In which Clif meets with
They were now in a perilous position.
They could not return to the flagship,
and at any moment the Spaniards, finding they were
not pursued, might pluck up courage to seek them out
and try conclusions with them once more. If they
should find them on that narrow strip of beach the
story of the conflict might be a different one.
And then the disappearance of the
boat itself pointed to enemies they had not counted
upon. Who could have found and taken it?
“Well, now we’re in a
pretty pickle,” exclaimed Clif, when he became
satisfied that the boat had really been taken.
“Perhaps, sir, this is not the
place where we left it,” ventured one of the
men, catching at that faint hope.
“I wish you were right,”
said Clif, “but there’s no doubt about
it. The boat has been taken.”
“There’s no doubt of it,”
the men echoed. “The boat is gone.”
But to make assurance doubly sure,
they searched the beach under Clif’s direction,
examining every clump of bushes that was large enough
to conceal the boat. But the result was a foregone
conclusion. The boat was gone.
“Now what’s to be done, sir?” asked
one of the men.
“Something’s got to be
done,” said Clif, with determination. “We’ve
got to get off this island before daybreak. It’s
easy to dodge the Spaniards in the darkness, but entirely
a different matter by day. Besides, we seem to
have enemies down here as well as back there on the
He was scanning the water earnestly
as he spoke. It was time, he knew, for the flagship
to return to her position opposite that point, and
await the return of Clif and his crew.
Was she there?
He could not tell. The face of
the moon was again obscured by clouds as it had been
most of the night, and it was impossible for Clif to
discern any object at a distance across the water.
He strained his eyes trying to catch
a glimpse of the ship they had left not many hours
ago, but the thought occurred to him, “What good
will it do if I do see her?”
But even as he looked the sky suddenly
brightened in a tiny spot out to sea. A long
pencil of light shot up from the water, and a cloud
was tinged with a speck of dull white light.
“It’s the New York!”
cried Clif. “The signal of her searchlight
They watched that tiny beam of light
as though there was hope of succor in its rays, until
it suddenly disappeared, and all was dark as before.
“Now they are waiting for our
appearance,” said Clif. “But, unfortunately,
we haven’t got wings. Hello! What does
Clif had turned suddenly in a listening
attitude toward the land. The others had heard
the same sound that had attracted Clif. It was
the solitary report of a rifle shot not far in their
“The Spaniards must be returning,”
said Clif. “They have made up their minds
that we had no reinforcements because we did not pursue
them further. I’ll go up and reconnoitre,
to see what they are up to.”
“I’ll go, sir,”
volunteered one of the men before Clif could get away.
“You stay here. You may
be able to see some way of getting us off.”
With this he cautiously hurried up
the side of the bank, leaving Clif and his companions
in the shelter of the bushes below.
With ears alert to any sound by land,
they anxiously strained their eyes across the water.
Could any way be found to cross the expanse that lay
between them and the flagship?
All were silent for many minutes,
and then at last the searchlight of the flagship flashed
out once more and swept across the waters before it
“So near and yet so far,”
exclaimed Clif. “They are getting impatient
for our return.”
“If we could signal them,”
suggested one of the men, “they would send a
“But we have no means of doing
that,” said Clif. “We can’t
shout at them, and a pistol shot would not be heard,
except by our friends the enemy.”
“Perhaps they will send a boat
anyhow,” persisted the hopeful member of the
“Perhaps,” assented Clif,
“after they get tired of waiting for us.”
In a short time the scout returned
with news that was at least disquieting in their situation.
“The Spaniards are after us,
sir,” he reported. “They seem to have
rallied most of their men, and are now near the woods
where we met them, cautiously advancing. They
have scouts out looking for us, for I barely escaped
running into one of them.”
“They have guessed the trick
we played on them,” said Clif, “and it
will go hard with us if they find us. How near
are they, did you say?”
“They seem to be in the woods
now, but they are advancing steadily. They are
scouring the place thoroughly, and may be down on us
“Well, boys, we’ll do
the best we can, if they do get here,” said Clif,
A calm settled upon the band, for
now they knew their situation was critical. Their
ammunition was nearly exhausted, and if the enemy should
succeed in attacking them from the vantage of the hillside,
there was little hope of a successful resistance.
Should they succeed in eluding the enemy in the darkness,
there was no doubt that daybreak would seal their
“There’s no two ways about
it,” exclaimed Clif. “We’ve
got to get off this island, and that pretty soon.”
“See, sir,” cried the
hopeful member, who had been intently gazing across
the water. “They have sent a boat!”
Clif looked in the direction in which
the other was eagerly pointing.
Sure enough, he could discern the
outlines of a boat slowly moving toward them some
little distance from shore.
An involuntary little cheer went up
from the others as they, too, saw the boat approaching.
“We are saved!” exclaimed
Clif, “and these dispatches will soon be in
the rear admiral’s hands.”
But suddenly the eager watchers saw
the boat stop, then after a few moments veer around,
and continue its course down the coast until it was
almost abreast of the spot where they stood.
Then it as suddenly stopped, and after
a moment’s pause retraced its course.
“What’s the matter with
those fellows?” exclaimed Clif. “Are
they afraid to land?”
“Hadn’t we better signal
them, sir?” suggested the man. “They
don’t know where we are.”
The boat had again turned and was
apparently patroling up and down, seemingly waiting
for just such assistance in locating the position of
the waiting sailors.
But just as Clif was about to attract
their attention by a mighty shout, his practiced ear
caught sounds from the hill above that caused him to
stop. The Spanish soldiers were unmistakably advancing.
“Silence!” he cautioned,
in a whisper. “The Spaniards are on the
hill above us and the slightest noise will betray
“But the boat, sir!” exclaimed
the man. “We must signal it.”
“I’ll bring it here,” said Clif,
with a sudden resolve.
He began divesting himself of his blouse and trousers
as he spoke.
“What do you mean to do, sir?” asked the
“Swim for it,” replied Clif. “That’s
the only way.”
“But, sir ”
“Don’t delay me,” said Clif.
“Every moment is precious now.”
With this he quietly slid into the
water and with quick, powerful strokes shot through
the waves toward the boat.
Clif was in his element.
In the whole ship’s crew none
excelled him in swimming and diving, and it was with
a feeling of confidence that he forced his way through
He made not a sound as he went along for
it was to avoid alarming the
Spaniards that he had hit upon this plan.
The boat was not far from shore and
he reached it in a few moments. He was overjoyed
to recognize that it was, as he expected, one of the
boats from the flagship.
There were two occupants of the boat,
one at the oars and the other in the stern. Clif
did not recognize them, but he did not pause on that
account. Time was precious, and the boat must
be gotten to shore and the balance of the party taken
aboard without delay.
“Boat ahoy!” he exclaimed
joyously, as he reached the side without having been
seen by the occupants. “Take me aboard,
men, and then pull for the shore for all you are worth.”
Clif’s sudden appearance and
the words he spoke had a startling effect upon the
oarsman by whose side Clif made his appearance.
The latter started with an oath, and
as Clif seized the side of the boat and raised himself
partly from the water, his gaze fell upon the glistening
barrel of a revolver and back of it he saw a face distorted
with rage and hate.
“Carramba!” fell upon
Clif’s ear. “It is an Americano!
Death to the American pigs!”
The occupants of the boats were Spaniards.