Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

Banzai! by Parabellum online

. (page 2 of 23)
Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 2 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

There were only a few more steps to the spot where the yellow circle of
light from the lanterns rendered the white uniforms of the sailors in
the two boats visible. Parrington stood still. "Harryman," he said,
repeating his former question, "do you believe there is danger - - "

"I don't know, I really don't know," said Harryman nervously. Then,
seizing Parrington's hands, he continued hurriedly, but in a low voice:
"For days I have been living as if in a trance. It is as if I were lying
in the delirium of fever; my head burns and my thoughts always return to
the same spot, boring and burrowing; I feel as though a horrible eye
were fixed on me from whose glance I cannot escape. I feel that I may at
any moment awake from the trance, and that the awakening will be still
more dreadful."

"You're feverish, Harryman; you're ill, and you'll infect others. You
must take some quinine." With these words Parrington climbed into his
gig, the sailors gave way with the oars, and the boat rushed through the
water and disappeared into the darkness, where the bow oarsman was
silhouetted against the pale yellow light of the boat's lantern like a
strange phantom.

Harryman looked musingly after the boat of the _Mindoro_ for a few
minutes, and murmured: "He certainly has no fever which quinine will not
cure." Then he got into his own boat, which also soon disappeared into
the sultry summer night, while the dark water splashed and gurgled
against the planks. The high quay wall, with its row of yellow and white
lights, remained behind, and gradually sank down to the water line. They
rowed past the side of a huge English steamer, which sent back the
splash of the oars in a strange hollow echo, and then across to the

Harryman could not sleep, and joined the officer on duty on the bridge,
where the slight breeze which came from the mountains afforded a little

* * * * *

On board the _Mindoro_ Parrington had found orders to take the relief
guard for the wireless telegraph station to Mariveles the next morning.
At six o'clock the little gunboat had taken the men on board, and was
now steering across the blue Bay of Manila toward the little rocky
island of Corregidor, which had recently been strongly fortified, and
which lies like a block of stone between gigantic mountain wings in the
very middle of the entrance to the Bay of Manila. Under a gray sail,
which served as a slight protection from the sun, the soldiers squatted
sullenly on their kits. Some were asleep, others stared over the railing
into the blue, transparent water that rippled away in long waves before
the bow of the little vessel. From the open skylight of the engine room
sounded the sharp beat of the engine, and the smell of hot oil spread
over the deck, making the burning heat even more unbearable. Parrington
stood on the bridge and through his glass examined the steep cliffs at
the entrance to the bay, and the bizarre forms of the little volcanic

Except for a few fishing boats with their brown sails, not a ship was to
be seen on the whole expanse of the water. The gunboat now turned into
the northern entrance, and the long, glistening guns in the
fortifications of Corregidor became visible. Up above, on the batteries
hewn in the rocks, not a living soul could be seen, but below, on the
little platform where the signal-post stood near the northern battery,
an armed sentry marched up and down. Parrington called out to the
signalman near him: "Send this signal across to Corregidor: 'We are
going to relieve the wireless telegraph detachment at Mariveles, and
shall call at Corregidor on our way back.'" The Corregidor battery
answered the signal, and informed Parrington that Colonel Prettyman
expected him for lunch later on. Slowly the _Mindoro_ crept along the
coast to the rocky Bay of Mariveles, where, before the few neglected
houses of the place, the guard of the wireless telegraph station, which
stood on the heights of Sierra de Mariveles, was awaiting the arrival of
the gunboat.

The _Mindoro_ was made fast to the pier. The exchange of men took place
quickly, and the relief guard piled their kits on two mule-carts, in
which they were to be carried up the steep hillside to the top, where a
few flat, white houses showed the position of the wireless station, the
high post of which, with its numerous wires, stood out alone against the
blue sky. The relieved men, who plainly showed their delight at getting
away from this God-forsaken, tedious outpost, made themselves
comfortable in the shade afforded by the sail, and began to chat with
the crew of the _Mindoro_ about the commonplaces of military service. A
shrill screech from the whistle of the _Mindoro_ resounded from the
mountain side as a farewell greeting to the little troop that was
climbing slowly upward, followed by the baggage-carts. The _Mindoro_
cast off from the pier, and, having rounded the neck of land on which
Mariveles stood, was just on the point of starting in the direction of
Corregidor, when the signalman on the bridge called Parrington's
attention to a black steamer which was apparently steaming at full speed
from the sea toward the entrance to the Bay of Manila.

"A ship at last," said Parrington. "Let's wait and see what sort of a
craft it is."

While the _Mindoro_ reduced her speed noticeably, Parrington looked
across at the strange vessel through his glasses. The ship had also
attracted the attention of the crew, who began to conjecture excitedly
as to the nationality of the visitor, for during the past week a strange
vessel had become a rather unusual sight in Manila. The wireless
detachment said that they had seen the steamer two hours ago from the

Parrington put down his glass and said: "About four thousand tons, but
she has no flag. We can soon remedy that." And turning to the signalman
he added: "Ask her to show her colors." At the same time he pulled the
rope of the whistle in order to attract the stranger's attention.

In a few seconds the German colors appeared at the stern of the
approaching steamer, and the signal flag, which at the same time was
quickly hoisted at the foretopmast, proclaimed the ship to be the German
steamer _Danzig_, hailing from Hong-Kong. Immediately afterwards a boat
was lowered from the _Danzig_ and the steamer stopped; then the white
cutter put to sea and headed straight for the _Mindoro_.

"It is certainly kind of them to send us a boat," said Parrington. "I
wonder what they want, anyhow." He gave orders to stop the boat and to
clear the gangway, and then, watching the German cutter with interest,
awaited its arrival. Ten minutes later the commander of the _Danzig_
stepped on the bridge of the _Mindoro_, introduced himself to her
commander, and asked for a pilot to take him through the mines in the

Parrington regarded him with astonishment. "Mines, my dear sir, mines?
There are no mines here."

The German stared at Parrington unbelievingly. "You have no mines?"

"No," said Parrington. "It is not our custom to blockade our harbors
with mines except in time of war."

"In time of war?" said the German, who did not appear to comprehend
Parrington's answer. "But you are at war."

"We, at war?" returned Parrington, utterly disconcerted. "And with whom,
if I may be allowed to ask?"

"It seems to me that the matter is too serious to be a subject for
jesting," answered the German sharply.

At this moment loud voices were heard from the after-deck of the
_Mindoro_, the crew of which were swearing with great gusto. Parrington
hurried to the railing and looked over angrily. A hot dispute was going
on between the crew of the German cutter and the American sailors, but
only the oft-repeated words "damned Japs" could be distinguished. He
turned again to the German officer, and looked at him hesitatingly. The
latter, apparently in a bad temper, looked out to sea, whistling softly
to himself.

Parrington walked toward him and, seizing his hand, said: "It's clear
that we don't understand each other. What's up?"

"I am here to inform you," answered the German sharply and decisively,
"that the steamer _Danzig_ ran the blockade last night, and that its
captain politely requests you to give him a pilot through the mines, in
order that we may reach the harbor of Manila."

"You have run the blockade?" shouted Parrington, in a state of the
greatest excitement. "You have run the blockade, man? What the deuce do
you mean?"

"I mean," answered the German coolly, "that the Government of the United
States of America - a fact, by the way, of which you, as commander of one
of her war vessels, ought to be aware - has been at war with Japan for
the last week, and that a steamer which has succeeded in running the
enemy's blockade and which carries contraband goods for Manila surely
has the right to ask to be guided through the mines."

Parrington felt for the railing behind him and leaned against it for
support. His face became ashen pale, and he seemed so utterly nonplussed
at the German officer's statement that the latter, gradually beginning
to comprehend the extraordinary situation, continued his explanation.

"Yes," he repeated, "for six days your country has been at war with
Japan, and it was only natural we should suppose that you, as one of
those most nearly concerned, would be aware of this fact."

Parrington, regaining his self-control, said: "Then the cable
disturbances - " He stopped, then continued disjointedly: "But this is
terrible; this is a surprise such as we - I beg your pardon," he went on
in a firm voice to the German, "I am sure I need not assure you that
your communication has taken me completely by surprise. Not a soul in
Manila has any idea of all this. The cable disturbances of the last six
days were explained to us by a Japanese steamer as being the result of a
volcanic outbreak, and since then, through the interruption of all
connections, we have been completely shut off from the outside world. If
Japan, in defiance of all international law, has declared war, we here
in Manila have noticed nothing of it, except, perhaps, for the entire
absence, during the last few days, of the regular steamers and, indeed,
of all trading ships, a circumstance that appeared to some of us rather
suspicious. But excuse me, we must act at once. Please remain on board."

The _Mindoro's_ whistle emitted three shrill screeches, while the
gunboat steamed at full speed toward Corregidor.

Parrington went into his cabin, opened his desk, and searched through it
with nervous haste. "At last!" He seized the war-signal code and ran
upstairs to the bridge, shouting to the signalman: "Signal to
Corregidor: 'War-signal code, important communication.'" Then he
himself, hastily turning over the leaves of the book, called out the
signals and had them hoisted. Then he shouted to the man at the helm:
"Tell them not to spare the engines."

Parrington stood in feverish expectation on the bridge, his hands
clinched round the hot iron bars of the breastwork and his eyes
measuring the rapidly diminishing distance between the _Mindoro_ and
the landing place of Corregidor. As the _Mindoro_ turned into the
northern passage between Corregidor and the mainland, the chain of
mountains, looking like banks of clouds, which surrounded Manila, became
visible in the far distance across the blue, apparently boundless
surface of the Bay, while the town itself, wrapped in the white mist
that veiled the horizon, remained invisible. At this moment Parrington
observed a dark cloud of smoke in the direction of the harbor of Manila
suddenly detaching itself from below and sailing upward like a fumarole
above the summit of a volcano, where it dispersed in bizarre shapes
resembling ragged balls of cotton. Almost immediately a dull report like
a distant thunderclap boomed across the water.

"Can that be another of their devilish tricks?" asked Parrington of the
German, drawing his attention to the rising cloud, the edges of which
glistened white as snow in the bright sunshine.

"Possibly," was the laconic answer.

The wharf of Corregidor was in a state of confused hubbub. The
artillerymen stood shoulder to shoulder, awaiting the arrival of the
_Mindoro_. Suddenly an officer forced his way through the crowd, and,
standing on the very edge of the wharf, called out to the rapidly
approaching _Mindoro_: "Parrington, what's all this about?"

"It's true, every word of it," roared the latter through the megaphone.
"The Japanese are attacking us, and the German steamer over there is the
first to bring us news of it. War broke out six days ago."

The _Mindoro_ stopped and threw a line, which was caught by many willing
hands and made fast to the landing place.

"Here's my witness," shouted Parrington across to Colonel Prettyman,
"the commander of the German steamer _Danzig_."

"I'll join you on board," answered Prettyman. "I've just despatched the
news to Manila by wireless. Of course they won't believe it there."

"Then you've done a very stupid thing," cried Parrington, horrified.
"Look there," he added, pointing to the cloud above the harbor of
Manila; "that has most certainly cost our friend Harryman, of the
_Monadnock_, his life. His presentiments did not deceive him after all!"

"Cost Harryman, on board the _Monadnock_, his life?" asked Prettyman in

"I'm afraid so," answered Parrington. "The Japanese steamer which
brought us the news of the famous seaquake has been anchored beside him
for four days. When you sent your wireless message to Manila, the
Japanese must have intercepted it, for they have a wireless apparatus on
board - I noticed it only this morning."

The _Mindoro_ now lay fast beside the wharf, and Colonel Prettyman
hurried across the gangway to the gunboat and went straight to
Parrington's cabin, where the two shut themselves up with the German

A few minutes later an excited orderly rushed on board and demanded to
see the colonel at once; he was let into the cabin, and it was found
that he had brought a confirmation of Parrington's suspicions, for a
wireless message from Manila informed them that the _Monadnock_ had been
destroyed in the roads of Manila through some inexplicable explosion.

Parrington sprang from his chair and cried to the colonel: "Won't you at
least pay those cursed Japs back by sending the message, 'We suspect
that the Japanese steamer anchored beside the _Monadnock_ has blown her
up by means of a torpedo?' Otherwise it is just possible that they will
be naïve enough in Manila to let the scoundrel get out of the harbor.
No, no," he shouted, interrupting himself, "we can't wait for that; we
must get to work ourselves at once. Colonel, you go ashore, and I'll
steam toward Manila and cut off the rogue's escape. And you" - turning to
the German - "you can return to your ship and enter the bay; there are
no" - here his voice broke - "no mines here."

Then he rushed up on the bridge again. The hawsers were cast off in
feverish haste, and the _Mindoro_ once more steamed out into the bay at
the fastest speed of which the old craft was capable. Parrington had
regained his self-command in face of the new task that the events just
described, which followed so rapidly upon one another's heels, laid out
for him. An expression of fierce joy came over his features when,
looking through his glass an hour later, he discovered the _Kanga Maru_
holding a straight course for Corregidor.

As calmly as if it were only a question of everyday maneuvers,
Parrington gave his orders. The artillerymen stood on either side of the
small guns, and everything was made ready for action.

The distance between the two ships slowly diminished.

"Yes, it is the Japanese steamer," said Parrington to himself. "And now
to avenge Harryman! There'll be no sentimentality; we'll shoot them
down like pirates! No signal, no warning - nothing, nothing!" he

"Stand by with the forward gun," he called down from the bridge to the
men standing at the little 12 pounder on the foredeck of the _Mindoro_.
The _Mindoro_ turned a little to starboard, so as to get at the
broadside of the Japanese, and thus be able to fire on him with both the
forward and after guns.

"Five hundred yards! Aim at the engine room! Number one gun, fire!" The
shot boomed across the sunny, blue expanse of water, driving a white
puff of smoke before it. The shell disappeared in the waves about one
hundred yards ahead of the Japanese steamer. The next shot struck the
ship, leaving in her side a black hole with jagged edges just above the

"Splendid!" cried Parrington. "Keep that up and we'll have the villain
in ten shots."

Quickly the 12 pounder was reloaded; the gunners stood quietly beside
their gun, and shot after shot was fired at the Japanese ship, of which
five or six hit her right at the waterline. The stern gun of the
_Mindoro_ devoted itself in the meantime to destroying things on the
enemy's deck. Gaping holes appeared everywhere in the ship's side, and
the funnels received several enormous rents, out of which brown smoke
poured forth. In a quarter of an hour the deck resembled the primeval
chaos, being covered with bent and broken iron rods, iron plates riddled
with shot, and woodwork torn to splinters. Suddenly clouds of white
steam burst out from all the holes in the ship's sides, from the
skylights, and from the remnants of the funnels; the deck in the middle
of the steamer rose slowly, and the exploding boilers tossed broken bits
of engines and deck apparatus high up into the air. The _Kanga Maru_
listed to port and disappeared in the waves, over which a few straggling
American shots swept.

"Cease firing!" commanded Parrington. Then the _Mindoro_ came about and
again steered straight for Manila. The act of retribution had been
accomplished; the treacherous murder of the crew of the _Monadnock_ had
been avenged.

When the _Mindoro_ arrived at the harbor of Manila, the town was in a
tremendous state of excitement. The drums were beating the alarm in the
streets. The spot where only that morning the _Monadnock_ had lain in
idle calm was empty.

* * * * *

The explosion of the _Monadnock_ had at first been regarded as an
accident. In spite of its being the dinner hour, a number of boats
appeared in the roads, all making toward the scene of the accident,
where a broad, thick veil of smoke crept slowly over the surface of the
water. As no one knew what new horrors might be hidden in this cloud,
none of the boats dared go nearer. Only two white naval cutters
belonging to the gunboats lying in the harbor glided into the mist,
driven forward by strong arms; and they actually succeeded in saving a
few of the crew.

One of the rescued men told the following story: About two minutes after
the _Monadnock_ had received a wireless message, which, however, was
never deciphered, a dull concussion was felt throughout the ship,
followed almost immediately by another one. On the starboard side of the
_Monadnock_ two white, bubbling, hissing columns of water had shot up,
which completely flooded the low deck; then a third explosion, possibly
caused by a mine striking the ammunition room and setting it off,
practically tore the ship asunder. There could be no doubt that these
torpedoes came from the Japanese steamer anchored beside the
_Monadnock_, for the _Kanga Maru_ had suddenly slipped her anchor and
hurried off as fast as she could. It was now remembered that the
Japanese ship had had steam up constantly for the last few days,
ostensibly because they were daily expecting their cargo in lighters,
from which they intended to load without delay. It was therefore pretty
certain that the _Kanga Maru_ had entered the harbor merely for the
purpose of destroying the _Monadnock_, the only monitor in Manila.
Torpedo tubes had probably been built in the Japanese merchant steamer
under water, and this made it possible to blow up the _Monadnock_ the
moment there was the least suspicion that the Americans in Manila were
aware of the fact that war had broken out. Thus the wireless message
from Corregidor had indeed sealed the fate of the _Monadnock_. The
_Kanga Maru_ had launched her torpedoes, and then tried to escape. The
meeting with the _Mindoro_ the Japanese had not reckoned with, for they
had counted on getting away during the confusion which the destruction
of the _Monadnock_ would naturally cause in Manila.

As a result of these occurrences the few ships in the roads of Manila
soon stopped loading and discharging; most of the steamers weighed
anchor, and, as soon as they could get up steam, went farther out into
the roads, for a rumor had spread that the _Kanga Maru_ had laid mines.
The report turned out to be entirely unfounded, but it succeeded in
causing a regular panic on some of the ships. From the town came the
noise of the beating of drums and the shrill call to arms to alarm the
garrison; one could see the quays being cleared by detachments of
soldiers, and sentries were posted before all the public buildings.

American troops hurried on the double-quick through the streets of the
European quarter, and the sight of the soldiers furnished the first
element of reassurance to the white population, whose excitement had
been tremendous ever since the alarm of the garrison. The old Spanish
batteries, or rather what was still left of them, were occupied by
artillerymen, while one battalion went on sentry duty on the ramparts of
the section of the town called _Intra muros_, and five other battalions
left the town at once in order to help garrison the redoubts and forts
in the line of defense on the land side.

The town of Manila and the arsenal at Cavite, where measures for defense
were also taken, thus gave no cause for apprehension; but, on the other
hand, it was noticeable that the natives showed signs of insubordination
toward the American military authorities, and that they did not attempt
to conceal the fact that they had been better informed as to the
political situation than the Americans. These were the first indications
as to how the land lay, and gradually it began to be remembered that
similar observations had been made within the last few days: for
example, a number of revolutionary flags had had to be removed in the

The Americans were in a very precarious position, and at the council of
war held by the governor in the afternoon it was decided that should the
Filipinos show the slightest signs of insurrection, the whole military
strength would be concentrated to defend Manila, Cavite, and the single
railway running north, while all the other garrisons were to be
withdrawn and the rest of the archipelago left to its own devices. In
this way the Americans might at least hope, with some chance of success,
to remain masters of Manila and vicinity. The island was, of course,
proclaimed to be in a state of siege, and a strong military patrol was
put in charge of the night watch.

A serious encounter took place in the afternoon before the Government
building. As soon as it became known that proclamation of martial law
had been made the population streamed in great crowds toward the
Government buildings; and when the American flag was suddenly hauled
down - it has never been ascertained by whom - and the Catipunàn flag,
formerly the standard of the rebels - the tri-color with the sun in a
triangular field - appeared in its place, a moment of wild enthusiasm
ensued, so wild that it required an American company with fixed bayonets
to clear the square of the fanatics. The sudden appearance of this huge
Catipunàn flag seemed mysterious enough, but the next few days were to
demonstrate clearly how carefully the rebellion among the natives had
been prepared.

When the officers of the garrison assembled at the customary place on
the evening of the same day, they were depressed and uneasy, as men who
find themselves confronted by an invisible enemy. There was no longer
any difference of opinion as to the danger that threatened from the
Mongolians, and those officers who had been exonerated from the charge
of being too suspicious by the rapid developments of the last few hours
were considerate enough not to make their less far-sighted comrades feel
that they had undervalued their adversaries. No one had expected a
catastrophe to occur quite so suddenly, and the uncertainty as to what
was going on elsewhere had a paralyzing effect on all decisions. What
one could do in the way of defense had been or was being done, but there

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 2 of 23)