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   Chapter 7 THE KIND OF MAN WHO MASTERS OTHERS

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 6461

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Every one of the eight sullen fellows stood as though rooted in his tracks.

While Tomba spoke none answered, but many baleful glances were cast at Sergeant Hal Overton of the Thirty-fourth Infantry.

When Tomba had ceased speaking two or three of the rascals spoke, slowly, briefly.

"What do the scoundrels say?" demanded the Army boy.

"They do not like the situation, se?or."

"Can you blame them? Or can they help the situation in the new turn that it has taken?"

The Filipino shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, ask the brown pirates what they intend to do?"

Tomba spoke as though translating the question into the two tongues that these surly fellows understood.

"They say that they do not know," replied Vicente Tomba presently.

"Can't make up their minds, eh?" jeered Hal. "Then I'll form their decisions for them. There's a further way out of this place?"

Vicente Tomba hesitated, muttering.

"Now, don't you try my old trick of trying to gain time," warned the boyish sergeant crisply. "I know all about that little trick and I don't intend to put up with it in the enemy. Tomba, tell your fellows to open the way out of here, and to get out as quickly as they know how. Tell them that, as soon as you stop talking, I'm going to begin to count ten in English, and that the instant I count ten I shall drive this creese deep into the back of your neck. Tell them that I know how to handle a weapon like this, and that I'll finish you with one blow."

As he spoke, Sergeant Hal dropped the lantern that he had been holding with his left hand. It fell with a crash, and the light went out, but he needed it no longer, for there were two other lighted lanterns in the room.

"Go on, Tomba! Tell them just what I told you to say. Be sure you get it straight, too. Remember how much hangs in the balance for you!"

Tomba began speaking, his voice wonderfully steady. Sergeant Hal could not help admiring the evident courage of this little Filipino, who knew well enough that his life was hanging on a thread from second to second.

Hal's left hand now rested tightly on the little brown man's shoulder. Tomba's body was no slight protection against the pistols of these surly fellows in case they evidenced a disposition to shoot. And the Army boy did not intend to let this human bulwark get away from him.

"You have told them, Tomba?" queried Hal Overton, as soon as the Filipino's voice ceased.

"Even so, se?or."

"They understand?"

"If they do not, then they are idiots, Se?or Sergente."

"Then tell them I am going to begin to count."

Again Tomba spoke, this time briefly.

The grip of young Overton's hand on the Filipino's shoulder tightened. A slight shudder ran through the brown man's frame, but otherwise he showed no fear.

"One!" began Hal.

From the surly ones beyond an angry babel of protest went up.

But Hal coolly disregarding the clamor, merely raised his own voice enough to make it heard:

"Two!"

Sergeant Overton now let go of the Filipino's shoulder, but only to throw his arm around the fellow's neck. Tomba's head was drawn back, almost chokingly, against the boyish sergeant's shoulder.

"Three!"

Still no motion among the dark-ski

nned eight.

"Four!"

And then:

"Five! Tomba, your friends are cheerful about your fate, aren't they? Six!"

Vicente Tomba spoke, sharply, hissingly. Now some stir was noticeable among the wretches, though whether they meant to obey or to try to rush the lone soldier was more than Overton could guess.

"Seven!"

Hal's voice, as steady as ever, must have carried conviction with it. Certainly Tomba's shuddering had increased, though the little brown man, no match in muscle for the white soldier, made not the least effort to wrest himself away from that dangerous grip.

"Eight!" announced Hal Overton, his voice on the verge of absolute cheeriness.

Again Tomba spoke, this time still more angrily.

There was a shuffling of feet, as the men moved further away. Then one of the wretches stepped forward and threw open a door, just as Hal came calmly out with:

"Nine!"

"Stop counting, se?or," urged Vicente Tomba quite coolly. "These men have yielded and are going. They will open the other door, pass through it hurriedly, and leave the way open for you."

"Lucky for you, if they do, my Tagalo friend! I will suspend the count for an instant only."

Another stone door was suddenly swung open, by one of the surly fellows, revealing a passage beyond. Into this the eight fairly raced.

"Do not follow too quickly, se?or, or one of the rascals may forget himself and turn to fight," declared Tomba.

"It will be bad for you if it happens!"

"It is of myself that I am thinking, se?or!" returned the Filipino dryly. Then, after a pause:

"Come, se?or. Surely we can pass out safely now."

"Then we'll do so," agreed Sergeant Hal, "and your life be upon our success! Don't try to go more quickly than I move, or I shall suspect you, and with me to suspect is to--"

"Say no more, se?or," interrupted the little Filipino. "I understand you better than I did, and I am taking no chances."

Sergeant Overton still retained his left-handed hold on Tomba as the pair passed out to what might mean safety.

Through this second doorway they passed, to find themselves ascending a slope paved only with tightly packed dirt. Glancing up the slope Sergeant Hal made out three or four stars low down in the sky beyond.

"Night time?" he queried in mild astonishment.

"Yes, se?or, and you will even believe that it is the night of another day," laughed Vicente Tomba, "for you must have lived ages in the last few hours."

"It wasn't quite as bad as that," the Army boy returned graciously. "In your way, Tomba, you helped excellently to pass the time for me."

At the top of this interior slope the pair passed out through a doorway ordinarily closed by means of a stout wooden door. The pair found themselves in the yard back of Cerverra's house. At one side was an alley way leading to the street.

"I will leave you here, se?or, with your gracious permission."

"Oh, no, no, Tomba! You will go with me, and still held by me, at least as far as the middle of the street."

With sullen assent the Filipino consented to this. On their way through the alley they encountered no one.

But, just as they reached the sidewalk, they were met with a sharp hail of:

"Halt!"

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