When Santiago Fell: or, The War Adventures of Two Chumsñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“When Santiago Fell,” while a complete story in itself, forms the first volume of a line to be issued under the general title of the “Flag of Freedom Series” for boys.
My object in writing this story was to present to American lads a true picture of life in the Cuba of to-day, and to show what a fierce struggle was waged by the Cubans against the iron-handed mastery of Spain previous to the time that our own glorious United States stepped in and gave to Cuba the precious boon of liberty. The time covered is the last year of the Cuban-Spanish War and our own campaign leading up to the fall of Santiago.
It may be possible that some readers may think the adventures of the two chums over-drawn, but this is hardly a fact. The past few years have been exceedingly bitter ones to all living upon Cuban soil, and neither life nor property has been safe. Even people who were peaceably inclined were drawn into the struggle against their will, and the innocent, in many cases, suffered with the guilty.
This war, so barbarously carried on, has now come to an end; and, under the guiding hand of Uncle Sam, let us trust that Cuba and her people will speedily take their rightful place among the small but well-beloved nations of the world – or, if not this, that she may join the ever-increasing sisterhood of our own States.
Once more thanking my numerous young friends for their kind reception of my previous works, I place this volume in their hands, trusting that from it they may derive much pleasure and profit.
Captain Ralph Bonehill.
January 1, 1899.
OFF FOR THE INTERIOR
“We cannot allow you to leave this city.”
It was a Spanish military officer of high rank who spoke, and he addressed Alano Guerez and myself. I did not understand his words, but my companion did, and he quickly translated them for my benefit.
“Then what are we to do, Alano?” I questioned. “We have no place to stop at in Santiago, and our money is running low.”
Alano’s brow contracted into a perplexing frown. He spoke to the officer, and received a few curt words in reply. Then the Spaniard turned to others standing near, and we felt that we were dismissed. A guard conducted us to the door, and saluted us; and we walked away from the headquarters.
The reason for it all was this: Less than a month before we had left the Broxville Military Academy in upper New York State to join Alano’s parents and my father in Cuba. Alano’s father was a Cuban, and owned a large sugar plantation some distance to the eastward of Guantanamo Bay. He was wealthy, and had sent Alano to America to be educated, as many rich Cubans do. As my father and Se?or Guerez were well acquainted and had strong business connections, it was but natural that Alano should be placed at the boarding school which I attended, and that we should become firm friends.
For a long time we played together, ate together, studied together, and slept together, until at last as chums we became almost inseparable.
Some months back, and while the great struggle for liberty was going on between the Cubans and their rulers in Spain, certain business difficulties had taken my father to Cuba. During his stop in the island he made his home for the greater part with Se?or Guerez, and while there was unfortunate enough during a trip on horseback to fall and break his leg.
This accident placed him on his back longer than was first expected, for the break was a bad one. In the meantime the war went on, and the territory for many miles around Santiago de Cuba was in a state of wild excitement.
Not knowing exactly what was going on, Alano wrote to his parents begging that he be allowed to come to them, and in the same mail I sent a communication to my father, asking if I could not accompany my Cuban chum. To our delight the answer came that if we wished we might come without delay. At the time this word was sent neither Se?or Guerez nor my father had any idea that the war would assume such vast proportions around Santiago, involving the loss of many lives and the destruction of millions of dollars of property.
Alano and I were not long in making our preparations. We left Broxville two days after permission was received, took the cars to the metropolis, and engaged immediate passage upon the Esmeralda for Santiago de Cuba.
We had heard of the war a hundred times on the way, but even on entering the harbor of the city we had no thought of difficulty in connection with our journey on rail and horseback outside of the city. We therefore suffered a rude awakening when the custom-house officials, assisted by the Spanish military officers, made us stand up in a long row with other passengers, while we were thoroughly searched from head to foot. Each of us had provided himself with a pistol; and these, along with the cartridges, were taken from us. Our baggage, also, was examined in detail, and everything in the way of a weapon was confiscated.
“War means something, evidently,” was the remark I made, but how much it meant I did not learn until later. Our names were taken down, and we were told to remain in the city over night and report at certain headquarters in the morning. We were closely questioned as to where we had come from; and when I injudiciously mentioned the Broxville Military Academy, our questioner, a swarthy Spanish lieutenant, glared ominously at us.
“I’m afraid you put your foot into it when you said that,” was Alano’s comment at the hotel that evening, when we were discussing our strange situation. “They are on the watch for people who want to join the insurgents.”
“Perhaps your father has become a rebel,” I ventured.
“It is not unlikely. He has spoken to me of Cuban independence many times.”
As might be expected, we passed an almost sleepless night, so anxious were we to learn what action the Spanish authorities would take in our case. When the decision came, as noted at the opening of this story, I was almost dumb-founded.
“We’re in a pickle, Alano,” I said, as we walked slowly down the street, lined upon either side with quaint shops and houses. “We can’t stay here without money, and we can’t get out.”
“We must get out!” he exclaimed in a low tone, so as not to be overheard. “Do you suppose I am going to remain here, when my father and mother are in the heart of the war district, and, perhaps, in great danger?”
“I am with you!” I cried. “For my father is there too. But how can we manage it? I heard at the hotel last night that every road leading out of the city is well guarded.”
“We’ll find a way,” he rejoined confidently. “But we’ll have to leave the bulk of our baggage behind. The most we can carry will be a small valise each. And we must try to get hold of some kind of weapons, too.”
We returned to our hotel, and during the day Alano struck up an acquaintanceship with a Cuban-American who knew his father well. Alano, finding he could trust the gentleman, took him into his confidence, and, as a result, we obtained not only a good pistol each, – weapons we immediately secreted in our clothing, – but also received full details of how to leave Santiago de Cuba by crossing the bay in a rowboat and taking to the woods and mountains beyond.
“It will be rough traveling,” said the gentlemen who gave us the directions, "but you’ll find your lives much safer than if you tried one of the regular roads – that is, of course, after you have passed the forts and the gunboats lying in the harbor."
Both Alano and I were much taken with this plan, and it was arranged we should leave the city on the first dark night. Two days later it began to rain just at sunset, and we felt our time had come. A small rowboat had already been procured and was secreted under an old warehouse. At ten o’clock it was still raining and the sky was as black as ink, and we set out, – I at the oars, and Alano in the bow, – keeping the sharpest of lookouts.
We had agreed that not a word should be spoken unless it was necessary, and we moved on in silence. I had spent many hours on the lake facing Broxville Academy, and these now stood me in good stead. Dropping my oars without a sound, I pulled a long, steady stroke in the direction I had previously studied out.
We were about halfway across the bay when suddenly Alano turned to me. “Back!” he whispered, and I reversed my stroke as quickly as possible.
“There is a gunboat or something ahead,” he went on. “Steer to the left. See the lights?”
I looked, and through the mists made out several signals dimly. I brought the boat around, and we went on our way, only to bring up, a few seconds later, against a huge iron chain, attached to one of the war vessels' anchors, for the vessel had dragged a bit on the tide.
The shock threw Alano off his feet, and he tumbled against me, sending us both sprawling. I lost hold of one of the oars, and at the same moment an alarm rang out – a sound which filled us both with fear.
THE ESCAPE FROM THE GUNBOAT
“We are lost!” cried Alano, as he sought to pick himself up. “Oh, Mark, what shall we do?”
“The oar – where is that oar?” I returned, throwing him from me and trying to pierce the darkness.
“I don’t know. I – Oh!”
Alano let out the exclamation as a broad sheet of light swept across the rain and the waters beneath us – light coming from a search-lantern in the turret of the gunboat. Fortunately the rays were not lowered sufficiently to reach us, yet the light was strong enough to enable me to see the missing oar, which floated but a few feet away. I caught it with the end of the other oar, and then began pulling at the top of my speed.
But all of this took time, and now the alarm on board of the war vessel had reached its height. A shot rang out, a bell tolled, and several officers came rushing to the anchor chains. They began shouting in Spanish, so volubly I could not understand a word; and now was no time to question Alano, who was doing his best to get out a second pair of oars which we had, fortunately, placed on board at the last moment. He had often rowed with me on the lake at Broxville; and in a few seconds he had caught the stroke, and away we went at a spinning speed.
“They are going to fire on us!” he panted, as the shouting behind increased. “Shall we give up?”
“Not on my account.”
“Nor on mine. If we give up, they’ll put us in prison, sure. Pull on!”
And pull we did, until, in spite of the cold rain, each of us was dripping with perspiration and ready to drop with exhaustion.
Boom! a cannon shot rang out, and involuntarily both of us ducked our heads. But the shot flew wide of its mark – so wide, in fact, that we knew not where it went.
“They’ll get out a boat next!” I said. “Pull, Alano; put every ounce of muscle into the stroke.”
“I am doing that already,” he gasped. “We must be getting near the shore. What about the guard there?”
“We’ll have to trust to luck,” I answered.
Another shot came booming over the misty waters, and this time we heard the sizz of the cannon ball as it hit the waves and sank. We were now in the glare of the searchlight, but the mist and rain were in our favor.
“There is the shore!” I cried, on looking around a few seconds later. “Now be prepared to run for it as soon as the boat beaches!”
With a rush our craft shot in between a lot of sea grass and stuck her bow into the soft mud. Dropping our oars, we sprang to the bow and took long leaps to solid ground. We had hardly righted ourselves when there came a call out of the darkness.
“Quien va?” And thus challenging us, a Spanish soldier who was on guard along the water’s edge rushed up to intercept our progress. His bayonet was within a foot of my breast, when Alano jumped under and hurled him to the ground.
“Come!” he cried to me. “Come, ere it is too late!” and away we went, doing the best sprinting we had ever done in our lives. Over a marsh and through a thorny field we dashed, and then struck a narrow path leading directly into a woods. The guard yelled after us and fired his gun, but that was the last we saw or heard of him.
Fearful, however, of pursuit, we did not slacken our pace until compelled to; and then, coming to a thick clump of grass at the foot of a half-decayed banana tree, we sank down completely out of breath. I had never taken such fearful chances on my life before, and I trusted I would never have to do so again, little dreaming of all the perils which still lay before us.
“I believe we are safe for the present,” said Alano, when he could get his breath. “I wonder where we are?”
“We’re in a very dark, dirty, and wet woods,” I returned gloomily. “Have we got to remain here all night?”
“It’s better than being in a Spanish prison,” replied my Cuban chum simply. “We can go on after we are a bit rested.”
The rain was coming down upon the broad leaves of the banana tree at a lively rate, but Alano said he thought it must be a clearing shower, and so it soon proved to be. But scarcely had the drops ceased to fall than a host of mosquitoes and other insects arose, keeping us more than busy.
“We must get out of this!” I exclaimed, when I could stand the tiny pests no longer. “I’m being literally chewed up alive. And, see, there is a lizard!” And I shook the thing from my arm.
“Oh, you mustn’t mind such things in Cuba!” said Alano, laughing shortly. "Why, we have worse things than that – snakes and alligators, and the like. But come on, if you are rested. It may be we’ll soon strike some sort of shelter."
Luckily, through all the excitement we had retained our valises, which were slung across our backs by straps thrown over the shoulder. From my own I now extracted a large handkerchief, and this served, when placed in my broad-brimmed hat, to protect my neck and ears from the insects. As for Alano, he was acclimated and did not seem to be bothered at all.
We pursued our way through the woods, and then ascended a steep bank of clay, at the top of which was a well-made road leading to the northward. We looked up and down, but not a habitation or building of any kind was in sight.
“It leads somewhere,” said Alano, after a pause. “Let us go on, but with care, for perhaps the Spanish Government has guards even as far out as this.”
On we went once more, picking our way around the numerous pools and bog-holes in the road. The stars were now coming out, and we could consequently see much better than before.
“A light!” I cried, when quarter of a mile had been traversed. “See, Alano.”
“It must be from a plantation,” he answered. “If it is, the chances are that the owner is a Spanish sympathizer – he wouldn’t dare to be anything else, so close to the city.”
“But he might aid us in secret,” I suggested.
Alano shrugged his shoulders, and we proceeded more slowly. Then he caught my arm.
“There is a sugar-house back of that canefield,” he said. “We may find shelter there.”
“Anywhere – so we can catch a few hours' nap.”
We proceeded around the field with caution, for the plantation house was not far away. Passing a building where the grinding was done, we entered a long, low drying shed. Here we struck a match, and by the flickering light espied a heap of dry husks, upon which we immediately threw ourselves.
“We’ll have to be up and away before daybreak,” said my chum, as he drew off his wet coat, an example which I at once followed, even though it was so warm I did not suffer greatly from the dampness. “We would be sorry fellows to give an explanation if we were stopped in this vicinity.”
“Yes, and for the matter of that, we had better sleep with one eye open,” I rejoined. And then we turned in, and both presently fell asleep through sheer exhaustion.
How long I had been sleeping I did not know. I awoke with a start, to find a cold nose pressing against my face.
“Hi! get out of here!” I cried, and then the owner of the nose leaped back and uttered the low, savage, and unmistakable growl of a Cuban bloodhound!
IN THE WILDS OF THE ISLAND
To say that I was alarmed when I found that the intruder in our sleeping quarters was a bloodhound would be to put the fact very mildly. I was truly horrified, and a chill shook my frame as I had a momentary vision of being torn to pieces by the bloodthirsty animal.
My cry awoke Alano, who instantly asked what was the matter, and then yelled at the beast in Spanish. As the creature retreated, evidently to prepare for a rush upon us, I sprang to my feet and grasped a short ladder which led to the roof of the shed.
“Come!” I roared to my chum, and Alano did so; and both of us scrambled up, with the bloodhound snarling and snatching at our feet. He even caught the heel of my boot, but I kicked him off, and we reached the top of the shed in temporary safety. Baffled, the dog ran out of the shed and began to bay loudly, as though summoning assistance.
“We’re in for it now!” I groaned. "We can’t get away from the dog, and he’ll arouse somebody before long."
“Well, we can’t help ourselves,” replied Alano, with a philosophical shrug of his shoulders. “Ha! somebody is coming now!”
He pointed through the semi-darkness, for it was close to sunrise. A Cuban negro was approaching, a huge fellow all of six feet tall and dressed in the garb of an overseer. He carried a little triangular lantern, and as he drew closer he yelled at the bloodhound in a Cuban patois which was all Greek to me, but which Alano readily understood. The dog stopped baying, but insisted upon leading his master to the very foot of the shed, where he stood with his nose pointed up at us.
There was no help for it, so Alano crawled to the edge of the roof and told the overseer what was the trouble – that the dog had driven us hither and that we were afraid of being killed. A short conversation followed, and then my chum turned to me.
“We can go down now,” he said. “The overseer says the dog will not touch us so long as he is around.”
We leaped to the ground, although I must admit I did not do so with a mind perfectly at ease, the bloodhound still looked so ugly. However, beyond a few sniffs at my trousers-leg and a deep rumble of his voice, he offered no further indignities.
“He wants to know who we are,” said Alano, after more conversation. “What shall I tell him?”
“Tell him the truth, and ask him for help to reach your father’s plantation, Alano. He won’t know we escaped from Santiago de Cuba without permission.”
Alano did as directed. At the mention of Senor Guerez' name the overseer held up his hands in astonishment. He told Alano that he knew his father well, that he had met the se?or only two weeks previously, and that both Alano’s father and my own had thrown in their fortunes with the insurgents!
“Is it possible!” I ejaculated. “My father, too! Why, he must be still lame!”
“He is,” said Alano, after further consultation with the newcomer. “My father, it seems, had to join the rebels, or his plantation would have been burned to the ground. There was a quarrel with some Spanish sympathizers, and in the end both your father and mine joined the forces under General Calixto Garcia.”
“And where are they now?”
“The overseer does not know.”
“What of your mother and sisters?”
“He does not know about them either;” and for a moment Alano’s handsome and manly face grew very sober. “Oh, if I was only with them!”
“And if I was only with my father!” I cried. My father was all the world to me, and to be separated from him at such a time was more than painful. “Do you think he will help us?” I went on, after a moment of silence.
The overseer agreed to do what he could for us, although that would not be much. He was an insurgent at heart, but his master and all around him were in sympathy with the Spanish Government.
“He says for us to remain here and he will bring us breakfast,” said Alano, as the man turned and departed, with the bloodhound at his side. “And after that he will set us on a road leading to Tiarriba and gave us a countersign which will help us into a rebel camp if there is any around.”
We secreted ourselves again in the cane shed, and it was not long before the overseer returned, bringing with him a kettle of steaming black coffee, without which no Cuban breakfast seems complete, and some fresh bread and half a dozen hard-boiled eggs. He had also a bag of crackers and a chunk of dried beef weighing several pounds.
“Put those in your bags,” he said to Alano, indicating the beef and crackers. “You may find it to your interest to keep out of sight for a day or two, to avoid the Spanish spies.”
The breakfast was soon dispatched, the provisions stored in our valises, and then the overseer took us up through the sugar-cane fields to where a brook emptied into a long pond, covered with green weeds, among which frogs as broad as one’s hand croaked dismally. We hurried around the pond, and our guide pointed out a narrow, winding path leading upward through a stony woods. Then he whispered a few words to Alano, shook us both by the hand, and disappeared.
“He says the countersign is ‘Sagua’ – after the river and city of that name,” explained my chum as we tramped along. “You must wave your hand so if you see a man in the distance,” and Alano twirled his arm over his head.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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