The Campaign of the Jungle/Chapter 1

THE CAMPAIGN OF THE JUNGLE




CHAPTER I


DISMAYING NEWS


"How are you feeling to-day, Ben?"

"Fairly good, Larry. If it wasn't for this awfully hot weather, the wound wouldn't bother me at all. The doctor says that if I continue to improve as I have, I can rejoin my company by the middle of next week."

"You mustn't hurry matters. You did enough fighting at Caloocan, Malabon, Polo, and here, to last you for some time. Let the other fellows have a share of it." And Larry Russell smiled grimly as he bent over his elder brother and grasped the hand that was thrust forward.

"I am willing the other fellows should have their share of the fighting, Larry. But you must remember that now Captain Larchmore is dead, and Lieutenant Ross is down with the fever, there is nobody to command our company but me—unless, of course. Sergeant Gilmore takes charge."

"Then let Gilmore play captain for a while, while you take the rest you have so well earned. Why, you've been working like a steam-engine ever since you landed in Luzon. Gilbert Pennington says he never dreamed there was so much fight in you, and predicts that you'll come out a brigadier general by the time Aguinaldo and his army are defeated."

"Well, I believe in pushing things," responded Ben Russell, smiling more broadly than ever, as his mind wandered back to that fierce attack on Malolos, where he had received the bullet wound in the side. "If we can only keep the insurgents on the run, we'll soon make them throw down their arms. But tell me about yourself, Larry. What have you been doing since you were up here last?"

"Oh, I've been putting in most of my time on board the Olympia, as usual," replied the young tar. "About all we are doing is to nose around any strange vessels that come into the harbor. Since the outbreak in Manila last February, the navy has had next to nothing to do, and I'm thinking strongly of asking to be transferred to the marines at Cavite, or elsewhere."

"I don't blame you." Ben Russell paused. "Have you heard anything more about Braxton Bogg and that hundred and forty thousand dollars he said he had left hidden in Benedicto Lupez's house in Manlla?"

A shade of anxiety crossed Larry Russell's face. "Yes, I've heard a good deal—more than I wanted to, Ben. But I wasn't going to speak of it, for fear of adding to your worry and making you feel worse."

"Why, Larry, you don't mean— Has Braxton Bogg escaped from jail and got hold of the money again?"

"No, Braxton Bogg is still in prison at Manila, although the Buffalo bank officials are about to have him returned to the United States for trial. But the money has disappeared. The police authorities at Manila went to Benedicto Lupez's house, to find it locked up and deserted. They broke in and made a search, but they couldn't find a dollar, either in Spanish or American money, although they did find Braxton Bogg's valise and a dozen or more printed bands of the Hearthstone Saving Institution—the kind of bands they put around five-hundred-dollar and one-thousand-dollar packages of bills."

"Then this Spaniard found where Bogg had hidden the money and made off with it?"

"That is the supposition; and I reckon it's about right, too. Of course, it may be possible that Braxton Bogg never left the stolen money in Lupez's house, although he swears he did. He says Lupez was an old friend of his and was going to have the bills changed into Spanish money for him, so that Bogg could use the cash without being suspected of any wrong-doing."

"It's too bad; and just as we thought our fifteen or sixteen thousand dollars of the amount was safe. I wonder what the bank people at home will say now."

"Of course, they won't like it. They would rather have the money than their missing cashier; and I would rather have the money, too—not but that Braxton Bogg ought to be punished for his crimes."

"Yes, Larry, Braxton Bogg deserves all the law can give him, for the depositors in the Hearthstone Saving Institution were mostly poor, hard-working persons, and the wrecking of the bank meant untold hardships for them." The wounded brother sighed deeply. "If that money isn't recovered, we'll be as badly off as we were when we first came to Manila," he concluded.

Ben Russell was the eldest of three brothers, Walter coming next, and Larry being the youngest. They were orphans, and at the death of their widowed mother had been left in the care of their uncle, Job Dowling, a miserly man whose chief aim in life had been to hoard money, no matter at what cost, so long as his method was within the limit of the law.

The boys were all sturdy and had been used to a good home, and Job Dowling's harsh and dictatorial manner cut them to the quick. A clash between guardian and wards had resulted in the running away of the three youths, and the guardian had tried in vain to bring them back. Larry had drifted to San Francisco and shipped on a merchantman bound for China. He had become a castaway and been picked up by the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy. This was just at the time of the outbreak of the war with Spain, and how gallantly the young tar served his country has already been told in detail in "Under Dewey at Manila."

Ben had found his way to New York, and Walter had drifted to Boston. After several adventures, the war fever had caught both, and Ben had joined the army to become "A Young Volunteer in Cuba," as already related in the volume of that name, while Walter had joined the armored cruiser Brooklyn and participated in the destruction of the Spanish fleet in Santiago Bay, as told in "Fighting in Cuban Waters."

While the three boys were away from home. Job Dowling had overreached himself by trying to sell some of the Russell heirlooms which it had been willed the lads should keep. The heirlooms had been stolen by a sharper, and it had cost the old man a neat sum of money to get them back. The experience made him both a sadder and a wiser man, and from that time on his manner changed, and when the boys returned from the war they found that he had turned over a new leaf. In the future he was perfectly willing that they should "do fer themselves," as he expressed it.

After a brief stay in Buffalo, Walter had left, to rejoin the Brooklyn, which was bound for a cruise to Jamaica and elsewhere. At this time trouble began to break out between the United States troops in the Philippines and the insurgents who had been fighting the now-conquered Spaniards, and it looked as if another fair-sized war was at hand. This being so, Ben lost no time in reënlisting in the army, while Larry hastened to join Admiral Dewey's flagship Olympia once more. "If there's to be any more fighting, I want to be right in it," was what the young tar said, and Ben agreed with him. How they journeyed to Manila by way of the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Indian Ocean, has already been related in "Under Otis in the Philippines." Ben was at this time second lieutenant of Company D of his regiment. With the two boys went Gilbert Pennington, Ben's old friend of the Rough Riders, who was now first sergeant of Company B of the same regiment, and half a dozen others who had fought with the young volunteer in Cuba. On arriving at Manila Larry found matters, so far as it concerned his ship, very quiet, but Ben was at once sent to the front, and participated with much honor to himself in the campaign which led to the fall of Malolos, a city that was at that time the rebel capital. As Company D, with Ben at its head as acting captain, had rushed down the main street of the place, an insurgent sharpshooter had hit the young commander in the side, and he had fallen, to be picked up later and placed in the temporaryhospital which was opened up in Malolos as soon as it was made certain that the rebels had been thoroughly cleaned out. Fortunately for the young volunteer the wound, though painful, was not serious.

Of the fifteen thousand to twenty thousand dollars coming to the Russell brothers, more than three-quarters had been invested by Job Dowling in the Heathstone Saving Institution, a Buffalo bank that had promised the close-minded man a large rate of interest. The cashier of this bank, Braxton Bogg, had absconded, taking with him all the available cash which the institution possessed. Bogg had come to Manila, and there Ben had fallen in with him several times and finally accomplished his arrest. It was found that Braxton Bogg had very little money on his person, and the guilty cashier finally admitted that he had left his booty at the house of one Benedicto Lupez, a Spaniard with whom he had boarded. As all the Spaniards in Manila were being closely watched by the soldiers doing police duty in the disturbed city, both Ben and Larry had supposed that there would be no further trouble in getting possession of the missing money. But Benedicto Lupez had slipped away unperceived, taking the stolen money with him, and the Russell inheritance—or at least the larger portion of it—was as far out of the reach of the boys as ever.