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“A-a-a-hum!” “What’s that?” was the waking remark made by Captain Randolph Sever, as he slowly turned over on his back to face the owner of the voice which had so dimly penetrated the dreamless slumber resulting from a twenty-four-hour tour on outpost duty.

He struggled with his sleep-laden eyes and succeeded in opening one, with which he looked at the intruder, but, on recognizing the Colonel’s orderly standing at his side, hastily arose to a sitting posture, and proceeded to rub open the other optic; meanwhile repeating his former question, but this time assuming a manner more in keeping with the dignity of his rank.

“Sir, the Colonel presents his compliments, and asks the Captain to step over to regimental headquarters.”

Having delivered his message, he saluted and disappeared, leaving his weary superior to gather himself into a more military appearance as well as frame of mind.

Sever looked at his watch and found that he had slept for just forty-eight minutes and fifteen seconds. He mentally berated the whole outfit. “Stepping over to regimental headquarters” meant a walk of a mile and a half through the relentless hot sun of a tropical country; for the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t,” which had carelessly been overlooked by both company commander and clerk. Then would follow the hair-splitting Colonel’s permission to step back again.

The th Infantry, arriving at Manila late in the spring of 1899, had taken its turn at doing duty on the outskirts of the city, and was now participating in the nocturnal fights of the interior. It had been at San Fernando de Pampanga for a little more than a month and both officers and men showed the wear and tear of sleepless nights and tropical climate, which tested the hardihood of the stoutest constitution among them.

With temper yet ruffled, Captain Sever retraced his steps to his bamboo hut. When he arrived there, he found three of his brother officers in possession. With that hearty and genial tone of good-fellowship which is only used and felt between men who have passed through hardships together, and know the true worth of each other, they greeted him.

He confided to them the cause of his unusual exertion after a trying night on outpost duty, and wearily dropped himself onto some ammunition-boxes, which were serving the purpose of a chair.

The talk naturally turned to the condition of affairs, but argument waned for lack of an opposing side the unanimous opinion being that the “gugus” did not and never would know when they were “licked.”

Sever arose, walked over to a native bed, and began cleaning his revolver, occasionally glancing toward the enemy’s lines. Finally he said: “Say, Parsons, I wish you would reach up in that cracker-box above your head and hand me my glasses.”

Lieutenant Parsons was a long, lank fellow, who never exerted himself any more than was absolutely necessary, so he simply unwound one of his arms, which was twisted around one of the posts of the bed, and blindly felt above till he found the article desired. Handing them to Sever, he indifferently asked: “What’s going on over there?”

Without replying, Sever took the glasses and looked intently at the “gugu” trenches. Having satisfied his curiosity, he returned to his work of cleaning his “six-shooter”; then answered the almost forgotten question: “Oh, nothing, I guess; only I thought I saw a ‘nigger’ running. Its such an unusual sight to see one of those fellows ’get a move on,’ especially when the sun is beating down like it is now, unless something is after him looks like there might be something up.”

Parsons reached over for the glasses, got up, and walked to the door; but before he raised them to his eyes, he casually glanced to the right and stopped, saying: “Hello! here comes the ‘old man’s’ orderly, ‘lickety split.’”

He had scarcely finished his favorite expression, “lickety split,” when the orderly had ridden up, dispensed with the courtesy of dismounting, but hurriedly began: “The Commanding Officer directs that officers get their companies out at once, and proceed to the north outpost line. Messenger just in with information that the Filipinos are swarming over our outposts there.”

He had no sooner delivered his message when the sounds of a few stray shots in the direction named were heard.

Sever, Parsons, and the other officers, experienced campaigners that they were, swiftly buckled on their revolvers, and in an incredibly short time were on the company parade-grounds shouting to their men the few, who had not already turned out. Most of them had heard the message as it was given the officers, and had hastened to their huts, not waiting for instructions, warned their comrades of the impending fight, and again appeared with rifle and belt.

“Forward, double time; march,” and Captain Sever was off with his company superb fighting machine for the line of battle.

The fire was now rapidly increasing. What at first sounded like a few heavy drops of rain on a tin roof was now an incessant shower.

On went the gallant company. Stray shots crashed through the thickets to the right and left of them; struck the earth in front and near them, throwing up great quantities of debris; others, singing their death-song, passed uncomfortably close to their ears.

The outposts were now in sight. Some of them had been killed; others, wounded, were bravely striving to repress groans of pain.

It was a desperate fight few against many. The natives were pouring down on the little handful of men like a great avalanche. The sure and deadly aim of the Americans alone served to impede the over-powering onslaught.

Reenforcements arrived none too soon. Just as the insurgents, intoxicated on “vino,” beaten and sworn at by their officers, began a mad charge on the decimated ranks of the “Yankees,” Sever had finished the deployment of his men in battle formation, and was ready to receive them.

Meanwhile, other companies arrived and were strengthening the lines to the right and left. Then began those destructive American volleys one following another in quick succession. No flesh and bone could live under such fire.

The more advanced of the charging column were now within a few feet of the outpost’s trenches; but here they wavered. Vacancies occurred in their ranks like the falling of grass before the blade. They hesitated. Their officers rushed wildly to and fro, excitedly waving their swords, shouting in their twangy language above the din of battle.

There was a brief halt; then the line broke, and a surging, terror-stricken mass of humanity trying to escape from this disastrous fire was all that was left of that hopeful army of insurrectos who but a moment before were so near experiencing the exhilaration of victory.

Word came down the line to cease firing. A moment later the expected charge was sounded by the Colonel’s bugler. Up rose that khaki line, and, with that terrorizing American yell, swept like a whirlwind across the fields in pursuit of the flying natives.

It was just another of the many victories. The fight was now over. The enemy was pursued for several miles beyond the limits of the American lines, losing many in killed and wounded.

Most of the troops were withdrawn. Captain Sever with his company was detailed to search the field for killed and wounded.

The outposts returned to their stations, and there was nothing but the faint groans of the wounded, and the presence of the dead, to tell that but a few short moments before a deathly struggle had occurred between two determined armies.

Sever and his men had just started on their humane duty, performing it with that tenderness and earnestness which the brave alone show to those in their power, when his attention was attracted by a low moan in the tall grass near by. He stopped and listened. Another half-suppressed groan was heard, apparently coming from the cogonales to his left. He parted the grass. There, lying in a pool of his own blood, was a Filipino soldier, frantically endeavoring to conceal himself and smother further groans. The expression on his face was a mixture of fear and pain. Seeing that he had been discovered, he put out his hand as if to ward off a blow.

It was evident that the boy for such he looked to be thought he would be murdered on the spot, or at least unmercifully dealt with.

The officer spoke to him in Spanish and assured him that no harm would befall him, but that he would receive every kindness and attention.

The poor lad was too weak to say much, but allowed the American to gently bear him to a more comfortable place in the open.

After a few moments’ rest, the sufferer opened his eyes and beckoned Sever to draw nearer. His whole expression had changed from hatred and fear of his rescuer to that of implicit confidence. In good Spanish he told that he had been wounded when they had charged the “Yankee” line, but, having heard of how heartless and cruel his enemy was, he followed his retreating and panic-stricken comrades till so weakened from loss of blood he could go no further. Knowing they were being hotly pursued, he crawled into the cogonales, hoping to escape the eyes of the hated Americans.

Sever arose to seek a surgeon. The old look of terror returned to the wounded native’s face, and he reached out his skeleton-like hand as if to hold him, and implored: “No, Capitan, don’t go; the ‘medico’ may not be so kind as you, and I might die before you came back. I cannot live much longer.”

The brave and sympathetic officer then said: “Let me get some of my men who will carry you to the hospital. I cannot remain longer nor do I wish to leave you.”

The wounded Tagalo looked wistfully into his face and feebly murmured: “Will you do something else for me?”

The Captain hesitated for a moment, apparently wondering what the request could be, then gave a nod of assent, and stooped to listen, bending closer and his interest increasing as the suffering fellow struggled with his narrative.

It ran: He was called Benito Gonzales, and he had been forced to take up arms by the insurgent authorities. He had a sweetheart named Juanita Tarinto, who had at the opening of the war taken refuge in a convent in Manila. He wished to send her his “anting anting” (his good luck charm), and some little money he had saved before the war began. Would the Capitan take charge of these things and deliver them?

Having received assurance that his tokens would be carefully taken care of, he closed his eyes as if in great pain, a moment later a smile passed over his face, and he knew nothing more.

Just then the regimental surgeon approached, and Sever called to him. They gently removed the clothing from the boy, and discovered that he had received a frightful wound in the side. They carefully and tenderly placed him on a litter borne by two Chinamen, and sent him to the town, some distance back.

After this futile attack of the little rebels, the days passed with the same monotony that existed before.

Captain Sever, hearing nothing more of Benito, sent the remembrances given in his care to his wife in Manila, with instructions to deliver them to their rightful owner.

Mrs. Sever had no difficulty in finding the dusky lass, and, after gently breaking the painful news to the lovely girl with sorrowful-looking eyes and beautiful jet black tresses, offered to lend her any assistance she might need.

Grateful for the kindness, and anxious to earn her own living, she accepted, and was soon domiciled with the “Senora Americana,” as she was pleased to call Mrs. Sever.

One morning, after several fatiguing days on reconnaissance duty waist-deep in mud and water, Company E, of the th Regiment of Infantry, like a lot of rollicking school-boys on a holiday, were indulging in numerous sports outside their huts in the street. The spirit of the soldiers was contagious even the native venders seemed to feel the reaction. Their voices, usually so harsh and unpleasant, had a more cheerful ring as they cried their wares; and the customary stoical expression of their black faces had actually given place to a bearable smile, by this atmosphere of good humor and fine spirits.

The always-busy commander of Company E, Captain Sever, was engaged with delayed papers and reports, and was writing with an energy seldom seen in that enervating country, when he was interrupted by a bold native at his elbow crying: “Huevos, lèche, mangoes, lucatan. Quiere, Capitan?” ("Eggs, milk, mangoes, bananas. Do you wish, Captain?”)

The Captain turned abruptly, and was about to reply with usual American brusqueness, but was halted by the broad smile and unusual intelligent look of the invader of his privacy. As he studied the face trying to recollect where he had seen it before, the expression changed for one of disappointment. Then did he recognize in the strong and athletic figure before him the shrunken and emaciated one he had seen borne off the field of carnage, but four short weeks before.

“Hello, Benito! where did you come from?” he began, and offered a friendly hand to the native; continuing, “You don’t look much like the chap I found in the cogonales, trying to hide from me a short time back, beyond the north line. I thought you’d moved from this land of strife, lizards, and mosquitos, and staked out a claim in the celestial regions. Did not know you at first. You must have seen some pretty tough times before I found you if this is how you look after undergoing a month of American cruelty.”

He ran on in this train, not giving the dusky soldier-merchant a chance to answer, but all the time studying the face and taking in every line of the splendid specimen of a Tagalo before him.

Benito was taller than the average of his tribe. His muscular limbs showed a strength and athletic training that would be the envy of any Yale man or West Pointer. His back was as straight as the proverbial ramrod and as supple as the leaf of the cocoanut palm. His eyes were brown, and fairly danced with good nature and intelligence. They were frank, too, an unusual thing with a native. All in all, he was a perfect model of the physical man in bronze.

He placed his tray, laden with the luxuries he had cried, on a box near by, and seated himself in such a natural and easy manner, making himself so perfectly at home, that Sever’s feeling of surprise at the action, soon changed into one of amusement over the unusual familiarity of a Tagalo toward a hated “Yankee.” But he was to find out that this compatriot of Aguinaldo was unusual in many ways.

After talking over his experiences at the First Reserve Hospital at Manila, Sever asked his guest what he intended doing.

Benito replied that his future was undecided. While in Manila he had seen Juanita, and they had decided that he should seek the Capitan and ask his advice. That was how he happened to be peddling along the line.

“You don’t intend to return to the army again?” asked Sever.

On receiving an emphatic negative answer, the Captain continued: “How did you happen to cast your fortunes with the insurgents in the first place, and why were you so terror-stricken when first discovered after you had been wounded?”

Benito’s answer to this double query was lengthy, but in effect he said: His father had been a captain in the Corps d’Elite, Aguinaldo’s body-guard, during the Filipino insurrection against Spanish rule. Hoodwinked and misguided by the juntas as to the designs of the Americans, he continued in the service after the Spaniards had been driven out. During the outbreak against the Americans on February 5, 1899, he was killed. Shortly afterward he received word that he must take his father’s place. He knew what it meant to refuse to enter the insurrectionist service after having once been notified. Fearing assassination should he refuse, he at once joined his father’s regiment and was given his father’s company.

His regiment gradually fell back into the interior as the Americans advanced. Nothing but tales of brigandage, rapacity, and cruelty were heard of the actions of the enemy.

Driven beyond San Fernando de Pampanga, Aguinaldo established his headquarters at Tarlac, and determined to make a final stand; here taking oath that he would take the city of San Fernando inside of a week or lose every man in his command in the attempt.

Then followed the attack in which Benito was wounded. From what he had heard, he expected the Captain’s sword to run him through; or worse, be taken alive and afterward subjected to the cruelty of the “Yankee” soldiery, or sold as a slave and shipped to the States.

Now he had seen with his own eyes the benign attitude of his former enemy. His connection with the rebellion had ended.

Sever offered to employ him as his valet.

The beaming fellow arose, bowing obsequiously, and replied: “As you wish, Capitan.”

From that moment his bearing and actions changed from those of a friend to those of a servant.

Benito proved a model valet. His master’s wants were anticipated; his shoes looked more like mirrors than prosaic foot-gear, and his clothes were always neatly pressed and immaculately clean. The culinary was not neglected. It was soon noised about the regiment that Sever was the best groomed and fed officer in the Division.

Then came the time when the wily little rebels cut the railroad and telegraph communications, and there was no intercourse with Manila. The morning after this occurrence there was noticeable the absence of Filipino venders of bananas, eggs, and other edibles on the streets of San Fernando. This always meant an early attack. To Sever the most ominous thing was the disappearance that night of his trusted valet, Benito. But he refused to believe that he had turned traitor; he vowed the native would duly appear in time.

Early that evening orders came from regimental headquarters to strengthen the outposts, especially those of the north the point always the object of attack of the insurgents.

The south line was reenforced by Captain Sever’s company alone. He arrived there about dark, and soon made a careful disposition of his men, personally superintending the placing of each man.

Then came that extreme darkness known only to sentries on posts in tropical countries.

While not expecting an attack from the south, Sever’s men were nevertheless vigilant. Their gallant commander refused to lie down, but groped about in the darkness amid interminable underbrush, through banana grove and bamboo thicket, over rice-paddies and briery hedges, instructing and reassuring his men.

Just as he was finishing his two o’clock rounds, and was feeling his way back to the company rendezvous, he was startled by the sounds of the footfalls of a galloping horse in the direction of the city, which were rapidly drawing nearer. He at once knew its import. There must be something serious. Orderlies were not sent out at that hour of the morning unless the cause was pressing.

He retraced his steps toward the main road leading to the city and down which the now rapidly approaching horseman was coming.

Of a sudden the whole sky to the front was lighted as if traversed by the fiery darts of an electric storm. Then came the sounds of volleys fired at close range, and the crashing of the bullets as they struck near.

He ran toward his men, shouting words of command. A few returned the fire as best they could, but it was too late for that kind of fighting. The insurgents had crawled to within a few feet of the outposts, by a given signal began a murderous fire, then, whipping out the deadly bolo, pounced upon the unsuspecting sentries. It was a death-struggle; a hand-to-hand combat; a few against many.

This mere handful of Americans bravely wielded the bayonet and clubbed with the rifle, but the odds were too great.

Sever arrived on the scene of action with flashing eyes and set jaws, determined to die with his men. In an instant he was surrounded by a half-dozen grinning natives, brandishing their shining knives in his face. He fought like a madman, effectively using his revolver, but it was an uneven fight, and he fell by a heavy blow which barely missed his head, landing on his right shoulder and sinking deep into his body. He sunk heavily to the ground. Another boloman raised his weapon to administer the final cut which would end his life, but his raised hand seemed fixed in that position. There was another struggle this time native against native.

Benito appeared just in the nick of time to save his friend’s life.

Hundreds of feet were now heard coming from the rear.

Plunging through the darkness, falling over vines and rice-dykes, into ditches, came the yelling “Yankees.” The tide of battle turned.

The insurgents who had broken this weak line and were pouring in toward the city heard that awful and unexpected “Yankee yell.” They halted. A moment later there was a clash that lasted but a second. Sweeping everything before them, the reenforcements changed the fortunes of the fight.

The next day Benito visited his severely wounded master at the hospital. It was then that the Captain learned that Benito had overheard some Filipino venders inside the city drop a hint of the proposed attack. That night he set out to learn the details if possible. He arrived at the rebel lines safely, unrecognized and not suspicioned. He soon learned the plan of attack by hiding near a group of officers who were discussing it. He started back to inform his master of what he had learned, but was apprehended when trying to recross the Filipino lines. Charged with being a deserter, he was closely watched that night and the next day. The following night he evaded his guard during the confusion incident to the preparations for the battle, and made for the Americans as fast as his feet could take him, arriving in town at about one o’clock in the morning. Searching for the Captain, he could not find him. He then reported what he knew of the plans of the fight to Lieutenant Parsons, and learned from that officer the whereabouts of Sever and his company, and ran with all his might to warn him, for it was rapidly nearing the hour for the murderous onslaught. Parsons, after listening to Benito’s story of what he had learned while in the enemy’s camp, immediately started a mounted orderly to the Colonel. That worthy hastily dispatched a warning messenger and reenforcements to Sever. The rest has been told.

A month later Sever was carried up the gang-plank of an army transport, on his way to the United States to recover from his wound. Benito was by his side. When the deck was reached, he took his master by the hand. Great tears were gathering in his eyes and tracing down his fine, dusky face as he said: “Adios, Capitan.”

The American officer struggled to make a reply, but there was something in his throat which prevented him.

The two remained clasping hands for a minute, then Benito turned and slowly descended to the “lighter.”

Benito and his wife had urgent invitations to accompany Captain and Mrs. Sever to “God’s country,” but they chose to remain in their native land.