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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSoldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIV
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Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIV Post by :JuvioSuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Richard Harding Davis Date :March 2011 Read :3324

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Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIV

An hour later Langham rose with a protesting sigh and shook the
hood violently.

``I say!'' he called. ``Are you asleep up there. We'll never
get home at this rate. Doesn't Hope want to come back here and
go to sleep?

The carriage stopped, and the boys tumbled out and walked around
in front of it. Hope sat smiling on the box-seat. She was
apparently far from sleepy, and she was quite contented where she
was, she told him.

``Do you know we haven't had anything to eat since yesterday at
breakfast?'' asked Langham. ``MacWilliams and I are fainting.
We move that we stop at the next shack we come to, and waken the
people up and make them give us some supper.''

Hope looked aside at Clay and laughed softly. ``Supper?'' she
said. ``They want supper!''

Their suffering did not seem to impress Clay deeply. He sat
snapping his whip at the palm-trees above him, and smiled happily
in an inconsequent and irritating manner at nothing.

``See here! Do you know that we are lost?'' demanded Langham,
indignantly, ``and starving? Have you any idea at all where you

``I have not,'' said Clay, cheerfully. ``All I know is that a
long time ago there was a revolution and a woman with jewels, who
escaped in an open boat, and I recollect playing that I was a
target and standing up to be shot at in a bright light. After
that I woke up to the really important things of life--among
which supper is not one.''

Langham and MacWilliams looked at each other doubtfully, and
Langham shook his head.

``Get down off that box,'' he commanded. ``If you and Hope think
this is merely a pleasant moonlight drive, we don't. You two can
sit in the carriage now, and we'll take a turn at driving, and
we'll guarantee to get you to some place soon.''

Clay and Hope descended meekly and seated themselves under the
hood, where they could look out upon the moonlit road as it
unrolled behind them. But they were no longer to enjoy their
former leisurely progress. The new whip lashed his horses into a
gallop, and the trees flew past them on either hand.

``Do you remember that chap in the `Last Ride Together'?'' said
``I and my mistress, side by side,
Shall be together--forever ride,
And so one more day am I deified.
Who knows--the world may end to-night.''

Hope laughed triumphantly, and threw out her arms as though she
would embrace the whole beautiful world that stretched around

``Oh, no,'' she laughed. ``To-night the world has just begun.''

The carriage stopped, and there was a confusion of voices on the
box-seat, and then a great barking of dogs, and they beheld
MacWilliams beating and kicking at the door of a hut. The door
opened for an inch, and there was a long debate in Spanish, and
finally the door was closed again, and a light appeared through
the windows. A few minutes later a man and woman came out of the
hut, shivering and yawning, and made a fire in the sun-baked oven
at the side of the house. Hope and Clay remained seated in the
carriage, and watched the flames springing up from the oily
fagots, and the boys moving about with flaring torches of pine,
pulling down bundles of fodder for the horses from the roof of
the kitchen, while two sleepy girls disappeared toward a mountain
stream, one carrying a jar on her shoulder, and the other
lighting the way with a torch. Hope sat with her chin on her
hand, watching the black figures passing between them and
the fire, and standing above it with its light on their faces,
shading their eyes from the heat with one hand, and stirring
something in a smoking caldron with the other. Hope felt an
overflowing sense of gratitude to these simple strangers for the
trouble they were taking. She felt how good every one was, and
how wonderfully kind and generous was the world that she lived

Her brother came over to the carriage and bowed with mock

``I trust, now that we have done all the work,'' he said, ``that
your excellencies will condescend to share our frugal fare, or
must we bring it to you here?''

The clay oven stood in the middle of a hut of laced twigs,
through which the smoke drifted freely. There was a row of
wooden benches around it, and they all seated themselves and ate
ravenously of rice and fried plantains, while the woman patted
and tossed tortillas between her hands, eyeing her guests
curiously. Her glance fell upon Langham's shoulder, and rested
there for so long that Hope followed the direction of her eyes.
She leaped to her feet with a cry of fear and reproach, and ran
toward her brother.

``Ted!'' she cried, ``you are hurt! you are wounded, and you
never told me! What is it? Is it very bad?'' Clay
crossed the floor in a stride, his face full of concern.

``Leave me alone!'' cried the stern brother, backing away and
warding them off with the coffeepot. ``It's only scratched.
You'll spill the coffee.''

But at the sight of the blood Hope had turned very white, and
throwing her arms around her brother's neck, hid her eyes on his
other shoulder and began to cry.

``I am so selfish,'' she sobbed. ``I have been so happy and you
were suffering all the time.''

Her brother stared at the others in dismay. ``What nonsense,''
he said, patting her on the shoulder. ``You're a bit tired, and
you need rest. That's what you need. The idea of my sister
going off in hysterics after behaving like such a sport--and
before these young ladies, too. Aren't you ashamed?''

``I should think they'd be ashamed,'' said MacWilliams, severely,
as he continued placidly with his supper. ``They haven't got
enough clothes on.''

Langham looked over Hope's shoulder at Clay and nodded
significantly. ``She's been on a good deal of a strain,'' he
explained apologetically, ``and no wonder; it's been rather an
unusual night for her.''

Hope raised her head and smiled at him through her tears. Then
she turned and moved toward Clay. She brushed her eyes with the
back of her hand and laughed. ``It has been an unusual night,''
she said. ``Shall I tell him?'' she asked.

Clay straightened himself unconsciously, and stepped beside her
and took her hand; MacWilliams quickly lowered to the bench the
dish from which he was eating, and stood up, too. The people of
the house stared at the group in the firelight with puzzled
interest, at the beautiful young girl, and at the tall, sunburned
young man at her side. Langham looked from his sister to Clay
and back again, and laughed uneasily.

``Langham, I have been very bold,'' said Clay. ``I have asked
your sister to marry me--and she has said that she would.''

Langham flushed as red as his sister. He felt himself at a
disadvantage in the presence of a love as great and strong as he
knew this must be. It made him seem strangely young and
inadequate. He crossed over to his sister awkwardly and kissed
her, and then took Clay's hand, and the three stood together and
looked at one another, and there was no sign of doubt or question
in the face of any one of them. They stood so for some little
time, smiling and exclaiming together, and utterly unconscious of
anything but their own delight and happiness. MacWilliams
watched them, his face puckered into odd wrinkles and his eyes
half-closed. Hope suddenly broke away from the others and turned
toward him with her hands held out.

``Have you nothing to say to me, Mr. MacWilliams?'' she asked.

MacWilliams looked doubtfully at Clay, as though from force of
habit he must ask advice from his chief first, and then took the
hands that she held out to him and shook them up and down. His
usual confidence seemed to have forsaken him, and he stood,
shifting from one foot to the other, smiling and abashed.

``Well, I always said they didn't make them any better than
you,'' he gasped at last. ``I was always telling him that,
wasn't I?'' He nodded energetically at Clay. ``And that's so;
they don't make 'em any better than you.''

He dropped her hands and crossed over to Clay, and stood
surveying him with a smile of wonder and admiration.

``How'd you do it?'' he demanded. ``How did you do it? I
suppose you know,'' he asked sternly, ``that you're not good
enough for Miss Hope? You know that, don't you?''

``Of course I know that,'' said Clay.

MacWilliams walked toward the door and stood in it for a
second, looking back at them over his shoulder. ``They don't
make them any better than that,'' he reiterated gravely, and
disappeared in the direction of the horses, shaking his head and
muttering his astonishment and delight.

``Please give me some money,'' Hope said to Clay. ``All the
money you have,'' she added, smiling at her presumption of
authority over him, ``and you, too, Ted.'' The men emptied their
pockets, and Hope poured the mass of silver into the hands of the
women, who gazed at it uncomprehendingly.

``Thank you for your trouble and your good supper,'' Hope said in
Spanish, ``and may no evil come to your house.''

The woman and her daughters followed her to the carriage, bowing
and uttering good wishes in the extravagant metaphor of their
country; and as they drove away, Hope waved her hand to them as
she sank closer against Clay's shoulder.

``The world is full of such kind and gentle souls,'' she said.

In an hour they had regained the main road, and a little later
the stars grew dim and the moonlight faded, and trees and bushes
and rocks began to take substance and to grow into form and
outline. They saw by the cool, gray light of the morning the
familiar hills around the capital, and at a cry from the
boys on the box-seat, they looked ahead and beheld the harbor of
Valencia at their feet, lying as placid and undisturbed as the
water in a bath-tub. As they turned up the hill into the road
that led to the Palms, they saw the sleeping capital like a city
of the dead below them, its white buildings reddened with the
light of the rising sun. From three places in different parts of
the city, thick columns of smoke rose lazily to the sky.

``I had forgotten!'' said Clay; ``they have been having a
revolution here. It seems so long ago.''

By five o'clock they had reached the gate of the Palms, and their
appearance startled the sentry on post into a state of
undisciplined joy. A riderless pony, the one upon which Jose'
had made his escape when the firing began, had crept into the
stable an hour previous, stiff and bruised and weary, and had led
the people at the Palms to fear the worst.

Mr. Langham and his daughter were standing on the veranda as the
horses came galloping up the avenue. They had been awake all the
night, and the face of each was white and drawn with anxiety and
loss of sleep. Mr. Langham caught Hope in his arms and held her
face close to his in silence.

``Where have you been?'' he said at last. ``Why did you
treat me like this? You knew how I would suffer.''

``I could not help it,'' Hope cried. ``I had to go with Madame

Her sister had suffered as acutely as had Mr. Langham himself, as
long as she was in ignorance of Hope's whereabouts. But now that
she saw Hope in the flesh again, she felt a reaction against her
for the anxiety and distress she had caused them.

``My dear Hope,'' she said, ``is every one to be sacrificed for
Madame Alvarez? What possible use could you be to her at such a
time? It was not the time nor the place for a young girl. You
were only another responsibility for the men.''

``Clay seemed willing to accept the responsibility,'' said
Langham, without a smile. ``And, besides,'' he added, ``if Hope
had not been with us we might never have reached home alive.''

But it was only after much earnest protest and many explanations
that Mr. Langham was pacified, and felt assured that his son's
wound was not dangerous, and that his daughter was quite safe.

Miss Langham and himself, he said, had passed a trying night.
There had been much firing in the city, and continual uproar.
The houses of several of the friends of Alvarez had been burned
and sacked. Alvarez himself had been shot as soon as he had
entered the yard of the military prison. It was then given out
that he had committed suicide. Mendoza had not dared to kill
Rojas, because of the feeling of the people toward him, and had
even shown him to the mob from behind the bars of one of the
windows in order to satisfy them that he was still living. The
British Minister had sent to the Palace for the body of Captain
Stuart, and had had it escorted to the Legation, from whence it
would be sent to England. This, as far as Mr. Langham had heard,
was the news of the night just over.

``Two native officers called here for you about midnight, Clay,''
he continued, ``and they are still waiting for you below at your
office. They came from Rojas's troops, who are encamped on the
hills at the other side of the city. They wanted you to join
them with the men from the mines. I told them I did not know
when you would return, and they said they would wait. If you
could have been here last night, it is possible that we might
have done something, but now that it is all over, I am glad that
you saved that woman instead. I should have liked, though, to
have struck one blow at them. But we cannot hope to win against
assassins. The death of young Stuart has hurt me terribly, and
the murder of Alvarez, coming on top of it, has made me wish I
had never heard of nor seen Olancho. I have decided to go
away at once, on the next steamer, and I will take my daughters
with me, and Ted, too. The State Department at Washington can
fight with Mendoza for the mines. You made a good stand, but
they made a better one, and they have beaten us. Mendoza's coup
d'etat has passed into history, and the revolution is at an

On his arrival Clay had at once asked for a cigar, and while Mr.
Langham was speaking he had been biting it between his teeth,
with the serious satisfaction of a man who had been twelve hours
without one. He knocked the ashes from it and considered the
burning end thoughtfully. Then he glanced at Hope as she stood
among the group on the veranda. She was waiting for his reply
and watching him intently. He seemed to be confident that she
would approve of the only course he saw open to him.

``The revolution is not at an end by any means, Mr. Langham,'' he
said at last, simply. ``It has just begun.'' He turned abruptly
and walked away in the direction of the office, and MacWilliams
and Langham stepped off the veranda and followed him as a matter
of course.

The soldiers in the army who were known to be faithful to General
Rojas belonged to the Third and Fourth regiments, and numbered
four thousand on paper, and two thousand by count of heads.
When they had seen their leader taken prisoner, and swept off the
parade-ground by Mendoza's cavalry, they had first attempted to
follow in pursuit and recapture him, but the men on horseback had
at once shaken off the men on foot and left them, panting and
breathless, in the dust behind them. So they halted uncertainly
in the road, and their young officers held counsel together.
They first considered the advisability of attacking the military
prison, but decided against doing so, as it would lead, they
feared, whether it proved successful or not, to the murder of
Rojas. It was impossible to return to the city where Mendoza's
First and Second regiments greatly outnumbered them. Having no
leader and no headquarters, the officers marched the men to the
hills above the city and went into camp to await further

Throughout the night they watched the illumination of the city
and of the boats in the harbor below them; they saw the flames
bursting from the homes of the members of Alvarez's Cabinet, and
when the morning broke they beheld the grounds of the Palace
swarming with Mendoza's troops, and the red and white barred flag
of the revolution floating over it. The news of the
assassination of Alvarez and the fact that Rojas had been
spared for fear of the people, had been carried to them early in
the evening, and with this knowledge of their General's safety
hope returned and fresh plans were discussed. By midnight they
had definitely decided that should Mendoza attempt to dislodge
them the next morning, they would make a stand, but that if the
fight went against them, they would fall back along the mountain
roads to the Valencia mines, where they hoped to persuade the
fifteen hundred soldiers there installed to join forces with them
against the new Dictator.

In order to assure themselves of this help, a messenger was
despatched by a circuitous route to the Palms, to ask the aid of
the resident director, and another was sent to the mines to work
upon the feelings of the soldiers themselves. The officer who
had been sent to the Palms to petition Clay for the loan of his
soldier-workmen, had decided to remain until Clay returned, and
another messenger had been sent after him from the camp on the
same errand.

These two lieutenants greeted Clay with enthusiasm, but he at
once interrupted them, and began plying them with questions as to
where their camp was situated and what roads led from it to the

``Bring your men at once to this end of our railroad,'' he
said. ``It is still early, and the revolutionists will sleep
late. They are drugged with liquor and worn out with excitement,
and whatever may have been their intentions toward you last
night, they will be late in putting them into practice this
morning. I will telegraph Kirkland to come up at once with all
of his soldiers and with his three hundred Irishmen. Allowing
him a half-hour to collect them and to get his flat cars
together, and another half-hour in which to make the run, he
should be here by half-past six--and that's quick mobilization.
You ride back now and march your men here at a double-quick.
With your two thousand we shall have in all three thousand and
eight hundred men. I must have absolute control over my own
troops. Otherwise I shall act independently of you and go into
the city alone with my workmen.''

``That is unnecessary,'' said one of the lieutenants. ``We have
no officers. If you do not command us, there is no one else to
do it. We promise that our men will follow you and give you
every obedience. They have been led by foreigners before, by
young Captain Stuart and Major Fergurson and Colonel Shrevington.
They know how highly General Rojas thinks of you, and they know
that you have led Continental armies in Europe.''

``Well, don't tell them I haven't until this is over,'' said
Clay. ``Now, ride hard, gentlemen, and bring your men here as
quickly as possible.''

The lieutenants thanked him effusively and galloped away, radiant
at the success of their mission, and Clay entered the office
where MacWilliams was telegraphing his orders to Kirkland. He
seated himself beside the instrument, and from time to time
answered the questions Kirkland sent back to him over the wire,
and in the intervals of silence thought of Hope. It was the
first time he had gone into action feeling the touch of a woman's
hand upon his sleeve, and he was fearful lest she might think he
had considered her too lightly.

He took a piece of paper from the table and wrote a few lines
upon it, and then rewrote them several times. The message he
finally sent to her was this: ``I am sure you understand, and
that you would not have me give up beaten now, when what we do
to-day may set us right again. I know better than any one else
in the world can know, what I run the risk of losing, but you
would not have that fear stop me from going on with what we have
been struggling for so long. I cannot come back to see you
before we start, but I know your heart is with me. With great
love, Robert Clay.''

He gave the note to his servant, and the answer was brought
to him almost immediately. Hope had not rewritten her message:
``I love you because you are the sort of man you are, and had you
given up as father wished you to do, or on my account, you would
have been some one else, and I would have had to begin over again
to learn to love you for some different reasons. I know that you
will come back to me bringing your sheaves with you. Nothing can
happen to you now. Hope.''

He had never received a line from her before, and he read and
reread this with a sense of such pride and happiness in his face
that MacWilliams smiled covertly and bent his eyes upon his
instrument. Clay went back into his room and kissed the page of
paper gently, flushing like a boy as he did so, and then folding
it carefully, he put it away beneath his jacket. He glanced
about him guiltily, although he was quite alone, and taking out
his watch, pried it open and looked down into the face of the
photograph that had smiled up at him from it for so many years.
He thought how unlike it was to Alice Langham as he knew her. He
judged that it must have been taken when she was very young, at
the age Hope was then, before the little world she lived in had
crippled and narrowed her and marked her for its own. He
remembered what she had said to him the first night he had
seen her. ``That is the picture of the girl who ceased to exist
four years ago, and whom you have never met.'' He wondered if
she had ever existed.

``It looks more like Hope than her sister,'' he mused. ``It
looks very much like Hope.'' He decided that he would let it
remain where it was until Hope gave him a better one; and smiling
slightly he snapped the lid fast, as though he were closing a
door on the face of Alice Langham and locking it forever.

Kirkland was in the cab of the locomotive that brought the
soldiers from the mine. He stopped the first car in front of the
freight station until the workmen had filed out and formed into a
double line on the platform. Then he moved the train forward the
length of that car, and those in the one following were mustered
out in a similar manner. As the cars continued to come in, the
men at the head of the double line passed on through the freight
station and on up the road to the city in an unbroken column.
There was no confusion, no crowding, and no haste.

When the last car had been emptied, Clay rode down the line and
appointed a foreman to take charge of each company, stationing
his engineers and the Irish-Americans in the van. It looked more
like a mob than a regiment. None of the men were in
uniform, and the native soldiers were barefoot. But they showed
a winning spirit, and stood in as orderly an array as though they
were drawn up in line to receive their month's wages. The
Americans in front of the column were humorously disposed, and
inclined to consider the whole affair as a pleasant outing. They
had been placed in front, not because they were better shots than
the natives, but because every South American thinks that every
citizen of the United States is a master either of the rifle or
the revolver, and Clay was counting on this superstition. His
assistant engineers and foremen hailed him as he rode on up and
down the line with good-natured cheers, and asked him when they
were to get their commissions, and if it were true that they were
all captains, or only colonels, as they were at home.

They had been waiting for a half-hour, when there was the sound
of horses' hoofs on the road, and the even beat of men's feet,
and the advance guard of the Third and Fourth regiments came
toward them at a quickstep. The men were still in the full-dress
uniforms they had worn at the review the day before, and in
comparison with the soldier-workmen and the Americans in flannel
shirts, they presented so martial a showing that they were
welcomed with tumultuous cheers. Clay threw them into a double
line on one side of the road, down the length of which his
own marched until they had reached the end of it nearest to the
city, when they took up their position in a close formation, and
the native regiments fell in behind them. Clay selected twenty
of the best shots from among the engineers and sent them on ahead
as a skirmish line. They were ordered to fall back at once if
they saw any sign of the enemy. In this order the column of four
thousand men started for the city.

It was a little after seven when they advanced. and the air was
mild and peaceful. Men and women came crowding to the doors and
windows of the huts as they passed, and stood watching them in
silence, not knowing to which party the small army might belong.
In order to enlighten them, Clay shouted, ``Viva Rojas.'' And
his men took it up, and the people answered gladly.

They had reached the closely built portion of the city when the
skirmish line came running back to say that it had been met by a
detachment of Mendoza's cavalry, who had galloped away as soon as
they saw them. There was then no longer any doubt that the fact
of their coming was known at the Palace, and Clay halted his men
in a bare plaza and divided them into three columns. Three
streets ran parallel with one another from this plaza to the
heart of the city, and opened directly upon the garden of
the Palace where Mendoza had fortified himself. Clay directed
the columns to advance up these streets, keeping the head of each
column in touch with the other two. At the word they were to
pour down the side streets and rally to each other's assistance.

As they stood, drawn up on the three sides of the plaza, he rode
out before them and held up his hat for silence. They were there
with arms in their hands, he said, for two reasons: the greater
one, and the one which he knew actuated the native soldiers, was
their desire to preserve the Constitution of the Republic.
According to their own laws, the Vice-President must succeed when
the President's term of office had expired, or in the event of
his death. President Alvarez had been assassinated, and the
Vice-President, General Rojas, was, in consequence, his legal
successor. It was their duty, as soldiers of the Republic, to
rescue him from prison, to drive the man who had usurped his
place into exile, and by so doing uphold the laws which they had
themselves laid down. The second motive, he went on, was a less
worthy and more selfish one. The Olancho mines, which now gave
work to thousands and brought millions of dollars into the
country, were coveted by Mendoza, who would, if he could, convert
them into a monopoly of his government. If he remained in
power all foreigners would be driven out of the country, and the
soldiers would be forced to work in the mines without payment.
Their condition would be little better than that of the slaves in
the salt mines of Siberia. Not only would they no longer be paid
for their labor, but the people as a whole would cease to receive
that share of the earnings of the mines which had hitherto been

``Under President Rojas you will have liberty, justice, and
prosperity,'' Clay cried. ``Under Mendoza you will be ruled by
martial law. He will rob and overtax you, and you will live
through a reign of terror. Between them--which will you

The native soldiers answered by cries of ``Rojas,'' and breaking
ranks rushed across the plaza toward him, crowding around his
horse and shouting, ``Long live Rojas,'' ``Long live the
Constitution,'' ``Death to Mendoza.'' The Americans stood as
they were and gave three cheers for the Government.

They were still cheering and shouting as they advanced upon the
Palace, and the noise of their coming drove the people indoors,
so that they marched through deserted streets and between closed
doors and sightless windows. No one opposed them, and no one
encouraged them. But they could now see the facade of the
Palace and the flag of the Revolutionists hanging from the mast
in front of it.

Three blocks distant from the Palace they came upon the buildings
of the United States and English Legations, where the flags of
the two countries had been hung out over the narrow thoroughfare.

The windows and the roofs of each legation were crowded with
women and children who had sought refuge there, and the column
halted as Weimer, the Consul, and Sir Julian Pindar, the English
Minister, came out, bare-headed, into the street and beckoned to
Clay to stop.

``As our Minister was not here,'' Weimer said, ``I telegraphed to
Truxillo for the man-of-war there. She started some time ago,
and we have just heard that she is entering the lower harbor.
She should have her blue-jackets on shore in twenty minutes. Sir
Julian and I think you ought to wait for them.''

The English Minister put a detaining hand on Clay's bridle. ``If
you attack Mendoza at the Palace with this mob,'' he
remonstrated, ``rioting and lawlessness generally will break out
all over the city. I ask you to keep them back until we get your
sailors to police the streets and protect property.''

Clay glanced over his shoulder at the engineers and the
Irish workmen standing in solemn array behind him. ``Oh, you can
hardly call this a mob,'' he said. ``They look a little rough
and ready, but I will answer for them. The two other columns
that are coming up the streets parallel to this are Government
troops and properly engaged in driving a usurper out of the
Government building. The best thing you can do is to get down to
the wharf and send the marines and blue-jackets where you think
they will do the most good. I can't wait for them. And they
can't come too soon.''

The grounds of the Palace occupied two entire blocks; the
Botanical Gardens were in the rear, and in front a series of low
terraces ran down from its veranda to the high iron fence which
separated the grounds from the chief thoroughfare of the city.

Clay sent word to the left and right wing of his little army to
make a detour one street distant from the Palace grounds and form
in the street in the rear of the Botanical Gardens. When they
heard the firing of his men from the front they were to force
their way through the gates at the back and attack the Palace in
the rear.

``Mendoza has the place completely barricaded,'' Weimer warned
him, ``and he has three field pieces covering each of these
streets. You and your men are directly in line of one of them
now. He is only waiting for you to get a little nearer
before he lets loose.''

From where he sat Clay could count the bars of the iron fence in
front of the grounds. But the boards that backed them prevented
his forming any idea of the strength or the distribution of
Mendoza's forces. He drew his staff of amateur officers to one
side and explained the situation to them.

``The Theatre National and the Club Union,'' he said, ``face the
Palace from the opposite corners of this street. You must get
into them and barricade the windows and throw up some sort of
shelter for yourselves along the edge of the roofs and drive the
men behind that fence back to the Palace. Clear them away from
the cannon first, and keep them away from it. I will be waiting
in the street below. When you have driven them back, we will
charge the gates and have it out with them in the gardens. The
Third and Fourth regiments ought to take them in the rear about
the same time. You will continue to pick them off from the

The two supporting columns had already started on their
roundabout way to the rear of the Palace. Clay gathered up his
reins, and telling his men to keep close to the walls, started
forward, his soldiers following on the sidewalks and leaving
the middle of the street clear. As they reached a point a
hundred yards below the Palace, a part of the wooden shield
behind the fence was thrown down, there was a puff of white smoke
and a report, and a cannon-ball struck the roof of a house which
they were passing and sent the tiles clattering about their
heads. But the men in the lead had already reached the stage-
door of the theatre and were opposite one of the doors to the
club. They drove these in with the butts of their rifles, and
raced up the stairs of each of the deserted buildings until they
reached the roof. Langham was swept by a weight of men across a
stage, and jumped among the music racks in the orchestra. He
caught a glimpse of the early morning sun shining on the tawdry
hangings of the boxes and the exaggerated perspective of the
scenery. He ran through corridors between two great statues of
Comedy and Tragedy, and up a marble stair case to a lobby in
which he saw the white faces about him multiplied in long
mirrors, and so out to an iron balcony from which he looked down,
panting and breathless, upon the Palace Gardens, swarming with
soldiers and white with smoke. Men poured through the windows of
the club opposite, dragging sofas and chairs out to the balcony
and upon the flat roof. The men near him were tearing down the
yellow silk curtains in the lobby and draping them along the
railing of the balcony to better conceal their movements from the
enemy below. Bullets spattered the stucco about their heads, and
panes of glass broke suddenly and fell in glittering particles
upon their shoulders. The firing had already begun from the
roofs near them. Beyond the club and the theatre and far along
the street on each side of the Palace the merchants were slamming
the iron shutters of their shops, and men and women were running
for refuge up the high steps of the church of Santa Maria.
Others were gathered in black masses on the balconies and roofs
of the more distant houses, where they stood outlined against the
soft blue sky in gigantic silhouette. Their shouts of
encouragement and anger carried clearly in the morning air, and
spurred on the gladiators below to greater effort. In the Palace
Gardens a line of Mendoza's men fought from behind the first
barricade, while others dragged tables and bedding and chairs
across the green terraces and tumbled them down to those below,
who seized them and formed them into a second line of defence.

Two of the assistant engineers were kneeling at Langham's feet
with the barrels of their rifles resting on the railing of the
balcony. Their eyes had been trained for years to judge
distances and to measure space, and they glanced along the
sights of their rifles as though they were looking through
the lens of a transit, and at each report their faces grew more
earnest and their lips pressed tighter together. One of them
lowered his gun to light a cigarette, and Langham handed him his
match-box, with a certain feeling of repugnance.

``Better get under cover, Mr. Langham,'' the man said, kindly.
``There's no use our keeping your mines for you if you're not
alive to enjoy them. Take a shot at that crew around the gun.''

``I don't like this long range business,'' Langham answered. ``I
am going down to join Clay. I don't like the idea of hitting a
man when he isn't looking at you.''

The engineer gave an incredulous laugh.

``If he isn't looking at you, he's aiming at the man next to you.

`Live and let Live' doesn't apply at present.''

As Langham reached Clay's side triumphant shouts arose from the
roof-tops, and the men posted there stood up and showed
themselves above the barricades and called to Clay that the
cannon were deserted.

Kirkland had come prepared for the barricade, and, running across
the street, fastened a dynamite cartridge to each gate post and
lit the fuses. The soldiers scattered before him as he came
leaping back, and in an instant later there was a racking
roar, and the gates were pitched out of their sockets and thrown
forward, and those in the street swept across them and surrounded
the cannon.

Langham caught it by the throat as though it were human, and did
not feel the hot metal burning the palms of his hands as he
choked it and pointed its muzzle toward the Palace, while the
others dragged at the spokes of the wheel. It was fighting at
close range now, close enough to suit even Langham. He found
himself in the front rank of it without knowing exactly how he
got there. Every man on both sides was playing his own hand, and
seemed to know exactly what to do. He felt neglected and very
much alone, and was somewhat anxious lest his valor might be
wasted through his not knowing how to put it to account. He saw
the enemy in changing groups of scowling men, who seemed to eye
him for an instant down the length of a gun-barrel and then
disappear behind a puff of smoke. He kept thinking that war made
men take strange liberties with their fellow-men, and it struck
him as being most absurd that strangers should stand up and try
to kill one another, men who had so little in common that they
did not even know one another's names. The soldiers who were
fighting on his own side were equally unknown to him, and he
looked in vain for Clay. He saw MacWilliams for a moment
through the smoke, jabbing at a jammed cartridge with his pen-
knife, and hacking the lead away to make it slip. He was
remonstrating with the gun and swearing at it exactly as though
it were human, and as Langham ran toward him he threw it away and
caught up another from the ground. Kneeling beside the wounded
man who had dropped it and picking the cartridges from his belt,
he assured him cheerfully that he was not so badly hurt as he

``You all right?'' Langham asked.

``I'm all right. I'm trying to get a little laddie hiding behind
that blue silk sofa over there. He's taken an unnatural dislike
to me, and he's nearly got me three times. I'm knocking horse-
hair out of his rampart, though.''

The men of Stuart's body-guard were fighting outside of the
breastworks and mattresses. They were using their swords as
though they were machetes, and the Irishmen were swinging their
guns around their shoulders like sledge-hammers, and beating
their foes over the head and breast. The guns at his own side
sounded close at Langham's ear, and deafened him, and those of
the enemy exploded so near to his face that he was kept
continually winking and dodging, as though he were being taken by
a flashlight photograph. When he fired he aimed where the
mass was thickest, so that he might not see what his bullet did,
but he remembered afterward that he always reloaded with the most
anxious swiftness in order that he might not be killed before he
had had another shot, and that the idea of being killed was of no
concern to him except on that account. Then the scene before him
changed, and apparently hundreds of Mendoza's soldiers poured out
from the Palace and swept down upon him, cheering as they came,
and he felt himself falling back naturally and as a matter of
course, as he would have stepped out of the way of a locomotive,
or a runaway horse, or any other unreasoning thing. His
shoulders pushed against a mass of shouting, sweating men, who in
turn pressed back upon others, until the mass reached the iron
fence and could move no farther. He heard Clay's voice shouting
to them, and saw him run forward, shooting rapidly as he ran, and
he followed him, even though his reason told him it was a useless
thing to do, and then there came a great shout from the rear of
the Palace, and more soldiers, dressed exactly like the others,
rushed through the great doors and swarmed around the two wings
of the building, and he recognized them as Rojas's men and knew
that the fight was over.

He saw a tall man with a negro's face spring out of the
first mass of soldiers and shout to them to follow him. Clay
gave a yell of welcome and ran at him, calling upon him in
Spanish to surrender. The negro stopped and stood at bay,
glaring at Clay and at the circle of soldiers closing in around
him. He raised his revolver and pointed it steadily. It was as
though the man knew he had only a moment to live, and meant to do
that one thing well in the short time left him.

Clay sprang to one side and ran toward him, dodging to the right
and left, but Mendoza followed his movements carefully with his

It lasted but an instant. Then the Spaniard threw his arm
suddenly across his face, drove the heel of his boot into the
turf, and spinning about on it fell forward.

``If he was shot where his sash crosses his heart, I know the man
who did it,'' Langham heard a voice say at his elbow, and turning
saw MacWilliams wetting his fingers at his lips and touching them
gingerly to the heated barrel of his Winchester.

The death of Mendoza left his followers without a leader and
without a cause. They threw their muskets on the ground and held
their hands above their heads, shrieking for mercy. Clay and his
officers answered them instantly by running from one group
to another, knocking up the barrels of the rifles and calling
hoarsely to the men on the roofs to cease firing, and as they
were obeyed the noise of the last few random shots was drowned in
tumultuous cheering and shouts of exultation, that, starting in
the gardens, were caught up by those in the streets and passed on
quickly as a line of flame along the swaying housetops.

The native officers sprang upon Clay and embraced him after their
fashion, hailing him as the Liberator of Olancho, as the
Preserver of the Constitution, and their brother patriot. Then
one of them climbed to the top of a gilt and marble table and
proclaimed him military President.

``You'll proclaim yourself an idiot, if you don't get down from
there,'' Clay said, laughing. ``I thank you for permitting me to
serve with you, gentlemen. I shall have great pleasure in
telling our President how well you acquitted yourself in this
row--battle, I mean. And now I would suggest that you store the
prisoners' weapons in the Palace and put a guard over them, and
then conduct the men themselves to the military prison, where you
can release General Rojas and escort him back to the city in a
triumphal procession. You'd like that, wouldn't you?''

But the natives protested that that honor was for him alone.
Clay declined it, pleading that he must look after his wounded.

``I can hardly believe there are any dead,'' he said to Kirkland.

``For, if it takes two thousand bullets to kill a man in European
warfare, it must require about two hundred thousand to kill a man
in South America.''

He told Kirkland to march his men back to the mines and to see
that there were no stragglers. ``If they want to celebrate, let
them celebrate when they get to the mines, but not here. They
have made a good record to-day and I won't have it spoiled by
rioting. They shall have their reward later. Between Rojas and
Mr. Langham they should all be rich men.''

The cheering from the housetops since the firing ceased had
changed suddenly into hand-clappings, and the cries, though still
undistinguishable, were of a different sound. Clay saw that the
Americans on the balconies of the club and of the theatre had
thrown themselves far over the railings and were all looking in
the same direction and waving their hats and cheering loudly, and
he heard above the shouts of the people the regular tramp of
men's feet marching in step, and the rattle of a machine gun as
it bumped and shook over the rough stones. He gave a shout of
pleasure, and Kirkland and the two boys ran with him up the
slope, crowding each other to get a better view. The mob
parted at the Palace gates, and they saw two lines of blue-
jackets, spread out like the sticks of a fan, dragging the gun
between them, the middies in their tight-buttoned tunics and
gaiters, and behind them more blue-jackets with bare, bronzed
throats, and with the swagger and roll of the sea in their legs
and shoulders. An American flag floated above the white helmets
of the marines. Its presence and the sense of pride which the
sight of these men from home awoke in them made the fight just
over seem mean and petty, and they took off their hats and
cheered with the others.

A first lieutenant, who felt his importance and also a sense of
disappointment at having arrived too late to see the fighting,
left his men at the gate of the Palace, and advanced up the
terrace, stopping to ask for information as he came. Each group
to which he addressed himself pointed to Clay. The sight of his
own flag had reminded Clay that the banner of Mendoza still hung
from the mast beside which he was standing, and as the officer
approached he was busily engaged in untwisting its halyards and
pulling it down.

The lieutenant saluted him doubtfully.

``Can you tell me who is in command here?'' he asked. He spoke
somewhat sharply, for Clay was not a military looking personage,
covered as he was with dust and perspiration, and with his
sombrero on the back of his head.

``Our Consul here told us at the landing-place,'' continued the
lieutenant in an aggrieved tone, ``that a General Mendoza was in
power, and that I had better report to him, and then ten minutes
later I hear that he is dead and that a General Rojas is
President, but that a man named Clay has made himself Dictator.
My instructions are to recognize no belligerents, but to report
to the Government party. Now, who is the Government party?''

Clay brought the red-barred flag down with a jerk, and ripped it
free from the halyards. Kirkland and the two boys were watching
him with amused smiles.

``I appreciate your difficulty,'' he said. ``President Alvarez
is dead, and General Mendoza, who tried to make himself Dictator,
is also dead, and the real President, General Rojas, is still in
jail. So at present I suppose that I represent the Government
party, at least I am the man named Clay. It hadn't occurred to
me before, but, until Rojas is free, I guess I am the Dictator of
Olancho. Is Madame Alvarez on board your ship?''

``Yes, she is with us,'' the officer replied, in some confusion.
``Excuse me--are you the three gentlemen who took her to the
yacht? I am afraid I spoke rather hastily just now, but you
are not in uniform, and the Government seems to change so quickly
down here that a stranger finds it hard to keep up with it.''

Six of the native officers had approached as the lieutenant was
speaking and saluted Clay gravely. ``We have followed your
instructions,'' one of them said, ``and the regiments are ready
to march with the prisoners. Have you any further orders for
us--can we deliver any messages to General Rojas?''

``Present my congratulations to General Rojas, and best wishes,''
said Clay. ``And tell him for me, that it would please me
greatly if he would liberate an American citizen named Burke, who
is at present in the cuartel. And that I wish him to promote all
of you gentlemen one grade and give each of you the Star of
Olancho. Tell him that in my opinion you have deserved even
higher reward and honor at his hands.''

The boy-lieutenants broke out into a chorus of delighted thanks.
They assured Clay that he was most gracious; that he overwhelmed
them, and that it was honor enough for them that they had served
under him. But Clay laughed, and drove them off with a paternal
wave of the hand.

The officer from the man-of-war listened with an uncomfortable
sense of having blundered in his manner toward this powder-
splashed young man who set American citizens at liberty, and
created captains by the half-dozen at a time.

``Are you from the States?'' he asked as they moved toward the
man-of-war's men.

``I am, thank God. Why not?''

``I thought you were, but you saluted like an Englishman.''

``I was an officer in the English army once in the Soudan, when
they were short of officers.'' Clay shook his head and looked
wistfully at the ranks of the blue-jackets drawn up on either
side of them. The horses had been brought out and Langham and
MacWilliams were waiting for him to mount. ``I have worn several
uniforms since I was a boy,'' said Clay. ``But never that of my
own country.''

The people were cheering him from every part of the square.
Women waved their hands from balconies and housetops, and men
climbed to awnings and lampposts and shouted his name. The
officers and men of the landing party took note of him and of
this reception out of the corner of their eyes, and wondered.

``And what had I better do?'' asked the commanding officer.

``Oh, I would police the Palace grounds, if I were you, and
picket that street at the right, where there are so many
wine shops, and preserve order generally until Rojas gets here.
He won't be more than an hour, now. We shall be coming over to
pay our respects to your captain to-morrow. Glad to have met

``Well, I'm glad to have met you,'' answered the officer,
heartily. ``Hold on a minute. Even if you haven't worn our
uniform, you're as good, and better, than some I've seen that
have, and you're a sort of a commander-in-chief, anyway, and I'm
damned if I don't give you a sort of salute.''

Clay laughed like a boy as he swung himself into the saddle. The
officer stepped back and gave the command; the middies raised
their swords and Clay passed between massed rows of his
countrymen with their muskets held rigidly toward him. The
housetops rocked again at the sight, and as he rode out into the
brilliant sunshine, his eyes were wet and winking.

The two boys had drawn up at his side, but MacWilliams had turned
in the saddle and was still looking toward the Palace, with his
hand resting on the hindquarters of his pony.

``Look back, Clay,'' he said. ``Take a last look at it, you'll
never see it after to-day. Turn again, turn again, Dictator of

The men laughed and drew rein as he bade them, and looked
back up the narrow street. They saw the green and white flag of
Olancho creeping to the top of the mast before the Palace, the
blue-jackets driving back the crowd, the gashes in the walls of
the houses, where Mendoza's cannonballs had dug their way through
the stucco, and the silk curtains, riddled with bullets, flapping
from the balconies of the opera-house.

``You had it all your own way an hour ago,'' MacWilliams said,
mockingly. ``You could have sent Rojas into exile, and made us
all Cabinet Ministers--and you gave it up for a girl. Now,
you're Dictator of Olancho. What will you be to-morrow? To-
morrow you will be Andrew Langham's son-in-law--Benedict, the
married man. Andrew Langham's son-in-law cannot ask his wife to
live in such a hole as this, so--Goodbye, Mr. Clay. We have been
long together.''

Clay and Langham looked curiously at the boy to see if he were in
earnest, but MacWilliams would not meet their eyes.

``There were three of us,'' he said, ``and one got shot, and one
got married, and the third--? You will grow fat, Clay, and live
on Fifth Avenue and wear a high silk hat, and some day when
you're sitting in your club you'll read a paragraph in a
newspaper with a queer Spanish date-line to it, and this will all
come back to you,--this heat, and the palms, and the fever,
and the days when you lived on plantains and we watched our
trestles grow out across the canons, and you'll be willing to
give your hand to sleep in a hammock again, and to feel the sweat
running down your back, and you'll want to chuck your gun up
against your chin and shoot into a line of men, and the policemen
won't let you, and your wife won't let you. That's what you're
giving up. There it is. Take a good look at it. You'll never
see it again.''

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Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XV Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XV

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XV
The steamer ``Santiago,'' carrying ``passengers, bullion, andcoffee,'' was headed to pass Porto Rico by midnight, when shewould be free of land until she anchored at the quarantinestation of the green hills of Staten Island. She had not yetshaken off the contamination of the earth; a soft inland breezestill tantalized her with odors of tree and soil, the smell ofthe fresh coat of paint that had followed her coaling rose fromher sides, and the odor of spilt coffee-grains that hung aroundthe hatches had yet to be blown away by a jealous ocean breeze,or washed by a welcoming cross sea.The captain stopped

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII

Soldiers Of Fortune - Chapter XIII
The President's travelling carriage was a double-seated diligencecovered with heavy hoods and with places on the box for two men. Only one of the coachmen, the same man who had driven the Statecarriage from the review, had remained at the stables. As heknew the roads to Los Bocos, Clay ordered him up to the driver'sseat, and MacWilliams climbed into the place beside him afterfirst storing three rifles under the lap-robe.Hope pulled open the leather curtains of the carriage and foundMadame Alvarez where the men had laid her upon the cushions, weakand hysterical. The girl crept in beside her, and