When Santiago Fell: or, The War Adventures of Two Chumsñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Then let us be off!” cried Captain Guerez.
All of us were already arranging our toilets. In a few seconds we were ready to leave, and Murillo was paid for the trouble he had taken in our behalf.
“Have they horses?” asked Captain Guerez; and Murillo nodded.
“Then come, all of you!” cried Alano’s father. He started out of the door, and we came after him. Hardly, however, had he taken a dozen steps than he pushed each of us behind a clump of bushes.
“Soldiers!” he muttered. “They are coming from the opposite direction!”
“We are caught in a trap!” exclaimed Alano. “We cannot go back, and we cannot go forward.”
“Here is a how d’ye do!” put in Burnham. “I’m sure I don’t want to take to those beastly swamps.”
Murillo had followed us to the doorway. His face took on a troubled look, for he wanted us to get away in safety.
“More soldiers coming the other way!” he cried. “What will you do? Ah, I have it! Come into the house at once?”
“But what will you do?” queried Captain Guerez impatiently.
“I’ll show you. Come, and you shall be safe.”
The old man spoke so confidently that we followed him inside at once. Pushing aside a rude table which stood over a rush matting, he caught hold of a portion of the flooring. A strong pull, and up came a trapdoor, revealing a hole of inky darkness beneath.
“Into that, all of you!” he cried; and down we went, to find ourselves in a rude cellar about ten feet square and six feet deep. As soon as the last of us was down, Murillo replaced the trapdoor, matting, and table, and we heard him throw off some of his clothing and leap into one of the hammocks.
We had been left in total darkness, and now stood perfectly still and listened intently. Not more than three minutes passed, when we heard the tramping of horses' hoofs on the rocky road. The house reached, the animals came to a halt, and several soldiers dismounted. A rough voice yelled out in Spanish:
“Hullo, in there! Who lives here?”
“I do,” replied Murillo, with a start and a yawn, as though he had just awakened from a long sleep.
“Have you seen anything of four strangers around here?”
There was a pause, and the leader of the soldiers came tramping inside.
“You are sure you are telling me the truth?”
“It is strange.”
The newcomer was about to go on, when a shout from outside attracted his attention. The soldiers from the opposite direction had come up. A short conference was held, of which, however, we heard nothing distinctly. Then some of the soldiers came inside, and we heard their heavy boots moving directly over our heads.
“You say you saw nobody?” was again asked of Murillo.
“No, capitan, not a soul. But then I have been asleep since evening. I am an old man, and I need a great deal of rest.”
“You are lazy, no doubt,” came with a rough laugh.
“Andros, what do you think?”
“What should I think? There seems to be no one around. We might make a search.”
“Yes, we’ll do that. It can do no harm. Tell the other men to scour the woods and brush.”
The order was given; and a moment later those who had first come in began to search the house.
CAPTAIN GUEREZ MAKES A DISCOVERY
We listened in much consternation while the soldiers overhead moved from one portion of the dwelling to another. Would they discover us?
“Be prepared for anything!” whispered Captain Guerez, and they were the only words spoken.
There was no second story to the house, so the search through the rooms took but a few minutes, and the soldiers came to a halt around the table.
“I suppose you are a rebel,” said the officer abruptly to Murillo.
“I am an old man, capitan; I wish to end my days in peace.”
“I know your kind.” The officer paused. “Well, comrades, we may as well be on our way.”
These words caused me to utter a deep sigh of relief. They had not discovered us, and now they were going away. But the next words sent a chill down my backbone.
“Can there be a cellar under the house?” questioned one of the others.
“There is no cellar,” said Murillo simply. “There is a little hole, half full of water. You can look down if you wish.”
What could it mean? We held our breath as the old man led the way to the apartment used as a kitchen. We heard him raise another trapdoor, some distance behind us.
“Humph! A man would be a fool to get in there!” we heard the officer remark, and then the trap was dropped again into place. “We will go.”
The soldiers passed through the kitchen and toward the front door. One of them must have taken a last look around, for suddenly he uttered a cry.
“Ha! what is this? A collar and a tie! Do you wear these?”
“Confound it, my collar and tie,” murmured Burnham. “I knew I forgot something.”
“They belong to my nephew,” said Murillo calmly.
“Your nephew? Where is he?”
“He is now at Baiquiri at work on one of the shipping wharves.”
“He must dress well?” remarked the officer dryly.
“Alfredo earns much money. He was educated at the college.”
The officer tapped the floor with his heavy boot. “You tell a good story,” he said. “Beware lest we find you have been lying. Come!” The last word to his companions.
The soldiers went outside, and we heard a call to the men sent out into the woods and brush. A few minutes later there followed the sounds of horses' hoofs receding in the distance.
“Now we can get out of this hole, thank goodness!” burst out Burnham.
“Wait – Murillo will inform us when the coast is clear,” said Captain Guerez.
Fully five minutes passed before the old man raised the trap. His face wore a satisfied smile.
“We fooled them nicely, did we not, capitan?” he said.
“You did well, Murillo,” said Alano’s father. “Here is a gold piece for your trouble.”
But the old man drew back, and would not accept the coin. “I did it not alone for you,” he said. “Cuba libre!”
We all thanked him heartily, and then Alano’s father asked him in what directions the two bodies of soldiers had gone. That from the railroad had taken the highway to Canistero.
“We will have to take another road, not quite so short,” said Captain Guerez. “It is unfortunate, Mark, but it cannot be helped. Forward!”
Much refreshed by our night’s rest, we struck out rapidly, and by noon calculated that we had covered eight miles, a goodly distance in that hilly district. A little before noon we came out on a clearing overlooking a long stretch of valley and swamp lands.
“Just below here is the village of San Luardo,” said the captain. “It is there we ought to find out something concerning your father. It may be possible he is quartered somewhere in the village, that is, if the journey to Santiago has been delayed.”
“Is the village under guard?” I questioned anxiously, my heart giving a bound when I thought how close to my parent I might be.
“Yes, every village in this district is under Spanish rule.”
“Then how can we get in?”
“I have been trying to form a plan,” was the slow answer. “Let us get a little closer, and I will see what can be done.”
We descended from the clearing, and just before noon reached the outskirts of the village. The captain had been right; two companies of freshly imported soldiers were in control of San Luardo.
As we surveyed the situation from a bit of woodland, we heard the heavy creaking of an ox-cart on the stony road. Looking down we saw the turnout coming slowly along, loaded with hay and straw, probably for the horses of the Spanish soldiers.
“I will go into town in that!” cried Captain Guerez. “Stop that fellow!” and he indicated the driver.
A rush was made, and the ox-cart came to a sudden halt. When the dirty fellow who drove it saw us he turned pale, but a few words from Alano’s father soon reassured him, and he readily consented to allow the captain to hide himself under the hay and straw and thus pass the guards. The driver was working for the Spaniards, but his heart was with the insurgents.
Stripping himself of his coat and everything else which gave him a military appearance, Captain Guerez rubbed a little dirt on his face, neck, and hands, leaped into the ox-cart, and dove beneath the straw. If discovered, he intended to explain that he was out of work and was willing to do anything the Spaniards desired.
Once more the cart creaked on its way toward the village, and we were left alone. Withdrawing to a safe and cool shelter, we sat down to rest and to await the captain’s return.
“I wish I could have gone along,” I said to my chum.
“Father can do the work better alone,” replied Alano, who had great faith in his parent’s ability.
“Perhaps so. He wouldn’t want me anyway – after the mess I made of it when I discovered Mr. Burnham.”
“Mess!” cried the newspaper man. “Why, it was through you that I escaped, my boy. You’re all right. But I fancy Captain Guerez knows just exactly what he wishes to do, and probably one person can do it better than two.”
“The fact that you are an American would make everyone regard you with suspicion,” added Alano.
Two hours went by, which to me seemed a day, and then came a peculiar whistle from the road. At once Alano leaped to his feet.
“My father is back!” he announced, and we ran forth to meet the captain. At first we hardly knew him, for he had taken some grease and some burnt cork and transformed himself into a negro. He was out of breath, and one of his hands was much scratched.
“I had a narrow escape,” he panted. “Come with me! There is not a moment to lose!”
Although almost out of breath, he ran off, and we went with him through the woods and up the side of a small hill, which course took us around San Luardo. Not until the town was left well behind did the captain stop and throw himself on a patch of deep grass. He was too exhausted to speak, yet he saw my anxiety and smiled.
“Don’t worry, Mark; so far your father is safe,” were his brief words.
“That’s good!” I cried, with a weight lifted from my heart, for during the wait I had conjured up any number of dreadful thoughts concerning my parent.
“Yes, so far he is safe. They have him a prisoner at San Luardo, but they intend to remove him to Santiago before nightfall.”
“Before nightfall!” My heart seemed to stop beating. “How will they do it? Can’t we stop them and rescue him?”
“We must rescue him,” was the reply. “That is why I hurried back. If they get him to Santiago he will be – that is, Mark, I am afraid you will never see him alive again.”
I understood Captain Guerez only too well. My father was doomed to die the death of a spy, and he would be shot very shortly after his removal to the seaport town.
THE DOGS OF CUBAN WARFARE
In a few minutes Alano’s father recovered sufficiently to tell his story. He had entered the village in safety, and soon put himself into communication with several citizens who were Cuban sympathizers. From one of these he had learned that my father was being kept a prisoner in what had formerly been a cattle-house, but which was now doing duty as a Spanish prison. No one was allowed to talk to the prisoners, but by bribing the man who owned the building the captain had succeeded in getting word to my father that he was around and that I was with him, and that both of us intended to do all in our power to effect his release.
This word having been passed to my parent, Captain Guerez has set about perfecting a plan whereby my father might be supplied with tools for freeing himself, and also a pistol. But in this work he had been discovered, and a struggle and flight followed. Luckily, the Spaniards had not discovered whom he was working for in particular, there being a dozen prisoners in the same building, so it was not likely my parent would suffer in consequence.
“We must watch the road to Santiago,” said Captain Guerez, when he had finished, washed himself, and had a refreshing drink of water. “It is our one chance.”
“If only we had horses!” put in Alano.
“We must find animals, my son.”
The captain spoke decidedly. “Necessity knows no law,” and it was easy to see he intended to obtain the horses – if not in one way, then in another. Of course I did not blame him. To me it seemed a matter of life and death.
As rapidly as we could, we made our way around the hills to the Santiago road. We had just reached it when Burnham, who was slightly in advance, halted us and announced a camp off to our left. Captain Guerez surveyed the situation and smiled.
“Cattle dealers,” he said. “They have brought in horses to sell to the Spanish authorities. I’ll make a deal with them.”
He went off, with Alano at his side. Instead of following, Burnham and I concealed ourselves in the bushes, to watch who might pass on the highway to the seaport town. There was no telling when those who had my father in custody would be along.
It was a long while before the captain and my chum came back, but when they did each rode a strong horse and led another behind. Burnham and I were soon in the saddle; and then all of us felt safer, for being in the saddle would place us in a position equally as good as that occupied by any of our enemies.
“Look well to your pistols,” said the captain. “It may be that a sharp and wild dash will be the only way in which Mark’s father can be rescued.”
“I hope the guard having him in charge is not too large,” I answered, as I did as he suggested.
“We’ll all hope that, Mark.”
With pistols ready for use, we ranged up behind a heavy clump of trees and awaited the coming of the guard from San Luardo. I was on pins and needles, as the saying goes, and started up at the slightest sound. For this Burnham poked fun at me; yet he himself was on the alert, as I could see by the way he compressed his lips and worked at the ends of his mustache.
“Hark!” said Captain Guerez presently, and we all sat like statues and listened. From down the road came the tramp of a dozen or more horses and mules. The guard with the prisoners was advancing. The decisive moment was at hand. I swallowed a strange lump in my throat and grasped my pistol tighter. For my father’s sake I would fight to the bitter end.
From out of a cloud of dust rode a vidette, heavily armed and with his eyes and ears on the alert for anything which might sound or look suspicious. As he came nearer we drew back behind the trees, and Captain Guerez motioned us to absolute silence.
The vidette passed, and then the main body of the guard came on. There were three soldiers in front and three behind, and between rode two prisoners on mules, both whites and evidently Americans. I strained my eyes to their utmost, and soon distinguished my father’s familiar face and form.
My father! The sight thrilled me to the soul, and I had all I could do to restrain myself from riding forth to meet him. An exclamation came to my lips, but the hand of my chum checked it, while a look from him told plainer than words that he realized how I felt.
“Attention!” whispered Captain Guerez. “Are you all prepared to fight? I think these guards are raw recruits, and if so a few volleys will cause them to take to their heels.”
“I am ready,” I said grimly.
“And I,” added Alano.
“You can count on me,” put in Burnham.
“Very well. I will take the first fellow to the left. Alano, you take the second; Mark, you the third; and you, Burnham, take any one in the rear you choose.”
“I’ll take the middle guard,” muttered the newspaper man.
“I know you can all fire well, so aim for the sword arm,” went on the captain. “There is no necessity for killing the fellows, unless it comes to close quarters. Ready? Take aim – fire!”
The words “Take aim!” had been spoken aloud, causing several of the guards to draw rein in alarm. At the command to fire, our pistols blazed away simultaneously, and our several aims were so good that four of the guards were hit, three in the arms and one in the side.
“Forward, and fire again!” shouted the gallant captain, and out of the clearing we dashed, discharging our weapons a second time.
The detachment of Spanish soldiers was taken completely by surprise. The lieutenant in command had been wounded, and when he saw us coming from the woods he imagined we must outnumber his men, for he gave a hasty order to retreat, and led the way. For a third time we fired, and scarcely had the echo died among the hills than every one of the soldiers was going back the way he had come, as rapidly as his horse would carry him, the vidette, who had turned also, going with them.
“Mark!” cried my father, when he saw me. “Is it possible!”
“Father!” was all I could say. With my knife I cut the rawhide thongs which bound him to the mule’s back, and in a second more we were in each other’s arms. The other prisoner was also released, and both were speedily provided with weapons.
“We must not lose time here – follow me!” shouted Captain Guerez. “You can talk all you please later on,” he added to me and my happy parent.
All of us followed him back into the woods, and along a trail which he declared must bring us to another seaport town, eight miles to the east of Santiago Bay. We put spurs to our steeds, and long before nightfall half a dozen miles of the uneven way had been covered.
As fast as we were able to do so, my father and I rode side by side, and never had I felt happier than then, while he was equally pleased. As we journeyed along I told my story from beginning to end, and then he told his own – how he had been captured and taken for a spy, how cruelly he had been treated, and all. Just before he had received Captain Guerez' message he had given up all hope, and even while on the road he had been fearful that the plan to rescue him would miscarry.
“What do you think we had best do?” I asked, after our stories were told.
“I wish to get out of the country as soon as possible, Mark. I cannot stand the climate. Half a dozen times I have felt as if I was going to be taken down with the fever. That injured leg took away a good bit of my strength.”
“Can we take passage from the town to which we are bound?”
“We can try,” answered my father.
Another half-mile was covered, and we were beginning to consider that we had made good our retreat from the spot where the encounter with the Spanish soldiers had occurred, when suddenly a deep baying broke out at our rear, causing Alano and the captain to give a simultaneous cry of alarm.
“What is it?” asked Burnham.
“What is it!” was the answer from the captain. “Can’t you hear? The heartless wretches have set several bloodhounds on our trail!”
“Bloodhounds!” we echoed.
“Yes, bloodhounds!” ejaculated Alano. “Hark! there must be three, if not four, of the beasts!”
“Will they attack us – on horseback?”
“Certainly – they’ll fly right at a fellow’s throat.”
“But how can they track us – we have not been on foot.”
“They are tracking the mules Se?or Carter and Se?or Raymond ride,” put in Captain Guerez. “Hark! they are coming nearer! In a few minutes more they will be upon us! Out with your pistols and fight the beasts as best you can. It is our only hope!”
THE LAST OF THE BLOODHOUNDS
The announcement that the bloodhounds would soon be upon us filled me with dread. I had had one experience with this class of beasts, and I did not wish to have another. I looked around at our party and saw that the others, even to the captain, were as agitated as myself. A Cuban dreads an unknown bloodhound worse than a native African does a lion or an American pioneer does a savage grizzly bear.
“Have your pistols ready!” went on the captain, when an idea came into my head like a flash, and I turned to him.
“If they are following the mules, why not turn the mules into a side trail?” I said. “My father can ride with me, and Mr. Raymond can double with somebody else.”
“A good idea!” cried Captain Guerez. “Quick, let us try it.”
In a twinkle my father had leaped up behind me, and Alano motioned Mr. Raymond to join him. A small side trail was close at hand, and along this we sent the mules at top speed, cutting them deeply with our whips to urge them along.
“Now to put distance between them and ourselves!” cried my father, and once more we went on. As we advanced we listened to the bloodhounds. In a few minutes more we heard them turn off in the direction the mules had taken, and their bayings gradually died away in the distance. Then we slackened our speed a bit, and all breathed a long sigh of relief.
“That was a brilliant idea, my boy!” said Mr. Raymond warmly. “Mr. Carter, you have a son to be proud of.”
“I am proud of him,” said my father, and he gave my arm a tight squeeze. From that moment on, Mr. Raymond, who was a business man from the West, became my warm friend.
It must not be supposed that we pursued our journey recklessly. Far from it. The captain rode in advance continually, and on several occasions called a halt while he went forward to investigate. But nothing offered itself to block our progress, and late that night, saddle-weary and hungry, we came in sight of the seaport town for which we were bound.
“I believe the bark Rosemary is in port here,” said Mr. Raymond. “And if that is so, we ought to be able to get on board, for I know the captain well.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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