Then, to the astounded American Navy officers the stranger made this blood-stirring announcement:
“In the Hotel Diligencia are at least twenty American women!”
A RESCUE AND A “FACER”
“You’re sure of that?” breathed Trent, tensely.
I ought to be, uttered the man, hoarsely. “One of the women is my wife, and another is my daughter! I haven’t seen any of the women in five hours.”
“How so?” asked Trent, sharply.
“The soldiers thrust me into the basement. Ever since I found myself alone I’ve been working with a penknife to dig out the mortar of the bricks in which the window bars were imbedded.”
“The instant I had jerked enough bars loose I crawled through the opening and started for you.”
Giving swift instructions to keep the machine gun going continuously, and to keep the fire trained on the edge of the hotel roof, Trent detailed four riflemen to remain with the machine gun man, then led the rest swiftly under the hail of bullets that raged over their heads.
In this mode of attack the sailormen gained the sidewalk under the hotel without a shot having been fired from the roof.
“Ensign Darrin, lead as many men as you can against the doors!” ordered the lieutenant. “Get them down as fast as you can!”
Their first assaults against the massive doors failing, four sailors were sent on a run for some form of battering ram. They returned with half of a telegraph pole that had been cut in two by shell fire in the afternoon.
Borne by a dozen stout jackies, the pole was dashed against the door. At the second assault the lock was broken. Dave dashed into the hotel at the head of his squad.
“Straight to the roof, Ensign Darrin!” shouted Lieutenant Trent. “Ensign Dalzell, you will take ten men and endeavor to find the American women.”
Then Trent, with the remainder of the command, rushed on after the advance guard. Up the stairs dashed Dave in the lead. The skylight proved not to be fastened.
Only a minute before had the machine gun stopped its murderous hail. Now some thirty Mexican soldiers crept to the edge of the roof to try their luck again with the sailormen up the street.
“There is only a handful of them,” shouted one Mexican. “The gringos must be under the hotel, or in it!”
At that announcement there was a swift rush toward the skylight. Just before they reached it Darrin sprang into sight, followed by his men. Short, sharp conflict followed. Twelve Mexicans, three of them killed, went down, and two American sailormen had been wounded when the enemy sent up their appeal for “piedad,” or quarter.
Saluting, a sailorman reported to Lieutenant Trent that Ensign Dalzell had found the American women in the annex of the hotel. None had been injured, but all were much frightened.