Clif’s second expedition.
In spite of the glorious work accomplished
in those few hours Clif felt chagrined that he had,
in the excitement of the struggle on the boat and
under fire of the Spanish soldiers on shore, been forced
to return to the flagship without the shell.
He had thought considerably about
it even during the stirring scenes through which they
had passed. He had his own ideas about it and
wanted to put them to the test.
Everything connected with it indicated
to his mind some mystery, the solution of which would
materially help the American forces.
In the first place, the way in which
it was brought to his attention was unusual, to say
the least. That a ship being pursued by a hostile
craft should deliberately fire away from the pursuer
and toward the land was peculiar, even for a Spaniard.
It was ridiculous to think that the
shell had been aimed at Clif and his party, for even
had it been broad daylight the American boat’s
crew would not have been visible to those on the Spanish
ship. It was merely a coincidence that Clif happened
to be where the shell landed.
“No,” thought Clif as
he revolved this in his mind, “that shot was
not aimed at our forces. There was some other
reason for firing it.”
What that was he could merely conjecture,
and he was not entirely clear in his own mind.
That the mysterious purpose had been carried out to
the satisfaction of those on the Spanish boat, Clif
felt convinced, was evident from the fact that not
another shot was fired.
Then the shape of the shell was an important factor.
“They are not using those round
ones nowadays,” thought Clif. “This
one must be used for a special purpose. What
that is, I’m going to find out.”
The arrival of the Spanish soldiers
and their peculiar actions before the little battle
that followed also demanded explanation.
“They didn’t know we were
there,” mused Clif, “or they would not
have been so easily taken by surprise. Why were
they there? Their capture of the Cuban courier
was accidental, I’m sure. They were on some
Last of all, the theft of the ship’s
boat and the strange behavior of the two Spaniards
who had taken it and whom Clif had been forced to
overcome added a peculiar feature to the affair.
Taking it all in all, Clif felt that
though they had bravely avenged the murder of the
Cuban, and had brought the dispatches safely to the
rear admiral, and with them a prisoner, still an important
object had not been accomplished.
He meant to return for that unexploded
shell in the face of every difficulty and put his
ideas to the test. He had this purpose in view
when he delivered with his own hands the dispatches
to the rear admiral.
Rear Admiral Sampson glanced quickly
over the papers after they were handed to him, and
seemed highly pleased.
“These are of the utmost importance,”
he exclaimed. “With this information we
will be the better able to act in conjunction with
the insurgents when the proper time comes.”
Clif knew the papers must indeed be
of especial value from the rear admiral’s manner,
for it was decidedly unusual for an officer of such
importance to unbend to that extent with an ordinary
cadet. The rear admiral was evidently more than
satisfied with the result of Clif’s mission.
After a hasty examination of the papers,
he turned to Clif, who had remained standing, and
asked some particulars of his meeting with the Cuban
Then Clif briefly but graphically
told of his receiving the papers from the hands of
the insurgent and of the latter’s tragic death
so soon after at the hands of the cowardly Spanish
soldier who held him as a prisoner of war.
Rear Admiral Sampson’s blood
fairly boiled as Clif gave him the details.
“The cowards!” he exclaimed,
with clinched fist. “It was barbarous!”
“But, sir,” continued Clif. “It
has been avenged.”
And then he briefly and with modest
demeanor told of their attack upon the company of
Spanish soldiers, and their victory over them without
the loss of an American life. More than one Spaniard
had gone to his death to atone for that cowardly assassination.
The rear admiral was plainly interested,
and at his request Clif gave the particulars of his
subsequent adventures and of the narrow escape in
the boat from the Spanish soldiers firing upon them
from the hill and shore.
exclaimed the rear admiral, when the brief narrative
was finished. “I am proud of the bravery
of yourself and the men with you.”
“And now, if you please, sir,”
said Clif, calmly, “I want to go back there.”
“Back there!” exclaimed the admiral.
“Where do you mean?”
“To the spot where I met the Cuban,” replied
“What do you mean? According
to your account the place is swarming with Spanish
“Not many of them, sir,”
said Clif. “And it is not my intention that
they should see me. I left something behind that
I think is important.”
Then he told of the shell that came
crashing through the trees where they stood, and of
the series of incidents that had prevented his examining
it as fully as he wished.
He insisted strongly that the recovery
of the shell was of the greatest importance, and intimated
something of his ideas concerning the mystery that
it suggested. He spoke to such good purpose that
at last the rear admiral was disposed to grant his
“But it would be better to wait
until you have had a chance to rest a bit,”
said the latter. “To-morrow night, for instance.”
“Delay is dangerous, sir, I
think,” said Clif. “Others are seeking
it, I know, and it may not be there unless I go at
once. There are still several hours of the night
left, and I can easily accomplish it.”
The rear admiral had evidently been
impressed with what Clif had told him concerning the
shell, and at last agreed that he should go about it
in his own way.
“Very well, then,” he
said at last. “Take a boat’s crew
and go at once.”
“If you please, sir,”
exclaimed Clif, “I would rather take one of the
small boats and go alone. One man can move about
with less fear of detection.”
“Young man, you are undertaking
a very dangerous mission,” exclaimed the rear
admiral. “But you seem to have the pluck,
and I have confidence that you can take care of yourself.
Do then as you wish, but take some signal rockets
with you. Don’t hesitate to use them if
necessary. We will be ready to send you assistance
Clif, highly pleased at the confidence
that was reposed in him, saluted respectfully and
hastened away to prepare for the venture.
In a few minutes he was ready, the
boat was lowered, and for the second time that night
he left the flagship to face fresh dangers on the shore.
But this time he was alone. Success
and safety depended upon his unaided efforts.