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 shirt-waist, 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
“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
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
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 he 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
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
The trouble befell when David discovered he had a
great-great-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 her imagination.
“You shouldn’t be content to just wear a button,”
she urged. “If you’re a Son of Washington, you ought to act
“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
“If I were in Lafayette’s class,” sighed David,
“I wouldn’t be selling automatic punches.”
“There’s your trouble,” declared Emily. “You
lack self-confidence. 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
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 me.”
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 and eager.
“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 for him.”
“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
“Maybe I’d like you better,” said Emily, “if
you weren’t so darned polite.”
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 him.
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
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
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 sleeping buzzards.
“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
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 peremptory gesture.
“You walk!” he commanded.
“I’ll do just as I please about that,” said
As though to bring assistance, the little man started hastily toward
“I’ll find some one who’ll make you walk!”
he called. “You wait, that’s all, you
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 battleground. 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
“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
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 headlight, 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
“I came here,” began David, “to wait for a
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 is.”
David turned appealingly to the barkeeper.
“Do you suppose I’d come here on purpose?” he
protested. “I’m a travelling man―”
“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 here to-night!”
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?”
In front of David’s nose he shook a
fist as large as a catcher’s glove.
“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
David had not the faintest idea what the man meant, but he knew his
self-respect was being ill-treated, and his self-respect rebelled.
“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 devil!”
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, “Nine–ten–and
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
“Sorry to disturb you,” said the youth in the golf cap,
“but we drop the pilot in a few minutes and you’re going
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
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
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
“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
David clutched the young man and swung him so that they stood 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
“The Three Friends!” shrieked David.
“She’s a filibuster! She’s a pirate! Where’re
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
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
lighthouse on the Florida coast, and that’s as near to the sea
as he ever got. The other one is a daredevil 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
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 screw-driver
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 Cuba.”
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
“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 block-house; 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 pictures!”
“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 Spaniard!”
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
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, readjusted
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
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
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 unceasingly:
“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,
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 certainly did,
Dave,” protested the great man, “I seen you when you done
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
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
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
She dug the shapeless hat into David’s shoulder, and clung to
him. “David!” she sobbed, “promise me you’ll
never, never do it again!”