The Campaign of the Jungle/Chapter 31

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Luke Striker was right; a large force of Filipinos were sweeping down the road at a rapid rate, bringing with them two old field-pieces and a rapid-firing gun. They were commanded by several officers on horseback, and presented a formidable appearance to the worn-out Americans.

"Out of sight, quick!" The cry came from Ben. "It's our only chance to escape."

The words had scarcely left his lips when the pop-pop of several Mausers was heard, as the Filipino sharpshooters, who were in advance of the main body, opened fire upon them. Their aim was excellent, and both Striker and Boxer were hit, although neither seriously.

"They've caught me!" ejaculated the old sailor, and staggered up against Ben. At the same time Boxer pitched headlong.

"Oh, Luke!" The call came from Larry, who was limping painfully. "Where did they hit you? This is the worst of all!"

"I'm struck in the shoulder. But come, Ben is right. To the jungle!" And Striker clutched Larry's hand in a death-like grip, bound to live or die with his closest friejid, as the case might be.

The pair started forward. Ben hesitated and looked at Boxer, and saw the latter try to stagger up once more. "He's not dead," thought the young captain, and picked the sharpshooter up. In a few seconds more the whole party were in the jungle again.

But the Filipinos were not going to let them escape thus easily, and coming up on the double-quick, a detachment began to search the bushes, at the same time calling on the Americans to surrender if they wanted to save their lives.

With Larry limping painfully, and both Luke and Boxer groaning in spite of their efforts to keep silent, the Americans looked about for some spot which might prove a safe hiding-place. But the ground here was level and the jungle rather spare, and for those who were wounded to climb trees was out of the question.

"We'll have to make a stand, I'm afraid," said Ben, looking to his pistol to see if it was fully loaded. "They are coming—Hark!"

The young captain broke off short, as a loud shouting from the road interrupted him. Then came a volley of musketry, followed by a steady stream of shots.

"We've got them this time, boys!" came in a ringing, English-speaking voice. "Forward, and don't let a man of them escape. On to San Isidro!"

"Our troops!" cried Larry. "Oh, God be praised that they are coming this way!"

"Yes, yes, our troops!" ejaculated Ben. "And what is more, my regiment!" The revulsion of feeling was so great that he felt like dancing a jig.

The shouting and firing now increased, until it was almost upon them. Then followed a rush into the woods, and the little party found itself face to face with a score of Filipinos.

At first our friends were greatly alarmed, and Ben and Larry did their best to defend themselves by firing as rapidly as possible at the Tagals as they appeared. But the enemy was retreating, and gave the little party scant attention. Then came a yell close at hand, and in a few seconds a squad of American soldiers burst through the thicket.

"Dan Casey!" cried Ben, as he recognized the Irish volunteer.

"Sure, an' is it Captain Russell?" came from the soldier, joyfully. "It is, the saints be praised! We've been a-wonderin' what had become of yez!"

"Town mit dem Filibinos!" The call came from Carl Stummer, and soon he also put in an appearance. "Dis vos von lucky tay," he said, when he saw the party. "Ve haf dem repels on der run like neffer vos."

"Then send them a-flying, Stummer," answered Ben. "Where is our camp?"

"Pack dere apout half a mile. Ve vos move up las' night und steal von march on dem Filibinos."

There was no time to say more, excepting to stop several of the soldiers, and assisted by these, the whole party moved to the rear, through line after line of American troops now hurrying to the firing line, for it was General Lawton's plan to give the Filipinos no rest until San Isidro and the territory in its vicinity were captured.

Inside of half an hour, Ben had seen to it that Larry, Luke, and Boxer were all made comfortable, and then, hastily swallowing a bowl of coffee and some bread and meat, he hurried after his command, which was threshing the jungle just outside of San Isidro for scattered bands of the enemy such as the young captain and his party had met. Soon Ben was on the firing line once more, and warmly greeted by Major Morris, Gilmore, and his other friends.

The fighting was hot, for the rebels felt that if San Isidro was taken, nothing would remain to them but the mountains. They had constructed a high embankment just outside of their capital, and this they were defending vigorously, many of their leading generals being at the front to direct the movements.

But General Lawton was now in his element, and feeling that his troops would do whatever he asked of them, he began to spread out to the right and the left, thus enfilading the trenches behind the embankment, which presently became so uncomfortable that the rebels had to leave them. At the same time a centre column continued the attack from the front—a centre column composed principally of Minnesota troops and the regiment to which Ben belonged.

"They are leaving the trenches!" exclaimed Major Morris, who was watching the progress of the battle through a field-glass. "Forward, boys! They are on the run again!"

A rattle of rifle-shots followed, and the battalion carried the middle of the embankment with a wild rush, planting Old Glory on the very top a minute later. Then the regiment pushed on for San Isidro proper. A hot skirmish was had on the main street of the town; but the Filipinos had had enough of it, and by nightfall were making for the mountains as rapidly as their demoralized condition would permit.

Señor Romano had told Ben where Benedicto Lupez and his brother José had been stopping in San Isidro, and as soon as the young captain could get the opportunity he hurried around to the place, which was a large private boarding-house.

"There is a man here by the name of Lupez, I believe," he said, as he presented himself, followed by a detachment of half a dozen of his men.

The boarding-house keeper, who had just hung out a white flag, eyed him suspiciously. "How do you know that Señor Lupez is here?" he questioned slowly.

"I know it, and I want to see him at once," returned Ben, sharply.

"He is—is not here—he—he went away this morning," came with much hesitation.

"Don't ye believe him, captain," put in Dan Casey, who was in the detachment.

"I will search the house," said Ben, quietly.

The keeper of the boarding-place protested, but his protest was of no avail. The house was searched from top to bottom, and in a back wing they found Benedicto Lupez in bed, suffering from a badly injured leg, the result of trying to ride a half-broken horse which the insurgents had captured from the Americans. He greeted the visitors with a villanous scowl.

At first he tried to deny his identity, but the Americans had been furnished with his photograph, and a wart on his forehead proved a clew that was conclusive. At once his effects were searched, and under his pillow was found a leather bag containing fifty thousand dollars in gold and in American bank bills.

"This is the money you stole from Braxton Bogg," said Ben, severely. "You need not deny it. Where is the rest?"

At first Benedicto Lupez refused to talk, but with a long term in an American prison in Manila staring him in the face, he confessed that just previous to the fall of San Isidro, he had divided what was left of the money with his brother José, who had now left for parts unknown. This confession was afterward proved to be true, and, later on, Ben learned that with five thousand dollars of the stolen funds Jose Lupez had purchased himself a general's commission in the insurgent army.

"Well, I suppose we are lucky to get back the fifty thousand dollars," said Ben, when he was telling Larry of how he had found Benedicto Lupez. "A half-loaf is far better than no bread at all, you know."

"Yes," answered the young sailor. "And who knows but that we may run across this Jose Lupez some day, and get the balance? Anyway, the recovery of that fifty thousand dollars means at least eight or ten thousand dollars in our pockets, as well as something for Uncle Job. I'll wager uncle and Walter will be mighty glad to get the good news we have to send them," And then he added enthusiastically, which was just like Larry, "Hurrah, Ben, score one more victory for Young America and Old Glory!"

Here we must bring to a close the adventures of Ben and Larry Russell previous to and during "The Campaign of the Jungle" under gallant General Lawton. The campaign had lasted three weeks, and during that time the troops had covered about a hundred and fifty miles of territory, fought twenty-two battles, captured twenty-eight towns, and destroyed large quantities of army stores, including three hundred thousand bushels of rice. The losses to the Americans had been about fifty killed and wounded, while the losses to the Filipinos were nearly ten times as great!

With the fall of San Isidro, General Aguinaldo and his followers retreated to the mountains, twelve miles to the north of that town. At the same time the rebels who had been opposing General MacArthur's advance fell back to Tarlac, thirty miles beyond San Fernando. But the Americans had not sufficient troops at hand with which to garrison the many towns they had taken, and so it was not long before some of the rebels came back to one place and another, to take what they could get, and to harass those natives who had been friendly to our soldiers. In the meantime the rainy season put a stop to further activity on a large scale, and while the Filipinos sued again for peace (but upon their own terms), General Otis sent for additional troops, so that the next dry season might see the rebellion brought to such a finish that its resurrection would be an impossibility. Many Americans pitied the sad condition of the Tagalogs, but all felt that as matters were now situated the supremacy of the United States throughout the Philippines must be maintained. Once the insurgents submitted to American authority, we would do the very best we could by them.

Shortly after the fall of San Isidro, General Lawton's command marched to join that of General MacArthur. In the meantime Larry and his wounded friends were removed to the hospital at Manila, whither Gilbert Pennington had already been taken, along with many others. Here the sick were given every attention, and soon the majority of our friends were on a speedy road to health.

Ben felt that there was no need to write to Walter, as his brother would ere long be in the Philippines, but he wrote to his Uncle Job, telling about the capture of Benedicto Lupez, and adding that the prisoner had been sent to join Braxton Bogg, and that the recovered money was safe in the United States bank at Manila, waiting to be returned to Buffalo. He also told about Larry, and added that since the Olympia had sailed away without him, the young sailor was now going to throw in his fortunes with the soldiers.

The letter brought great joy to Job Dowling, and he immediately wrote back, stating how pleased he was, and adding that he hoped Ben would catch José Lupez and recover what was still missing.

"That is easier said than done," said Ben to Larry, as the pair read the letter together. "Still, if this José Lupez is now a general in the rebel army, we may meet some day." Strange as it may seem, that day was not far off, as will be related in a sixth and concluding volume of this series, in which we shall meet all the Russell boys, as well as Gilbert, Luke, and many of our other friends again, and see what each did toward carrying our flag to a final and lasting victory in the Philippines.

But now let us leave Ben and Larry, and also the others. All had done well and richly deserved the rest that came to them. Many adventures were still in store for them, but it is doubtful if any were to be more thrilling than those encountered during "The Campaign of the Jungle."