Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 28
ON TO HONG KONG—CONCLUSION
"I feel like a fellow who has been rolling in a coal hole," remarked Larry, when the excitement had somewhat subsided. "And my ears are in a regular buzz."
"That buzzing will go away by morning," said Striker. "Ah, lad, but it was a great victory, wasn't it now?" and he slapped Larry heartily on the back. When the news of the surrender came in. Striker had insisted upon dancing an impromptu jig, and several had joined in. There was likely to be a "high time" on the Olympia for some days to come, now that the terrible strain under which the men had been laboring had been removed.
For it is no easy thing to face death, even at something of a distance. Everybody knew that only the wretched aiming of the Spanish gunners had saved them from shots of a more or less serious nature. Had those five balls which had struck in the upper works been aimed lower, there would, without question, have been great havoc.
It was drawing towards Sunday evening, and the Olympia had taken up a position outside of Manila, leaving several of the other vessels to guard around Fort Cavite. At this place, the Spaniards were engaged in carrying off their dead and wounded and were not molested. Commodore Dewey might have taken a large number of prisoners, had he forced a fight on land, but he had no accommodations for such a purpose. He had been sent out to find the Spanish fleet and "engage" it, and he had engaged it most effectually. He must now await additional orders from Washington.
It was some little time before Larry himself felt like quieting down, but a good washing up and changing of garments made him feel more like himself.
"This isn't much of a Sunday," he observed to Barrow, when they were eating supper. "The chaplain hasn't had a chance to say a word."
Nevertheless, the chaplain did hold a brief "church," although the sailors prepared no "rig" for it. This was during the smoking hour, and men attended or not, just as they pleased. Larry felt it his duty to go, and took Striker with him.
Utterly worn out, the boy slept soundly that night, although once or twice some ugly dreams chased each other across his mind—cannon shots aimed directly for his head and that unlocked breech, which he never would forget.
The following day was a busy one for the separate vessels of the Asiatic Squadron. While the Concord and Petrel received the surrender of the fort and arsenal at Cavite, and also took possession of the navy yard, the Raleigh and Baltimore were sent down to Corregidor Island to silence all the batteries at the entrance of Manila Bay. A flag of truce was sent in to the commandant at the island, and, on learning the truth of what had occurred, he agreed to surrender if the men should be allowed their liberty. As no prisoners were desired, this was satisfactory, and the men were placed under parole not to take up arms against the Americans nor to allow a gun to be fired at any American ship going in or out of the harbor.
Although the majority of the Spanish vessels had been destroyed, three steam tugs had been captured, along with the Manila, the ship fitted up for fighting purposes. During the three days following, a number of other vessels were taken, and, later still, a large Spanish war vessel, the Callao. The taking of the Callao was full of the grim humor that all sailors enjoy. She had been among the southern islands for many months, and knew nothing of any war having been declared. She steamed straight for Cavite, expecting to meet sister ships there, when, without warning, the Olympia fired upon her. The Spanish commander thought the American ship was indulging in target practice, and turned to steam out of range, when several other vessels came to the Olympia's aid, and then the Spaniard saw that the whole matter was no joke, counted the American vessels through his glass, caught sight of the wrecks in Cavite harbor, and lost no time in surrendering. The Callao was a gunboat of two hundred tons, carrying four modern guns and a crew of forty. Sailors were speedily sent to take charge of the prize; the commander and his crew were sent ashore, and an hour later the stars and stripes floating above the Callao indicated that she had been added to the American squadron.
It was, of course, desirable that news of the victory should be sent to the United States by way of cable and telegraph without delay. But the only cable from Manila was that to Hong Kong, and that the Spanish held. As he could not send his own messages. Commodore Dewey promptly resolved that the Spanish should not send theirs, and he had one of his ships pick up the cable lying on the bottom of the bay and cut it. Then he prepared his despatches, and sent them to Hong Kong on the McCulloch.
Larry felt that the despatch boat would soon leave, and anxious, now that the big battle was over, to learn something concerning the Columbia, he asked for permission to take the trip across the China Sea.
"You can go, my lad," said Commodore Dewey, for the boy had gone directly to him. "I understand you did very well at the gun to which you were assigned. When you get to Hong Kong you can then make up your mind as to whether or not you care to return. If not, you may consider yourself as honorably discharged from the service," and then he shook hands and smiled.
Larry had expected that Striker would accompany him on the trip, but the tall down-easter declined. "This jest suits me to death, Larry," he said. "I wouldn't miss a day of it for a fortune. Don't you forget to come back; I'll be a-watchin' for you." And an affectionate parting followed, for both had grown to think a great deal of each other.
The trip on the McCulloch to Hong Kong occupied several days, but with nothing happening out of the ordinary. As the stanch despatch boat came in sight of the numerous shipping at the Chinese-English port, Larry kept his eyes wide open for a possible sight of the Columbia. He had just about given up hope, when he caught a glimpse of a hull which looked strangely familiar.
"Will you lend me your glass for just a moment?" he asked of a news correspondent standing by. "I think that's my ship over to our port."
The glasses were cheerfully loaned, and one look convinced Larry that he was right. There was the Columbia, somewhat battered around the bow and with her foremast still missing, and there, yes, there were Captain Ponsberry and Tom Grandon on her deck!
"Columbia, ahoy!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, but he was too far off to be heard, and had to content himself with locating the craft as best he could, while the despatch boat steamed up to the regular landing.
"What's the news?" was the first question asked by a hundred throats, for the vessel had been seen from afar.
"Complete victory for the Americans—Spanish fleet utterly wiped out!" was the answer that started a rapid flow of conversation upon every hand. Soon the news was known everywhere, and scores of telegrams were speeding in every direction. When the news reached the United States, everybody was jubilant, and Congress voted thanks to the men who had taken part in the glorious contest, while Commodore Dewey was made Rear Admiral.
Once on shore, Larry lost no time in making his way along the busy street skirting the harbor, until he came to the quay at which the Columbia was tied up. A rope ladder was out, and soon he was climbing on board.
"Bless my soul! Is it really Larry Russell?" ejaculated Captain Ponsberry, when confronted. "Why, I thought you were at the bottom of the China Sea!" And he caught the boy by both hands.
"Larry Russell, as sure as fate!" cried Grandon, pushing forward. "Well, this is the most wonderful thing I ever heard of. How on earth did you escape drowning and get here?"
And he, too, nearly wrung Larry's hand off. "It's a long story," was the boy's answer to both. "I and Luke Striker floated about until we struck an island, and—"
"Then Luke is safe, too!" broke in Captain Ponsberry. "The Lord be praised, as the parson would say. It's wonderful! simply wonderful! So ye got on an island, and some ship picked ye off, I calkeilate?"
"No, we found an old boat, and set sail in it. But the boat went to pieces, and we floundered around until the Asiatic Squadron came along and Commodore Dewey picked us up, and—"
"The fleet that set sail to fight the Spaniards?" interrupted Grandon.
"Then the fleet's come back here?"
"No, only the despatch boat. The warships are at Manila. I was with them up to a few days ago, and we sunk or burned every one of the Dons' vessels," added Larry, proudly.
Taken together, the news was so marvellous that Captain Ponsberry could scarcely believe it, and soon he was asking Larry for all the particulars, which the boy was only too willing to give.
"I reckon you would like to know what has become of Olan Oleson," remarked Grandon, during a brief pause.
"I would. He pushed Luke and myself overboard."
"The parson thought he did, and we put him in irons for the rest of the trip. When we got here we were on the point of making a complaint to the authorities against him, when the captain of another vessel had him locked up for atrocious assault. He is in prison now, and likely to stay there for some time to come."
"He deserves it," was Larry's reply. "I intended to make some charge against him, if I could locate him. I hope his term in prison does him good. I never want to see him again."
Hobson and several others now came forward, and were equally glad to find that the lad was safe. During the talk which followed Larry learned that the Columbia had had a good deal of trouble during the hurricanes, but had finally reached Hong Kong with only the loss of the foremast and a battered bow, due to the falling of the heavy stick. She had sprung several small leaks, but her pumps had easily kept her free of water.
"And the parson—where is he?" asked Larry of the captain.
"He is still in Hong Kong," was the reply, and, receiving the Rev. Martin Wells' address, the boy took the privilege of calling upon the missionary, and was very warmly received.
"Truly you have had some wonderful adventures," said Mr. Wells, after listening' to the youth's recital. "But I take it you are rather proud of them—especially of your work on the Olympia at Manila."
And Larry, frank to the last, admitted that this was so.
Here properly ends the tale of Larry Russell's adventures "Under Dewey at Manila." We have seen how fortune, by a curious combination of circumstances, threw him in with the Asiatic Squadron, and how gallantly he fought during that battle which, with the exception of our second great naval victory near Santiago Bay, has no equal in history. That Larry was proud at having participated in the glorious conquest was but natural. What American boy would not have been proud?
The McCulloch was to return to Manila Bay with despatches almost immediately, and the boy was strongly tempted to go back in her. But he wished first to hear from his brothers, and so resolved to stay in Hong Kong until the despatch boat might make a second trip to that port. Of his future adventures we shall hear later on.
In the mean time, however, I would ask my young readers who have followed me through the foregoing pages, to transfer their attention for a while to Ben Russell, Larry's oldest brother. As Ben had written in his letter, he had preferred the soldiery, and on the President's first call for 125,000 volunteers, he had given up his position in New York, and joined the army. The haps and mishaps of the youth will be related in another volume, to be entitled "A Young Volunteer in Cuba; or, Fighting for the Single Star." In this book we shall not only become intimately acquainted with Ben, but we shall also catch glimpses of Larry and of the other brother, Walter, who had gone into the navy stationed in Atlantic waters. We shall likewise learn something more of Job Dowling, and of what was done by the boys toward getting that which was justly due them from their miserly step-uncle.
And now, for the time being, good-by to Larry Russell, the American sailor boy who served so gallantly "Under Dewey at Manila."