Blood Will Tell by Richard Harding Davis
David Greene was an employee of the Burdett Automatic Punch
Company. The manufacturing plant of the company was at
Bridgeport, but in the New York offices there were working
samples of all the punches, from the little nickel-plated hand
punch with which conductors squeezed holes in railroad tickets,
to the big punch that could bite into an iron plate as easily as
into a piece of pie. David's duty was to explain these different
punches, and accordingly when Burdett Senior or one of the sons
turned a customer over to David he spoke of him as a salesman.
But David called himself a "demonstrator." For a short time he
even succeeded in persuading the other salesmen to speak of
themselves as demonstrators, but the shipping clerks and
bookkeepers laughed them out of it. They could not laugh David
out of it. This was so, partly because he had no sense of humor,
and partly because he had a great-great-grandfather. Among the
salesmen on lower Broadway, to possess a great-great-grandfather
is unusual, even a great-grandfather is a rarity, and either is
considered superfluous. But to David the possession of a
great-great-grandfather was a precious and open delight. He had
possessed him only for a short time. Undoubtedly he always had
existed, but it was not until David's sister Anne married a
doctor in Bordentown, New Jersey, and became socially ambitious,
that David emerged as a Son of Washington.
It was sister Anne, anxious to "get in" as a "Daughter" and wear
a distaff pin in her shirtwaist, who discovered the revolutionary
ancestor. She unearthed him, or rather ran him to earth, in the
graveyard of the Presbyterian church at Bordentown. He was no
less a person than General Hiram Greene, and he had fought with
Washington at Trenton and at Princeton. Of this there was no
doubt. That, later, on moving to New York, his descendants became
peace-loving salesmen did not affect his record. To enter a
society founded on heredity, the important thing is first to
catch your ancestor, and having made sure of him, David entered
the Society of the Sons of Washington with flying colors. He was
not unlike the man who had been speaking prose for forty years
without knowing it. He was not unlike the other man who woke to
find himself famous. He had gone to bed a timid, near-sighted,
underpaid salesman without a relative in the world, except a
married sister in Bordentown, and he awoke to find he was a
direct descendant of "Neck or Nothing" Greene, a revolutionary
hero, a friend of Washington, a man whose portrait hung in the
State House at Trenton. David's life had lacked color. The day he
carried his certificate of membership to the big jewelry store
uptown and purchased two rosettes, one for each of his two coats,
was the proudest of his life.
The other men in the Broadway office took a different view. As
Wyckoff, one of Burdett's flying squadron of travelling salesmen,
said, "All grandfathers look alike to me, whether they're great,
or great-great-great. Each one is as dead as the other. I'd
rather have a live cousin who could loan me a five, or slip me a
drink. What did your great-great dad ever do for you?"
"Well, for one thing," said David stiffly, "he fought in the War
of the Revolution. He saved us from the shackles of monarchical
England; he made it possible for me and you to enjoy the
liberties of a free republic."
"Don't try to tell me your grandfather did all that," protested
Wyckoff, "because I know better. There were a lot of others
helped. I read about it in a book."
"I am not grudging glory to others," returned David; "I am only
saying I am proud that I am a descendant of a revolutionist."
Wyckoff dived into his inner pocket and produced a leather
photograph frame that folded like a concertina.
"I don't want to be a descendant," he said; "I'd rather be an
ancestor. Look at those." Proudly he exhibited photographs of
Mrs. Wyckoff with the baby and of three other little Wyckoffs.
David looked with envy at the children.
"When I'm married," he stammered, and at the words he blushed, "I
hope to be an ancestor."
"If you're thinking of getting married," said Wyckoff, "you'd
better hope for a raise in salary."
The other clerks were as unsympathetic as Wyckoff. At first when
David showed them his parchment certificate, and his silver gilt
insignia with on one side a portrait of Washington, and on the
other a Continental soldier, they admitted it was dead swell.
They even envied him, not the grandfather, but the fact that
owing to that distinguished relative David was constantly
receiving beautifully engraved invitations to attend the monthly
meetings of the society; to subscribe to a fund to erect
monuments on battle-fields to mark neglected graves; to join in
joyous excursions to the tomb of Washington or of John Paul
Jones; to inspect West Point, Annapolis, and Bunker Hill; to be
among those present at the annual "banquet" at Delmonico's. In
order that when he opened these letters he might have an
audience, he had given the society his office address.
In these communications he was always addressed as "Dear
Compatriot," and never did the words fail to give him a thrill.
They seemed to lift him out of Burdett's salesrooms and Broadway,
and place him next to things uncommercial, untainted, high, and
noble. He did not quite know what an aristocrat was, but be
believed being a compatriot made him an aristocrat. When
customers were rude, when Mr. John or Mr. Robert was overbearing,
this idea enabled David to rise above their ill-temper, and he
would smile and say to himself: "If they knew the meaning of the
blue rosette in my button-hole, how differently they would treat
me! How easily with a word could I crush them!"
But few of the customers recognized the significance of the
button. They thought it meant that David belonged to the Y. M. C.
A. or was a teetotaler. David, with his gentle manners and pale,
ascetic face, was liable to give that impression.
When Wyckoff mentioned marriage, the reason David blushed was
because, although no one in the office suspected it, he wished to
marry the person in whom the office took the greatest pride. This
was Miss Emily Anthony, one of Burdett and Sons' youngest, most
efficient, and prettiest stenographers, and although David did
not cut as dashing a figure as did some of the firm's travelling
men, Miss Anthony had found something in him so greatly to admire
that she had, out of office hours, accepted his devotion, his
theatre tickets, and an engagement ring. Indeed, so far had
matters progressed, that it had been almost decided when in a few
months they would go upon their vacations they also would go upon
their honeymoon. And then a cloud had come between them, and from
a quarter from which David had expected only sunshine.
The trouble befell when David discovered he had a greatgreat
-grandfather. With that fact itself Miss Anthony was almost
as pleased as was David himself, but while he was content to bask
in another's glory, Miss Anthony saw in his inheritance only an
incentive to achieve glory for himself.
From a hard-working salesman she had asked but little, but from
a descendant of a national hero she expected other things. She
was a determined young person, and for David she was an ambitious
young person. She found she was dissatisfied. She found she was
disappointed. The great-great-grandfather had opened up a new
horizon--had, in a way, raised the standard. She was as fond of
David as always, but his tales of past wars and battles, his
accounts of present banquets at which he sat shoulder to shoulder
with men of whom even Burdett and Sons spoke with awe, touched
"You shouldn't be content to just wear a button," she urged. "If
you're a Son of Washington, you ought to act like one."
"I know I'm not worthy of you," David sighed.
"I don't mean that, and you know I don't," Emily replied
indignantly. "It has nothing to do with me! I want you to be
worthy of yourself, of your grandpa Hiram!"
"But HOW?" complained David. "What chance has a twenty-five
dollar a week clerk--"
It was a year before the Spanish-American War, while the patriots
of Cuba were fighting the mother country for their independence.
"If I were a Son of the Revolution," said Emily, "I'd go to Cuba
and help free it."
"Don't talk nonsense," cried David. "If I did that I'd lose my
job, and we'd never be able to marry. Besides, what's Cuba done
for me? All I know about Cuba is, I once smoked a Cuban cigar and
it made me ill."
"Did Lafayette talk like that?" demanded Emily. "Did he ask what
have the American rebels ever done for me?"
"If I were in Lafayette's class," sighed David, "I wouldn't be
selling automatic punches."
"There's your trouble," declared Emily "You lack selfconfidence.
You're too humble, you've got fighting blood and you
ought to keep saying to yourself, 'Blood will tell,' and the
first thing you know, it WILL tell! You might begin by going into
politics in your ward. Or, you could join the militia. That takes
only one night a week, and then, if we DID go to war with Spain,
you'd get a commission, and come back a captain!"
Emily's eyes were beautiful with delight. But the sight gave
David no pleasure. In genuine distress, he shook his head.
"Emily," he said, "you're going to be awfully disappointed in
Emily's eyes closed as though they shied at some mental picture.
But when she opened them they were bright, and her smile was kind
"No, I'm not," she protested; "only I want a husband with a
career, and one who'll tell me to keep quiet when I try to run it
"I've often wished you would," said David.
"Would what? Run your career for you?"
"No, keep quiet. Only it didn't seem polite to tell you so."
"Maybe I'd like you better," said Emily, "if you weren't so
A week later, early in the spring of 1897, the unexpected
happened, and David was promoted into the flying squadron. He now
was a travelling salesman, with a rise in salary and a commission
on orders. It was a step forward, but as going on the road meant
absence from Emily, David was not elated. Nor did it satisfy
Emily. It was not money she wanted. Her ambition for David could
not be silenced with a raise in wages. She did not say this, but
David knew that in him she still found something lacking, and
when they said good-by they both were ill at ease and completely
unhappy. Formerly, each day when Emily in passing David in the
office said good-morning, she used to add the number of the days
that still separated them from the vacation which also was to be
their honeymoon. But, for the last month she had stopped counting
the days--at least she did not count them aloud.
David did not ask her why this was so. He did not dare. And,
sooner than learn the truth that she had decided not to marry
him, or that she was even considering not marrying him, he asked
no questions, but in ignorance of her present feelings set forth
on his travels. Absence from Emily hurt just as much as he had
feared it would. He missed her, needed her, longed for her. In
numerous letters he told her so. But, owing to the frequency with
which he moved, her letters never caught up with him. It was
almost a relief. He did not care to think of what they might tell
The route assigned David took him through the South and kept him
close to the Atlantic seaboard. In obtaining orders he was not
unsuccessful, and at the end of the first month received from the
firm a telegram of congratulation. This was of importance chiefly
because it might please Emily. But he knew that in her eyes the
great-great-grandson of Hiram Greene could not rest content with
a telegram from Burdett and Sons. A year before she would have
considered it a high honor, a cause for celebration. Now, he
could see her press her pretty lips together and shake her pretty
head. It was not enough. But how could he accomplish more. He
began to hate his great-great-grandfather. He began to wish Hiram
Greene had lived and died a bachelor.
And then Dame Fortune took David in hand and toyed with him and
spanked him, and pelted and petted him, until finally she made
him her favorite son. Dame Fortune went about this work in an
abrupt and arbitrary manner.
On the night of the 1st of March, 1897, two trains were scheduled
to leave the Union Station at Jacksonville at exactly the same
minute, and they left exactly on time. As never before in the
history of any Southern railroad has this miracle occurred, it
shows that when Dame Fortune gets on the job she is omnipotent.
She placed David on the train to Miami as the train he wanted
drew out for Tampa, and an hour later, when the conductor looked
at David's ticket, he pulled the bell-cord and dumped David over
the side into the heart of a pine forest. If he walked back along
the track for one mile, the conductor reassured him, he would
find a flag station where at midnight he could flag a train going
north. In an hour it would deliver him safely in Jacksonville.
There was a moon, but for the greater part of the time it was
hidden by fitful, hurrying clouds, and, as David stumbled
forward, at one moment he would see the rails like streaks of
silver, and the next would be encompassed in a complete and
bewildering darkness. He made his way from tie to tie only by
feeling with his foot. After an hour he came to a shed. Whether
it was or was not the flag station the conductor had in mind, he
did not know, and he never did know. He was too tired, too hot,
and too disgusted to proceed, and dropping his suit case he sat
down under the open roof of the shed prepared to wait either for
the train or daylight. So far as he could see, on every side of
him stretched a swamp, silent, dismal, interminable. From its
black water rose dead trees, naked of bark and hung with
streamers of funereal moss. There was not a sound or sign of
human habitation. The silence was the silence of the ocean at
night David remembered the berth reserved for him on the train to
Tampa and of the loathing with which he had considered placing
himself between its sheets. But now how gladly would he welcome
it! For, in the sleeping-car, ill-smelling, close, and stuffy, he
at least would have been surrounded by fellow-sufferers of his
own species. Here his companions were owls, water-snakes, and
I am alone," he told himself, "on a railroad embankment, entirely
surrounded by alligators."
And then he found he was not alone.
In the darkness, illuminated by a match, not a hundred yards from
him there flashed suddenly the face of a man. Then the match went
out and the face with it. David noted that it had appeared at
some height above the level of the swamp, at an elevation higher
even than that of the embankment. It was as though the man had
been sitting on the limb of a tree. David crossed the tracks and
found that on the side of the embankment opposite the shed there
was solid ground and what once had been a wharf. He advanced over
this cautiously, and as he did so the clouds disappeared, and in
the full light of the moon he saw a bayou broadening into a
river, and made fast to the decayed and rotting wharf an
ocean-going tug. It was from her deck that the man, in lighting
his pipe, had shown his face. At the thought of a warm
engine-room and the company of his fellow creatures, David's
heart leaped with pleasure. He advanced quickly. And then
something in the appearance of the tug, something mysterious,
secretive, threatening, caused him to halt. No lights showed from
her engine-room, cabin, or pilot-house. Her decks were empty.
But, as was evidenced by the black smoke that rose from her
funnel, she was awake and awake to some purpose. David stood
uncertainly, questioning whether to make his presence known or
return to the loneliness of the shed. The question was decided
for him. He had not considered that standing in the moonlight he
was a conspicuous figure. The planks of the wharf creaked and a
man came toward him. As one who means to attack, or who fears
attack, he approached warily. He wore high boots, riding
breeches, and a sombrero. He was a little man, but his movements
were alert and active. To David he seemed unnecessarily excited.
He thrust himself close against David.
"Who the devil are you?" demanded the man from the tug. "How'd
you get here?"
"I walked," said David.
"Walked?" the man snorted incredulously.
"I took the wrong train," explained David pleasantly. "They put
me off about a mile below here. I walked back to this flag
station. I'm going to wait here for the next train north."
The little man laughed mockingly.
"Oh, no you're not," he said. "If you walked here, you can just
walk away again!" With a sweep of his arm, he made a vigorous and
"You walk!" he commanded.
"I'll do just as I please about that," said David.
As though to bring assistance, the little man started hastily
toward the tug.
"I'll find some one who'll make you walk!" he called. "You WAIT,
that's all, you WAIT!"
David decided not to wait. It was possible the wharf was private
property and he had been trespassing. In any case, at the flag
station the rights of all men were equal, and if he were in for a
fight he judged it best to choose his own battle-ground. He
recrossed the tracks and sat down on his suit case in a dark
corner of the shed. Himself hidden in the shadows he could see in
the moonlight the approach of any other person.
"They're river pirates," said David to himself, "or smugglers.
They're certainly up to some mischief, or why should they object
to the presence of a perfectly harmless stranger?"
Partly with cold, partly with nervousness, David shivered.
"I wish that train would come," he sighed. And instantly? as
though in answer to his wish, from only a short distance down the
track he heard the rumble and creak of approaching cars. In a
flash David planned his course of action.
The thought of spending the night in a swamp infested by
alligators and smugglers had become intolerable. He must escape,
and he must escape by the train now approaching. To that end the
train must be stopped. His plan was simple. The train was moving
very, very slowly, and though he had no lantern to wave, in order
to bring it to a halt he need only stand on the track exposed to
the glare of the headlight and wave his arms. David sprang
between the rails and gesticulated wildly. But in amazement his
arms fell to his sides. For the train, now only a hundred yards
distant and creeping toward him at a snail's pace, carried no
head-light, and though in the moonlight David was plainly
visible, it blew no whistle, tolled no bell. Even the passenger
coaches in the rear of the sightless engine were wrapped in
darkness. It was a ghost of a train, a Flying Dutchman of a
train, a nightmare of a train. It was as unreal as the black
swamp, as the moss on the dead trees, as the ghostly tug-boat
tied to the rotting wharf.
"Is the place haunted!" exclaimed David.
He was answered by the grinding of brakes and by the train coming
to a sharp halt. And instantly from every side men fell from it
to the ground, and the silence of the night was broken by a
confusion of calls and eager greeting and questions and sharp
words of command.
So fascinated was David in the stealthy arrival of the train and
in her mysterious passengers that, until they confronted him, he
did not note the equally stealthy approach of three men. Of these
one was the little man from the tug. With him was a fat, red-faced
Irish-American He wore no coat and his shirt-sleeves were drawn
away from his hands by garters of pink elastic, his derby hat was
balanced behind his ears, upon his right hand flashed an enormous
diamond. He looked as though but at that moment he had stopped
sliding glasses across a Bowery bar. The third man carried the
outward marks of a sailor. David believed he was the tallest man
he had ever beheld, but equally remarkable with his height was
his beard and hair, which were of a fierce brick-dust red. Even
in the mild moonlight it flamed like a torch.
"What's your business?" demanded the man with the flamboyant
"I came here," began David, "to wait for a train--"
The tall man bellowed with indignant rage.
"Yes," he shouted; "this is the sort of place any one would pick
out to wait for a train!"
In front of David's nose he shook a fist as large as a catcher's
glove. "Don't you lie to ME!" he bullied. "Do you know who I am?
Do you know WHO you're up against? I'm--"
The barkeeper person interrupted.
"Never mind who you are," he said. "We know that. Find out who HE
David turned appealingly to the barkeeper.
"Do you suppose I'd come here on purpose?" he protested. "I'm a
"You won't travel any to-night," mocked the red-haired one.
"You've seen what you came to see, and all you want now is to get
to a Western Union wire. Well, you don't do it. You don't leave
As though he thought he had been neglected, the little man in
riding-boots pushed forward importantly.
"Tie him to a tree!" he suggested.
"Better take him on board," said the barkeeper, "and send him
back by the pilot. When we're once at sea, he can't hurt us any."
"What makes you think I want to hurt you?" demanded David. "Who
do you think I am?"
"We know who you are," shouted the fiery-headed one. "You're a
blanketty-blank spy! You're a government spy or a Spanish spy,
and whichever you are you don't get away to-night!"
David had not the faintest idea what the man meant, but he knew
his self-respect was being ill-treated, and his self-respect
"You have made a very serious mistake," he said, "and whether you
like it or not, I AM leaving here to-night, and YOU can go to the
Turning his back David started with great dignity to walk away.
It was a short walk. Something hit him below the ear and he found
himself curling up comfortably on the ties. He had a strong
desire to sleep, but was conscious that a bed on a railroad
track, on account of trains wanting to pass, was unsafe. This
doubt did not long disturb him. His head rolled against the steel
rail, his limbs relaxed. From a great distance, and in a strange
sing-song he heard the voice of the barkeeper saying,
When David came to his senses his head was resting on a coil of
rope. In his ears was the steady throb of an engine, and in his
eyes the glare of a lantern. The lantern was held by a
pleasant-faced youth in a golf cap who was smiling
sympathetically. David rose on his elbow and gazed wildly about
him. He was in the bow of the ocean-going tug, and he saw that
from where he lay in the bow to her stern her decks were packed
with men. She was steaming swiftly down a broad river. On either
side the gray light that comes before the dawn showed low banks
studded with stunted palmettos. Close ahead David heard the roar
of the surf.
"Sorry to disturb you," said the youth in the golf cap, "but we
drop the pilot in a few minutes and you're going with him."
David moved his aching head gingerly, and was conscious of a bump
as large as a tennis ball behind his right ear.
"What happened to me?" he demanded.
"You were sort of kidnapped, I guess," laughed the young man. "It
was a raw deal, but they couldn't take any chances. The pilot
will land you at Okra Point. You can hire a rig there to take you
to the railroad."
"But why?" demanded David indignantly. "Why was I kidnapped? What
had I done? Who were those men who--"
From the pilot-house there was a sharp jangle of bells to the
engine-room, and the speed of the tug slackened.
"Come on," commanded the young man briskly. "The pilot's going
ashore. Here's your grip, here's your hat. The ladder's on the
port side. Look where you're stepping. We can't show any lights,
and it's dark as--"
But, even as he spoke, like a flash of powder, as swiftly as one
throws an electric switch, as blindingly as a train leaps from
the tunnel into the glaring sun, the darkness vanished and the
tug was swept by the fierce, blatant radiance of a search-light.
It was met by shrieks from two hundred throats, by screams,
oaths, prayers, by the sharp jangling of bells, by the blind rush
of many men scurrying like rats for a hole to hide in, by the
ringing orders of one man. Above the tumult this one voice rose
like the warning strokes of a fire-gong, and looking up to the
pilot-house from whence the voice came, David saw the barkeeper
still in his shirt-sleeves and with his derby hat pushed back
behind his ears, with one hand clutching the telegraph to the
engine-room, with the other holding the spoke of the wheel.
David felt the tug, like a hunter taking a fence, rise in a great
leap. Her bow sank and rose, tossing the water from her in black,
oily waves, the smoke poured from her funnel, from below her
engines sobbed and quivered, and like a hound freed from a leash
she raced for the open sea. But swiftly as she fled, as a thief
is held in the circle of a policeman's bull's-eye, the shaft of
light followed and exposed her and held her in its grip. The
youth in the golf cap was clutching David by the arm. With his
free hand he pointed down the shaft of light. So great was the
tumult that to be heard he brought his lips close to David's ear.
"That's the revenue cutter!" he shouted. "She's been laying for
us for three weeks, and now," he shrieked exultingly, "the old
man's going to give her a race for it."
From excitement, from cold, from alarm, David's nerves were
getting beyond his control.
"But how," he demanded, "how do I get ashore?"
"When he drops the pilot, don't I--"
"How can he drop the pilot?" yelled the youth. "The pilot's got
to stick by the boat. So have you."
David clutched the young man and swung him so that they stood
face to face.
"Stick by what boat?" yelled David. "Who are these men? Who are
you? What boat is this?"
In the glare of the search-light David saw the eyes of the youth
staring at him as though he feared he were in the clutch of a
madman. Wrenching himself free, the youth pointed at the
pilot-house. Above it on a blue board in letters of gold-leaf a
foot high was the name of the tug. As David read it his breath
left him, a finger of ice passed slowly down his spine. The name
he read was The Three Friends.
"THE THREE FRIENDS!" shrieked David. "She's a filibuster! She's a
pirate! Where're we going?
David emitted a howl of anguish, rage, and protest.
"What for?" he shrieked.
The young man regarded him coldly.
"To pick bananas," he said.
"I won't go to Cuba," shouted David. "I've got to work! I'm paid
to sell machinery. I demand to be put ashore. I'll lose my job if
I'm not put ashore. I'll sue you! I'll have the law--"
David found himself suddenly upon his knees. His first thought
was that the ship had struck a rock, and then that she was
bumping herself over a succession of coral reefs. She dipped,
dived, reared, and plunged. Like a hooked fish, she flung herself
in the air, quivering from bow to stern. No longer was David of a
mind to sue the filibusters if they did not put him ashore. If
only they had put him ashore, in gratitude he would have crawled
on his knees. What followed was of no interest to David, nor to
many of the filibusters, nor to any of the Cuban patriots. Their
groans of self-pity, their prayers and curses in eloquent
Spanish, rose high above the crash of broken crockery and the
pounding of the waves. Even when the search-light gave way to a
brilliant sunlight the circumstance was unobserved by David. Nor
was he concerned in the tidings brought forward by the youth in
the golf cap, who raced the slippery decks and vaulted the
prostrate forms as sure-footedly as a hurdler on a cinder track.
To David, in whom he seemed to think he had found a congenial
spirit, he shouted Joyfully, "She's fired two blanks at us!" he
cried; "now she's firing cannon-balls!"
"Thank God," whispered David; "perhaps she'll sink us!"
But The Three Friends showed her heels to the revenue cutter, and
so far as David knew hours passed into days and days into weeks.
It was like those nightmares in which in a minute one is whirled
through centuries of fear and torment. Sometimes, regardless of
nausea, of his aching head, of the hard deck, of the waves that
splashed and smothered him, David fell into broken slumber.
Sometimes he woke to a dull consciousness of his position. At
such moments he added to his misery by speculating upon the other
misfortunes that might have befallen him on shore. Emily, he
decided, had given him up for lost and married--probably a navy
officer in command of a battle-ship. Burdett and Sons had cast
him off forever. Possibly his disappearance had caused them to
suspect him; even now they might be regarding him as a defaulter,
as a fugitive from justice. His accounts, no doubt, were being
carefully overhauled. In actual time, two days and two nights had
passed; to David it seemed many ages.
On the third day he crawled to the stern, where there seemed less
motion, and finding a boat's cushion threw it in the lee scupper
and fell upon it. From time to time the youth in the golf cap had
brought him food and drink, and he now appeared from the cook's
galley bearing a bowl of smoking soup.
David considered it a doubtful attention.
But he said, "You're very kind. How did a fellow like you come to
mix up with these pirates?"
The youth laughed good-naturedly.
"They're not pirates, they're patriots," he said, "and I'm not
mixed up with them. My name is Henry Carr and I'm a guest of
Jimmy Doyle, the captain."
"The barkeeper with the derby hat?" said David.
"He's not a barkeeper, he's a teetotaler," Carr corrected, "and
he's the greatest filibuster alive. He knows these waters as you
know Broadway, and he's the salt of the earth. I did him a favor
once; sort of mouse-helping-the-lion idea. Just through dumb luck
I found out about this expedition. The government agents in New
York found out I'd found out and sent for me to tell. But I
didn't, and I didn't write the story either. Doyle heard about
that. So, he asked me to come as his guest, and he's promised
that after he's landed the expedition and the arms I can write as
much about it as I darn please."
"Then you're a reporter?" said David.
"I'm what we call a cub reporter," laughed Carr. "You see, I've
always dreamed of being a war correspondent. The men in the
office say I dream too much. They're always guying me about it.
But, haven't you noticed, it's the ones who dream who find their
dreams come true. Now this isn't real war, but it's a near war,
and when the real thing breaks loose, I can tell the managing
editor I served as a war correspondent in the Cuban-Spanish
campaign. And he may give me a real job!"
"And you LIKE this?" groaned David.
"I wouldn't, if I were as sick as you are," said Carr, "but I've
a stomach like a Harlem goat." He stooped and lowered his voice.
"Now, here are two fake filibusters," he whispered. "The men you
read about in the newspapers. If a man's a REAL filibuster,
nobody knows it!"
Coming toward them was the tall man who had knocked David out,
and the little one who had wanted to tie him to a tree.
"All they ask," whispered Carr, "is money and advertisement. If
they knew I was a reporter, they'd eat out of my hand. The tall
man calls himself Lighthouse Harry. He once kept a light-house on
the Florida coast, and that's as near to the sea as he ever got.
The other one is a dare-devil calling himself Colonel Beamish. He
says he's an English officer, and a soldier of fortune, and that
he's been in eighteen battles. Jimmy says he's never been near
enough to a battle to see the red-cross flags on the base
hospital. But they've fooled these Cubans. The Junta thinks
they're great fighters, and it's sent them down here to work the
machine guns. But I'm afraid the only fighting they will do will
be in the sporting columns, and not in the ring."
A half dozen sea-sick Cubans were carrying a heavy, oblong box.
They dropped it not two yards from where David lay, and with a
screwdriver Lighthouse Harry proceeded to open the lid.
Carr explained to David that The Three Friends was approaching
that part of the coast of Cuba on which she had arranged to land
her expedition, and that in case she was surprised by one of the
Spanish patrol boats she was preparing to defend herself.
"They've got an automatic gun in that crate," said Carr, "and
they're going to assemble it. You'd better move; they'll be
tramping all over you.
David shook his head feebly.
"I can't move!" he protested. "I wouldn't move if it would free
For several hours with very languid interest David watched
Lighthouse Harry and Colonel Beamish screw a heavy tripod to the
deck and balance above it a quick-firing one-pounder. They worked
very slowly, and to David, watching them from the lee scupper,
they appeared extremely unintelligent.
"I don't believe either of those thugs put an automatic gun
together in his life," he whispered to Carr. "I never did,
either, but I've put hundreds of automatic punches together, and
I bet that gun won't work."
"What's wrong with it?" said Carr.
Before David could summon sufficient energy to answer, the
attention of all on board was diverted, and by a single word.
Whether the word is whispered apologetically by the smoking-room
steward to those deep in bridge, or shrieked from the tops of a
sinking ship it never quite fails of its effect. A sweating
stoker from the engine-room saw it first.
"Land!" he hailed.
The sea-sick Cubans raised themselves and swung their hats; their
voices rose in a fierce chorus.
"Cuba libre!" they yelled.
The sun piercing the morning mists had uncovered a coast-line
broken with bays and inlets. Above it towered green hills, the
peak of each topped by a squat blockhouse; in the valleys and
water courses like columns of marble rose the royal palms.
"You MUST look!" Carr entreated David. "it's just as it is in the
"Then I don't have to look," groaned David.
The Three Friends was making for a point of land that curved like
a sickle. On the inside of the sickle was Nipe Bay. On the
opposite shore of that broad harbor at the place of rendezvous a
little band of Cubans waited to receive the filibusters. The goal
was in sight. The dreadful voyage was done. Joy and excitement
thrilled the ship's company. Cuban patriots appeared in uniforms
with Cuban flags pinned in the brims of their straw sombreros.
From the hold came boxes of small-arm ammunition of Mausers,
rifles, machetes, and saddles. To protect the landing a box of
shells was placed in readiness beside the one-pounder.
"In two hours, if we have smooth water," shouted Lighthouse
Harry, "we ought to get all of this on shore. And then, all I
ask," he cried mightily, "is for some one to kindly show me a
His heart's desire was instantly granted. He was shown not only
one Spaniard, but several Spaniards. They were on the deck of one
of the fastest gun-boats of the Spanish navy. Not a mile from The
Three Friends she sprang from the cover of a narrow inlet. She
did not signal questions or extend courtesies. For her the name
of the ocean-going tug was sufficient introduction. Throwing
ahead of her a solid shell, she raced in pursuit, and as The
Three Friends leaped to full speed there came from the gun-boat
the sharp dry crackle of Mausers.
With an explosion of terrifying oaths Lighthouse Harry thrust a
shell into the breech of the quick-firing gun. Without waiting to
aim it, he tugged at the trigger. Nothing happened! He threw open
the breech and gazed impotently at the base of the shell. It was
untouched. The ship was ringing with cries of anger, of hate,
with rat-like squeaks of fear.
Above the heads of the filibusters a shell screamed and within a
hundred feet splashed into a wave.
From his mat in the lee scupper David groaned miserably. He was
far removed from any of the greater emotions.
"It's no use!" he protested. "They can't do! It's not connected!"
"WHAT'S not connected?" yelled Carr. He fell upon David. He
half-lifted, half-dragged him to his feet.
"If you know what's wrong with that gun, you fix it! Fix it," he
shouted, "or I'll--"
David was not concerned with the vengeance Carr threatened. For,
on the instant a miracle had taken place. With the swift
insidiousness of morphine, peace ran through his veins, soothed
his racked body, his jangled nerves. The Three Friends had made
the harbor, and was gliding through water flat as a pond. But
David did not know why the change had come. He knew only that his
soul and body were at rest, that the sun was shining, that he had
passed through the valley of the shadow, and once more was a
sane, sound young man.
With a savage thrust of the shoulder he sent Lighthouse Harry
sprawling from the gun. With swift, practised fingers he fell
upon its mechanism. He wrenched it apart. He lifted it, reset,
Ignorant themselves, those about him saw that he understood, saw
that his work was good.
They raised a joyous, defiant cheer. But a shower of bullets
drove them to cover, bullets that ripped the deck, splintered the
superstructure, smashed the glass in the air ports, like angry
wasps sang in a continuous whining chorus. Intent only on the
gun, David worked feverishly. He swung to the breech, locked it,
and dragged it open, pulled on the trigger and found it gave
before his forefinger.
He shouted with delight.
"I've got it working," he yelled.
He turned to his audience, but his audience had fled. From
beneath one of the life-boats protruded the riding-boots of
Colonel Beamish, the tall form of Lighthouse Harry was doubled
behind a water butt. A shell splashed to port, a shell splashed
to starboard. For an instant David stood staring wide-eyed at the
greyhound of a boat that ate up the distance between them, at the
jets of smoke and stabs of flame that sprang from her bow, at the
figures crouched behind her gunwale, firing in volleys.
To David it came suddenly, convincingly, that in a dream he had
lived it all before, and something like raw poison stirred in
David, something leaped to his throat and choked him, something
rose in his brain and made him see scarlet. He felt rather than
saw young Carr kneeling at the box of ammunition, and holding a
shell toward him. He heard the click as the breech shut, felt the
rubber tire of the brace give against the weight of his shoulder,
down a long shining tube saw the pursuing gun-boat, saw her again
and many times disappear behind a flash of flame. A bullet gashed
his forehead, a bullet passed deftly through his forearm, but he
did not heed them. Confused with the thrashing of the engines,
with the roar of the gun he heard a strange voice shrieking
"Cuba libre!" it yelled. "To hell with Spain!" and he found that
the voice was his own.
The story lost nothing in the way Carr wrote it.
"And the best of it is," he exclaimed joyfully, "it's true!"
For a Spanish gun-boat HAD been crippled and forced to run
herself aground by a tug-boat manned by Cuban patriots, and by a
single gun served by one man, and that man an American. It was
the first sea-fight of the war. Over night a Cuban navy had been
born, and into the limelight a cub reporter had projected a new
"hero," a ready-made, warranted-not-to-run, popular idol.
They were seated in the pilot-house, "Jimmy" Doyle, Carr, and
David, the patriots and their arms had been safely dumped upon
the coast of Cuba, and The Three Friends was gliding swiftly and,
having caught the Florida straits napping, smoothly toward Key
West. Carr had just finished reading aloud his account of the
You will tell the story just as I have written it," commanded the
proud author. "Your being South as a travelling salesman was only
a blind. You came to volunteer for this expedition. Before you
could explain your wish you were mistaken for a secret-service
man, and hustled on board. That was just where you wanted to be,
and when the moment arrived you took command of the ship and
single-handed won the naval battle of Nipe Bay."
Jimmy Doyle nodded his head approvingly. "You certainty did,
Dave," protested the great man, "I seen you when you done it!"
At Key West Carr filed his story and while the hospital surgeons
kept David there over one steamer, to dress his wounds, his fame
and features spread across the map of the United States.
Burdett and Sons basked in reflected glory. Reporters besieged
their office. At the Merchants Down-Town Club the business men of
lower Broadway tendered congratulations.
"Of course, it's a great surprise to us," Burdett and Sons would
protest and wink heavily. "Of course, when the boy asked to be
sent South we'd no idea he was planning to fight for Cuba! Or we
wouldn't have let him go, would we?" Then again they would wink
heavily. "I suppose you know," they would say, "that he's a
direct descendant of General Hiram Greene, who won the battle of
Trenton. What I say is, 'Blood will tell!'" And then in a body
every one in the club would move against the bar and exclaim:
"Here's to Cuba libre!"
When the Olivette from Key West reached Tampa Bay every Cuban in
the Tampa cigar factories was at the dock. There were thousands
of them and all of the Junta, in high hats, to read David an
address of welcome.
And, when they saw him at the top of the gang-plank with his head
in a bandage and his arm in a sling, like a mob of maniacs they
howled and surged toward him. But before they could reach their
hero the courteous Junta forced them back, and cleared a pathway
for a young girl. She was travel-worn and pale, her shirt-waist
was disgracefully wrinkled, her best hat was a wreck. No one on
Broadway would have recognized her as Burdett and Sons' most
immaculate and beautiful stenographer.
She dug the shapeless hat into David's shoulder, and clung to
him. "David!" she sobbed, "promise me you'll never, never do it