When Santiago Fell: or, The War Adventures of Two Chumsскачать книгу бесплатно
“They will certainly follow us, Alano. We must see if we can’t throw them off the trail.”
“I see no side road.”
“Well, come on until we strike something.” I answered.
Forward we went, making both horses do their best. Half a mile was covered and we forded a small mountain torrent. As the animals paused to stick their noses into the cooling liquid, we listened and heard the Spaniards coming after us on the remainder of the animals.
“Quick!” cried Alano. “They have lost no time in following.”
“There is a side road, leading into the mountains,” I returned. “We had better take that.”
We turned off as I had advised, and it was not long before another half-mile was covered. Having reached an elevation of several hundred feet, the road became broad and tolerably level, and we went on faster than ever.
“We ought to be getting close to the rebel camp,” said Alano, a while later. “By the looks of the country we should be near that pass the rebels are supposed to be occupying.”
“I doubt if it is long before we strike some of your people now,” I answered. “But supposing we slack up a bit? The horses can’t stand this strain in the heat.”
“Oh, they are used to the heat. But we can take it easier if you say so. There isn’t any use of our riding ourselves sore the first day in the saddle.”
“I suppose they can put us down for horse thieves if they want to.”
“Not much, Mark. Why, it’s more than likely these horses were confiscated from my countrymen in the first place.”
Thus conversing, we galloped along for half a mile further. Then, as Alano paused to readjust his horse’s saddle, I fancied I heard some suspicious sounds behind us, and drew my chum’s attention to them.
“Horses!” cried Alano. “They must have found our trail, and are coming after us! Come ahead, or we’ll be captured after all!”
Once more we urged our animals forward. But not for long. Coming to a turn in the road, Alano yelled to me to halt, and pointed ahead.
I gave a groan as I looked. A mountain stream, all of twelve feet wide and twice as deep, crossed the roadway. There had been a rude bridge of tree trunks, but this was torn away, and thus our further retreat seemed hopelessly cut off.
A DARING LEAP
For the moment neither Alano nor myself spoke as we gazed at the gap before us. Then I gave a groan which seemed to come from my very soul.
“We are lost, Alano! They have hemmed us in!”
My Cuban chum did not answer. Instead, he gazed to the right and the left.
But this was useless. On our right was a stony undergrowth impossible to traverse, on the left a thick jungle leading down into what looked like a bottomless morass.
The hoof-strokes of the pursuing horses sounded nearer, and I expected every moment to see the band of Spanish cavalrymen dash into sight with drawn arms, ready to shoot or cut us down. Alano must have been thinking the same, for I saw him grate his teeth hard.
“Mark!” he cried suddenly.
“Come, it’s our only hope.”
“To cross the stream.”
“But how? We can’t jump it.”
“We’ll make the horses do it. Be quick, or it will be too late. Watch me. I am certain these horses know how to do the trick.”
He rode back a distance of two hundred feet. Then on he came, like the wind, his animal well in hand. A cry of command, and the horse rose in the air and went over the chasm like a bird.
Could I do as well? There was no time left to speculate on the subject. Our pursuers were but just around the turn. I rode back as Alano had done and started to make the leap.
“Halte!” It was the cry of Captain Crabo, who was in the lead of the oncoming cavalrymen. I paid no attention. The edge of the mountain stream was reached, and I cried to my horse to move forward.
But he was stubborn, and made a balk for which I was hardly prepared. Down went his front feet against a bit of sharp rock, and the shock threw me over his head and directly into the middle of the mountain torrent!
I heard Alano give a cry of alarm, and then the waters closed over my head. Down and down I went, for at this point the water was at least fifteen feet deep. The sunlight was shut out as I passed under several overhanging rocks, only to bump up against the roots of a tree, where the water rushed rapidly in several directions.
Dazed to such an extent that I hardly knew what I was doing, I caught at the roots, held fast, and drew my head above the surface of the stream. I was out of sight of those who were after me, and prudently concluded to remain where I was.
My hiding-place was far from agreeable. The tree roots were slimy, and I imagined they must be the home of water snakes. Just over my head was a mass of soil over which crawled innumerable black beetles, some as big as a man’s thumb. Within reach of my hand, a large green-and-white frog blinked at me in amazement.
The shouts of the Spaniards reached me in a muffled way, as I heard them dismount and tramp up and down the torrent in search of me. I expected every moment to be discovered, but that moment did not come, and quarter of an hour passed.
By this time I could scarcely hold on longer to the tree roots. I listened as well as I could, and, hearing no sound, let go my hold. The rush of water speedily carried me fifteen feet further down the stream, and here I caught hold of some bushes and pulled myself up on the bank and out of sight.
I was now on the same side to which Alano had crossed, and I soon discovered that several of the Spaniards had also come over, although on foot. They were in the neighborhood of the highway, and I could make out enough of their talk to know they were deploring their luck in not being able to find me and stop my Cuban chum.
Feeling that it would be foolhardy to leave my place of concealment for some time to come, I endeavored to make myself as comfortable as possible under the shelter of a clump of wild orange trees. These were full of the tempting-looking fruit, which, however, I found on sampling was so bitter it fairly puckered my mouth. But in my bag were some biscuits, and, as these were thoroughly water-soaked, I ate several with a relish.
Twice did the Spaniards pass within fifty feet of my hiding-place, and each time I felt like giving myself up for lost. They remained in the vicinity until nearly sundown, and then withdrew in the direction from whence they had come, growling volubly among themselves over their ill-luck.
With cautious steps I left the clump of wild oranges, and hurried to the highway. As Alano was on horseback, I felt he must have kept to the road. How far he had gone there was no telling, although it must be several miles if not much further.
While at the military academy we boys had, like many other school fellows, adopted a peculiar class whistle. This I felt certain Alano would remember well, and, at the risk of being spotted, I emitted the whistle with all the strength of my lungs, not once, but half a dozen times.
I listened intently, but no answer came back; and, satisfied that my chum was not within hearing, I went on my way, up the road, keeping an eye open for any enemy who might be in ambush.
It was now growing dark, and I felt that in another half-hour night would be upon me. To be alone in that wilderness was not pleasant, but just then there appeared to be no help for it.
At the distance of half a mile I stopped again to whistle. While I was listening intently I fancied I heard a rustle among the trees to my right. I instantly dove out of sight behind some brush, but the noise did not continue, and I concluded it must have been made by some bird.
Presently the road took another turn and made a descent into a canyon from which the light of day had long since fled. I hesitated and looked forward. Certainly the prospect was not an inviting one. But to turn back I felt would be foolish, so I went on, although more cautiously than ever.
At the bottom of the hollow was a bit of muddy ground, over which a mass of cut brush had been thrown, probably to make the passage safer for man and beast. I had just stepped on this brush when something whizzed through the air and encircled my neck. Before I could save myself, I was jerked backward and felt a rawhide lasso cutting into my windpipe. I caught hold of the rawhide and tried to rise, but several forms arose out of the surrounding gloom and fell upon me, bearing me to the earth.
FRIENDS IN NEED
I speedily found that my enemies were five in number; and, as they were all tall and powerful men, to struggle against them would have been foolhardy.
“Don’t choke me – I give in,” I gasped, and then the pressure on my neck was relieved.
“Americano,” I heard one of the fellows mutter. “No talk, you!” he hissed into my ear, and flourished a knife before my eyes to emphasize his words.
I shut my mouth, to signify that I agreed, and then I was allowed to rise, and in a twinkle my hands were tied behind my back. Two of the men conducted me away from the spot, while a third followed us. The other two men remained on guard at the highway.
I wondered if Alano had been captured, but just then did not give the subject much thought. There was no telling whether the men were Spanish or Cuban sympathizers; but, no matter to what side they belonged, I noted with a shudder that they were a decidedly tough class of citizens.
Leaving the highway, we made our way along a rocky course leading to a small clearing at the top of a plateau. Back of the clearing was a rude hut, set in a grove of sapodilla trees. Around the hut half a dozen dirty soldiers were lying, who leaped up at our approach. An earnest conversation in a Spanish patois followed, and then one of the men spoke to me in Spanish.
“No speak Spanish, eh?” he growled, in return to my assertion to that effect. “Who you be? Where you go to?”
“I am on my way to Guantanamo, to join my father,” I said, and made as much of an explanation as I deemed necessary.
The soldiers glared suspiciously at me when my words were translated to them. Then, without ceremony, they began to search me, taking all I had of value from me.
“You are not going to rob me, I trust,” I said, and the man who could speak English laughed coarsely.
“We take all we get,” he replied. “All right in war, amigo.”
I was not his amigo, or friend, but I was forced to submit; and, even as it was, I was thankful my life had been spared, for they were a cruel-looking band, with less of the soldier than the bandit about them.
When I saw a chance, I started in to question them concerning Alano, but the nearest fellow, with a flat blow from his dirty hand, stopped me.
“No talk!” growled he who could speak English.
After this I said no more, but from where I had been placed, at the rear of the hot and ill-ventilated hut, I watched the men narrowly and tried to understand what they were talking about. I heard General Garcia mentioned and also the word “machete,” the name of the long, deadly knives most of the Cuban soldiers carried.
At last the men around the hut began to grow sleepy, and one after another sought a suitable spot and threw himself down to rest. The youngest of the party, a fellow not over twenty, was left on guard.
With his pistol in his lap, this guard sat on a flat rock, rolling cigarette after cigarette and smoking them. From my position in the hut I could just catch his outline, and I watched him eagerly. I pretended to go to sleep, but I was very wide awake.
It must have been well past midnight, and I was giving up in despair, when the last of the cigarettes went out and the guard’s head fell forward on his breast. In the meantime I had been silently working at the rawhide which bound my hands. In my efforts my wrists were cut not a little, but at last my hands were free.
Feeling that the guard and the others were all asleep, I arose as silently as a shadow. Several of my captors lay between me and the entrance of the hut, and it was with extreme caution that I stepped over them. The last man sighed heavily and turned over just as I went by, and with my heart in my throat I leaped out into the open.
But he did not awaken, nor did the guard notice my appearance. As I passed the latter I saw something shining on the ground. It was the pistol, which had slipped from the guard’s lap. I hesitated only an instant, then picked it up and glided onward to the end of the plateau.
“Halte!” The command, coming so suddenly, was enough to startle anybody, and I leaped back several feet. A man had appeared before me, one of the fellows left to guard the highway below. Following the command came an alarm in Spanish.
On the instant the camp was in commotion. The guard was the first to awaken, and his anger when he found his pistol gone was very great. While he was searching for his weapon, the others poured from the hut and ran toward me, leveling their weapons as they came.
I was caught between two fires, for the man before me also had his pistol raised, and I did not know what to do. Then, to avoid being struck, and not wishing to shed blood, I leaped toward some near-by bushes.
Bang! crack! A musket and a pistol went off almost simultaneously, and I heard a clipping sound through the trees. Just as my former captors turned to follow me into the thicket, there came another shot from down in the hollow of the highway.
“Cuba libre!” I heard echo upon several sides, and a rattle of musketry followed. From a dozen spots in the hollow I saw the long flashes of fire, and I at once knew that a portion of the Cuban army was at hand and had surprised the Spanish sympathizers who were attempting to hold the highway.
The moment the battle started below the plateau those who had held me captive gave up pursuing me, and rushed back to the hut to obtain their entire belongings – feeling, doubtless, that the region would soon get too hot to hold them. I watched them turn away with keen satisfaction, and remained where I was, the guard’s pistol still in my possession.
For fully half an hour the firing kept up, and then came a rush along the highway and again I heard the cry of “Cuba libre!” raised, showing that the rebels were getting the best of the encounter and had driven the Spanish soldiers from their hiding-places. On went one body of men after the other down the road, until the sounds of their voices and firearms were almost lost in the distance.
Certain that the plateau was now absolutely deserted, I ran back to the hut and found my valise, which had been thrown in a corner. My pistol was gone, but as I had another, fully loaded and just as good, I did not mind this. With my satchel over my shoulder, I crawled cautiously down to the highway and hurried in the direction I had before been pursuing.
I had just reached the opposite side of the hollow, where all was pitch dark, on account of the shade, when a feeble moan came to my ears. Moving silently in the direction, I found a negro lying on his back, a fearful wound in his shoulder.
The man could speak nothing but a Cuban patois, yet I understood that he was in pain and desired his shoulder bound up. Wetting my handkerchief in the water at the hollow, I washed the wound as best I could and tied it up with strips of muslin torn from the sleeve of his ragged shirt and my own shirt sleeve. For this, I could note by his manner, that he was extremely grateful.
“Americano?” he said.
“Yes,” I replied.
Then he asked me several other questions, from which I made out that he wanted to know which side I was on. Feeling certain I was safe, I said “Cuba,” and he smiled faintly.
“I want to find General Garcia,” I continued, emphasizing the name. Then I tapped my breast, said General Garcia again, and pointed off with my finger.
He nodded and attempted to sit up. With his bony finger he pointed up the highway, and circled his finger to the northwest to signify I was to turn off in that direction. Then he caught me by the arm and whispered “Maysi” into my ear – the password.
Feeling I could do no more for him at present, I went on, and at the distance of an eighth of a mile came to a side road, which was the one he had described to me. It was narrow and rocky, and I had not proceeded over two hundred feet in the direction when a soldier leaped out from behind a banana tree and presented his gun.
“Halte!” he cried.
“Maysi!” I called promptly.
The gun was lowered, and, seeing I was but a boy, the guard smiled and murmured “Americano?” to which I nodded.
“General Garcia,” I said, and tapped my breast to signify I wished to see the great Cuban leader.
Without a word the guard led me on a distance of a hundred feet and called another soldier. A short talk ensued, and the second man motioned me to follow him through a trail in the brush. We went on for ten minutes, then came to a clearing hemmed in by a cliff and several high rocks.
Here were over a hundred soldiers on foot and twice as many on horseback. In the midst of the latter was the Cuban general I had asked to see – the gallant soldier who had fought so hard in the cause of Cuban liberty.
GENERAL CALIXTO GARCIA
My first view of General Calixto Garcia was a disappointing one. For some reason, probably from the reports I had heard concerning his bravery, I had expected to see a man of great proportions and commanding aspect. Instead, I saw an elderly gentleman of fair figure, with mild eyes and almost white mustache and beard, the latter trimmed close. But the eyes, though mild, were searching, and as he turned them upon me I felt he was reading me through and through.
He was evidently surprised to see a boy, and an American at that. He spoke but little English, but an interpreter was close at hand, who immediately demanded to know who I was, where I had come from, and what I wanted.
“My name is Mark Carter, and I have journeyed all the way from Santiago de Cuba,” I replied. “I heard that my father and his friend, Se?or Guerez, had joined General Garcia’s forces.”
“You are Se?or Carter’s son!” exclaimed the Cuban officer, and turned quickly to General Garcia. The two conversed for several minutes, and then the under-officer turned again to me.
“General Garcia bids you welcome,” he said, and at the same time the great Cuban leader smiled and extended his hand, which I found as hard and horny as that of any tiller of the soil. “He knows your father and Se?or Guerez well.”
“And where are they now?” I asked quickly.
“They were with the army two days ago, but both went off to escort the ladies of Se?or Guerez' family to a place of safety. The se?or was going to take his wife and daughters to an old convent up a river some miles from here.”
This was rather disheartening news, yet I had to be content. I asked if my father was well.
“Very well, although hardly able to walk, on account of a leg he broke some time ago.”
“And have you seen Alano Guerez? He is about my own age, and was with me up to this morning,” I went on, and briefly related my adventures on the road, to which the officer listened with much interest.
“We have seen nothing of him,” was the reply I received. “But he may be somewhere around here.”
The officer wished to know about the Spanish detachment we had met, and I told him all I knew, which was not much, as I had not understood the Spanish spoken and Alano had not interpreted it for me. But even the little I had to say seemed to be highly important, and the officer immediately reported the condition of affairs to General Garcia.
By this time some of the soldiers who had taken part in the fight at the foot of the plateau came back, bringing with them several wounded men, including the negro whose wound I had bound up. The disabled ones were placed in a temporary hospital, which already sheltered a dozen others, and General Garcia rode off with his horsemen, leaving the foot soldiers to spread out along the southeastern slope of the mountain.
Left to myself, I hardly knew what to do. A black, who could speak a few words of “Englis',” told me I could go where I wanted, but must look out for a shot from the enemy; and I wandered over to the hospital and to the side of the fellow I had formerly assisted.
The hospital, so called, consisted of nothing more than a square of canvas stretched over the tops of a number of stunted trees. From one tree to another hammocks, made of native grass, were slung, and in these, and on piles of brush on the ground, rested the wounded ones. Only one regular doctor was in attendance, and as his surgical skill and instruments were both limited, the sufferings of the poor fellows were indeed great.
“Him brudder me – you help him,” said the black who spoke “Englis',” as he pointed to the fellow whose wound I had dressed. “Jorge Nullus no forget you – verra good you.”
“Is your name Jorge Nullus?”
“Yeas, se?or – him brudder Christoval.”
“Where did you learn English?”
“Me in Florida once – dree year ago – stay seex months – no like him there – too hard work,” and Jorge Nullus shrugged his shoulders. “You verra nice leetle man, se?or,” and he smiled broadly at his open compliment.скачать книгу бесплатно
страницы: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15