Edward Stratemeyer.

When Santiago Fell: or, The War Adventures of Two Chums





Then why did they lock you up?

That was more of my hot-headedness. I was sketching a picture of the town and this fort or prison, when a Spanish officer came up and tried to snatch the drawing from my hand. Instead of demanding an explanation I promptly knocked him down. Then a couple of guards ran for me, and I dusted. But it was no use. They sent a company of soldiers after me, and here I am.

And here we are both likely to remain for some time to come, I added bitterly.

Looks that way, thats a fact. By the way, you said something about your father, didnt you?

"Yes. My father is a prisoner of the Spaniards, and I felt almost certain he was in this fort."

Whats your fathers name?

Richard Carter. My name is Mark.

And my name is Gilbert Burnham. Ive heard of your father, come to think of it. He joined the Cuban army along with a plantation owner named Guerez and another American named Hawley.

You are right. Did you hear anything at all of him here in Cubineta or the vicinity?

No. But then, you see, that is not strange, as I talk very little Spanish. I certainly havent seen any Americans here but you and myself.

Gilbert Burnham asked me to tell him my story; and, feeling that I could lose nothing by so doing, I favored him with a recital of my efforts to get to my father. He was quite interested.

By Jove, young man, if I get clear from here Ill do what I can to help you, he said.

Then he told me his own history how he had grown tired of newspaper reporting in Boston and begged the head editor of the paper he represented to send him on an assignment to Cuba. He had been in the island four months, and had had a varied list of adventures, although none of a particularly thrilling or perilous nature.

But now it looks as though I was in for it, he concluded moodily. That officer I knocked down will make matters as hard as he can for me.

And Im afraid trying to break away from prison wont help matters, I said.

You are right there. But, heigho! we must make the best of it.

Yet making the best of it was small satisfaction to me. Tired out in body and mind, I sank down in a corner of the gloomy and damp cell and gave myself up to my bitter reflections.

CHAPTER XXVIII.
A BATTLE ON LAND AND WATER

It was about eight oclock in the morning that the door of the prison cell was opened and Gilbert Burnham and I were ordered to march out into a larger apartment.

The order was given by a Spanish officer who spoke fairly good English, and the officer was backed up by a guard of eight men, all well armed.

They are going to run no chances on us now, remarked the newspaper correspondent, as he arose from the floor, upon which he had been resting.

We had better be as civil as possible, I answered. If we anger them they have it in their power to make us mighty uncomfortable.

Ill keep as civil as my hot-headedness will permit, he grumbled.

We were led from one end of the fort to the other, where there was a narrow room, provided with a small, square table and half a dozen benches.

At the table sat several officers I had seen before. One was a particularly ugly-looking fellow, and Burnham nudged me and said this chap was the fellow he had knocked down.

And hes got it in for me, he added.

I was marched to the front of the table, and the officer who could speak English forced me to clasp my hands behind me. This done, one of the officers at the table asked a number of questions in Spanish.

No habla V. castellano? [Do you not speak Spanish?] he asked me.

No, se?or, I replied.

He glared at me suspiciously for a moment, then spoke to the other officer.

Who you are? demanded the latter.

I am Mark Carter, an American boy. I came to Cuba to join my father, who was stopping at a plantation near Guantanamo.

This was repeated in Spanish. At the mention of my name several of those present exchanged glances.

You son of Richard Carter? was the next question.

Yes, se?or. I understand he is a prisoner. Is it true?

My question remained unanswered, and it was plain that my captors intended to give me no information.

Why you break in the fort? Did this man pay you to do that? And the Spanish officer pointed to Gilbert Burnham.

I never saw or heard of this man before, se?or. I broke in because I thought my father was a prisoner there. I heard an American was there, and I thought it must be he.

Aha, I see! Well, your father is not here, as you have found out.

Where is he?

This question also remained unanswered. The officers began to consult among themselves, and then I was ordered back to the cell. I tried to protest, and pleaded for liberty, for a chance to find my parent, but it was all in vain. I was hustled off without ceremony and made as close a prisoner as before.

It was nearly noon before Gilbert Burnham joined me. In the meantime I had had nothing to eat or drink, and was beginning to wonder if my enemies meant to let me die of hunger and thirst.

The face of the newspaper correspondent was much downcast.

Im to catch it now, he said. To-morrow morning they are going to start to transport me to some regular fortress, and there I suppose Ill be permitted to languish until this bloody war is over. I wish I had made a dash for liberty when I was out in that courtroom.

They would have shot you dead. They were too well armed for anything of the sort.

Maybe. But this is tough. Is there a pitcher of water anywhere?

Not a drop.

At this he stormed more than ever, and finally shouted to the guard to bring some agua. But no one paid any attention to his cries, further than to order him to be silent, under penalty of being gagged, and then he subsided.

Slowly the morning wore away. The sun was shining brightly outside, and the cell, with only one narrow window, high up to the ceiling, was like a bake-oven. Once I climbed up to the window sill and looked out, only to have the muzzle of a gun thrust into my face, while a guard outside ordered me to drop. I dropped, and made no further attempt to get a whiff of fresh air.

I wondered if Jorge had escaped in safety and if Captain Guerez would do anything to save me. I felt certain he would be very angry over the way I had acted, and, looking back, I felt that I richly deserved to be censured.

It was high noon, and I and my companion were walking the floor, impatient for food and drink, when the door opened and a guard came in with a platter and an earthenware pitcher. He set both on the floor and withdrew without a word.

Well, heres something, anyway, remarked Gilbert Burnham. Bah! a stew of onions and garlic, not fit for a dog to eat. Let me have some of the water.

Neither of us could do more than taste the mess which had been served; and as for the water, it looked as if it had been scooped from the river, and was both warm and muddy. I had just finished taking a gingerly drink, when a shot from outside startled both of us. Several more shots followed, and then came a blast on a trumpet from somewhere in the distance.

Hullo! that means a fight! ejaculated Gilbert Burnham, his face brightening. I hope its a body of rebels to the rescue.

So do I, and I further hope they release us, I replied.

At the first shot an alarm had been sounded in and about the fort. We could hear the soldiers hurrying in several directions and a number of orders issued in Spanish. The firing now continued to increase, and presently we heard a crash of splintered woodwork.

Its getting interesting, eh, Carter? said Gilbert Burnham. If only they dont grow too enthusiastic and fire in here!

Scarcely had he spoken than we heard a little noise up at the window. A bullet had entered and buried itself in the woodwork opposite.

Better lay down, I urged, and set the example, which the newspaper man was not long in following. The firing and shouting kept on steadily, and we heard the occasional splashing of water, telling that the encounter was taking place on the river as well as on land.

The battle had been going on with more or less violence for half an hour, when there came a wild rush through the fort, and some shooting just outside of our cell. Then the door went down with a crash, and we found ourselves confronted by a score or more of dusky rebels, all of whom wore the flag of Cuba pinned to their hats and coats.

Americano! shouted one of them, and allowed us to come outside. Then, without waiting to question us, the crowd dashed to the entrance of another cell and succeeded in liberating several of their own countrymen. But now the soldiers of the fort rallied, and the intruders were driven back.

Feeling it was our one chance to escape, we went with the insurgents, and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Cubineta, in a spot backed up by a forest of palms and oaks. As we ran along Gilbert Burnham paused and pointed to the dead body of a Spanish soldier.

He wont need his weapons any more, poor fellow, he said, and stooping down secured two pistols, one of which he gave to me. There was also a belt of cartridges, and this was speedily divided between us.

I think the road to the camp I left is behind us, I remarked, as I took a view of the situation, in the meantime screening myself from our enemies by diving behind a clump of trees. I think Ill go in that direction. Do you want to come along?

My companion was willing to go anywhere, so long as we kept clear of the Spanish forces, and off we went on an easy run down the highway, keeping our pistols in our hands and our eyes to the right and the left, as well as ahead. Quarter of an hour of this sort of traveling brought us to the spot where I had left Alano and the others.

The temporary camp was deserted.

CHAPTER XXIX.
LOOKING FOR MY CUBAN CHUM

Gone, eh? remarked Gilbert Burnham, as he saw the disappointed look upon my face. Well, you could hardly expect anything different, with the fighting going on. Its more than likely they took part in the attack.

I presume so, I answered. But where can they be now? The firing has about ceased.

The rebels have withdrawn from the town, thats certain. Let us try to find the main body of the insurgents, and there well probably learn of the whereabouts of your friends.

I considered this good advice, and, leaving the vicinity of what had been the former camp, we struck out on a trail which took us in a semi-circle around Cubineta.

It was one of the hottest days I had yet experienced since landing on the island, and we had not progressed a half-mile before I was fairly panting for breath. As for Gilbert Burnham, he declared that he must halt or collapse.

Talk about balmy groves and summer skies, he growled. "I would rather be at the North Pole any time. Why, Ill bet a dollar you could bake bread on that bit of ground out there!" and he pointed to a stretch of dark soil, dried as hard as stone by the fierce rays of the sun.

The average Cuban never thinks of traveling in the sun between eleven and three oclock, and I dont blame him, I rejoined. Let us climb a tree and take it easy.

We mounted an oak, I making certain first that there was no snake on it, and took seats near the very top. By parting the branches we could get a fair view of Cubineta, and we saw that the attack was at an end. The rebels had retreated out of sight, but not before setting fire to the fort, which was burning fiercely, with nothing being done to save it from destruction.

To me it looks as if the rebels were bunched in the woods to the north, I said, after a long and careful survey. I wish we had a field-glass.

Im glad we took the pistols, Carter. They may come in very handy before we reach safe quarters again.

Im sure I dont want to shoot anyone, Burnham, I answered.

But you believe in defending yourself?

Yes. But what do you propose to do, now you have escaped?

Get back to the coast and take the first vessel I can find for the United States.

Then youve had sufficient of reporting down here?

Yes, indeed! If any other young man wants to come down here and take my place, he is welcome to do so. And Gilbert Burnham spoke with an emphasis that proved he meant every word he uttered.

As soon as we were cooled off and rested, we resumed our way, through a heavy undergrowth which, on account of the entangling vines, often looked as if it would utterly stay our progress. But both of us were persevering, and by four oclock had reached the section of country I had fancied the rebels were occupying.

My surmise was correct. Hardly had we proceeded a dozen yards along a side road than three Cubans leaped from behind some brush and commanded us to halt. We did so and explained that we were Americans, at the same time pointing to the burning fort and then crossing our wrists as though tied.

The rebels understood by this that we had been prisoners, and as we did not attempt to draw our pistols, they shouldered their long guns and conducted us to the officer in command.

Look for Captain Guerez? said the officer, whose name I have forgotten. He ride off dat way! and he pointed with his hand to the westward. He look for you, I tink.

This was comforting news, and I asked if Alanos father had taken part in the attack on Cubineta, to which I received the reply that both the captain and all under him had taken part and that one of the insurgents had been killed.

Was it his boy Alano?

No, man named Ciruso.

I waited to hear no more, but, thanking the officer for his trouble, hurried off down a trail leading to the westward, with Burnham at my side.

We were descending a short hill, covered with a stunted growth of brush, which tripped us up more than once, when my companion suddenly uttered a howl and tumbled over me in his effort to retreat.

What is it? I asked.

Spiders, or crabs, as big as your foot, he cried. Look! look! He pointed to several holes in the sand, beside a small brook. At the entrance to each hole sat an enormous land crab, gray in color, with round, staring eyes, well calculated to give anyone a good scare.

They are only crabs, and wont hurt you, unless you try to catch hold of them, I laughed. Alano told me of them, and Ive met them before.

More of the beauties of this delightful country, said Burnham sarcastically.

I advanced and stamped my foot, and instantly each crab scampered for his hole, in the clumsy fashion all crabs have. I fancied some of them hissed at us, but I might have been mistaken.

The brook crossed, we ascended the next hill and entered a plantain grove where the fruit hung in profusion on all sides. We found some that was almost ripe, and made a refreshing meal.

Hullo, Mark!

The welcome voice rang out from a grove of oaks on the other side of the plantains. I started, then rushed ahead, to find myself, a minute later, in Alanos arms, with Captain Guerez looking on, highly pleased.

We thought you were killed! ejaculated my Cuban chum, when our greeting was over. Where on earth have you been?

Havent you seen Jorge?

No, put in Alanos father.

Its a long story. Let me introduce another American, and I presented Gilbert Burnham.

Sitting down in as cool a spot as we could find, each related all he had to tell. My story is already known.

When you did not show up in camp I was much worried, said the captain, and I sent men out at once to hunt up both you and Jorge. During this search one of the men, Circuso, met some of the Spanish troops, and fought desperately to escape them, but was shot and killed.

Poor chap! I could not help but murmur. Did he leave a family?

No; he was a bachelor, without kith or kin.

I think he might have escaped, put in Alano, but he was so fierce against the soldiers from Spain. He said they had no right to come over here and fight us, and he was in for killing every one of them.

While the hunt for you and Jorge was going on, continued Alanos father, "the rebel leader, Captain Conovas, arrived and said he had instructions to attack Cubineta and make an attempt to release the prisoners at the fort. I decided to join him in the attack, at the same time thinking you might be a prisoner with your father.

We operated from the south and from across the river, and soon took possession of the fort, only to be repulsed with a heavy loss. Then our party withdrew to this quarter, and here we are.

And what of my father? I asked anxiously. He was not at the fort, nor have I been able to hear anything of him.

The Cuban forces captured several prisoners, and they are being held in a valley just below here. I was on the point of journeying hither to interview them on that point when Alano discovered you coming through the plantain grove, answered Captain Guerez.

Then let us go and question them now, I cried.

The captain was willing, and off we hurried on horseback, Burnham and myself being provided with steeds which had belonged to the Spanish prisoners.

Riding was much more comfortable than walking, and the road being fairly level the distance to the valley mentioned was soon covered. Here it was found that four of the Spaniards had died of their wounds, but there were six others, and these Captain Guerez proceeded to examine carefully, taking each aside for that purpose.

Your father is en route for Santiago, he said, when the examination was over. When he arrives there he is to be tried by court-martial for plotting against the life of a certain Spanish leader, General Gonza. If we wish to save him we must start after him without an instants delay.

CHAPTER XXX.
ONCE MORE AMONG THE HILLS

Fortunately the road leading to the northern shore of Santiago Bay was well known to Captain Guerez, who at one time had been a commissioner of highways in that district.

I do not know how we will fare on this trip, he remarked, as we rode off only four strong the captain, Alano, Burnham, and myself. At one spot we will have to pass the railroad, and I understand that is now under strict Spanish surveillance.

Well have to take matters as they come, I returned. We must save my father at any cost at least, I shall attempt to do so.

I am with you, Mark, said the captain earnestly. Next to my family, there is no one to whom I am more attached.

And I go in for helping any American, put in Burnham.

Alano simply smiled at me. But that smile was enough. I felt that my Cuban chum could be depended upon to stick to me through thick and thin.

Nightfall found us in the midst of a long range of hills, covered with a heavy growth of oaks, cedars, and mahogany. The vines which I mentioned before were here as thick as ever, and in the darkness Gilbert Burnham suddenly gave a yell and slid from the back of his horse to the ground.

Whats the matter? we cried in chorus.

Matter! he growled. Nothing, only a vine caught me under the chin, and I thought I was about to be hung.

We laughed at this, but my humor was soon short, as another vine slipped over my forehead, taking my Panama hat with it.

After this we were more careful, fearful that some of us might be seriously injured, and a little later we went into camp in the midst of a tiny clearing.

We were just finishing our supper when a most doleful howl arose on the air, coming from the rear and to the right of us. I leaped up and drew my pistol, expecting to be attacked by some wild animal.

Heres excitement! ejaculated the newspaper correspondent. What can it be a bear?

He had hardly finished when a perfect chorus of howls arose, coming closer. I gazed in alarm at Captain Guerez and Alano. My chum laughed outright.

Dont get scared, Mark; they are only wild dogs.

Wild dogs! put in Burnham. Well that is the worst yet! And they are not dangerous?

If you met a large number of them alone they might be, replied Captain Guerez. But they wont think of attacking such a party as ours. Theyll hang around until we leave and then search the camp for stray food.

In spite of this explanation, however, Burnham insisted that a guard be kept during the night, and we each took two hours at the task. Before the sun had struck us from over the treetops, we had breakfast and were off. Sure enough, the wild dogs rushed in the moment we had left the opening. They were a lean and ugly-looking set of curs.

Its a terrible thing when these wild dogs and a bloodhound on the trail meet, observed Captain Guerez. Of course one wild dog cannot do much, but the whole pack will fall on the bloodhound, and in the end the larger dog will be killed and literally torn to shreds.

A storm was approaching, but this did not discourage us, although Burnham growled as usual. In fact, we soon found that he was a chronic fault-finder, but then he seldom meant half that he said, and, taken all in all, he was good company.

If the storm grows heavy it will give us a good chance to cross the railroad tracks, remarked the captain. The sentries will relax their vigilance and more than likely seek shelter under the trees.





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