MoboReader > Literature > Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche


Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 23212

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"We've solved one problem at last, Noll," declared Sergeant Hal Overton seriously.

"Only one?" demanded young Sergeant Terry quizzically.

But Hal, becoming only the more serious, went on earnestly:

"At last we begin to understand just what the 'lure of the Orient' means! For years I've been reading about the Orient, and the way that this part of the world charms men and holds them. Now, that we are here on the spot, I begin to understand it all. Noll, my boy, the East is a great and wonderful place! I wonder if I shall ever tire of it?"

"I believe I could tire of it in time," remarked Sergeant Terry, of the Thirty-fourth United States Infantry.

"But you haven't yet," insisted Sergeant Hal.

"What, when we've been here only three days? Naturally I haven't. And, besides, all we've seen is Manila, and certainly Manila can't be more than one little jumping-off corner of the Orient that you're so enthusiastic about."

"You're wild about the Far East, too-even the one little corner of it that we've seen," retorted Sergeant Hal. "Don't be a grouch or a knocker, Noll. Own up that you wouldn't start for the United States to-morrow if you were offered double pay back in the home country."

"No; I wouldn't," confessed Sergeant Terry. "I want to see a lot more of these Philippine Islands before I go back to our own land."

"Just halt where you are and look about you," went on enthusiastic Sergeant Hal. "Try to picture this scene as Broadway, in New York."

"Or Main Street in our own little home city," laughed Sergeant Terry quietly.

Certainly the scene was entirely different from anything that the two young Army boys had ever seen before.

They stood on the Escolta, which is the main business thoroughfare of New Manila, as that portion of the Philippine capital north of the little river is called. South of the river is Old Manila, the walled city of the old days of the Spanish conquerors. South of the walled city lie two rather fashionable residence suburbs, Ermita and Malate.

But the Thirty-fourth was temporarily stationed in big nipa barracks at Malate. It was in the newer Manila that the two boyish young sergeants found their greatest interest.

It was a busy, bustling scene. There is nothing exactly like the Escolta in any other part of the world. The whole of this crooked, winding thoroughfare seemed alive with horses and people-with the horses in more than goodly proportion.

Along the Escolta are the principal wholesale and retail houses of the city. Here is the post office, there the "Botanica" or principal drug store, operating under English capital and a Spanish name; down near the water front is the Hotel de Paris, a place famous for the good dinners of the East. Further up the Escolta, just around a slight bend, is the Oriente Hotel, the stopping place of Army officers and their families, of passing travelers and of civil employees of the government.

At this point along the Escolta are the busiest marts of local trade. The sidewalks are crowded with hurrying throngs; the streets jammed with traffic, for in Manila few of the whites or the wealthier natives ever think of walking more than a block or two. The quilez, the little two-wheeled car drawn by a six-hundred-pound pony, is the common means of getting about. A dollar in American money will charter one of these quilez for hours, and the heat renders it an advisable investment for one who has far to go.

Automobiles were scarce, though they had penetrated even this congested Escolta. Here and there an Army officer or orderly appeared on horseback in the crush of the street. If he attempted to ride at a canter the horseman seemed to be taking his life in his own hands, with the chances all against him.

Save for the lazy calls of drivers-cocheros-to their horses, the hum of human voices was subdued. In the heat of the Escolta the people of all colors seem to have reached a tacit understanding that it requires less exertion to talk in low tones.

White people of both sexes appeared, clad usually in the white attire so customary in the tropics. Filipino dandies affected the same garbing, with the exception of here and there a natty, nervous, little brown man who appeared in the more formal black frock coat. But few, even of these, had the courage to come out in sun-up hours wearing the silk hat that is the usual accompaniment of the long-tailed frock coat.

Despite the heat, the faces of most of the people in the crowded streets appeared cheerful, even happy. Life is not taken too seriously in the Orient. The natives always find plenty of time for laughter; the stranger soon acquires the trick.

Banks, stores, restaurants, mineral water kiosks-all the places of resort along the Escolta-were abundantly patronized, yet none save the cocheros perched up on the little seats of the quilez appeared to be at all in a hurry.

Yet one man in particular appeared to be devoid of hurry. In fact, he paused or halted whenever the two boyish young sergeants did. He invariably kept about a hundred feet behind them in this queerly bustling yet ever leisurely crowd that thronged the sidewalks of the Escolta.

While Hal and Noll were curiously noting the fact-that the Escolta seems always so busy, but the individuals who make up the life there seem never in a hurry-the man who was plainly following them never glanced at them directly, yet never once lost sight of them.

Neither Hal nor Noll had yet noted the man, about whom there were some points that would have been amusing to the American youngsters.

This man was a Filipino. At first glance one would have believed him to be a Tagalo, or member of the most warlike and ambitious of all the eighty-odd tribes that make up the peoples of these islands. The Tagalos are the tribe most frequently found in and around Manila, and in the provinces nearest to that city. In appearance the Tagalos look a good deal like underfed Japanese. It was to the Tagalos that the insurrecto leader, Aguinaldo, belonged.

These Tagalos, however, consider themselves in every way the equals and match for any white man. The Tagalos have absorbed much of the Spanish civilization. Many of them are wealthy and the sons of such families generally hold degrees from Philippine colleges. Well-to-do Tagalos, despite their undersized stature and dark-brown skins, affect all the culture-and the vices-of well-to-do white people. They conduct banks, engage in commerce, mingle with white society, and consider themselves as bright lights of civilization. Above all, every Tagalo takes keen interest in politics. Yet these Tagalos, up to date, are only veneered Malays.

This Filipino who was so patiently following Sergeants Hal and Noll appeared to belong to the well-to-do class. Certainly he was an immaculate dandy. He was about five feet two inches in height, and wore neat-fitting, well-tailored white duck garments. The blouse was buttoned down in front, a military, braided white collar standing up stiffly, rendering the wearing of a shirt unnecessary. On his feet were highly polished tan shoes of American make. On his head he wore a jaunty, straight-brimmed straw hat of the best native manufacture. In his right hand this irreproachable Filipino dandy lightly swung a feather-weight bamboo cane.

His eyes were dark, gleaming, intense-fitted either to reflect laughter or sharp anger. But what rendered this man, who appeared to be close to thirty-five years of age, ridiculous to American eyes was his mustache. This was blue-black in color, waxed to two fine, bristling, upturned points-a fashion that this dandy had undoubtedly caught from some former Spanish military officer.

"They are boys-they will suit my purpose excellently," murmured the Filipino to himself, as he halted before a window where tropical outfittings for men were attractively displayed. Yet, though he gazed in at the window, he saw Sergeants Hal and Noll out of the corners of his eyes. "They are young, ambitious; they are enlisted men, therefore poor. Even in this short time these boys must have learned the craving for the things that money alone will buy. No man, in the Orient, can escape that knowledge and that longing for money. That is why it is so easy to buy men's souls here in the East. Shall I go up and speak to them? But no! There they go into a curio store where they will find much that they may wish to buy. I will follow my young sergentes inside in five minutes-or ten. Then they will be ripe for the man who talks money."

Hal and Noll had entered one of the most attractive little shops to be found anywhere along the Escolta. This store is kept by a Chinaman, who sells the more costly curios of the Far East. China's choicest silks are here displayed; also her finest teakwoods and curious boxes and cabinets of sandal and other valued woods, inlaid with pearl, or studded with rare jades. Here are wonderful creations carved out of ivory, idols of all kinds and sizes, of the highest grades of artistic workmanship. Here are wonderful beaded portieres and the most costly of curious Chinese garments for women. In a word, the bazaars of China are nobly represented on the Escolta. But there is much more besides. The most attractive curios from India, from Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula and of native Filipino workmanship are all to be found here. It is not the place to enter when one has not much money.

No wonder Sergeant Overton and Sergeant Terry moved from counter to counter, pricing and sighing. Each young Army boy wanted to send home something worth while to his mother. Yet how small a sergeant's pay seems in such a bazaar!

Hal Overton and Noll Terry need no introduction to the reader of the earlier volumes in this series. "Uncle Sam's Boys in the Ranks," as our readers are aware, details how Hal and Noll, reared in love of the Flag and respect for the military, determined, at the age of eighteen, to enlist in the Regular Army. Our readers followed the new recruits to the recruit rendezvous, where the young men received their first drillings in the art of being a soldier. From there they followed Hal and Noll westward, to Fort Clowdry, in the Colorado mountains, where the young soldiers went through their first thrilling experiences of the strenuous side of Army life, proving themselves, whether in barracks, on drill ground or under fire on a lonely sentry post, to be the sort of American youths of whom the best soldiers are made.

Readers of "Uncle Sam's Boys on Field Duty" already know how Hal and Noll went several steps further in learning the work of the soldier; of their surprisingly good and highly adventurous work in practical problems of field life. In this volume was described field life and outpost duty, and scouting duty as well, as they are actually taught in the Army. In this volume is told also how Hal and Noll while out with a scouting party supplied their company with unexpected bear meat. Our readers, too, will remember the thrilling work of Hal and Noll, under Lieutenant Prescott, in capturing a desperate character badly wanted by the state authorities. These young soldiers were heroes of other absorbing adventures; their fine work eventually leading to their appointments as corporals.

In "Uncle Sam's Boys As Sergeants" our readers will recall a host of happenings that belong to military life, among them the stirring military tournament in which a battalion of "Ours" took part at Denver, and the all but tragic results of that tournament; the soldier hunting-party up in the Rockies,

in which Hal and Noll thoroughly distinguished themselves both as hunters and as soldiers and commanders.

And now we find the entire Thirty-fourth Infantry in Manila, stationed there briefly pending details at other points in the islands.

As we look in upon Sergeants Overton and Terry to-day we find them two years older than when they first enlisted-but many years older in all the fine qualities that go to make up the best manhood.

Either young sergeant's word was as good as his bond in the Thirty-fourth. Truthful, ambitious, manly, thoroughly trained and capable of commanding; in a word, men in character and abilities, while yet boys in years.

This much had two years of life in the United States Army done for Hal Overton and Noll Terry. Could other training have done more?

And these were the young Americans whom the alert-eyed, trailing Filipino dandy had already singled out and had planned to corrupt to his own purposes.

Yet the astute man of the world knows more than one way of ruining and disgracing simple-hearted, true-souled young fellows. Not even Satan is credited with appearing often in evil guise at first.

Perhaps this Filipino, a wicked fellow of long training, knew how to go about his work.

"Going to buy anything, Noll?" asked Hal at last, after the two young sergeants had made the round of the bewildering, attractive store.

"I would, if I could find anything worth while that didn't take a sergeant's whole year's pay," sighed Terry.

"Things are fearfully dear here, aren't they?" murmured Overton. "Yet I want to send something home as a remembrance to mother."

"What do you fancy most?" asked Noll.

"If you haven't anything else on your mind, come around and I'll show you," Hal proposed.

Nodding, Noll accompanied his chum. Hal stopped to rest one hand lightly on a very wonderful little chest, made out of teak and sandal woods. It was richly, wonderfully carved, the darker teakwood being also inlaid with pearl. Inside were compartments and drawers, including two little secret drawers that the smiling Chinese salesman artfully opened and exposed to view.

"One all same fo' dinero (money), other fo' plecious stones, jewels, you sabe," cooed the yellow attendant.

"It's a beauty and a wonder," murmured Hal. "Mother'd be the proudest woman in town if I could send it home to her. How much did you say it cost?"

"Him tloo hundled pesos," stated the Chinaman gravely.

A peso is the Spanish name for a Mexican dollar, worth about forty-seven cents; but two pesos and an American dollar are reckoned as of the same value in Manila.

"A hundred dollars gold! Why, that's the same price you asked me before," cried Hal in good-natured protest.

"Yep, allee same; him plenty cheap."

"It's too much," sighed Sergeant Hal. But the Chinaman, as though he had not heard, asked:

"You likee? You buy?"

"I can't afford it at that price."

"All light; come in some other day," invited the Chinaman politely, and glided over to where another possible customer was examining some handsome jade jewelry.

"My soldado (soldier) friend has not been long in Manila?" inquired a low, pleasant, courteous voice behind the two young soldiers.

Hal wheeled. It was the Filipino dandy whom he confronted. That smiling, prosperous-looking native was employing his left hand to twist one end of the upturned moustache to a finer point.

"No; we haven't been here long," Hal smiled. "Three days, in fact."

"And you do not yet know how to bargain with these sharp-witted Chinos (Chinese)?"

"I'm afraid not," said Sergeant Overton.

"May I ask, se?or, what you wished to buy?"

"This box," Hal answered.

"And how much did the Chino want for it, if I may make bold enough to ask so much of the se?or's business?"

"Why, he wants a hundred dollars in gold," Hal responded.

The Filipino dandy inspected the box critically.

"You are right, se?or; the price is too high. It is muy caro (very dear), in fact. It could be bought for less, if you knew better how to deal with these smiling yellow heathen."

"I'd be greatly obliged, then, if you would tell me how to put the bargain through."

"You should get this rare and handsome box, se?or, for ninety dollars, gold-even, perhaps, for not much more than eighty."

"Even that would be a fearful price for me to pay," murmured Hal, shaking his head regretfully. "I shall have to give up the idea, I guess."

"Ah, but no!" cried the Filipino, as though struck suddenly by an idea. "Not if the se?or will do me one very great favor!"

"What favor can I possibly do you?" asked Sergeant Hal, regarding the little brown man with considerable astonishment.

"Why, it is all very simple, se?or. Simply let me feel that I have been permitted to do a courtesy to an Americano to one of the race to which I owe so much. In a word, se?or, I am not-as you may perhaps guess"-here the Filipino swelled slightly with a pride that was plain-"I am not exactly a poor man, not since the Americanos came to these islands and gave us the blessings of liberty and just government. I have many business ventures, and one of them lies in my being a secret-no, what you Americanos call a silent partner of the Chino who conducts this store. Now the favor that I ask-se?or, I beg you to let me present you with this handsome little box, that you may send it over the waters to your sweetheart."

"Make me a present of it?" demanded Sergeant Hal in amazement.

"Ah, yes, exactly so, se?or; and I shall be greatly honored by your very kind acceptance. And your friend-he shall select anything-valuable and handsome-that he would like for his sweetheart."

Neither young sergeant had a sweetheart outside of his mother. It was for their mothers that they sought suitable-priced curios. In their amazement, however, neither Hal nor Noll took the trouble to correct this smiling, polite stranger.

"Thank you," said Overton promptly. "We can't accept, of course, though it is very kind of you to make the offer-so very kind that it almost takes our breath away."

"And why can you not accept?" insisted the Filipino. He was still smiling, but there was now something so insistent in his voice that Noll answered quickly:

"Because we cannot accept gifts from strangers."

"Ah, but you do not yet know the Orient. You must have things here; you must have money to spend, and feel the pleasure of spending it, or you will die."

"Thank you," laughed Sergeant Hal, "but at present my health is excellent. As for dying, that has no terror for the soldier."

"Ah, yes, to die like a soldier!" protested the Filipino, with a shrug of his shoulders. "But would you die of sheer weariness and envy? There are pleasures in this country which only money will buy. Without the money, without these pleasures, life soon becomes bitter. You do not know, but I do, for I have watched thousands of your Americano soldiers here. Now, I have money-too much! It is my whim to see that the soldados enjoy themselves. I have begged many a soldier to honor me by letting me purchase him a little pleasure. Come, I will show you now! Wait! I will send for a carriage-not a quilez, but a victoria. Say the word, give the consent, and I will show you at once what is called pleasure here in the East-in Manila."

Though he spoke in low tones, the Filipino made almost extravagant gestures. As he kept on he warmed up to his subject.

"Shall I call a victoria?" he asked.

"If you wish," replied Sergeant Hal dryly.

"Ah, that is the way I like to hear you say it!" cried the little Filipino, and hastened toward the door.

He went away so rapidly, in fact, that he did not have time to note young Sergeant Overton's altered manner. From a feeling of embarrassment over having to repulse a stranger's ill-advised offer of generosity, Hal, his eyes watching the man's face, speedily took a dislike to the Filipino.

"Come along, Noll," Overton whispered. "We'll get out of this. I don't like the fellow."

"You like him as well as I do," muttered Sergeant Terry.

At the door of the store they again caught sight of the dandy, who, with hand extended, was at that moment signaling a cochero to drive his victoria in to the curb.

"It could not have been better," cried the little brown tempter. "Just as I came out I saw an empty victoria."

"I congratulate you," smiled Sergeant Hal.

"No, but this is the carriage, here," cried the Filipino, as Hal and Noll turned to walk down the Escolta.

"Get in, then, and enjoy yourself," called back Hal.

In an instant the Filipino was in front of them, barring their way.

"But you permitted me to stop a carriage," he protested, bewildered.

"Exactly," nodded Hal, "and we hope you will enjoy yourself. Step aside, please, for we want to pass on."

"But you are not going with me, after--"

"Nothing was said about that," Hal answered, "and we have other plans. Good-bye."

As the Filipino dandy once more tried to place himself in front of the young sergeant, Hal gently but firmly thrust the insistent fellow aside.

The Filipino stood glaring after them until the two Army boys were out of sight. The glint in his eyes was far from pleasant.

"Now, what on earth did that fellow want of us?" demanded Noll wonderingly.

"Nothing good, anyway," returned Hal Overton. "Intending benefactors don't act in that fashion. He may represent a bad phase of life out here. Let's forget him. Say, here's a store we must have overlooked on our way up here. Let's go in."

Half an hour later the Army boys came out of the store, each carrying a small parcel. For his first present home each young soldier had bought for his mother a small assortment of the wonderfully filmy pina lace handkerchiefs made by the native women.

"No quilez around here for hire," said Hal, after looking up and down the Escolta. "Let's walk across the bridge over the Pasig. We'll be more likely to find an idle cochero on the other side of the river."

As they started the sky was darkening, and the lightning beginning to flash, for this was in early July, at the height of the rainy season.

"I hope we find a cochero soon," muttered Noll, looking up at the dark sky. "I don't fancy the idea of walking all the way out to Malate in a downpour."

They were not quite over the bridge when the storm broke in all its force. Tropical thunder crashed with a fury that made artillery fire seem trifling. Great sheets of lightning flashed on all sides.

"Hustle, before we get drowned," laughed Sergeant Hal, breaking into a fast run. "There's shelter just beyond the end of the bridge."

The shelter for which both soldiers headed was a kiosk, barely larger than a sentry-box, that had once been erected for the convenience of the native boys who stood there with relief horses for the service of the old street car line.

The door stood open. Eager to make any port in a storm, Hal and Noll bolted inside just in time to hear an angry voice declare:

"I had them picked out-two young sergentes, mere boys. At first they were very polite-a minute later they made fun of me to my face-me, Vicente Tomba! But I shall know them again, I shall see them, and I shall make them wish they had never been born. I--"

The Filipino dandy stopped short as the two Army boys stepped briskly inside. He gave a gasp as he recognized them.

"We meet again," remarked Hal dryly.

The dandy's companion, a big, florid-faced man of forty, in the usual immaculate white duck of the white man, eyed the boys keenly.

* * *

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