At first none of the Mexicans thought of asking for quarter. One of the infantrymen, retreating before Dalzell’s deftly handled sword, and fighting back with his rifle butt, retreated so close to the edge of the roof that, in another instant, he had fallen to the street below, breaking his neck.
Ere the last dozen Americans had succeeded in reaching the roof the fight was over, for the few Mexicans still able to fight suddenly threw down their rifles, shouting pleadingly:
“Piedad! piedad!” (pity).
“Accept all surrenders!” shouted Lieutenant Trent at the top of his voice.
Four quivering, frightened Mexicans accepted this mercy, standing huddled together, their eyes eloquent with fear.
The fight had been a short, but savage one. A glance at the roof’s late defenders showed, including the man lying in the street below, eight dead Mexicans, one of whom was the boyish lieutenant of infantry who had commanded this detachment. Nine more were badly wounded. The four prisoners were the only able-bodied Mexicans left on the roof.
“Pardon, but shall we have time for our prayers?” asked one of the surrendered Mexicans, approaching Lieutenant Trent.
“Time for your prayers?” Trout repeated. “Take all the time you want.”
“But when do you shoot us?” persisted the fellow, humbly.
“Shoot you?” repeated Trent, in amazement, speaking rapidly in the Spanish he had acquired at Annapolis and practiced in many a South American port. Then it dawned upon this American officer that, in the fighting between Mexican regulars and rebels it had been always the custom of the victors to execute the survivors of the vanquished foe.
“My poor fellow,” ejaculated Trent, “we Americans always pride ourselves on our civilization. We don’t shoot prisoners of war. You will be treated humanely, and we shall exchange you with your government.”
“What did that chap say?” Dalzell demanded, in an undertone, as Darrin laughed.
“The Mexican said,” Dave explained, “that he hoped he wouldn’t be exchanged until the war is over.”
“There is a hospital detachment signaling from down the street, sir,” reported a seaman from the edge of the roof.
Trent stepped quickly over to where he could get a view of the hospital party. Then he signaled to the hospital men, four in number, carrying stretchers, and commanded by a petty officer, that they were to advance.
“Any of our men need attention, sir?” asked the petty officer, as he reached the roof.
“Two of our men,” Trent replied. “And nine Mexicans.”
When it came their turn to have their wounds washed and bandaged with sterilized coverings, the Mexicans looked bewildered. Such treatment at the hands of an enemy was beyond their comprehension.
A room below was turned over for hospital use, and there the wounded of both sides were treated.