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

   Chapter 12 THE BROWN MEN AT BAY——FOR HOW LONG

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9287

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


If Sergeant Hal, or any other soldier in that detachment of sixty men, had felt any nervousness before the fight started, everyone of them had forgotten it by this time.

So far, not a man had they lost, and none had been even lightly hit. The bravery of soldiers is usually founded on their confidence in their officers. Every man in the detachment now knew that Lieutenant Richard Prescott was an officer who would do all that lay before him to do, yet an officer who would not needlessly sacrifice the life or safety of any man in his command. That discovery by the men goes far to make an officer capable. Let the men once think their commander careless about slaughter, and they will not respond as quickly.

"Men," presently spoke the young officer, as coolly and slowly as though he were explaining a man[oe]uvre in his once favorite game of football, "we have now to reach the house yonder, and there's a likelihood of our being fired upon when we move forward. When I give the order you'll run slowly, at the gait set by Sergeant Overton, who will be ahead of you. If you hear the command to lie down, drop in your tracks. But let no man lie down until he hears the word. We may have to employ half a dozen rushes in reaching the house. Rise! Sergeant Overton to the front. Forward! Charge!"

Steadily and gallantly the little line swept forward. Hal Overton, who knew the pace exactly, went forward at a trot that did not vary by as much as a step to the minute.

In the distance half a dozen rifles popped out singly. Some of the bullets whistled by, others struck the ground near them, ploughing up the dirt.

If any soldier looked for Lieutenant Prescott to order them down, he was in error. Another hundred yards they covered. Then a volley rang out from the men hidden in the grove, and Private Danes dropped, though without a cry.

"Lie down!" shouted Prescott steadily, though he remained with his field glass to his eyes, searching the grove. "Sergeant Overton, see how badly Danes is hurt."

Hal strode over to where the wounded man lay.

"Oh, it ain't nothing, Sarge," growled Private Danes disgustedly. "Just enough to give me a toothache in the hip."

Yet the poor fellow pointed to a bloodstained spot right over the center of the hip bone. Danes's left leg would never again be sound enough to march with his comrades. Perhaps the man realized it, but he was a soldier, and therefore made no fuss.

"You'll have to lie quiet, Danes," returned Sergeant Hal. "We'll get you out of this."

Just then Private Kelly raised his head for a look at the adjacent grove.

As he did so a shot rang out over in the grove and Kelly uttered an exclamation of disgust.

"Hit, Kelly?" queried Sergeant Hal, stepping over to him.

Private Kelly spat out two loose front teeth and some blood.

"Ye see what happened, Sarge," retorted Kelly. "It's a good thing the fellow drew a bead on me profile. But I ain't kicking at getting a dentist's services for nothing. No, that ain't my kick."

"What is wrong, then?" laughed Hal.

"Why, that blamed bullet was hot, and the Moro made me swallow it! It was so hot that it burned all the way down! Got any ice, Sarge?"

A burst came from a dozen distant rifles at once. Bullets tore through the air around Lieutenant Prescott as he stood, still with his field glass to his eyes. Looking around, however, he saw Hal standing, and commanded severely:

"If you're through with your work, Sergeant Overton, lie down. Ready, men, for just one volley. Load; aim-at the front timber line of that grove. Fire!"

Hardly had the crashing volley ripped out when again the young officer's voice was heard:

"Rise, forward, charge!"

This time the line moved with a yell, the two men who carried Danes yelling as loudly as the rest.

"Halt! Lie down!"

They were within two hundred yards of the Seaforth house now. The front door of that building had been thrown open, though no one appeared as yet in the doorway.

It began to look as though the Moros had withdrawn, or else were waiting for something, for no shots came from the enemy.

Again, at command, the detachment rose and rushed forward, this time without cheering.

"Lie down!"

Uncle Sam's men dropped in their tracks, close to the house.

Now, Seaforth, the planter, appeared in the doorway.

"Captain, I hope I needn't tell you that you and your men are welcome," came Seaforth's greeting. He was hardly a middle-aged man, but three years of planter's life in Mindanao had brought deep gray streaks into his hair.

"I've a wounded man to bring inside," announced young Prescott.

"

Bring him right in, sir; we'll make him as comfortable as we can."

Private Danes fainted while being lifted and carried into the house. He was soon after revived, however. The two men who had brought him in now used a first-aid package in dressing the wound, after they had washed it.

In the meantime Lieutenant Prescott discovered that none of the whites in the house had been hit, though one of the loyal Moro defenders of the house had been killed and two others wounded.

Then the lieutenant told of Edwards's death. A young woman in the room promptly fainted.

"That's Miss Daly, the school teacher," explained Mr. Seaforth. "She and Edwards were engaged to be married."

Outside more shots sounded. Lieutenant Prescott ran to the door.

Sergeant Hal, however, had detailed twenty of his men to answer the fire, whenever they saw anything to shoot at, while the others had been ordered to get to work with their intrenching tools.

This tool, in appearance, is about half way between a bayonet and a trowel. With it a soldier can lie on the ground, digging and throwing up dirt before him, while he opens a shallow trench in which to lie and conceal himself from the enemy's fire.

"Don't waste any ammunition, Sergeant. Have your men shoot to hit," directed the officer. "I'm going back into the house, but send for me if you see any suspicious move on the part of the Moros."

"Yes, sir," and Sergeant Overton turned his face towards the enemy.

Though he made his men remain prostrate on the ground, Hal Overton stood up. He was using the lieutenant's field glass.

The walls of the planter's house were riddled with bullets, for this house had not been constructed as a fort. Along the outer walls, however, bags of earth had been piled in such a way as to afford comparative safety to the defenders.

"Those of us who weren't fighting," explained Mr. Seaforth, "have been engaged for hours in digging dirt in the cellar and bringing it up in the sacks. But it was a fearful morning until you arrived. Now, our only danger is from a stray bullet. The Moros won't come any closer-they won't dare to charge the house with such a force of troops here to defend the place."

Lieutenant Prescott Climbed One of the Wooden Porch Columns.

"Not unless the rascals are reinforced," replied Prescott. "There is no telling how many of the natives are concerned in this uprising. Hello-pardon me a moment."

Through the open doorway Prescott had caught sight of something moving down the highway. He ran speedily outside, got his glasses from Sergeant Hal and returned to the porch, where he climbed one of the wooden columns. Now he brought the glass to his eyes.

"What do you see?" asked Mr. Seaforth.

"I see," chuckled the lieutenant quietly, "that it was well for us that we left the road and came through the forest. Yonder are at least two hundred Moros marching along. There, they are debouching into the forest and will soon be added to the attacking party here. Those fellows went down the road to ambush us on the way, for they received a signal that we were on the road. We fooled them, but we shall have to reckon with them here, and within fifteen minutes. Mr. Seaforth, send all your people down into the cellar of the house. There they will be safe. This is a job for the Army alone!"

"But--"

"I am in command here, sir, and I direct you to send all of your own people to the cellar at once. That will free our minds of any dread for the safety of your people, and will leave us open to handle the problem that is coming to us."

Then, quite regardless of the fine mark that he presented to possible sharpshooters over in the grove, Lieutenant Prescott stepped outside.

"Sergeant Overton!"

"Sir?"

Hal stepped beside his officer. Thereupon the enemy's riflemen took heart and drove in a score of bullets. Lieutenant Prescott's hat was shot from his head. Two bullets passed through the edge of the sergeant's right trousers' leg, one hole showing just above the other. The back of Hal's left hand was grazed just enough to show the blood. The stick that the lieutenant carried was cut in two by a bullet and half of the stick carried away from him.

"Sergeant," chuckled the lieutenant, "you've heard the expression, 'observed of all observers.' Now you know just how it feels."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, we've got to be quick, Sergeant. We must throw our men all around the house, and dig trenches as fast as we can. Unless I miss my guess, the enemy will-well, what?"

"The Moros will try to overwhelm us with a reckless charge, sir," answered the young sergeant.

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