There was instant applause from some of the officers. This, being heard by sailors on duty outside, started the rumor that the officers had heard that an immediate landing was to be made in Vera Cruz or at Tampico. Thus, the jackies forward had an exciting evening talking the prospects over.
So Dave was not placed under charges, and the majority of his brother officers on the “Long Island” regarded the suspicion against him as being absurd. Yet Darrin knew that suspicion existed in some minds, and felt wretched in consequence.
Meantime, the news reached the fleet, as it reached newspaper readers at home, that General Huerta was becoming daily more stubborn. Then came the news that the Mexican dictator’s refusal had been made final and emphatic.
“The house has passed a resolution justifying the President in employing the military and naval forces of the United States in whatever way he deems best in exacting satisfaction for the insult to the Flag at Tampico,” spread through the ship on the evening of Monday, the 20th of April.
From then on no one in the American fleet doubted that war with Mexico was soon to begin. It was all right, the “Long Island’s” officers declared, to talk about a mere peaceful landing, but no doubt existed that the landing of American sailors and marines would mean the firing of the first shots by resisting Mexicans which Would provoke war.
On the morning of the 21st of April the officers assembled in the ward-room as usual.
“Gentlemen,” said Commander Bainbridge, calmly, in a moment when the Filipino mess servants were absent, “the present orders are that the American naval forces land and occupy Vera Cruz this forenoon. Orders for the details have been made and will be announced immediately after breakfast. That is all that I have to say at present.”
That “all” was certainly enough. The blow for the honor of the Stars and Stripes was to be struck this forenoon. Instantly every face was aglow. Each hoped to be in the detail sent ashore. Then one young officer was heard to remark, in an undertone:
“I’ll wager that all I get is a detail to commissary duty, making up the rations to be sent ashore.”
Commander Bainbridge heard and smiled, but made no reply.
Soon after breakfast the work cut out for each officer was announced. Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell were both gleeful when informed that they were to go ashore in the same detachment of blue-jackets. Lieutenant Trent was to command them.
“David, little giant,” murmured Danny Grin, exultantly, “we appear to be under the right and left wings of that good men known as Fortune.”
“I’m ready for duty wherever I’m put,” Dave answered, seriously. “None the less, I’m delighted that I’m ordered ashore.”
Lieutenant Cantor was greatly disappointed when he found that he was to remain aboard ship. Captain Gales had his own reasons for keeping that young officer away from shore.