When Santiago Fell: or, The War Adventures of Two Chumsñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Do you know Se?or Guerez?” I questioned quickly.
“Me hear of him – dat’s all.”
“Do you know where the old convent on the river is?” I continued.
The Cuban nodded. “Yeas – been dare many times – bring 'taters, onions, to Father Anuncio.”
“Could you take me there – if General Garcia would let you go?”
“Yeas, se?or. But Spaniards all around – maybe shoot – bang! – dead,” and he pointed to his wounded brother. The brother demanded to know what we were talking about, and the two conversed for several minutes. Then Jorge turned again to me.
“Christoval say me take you; you verra good leetle man, se?or. We go now, you say go.”
“Will you be allowed to go?”
“Yeas – General Garcia no stop me – he know me all right,” and the negro grinned and showed his teeth.
I was tempted to start at once, but decided to wait until morning, in the hope of finding Alano. In spite of the fact that I knew my chum would be doubly cautious, now we were separated, I felt decidedly anxious about him. The Spanish troops were on every side, and the soldiers would not hesitate to shoot him down should they learn who he was.
The night passed in comparative quietness. Toward morning we heard distant firing to the northwest, and at five o’clock a messenger dashed into camp with the order to move on to the next mountain, a distance of two miles. Through Jorge I learned that the Spaniards had been outwitted and driven back to the place from whence they had come.
There now seemed nothing for me to do but to push on to the convent on the river, in the hope of there joining my father. We were, so I was told, but a few miles from Guantanamo, but the route to the convent would not take us near the town.
Jorge’s brother felt much better, so the negro went off with a light heart, especially after I had made it plain to him that my father would reward him for any trouble he took on my account. I told him about Alano, and before leaving camp we walked around among the sentries in the hope of gaining some information concerning him. But it was all useless.
“Maybe he went on to Father Anuncio’s,” said my negro guide, and this gave me a grain of comfort.
The soldiers and Jorge and myself left the camp at about the same time, but we did not take the same road, and soon my guide and I found ourselves on a lonely mountain trail overlooking a valley thick with brush and trees. The sun shone brightly, but the air was clear and there was a fine breeze blowing, and this made it much cooler than it would otherwise have been.
I missed the horse, and wondered if Alano still had the animal he had captured. It might be possible he had ridden straight on to Guantanamo, and was now bound from there up the river. If that was so, we might meet on the river road.
“Werry bad road now,” said Jorge, as we came to a halt on the mountain side. “Be careful how you step, Se?or Mark.”
He pointed ahead, to where a narrow trail led around a sharp turn.
Here the way was rocky and sloped dangerously toward the valley. He went on ahead, and I followed close at his heels.
“No horse come dis way,” observed Jorge, as he came to another turn. “Give me your hand – dis way. Now den, jump!”
We had reached a spot where a tiny mountain stream had washed away a portion of the trail. I took his hand, and we prepared to take the leap.
Just then the near-by crack of a rifle rang out on the morning air. Whether or not the shot was intended for us I cannot say, but the sound startled me greatly and I stumbled and fell. Jorge tried to grab me, but failed, and down I shot head first into the trees and bushes growing twenty feet below the trail!
A PRISONER OF WAR
By instinct more than reason, I put out both hands as I fell, and this movement saved me from a severe blow on the head. My hands crashed through the branches of a tree, bumped up against the trunk, and then I bounced off into the midst of a clump of brush and wild peppers.
“Hi, yah!” I heard Jorge cry out, but from my present position I could not see him. “Is you killed?” he went on.
“No, but I’m pretty well shook up and scratched up,” I answered.
“Take care – somebody shoot,” he went on.
I concluded I was pretty well out of sight, and I kept quiet and tried to get back the breath which had been completely knocked out of me. A few minutes later I heard a crashing through the brush, and my guide stood beside me.
“Lucky you no killed,” he observed. “Bad spot dat.”
He searched around and soon found a hollow containing some water, with which I bathed the scratches on my face and hands. In the meantime he gazed around anxiously in the direction from which he imagined the shot had come.
“Maybe no shoot at us,” he said, quarter of an hour later. “Me find out.”
With his ever-ready machete he cut down a young tree and trimmed the top branches off, leaving the stumps sticking out about six inches on every side. On the top of the tree he stuck his hat, and then, having no coat, asked me for mine, which he buttoned about the tree a short distance under the hat, placing a fluttering handkerchief between the two.
With this rude dummy, or scarecrow, he crawled up the side of the gully until almost on a level with the trail. Then he hoisted the figure up cautiously and moved it forward.
No shot was fired, and after waiting a bit Jorge grew bolder and climbed up to the trail himself. Here he spent a long time in viewing the surroundings, and finally called to me.
“Him no shoot at us. Maybe only hunter. Come up.”
Not without some misgivings, I followed directions. To gain the trail again was no easy matter, but he helped me by lowering the end of the tree and pulling me up. Once more we proceeded on our way, but with eyes and ears on guard in case anybody in the shape of an enemy should appear.
By noon Jorge calculated we had covered eight miles, which was considered a good distance through the mountains, and I was glad enough to sit down in a convenient hollow and rest. He had brought along a good stock of provisions, with which the rebel camp had happened to be liberally provided, and we made a meal of bread, crackers, and cold meat, washed down with black coffee, cooked over a fire of dead and dried grass.
“We past the worst of the road now,” remarked Jorge, as we again moved on. “Easy walkin' by sundown.”
He was right, for about four o’clock we struck an opening among the mountains where there was a broad and well-defined road leading past several plantations. The plantations were occupied by a number of Cubans and blacks, who eyed me curiously and called out queries to Jorge, who answered them cheerfully.
The plantations left behind, we crossed a brook which my guide said ran into the river, and took to a path running along a belt of oak and ebony trees, with here and there a clump of plantains. We had gone but a short distance when we crossed another trail, and Jorge called a halt and pointed to the soft ground.
The hoofprints of half a dozen horses were plainly visible, and as they were still fresh we concluded they had been made that very day, and perhaps that afternoon.
“Who do you think the horsemen are, Jorge?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Can’t say – maybe soon tell – me see,” and on he went, with his eyes bent on the ground.
For my part, I thought it best to keep a watch to the right and the left. We went on slowly until the evening shadows began to fall. Then Jorge was about to speak, when I motioned him to be silent.
“There is something moving in yonder brush,” I said, pointing with my hand. “I think I saw a horse.”
We left the road and proceeded in the direction, moving along slowly and silently. I had been right; there was not one horse, but half a dozen, tethered to several stunted trees.
No human beings were present, but from a distance we presently heard the murmur of voices, and a minute later two Spanish soldiers came into view. Jorge drew his pistol, but I restrained him.
The soldiers had evidently come up to see if the horses were still safe. Satisfied on this point, one passed to the other a roll of tobacco for a bite, and both began to converse in a low but earnest tone.
Jorge listened; and, as the talk ran on, his face grew dark and full of hatred. The backs of the two Spaniards were toward us, and my guide drew his machete and motioned as if to stab them both.
I shook my head, horrified at the very thought. This did not suit Jorge, and he drew me back where we might talk without being overheard.
“What is the use of attacking them?” I said. “Let us be on our way.”
“Them men fight General Garcia’s men – maybe hurt my brudder,” grunted Jorge wrathfully. “They say they have prisoner – kill him soon.”
“At camp down by river. They kill udder prisoner, now rob dis one an' kill too. Bad men – no good soldiers.”
I agreed with him on this point. Yet I was not satisfied that he should go back and attack the pair while they were off their guard.
“It would not be fair,” I said, “and, besides, the noise may bring more soldiers down upon us. I wish we could do something for their prisoner, whoever he is.”
We talked the matter over, and, seeing the soldiers depart, concluded to follow them. We proceeded as silently as two shadows, and during the walk Jorge overheard one soldier tell the other that the prisoner was to be shot at sunrise.
A turn in the path brought us to a broad and roughly flowing stream. Here a temporary camp had been pitched. Half a dozen dirty-looking Spaniards were lolling on the ground, smoking and playing cards. From their talk Jorge said they were waiting for some of their former comrades to join them, when all were to travel back to where the Spanish commander, Captain Campona, had been left.
“There ees the prisoner,” said Jorge, in a whisper, and pointed along the river shore to where rested a decaying tree, half in and half out of the water. The prisoner was strapped with rawhides to one of the tree branches, and it was – my chum Alano!
A RESCUE UNDER DIFFICULTIES
Mere words cannot express my astonishment and alarm when I saw who the prisoner tied to the tree was. As I gazed at Alano my heart leaped into my throat, and like lightning I remembered what Jorge had told me the Spaniards had said, that the prisoner was to be shot at sunrise.
Alano shot! I felt an icy chill creep over me. My own chum! No, no, it must not be! In my excitement I almost cried aloud. Noting how strangely I was affected, my guide placed his hand over my mouth and drew me back into a thicket.
“It is Alano Guerez!” I whispered, as soon as I was calm enough to speak – “Se?or Guerez' son!”
“Ah, yah!” ejaculated Jorge. “I see he is but a boy. Perros! [Dogs!]”
“We must save Alano,” I went on. “If he was shot, I – I would never forgive myself.”
Jorge shrugged his shoulders. “How?” he asked laconically. “Too many for us.”
“Perhaps we can do something when it grows darker.”
The guide drew down the corners of his mouth. Then, as he gazed at the river, his big black eyes brightened.
“Yeas, when it is darker we try. But must be careful.”
“Perhaps we can get to him by the way of the river.”
Jorge smiled grimly. Catching me by the arm he led me along the bank, overgrown with grass and rushes. Not far away was something that looked like a half-submerged log covered with mud. Taking a stone he threw it, and the “log” roused up and flopped angrily into the stream.
“Alligators!” I cried, with a shiver. “No, we won’t be able to get to him by way of the river. But we must do something.”
“We cross river, and I tell you what we do,” replied my guide.
Crossing was not an easy matter, as neither of us cared to attempt swimming or fording with alligators in the vicinity. But by passing along the bank we presently discovered a spot where half a dozen rocks afforded a footing, and over we went in the semi-darkness, for the sun was now setting.
As we hurried down the course of the stream again, Jorge cut several cedar and pine branches which appeared to be particularly dry. Then he handed me a number of matches, of which, fortunately, he had an entire box.
“We will put one pile of branches here,” he said, “and another further down, and one further yet. Den I go back to camp. You watch tree over there. When you see light wait few minutes, den light all dree fires.”
“But how will that help us?”
“Soldiers see fires, want to know who is dar – don’t watch Alano – me go in and help him. After you make fires you run back to where we cross on stones.”
Jorge’s plan was not particularly clear to me, yet I agreed to it, and off he sped in the gloom. Left to myself, I made my way cautiously to the water’s edge, there to await the signal he had mentioned.
It was a hot night and the air was filled with myriads of mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and other pests. From the woods behind me came the occasional cry of a night bird, otherwise all was silent. Frogs as big as one’s two hands sat on the rocks near by, on the watch for anything in the shape of a meal which might come their way.
But bad as the pests around me were, I gave them scant consideration. My whole mind was concentrated upon Alano and what Jorge proposed to do. Silently I prayed to Heaven that the guide might be successful in rescuing my chum.
About half an hour went by, – it seemed an extra long wait to me, – when suddenly I saw a flash of fire, in the very top of a tree growing behind the Spaniards' camp. The flash lasted but a second, then died out instantly.
Arising from my seat, I ran to the furthest pile of boughs and waited while I mentally counted off a hundred and eighty seconds, three minutes. Then I struck a match, ignited the heaped-up mass, and ran to the second pile.
In less than ten minutes the three fires, situated about three hundred feet apart, were burning fiercely, and then I ran at topmost speed for the spot where the river had been crossed. I had just reached the locality when I heard a shout ring out, followed by two musket shots.
A painful, anxious two minutes followed. Were Alano and Jorge safe? was the question I asked myself. I strained my eyes to pierce the gloom which hung like a pall over the water.
Footsteps on the rocks greeted my ears. Someone was coming, someone with a heavy burden on his back. Once or twice the approaching person slipped on the rocks and I heard a low cry of warning.
It was the voice of Alano, and my heart gave a joyful bound. In another second my Cuban chum appeared in view, carrying on his manly back the form of Jorge.
“Alano,” I ejaculated excitedly, “what is the matter with him?”
“He has been shot in the leg,” was the reply. “Come on, help me carry him and get to cover. I am afraid they are on my track!”
“Run into the woods!” groaned Jorge. “Den we take to trees – dat’s best.”
As Alano was almost exhausted, I insisted that the guide be transferred to my back, and this was speedily done, and on we went, away from the river and directly into the forest. Of course, with such a burden I could not go far, and scarcely a hundred yards were traversed when I came to a halt, at the foot of a giant mahogany tree.
Not without a good deal of difficulty Jorge was raised up into the branches of the tree, and we followed.
“Still now and listen!” cried Jorge, with a half-suppressed groan.
With strained ears we sat in the mahogany tree for fully half an hour without speaking. We heard the Spaniards cross the river and move cautiously in the direction of the three fires, and presently they returned to their own camp.
“Thank fortune, we have outwitted them!” murmured Alano, the first to break the silence. “You poor fellow!” he went on to Jorge; “you saved my life.”
He asked about the wound which had been received, and was surprised, and so was I, to learn that it was but slight, and what had caused the guide’s inability to run had been a large thorn which had cut through his shoe into his heel. By the light of a match the thorn was forced out with the end of Jorge’s machete, and the foot was bound up in a bit of rag torn from my coat sleeve, for I must admit that rough usage had reduced my clothing to a decidedly dilapidated condition.
As we could not sleep very well in the tree without hammocks, we descended to the ground and made our way to a bit of upland, where there was a small clearing. Here we felt safe from discovery and lay down to rest. But before retiring Alano thanked Jorge warmly for what he had done, and thanked me also.
“I thought you were a goner,” he said to me. “How did you escape when the horse balked and threw you into the stream?”
I told him, and then asked him to relate his own adventures, which he did. After leaving me, he said, his horse had taken the bit in his teeth and gone on for fully a mile. When the animal had come to a halt he had found himself on a side trail, with no idea where he was.
His first thought was to return to the stream where the mishap had occurred, his second to find General Garcia. But Providence had willed otherwise, for he had become completely tangled up in the woods and had wandered around until nightfall. In the morning he had mounted his horse and struck a mountain path, only to fall into the hands of the Spanish soldiers two hours later. These soldiers were a most villainous lot, and, after robbing him of all he possessed, had decided to take his life, that he might not complain of them to their superior officer.
“From what I heard them say,” he concluded, “I imagine they have a very strict and good man for their leader – a man who believes in carrying on war in the right kind of a way, and not in such a guerrilla fashion as these chaps adopt.”
“I don’t want any war, guerrilla fashion or otherwise,” I said warmly. “I’ve seen quite enough of it already.”
“And so have I,” said my Cuban chum.
Of course he was greatly interested to learn that his father was on the way to place his mother and sisters in the old convent on the river. He said that he had seen the place several years before.
“It is a tumbled-down institution, and Father Anuncio lives there – a very old and a very pious man who is both a priest and a doctor. I shouldn’t wonder if the old building has been fitted up as a sort of fort. You see, the Spaniards couldn’t get any cannon to it very well, to batter it down, and if they didn’t have any cannon the Cubans could hold it against them with ease.”
“Unless they undermined it,” I said.
“Our people would be too sharp for that,” laughed my Cuban chum. “They are in this fight to win.”
Jorge now advised us to quit talking, that our enemies might not detect us, and we lay down to rest as previously mentioned. I was utterly worn out, and it did not take me long to reach the land of dreams, and my companions quickly followed suit.
In the morning our guide’s heel was rather sore, yet with true pluck he announced his readiness to go on. A rather slim and hasty breakfast was had, and we set off on a course which Jorge announced must bring us to the river by noon.
A TREACHEROUS STREAM TO CROSS
I must mention that now that we had gained the high ground of the mountains the air was much cooler and clearer than it was in the valleys, and, consequently, traveling was less fatiguing.
Jorge went ahead, limping rather painfully at times, but never uttering a word of complaint. Next to him came Alano, while I brought up in the rear. It is needless to state that all of us had our eyes and ears wide open for a sight or sound of friend or enemy.
The road was a hard one for the most part, although here and there would be found a hollow in which the mud was from a few inches to several feet deep. Jorge always warned us of these spots, but on several occasions I stepped into the innocent-looking mud only to find that it was all I could do to get clear of the dark, glue-like paste.
It was but eleven o’clock when we came in sight of the river, which at this point was from thirty to forty feet wide. Looking up and down the water-course, we saw that it wound its way in and out among the hills in serpentine fashion. The bottom was mostly of rough stones, and the stream was barely three to four feet deep.
“How will we get over? – by swimming?” I questioned, as we came to a halt on a bank that was twenty feet above the current.
“Find good place by de rocks,” said Jorge. “Must be careful. Water werry swift.”
I could see that he was right by the way the water dashed against the rocks. Our guide led the way along the bank for a distance of several hundred feet and began to climb down by the aid of the brush and roots.
“That doesn’t look pleasant,” remarked Alano, as he hesitated. “Just look at that stream!”
Picking up a dry bit of wood he threw it into the water. In a few seconds it was hurried along out of our sight.
Nevertheless, we followed Jorge down to the water’s edge. Before us was a series of rocks, which, had the stream been a bit lower, would have afforded an excellent fording-place.
“De river higher dan I think,” said our guide. “You take off boots, hey?”
“That we will,” I answered, and soon had my boots slung around my neck. Alano followed my example, and with extreme caution we waded down and out to the first rock.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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