The officers, when Archie returned to the dining-room, if such it could be called, were engaged in making a very good meal from the provisions in the cupboard, and they thanked Archie warmly for leading them to such a good place. “By Jove,” said one of the captains, “we sha’n’t want to return to Manila at all, when we can get such grub as this is outside.” But the colonel assured them all that they needn’t expect to find such accommodations everywhere in the interior of the country. “No doubt we’ll all be living on plantains in a day or two, if we don’t catch that fox of an Aguinaldo. And I’m willin’ to bet now that we won’t find him. That feller’s too slick for us. He’s proved it many a time before.”
“And to think that he was here only this morning! The nerve of him, to come within twenty-five miles of Manila!” said another.
“I’ll be mighty well satisfied if we can catch a few of his ragged men,” continued the colonel. “That will be something to have accomplished, anyhow, and more than some other regiments have done, when they were sent after him. He’s the cutest feller I’ve heard of in a long while. If it wasn’t for Bill Hickson we’d never hear tell of him, even. He could enter Manila, I believe, and go out again without us ever knowin’ it at all.”
Archie was now called on to tell something of the rebel leader’s appearance, and how he had acted while in the town.
“I didn’t see very much of him,” said Archie, “because he spent most of the morning with the big-bugs of the town, over in the administration building. But when he rode into town on his horse he looked mighty dignified, though he fell some in my estimation when I saw him standing up. He looked rather dumpy then. He carried himself with a lot of dignity, a little more than was becoming, I thought, and he received the cheers of the people as a matter of course, and hardly took the trouble to acknowledge them, even by a bow. The officers of the town treated him with great deference, and I guess there’s no doubt but what the Filipinos look upon him as their leader.”
“Oh, there’s no doubt of that,” said the colonel. “We’ve learned that long ago. They stand up for him whenever he needs them, and they give him all they’ve got to help carry on the war.”
The meal finished, the officers smoked awhile, and then went to bed, for they were to be up at four in the morning.
THE MARCH AFTER THE REBELS— THE FIRST BATTLE— ARCHIE WOUNDED.
Archie was awakened at four the next morning by the sound of the bugle, and, hastily dressing, he hurried down-stairs to learn the plans of the officers. He found that they were going to start on the march as soon as the men had drunk their morning coffee, and Archie immediately made preparations to go with them. The colonel looked on in amazement. “Why are you packing your knapsack!” he asked. “You surely don’t think you’re going with us? You never in the world can stand this hard march in the hot sun.”