me with its contents, in case it is lost?"
"It must not be lost. It is—is in the tin box buried in yonder corner. Give it to Watt with my blessing. Tell him—tell him—water!"
"He is dying!" whispered Dan, and ran for water, while I raised the elderly individual up. I wanted to tell him how Watt was situated, but it was too late. A strange rattle sounded in his throat, and before my chum could place the cup of water to his lips, his soul had fled.
"Sure an' he is gone!" whispered Matt Gory, the first to break the silence. "God rist him!"
"This was a strange way to live," I began, when Dan cut me short.
"We must not lose time here, Oliver. Let us get that letter and be going."
We hunted in a corner of the hut and began to dig down at a spot where it looked as if the soil had been recently disturbed.
"That's the box," said Matt Gory, as we heard a metallic click, and soon the box was brought to light—a square affair, painted black.
It was unlocked, and, opening it, we found that it contained nothing but a long, thick envelope, tightly sealed, and addressed to Watterson Brown, mate, on board the schooner Dart. Below were added the words:
"From his father, with the hope that the fortune may prove a blessing."
"A fortune for Watt Brown," mused Dan. "Well, he deserves it, for he's a good fellow."
"If only he isn't dead. In that case I won't know what to do with the letter," I answered, as I tucked the precious document away in my pocket. Little did I dream of all of the adventures into which that letter was to one day lead me.