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: 9711

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"That's what they will do-if anything," nodded Lieutenant Prescott. "A charge is the wisest thing for the brown rascals, if they are bent on winning here. They know now about how many men I have, and they know that my men are regulars. The Moros have plenty of rifles, and I judge that they're well off in ammunition, but they can't shoot as well as American regulars. On a charge, however-in close, hand-to-hand fighting-these Malays are not to be despised. They always fought hand-to-hand in the old days, and it's in their blood."

With that expression of his views, Prescott, aided by his acting first sergeant, began to hustle the soldiers into line around the house, forming the men in a rectangle at about fifteen yards distant from the walls of the building.

The soldier of to-day must often fight lying on his stomach. These men of B Company crawled to their stations, dragging their rifles after them.

Pop! pop! pop! The Moros were watching, and fired from time to time, irregularly. A prostrate man is hard to hit at a few hundred yards. These pot-shots serve to bother and irritate soldiers getting into position.

As soon as each soldier was in place he began burrowing with his intrenching tool. It is surprising how quickly a man lying down can dig a little ditch and throw up the dirt on the outside.

First, each man dug his own ditch. As soon as he had this completed he connected his ditch with that of the men next to him. Within thirty minutes the men of B Company, without having a man hit by the pot-shots of the enemy, were well intrenched. From time to time some of the soldiers, under orders, ceased their digging to take a few shots themselves, just to keep the Moros from growing too bold.

As soon as the encircling trench had been dug Prescott detailed four men, with picks and shovels furnished by the elder Seaforth, to throw up a trench wall in front of the main door of the house, so as to permit any one safely to enter or leave the house by that door.

"That'll do, Sergeant," nodded Lieutenant Prescott at last.

"It would take a three-inch field piece, sir, to make an impression on this wall of dirt," smiled Sergeant Hal.

"Now, I'll look after this part of the ground, Sergeant; you go around to the south side-and be vigilant."

Hal Overton stepped out from behind the wall, carrying his rifle in the hollow of his left arm. As he showed himself above the low wall of the regular trench, exposing his head and trunk, the Moros began to take notice.

Pop! pop! pop! Bullets struck all about the young sergeant, sprinkling dirt over him.

"Keep your head below the top of the trench wall, Sergeant!" called Lieutenant Prescott sternly. "We can't afford to have you hit. Shield yourself. Don't be afraid of any one suspecting you of cold feet!"

So Hal, though he made a slight grimace, contented himself with crouching low and progressing slowly.

Barely had Sergeant Hal gained his own post, with Private Kelly on his right hand, when a furious fusillade broke out from the southward.

"Keep your heads down, all of you!" shouted the young sergeant. "Don't be too curious about what the Moros are doing. If you keep your heads down the rascals can't hit you, and it won't do us any harm to let them waste their ammunition. Don't any man fire without orders."

"They're doing some good shooting, Sarge, at last," remarked Private Kelly, as the showers of bullets peppered the top of the trench and sprinkled dirt over the crouching soldiers.

"The only good shooting, Kelly, is that which cuts up the enemy," rejoined Hal. "The goo-goos are not hitting any of us, and we're not losing anything by saving our ammunition."

"Goo-goos" is an old name applied to the Philippine raiders. Whenever a native grows tired of fighting, or wants to enter a town for the purpose of getting information, he hides his arms, then enters Uncle Sam's lines, pretending that he is a "good" man, and not a rebel against the authority of the United States Government. From this the soldiers have learned to allude to all fighting Filipinos as goo-goos.

"Lend me your trenching tool, Kelly?"

"Sure, Sarge."

With this implement Hal Overton burrowed a small hole through the top of the trench. Thus, without exposing himself too much, he was able to keep an eye on the distant grove in which the Moros had found cover.

"I'll let you spell me on this watch, from time to time, Kelly," said Hal.

"I'll be glad to, Sarge, for I'll admit that I'm anxious to know what the goo-goos are doing."

"At present they're not trying to advance," replied Sergeant Overton, "and that's about all we're interested in. As long as they stay where they are, and waste their ammunition, they'll not bother us much."

In the meantime Lieutenant Prescott was seated in a chair behind the high wall of di

rt before the house door. The elder Seaforth occupied another chair.

"Have you any idea, sir, how you incurred the wrath of these Moro rascals?" asked the young lieutenant.

"By refusing to pay blackmail," replied the planter bluntly.

"Then you were asked to pay money to some of these native chieftains?"



"I wasn't asked; I was commanded to do so," replied Mr. Seaforth slowly. "When you speak of the Moro rascals, Lieutenant, don't conclude that all of the Moros are bad, or even troublesome. The truth is that most of the Moros on the island of Mindanao are good fellows. They're lazy, but not notably vicious. There are a few of the old-time chiefs-dattos, they call 'em-who make trouble every now and then. These dattos never respected the Spanish Government, and they don't feel any more kindly towards the United States Government. That is because these dattos have always lived by plunder, and they always intend to do so. For one thing, these raiding dattos don't like to have white men on Mindanao. The spread of civilization here means that the old-time dattos will be driven into the wilds, and that there won't be any more plunder or blackmail money to live on. These Moros out yonder wouldn't have bothered me, this time, if I had paid the money their chief demanded."

"How much did he want, Mr. Seaforth?"

"Ten thousand dollars."

"Whew! That would be a good deal of money to pay out."

"For the sake of peace, and a chance to carry on my plantation business, Lieutenant, I might have paid it-if once would have been enough. But it wouldn't have been. If I had acceded to his demand the datto would have let me alone for this year. He would have sent the same demand next year, however. In fact, the datto would have put me down on his list as being good for ten thousand dollars a year tribute. The first year that I failed to pay this tribute my plantation would be destroyed, and myself, my family and friends put to the knife. So it's either fight or get out of here for good. It seems a strange thing, doesn't it, Lieutenant, to live under the Stars and Stripes, and yet to have to pay tribute to a savage for the right to do business?"

"It isn't right, it can't be, sir-and by the great howitzer, Uncle Sam will put a stop to all this business!" replied Lieutenant Prescott hotly.

"I hope so," returned Mr. Seaforth. "The Datto Hakkut, however, has been doing business here on Mindanao since before the Spaniards left, and my opinion is that he will do business as long as he lives. This fellow Hakkut is a wily old scoundrel, who often falls into traps set for him by our soldiers. Yet, just when the soldiers are about to close the trap, they find that Hakkut isn't there. His escapes are marvelous."

"Did Hakkut himself come to see you, Mr. Seaforth?" inquired the young lieutenant.

"Hakkut? I've never seen the fellow, nor has any other white man around here, so far as I know."

"Then he sends a regular collector for the money?"

"Yes. He has a new collector this year."

"A Moro?"

"The fellow looks to me more like a Tagalo. He's a sharp, keen, little business man-of his peculiar type."

"A Tagalo?" mused Lieutenant Prescott. "By Jove, I wish you'd give me a close description of the fellow."

"Perhaps I can do better than that," proposed Mr. Seaforth, rising. "When the collector was here my son succeeded-without the rascal's knowledge-in getting a snapshot at him. I think I can find the photo."

Disappearing into the house, the planter soon returned, handing the young officer a card. Prescott gazed at the photo, then called out:

"Men, pass the word for Sergeant Overton to report here. Tell him that his orders are to keep under cover while on the way here."

Hal soon appeared, crouching behind the trench, and sheltered by the high dirt wall.

"Sergeant, have you ever seen this fellow in the photo?" inquired the lieutenant, with a smile, passing the card to Overton.

"I should think I have, sir. This is Vicente Tomba."

"Can't be a doubt about it, can there?"

"Not unless Tomba has a twin brother, sir."

"And to think that we had that little rascal in arrest!" muttered the lieutenant. "It was a sad day for Mindanao when Tomba escaped from our guard house."

Then, after a pause, Prescott continued:

"By the way, Mr. Seaforth, how long has Draney been on his present plantation?"

"I don't know, Lieutenant. He's been there longer than I have resided here."

"Has he ever been troubled by the Moros?"

"They have never attacked him, Lieutenant. Draney must pay some tribute to the Datto Hakkut."

Lieutenant Prescott and Sergeant Hal Overton glanced quickly at one another, though neither spoke.

"That is all, Sergeant," said the officer, by way of dismissal. "Return to your men."

"Very good, sir."

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