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

   Chapter 5 ENOUGH TO RATTLE THE VICTIM

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 5525

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Bump!

Sergeant Hal landed at least twenty feet below with a suddenness that jarred all the breath out of him for a moment.

Ere he could recover his half-scattered senses he felt himself seized. Nor had the Army boy fallen into one pair of hands. Four or five men, as nearly as he could judge, seized hold of different parts of his body.

There was little use in a prostrate youth fighting against such odds. Hal was swiftly rolled over on to his face, in the dark, and two of his captors threw themselves upon him, holding him down.

At the same time another thrust an armful of hemp under his face, holding it close against his mouth.

Then the light of a dark lantern was flashed on the scene. With the speed of skilled hands at the game these brown-skinned captors bound the young sergeant hand and foot.

"Quit this!" Sergeant Overton tried to shout angrily, but the wad of hemp was forced between his teeth and only a faint sound came forth.

"Help!" he tried to shout, but the sound came hardly louder than a sigh.

Now he was whirled over on his back, helpless, and two of the brown rascals finished their work by thrusting the hemp far enough into his mouth to shut off all speech. Then the gag was bound into place.

Hal could form little idea of his prison, save that it was an oblong, cellar-like place, perhaps a dozen feet wide by twenty feet long.

As nearly as the Army boy could guess, this cellar must be located under the street itself.

"They've got me for fair," thought the young soldier in a rage that included himself as well as his captors. "What's their game, I wonder? Robbery? If it is, they'll feel sold when they find how little money they are going to get."

By the light of the dark lantern, as he lay on his back on the damp ground, Hal made out the fact that his captors numbered eight. Five men had the look and wore the costumes of Moros; the other three rascals looked as though they might be Tagalos.

One after another the wretches looked down at the young soldier and grinned, though not one of them spoke.

Of a sudden the light went out. Hal, his ears unusually acute now, heard their moving footsteps. Then all became intensely still.

"I wonder whether I'm a tremendously big fool, or whether I'm merely unfortunate?" thought Hal bitterly. "However, how was I to guess? In this Moro country must it be considered unsafe even to step into a store and look at the merchandise?"

There was no answer to this. By degrees Hal began to feel decidedly uncomfortable as to the fate that he might expect.

"If they meant only to rob me," he reflected, "then why didn't they proceed at once? But not a single brown rascal of the lot took the trouble to thrust an exploring hand into my pockets

. What, then? Do they want an Army prisoner, and if so, for what?"

The longer the young soldier thought it over, the greater the puzzle became. Nor did it escape his imagination that possibly he was not to be allowed ever to see his comrades again. That thought, of course, sent a chill of horror chasing up and down young Overton's spine. He was not afraid to die in battle, if need be-but to be treated like a rat in a trap-that was different.

"Well, they've got me, and I don't see any likelihood of getting away," decided Hal at last, after fully an hour devoted largely to futile efforts to wriggle out of the bonds that held his wrists secure behind his back. "These knots have been tied by masters. I don't believe I could get out of them in hours. If they had only tied my hands in front of me, so that I could work them loose. Confound the pirates!"

After what seemed like the passage of hours, the boy heard a slight sound. Listening intently, he heard it repeated.

Next a light was turned on-from the same dark lantern.

Behind the light Hal's dazzled eyes could make out the figure of a man.

Toward him the light came, Hal blinking in the glare until the newcomer halted beside him.

"Ah, Se?or Sergente!" cried a mocking voice.

Then the new comer bent over the Army boy, and Overton knew him in an instant-Vicente Tomba.

"That hemp in your mouth looks as though it might give you discomfort-a thousand pardons," observed Tomba mockingly, as he removed the cord that held the hemp in place.

Tomba now squatted on the ground beside the young soldier's head and drew out the wad of hemp.

"So you are in this, Tomba?" inquired the Army boy coldly. "What's the game, anyway?"

"Possibly," sneered the Filipino, "when you know more, you'll feel like making a noise. Let me assure you that no friend will hear if you do call. But any great amount of noise on your part might provoke me, and that would not be wise under the circumstances."

Showing his white, even teeth in an evil smile, Tomba took out of the breast of his blouse a small, bright-bladed creese that might have been borrowed from one of the wall cases in Cerverra's shop.

"Why has this trick been played on me?" demanded Sergeant Hal angrily.

"A trick?" laughed Tomba softly. "Is that what you think it is? My friend, you will find that it is much more than a trick-it is a decree!"

"A decree?" raged Sergeant Overton. "What do you mean?"

"It is a decree from Se?or Draney," went on Tomba coldly, maliciously. "It can do no harm to mention that name since you can never repeat it to anyone but me, for Se?or Draney's decree is that, when you go forth from here-to-night-you will know nothing afterwards, for you will be past knowing."

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