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Dave Darrin at Vera Cruz by H. Irving Hancock

Part 4 out of 4

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"In the Hotel Diligencia are at least twenty American women!"



"You're sure of that?" breathed Trent, tensely.

I ought to be, uttered the man, hoarsely. "One of the women is
my wife, and another is my daughter! I haven't seen any of the
women in five hours."

"How so?" asked Trent, sharply.

"The soldiers thrust me into the basement. Ever since I found
myself alone I've been working with a penknife to dig out the
mortar of the bricks in which the window bars were imbedded."

"The instant I had jerked enough bars loose I crawled through the
opening and started for you."

Giving swift instructions to keep the machine gun going continuously,
and to keep the fire trained on the edge of the hotel roof, Trent
detailed four riflemen to remain with the machine gun man, then
led the rest swiftly under the hail of bullets that raged over
their heads.

In this mode of attack the sailormen gained the sidewalk under the
hotel without a shot having been fired from the roof.

"Ensign Darrin, lead as many men as you can against the doors!"
ordered the lieutenant. "Get them down as fast as you can!"

Their first assaults against the massive doors failing, four sailors
were sent on a run for some form of battering ram. They returned
with half of a telegraph pole that had been cut in two by shell
fire in the afternoon.

Borne by a dozen stout jackies, the pole was dashed against the
door. At the second assault the lock was broken. Dave dashed
into the hotel at the head of his squad.

"Straight to the roof, Ensign Darrin!" shouted Lieutenant Trent.
"Ensign Dalzell, you will take ten men and endeavor to find the
American women."

Then Trent, with the remainder of the command, rushed on after
the advance guard. Up the stairs dashed Dave in the lead. The
skylight proved not to be fastened.

Only a minute before had the machine gun stopped its murderous
hail. Now some thirty Mexican soldiers crept to the edge of the
roof to try their luck again with the sailormen up the street.

"There is only a handful of them," shouted one Mexican. "The
gringos must be under the hotel, or in it!"

At that announcement there was a swift rush toward the skylight.
Just before they reached it Darrin sprang into sight, followed
by his men. Short, sharp conflict followed. Twelve Mexicans,
three of them killed, went down, and two American sailormen had
been wounded when the enemy sent up their appeal for "_piedad_,"
or quarter.

Saluting, a sailorman reported to Lieutenant Trent that Ensign
Dalzell had found the American women in the annex of the hotel.
None had been injured, but all were much frightened.

Leaving a petty officer in charge on the roof, Trent turned to
Dave to say:

"Come along, Darrin. We'll see what can be done for our countrywomen."

Hastily descending, and following the messenger, the two officers
were met at the door of a spacious room by Ensign Dalzell.

"Ladies," said Dan, turning, "here are Lieutenant Trent and Ensign
Darrin. The former commands this detachment."

On the floor lay more than a dozen wounded Mexicans.

Two of the American women, having had nursing experience, had taken
good care of the injured.

"Ladies," asked Lieutenant Trent, "have you been roughly treated
by the Mexicans?"

"Far from it," said one of the women. "The Mexican officer in
command treated us with great consideration. We were in the main
part of the hotel, the wooden building. The Mexican officer told
us that his men were going to occupy the roof as a military necessity,
and that there would be fighting. He assured us that we would
be safer in the annex, and escorted us here."

"Where is that officer now?" asked Trent, promptly. "I would
like to shake hands with him."

"I am afraid you would have to travel inside the Mexican lines,"
said another woman. "A little while ago a party of horsemen rode
up to the rear of the hotel, and one officer, a lieutenant-colonel,
came up into the hotel and sought the officer in command here,
ordering him to withdraw with his men, leaving only a few behind
to keep up a show of resistance."

"I will see that you are taken at once inside the American lines,"
declared Trout. "There you will be safe."

Preparations were quickly made. The Mexican prisoners who were
able to walk were formed under guard. The American women walked
on ahead of the prisoners. Ensign Darrin, with half of the command,
took charge of the rescued women and prisoners, and went to the
lower part of the town, to turn over the refugees and prisoners.

Trent posted a squad of his men, under Boatswain's Mate Pearson,
on the roof. The rest of the seamen were stationed in the street,
and Dave was placed in immediate command, with instructions to
keep a sharp lookout on all sides. The boatswain's mate was to
report to him anything observed from the roof.

In half an hour Danny Grin's detachment returned, coming almost
on the double-quick. Dalzell, wide-eyed with news, drew his brother
officers aside.

"Cantor has escaped!" Dan murmured, excitedly. "It was not widely
known on the '_Long Island_' that he was in arrest. So it seems
that he went down over the side, stepped into a gig, and ordered
the coxswain to take him ashore. As he was in civilian dress
he was not likely to be closely observed by sentries on shore,
and so far no trace of him has been discovered."

"I believe he has left the Navy," Dave nodded. "Further, as he
appeared to have strange interests ashore, I believe that he has
deserted to the enemy."

"Don't say that," begged Trent earnestly. "Bad as he may have
been, Cantor was trained in all the traditions of the Navy. I
can believe him wild, or even bad, but I can't believe him big
enough scoundrel to desert to the enemy."

"It's a fearful thing to believe," Darrin admitted, "but what
are we to believe? We found him in the house of that notorious
bandit, Cosetta. Do you feel any doubt, sir, that Cosetta has
proposed, or will propose to the Huerta government that he bring
his men in under the Mexican flag in return for a pardon? There
is another side to it, sir. The landing plans were stolen from
Captain Gales's desk. Doesn't it now seem likely that Cantor
stole the plans, and turned them over to Cosetta, who would be
delighted at the chance of being able to turn them over to the
commander of the Mexican forces around Vera Cruz?"

"The suspicion seems plausible enough," Trent admitted, sadly,
"yet it is a terrible thing to believe."

"What's that?" cried Dan, jumping suddenly as shots rang out in
another street close at hand.

First had come three or four shots, almost immediately a crashing
fire had followed.

"Ensign Darrin," ordered Trent, promptly, "take thirty men and
locate that firing. If you run into anything that you cannot
handle, rush word back to me."

Like a shot, Dave Darrin was off, running at the head of thirty
sailormen. Around two corners they dashed, then came in sight
of a scene that made their blood boil.

Some forty men stood in the street, firing at a house from whose
windows flashes of pistol shots came. Plainly the defenders were
pitifully weak. Up to this moment the men in the street had not
observed Ensign Dave's party.

"Sprint down close enough, Riley," Dave directed, "to see whether
the men in the street are Mexicans or our own men. I suspect
they're Mexicans."

"They're Mexicans, sir!" panted Riley, returning at a sprint.

"Ready! Aim! Fire!" shouted Darrin. "Charge. Fire as you need."

As the volley rang out several Mexicans dropped. Dave dashed
down the street at the head of his men.

A feeble return of the fire came from the Mexicans, who then broke
and fled to the next corner.

"Are there Americans inside the house?" called Dave, halting before
the open but darkened windows.

"Indeed there are!" came a jubilant voice. "Are you Americans?"

"From the '_Long Island_,'" Dave answered. "Come out and join
us, and we'll take you to safety."

"Now, heaven be praised for this!" answered the same man's voice,
devoutly. "Come, my dear ones. We are under the protection of
our own Navy men."

Out into the street came a man and woman past middle age. Behind
them followed a man of perhaps twenty-five, and a woman who was
still younger.

"I am Ensign Darrin, at your service," Darrin announced, raising
his cap.

"We were never so glad before to see a naval officer, Mr. Darrin,"
responded the older man, heartily. "Tom and I had only our revolvers
with which to defend ourselves. Permit me. I am Jason Denman.
This is my wife, this our daughter, and this our son."

Dave stepped closer to acknowledge the introduction. When, in
the darkness, his gaze rested on the young woman, Ensign Darrin
gave a gasp of surprise.

"You are wondering if we have met before," smiled the young woman,
sadly. "Yes, Mr. Darrin, we have. You thrashed that bully, Mr.
Cantor, one night in New York."

"I did not know, then, that he was a brother officer," murmured
Dave, "but I would have struck him even if I had known."

"He was here to-night, with the Mexicans whom you drove away,"
continued the young woman.

"With Mexican soldiers?" gasped Darrin.

"There were but a few soldiers," Miss Denman continued. "The
rest were Mexican civilians, brigands, I believe."

"Before I can discuss matters," Darrin replied quickly, "I must
get you to a place of safety. You will please march in the middle
of this small command. Fall in, men, by fours."

As quickly as possible the line was in motion. Dave marched back
to the Hotel Diligencia, where he made instant report to his superior.

"This is the worst news possible!" gasped Lieutenant Trent. "I
must send word to the commanding officer downtown, and will do
so by Dalzell, who will take thirty men and escort the Denmans
to safety."

"As to Lieutenant Cantor, sir," Dave asked his commander. "He
is to be arrested wherever found, I suppose?"

"He is to be arrested," replied Trent, between closed teeth.
"If be resists arrest, or if he fires upon our party, he is to
be shot at once."

"Shot?" gasped Dave Darrin.

"You have your orders, Darrin, and they are proper, legal orders."

"And I shall obey the order, if need arise."

From across the street, as Darrin finished speaking, a window
was raised and several rifles were aimed directly at him. Then
shots rang out.



Unconsciously Ensign Dave Darrin swayed slightly, so close did the
shower of bullets pass him.

Then the reports of more than a score of American rifles rang out
just as Danny Grin reached his chum's side.

"Hurt, David, little giant?" asked Dan.

"Not even touched, so far as I know," smiled Darrin.

"Boatswain's mate, take a dozen men and leap into that house through
the open window!" Lieutenant Trent called, sternly.

Then the senior officer hurried over to the subordinate.

"Did the rascals get you, Darrin?" demanded the lieutenant, anxiously.

"I don't think so, sir," was the reply. "I don't believe I've
a scratch."

"It's a marvel," gasped Trent, after having taken a pocket electric
light and by its rays examined the young ensign. "I believe every
one of those Mexicans aimed at you."

"It seemed so, sir," Dave laughed.

Danny Grin had already gone, and without orders. The instant
he was satisfied that his chum was uninjured Dalzell had leaped
away in the wake of the party led by the boatswain's mate. Now
Dan was climbing in through the window, helped by two seamen who
had been left on guard outside.

But the search of the house revealed only one dead Mexican, not
in uniform, who had been killed by the sailormen's fire, and a
trail of blood that must have been shed by the wounded enemy as
they were carried away.

"Bandits---Cosetta's men---not soldiers, this time," was Dan's
instant guess.

The miscreants and their wounded, as the blood trail showed, had
escaped by way of the rear of the house. None were in sight by
the time the Americans reached the back yard.

"Shall we pursue, sir?" asked the boatswain's mate, saluting.

"In what direction?" asked Dalzell, scanning the ground. "The
rascals can run faster than we can follow a trail of blood. But
you may go back to Lieutenant Trent, report just what we have
found, and bring me his orders."

"Lieutenant Trent believes that you are not likely to catch up
with the fugitives, and there would be danger of running a handful
of men into a cunning Mexican ambush," the petty officer reported,
two minutes later.

After that the night dragged slowly. Trent allowed some of his
men to sleep in doorways an hour or so at a time, but there were
enough sailormen awake to handle any sudden surprise or attack.

At four in the morning Trent's command was relieved by a company
of marines with two machine guns.

Lieutenant Trent, under orders, marched his command back to a park
in which tents had been pitched. Here, under blankets on the
ground, the tired sailormen and their three officers were allowed
to sleep until noon.

By daylight of that day, Wednesday, the first detachment ashore
had been strongly reinforced.

There was still much sniping in the city, though now the firing came
mostly from the rear of the town. Slowly, patiently, the Navy
detachments pushed their way forward, attending to snipers and also
searching houses for concealed arms and ammunition.

In the course of this search hundreds of Mexicans were arrested.
Even some very small boys were found with knives.

On the third day the residents of the city were warned that all
who possessed arms must take their weapons to the provost officer's
headquarters. About nineteen hundred men, women and boys turned
in their weapons, running all the way from the latest models of
rifles down to century-old muskets.

Soon after orders were issued that all natives found armed were
to be executed on the spot. To the average American this might
have seemed like a cruel order, but now the list of dead sailormen
and marines had reached twenty-five, and there were scores of
wounded American fighting men. Stern steps were necessary to
stop the deadly sniping.

Another day passed, and Vera Cruz, now completely occupied by
the Americans, had ceased to be a battle ground. Now and then
a solitary shot was heard, but in every instance the sniper was
tracked down, and his fate provided another tenant for the Vera
Cruz burying ground.

Detachments were now posted even to the suburbs of the city.

On the morning of the fifth day, just after Trent's detachment had
been roused from a night's sleep in a park in the heart of Vera
Cruz, orders came to the lieutenant that seemed to please him.

"We are to march as soon as we have had breakfast," Trent told
his two junior officers. "We are to take position a mile and
a half south-west of the advanced line, and there wait to protect,
if necessary, the Navy aviators, who are going out soon on a scouting
flight. At the same time, we are to keep a lookout for the appearance
of one of the airships that the Huerta forces are supposed to
possess. If we see one, we are to try to get it with the machine
guns or rifles. And here is a piece of news that may interest
you youngsters. If requested by either of the Navy aviators,
I am to allow one of my junior officers to go up in the airship
to help with the preparation of field notes to be used in making
a military map. If such a demand be made upon me, which of you
young men shall be the one to go?"

Ensigns Dave and Dan had turned glowing faces to Trent. Then
they glanced at each other. A scouting trip in one of the Navy
aircraft would be an unqualified delight to either.

"Let Darrin go," urged Danny Grin.

"I withdraw, in favor of Dalzell," spoke Dave, with equal quickness.

"Which shall it be, then?" Trent demanded quizzically.

"Dalzell," said Dave.

"Darrin," decreed Danny Grin.

"How am I to decide?" asked the lieutenant, smiling at the two
eager faces. Then, suddenly he added: "I have it! Which excelled
the other in map work at Annapolis?"

"Darrin had the higher marks! I defy you to dispute that, David,
little giant."

As Danny Grin's statement was true, Dave could not dispute it,
so be contented himself by saying:

"Dalzell's map-work at Annapolis was good enough to suit any need
around here, and I shall be glad to see Dalzell get the chance."

"On that showing," returned Trent, "Darrin shall have the chance
if it comes this way."

After a quick meal the detachment was under way. In about an
hour the position ordered had been taken.

"Here comes the first Navy birdman!" cried Dan suddenly, pointing

Just appearing over the housetops, and soaring to an elevation
of a thousand feet, came one of the huge hydro-aeroplanes in which
Navy aviators had long been practicing for just such work as this.
Capable of coming down and resting on the water, or of rising
from the same, these aircraft were ideally suited to the work.
Swiftly over Vera Cruz came the airship, then straight out over
the advanced line, and next on toward the detachment beyond.

"He isn't coming down," cried Danny Grin in a tone of genuine
disappointment. "No chance for you on that one, Davy! Too bad!"

Yet suddenly the rattling noise nearly overhead almost ceased
as the engine was shut off. Then gracefully the craft voloplaned
and touched the ground, just inside the detachment's line.

"Great work, Bowers!" cried Trent, recognizing in the Navy birdman
a former classmate at Annapolis.

"Thank you, Trent. You have an officer, haven't you, to help
me with field notes on this survey?"

"I have two," smiled Trent, "but I am afraid I can spare only
one. Lieutenant Bowers, Ensign Darrin. Hop aboard, Darrin!"

In a twinkling Ensign Dave had shaken hands with the birdman,

"At your orders, sir!"

Then Dave stepped nimbly up to the platform. "Take a seat beside
me, with your field-glasses ready. Here's your field note-book."

At a sign from Lieutenant Bowers, the eager sailormen parted in
front of the airship, which, after a brief run, soared gracefully
once more.

Behind Lieutenant Bowers stood a sailor with a signal flag.

"Step to the rear," Bowers directed, over his shoulder, "and wigwag
back: 'O.K. Stopped only for assistant.' Sign, 'Bowers.'

"Aye, aye, sir," answered the signalman. "Lieutenant Sherman's
airship is rising from the harbor, sir," reported the signalman.

"Very good," nodded Lieutenant Bowers, and kept his eyes on his
course. "Darrin, are you taking all the observations necessary and
entering them?"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"There's the railroad bridge about which the admiral was so anxious,"
said Bowers, presently. "You will note that the bridge stands, but
the railroad tracks have been torn up."

"Aye, aye, sir," Dave reported, after using his field glass.

"That's one of the things we wanted to know," Bowers continued.
"And keep an especially sharp lookout, Ensign, for any signs
of Mexican forces, hidden or in the open."

But, though Dare looked constantly, he saw no indications of
the Mexican column with which General Maas had retreated.

"Too bad about Cantor of your ship," murmured Lieutenant Bowers,
a little later. "Though the forces have been searching for him
for three or four days he can't be found anywhere. It must be
fearful to be tried for treason to one's flag. I am hoping that
Cantor will be brought in dead. Under such charges as he faces,
there's more dignity in being dead."

"Much more," Dave assented, in a low voice.

On and on they flew. Once, when Dave sighted moving persons in
the distance, Bowers drove the craft up to three thousand feet above
the earth. But soon, under the glass, these suspects turned out
to be a party of wretched refugees, hurrying, ragged, barefooted,
starving, gaunt and cactus-torn, to safety within the American lines
at Vera Cruz.

For many miles Bowers's craft flew inland, and much valuable information
was picked up, besides the data from which any naval draughtsman
could construct a very good map of that part of the country.

At last Lieutenant Bowers turned back.

Suddenly Dave exclaimed, "Hullo! There are two men coming out
of the adobe house ahead."

The house in question was out about four miles beyond Trent's

Dave kept his glass turned on the two men on the ground, at the
same the trying to conceal the glass from their view.

"They haven't rifles," he told Lieutenant Bowers. Then, as the
aircraft passed and left the adobe house to the rear, Darrin
bent over and whispered something in Bowers's ear that the signalman
behind them could not hear.



A Little later the hydro-aeroplane returned to Lieutenant Trent's

Dave placed in the hands of the lieutenant the field note-book, which
had been so carefully kept that any officer could draw a map from
it at need.

Lightly the big airship touched the earth just inside Trent's
line. Dave, shaking hands with his temporary commanding officer,

"Thank you for something I've always wanted---a flight over a
real enemy's country."

"I've greatly enjoyed having you with me," Lieutenant Bowers responded.
"Trent, you've obliged me hugely by giving me so good an assistant.
Good-bye, fellows."

The birdman was again several hundred feet up in the air.

"What kind of a trip was it?" asked Dalzell.

"It was wonderful," Dave breathed. "And I've brought back news of
great importance!"

"Did you get it from Mexico City or Washington?" Trent broke in.

"Of course not," Dave said, wonderingly.

"Then you've no such news as we can tell you," Danny went on,
quickly, sadly. "Can you guess what it is?"

"Our government isn't going to surrender us to the Huerta forces,
is it?"

"Not quite so bad as that," Dan admitted. "But listen! The
governments of Brazil, Argentine and Chili have offered their
services in arranging mediation between Washington and Mexico
City. And Washington has accepted!"

"No war?" gasped Dave Darrin, thunderstruck. "No war against
a country that has treated our citizens so outrageously? Has
Huerta accepted, too?"

"We haven't heard, as yet," Trent took up the thread of information,
"but there is a rumor that Huerta will be only too glad to accept,
even if only as a bluff. If, by any kind of a scheme, he can
hold us off for a few weeks, he will then have his army consolidated,
will have the railroad and bridges destroyed, and the mountain
roads to Mexico City all planted with mines, and then be able,
most likely, to make the advance of our Army to Mexico City cost
us hundreds of good Yankee lives per mile!"

"And Funston's brigade of regulars is on the way, too!" Danny
Grin added, sorrowfully. "Won't there be some mad soldier-boys?"

Ensign Dave Darrin stood with bowed head for a few moments. To
him it seemed hard indeed, if the Mexicans, after almost countless
outrages against American citizens, even to the extent of
assassination---and worse---were to escape their richly deserved
punishment through a few tricks of diplomacy.

Then the spirit of the service, so strong in him, came to the
surface. To others belonged the right of command, his only the
privilege to obey.

He raised his head, smiling. Then his own matter of report leaped
back into his mind. Bringing his heels together, straightening
up, he saluted:

"Sir, I have the honor to report that, while on the air flight,
I noted the location of a solitary adobe house about four miles
out. From that house came two men whom I distinctly recognized
through my field glass to be Lieutenant Cantor and the bandit,
Cosetta. Lieutenant Cantor, after one or two upward looks, bowed
his head and kept his eyes to the ground, but I am positive, sir,
of my identification of both men."

"And Cosetta's bandits?" inquired Trent. "Did you see any signs
of them?"

"No, sir, but the adobe house is large enough to hide them all."

"Any trenches near the house?"

"No, sir."

"I am afraid it would do little good to approach the house in
broad daylight," Lieutenant Trent reflected, excitedly, "but it
should make an excellent enterprise late in the night. I will
report this matter to Commander Dillingham, in command of the
advanced line. With his permission, we'll try to-night for the
capture of that much needed pair of rascals."

"Our signalman is being called from the advanced line, sir," reported
a saluting sailorman.

Wheeling, Trent ordered his own signalman to wig-wag, "Go ahead."
Then the lieutenant stood reading the message.

"You will fall back upon the advanced line," the signal read.

"Send 'O.K.,'" called the lieutenant.

"Sir," cried a sentry, "There's a party coming in. You can just
make 'em out, sir."

Stepping forward, Trent brought up his fieldglasses, while Dave
informed him:

"That was the second matter upon which I intended to report to you,
sir. I observed those people from the airship. I believe them
to be refugees."

Immediately Lieutenant Trent signaled the advanced line, reporting
the party seen out on the plain.

"Then wait and escort them in," came Commander Dillingham's order.

"O.K., sir," the detachment's signalman wigwagged back.

In three-quarters of an hour more the painfully moving party reached
the detachment. They were truly refugees, released from Mexico
City and nearby points.

The sight of these suffering people, some hundred and twenty in
number, and mainly Americans, was enough to cause many of the
sailormen to shed unaccustomed tears, and not to be ashamed of
them, either!

Every degree of wretchedness and raggedness was represented by
these sufferers of indescribable wrongs.

Men, and women too, showed the marks of rough handling by brutal
prison guards. There were many disfigured faces. One man carried
in a crude sling, an arm broken by a savage Mexican captor.

Such spectacles were of daily occurrence in Vera Cruz! These
wretched men, women and children had been on the way on foot since
the middle of the night, having painfully trudged in over the
twenty-five-mile gap in which the tracks had been torn up.

Ordering his men to fall in, Lieutenant Trent escorted the patient,
footsore procession in to the advanced line. The sailormen adjusted
their own steps to those of the sufferers. As they moved along
Coxswain Riley vented his feelings in an undertone:

"We need only a band and a dead march to make a funeral of this!
And---yet---no war!"

From the slow-moving ranks came only a deep, surly growl. Lieutenant
Trent turned around, then faced front once more; he had no heart
to utter a rebuke.

Mingled cheers and growls greeted the arrival of the pitiful fugitives
at the advanced lines. The cheers were for the fact that the
refugees had at least escaped with their lives. The growls were
for the Mexicans responsible for this spectacle.

"We must secure conveyances of some kind to take these poor people
into the city," declared Commander Dillingham. "I will send a
messenger to ask for the best sort of carriages that can be found
in a place like Vera Cruz. Lieutenant, as the second airship
is returning yonder, your duty outside the lines is over. You
may march your men to the camp yonder and let them rest until
they are needed."

"I wish a word with you, sir, when possible," Trent urged.

"At once," replied Commander Dillingham. Darrin was with Lieutenant
Trent when he reported the discovery of the whereabouts of Cantor
and Cosetta.

"It wouldn't do any good to go out in the daytime," the commander
decided. "The fellows would see you coming, and take to their
heels toward the interior before you came within rifle range.
You will have to go after dark, Lieutenant, and better still,
towards midnight. In the early evening they might be watching
for an American advance, but late at night they would decide that
their hiding place is not suspected. You will plan, Lieutenant,
to leave here at a little before eleven o'clock to-night, which
will bring you to the adobe house about midnight. I will communicate
my information to the commander of the forces ashore, and, if
not reversed by him, my present instructions will hold."

The orders were not reversed. At 10.45 that night Trent marched
his detachment beyond the advanced line. Every man moved as softly
as he could, and there was no jingling of military accoutrements.

Finally the adobe house stood out dimly against the night sky at
a distance of less than half a mile.

"If Cosetta has his men with him, they are doubtless sleeping
outside, on their arms, tonight," Lieutenant Trent explained,
after a softly ordered halt. "When we attack, Cantor and perhaps
Cosetta, will try to escape from the rear of the house, making
a quick dash for the interior, while Cosetta's men try to hold
us in check. Therefore, Darrin, I am going to let you have fifteen
men. You will make a wide detour of the house, and try to work
to a position in the immediate rear. You will have your men lie
flat on the ground, and I will take every precaution that my men
do not fire upon you. If you see Cosetta or Cantor, you will
know what to do."

"Aye, aye, sir," responded Ensign Darrin.

With the stealth of a cat Dave advanced, revolver in hand. He was
behind the house, and within forty feet of the back door, when a
crashing fire ripped out in front.

Cosetta's men, lying on the ground, had failed to note Darrin's
flanking movement, but had discovered Trent's advance.

Suddenly the rear door flew open, and two men dashed out.

"Halt!" shouted Dave, dashing forward.

Cosetta reached for a revolver. Before he could produce it Darrin's
bullet laid him low.

But Cantor sprang at the young ensign with such force as to bear
him to earth.

One of Cantor's hands gripped at Dave's throat. In the traitor's
other hand flashed a narrow-bladed Mexican knife.

"The score is settled at last!" hissed Cantor, as he drove the
weapon down.



It's the thought that can take shape in the hundredth part of a
second that saves human life at such a crisis.

The instant he felt the hand at his throat there flashed into
Dave's mind a sailor's trick that had come to him, indirectly,
from Japan.

Clasping both of his own hands inside of Cantor's arm, and holding
both arms rigidly, Darrin rolled himself over sideways with such
force as to send the traitor sprawling.

Dave got to his feet with the speed of desperation that rules when
one is in danger.

Yet the traitor was hardly a whit behind him in rising.

Crouching low, with the knife in his hand, Cantor watched his
chance to spring.

Ensign Dave's revolver lay on the ground. To take the second
needed to recover the weapon would cost him his life at the point
of the knife.

Cosetta, lying desperately wounded, tried to crawl over the ground
a few feet in order to reach his own pistol.

"Take it!" hissed Cantor, leaping forward, panther-like, and making
a sudden lunge.

Throwing up his left arm to ward off the weapon, Dave felt the
sharp sting of steel in his forearm.

Heedless of his wound, Dave, with his right hand, gripped the
wrist of the traitor.

It was a struggle, now, of trained athletes. Each used his left
hand in struggling for the advantage, watching, warily, also,
for a chance to use his feet or knees.

On the other side of the house the firing still continued.

Neither Dave nor his antagonist spoke. Silently they battled,
until both went to the ground.

Though Dave might have won with his fists, Cantor's superior weight
and muscle counted in this deadly clinch. And now Darrin found
himself lying with both shoulders touching, while Cantor, kneeling
over him, fought to free his knife hand for the final thrust.

On the ground beyond, through the hail of fire from their own
comrades, wriggled Riley and two sailormen. The instant they
neared the corner of the house all three leaped to their feet,
dashing to the aid of their young officer.

"Don't shoot, Riley!" panted Ensign Dave Darrin. "Stun him!"

In a twinkling Riley reversed his clutch on his aimed rifle, bringing
down the butt across the traitor's head. Cantor rolled over.

"Shall I wind up this Greaser, sir?" asked one of the sailormen,
thrusting the muzzle of his rifle against Cosetta's breast.

"No!" Dave commanded, sharply. "We don't kill when we can take

So the seaman contented himself with standing guard over the wounded

Suddenly the machine gun began to rip into the ranks of the bandits
in front of the house. An instant later a dozen sailors whom
Riley had left behind reached the flanking position for which
they had rushed, and began pouring in a raking fire on the bandits.
Assailed from two sides Cosetta's now leaderless band broke in
wild confusion, and fled, leaving behind many dead and wounded.

Quickly Trent surrounded the house, but there was no one inside.
And then Trout came upon his subordinate.

"Why, Darrin, you're hurt!" he cried, pointing to Dave's left arm.

As the firing died out Dave glanced down at his sleeve.

"Off with your blouse!" spoke the lieutenant, in a tone of command.

Riley helped to remove the blouse, meanwhile explaining:

"We didn't crawl all the way to you, sir. We ran until we got
into a hail of bullets from our own messmates. Then, sir, that
we might reach you, we threw ourselves down and crawled a few yards."

"Riley," declared Dave, heartily, "you're as good a man as there
is in the United States Navy!"

Whereat the petty officer fairly blushed with pride.

"All our men are so good," added Trent, genially, "that it's a
difficult task to pick the best."

The surviving bandits had fled. Trent's orders forbade pursuing
beyond the house. So, while Riley and Dave were examining the
deep wound in the latter's forearm, Trent gave orders to bury
the dead in shallow graves and to pick up the wounded for removal
to Vera Cruz.

Immediately upon returning to the advanced line Dave was ordered
back to the "_Long Island_" for prompt surgical treatment. Though
his wound was not dangerous, in itself, the climate of Vera Cruz
is one in which there is the gravest danger of blood-poisoning
setting in in any wound.

The day after that, duty on shore being lighter, and officers
being needed aboard, Danny Grin was ordered back to ship duty,
while Lieutenant Trent remained ashore with his detachment.

Having broken arrest, Cantor, on being returned to ship, was placed
behind the steel bars of the ship's brig. There was no further
escape for him. But his brother officers sighed their relief
when a board of surgeons declared Lieutenant Cantor to be hopelessly
insane, and expressed their opinion that he had been in that unfortunate
mental condition for at least some weeks. That removed the taint
of treason from the "_Long Island's_" ward-room, as an insane man
is never held responsible for his wrong acts.

It was gambling to excess, and the fear of being dropped from the
Navy Register, that had caused the wreck of Cantor's mind. He is
now properly confined in an asylum.

Mrs. Black had not left Vera Cruz, but still lingered on one of
the refugee ships in the harbor, where the Denmans found her.
Mrs. Black was a widow who devoted her time and her wealth to
missionary work in Mexico. Dave learned to his surprise that
she was the daughter of Jason Denman, and a sister of the girl
whom Dave had served so signally in New York.

Mr. Denman, who was a wealthy resident of an Ohio town, had extensive
mining interests in Mexico, and had gone there to look after them,
leaving Miss Denman and her mother in New York. Cantor, who had
first met the Denmans in Ohio, when on recruiting duty in that
state, had planned to make Miss Denman his wife for purely mercenary
reasons. He had struggled to overcome his gaming mania, and had
planned that once Miss Denman became his wife her money should
be used to pay his gaming debts and free him from the claims of
the vice.

But Mr. Denman, with the insight of a wise man, had discouraged
the suit.

In New York, before the "_Long Island_" had sailed, Cantor had
met young Tom Denman in a gambling resort. Plying the young man
with liquor, Cantor had persuaded the young man, when unconscious
of what he was doing, to forge a banker's name to two checks,
which Cantor had persuaded an acquaintance of his to cash. Of
course the checks had been refused payment at the bank, but the
man who had cashed them had disappeared.

Cantor had offered to save young Tom Denman. Without involving
himself Cantor could have testified that the young man was all
but unconscious, and without knowledge of his act, when he "forged"
the cheeks.

The bank that had been deceived into cashing the checks before
they were forwarded to the bank upon which they were drawn, had
located Tom Denman easily enough. Tom would have been arrested,
but Mrs. Denman promptly applied to a great detective agency,
which quickly established the young man's mental condition at
the of "forging" the checks. Moreover, Mrs. Denman, after cabling
her husband for authority to use his funds, had made good the
loss to the bank. Then mother, daughter and son had journeyed
hastily to Vera Cruz, that the boy might be under his father's eye.

That one lesson was enough for Tom Denman. He has never strayed

As to the theft of his landing plan, Captain Gales afterward explained
to several of his officers that no such theft had ever taken place.
"You recall, gentlemen," the captain explained, "that I
referred to the envelope which had contained the plans. And I
then stated that the envelope which had contained the plans had
disappeared. You will also remember, perhaps that I didn't state
that the plans themselves were gone, for they rested in my safe,
and are there at this moment. Acting that afternoon on an impulse
that I did not very well understand, I took the landing plans
from their envelope and filled the envelope with blank paper after
having put the plans in the safe.

"Cantor had knowledge of the envelope, and supposed, as any one
would have done, that the plans were inside. When my back was
turned for an instant Cantor took the envelope, which I did not
immediately miss, as I had no idea that any of my officers was
untrustworthy. Cantor hurried to his own quarters, and there
discovered the blank paper substitution. Furious, yet hating
Darrin for reasons which you now understand, Cantor hastened to
Darrin's room and slipped the envelope in under Darrin's mattress.
Cantor has admitted it to me---whatever the word of an adjudged
lunatic may be worth poor fellow!

"Now, as to Cantor's need of money, he was overwhelmed with gambling
debts in New York. Some wild fancy told him that he could win
money enough in Vera Cruz to pay his debts at home. He secured
leave and went ashore. In a gaming house there he lost all his
money, but still fought on against the game when he found that
his signature would be accepted. He plunged heavily, soon rising
from the table owing thirty thousand dollars to the house. Then
Cosetta, who was a silent partner of the house, noting the lieutenant's
despair, led him aside and cunningly informed him that he could
have all his notes back if he could only secure the authoritative
plans of the American landing. Cosetta, who had been a bandit
for many years, and who feared the time would come when his appearance
in Vera Cruz would be followed by arrest and execution, wanted
to turn the landing plans over to General Maas, the Mexican commander
here. Imagine the temptation to Cantor when he thought he had
the plans in his own hands!

"Cantor afterwards secured my permission to go ashore in civilian
garb, on the plea that he had urgent private business. As the
landing had been made, I permitted him to go. I have since discovered
that Cantor had word of the Denmans being in Vera Cruz. Cosetta
found the family for him, and Cantor made one last, desperate
plea for Miss Denman's hand. He was obliged to urge his suit
through the open window of the house. Then, when Mr. Denman sternly
refused to listen to him, Cosetta tried to kill Mr. Denman and
his son, intending to abduct Miss Denman and to force her to marry

"Cosetta died this morning. He had hoped to become at least a
colonel in Huerta's army. Cantor did not know Cosetta until that
chance meeting took place in the gambling house."

A week later, Dave Darrin, his wound now almost healed, stood
on the bridge of the "_Long Island_," Danny Grin at his side.

They had just watched the landing of the last boatloads of General
Funston's regulars.

"I believe that winds up the Navy's chapter at Vera Cruz, Danny,"
said Ensign Darrin. "The rest of it, if there is going to be
any 'rest,' will belong to the Army."

"We had an interesting time while it lasted," declared Dalzell,
with a broad grin.

"There is a world full of interesting times ahead of us. We'll
find time in every quarter of the globe. Isn't that so, Gunner's
Mate Riley?" he demanded of the former coxswain, who, promoted
that day, now stepped upon the bridge saluting, to show proudly
on his sleeve the badge of his new rating.

Whether Darrin's prediction was realized will be discovered in
the pages of the next volume of this series, which will be published
shortly under the title, "_Dave Darrin on Mediterranean Service;
Or, With Dan Dalzell on European Duty_."

In this forthcoming volume we shall encounter an amazing tale
of an American naval officer's life and duties abroad, and we
are likely, too, to hear from Lieutenant Trent and other good
fellows from the ward-rooms and from the forecastles of our splendid

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