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Ray's Daughter - A Story of Manila
by Charles King
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At sound of the shots on the Calle Nueva, Brent had sallied forth, and, rushing impetuously into the dimly lighted thoroughfare, had narrowly missed losing the top of his head as well as his watch, an excited sentry sending a bullet whizzing into space by way of the colonel's pith helmet, which prompted the doctor to say in his placid and most effective way that more heads had been lost that night than valuables, and one bad shot begat another.

Sentries down towards the barracks, hearing the three or four quick reports, bethought them of the time-honored instructions prescribing that in case of a blaze, which he could not personally extinguish, the sentry should "shout 'Fire!' discharge his piece, and add the number of his post." Sagely reasoning that nothing but a fire could start such a row, or at least that there was sufficient excuse to warrant their having some fun of their own to enliven the dull hours of the night, Numbers 7 and 8 touched off their triggers and yelled "Fire;" 5 and 6, nearer home, followed suit, and in two minutes the bugles were blowing the alarm all over Ermita and Malate, and rollicking young regulars and volunteers by the hundred were tumbling out into the street, all eagerness and rejoicing at the prospect of having a lark with the Bomberos, the funny little Manila firemen with their funnier little squirts on wheels.

It was fully half an hour before the officers could "locate" the origin of the alarm and order their companies back to bed, an order most reluctantly obeyed, for by that time the nearest native fire-company was aroused and on the way to the scene. Others could be expected in the course of the night, and the Manila fire department was something that afforded the Yankee soldier unspeakable joy. He hated to lose such an opportunity.

But for all his professional calm, Dr. Frank was by no means pleased with the excitement attending this episode. For an hour or more officers from all over the neighborhood gathered in front of Brent's and had to be told the particulars, "Billy Ray's daughter" being pronounced the heroine everybody expected her to be, while that young lady herself, now that the affair could be called closed, was in a condition bordering on the electric. "Overwrought and nervous," said Miss Porter, "but laughing at the whole business."

What Frank thought he didn't say, but he cut short Sandy's visit to his sister, and suggested that he go down and tell the assemblage under the front gallery that they would better return to whist—or whatever game was in progress when the alarm was given. The colonel could not invite them in as matters stood, and they slowly dispersed, leaving only a senior or two and Lieutenant Stuyvesant to question further, for Stuyvesant, coming from afar and arriving late, was full of anxiety and concern.

Despite his temporary escape, circumstances and the civil authorities (now become decidedly military) had thrown him into still further association with the woman whom he would so gladly have shunned—the importunate Miss Perkins. He had taken a turn round the block—and refuge in the English Club—until he thought her disposed of at home and his carriage returned. He had come across the little equipage, trundling slowly up and down the street in search of him, had dined without appetite and smoked without relish, striving to forget that odious woman's hints and aspersions, aimed evidently at the Rays, and had gone to his own room to write when a corporal appeared with the request from the captain in charge of the police guard of Ermita to step down to the office.

It was much after nine then and the excitement caused by the alarm was about over, the troops going back to barracks and presumably to bed. The captain apologized for calling on him that late in the evening, but told him a man recognized as Murray, deserter from the cavalry, was secreted somewhere in the neighborhood, and it was reported that he, Stuyvesant, could give valuable information concerning him. Stuyvesant could and did, and in the midst of it in came Miss Perkins, flushed, eager, and demanding to know if that villain was yet caught—"and if not, why not?"

Then she caught sight of Stuyvesant and precipitated herself upon him. That man Murray had hatefully deceived her and imposed upon her goodness, she declared. She had done everything to help him at the Presidio, and he had promised her a paper signed by all the boys asking that the P. D. A.'s be recognized as the organization the soldiers favored, and showed her a petition he had drawn up and was getting signatures to by the hundreds. That paper would have insured their being recognized by the government instead of those purse-proud Red Cross people, and then he had wickedly deserted, after—after—and Stuyvesant could scarcely keep a straight face—getting fifty dollars from her and a ring that he was going to wear always until he came back from Manila—an officer. Oh, he was a smart one, a smooth one! All that inside of three days after he got to the Presidio, and then was arrested, and then, next thing she knew, he had fled,—petition, money, ring, and all.

Another soldier told her the signatures were bogus. And that very night she recognized him, spite of his beard, and at sight of her he had cut and run. ("Well he might!" thought Stuyvesant.) And then Miss Perkins yielded to the strain of overtaxed nerves and had to be conducted home.

She lived but a block or two away, and it was Stuyvesant who had to play escort. The air, unluckily, revived her, and at the gateway she turned and had this to add to her previous statements.

"You think the Ray people your friends, lieutenant, and I'm not the kind of a woman to see a worthy young man trifled with. You've been going there every day and everybody knows it, and knows that you were sent away to Iloilo in hopes of breaking you of it. That girl's promised in marriage to that young man who's got himself into such a scrape all on her account. He's here—followed her here to marry her, and if he's found he's liable to be shot. Oh, you can believe or not just as you please, but never say I didn't try to give you fair warning. Know? Why, I know much more about what's going on here than your generals do. I have friends everywhere among the boys; they haven't. Oh, very well, if you won't listen!" (For Stuyvesant had turned away in wrath and exasperation.) "But you'd be wiser if you heard me out. I've seen Mr. Foster and had the whole story from his lips. He's been there every day, too, till he was taken sick——"

But Stuyvesant was out of the gate and at last out of hearing, and with a vicious bang to the door, the lady of the P. D. A.'s, so recently victimized by the astute Sackett, retired to the sanctity of her own apartment, marvelling at the infatuation of men.

And yet, though Stuyvesant had angrily striven to silence the woman and had left her in disgust, her words had not failed of certain weight. Again he recalled with jealous pain the obvious indifference with which his approaches had been received. True, no well-bred girl would be more than conventionally civil to a stranger even under the exceptional circumstances of their meeting on the train. True, she was cordial, bright, winsome, and all that when at last he was formally presented; but so she was to everybody. True, they had had many—at least he had had many—delightful long interviews on the shaded deck of the Sacramento; but though he would have eagerly welcomed a chance to indulge in sentiment, never once did Marion encourage such a move. On the contrary, he recalled with something akin to bitterness that when his voice or words betrayed a tendency towards such a lapse, she became instantly and palpably most conventional.

Now, in the light of all he had heard from various sources, what could he believe but that she was interested, to say the least, in that other man? Well and miserably he recalled the words of Farquhar, who had served some years at the same station with the Rays: "She's the bonniest little army girl I know, and her head's as level as it is pretty—except on one point. She's her father's daughter and wrapped up in the army. She's always said she'd marry only a soldier. But Maidie's getting wisdom with years, I fancy. Young Foster will be a rich man in spite of himself, for he'll have his mother's fortune, and he's heels over head in love with her."

"But I understood," interposed the general, with a quick glance at Stuyvesant, who had risen as though to get another cigar, "that Ray didn't exactly approve of him."

"Oh, Ray didn't seem to have any special objection to Foster unless it was that he neglected his business to lay siege to her. Foster's a gentleman, has no bad habits, and is the very man nine women out of ten would rejoice in for a husband, and ninety-nine out of ten, if that were a mathematical possibility, would delight in as a son-in-law. He isn't brilliant—buttons would have supplied the lack had he been in the cavalry. I dare say he'll be ass enough to go in for a commission now and sell out his ranch for a song. Then, she'd probably take him."

And then, too, as he strolled thoughtfully up the street, still dimly lighted by the waning moon and dotted at long intervals by tiny electric fires, Stuyvesant went over in mind other little things that had come to his ears, for many men were of a mind with regard to Billy Ray's daughter, and the young officer found himself vaguely weighing the reasons why he should now cease to play the moth,—why he should be winging his flight away from the flame and utterly ignoring the fact that his feet, as though from force of habit, were bearing him steadily towards it. The snap and ring of a bayoneted rifle coming to the charge, the stern voice of a sentry at the crossing of the Calle Faura, brought him to his senses.

"Halt! Who is there?"

"Staff officer, First Division," was the prompt reply, as Stuyvesant looked up in surprise.

"Advance, staff officer, and be recognized," came the response from a tall form in blue, and the even taller white figure stepped forward and stood face to face with the guardian of the night.

"I am Lieutenant Stuyvesant, aide-de-camp to General Vinton," explained the challenged officer, noticing for the first time a little column of dusky men in heavy leathern helmets and belts shuffling away towards the Jesuit College with an old-fashioned diminutive "goose-neck" village engine trailing at their heels.

"Been a fire, sentry?" he asked. "Where was it?"

"Up at Colonel Brent's, sir, I believe. His house fronts the parade-ground. One moment, please! Lieutenant Who, sir? The officer of the guard orders us to account for every officer by name." And Stuyvesant, who, in instant alarm, had impulsively started, was again recalled to himself, and, hastily turning back, spoke aloud:

"Stuyvesant my name is. I'll give it at the guard-house as I pass."

Once more he whirled about, his heart throbbing with anxiety. Once more he would have hurried on his way to the Calle San Luis. A fire there! and she, Marion, still so weak!—exhausted, possibly, by the excitement—or distress—or whatever it was that resulted from Brent's sudden presentation of that carte-de-visite. He would fly to her at once!

For a third time the sentry spoke, and spoke in no faltering tone. He was an American. He was wearing the rough garb of the private soldier in the ranks of the regulars, but, like scores of other eager young patriots that year, he held the diploma of a great, albeit a foreign, university. He had education, intelligence, and assured social position to back the training and discipline of the soldier. He knew his rights as well as his duties, and that every officer in the service, no matter how high, from commanding general down, was by regulation enjoined to show respect to sentries, and this tall, handsome young swell, with a name that sounded utterly unfamiliar to California ears, was in most unaccountable hurry, and spoke as though he, the sentry, were exceeding his powers in demanding his name. It put Private Thinking Bayonets on his mettle.

"Halt, sir," said he. "My orders are imperative. You'll have to spell that name."

In the nervous anxiety to which Stuyvesant was a prey, the sentry's manner irritated him. It smacked at first of undue, unnecessary authority, yet the soldier in him put the unworthy thought to shame, and, struggling against his impatience, yet most unwillingly, Stuyvesant obediently turned. He had shouldered a musket in a splendid regiment of citizen soldiery whose pride it was that no regular army inspector could pick flaws in their performance of guard and sentry duty. He had brought to the point of his bayonet, time and again, officers far higher in rank than that which he now held. He knew that, whether necessary or not, the sentry's demand was within his rights, and there was no course for him but compliance. He hastened back, and, controlling his voice as much as possible, began:

"You're right, sentry! S-t-u-y"—when through a gate-way across the street north of the Faura came swinging into sight a little squad of armed men.

Again the sentry's challenge, sharp, clear, resonant, rang on the still night air. Three soldiers halted in their tracks, the fourth, with the white chevrons of a corporal on his sleeves, came bounding across the street without waiting for a demand to advance for recognition.

"Same old patrol, Billy," he called, as he neared them. "On the way back to the guard-house." Then, seeing the straps on the officer's shoulders, respectfully saluted. "Couldn't find a trace outside. Keep sharp lookout, Number 6," he added, and turning hurriedly back to his patrol, started with them up the street in the direction Stuyvesant was longing to go.

"Sorry to detain you, sir, and beg pardon for letting him run up on us in that way. We've got extra orders to-night. There's a queer set, mostly natives, in that second house yonder" (and he pointed to a substantial two-story building about thirty paces from the corner). "They got in there while the fire excitement was on. Twice I've seen them peeking out from that door. That's why I dare not leave here and chase after you—after the lieutenant. Now, may I have the name again, sir."

And at last, without interruption, Stuyvesant spelled and pronounced the revered old Dutch patronymic. At last he was able to go unhindered, and now, overcome by anxiety, eagerness, and dread, he hardly knew what, he broke into fleet-footed, rapid run, much to the surprise of the staid patrol which he overtook trudging along on the opposite side of the street, two blocks away, and never halted until again brought up standing by a sentry at the San Luis.

Ten minutes later, while still listening to Brent's oft-repeated tale of the theft, and still quivering a little from excitement, Stuyvesant heard another sound, the rapid, rhythmic beat of dancing footsteps.

"Hullo!" interrupted one of the lingering officers. "Another fire company coming? It's about time more began to arrive, isn't it?"

"It's a patrol—and on the jump, too! What's up, I wonder?" answered Brent, spinning about to face towards the Calle Real. There was an officer with this patrol,—an officer who in his eagerness could barely abide the sentry's challenge.

"Officer of the guard—with patrol," he cried, adding instantly, as he darted into view. "Sentry, which—which way did that officer go? Tall young officer—in white uniform!"

In surprise, the sentry nodded towards the speechless group standing in front of Brent's, and to them came the boy lieutenant, panting and in manifest excitement. "I beg pardon, colonel," he began, "our sentry, Number 6, was found a minute ago—shot dead—down on the Padre Faura. My men said they saw an officer running from the spot, running this way, and this gentleman—Mr. Stuyvesant, isn't it?"

There was an awed silence, an awkward pause. "I certainly was there not long ago," spoke Stuyvesant, presently. "And Number 6, your sentry, was then all right. I certainly came running——"

"That's all I can hear," was the sharp interruption. "My orders are to arrest you. You're my prisoner, Mr. Stuyvesant," gasped the lad.

"Preposterous!" said Dr. Frank a few minutes later when told by an awe-stricken group what had occurred.

"Preposterous say I!" echoed Brent. "And yet, see here——Oh, of course, you know Major MacNeil, field officer of the day," he added, indicating a tall, thin-faced, gray-mustached officer of regulars who had but just arrived, and who now held forth a gleaming revolver with the words, "I picked this up myself—not ten yards from where he lay."

It was Marion's.



CHAPTER XVI.

A solemn assemblage was that at the Ermita quarters of the provost-guard the following day. Officers of rank and soldiers from the ranks, in rusty blue, in gleaming white, in dingy Khaki rubbed shoulders and elbows in the crowded courtyard.

In the presence of death the American remembers that men are born equal, and forgets the ceremonious observance of military courtesies. All voices were lowered, all discussion hushed. There was a spontaneous movement when the division commander entered, and all made way for him without a word, but sturdily stood the rank and file and held their ground against all others, for the preliminary examination, as it might be called, was to take place at ten o'clock.

The dead man was of their own grade, and an ugly story had gone like wildfire through the barracks and quarters that his slayer was a commissioned officer, an aide-de-camp of the general himself, a scion of a distinguished and wealthy family of the greatest city of America, and all official influence, presumably, would be enlisted in his behalf. Therefore, silent, yet determined, were they present in strong force, not in disrespect, not in defiance, but with that calm yet indomitable resolution to see for themselves that justice was done, that soldiers of no other than the Anglo-Saxon race could ever imitate, or that officers, not American, could ever understand, appreciate, and even tacitly approve.

The dead man had died instantly, not in the flush and glory of battle, but in the lonely, yet most honorable, discharge of the sacred duty of the sentinel. Murder most foul was his, and had he been well-nigh a pariah among them,—a man set apart from his kind,—the impulse of his fellow-soldiers would have been to see to it that his death at such a time and on such a duty went not unavenged. As it was, the man who lay there, already stiff and cold, was known among them as one of the bravest, brightest spirits of their whole array, a lad of birth probably more gentle than that of many an officer, of gifts of mind and character superior to those of not a few superiors, a fellow who had won their fellowship as easily as he had learned the duties of the soldier.

A whole battalion in the regulars and dozens of gallant boys in the Idahos and North Dakotas knew Billy Benton and had been full of sympathy when he was picked up one night some three weeks previous, his head laid open by a powerful blow from some blunt instrument, bleeding and senseless. Even when released from hospital a fortnight later he was dazed and queer, was twice reported out of quarters over night and absent from roll-call, but was forgiven because of "previous character," and the belief that he was really not responsible for these soldier solecisms.

One thing seemed to worry him, and that was, as he admitted, that he had been robbed of some papers that he valued. But he soon seemed "all right again," said his fellows, at least to the extent of resuming duty, and when, clean-shaved and in his best attire, he marched on guard that glad October morning, they were betting on him for the first chevrons and speedy commission.

All that his few intimates, the one or two who claimed to know him, could be induced to admit was that his real name was not Benton, and that he had enlisted utterly against the wishes of his kindred. And so, regulars and volunteers alike, they thronged the open patio and all approaches thereto, and no officer would now suggest that that court be cleared. It was best that "Thinking Bayonets" should be there to hear and see for himself.

"No, indeed, don't do anything of the kind," said the general promptly when asked half-hesitatingly by the captain of the guard whether he preferred to exclude the men. And in this unusual presence the brief, straightforward examination went on.

First to tell his tale was the corporal of the second relief. He had posted his men between 8.30 and 8.45, Private Benton on Number 6 at the corner of the Calle Real and Padre Faura. That post had been chosen for him as being not very far away from that of the guard, as the young "feller" had not entirely recovered his strength, and the officer of the day had expressed some regret at his having so soon attempted to resume duty, but Benton had laughingly said that he was "all right" and he didn't mean to have other men doing sentry go for him.

"Soon after nine," said the corporal, "I went round warning all the sentries to look out for the tall Filipino and short, squat American, as directed by the officer of the guard. The officer of the guard himself went round about that time personally cautioning the sentries. There was a good deal of fun and excitement just then down the street. Number 9 in the Calle Nueve had shot twice at some fleeing natives who nearly upset him as they dashed round the corner from the Bagumbayan, and he had later mistaken Colonel Brent in his white suit for a Filipino and nervously fired. Numbers 7 and 8 in the side streets mistook the shooting for fire alarm, and Private Benton repeated, in accordance with his orders, but when I (the corporal) saw him he was laughing to kill himself over the Manila fire department."

Benton didn't seem much impressed at first about the thief and the deserter, but towards 9.45, when the corporal again visited his post and the streets were getting quiet, Benton said there were some natives in the second house across the way whose movements puzzled him. They kept coming to the front door and windows and peeping out at him. A patrol came along just then, searching alleyways and yards, and they looked about the premises, while he, Corporal Scott, started west on the Faura to warn Number 4, who was over towards the beach, and while there Major MacNeil, the field officer of the day, came along, and after making inquiries as to what Number 4 had seen and heard and asking him his orders, he turned back to the Faura, Corporal Scott following.

One block west of the Calle Real the major stopped as though to listen to some sound he seemed to have heard in the dark street running parallel with the Real, and then stepped into it as though to examine, so Scott followed, and almost instantly they heard a muffled report "like a pistol inside a blanket," and hastening round into the Faura they found Benton lying on his face in the middle of the street, just at the corner of the Calle Real, stone dead. His rifle they found in the gutter not twenty feet from him.

Scott ran at once to the guard-house three blocks away and gave the alarm. Then the patrol said that a tall officer, running full speed, had passed them, and here the provost-marshal interposed with—

"Never mind what the patrol said. Just tell what you—the witness—did next."

Scott continued that he and others with the lieutenant, officer of the guard, ran back to Number 6's post, and there stood the major with the pistol.

"When we asked should we search the yards and alleys the major nodded, but the moment he heard the men telling about the running officer he gave the lieutenant orders——"

And again the provost-marshal said "Never mind," the major would describe all that.

And the major did. He corroborated what Corporal Scott had said, and then went on with what happened after Scott was sent to alarm the guard. Barring some opening of shutters and peering out on the part of natives anxious to know the cause of the trouble, there was no further demonstration until Scott and others came running back. But meanwhile something gleaming in the roadway—the Calle Real—about fifteen paces from the corner and up the street—to the north towards the Bagumbayan—and close to the sidewalk attracted his attention.

He stepped thither and picked up—this revolver. By the electric light at the corner he saw that one chamber was empty. When the guard came on the run and he heard of the tall officer fleeing up towards the Bagumbayan, the direction in which the pistol lay, he sent Mr. Wharton—Lieutenant Wharton—with a patrol in pursuit.

The inscription on the pistol revealed its ownership and cast certain suspicions that warranted his action, he believed, in ordering the instant arrest of the officer if found.

Major MacNeil went on to say he "had not yet made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Stuyvesant, and did not actually know when he gave the order that it was Lieutenant Stuyvesant who ran up the street"—and here the major was evidently in a painful position, but faced his duty like a man and told his story without passion or prejudice, despite the fact that he declared the murdered man to be one of the very best young fellows in his battalion, and that he was naturally shocked and angered at his death.

Then the name of Private Reilly was called, and a keen-featured little Irishman stepped forward. It was one of the patrol. Corporal Stamford, first relief, was in charge of it. They had been hunting as far over as the "Knows-a-lady," and on coming back Number 6 told them of some natives at the second house. Corporal Stamford posted him, Reilly, in the first yard near the street to head off any that tried to run out that way, in case they stirred up a mare's nest, and took the other "fellers" and went round by the front. Nothing came of it, but while they were beating up the yards and enclosures Reilly heard Benton challenge, and saw a tall officer come up to be recognized. They had some words,—the officer and the sentry,—he couldn't tell what, but the officer spoke excited like, and all of a sudden jumped away and started as though to run, and Number 6 "hollered" after him, though Reilly didn't clearly understand what was said. "At all events he made him come back, and it——" Here Reilly seemed greatly embarrassed and glanced about the room from face to face in search of help or sympathy. "It seemed to kind of rile the officer. He acted like he wasn't going to come back first off, and then the corporal came along with the patrol and the officer had to wait while Stamford was recognized, and the boys was sayin' Billy had a right to stand the corporal off until the lieutenant said advance him. And we was laughin' about it and sayin' Billy wasn't the boy to make any mistake about his orders, when we heard the lieutenant come a-runnin' swift down t'other side the street and then saw him scootin' it for the open p'rade."

Did the witness recognize the officer?—did he see him plainly?

"Yes, the electric light was burnin' at the corner, and he'd seen him several times driving by the 'barks.'"

Was the officer present?—now?

"Yes," and Reilly's face reddened to meet the hue of his hair.

Reluctantly, awkwardly, pathetically almost, for in no wise did identification, as it happened, depend on his evidence, the little Irish lad turned till his eyes met those of Stuyvesant, sitting pale, calm, and collected by his general's side, and while the eyes of all men followed those of Reilly they saw that, so far from showing resentment or dismay, the young gentleman bowed gravely, reassuringly, as though he would have the witness know his testimony was exactly what it should be and that no blame or reproach attached to him for the telling of what he had seen.

Then Dr. Frank was called, and he gave his brief testimony calmly and clearly. It was mainly about the pistol. He recognized it as one he had seen and examined the previous afternoon at Colonel Brent's quarters on the San Luis. It was lying on a little table in the front veranda. He had closely examined it—could not be mistaken about it, and when he left it was still lying on that table. Who were present when he left? "Other than the immediate family, only Lieutenant Stuyvesant." Had he again visited the colonel's that evening? He had. He returned an hour or so later to dine. The ladies had then left their seats in the veranda, and he noticed that the pistol was no longer on the table; presumed Miss Ray had taken it with her to her room and thought no more about it. As indicated by the inscription, the pistol was her property.

Then Lieutenant Ray was called, but there was no response. In low tone the assistant provost-marshal explained that the orderly sent to Paco with message for Lieutenant Ray returned with the reply that Mr. Ray had two days' leave and was somewhere up-town. He as yet had not been found.

A young officer of artillery volunteered the information that late the previous evening, somewhere about ten, Mr. Ray had called at the Cuartel de Meysic, far over on the north side. He was most anxious to find a soldier named Connelly, who, he said, was at the Presidio at the time the lieutenant's quarters were entered and robbed, and Lieutenant Abercrombie had taken Mr. Ray off in search of the soldier.

Ray not appearing, the examination of Assistant Surgeon Brick began. Brick was the first medical officer to reach the scene of the murder. Benton was then stone dead, and brief examination showed the hole of a bullet of large calibre—probably pistol, 44—right over the heart. The coarse blue uniform shirt and the fine undergarment of Lisle thread showed by burn and powder-stain that the pistol had been close to or even against the breast of the deceased. The bullet was lodged, he believed, under the shoulder-blade, but no post-mortem had yet been permitted, a circumstance the doctor referred to regretfully, and it was merely his opinion, based on purely superficial examination, that death was instantaneous, the result of the gunshot wound referred to. Dr. Brick further gave it as his professional opinion that post-mortem should be no longer delayed.

And then at last came Stuyvesant's turn to speak for himself, and in dead silence all men present faced him and listened with bated breath to his brief, sorrowful words.

He was the officer halted by the sentry on Number 6 and called upon to come back. The sentry did not catch his name and had to have it spelled. He frankly admitted his impatience, but denied all anger at the enforced detention. The information about the fire at Colonel Brent's had caused him anxiety and alarm, and as soon as released by the sentry he had run, had passed the patrol on the run, but there had been no altercation, no misunderstanding even. The sentry had carried out his orders in a soldierly way that compelled the admiration of the witness, and before leaving him Stuyvesant had told him that he had done exactly right. The news that the sentry was found dead five minutes thereafter was a shock. Lieutenant Stuyvesant declared he carried no fire-arms whatever that night and was utterly innocent of the sentry's death. He recognized, he said, the revolver exhibited by Major MacNeil. He did not hesitate to admit that he had seen and examined it late the previous afternoon at the quarters of Colonel Brent, that he had actually put it in his trousers pocket not two minutes before he left the house to go in search of Lieutenant Ray, but he solemnly declared that as he left the veranda he placed the pistol on a little table just to the right of the broad entrance to the salon, within that apartment, and never saw it again until it was produced here.

Frank, candid, "open and aboveboard" as was the manner of the witness, it did not fail to banish in great measure the feeling of antagonism that had first existed against him in the crowded throng. But in the cold logic of the law and the chain of circumstantial evidence they plainly saw that every statement, even that of Stuyvesant himself, bore heavily against him. A lawyer, had he been represented by counsel, would have permitted no such admissions as he had made. A gentleman, unschooled in the law, preferred the frank admission to the distress of seeing Mrs. Brent—and perhaps others—called into that presence to testify to his having had the pistol with him when he left the gallery.

Brent in his bewilderment had blurted out his wife's words in the hearing of the provost-marshal's people late the night before, and he and his household were yet to be called, and when called would have to say that though they passed and possibly repassed through the salon between the moment of Stuyvesant's departure and that of their going out to dinner, not one of their number noticed even so bright and gleaming an object as Maidie's revolver. True, the lights were not brilliant in the salon. True, the little table stood back against the wall five or six feet from the door-way. Still, that pistol was a prominent object, and a man must have been in extraordinary haste indeed to leave a loaded weapon "lying round loose" in the hall.

That was the way "Thinking Bayonets" argued it, and soldiers by the score crowding the sidewalk and entrance and unable to force their way in, or even to make room for a most importunate female struggling on the outskirts, hung on the words of an orderly who, despatched in further search of Lieutenant Ray, was forcing a way out.

"How is it going?" said he. "Why, that young feller's just as good as hanging himself. He admits having had the pistol that did the business."

Ten minutes later a Filipino servant went to answer an imperative rap at the panel in the massive door of No. 199 Calle San Luis. Dr. Frank had been early to see his patient, and had enjoined upon Mrs. Brent and Miss Porter silence as to last night's tragedy. Not until she was stronger was Miss Ray to be allowed to know of the murder of Private Benton. "By that time," said he, "we shall be able to clear up this—mystery—I hope."

The colonel had gone round to the police-station. Mrs. Brent, nervous and unhappy, had just slipped out for ten seconds, as she said to Miss Porter, to see an old army chum and friend who lived only three doors away. Miss Porter, who had been awake hours of the night, had finally succeeded, as she believed, in reading Maidie to sleep, and then, stretching herself upon the bamboo couch across the room, was, the next thing she knew, aroused by voices.

Sandy Ray had entered so noiselessly that she had not heard, but Maidie had evidently been expecting him. In low, earnest tone he was telling the result of his search the night before. She heard the words:

"Connelly is down with some kind of fever in hospital and hasn't seen or heard anything of any one even faintly resembling Foster. Then I found your old friend the brakeman. General Vinton has got him a good place in the quartermaster's department, and he tells me he knows nothing, has seen and heard nothing. Now I'm going to division head-quarters to find Stuyvesant."

"And then," said Miss Porter, "my heart popped up into my throat and I sprang from the sofa." But too late. An awful, rasping voice at the door-way stilled the soft Kentucky tones and filled the room with dread.

"Then you've no time to lose, young man. It's high time somebody besides me set out to help him. That other young man you call Foster lies dead at the police-station,—killed by your pistol, Miss Ray, and Mr. Stuyvesant goes to jail for it."



CHAPTER XVII.

In so far as human foresight could provide against the cabling to the States of tremendous tales that had little or no foundation, the commanding general had been most vigilant. The censorship established over the despatches of the correspondents had nipped many a sensation in the bud and insured to thousands of interested readers at home far more truthful reports of the situation at Manila than would have been the case had the press been given full swing.

Yet with Hong-Kong only sixty hours away, there was nothing to prevent their writing to and wiring from that cosmopolitan port, and here, at least, was a story that would set the States ablaze before it could be contradicted, and away it went, fast as the Esmeralda could speed it across the China Sea and the wires, with it, well-nigh girdle the globe.

A gallant young volunteer, Walter Foster of Ohio, serving in the regulars under the assumed name of Benton, foully murdered by Lieutenant Gerard Stuyvesant of New York! A love affair at the bottom of it all! Rivals for the hand of a fair army girl, daughter of a distinguished officer of the regular service! Lieutenant Stuyvesant under guard! Terrible wrath of the soldier's comrades! Lynching threatened! Speedy justice demanded! The maiden prostrated! Identification of the victim by Miss Zenobia Perkins, Vice-President and Accredited Representative for the Philippine Islands of the Society of Patriotic Daughters of America! Army circles in Manila stirred to the bottom! etc., etc.

Joyous reading this for friends and kindred in the far-distant States! Admirable exhibit of journalistic enterprise! The Hong Kong papers coming over in course of another week were full of it, and of appropriate comment on the remarkable depravity of the American race, and Chicago journals, notably the Palladium, bristled with editorial explosions over the oft-repeated acts of outrage and brutality on part of the American officer to the friendless private in the American ranks.

And thousands of honest, well-meaning men and women, who had seen, year after year, lie after lie, one stupendous story after another, punctured, riddled, and proved a vicious and malignant slander, swallowed this latest one whole, and marvelled that the American officer could be the monster the paper proved him to be.

But one woman at last and at least was happy, perched now on a pinnacle of fame, and in the Patriotic Daughters of America as represented by their Vice-President and Accredited Representative in the Philippines, virtue and rectitude reigned triumphant. Zenobia Perkins was in her glory. Of all the citizens or soldiers of the United States in and about Manila, male or female, staff or supply, signal or hospital corps, Red Cross or crossed cannon, rifles, or sabres, this indomitable woman was now the most sought after—the most in demand. Her identification of the dead man had been positive and complete.

"I suspected instantly," she declared in presence of the assembled throng, "when I heard Lieutenant Stuyvesant had shot a soldier, just who it might be. I remembered the young man who disappeared from the train before we got to Oakland. I suspected him the moment the corporal told me about the mysterious young man trying to see Miss Ray. I had my carriage chase right after him to the Nozaleda and caught him, half-running, half-staggering, and I took him driving until he got ca-amed down and told him he needn't worry any more. He was among friends at last, and the P. D. A.'s would take care of him and guard his secret and see him done right by. Oh, yes, I did! We weren't going to see an innocent boy shot as a deserter when he didn't know what he was doing. He wouldn't admit at first that he was Walter Foster at all, but at last, when he saw I was sure it was him, he just broke right down and as much as owned right up. He said he'd been slugged or sand-bagged three weeks before and robbed of money and of papers of value that he needed to help him in his trouble. He asked me what steps could be taken to help a poor fellow accused of desertion. He didn't dare say anything to any of the officers' cause the men he trusted at all—one or two well-educated young fellows like himself—found out that he'd be shot if found guilty. The only thing he could do was make a good record for himself in the infantry, and having done that he could later on hope for mercy. He asked a heap of questions, and I just told him to keep a stiff upper lip and we'd see him through, and he plucked up courage and said he believed he'd be able to have hope again;—at all events he'd go on duty right off. When I asked him how he dared go to Colonel Brent's, where at any time Lieutenant Ray might recognize him, he said he never did except when he knew Lieutenant Ray was out of the way. Then I tried to get him to tell what he expected to gain by seeing Miss Ray, and he was confused and said he was so upset all over he really didn't know that he had been there so often. He thought if he could see her and tell her the whole story she could have influence enough to get him out of his scrape. He was going to tell me the whole story, but patrols and sentries were getting too thick, and he had to get somewhere to change his dress for roll-call, and I gave him my address and he was to come and see me in two days, and now he's killed, and it ain't for me to say why—or who did it."

Benton's murder was certainly the sensation of the week in Manila, for there were features connected with the case that made it still more perplexing, even mysterious.

Major Farquhar, who must have seen young Foster frequently at Fort Averill, had been sent to survey the harbor of Iloilo and could not be reached in time, but Dr. Frank, called in course of the day to identify the remains, long and carefully studied the calm, waxen features of the dead soldier, and said with earnest conviction:

"This is undoubtedly the young man who appeared at Colonel Brent's and whom I sought to question, but who seemed to take alarm at once and, with some confused apology, backed away. He was dressed very neatly in the best white drilling sack-coat and trousers as made in Manila, with a fine straw hat and white shoes and gloves, but he had a fuzzy beard all over his face then, and his manner was nervous and excitable. His eyes alone showed that he was unstrung, bodily and mentally. I set him down for a crank or some one just picking up from serious illness. The city is full of new-comers, and as yet no one knows how many strangers have recently come to town. I saw him only that once in a dim light, but am positive in this identification."

Two or three non-commissioned officers of Benton's regiment were examined. Their stories were concise and to the point. The young soldier had come with the recruits from San Francisco along late in August. He was quiet, well-mannered, attended strictly to his own business, and was eager to learn everything about his duties. They "sized him up" as a young man of education and good family who hadn't influence enough to get a commission and so had enlisted to win it. He had money, but no bad habits. He helped in the office with the regimental papers, and could have been excused from all duty and made clerk, but wouldn't be. He said he'd help whenever they wanted him, but he didn't wish to be excused from guard or drills or patrol or picket—said he wanted to learn all there was in it. Even the rough fellows in the ranks couldn't help liking him. He had a pleasant word for everybody that didn't bother him with questions. He made one or two acquaintances, but kept mostly to himself; never got any letters from America, but there were two from Hong Kong, perhaps more. If he wrote letters himself, he posted them in town. They never went with the company mail from the cuartel. Everybody seemed to know that Benton wasn't his own name, but that was nothing. The main thing queer about him was that he got a pass whenever he could and went by himself, most generally out to Paco, where the cavalry were, yet he said he didn't know anybody there. It was out Paco way on the Calzada Herran, close to the corner of the Singalon road, the patrol picked him up with his head laid open, and he'd been flighty pretty much ever since and troubled about being robbed. Seemed all right again, however, when reporting for duty, and perfectly sane and straight then.

Two very bright young soldiers, Clark and Hunter, were called in for their statements. They, too, had enlisted in a spirit of patriotism and desire for adventure; never knew Benton till the voyage was nearly over, then they seemed to drift together, as it were, and kept up their friendship after reaching Manila. Benton was not his real name, and he was not a graduate of any American college. He had been educated abroad and spoke French and German. No, they did not know what university he attended. He was frank and pleasant so long as nobody tried to probe into his past; never heard him mention Lieutenant Stuyvesant. All three of them, Benton, Clarke, and Hunter, had observed that young officer during the month as he drove by barracks, sometimes with the general, sometimes alone, but they did not know his name, and nothing indicated that Benton had any feeling against him or that he had seen him. They admitted having conveyed the idea to comrades that they knew more about Benton than they would tell, but it was a "bluff." Everybody was full of speculation and curiosity, and—well, just for the fun of the thing, they "let on," as they said, that they were in his confidence, but they weren't, leastwise to any extent. They knew he had money, knew he went off by himself, and warned him to keep a look out or he'd be held up and robbed some night.

The only thing of any importance they had to tell was that one day, just before his misfortune, Benton was on guard and posted as sentry over the big Krupps in the Spanish battery at the west end of the Calle San Luis. Clarke and Hunter had a kodak between them and a consuming desire to photograph those guns. The sentries previously posted there refused to let them come upon the parapet,—said it was "'gainst orders." Benton said that unless positive orders were given to him to that effect, he would not interfere. So they got a pass on the same day and Benton easily got that post,—men didn't usually want it, it was such a bother,—but, unluckily, with the post Benton got the very orders they dreaded. So when they would have made the attempt he had to say, "No." They came away crestfallen, and stumbled on two sailor-looking men who, from the shelter of a heavy stone revetment wall, were peering with odd excitement of manner at Benton, who was again marching up and down his narrow post, a very soldierly figure.

"That young feller drove you back, did he?" inquired one of them, a burly, thick-set, hulking man of middle height. "Puttin' on considerable airs, ain't he? What's he belong to?"

"—th Infantry," answered Clarke shortly, not liking the stranger's looks, words, or manner, and then pushed on; but the stranger followed, out of sight of the sentry now, and wanted to continue the conversation.

"Sure he ain't in the cavalry?" asked the same man.

"Cocksure!" was the blunt reply. "What's it to you, anyhow?"

"Oh, nothin'; thought I'd seen him before. Know his name?"

"Name's Benton, far as I know. Come on, Hunter," said Clarke, obviously unwilling to stay longer in such society, and little more was thought of it for the time being; but now the provost-marshal's assistant wished further particulars. Was there anything unusual about the questioner's teeth? And a hundred men looked up in surprise and suddenly rearoused interest.

"Yes, sir," said Clarke, "one tooth was missing, upper jaw, next the big eye-tooth;" and as the witness stood down the general and the questioning officer beamed on each other and smiled.

An adjournment was necessitated during the early afternoon. Lieutenant Ray's statement was desired, also that of Private Connelly of the artillery, and an effort had been made through the officers of the cavalry at Paco to find some of the recruits who were of the detachment now quite frequently referred to in that command as "the singed cats." But it transpired that most of them had been assigned to troops of their regiment not yet sent to Manila, only half the regiment being on duty—foot duty at that—in the Philippines. The only man among them who had travelled with Foster from Denver as far as Sacramento was the young recruit, Mellen. He was on outpost, but would be relieved and sent to Ermita as quickly as possible.

Connelly, said the surgeon at the Cuartel de Meysic, was too ill to be sent thither, unless on a matter of vital importance, and Sandy Ray, hastening from Maidie's bedside in response to a summons, was met by the tidings that a recess had been ordered, and that he would be sent for again when needed.

Everywhere in Malate, Ermita, Paco, and, for that matter, the barracks and quarters of Manila, the astonishing story was the topic of all tongues that day. Among the regulars by this time the tale of Foster's devotion to Maidie Ray was well known, while that of Stuyvesant's later but assiduous courtship was rapidly spreading.

Men spoke in murmurs and with sombre faces, and strove to talk lightly on other themes, but the tragedy, with all the honored names it involved, weighed heavily upon them. Stuyvesant came to them, to be sure, a total stranger, but Vinton had long known him, and that was enough. His name, his lineage, his high position socially, all united to throw discredit on the grave suspicion that attached to him. Yet, here they were, brought face to face, rivals for the hand of as lovely a girl as the army ever knew. It was even possible that Foster was the aggressor. Reilly's reluctant words gave proof that discussion of some kind had occurred, and Stuyvesant broke away and was apparently wrathful at being compelled to go back; then more words, longer detention; then a swift-running form, Stuyvesant's, away from the scene; then the fatal pistol; and against this chain of circumstances only the unsupported statement of the accused that he left that revolver on the table in the salon, left it where it was never afterwards seen. No wonder men shook their heads.

It was three in the afternoon when the examination was resumed. Meantime, from all over Manila came the correspondents, burning with zeal and impatience, for the Esmeralda was scheduled to leave at five, and a stony-hearted censor at the Ayuntamiento had turned down whole pages of thrilling "copy" that would cost three dollars a word to send to the States, but sell for thirty times as much when it got there.

"Despite the positive identification of the remains," wrote one inspired journalist, "by such an unimpeachable and intelligent woman as Zenobia Perkins, who attended the murdered lad after he was so severely burned upon the train,—despite the equally positive recognition by that eminent and distinguished surgeon, Dr. Frank, this military satrap and censor dares to say that not until the identity of the deceased is established to the satisfaction of the military authorities will the report be cabled. How long will the people of America submit to such tyrannical dictation?"

When the provost-marshal himself, with his assistants and Vinton and Stuyvesant, returned at three and found Zenobia the vortex of a storm of questioners, the centre of a circle of rapid-writing scribes, these latter could have sworn—did swear, some of them—that, far from expediting matters in order that a full report might be sent by the Esmeralda, the officials showed a provoking and exasperating disposition to prolong and delay them.

And even at this time and at this distance, with all his regard, personal and professional, for the official referred to, the present chronicler is unable entirely to refute the allegation.

Out in the street a score of carriages and as many quilez and carromattas stood waiting by the curb, and gallant Captain Taylor, of the Esmeralda, could have added gold by the hundred to his well-earned store would he but have promised to hold his ship until the court—not the tide—served. But an aide of the commanding general had driven to the ship towards two o'clock and said something to that able seaman,—no power of the press could tell what,—and all importunity as to delaying his departure there was but one reply,—

"Five sharp, and not a second later!"

It was after three—yes, long after—that witnesses of consequence came up for examination. Dr. Brick had got the floor and was pleading post-mortem at once. In this climate and under such conditions decomposition would be so rapid, said he, that "by tomorrow his own mother couldn't recognize him." But the provost-marshal drawled that he didn't see that further mutilation would promote the possibility of recognition, and Brick was set aside.

It was quarter to four when young Mellen was bidden to tell whether he knew, and what he knew of, the deceased, and all men hushed their very breath as the lad was conducted to the blanket-shrouded form under the overhanging gallery in the open patio. The hospital steward slowly turned down the coverlet, and Mellen, well-nigh as pallid as the corpse, was bidden to look. Look he did, long and earnestly. The little weights that some one had placed on the eyelids were lifted; the soft hair had been neatly brushed; the lips were gently closed; the delicate, clear-cut features wore an expression of infinite peace and rest; and Mellen slowly turned and, facing the official group at the neighboring table, nodded.

"You think you recognize the deceased?" came the question. "If so, what was his name?"

"I think so, yes, sir. It's Foster—at least that's what I heard it was."

"Had you ever known him?—to speak to?"

"He was in the same detachment on the train. Don't know as I ever spoke to him, sir," was the answer.

"But you think you know him by sight? Where did you first notice him?"

"Think it was Ogden, sir. I didn't pay much attention before that. A man called Murray knew him and got some money from him. That's how I came to notice him. The rest of us hadn't any to speak of."

"Ever see him again to speak to or notice particularly after you left Ogden? Did he sit near you?" was the somewhat caustic query.

"No, sir, only just that once."

"But you are sure this is the man you saw at Ogden?"

Mellen turned uneasily, unhappily, and looked again into the still and placid face. That meeting was on a glaring day in June. This was a clouded afternoon in late October and nearly five months had slipped away. Yet he had heard the solemn story of murder and had never, up to now, imagined there could be a doubt. In mute patience the sleeping face seemed appealing to him to speak for it, to own it, to stand between it and the possibility of its being buried friendless, unrecognized.

"It's—it's him or his twin brother, sir," said Mellen.

"One question more. Had you heard before you came here who was killed?"

"Yes, sir. They said it was Foster."

And now, with pencils swiftly plying, several young civilians were edging to the door.

James Farnham was called, and a sturdy young man, with keen, weather-beaten face, stepped into the little open space before the table. Three fingers were gone from the hand he instinctively held up, as though expecting to be sworn. His testimony was decidedly a disappointment. Farnham said that he was brakeman of that train and would know some of that squad of recruits anywhere, but this one,—well, he remembered talking to one man at Ogden, a tall, fine-looking young feller something very like this one. This might have been him or it might not. He couldn't even be sure that this was one of the party. He really didn't know. But there was a chap called Murray that he'd remember easy enough anywhere.

And then it was after four and the race for the Esmeralda began. It was utterly unnecessary, said certain bystanders, to question any more members of the guard, but the provost-marshal did, and not until 4.30 did he deign to send for the most important witness of all, the brother of the young girl to whom the deceased had been so devotedly attached. They had not long to wait, for Sandy Ray happened to be almost at the door.

The throng seemed to take another long breath, and then to hold it as, the few preliminaries answered, Mr. Ray was bidden to look at the face of the deceased. Pale, composed, yet with infinite sadness of mien, the young officer, campaign hat in hand, stepped over to the trestle, and the steward again slowly withdrew the light covering, again exposing that placid face.

The afternoon sunshine was waning. The bright glare of the mid-day hours had given place within the enclosure to the softer, almost shadowy light of early eve. Ray had but just come in from the street without where the slanting sunbeams bursting through the clouds beat hot upon the dazzling walls, and his eyes had not yet become accustomed to the change. Reverently, pityingly, he bent and looked upon the features of the dead. An expression, first of incredulity, then of surprise, shot over his face.

He closed his eyes a second as though to give them strength for sterner test, and then, bending lower, once more looked; carefully studied the forehead, eyebrows, lashes, mouth, nose, and hair, then, straightening up, he slowly faced the waiting room and said,—

"I never set eyes on this man in my life before to-day."



CHAPTER XVIII.

To say that Mr. Ray's abrupt announcement was a surprise to the dense throng of listeners is putting it mildly. To say that it was received with incredulity on part of the soldiery, and concern, if not keen apprehension, by old friends of Sandy's father who were present, is but a faint description of the effect of the lad's emphatic statement.

To nine out of ten among the assembly the young officer was a total stranger. To more than nine out of ten the identification of the dead as Walter Foster, Maidie Ray's luckless lover, was already complete, and many men who have made up their minds are incensed at those who dare to differ from them.

True, Mr. Stuyvesant had said that the sentry, Number 6, did not remind him except in stature, form, and possibly in features, of the recruit he knew as Foster on the train. He did not speak like him. But, when closely questioned by the legal adviser of the provost-marshal's department—the officer who conducted most of the examination with much of the manner of a prosecuting attorney, Mr. Stuyvesant admitted that he had only seen Foster once to speak to, and that was at night in the dim light of the Sacramento station on what might be called the off-side of the train, where the shadows were heavy, and while the face of the young soldier was partially covered with a bandage. Yet Vinton attached importance to his aide-de-camp's opinion, and when Ray came out flat-footed, as it were, in support of Stuyvesant's views, the general was visibly gratified.

But, except for these very few, Ray had spoken to unbelieving ears. Sternly the military lawyer took him in hand and began to probe. No need to enter into details. In ten minutes the indignant young gentleman, who never in his life had told a lie, found himself the target of ten score of hostile eyes, some wrathful, some scornful, some contemptuous, some insolent, some only derisive, but all, save those of a few silently observant officers, threatening or at least inimical.

Claiming first that he knew Walter Foster well (and, indeed, it seemed to him he did, for his mother's letters to the Big Horn ranch had much to say of Maidie's civilian admirer, though Maidie herself could rarely be induced to speak of him), Ray was forced to admit that he had met him only twice or thrice during a brief and hurried visit to Fort Averill to see his loved ones before they moved to Fort Leavenworth, and then he owned he paid but little attention to the sighing swain. Questioned as to his opportunities of studying and observing Foster, Sandy had been constrained to say that he hadn't observed him closely at all. He "didn't want to—exactly." They first met, it seems, in saddle. The winter weather was glorious at Averill. They had a fine pack of hounds; coursing for jack-rabbit was their favorite sport, and, despite the fact that Foster had a beautiful and speedy horse, "his seat was so poor and his hand so jerky he never managed to get up to the front," said Sandy.

It was not brought out in evidence, but the fact was that Sandy could never be got to look on Foster with the faintest favor as a suitor for his sister's hand. A fellow who could neither ride, shoot, nor spar—whose accomplishments were solely of the carpet and perhaps the tennis-court—the boy had no use for. He and Maidie rode as though born to the saddle. He had seen Foster in an English riding-suit and English saddle and an attempt at the English seat, but decidedly without the deft English hand on his fretting hunter's mouth the one day that they appeared in field together, and the sight was too much for Sandy. That night at dinner, and the later dance, Foster's perfection of dress and manner only partially redeemed him in Sandy's eyes, and—well—really, that was about all he ever had seen of Foster.

Questioned as to his recollection of Foster's features, stature, etc., Sandy did his best, and only succeeded in portraying the deceased almost to the life. Except, he said, Foster had long, thick, curving eyelashes, and "this man hasn't"—but it was remembered that brows and lashes both were singed off in the fire. So that point failed. Questioned as to whether he realized that his description tallied closely with the appearance of the deceased, Sandy said that that all might be, but still "this isn't Foster." Questioned as to whether, if the deceased were again to have the color and action,—the life that Foster had a year ago,—might not the resemblance to Foster be complete?—Sandy simply "couldn't tell."

Nearly an hour was consumed in trying to convince him he must, or at least might, be mistaken, but to no purpose. He mentioned a card photograph of Foster in ranch costume that would convince the gentlemen, he thought, that there was no such very strong resemblance, and a note was written to Miss Porter asking her to find and send the picture in question. It came, a cabinet photo of a tall, slender, well-built young fellow with dark eyes and brows and thick, curving lashes and oval, attractive face, despite its boyishness, and nine men out of ten who saw and compared it with the face of the dead declared it looked as though it had been taken for the latter perhaps a year or so agone. Ray had hurt his own case, and, when excused to return to his sister's side, went forth into the gathering twilight stricken with the consciousness that he was believed to have lied in hopes of averting scandal from that sister's name.

And on the morrow with that post-mortem, so insisted on by Brick, no longer delayed, the dead again lay mutely awaiting the final action of the civil-military authorities, and to the surprise of the officers and guards, before going to the daily routine that kept him from early morn till late at night in his beleaguered office, Drayton came and bowed his gray head and gazed with sombre eyes into the sleeping features now before him.

A pinched and tired look was coming over the waxen face that had been so calm and placid, as though in utter weariness over this senseless delay. Drayton had been told of young Ray's almost astounding declaration, and officers of the law half expected him to make some adverse comment thereon, but he did not. Alert correspondents, amazed to see the corps commander at such a place and so far from the Ayuntamiento, surrounded him as he would have retaken his seat in his carriage, and clamored for something as coming from him in the way of an expression of opinion, which, with grave courtesy, the general declined to give, but could not prevent appearing a week later in a thousand papers and in a dozen different forms—ferried over to Hong Kong by the Shogun or some other ship, and cabled thence to waiting Christendom.

Drayton had his own reasons for wishing to see the remains, then Vinton, and later Ray, and as his movements were closely followed, the wits of the correspondents were sorely taxed. But the examination was to be resumed at nine. A rumor was running wild that Miss Ray herself was to be summoned to appear, and Drayton had to be dropped in favor of a more promising sensation.

It began with dreary surgical technicalities. The heavy bullet had traversed the ascending aorta "near its bifurcation," said Brick, who, though only an autopsical adjunct, was permitted to speak for his associates. Death, said he, had resulted from shock and was probably instantaneous. No other cause could be attributed. No other wound was discovered. No marks of scuffle except "some unimportant scratches" on the shoulder. The bullet was found to weigh exactly the same as those of the unexploded cartridges in poor Maidie's prized revolver, and though Brick would gladly have kept the floor and told very much more, the provost-marshal as gladly got rid of him, for, despite the unwillingness of the medical officers at the Cuartel de Meysic, Connelly had been trundled down to Ermita in a springy ambulance and was presently awaiting his turn.

The moment his coming was announced, Connelly was ushered in and Brick shut off short.

A nurse and doctor were with the sturdy little Irishman, and he needed but brief instruction as to what was wanted. Taken to the trestle and bidden to look upon the face of the deceased and say, if he could, who it was, Connelly looked long and earnestly, and then turned feebly but calmly to the attentive array.

"If it wasn't that this looks much thinner," said he, "I'd say it was a man who 'listed with our detachment at Denver last June, about the first week. The name was Foster. He disappeared somewhere between Sacramento and Oakland, and I never saw him again."

Questioned as to whether there was any mark by which the recruit could be known, Connelly said that he was present when Foster was physically examined, and he never saw a man with a whiter skin; there wasn't a mark on him anywhere then that he could remember. Bidden to tell what he knew of Foster, the young artilleryman was given a seat, and somewhat feebly proceeded. Foster was bound to enlist, he said, was of legal age and looked it; gave his full name, his home and business; said he owned a ranch down in New Mexico near Fort Averill; didn't know enough to go in for a commission and was determined to enlist and serve as a private soldier in the cavalry. He had good clothes and things that he put in a trunk and expressed back to Averill, keeping only a valise full of underwear, etc., but that was burned up on the car afterwards. Two days later, before they started for the West, a man who said his name was Murray came to the rendezvous and asked for Foster, who was then being drilled. A detachment was to start the next day, and anybody could see that Foster wasn't glad to welcome Murray by any means, but on that very evening Murray said that he too wished to enlist and go with his "friend." He squeezed through the physical examination somehow, and they took him along, though nobody liked his looks.

Then Connelly told what he could of the fire and of Foster's subsequent disappearance, also of Murray and Murray's misconduct. They asked Connelly about Lieutenant Stuyvesant, and here Connelly waxed almost eloquent, certainly enthusiastic, in Stuyvesant's praise. Somebody went so far, however, as to ask whether he had ever seen any manifestation of ill-will between Stuyvesant and Recruit Foster, whereat Connelly looked astonished, seemed to forget his fever, and to show something akin to indignation.

"No, indeed!" said he. There was nothing but good-will of the heartiest kind everywhere throughout the detachment except for that one blackguard, Murray. They all felt most grateful to the lieutenant, and so far as he knew they'd all do most anything for him, all except Murray, but he was a tough, he was a biter, and here the sick man feebly uplifted his hand and pointed to the bluish-purple marks at the base of the thumb.

"Murray did that," said Connelly simply. "He was more like a beast than a man."

But the examiners did not seem interested in Murray. General Vinton, who had again entered and was a close listener, and was observed to be studying the witness closely, presently beckoned to one of the doctors and said a word in undertone to him. The medico shook his head. There was a lull in the proceedings a moment. Connelly was too sick a man to be kept there long, and his doctor plainly showed his anxiety to get him away. The crowd too wanted him to go. He had told nothing especially new except that Murray and Foster were acquainted, and Murray enlisted because Foster had.

"Everybody" said by this time this must be Foster's body. What "everybody" wanted was to get Connelly out of the way now, then perhaps—another fever patient might be summoned, for they couldn't expect to keep those remains another day. There was widespread, if unspoken, hope among the score of correspondents that the provost-marshal would feel that he must summon Miss Ray.

But before the examiners could decide there came an unexpected scene. Vinton went over, bent, and whispered to the provost-marshal, who looked up, nodded, and glanced towards the witness, sitting flushed and heavy-eyed, but patient, across the room. Vinton was plainly asking something, and to the manifest displeasure of many of the crowd the little Irishman was again accosted.

"You say Murray was a biter and bit you so that the marks last to this day. Did you take note of any peculiarity in his teeth?"

"Yes, sir. One of 'em was gone near the front, right-hand side, next to the big yellow eye-tooth."

"Would that make a peculiar mark on human flesh?"

"Yes, sir," answered Connelly, holding up his hand again and showing the scar, now nearly five months old.

"Steward," said the officer placidly, "uncover the shoulder there and let Connelly look at the mark Dr. Brick referred to."

Connelly did. He studied the purplish discolorations in the milky skin, and excitement, not altogether febrile, suddenly became manifest in his hot, flushed face. Then he held forth one hand, palm uppermost, eagerly compared the ugly scars at the base of the thumb with the faint marks on the broad, smooth shoulder, and turned back to the darkened room. With hand uplifted he cried:

"Major,"—and now he was trembling with mingled weakness and eagerness,—"I knew that man Murray was following this young feller to squeeze money out of him, and when he couldn't get it by threats, he tried by force. He's followed him clear to Manila, and that's his mark sure's this is!—sure's there's a God in heaven!"



CHAPTER XIX.

There came a time of something more than anxiety and worry for all who knew Gerard Stuyvesant,—for those who loved Marion Ray,—and Sandy was a sorrow-laden man. Vinton could not stand between his favorite aide-de-camp and the accusation laid at his door. Frank and his most gifted fellow-surgeons were powerless to prevent the relapse that came to Marion and bore her so close to the portals of the great beyond that there were days and nights when the blithe spirit seemed flitting away from its fragile tenement, and November was half gone before the crisis was so far past that recovery could be pronounced only a question of time. Oh, the strain of those long, long, sleepless days of watching, waiting, hoping, praying, yet days wherein the watchers could nurse and help and act. Oh, the blackness, the misery of the nights of watching, waiting in helplessness, well-nigh in despair, for the coming of the next "cable!" the consciousness of utter impotence to help or to do! the realization that a priceless life is ebbing away, while they who gave it—they to whom it is so infinitely precious—are at the very opposite ends of the earth! Oh, the tremulous opening of those fateful messages, the breathless reading of the cipher, the awful suspense of the search through Cable Code pages that dance and swim before the straining eyes! Oh, the meek acceptance of still further suspense! the almost piteous thankfulness that all is not yet lost, that hope is not yet abandoned! Strong men break down and add years to those they have lived. Gentle women sway and totter at last until relief comes to them through God-given tears.

In a fever-stricken camp in Southern swamplands a father waked night after night, walking the hospitals where his brave lads lay moaning, seeing in their burning misery, hearing in their last sigh, the sufferings of a beloved child. By the bedside of her youngest, her baby boy as she would ever call the lad, who lay there in delirium, knelt a mother who, as she nursed and soothed this one, prayed without ceasing for that other, that beloved daughter for whom the Death Angel crouched and waited under the tropic skies of the far Philippines. Ah, there were suffering and distress attendant on that strange, eventful epoch in the nation's history that even the press said nothing about, and that those who knew it speak of only in deep solemnity and awe to-day. It was mid-November before they dared to hope. It was December when once again Maid Marion was lifted to her lounging-chair overlooking the Bagumbayan, and little by little began picking up once more the threads that were so nearly severed for all time, and as health and strength slowly returned, hearing the tidings of the busy, bustling world about her.

Others too had known anxiety as sore as that which had so lined the face of Colonel Ray and trebled the silver in the soft hair of Marion, his wife. Well-nigh distracted, a mother sped across the continent to the Pacific, there to await the coming of her son's remains.

From the night of Walter Foster's disappearance at Carquinez no word of his existence came to give her hope, no trace of his movements until, late in August, there was brought to her the cabled message:

"Alive, well, but in trouble. Have written."

And this was headed Yokohama. Not until October did that longed-for, prayed-for letter come,—a selfish letter, since it gave no really adequate excuse for the long weeks of silence, and only told that the boy had been in hiding, almost in terror of his life. While still dazed by the shock of the fire and smarting from his burns, wrote Walter, he had wandered from the cars at Port Costa. He had encountered "most uncongenial persons," he said, among the recruits, and never realizing that it was desertion, war-time desertion at that, had determined to get back to Sacramento and join some other command. Yes. There was another reason, but—one "mother couldn't appreciate." Unknown to all but one of his comrades on the train, he had abundant money, realized from the sale of horses and cattle at the ranch. It was in a buckskin belt about his waist, and this money bought him "friends" who took him by water to Sacramento, found him secret lodgings, procured suitable clothing, and later spirited him off to San Francisco.

But these money-bought friends showed the cloven hoof, threatened to give him over to the military authorities to be tried for his life unless he would pay a heavy sum. They had him virtually a prisoner. He could only stir abroad at night, and then in company with his jailers.

There was a man, he wrote, who had a grudge against him, a man discharged from the ranch, who followed him to Denver and enlisted in the same party, a man he was most anxious to get rid of, and the first thing he knew that fellow, who, he supposed, had gone on to Manila, turned up in disguise and joined forces with his tormentors. That drove him to desperation, nerved him to one sublime effort, and one night he broke away and ran. He was fleet of foot, they were heavy with drink, and he dodged them among the wharves and piers, took refuge on a coast steamer, and found himself two days later at Portland.

Here he bethought him of an old friend, and succeeded in finding a man he well knew he could trust, despite his mother's old dislike for him, a man who knew his whole past, of his desertion, of his danger,—a man who was himself about enlisting for service in the Philippines, and who persuaded him that his surest way to win exemption from punishment was to hasten after the detachment, beat it, if possible, to Manila, and join it there at his own expense.

He still had some hundreds left. They went to San Francisco, where Walter took steamer at once for Honolulu to await there the coming of the recruit detachment. The infantry finally came, his friend with them, but no sign of more cavalry. To Walter's dismay he had seen among the passengers landed from the Doric the disguised rough whom, as Sackett, he had so unfavorably known before, who as Murray had followed him into the army. It would never do to fall into his clutches again: the man would betray him instantly. Walter kept in hiding until he heard that Sackett was accused of stabbing a staff officer of General Vinton and had fled the island.

Later, when the next troop-ship came, bringing his friend with it, he again took counsel. As the lad fully admitted, his friend was the same old chum of Freiburg days—the friend to whom his parents had so much objected. The fortunes of war had thrown them together, Willard as impecunious as ever, and the Damon and Pythias, the Orestes and Pylades, the two Ajaxes of the old days were in close and intimate touch once more, Damon, as of old, the banker for the twain. The troop-ships were to proceed as soon as coaled. There were reasons now why Walter wished to stay in Honolulu, but Willard urged his moving at once on to Hong Kong and there awaiting the result of his negotiations at Manila. At Hong Kong it was his hope to receive the word "Come over. All is well," and, finally, as his funds would soon run out, he closed his letter with the request that his mother cable him five hundred dollars through the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

The money she cabled at once, then in dread she had wired Colonel Martindale, who was gadding about with old army chums when most she needed him at home, and that gentleman, with a sigh, again went sisterward, saying he knew the boy was sure to turn up to torment him, and wondering what on earth young Hopeful had done now. He looked grave enough when he read the letter, asked for time to communicate confidentially with a chum at Washington, and was awaiting reply when all on a sudden the papers came out with this startling despatch telling of the murder of Private Walter Foster while on his post as sentry at Manila, and then came weeks of woe.

Despite Drayton's cable from Manila that the identification of the remains was not conclusive to him, at least, Mrs. Foster was convinced that the murdered lad was her only boy, and all because of that heartless flirt, that designing—that demoniac army girl who had bewitched him and then brought his blood upon her own head.

"If it isn't Walter who lies there slain by assassin rival, the innocent victim of that creature's hideous vanity, would I not have heard from him? Do you suppose my blessed boy would not instantly have cabled to tell me he was alive if he wasn't dead?" And, indeed, that was a hard question to answer.

And so the remains of Private Willard Benton, that had been viewed by many a genuinely sorrowing comrade and stowed away with solemn military honors in a vault at Paco Cemetery, were sealed up as best they could do it at Manila, and, though unconvinced as to their identity despite the convictions of others in authority, the commanding general yielded to cables from the War Department and ordered their shipment to San Francisco. They were out of sight of all signals from Corregidor when Martindale's cable came suggesting search for Private Benton Willard.

Zenobia Perkins sniffed contemptuously and scoffed malignantly when told that the doubting Thomases were gaining ground and numbers, that though Mr. Stuyvesant might be brought to trial for killing a man, it would not be for killing Foster until more was ascertained regarding the actual victim. Private Connelly, recovered from his fever, was forever hunting up Farnham, the brakeman, and devising schemes for the capture of that blackguard Murray. Day and night, he maintained that Murray was the man who had accosted Clarke and Hunter at the battery, that it was probably he who, with his pals, had waylaid and robbed the lone recruit returning from his quest in East Paco, that it was he who must have struggled with him again before firing the fatal shot; but not a trace of Murray or his sailor mates could the secret service agents find, and matters were in this most unsatisfactory state when at the end of November came the Queen of the Fleet, despatched several weeks before to fetch along the troops "sidetracked" at Honolulu, just as the commanding general and his chief surgeon were in consultation as to what on earth to do with Zenobia Perkins—the woman had become a public nuisance.

It seems that the Patriotic Daughters of America were now out of patience and the vice-president out of funds. It seemed that her brief ascendancy had carried the lady to such an altitude as to dizzy her brain and rob her of all sense of proportion. It seems that the surgeons in charge of three hospitals had complained of her meddling, that colonels of several regiments had discovered her to be the author of letters to the home papers setting forth that neglect, abuse, and starvation were driving their men to desertion or the grave. It seems that the Red Cross had protested against her as the originator of malignant stories at their expense, and it was evidently high time to get rid of her, yet how could they if that case was to be tried? Zenobia Perkins knew they could not and conducted herself accordingly. She came this day to the Ayuntamiento to demand pay for what she termed her long detention at Manila.

"You compel me to remain against my will because I'm an indispensable witness," said she to the saturnine adjutant-general, beyond whom she never now succeeded in passing. She was volubly berating him, to his grim amusement, when the lattice doors from the corridor swung open and two officers entered.

For nearly two minutes they stood waiting for a break in her tempestuous flow of words, but as none came, the senior impatiently stepped forward and the adjutant-general, looking up, sprang from his chair just as the chief himself came hurrying out from the sanctum sanctorum and greeted the newcomers with cordially clasping hands. The lady too had risen. This was another of those stuck-up star-wearers who at San Francisco as much as told her she was a nuisance, and who wouldn't send her by transport to Manila. Yet here she was in spite of them all, and the most important woman on the island! Zenobia's face was flushed with triumph that the star-wearer should be made to feel and see before she would consent to leave the room.

"Well, I shall have to interrupt you gentlemen," said she, "for my business won't keep if you propose to keep me. I want to know right here and now, General Drayton, whether I'm to get my pay or not; if not, I don't propose to wait another day in Manila, and you can get out of the scrape the best way you know how. No one here but me could swear that young man Foster was dead, and you know it."

"You've sworn to what isn't so, madame," interposed the new arrival placidly. "Here's that young man Foster!" and as he spoke the lattice doors again swung open, and, very pale, a tall youth in civilian dress was ushered in, at sight of whom Major Farquhar fairly shouted.

——————————

"How'd I get him?" said the new-comer five minutes later. "Found him aboard the Coptic when she met us as we were pulling out from Honolulu. He was going back to the States. Left Hong Kong before the story was published. Didn't want to come, of course, but had to."

"Wasn't there time to write his mother? They surely would have cabled, and the Coptic must have got into San Francisco a week ago."

"Certainly! Letter was sent right on by the steamer, addressed to Cincinnati."

"O Lord!" said Drayton. "And she was at 'Frisco all the time. Colonel," he added to his chief-of-staff, "what's the first transport home?"

"Zealandia, sir; to-morrow."

"Sorry for the Zealandia, but Zenobia must go with her."



CHAPTER XX.

Of course we had not heard the last of her. Honolulu correspondents of the press had little to write of in those days, but made their little long, and Zenobia's stories were the biggest things yet brought from Manila. Those stories were seven days getting from Honolulu to San Francisco, which was less than half the time it took their author to bring them to listening ears. Anybody aboard the Zealandia could have told the scribes the lady was a fabricator of the first magnitude, but what live correspondent wants to have a good story spoiled? In just twenty-seven days from that on which Zenobia bade farewell to Manila her winged words were flashed all over the States, and by thousands were the stones swallowed that death, disease, pestilence and famine, bribery and corruption, vice and debauchery, desertion and demoralization ran riot in the army at Manila, all due to the incapacity, if not actual complicity, of officers in high position. But mercifully were they spared the knowledge of these astonishing facts until the papers themselves began to reach the Eighth Corps some ten weeks after Zenobia had left it to its fate, and by that time every fellow had his hands full, for the long-looked-for outbreak had come at last, and the long, thin Yankee fighting line was too busy making history to waste ink or temper in denying yarns that, after all, were soon forgotten.

Then, too, we had been hearing stories that could not be denied right there in the southern suburbs, and having excitement that needed no Zenobia to enhance it. To begin with, Walter Foster's tale was of itself of vivid interest, and, though only the general and Farquhar and Ray actually heard it, and only two or possibly three staff officers were supposed to see it after it had been reduced to writing, every steamer and transport now was bringing officers' families, and men must tell their wives something once in a while, otherwise they might never know what is going on and so will believe all manner of things that are not.

Walter Foster's mother learned by cable that the remains she awaited, and that reached port almost the day she got the despatch, were not those of her only son, but of one who had practically died for him. And even in the joy of that supreme moment the woman in her turned, after all, in pity to weep for the motherless lad who had been her boy's warmest friend in his hours of doubt and darkness and despair.

A weak vessel was "Wally," as Farquhar had intimated, and so easily cowed and daunted that in the dread of the punishment accorded the deserter he had skulked in disguise at Hong Kong, leaving all the burden of scouting, pleading, and planning for him to Willard, his old-time chum, who had even less knowledge and experience of army official life than himself. Willard's early letters to Hong Kong gave Foster little hope, for at first the only people the recruit could "sound" were private soldiers like himself. Then Foster read of the arrival of the Sacramento at Manila, of the presence there of Maidie Ray, and then he wrote urging his quondam chum to endeavor to see her, to tell her of his desperate straits, to implore her to exert influence to get him pardoned, and, in order that she might know that his envoy was duly accredited, he sent Willard his chief treasure, that little carte-de-visite, together with a few imploring lines.

Then not a word came from Willard for three mortal weeks, but Foster's daily visits to the bank were at last rewarded by a despatch from home bidding him return at once by first steamer, sending him abundant means, and assuring him all would be well.

And when the news of his own murder was published in the Hong Kong papers, without the faintest intimation to the officials of the bank as to his intentions, he was homeward bound, and never heard a word of it all until recognized by an officer aboard the Queen as the Coptic floated into Honolulu Harbor. There he was arrested and turned back.

Among "Billy Benton's" few effects no letters, no such picture, had been found, nothing, in fact, to connect him with Foster. Colonel Brent knew what had become of the carte-de-visite, but—how happened it in other hands than those of Benton? That too was not long to be a mystery.

One day in late December a forlorn-looking fellow begged a drink of the bartender at the Alhambra on the Escolta—said he was out of money, deserted by his friends, and took occasion to remind the dispenser of fluid refreshment that a few weeks ago when he had funds and friends both he had spent many a dollar there. The bartender waved him away.

"Awe, give the feller a drink," said boys in blue, in the largeness of their nature and the language of the ranks. "What'll you take, Johnny? Have one with us," and one of the managers hastened over and whispered to some of the flannel-shirted squad, but to no purpose.

The "boys" were bent on benevolence, and "beat" though he might be, the gaunt stranger was made welcome, shared their meat and drink, and, growing speedily confidential in his cups, told them that he could tell a tale some folks would pay well to hear, and then proceeded to stiffen out in a fit.

This brought to mind the event on the Bagumbayan, and somebody said it was "the same feller if not the same fit," and it wouldn't do to leave him there. They took him along in their cab and across to their barracks by the Puente Colgante, and a doctor ministered to him, for it was plain the poor fellow was in sore plight, and a few days later a story worth the telling was going the rounds. The good chaplain of the Californians had heard his partial confession and urged him to tell the whole truth, and that night the last vestige of the crumbling case against Gerard Stuyvesant came tumbling to earth, and Connelly, from the Cuartel de Meisic, nearly ran his sturdy legs off to find Farnham and tell him the tale.

"My real name," said the broken man, "is of no consequence to anybody. I soldiered nearly ten years ago in the Seventh Cavalry, but that fight at Wounded Knee was too much for my nerve, and the boys made life a burden to me afterwards. I 'took on' in another regiment after I skipped from the Seventh, but luck was against me. We were sent to Fort Meade, and there was a gambler in Deadwood, Sackett by name, who had been a few months in the Seventh, but got bob-tailed out for some dirty work, and he knew me at once and swore he'd give me away if I didn't steer fellows up against his game after pay-day. I had to do it, but Captain Ray got onto it all and broke up the scheme and ran Sackett off the reservation, and then he blew on me and I had to quit again. He shot a man over cards, for he was a devil when in drink, and had to clear out, and we met again in Denver. 'Each could give the other away by that time,' said he, and so we joined partnership."

The rest was soon told. Sackett got a job on young Foster's ranch and fell into some further trouble. But when the war came all of them were enlisted, Foster and Sackett in the regulars and he in the First Colorado, but they discharged him at Manila because he had fits, and that gave him a good deal of money for a few days, travel pay home, and all that. Then who should turn up but Sackett with "money to burn" and a scheme to make more. They hired a room in Ermita, and next thing he knew Sackett and some sailor men held up and robbed a soldier, and Sackett was in a tearing rage because no money-belt was found on him. They only got some letters, that little photograph, and perhaps forty dollars "Mex." The photograph he recognized at once,—his former captain's daughter,—and he begged for it and kept it about him until one evening he was taken with another fit, and when he came to the picture was gone.

That night he found Sackett nearly crazy drunk at their lodgings in Ermita. They had a Filipino boy to wait on them then, and Sackett had told the boy where he could find money and jewelry while the family were at dinner around at Colonel Brent's. The boy was willing enough; he was an expert. But he came back scared through; said that the soldiers were close after him. He had some jewelry and a pretty revolver. Sackett told him to keep the jewelry, but took the watch and pistol, and that night the sentries and patrols were searching everywhere, and Sackett and the sailors said they must get away somehow. They drank some more, and finally thought they had a good chance just after the patrol left, and the sentry was talking to an officer on the Calle Real.

They sneaked downstairs and out into the Faura, and there Sackett ran right into the soldier's arms. There was a short, terrible battle, the soldier against Sackett and his sailor friend. The sailor got the sentry's gun away, and Sackett and he wrestled as far as the corner, when there was a shot; the soldier dropped all in a heap and Sackett and the sailor ran for their lives around the corner,—the last he had ever seen or heard of them up to this moment.

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