SOMETHING ABOUT THE SITUATION AT MALOLOS
"Do you know if the Manila authorities have any idea where this Benedicto Lupez has gone to?" asked Ben, after partaking of some delicacies which Larry had managed to obtain for him.
"They think he got on a small boat and went up the Pasig River. He is supposed to have a brother living in Santa Cruz on the Laguna de Bay. This brother is said to be in thorough sympathy with the insurgents."
"In that case he is out of our reach for the present, as the rebels, so I understand, have a pretty good force in and around Santa Cruz. But if this Lupez has the money, I can't understand how he would join the rebels. They'll try to get the cash from him, if they need it."
"Perhaps he is foolish enough to think that they will win out in this fight, Ben. You know how hot-headed some of these people are. They haven't any idea of the real power of Uncle Sam. I believe if they did know, they would submit without another encounter."
"It would be best if they did, Larry, for now that we are in this fight we are bound to make them yield. Once they throw down their arms, I feel certain our country will do what is fair and honest by them."
"It's the leaders who are urging the ignorant common people on—I've heard more than one of the officers say so. The leaders are well educated and crafty, and they can make the masses believe almost anything. Why, just before I came away from Manila I saw a dozen or more Igorottes brought in—tall, strapping fellows, but as ignorant as so many children. They seemed to be dazed when their wounds were cared for and they were offered food. The interpreter said they thought they would be massacred on the spot by the blood-thirsty Americanos, and they had a lurking suspicion that they were being cared for just so they could be sold into slavery."
At this juncture a tall, thoroughly browned soldier came in, wearing the uniform of a first lieutenant.
"Well, Ben, how is it to-day," he said cheerily, as he extended his hand. "And how are you, Larry?" And he likewise shook hands with the young tar.
"I'm hoping to get out soon, Gilbert," answered Ben. "But what's this—a lieutenant's uniform?"
"Yes, I've been promoted to first lieutenant of Company B," returned Gilbert Pennington. "I tell you, we are all climbing up the ladder, and Larry must look to his laurels. I understand you are to be made permanent captain of Company D."
"But where is First Lieutenant Granger of your company?"
"Disappeared," and the young Southerner's face took on a sober look. "That's the only thing that mars my happiness over my promotion. After the taking of Malolos, Jack Granger disappeared utterly, and we haven't been able to find hide nor hair of him, although half a dozen scouting parties have been sent out and the stream has been dragged in several places."
"Perhaps he was taken prisoner," suggested Larry. "I heard some of the Kansas and Utah men were missing, too."
"We are afraid he is a prisoner, and if that is so, Aguinaldo's men have probably taken him up to San Fernando, where the insurgents are setting up their new capital."
"And what is going on at the firing line?" asked Ben, eagerly. "Are they following up the rebels' retreat?"
"I'm sorry to say no. General MacArthur made a reconnoissance in the direction of Calumpit, but it amounted to little."
"I understand that the Charleston has sailed up the coast and is going to shell Dagupan," put in Larry. "Dagupan, you know, is the terminus of the railroad line."
"That's good," came from the sick brother. "If we can get a footing in Dagupan, we can work the railroad territory from both ends." But this was not to be, as coming events speedily proved, for the shelling of the city by the warship amounted to but little.
Gilbert Pennington knew all about the Braxton Bogg affair and listened with interest to what Larry had to relate.
"It's too bad," he declared. "I'd like to give you some hope, boys, but I'm afraid you'll have to whistle for your fortune. That Spaniard will keep out of the reach of the Americans, and if the worst comes to the worst, he'll slip off to Spain or South America; you mark my words."
Larry's leave of absence was for forty-eight hours only, and soon he was forced to bid his brother and his friend good-by. "Now take good care of yourself, Ben," he said, on parting. "And do stay here until you are stronger. Remember that a wounded man can't stand this broiling sun half as well as one who isn't wounded, and even the strongest of them are suffering awfully from the heat."
"I'll make him stay," put in Gilbert, with mock severity. "Surgeon Fallox won't give him clearance papers until I tell him, for he's a great friend of mine."
"I'm going to have a word with Stummer before I go," added Larry, and hurried to the ward in which the sturdy German volunteer had been placed. He found the member of Ben's company propped up on some grass pillows, smoking his favorite brier-root pipe.
"Sure, an' I vos glad to see you, Larry," cried Carl, his round face broadening into a smile on beholding his visitor. "Yah, I vos doin' putty goot, und I peen out on der firin' line next veek maype. But say, I vos sorry I peen shot town pefore we got to Malolos. I vos dink sure I help clean dose repels out."
"Never mind, you did your duty, Carl. I've heard they are going to make you a corporal for your bravery."
"Sure, an' that's right," came in an Irish voice behind the pair, and Dan Casey, another volunteer of Ben's company, appeared. "It's mesilf as has the honor av saying it first, too, Carl. You are to be first corporal, Carl, wid meself doin' juty as second corporal."
The German volunteer's face lit up for a second, then fell suspiciously. "Say, Dan, vos dis a choke maype?" he said slowly.
"A joke, is it?" burst out Casey. "Sure, an' do ye think I'd be afther playin' a joke on a wounded man, Carl? No, it's no joke. We're raised to the dignity av officers be the forchunes av war an' the recommendations av our superior, Actin' Captain Russell, which same will soon be our captain be commission. Providence an' the President willin'."
"Good for Ben!" exclaimed Larry. "You both deserve it." And after a few words more he hurried off, leaving the two old soldiers to congratulate themselves on their advancement and speculate upon how high they might rise in the service before the rebellion should close. Casey had his eye set on a captaincy, but Stummer said he would be quite content if any commissioned office came his way, even if it was but a second-lieutenancy.
Malolos had been captured on Friday, March 31, 1899, at a little after ten o'clock in the morning, although the fighting kept up until nearly nightfall. As soon as the rebels were thoroughly cleaned out, many of the soldiers were called upon to do duty as firemen, for a large portion of the town was in flames. While the fire was being put out, other soldiers went about stopping the Chinese from looting the deserted mansions. The coolies were at first made prisoners and put under guard in the public park, but later on they were released and set to work to clean the streets.
As Gilbert had said, the days immediately following the fall of Malolos were not of special activity. The hard, running fight along the railroad through Caloocan, Polo, and other places, had all but exhausted the army under General MacArthur, and when the insurgents' capital was taken, it was felt that the soldiers had earned a well-needed rest. Moreover, many had been wounded and many more were down, suffering from the heat and tropical fever, and these had to be cared for in the temporary hospitals established at various points in the neighborhood. In the meantime the railroad was repaired and Malolos was made a new base for supplies. There were several skirmishes in the neighborhood north and northeast of Malolos, and in these the rebels were compelled to fall back still further, yet the outbreaks amounted to but little.
In the meantime, the Philippine Commission of the United States issued a proclamation, translated into the Spanish and Tagalog languages, calling upon the insurgents to throw down their arms and promising them good local government, the immediate opening of schools and courts of law, the building of railroads, and a civil service administration in which the native should participate. This proclamation was widely distributed, yet it did little good; for the common people of the islands were given to understand by their leaders that the Americans did not mean what they said, but had come to their country only to plunder them, and would in the end treat them even worse than had the Spaniards.
It was no easy work to repair the railroad running from Manila to Malolos Station, which was some distance from the town proper. All tools and equipments had to be brought up from Manila and from Cavite, and soon the engineering corps found themselves harassed by some rebels in the vicinity of Marilao and Guiguinto. At once General MacArthur sent out a force to clear the ground, and several sharp attacks ensued, which resulted in the loss of twenty-three killed and wounded on the American side, and double that number to the enemy. In the end the rebels fled to the mountains to the eastward and to Calumpit on the north.
"We are going out to-morrow," said Gilbert, as he came to see Ben on the day following the engagements just mentioned. "General Wheaton says he is going to drive the rebels straight into the mountains—and I reckon he'll keep his word."
Ben was at once anxious to go along, but this was not yet to be, and he was forced to sit at a window of the hospital and see his regiment march by with colors flying gayly and all "the boys" eager for another contest. The members of his own company gave him a cheer as they passed. "You'll soon be with us again, captain," cried one. "We won't forget you! Hurrah!" and on they marched, with a lieutenant from Company A leading them, and with Gilbert and Major Morris and many old friends with the regiment. Ben watched them out of sight, and heaved a long sigh over the fact that he was not of their number. But there was still plenty of fighting in store for the young captain, and many thrilling and bitter experiences in the bargain.