The Campaign of the Jungle/Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII


A PRISONER OF THE FILIPINOS


Larry had retreated to a small nipa hut standing close to the roadway, feeling that if the Americans were coming in that direction, they would soon be at hand to give Luke and himself aid.

While the insurgents and the Spaniards were conversing, the latter had approached the hut, and now both followed the young sailor inside.

"Is your name Benedicto Lupez?" demanded Larry, approaching the taller of the pair.

"Yes," was the short response.

"Then you are from Manila—you ran away from there about two weeks ago?"

"Ha! what do you know of that?" demanded the Spaniard, eying Larry darkly.

"I know a good deal about you," answered the youth, boldly. "After Braxton Bogg was arrested you made off with the money he had left at your residence."

"'Tis false!" roared the Spaniard, but his face blanched even as he spoke. "I know nothing of that man or his money. I—I was deceived in him."

"If that is so, why did you leave Manila in such a hurry?"

"I—I wanted to help my brother, who was in trouble. I have not seen a dollar of Bogg's money. 'Tis he who still owes me for his board, black wretch that he was!" roared Benedicto Lupez, savagely.

At these words Larry was startled. Was Lupez really telling the truth, and if so, where was the money that had wrecked the saving institution?

"He didn't even pay his board?"

"Not one piaster, boy,—nothing. And I thought him honest, or I would not have taken him in."

"But his valise is gone, and the bands around the money—"

"Were as he left them. I can swear I touched absolutely nothing," answered Benedicto Lupez, earnestly.

Larry was nonplussed. Had the Spaniard looked less of a villain, the young sailor would have been inclined to believe him. But that face was so crafty and calculating that he still hesitated.

"Well, if you are innocent, you will not object to helping me rejoin our soldiers," he ventured.

"I want nothing to do with the Americanos,—they mean to get me into trouble, even though I am innocent," growled Benedicto Lupez. "Come, José, we will go," he added to his brother, in their native language.

His brother was already at the doorway. The shouting and firing outside was increasing. Leaping forward, Larry caught Benedicto Lupez by the arm.

"You'll stay here," he began, when the Spaniard let out a heavy blow which hurled the young sailor flat.

"I will not be held by a boy!" cried the man. "Let go, do you hear?" For Larry had caught him by the foot. The boy's hold was good, and in a trice Benedicto Lupez lay flat on his back. Then he rolled over and over and a fierce tussle ensued, which came to a sudden end when José Lupez leaped forward and kicked Larry in the head, rendering him partly unconscious.

What followed was more like a dream than reality to the bruised youth. He heard a confused murmur of voices and a dozen or more shots, and then, as Benedicto Lupez and his brother ran off, several rebels swarmed into the hut, one stumbling over the lad's form and pitching headlong. This insurgent was about to knife Larry when he saw that the young sailor's eyes were closed, and that he was bleeding about the head.

"Un Americano, and wounded," he said, speaking in the Tagalog dialect. "If he lives, he may make us a useful prisoner; " and a few minutes later Larry felt himself picked up and borne away, first in a man's arms and then on horseback. He tried to "locate" himself, but when he opened his eyes all went swimming before them, and he was glad enough to sink back once more and shut out the swirling sight.

On and on, and still on went the rebels, some on foot and a few on their steeds. In front were a few wagons and caribao carts piled high with camping outfits, and also one or two light guns—all that had been saved from the garrison. General Lawton's attack had been a brilliant success, and Santa Cruz itself had surrendered with hardly the loss of a man to the Americans. The troops coming in did their best to round up the insurgents, but they had scattered in all directions and only a few were caught, and these swore that they were amigos, or friends, and had to be given their liberty. This pretending to be friends after they were routed was a great trick with thousands of the natives. They would come into the American camp under the pretext that they had just escaped from the insurgents who had threatened to kill them if they would not join Aguinaldo's forces. What to do with such people was one of the most difficult problems of the rebellion. They could not be placed under arrest, and yet that is what nine out of ten deserved.

When Larry was once more himself he found that it was night. He was in a heap in a large casco which several Tagals were propelling with all speed across the Laguna de Bay. There were several other cascos in front and behind, all filled with natives with guns. The entire procession moved along in almost utter silence.

The youth wanted to know where he was being taken, but no sooner did he open his mouth than one of the soldiers clapped a dirty hand over it and commanded him to be silent. As the soldier carried a bolo in his hand, Larry considered "discretion the better part of valor," and for the time being, held his peace.

A swarm of mosquitoes soon told the boy that they were approaching a marsh, and presently the casco ran in between the reeds and under some high, overhanging tropical bushes. Then those on board leaped ashore, and the youth was made to follow them.

A weary tramp over the marsh and then up a high hill followed. The hill was covered with wild plantains, monstrous ferns, and a species of cedar tree, all thickly interlaced with the ever present tropical vines, which crossed and recrossed the tortuous path the party was following. Overhead the stars shone down dimly, while the forest was filled with the cries of the birds, the chattering of an occasional monkey, and the constant drone and chirp of the innumerable insects. The path was uneven, and more than once Larry pitched into a hollow along with the Tagal who accompanied him and who never let go his hold on the youthful prisoner.

At last they came to a halt before a series of rocks. Here there was a rude cave, partly concealed by bushes. As the party halted, several natives came from the cave to give them welcome. There was no doubt but that this was a rendezvous well known to the insurgents.

"A prisoner is it?" said one of the natives, coming forward and holding up a torch of pitch. "A mere boy. Bah, Lanza, cannot you do better?"

"He was with the soldiers who took Santa Cruz, and he wears the cap from a warship," replied Lanza. "It may be we can get more out of him than out of somebody older."

"Well, perhaps; but I would rather you had brought in a man," was the brief response.

The conversation was in the Tagalog dialect, and consequently Larry did not understand a word of it. The boy was made to march into the cave, which he found to be much larger than he expected. It was fully forty feet broad by sixty feet deep, and at the farther end a bright fire was burning, the blaze mounting high up in a natural chimney and rendering the surroundings as light almost as day.

On coming to his senses, the youth's hands had been bound behind him, and now he was made to sit down with his back against a fair-sized tree trunk which had been dragged into the cave for firewood. A rope was passed around the log and this in turn was fastened to the cord about his wrists, thus making him a close prisoner.

For several hours the rebels paid but scant attention to him, further than to furnish him a bowl of rice "pap," from which he might sup while it was held to his lips. They also gave him a drink of water, and one young rebel considerately washed the wound on his head, on which the blood had dried, presenting anything but a pleasant sight.

As the hours went by the rebels around the cave kept increasing in numbers until there were several hundred all told. Those who came in last told of the complete downfall of Santa Cruz, but none of them had the least idea of what the Americans were going to do next. "Perhaps they wlll follow us to here," said one, grimly.

"No, they know better than to follow us into the jungles and mountains," said the leader, Fipile. "If they did that, we could shoot them down like so many monkeys." They had still to learn the true character of the tireless general who had now taken up their trail, and who knew no such words as fear or failure.

It was well toward noon of the day following when Captain Fipile came in to have a talk with Larry. He spoke English remarkably well, for he had spent several years of his life in San Francisco, and in Hong Kong among the English located at that port.

"Your name, my boy," he said, sitting down beside the young tar. And when Larry had given it, he continued, "You were with the American troops who carried Santa Cruz?"

"I was, sir, although I got into the city before they did."

"Indeed, and how was that?" questioned the Filipino leader, and Larry told as much of his story as he deemed necessary.

To the tale Captain Fipile listened with interest, even smiling when Larry told how he had broken out of the prison. "You did wonderfully well for a boy," he remarked. "A man could not have done more. What became of your friend?"

"I left him at the warehouse. I hope he rejoined the soldiers."

"And what of Señors Benedicto and José Lupez?"

"I don't know what became of them."

"I know this José Lupez fairly well, and I always thought him an honest man." Captain Fipile stroked his chin thoughtfully. "We are fighting you Americans, it is true, but we would not wish to shelter a thief who had run away from among you. We are above that, even though a good many of your countrymen will not give us credit for it."

"We know that some of the Filipinos are honest enough," said Larry, hesitatingly. "What do you intend to do with me?" he went on, after a pause.

"That remains to be seen. Would you like to join our army?"

"Me? No, sir!" cried the youth, promptly.

Captain Fipile laughed outright. "You are honest enough about it, I must say. How about giving us a little information? Will you object to that?"

"I have given you considerable information already."

"I mean military information."

"I haven't anything to say on that point."

"Can't I persuade you to tell me what you may happen to know?"

"No, sir."

"If I can get you to talk, it may go much easier with you while you remain our prisoner," went on the captain, suggestively.

"I'm sorry, but I haven't anything to say."

"Very well, then, Master Russell, if you are rather harshly treated in the future, remember you have only yourself to blame. As a general rule, we take prisoners only for the purpose of squeezing what information we can out of them."

And thus speaking, Captain Fipile arose and quitted the cave, leaving Larry to his own reflections, which were more dismal than they were encouraging.