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   Chapter 18 A DESPERATE UNDERTAKING

Under the Star-Spangled Banner By F. S. Brereton Characters: 32140

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


A gigantic success had indeed been scored for America by Admiral Dewey and his fleet, and it need scarcely be mentioned that east and west, north and south, he was a hero throughout the States. For the moment the interest of the nation was transferred to another sphere; the China seas claimed the earnest attention of all. Indeed, when fuller details were to hand, it was more and more apparent that the action in Manila Bay had been of the utmost importance; and before proceeding to detail the doings of Hal, it will be as well to describe the situation more precisely.

One would have thought, considering the importance and value commercially of the Philippines, that Spain would have strained every nerve to bring their defenses to a pitch of perfection which would have defied the might of America. But this was not the case, for just as the United States was deficient in men ashore, so was Spain hopelessly obsolete with regard to her sea-power. Though war had been expected for many months, and, indeed, had been imminent, no effort had been made to supply the Philippines with a modern fleet. Admiral Montojo, the sailor who commanded in the China seas, had but a poor squadron of vessels to depend upon, and it will be scarcely believed that, of the nine which sailed under his orders, one at least was unable to put to sea, for the simple and deplorable reason that her boilers were worn out and would not raise the necessary steam. Of the others, all may be described as obsolete in defenses and in armament. Whereas Admiral Dewey boasted of a fleet of six up-to-date ships, heavily armored, and with steel under-decks, in the case of the cruisers, which would give ample protection to the engines, the Spanish vessels had little more than thin iron plates to depend upon. In fact, in all that goes to make a fleet efficient and dangerous the Spanish ships were wanting. The American ships hopelessly outmatched Admiral Montojo's command in speed, protection, and gun-power.

The last mentioned, though not touched upon before, was not the least in importance, and here again Spain showed herself quite obsolete. Her guns were, almost without exception, old and practically useless. In addition, ancient and fairly modern cannon were placed in ships side by side-a terrible mistake, and one destined to cost their crews dear when the time for fighting came, for the task of selecting and supplying the various forms of shell and powder would be no light one.

Nor was it merely in point of fleets and armaments that the Spaniards failed. Knowing his ships to be hopelessly outmatched, it is a matter for wonder that the admiral did not sink them in the bay, after having removed all the guns and stores. Had he done so, he would have joined forces with the commander of the troops stationed in the environs of Manila, and with him could have given a decided check to the Americans when they attempted to land. Again, failing this, he might have withdrawn with all his ships to the numerous creeks which cut between the Philippines, and, lying hid there, might have sallied out at any moment, and taken Admiral Dewey unawares, thereby doing good service for king and country.

However, we have seen that he chose to set his face to the enemy, and one can only admire the courage of the man, and of all those who helped him during the engagement with the Americans. Defeat was certain, and death not improbable.

Indeed, when full details came to hand, it was only wonderful that any had escaped with their lives, for the Spanish fleet was taken unawares. Only half of the ships had steam up at the moment, while three were in the hands of the dockyard staff, undergoing repairs. Those that were ready steamed out to the open water, and formed in line of battle across the opening of Cavité Bay. As they took up their positions, Admiral Dewey and the American fleet swerved and ran down the line.

Twice did the fleet pass along the Spanish line, and by then the Reina Cristina, the flagship, was in flames, and had lost some fifty of her crew in killed, while the greater number were wounded. The other ships had fared as badly, and had been riddled with shell. Indeed, while the American fleet had been struck in all some dozen times, the Reina Cristina alone had been pierced by more than seventy missiles. By the time Admiral Dewey had passed down the line for the fifth and last time, the Spanish ships were burning and sinking in all directions.

Seeing that all was lost, Admiral Montojo, who had, after the fire on board the flagship, transferred his flag to a small cruiser, gave orders that all who were able were to scuttle their ships and abandon them. The command was reluctantly carried out, the wounded being taken ashore and placed in the villages, while the uninjured marched for Manila, bearing with them their arms and the breeches of their more or less useless cannon.

Having thus put out of action Admiral Montojo's whole fighting force, the Americans drew off for breakfast, and, having refreshed themselves, steamed into Cavité Bay in two lines. Here they met with little resistance, and in a very short while had silenced the shore batteries. When at last they drew off for the night, the naval arsenal at Cavité was in their hands, all the shipping within the harbor was in flames, while the town of Manila itself lay under their guns. Indeed, the might of Spain was broken in the seas which surrounded the Philippine Islands. But there the victory stopped, for by this time the American fleet was sadly short of shell and powder, and in addition there were no troops at hand to invade the island. Consequently, as the Spanish commander refused to surrender, Admiral Dewey found himself in a dilemma, in which we will leave him for the moment, while Hal Marchant and his doings claim our attention again.

Three days after landing at Key West he went aboard the Hudson again, and in due course stepped upon the deck of the flagship, the New York.

"How's the youngster?" asked his naval friend, shaking Hal by the hand.

"Doing well, I am glad to say. But he'll be in hospital for a month."

"And by then this war will be over," was the answer. "Our troops are getting into fighting order away over in the States, and before long they will be sailing for Cuba. Then I fancy two weeks will settle the Dons."

"And what is to happen in the meanwhile?" asked Hal.

"That's not easy to answer right now. The Philippines are going to be a bother, and may even delay the invasion of Cuba, for it seems that the natives there have made up their minds to be free of Spaniards and Americans too. That, of course, is clearly out of the question, and I believe a part of the force prepared for Cuba will be sent to the China seas. You see, Cuba will be freed and given independence, but with the Philippines it is a different matter. Up to this we Americans have held aloof from foreign conquest, but now it is necessary that we should have some possession in the East, for it is there that trouble with other nations is likely to arise in future. So, no doubt, we shall just go for these insurgents tooth and nail, till they think better of it and accept us as their masters.

"Another matter also is engaging our attention. Everyone in the fleet has to be precious spry, for Admiral Cervera has sailed with a Spanish fleet from Cadiz, and some say has already left St. Vincent for these seas. I need not tell you that Admiral Sampson hopes to catch him, and is disposing his vessels so as to watch all the approaches to Cuban waters. If we fall in with the hostile fleet, there will be a general action, and I tell you, sir, that the Amurricans will win. At any rate, you won't find a single commander who will strike his flag.

"In the meantime, and while we are keeping an eye open for Cervera, we are to make an attack upon San Juan, which, I dare say you know, lies very close to Cuba. It is a most important station, situated on the coast of Puerto Rico, one of the Caribbean Islands, and if in our possession would be an excellent base at which to concentrate our forces for the invasion of Cuba. If Cervera were to slip in there, his gunboats would make things very hot for us. Hillo! Time's up. I ought to have been on the bridge ten minutes ago. So long, Marchant, and let us hope that we have some fun to look forward to."

He nodded gayly to Hal, and ran up on to the bridge, looking particularly smart and sailor-like in his white suit and his linen-covered cap.

Hal paced up and down the deck for some time, closely observing the other vessels. Then he dived down to the gunroom to consult the papers. Already he felt quite at home, and like one of the officers, for he had been made an honorary member of the mess, and was in receipt of sufficient remuneration to pay his way. Indeed, by a friendly arrangement, he had been engaged as guide, in the not unlikely eventuality of a party of sailors being landed at Santiago. And so long as he remained on the ship, this arrangement was to be in force; but he had been careful, when accepting the post, to stipulate that, should an opportunity occur for him to land at Cuba, he was to take it at once, promising that he would return at the earliest moment, if it were possible, and if not, that he would transfer his services to the troops when they landed to invade the island.

"I've had orders from the commodore to make things agreeable to you," said the paymaster of the ship, soon after Hal came aboard. "Somehow, he seems to fancy that you're mad keen to slip ashore, and if that is the case, you're to go when you like. Up till then, you'll be ready to land and show the boys round at any moment. In return there's free rations with the officers, and so much allowed for extra tobacco and the like. If you do slip ashore-and I think you won't, because it is the kind of thing that a madman would do-then you've got to promise to come back to the ship as soon as you can, or to fall in with the troops. Now, do you jump at it or not?"

"The terms will suit me very well," Hal answered readily, only too thankful to feel that he was no longer a guest, but had some right on the ship.

And now for many days nothing of importance occurred. As predicted by the lieutenant, a bombardment of San Juan was attempted, but with negative results, and thereafter the fleet, sailing under the orders and flag of Admiral Sampson, patrolled the seas in and about Cuba, keeping a bright and anxious look-out all the while for the appearance of Admiral Cervera's warships.

Occasionally trifling engagements took place, and the Dons, looking from their forts, seldom failed to spy one or more of the blockading fleet in the offing. But no real success worthy of the name was gained on either side. An attempt on the part of the Americans to cut the cables was frustrated by the Spanish, who in this and in other engagements proved that a few, at least, of those who garrisoned the island were efficient. On the whole the Dons scored, but not to any marked degree. Then an event occurred which altered the plans of America, and caused Hal once again to run into danger.

"We've had news that Cervera sailed with his fleet from St. Vincent," said his friend the lieutenant one day, coming forward with a message just received on the flagship by semaphore. "The Spanish admiral hauled up his anchors and got the steam turned on somewhere about April 28th. Since that he's been lost. No one has so much as a notion where he's been, and I tell you the whole American fleet has been watchin'. Now the tale comes that the Maria Teresa-that's the flagship-and three other cruisers, with three destroyers that were built for the Dons some time ago by Britishers over in England, have hoodwinked the whole lot of us, and have slipped safely into Santiago. Mind you, it is not likely, but it's possible-quite possible; though, how on earth he managed to get through, without being discovered, is more than I can guess."

"Then I suppose that Admiral Sampson will order his fleet to Santiago?" said Hal.

"So, young man; you'll be a naval expert before you've left us. We're right now for the place, and I should fancy that Havana will be left in the cold."

"I'm very glad you are returning to my part of the island again," said Hal in tones of pleasure, "Now I shall have a chance of slipping ashore."

"That you may," was the reassuring answer. "If Cervera's fleet is really there, we shall be doin' somethin', you may be sure. Most likely there will be a landin', but it's too early to say for certain. When it does come along, though, my promise is a promise, and I'll stick to it and give you a helping hand."

Hal had to be satisfied with this, and spent the hours that intervened before the New York reached the neighborhood of Santiago in wandering aimlessly up and down the deck, wondering all the time what had happened at the hacienda during his long absence.

Even when the green-clad hills of Eastern Cuba were in sight he was still far from his object, for as yet there was nothing more than rumor-rumor which too often misleads or deliberately lies-to show that the Spanish fleet had arrived. Evidence there was already to hand which showed that Admiral Cervera had sailed straight from his station in the Cape Verde Isles to Martinique, and from there to Cura?oa. From that moment he had been lost. Rumor, as has been said, described his arrival in Santiago, and, indeed, the news was published in Spain, the government at Madrid declaring it to have been received direct by cable from Cuba. But it is not well always to believe the report of an enemy, for this might, after all, be only a simple and harmless ruse de guerre. And so for many days the American fleet under Sampson patrolled the seas, while Admiral Schley, who had also come upon the scene with another fleet of proud vessels flying the Stars and Stripes, sailed along the southern coast, reconnoitering every harbor.

"I can't get to the bottom of these Dons," said Lieutenant Samuel K. Billing in grumbling tones one day, as the New York lay to on the ocean, slowly drifting along the coast. "Here we are, longin' to know what's happened to Cervera, and just doin' nothin'. And how are we to obtain information? I guess that a bold course would suit the case better than anything. Just sail right in to a close range, so as to search the whole of Santiago with our glasses."

"That does sound the most sensible course," Hal agreed. "At any rate, it would save all this unnecessary delay, and would keep the American people in better humor. They must be very anxious for stirring news away in the States."

"So they are. But look here, Marchant; if Cervera is really in there, why does he not make a rush at us? That is what leads me to doubt whether he's in the island, or, rather, in the harbor; for if he were anchored in Santiago Bay, and just took the trouble to send out his destroyers, why, we should be most uneasy."

This, indeed, was the argument used by many. If Cervera-who was known to have three British-built destroyers with him-were really in Santiago, why, then, did he lie hidden and skulking in there? Why did he not take advantage of his strong position, and of the uncertainty covering his whereabouts, to steal out at night and fall upon the American ships which patrolled the open sea? A bold man with such possibilities before him, and with such obvious advantages, might well do much for the country he served, and wreak havoc in the ranks of the enemy's fleet. What did it mean to one acquainted with the noble profession of a sailor? Risk? Yes, certainly; but imagine what glory and what honor if success were to crown his efforts! Choosing some densely dark night, and with all lights carefully dowsed, the commander of one of those low, rakish-looking destroyers might easily run from the harbor, dash amongst the enemy, and discharge torpedoes right and left. What if the bag were only one proud ship each night? It would

still be a fine result, and the loss of confidence amongst the Americans, even with their iron nerves, would be an advantage to the Spaniards in future conflicts, for nothing tells upon the fighting qualities of a force, whether on land or at sea, like constant harassing tactics, and fear of attack which comes only when it is least suspected, and so suddenly as to make retaliation impossible.

In spite of all the possibilities, there was not so much as a move from the harbor, and even when a transport, laden with coal, was held up just outside and within shot of the batteries on Morro Castle, there was no sign of help, and no destroyers ran out to attack the American ships.

And yet, incredible though it may seem, Cervera had reached Santiago as early as May the 18th, though it was not till the end of the month, when Admiral Schley and his consorts made a reconnaissance in force, that it was definitely decided that the long-lost fleet was there. Day after day he had been lying hidden behind the promontory, with steam always up, and yet undecided how to act, and never venturing to leave the harbor. Truly a policy that was scarcely likely to win honor and possessions for his country!

It was a day of excitement and high hope when at last Cervera's whereabouts was known to the American fleet.

"George! But now it will be a game!" exclaimed Lieutenant Billing in delight. "Marchant, there'll be a chance for you yet. Wait till we've whopped this fellow to pieces, and then you shall go ashore."

"But how will you whop him?" asked Hal. "You have him safely in the harbor, I'll allow; but to reach him is another matter."

"That it is, and I ought not to have talked about knocking him to pieces. But I meant this. There he is, and there he'll stay. Do you follow? We're goin' to put a cork in the bottle."

"A cork? But how?"

"Like this," the lieutenant explained. "Santiago, as you must know mighty well, has got a long, narrow channel leadin' to the sea. Well, the water is not extraordinarily deep, and I reckon that a ship sunk sheer across the opening would act as a bung. We can't get in, as you've mentioned. It isn't exactly the kind of job an admiral would fancy, for there are mines placed everywhere in the fair way, to say nothing of the guns linin' the sides."

"Yes, they've mines, I know," Hal interposed, with a smile, remembering his own experience.

"So you do, young fellow. I was forgettin'. Well, we don't take kindly to the notion of walking straight in, so, if the gate is shut tight, it won't matter at all to us. But to the Don it will. He'd be just like a fly in a bottle, and he'd be as much ours as if he sailed out right away, and got knocked to pieces with our shells."

"Yes, I can see that," Hal agreed. "Once he allows himself to be shut in, he will be out of the game altogether. He will be harmless to you, and a dead loss to his own side. In fact, the Spanish fleet will cease to exist."

"Put very nicely, and that is the case," the lieutenant answered. "But now, about this bung. Lieutenant Hobson will put it in position. He's a kind of specialist in naval construction, and this bottlin' game is his plan from the very beginnin'. I can tell you that he's a very fine fellow."

"Why, it will be a most risky undertaking!" exclaimed Hal. "To block the opening efficiently, the ship will have to be sunk close under the batteries. It will mean certain death for all."

"Well, it may," was the answer. "It is frightfully risky, I'll allow; but it is not certain death. You see, the darkest night will be chosen, and every man will be wearin' a life-belt, and will have a raft close handy to swim to. Supposin' the guns do go off, the chances are that no one will be hit. But those torpedoes will be precious nasty, I'll agree. They'll kill if anything does. Yes, now that I come to look into the matter more closely, I'm inclined to fall in with you, young Marchant. It is bound to be very risky; but then, Hobson is a fine, gallant fellow!"

He spoke in tones of the utmost pride, and well he might, for the officer to whom he referred, though only twenty-eight years of age, had already attained to no mean reputation in his profession. And who but a bold and resolute man could have volunteered for such an undertaking as that proposed? Surely no weakling could expect to carry it out, while for a coward to attempt to take part in it, and, more than all, to lead what was no better than a forlorn hope, was ridiculous, and utterly out of the question.

Lieutenant Hobson had a fine spirit, and a glance at his face was sufficient to show the class of man he was. "I leave myself without anxiety in the hands of Almighty God," he wrote, when setting out for the war, and he entered upon this hazardous and all-important enterprise in the same condition of tranquil and absolutely fearless confidence.

"Yes, he must be a plucky beggar," Hal agreed. "I wonder whether-er-er-er--" He became suddenly silent and thoughtful.

"Well, what is it?" the lieutenant exclaimed.

"I was wondering whether I could go with Hobson," Hal said quietly. "You see, it would be doing something for the cause, and for my bread and butter, and it would give me the opportunity for which I have been longing, and enable me to reach the island."

"Yes, and of bein' shot," the lieutenant answered sharply. "Say, Marchant, don't you do somethin' that's mighty silly. All the volunteers that go with Hobson will be made prisoners as sure as eggs. They'll run a chance of bein' shot as well. Now, if you were captured with them, that rascal of a sweep-what's his name? d'Ar-d'Arousta; yes, that's the fellow-would spot you at once, and then-click! It would be all up with Mister Marchant, I reckon."

"It might," Hal replied thoughtfully; "but I'll take my chance. Will you help me to join as one of the volunteers?"

"Why, man alive, you're just askin' too much," the lieutenant answered hotly. "When volunteers were called for, how many do you think stepped out? Every mother's son aboard the whole combined fleet! Every one of them, I tell you, and a precious fine hullabaloo they're kicking up too, now that the matter is settled. You see, only seven boys are wanted, so there's that same number walking about just now as proud as peacocks. And there's hundreds more, officers and men, who are sayin' all that's black, and grumbling atrociously. Seven is the number, young Marchant, and you'd better remember it."

"I will, and I'll be the eighth," said Hal in the same quiet voice. "Look here, Billing, I'm very anxious to get ashore. Will you, like a good fellow, contrive to get me included in the expedition?"

"I'll try, and I can't say more than that," was the answer, given with obvious reluctance and hesitation. "Tell you what it is, Marchant. For one of your country, you're one of the best fellows I know. I've taken a fancy to you, and now you've the cheek to ask me to help to get you killed! That is playing the wrong game."

"Nonsense! It is not so bad as that," Hal replied, with a smile. "All I ask is that you will help to get me aboard Hobson's ship. I'll manage the rest."

"Well, I'll see." The lieutenant nodded and walked away, leaving Hal sunk in a brown study.

"It seems a chance," he said thoughtfully-"a chance in a hundred. Every day out here I get more anxious about the hacienda, about the safety of Mr. Brindle and Dora. I've promised to fight with the Americans, and no doubt I shall have to run many risks. This is a big one, but not greater than that which I took when escaping from the island. In that case, my knowledge of Santiago helped me to get away safely, and I see no reason why it should not aid me in reaching the land and stealing into the forest without being observed. They say that every foot of the coast is watched, but it is more likely that all eyes will be fixed in the direction of the harbor entrance, where the ship is being sunk; so that a single individual might easily evade the sentries. Yes, I know the harbor, and will willingly take the risk. The job now is to make arrangements to go, and if the worst happens, and I am refused permission, I will slip overboard and swim to the vessel selected as the bung, and climb aboard her as best I can."

That an attempt to close the entrance to the harbor of Santiago was about to be made was already public property in the American fleet, and everyone watched the preparations for the event with the greatest interest. Lieutenant Hobson, with a large force of men, was busily engaged upon a big tramp collier, the Merrimac, which was destined to be sunk across the entrance. For this purpose, a row of ten miniature torpedoes was fitted along the port-side of the steamer. They were each loaded with eighty-two pounds of gunpowder, and were connected by means of wires with a battery placed on the bridge. Pressure upon a simple button would fire them, and, it was hoped, would blow such a hole in the vessel's side that she would sink immediately.

Then their duties were carefully assigned to the seven men. Two were told off for the engine-room, and the remainder were to be on deck. At the critical moment steam was to be turned off, and the fore and after anchors cut away from their lashings and dropped. Then the sea-cocks were to be opened wide, and the wheel lashed. By that time all but one would have dived overboard, and would have swum to the dinghy, which was to be towed behind the ship, and would contain life-belts and rifles.

And then would come the final act. Hobson, the last upon the ship, would press the button and explode the torpedoes, and follow his men into the water. All were to be dressed in underclothes only, with revolvers and ammunition strapped round their waists in waterproof belts.

"It's the finest thing that was ever thought of," said Lieutenant Billing enthusiastically, a few hours before the attempt was to be made. "If it does not succeed-and I tell you that that's likely-it will deserve to be remembered. I guess that the Dons will concentrate every gun on the Merrimac, and though it will be dark at the time, their searchlight will help the shootin'. So every one of the boys will have to run the chance of being shot. Are you still anxious to go?"

"I am," Hal answered, with determination. "I have thought the matter over, and have fully made up my mind to risk it. If Hobson and his men undertake it cheerfully, why should not I?"

"That just depends on the stakes," the lieutenant replied with a sly smile. "You see, our boys will be doin' somethin' for their country. They will be patriots, you understand. Now, with you it's different. You are wantin' to get ashore to see how your friends are doin'. I suppose they are particular friends. Anyway, the attraction must be very strong."

"It is," Hal murmured. "But what have you arranged?"

"Just this. I'm sure to go aboard the Merrimac with orders before the evenin' is done. I'll take you along too, and when you are there you must just manage for yourself, and, whatever happens, Hobson must never know."

"He shall not," Hal answered readily. "I'll hide away, and when we reach the channel, I will swim for land, leaving the others to make for the dinghy."

"Well, I hope it'll come out as rosy as that," the lieutenant replied. "Now, you get right down into my cabin; you'll find two bundles there, tied to a belt. One's a revolver and cartridges; the other is food. You'll want both. No more now, young fellow. I am not going to have any thanks for helping you to get killed. Here's good luck to you."

He shook Hal heartily by the hand, and then hurried away. As for the latter, he at once followed the instruction given him, and then, carrying the two parcels, went to his own cabin.

"I'll make all ready for a swim," he murmured, turning the contents of a drawer on to the carpet.

There were some thin cotton suits, and he at once selected a coat and the lightest pair of trousers, tearing these across at the knees, so as to make them like football knickers. Then he threw off his outer clothes, and having donned the ones he had just selected, put on his own suit over them. A minute later he was ready, the belt attached to his waist and out of sight, and the parcel of food beneath his coat.

Just as dusk was falling, a marine came to call him, and on ascending to the deck he found the lieutenant waiting. They at once went over the side into a cutter, and were rowed across to the Merrimac.

"There she is," whispered Lieutenant Billing, as her enormous hull hove in sight. "Good luck, Marchant! Just you slip aboard after me, and look round for yourself. So long to you."

"Right; I know what to do. Good-by, and thank you very much."

Hal stretched out his hand, and gripping the lieutenant's, pressed it warmly. Then he clambered up the swaying rope ladder on to the deck. By this time night had fallen, and as it was necessary to have no lights burning, the ship was in darkness from stem to stern. Hal at once crossed the deck, and, feeling his way along the engine skylights, came to a wide, open companion way. He slipped down the stairs, and at once found himself in a small saloon. Then his fingers touched a handle, and, turning it, he entered a small cabin, through the unshaded porthole of which he caught a glimpse of distant lights, twinkling faintly from the ships of Admiral Sampson's squadron.

"This will do for me," he murmured in tones of satisfaction. "I'll lie here till the hour for action arrives."

He sat down and kept a watch out to sea. Occasionally he heard footsteps overhead, and once the low murmur of voices, evidently from men lying alongside in a boat. But soon all was quiet, save for a low grating sound which now and again reached his ear, and told him that the stokers were at work. Hour succeeded hour, and still he remained in the cabin, though he was becoming more and more restless and troubled, for the Merrimac did not move. At last, when midnight was past, her anchor was hove up, and she steamed away for Santiago, her departure having been delayed, as all was not ready for the enterprise at the appointed time.

Hal at once sprang to his feet, and, having seen that his revolver was well secured, and the parcel of food tied to his belt, he pulled off his outer clothes and stood up in the thin cotton ones which he had selected. But, after all, he was to be disappointed, for suddenly there was the panting of machinery, and a low black hull rushed past, leaving a trail of fiery sparks behind it.

"Merrimac, ahoy!" someone hailed. "Admiral's orders that you put about at once and drop anchor over the old moorings. The dawn will break within an hour."

The torpedo boat at once sheered off, and as he watched from his porthole, Hal saw her swing round with a rush that sent her swaying and dipping into the oily sea.

"Off till to-morrow," he murmured. "Very well, it is disappointing; but I must make the best of it, and as I am here in a comfortable cabin, why, I shall stay here. I have grub with me, and there are blankets on the bunk. I'll just see what can be done with the door."

He fumbled at the handle, and discovered a key and a latch, which he fastened. Then he lay down on the settee, and covered himself with a rug. A few moments later he was asleep, worn out by the excitement of anticipation, and by the long vigil which he had kept.

When he awoke, the sun was going down, and another day was almost gone.

"Now for it!" he exclaimed. "I'll just indulge in a meal, and will then prepare for a swim."

He undid the parcel, ate heartily of biscuit and meat, and, after carefully reconnoitering, popped into the saloon, and obtained a drink from a small filter. Then he locked himself in the cabin again, and packed up the remains of the food. A few hours later the moorings were quietly dropped, and in trying silence the Merrimac steamed away for Santiago upon as adventurous an expedition as was ever contemplated.

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