Part 3 out of 4
Dave Darrin gave a brief account of the doings of the night before,
though he did not mention the fact that he, himself, was in command
of the landing party of rescuers.
"It was a plucky bit of work," commented the consul.
"Will that fight with Cosetta inflame the Mexican mind?" Dave
"It is likely to have something of that effect upon the Mexicans,"
the consul replied, "though Mexico can hardly make any legal
objection to the affair, for Cosetta is a notorious bandit, and
bandits have no rights. The Mexican government appears to have
been unable to rescue the prisoners, so the United States forces
had an undoubted right to do so. Do you know anything about this
fellow, Cosetta, Mr. Darrin?"
"I never heard of him before yesterday," Dave confessed.
"He is a troublesome fellow, and rather dangerous. More than
once he has extorted large sums of ransom money for prisoners.
He has a large following, even here in Vera Cruz, where he maintains
his little force of spies and assassins. Whenever a wealthy Mexican
hereabouts has had an enemy that he wanted 'removed,' he has always
been able to accomplish his wish with the aid of this same fellow,
"Cosetta is in town to-day," Dave remarked.
"Are you sure of that?"
"I saw him here," Darrin replied, quietly.
"Then you must have been the officer in command of last night's
"I was." replied Dave Darrin, shortly.
"Then, Mr. Darrin," said the Consul, earnestly, "I am going to
give you a bit of advice that I hope you won't disregard. Cosetta
may feel deep resentment against you, for you thwarted his plans.
Probably, too, you were the cause of laying several of his men
low last night. Cosetta won't forget or forgive you. Whenever
you are in time streets of Vera Cruz I would advise you to keep
your eyes wide open. Cosetta might detail a couple of his worthless
desperadoes to bury their knives in your back. This bandit has
done such things before, nor is it at all easy to punish him,
for the scoundrel has many surprisingly loyal friends in Vera
Cruz. In a more strictly-governed country he would be arrested
in the city streets as soon as pointed out, but in Mexico the
bandit is likely to be a popular hero, and certainly Cosetta is
that in Vera Cruz. If he were wanted here for a crime, there
are hundreds of citizens who would gladly hide him in their homes.
On any day in the week Cosetta could easily recruit a hundred
men for his band. Perhaps he is now in town on that errand."
"I have an idea that the fellow is dangerous," Darrin nodded.
"Still, here in Vera Cruz, with scores of American sailors usually
in sight on the streets, it seems to me hardly likely that Cosetta
would instruct his men to attack me. The sailors would interfere.
Certainly they would lay hold of the assassin."
"Ah, but the sailors do not come ashore armed," the consul warned
his visitor. "On the other hand, most of the Mexicans go about
to-day with arms concealed about them. A fight between a sailor
and a Mexican might, just now, be enough to start a riot."
Dave listened attentively. He was not in the least alarmed by
the possibility of an attack being made upon his person, but he
had the natural distaste of a naval officer for being the innocent
cause of strained relations between his country and another nation.
When the stenographer brought in the papers that had been dictated
to him, the consul looked them through, then signed them.
"Here is a packet of communications for your captain," said the
consul, handing a bulky envelope to Darrin. "One of the communications
enclosed, Mr. Darrin, is of so important a nature that you will
have an added reason for keeping your weather eye open against
any form of trouble that Senor Cosetta might start for you in
"At any time and in any place," Dave smiled, earnestly, "I would
take the best possible care of official papers entrusted to me."
"I am aware of that, Mr. Darrin," replied the consul smiling.
"But the paper in question is one that it would greatly embarrass
the United States to have fall into improper hands. That is my
only excuse for having cautioned you so particularly."
Seaman Rogers was waiting at the door. He saluted when Ensign
Darrin appeared, then fell in a few paces behind his officer.
A short distance away a carriage stood before the door of a private
banker. A woman of perhaps thirty came out through the doorway,
carrying a small handbag.
Seeming almost to rise from the ground, so suddenly did he appear,
a ragged Mexican bumped violently against the woman.
There was a scream, and in a twinkling the ragged Mexican was
in full flight, carrying the handbag as he ran.
"After that rascal, Rogers!" cried Dave Darrin, aghast at the
boldness of this daylight robbery.
"Aye, aye, sir, and with a hearty good will!" called back Rogers,
as both sailors started in full chase.
A "FIND" OF A BAD KIND
In the nature of timings it could not be a long chase, for Ensign
Dave Darrin was a swift runner, of many years' training.
Rogers, slim and lithe, was also an excellent runner.
Less than a block's distance, and Darrin had gripped the fleeing
Mexican by the collar.
His left hand reached for the bag, and in a moment Dave had it
in his custody. Not a man of the Vera Cruz police force was in
sight, to whom to turn the wretch over, so Darrin flung the fellow
That the handbag had not been opened Darrin was sure, for he had
kept his eye upon it through the chase.
Going to the ground in a heap, the Mexican thief was upon his
feet instantly. A knife glittered in his right hand as he rushed
at the young ensign.
But Seaman Rogers was too quick for the fellow. One of his feet
shot up, the kick landing on the Mexican's wrist. That kick broke
the fellow's wrist and sent the knife spinning through the air.
"We must go back to the woman from whom this was taken," Dave
declared, and he and Rogers faced about, walking briskly back
to the carriage.
The woman was completely unnerved, and trembling with fright.
Her coachman stood beside her, and already a crowd of a dozen
curious natives had gathered.
"Is this your property, madam?" Dave Darrin inquired, holding up
"Yes, it is!" she cried, in excellent English. "Oh, thank you!
Hastily she opened the bag, disclosing a thick roll of bills.
"It is all I have in the world," she murmured, her eyes now filling
"It looks to me like a whole lot and then plenty more," uttered
Seaman Rogers under his breath. "Whee! There must be a fortune
"I am afraid you will not be safe in the streets of Vera Cruz
with so much money in your possession," Dave assured her gravely.
"I am going only as far as the docks," the woman answered. "If
I may have escort that far-----"
"You shall," Dave offered.
Another score of natives had hastened to the spot, and were looking
on curiously with sullen, lowering faces. Darrin began to fear
that the plot to rob this woman of her money was a well planned
one, with many thieves interested in it.
Through the crack of a slightly opened doorway the face of Cosetta,
the bandit, appeared, his evil eyes glittering strangely.
Dave looked up swiftly, his eyes turned straight on those of the
"It's a plot, sure enough!" gasped the young ensign to himself.
"We shall be attacked, and the crowd is too big for us to handle"
He was not afraid for himself, and he knew well that Seaman Rogers
was "aching" for a chance to turn his hard fists loose on this
rascally lot of Mexicans. But a rush would probably secure the
bag of money for the bandits, and the woman herself might be roughly
handled, It was a ticklish situation.
"You are from an American warship, are you not?" inquired the
"From the _Long Island_, madam," the young officer informed her.
"I am an American citizen, too," she claimed.
"No matter to what nationality you belonged, we would protect you to
the best of our ability," Darrin added, raising his cap.
Whump! whump! whump! whump! It was the sound of steadily marching
feet. Then around the corner came a boatswain's mate and eight
keep even a crowd of rascals in order men from one of the American
warships. It was a shore duty party returning to a ship!
"Boatswain's mate!" Dave shouted. "Here!"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
On the double quick came the shore duty party. Dave Darrin found
himself surrounded by blue jackets.
"This lady is very nervous, and with good reason," Dave explained
to the boatswain's mate. "She just had a handbag of money snatched
from her by a thief. The bag has been returned, and now she wishes
our escort to the dock, that she may not be attacked again. She
is on her way to board a ship that will take her back to the United
States. Boatswain's mate, I wish you would ride in the carriage
at her side, while the rest of us walk on the sidewalk close to
"Aye, aye, sir!" responded the mate, saluting, then turning and
lifting his cap gracefully to the woman. He helped her into the
carriage, then took his seat beside her.
Dave and the nine seamen remained on the sidewalk, but kept close
to the carriage as the horses moved along at a walk. Darrin had
no further fear that another attempt would be made to seize the
money by force. Eleven men from the American Navy are guard enough
to keep even a crowd of rascals in order.
"Since Cosetta was looking on from the doorway, that must have
been one of his jobs, engineered by him, and carried out by his
own men," Dave told himself, swiftly. "Most of the men in the
crowd must have been his own men, too, posted to take the money
again, under pretense that a fight with sailors had started.
So I've been the means of blocking another profitable enterprise
for that fellow, Cosetta. By and by the scoundrel will feel a
deep liking for me!"
The first thief, he whose wrist Seaman Rogers had broken, had
promptly vanished. Unmolested, the blue-jackets escorted the
carriage out on to a dock next to the one at which the launch
from the "_Long Island_" lay.
Dave himself assisted the woman to alight from her carriage on
the dock, at the end of which lay an American steamship.
After she had thanked the young officer earnestly, Darrin, cap
in hand, remarked:
"I am afraid I shall have to trouble you, madam, for your name.
I shall have to turn in a report on this occurrence on my return
to my ship."
"I am Mrs. Alice Black," replied the woman. "My home is in Elberon,
Ohio, and I shall probably go there soon after I reach New York.
This steamship does not sail immediately, but my money will be
safe on board with the purser."
Darrin gave his own name.
"You have done me the greatest service possible, Mr. Darrin, for
you have saved me from utter poverty."
"Then I am very glad indeed," Dave assured her, and promptly took
Before going off the dock Darrin secured the name of the boatswain's
mate, also, for inclusion in his report.
Then, with Rogers, he returned to the launch and was speedily
back on his own ship.
The packet of papers entrusted to him by the consul were at once
handed over to Captain Gales.
The launch was left fast to a swinging boom, and soon after was
employed to take ashore Lieutenant Cantor, who had received shore
leave for a few hours.
For the first time in several days, Dave and Dan had time to chat
together that afternoon. That was after Darrin had turned in
a brief report on the assistance rendered an American woman ashore.
"Cantor seems to have let up on you, apart from being as grouchy
as he knows how to be," Danny Grin observed.
"That is because there is nothing he can really do to me," Dave
answered, with a smile.
"Just the same," urged Dan, "I would advise you at all times to
keep your weather eye turned toward that chap."
"He really isn't worth the trouble," Dave yawned, behind his hand.
"And, fortunately, I shall not always be compelled to serve under
him. Officers are frequently transferred, you know."
"If Cantor found the chance, you might last only long enough to
be transferred back to civil life," Dan warned him. "Dave, I
wish you would really be more on your guard against the only enemy,
so far as I know, that you have."
"I'm not interested in Cantor," retorted Dave. "It would do me
a heap more good to know what reply General Huerta will finally
make to the American demand for satisfaction over the Tampico
"Huerta won't give in," Dan predicted. "If he did, he would he
killed by his own Mexican rabble."
"If Huerta resists, then he'll have to fight," Dave exclaimed,
"And if he fights most of the Mexicans will probably stand by
him," Dalzell contended. His only hope of saving his own skin
lies in provoking Uncle Sam into sending a spanking expedition.
At the worst, Huerta, if badly beaten by our troops, can surrender
to our commander, and then he'll have a chance to get out of Mexico
alive. If Huerta gave in to us, he would have all the Mexican
people against him, and he'd only fall into the hands of the rebels,
who would take huge delight in killing him offhand. It's a queer
condition, isn't it, when Huerta's only hope of coming out alive
hangs on his making war against a power like the United States."
"Open for callers?" inquired Lieutenant Trent's voice, outside
"Come in, by all means," called Ensign Dalzell.
Lieutenant Trent entered, looking as though he were well satisfied
with himself on this warm April day in the tropics.
"You look unusually jovial," Dan remarked.
"And why shouldn't I?" Trent asked. "For years the Navy has been
working out every imaginable problem of attack and defense. Now,
we shall have a chance to apply some of our knowledge."
"In fighting the Mexican Navy?" laughed Dave.
"Hardly that," grinned the older officer. "But at least we shall
have landing-party practice, and in the face of real bullets."
"If Huerta doesn't back down," Dave suggested.
"He won't," Danny Grin insisted. "He can't---doesn't dare."
"Do you realize what two of our greatest problems are to-day?"
asked Lieutenant Trent.
"Attack on battleships by submarines and airships?" Dave inquired,
"Yes," Trent nodded.
"Huerta hasn't any submarines," Dan offered.
"We haven't heard of any," Trent replied, "Yet how can we be sure
that he hasn't any submarine craft?"
"He has an airship or two, though, I believe," Dave went on.
"He is believed to have two in the hands of the Mexican Federal
Army," Lieutenant Trent continued. "I have just heard that, if
we send a landing party ashore on a hostile errand, on each warship
an officer and a squad of men will be stationed by a searchlight
all through the dark hours. That searchlight will keep the skies
lighted in the effort to discover an airship."
"And we ought to be able to bring it down with a six-pounder shell,"
Danny Grin declared, promptly.
"There is a limit to the range of a six-pounder, or any other
gun, especially when firing at high elevation," Trent retorted.
"An airship can reach a height above the range of any gun that
can be trained on the sky. For instance, we can't fire a shell
that will go three miles up into the air, yet that is a very ordinary
height at which to run a biplane. Have you heard that, a year
or more ago, an English aviator flew over warships at a height
greater than the gunners below could possibly have reached? And
did you know that the aviator succeeded in dropping oranges down
the funnels of English warships? Suppose those oranges had been
"The warship would have been sunk," Darrin answered.
"Huerta's bird men might be able to give us a surprise like that,"
Trent suggested. "That may prove to be one of the new problems
that we shall have to work out."
"Oh, I've worked that out already," yawned Danny Grin. "All we
have to do is to equip our funnels with heavy iron caps that will
not interfere with the draft of the furnaces, but will keep any
oranges---bombs, I mean---from dropping down the funnels."
"All right then," added Lieutenant Trent. "We will consider Dalzell
has solved the problem of keeping bombs out of our funnels. What
is Dalzell going to do about contact bombs that might be dropped
on deck or superstructure of a battleship?"
"All I can see for that," grinned Dan, "is to call loudly for
"One biplane might succeed in sinking all the warships gathered
at Vera Cruz," Trent continued.
"Was that the thought that made you look so happy when you came
in here?" Dan asked, reproachfully. "The thought that you could
scare two poor little ensigns so badly that they wouldn't be able
to sleep to-night?"
"That was far from my plan," laughed Trent. "What I am really
happy about is that, the way affairs are shaping, we shall soon
be studying real war problems instead of theoretical ones."
"The question of uniform is bothering me more," Dave responded.
"Do you realize, Trent, that we have only blue uniforms and white
ones on board? If we land, to capture Vera Cruz, are our men
to be tortured in heavy, hot, blue uniforms here in the tropics?
Or are we to wear these white clothes and make ourselves the
most perfect marks for the enemy's sharpshooters?"
"You should have more confidence in the men forward," half jeered
the lieutenant. "Our jackies are taking care of that problem
already. They are soaking nails and scrap iron in water, and
dyeing their white uniforms yellow with iron rust."
"Say, that is an idea!" exclaimed Dan, sitting bolt upright.
"I'm going to do that very thing to-night. I have one white uniform
that isn't in very good shape."
"I suppose you fellows have heard the word?" inquired Lieutenant
Holton, looking in.
"Not war?" asked Trent.
"No," uttered Holton, disgustedly. "Worse than that. Shore leave
has been stopped for officers and men alike. And I was counting
on a pleasant evening ashore to-night!"
"It won't bother me any," Dave announced. "I'd rather stay on
board and sleep against the stirring times, when we won't be able
to get sleep enough."
"What's the idea, anyway, in stopping shore leave?" asked Trent.
"Is the admiral afraid that we'll start a row on shore?"
"I don't know," sighed Lieutenant Holton. "I only wish that I
had got ashore before the order was handed out."
At that very moment Lieutenant Cantor, who had returned to ship,
and had just heard the order, was standing before Captain Gales
in the latter's office.
"But, sir," stammered the young officer, "It is absolutely necessary
that I go ashore again to-morrow. It is vital to me, sir."
"I am sorry, Cantor," said Captain Gales, "but the admiral's orders
leave me no discretion in the matter."
Captain Gales, as he spoke, turned his back in order to reach
for a report book behind hum.
Ten minutes later Commander Bainbridge was summoned in hot haste
to the Captain's office.
"Bainbridge," announced Captain Gales, his face stern and set, "at
three o'clock a bulky envelope lay on my desk. That envelope
contained the full plan of the Navy landing in Vera Cruz, in case
such landing becomes necessary. All that we are to accomplish, and
even the duties of the different officers and detachments from this
fleet were stated in that letter. Not later than within the last
half-hour that envelope has disappeared!"
Instantly Commander Bainbridge's face became grave indeed.
"Have you been out of the room, sir?" asked Bainbridge.
"Only once, and then, so the marine orderly at the door informs me,
no one entered here."
"This is serious!" cried the executive officer."
"Serious?" repeated Captain Gales in a harsh tone. "I should
say it was."
"Let us search the room thoroughly, sir," begged the executive
Though no search could have been more thorough, the missing envelope
was not found.
"Summon the officers---all of them---to meet me in the ward-room in
five minutes!" rasped Captain Gales.
And there every officer of the "_Long Island_" reported immediately.
After the doors had been closed Captain Gales announced the loss.
Blank faces confronted him on all sides.
"Has any officer any information to offer that can throw the least
light on thus matter?" demanded the Old Man, in a husky voice.
There was silence, broken at last by Lieutenant Cantor asking:
"May I make a suggestion, sir?"
"How many officers, sir, visited your office after the time you
are certain of having seen the missing envelope on your desk?"
"Five," replied Captain Gales. "Lieutenant-Commander Denton,
Lieutenant-Commander Hansen, Lieutenant Holton, Lieutenant Trent
"Were there any enlisted men in your office, sir?"
"None since before the letter came aboard," replied Captain Gales.
"Then I would beg to suggest, sir," Lieutenant Cantor continued,
"that each of the five officers you have named, myself included,
request that their quarters be thoroughly searched. If the missing
envelope is not found in their quarters, then I would suggest
that the quarters of every other officer on board be searched."
To this there was a low murmur of approval. The executive officer
was instructed to take the chaplain, the surgeon and two other
officers beside himself, these five to form the searching committee.
In the meantime, the officers were to remain in the ward-room
or on the quarterdeck.
Dave, Dan and Trent seated themselves at the mess table. Time
dragged by. At last the searching committee, looking grave indeed,
"Is this the envelope, sir?" asked Commander Bainbridge, holding
"It is," replied Captain Gales, scanning it. "But the envelope
has now no contents."
"We found only the envelope, sir," replied Commander Bainbridge,
while his four helpers looked uncomfortable. "We found the envelope
tucked in a berth, under the mattress, in the quarters of an officer
of this ship."
"And who was the officer in whose quarters you found it?" demanded
"Ensign Darrin, sir!" replied the executive officer.
READY FOR VERA CRUZ
"Ensign Darrin"---and the Old Man's voice was more impressive than
any officer present remembered ever to have heard it before---"what
do you know of this matter?"
Though the shock had struck him like an actual blow, Dave Darrin
steadied both himself and his voice as he replied:
"I know nothing whatever about it, sir, that is not common knowledge
to everyone in this room."
"Then you did not take this envelope from my room?" demanded Captain
"I did not, sir."
"And you did not receive it from any one else?"
"I did not, sir."
"You have no knowledge of how this envelope came to be in your
"I have not the least knowledge in the world, sir."
Captain Gales debated the matter in his own distressed mind.
Dave Darrin stood there, white faced and dignified, his bearing
He looked, every inch a true-hearted young American naval officer.
Yet he was resting under a terrible suspicion.
"You may go, gentlemen," announced the captain. "I ask you to
see to it that no word of this matter leaks out among the men
forward. Ensign Darrin, you will report to me at my office just
as soon as you think I have had time to reach there before you."
Several of the officers walked hastily away. Others hung aloof,
shaking their heads. Lieutenant Trent led about a dozen men who
pressed around Dave Darrin, offering him their hands.
"It would take the strongest kind of proof to make me believe
anything wrong in you, Darrin," declared Trent.
Others in the little group offered similar words of faith and
cheer. But Dave broke away from them after expressing his gratitude.
His head very erect and his shoulders squared, the young ensign
walked to the captain's office.
"Darrin," began the Old Man, "if you are as innocent as I want
to believe you to be in this matter, then do all in your power
to help me clear your name."
"Very good, sir," Dave responded. "In the first place, sir, the
important letter was in its envelope when I turned over to you
the package entrusted to me by the consul."
"It was," nodded Captain Gales.
"And I have not since been in your office, sir. You know that
of your own knowledge, and from what the marine orderly has been
able to inform you, sir?"
"I am satisfied that you were not in thus office after you delivered
the packet," replied the Old Man.
"Then I could not have taken it from your desk, sir."
"I am well satisfied of that," assented Captain Gales. "The only
untoward circumstance is that the envelope was found in your quarters."
"Then, sir," Dave argued, "it is established that I could not
have been the principal in the theft that was committed in your
office this afternoon. That being so, the only suspicion possibly
remaining against me is that I may have been an accomplice."
"No lawyer could have put that more clearly," replied Captain
"Now, sir," Dave continued, bravely, "if the important letter
of instructions, or even if only the envelope had been handed
me, is it likely, sir, that I would have hidden it under my mattress,
when I might as readily have burned it or dropped it overboard?"
"Any clear-headed man, I admit," said the Captain, "would have
destroyed the useless envelope sooner than have it found in his
"The only possible use to which the otherwise useless envelope
could have been put, sir, was to incriminate me. Would I have
saved the envelope and by so doing taken a chance that could only
ruin me? Of what service could the letter be to me, sir? I could
not take it ashore, sir, for instance, to dispose of it to the
Mexican officials, who probably would pay handsomely to get hold
of the American naval plans. I have not asked for shore leave,
sir. May I ask, sir, how many officers received shore leave,
and used it, after I returned to the ship?"
"Only one, Darrin; that was Lieutenant Cantor."
Dave bit his lips; he had not intended to try to direct suspicion
from himself to any other officer.
"So it might seem possible," mused Captain Gales, aloud, "that
Lieutenant Cantor might have obtained the letter and turned over
the envelope to you to destroy, Darrin. I am stating, mind you,
only a possibility in the way of suspicion."
"Lieutenant Cantor and I are not on friendly terms," Dave answered,
quickly. Then once more he bit his lip.
But the Old Man regarded him keenly, asking: "What is wrong between
Cantor and yourself?"
"I spoke too quickly, sir," Dave confessed, reddening slightly.
"I have no complaint to make against Lieutenant Cantor. The
one statement I feel at liberty to make is that an antipathy exists
between Lieutenant Cantor and I. I would suggest, further, that
Lieutenant Cantor, even had he stolen the letter, could have taken
it only after his return on board. So that he had no opportunity
to carry it ashore, had he been scoundrel enough to wish to do so."
Captain Gales leaned back, blankly studying the bulk-head before
him. Disturbing thoughts were now running in the Old Man's mind.
"Cantor was in this room," mused Captain Gales, "and it was some
time afterwards that I missed the envelope. Then, too, Cantor
fairly begged for more shore leave, and told me that it was vital
to him to be allowed further shore leave. Still, again, in the
ward-room it was Cantor who suggested that the officers' quarters
be searched. Can it be that Cantor is the scoundrel? I hate
to believe it. But then I hate equally to believe that Darrin
could have done such a treasonable thing as to steal a copy of
our landing instructions, prepared by the admiral and sent aboard
through the consular office, so that the Mexicans ashore would
not observe a great deal of communication between our ships."
After some moments of thought Captain Gales announced:
"Darrin, this thing is one of the most complex puzzles I have
ever been called upon to solve. Your conduct and answers have
been straightforward, and I am unable to believe that you had
any hand in the stealing or handling of that accursed envelope."
"Thank you, sir!" Dave Darrin cried, in genuine gratitude.
"At dinner in the ward-room to-night I shall have Commander Bainbridge
make announcement before all your brother officers of what I have
just said," continued Captain Gales. "You may go now."
Yet, as he spoke, the captain rose and held out his hand. Dave
grasped it, then saluted and turned away.
His bearing, as he went to Dalzell's quarters, was as proud as
ever, though in his mind Dave Darrin knew well enough that he
was still under a cloud of suspicion that would never be removed
entirely from his good name unless the real culprit should be
found and exposed.
"Moreover," Dave told himself, bitterly, "Cantor, if he is the
one who has done this contemptible thing, may yet devise a way
clever enough to convict me, or at least to condemn me in the
At dinner, before the first course was served, Commander Bainbridge
ordered the ward-room doors closed after the attendants had passed
outside. Then he stated that Captain Gales wished it understood
that the finding of the telltale envelope under Ensign Darrin's
mattress was the only circumstance against that officer, and that,
in the captain's opinion, it was wholly likely that some one else
had placed the envelope there with the intention of arousing suspicion
against the officer named. It was further stated that, in time,
Captain Gales hopes to reach all the facts in the mystery. The
Captain wished it understood, stated the executive officer, that
it would have been so stupid on Ensign Darrin's part to have hidden
the envelope where it was found that there was no good reason for
believing that Ensign Darrin was guilty of anything worse than
having an enemy.
While this statement was being made Dave sat with his gaze riveted
to the face of Lieutenant Cantor. The officer looked stolid, but
his stolidity had the appearance of being assumed.
There was instant applause from some of the officers. This, being
heard by sailors on duty outside, started the rumor that the officers
had heard that an immediate landing was to be made in Vera Cruz or
at Tampico. Thus, the jackies forward had an exciting evening
talking the prospects over.
So Dave was not placed under charges, and the majority of his
brother officers on the "_Long Island_" regarded the suspicion
against him as being absurd. Yet Darrin knew that suspicion existed
in some minds, and felt wretched in consequence.
Meantime, the news reached the fleet, as it reached newspaper
readers at home, that General Huerta was becoming daily more stubborn.
Then came the news that the Mexican dictator's refusal had been
made final and emphatic.
"The house has passed a resolution justifying the President in
employing the military and naval forces of the United States in
whatever way he deems best in exacting satisfaction for the insult
to the Flag at Tampico," spread through the ship on the evening
of Monday, the 20th of April.
From then on no one in the American fleet doubted that war with
Mexico was soon to begin. It was all right, the "_Long Island's_"
officers declared, to talk about a mere peaceful landing, but
no doubt existed that the landing of American sailors and marines
would mean the firing of the first shots by resisting Mexicans
which Would provoke war.
On the morning of the 21st of April the officers assembled in the
ward-room as usual.
"Gentlemen," said Commander Bainbridge, calmly, in a moment when
the Filipino mess servants were absent, "the present orders are
that the American naval forces land and occupy Vera Cruz this
forenoon. Orders for the details have been made and will be announced
immediately after breakfast. That is all that I have to say at
That "all" was certainly enough. The blow for the honor of the
Stars and Stripes was to be struck this forenoon. Instantly every
face was aglow. Each hoped to be in the detail sent ashore.
Then one young officer was heard to remark, in an undertone:
"I'll wager that all I get is a detail to commissary duty, making
up the rations to be sent ashore."
Commander Bainbridge heard and smiled, but made no reply.
Soon after breakfast the work cut out for each officer was announced.
Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell were both gleeful when informed that
they were to go ashore in the same detachment of blue-jackets.
Lieutenant Trent was to command them.
"David, little giant," murmured Danny Grin, exultantly, "we appear
to be under the right and left wings of that good men known as
"I'm ready for duty wherever I'm put," Dave answered, seriously.
"None the less, I'm delighted that I'm ordered ashore."
Lieutenant Cantor was greatly disappointed when he found that
he was to remain aboard ship. Captain Gales had his own reasons
for keeping that young officer away from shore.
Under cover on the "_Long Island_" all was bustle, yet without
a trace of confusion. Officers and men had been so thoroughly
trained in their duties that now they performed them with clock-like
It was a busy forenoon, yet no one observing the American fleet
from the shore would have discovered any signs of unusual activity.
From the Mexican custom house, from the post-office, the cable
station, and from the grim old prison-fortress, San Juan de Ulloa,
the Mexican flag flew as usual.
In the streets of Vera Cruz natives and foreigners moved about
as usual. Not even the Americans in Vera Cruz, except the consul,
knew that this was the morning destined to become a famous date
in American history.
At about eleven o'clock boats began to be launched alongside the
American men-of-war. Men piled quickly over the sides. In number
one launch Lieutenant Trent, Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell and
forty seaman, with rifles and two machine guns, put away.
Lieutenant-Commander Denton and Lieutenant Timson of the Marine
Corps put off in launches numbers two and three with sixty marines
and forty bluejackets. From the other warships detachments put off
at the same time.
One cutter, occupied by fourteen marines, put off from one of
the men-of-war and was rowed ashore at high speed. These men
quickly landed at No.1 Dock.
"There they land---they're unfurling the American Flag!" breathed
Dave Darrin in his chum's ear.
Another cutter landed at another dock; then a launch rushed in
alongside. It came the turn of the first launch from the "_Long
Island_" to move in to berth at No.1 Dock, and Trent piled his
party ashore, the launch immediately afterward being backed out
and turned back to the "_Long Island_."
Within fifteen minutes a thousand marines and sailors had been
"But where is the Mexican resistance?" murmured Danny Grin, impatiently.
"Where is the excuse that was to be furnished us for fighting?"
That "excuse" was to come soon enough!
IN THE THICK OF THE SNIPING
Upon the landing of the first men, the Mexican custom house had
The seizure of the post-office and the cable station quickly followed.
Lieutenant Trent did not halt on the dock. Forming his men even
while moving forward, Trent kept his command moving fast.
Dave was near the head of the little column, on the right flank.
Dan was near the rear.
For some distance Trent marched his men, hundreds of curious Mexicans
parting to make way for the advance of the little detachment.
Finally Trent halted his men not far from the gray walls of the
Castle of San Juan de Ulloa.
"I wonder if our job is to take that fortress?" murmured Dalzell,
"If that's our job," smiled Darrin, "we'll have fighting enough
to suit even your hot young blood. But I don't believe we're
cut out to take the castle. Look at the transport '_Prairie_.'
Her guns are but five hundred yards away, and trained on the fort.
If anyone in San Juan opens on us the '_Prairie_' will be able
to blow the old fort clean off the map."
"What can we be waiting for?" asked Dan, fidgeting.
"I've an idea that we shall find out soon enough," Dave replied.
Dalzell glanced appealingly at Lieutenant Trent, who stepped over
"I see you both want to know what we're to do. My orders are
only general, and rather vague. Our work won't be cut out for
us until the Mexican garrison starts something."
"But will the Mexicans start anything?" Danny wanted to know.
"So far they seem as patient as camels about fighting."
Another landing party, from the "_Florida_," moved up to position
about a block away from Trent's small command.
"I don't mind fighting," sighed Dan, ten minutes later, "but waiting
gets on my nerves."
All the time small detachments of sailors and marines were moving
gradually through the lower part of Vera Cruz, moving from one
point to another, and always the leading detachments went further
from the water front.
At last Trent, receiving his signal from a distance, marched his
men up the street, away from the fortress of San Juan de Ulloa.
Only a quarter of a mile did they march, then halted. Fully three
hundred Mexicans followed them, and stood looking on curiously.
"I wonder if any one ashore knows the answer to the riddle of what
we're doing," sighed Danny Grin.
"We're waiting orders, like real fighting men," Dave answered, with
"But there isn't going to be any fighting!"
"Where did you get that information?" Dave asked.
Noon came; no fighting had been started. By this time nearly
every officer and man ashore believed that the Mexican general
at Vera Cruz had decided not to offer resistance. If so, he had
undoubtedly received his instructions from Mexico City.
More minutes dragged by. At about fifteen minutes past noon, shots
rang out ahead.
"The engagement is starting," Dan exclaimed eagerly to his chum.
"The shots are so few in number, and come so irregularly, that
probably only a few Mexican hotheads are shooting," Dave hinted,
quietly. "Troops, going into action, don't fire in that fashion."
"I wonder of any of our men are firing back."
"All I know," smiled Darrin, "is that we are not doing any shooting."
Pss-seu! sang a stray bullet over their heads. Only that brief
hiss as the deadly leaden messenger sang past.
Pss-chug! That bullet caught Dalzell's uniform cap, carrying
it from his head to a distance some forty feet rearward.
"Whew! That gives some idea of the spitefulness of a bullet,
doesn't it?" muttered Danny Grin, as a seaman ran for the ensign's
cap and returned with it.
"It must be that I didn't get iron-rust enough on this white uniform,"
commented Dalzell, coolly, gazing down at the once white uniform
that he had yellowed by a free application of iron rust. "My
clothing must still be white enough to attract the attention of
a sharpshooter so distant that I don't know where he is."
Still Trent held his command in waiting, for no orders had come to
move it forward.
"The barracks are over there," said Dave, pointing. "So far as
I have been able to judge, none of the bullets come from that
Still the desultory firing continued. The occasional shots that
rang out showed, however, that the Americans were not firing in
"There they go!" called Lieutenant Trent, drawing attention to
the nearest barracks. From the parade ground in front, small
detachments of Mexicans could be seen running toward different
parts of the town.
"Are you going to fire on them?" asked Darrin.
"Not unless the Mexicans fire on us, or I receive orders to fire,"
the lieutenant answered. "I don't want to do anything to disarrange
the admiral's plans for the day, and at present I know no more
than you do of what is expected of us."
Suddenly the air became alive with the hiss of bullets.
"I see the rascals," cried Dave pointing upward. "They're on
the top of that building ahead."
Trent saw the sharpshooters, too. Perhaps twenty Mexican infantrymen
occupied the roof of a building a few hundred yards ahead. Some
were lying flat, showing only their heads at the edge of the roof.
Others were kneeling, but all were firing industriously.
"Forward, a few steps at a time," ordered the lieutenant. "Don't
waste any shots, men, but pot any sharpshooter you can get on
that roof, or any men who show themselves on other roofs as we
"This work is a lot better than getting into boats and trying
to take Castle San Juan," muttered Dalzell, as he drew his sword.
All three of the officers now had their blades in their hands,
for the swords would be useful if they were obliged to fight at
Crack! crack! crack! rang out the rifles of Trent's detachment.
But every shot told. Whenever any one of the three officers
saw a man firing too rapidly that seaman was cautioned against
One of Trent's men was already wounded in the left hand, though
he still persisted in firing.
At the first street crossing Trent shouted:
"Half of you men go down the street on that side, the rest of
you over here. Ensign Dalzell, take command over there. Ensign
Darrin, you will command here."
The street was swiftly emptied of blue-jackets. Hidden from the
fire of the sharpshooters ahead, the sailors were out of immediate
danger. But both Dan and Dave stationed a couple of good shots
at either corner, in the shelter of the buildings and took pot
shots at the snipers ahead.
"Darrin, pick out two of your best men, and send them to lie down
in the middle of the street, facing that roof-top," Trent ordered,
then shouted the order across the open street to Dalzell.
Thus, with four jackies lying flat in the middle of the street,
and offering no very good targets to the roof snipers, and with
two men behind each protecting corner, the Mexicans on the roof
were subjected to the sharpshooting fire of the eight best shots
in Trent's command.
"Darley, you stand here on the sidewalk, and watch the roof-top
across the street," Dave ordered. "Hemingway, you get over on
the other side and keep your eyes on the roof on this side of
the street. If you see any one on a rooftop, let him have it
as fast as you can fire."
Dan Dalzell, seeing that manoeuvre from across the street, stationed
two roof-watchers similarly on his side.
"We'll stick to this sharpshooting stunt," Lieutenant Trent called
in Darrin's ear, over the crackling of the rifles, "until we get
a few of the Mexicans ahead. Then we'll rush their position and
try to drive them from it. The only way-----"
That was as far as Lieutenant Trent got, for Dave, making a sudden
leap at his superior, seized him by the collar, jerking him backward
a few feet and landing him on his back.
"What the-----" sputtered Lieutenant Trent. That was as far as
he got, for there was a crash, the sidewalk shook, and then Darrin
quickly pulled his superior to his feet.
The report of Hemingway's rifle was not heard, but a tiny cloud
of thin vapor curled from the muzzle of his uplifted weapon.
"I think I got one of the pair, sir!" called the sailor, gleefully.
"He threw up his hands and pitched backward out of sight."
Lieutenant Trent looked at the sidewalk astounded, for, where
he had stood hay the broken pieces of a cookstove that had been
hurled from the roof two stories above.
"That mass of iron fell right where I was standing," muttered Trent.
"Darrin, I wondered why on earth you should jerk me back and
lay me out in that unceremonious fashion. If you hadn't done
it the cookstove would have crushed my bones to powder."
"It shows the temper of the kind of people we're fighting," muttered
Darrin, compressing his lips tightly. "We'll soon have the whole
city full trying to wipe us out!"
"We may as well rush that building ahead," muttered the lieutenant.
"I'd rather have my men killed in open fighting than demolished
by all the heavy hardware on these two blocks."
Raising his voice, Trent ordered:
"Cease firing! Load magazines and hold your fire. We're going
From the sailormen a half-suppressed cheer arose. Hand-to-hand
fighting was much more to their liking than tedious sharpshooting.
"Keep close to the building on either side of the street!" Lieutenant
Trent ordered. "No man is to run in the middle of the road and
make an unnecessary target of himself. Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell
will run behind their men, to see that no man exposes himself
"Fall in! Ready to charge. In single file---charge!"
Heading the line on Darrin's side of the street, Trent dashed
around the corner, leading his sailormen at a run.
Dalzell's men rushed into the fray at the same moment, Dave amid
Dan, as ordered, bringing up the rear of the two files.
On the instant that the two lines of charging, cheering sailormen
came into sight, the Mexicans on the roof-top redoubled their
fire. It is difficult, however, to fire with accuracy at men
who are running close to the buildings. Either the bullet falls
short, or else goes wide of its mark and hits a wall behind the
line. So Lieutenant Trent's men dashed down the street for a
short distance, and pausing in the shelter of a building cheered
Now the Mexican soldiers above no longer had the advantage. Whenever
one of their number showed his head over the edge of the roof
he became a handy target for the jackies below.
Heavy shutters covered the windows on the ground floor of the
building. The heavy wooden door was tightly locked.
"Ensign Darrin," sounded Trent's voice, "take enough men and batter
that door down."
It took a combined rush to effect that. Several times Dave led his
seamen against that barrier. Under repeated assaults it gave way.
"Through the house and to the roof!" shouted Trent. "We'll wind
up the snipers!"
What a yell went up from two score of throats as the sailormen
piled after their officers and thronged the stairs!
It was a free-for-all race to the top of the second flight of
stairs. Over the skylight opening lay a wooden covering tightly
secured in place.
"Come on, my hearties! Smash it!" yelled Trent, heaving his own
broad shoulders against the obstruction.
After the skylight cover was smashed the Mexican soldiers would
once more have the advantage. Only a man at a time could reach
the roof. It ought not to be difficult for the defenders to pick
off a Navy man at a time as the Americans sprang up.
At last the covering gave way.
"Pile up, all hands, as rapidly as you can come!" yelled Lieutenant
Trent. "Officers first!"
"Officers first!" echoed Dave and Dan in a breath, all the military
longing in their hearts leaping to the surface.
Then up they went, into the jaws of massacre!
MEXICANS BECOME SUDDENLY MEEK
Trent leaped to the roof. With his left arm he warded off a blow
aimed at his head with the butt of a rifle.
Then his sword flashed, its point going clean through the body
of the Mexican soldier who barred his way.
"Death to the Gringos! Death to the Gringos!" yelled the Mexicans.
But Trent drove back two men with his flashing sword. After him
Dave heaped to the roof, his revolver barking fast and true.
Danny Grin followed, and he darted around to the other side of
the skylight, turning loose his revolver.
The fire was returned briskly by the enemy, all of whom wore the
uniform of the Mexican regular infantry.
In the footsteps of the officers came, swiftly, four stalwart young
sailormen, and now the American force had a footing on the roof.
At first none of the Mexicans thought of asking for quarter.
One of the infantrymen, retreating before Dalzell's deftly handled
sword, and fighting back with his rifle butt, retreated so close
to the edge of the roof that, in another instant, he had fallen
to the street below, breaking his neck.
Ere the last dozen Americans had succeeded in reaching the roof
the fight was over, for the few Mexicans still able to fight suddenly
threw down their rifles, shouting pleadingly:
"_Piedad!_ _piedad!_" (pity).
"Accept all surrenders!" shouted Lieutenant Trent at the top of
Four quivering, frightened Mexicans accepted this mercy, standing
huddled together, their eyes eloquent with fear.
The fight had been a short, but savage one. A glance at the roof's
late defenders showed, including the man lying in the street below,
eight dead Mexicans, one of whom was the boyish lieutenant of
infantry who had commanded this detachment. Nine more were badly
wounded. The four prisoners were the only able-bodied Mexicans
left on the roof.
"Pardon, but shall we have time for our prayers?" asked one of
the surrendered Mexicans, approaching Lieutenant Trent.
"Time for your prayers?" Trout repeated. "Take all the time you
"But when do you shoot us?" persisted the fellow, humbly.
"Shoot you?" repeated Trent, in amazement, speaking rapidly in
the Spanish he had acquired at Annapolis and practiced in many
a South American port. Then it dawned upon this American officer
that, in the fighting between Mexican regulars and rebels it had
been always the custom of the victors to execute the survivors
of the vanquished foe.
"My poor fellow," ejaculated Trent, "we Americans always pride
ourselves on our civilization. We don't shoot prisoners of war.
You will be treated humanely, and we shall exchange you with
"What did that chap say?" Dalzell demanded, in an undertone, as
"The Mexican said," Dave explained, "that he hoped he wouldn't
be exchanged until the war is over."
"There is a hospital detachment signaling from down the street,
sir," reported a seaman from the edge of the roof.
Trent stepped quickly over to where he could get a view of the
hospital party. Then he signaled to the hospital men, four in
number, carrying stretchers, and commanded by a petty officer,
that they were to advance.
"Any of our men need attention, sir?" asked the petty officer,
as he reached the roof.
"Two of our men," Trent replied. "And nine Mexicans."
When it came their turn to have their wounds washed and bandaged
with sterilized coverings, the Mexicans looked bewildered. Such
treatment at the hands of an enemy was beyond their comprehension.
A room below was turned over for hospital use, and there the wounded
of both sides were treated.
Still the firing continued heavily throughout the city. Trent,
with his field glass constantly to his eyes, picked out the nearest
roof-tops from which the Mexicans were firing. Then he assigned
sharpshooters to take care of the enemy on these roofs.
"We can do some excellent work from this position," the lieutenant
remarked to his two younger officers.
It was peculiar of this fight that no regular volleys of shots
were exchanged. The Mexicans, from roof-tops, from windows and
other places of hiding, fired at an American uniform wherever
they could see it.
The very style of combat adopted by the enemy made it necessary
for the Americans, avoiding needless losses, to fight back in
the same sniping way. Slowly, indeed, were these numerous detachments
of Mexicans, numbering some eight hundred men in all, driven back.
Boom! boom! boom! The Mexican artillery now started into life,
driving its shells toward the invaders.
"The real fight is going to begin now," uttered Dave, peering
eagerly for a first glimpse of the artillery smoke.
"I hope the ships tumble down whole squares of houses!" was Danny
Grin's fervent wish.
"If they start that, we're in a hot place," smiled Trent, coolly.
From the harbor came the sound of firing.
"Why, there's only one of our ships firing!" exclaimed Darrin.
"The '_Prairie_' is using some of our guns!"
Presently the heavier detonations died out. So splendidly had
the "_Prairie's_" gunners served their pieces that the Mexican
artillerymen had been driven from their positions.
"These Mexicans will have to wait until they get out of range
of the Navy's guns before they can hope to do much with their
artillery," laughed Lieutenant Trent, then turned again to see
what his sailormen were doing in the way of "getting" Mexican
snipers from other roofs.
Every minute a few bullets, at least, hissed over the roof on
which the detachment was posted.
Trent, believing that he was exposing more men than were needed,
ordered twenty seamen to the floor below.
By one o'clock the firing died slowly away. Though the Mexicans
had made a brave resistance, and had done some damage, they had
been so utterly outclassed by better fighting men that they wearied
of the unequal struggle.
"But when the enemy get heavy reinforcements from the rear," Trent
predicted, as he stood looking over the city, "they'll put up a
fight here in Vera Cruz that will be worth seeing!"
"I can't help wondering," mused Dave Darrin aloud, "what the rest
of the day will bring forth."
"It will be the night that may bring us our real ordeal," hinted
IN THE HOUSE OF SURPRISES
"Dalzell, I wish you would take four men and find the commanding
officer ashore," requested Lieutenant Trent.
"Report to him our present position, as well as what we have done,
and get his instructions."
Saluting, Dan signed to four sailormen to accompany him. Within
an hour he had returned.
"We are going to hold what we have taken of the city, and probably
shall push our lines further into the town. It is believed that
after dark we shall have trouble with Mexican snipers."
"We have had some already," said the lieutenant grimly.
"We believe, sir," Dan reported, "that, after dark, there will
be even more vicious sniping. The Mexicans are in an ugly mood,
and will spare no effort to make us miserable for our audacity
in landing armed men on their soil."
"And our orders?"
"You are directed, Lieutenant, to hold this roof until you have
silenced all sniping within easy range, and then you are to fall
back to the Post-office and report to the senior officer there.
In the meantime you will send in a petty officer and sufficient
force to accompany any of your wounded men who are badly enough
hurt to require a surgeon's attention."
The squad that had accompanied Ensign Dalzell was immediately
ordered to return with the wounded, after which Trent and his
officers gave their whole attention to locating every Mexican
sniper on every roof-top within six hundred yards of their position.
So well was this done that at least a dozen Mexican sharpshooters
were killed within the next hour.
For half an hour after that Trent surveyed every roof-top with his
field glass. As no more shots crossed the roof on which the
detachment was posted, Lieutenant Trent then concluded that his
commission had been executed, and gave the order to return.
The Mexican dead and wounded were left in the building, a notice
being posted on the door in order that the sanitary corps men
might know where to find them. The four uninjured prisoners were
now placed in the center of the detachment, and Trent marched
his command back to the post-office. There the prisoners were
turned over to the custody of the provost officer.
"Step inside, men, and you'll find something to eat," was the
welcome news Trent gave his detachment of men.
Darrin and Dalzell were sent to a restaurant near by, where the
officers were eating a welcome meal.
"Hadn't you better go first, sir?" Darrin asked.
"Simply because I am the ranking officer with this detachment?"
smiled the lieutenant. "You two are younger, and therefore are
probably hungrier than I am."
Dave was the first to finish his meal in the restaurant, and hurried
to relieve Lieutenant Trent of the command of the detachment.
Altogether there were now some two hundred men at the post-office
station; these were being held in readiness to reinforce the American
fighters in any part of the city where they might be needed.
Until after dark the "_Long Island's_" detachment remained there,
enviously watching other detachments that marched briskly away.
As soon as dark had come down, the popping of rifles was almost
"I wish we had orders to clear the whole town of snipers," muttered
Danny Grin impatiently.
"Undoubtedly that would take more men than we have ashore," Trent
replied. "There would be no sense in occupying the whole city
until we have driven out every hostile Mexican ahead of us. We
might drive the Mexican soldiers much further, but the trouble
is that hundreds of them have joined in the sport of sniping at
the hated _Americanos_. If we pushed our way through the town,
at once we would then have Mexican firing ahead of us and also
at the rear. No fighting men behave well under such circumstances."
An hour later it became plain that Trent's detachment had some
new work cut out for it, for a commissary officer now directed
that the men be marched down the street to receive rations.
"We're going to have night work all right, then, and perhaps plenty
of it," Darrin declared to his chum. "If we were going to remain
here rations wouldn't be furnished us."
Trent was inside, personally seeing to matters, when a sentry
halted a man in civilian clothes.
"A friend," replied the man in answer to the challenge.
"Advance and give your name," persisted the sentry.
"Lieutenant Cantor of the '_Long Island_.'"
At hearing that name, from one in civilian dress, Dave stepped
"You've been halted by a man from your own ship, sir," nodded
Darrin, on getting close enough to see that the man really was
"Hullo," was Trent's greeting, as he stepped outside. "On duty,
"Not official duty," replied the other lieutenant.
"You are authorized to be ashore, of course?" continued Trent,
surveying his brother officer, keenly, for, at such a time, it
was strange to see a naval officer ashore in anything but uniform.
"I have proper authority for being ashore," Cantor nodded.
"That is all, then," said Lieutenant Trent. "You may proceed,
of course, but you are going to be halted and held up by every
sentry who sees you. You would get through the town much more
easily in uniform."
"I suppose so," nodded Cantor, and passed on.
Close at hand two revolver shots rang out.
"Ensign Darrin," Trent ordered, "take a man with you and investigate
that firing. Locate it, if possible, and if any Mexican attempts
to fire again, try to bring him in-----dead!"
"You will come with me," ordered Dave, turning to Coxswain Riley.
That petty officer hastily filling his magazine, followed Darrin,
who drew his own revolver.
Hardly had officer and man turned the corner when a pistol flesh
came from the top of a house nearly at the next corner.
The bullet did not pass near enough for them to hear it. Plainly
the shot had been fired at some one else.
"Keep close to the buildings," ordered Dave, leading the way toward
the sniper. "I don't want that fellow to see us until we're right
under him and ready to get him."
Noiselessly they went up the street. It would be impossible for
the sniper to see them unless he bent out over the edge of the
roof from which he was firing.
While they were advancing another shot was fired from the same roof.
Watching the direction of the flash, Darrin was able to guess the
direction of the man or men at whom the Mexican was firing.
"Some of our sharpshooters must still be posted on roofs," Dave
whispered over his shoulder to Riley.
"I know one man who won't be doing much more on a roof, if I can
get a sight of him for three seconds," gruffly answered Riley.
Then they stopped in front of the house in question.
"You slip across to the doorway opposite, and watch for your man,"
whispered Darrin. "I'll remain here and get any one who may attempt
to run out of the house after you open fire."
Slipping across the street, Riley waited.
Scanning the house, from the roof of which the firing had proceeded,
his drawn revolver in his hand, Dave made a quick discovery.
"Why, this is the very door from which I saw Cosetta peering out
yesterday!" thought the young ensign. "I wonder if this is his
home in Vera Cruz. I'll make a point of reporting this to Trent
as soon as we return."
And then Dave heard a voice just inside the door say, in Spanish:
"You ought to stop that sniper on the roof. He took two shots
at me as I came up the street."
"What infernal work is going on here?" Ensign Dave Darrin asked
himself, hoarsely. "I how that voice. I'd know it anywhere.
That's Cantor speaking, and he's in the house of the enemy!"
A TRAITOR IN THE SERVICE
Crack! spoke a rifle across the street.
"I got him, sir!" cried the exultant voice of Riley. "But I'll
make sure of him, sir!"
Crack! The Navy rifle spoke once more.
Noiselessly Darrin darted across the street.
On the roof of the house in which Dave had seen the bandit, Cosetta,
the previous day, lay a man, his head and shoulders hanging over
"Speak softly," cautioned Darrin. "I don't want those men inside
the house to hear you."
"He fell just like that when I fired the first shot, sir," Riley
whispered. "I sent him the second bullet to make sure that he
wasn't playing 'possum."
"And now," Dave ordered, "run down the street as noiselessly as
you can go, and tell Lieutenant Trent that I wish he would come
here in person, if possible, with a few men. Ask him, with my
compliments to approach as noiselessly as possible, for I expect
to make a surprise 'bag' here."
Riley glanced at his officer in swift astonishment, but he saw that
Darrin was speaking seriously, so he saluted and departed at a run.
Shortly Riley was back.
"Lieutenant Trent is coming, sir," whispered the coxswain. "There
he is, turning the corner now."
"Stand before this door, and if you hear anything inside, so much
the better," Darrin murmured, then hastily moved down the street,
saluting his superior officer as he met him.
"Riley told you, perhaps, he got the sniper, sir," Dave began,
"but I have something even more astounding to report. I have
every reason to believe that Lieutenant Cantor is in that house."
"A prisoner?" cried Trent, in an undertone.
"I have reason to believe that he isn't a prisoner," Dave went on.
"The house is the same from which I saw Cosetta peer yesterday, and
I have reason to think that Lieutenant Cantor and the bandit are on
fairly good terms."
"Be careful what you say, Darrin," cautioned Lieutenant Trent.
"In effect, you are accusing an officer of the United States Navy
"That is the very crime of which I suspect him, sir," Dave answered,
"Are you sure that your personal animosity has no part in that
"No dislike for a brother officer could induce me to charge him
falsely," Dave answered simply.
"I beg your pardon, Darrin!" exclaimed Trent in sincere regret.
"I shouldn't have asked you that."
"Here is the door, sir," Dave reported, in a whisper, halting
"I heard some one talking in there in low tones," reported Riley.
"I couldn't make it out, for he was talking in Spanish."
"I suspect that the voices were those of Lieutenant Cantor and
Cosetta," Dave whispered.
"If they don't get away, we'll soon know," Trent whispered. "Stone
and Root, I want you two to head the party that rushes the door.
As soon as you get inside don't stop for anything else, but rush
to the rear windows and shoot any one who attempts to escape by
the rear fence. Now, men, rush that door!"
So hard and sudden was the assault that the door gave way at the
Revolver in hand, Dave Darrin was directly behind the two seamen
who had been ordered to rush to the rear windows.
Just as the door yielded to the assault an excited voice in Spanish
The two sailors, who had been ordered to do nothing else except
guard the rear windows, saw a figure vanish through the cellar
doorway. Leaving that individual to others, Stone and Boot dashed
into a rear room, throwing up the window.
In the darkness a second man also rushed for the cellar doorway.
But Dave Darrin's extended right hand closed on that party's
"You're my prisoner," Dave hissed, throwing his man backward to
As several men rushed past them one sailor halted, throwing on
the rays of a pocket electric light.
"You, Cantor, and here?" exclaimed Lieutenant Trent, aghast, as
he recognized the features of his brother officer. "In mercy's
"Let me up," broke in Cantor, angrily, and Dave released him.
"Ensign Darrin, I order you in arrest for attacking your superior
"You won't observe that arrest, Darrin," spoke Trent, coldly.
"I'll be responsible for my order to that effect. Now, then,
Cantor, what explanation have you to offer for being in the house
of Cosetta, the bandit?"
"I'll give no explanation here," blazed Cantor, angrily, as now
on his feet, he glared at Trent and Darrin---Dalzell was not there,
for just at this instant the bolted cellar door, under his orders,
was battered down, and Dan, with several sailormen at his back,
darted down the stairs, by the light of a pocket lamp.
The cellar was deserted. There was no sign of the means by which
the fugitive had escaped.
"Trent," said Cantor, with an effort at sternness, "you will not
question me, here or now."
"I'll question you as much as I see fit, sir," Lieutenant Trent
retorted, crisply. "Lieutenant Cantor, you are caught here under
strange circumstances. You will explain, and satisfactorily,
"Lieutenant Trent," retorted the other, savagely, "while you and
I are officers of the same rating, my commission is older than
yours, and I am ranking officer here. I direct you to withdraw
your men and to leave this house."
"And I tell you," retorted Lieutenant Trent, "that I am on duty
here. You have not said that you are here on duty. Therefore
I shall not recognize your authority."
"Trent," broke in the other savagely, "if you-----"
"I do," Lieutenant Trent retorted, stiffly. "Just that, in fact.
In other words, sir, I place you in arrest! Coxswain Riley,
I shall hold you responsible for this prisoner. Take two other
men, if you wish, to help you guard him. If Lieutenant Cantor
escapes, or attempts to escape, then you have my order to shoot
him, if necessary."
"Darrin," snarled Cantor, "this is all your doing!"
"Some of it, sir," Dave admitted, cheerfully. "I heard you and
another man talking in here, and I sent for Lieutenant Trent.
As it happens, I know this to be the home, or the hanging-out
place of Cosetta, and as I heard you talking just inside the door,
I reported that fact to Lieutenant Trent."
"You will find nothing in this house, and I have not been,
intentionally, in the house of a bandit, or in the house of any
other questionable character," snarled Cantor, turning his back
on Darrin. "And you are making a serious mistake in placing me
"If your companion had been a proper one he would not have run
away when American forces burst in here," Lieutenant Trent returned.
"Both on Ensign Darrin's report, and on my own observation and
suspicion, I will take the responsibility of placing you in arrest.
I shall report your arrest to the commanding officer on shore,
and will be guided by his instructions. You will have opportunity
to state your case to him."
"And he will order my instant release as soon as he hears why
I am on shore. Trent, you have made a serious mistake, and you
are continuing to make it by keeping me in arrest."
"Sorry, Cantor; sorry, indeed, if I am doing you an injustice,"
Lieutenant Trent answered, with more feeling. "Yet under the
circumstances, I cannot read my duty in any other way."
"You'll be sorry," cried Cantor, angrily.
"I don't know what to make of this, sir," Danny Grin reported,
a much puzzled look showing on his face. "That cellar door was
shut and bolted in our faces. We smashed the door instantly,
and rushed down the stairs. When we reached the cellar we found
it empty; whoever the man was he escaped in some way that is a
mystery to me."
"Have you thought of the probability of a secret passage from
the cellar?" inquired Trent.
"Yes, sir, and we've sounded the walls, but without any result."
"I'll go below with you," offered Trent. "Ensign Darrin, bear
in mind that we are in danger of being surprised here, and would
then find ourselves in something of a trap. Take ten men and
go into the street, keeping close watch."
Twenty minutes later Trent came out, followed by his command,
with whom marched the fuming Cantor, a prisoner.
"Darrin, there must be a secret passage from the cellar," Trent
told his subordinate, "but we have been unable to find it. We
are bringing with us the body of the sniper that Riley shot on
Line was formed and the detachment started back, Danny Grin and
two sailormen acting as a rear guard against possible attack.
Arrived at the post-office Trent, accompanied by Cantor and the
latter's guards, hurried off in search of the commanding officer
of the shore force.
Fifteen minutes later Lieutenant Trent returned.
"I was sustained," he informed Dave and Dan. "It was tough, but
the commanding officer directed me to send Cantor under escort
back to the '_Long Island_,' with a brief report stating why that
officer was placed in arrest."
There followed more waiting, during which the sound of individual
firing over the city became more frequent. Cantor's guard returned
from the "_Long Island_," with word that Captain Gales had ordered
that officer in arrest in his own quarters.
At last orders for Trent's detachment arrived.
"We are to push on into the city," Trent informed his ensigns.
"Twenty more '_Long Island_' men will reach us within three minutes.
We are to silence snipers, and kill them if we catch them red-handed
in firing on our forces. Above all, we are directed to be on the
alert for any Americans or other foreigners who may be in need of
help. We are likely to have a busy night."
Then, turning to his men, he added:
"Fall in by twos! Forward, march!"
THE SKIRMISH AT THE DILIGENCIA
Trent saw his reinforcements approaching, and advanced to pick
them up and add them to his command.
The column, now a strong one for patrol purposes, turned at right
angles at the first corner, and marched on into the city, from
the further side of which came the sound of firing.
Every man with the column carried a hundred and fifty rounds of
ammunition. A machine gun was trailed along at the rear, in the
event that it might be wanted.
Less than half a mile from the start, Lieutenant Trent's command
sighted the American advance line ahead. Some of the seamen and
marines in this advanced line occupied rooftops and kept up a
variable, crackling fire.
As Trent approached the line, a lieutenant-commander approached him.
"Do you come to reinforce us, Lieutenant?" he inquired.
"No, sir," Trent answered. "We are to patrol, and to took out
for Americans and other foreigners who may be in danger."
"Then I would caution you, Lieutenant, that this is the outer
line. If you get ahead of us, take extreme care that you do nothing
to lead us to mistake you for Mexicans."
"I shall be extremely cautious, sir," Trent replied, saluting,
then marched his command through the line and on up the street.
"Good luck to you," called several of the sailors in the line.
"Bring us back a few Mexicans!"
"We'd like to, all right," replied Riley, in an undertone.
"Ensign Darrin, take a petty officer and four men and lead a point,"
Lieutenant Trent ordered. "I don't want the 'glory' of running
a command into an ambush."
Calling to Riley and four sailormen, Dave led them down the street
at the double-quick until he was two hundred yards in advance
Then he led his men on at marching speed.
The work at the "point" is always the post of greatest danger
with a marching command. This point is small in numbers, and
moves well in advance. If the enemy has posted an ambuscade on
the line of march it is the point that runs into this danger.
As they marched Dave did not preserve any formation of his men.
His detachment strode forward, alert and watchful, their rifles
ready for instant use.
Three blocks away a horse stood tethered before a door. Hearing
the sound of approaching feet a man looked hurriedly out of the
doorway. Then he rushed to the horse and untied it.
"Halt!" Shouted Ensign Darrin, as he saw the man dart from the
doorway. "Halt!" he ordered, a second time, as the man seized
the horses's bridle ready to mount.
Quick as a flash the stranger drew a revolver, firing two shots
down the street.
"Fire! Get him!" shouted Darrin.
Five rifles spoke, instantly. Just in the act of reaching the
saddle the stranger plunged sideways, fell to the roadway, the
startled horse galloping off without its rider.
"Don't run to him," commanded Dave Darrin. "We'll reach him soon
Close at hand it was seen that the man was in the uniform of a
Mexican officer. His insignia proved him to be a major.
"Dead," said Riley. "Two pills reached him, and either would
Dave nodded his head in assent, adding:
"Leave him. Our work is to keep the point moving."
When they had gone a quarter of a mile further, a sound of firing
attracted the attention of the American detachment.
"Lieutenant Trent's compliments, sir," panted a breathless messenger,
saluting, "and you will turn down the next corner, Ensign, and
march toward the firing."
After a few minutes Dave sighted a large building ahead. He did
not know the building, then, but learned afterwards that it was
the Hotel Diligencia.
Almost as soon as Darrin perceived the building, snipers on its
roof espied the Navy men.
Cr-r-rack! The brisk fire that rang out from the roof of the
hotel was almost as regular as a volley of shots would have been.
Darrin ordered his men to keep close to the buildings on either
side of the street, and to return the fire as rapidly as good
"Drive 'em from that roof," was Darrin's order.
Lieutenant Trent arrived on the double-quick with the rest of
"Give it to 'em, hot and heavy!" ordered Trent, and instantly
sixty rifles were in action.
Suddenly a window, a some distance down the street from the Americans
opened, and a man thrust a rifle out, taking aim. That rifle never
barked, for Dave, with a single shot from his revolver, sent the
would-be marksman reeling back.
"Watch that window, Riley, and fire if a head appears there," Dave
directed. "There may be others in that room."
Cat-like in his watchfulness, Riley kept the muzzle of his weapon
trained on that window.
"Look out overhead!" called Danny Grin, suddenly.
From the roofs of three houses overlooking the naval detachment
fire opened instantly after the warning. Two of the "_Long Island's_"
men dropped, one of them badly wounded.
Then the sailormen returned the fire. Two Mexicans dropped to
the street, one shot through the head; the other wounded in the
chest. Other Mexicans had been seen to stagger, and were probably
hit. Thereafter a dozen seamen constantly watched the roofs close
at hand, occasionally "getting" a Mexican.
"I know what I would do, if I had authority," Darrin muttered
to his superior. "I'd send back for dynamite, and, whenever we
were fired on from a house I'd bring it down in ruins."
It was a terrible suggestion, but being fired upon from overhead
in a city makes fighting men savage.
Evidently the Mexicans on the hotel roof had been reinforced,
for now the fire in that direction broke out heavier than ever.
"Shall I have the machine gun brought up, sir?" Dave hinted.
"Yes," approved Trent, crisply. "We'll see what a machine gun
can do when brought to bear on a roof."
So Ensign Darrin ran back to give the order. The gun was brought
up instantly, loaded, aimed and fired.
R-r-r-r-rip! Its volleys rang out. A rain of bullets struck
at the edge of the hotel roof, driving back the snipers amid yells
Yet the instant the machine gun ceased its leaden cyclone the
snipers were back at work, firing in a way that showed their rage.
"We can keep 'em down with the machine gun," declared Trent, "But
it might take all the ammunition of the fleet to keep it running
long enough unless we can make more hits."
In their recklessness the Mexicans exposed themselves so that four
more of them fell before the seamen's rifles.
"Probably the Mexicans can get reinforcements," Dalzell muttered.
"Though we may hit a few in an hour's firing, they can replace
every man we hit."
"At least we can give those fellows something to think about between
now and daylight," Dave returned, compressing his lips grimly.
"Grenfel is wounded, sir, and Penniman has just been killed,"
reported a petty officer, saluting.
Lieutenant Trent hastened back to confirm the death of Penniman,
and also to see if anything could be done for the comfort of the
wounded man. He decided to send Grenfel back, two sailormen being
detailed for that purpose.
"Look out for snipers," the officer warned the bearers of the
wounded man. "Carry your rifles slung and be ready for instant
work. If we hear you firing behind us I'll send men to help you
Along the street, ahead of the detachment, a man came crawling
from the direction of the hotel.
In an instant a dozen sailormen leveled their weapons.
"Hold up there, men!" Darrin called, sharply.
"Don't shoot at him."
An instant later snipers on the hotel roof discovered the crawling
man, opening fire on him so briskly that the endangered one rose
to his feet and came sprinting toward the sailors with both hands
"Lower your hands!" shouted Darrin. "They make targets. We won't
fire on you!"
That the man understood English was plain from his instant obedience.
With Mexican bullets raining about him, the fugitive came on at
"Here! Stop!" Ensign Darrin ordered, catching the man and swinging
him into a doorway. "Keep in there, and you're safe from the
Swiftly Lieutenant Trent crossed the street to hear the escaped one,
whom Darrin was already questioning.
"You're an American?" asked Dave.
"Yes!" came the answer.
"How did you come to be here?"
"Escaped from the basement of the hotel. I knew it was up to
me to get through to you if I could live through the storm of
bullets that I knew would be sent after me. My news is of the
Then, to the astounded American Navy officers the stranger made
this blood-stirring announcement: