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Uncle Sam's Boys in the Philippines - or, Following the Flag against the Moros
by H. Irving Hancock
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It was after three o'clock in the morning when Sergeant Overton felt that he finally had a moment for free breathing.

"Sergeant," said the lieutenant, "your watch tour is long past. Lie down and get some sleep."

"You're sure that I can be spared, sir?"

"Certainly; you can be called if you're needed."

To one not accustomed to war it might seem strange, but thirty seconds after Hal had wrapped himself in his blanket he was deep in dreamless slumber. He slept until the sun was fairly high. Then Prescott awoke him.

"Kelly—Slosson—are they back, sir?" were Hal's first words, as he threw aside his blanket.

"Back nearly three hours ago, Sergeant," smiled the officer. "It's half-past eight. I've been occupied, and have missed my breakfast. Come into the house and breakfast with me, Sergeant Overton. Sergeant Dinsmore will look after things outdoors."

"Did—have you buried the Moros who fell?" questioned Hal, looking out beyond the trench.

"The rascals sent over men with two lanterns, and asked permission to carry off their casualties," explained the officer. "I let them do it."

"It must have given them a lot of work to do," muttered Hal.

"It did. I estimate their dead at thirty, and their badly hurt at forty or more. We made it an expensive night for them."

"We paid a big price on our own part, sir," returned the young sergeant, "for we paid in good Americans."

"We can't have war without death, can we?" half sighed the West Pointer.

Once inside the house Hal's first care was to visit the wounded men.

"Bender's gone, sir?" asked Hal.

"Yes," nodded Lieutenant Prescott gravely.

Then they went to breakfast, for the soldier must eat or presently stop fighting.

"You'll want to know my orders from Captain Cortland," said Lieutenant Prescott, filling his cup with coffee.

"Yes, sir; if you feel at liberty to tell me."

"The captain's instructions are few. He tells me that, as commander in the field, I will have to use my own judgment to a great degree. But the captain urges me, as soon as I may be satisfied that the Moros have withdrawn, to leave Sergeant Dinsmore here with a guard of twelve men, and to bring the white people from this plantation into town with me. Then Dinsmore, if he sees no more of the Moros within three days, is to march his men back to Bantoc. With the limited number of men at his disposal Captain Cortland recognizes the impossibility of keeping a military guard regularly at each plantation."

"But, sir, if Dinsmore and a dozen men had to brave such a charge as we met last night he would stand a very good chance of having his detachment wiped out, wouldn't he?"

"No; for the Moros would attempt such a charge only in the night time. Captain Cortland has sent me a supply of various-colored rockets, and a code by which they are to be used. So, if attacked by a rush at night, Sergeant Dinsmore will withdraw with his men to the house, and send up rockets that will be seen in Bantoc and at Fort Franklin. Then a column will be sent out to overtake and punish any brown rascals who may attack."

"Have you seen any signs of the Moros lately, sir?"

"No, Sergeant. Later in the forenoon, however, I think I shall order you to take about twenty men out in skirmish line. You will try to draw the enemy's fire, returning if you succeed. If you do not succeed, you will search the woods, always keeping an alert eye open for the possibility of running into an ambushed party of cold steel men in the woods."

"I shall be delighted to have charge of that reconnaissance, sir," Hal replied promptly.

"Yes; it is work cut out for just such a cool head as yours, Sergeant."

"Thank you, sir."

"Well, you are cool-headed, so why should I not say it?" laughed Lieutenant Prescott. "Sergeant, your presence here has made my own work half as heavy as it would have been without you. I shall so report to Captain Cortland on my return."

"Thank you, sir. May I ask if Captain Cortland reports trouble with the Moros in any other locality?"

"Nothing has as yet broken out anywhere else. Captain Cortland writes me that Bantoc, while apparently quiet, is really a seething volcano, ready to break out into insurrection, riot and pillage. Lieutenant Holmes is still in personal command over in Bantoc, so I fancy your friend, Sergeant Terry, is there with him."

As Hal followed the lieutenant out after breakfast, the first man they saw was Slosson, busily smoking the pipe that he had tramped twenty-four miles to obtain.

Then, as the officer walked away, Kelly sauntered up.

"Did you two have any trouble on the way in or back, Kelly?" asked Sergeant Overton.

"Not the least bit, though we stepped pretty close to some of the 'goo-goos' in getting away from here, Sarge. But we got by without telling 'em we were there."

"You two must be tired."

"We've had the bit of a nap," replied Kelly.

An hour later Lieutenant Prescott again approached Sergeant Hal.

"Count off your twenty men, Sergeant. Line 'em up for instruction. I'm going to send you over yonder, now, to make that scouting reconnaissance. Don't fall into any traps, Sergeant."

Hal quickly detailed his men, ordering them to fall in.

"Why am I not picked, Sarge?" whispered Kelly.

"Man, you've done enough."

Lieutenant Prescott's instructions were few, though to the point.

Then, in line of skirmishers, Sergeant Hal Overton ordered his men forward. Over the trench they went, then advanced steadily toward the woods from which had come the rush of the night before.

Those left behind watched anxiously. Would the issue mean another savage fight—or what?



CHAPTER XVI

DATTO HAKKUT MAKES A NEW MOVE

To the civilian mind, being sent forward purposely to draw the enemy's fire, looks like "ticklish" business.

Yet it is better to risk a few men rather than sacrifice many. It is on the same principle that a "point" of several men is always sent in advance of the larger body when moving supposedly in the face of the enemy. The "point" often draws disastrous fire upon itself, but the larger body of troops is saved from catastrophe.

The soldier accepts calmly this work of going out ahead to draw a possible enemy's fire. It's "all in the game," as he understands it.

Of course, when troops are sent out only for the purpose of drawing fire, these troops withdraw, if necessary, as soon as they attract the enemy's fire to themselves, and thus locate the enemy.

Sergeant Hal Overton kept at the right of his thin, sparse line of men as they moved forward.

Every man had his eyes ahead; each was watching for the first sign of trouble.

When the line had reached a plane within a hundred yards of the edge of the woods the soldiers expected, momentarily, to hear the signal shot, then the first scattering shots, followed by the heavy, crashing volleys.

Yet they passed this point safely and went on. The edge of the woods was gained, still without provoking hostile shots. It would have looked to one untrained in the art of war as though there were no enemy there. But this handful of soldiers knew better than to jump at any such conclusion. The Moros, like the Tagalos and Pampangos, are fond of getting an enemy at close quarters, and then leaping on him with cold steel. The Tagalo or Pampango fights with the bolo, the Moro often with the creese, and with all these brown-skinned men the game is the same—to leap up unexpectedly, from the tall grass, before the soldier has had time to throw himself on his guard.

A swift, short-armed cutting movement—a mere slash, delivered with muscular effort, and the soldier is gashed across the abdomen. After this cutting has been effectively delivered the white fighting man usually sinks down in a pool of his own blood, and his fighting days are likely to be over.

Small wonder that Uncle Sam's infantrymen prefer facing native bullets to native steel! The bolo man, or the sword man, is the soldier's greatest aversion. It is like fighting rattlesnakes!

Glancing down the line, Sergeant Hal saw one or two of the newer men flinch slightly.

"Steady, there!" Hal called, in an easy but business-like tone. "If we strike the rascals an unbroken line is the one hope for us all."

They had now reached the woods, but no halt was made. The boyish sergeant, who knew his business, marched his little command about six hundred yards under the trees.

Still no Moros were encountered.

Then Hal turned his line to the left, marching on through the woods. In this manner, in less than an hour, he had thoroughly explored the territory near the Seaforth plantation, and had returned to the point where his command had first entered the forest.

"Halt!" ordered the young sergeant. "Fall out, but don't scatter."

Then Overton stepped to the edge of the woods, waving his hat. In the distance Lieutenant Prescott, with his own hat, returned the signal. Then Hal, using one arm in place of a signal flag, wig-wagged the information:

"We have thoroughly scouted all about your position, and find no sign of an enemy."

From the lieutenant came the answer, wig-wagged by arm:

"Good! March your men in."

"I have allowed men to fall out and rest," Hal answered. "They are tired after their hike."

"Rest your men five minutes, then march them in," replied Lieutenant Prescott.

"Very good, sir," Hal signaled.

Exactly five minutes later, Overton commanded:

"Fall in! By twos right, march!"

Within the hour several of the former Moro laborers on the plantation returned. They reported that the Datto Hakkut and some three hundred men were on the march, miles away and evidently headed for the mountains.

"These men are honest and loyal, Lieutenant," explained Mr. Seaforth. "They are my regular laborers. Of course, when the attack came those who could not reach the house took to their heels. But these natives, like many Moros, are dependable. They are not to be classed with the idle, vicious cut-throats that follow the datto."

"Hm!" replied Lieutenant Prescott, politely, but he scanned all of these returned natives, keenly. None of them, however, showed any wounds, or bore any other signs of having seen recent military service with the datto.

"Mr. Seaforth," said the young officer, presently, "I am going to follow the course laid down by Captain Cortland, and return to Bantoc with the greater part of my command. I shall, however, leave Sergeant Dinsmore and a dozen men here. I urge that all the white people of the plantation return with me to town."

"You can take the women with you, Lieutenant, if you will," replied the planter, "but we men feel that we should stay here and make every effort to go on running the plantation."

"If you do not think it too dangerous, Mr. Seaforth."

"No; I can trust my laborers, and they tell me that Hakkut and his rascals appear really bent on reaching the mountains."

"But if they go to the mountains, you know, they go only that they may be more secure until they have recruited other brown rebels. If Hakkut can get enough men together, he will attempt to carry fire and bloodshed even into Bantoc."

"Let the women go with you, and we men will stay here," was the planter's decision.

Half an hour later the column, minus Sergeant Dinsmore and his squad, swung off on the return march. A wagon had been provided for conveying the dead soldiers, another for the wounded, and a third vehicle for the women.

Four hours later the column was at barracks, from which the women were escorted into Bantoc, where there was a military guard, and where they could stop with friends.

Just before dark an escort of twenty men, guarding two wagons, marched into Bantoc. Sergeant Hal had asked and secured permission to head the escort, for he wanted to see his chum, Sergeant Noll Terry.

"Well, so you've been doing some real fighting," demanded Noll in a tone of friendly envy.

"Yes," assented Hal.

"The Moros are not such very classy fighters, are they?"

"They're good enough for me," Hal Overton answered. "I don't mind their rifle fire, but I can do very well with the least possible number of brushes against their cold steel."

"But our fellows have their bayonets."

"Yes; but wait until you have to face a rush against those murderous creeses. I can't tell you much about it. It sounds tame in the telling, Noll, but you'll know all about it when you have to go up against it. How have things been here in Bantoc?"

"Bad," Noll replied, with a shake of his head.

"Any serious trouble?"

"No; no fighting. For that matter, I think most of the Moros here in Bantoc like us well enough, and are disposed to be orderly," replied Terry thoughtfully. "Of course they're the more peaceable part of the population, anyway. On the other hand, there are plenty of Moros here in Bantoc who don't hesitate to let us see how sullen and restless they are. Only a spark is needed, or maybe only a secret word from the datto, and two or three hundred ugly fellows here in Bantoc will try to get the upper hand, or else take to the brush with Hakkut."

"We're going to have a warm time here before we're through, I think," replied Sergeant Hal, with a shake of his head.

"What puzzles me," muttered Noll, "is why the government doesn't send troops enough here to wind up the thing in short order. The whole of our first battalion of the Thirty-fourth, for instance, ought to take the field at once, backed by a platoon of light artillery. We ought to be sent to chase Hakkut clean across the island and into the ocean on the other side of Mindanao."

"It's not for me to criticize the government, or to say what it ought to do," Hal rejoined.

"Yet I can understand, lads, that you're puzzled," broke in the quiet voice of Lieutenant Holmes behind them. "You wonder, both of you, why the government doesn't use more force. Have you any idea of the great number of troops we already have here in the islands? As it is, it takes an Army corps to keep the natives in anything resembling order. Yet, of course, the government, in this especial case, could exert itself and send an expedition of a regiment of infantry, a squadron of cavalry and two batteries of light artillery, say, against Datto Hakkut."

"That would be enough to wind these rebels up in short order, sir," murmured Hal.

"No; it would do nothing of the sort," smiled Lieutenant Holmes. "Hakkut and his crew would laugh at us. What would happen? The rebels would disperse, and soon show up at their homes, all through this island. As for Hakkut, he would go into hiding. He always is in hiding when he isn't in the field defying us. I don't know whether you sergeants know it, but it's a fact that no American Army officer has ever seen Hakkut. He never shows himself, and his hiding place is a good one, for no American knows where it is. So our big expedition that might go out against Hakkut would find none of these rebels to fight. After the troops of the big expedition had been withdrawn, however, then Hakkut and his land pirates would come out again at their own convenience."

"Wouldn't it break up Hakkut's game altogether, sir, if the government kept enough troops here to be able to send a crushing force against him whenever he raised his hand?"

"Possibly it might," nodded Lieutenant Holmes; "but to police all of the Philippine Islands in that fashion we'd have to make the United States Army three times as large as it is to-day—and then station the whole Army in these islands. On the other hand, our present plan of keeping small forces at different points, and sending out small expeditions at need, shows the natives that we don't take them very seriously. We also show them that a hundred of Uncle Sam's regulars is a pretty large force for them to attempt to fight. By attacking the Moros with small expeditions we keep alive and always before them the fact that we know one of our regulars to be equal to several of their pirates."

Both sergeants saluted as Holmes moved on.

"Maybe the lieutenant is right," muttered Noll thoughtfully. "But the present way of fighting these wretches is pretty expensive in the matter of soldiers' lives."



CHAPTER XVII

"LONG" GREEN AND KELLY HAVE INNINGS

"Ugh! That's a beastly trick. No white man would ever do a thing like that!"

The speaker was Private William Green, also known as "Long" Green, from his former habit of carrying large sums of ready cash about him.

Our readers will remember William. He was a good soldier, but above all he was a good Army business man, for he saved his money and added to it. To William Green the men of B Company always went when they were "short" and craved spending money. To any man in B Company "Long" Green would lend five dollars, but he always exacted six in return on pay day.

"What's wrong with your nerves, Green?" inquired Sergeant Hal, stepping out on to the porch of the barracks.

"Slosson has been telling me about kantab," replied Green, with a grimace and a shudder.

"Never heard of him," replied Hal.

"It isn't a 'him' at all, Sarge," rejoined Green. "Kantab is the name of a poison that the Moros extract from one of their plants up in the hills."

"Well, cheer up," urged Sergeant Overton, seating himself and opening a book. "There are no poisons issued in the rations."

"But Slosson was telling me about two soldiers who got kantab in their rations a few years ago," insisted Green.

"Was the quartermaster court-martialed?" asked Sergeant Overton. "Or was it the fault of the company cook?"

"Nothing like it," replied Green. "Two soldiers were on outpost one morning, and they had just prepared their breakfast. Just then they thought they heard a sound in the bushes, so they caught up their rifles and went out to investigate. They found nothing, so they came back to their breakfasts. They thought their coffee tasted rather bitter, but they drank it just the same. Ten minutes later both men were dying in agony. That noise had been a ruse to draw them off, while some native slipped in and put the kantab in their coffee. Ugh! That's a cowardly way to fight. If I find anything bitter about my food, even here in barracks, I'm going to toss the grub out. No kantab for mine," wound up "Long" Green earnestly.

"Did that really happen, Slosson?" asked Sergeant Hal, glancing up from his book.

"Sure," responded Private Slosson nonchalantly.

"I've heard about the stuff, too," nodded Private Kelly. "Only yesterday I heard one native talking about it to another."

"I'm going to watch my chow (food) after this," insisted Green.

For twenty minutes Hal read on, paying no attention to the chatter of soldiers about him. Then a bugle blew, and Hal closed his book with a snap.

"That's sick call, Kelly, and I believe you're on sick report," announced the boyish sergeant.

"I'm not going," returned Kelly. "What's the use. The hospital steward, I've been finding out, has no medicines whatever but salts and quinine. I can't stand the taste of either."

"But you're going to sick call, just the same," Hal retorted dryly. "Your name is on sick report, so to hospital you go. There's no way out of it."

Sick call is sounded morning and afternoon. It is the first sergeant's duty to enter on sick report the names of all enlisted men who report to him that they are not well, or think they are not well. Then, when sick call sounds, the first sergeant marches to hospital with the men whose names he has entered on sick report.

"Fall in, Kelly," ordered the young sergeant.

"I'll not take salts or quinine," insisted Kelly.

"You'll march to sick call, just the same. Fall in!"

So in step, and briskly, Hal and Private Kelly marched over to the little building which, at Fort Benjamin Franklin, was dignified with the name of hospital. The acting hospital steward was there waiting for them.

As this small command did not have a commissioned medical officer the steward attended to all cases of minor illness. When occasion warranted it the German physician was summoned from Bantoc to prescribe for the men.

"The sick list, steward," reported Hal, handing over the official paper on which Kelly's name alone appeared.

"What ails you, Kelly?" asked the steward.

"Nothing," Kelly answered defiantly.

"Then you'll have to discover an ailment soon," frowned the steward, "or I'll ask Sergeant Overton to report you for shamming sick report."

"Why, truth to tell, I didn't feel very well," asserted Kelly. "But that was two hours ago. I'm feeling fine now."

"Let me see your tongue," ordered the steward. He also "took" Kelly's pulse and noted his respirations, entering all this information on his record.

"Any pain anywhere, Kelly?"

"Sorra the bit," promptly rejoined the soldier.

"You're just a little off-key," went on the hospital steward, with a professional air. "Not much; still, you'd better have some medicine."

"I can't take salts," protested Kelly. "They make me sea-sick. Give me salts, and ye'll have to find a bed for me here, and take care of me for a few days."

"Quinine is about your size," replied the steward, reaching for a five-pound can of the stuff.

"That'll kill me, entirely!"

"Four ten-grain doses never killed any man," insisted the steward.

"I won't take it!"

"Oh, yes, you will, Kelly. This is the Army, and discipline is the rule. I'll make sure of the first dose by seeing you take it here."

The hospital steward's tone was firm, and under the regulations he was master of the situation.

"Then, for the love of Mike," gasped Kelly, "give me the bitter stuff in a capsule."

"Certainly, if you like it that way, Kelly," assented the steward, picking up a gelatine ten-grain capsule and packing it tight with the white, bitter powder.

"I don't like it any way," growled Kelly.

"Now, that's nonsense, man. Why, all the medical authorities are agreed that quinine is the greatest blessing to man ever discovered."

"Then why don't the doctors take more of it themselves?" scowled Private Kelly.

"Here you are," continued the steward, capping the capsule and passing it to the unwilling victim.

Kelly dropped the capsule into his mouth, resolving to hold it there until he could get outside.

"Here's a glass of water. Wash it down," ordered the hospital steward. "Then you can open your mouth and I'll make sure that you've swallowed the stuff."

"Can't ye be after taking a soldier's word?" demanded Kelly, with a burst of virtuous indignation.

"Not where quinine's the medicine," returned the steward, grinning. "Now, down with the water, and then open your mouth."

There was no chance for sleight of hand here. Kelly actually swallowed the hated stuff, then submitted the proof.

"Here are the other capsules," went on the steward, handing the victim a small pill box. "Take one of the capsules at bed time and the other two to-morrow morning and noon. Sergeant Overton, it will be as well for you to see that Kelly obeys the order."

"May I go now?" demanded Kelly.

"Yes."

So sergeant and private passed out together.

"No wonder men sometimes desert," grumbled Private Kelly.

"Nonsense," laughed Hal. "Kelly, you're too good a soldier to be afraid of just a bad taste in the mouth."

"I don't want a bitter taste in me mouth, unless an enemy is smart enough to give it to me," grumbled Kelly, then added, "but by the powers, that steward is an enemy of mine, and I'll have his scalp one of these nights when I catch him outside on pass."

When Hal returned to the porch he picked up his book and disappeared into the quieter squad room, for he had found it rather difficult to study while among the others.

"Long" Green was making considerable noise, lying on his back on the porch, rumbling snores issuing from his wide-open mouth.

"No man has a right to run a Gatling gun like that without a license," muttered Kelly, gazing thoughtfully down at the noisy sleeper. "Boys, whist!"

There was mischief in the Irishman's eyes. Sergeant Hal, from the shadow at the back of the squad room, heard and glanced out.

At a sign from Private Kelly, the other soldiers rose, fleeing softly inside of barracks.

With an air as grave as that of a college professor absorbed in a chemical experiment, Private Kelly drew the pill box from one of his pockets. He took out a capsule, uncapped it, and bent over the sleeper.

Into "Long" Green's open mouth Kelly carefully but swiftly emptied the contents of the capsule of quinine, then joined his comrades in the barracks, all but closing the door.

After a moment Private William Green, asleep though he was, became dimly conscious that something was wrong with his tongue.

Then he awoke. There was a hideously bitter taste in his mouth.

In another instant Private Green had turned ghastly pale, shaking like a leaf. It took him but a moment to realize that he was alone on the porch. Out on the road, some two hundred yards away, a solitary male native was passing. Private Green was a quick guesser.

"Kantab!" he gasped hoarsely.

Then "Long" Green's legs got into swift action. Vaulting the porch rail, and almost falling in his trembling weakness, William made a straight line for the hospital, vanishing inside.

Five minutes later Hospital Steward Hicks appeared on the scene. He was supporting "Long" by one arm, for the soldier was not yet over his fright.

"Kelly," said Steward Hicks, "I find that I made a mistake. The medical authorities do not prescribe the stuff I gave you in a case like yours. So I'll take the capsules back."

"You're welcome," grinned Kelly, passing over the pill box.

"Two capsules; there should be three," remarked the hospital man, after having raised the lid from the box. "Green, you idiot, the kantab you're howling about came from the missing capsule that Kelly can't return to me."

"Do you give kantab at the hospital, too?" gasped "Long," looking more scared than ever.

"We do," said the steward grimly. "But we medical men call it quinine."

First "Long" looked bewildered. Then as the grinning soldiers gave vent to howls of glee a great light began to dawn on the mind of Private Green.

"Kelly, you scoundrel!" he yelled, leaping forward. "I'll take it all back—out of you. On your feet, man!"

But Kelly, convulsed with laughter, sat back in his chair until the irate Green slapped his face. At that the Irishman's resentment leaped to the surface and Kelly followed his recent victim to the ground beyond the porch.

Kelly, however, was weak with inward laughter. Green, therefore, administered some rather severe punishment, and, in the end, sent Kelly to the ground. "Long" couldn't possibly have done this under any other circumstances.

Private Kelly sat there for two or three minutes. Then he got up slowly, his face grave as he stepped to "Long," holding out his hand.

"'Long,' I know now what ailed me," confessed Private Kelly. "'Twas me liver. Your tr-reatment has fixed it up fine. I'll call on ye for another treatment when me liver needs it. By me present feelings I'm thinking 'twill be about to-morrow morning, after guard-mount."



CHAPTER XVIII

SENTRY MIGGS MAKES A GRUESOME FIND

It is not necessary for even the most ardent admirer of Private William Green to feel sorry for the fate of that soldier the next morning after guard-mount at the capable hands of Private Kelly.

Kelly had something else to think about, and so had every other man in the little garrison.

Just before daylight the sentry on number three post had made a horrible discovery. Now that the old guard was relieved, and the new guard was on, the sentry who had made the discovery was able to tell what he knew of it, with such other particulars as had been learned since.

Private Miggs was the sentry in question. Before daylight Miggs had patrolled down to the further end of his post. On his return along post he had discovered something on the ground ahead of him.

When Miggs learned the nature of his discovery he was almost overcome. Being a soldier, he did not faint, but for a few moments he did feel a sensation of nausea.

Then, raising his voice, the sentry called the corporal of the guard to post number three. The corporal and the two members of the guard felt a similar nausea when they arrived on the scene, and it ended in sending for the officer of the day, Lieutenant Dick Prescott.

Without venturing to order the removal of the find, Lieutenant Prescott sent a member of the guard to awaken Captain Cortland.

After the post commander had seen it, the guard removed the ghastly find to the guard house, where it still remained.

What had upset Private Miggs's mental balance was the sight of two severed heads lying on the ground in his path along post. They were the heads of white men.

To each had been tied a piece of coarse paper, and on each paper was rudely traced the likeness of a crab. This crab, as Captain Cortland already knew, was the sign manual of that arch scoundrel of brown skin, the Datto Hakkut. The crab was meant to signify that, while the datto could move forward, he could also crawl sideways or backward—that he was strategist enough to crawl out of any trap that the soldiers might set for him.

As soon as the light came Captain Cortland despatched an armed guard party to bring over to the fort the German physician and three other white residents of Bantoc, to see whether they could identify the severed heads.

The heads proved to be those of two young American doctors of philosophy, Hertford and Sanderson, who had come to Mindanao months before, one for the purpose of securing specimens representing the geological formation of the island, and the other in pursuit of specimens of the plants and flowers.

Despite strong advice to the contrary, as given by the former military commandant at Bantoc, Drs. Hertford and Sanderson, attended only by a small party of natives, had gone into the mountains to gather their specimens. Since then nothing had been heard of the two enthusiastic young scientists—until Sentry Miggs had stumbled upon his gruesome find.

The soldiers discussed little else that morning.

"Of course it was the old brown rascal, Hakkut, who had the young scientific gentlemen killed. Didn't Hakkut have his card tied to each head?" demanded Private Kelly, who was the centre of a group of enlisted men.

The group of officers over in Captain Cortland's office had come to the same conclusion.

"It is the old brown scoundrel's way of showing us his defiance," declared Captain Cortland in a shocked voice. "Why couldn't that pair of enthusiastic boys take good advice and keep out of the mountains? Would their collections of stones and plants be worth as much to any college as the young men's lives would have been worth to themselves?"

"The question is, Cortland, what are we going to do in answer to this defiance?" suggested Captain Freeman, of C Company.

"What are we going to do?" asked Cortland, his face becoming even graver. "We have a very small command here, but there's only one thing we can do. Hakkut has defied us, and, unless he is punished for it, the native respect for American authority in these islands will soon be less than nothing. What are we going to do? There is nothing that we can do but send the strongest column of men that we can spare up into the mountains on the double-quick. We've got to root out that brown scoundrel, and send him and his band running as fast as they can go, or else we shall be forced to admit to the natives that the claim of the American nation to govern Mindanao is only a stupid joke. Our expedition must start before noon!"

"Who will command the column?" inquired Captain Freeman.

"You will command, Freeman. I would give half a year's pay to head the expedition myself, but I am post commander here, and after the greater part of the troops have started the problem here at Bantoc is going to be such a serious one that I feel obliged to remain here and handle it myself."

After thinking a few moments longer, Captain Cortland continued:

"Freeman, you will take sixty men from B Company, and the same number from C Company. I can spare you but two officers, for I shall need the services of Bay and Hampton here. So Holmes will command the C Company detachment, and Prescott the B Company detachment, while you will command the expedition. You will also take one of the two Gatling guns that we have at this post. You will take two wagons for ammunition and one for hospital and similar supplies. Your men will carry such field and emergency rations as you can. For the rest of your food you will have to depend upon the country through which you will pass. I am sorry for this, but on a swift, hard-fighting expedition a command the size of yours cannot be burdened with more wagons."

"That is true," spoke Captain Freeman thoughtfully. "Well, we shall have to do the best we can with the amount of transport and rations that you can put at our disposal. I am anxious now, sir, to get started with the preparations as rapidly as possible."

"Good; it is half-past nine now. You should be ready to march by——"

"By half-past eleven at the latest," supplied Captain Freeman, rising.

Never were preparations more rushed, nor yet more thoroughly made.

First of all, it was necessary to send into Bantoc and recall Lieutenant Holmes and the guard stationed there. With the removal of the troops the lives of the white people residing in Bantoc would be in immediate danger. So the twenty-five or thirty white residents were obliged to accompany the guard out to Fort Benjamin Franklin, where they were to be provided with temporary quarters.

Ten minutes before the time named by Captain Freeman all had been accomplished. The column was ready and started.

B Company's detachment marched first. Behind this came the transport wagons and the Gatling gun. The C Company detachment, under Lieutenant Greg Holmes, brought up the rear.

Taking into account those who had lately been killed and wounded, and also the guard under Sergeant Dinsmore, left out at the Seaforth plantation, Captain Cortland had remaining as a garrison about sixty effective soldiers. These must preserve the safety of the post and the order of Bantoc through the twenty-four hours of each day.

No soldier in the marching column deluded himself with the belief that he was starting on a brief expedition. Every man knew that it would be weeks before they were likely to set eyes again on Fort Franklin. It was, moreover, wholly probable that some of the soldiers now marching would never see the fort again.

Yet officers and men tramped away unconcernedly. All acted, and felt, very much as though this had been merely a practice march through a peaceful country.

Noll Terry was jubilant. Hal had seen active service on this island, and now his chum was about to do the same thing. The first taste of real service is always dear to the heart of a good soldier.

Night brought the command within three or four miles of the foot of the mountains. The next morning was still young when the column wound its way up into the lower portion of the mountains.

Captain Freeman was not marching blindly. He was provided with military maps of the mountains. Then, again, not all the Moros were hostile to the Americans. There were many friendly natives, and some of them had slyly brought word to the post of the location of Datto Hakkut and his forces at the last report.

As to the number of men with the datto, the statements of the natives had varied. They had estimated the datto's force at all the way from fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred fighting men. Captains Cortland and Freeman, with their knowledge of the native tendency to exaggerate, had thus fixed the probable number at about eight hundred men.

The second and the third days passed. The troops were now far up in the mountains, though up to that time they had not encountered the enemy. Captain Freeman, however, pushed forward, feeling confident that he would sooner or later encounter the datto's forces.

On the fourth morning, an hour after daylight, the troops were again under way. They moved slowly, for the roads were in bad condition and the column could not go ahead at greater speed than the transport wagons could maintain.

A "point" was out in advance, followed by a slightly larger advance guard. Behind marched a watchful rear guard. The little column, for its own safety and convenience, was strung out over a goodly length of road.

As Lieutenant Prescott passed, Sergeant Noll Terry stepped out and saluted.

"What is it, Sergeant?"

"If it is proper, I would like the lieutenant's permission to go up ahead and walk with Sergeant Overton."

"That will be all right, Sergeant—if you will remember that, in case of emergency, you are to return hastily to your proper place in the line."

"Thank you; I will, sir."

"Very good, Sergeant."

Once more saluting, Noll hastened up forward.

"You have a message?" asked Hal.

"No; but I have the lieutenant's permission to walk with you."

"I'm glad of it, chum. Talking makes the walking easier."

"Walking—yes," grumbled Noll. "I'm afraid that's about all we're going to get out of this hike."

"Never pray for a fight, Noll. It's all right when it has to be, but any real fight always means the last hour for some good fellows."

"I'm no hog for a fight," grunted Terry, "but I'd like to have just a little real practice, after the long, long time I've had to put in preparing for it."

"Hm!" smiled Sergeant Hal. "I could almost qualify as a member of a peace society. I don't care how long it is before the next fight. I'd hate to see it come along this stretch of road."

"Why?"

"Well, look over at our left, Noll. Below us is a deep gully, with a swift stream flowing. Beyond it is that wooded ledge. Any number of Moros could conceal themselves there and fire at us, and we couldn't reach 'em with the bayonet. Ahead——"

Sergeant Hal may have finished, but, if he did, his voice was drowned out by the savage clamor of yells ahead. Barely a hundred yards beyond the point came a rushing mob of Moros, shooting and brandishing creeses.

From the wooded, inaccessible ledge to the left came a sudden, rapid firing that made the air hot with bullets directed at Uncle Sam's men.



CHAPTER XIX

HAL TURNS THE GATLING GUN LOOSE

"Gatling gun to the head of the line! Lie down, men!"

Two men dropped even before the order had been given, for Moro bullets had found them.

After firing volleys, the "point" and advance guard fell back on the run.

"Take the infantry fire at this point, Sergeant Overton!" commanded Lieutenant Prescott briskly.

"Open magazines! Load magazines!" shouted Sergeant Hal to the men in the swiftly formed front rank. "Ready, aim! At will, point-blank range—fire!"

Prettily enough the American fire opened on the Moros rushing down the narrow path.

The centre of the American column, at Lieutenant Holmes's order, opened fire across the gully at the wooded ambush on the left.

Captain Freeman took up his stand a little forward of the centre, where he could watch the fire in both directions.

"Hurry up that Gatling gun, Prescott."

"Yes, sir."

Prescott and two privates were working at lightning speed to get the Gatling placed. Then the lieutenant fed in a belt of ammunition.

"Sergeant Terry, relieve Sergeant Overton in charge of the advancing firing line. Overton, come here."

"Yes, sir," responded Hal, running up and saluting.

Lieutenant Prescott was just finishing the sighting of the Gatling.

"Attend to the firing of this piece, Sergeant. Fire steadily, though not at fullest speed. Keep it going continuously until it becomes too hot, or until I give the word to stop."

"Very good, sir."

"Begin firing, Sergeant."

Hal's answer was to turn the firing mechanism loose.

R-r-r-r-rip! rang out the exploding cartridges too rapidly for count. Hal swung the nose of the piece slightly from side to side, and the storm of Gatling bullets raked thoroughly the road ahead.

At first the on-rushing Moros had been almost stopped by the sudden, low, accurate infantry fire. They were to be seen ahead in great force, and the cries of their leaders drove them on with greater steadiness.

Now, as the crackling of the Gatling rose on the air, and its projectiles swept the road ahead, constantly supported by brisk infantry fire from at least forty men, the natives were forced to halt. Then they wavered. The hoarse, taunting cries of their leaders, however, drove them forward again.

Twice they wavered, under the blistering fire of the regulars, though each time their leaders succeeded in driving the brown men forward again.

When the fight opened there were at least six hundred yelling Moros in sight, but they were now dropping by scores.

Then, with a wild yell, three hundred more rushed around the base of a low hill, joining the assailants.

"Are the Moros cowards?" demanded the deep, penetrating voice of one of the leaders. "Are the Moros women, that they would live forever? Has heaven no joys for the faithful that you would remain so long away?"

That stirred the fanatical blood of the brown men. They were equal to anything, now! On they dashed, though the Gatling and the steady infantry fire withered the ranks in advance.

On they came, disdaining, now, to return rifle fire with rifle fire. Over their own dead and wounded stepped the brown men, and rushed on.

"Cease firing there, Sergeant Terry. Give 'em the steel!" bellowed Lieutenant Prescott hoarsely, using his hands for a trumpet, though he stood barely twelve feet from young Terry.

"Cease firing," Noll repeated squarely in the bugler's ear. Then the notes of the bugle arose, clear and loud. The firing died out.

"It's cold steel, men! Fix bayonets!" shouted Sergeant Noll.

But Sergeant Hal and two men had dragged the Gatling, momentarily silenced, to one side of the road, where they could still employ this machine of destruction.

Another belt of cartridges Sergeant Overton fed in. Then he started the machine again.

R-r-r-r-rip! The Gatling was performing at hand-to-hand quarters now. Noll sent a dozen men to stand by the gun, defending it from capture with their lives.

Clash! Zing! Slash! Slash! Thrust—cut! It was steel against steel now. On more open ground the Moros might have had a slight advantage, for they are skilled users of the sword and creese, and when their blood is up they know little in the way of terror.

R-r-r-r-r-rip! It was the Gatling, at such close quarters, that now dismayed the brown men. With no mean quality of heroism, they threw themselves against the gun's defenders. They would seize that demon of machinery and hurl it over into the gully below. But the doughboys, with bayonets stationed on the sides of the gun, thrust or stabbed them back. No native approached the muzzle of the Gatling and lived to cause further trouble. In as wide an arc as possible Sergeant Hal swung the nose of the piece from side to side.

Private Danton, standing close to Hal, ready to feed in the next belt of cartridges, fell with a Moro bullet in his brain. Another soldier sprang forward, snatched up the belt of ammunition and stood ready to feed.

Fully twenty-five hundred rounds of Gatling ammunition were thus fired into the dense brown ranks before the Moros felt that they could endure it no longer. On that narrow road they had failed to reach the piece itself. Four brown sharpshooters, back in the ranks, had been detailed by a Moro officer to climb a tree and fill with lead the body of the indomitable young sergeant. As the bullets sang past his head, Hal discovered the tree, turned the Gatling muzzle that way, and fairly shot the leaves off a portion of it. Two of the sharpshooters dropped, riddled through. The other pair dropped from sheer terror.



Now that the execution on that narrow mountain road was becoming more than flesh and blood could stand, the Moros broke in pell-mell confusion.

"Forward, there, Lieutenant Prescott!" yelled Captain Freeman. "Give 'em the bayonet. But don't let your men get away from you."

Prescott's answer was conveyed only by a wave of his stick. After the fleeing Moros he rushed his men, and the Malays in the rear received many an ugly wound.

"Keep the Gatling close up with the advance, Sergeant!" ordered Captain Freeman, striding forward.

When the Moros in front had gotten to hand-to-hand quarters the flanking fire from across the gully had ceased, after having killed two of Freeman's men and wounding six more. Now it reopened.

"Halt, Sergeant! Swing that Gatling around. Turn it loose across the gully."

R-r-r-r-r-rip! Captain Freeman sent two men back on the run to bring up more ammunition for the machine gun. Within two minutes the fire from across the gully had ceased. In the meantime three more regulars of the centre had been hit.

"Now, run it forward, Sergeant," commanded Captain Freeman. "Support Lieutenant Prescott. The Moros have halted him for the moment."

Again the Gatling went into action up front, where Sergeant Noll Terry, in the front rank, was taking more than his share of the attack, though as yet he had given many wounds and received none. Yet Prescott's advance would have been driven back had it not been for the prompt arrival of the machine gun.

The transport and rear guard were coming up now.

"Corporal," called Captain Freeman, "my compliments to Lieutenant Prescott, and tell him that I want the whole line to move forward as rapidly as possible. Our only safety, now, lies in getting as quickly as possible off this road and into an open country."

Prescott received the order, and right loyally responded. As often as possible the Gatling, now up with the advance, was given an opportunity to cool.

Within twenty minutes after the opening of the attack the Moro spirit was broken for the time. They had had more than a hundred men killed and wounded, and that was all the brown men could stand for the first onset.

"Don't pursue any further," ordered Captain Freeman, well up with the advance by this time. "Let the rascals get away if they don't interfere with our advance. We'll have them at hand to fight when we're ready, Lieutenant. What we must do now is to get a place where we can fortify ourselves and look after our wounded."

"We've a heavy list, I fear, sir."

"Heavy enough," replied Captain Freeman gravely.

There was no further opposition to the advance of the regulars, who, despite the great inferiority of their numbers, had made the brown men respect their fighting grit and prowess. Within ten minutes after Captain Freeman's order to abandon the chase there was no visible evidence that there were any Moros in the neighboring mountains.

"March to the right, and take that hill yonder in quick time, Lieutenant Prescott," directed Captain Freeman.

"Very good, sir."

"Follow the lieutenant, you men with the Gatling," ordered the commanding officer, and Hal and his comrades covered the ground as quickly as they could. No opposition was offered to their taking the hill. Here the first regulars to arrive dropped down panting, though Prescott, Hal and Noll remained standing and vigilant. Slowly the rest of the column climbed the hill. After a brief rest the men were set to work fortifying the crest of this little rise of ground.

No trench is ever dug, by a wise commander, at the exact top of a hill, but always at a point a little below, which is called the "military crest." If the trench were on the top of the hill, every time the men raised themselves to fire, their heads and trunks would stand out too clearly defined against the sky-line, and make them easy marks for an enemy below.

Up on the top of the hill, however, was a depression in the ground. Into this space the transport wagons were driven, and here the dead were laid out and the wounded attended to.

A deadly morning's work it had proved. Five infantrymen had been killed, twelve were wounded badly enough to be out of the fighting lists for the present, while twenty-two others, though more or less wounded, were still fit for duty.

"Now, chum, you see what follows the fighting," murmured Hal in Noll's ear. "How do you like what follows the fighting?"

"It looks some grim," Sergeant Terry admitted, wrapping his left hand where a creese had made a gash. "But what are we here for, and why are we soldiers, if this sort of thing doesn't appeal to us?"

"I'm afraid you're hopelessly blood-thirsty," smiled Hal.

"No; I'm not. I enlisted because I believed I'd like the soldier life, and fighting is the highest expression of the soldier's work."

"Hello, there, 'Long'!" called Private Kelly.

"Yes?" answered Private William Green, turning at the hail.

"Did you bring along your kantab and pass plenty of it to the goo-goos?"

"I'll make no money here," grunted William disdaining to answer Kelly's teasing question. "There's no chance to spend money here, so none of the fellows will borrow from me."

"Making no money?" Kelly rebuked him. "Man, isn't your government pay running along, and ain't ye glad ye're here to be drawing it?"

"I don't like this fighting business," grumbled Slosson.

"Why not?" inquired Kelly in mild surprise.

"In that hike I lost my pipe. Lucky for me I brought two more along in my pack. I'll get one of them out, now. Want the other, Kelly?"

"I do not, lad, and my thanks to you. Slosson, I'm beginning to think we ought to force the brown men to accept pipes. If they smoked 'em the way you do yours there'd soon be fewer of the pesky brown goo-goos in this land."



CHAPTER XX

CORPORAL DUXBRIDGE'S MISTAKE

Fortunately there was water, a clear, cool spring of it just below the trench line. As soon as the men were rested, Captain Freeman detailed a score of them to haul water up into camp.

"Don't get into groups, you water carriers, either," Lieutenant Prescott called after the men as they started down the slope with buckets. "Keep apart. If you don't, some of the Moros in the distance will be taking pot-shots and getting some of you."

The day wore on, and it looked as though the Moros were still running.

"I'd hate to have to take ten men and fight all of the enemy who are within two thousand yards of here," declared Captain Freeman in the hearing of a large part of his command. "The datto has us all in a bunch and he'll hang to us until he has wiped us out."

"I don't believe he can do it, sir," retorted Lieutenant Greg Holmes.

"No; but the brown rascal thinks he can, which amounts to the same thing as far as he is concerned. Mr. Holmes, you may safely take my word for it that the datto has made up his own mind not to allow one of us ever to get back in safety to Bantoc."

Late in the afternoon the five soldiers who had been slain were placed in a row at the top of the hill.

"Too bad we haven't a Flag to drape the poor fellows with," said Captain Freeman sorrowfully.

"We have a Flag with us, sir," spoke up Hal, saluting.

"Where is it, Sergeant?"

"In a small parcel in one of the ammunition wagons, sir."

"How does it happen to be there, Sergeant?"

"I put it in myself, sir. It's the Flag that the Moros hauled down from the flagstaff over the schoolhouse near Seaforth's—the Flag they slashed and danced upon. I picked it up at that time, sir; and when we started on this expedition I placed the Flag in one of the wagons."

"Why did you do that, Sergeant?"

"Because I was in hopes that before we get through with this expedition, sir, we'd find a chance to make Datto Hakkut and his men salute the American Flag."

"Bring the Flag here, Sergeant."

Hal brought it, and its tattered folds were so laid that some remnant of the bunting touched each of the five bodies of the slain soldiers.

Assembling half his command, while the other half watched in the trenches, Captain Freeman read the prayers and the service for the dead. Three volleys were fired over the graves after the slain men had been laid in them. Bugler Swanson blew "taps," after which the graves were carefully filled and the tops sodded so that roving Moros would not afterwards find and desecrate these graves, sacred to the American people. All in good time the American military authorities would send and exhume these remains, transferring them to marked resting places in military cemeteries.

Before supper Captain Freeman summoned his two officers in council with him.

"I want to talk with you young gentlemen," began the captain, "for the reason that, of course, by the fortunes of war, I may be removed at any moment. If anything happens to me Mr. Prescott is to be regarded as ranking officer. Now, I want you both to understand my plan in taking up my position on this hill. Do either of you guess it?"

"I think I do, sir," replied Lieutenant Prescott, after a pause.

"Very good, Mr. Prescott. What is my reason?"

"You were sent out, sir, to meet Datto Hakkut, fight him and disperse his forces."

"Exactly," nodded the captain.

"This hill, sir, will be a hard nut for the brown men to crack. If he hopes to do it, Hakkut must get every available fighting man here on the spot."

"You're right," nodded Freeman.

"Thus, sir, you hope to force Hakkut to concentrate his whole fighting force in this immediate country. If you get all the rascals in front of you you'll have them all in one lot to whip."

"You've fathomed my plan very easily, Mr. Prescott, and you've exactly stated it. Now, though I shall take pains to be sure that the Moros remain in this neighborhood, I shall not force any very hard fighting for two or three days. Our rations will last longer than that, with care. After I've given Hakkut time enough to get his whole crew together then I shall go after them as hard as I can considering the size of this force. Also, by waiting, we shall give several of our wounded men time to get back into fighting condition."

"But what, sir," broke in Lieutenant Holmes, "if the datto takes your negative course for a confession of weakness, and attempts to carry this hill by assault?"

"Answer that, if you can, Mr. Prescott," directed Captain Freeman, turning to the other West Pointer.

"Why, I imagine, sir, that you hope your seeming inactivity will provoke Hakkut into trying to carry this hill by assault. This hill, defended by regulars, will be no easy place to take from us, and Hakkut will lose so many of his men that the experience will be a good lesson for him."

"That's the idea," nodded the commanding officer. "Now, gentlemen, you understand the plan thus far. But there's another important point to remember. If we are cooped up here for very many days, then the men will have nothing left to eat but grass and gravel. So you will understand that, presently, it is going to be a matter of prime necessity for us to be able to leave here and forage. Therefore, during our comparative inactivity, we must provoke Hakkut into as many assaults as possible upon this position. The more attempts he makes the more his fighting men will be demoralized when we at last fight our way through his lines."

During that night no attack was made, and the men had little to do beyond carrying out guard duty. Hakkut had undoubtedly dispatched messengers to bring all possible fighting men to the scene.

Nor in the morning, even two hours after daylight, was there any sign of the enemy. Captain Freeman at last took up his field glass again and intently studied a deep forest some twelve hundred yards below.

"Sergeant Overton!"

"Sir?"

"Have the Gatling and a belt of ammunition brought up."

"Very good, sir."

When the Gatling had been placed, Captain Freeman handed his glass to the young sergeant.

"Overton, look through the glass and see if you can discover the line of timber that I'm going to describe to you."

Hal very soon had the spot located.

"Now, Sergeant, sight the Gatling for twelve hundred yards. Do it carefully. When you are ready do what you can to stir up life along that line of timber."

While Sergeant Hal was making ready, Captain Freeman remained attentively watching the timber line through his glass.

R-r-r-r-r-r-rip! Hal served with speed and intensity.

"Just as I thought!" exclaimed the commanding officer. "You've got a line of brown men on the nervous jump down there. Keep it up a little longer, Sergeant. Sweep over a wider area."

Then, after a pause:

"Cease firing."

For an hour Captain Freeman let the enemy rest. He was watching other points through his glass. At last he ordered the Gatling into action again. The trick was played a third time that morning, and each time some of the Moros were disturbed.

"That's one of the things I wanted to know," remarked Captain Freeman at last. "Hakkut has this camp completely surrounded, but is keeping his men quiet. I wish we had two or three more Gatlings and a whole wagon load of this special ammunition. We could make it interesting for the goo-goos."

However, the datto made no move to attack, though Captain Freeman believed that the rebel, by this time, must have twelve hundred fighting men, at least, in the forests below.

"Hakkut may realize the difficulty of assaulting us here, and may be waiting for huge reinforcements," Captain Freeman confided to his two lieutenants. "Moreover, I think it extremely likely that we have been caught underestimating the force of the enemy."

"There's one good thing about this style of campaigning, sir," smiled Prescott, "It isn't eating up any more men in casualties."

"No; but the datto is figuring that he's letting us eat up our rations."

There were no attacks that afternoon or evening. The next morning Captain Freeman hesitated as to whether or not he should send out a party in force to "locate and develop" the enemy. But he decided not to do so.

"To-morrow, though," declared the captain to his lieutenants, "we'll break through the line somewhere."

That third night Sergeant Hal was placed in charge of the guard, with Lieutenant Greg Holmes as his direct superior. On the side of camp where the commanding officer thought the enemy most numerous, Hal placed Corporal Duxbridge in charge.

"Don't close your eyes to-night, Corporal," warned the young sergeant. "You can get your sleep in the daytime. This is the point where the greatest vigilance is needed. This point is really the key to the camp, and every man who lies down to sleep to-night leaves his life in your hands."

"All right," replied Corporal Duxbridge in a voice that sounded weary.

"You'll be sure to keep awake?"

"I know my business, Sergeant."

Hal Overton did not particularly like Duxbridge. He belonged to C Company, and was a man subject to occasional fits of crankiness. But Duxbridge, as well as the others, had his share of duty to perform.

Late that night one of the men of the guard, stationed not far from Duxbridge, thought that he heard a slight noise down the slope. He listened only a moment, then felt sure that he had espied a figure crawling along further down the slope.

"Halt!" called the soldier. "Halt or I'll fire. Who's there?"

"A friend," came the answer in perfectly good English. "For Heaven's sake don't fire. We've had enough of horrors with the fiends below. Where's Corporal Duxbridge? He knows me."

"Corporal Duxbridge is on duty at this point," returned the soldier. "How many of you are there?"

"Seven; but I will come up alone first and speak with the corporal."

Duxbridge was called quietly. The corporal had been dozing for twenty minutes, and he awoke with mind somewhat befogged.

The stranger below, who had been allowed to advance, now stepped up to where the corporal could scrutinize him.

"Why, I know this man," declared the corporal. "His name's Eusebio Davo. He's a wealthy Tagalo, loyal to the government and a good man. What's the trouble, Senor Davo?"

"Corporal, I went south in the island to pick up some laborers from the Manobo tribe. I got forty together and was on my way through this country, not knowing that the Moros were out. So we were caught, this afternoon, and taken before the Datto Hakkut. He ordered us into his ranks to fight. We demurred, and four of my fellows were cut down before my eyes. Then we accepted arms. But to-night we tried to creep through the datto's lines and get here. All but the six men with me were caught, and their fate must have been awful."

Senor Davo shuddered, then went on:

"I come to beseech you that you allow my poor fellows to come inside your lines. You know me, Corporal, and know that we're all right."

"Yes, bring your men inside our line," decided Corporal Duxbridge. "I'll vouch for you, Senor Davo, to our commanding officer."

Protesting his undying gratitude, Davo went below for his men, and brought them inside the lines, a sorry looking lot of fellows who at once threw themselves down as if to sleep.

"You'll notify Sergeant Overton, of course?" suggested the soldier who had first halted Davo.

"You mind your business, Strong," Corporal Duxbridge rebuked him. "I'll notify the sergeant in good time."

But Hal, as it happened, was nearer than had been imagined. Unobserved he had listened to the whole conversation. Now, Overton hastened silently away, awaking Lieutenant Holmes and ten soldiers. Without undue haste these marched down on Duxbridge's station.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"The officer of the day and the sergeant of the guard," came the response, in Lieutenant Holmes's crisp tones.

"Advance, sir."

The seven new arrivals lay on the ground, apparently sound asleep. Davo had his hat over his face, and was snoring lightly.

"Who are these new men in camp, Corporal?" demanded Holmes sharply.

"Fugitives from the datto's lines, sir. I was about to notify the sergeant of the guard, sir."

"Don't let them get away," spoke Hal quickly to the men, "and remember that they're armed with steel! This fellow, who calls himself Davo is Vicente Tomba, a Tagalo who is right-hand man to the datto," added the sergeant, bending and snatching the hat from the Tagalo's face.

It was truly Tomba, who, with a snarl, leaped to his feet ere Hal Overton could grab him.

"Shoot him!" ordered Lieutenant Holmes, as Tomba went over the trench and down the slope at sprinting speed. Three or four rifles spoke, but Tomba escaped in the darkness.

Not so, however, with the men Tomba had brought with him. Not one of them escaped. All were stretched on the ground senseless, having been clubbed with the butts of the soldiers' rifles. Then, a quick search under the shirt of each of the rascals, revealed a creese with blade ground to a razor edge.

"You see, Corporal," ripped out Sergeant Hal, "these scoundrels were going to watch their chance to knife you all in the dark. Then the Moros would have rushed in at this point, and——"

Hal's prediction was verified, at that instant, by the breaking out of a fiendish chorus of yells down the slope. The Moros, waiting below, were advancing to a night attack.

"Bugler of the guard! Sound the general alarm!" roared out Lieutenant Holmes's steady tones.



CHAPTER XXI

SCOUTING IN DEADLY EARNEST

It was a ferocious attack, promptly and staunchly met.

Soldiers in the field on campaign sleep in their full clothing, their rifles at their sides. It takes not more than ten seconds to turn a soldier out in the night, fully awake and ready for orders. The knowledge that their lives depend upon their promptness keeps the men in condition for quick obedience.

Even the Gatling was ready at the top of the hill. From point to point it was dragged, and wherever it was served the midnight assailants soon drew back.

For twenty minutes the conflict was kept up, often at closest quarters. But at last the sounding of the Moro horns in the rear called off the assailants, who fled in the darkness.

"How did this all happen, Mr. Holmes?" asked Captain Freeman. "I must congratulate you on being alert and ready for the brown men."

"Sergeant Overton had just called me, sir. And I think you will wish to hear what he has to say."

Hal was sent for and reported instantly.

"I know, now, sir, why Tomba wanted to make my acquaintance, and that of Sergeant Terry, sir," Hal explained, and then told what had happened.

"How did Corporal Duxbridge ever happen to do a thing like that?" demanded Freeman angrily.

"Tomba had already made the Corporal's acquaintance, sir. Tomba wanted to make mine, and Terry's, as soon as he knew the Thirty-fourth was coming to these southern islands. It was Tomba's belief that he could run a gang of creese men past us, and get inside where he could knife the nearest soldiers, and then let an attacking party in."

"If the Moros had ever gotten through our line they'd have wiped the camp out to-night," exclaimed Captain Freeman.

"Of course they would, sir, and that is the way in which Tomba, even in Manila, had planned to make our acquaintance, and use it for just such an undertaking as to-night's. It seems, sir, that having failed with us, he succeeded in getting on the right side of Corporal Duxbridge."

"Where, I wonder?" muttered the captain. "And where is the Corporal?"

"Just taken up above with the wounded, sir," replied Lieutenant Holmes. "Corporal Duxbridge was hit, sir."

"Let us go up to see him. Where are the six natives?"

"Tied, sir, and up with the wounded."

Corporal Duxbridge, when the commanding officer visited him, felt sheepish enough, despite the great pain he was in. He now readily explained how Tomba, under the assumed name of Davo, had made his acquaintance in Bantoc. Tomba had spent money so freely in entertaining him that Duxbridge had been certain that the man must be a wealthy, good-natured Tagalo.

"I hope you've learned a lesson, Corporal," said Captain Freeman sadly. "You're one of five wounded in to-night's performance, and two of our finest men are dead."

Corporal Duxbridge covered his face with his hands.

"I was a big fool," he confessed brokenly.

There were no more attacks that night, but in the morning the Moros developed a new style of trouble. All through the day, from one point or another, they kept the American trenches under fire at frequent intervals. Captain Freeman, however, refused to allow his men to waste ammunition. They must not fire until the brown men attempted an assault.

That night only half rations were served to the defenders of the hill. There was but little food left. During the night there were three assaults against the force on the hill, though none of them were desperately fought.

"Hakkut is going to adopt a new trick of keeping us awake day and night," muttered Captain Freeman grimly.

The next day there was more annoying firing against the trenches, though the Moros had learned their lesson too well to attempt any rushes during daylight.

Just after dark, that evening, Captain Freeman sent for his officers. He also allowed Hal and Noll and two sergeants from C Company to be on hand to hear the discussion.

"To-morrow night, at the latest, we've got to fight our way out of here," announced Captain Freeman. "To remain here later than to-morrow night will be to invite starvation—which, in our position, means nothing less than destruction. I fear, too, that we shall be obliged to abandon our transport wagons. Our wounded we can carry on stretchers made with poles and blankets. There must be some point in the Moro line where we can break through—some point so weakly guarded that we can be on our way before the brown rascals can gather in force enough to put up a hard fight. This fact can be determined only through the work of a scouting party."

"I shall be delighted, sir, to volunteer for scouting duty," spoke up Lieutenant Prescott.

"And I also, sir," added Lieutenant Holmes.

"Thank you. I knew that you would both be ready," replied the commanding officer. "Yet we must remember that, while our scouts are out to-night, this camp is also extremely liable to attack. If the latter be the case, I do not see how I can spare either of my officers. Now, I have cause to remember a time when, in the mountains of Colorado, when on practice field duty, two of our non-commissioned officers especially distinguished themselves as scouts. I believe that both of the young men still possess that ability in marked degree. It seems to me that the choice of a leader for a scouting party lies between Sergeants Overton and Terry."

"Thank you, sir," broke in Sergeant Hal gravely. "May I suggest, sir, that there is no need of making a choice between us? I would like to go on this duty, sir, and I'd rather have Sergeant Terry with me than any other enlisted man in the regiment."

"I'm ready, sir," declared Noll promptly.

"It seems almost foolish to allow two such excellent sergeants to go," returned Captain Freeman gravely. "You see, we need as good men in the camp as we do outside of it. However, let it be as you wish, Sergeant Overton. How many men do you think you will need with you?"

"None, sir, except Sergeant Terry," spoke Hal.

"Are two enough for safety, Sergeant, in your opinion."

"Two men are safer than a dozen on scouting duty, I think, sir. Two men can get through in places where even four men would be caught at it."

"But if caught, two are a small number for defensive purposes."

"There won't be much defense possible, sir, if we're caught; but I think Sergeant Terry agrees with me that we ought not to be caught."

"Will you take your rifle and bayonet, Sergeant?"

"I'd rather not, sir. In fact, the plan that has come into my mind at this moment is for Sergeant Terry and myself to stain our faces and bodies with juice from the berries of the boka bush that is growing inside our lines. Then we'll rob two of the native prisoners of their clothing, under which we can each carry a service revolver and a creese. That is, sir, if you approve my plan."

Captain Freeman was silent for some moments.

"I'm afraid you're planning an especially desperate undertaking, Sergeant Overton. I quite understand your idea in dressing like natives. But if you are seen, you will be spoken to. It will be in the native tongue. What then? You can't answer in native speech."

"But I think, sir," argued Hal, "that you'll agree that there are probably men from several tribes under the datto's command. In that case many different tribal dialects will be spoken. Noll—pardon me, sir—Sergeant Terry and I can answer in any heathen-sounding, guttural sort of words, and look stupid."

"It's quite difficult, my lad, to improvise a pretended language on the spur of the moment."

"Hakka kado me no tonga, lakka prada estig ferente," rejoined Hal Overton, with a grin.

"Dikka mone peditti u nono mate ben," said Noll cheerfully.

"What language is that, lads?" demanded Captain Freeman.

"New Jersey hog-Latin, I imagine, sir," replied Sergeant Hal soberly.

"I do not believe, gentlemen, that we can send better scouts than Sergeants Overton and Terry," said Captain Freeman.

His two subordinates expressed their agreement.

"Sergeants, you may go and prepare yourselves. Do it as speedily as you can, and report to me as soon as you are ready."

There was sullen objection from two of the native prisoners, when their clothing was taken from them. Hal and Noll, however, loaned their blankets in exchange.

"You know, Noll, if we don't succeed to-night, we shall have no further use for our blankets, anyway," Hal remarked dryly.

"I've thought of that," Sergeant Terry nodded.

After they had dyed their skin and hair with the juice of the boka the two Army boys next distributed a liberal amount of dirt on themselves, then drew on the borrowed clothing, consisting only of shirts and short trousers. Inside their clothing each tucked a sharp-edged creese, also a loaded service revolver.

"You'll do, in the dark," nodded Captain Freeman, after looking them over keenly. "Of course, you won't show yourselves in a strong light, anyway. Now, you don't need instructions. You understand your errand."

Captain Freeman himself took the two Army boys through the darkness to the trench.

"I am turning these fellows loose, men," the captain announced. "But don't allow any of the others to go through the lines."

To the captain's relief, the disguises appeared to "work" well in the dark, for the men on guard in the trench merely saluted.



CHAPTER XXII

PLAYING GOO-GOO IN A GRIM GAME

Down the slope the Army boys walked boldly for a few hundred yards. The night was so dark that there was small possibility of being seen at a distance.

"Now, we'd better go a little more cautiously," whispered Hal, checking his companion by a touch on the arm.

"It's going to rain within a very few minutes," Noll whispered in return, as he looked up at the inky sky overhead.

"The more rain the better. I hope there will be no lightning."

"Where are you going to try to slip through the lines?"

"Do you remember the gully that runs back through the woods below, somewhat to our left as we stand now?" queried Hal.

"Yes; certainly."

"That gully is a trap such as sane soldiers would hardly dare venture into. If they did, and were discovered, the Moros could annihilate them from above."

"Surely," nodded Noll.

"Therefore I have an idea that the Moros haven't attempted to guard that gully in force, though there may be men on either side above it. Noll, if we are careful not to make a sound I think we can steal through that gully without getting caught."

"Or else we'll run into a hundred times as much trouble as we can handle," replied Noll thoughtfully.

"It's worth taking a chance, isn't it?"

"I think it's the best single chance I can see."

"Come along, then," whispered Hal. "You might keep just a little behind me. I think I can find the mouth of the gully, even in this pitchy blackness. If you see me drop to my knees, do the same."

Hal started forward again. The natural-born scout, once he has observed a place in the daylight, has some kind of an instinct that guides him to the same spot in the darkness.

Sergeant Hal had not gone far when the rain began to descend. There were distant rumblings of thunder, but no lightning. For this he was thankful. He hoped to be behind the Moro lines before lightning began to flash.

Two wanderers in front of the enemy's lines would be sure to excite suspicion, while two seeming natives behind the lines would attract little attention.

Presently Sergeant Overton dropped to his knees, peering ahead and listening keenly, as he crept along. Sergeant Terry imitated his chum. Hal crawled within fifty feet of the mouth of the gully, just a little south of it. After a moment's pause he obtained his bearings and extended one arm in silent direction to Noll.

Then they crept noiselessly into the mouth of the gully. So far they had not been hailed, but this was not positive proof that human eyes were not watching their movements.

Once inside the gully they moved, cautiously, still on hands and knees, halting after every advance of two or three feet. They were shivering in their thin raiment, for the rain was heavy and cold. Noll's teeth were all but chattering.

"I don't believe the gully is guarded at all," whispered young Overton in his friend's ear. "This place looks so like a trap that few military commanders would ever think of leading men into it in the dark. I figure that the datto thought this gully not worth guarding by night."

"The slopes above us on either side may be well guarded, however," warned Noll.

"Yes; and you can wager that we'll know all about that before we try to go back to camp," returned Hal. "The place to start such an investigation is from the rear of the enemy's lines."

"All right; lead on."

They had gone another hundred feet into the gully when Hal Overton stopped again. Now he rose to his feet.

"We'll walk through," he whispered. "I don't believe we will run into any of the datto's men hereabouts. If we do, leave it to me to do the first talking."

"Jersey hog-Latin?" queried Noll, with a grin.

"Of course; Spanish or English would be fatal to fellows who look the part that we're rigged up to play."

Hal walked on, steadily, though with caution. Noll kept a few feet behind him until the gully widened, then stepped to his chum's side.

Neither spoke. There was danger in unnecessary conversation. They had covered six hundred feet more when they felt, rather than saw, that they were nearing the further end of the gully.

At last they stepped out into the open—then received a sudden shock. Less than a dozen feet away a Moro sentry, rifle on shoulder, halted, regarding them keenly.

"Manu batto dobi kem," murmured Hal to his chum, in a low voice. Noll answered in the same low tone. Both were shaking with more than the chill of the rain, but Hal turned to the sentry, inquiring mildly:

"Hoppo tuti sen antrim mak?"

The Moro sentry shook his head. He did not understand that dialect.

"Basta morti hengo pas tum," murmured Hal regretfully, hesitating before the sentry.

"Manga tim no troka," remarked Noll.

Hal turned slowly, nodding at his chum. Then both strolled along, the sentry merely staring after them.

"That's the advantage of scouting within the lines of an enemy where many tongues are spoken," whispered Noll in his chum's ear.

The Army boys had not gone twenty feet, however, when they ran into another Moro sentry, who stood under a tree evidently trying to keep out of the rain.

This sentry addressed them with two or three words in the Moro tongue.

"Banda nokku him slengo mat," replied Hal.

Again the sentry spoke to them, accompanying his words with a gesture that seemed to order them to pass on. The Army boys were glad enough to obey.

"We're right in the middle of the hornet's nest," whispered Noll.

Fifty feet further on the Army boys came upon a rudely built shack under which a number of brown men were huddled to escape the rain.

"The outpost crowd," whispered Hal. "Noll, I believe we're getting into the heart of the Moros' camp."

Noll was about to answer, but at that moment discerning another sentry, a few yards ahead, checked his reply. This sentinel they managed to pass without words. Being well within the enemy's lines now, and apparently natives themselves, the Army boys were not as likely to attract suspicion to themselves.

A heavier downpour of rain drove the young scouts for a moment under the spreading branches of a large tree.

"This job is almost as easy as stealing the marmalade from mother's preserve closet," chuckled Sergeant Noll, despite his discomfort.

"This place is like a good many traps," replied Hal. "It seems easy enough to get in, but remember, boy, we've got to get out."

As soon as the rain slackened somewhat the two scouts sauntered on again. Here and there they passed rude shacks in which Moros and allied natives were sleeping. Then the young scouts came upon a new scene that made them fairly catch their breath.

They were standing by a mud wall now, a wall of about nine feet in height. There could be no doubt that this was a Moro fort, erected for a particular purpose, and Hal's active mind immediately fathomed that purpose.

"The datto's own headquarters!" he whispered in his chum's ear. "Oh, Noll, I hope that I am right!"

Terry nodded. He was as excited as was his comrade.

The wall, as well as the Army boys could judge, was more than two hundred feet long. About half way down they came to a gate. Here six Moro sentries, armed with rifles and protected from the storm by woven rush raincoats, stood on guard.

Hal boldly stepped nearer, for the sentries were already regarding this straying pair of natives. Noll, with a quick catch in his throat, stepped after his chum. It looked like running into almost certain death, for aside from the six sentries there were hundreds of Moros within call.

"Bola mak no benga?" demanded Sergeant Hal, with an impudence and cool assurance that he was far from feeling.

One of the Moro sentries looked at the Army boys, grinning and shaking his head. Then laying two fingers across his mouth as a sign for silence, he pointed inside the mud-walled enclosure.

"Him hasta putti datto?" asked Hal, in a low voice.

"Datto" was the only word the Moro could make out, but he understood that, and again pointed inside.

"Banga tim no satti du," remarked Hal softly to his chum. Then Sergeant Hal bent low, making an elaborate bow before the gateway. Noll Terry "caught on" and followed suit. The Moro sentries grinned. Nor did they offer any objection when the Army boys strolled off into the tempest-ridden darkness.

"Now, what?" whispered Noll, as the Army boys halted under a tree.

"Noll, the biggest game in the world, now—to get back out of the trap into which we've stepped!"



CHAPTER XXIII

DOOMING THE DATTO

"Noll, you remember the first sentry inside the gully at this end?"

"Yes."

"Have you the nerve to stay near him while I try to get back to camp alone?"

"I have nerve enough to do anything that a soldier may be called upon to do."

"I was sure of it," Hal replied.

"But what's the game?"

"You are to keep close to that sentry until just before daylight," continued Hal. "Then, if nothing happens, slip out and make your way back to camp as best you can. But if Captain Freeman allows me to lead the expedition through that gully, you are to be on hand to silence that sentry at the first sound of our coming."

"I think I can do that," Sergeant Terry replied thoughtfully. "I'll either win out or give up my life without a murmur."

"Noll, if you prefer it, you can try to reach camp, and I'll stay by that first sentry inside the gully."

"No, Hal; I think you are far more apt to succeed in reaching camp than I. I'm satisfied with the second part in the game. Both parts are big enough."

"Very well! Good-bye, chum. Take care of yourself!"

They had yet a little distance to go before they came upon the Moro sentry beyond the inner mouth of the gully. As they approached him they strolled along in leisurely fashion.

The sentry, who appeared to be a good-natured, rather stupid fellow, surveyed the chums with a grin. He pointed to the sky, then made a motion of shivering. Clearly this native believed the pretended brown men to be foolish fellows for remaining out in such a downpour.

"Hastu maki not," observed Hal.

"No beni," replied Noll, and Hal stepped away in the darkness. He did not appear to be headed for the gully, but Noll distracted the attention of the sentry for a few moments, and out of the corner of his eye Terry caught a glimpse of Hal's body moving into the mouth of the gully.

A moment later Hal was out of sight and sound. Noll and the sentry stood side by side. Presently, as neither could understand the other's speech, Noll and the Moro fell to "conversing" by means of signs. Yet, in this line, they could go little beyond the weather. Noll presently made a hit with the real brown man by shaking his fist in the direction of the American camp, then drawing his hand across his throat with an eloquent gesture of throat-cutting.

Sergeant Hal Overton not only got out of the gully, but also satisfied himself that the slopes were not guarded.

"As the gully looks like a natural trap, and the datto has at least four hundred men between himself and the gully, I suppose old Hakkut is not worrying a great deal," reflected Overton.

Hal did not now trouble himself to move so stealthily, until he neared the American encampment. With noiseless step he approached and called out in the darkness:

"Officer of the day!"

"Halt! Who goes there?" called an alert soldier.

"Sergeant Overton, in scout disguise," Hal returned. "I wish to return to camp."

"Advance, Sergeant Overton, to be recognized."

Thus assured that he would not be shot down by mistake, Hal walked slowly but openly in the direction of the voice from the trench.

"If you can recognize me, Galbraith, you're a wonder," laughed Hal, as he came within the soldier's range of vision.

"You, Sergeant Overton. Great Scott, I don't recognize anything but the voice. I know that, however; pass on, Sergeant."

Hal went at once to Captain Freeman, whom, however, he had to awaken. Lieutenants Prescott and Holmes were quickly added to the lightning conference that followed.

The officers listened almost in amazement to the yarn that Sergeant Overton rapidly spun for them.

"We made no mistake in detailing you two sergeants to investigate the position of the enemy," remarked Captain Freeman warmly. "Now our course is clear. You understand my plan, gentlemen?"

The two young lieutenants quickly assented.

"We shall have to abandon our transport wagons, though I think we shall have no difficulty in recovering them later," went on the commanding officer. "Waken all the men, and have each man carry as much ammunition as he can pack. The Gatling gun goes with us, of course."

"And the wounded men, sir?" asked Lieutenant Prescott.

"Those still unable to walk will have to be carried on the same blanket stretchers. Caution these wounded men that, no matter what discomfort they may suffer on the trip, not one is to make a sound. Our lives are at stake. Now hustle, gentlemen! We must march from this position in less than twenty minutes."

"And the prisoners, sir?" asked Lieutenant Greg Holmes.

"Bind the prisoners and gag them, and do it effectively. We can't trust a prisoner on a dash like this. Leave them behind, but be sure that they can't effect their own escape. Gentlemen, I look to your effective aid in playing a most brilliant trick on the enemy."

Twelve minutes later the column started. They moved in three bodies. In advance were twelve picked men of B Company, under Sergeant Overton. Captain Freeman accompanied this little advance guard.

At a suitable interval behind marched fifty men under Lieutenant Prescott.

Last of all Lieutenant Holmes headed the remainder of the expedition. With this rear guard marched such of the wounded men as were able to walk. The others of the wounded were carried on blanket stretchers.

Silently, like a procession of ghosts, moved the American troops. The rain had moderated to a drizzle, but there was no star in sight to throw the least ray of light over the tropical scene.

Almost as straight as a bullet could have been fired Sergeant Hal led the advance guard to the mouth of the gully. There was no challenge, no shot fired by the enemy. A minute's halt; then the advance guard quickly followed Sergeant Overton into the gully, Captain Freeman stepping just behind the leader.

When they were two thirds of the way through, Sergeant Hal, who was still in his native costume, held up his hand as a signal to halt. The signal was passed back through the advance.

"I think you'd better wait here a few minutes, sir," whispered Hal to the commanding officer. "I'll hand my rifle to one of the men and then stroll forward to see if the coast is clear."

"A good plan, Sergeant; but take mighty good care of yourself!"

"Yes, sir. If you hear sounds of trouble up ahead then I suppose you'll push right on through."

"If there's any sound of trouble, whatever, Sergeant, you can depend upon our rushing through."

Saluting, Overton turned and slowly vanished into the darkness ahead. Just as he came out of the gully Hal heard a cautious, warning:

"Sh-sh!"

The muzzle of a rifle was thrust to his breast.

"Noll?" whispered Hal.

"Yes," whispered Terry.

"Where's the real sentry at this point?" breathed Hal.

"The poor fellow was chilled through. I got chummy with him, talking sign language, and then volunteered to stand duty for him. The Moro has gone off to take a sleep where it's drier."

"Bully, old Noll!"

"The troops are behind you, Hal?"

"Yes."

"Then march them ahead straight on for a hundred yards due west. You won't run into any of the enemy there. I've made it my business to know."

Hal flew back to the advance guard.

"Fine!" glowed Captain Freeman, when he had heard the report.

The advance was quickly in motion. Captain Freeman was soon up with Noll, who, after whispering, led the advance to the point he had mentioned to his chum. Hal, in the meantime, remained to receive and pilot Lieutenant Prescott's command.

"How on earth did you do this?" demanded Prescott in a whisper.

"Some of Sergeant Terry's work, sir," whispered Hal. "When you're ready, sir, just keep on straight ahead until you come upon the advance. I'll remain here, sir, if you permit, to warn the men behind you that they're marching inside the Moros' lines."

"Do so, Sergeant," directed Lieutenant Prescott, at the same time making the motion for his men to move ahead. On came the rest of the command in single file.

"Softly," warned Hal, as the men passed by him. "You're inside the enemy's lines."

Then, as the last man passed him, Hal whispered:

"Fall out, Gleason. Remain here to warn the rear guard when it arrives."

"All right, Sergeant. But this kind of work in the dark makes one creepy. I feel as though I were robbing a judge's chicken-roost."

Hal laughed softly and hurried after the vanishing troops. Within a few minutes more the rear guard had arrived.

By this time the rain had begun to come down again in torrents, but this favored the work of the American troops.

Led by the two young scouts, the entire command managed to advance, undetected, to a point from which Captain Freeman could dimly make out the mud walls of the datto's fort.

"Take the same twelve men of the advance guard, Sergeant Overton," whispered Captain Freeman, after he had given directions regarding the carrying of the wounded so that they would be as well protected as possible from slashing by Moro swords or creeses during the attack about to be made. "With your men, Sergeant, gain the gate of the fort. Remember, at no matter what cost, you must get your party inside and hold the gate. We'll be on the spot the moment we hear the first sound of your attack."

"Now, then, men," Hal instructed his own detachment, "we won't march forward, and we won't skulk, either. We'll simply stroll along. The instant that I hear any sound showing that we're discovered, I'll give the order to charge. When that order comes—remember that we simply must fight our way through the gate of the fort."

Then he gave the order for the forward movement. Hal placed himself at the head of his detachment, the post of greatest danger.

It was raining so heavily that even the guards at the datto's gate had relaxed their vigilance.

So Sergeant Hal Overton was within thirty feet of the gate when one of the six sentries, peering outside, caught sight of him, yelled and held his rifle at aim.

"Detachment charge!" yelled Sergeant Hal Overton.

With a low-uttered yet enthusiastic yell the twelve regulars piled in after their sergeant.

There was short, sharp firing at the gate. Then the Americans drove that guard in, killing four of them and holding the gate.

Now there was wild yelling inside the fort. Lights flashed from the principal building in the enclosure. Sergeant Hal waited only long enough to realize that Lieutenant Prescott's command had come up when he shouted to his own men:

"Follow me to the datto's house! He's the fellow we want."

Fifty natives howling wildly had thrown themselves around the house of the Datto Hakkut and had opened fire on the soldiers by the time that Hal and his few men reached the spot.

"Fight your way through 'em, men!" commanded Hal.

"Bring your men back, Sergeant!" shouted Captain Freeman in Hal's ear. "We've got the Gatling ready. I'll show you something better."

Swiftly the regulars dodged back. Sergeant Noll was at the breech of the Gatling.

R-r-r-r-rip! rattled out that rapid-fire machine, and the fire swept mercilessly into the ranks of those who defended the datto.

Lieutenant Holmes had gotten the wounded inside the walls. Now, with his efficient men he had turned to guard the gate, for outside, hundreds of frantically-yelling Moro fanatics had gathered for the attack on the invaders.

Into the closely packed ranks of the brown men who sought to defend the datto's house the Gatling poured its raking fire with fearful effect.

Whatever the issue of this madly fought battle, it began to look as though the Datto Hakkut were doomed.



CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION

"Have your men fix their bayonets, Lieutenant Prescott!" commanded Captain Freeman. "Fall in, men! We'll take the datto on the rush!"

As the Moros, reinforced by two score more who had rushed to the aid of their leader, drew up for a last desperate stand before the house, the door opened.

A stream of light from inside illuminated the scene.

Out bounded a man past middle age and of imposing appearance. Not even his rich costume and flashing jewels were needed to proclaim that this man was the datto himself.

Behind Hakkut came another and younger man, the datto's sword-bearer.

Hakkut was carrying his own heavy, straight-edged sword. For a moment or two he stood blinking upon the scene of carnage and death below him as he halted on his porch. Then his gaze swept to the regulars behind the machine gun, standing alert with bayonets fixed, ready for that solitary word "charge!"

Instantly the datto turned and shouted something to the younger man with him.

In another moment the datto had placed the hilt of his sword against the flooring of the porch, the point of the weapon up. The younger man knelt swiftly, holding the sword in this position. Drawing back, the Datto Hakkut hurled himself forward with great force, falling upon the point. Then he tottered sideways, tumbling to the floor of the porch. The younger man without hesitation drove a needle-pointed creese three times into his ruler's breast. Withdrawing the knife, the sword-bearer then killed himself.

"Charge, Lieutenant Prescott!" called Captain Freeman.

"Charge!" repeated the lieutenant. The line of bayonets swept forward, but news of the death of the datto had already reached his would-be defenders. The regulars swept through, meeting little resistance, for hope had left the Moros with the passing of their savage prince.

In a twinkling the datto's house was in the hands of the regulars. Now a corporal's guard could have held it, for the Moros inside the fort who were still capable of fighting were throwing down their weapons in despair.

"Round the prisoners up, Lieutenant Prescott," commanded Captain Freeman. "I'll take some of your men and the Gatling to the gate to help Lieutenant Holmes."

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