Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 2

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Larry Russell was a youth of sixteen, tall, broad-shouldered, and of good weight. His curly hair was of deep brown, as was also the color of his eyes, and his handsome, manly face was thoroughly tanned by constant exposure to the sun.

As the youth had said, he was one of three brothers, of whom Ben was the oldest and Walter next. The boys had never known what it was to have a sister, and now they were entirely alone in the world, saving for the step-uncle Larry had mentioned.

The boys had been brought up in a home which was comfortable if not elegant, and during her life Mrs. Russell had been all that a devoted mother can be, giving the lads a good education and a strict moral and religious training as well. Taking after their father, who had been a great traveller, the boys were inclined to be of a roving nature, but this spirit had been constantly curbed by the mother, who dreaded to think of having any one of them leave her.

At Mrs. Russell's untimely death, life had changed for her sons as a summer sky changes when a cold and wild thunder storm rushes on. The pleasant home had been broken up by the harsh and dictatorial Job Dowling, a man who thought of nothing but to make money and save it. He took charge of everything, sold off the household treasures at the highest possible prices, placed the cash in the best of the Buffalo banks, and took the boys to live with him in a tumble-down cottage on a side street, presided over by an old Irishwoman, for Dowling was a bachelor.

The first strife had arisen from the selling of some little articles which had belonged to Mrs. Russell's personal effects, and which the boys wished to save as keepsakes. "It's all foolishness, a-keepin' of 'em," Job Dowling had cried. "I won't cater to no such softheartedness. I'll sell the things and put the money in the bank, where it will be a-drawin' interest;" and this he did with the majority of the articles. A few the boys hid, and these were all that were left to them when the final break-up came.

Larry had told but a small portion of the particulars concerning that quarrel—leaving out how Job Dowling had struck him senseless with his cane, and how he had recovered to find himself a prisoner in the garret of the cottage, with his step-uncle gone off to swear out a warrant for his arrest. It had been an easy matter for the lad to escape from the garret by dropping from the window to the roof of the kitchen addition, and with the housekeeper also gone, to the market, the boy had had matters his own way in supplying himself with food. The chase to the freight yard had been a close one, and he had been all but exhausted when the door was shut and locked and the long train rolled on its way.

The train had taken him only as far as Oakland, and there he had remained for several days, with not enough money to take him across the bay to the metropolis of the Golden Gate. Hard times had followed,—for runaways do not always fare so well as boys imagine they do,—and more than once Larry had crept away to some secluded corner, to go to sleep whenever the pangs of hunger would allow. It was hunger as much as anything else which had driven him to accept the offer to ship with Captain Morgan, and the first square meal he had had for ten days had been eaten in the dingy forecastle of the Rescue.

Yet life on shipboard had pleased him greatly, and with the knowledge derived from days spent upon Lake Erie he had soon learned to do his full duty as a foremast hand, and as he was both strong and fearless, the climbing of the shrouds and the taking in of sail in the teeth of a storm had no terrors for him.

The calculation had been that the Rescue would not remain at Honolulu more than two weeks, before starting on the return to San Francisco, but a fierce gale had opened some of her seams, and after unloading, an inspection had showed that she must undergo a thorough overhauling before putting to sea again, or else run the risk of sinking in mid ocean. Upon learning this. Captain Morgan had put her into the basin at the ship-yard, and told the crew that they could either wait until repairs were finished or ship elsewhere, just as they chose.

The first few days spent in and around the capital city of the Hawaiian, or Sandwich, Islands had pleased Larry greatly, for there was so much to see that was new and strange. In San Francisco he had met many Chinese and Japanese, but here in addition were the Kanakas, the natives of the Islands, a race quite distinct in itself, although allied to the Maoris of New Zealand. He had seen them first in the bay, hundreds of them swimming about,—for the native Hawaiian takes to the sea like a fish,—their heads bobbing up and down like so many cocoanuts.

The city itself was also of interest, with its broad, smooth streets, lined with stately palms, and dotted everywhere with broad, low villas and huts, each in a veritable bower of green. Down in the business portion the stores were very much like those in a small American city, excepting that they were kept by all sorts of people,—Kanakas, Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, and numerous Chinese and Japanese. It was not an uncommon thing to hear two men talking, each in a different language, yet each understanding the other. On his first trips around he had visited the Royal Palace, now the abode of royalty no longer, the Government Buildings on Palace Square and King Street, and also the quaint Kawhaiahoa church, a structure composed entirely of coral, and erected by the natives shortly after the missionaries arrived and prevailed upon them to give up idolatry.

Then had come the chance to sail to Hilo, a town situated upon the eastern coast of Hawaii, the largest of the group of islands. Arriving there, he had had time enough to travel on horseback with a small party to the great volcano. It was a two days' journey, and at night the party slept in a native hut, under kapas, or bark cloths, and in the morning Larry had his first taste of the great national dish, poi, which did not suit him at all, although the natives and some others eat it with great relish.

The journey to the volcano was a hard one, but once arriving at the top, the youth felt himself well repaid for his trouble. He was nearly forty-five hundred feet above sea-level, and before him was stretched the grand crater of Kilauea, nine miles in diameter, with the active portion, called Halemau-mau, or House of Everlasting Fire, occupying one portion of it. Nearly a day was spent here, and Larry went down into the silent depths of the crater, approaching so closely to the terrible fires that his shoes were burnt from the heat of the lava beds upon which he trod.

The youth had sought to obtain work at the Volcano House, a hostelry situated upon the brink of the volcano, but here it was the same tale that was told to him at Pali—the season was dull and no extra help was wanted. So he went back to Hilo, a little place set in a wilderness of tropical growth, and returned to Honolulu on the lumber boat.

The trip to Hilo had brought him in nothing in cash, for he had offered his services in return for the passage, and when he reached Honolulu again he found that all he had left out of his ship's wages was six dollars and a half. "I'll have to economize," he thought, and sought out the cheapest boarding-house he could find. The place was full of sailors, and the next morning he awoke to find that he had been robbed and that his roommate, a burly foreigner, was missing. He had at once reported his loss, but it did no good; and he found himself out in the streets penniless.

Larry might have applied to Captain Morgan for a loan, but such was hot his habit, and he set to work manfully to make the best of the situation. For several days he tramped here, there, and everywhere, doing what he could to pick up a living, until at last he came to the resort kept by Ralph Harmon, as already described. And here we will rejoin him, at the moment he resolved to stop the runaway horses, did it lie in his power.

"Look out for yourself," cried Ralph Harmon, as he came after Larry. "If you don't, those beasts will trample you under foot."

"Whoa! whoa!" went on the excited man on the front seat of the carriage. "Consarn ye, whoa!"

He was evidently a nautical fellow, for he was dressed like a son of the sea. He was standing up, waving his hands frantically. On the rear seat of the carriage crouched his two companions, evidently too scared to speak or move.

To Ralph Harmon's words, and to the yells from the turnout, Larry answered not a word, knowing that it would be a sheer waste of breath. But he continued to cover the ground at a lively gait, and as he ran he pulled off his coat.

"You'll be killed!" screamed Harmon, as the boy stepped almost directly in front of the team. Then the man saw the coat sail up in the air and land over the head of the nearest horse. As the animal paused at having the light so suddenly shut from his view, Larry leaped upon his back.

"Good for you, boy! Now stop 'em!" shouted the nautical fellow on the front seat. "Stop 'em, and I'll give you a five-dollar gold piece, as sure as my name is Captain Nat Ponsberry!"

"I'll stop them if there is any stop to them!" panted Larry, for the run and the leap had somewhat winded him. "Whoa, now, my beauties, whoa!" he went on, soothingly, at the same time reaching for the reins.

"We're going into yonder gully!" suddenly shouted one of the men on the back seat. "We must jump, or we will be killed!"

"No, no, don't jump," answered his companion, a man dressed in clerical black. "The boy will stop the horses; see, he has the reins already;" and he added a half-audible prayer for their safe deliverance.

It was true that Larry had the lines, but the coat had fallen to the ground, the horses still held their bits between their teeth, and it looked as if they did not intend to give in just then. The brink of the gully swept closer and closer. Now it was a hundred feet away—now but fifty—and now twenty-five. The boy's face paled, and he gave an extra pull upon the reins of one horse, and the carriage swerved just a bit to the left, but not enough—and they swept nearer.

"Get over there!" he yelled, and hit the horse on the side of the head with all the force of his naked fist. It was a cruel blow, and it skinned his knuckles, while the animal staggered as though struck with a club. But the blow told, the team turned,—the punished beast dragging his mate,—and the turnout swept past the edge of the gully with less than two feet to spare! A hundred feet further on the runaways came to a standstill, and Larry slid to the ground.

"Young man, you have saved our lives," cried the nautical fellow, as soon as he could speak, and lumbering out of the carriage he ran up and assisted Larry in holding the team, which were all a-quiver with excitement, and covered with foam.

"I reckon they are about run out, sir," answered the youth, as coolly as he could. "How did they happen to break away?"

"I guess it was my fault," answered Captain Nat Ponsberry, somewhat sheepishly. "You see, I ain't much used to hosses, and the steerin' of 'em rather bothered me, and I worried 'em until they jest wouldn't stand it no longer. Parson, I ought to have let you drive, or Tom Grandon," he continued to the others, who had also alighted.

"I don't know any more about horses than you do, Nat," said the man addressed as Grandon, also a sailor,- by his general appearance. "Don't catch me riding out behind such a mettlesome team again! What do you think, Mr. Wells?"

"I think the boy has done us all a great service," answered the Rev. Martin Wells, soberly. "Were it not for his bravery, and the kindness of an all-wise Providence, we should at this moment be lying at the bottom of yonder gully suffering severe injuries, if not lifeless. I for one thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done," he added, taking Larry's hand warmly. "I shall remember you as long as I live."

He was so earnest that Larry blushed, although he knew not exactly why. The others also took him by the hand, while Ralph Harmon came forward, and, directed by Captain Ponsberry, turned the team and carriage into his stables.

A few minutes later found the party inside the little wayside resort, where for some time they discussed the adventure and the part each one had played in it. They had come up to look over the precipice, but a good deal of their interest in sightseeing was now gone.

"I don't know as I care to drive those horses back to Honolulu," remarked Captain Ponsberry, after he had insisted upon rewarding Larry by literally jamming a five-dollar gold piece down in his trousers pocket. "Have you got a man around here as can do it for us?" he asked of Ralph Harmon.

"I will drive them down, if you'll allow me," put in Larry. "I am going down, and I'll be glad of the ride. I'll give you my word they won't get away from me," he added confidently.

"There is no one around here, now," answered Harmon. "I have a native driver somewhere, but I am sorry to say he drinks and is not reliable."

"I shall feel safe with the boy," put in the Rev. Martin Wells. "Don't you say the same, Grandon?"

"Why not, seeing how well he handled them before? Give the lad the job, Nat, and let us have the best to eat that the house affords;" the last words to the keeper of the resort, who at once bustled off to stir up his fire and his sleepy native cook at the same time.