A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 28
TREED BY BUFFALO BULLS.
"This silent inaction is growing monotonous."
It was Dan who spoke, and he addresed me, while both of us and Matt Gory took it easy in front of a deserted house we had chanced upon on a side road some miles away from Manila.
After burying Gaston Brown our flight had taken us to the north, and we had rested at the house for two days, undecided what to do next.
"If we try to move past Manila and toward Cavité, we'll run into both rebels and Spaniards, and I don't want to do that," I said. "I am rather sick of this fighting."
"So am I, Oliver. But we must do something. We can't sit here and suck our thumbs."
"Let us try to make our way up past Subig Bay to the coast and find out what has become of the Dart."
"Sure, an' that same suits me," put in Matt Gory. "Oi wants that dudeen of mine th' worst way, so Oi do. Bad cess to any haythin' as has stholen th' same!" He spoke of his old pipe constantly, for it had been his friend for many years.
"Your dudeen ought to be strong enough to walk to where you are, Matt," laughed Dan. Then his face grew thoughtful. "It would be a long trip to the Dart, and we may fall in with lots of Tagals."
"Perhaps not, Dan. I have an idea that all of the natives are now gathering around Manila, and we will find the coast almost clear."
"There is something in that. Well, I'm willing. Anything is better than staying here with hardly anything to eat but cocoanuts and plantains."
Nevertheless, we did not move away until twenty-four hours later. Our rest at the house had done us good, and at the place we had picked up a new pair of boots for Matt, a coat for Dan, and a new straw hat for myself, besides some canned goods, which, however, we had not opened, determined to keep them until we could find nothing else.
The day we set off it was cooler than it had been for some time, and as the road was comparatively level, we made good time, and by nightfall had covered fifteen miles.
We had met only a few natives, and these of the mild sort, who merely stared at us in open-mouthed wonder.
"There is one thing certain," I said, as we went into camp that night. "Not all of these people want to fight."
"That is true, Oliver. I believe, if they were left alone, a good portion of the Filipinos would prove absolutely harmless. But the warlike class keep the others in a constant state of excitement."
Several days passed, including a Sunday, when we let up on our travels and rested. We had now entered the hills, and traveling became more difficult. We might have lost our way; but from the wreck of the schooner Matt Gory had saved both a chart and a compass, and these now stood us in good stead.
The weather remained clear, but knowing that storms are frequent, we made the most of our time while it did not rain. We had now struck the seacoast north of Subig Bay, and we calculated that a week's added traveling would see us at the spot where the Dart lay and where we had had so many adventures on first landing.
Two days later we came on a plateau overlooking the sea. It was still clear, and we had hardly reached the place when Matt Gory pointed out a sail on the horizon.
"Some ship sailing around, even if there is a war on," said Dan. "I wonder what sort of a craft she is?"
"A Chinese junk," answered the Irish sailor. "Oi kin tell 'em as far as Oi kin see 'em."
"Well, we don't want anything to do with their junks," I answered. "It was a Chinese craft that knocked that hole in the Dart."
Soon the sail disappeared from view on its way up the coast, and we started to continue our journey. We had gone on less than a mile when a strange tramping behind us brought us to a halt.
"What is that?" I questioned, as I drew my pistol.
"Horsemen approaching, I reckon," murmured Dan. "We had better hide."
But hiding was not so easy, as only some tall trees were around, the ground being too stony for small brush of any thickness.
"They be comin' closer!" cried Matt Gory. "Sure an' we had betther take to the trees, me b'ys!"
"We'll have to help one another up," I said. "Come on."
We chose some mahogany trees, two growing close together. By boosting and hauling we managed with much difficulty to gain the lower limbs just as the newcomers came into view around a turn of a hillside.
"Gracious! Buffalo bulls!" cried Dan."Sure an' they are no inimies!" cried Matt
"BEFORE THE BUFFALO BULL COULD REACH HIM, DAN'S PISTOL RANG OUT."
"Come up here!" roared Dan. "Do you want to be horned to pieces?"
"Will they horn one?" I queried.
"Yes, as quickly as a mad bull at home."
"Then, Matt, get up, and be quick about it."
There was no need to tell the Irish sailor twice. A buffalo bull had spotted him, and with a wild snort, was coming for him, horns down.
"Be the powers!" gasped Gory. "Save me! hilp!" and he made a wild dash for the tree, but slipped and fell.
I fully expected to see him gored to death, but, before the buffalo bull could reach him, Dan's pistol rang out, and the beast staggered and dropped back, with an ugly wound just below his left eye.
"Come, Matt, get up!" I yelled, and as the sailor made for the tree, I leaned far down and caught his hand. Just as I hauled him up the bull made another charge, striking the tree trunk with a shock that shook the tree from end to end.
In a minute more we found the two mahogany trees surrounded by exactly eleven bulls, for these curious creatures sometimes congregate in this fashion, although not always. They were wild-looking beasts, and from their breathing we felt certain that they had come a long distance.
"They have been pursued," said Dan. "Usually they are fairly tame, although not to be trifled with."
"Sure and Oi've had a narrow escape!" panted Matt Gory. "See! see! phwat is up now?"
He pointed to the wounded bull, that had circled around and, without warning, charged one of his mates. Instantly there was a counter charge, and the crashing together of two skulls could be distinctly heard. Then the wounded bull went down on his knees and several of his mates fell upon him and tore him into shreds.
It was a disgusting sight, and I had to turn away, for fear of getting sick and tumbling from the branch upon which I rested. "Now we have a sample of bullfighting, I suppose," I said.
"Yes, and it's simply horrible!" murmured Dan. Matt Gory, however, seemed to enjoy the contest, and let out a hurrah as the bull fell over dead.
"It serves the baste roight fer attackin' me," he said. "Bad luck to the rascal!"
After the killing of the bull, his mates withdrew to a distance of twenty or thirty yards, in the meantime tossing their heads at us and giving occasional snorts of anger.
"They are aching to get at us," was Dan's comment. "And just for the fun of killing us, too, since they won't touch meat."
"We're in a serious dilemma, Dan," I answered. "We can't stay here forever."
"Neither can the bulls."
"But some of them may keep coming and going, and thus starve us out."
"No; I think if they once make a move to leave, they'll go in a bunch."
After this several hours went by, and still the bulls stayed where they were. Then came a sudden clatter of ponies' hoofs on the road and the yells of half a dozen natives.
"The Tagals are coming now, beyond a doubt," I said.
"And the bulls are running for it," answered Dan, and he was right; at the first cries from the natives the buffalo bulls scampered off like frightened deer, and that was the last we saw of them.
We had scarcely time to draw up into the topmost branches of the mahoganies when the pony riders put in an appearance. Six short, wicked-looking Tagals rode the animals.
A shout went up when the carcass of the dead bull was discovered. A jabbering in a native dialect followed, and two Tagals left, presumably to find out what had become of the rest of the herd. While this hunt was made, two other natives cut off a number of juicy buffalo steaks and placed them in leaves bound with vines.
"I hope they don't go into camp here," murmured Dan to me.
"Or that they don't discover some trace of us," I returned.
"We had better hold ourselves in readiness for an attack," put in Matt Gory, and we thought this good advice and followed it.