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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCaptain Macklin: His Memoirs - Chapter 3
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Captain Macklin: His Memoirs - Chapter 3 Post by :vbhnl Category :Long Stories Author :Richard Harding Davis Date :May 2012 Read :794

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Captain Macklin: His Memoirs - Chapter 3

Chapter III

Although I had reached my journey's end, although I had accomplished what I had set out to do, I felt no sense of elation nor relief. I was, instead, disenchanted, discouraged, bitterly depressed. It was so unutterably and miserably unlike what I had hoped to find, what I believed I had the right to expect, that my disappointment and anger choked me. The picture I had carried in my mind was one of shining tent-walls, soldierly men in gay and gaudy uniforms, fluttering guidons, blue ammunition-boxes in orderly array, smart sentries pacing their posts, and a head-quarters tent where busy officers bent over maps and reports.

The scene I had set was one painted in martial colors, in scarlet and gold lace; it moved to martial music, to bugle-calls, to words of command, to the ringing challenge of the sentry, and what I had found was this camp of gypsies, this nest of tramps, without authority, discipline, or self-respect. It was not even picturesque. My indignation stirred me so intensely that, as I walked down the hill, I prayed for a rude reception, that I might try to express my disgust.

The officer who had first approached us stopped at the opening of the solitary tent, and began talking excitedly to someone inside. And as we reached the level ground, the occupant of the tent stepped from it. He was a stout, heavy man, with a long, twisted mustache, at which he was tugging fiercely. He wore a red sash and a bandman's tunic, with two stars sewn on the collar. I could not make out his rank, but his first words explained him.

"I am glad to see you at last, Mr. Aiken," he said. "I'm Major Reeder, in temporary command. You have come to report, sir?"

Aiken took so long to reply that I stopped studying the remarkable costume of the Major and turned to Aiken. I was surprised to see that he was unquestionably frightened. His eyes were shifting and blinking, and he wet his lips with his tongue. All his self-assurance had deserted him. The officer who had led us to the camp was also aware of Aiken's uneasiness, and was regarding him with a sneer. For some reason the spectacle of Aiken's distress seemed to afford him satisfaction.

"I should prefer to report to General Laguerre," Aiken said, at last.

"I am in command here," Reeder answered, sharply. "General Laguerre is absent--reconnoitering. I represent him. I know all about Mr. Quay's mission. It was I who recommended him to the General. Where are the guns?"

For a moment Aiken stared at him helplessly, and then drew in a quick breath.

"I don't know where they are," he said. "The Panama arrived two days ago, but when I went to unload the guns Captain Leeds told me they had been seized in New Orleans by the Treasury Department. Someone must have--"

Both Major Reeder and the officer interrupted with a shout of anger.

"Then it's true!" Reeder cried. "It's true, and--and--you dare to tell us so!"

Aiken raised his head and for a moment looked almost defiant.

"Why shouldn't I tell you?" he demanded, indignantly. "Who else was there to tell you? I've travelled two days to let you know. I can't help it if the news isn't good. I'm just as sorry as you are."

The other officer was a stout, yellow-haired German. He advanced a step and shook a soiled finger in Aiken's face. "You can't help it, can't you?" he cried. "You're sorry, are you? You won't be sorry when you're paid your money, will you? How much did you get for us, hey! How much did Joe Fiske--"

Reeder threw out his arm and motioned the officer back. "Silence, Captain Heinze," he commanded.

The men of the Legion who had happened to be standing near the tent when we appeared had come up to look at the new arrivals, and when they heard two of their officers attacking Aiken they crowded still closer in front of us, forming a big half-circle. Each of them apparently was on a footing with his officers of perfect comradeship, and listened openly to what was going forward as though it were a personal concern of his own. They had even begun to discuss it among themselves, and made so much noise in doing so that Captain Heinze passed on Reeder's rebuke as though it had been intended for them, commanding, "Silence in the ranks."

They were not in ranks, and should not have been allowed where they were in any formation, but that did not seem to occur to either of the officers.

"Silence," Reeder repeated. "Now, Mr. Aiken, I am waiting. What have you to say?"

"What is there for me to say?" Aiken protested. "I have done all I could. I told you as soon as I could get here." Major Reeder drew close to Aiken and pointed his outstretched hand at him.

"Mr. Aiken," he said. "Only four people knew that those guns were ordered--Quay, who went to fetch them, General Laguerre, myself, and you. Some one of us must have sold out the others; no one else could have done it. It was not Quay. The General and I have been here in the mountains--we did not do it; and that--that leaves you."

"It does not leave me," Aiken cried. He shouted it out with such spirit that I wondered at him. It was the same sort of spirit which makes a rat fight because he can't get away, but I didn't think so then.

"It was Quay sold you out!" Aiken cried. "Quay told the Isthmian people as soon as the guns reached New Orleans. I suspected him when he cabled me he wasn't coming back. I know him. I know just what he is. He's been on both sides before."

"Silence, you--you," Reeder interrupted. He was white with anger. "Mr. Quay is my friend," he cried. "I trust him. I trust him as I would trust my own brother. How dare you accuse him!"

He ceased and stood gasping with indignation, but his show of anger encouraged Captain Heinze to make a fresh attack on Aiken.

"Quay took you off the beach," he shouted.

"He gave you food and clothes, and a bed to lie on. It's like you, to bite the hand that fed you. When have you ever stuck to any side or anybody if you could get a dollar more by selling him out?"

The whole thing had become intolerable. It was abject and degrading, like a falling-out among thieves. They reminded me of a group of drunken women I had once seen, shameless and foul-mouthed, fighting in the street, with grinning night-birds urging them on. I felt in some way horribly responsible, as though they had dragged me into it--as though the flying handfuls of mud had splattered me. And yet the thing which inflamed me the most against them was their unfairness to Aiken. They would not let him speak, and they would not see that they were so many, and that he was alone. I did not then know that he was telling the truth. Indeed, I thought otherwise. I did not then know that on those occasions when he appeared to the worst advantage, he generally was trying to tell the truth.

Captain Heinze pushed nearer, and shoved his fist close to Aiken's face.

"We know what you are," he jeered. "We know you're no more on our side than you're the American Consul. You lied to us about that, and you've lied to us about everything else. And now we've caught you, and we'll make you pay for it."

One of the men in the rear of the crowd shouted, "Ah, shoot the beggar!" and others began to push forward and to jeer. Aiken heard them and turned quite white.

"You've caught me?" Aiken stammered. "Why, I came here of my own will. Is it likely I'd have done that if I had sold you out?"

"I tell you you did sell us out," Heinze roared. "And you're a coward besides, and I tell you so to your face!" He sprang at Aiken, and Aiken shrank back. It made me sick to see him do it. I had such a contempt for the men against him that I hated his not standing up to them. It was to hide the fact that he had stepped back, that I jumped in front of him and pretended to restrain him. I tried to make it look as though had I not interfered, he would have struck at Heinze.

The German had swung around toward the men behind him, as though he were subpoenaing them as witnesses.

"I call him a coward to his face!" he shouted. But when he turned again I was standing in front of Aiken, and he halted in surprise, glaring at me. I don't know what made me do it, except that I had heard enough of their recriminations, and was sick with disappointment. I hated Heinze and all of them, and myself for being there.

"Yes, you can call him a coward," I said, as offensively as I could, "with fifty men behind you. How big a crowd do you want before you dare insult a man?" Then I turned on the others. "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves," I cried, "to all of you set on one man in your own camp? I don't know anything about this row and I don't want to know, but there's fifty men here against one, and I'm on the side of that one. You're a lot of cheap bullies," I cried, "and this German drill- sergeant," I shouted, pointing at Heinze, "who calls himself an officer, is the cheapest bully of the lot." I jerked open the buckle which held my belt and revolver, and flung them on the ground. Then I slipped off my coat, and shoved it back of me to Aiken, for I wanted to keep him out of it. It was the luck of Royal Macklin himself that led me to take off my coat instead of drawing my revolver. At the Point I had been accustomed to settle things with my fists, and it had been only since I started from the coast that I had carried a gun. A year later, in the same situation, I would have reached for it. Had I done so that morning, as a dozen of them assured me later, they would have shot me before I could have got my hand on it. But, as it was, when I rolled up my sleeves the men began to laugh, and some shouted: "Give him room," "Make a ring," "Fair play, now," "Make a ring." The semi-circle spread out and lengthened until it formed a ring, with Heinze and Reeder, and Aiken holding my coat, and myself in the centre of it.

I squared off in front of the German and tapped him lightly on the chest with the back of my hand.

"Now, then," I cried, taunting him, "I call _you a coward to _your face. What are you going to do about it?"

For an instant he seemed too enraged and astonished to move, and the next he exploded with a wonderful German oath and rushed at me, tugging at his sword. At the same moment the men gave a shout and the ring broke. I thought they had cried out in protest when they saw Heinze put his hand on his sword, but as they scattered and fell back I saw that they were looking neither at Heinze nor at me, but at someone behind me. Heinze, too, halted as suddenly as though he had been pulled back by a curbed bit, and, bringing his heels together, stood stiffly at salute. I turned and saw that everyone was falling out of the way of a tall man who came striding toward us, and I knew on the instant that he was General Laguerre. At the first glance I disassociated him from his followers. He was entirely apart. In any surroundings I would have picked him out as a leader of men. Even a civilian would have known he was a soldier, for the signs of his calling were stamped on him as plainly as the sterling mark on silver, and although he was not in uniform his carriage and countenance told you that he was a personage.

He was very tall and gaunt, with broad shoulders and a waist as small as a girl's, and although he must then have been about fifty years of age he stood as stiffly erect as though his spine had grown up into the back of his head.

At the first glance he reminded me of Van Dyke's portrait of Charles I. He had the same high-bred features, the same wistful eyes, and hewore his beard and mustache in what was called the Van Dyke fashion, before Louis Napoleon gave it a new vogue as the "imperial."

It must have been that I read the wistful look in his eyes later, for at the moment of our first meeting it was a very stern Charles I. who confronted us, with the delicate features stiffened in anger, and the eyes set and burning. Since then I have seen both the wistful look and the angry look many times, and even now I would rather face the muzzle of a gun than the eyes of General Laguerre when you have offended him.

His first words were addressed to Reeder.

"What does this mean, sir?" he demanded. "If you cannot keep order in this camp when my back is turned I shall find an officer who can. Who is this?" he added, pointing at me. I became suddenly conscious of the fact that I was without my hat or coat, and that my sleeves were pulled up to the shoulders. Aiken was just behind me, and as I turned to him for my coat I disclosed his presence to the General. He gave an exclamation of delight.

"Mr. Aiken!" he cried, "at last!" He lowered his voice to an eager whisper. "Where are the guns?" he asked.

Apparently Aiken felt more confidence in General Laguerre than in his officers, for at this second questioning he answered promptly.

"I regret to say, sir," he began, "that the guns were seized at New Orleans. Someone informed the Honduranian Consul there, and he--"

"Seized!" cried Laguerre. "By whom? Do you mean we have lost them?"

Aiken lowered his eyes and nodded.

"But how do you know?" Laguerre demanded, eagerly. "You are not sure? Who seized them?"

"The Treasury officers," Aiken answered

"The captain of the Panama told me he saw the guns taken on the company's wharf."

For some moments Laguerre regarded him sternly, but I do not think he saw him. He turned and walked a few steps from us and back again. Then he gave an upward toss of his head as though he had accepted his sentence. "The fortunes of war," he kept repeating to himself, "the fortunes of war." He looked up and saw us regarding him with expressions of the deepest concern.

"I thought I had had my share of them," he said, simply. He straightened his shoulders and frowned, and then looked at us and tried to smile. But the bad news had cut deeply. During the few minutes since he had come pushing his way through the crowd, he seemed to have grown ten years older. He walked to the door of his tent and then halted and turned toward Reeder.

"I think my fever is coming on again," he said. "I believe I had better rest. Do not let them disturb me."

"Yes, General," Reeder answered. Then he pointed at Aiken and myself. "And what are we to do with these?" he asked.

"Do with these?" Laguerre repeated. "Why, what did you mean to do with them?"

Reeder swelled out his chest importantly, "If you had not arrived when you did, General," he said, "I would have had them shot!"

The General stopped at the entrance to the tent and leaned heavily against the pole. He raised his eyes and looked at us wearily and with no show of interest.

"Shoot them?" he asked. "Why were you going to shoot them?"

"Because, General," Reeder declared, theatrically, pointing an accusing finger at Aiken, "I believe this man sold our secret to the Isthmian Line. No one knew of the guns but our three selves and Quay. And Quay is not a man to betray his friends. I wish I could say as much for Mr. Aiken."

At that moment Aiken, being quite innocent, said even less for himself, and because he was innocent looked the trapped and convicted criminal.

Laguerre's eyes glowed like two branding-irons. As he fixed them on Aiken's face one expected to see them leave a mark.

"If the General will only listen," Aiken stammered. "If you will only give me a hearing, sir. Why should I come to your camp if I had sold you out? Why didn't I get away on the first steamer, and stay away--as Quay did?"

The General gave an exclamation of disgust, and shrugged his shoulders. He sank back slowly against one of the Gatling guns.

"What does it matter?" he said, bitterly. "Why lock the stable door now? I will give you a hearing," he said, turning to Aiken, "but it would be better for you if I listened to you later. Bring him to me to-morrow morning after roll-call. And the other?" he asked. He pointed at me, but his eyes, which were heavy with disappointment, were staring moodily at the ground.

Heinze interposed himself quickly.

"Aiken brought him here!" he said. "I believe he's an agent of the Isthmian people, or," he urged, "why did he come here? He came to spy out your camp, General, and to report on our condition."

"A spy!" said Laguerre, raising his head and regarding me sharply.

"Yes," Heinze declared, with conviction. "A spy, General. A Government spy, and he has found out our hiding-place and counted our men."

Aiken turned on him with a snarl.

"Oh, you ass!" he cried. "He came as a volunteer. He wanted to fight with you,--for the sacred cause of liberty!"

"Yes, he wanted to fight with us," shouted Heinze, indignantly. "As soon as he got into the camp, he wanted to fight with us."

Laguerre made an exclamation of impatience, and rose unsteadily from the gun-carriage.

"Silence!" he commanded. "I tell you I cannot listen to you now. I will give these men a hearing after roll-call. In the meantime if they are spies, they have seen too much. Place them under guard; and if they try to escape, shoot them."

I gave a short laugh and turned to Aiken.

"That's the first intelligent military order I've heard yet," I said.

Aiken scowled at me fearfully, and Reeder and Heinze gasped. General Laguerre had caught the words, and turned his eyes on me. Like the real princess who could feel the crumpled rose-leaf under a dozen mattresses, I can feel it in my bones when I am in the presence of a real soldier. My spinal column stiffens, and my fingers twitch to be at my visor. In spite of their borrowed titles, I had smelt out the civilian in Reeder and had detected the non-commissioned man in Heinze, and just as surely I recognized the general officer in Laguerre.

So when he looked at me my heels clicked together, my arm bent to my hat and fell again to my trouser seam, and I stood at attention. It was as instinctive as though I were back at the Academy, and he had confronted me in the uniform and yellow sash of a major-general.

"And what do you know of military orders, sir," he demanded, in a low voice, "that you feel competent to pass upon mine?"

Still standing at attention, I said: "For the last three years I have been at West Point, sir, and have listened to nothing else."

"You have been at West Point?" he said, slowly, looking at me in surprise and with evident doubt. "When did you leave the Academy?"

"Two weeks ago," I answered. At this, he looked even more incredulous.

"How does it happen," he asked, "if you are preparing for the army at West Point, that you are now travelling in Honduras?"

"I was dismissed from the Academy two weeks ago," I answered. "This was the only place where there was any fighting, so I came here. I read that you had formed a Foreign Legion, and thought that maybe you would let me join it."

General Laguerre now stared at me in genuine amazement. In his interest in the supposed spy, he had forgotten the loss of his guns.

"You came from West Point," he repeated, incredulously, "all the way to Honduras--to join me!" He turned to the two officers. "Did he tell you this?" he demanded.

They answered, "No," promptly, and truthfully as well, for they had not given me time to tell them anything.

"Have you any credentials, passports, or papers?" he said.

When he asked this I saw Reeder whisper eagerly to Heinze, and then walk away. He had gone to search my trunk for evidence that I was a spy, and had I suspected this I would have protested violently, but it did not occur to me then that he would do such a thing.

"I have only the passport I got from the commandante at Porto Cortez," I said.

At the words Aiken gave a quick shake of the head, as a man does when he sees another move the wrong piece on the chess-board. But when I stared at him inquiringly his expression changed instantly to one of interrogation and complete unconcern.

"Ah!" exclaimed Heinze, triumphantly, "he has a permit from the Government."

"Let me see it," said the General.

I handed it to him, and he drew a camp-chair from the tent, and, seating himself, began to compare me with the passport.

"In this," he said at last, "you state that you are a commercial traveller; that you are going to the capital on business, and that you are a friend of the Government."

I was going to tell him that until it had been handed me by Aiken, I had known nothing of the passport, but I considered that in some way this might involve Aiken, and so I answered:

"It was necessary to tell them any story, sir, in order to get into the interior. I could not tell them that I was _not a friend of the Government, nor that I was trying to join you."

"Your stories are somewhat conflicting," said the General. "You are led to our hiding-place by a man who is himself under suspicion, and the only credentials you can show are from the enemy. Why should I believe you are what you say you are? Why should I believe you are not a spy?"

I could not submit to having my word doubted, so I bowed stiffly and did not speak.

"Answer me," the General commanded, "what proofs have I?"

"You have nothing but my word for it," I said.

General Laguerre seemed pleased with that, and I believe he was really interested in helping me to clear myself. But he had raised my temper by questioning my word.

"Surely you must have something to identify you," he urged.

"If I had I'd refuse to show it," I answered. "I told you why I came here. If you think I am a spy, you can go ahead and shoot me as a spy, and find out whether I told you the truth afterward."

The General smiled indulgently.

"There would be very little satisfaction in that for me, or for you," he said.

"I'm an officer and a gentleman," I protested, "and I have a right to be treated as one. If you serve every gentleman who volunteers to join you in the way I have been served, I'm not surprised that your force is composed of the sort you have around you."

The General raised his head and looked at me with such a savage expression that during the pause which ensued I was most uncomfortable.

"If your proofs you are an officer are no stronger than those you offer that you are a gentleman," he said, "perhaps you are wise not to show them. What right have you to claim you are an officer?"

His words cut and mortified me deeply, chiefly because I felt I deserved them.

"Every cadet ranks a non-commissioned man," I answered.

"But you are no longer a cadet," he replied. "You have been dismissed. You told me so yourself. Were you dismissed honorably, or dishonorably?"

"Dishonorably," I answered. I saw that this was not the answer he had expected. He looked both mortified and puzzled, and glanced at Heinze and Aiken as though he wished that they were out of hearing.

"What was it for--what was the cause of your dismissal?" he asked. He now spoke in a much lower tone. "Of course, you need not tell me," he added.

"I was dismissed for being outside the limits of the Academy without a permit," I answered. "I went to a dance at a hotel in uniform."

"Was that all?" he demanded, smiling.

"That was the crime for which I was dismissed," I said, sulkily. The General looked at me for some moments, evidently in much doubt. I believe he suspected that I had led him on to asking me the reason for my dismissal, in order that I could make so satisfactory an answer. As he sat regarding me, Heinze bent over him and said something to him in a low tone, to which he replied: "But that would prove nothing. He might have a most accurate knowledge of military affairs, and still be an agent of the Government."

"That is so, General," Heinze answered, aloud. "But it would prove whether he is telling the truth about his having been at West Point. If his story is false in part, it is probably entirely false, as I believe it to be."

"Captain Heinze suggests that I allow him to test you with some questions," the General said, doubtfully; "questions on military matters. Would you answer them?"

I did not want them to see how eager I was to be put to such a test, so I tried to look as though I were frightened, and said, cautiously, "I will try, sir." I saw that the proposition to put me through an examination had filled Aiken with the greatest concern. To reassure him, I winked covertly.

Captain Heinze glanced about him as though looking for a text.

"Let us suppose," he said, importantly, "that you are an inspector- general come to inspect this camp. It is one that I myself selected; as adjutant it is under my direction. What would you report as to its position, its advantages and disadvantages?"

I did not have to look about me. Without moving from where I stood, I could see all that was necessary of that camp. But I first asked, timidly: "Is this camp a temporary one, made during a halt on the march, or has it been occupied for some days?"

"We have been here for two weeks," said Heinze.

"Is it supposed that a war is going on?" I asked, politely; "I mean, are we in the presence of an enemy?"

"Of course," answered Heinze. "Certainly we are at war."

"Then," I said, triumphantly, "in my report I should recommend that the officer who selected this camp should be court-martialled."

Heinze gave a shout of indignant laughter, and Aiken glared at me as though he thought I had flown suddenly mad, but Laguerre only frowned and waved his hand impatiently.

"You are bold, sir," he said, grimly; "I trust you can explain yourself."

I pointed from the basin in which we stood, to the thickly wooded hills around us.

"This camp has the advantage of water and grass," I said. I spoke formally, as though I were really making a report. "Those are its only advantages. Captain Heinze has pitched it in a hollow. In case of an attack, he has given the advantage of position to the enemy. Fifty men could conceal themselves on those ridges and fire upon you as effectively as though they had you at the bottom of a well. There are no pickets out, except along the trail, which is the one approach the enemy would not take. So far as this position counts, then," I summed up, "the camp is an invitation to a massacre."

I did not dare look at the General, but I pointed at the guns at his side. "Your two field-pieces are in their covers, and the covers are strapped on them. It would take three minutes to get them into action. Instead of being here in front of the tent, they should be up there on those two highest points. There are no racks for the men's rifles or ammunition belts. The rifles are lying on the ground and scattered everywhere--in case of an attack the men would not know where to lay their hands on them. It takes only two forked sticks and a ridge-pole with nicks in it, to make an excellent gun-rack, but there is none of any sort. As for the sanitary arrangements of the camp, they are _nil_. The refuse from the troop kitchen is scattered all over the place, and so are the branches on which the men have been lying. There is no way for them to cross that stream without their getting their feet wet; and every officer knows that wet feet are worse than wet powder. The place does not look as though it had been policed since you came here. It's a fever swamp. If you have been here two weeks, it's a wonder your whole force isn't as rotten as sheep. And there!" I cried, pointing at the stream which cut the camp in two--"there are men bathing and washing their clothes up-stream, and those men below them are filling buckets with water for cooking and drinking. Why have you no water-guards? You ought to have a sentry there, and there. The water above the first sentry should be reserved for drinking, below him should be the place for watering your horses, and below the second sentry would be the water for washing clothes. Why, these things are the A, B, C, of camp life." For the first time since I had begun to speak, I turned on Heinze and grinned at him.

"How do you like my report on your camp?" I asked. "Now, don't you agree with me that you should be court-martialled?" Heinze's anger exploded like a shell.

"You should be court-martialled yourself!" he shouted. "You are insulting our good General. For me, I do not care. But you shall not reflect upon my commanding officer, for him I--"

"That will do, Captain Heinze," Laguerre said, quietly. "That will do, thank you." He did not look up at either of us, but for some time sat with his elbow on his knee and with his chin resting in the palm of his hand, staring at the camp. There was a long, and, for me, an awkward silence. The General turned his head and stared at me. His expression was exceedingly grave, but without resentment.

"You are quite right," he said, finally. Heinze and Aiken moved expectantly forward, anxious to hear him pass sentence upon me. Seeing this he raised his voice and repeated: "You are quite right in what you say about the camp. All you say is quite true."

He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and, as he continued speaking with his face averted, it was as though he were talking to himself.

"We grow careless as we grow older," he said, "One grows less difficult to please." His tone was that of a man excusing himself to himself. "The old standards, the old models, pass away and--and failures, failures come and dull the energy." His voice dropped into a monotone; he seemed to have forgotten us entirely.

It must have been then that for the first time I saw the wistful look come into his eyes, and suddenly felt deeply sorry for him and wished that I might dare to tell him so. I was not sorry for any act or speech of mine. They had attacked me, and I had only defended myself. I was not repentant for anything I had said; my sorrow was for what I read in the General's eyes as he sat staring out into the valley. It was the saddest and loneliest look that I had ever seen. There was no bitterness in it, but great sadness and weariness and disappointment, and above all, loneliness, utter and complete loneliness.

He glanced up and saw me watching him, and for a moment regarded me curiously, and then, as though I had tried to force my way into his solitude, turned his eyes quickly away.

I had forgotten that I was a suspected spy until the fact was recalled to me at that moment by the reappearance of Major Reeder. He came bustling past me, carrying as I saw, to my great indignation, the sword which had been presented to my grandfather, and which my grandfather had given to me. I sprang after him and twisted it out of his hand.

"How dare you!" I cried. "You have opened my trunk! How dare you pry into my affairs? General Laguerre!" I protested. "I appeal to you, sir."

"Major Reeder," the General demanded, sharply, "what does this mean?"

"I was merely seeking evidence, General," said Reeder. "You asked for his papers, and I went to look for them."

"I gave you no orders to pry into this gentleman's trunk," said the General. "You have exceeded your authority. You have done very ill, sir. You have done very ill."

While the General was reproving Reeder, his eyes, instead of looking at the officer, were fixed upon my sword. It was sufficiently magnificent to attract the attention of anyone, certainly of any soldier. The scabbard was of steel, wonderfully engraved, the hilt was of ivory, and the hilt-guard and belt fastenings were all of heavy gold. The General's face was filled with appreciation.

"You have a remarkably handsome sword there," he said, and hesitated, courteously, "--I beg your pardon, I have not heard your name?"

I was advancing to show the sword to him, when my eye fell upon the plate my grandfather had placed upon it, and which bore the inscription: "To Royal Macklin, on his appointment to the United States Military Academy, from his Grandfather, John M. Hamilton, Maj. Gen. U.S.A."

"My name is Macklin, sir," I said, "Royal Macklin." I laid the sword lengthwise in his hands, and then pointed at the inscription. "You will find it there," I said. The General bowed and bent his head over the inscription and then read the one beside it. This stated that the sword had been presented by the citizens of New York to Major-General John M. Hamilton in recognition of his distinguished services during the war with Mexico. The General glanced up at me in astonishment.

"General Hamilton!" he exclaimed. "General John Hamilton! Is that--was he your grandfather?"

I bowed my head, and the General stared at me as though I had contradicted him.

"But, let me tell you, sir," he protested, "that he was my friend. General Hamilton was my friend for many years. Let me tell you, sir," he went on, excitedly, "that your grandfather was a brave and courteous gentleman, a true friend and--and a great soldier, sir, a great soldier. I knew your grandfather well. I knew him well." He rose suddenly, and, while still holding the sword close to him, shook my hand.

"Captain Heinze," he said, "bring out a chair for Mr. Macklin." He did not notice the look of injury with which Heinze obeyed this request. But I did, and I enjoyed the spectacle, and as Heinze handed me the camp-chair I thanked him politely. I could afford to be generous.

The General was drawing the sword a few inches from its scabbard and shoving it back, again, turning it over in his hands.

"And to think that this is John Hamilton's sword," he said, "and that you are John Hamilton's grandson!" As the sword lay across his knees he kept stroking it and touching it as one might caress a child, glancing up at me from time to time with a smile. It seemed to have carried him back again into days and scenes to which we all were strangers, and we watched him without speaking. He became suddenly conscious of our silence, and, on looking up, seemed to become uncomfortably aware of the presence of Aiken and the two officers.

"That will do, gentlemen," he said. "You will return with Mr. Aiken after roll-call." The officers saluted as they moved away, with Aiken between them. He raised his eyebrows and tapped himself on the chest. I understood that he meant by this that I was to say a good word for him, and I nodded. When they had left us the General leaned forward and placed his hand upon my shoulder.

"Now tell me," he said. "Tell me everything. Tell me what you are doing here, and why you ran away from home. Trust me entirely, and do not be afraid to speak the whole truth."

I saw that he thought I had left home because I had been guilty of some wildness, if not of some crime, and I feared that my story would prove so inoffensive that he would think I was holding something back. But his manner was so gentle and generous that I plunged in boldly. I told him everything; of my life with my grandfather, of my disgrace at the Academy, of my desire, in spite of my first failure, to still make myself a soldier. And then I told him of how I had been disappointed and disillusioned, and how it had hurt me to find that this fight seemed so sordid and the motives of all engaged only mercenary and selfish. But once did he interrupt me, and then by an exclamation which I mistook for an exclamation of disbelief, and which I challenged quickly. "But it is true, sir," I said. "I joined the revolutionists for just that reason--because they were fighting for their liberty and because they had been wronged and were the under- dogs in the fight, and because Alvarez is a tyrant. I had no other motive. Indeed, you must believe me, sir," I protested, "or I cannot talk to you. It is the truth."

"The truth!" exclaimed Laguerre, fiercely; and as he raised his eyes I saw that they had suddenly filled with tears. "It is the first time I have heard the truth in many years. It is what I have preached myself for half a lifetime; what I have lived for and fought for. Why, here, now," he cried, "while I have been sitting listening to you, it was as though the boy I used to be had come back to talk to me, bringing my old ideals, the old enthusiasm." His manner and his tone suddenly altered, and he shook his head and placed his hand almost tenderly upon my own. "But I warn you," he said, "I warn you that you are wrong. You have begun young, and there is yet time for you to turn back; but if you hope for money, or place, or public favor, you have taken the wrong road. You will be a rolling-stone among milestones, and the way is all down hill. I began to fight when I was even younger than you. I fought for whichever party seemed to me to have the right on its side. Sometimes I have fought for rebels and patriots, sometimes for kings, sometimes for pretenders. I was out with Garibaldi, because I believed he would give a republic to Italy; but I fought against the republic of Mexico, because its people were rotten and corrupt, and I believed that the emperor would rule them honestly and well. I have always chosen my own side, the one which seemed to me promised the most good; and yet, after thirty years, I am where you see me to-night. I am an old man without a country, I belong to no political party, I have no family, I have no home. I have travelled over all the world looking for that country which was governed for the greater good of the greater number, and I have fought only for those men who promised to govern unselfishly and as the servants of the people. But when the fighting was over, and they were safe in power, they had no use for me nor my advice. They laughed, and called me a visionary and a dreamer. 'You are no statesman, General,' they would say to me. 'Your line is the fighting-line. Go back to it.' And yet, when I think of how the others have used their power, I believe that I could have ruled the people as well, and yet given them more freedom, and made more of them more happy."

The moon rose over the camp, and the night grew chill; but still we sat, he talking and I listening as I had used to listen when I sat at my grandfather's knee and he told me tales of war and warriors. They brought us coffee and food, and we ate with an ammunition-box for a table, he still talking and I eager to ask questions, and yet fearful of interrupting him. He told of great battles which had changed the history of Europe, of secret expeditions which had never been recorded even in his own diary, of revolutions which after months of preparation had burst forth and had been crushed between sunset and sunrise; of emperors, kings, patriots, and charlatans. There was nothing that I had wished to do, and that I had imagined myself doing, that he had not accomplished in reality--the acquaintances he had made among the leaders of men, the adventures he had suffered, the honors he had won, were those which to me were the most to be desired.

(Illustration: The moon rose over the camp ... but still we sat.)

The scene around us added color to his words. The moonlight fell on ghostly groups of men seated before the camp-fires, their faces glowing in the red light of the ashes; on the irregular rows of thatched shelters and on the shadowy figures of the ponies grazing at the picket-line. All the odors of a camp, which to me are more grateful than those of a garden, were borne to us on the damp night- air; the clean pungent smell of burning wood, the scent of running water, the smell of many horses crowded together and of wet saddles and accoutrements. And above the swift rush of the stream, we could hear the ceaseless pounding of the horses' hoofs on the turf, the murmurs of the men's voices, and the lonely cry of the night-birds.

It was past midnight when the General rose, and my brain rioted with the pictures he had drawn for me. Surely, if I had ever considered turning back, I now no longer tolerated the thought of it. If he had wished to convince me that the life of a soldier of fortune was an ungrateful one he had set about proving it in the worst possible way. At that moment I saw no career so worthy to be imitated as his own, no success to be so envied as his failures. And in the glow and inspiration of his talk, and with the courage of a boy, I told him so. I think he was not ill pleased at what I said, nor with me. He seemed to approve of what I had related of myself, and of the comments I had made upon his reminiscences. He had said, again and again: "That is an intelligent question," "You have put your finger on the real weakness of the attack," "That was exactly the error in his strategy."

When he turned to enter his tent he shook my hand. "I do not know when I have talked so much," he laughed, "nor," he added, with grave courtesy, "when I have had so intelligent a listener. Good-night."

Throughout the evening he had been holding my sword, and as he entered the tent he handed it to me.

"Oh, I forgot," he said. "Here is your sword, Captain."

The flaps of the tent fell behind him, and I was left outside of them, incredulous and trembling.

I could not restrain myself, and I pushed the flaps aside.

"I beg your pardon, General," I stammered.

He had already thrown himself upon his cot, but he rose on his elbow and stared at me.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"I beg your pardon, sir," I gasped, "but what did you call me then-- just now?"

"Call you," he said. "Oh, I called you 'captain.' You are a captain. I will assign you your troop to-morrow."

He turned and buried his face in his arm, and unable to thank him I stepped outside of the tent and stood looking up at the stars, with my grandfather's sword clasped close in my hands. And I was so proud and happy that I believe I almost prayed that he could look down and see me.

That was how I received my first commission--in a swamp in Honduras, from General Laguerre, of the Foreign Legion, as he lay half-asleep upon his cot. It may be, if I continue as I have begun, I shall receive higher titles, from ministers of war, from queens, presidents, and sultans. I shall have a trunk filled, like that of General Laguerre's, with commissions, brevets, and patents of nobility, picked up in many queer courts, in many queer corners of the globe. But to myself I shall always be Captain Macklin, and no other rank nor title will ever count with me as did that first one, which came without my earning it, which fell from the lips of an old man without authority to give it, but which seemed to touch me like a benediction.

. . . . . . . . . .

The officer from whom I took over my troop was a German, Baron Herbert von Ritter. He had served as an aide-de-camp to the King of Bavaria, and his face was a patchwork of sword-cuts which he had received in the students' duels. No one knew why he had left the German army. He had been in command of the troop with the rank of captain, but when the next morning Laguerre called him up and told him that I was now his captain he seemed rather relieved than otherwise.

"They're a hard lot," he said to me, as we left the General. "I'm glad to get rid of them."

The Legion was divided into four troops of about fifty men each. Only half of the men were mounted, but the difficulties of the trail were so great that the men on foot were able to move quite as rapidly as those on mule-back. Under Laguerre there were Major Webster, an old man, who as a boy had invaded Central America with William Walker's expedition, and who ever since had lived in Honduras; Major Reeder and five captains, Miller, who was in charge of a dozen native Indians and who acted as a scout; Captain Heinze, two Americans named Porter and Russell, and about a dozen lieutenants of every nationality. Heinze had been adjutant of the force, but the morning after my arrival the General appointed me to that position, and at roll-call announced the change to the battalion.

"We have been waiting here for two weeks for a shipment of machine guns," he said to them. "They have not arrived and I cannot wait for them any longer. The battalion will start at once for Santa Barbara, where I expect to get you by to-morrow night. There we will join General Garcia, and continue with him until we enter the capital."

The men, who were properly weary of lying idle in the swamp, interrupted him with an enthusiastic cheer and continued shouting until he lifted his hand.

"Since we have been lying here," he said, "I have allowed you certain liberties, and discipline has relaxed. But now that we are on the march again you will conduct yourselves like soldiers, and discipline will be as strictly enforced as in any army in Europe. Since last night we have received an addition to our force in the person of Captain Macklin, who has volunteered his services. Captain Macklin comes of a distinguished family of soldiers, and he has himself been educated at West Point. I have appointed him Captain of D Troop and Adjutant of the Legion. As adjutant you will recognize his authority as you would my own. You will now break camp, and be prepared to march in half an hour."

Soon after we had started we reached a clearing, and Laguerre halted us and formed the column into marching order. Captain Miller, who was thoroughly acquainted with the trail, and his natives, were sent on two hundred yards ahead of us as a point. They were followed by Heinze with his Gatling guns. Then came Laguerre and another troop, then Reeder with the two remaining troops and our "transport" between them. Our transport consisted of a dozen mules carrying bags of coffee, beans, and flour, our reserve ammunition, the General's tent, and whatever few private effects the officers possessed over and above the clothes they stood in. I brought up the rear with D Troop. We moved at a walk in single file and without flankers, as the jungle on either side of the trail was impenetrable. Our departure from camp had been so prompt that I had been given no time to become acquainted with my men, but as we tramped forward I rode along with them or drew to one side to watch them pass and took a good look at them. Carrying their rifles, and with their blanket-rolls and cartridge-belts slung across their shoulders, they made a better appearance than when they were sleeping around the camp. As the day grew on I became more and more proud of my command. The baron pointed out those of the men who could be relied upon, and I could pick out for myself those who had received some military training. When I asked these where they had served before, they seemed pleased at my having distinguished the difference between them and the other volunteers, and saluted properly and answered briefly and respectfully.

If I was proud of the men, I was just as pleased with myself, or, I should say, with my luck. Only two weeks before I had been read out to the battalion at West Point, as one unfit to hold a commission, and here I was riding at the head of my own troop. I was no second lieutenant either, with a servitude of five years hanging over me before I could receive my first bar, but a full-fledged captain, with fifty men under him to care for and discipline and lead into battle. There was not a man in my troop who was not at least a few years older than myself, and as I rode in advance of them and heard the creak of the saddles and the jingle of the picket-pins and water-bottles, or turned and saw the long line stretching out behind me, I was as proud as Napoleon returning in triumph to Paris. I had brought with me from the Academy my scarlet sash, and wore it around my waist under my sword-belt. I also had my regulation gauntlets, and a campaign sombrero, and as I rode along I remembered the line about General Stonewall Jackson, in "Barbara Frietchie,"

The leader glancing left and right.

I repeated it to myself, and scowled up at the trees and into the jungle. It was a tremendous feeling to be a "leader."

At noon the heat was very great, and Laguerre halted the column at a little village and ordered the men to eat their luncheon. I posted pickets, appointed a detail to water the mules, and asked two of the inhabitants for the use of their clay ovens. In the other troops each man, or each group of men, were building separate fires and eating alone or in messes of five or six but by detailing four of my men to act as cooks for the whole troop, and six others to tend the fires in the ovens, and six more to carry water for the coffee, all of my men were comfortably fed before those in the other troops had their fires going.

Von Ritter had said to me that during the two weeks in camp the men had used up all their tobacco, and that their nerves were on edge for lack of something to smoke. So I hunted up a native who owned a tobacco patch, and from him, for three dollars in silver, I bought three hundred cigars. I told Von Ritter to serve out six of them to each of the men of D Troop. It did me good to see how much they enjoyed them. For the next five minutes every man I met had a big cigar in his mouth, which he would remove with a grin, and say, "Thank you, Captain." I did not give them the tobacco to gain popularity, for in active service I consider that tobacco is as necessary for the man as food, and I also believe that any officer who tries to buy the good-will of his men is taking the quickest way to gain their contempt.

Soldiers know the difference between the officer who bribes and pets them, and the one who, before his own tent is set up, looks to his men and his horses, who distributes the unpleasant duties of the camp evenly, and who knows what he wants done the first time he gives an order, and does not make unnecessary work for others because he cannot make up his mind.

After I had seen the mules watered and picketed in the public corral, I went to look for the General, whom I found with the other officers at the house of the Alcalde. They had learned news of the greatest moment. Two nights previous, General Garcia had been attacked in force at Santa Barbara, and had abandoned the town without a fight. Nothing more was known, except that he was either falling back along the trail to join us, or was waiting outside the city for us to come up and join him.

Laguerre at once ordered the bugles to sound "Boots and saddles," and within five minutes we were on the trail again with instructions to press the men forward as rapidly as possible. The loss of Santa Barbara was a serious calamity. It was the town third in importance in Honduras, and it had been the stronghold of the revolutionists. The moral effect of the fact that Garcia held it, had been of the greatest possible benefit. As Garcia's force consisted of 2,000 men and six pieces of artillery, it was inexplicable to Laguerre how without a fight he had abandoned so valuable a position.

The country through which we now passed was virtually uninhabited, and wild and rough, but grandly beautiful. At no time, except when we passed through one of the dusty little villages, of a dozen sun-baked huts set around a sun-baked plaza, was the trail sufficiently wide to permit us to advance unless in single file. And yet this was the highway of Honduras from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and the only road to Tegucigalpa, the objective point of our expedition. The capital lay only one hundred miles from Porto Cortez, but owing to the nature of this trail it could not be reached from the east coast, either on foot or by mule, in less than from six to nine days. No wheeled vehicle could have possibly attempted the trip without shaking to pieces, and it was only by dragging and lifting our Gatling guns by hand that we were able to bring them with us.

At sunset we halted at a little village, where, as usual, the people yelled "Vivas!" at us, and protested that they were good revolutionists. The moon had just risen, and, as the men rode forward, kicking up the white dust and with the Gatlings clanking and rumbling behind them, they gave a most war-like impression. Miller, who had reconnoitered the village before we entered it, stood watching us as we came in. He said that we reminded him of troops of United States cavalry as he had seen them on the alkali plains of New Mexico and Arizona. It was again my duty to station our pickets and out-posts, and as I came back after placing the sentries, the fires were twinkling all over the plaza and throwing grotesque shadows of the men and the mules against the white walls of the houses. It was a most weird and impressive picture.

The troopers were exhausted with the forced march, and fell instantly to sleep, but for a long time I sat outside the Town Hall talking with General Laguerre and two of the Americans, Miller and old man Webster. Their talk was about Aiken, who so far had accompanied us as an untried prisoner. From what he had said to me on the march, and from what I remembered of his manner when Captain Leeds informed him of the loss of the guns, I was convinced that he was innocent of any treachery.

I related to the others just what had occurred at the coast, and after some talk with Aiken himself, Laguerre finally agreed that he was innocent of any evil against him, and that Quay was the man who had sold the secret. Laguerre then offered Aiken his choice of continuing on with us, or of returning to the coast, and Aiken said that he would prefer to go on with our column. Now that the Isthmian Line knew that he had tried to assist Laguerre, his usefulness at the coast was at an end. He added frankly that his only other reason for staying with us was because he thought we were going to win. General Laguerre gave him charge of our transport and commissary, that is of our twelve pack- mules and of the disposition of the coffee, flour, and beans. Aiken possessed real executive ability, and it is only fair to him to say that as commissary sergeant he served us well. By the time we had reached Tegucigalpa the twelve mules had increased to twenty, and our stock of rations, instead of diminishing as we consumed them, increased daily. We never asked how he managed it. Possibly, knowing Aiken, it was wiser not to inquire.

We broke camp at four in the morning, but in spite of our early start the next day's advance was marked by the most cruel heat. We had left the shade of the high lands and now pushed on over a plain of dry, burning sand, where nothing grew but naked bushes bristling with thorns, and tall grayish-green cacti with disjointed branching arms. They stretched out before us against the blazing sky, like a succession of fantastic telegraph-poles. We were marching over what had once been the bed of a great lake. Layers of tiny round pebbles rolled under our feet, and the rocks which rose out of the sand had been worn and polished by the water until they were as smooth as the steps of a cathedral. A mile away on each flank were dark green ridges, but ahead of us there was only a great stretch of glaring white sand. No wind was stirring, and not a drop of moisture. The air was like a breath from a brick oven, and the heat of the sun so fierce that if you touched your fingers to a gun-barrel it burned the flesh.

We did not escape out of this lime-kiln until three in the afternoon, when the trail again led us into the protecting shade of the jungle. The men plunged into it as eagerly as though they were diving into water.

About four o'clock we heard great cheering ahead of us, and word was passed to the rear that Miller had come in touch with Garcia's scouts. A half hour later, we marched into the camp of the revolutionists. It was situated about three miles outside of Santa Barbara, on the banks of the river where the trail crossed it at a ford. Our fellows made a rather fine appearance as they rode out of the jungle among the revolutionists; and, considering the fact that we had come to fight for them, I thought the little beggars might have given us a cheer, but they only stared at us, and nodded stupidly. They were a mixed assortment, all of them under-size and either broad or swarthy, with the straight hair and wide cheek-bones of the Carib Indian, or slight and nervous looking, with the soft eyes and sharp profile of the Spaniard. The greater part of them had deserted in companies from the army, and they still wore the blue-jean uniform and carried the rifle and accoutrements of the Government. To distinguish themselves from those soldiers who had remained with Alvarez, they had torn off the red braid with which their tunics were embroidered.

All the officers of the Foreign Legion rode up the stream with Laguerre to meet General Garcia, whom we found sitting in the shade of his tent surrounded by his staff. He gave us a most enthusiastic greeting, embracing the General, and shaking hands with each of us in turn. He seemed to be in the highest state of excitement, and bustled about ordering us things to drink, and chattering, gesticulating, and laughing. He reminded me of a little, fat French poodle trying to express his delight by bounds and barks. They brought us out a great many bottles of rum and limes, and we all had a long, deep drink. After the fatigue and dust of the day, it was the best I ever tasted. Garcia's officers seemed just as much excited over nothing as he was, but were exceedingly friendly, treating us with an exaggerated "comrades-in-arms" and "brother-officers" sort of manner. The young man who entertained me was quite a swell, with a tortoise-shell visor to his cap and a Malacca sword-cane which swung from a gold cord. He was as much pleased over it as a boy with his first watch, and informed me that it had been used to assassinate his uncle, ex- President Rojas. As he seemed to consider it a very valuable heirloom, I moved my legs so that, as though by accident, my sword fell forward where he could see it. When he did he exclaimed upon its magnificence, and I showed him my name on the scabbard. He thought it had been presented to me for bravery. He was very much impressed.

Garcia and Laguerre talked together for a long time and then shook hands warmly, and we all saluted and returned to the ford.

As soon as we had reached it Laguerre seated himself under a tree and sent for all of his officers.

"We are to attack at daybreak to-morrow morning," he said. "Garcia is to return along the trail and make a demonstration on this side of the town, while we are here to attack from the other. The plaza is about three hundred yards from where we will enter. On the corner of the plaza and the main street there is a large warehouse. The warehouse looks across the plaza to the barracks, which are on the other side of the square. General Garcia's plan is that our objective point shall be this warehouse. It has two stories, and men on its roof will have a great advantage over those in the barracks and in the streets. He believes that when he begins his attack from this side, the Government troops will rush from the barracks and hasten toward the sound of the firing. At the same signal we are to hurry in from the opposite side of the town, seize the warehouse, and throw up barricades across the plaza. Should this plan succeed, the Government troops will find themselves shut in between two fires. It seems to be a good plan, and I have agreed to it. The cattle-path to the town is much too rough for our guns, so Captain Heinze and the gun detail will remain here and co-operate with General Garcia. Let your men get all the sleep they can now. They must march again at midnight. They will carry nothing but their guns and ammunition and rations for one meal. If everything goes as we expect, we will breakfast in Santa Barbara."

I like to remember the happiness I got out of the excitement of that moment. I lived at the rate of an hour a minute, and I was as upset from pure delight as though I had been in a funk of abject terror. And I was scared in a way, too, for whenever I remembered I knew nothing of actual fighting, and of what chances there were to make mistakes, I shivered down to my heels. But I would not let myself think of thechances to make a failure, but rather of the opportunities of doing something distinguished and of making myself conspicuous. I laughed when I thought of my classmates at the Point with their eyes bent on a book of tactics, while here was I, within three hours of a real battle, of the most exciting of all engagements, an attack upon a city. A full year, perhaps many years, would pass before they would get the chance to hear a hostile shot, the shot fired in anger, which every soldier must first hear before he can enter upon his inheritance, and hold his own in the talk of the mess-table. I felt almost sorry for them when I thought how they would envy me when they read of the fight in the newspapers. I decided it would be called the battle of Santa Barbara, and I imagined how it would look in the head- lines. I was even generous enough to wish that three or four of the cadets were with me; that is, of course, under me, so that they could tell afterward how well I had led them.

At midnight we filed silently out of camp, and felt our way in the dark through the worst stretch of country we had yet encountered. The ferns rose above our hips, and the rocks and fallen logs over which we stumbled were slippery with moss. Every minute a man was thrown by a trailing vine or would plunge over a fallen tree-trunk, and there would be a yell of disgust and an oath and a rattle of accoutrements. The men would certainly have been lost if they had not kept in touch by calling to one another, and the noise we made hissing at them for silence only added to the uproar.

At the end of three hours our guides informed us that for the last half-mile they had been guessing at the trail, and that they had now completely lost themselves. So Laguerre sent out Miller and the native scouts to buskey about and find out where we were, and almost immediately we heard the welcome barking of a dog, and one of the men returned to report that we had walked right into the town. We found that the first huts were not a hundred yards distant. Laguerre accordingly ordered the men to conceal themselves and sent Miller, one of Garcia's officers, and myself to reconnoitre.

The moonlight had given way to the faint gray light which comes just before dawn, and by it we could distinguish lumps of blackness which as we approached turned into the thatched huts of the villagers. Until we found the main trail into the town we kept close to the bamboo fences of these huts, and then, still keeping in the shadows, we followed the trail until it turned into a broad and well-paved street.

Except for many mongrel dogs that attacked us, and the roosters that began to challenge us from every garden, we had not been observed, and, so far as we could distinguish, the approach to the town was totally unprotected. By this time the light had increased sufficiently for us to see the white fronts of the houses, and the long empty street, where rows of oil-lamps were sputtering and flickering, and as they went out, filling the clean, morning air with the fumes of the dying wicks. It had been only two weeks since I had seen paved streets, and shops, and lamp-posts, but I had been sleeping long enough in the open to make the little town of Santa Barbara appear to me like a modern and well-appointed city. Viewed as I now saw it, our purpose to seize it appeared credulous and grotesque. I could not believe that we contemplated such a piece of folly. But the native officer pointed down the street toward a square building with overhanging balconies. In the morning mist the warehouse loomed up above its fellows of one story like an impregnable fortress.

Miller purred with satisfaction.

"That's the place," he whispered; "I remember it now. If we can get into it, they can never get us out." It seemed to me somewhat like burglary, but I nodded in assent, and we ran back through the outskirts to where Laguerre was awaiting us. We reported that there were no pickets guarding our side of the town, and the building Garcia had designated for defence seemed to us most admirably selected.

It was now near to the time set for the attack to begin, and Laguerre called the men together, and, as was his custom, explained to them what he was going to do. He ordered that when we reached the warehouse I was to spread out my men over the plaza and along the two streets on which the warehouse stood. Porter was to mount at once to the roof and open fire on the barracks, and the men of B and C Troops were to fortify the warehouse and erect the barricades.

It was still dark, but through the chinks of a few of the mud huts we could see the red glow of a fire, and were warned by this to move forward and take up our position at the head of the main street. Before we advanced, skirmishers were sent out to restrain any of the people in the huts who might attempt to arouse the garrison. But we need not have concerned ourselves, for those of the natives who came to their doors, yawning and shivering in the cool morning air, shrank back at the sight of us, and held up their hands. I suppose, as we crept out of the mist, we were a somewhat terrifying spectacle, but I know that I personally felt none of the pride of a conquering hero. The glimpse I had caught of the sleeping town, peaceful and unconscious, and the stealth and silence of our movements, depressed me greatly, and I was convinced that I had either perpetrated or was about to perpetrate some hideous crime. I had anticipated excitement and the joy of danger, instead of which, as I tiptoed between the poor gardens, I suffered all the quaking terrors of a chicken thief.

We had halted behind a long adobe wall to the right of the main street, and as we crouched there the sun rose like a great searchlight and pointed us out, and exposed us, and seemed to hold up each one of us to the derision of Santa Barbara. As the light flooded us we all ducked our heads simultaneously, and looked wildly about us as though seeking for some place to hide. I felt as though I had been caught in the open street in my night-gown. It was impossible to justify our presence. As I lay, straining my ears for Garcia's signal, I wondered what we would do if the worthy citizen who owned the garden wall, against which we lay huddled, should open the gate and ask us what we wanted. Could we reply that we, a hundred and fifty men, proposed to seize and occupy his city? I felt sure he would tell us to go away at once or he would call the police. I looked at the men near me, and saw that each was as disturbed as myself. A full quarter of an hour had passed since the time set for the attack, and still there was no signal from Garcia. The strain was becoming intolerable. At any moment some servant, rising earlier than his fellows, might stumble upon us, and in his surprise sound the alarm. Already in the trail behind us a number of natives, on their way to market, had been halted by our men, who were silently waving them back into the forest. The town was beginning to stir, wooden shutters banged against stone walls, and from but just around the corner of the main street came the clatter of iron bars as they fell from the door of a shop. We could hear the man who was taking them down whistling cheerily.

And then from the barracks came, sharply and clearly, the ringing notes of the reveille. I jumped to my feet and ran to where Laguerre was sitting with his back to the wall.

"General, can't I begin now?" I begged. "You said D Troop was to go in first."

He shook his head impatiently. "Listen!" he commanded.

We heard a single report, but so faintly and from such a distance that had it not instantly been followed by two more we could not have distinguished it. Even then we were not certain. Then as we crouched listening, each reading the face of the others and no one venturing to breathe, there came the sharp, broken roll of musketry. It was unmistakable. The men gave a great gasp of relief, and without orders sprang to "attention." A ripple of rifle-fire, wild and scattered, answered the first volley.

"They have engaged the pickets," said Laguerre.

The volleys were followed by others, and volleys, more uneven, answered them still more wildly.

"They are driving the pickets back," explained Laguerre. We all stood looking at him as though he were describing something which he actually saw. Suddenly from the barracks came the discordant calls of many bugles, warning, commanding, beseeching.

Laguerre tossed back his head, like a horse that has been too tightly curbed.

"They are leaving the barracks," he said. He pulled out his watch and stood looking down at it in his hand.

"I will give them three minutes to get under way," he said. "Then we will start for the warehouse. When they come back again, they will find us waiting for them."

It seemed an hour that we stood there, and during every second of that hour the rifle-fire increased in fierceness and came nearer, and seemed to make another instant of inaction a crime. The men were listening with their mouths wide apart, their heads cocked on one side, and their eyes staring. They tightened their cartridge-belts nervously, and opened and shot back the breech-bolts of their rifles. I took out my revolver, and spun the cylinder to reassure myself for the hundredth time that it was ready. But Laguerre stood quite motionless, with his eyes fixed impassively upon his watch as though he were a physician at a sick-bed. Only once did he raise his eyes. It was when the human savageness of the rifle-fire was broken by a low mechanical rattle, like the whirr of a mowing-machine as one hears it across the hay-fields. It spanked the air with sharp hot reports.

"Heinze has turned the Gatlings on them," he said. "They will be coming back soon." He closed the lid of his watch with a click and nodded gravely at me. "You can go ahead now, Captain," he said. His tone was the same as though he had asked me to announce dinner.

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