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Title: "Forward, March" - A Tale of the Spanish-American War
Author: Munroe, Kirk, 1850-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Forward, March" - A Tale of the Spanish-American War" ***

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"FORWARD, MARCH"

A Tale of the Spanish-American War

by

KIRK MUNROE

Author of "The Painted Desert," "Rick Dale," The "Mate Series," etc.

Illustrated

New York and London
Harper & Brothers Publishers

1899



[Frontispiece: The Rough Riders fought without seeing
the enemy.]



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

      I.  A BOWL OF ROSES
     II.  WAR IS DECLARED
    III.  ROLLO THE TERROR
     IV.  THE ROUGH RIDERS AT SAN ANTONIO
      V.  RIDGE BECOMES A TROOPER
     VI.  OFF FOR THE WAR
    VII.  THE STORY OF HOBSON AND THE _MERRIMAC_
   VIII.  CHARGED WITH A SECRET MISSION
     IX.  HERMAN DODLEY INTERPOSES DIFFICULTIES
      X.  ON THE CUBAN BLOCKADE
     XI.  A LIVELY EXPERIENCE OF CUBAN HOSPITALITY
    XII.  DENOUNCED BY A FRIEND
   XIII.  TO BE SHOT AT SUNRISE
    XIV.  REFUGEES IN THE MOUNTAINS
     XV.  DIONYSIO CAPTURES A SPANIARD
    XVI.  ASLEEP WHILE ON GUARD
   XVII.  IN THE HANDS OF SPANISH GUERILLAS
  XVIII.  DEATH OF SEÑORITA
    XIX.  CALIXTO GARCIA THE CUBAN
     XX.  THE TWO ADMIRALS
    XXI.  A SPANIARD'S LOYALTY
   XXII.  ROLLO IN CUBA
  XXIII.  THE "TERRORS" IN BATTLE
   XXIV.  FACING SAN JUAN HEIGHTS
    XXV.  RIDGE WINS HIS SWORD
   XXVI.  MUTINY ON A TRANSPORT
  XXVII.  DESTRUCTION OF THE SPANISH SHIPS
 XXVIII.  LAST SHOT OF THE CAMPAIGN
   XXIX.  TWO INVALID HEROES
    XXX.  ROLLO MAKES PROPOSITIONS



ILLUSTRATIONS


   THE ROUGH RIDERS FOUGHT WITHOUT SEEING THE ENEMY . . . (Frontispiece)

   "SILAS PINE GAZED ABOUT HIM WITH THE AIR OF ONE WHO IS DAZED"

   "'HIM HOLGUIN SPANIARD.  NOW YOU SHOOT HIM,' SAID THE CUBAN"

   RIDGE ESCORTS A CUBAN FAMILY INTO SANTIAGO



"FORWARD, MARCH!"



CHAPTER I

A BOWL OF ROSES

In the morning-room of a large, old-fashioned country-house, situated a
few miles outside the city of New Orleans, sat a young man arranging a
bowl of roses.  Beside him stood a pretty girl, in riding costume, whose
face bore a trace of petulance.

"Do make haste, Cousin Ridge, and finish with those stupid flowers.  You
have wasted half an hour of this glorious morning over them already!" she
exclaimed.

"Wasted?" rejoined Ridge Norris, inquiringly, and looking up with a
smile.  "I thought you were too fond of flowers to speak of time spent in
showing them off to best advantage as 'wasted.'"

"Yes, of course I'm fond of them," answered Spence Cuthbert, who was from
Kentucky on a Mardi Gras visit to Dulce Norris, her school-chum and
cousin by several removes, "but not fond enough to break an engagement on
account of them."

"An engagement?"

"Certainly.  You promised to go riding with me this morning."

"And so I will in a minute, when I have finished with these roses."

"But I want you to come this instant."

"And leave a duty unperformed?" inquired Ridge, teasingly.

"Yes; now."

"In a minute."

"No.  I won't wait another second."

With this the girl flung herself from the room, wearing a very determined
expression on her flushed face.

Ridge rose to follow her, and then resumed his occupation as a clatter of
hoofs on the magnolia-bordered driveway announced the arrival of a
horseman.

"She won't go now that she has a caller to entertain," he said to himself.

But in this he was mistaken; for within a minute another clatter of
hoofs, mingled with the sound of laughing voices, gave notice of a
departure, and, glancing from an open window, Ridge saw Spence Cuthbert
ride gayly past in company with a young man whose face seemed familiar,
but whose name he could not recall.

As they swept by both looked up laughing, while the horseman lifted his
hat in a bow that was almost too sweeping to be polite.

"What did you say Ridge was doing?" he asked, as they passed beyond
earshot.

"Arranging a bowl of roses," answered Spence.

"Nice occupation for a man," sneered the other.  "And he preferred doing
that to riding with you?"

"So it seems."

"Well, I am not wholly surprised, for, as I remember him, he was a
soft-hearted, Miss Nancy sort of a boy, who was always coddling sick
kittens, or something of the kind, and never would go hunting because he
couldn't bear to kill things.  He apparently hadn't a drop of sporting
blood in him, and I recall having to thrash him on one occasion because
he objected to my shooting a bird.  I thought of course, though, that he
had outgrown all such nonsense by this time."

"There is no nonsense about him!" flashed out Spence, warmly; and then,
to her companion's amazement, the girl began a most spirited defence of
her absent cousin, during which she denounced in such bitter terms the
taking of innocent lives under the name of "sport" that the other was
finally thankful to change the conversation to a more congenial topic.

In the mean time Dulce Norris had entered the morning-room to find out
why Spence had gone to ride with Herman Dodley instead of with Ridge, as
had been arranged.

"Was that Herman Dodley?" asked the latter, without answering his
sister's question.

"Yes, of course, but why do you ask with such a tragic air?"

"Because," replied Ridge, "I have heard reports concerning him which, if
confirmed, should bar the doors of this house against him forever."

"What do you mean, Ridge Norris?  I'm sure Mr. Dodley bears as good a
reputation as the majority of young men one meets in society.  Of course
since he has got into politics his character has been assailed by the
other party; but then no one ever believes what politicians say of one
another."

"No matter now what I mean," rejoined the young man.  "Perhaps I will
tell you after I have spoken to father on the subject, which I mean to do
at once."

Ridge Norris, on his way to the library, where he hoped to find his
father, was somewhat of a disappointment to his family.  Born of a mother
in whose veins flowed French and Spanish blood, and who had taught him to
speak both languages, and of a New England father, who had spent his
entire business life in the far South, Ridge had been reared in an
atmosphere of luxury.  He had been educated in the North, sent on a grand
tour around the world, and had finally been given a position, secured
through his father's influence, in a Japanese-American banking house.
From Yokohama he had been transferred to the New York office, where, on
account of a slight misunderstanding with one of his superiors, he had
thrown up his position to return to his home only a few days before this
story opens.

Now his family did not know what to do with him.  He disliked business,
and would not study for a profession.  He was a dear, lovable fellow,
honest and manly in all his instincts; but indolent, fastidious in his
tastes, and apparently without ambition.  He was devoted to music and
flowers, extremely fond of horses, which he rode more than ordinarily
well, and had a liking for good books.  He had, furthermore, returned
from his travels filled with pride for his native land, and declaring
that the United States was the only country in the world worth fighting
and dying for.

Taking the morning's mail from the hand of a servant who had just brought
it, Ridge entered his father's presence.

"Here are your letters, sir," he said, "but before you read them I should
like a few moments' conversation with you."

"Certainly, son.  What is it?"

As Ridge told what he had heard concerning Herman Dodley, the elder man's
brows darkened; and, when the recital was finished, he said:

"I fear all this is true, and have little doubt that Dodley is no better
than he should be; but, unfortunately, I am so situated at present that I
cannot forbid him the house.  I will warn Dulce and her friend against
him; but just now I am not in a position to offend him."

"Why, father!" cried Ridge, amazed to hear his usually fearless and
self-assertive parent adopt this tone.  "I thought that you were--"

"Independent of all men," interrupted the other, finishing the sentence.
"So I believed myself to be.  But I am suddenly confronted by business
embarrassments that force me temporarily to adopt a different policy.
Truly, Ridge, we are threatened with such serious losses that I am making
every possible sacrifice to try and stem the tide.  I have even placed
our summer home on the Long Island coast in an agent's hands, and am
deeply grieved that you should have thrown up a position, promising at
least self-support, upon such slight provocation."

"But he ordered me about as though I were a servant, instead of
requesting me to do things in a gentlemanly way."

"And were you not a servant?"

"No, sir, I was not--at least, not in the sense of being amenable to
brutal commands.  I was not, nor will I ever be, anybody's slave."

"Oh well, my boy!" replied the elder, with a deep sigh, "I fear you will
live to discover by sad experience that pride is the most expensive of
earthly luxuries, and that one must consent to obey orders long before he
can hope to issue commands.  But we will discuss your affairs later, for
now I must look over my letters."

While Mr. Norris was thus engaged, Ridge opened the morning paper, and
glanced carelessly at its headlines.  Suddenly he sprang to his feet with
a shout, his dark face glowing and his eyes blazing with excitement.

"By heavens, father!" he cried, "the United States battle-ship _Maine_
has been blown up in Havana Harbor with a loss of two hundred and sixty
of her crew.  If that doesn't mean war, then nothing in the world's
history ever did.  You needn't worry about me any more, sir, for my duty
is clearly outlined."

"What do you propose to do?" asked the elder man, curiously.  "Will you
try to blow up a Spanish battle-ship in revenge?"

"No, sir.  But I shall enlist at the very first call to arms, and offer
my life towards the thrashing of the cowards who have perpetrated this
incredible crime."

Thrilled to the core by the momentous news he had just read, Ridge
hastened to impart it to his mother and sister.  At the same time he
ordered a horse on which he might ride to the city for further details of
the stupendous event.  As he was about to depart, Spence Cuthbert and her
escort, returning from their ride, dashed up to the doorway.

"Have you heard the news?" cried Ridge, barely nodding to Dodley.

"Yes," replied Spence.  "Isn't it dreadful?  Mr. Dodley told me all about
it, and after hearing it I couldn't bear to ride any farther, so we came
back."

"I wish he had told me before you started," said Ridge, "so that I might
have been in the city long ago."

"You were so busily and pleasantly engaged with your roses that I
hesitated to interrupt you," murmured Herman Dodley.  "Now, however, if I
can be of any assistance to you in the city, pray consider me at your
service."

"Can you assist me, sir, to obtain a commission in the army that will be
summoned to visit a terrible punishment upon Spain for her black
treachery?"

"Undoubtedly I could, and of course I would do so with pleasure if the
occasion should arise.  But there won't be any war.  The great Yankee
nation is too busy accumulating dollars to fight over a thing of this
kind.  We will demand a money indemnity, it will be promptly paid, and
the whole affair will quickly be forgotten."

"Sir!" cried Ridge, his face pale with passion.  "The man who utters such
words is at heart a traitor to his country."

"If it were not for the presence of ladies, I would call you to account
for that remark," muttered Dodley.  "As it is, I shall not forget it.
Ladies, I have the honor to wish you a very good-morning."

With this the speaker, who had not dismounted, turned his horse's head
and rode away.



CHAPTER II

WAR IS DECLARED

Never was the temper and patience of the American people more sorely
tried than by the two months of waiting and suspense that followed the
destruction of their splendid battle-ship.  The _Maine_ had entered
Havana Harbor on a friendly visit, been assigned to a mooring, which
was afterwards changed by the Spanish authorities, and three weeks
later, without a suspicion of danger having been aroused or a note of
warning sounded, she was destroyed as though by a thunder-bolt.  It was
nearly ten o'clock on the night of Tuesday, February 15th.  Taps had
sounded and the crew were asleep in their hammocks, when, by a terrific
explosion, two hundred and fifty-eight men and two officers were hurled
into eternity, sixty more were wounded, and the superb battle-ship was
reduced to a mass of shapeless wreckage.

It was firmly believed throughout the United States that this appalling
disaster was caused by a submarine mine, deliberately placed near the
mooring buoy to which the _Maine_ had been moved, to be exploded at a
favorable opportunity by Spanish hands.

The Spaniards, on the other side, claimed and strenuously maintained
that the only explosion was that of the ship's own magazines, declaring
in support of this theory that discipline on all American men-of-war
was so lax as to invite such a catastrophe at any moment.

To investigate, and settle if possible, this vital question, a Court of
Inquiry, composed of four prominent naval officers, was appointed.
They proceeded to Havana, took volumes of testimony, and, after six
weeks of most searching investigation, made a report to the effect that
the _Maine_ was destroyed by two distinct explosions, the first of
which was that of a mine located beneath her, and causing a second
explosion--of her own magazines--by concussion.

During these six weeks the country was in a ferment.  For three years
war had raged in Cuba, where the natives were striving to throw off the
intolerable burden of Spanish oppression and cruelty.  In all that time
the sympathies of America were with the struggling Cubans; and from
every State of the Union demands for intervention in their behalf, even
to the extent of going to war with Spain, had grown louder and more
insistent, until it was evident that they must be heeded.  With the
destruction of the _Maine_ affairs reached such a crisis that the
people, through their representatives in Congress, demanded to have the
Spanish flag swept forever from the Western hemisphere.

In vain did President McKinley strive for a peaceful solution of the
problem; but with both nations bent on war, he could not stem the tide
of popular feeling.  So, on the 20th of April he was obliged to demand
from Spain that she should, before noon of the 23d, relinquish forever
her authority over Cuba, at the same time withdrawing her land and
naval forces from that island.  The Spanish Cortes treated this
proposition with contempt, and answered it by handing his passports to
the American Minister at Madrid, thereby declaring war against the
great American republic.

At this time Spain believed her navy to be more than a match for that
of the United States, and that, with nearly two hundred thousand
veteran, acclimated troops on the island of Cuba, she was in a position
to resist successfully what she termed the "insolent demands of the
Yankee pigs."

On this side of the Atlantic, Congress had appropriated fifty millions
of dollars for national defence, the navy was being strengthened by the
purchase of additional ships at home and abroad, fortifications were
being erected along the entire coast, harbors were mined, and a
powerful fleet of warships was gathered at Key West, the point of
American territory lying nearest the island of Cuba.

Then came the President's call for 125,000 volunteers, followed a few
weeks later by a second call for 75,000 more.  This was the summons for
which our young friend, Ridge Norris, had waited so impatiently ever
since that February morning when he had arranged a bowl of roses and
read the startling news of the _Maine's_ destruction.

No one in all the country had been more impatient of the long delay
than he; for it had seemed to him perfectly evident from the very first
that war must be declared, and he was determined to take an active part
in it at the earliest opportunity.  His father was willing that he
should go, his mother was bitterly opposed; Dulce begged him to give up
his design, and even Spence Cuthbert's laughing face became grave
whenever the subject was mentioned, but the young man was not to be
moved from his resolve.

Mardi Gras came and passed, but Ridge, though escorting his sister and
cousin to all the festivities, took only a slight interest in them.  He
was always slipping away to buy the latest papers or to read the
bulletins from Washington.

"Would you go as a private, son?" asked his father one evening when the
situation was being discussed in the family circle.

"No, no!  If he goes at all--which Heaven forbid--it must be as an
officer," interposed Mrs. Norris, who had overheard the question.

"Of course a gentleman would not think of going as anything else,"
remarked Dulce, conclusively.

"I believe there were gentlemen privates on both sides during the Civil
War," said Spence Cuthbert, quietly.

"Of course," admitted Dulce, "but that was different.  Then men fought
for principles, but now they are going to fight for--for--"

"The love of it, perhaps," suggested the girl from Kentucky.

"You know I don't mean that," cried Dulce.  "They are going to fight
because--"

"Because their country calls them," interrupted Ridge, with energy,
"and because every true American endorses Decatur's immortal toast of
'Our Country.  May she always be in the right; but, right or wrong, our
country.'  Also because in the present instance we believe it is as
much our right to save Cuba from further oppression at the hands of
Spain as it always is for the strong to interpose in behalf of the weak
and helpless.  For these reasons, and because I do not seem fit for
anything else, I am going into the city to-morrow to enlist in whatever
regiment I find forming."

"Oh, my boy! my boy!" cried Mrs. Norris, flinging her arms around her
son's neck, "do not go tomorrow.  Wait a little longer, but one week,
until we can see what will happen.  After that I will not seek further
to restrain you.  It is your mother who prays."

"All right, mother dear, I will wait a few days to please you, though I
cannot see what difference it will make."

So the young man waited as patiently as might be a week longer, and
before it was ended the whole country was ringing with the wonderful
news of Admiral George Dewey's swift descent upon the Philippine
Islands with the American Asiatic squadron.  With exulting heart every
American listened to the thrilling story of how this modern Farragut
stood on the bridge of the Olympia, and, with a fine contempt for the
Spanish mines known to be thickly planted in the channel, led his ships
into Manila Bay.  Almost before the startled Spaniards knew of his
coming he had safely passed their outer line of defences, and was
advancing upon their anchored fleet of iron-clad cruisers.  An hour
later he had completely destroyed it, silenced the shore batteries, and
held the proud city of Manila at his mercy.  All this he had done
without the loss of a man or material damage to his ships, an exploit
so incredible that at first the world refused to believe it.

To Ridge Norris, who had spent a week in the Philippines less than a
year before, the whole affair was of intense interest, and he bitterly
regretted not having remained in the Far East that he might have
participated in that glorious fight.

"I would gladly have shipped as a sailor on the _Olympia_ if I had only
known what was in store for her!" he exclaimed; "but a chance like
that, once thrown away, never seems to be offered again."

"But, my boy, it is better now," said Mrs. Norris, with a triumphant
smile.  "Then you would have been only a common seaman; one week ago
you would have enlisted as a common soldier.  Now you may go as an
officer--what you will call a lieutenant--with the chance soon to
become a captain, and perhaps a general.  Who can tell?"

"Whatever do you mean, mother?"

"What I say, and it is even so; for have I not the promise of the
Governor himself?  But your father will tell you better, for he knows
what has been done."

So Ridge went to his father, who confirmed what he had just heard,
saying:

"Yes, son; your mother has exerted her influence in your behalf, and
procured for you the promise of a second-lieutenant's commission,
provided I am willing to pay for the honor."

"How, father?"

"By using my influence to send Herman Dodley to the Legislature as soon
as he comes back from the war."

"Is Dodley going into the army?"

"Yes.  He is to be a major."

"And would you help to send such a man to the Legislature?"

"If you wanted to be a lieutenant badly enough to have me do so, I
would."

"Father, you know I wouldn't have you do such a thing even to make me
President of the United States!"

"Yes, son, I know it."

And the two, gazing into each other's eyes, understood each other
perfectly.

"I would rather go as a private, father."

"I would rather have you, son; though it would be a great
disappointment to your mother."

"She need not know, for I will go to some distant camp before
enlisting.  I wouldn't serve in the same regiment with Herman Dodley,
anyhow."

"Of course not, son."

"I suppose his appointment is political--as well as the one intended
for me?"

"Yes; and so it is with every other officer in the regiment."

"That settles it.  I would sooner join the Cubans than fight under the
leadership of mere politicians.  So, when I do enlist, it will be in
some regiment where the word politics is unknown, even if I have to go
into the regular army."

"Son, I am prouder of you than I ever was before.  What will you want
in the way of an outfit?"

"One hundred dollars, if you can spare so much."

"You shall have it, with my blessing."

So it happened that, a few days later, Ridge Norris started for the
war, though without an idea of where he should find it or in what
capacity he should serve his country.



CHAPTER III

ROLLO THE TERROR

On the evening when Ridge decided to take his departure for the seat of
war he was driven into the city by his father, who set him down near the
armory of the regiment in which he had been offered a lieutenant's
commission--for a consideration.

"I don't want you to tell me where you are going, son," said Mr. Norris,
"for I would rather be able to say, with a clear conscience, that I left
you at headquarters, and beyond that know nothing of your movements."

"All right, father," replied the young fellow.  "I won't tell you a thing
about it, for I don't know where I am going any more than you do."

"Then good-bye, my boy, and may Almighty God restore you to us safe and
well when the war is over.  Here is the money you asked for, and I only
wish I were able to give you ten times the sum.  Be careful of it, and
don't spend it recklessly, for you must remember that we are poor folk
now."

Thus saying, the elder man slipped a roll of crisp bills into his son's
hand, kissed him on the cheek, a thing he had not done before in a dozen
years, and, without trusting his voice for another word, drove rapidly
away.

For a minute Ridge stood in the shadow of the massive building, listening
with a full heart to the rattle of departing wheels.  Then he stooped to
pick up the hand-bag, which was all the luggage he proposed to take with
him.  As he did so, two men brushed past him, and he overheard one of
them say:

"Yes, old Norris was bought cheap.  A second-lieutenancy for his cub
fixed him.  The berth'll soon be vacant again though, for the boy hasn't
sand enough to--"

Here the voice of the speaker was lost as the two turned into the armory.

"Thanks for your opinion, Major Dodley," murmured Ridge; "that cheap
berth will be vacant sooner than you think."

Then, picking up his "grip," the young fellow walked rapidly away towards
the railway station.  He was clad in a blue flannel shirt, brown canvas
coat, trousers, and leggings, and wore a brown felt hat, the combination
making up a costume almost identical with that decided upon as a Cuban
campaign uniform for the United States army.  Ridge had provided himself
with it in order to save the carrying of useless luggage.  In his "grip"
he had an extra shirt, two changes of under-flannels, several pairs of
socks, a pair of stout walking-shoes, and a few toilet articles, all of
which could easily be stowed in an army haversack.

Our hero's vaguely formed plan, as he neared the station, was to take the
first east-bound train and make his way to one of the great camps of
mobilization, either at Chickamauga, Georgia, or Tampa, Florida, where he
hoped to find some regiment in which he could conscientiously enlist.  A
train from the North had just reached the station as he entered it; but,
to his disgust, he found that several hours must elapse before one would
be ready to bear him eastward.

He was too excited to wait patiently, but wandered restlessly up and down
the long platform.  All at once there came to his ears the sound of a
familiar voice, and, turning, he saw, advancing towards him, in the full
glare of an electric light, three men, all young and evidently in high
spirits.  One, thin, brown, and wiry, was dressed as a cowboy of the
Western plains.  Another, who was a giant in stature, wore a golf suit of
gray tweed; while the third, of boyish aspect, whom Ridge recognized as
the son of a well-known New York millionaire, was clad in brown canvas
much after his own style, though he also wore a prodigious revolver and a
belt full of cartridges.

He was Roland Van Kyp, called "Rollo" for short, one of the most
persistent and luxurious of globe-trotters, who generally travelled in
his own magnificent steam-yacht _Royal Flush_, on board of which he had
entertained princes and the cream of foreign nobility without number.
Everybody knew Van Kyp, and everybody liked him; he was such a genial
soul, ever ready to bother himself over some other fellow's trouble, but
never intimating that he had any of his own; reckless, generous,
happy-go-lucky, always getting into scrapes and out of them with equal
facility.  To his more intimate friends he had been variously known as
"Rollo Abroad," "Rollo in Love," "Rollo in Search of a Wife," or "Rollo
at Play," and when Ridge became acquainted with him in Yokohama he was
"Rollo in Japan."

He now recognized our hero at a glance, and sprang forward with
outstretched hand.

"Hello, Norris, my dear boy!" he cried.  "Whatever brings you here?
Thought you were still far away in the misty Orient, doing the grand
among the little brown Japs, while here you are in flannel and canvas as
though you were a major-general in the regular army.  What does it mean?
Are you one of us?  Have you too become a man of war, a fire-eater, a
target for Mausers?  Have you enlisted under the banner of the screaming
eagle?"

"Not yet," laughed Ridge, "but I am on my way East to do so in the first
regiment uncontaminated by politics that I can find."

"Then, old man, you don't want to go East.  You want to come West with
us.  There is but one regiment such as you have named, and it is mine;
for, behold!  I am now Rollo in the Army, Rollo the Rough Rider, Rollo
the Terror.  Perhaps it would be more becoming, though, to say 'Ours,'
for we are all in it."

"I should rather imagine that it would," growled he of the golf
stockings, now joining in the conversation.  "And, 'Rollo in Disguise,'
suppose you present us to your friend; for, if I am not mistaken, he is a
gentleman of whom I have heard and would like much to meet."

"Of course you would," responded Rollo, "and I beg your pardon for not
having introduced you at once; but in times of war, you know, one is apt
to neglect the amenities of a more peaceful existence.  Mr. Norris, allow
me to present my friend and pupil in the art of football-playing--"

"Oh, come off," laughed the big man.

"Pupil, as I was saying when rudely interrupted," continued Rollo, "Mr.
Mark Gridley."

"Not Gridley, the famous quarter-back!" exclaimed Ridge, holding out his
hand.

"That's him," replied Van Kyp.

"And aren't you Norris, the gentleman rider?" asked Gridley.

"I have ridden," acknowledged Ridge.

"So has this my other friend and fellow-soldier," cried Van Kyp.
"Norris, I want you to know Mr. Silas Pine, of Medora, North Dakota, a
bad man from the Bad Lands, a bronco-buster by profession, who has also
consented to become a terror to Spaniards in my company."

"Have you a company, then?" asked Ridge, after he had acknowledged this
introduction.

"I have--that is, I belong to one; but, in the sense you mean, you must
not use the word company.  That is a term common to 'doughboys,' who, as
you doubtless know, are merely uniformed pedestrians; but we of the
cavalry always speak of our immediate fighting coterie as a 'troop.'
Likewise the 'battalion' of the inconsequent doughboy has for our behoof
been supplanted by the more formidable word 'squadron,' to show that we
are _de jure_ as well as _de facto_ men of war.  Sabe?"

"Then you are really in the cavalry?" asked Ridge, while laughing at this
nonsense.

"Yes, I really am, or rather I really shall be when I get there; for
though enlisted and sworn in, we haven't yet joined or been sworn at."

"What is your regiment?"

"You mean our 'command.'  Why, didn't I tell you?  'Teddy's Terrors,'
Roosevelt's Rough Riders.  First Volunteer Cavalry, U.S.A., Colonel
Leonard Wood commanding."

"The very one!" cried Ridge.  "Why didn't I think of it before?  How I
wish I could join it."

"And why not?"

"I thought there were so many applications that the ranks were more than
full."

"So there may be, but, like lots of other full things, there's always
room for one more, if he's of the right sort."

"Do you imagine I would stand the slightest chance of getting in?"

"I should say you would.  With me ready to use my influence in your
behalf, and me and Teddy the chums we are, besides you being the rider
you are.  Why the first question Teddy asks of an applicant is 'Can you
ride a horse?'  And when you answer, 'Sir, I am the man who wrote--I mean
who won the silver hurdles at the last Yokohama gym.', he'll be so
anxious to have you in the regiment that he'd resign in your favor rather
than lose you.  Oh, if I only had your backing do you suppose I'd be a
mere private Terror?  No, siree, I'd be corporal or colonel or something
of that kind, sure as you're born.  But come on, let's get aboard, for
there's the tinkle-bell a-tinkling."

"I haven't bought my ticket yet," remonstrated Ridge.

"You won't need one, son.  We're travelling in my private car
'Terror'--used to be named 'Buster,' you know--and the lay-out is free to
all my friends."

Thus it happened that kindly Fate had interposed to guide our hero's
footsteps, but it was not until he found himself seated in the luxurious
smoking-room of Rollo Van Kyp's private railway carriage that it occurred
to him to inquire whither they were bound.

"To the plains of Texas, my boy, and the city of San Antonio de Bexar,
where Teddy and his Terrors are impatiently awaiting our advent," replied
Rollo.  At the same time he touched an electric bell and ordered a
supper, which, when it appeared, proved to be one of the daintiest meals
that Ridge Norris had ever eaten.



CHAPTER IV

THE ROUGH RIDERS AT SAN ANTONIO

During the remainder of that night and all the following day the train
to which the "Terror" was attached sped westward through the rich
lowlands of southern Louisiana and across the prairies of Texas.  It
crossed the tawny flood of the Mississippi on a huge railway ferry to
Algiers, and at New Iberia it passed a side-tracked train filled with
State troops bound for Baton Rouge.  Early the next morning at Houston,
Texas, it drew up beside another train-load of soldiers on their way to
Austin.  To the excited mind of our young would-be cavalryman it seemed
as though the whole country was under arms and hurrying towards the
scene of conflict.  Was he not going in the wrong direction, after all?
And would not those other fellows get to Cuba ahead of him in such
force that there would be no Spaniards left for the Riders to fight?
This feeling was so increased upon reaching the end of the journey,
where he saw two San Antonio companies starting for the East, that he
gave expression to his fears, whereupon Van Kip responded, promptly:

"Don't you fret, old man.  We'll get there in plenty of time.  Teddy's
gone into this thing for blood, and he's got the inside track on
information, too.  Fixed up a private ticker all of his own before he
left Washington, and when he gets ready to start he'll go straight to
the front without a side-track.  Oh, I know him and his ways! for, as
I've said before, we're great chums, me and Teddy.  I shouldn't wonder
if he'd be at the station to meet us."

To Rollo's disappointment, neither Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt nor any
one else was on hand to welcome the Riders' new recruits, but this was
philosophically explained by the young New-Yorker on the ground that he
had thoughtlessly neglected to telegraph their coming.  Being thus left
to their own devices, and anxious to join their regiment as quickly as
possible, the three who were already enlisted engaged a carriage to
convey them to the fair-grounds, just beyond the city limits, where the
Riders were encamped, leaving Ridge to occupy the car in solitary state
until morning.

"You just stay here and make yourself cozy," said Rollo, "while we go
and get our bearings.  I'll see Teddy and fix things all right for you,
so that you can come out and join us bright and early tomorrow.  So
long.  Robert, take good care of Mr. Norris, and see that he has
everything to make him comfortable."

This order was delivered to the colored steward of the car, and in
another minute the excited trio had rattled away, leaving Ridge to a
night of luxurious loneliness.

To occupy his time he took a brisk walk into the city, and reached the
Alamo Plaza before he knew where he was.  Then, suddenly, he realized;
for, half-hidden by a great ugly wooden building, used as a
grocery-store, he discovered an antiquated, half-ruinous little
structure of stone and stucco that he instantly recognized, from having
seen it pictured over and over again.  It was the world-renowned Alamo,
one of the most famous monuments to liberty in America; and, hastening
across the plaza, Ridge stood reverently before it, thrilled with the
memory of Crockett and Bowie, Travis and Bonham, who, more than half a
century before, together with their immediate band of heroes, here
yielded up their lives that Texas might be free.

Ridge was well read in the history of the Lone Star State, and now he
strove to picture to himself the glorious tragedy upon which those grim
walls had looked.  As he thus stood, oblivious to his surroundings, he
was recalled to them by a voice close at hand, saying, as though in
soliloquy:

"What a shame that so sacred a monument should be degraded by the
vulgarity of its environment!"

"Is it not?" replied Ridge, turning towards the speaker.  The latter
was a squarely built man, about forty years of age, with a face
expressive of intense determination, which at the moment was partially
hidden by a slouch hat pulled down over the forehead, and a pair of
spectacles.  He was clad in brown canvas, very much as was Ridge
himself; but except for facings of blue on collar and sleeve be wore no
distinctive mark of rank.  For a few minutes the two talked of the
Alamo and all that it represented.  Then the stranger asked, abruptly,

"Do you belong to the Rough Riders?"

"No," replied Ridge, "but I hope to.  I am going to make application to
join them to-morrow, or rather I believe a friend is making it for me
this evening.  Are you one of them, sir?"

"Yes, though I have not yet joined.  In fact, I have only just reached
San Antonio."

"So have I," said Ridge.  "I came in on the Eastern train less than an
hour ago."

"Strange that I did not see you," remarked the other.  "Were you in the
Pullman?"

"No, I was in a private car."

"I noticed that there was one, though I did not know to whom it
belonged.  Is it yours?"

"Oh no!" laughed Ridge.  "I am far too poor to own anything so
luxurious.  It belongs to my friend, Mr. Roland Van Kyp, of New York."

"Sometimes called Rollo?"

"Yes; do you know him?"

"I have met him.  Is he the one who is to use his influence in your
behalf?"

"Yes."

"Can you ride a horse?"

"I have ridden," rejoined Ridge, modestly.

"Where?"

"In many places.  The last was Japan, where I won the silver hurdles of
the Yokohama gymkana."

"Indeed!  And your name is--"

"Ridge Norris," replied the young man.

"I have heard the name, and am glad to know you, Mr. Norris.  Now I
must bid you good-evening.  Hope we shall meet again, and trust you may
be successful in joining our regiment."

With this the stranger walked rapidly away, leaving Ridge somewhat
puzzled by his manner, and wishing he had asked his name.

About eight o'clock the next morning, as Ridge, waited on by the
attentive Robert, was sitting down to the daintily appointed
breakfast-table of Rollo Van Kyp's car, the young owner himself burst
into the room.

"Hello, Norris!" he cried.  "Just going to have lunch?  Don't care if I
join you.  Had breakfast hours ago, you know, and a prime one it was.
Scouse, slumgullion, hushpuppy, dope without milk, and all sorts of
things.  I tell you life in camp is fine, and no mistake.  Slept in a
dog-tent last night with a full-blooded Indian--Choctaw or something of
that kind, one of the best fellows I ever met.  Couldn't catch on to
his name, but it doesn't make any difference, for all the boys call him
'Hully Gee'--'Hully' for short, you know.

"But such fun and such a rum crowd you never saw!  Why, there are
cowboys, ranchers, prospectors, coppers, ex-sheriffs, sailors,
mine-owners, men from every college in the country, tennis champions,
football-players, rowing-men, polo-players, planters, African
explorers, big-game hunters, ex-revenue-officers, and Indian-fighters,
besides any number of others who have led the wildest kinds of life,
all chock-full of stories, and ready to fire 'em off at a touch of the
trigger.  Teddy hasn't come yet, and so I haven't been able to do
anything for you; but you must trot right out, all the same, and join
our mess.  Besides, I want you to pick out a horse for me, something
nice and quiet, 'cause I'm not a dead game rider, you know.  Same time
he must be good to look at, sound, and fit in every respect.  I've
already bought one this morning, a devilish pretty little mare, on Sile
Pine's say-so that she was gentle, but after a slight though very
trying experience, I'm afraid a bronco-buster's ideas of gentleness and
mine don't exactly agree."

"Why?  Did she throw you?" asked Ridge.

"Well, she didn't exactly throw me.  I was merely projected about a
thousand yards as though from a dynamite-gun, and then the brute tried
to chew me up.  You see she's a Mexican--what Mark Twain would call a
'genuine Mexican plug'--and doesn't seem to sabe United States; for
when I began to reason with her she simply went wild.  I left her
tearing through the camp like a steam-cyclone, and if we find anything
at all to show where it was located, it is more than I hope for.  But
there's a new lot of prime-looking cattle just arrived, and they are
going like hot cakes; so come along quick and help me get something
rideable."

Half an hour later Ridge found himself in the first army camp he had
ever visited, amid a body of men the most heterogeneous but typically
American ever gathered together.  Millionaire dudes and clubmen from
the great Eastern cities fraternized with the wildest representatives
of far Western life.  Men of every calling and social position, all
wearing blue flannel shirts and slouch hats, were here mingled on terms
of perfect equality.  They were drilling, shooting, skylarking, playing
cards, performing incredible feats on horseback, cooking, eating,
singing, yelling, and behaving in every respect like a lot of
irrepressible schoolboys out for a holiday.  Here a red-headed Irish
corporal damned the awkwardness of a young Boston swell, fresh from
Harvard, who had been detailed as cook in a company kitchen; while,
close at hand, a New-Yorker of the bluest blood was washing dishes with
the deftness gained from long experience on a New Mexican sheep-ranch.

As Ridge and Rollo passed through one of the canvas-bordered streets of
this unique camp, the former suddenly leaped aside with an exclamation
of alarm.  An unknown beast, fortunately chained, had made a spring at
him, with sharp claws barely missing his leg.

"You mustn't mind a little thing like that," laughed Rollo, with the
air of one to whom such incidents were of every-day occurrence.  "It's
only 'Josephine,' a young mountain lion from Arizona, and our
regimental mascot.  She's very playful."

"So it seems," replied Ridge, "and I suppose I shall learn to like her
if I join the regiment; but the introduction was a little startling."

A short distance beyond the camp was gathered a confused group of
officers, troopers, men in citizen's dress, some of whom were
swart-faced Mexicans, and horses.  To this Rollo led the way; and, as
the new-comers drew near they saw that for a moment all eyes were
directed towards a man engaged in a fierce struggle with a horse.  The
animal was a beautiful chestnut mare with slender limbs, glossy coat,
and superb form.  Good as she was to look upon, she was just then
exhibiting the spirit of a wild-cat or anything else that is most
savage and untamable, and was attempting, with desperate struggles, to
throw and kill the man who rode her.  He was our recent acquaintance,
Silas Pine, bronco-buster from the Bad Lands, who, with clinched teeth
and rigid features, was in full practice of his chosen profession.

All at once, no one could tell how, but with a furious effort the mare
shook off her hated burden, and, with a snort of triumph, dashed madly
away.  The man was flung heavily to the ground, where he lay motionless.

"That's my horse," remarked Rollo, quietly, "and Sile undertook to
either break or kill her.  Nice, gentle beast, isn't she?  Hello,
you're in luck, for there's Roosevelt now.  Oh, Teddy!  I say, Teddy!"

Two officers on horseback were approaching the scene, and in one of
them Ridge recognized his chance acquaintance of the evening before.
Towards this individual Van Kyp was running.

All at once the second officer, who proved to be Colonel Leonard Wood
of the regular army, now commanding the Riders, turned to a sergeant
who stood near by, and said, sharply:

"Arrest that man and take him to the guard-house.  We have had enough
of this 'Teddy' business, and I want it distinctly understood that
hereafter Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt is to receive the title of his
rank from every man in this command."

In another moment Rollo Van Kyp had been seized by the brawny sergeant,
lately a mounted policeman of New York city, and was being marched
protestingly away, leaving Ridge bewildered, friendless, and uncertain
what to do.



CHAPTER V

RIDGE BECOMES A TROOPER

While our hero stood irresolute, he saw Silas Pine gain a sitting
posture, and gaze about him with the air of one who is dazed.

[Illustration: "Silas Pine gazed about him with the air of one who is
dazed."]

"Are you badly hurt?" inquired Ridge, as he reached the man's side.

"I don't know," replied Silas, moving his limbs cautiously, and feeling
of various portions of his body to ascertain if any bones were broken.
"Reckon not.  But will you kindly tell me what happened?"

"You were breaking in Mr. Van Kyp's horse, and got thrown," replied
Ridge, as gravely as possible, but with an irrepressible smile lurking
in the corners of his mouth.

The bronco-buster, noting this, became instantly filled with wrath.

"Got thrown, did I?  And you think it a thing to laugh at, do you?
Well, you wouldn't if you'd been in my place.  I claim to know
something about hosses, and I tell you that's not one at all.  She's a
'hoss devil,' that's what she is, for all she looks quiet as a sheep.
But I'll kill her yet or die trying to tame her; for such a brute's not
fit to live."

"Won't you let me try my hand at it first?" asked Ridge.

"You? you?" exclaimed the man in contemptuous amazement.  "Yes, I will,
for if you are fool enough to tackle her, you are only fit to be
killed, and might as well die now as later.  Oh yes, young feller, you
can try it; only leave us a lock of your hair to remember you by, and
we'll give you a first-class funeral."

By this time two Mexican riders, who had started in pursuit of the
runaway animal, had cornered it in an angle of the high fence
surrounding the camp-grounds, flung their ropes over its head, and were
dragging it back, choking and gasping for breath, to the scene of its
recent triumph.

"Hold on!" cried Ridge in Spanish, running towards them as he spoke,
and shouting commands in their own language.

Slipping the cruel ropes from the neck of the quivering mare, that
stared at him with wild eyes, Ridge petted and soothed her, at the same
time talking gently in Spanish, a tongue that she showed signs of
understanding by pricking forward her shapely ears.  After a little
Ridge led the animal to a watering-trough, where she drank greedily,
and then into camp, where he begged a handful of sugar from one of the
cooks.

Some ten minutes later, without having yet attempted to gain the
saddle, he led the mare back to the place from which they had started,
all the while talking to her and stroking her glossy neck.

"Why don't you ride?" growled Silas Pine, who still remained on the
scene of his recent discomfiture, and had watched Ridge's movements
curiously.  "Any fool can lead a hoss to water and back again."

For answer Ridge gathered up the bridle reins, and placing his hands on
pommel and cantle, sprang lightly into the saddle.

The mare laid her ears flat back and began to tremble with rage, but
her rider, bending low over the proud neck, talked to her as though she
were a human being, and in another moment they were off like the wind.
Twice they circled the entire grounds at a speed as yet unequalled in
the camp, and then drew up sharply where Silas Pine still stood
awaiting them.

"Mr. Norris," said that individual, stepping forward, "I owe you an
apology, and must say I never saw a finer--"

Just here the mare snapped viciously at the bronco-buster, from whose
spurs her flanks were still bleeding, and leaped sideways with so
sudden a movement that any but a most practiced rider would have been
flung to the ground.  Without appearing in the least disconcerted by
this performance, Ridge began to reply to Silas Pine, but was
interrupted by the approach of the two mounted officers, who had
watched the recent lesson in bronco-breaking with deep interest.

"Can you do that with any horse?" inquired Lieutenant-Colonel
Roosevelt, abruptly.

"I believe I can, sir," replied Ridge, lifting his hand in salute.

"I heard you talking in Spanish.  Do you speak it fluently?"

"As well as I do English, sir."

"I believe you wish to enlist in this regiment?"

"I do, sir."

"You are a friend of Private Van Kyp?"

"Yes, sir."

"The one in whose behalf he was about to make application."

Ridge again answered in the affirmative.

"Colonel, I believe we want this young man."

"I believe we do," replied Colonel Wood.  Then, to Ridge, he added: "If
you can pass a satisfactory physical examination, I know of no reason
why you should not be permitted to join this command.  I want you to
understand, though, that every man admitted to it is chosen solely for
personal merit, and not through friendship or any influence, political
or otherwise, that he may possess.  Now you may take that horse to the
picket-line, see that it is properly cared for, and report at my
quarters in half an hour."

Without uttering a word in reply, but again saluting, Ridge rode away
happier than he had ever been in his life, and prouder even than when
he had won the silver hurdles at Yokohama.

An hour later he had successfully passed his physical examination, and
was waiting, with a dozen other recruits, to be sworn into the military
service of the United States.  To these men came Lieutenant-Colonel
Roosevelt, who had just resigned the Assistant-Secretaryship of the
Navy in order to join the front rank of those who were to fight his
country's battles.  To them he said: "Gentlemen, you have reached the
last point.  If any one of you does not mean business, let him say so
now.  In a few minutes more it will be too late to back out.  Once in,
you must see the thing through, performing without flinching whatever
duty is assigned to you, regardless of its difficulty or danger.  If it
be garrison duty, you must attend to it; if meeting the fever, you must
be willing; if it is the hardest kind of fighting, you must be anxious
for it.  You must know how to ride, how to shoot, and how to live in
the open, lacking all the luxuries and often the necessities of life.
No matter what comes, you must not squeal.  Remember, above everything,
that absolute obedience to every command is your first lesson.  Now
think it over, and if any man wishes to withdraw, he will be gladly
excused, for hundreds stand ready to take his place."

Did any of those young men accept this chance to escape the dangers and
privations, the hardships and sufferings, awaiting them?  Not one, but
all joined in an eager rivalry to first take the oath of allegiance and
obedience, and sign the regimental roll.

As it happened, this honor fell to Ridge Norris, and a few minutes
later he passed out of the building an enlisted soldier of the United
States, a private in its first regiment of volunteer cavalry, and
ordered to report to the first sergeant of Troop "K"--Rollo Van Kyp's
troop, he remembered with pleasure.  "Poor old boy! how I wish I could
see him and tell him of my good luck!" he reflected.  "Wonder how long
he will be kept in that beastly guard-house?"

At the moment our young trooper was passing headquarters, and even as
this thought came into his mind, he was bidden by Colonel Wood to
deliver a written order to the corporal of the guard.  "It is for the
release from arrest of your friend Van Kyp," explained the colonel,
kindly, "and you may tell him that it was obtained through the
intercession of Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt."

With a light heart Ridge hastened to perform this first act of his
military service; and not long afterwards he and Rollo were happily
engaged, under the supervision of Sergeant Higgins, in erecting the
little dog-tent that they were to occupy in company, and settling their
scanty belongings within its narrow limits.  When this was finally
accomplished to their satisfaction, they went to the picket-line to
visit the pretty and high-spirited mare that had been the immediate
cause of Ridge's good fortune.

"Isn't she a beauty?" he exclaimed, walking directly up to the mare,
and throwing an arm about her neck, a caress to which the animal
submitted with evident pleasure.

"Yes," admitted Rollo, hesitatingly, as he stepped nimbly aside to
avoid a snap of white teeth.  "I suppose she is, but she seems awfully
vicious, and I can't say that she is exactly the style of horse that I
most admire.  Tell you what I'll do, Norris.  I'll give her to you,
seeing that you and she seem to hit it off so well.  You've won her by
rights, anyhow."

Ridge's face flushed.  He already loved the mare, and longed to own
her, but his pride forbade him to accept so valuable a gift from one
who was but little more than a stranger.  So he said;

"Oh no!  Thanks, awfully, old man, but I couldn't think of taking her
in that way.  If you don't mind, though, I'll buy the mare of you,
gladly paying whatever you gave for her."

"Very good," replied Rollo, who imagined Ridge to be quite well off,
and to whom any question of money was of slight consequence.  "I paid
an even hundred dollars for her with saddle and bridle thrown in, and
if you won't accept her as a gift, you may have her for that sum."

"Done," said Ridge, "and here's your money."  With this he pulled from
his pocket the roll of bills that his father, bidding him not to spend
them recklessly, had thrust into his hand on parting, and which until
now he had not found occasion to touch.

Although this left our young soldier penniless, he did not for a moment
regret the transaction by which he had gained possession of what he
considered the very best mount in the whole regiment.  He at once named
the beautiful mare "Señorita," and upon her he lavished a wealth of
affection that seemed to be fully reciprocated.  While no one else
could do anything with her, in Ridge's hands she gained a knowledge of
cavalry tactics as readily as did her young master, and by her quick
precision of movement when on drill or parade she was instrumental in
raising him first to the grade of corporal, and then to that of
sergeant, which was the rank he held three weeks later, on the eve of
the Rough Riders' departure for Tampa.

In the mean time the days spent at San Antonio were full of active
interest and hard work from morning reveille until the mellow
trumpet-notes of taps.  At the same time it was work mixed with a vast
amount of harmless skylarking, in which both Ridge and Rollo took such
active part as to win the liking of every member of their troop.

Each day heard the same anxious inquiry from a thousand tongues: "When
shall we go to the front?  Is the navy going to fight out this war
without the army getting a show?"

"Be patient," counselled the wiser men, "and our chance will come.  The
powerful Spanish fleet under Admiral Cervera must first be located and
rendered harmless, while the army must be licked into effective shape
before it is allowed to fight."

They heard of the blockade by the navy of Havana and other Cuban ports,
of the apparently fruitless bombardment of San Juan in Porto Rico, and
of the great gathering of troops and transports at Tampa.  Finally came
the welcome news that the dreaded Spanish fleet was safely bottled by
Admiral Sampson in the narrow harbor of Santiago.

Then on the 29th of May, only a little more than one month after the
declaration of war, came the welcome order to move to Tampa and the
front.  Instantly the camp presented a scene of wildest bustle and
excitement.  One hundred railway cars, in six long trains, awaited the
Riders.  The regiment was drawn up as if for parade.

"Forward, march!" ordered Colonel Wood.

"On to Cuba!" sang the trumpets.

And the "Terrors" yelled themselves hoarse at the prospect of being let
loose.



CHAPTER VI

OFF FOR THE WAR

Of course Ridge had written home and informed his family of his
whereabouts as soon as he found himself regularly enlisted with the
Rough Riders.  The news afforded Mr. Norris immense satisfaction, while
Spence Cuthbert declared that if Ridge were her brother she should be
proud of him.

"If that is said for my benefit," remarked Dulce, "you may rest assured
that I am always proud of my brother.  I must confess, though, that I
should like it better if he were an officer; for, as I have never known
any private soldiers, I can't imagine what they are like.  It must be
very unpleasant, though, to have to associate with them all the time.
I wish Ridge had told us more about that Mr. Van Kyp who owns the car.
Of course, though, one of his wealth and position must be an officer, a
captain at the very least, and perhaps Ridge doesn't see much of him
now."

Mrs. Norris was greatly disappointed to find that all her efforts in
her son's behalf had been wasted That he should have deliberately
chosen to becoming a "common soldier," as she expressed it, instead of
accepting the commission offered him, was beyond her comprehension.
She mourned and puzzled over this until the arrival of Ridge's next
letter, which conveyed the gratifying intelligence that, having been
made a corporal, he was now an officer.  She did not know what a
corporal was, but that Ridge had risen above the ranks of "common
soldiers" was sufficient, and from that moment the fond mother began to
speak with pride of her son, who was an officer in the cavalry.

At length the quiet household was thrown into a flutter of excitement
by the receipt of a telegram, which read:

"Have again been promoted.  Regiment ordered to Tampa.  Leave to-day.
Meet us at Algiers, if possible."

Mr. Norris hurried into the city to consult railway officials
concerning the movements of the regiment, and found that the train
bearing his son's troop would pass through the city on the morrow.

Early the next morning, therefore, he escorted his wife and the girls
across the Mississippi, where, in the forlorn little town of Algiers,
they awaited as patiently as might be the coming of their soldier boy.
The mother's anxiety to meet her son was almost equalled by her desire
to see how handsome he would look in an officer's uniform.  Concerning
this she had formed a mental picture of epaulettes, gold lace, brass
buttons, plumes, and a sword; for had she not seen army officers in
Paris?

The two girls discussed as to whether or not Ridge was now travelling
in the same luxurious private car that had borne him to San Antonio.
Spence thought not, but Dulce believed he would be.  "Of course if
Ridge was still a private I don't suppose it would be good form for
_Captain_ Van Kyp to invite him," she said; "but now that he is an
officer, and perhaps even of equal rank, I can't imagine any reason why
they should not travel together as they did before."

There was no reason, and the joint proprietors of the little dog-tent,
of which, when in marching order, each carried one-half, were
travelling together on terms of perfect equality, as was discovered a
little later, when the long train, thickly coated with dust and
cinders, rumbled heavily into the station.  Heads protruded from every
window of the crowded coaches, and hundreds of eyes gazed approvingly
at the pretty girls who were anxiously looking for a private car, while
trying not to blush at the very audible compliments by which they were
greeted.

Suddenly they heard the familiar voice.  "Mother!  Father!  Girls!" it
called, and turning quickly in that direction, they discovered the
object of their search.  Sun-browned and dust-begrimed, his face
streaked by rivulets of perspiration, wearing a disreputable-looking
felt hat and a coarse blue flannel shirt, open at the throat, their
boy, beaming with delight, was eagerly beckoning to them.  Two other
cinder-hued faces were attempting to share the window with him, but
with only partial success.

The car doors were guarded, and no one was allowed to pass either in or
out until the train was safely on the great boat that was to transfer
it across the river.  There the turbulent stream of humanity was
permitted to burst forth, and in another moment a stalwart young
soldier, who seemed to have broadened by inches since she last saw him,
had flung his arms about Mrs. Norris's neck.  Then he shook hands with
his father and kissed both the girls, at which Spence Cuthbert blushed
more furiously than ever.

A score of young fellows, all as grimy as Ridge, and all wearing the
same uniform, watched this performance curiously, and now the latter
began to present them.

"This is First Sergeant Higgins, mother, of our troop, and Mr. Gridley,
and Mr. Pine of North Dakota.  Dulce, allow me to introduce my
tentmate, Mr. Van Kyp."

So he rattled off name after name, until the poor girls were thoroughly
bewildered, and could not tell which belonged to whom, especially, as
Dulce said, when they all looked exactly alike in those absurd hats,
horrid flannel shirts, and ridiculous leggings.

Rollo Van Kyp was the only one of whose name and personality she felt
certain, which is probably the reason she allowed that persuasive young
trooper to escort her to the forward deck of the boat, where they
remained until the river was almost crossed.  After a while Ridge and
Spence also strolled off together, ostensibly to find Dulce and Rollo,
though they did not succeed until the farther shore was nearly reached,
when all four came back together.

Rollo Van Kip had lost his hat, while Dulce held tightly in one
daintily gloved hand a curious-looking package done up in newspaper.
At the same time Spence Cuthbert blushed whenever something in the
pocket of her gown gave forth a metallic jingle, and glanced furtively
about to see if any one else had heard it.

A few days later Dulce appeared in a new riding-hat, which at once
attracted the admiration and envy of all her girl friends.  At the same
time it was a very common affair, exactly like those worn by Uncle
Sam's soldier boys, and on its front was rudely traced in lead pencil
the words, "Troop K, Roosevelt's Rough Riders."  In fact, it was one of
the very hats that Dulce herself had recently designated as "absurd."

About the same time that Miss Norris appeared wearing a trooper's hat
her friend Miss Cuthbert decorated the front of her riding-jacket with
brass buttons.  When Sergeant Norris sharply reprimanded Private Van
Kyp for losing his hat, Rollo answered that he considered himself
perfectly excusable for so doing, since in a breeze strong enough to
blow the buttons off a sergeant's blouse a hat stood no show to remain
on its owner's head, whereupon the other abruptly changed the subject.

In the mean time Mrs. Norris, who had recognized among the names of the
young men presented to her those of some of the best-known families of
the country, was surrounded by a group of Ridge's friends, who, as they
all wore the same uniform that he did, she imagined must also be
officers.  So she delighted their hearts and rose high in their
estimation by treating them with great cordiality, and calling them
indiscriminately major, captain, or whatever military title happened on
the end of her tongue.  This she did until her husband appeared on the
scene with Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt, whom he had known in
Washington.  The moment the fond mother discovered this gentleman to be
her son's superior officer, she neglected every one else to ply him
with questions.

"Did he think her boy would make a fine soldier?  Was Ridge really an
officer?  If so, what was his rank, and why did he not wear a more
distinctive uniform?  Did _General_ Roosevelt believe there would be
any fighting, and if there was, would he not order Ridge to remain in
the safest places?"

To all of these questions the Lieutenant-Colonel managed to return most
satisfactory answers.  He thought Ridge was in a fair way to make a
most excellent soldier, seeing that he had already gained the rank of
sergeant, which was very rapid promotion, considering the short time
the young man had been in the service.  As to his uniform, he now wore
that especially designed for active campaigning, which Mrs. Norris must
know was much less showy than one that would be donned for dress
parades in time of peace.  Yes, he fancied there might be a little
fighting, in which case he meditated giving Ridge a place behind
Sergeant Borrowe's dynamite gun, where he would be as safe as in any
other position on the whole firing line.

Not only was Mrs. Norris greatly comforted by these kindly assurances,
but she received further evidence that her boy was indeed an officer
entitled to command and be obeyed when the troopers were ordered to
re-enter the cars, for she heard him say:

"Come, boys, tumble in lively!  Now, Rollo, get a move on."

Certainly an officer to whom even _Captain_ Van Kyp yielded obedience
must be of exalted rank.

There was some delay in starting the train, which was taken advantage
of by Mr. Norris to disappear, only to return a few minutes later,
followed by a porter bearing a great basket of fruit.  This was given
to Ridge for distribution among his friends.  Spence Cuthbert also
shyly handed him a box of choice candies, which she had carried all
this time; but Dulce, seeing her brother thus well provided, gave her
box to Rollo Van Kyp--a proceeding that filled the young millionaire
with delight, and caused him to be furiously envied by every other man
in the car.

Finally the heavy train began slowly to pull out, its occupants raised
a mighty cheer, the trumpeters sounded their liveliest quickstep, and
those left behind, waving their handkerchiefs and shouting words of
farewell, felt their eyes fill with sudden tears.  Until this moment
the war had been merely a subject for careless discussion, a thing
remote from them and only affecting far-away people.  Now it was real
and terrible.  Their nearest and dearest was concerned in it.  They had
witnessed the going of those who might never return.  From that moment
it was their war.

On Thursday, June 2d, with their long, dusty journey ended, the last of
the Rough Riders reached Tampa, hot and weary, but in good spirits, and
eager to be sent at once to the front.  They found 25,000 troops,
cavalry, infantry, and artillery, most of them regulars, already
encamped in the sandy pine barrens surrounding the little city, and
took their place among them.

At Port Tampa, nine miles away, lay the fleet of transports provided to
carry them to Cuba.  Here they had lain for many days.  Here the army
had waited for weeks, sweltering in the pitiless heat, suffering the
discomforts of a campaign without its stimulant of excitement,
impatient of delay, and sick with repeated disappointments.  The
regulars were ready for service; the volunteers thought they were, but
knew better a few weeks later.  Time and again orders for embarkation
were received, only to be revoked upon rumors of ghostly warships
reported off some distant portion of the coast.  Spain was playing her
old game of _mañana_ at the expense of the Americans, and inducing her
powerful enemy to refrain from striking a blow by means of terrifying
rumors skilfully circulated through the so-called "yellow journals" of
the great American cities, which readily published any falsehood that
provided a sensation.  At length, however, the last bogie appeared to
be laid, and one week after the Riders reached Tampa a rumor of an
immediate departure, more definite than any that had preceded it,
flashed through the great camp: "Everything is ready, and to-morrow we
shall surely embark for Santiago."



CHAPTER VII

THE STORY OF HOBSON AND THE _MERRIMAC_

Only half the regiment was to go, and no horses could be taken, except
a few belonging to officers.  The capacity of the transports was
limited, and though troops were packed into them like sardines into a
can, there was only room for 15,000 men, together with a few horses, a
pack-train of mules, four light batteries, and two of siege-guns.  So,
thousands of soldiers, heartbroken by disappointment, and very many
things important to the success of a campaign, were to be left behind.

Two dismounted squadrons of the Rough Riders were chosen to accompany
the expedition, which, with the exception of themselves and two
regiments of volunteer infantry, was composed of regulars; and, to the
great joy of Ridge and his immediate friends, their troop was among
those thus selected.  But their joy was dimmed by being dismounted, and
Ridge almost wept when obliged to part with his beloved mare.

However, as Rollo philosophically remarked, "Everything goes in time of
war, or rather most everything does, and what can't go must be left
behind."

So five hundred of the horseless riders were piled into a train of
empty coal-cars, each man carrying on his person in blanket roll and
haversack whatever baggage he was allowed to take, and they were
rattled noisily away to Port Tampa, where, after much vexatious delay,
they finally boarded the transport _Yucatan_, and felt that they were
fairly off for Cuba.

But not yet.  Again came a rumor of strange war-ships hovering off the
coast, and with it a frightened but imperative order from Washington to
wait.  So they waited in the broiling heat, crowded almost to
suffocation in narrow spaces--men delicately reared and used to every
luxury, men who had never before breathed any but the pure air of
mountain or boundless plain--and their only growl was at the delay that
kept them from going to where conditions would be even worse.  They ate
their coarse food whenever and wherever they could get it, drank tepid
water from tin cups that were equally available for soup or coffee, and
laughed at their discomforts.  "But why don't they let us go?" was the
constant cry heard on all sides at all hours.

During this most tedious of all their waitings, only one thing of real
interest happened.  They had heard of the daring exploit of Naval
Lieutenant Richmond Pearson Hobson, who, on the night of June 3d, had
sunk the big coal-steamer _Merrimac_ in the narrowest part of Santiago
Harbor, in the hope of thus preventing the escape of Admiral Cervera's
bottled fleet, and they had exulted over this latest example of
dauntless American heroism, but none of the details had yet reached
them.

On one of their waiting days a swift steam-yacht, now an armed
government despatch-boat, dashed into Tampa Bay, and dropped anchor
near the _Yucatan_.  Rumor immediately had it that she was from the
blockading fleet of Santiago, and every eye was turned upon her with
interest.  A small boat carried her commanding officer ashore, and
while he was gone another brought one of her juniors, Ensign Dick
Comly, to visit his only brother, who was a Rough Rider.  The _Speedy_
had just come from Santiago, and of course Ensign Comly knew all about
Hobson.  Would he tell the story of the _Merrimac_?  Certainly he
would, and so a few minutes after his arrival the naval man was
relating the thrilling tale as follows:

"I don't suppose many of you fellows ever heard of Hobson before this,
but every one in the navy knew of him long ago.  He is from Alabama,
was the youngest man in the Naval Academy class of '89, graduated
number 2, was sent abroad to study naval architecture, and, upon
returning to this country, was given the rank of Assistant Naval
Constructor.  At the beginning of this war he was one of the
instructors at Annapolis, but immediately applied for active duty, and
was assigned to the _New York_.

"When Victor Blue, of the _Suwanee_, had proved beyond a doubt by going
ashore and counting them that all of Cervera's ships were in Santiago
Harbor, Hobson conceived the plan of keeping them there by taking in a
ship and sinking it across the channel.  Of course it was a perfectly
useless thing to do, for Sampson's fleet is powerful enough to lick the
stuffing out of the whole Spanish navy, if only it could get the
chance.  However, the notion took with the Admiral, and Hobson was told
to go ahead.

"He selected the collier _Merrimac_, a big iron steamer 300 feet long,
stripped her of all valuable movables, and fastened a lot of torpedoes
to her bottom.  Each one of these was sufficiently powerful to sink the
ship, and all were connected by wires with a button on the bridge.
Hobson's plan was to steam into the channel at full speed, regardless
of mines or batteries, and anchor his ship across the narrowest part of
the channel.  There he proposed to blow her up and sink her.  What was
to become of himself and the half dozen men who were to go with him I
don't know, and don't suppose he cared.

"At the same time there was some provision made for escape in case any
of them survived the blowing up of their ship.  They carried one small
dingy along, and an old life-raft was left on board.  A steam-launch
from the _New York_ was to follow them close in under the batteries,
and lie there so long as there was a chance of picking any of them up,
or until driven off.  Cadets Palmer and Powell, each eager to go on
this service, drew lots to see which should command the launch, and
luck favored the latter.

"When it was known that six men were wanted to accompany Hobson to
almost certain death, four thousand volunteered, and three thousand
nine hundred and ninety-four were mightily disappointed when the other
six were chosen."

"I should have felt just as they did if I had been left in camp," said
Ridge, who was following this story with eager interest.

"Me too," replied Rollo Van Kyp, to whom the remark was addressed.

"The worst of it was," continued the Ensign, "that those fellows didn't
get to go, after all, for when they had put in twenty-four hours of
hard work on the _Merrimac_, with no sleep and but little to eat, only
kept up by the keenest kind of excitement, it was decided to postpone
the attempt until the following night.  At the same time the Admiral,
fearing the nerve of the men would be shaken by so long a strain,
ordered them back to their ships, with thanks for their devotion to the
service, and selected six others to take their places.  The poor
fellows were so broken up by this that some of them cried like babies."

"It was as bad as though we should be ordered to remain behind now,"
said Ridge.

"Yes," answered Rollo.  "But that would be more than I could bear.  I'd
mutiny and refuse to go ashore.  Wouldn't you?"

"I should certainly feel like it," laughed the former.  "But orders are
orders, and we have sworn to obey them, you know.  At the same time
there's no cause for worry.  We are certain to go if any one does."

"Yes, me and Teddy--" began Rollo, but Ridge silenced him that they
might hear the continuation of the Ensign's story.

"At three o'clock on Friday morning, the 3d," resumed Comly, "the
_Merrimac_ left the fleet and steamed in towards Santiago entrance.  On
board, besides Hobson and his six chosen men, was one other, a coxswain
of the _New York_, who had helped prepare the collier for her fate, and
at the last moment stowed himself away in her hold for the sake of
sharing it.

"With Hobson on the bridge, two men at the wheel, two in the
engine-room, two stoking, and one forward ready to cut away the anchor,
the doomed ship entered the narrow water-way and passed the outer line
of mines in safety.  Then the Spaniards discovered her, and from the
way they let loose they must have thought the whole American fleet was
trying to force the passage.  In an instant she was the focus for a
perfect cyclone of shot and shell from every gun that could be brought
to bear, on both sides of the channel.

"It was like rushing into the very jaws of hell, with mines exploding
all about her, solid shot and bursting shells tearing at her vitals,
and a cloud of Mauser bullets buzzing like hornets across her deck.
How she lived to get where she was wanted is a mystery; but she did,
and they sunk her just inside the Estrella battery.  At the last they
could not steer her, because her rudder was knocked away.  So they
anchored, waited as cool as cucumbers for the tide to swing her into
position, opened all their sea-valves, touched off their torpedoes, and
blew her up.

"So far everything had worked to perfection.  The seven men, still
unhurt, were well aft, where Hobson joined them the moment he had
pressed the button; but now their troubles began.  The dingy in which
they had hoped to escape had been shot to pieces, and they dared not
try to get their raft overboard, for the growing light would have
revealed their movements, and they would have been a target for every
gunner and rifleman within range.  So they could only lie flat on deck
and wait for something to happen.  A little after daybreak the ship
sank so low and with such a list that the raft slipped into the water
and floated of its own accord.  On this all of them, including two had
been wounded by flying splinters, rolled overboard after it, caught
hold of the clumsy old float, and tried to swim it out to where Powell
could pick them up.  They had only gained a few yards when a
steam-launch coming from the harbor bore down on them.  Some marines in
the bow were about to open fire, when Hobson sang out, 'Is there any
officer on board that launch entitled to receive the surrender of
prisoners of war?'

"'Yes, señor, there is,' answered a voice, which also ordered the
marines not to fire, and I'll be blowed if Admiral Cervera himself
didn't stick his head out from under the awning.  The old fellow was as
nice as pie to Hobson and his men, told them they had done a fine
thing, took them back to his ship, fed them, fitted them out with dry
clothing, and then sent Captain Oviedo, his chief of staff, out to the
_New York_, under a flag of truce, to report that the _Merrimac's_
crew, though prisoners, were alive and well.  He also offered to carry
back any message or supplies the American Admiral might choose to send
them.  Didn't every soul in that fleet yell when the signal of Hobson's
safety was made?  Well, I should rather say we did.  I only hope old
Cervera will fall into our hands some day, so that we can show him how
we appreciate his decency."

"Three cheers for the Spanish Admiral right now!" shouted Ridge, and
the yell that instantly rose from the deck of the _Yucatan_ in reply
was heard on shore for a mile inland.

The noise had barely subsided when a voice called for Sergeant Norris.

"Here I am.  Who wants me?" replied Ridge, inquiringly.

"Take your belongings ashore, sir, and report back at camp
immediately," was the startling response, delivered in the form of an
order by Major Herman Dodley, who was now on the staff of the
commanding general.  "I have a boat in waiting.  If you are ready
within two minutes I will set you ashore.  Otherwise you will suffer
the consequences of your own delay," added the Major, who, while on
duty at Port Tampa, had received by telegraph the orders he was now
carrying out.



CHAPTER VIII

CHARGED WITH A SECRET MISSION

Having ascertained from the captain of his troop that the order brought
by Major Dodley was one that must be obeyed, Ridge went below with a
very heavy heart to collect his scanty possessions.  As he did so his
thoughts were full of bitterness.  Why should any one be sent back to
that hateful camp, and for what reason had he been singled out from all
his fellows?  It looked as though he were being disgraced, or at least
chosen for some duty that would keep him from going to Cuba, which
would be almost as bad.  At the same time he could not imagine what he
had done to incur the displeasure of his superiors.  It was all a
mystery, and a decidedly unpleasant one.  That the order should come
through Dodley, too, whom he particularly disliked, was adding insult
to injury.

"I'd rather swim ashore than go with that man!" he exclaimed to Rollo
Van Kyp, who, full of sympathy, and genuinely distressed at the
prospect of their separation, had gone below with him.  Ridge had told
his chum all about Dodley, whom they had discovered lounging on a
breezy veranda of the great Tampa Bay hotel a few days before, so that
now the latter fully comprehended his feelings.

"It's a beastly shame!" cried Rollo; "or rather it's two beastly
shames, and if you say so, old man, we'll just quietly chuck that Major
fellow overboard, so that you can have his boat all to yourself.  Then,
instead of going ashore, you head down the bay for some place where you
can hide until we come along and pick you up."

"That's a great scheme," replied Ridge, with a sorrowful little smile,
"but I am afraid it wouldn't work, and so there is nothing left for me
but submission to the inevitable.  I do hate to go with Dodley, though."

Just here Ensign Comly appeared on the scene with his brother, whom he
was bidding farewell.

"I say, Comly!" cried Rollo, who knew him, "why can't you set my friend
Norris here ashore?  It wouldn't be much out of your way, would it?"

"Not at all," answered the ensign, courteously.  "And I should be
pleased to accommodate any friend of yours.  I must go at once, though;
so, if Mr. Norris will come on deck--"

"Oh, but that won't do," interrupted Van Kyp.  "He must get off the
ship without any one on deck seeing him."  With this he explained the
situation to the ensign, who readily grasped it, and said:

"All right.  I'll run my boat in under this sideport, and he can drop
out of it if the sentry will let him pass."

Of course the guard at the wide freight port left open for a better
circulation of air between decks would allow Ridge to pass, for he was
one of their own troop, and knew that the sergeant had been ordered
ashore.  To give him further assurance that everything was all right,
Ridge said:

"It is my duty, you know, to go in the first boat that offers, since
Major Dodley undoubtedly left some time since.  He said he would only
wait two minutes, and as that was fully five minutes ago, he ought to
be ashore by now."

Thus it happened that while the messenger who had been ordered to fetch
Sergeant Norris of the Rough Riders was still fuming over the
unpardonable delay of the trooper, and threatening all sorts of
unpleasant things for him when he did appear, Ridge gained the railroad
wharf without being observed from the deck of the transport.  There,
finding an empty train just starting for Tampa, he was able to present
himself in camp half an hour later.  From it he was sent to
headquarters, with orders to report to Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt,
who had come ashore early that morning.  This Ridge hastened to do,
without waiting to answer any of the eager questions showered upon him
by his recent comrades of the camp.

At the hotel occupied as headquarters an orderly conducted him to the
office of the commanding general, where, upon admittance, he found
himself not only in the presence of his own superior officer, but of a
group of distinguished looking men in uniform, who, as he afterwards
discovered, were Generals Miles, Shafter, Lee, and Lawton, and
Lieutenant Boldwood of the navy, now in command of the despatch boat
_Speedy_, recently arrived.

"General," said Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt, addressing the
commander-in-chief, "this is Sergeant Norris of my regiment, the man
whom I recommended for your purpose, and for whom you sent less than an
hour ago."

"Where were you when ordered to report here?" asked General Miles,
turning abruptly to Ridge.

"On board the transport _Yucatan_, lying off Port Tampa, sir."

"Then you are one of the few men whom I have discovered among our
volunteers who have learned the lesson of _prompt_ obedience," remarked
the general, with a slight scowl on his still handsome though deeply
lined face.

"Umph!" snorted General Shafter, who was a big man, weighing about
three hundred pounds, and whose hair was sadly rumpled, as though by
much perplexity.

General Lee, also a large, fine-looking man, smiled approvingly at the
prompt young trooper, while General "Iron" Lawton, spare of figure and
with a reputation as a fighter, gave him a penetrating glance, that
Ridge knew had indelibly fixed his face upon the soldier's memory.  The
naval man also regarded him with interest, and our hero, greatly
confused at being thus observed, was relieved to have General Miles
proceed, to question him further.

"I understand that you speak Spanish like a native."

"I do, sir."

"Have you ever been in Cuba?"

"No, sir."

"Or travelled in Spain?"

"Yes, sir."

"Acquainted with its principal cities?"

"I am, sir," replied Ridge, wondering in what direction these questions
were tending.

"Are you willing to encounter great risks and undergo great hardships
in your country's service?"

"Certainly I am, sir," answered the young trooper, with flushed face,
for he began to suspect that some more important duty was to be
required of him than simply remaining in camp.

"In that case I am going to offer you the chance of winning your
country's gratitude, and possibly with it an ignominious death.  It is
deemed imperative that some one intrusted with grave secrets should
immediately set forth on an important mission to Cuba.  If his identity
is discovered before the task is completed, his fate will undoubtedly
be that of a spy.  Knowing this fact, are you ready to undertake it?"

"I am, sir," was the decisive reply.

"Good!  A commissioned officer was selected for this duty, but he is
prevented by illness from performing it.  You have been chosen to take
his place on the recommendation of Colonel Roosevelt because of your
knowledge of Spanish, your military record, and because you are a
native-born American.  I could have found plenty of Cubans to undertake
the mission, and possibly one of them would have carried it to a
satisfactory ending, but I wanted an American."

"Plain North American Yankee," growled General Shafter.

"As you know," continued General Miles, "a powerful expedition is about
to leave this place for Cuba.  Very few persons have any idea where it
is to land; but you must know that in about ten days from now it will
appear off Daiquiri, some twelve miles east of Santiago, in which city
I want you to be at that time.  You will sail to-night in the
despatch-boat _Speedy_, of which this gentleman, Lieutenant Boldwood,
is the commander.  Within three days he will land you on the northern
coast of the province of Santiago.  During the following week I want
you to visit the Spanish commanders at Holguin, Jiguani, and Santiago,
to all of whom you will bear what purport to be important despatches
from Señor Carranza, chief of the Spanish secret service in North
America, whose headquarters are in Montreal.

"You will represent yourself to be José Remelio, one of the clerks
attached to the recent Spanish Legation at Washington.  You will
estimate the strength and condition of the Spanish forces in the
province.  Also, you will meet as many of the insurgent leaders as
possible, inform them of the coming of our expedition, and impress upon
them the necessity of intercepting supplies or re-inforcements for
Santiago.  For the sake of appearances, I authorize you to assume any
military rank up to that of Captain you may deem advisable.  You will
also be given the secret countersign of the Cuban Junta, which will
secure for you good treatment among all Cubans of intelligence."

"His best safeguard among Cubans should be that he is an American
soldier," suggested General Lawton.

"You will perceive," continued General Miles, "that I have laid out a
vast amount of work for you to perform in a very short time; but you
will be provided with plenty of money, and by procuring a good horse as
soon as possible after landing I believe you can accomplish it.  I hope
you will be able to reach Santiago and gain a knowledge of its
defences; but no matter where you are, when you hear that our army has
landed, make your way to it with all speed, and report immediately to
the commanding general.  Is all this clear? and have you anything to
suggest?"

"Your instructions are perfectly clear, sir," replied Ridge, his voice
trembling with excitement, "and I only want to suggest that instead of
depending upon Cuban horses for transportation across the island, I be
allowed to take my own from here."

"Are you sure that your horse is enough better than those of the island
to warrant carrying it to such a distance?"

"I can vouch for that, General," interposed Lieutenant-Colonel
Roosevelt.  "Sergeant Norris has one of the very best horses in our
regiment, and one that has developed almost human intelligence under
his training."

"No one realizes the value of a reliable horse in times of danger
better than I," rejoined General Miles.  "I wonder, though, if it will
be possible to carry one on the _Speedy_?"

"I believe we can manage it, General," said Lieutenant Boldwood.

"Very, well, then, you may take your own horse.  How will you get it to
the port?"

"I think the simplest and probably the quickest way will be to ride
her, sir."

"Then do so with all haste, for I want the _Speedy_ to sail this very
evening, and within two hours, if possible.  You will receive your
despatches, funds, and promised countersign after you get on board.
Good-bye.  Good luck to you, and remember that your proposed movements
must be kept absolutely secret outside of this room."

Ridge had barely taken his departure after shaking hands with the
several generals, who rose to bid him farewell, when a telegraph
message was handed to General Shafter.  He read it with perplexity,
studied it for a few moments, and then burst into a roar of laughter.
It was from his aide, Major Dodley, had been sent from Port Tampa, and
read as follows:

"I charge Sergeant Norris of Rough Riders with contempt, disobedience
of orders, and desertion.  Saw him aboard transport, and delivered your
order, whereupon he disappeared.  Have searched ship without
discovering trace of him.  He has undoubtedly deserted."

"Some persons are fools occasionally," remarked the big General, "while
others are never anything else.  I don't think Dodley belongs to the
former class."



CHAPTER IX

HERMAN DODLEY INTERPOSES DIFFICULTIES

After leaving headquarters, and while making his way back to camp, our
hero was in a state of hardly-to-be-repressed excitement.  Was one of
his age and limited experience ever intrusted with so important a
mission?  He did not believe it possible, and was so filled with pride
that it seemed as though every person he passed ought to regard him
with respectful interest.  As one after another only glanced at him
carelessly or failed to notice him at all, he wondered at their
stupidity, and felt like compelling their attention by proclaiming his
great secret.

At camp the situation was even more aggravating, for every one was so
intent on his own affairs or so unhappy at being left behind that Ridge
found himself barely noticed.  Several questioned him concerning his
return, and one asked if the whole regiment was ordered back.

"Not that I know of," answered Ridge.  "I believe I am the only one
thus far."

"Well, I'm glad you have been sent to the rear, and only wish all the
others were as well, for it's a beastly outrage that some should be
taken and others left.  Just as if we weren't as good as any of them!"
was the bitter comment.

"Without reply, Ridge turned towards the place where he had left his
blanket roll, only to encounter another shock to his recent pride.  An
officer met him.

"Hello!  What troop do you belong to?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Troop K, sir," answered Ridge, saluting.

"I thought so.  What are you doing here?"

"I was ordered ashore."

"Humph!  Without any reason at all, I suppose."

Ridge remained silent.

"Oh, well, if you don't choose to tell why you are in disgrace you
needn't, but you may report to the cook of the officers' mess, who is
in need of an assistant."

Here was a dilemma.  Ridge could not, of course, obey this order, since
every moment was precious.  To disobey would cause his arrest and
detention in the guard-house.  Nor could he inform even this officer of
the secret mission on which he was engaged.  At that moment evening
stable-call was sounded, and a happy inspiration came to his relief.

"Very well, sir," he answered, turning as if to obey the order.  Then
he added, "May I look after my horse first?"

"I suppose so," replied the officer.  "Only be quick about it, for the
cook is badly in need of some one to help him."

So, without making a further attempt to recover his personal
belongings, Ridge hastened to the picket-line, where Señorita
manifested most extravagant joy at again seeing her young master.

"Is that your horse?" inquired the non-commissioned officer in charge
of the stable guard.

Upon Ridge acknowledging that the mare was his, the other continued;

"Well, I'm mighty glad you've come to look after her, for she has
nearly killed two men already, and we were just wondering whether we
should kill her or turn her loose.  Now you'd better take her to water."

"May I put on a saddle and bridle?" inquired Ridge.

"Of course not.  Who ever heard of riding a cavalry horse to water any
way but bareback?"

So the young trooper was obliged to set forth on| his great undertaking
without equipment of any kind.  In his joy at finding himself once more
in possession of his beloved "Rita," this did not trouble him; and
untying the mare's halter, he leaped to her back.  In an instant they
were dashing off at full speed, followed by jeers from all who
witnessed the proceeding, and who imagined the mare to be running away
with her present rider, as she had with every other who had attempted
to take her to water during her master's absence.

The camp was quickly left behind, and knowing his general direction,
Ridge soon found himself on the road to Port Tampa.  It was a hard ride
to make without saddle or bridle, and long before the welcome lights
marking the mile-long pier of the port came into view the young soldier
was aching in every bone.  The dim road through the solemn pines was so
heavy with sand that it took even fleet-footed Rita more than an hour
to cover the distance, and night had closed in before their destination
was reached.

It was with many misgivings that Ridge rode out on the long pier,
which, never intended for the use of horses or wagons, carried only a
sidewalk for pedestrians beside its railway-track, for Rita regarded
locomotives with the utmost terror.  Still, he believed he must go to
the extreme outer end, where the big steamers lay, and where he hoped
to find either the _Speedy_ herself or some one from her to direct his
movements.  Half-way out he discovered a train coming directly towards
them, and, to avoid it, turned his mare on to the platform that served
as front yard to the pretty little inn that was here built over the
water.

At this moment a figure in white duck approached him.  It was Ensign
Comly of the _Speedy_.

"You are the very man I was sent to look for!" he cried.  "I thought
you might be coming out here, and so was on my way to head you off and
turn you back.  You see, the end of the pier is so crowded that our
craft can't lie alongside.  So Captain Boldwood got hold of a small
scow, which he has sent in to shore, towed by one of our boats, to take
you off.  We'll just about meet it if we hurry."

By this time the unusual sight of a horse in that place had aroused
much curiosity among the guests of the inn, who came out to see what
was going on.  Among them was an army officer, who uttered an
exclamation the moment his eyes rested on Ridge standing in the glow of
an electric light.  Stepping quickly up to him, he placed a heavy hand
on the young trooper's shoulder, and said, in a harsh voice:

"I arrest you, sir, and order you to come at once with me to my camp on
shore, where a guard-house awaits you."

"On what charge am I arrested?" asked Ridge, calmly, turning, and
looking Major Herman Dodley full in the face.

"On the several charges of contempt for an officer, disobedience of
orders, and desertion," was the startling reply.

"Very well, sir, I'll go with you," said Ridge, "seeing that I was
going in that direction anyhow."

"But--" remonstrated Ensign Comly.

"Who are you, sir?  And what have you to say regarding this business?"
demanded the Major, fiercely, at the same time drawing and cocking his
revolver.

"Only a United States officer."

"Then, in the name of the United States, I call upon you to assist me
in carrying this deserter to a place of security," shouted the Major,
in theatrical tones.

"Pretend to agree," said Ridge, in a low voice, heard only by Comly.

"All right, Major, I'll see the thing through," agreed the navy man;
"though I must protest that it is wholly out of my line of business."

With this the three set forth, Ridge leading Rita, and the officers
walking on either side of him.  For some distance they proceeded in a
silence that was finally broken by the sound of oars, apparently close
to the pier, which touched land but a short distance ahead.  At the
same time a train of cars came thundering over the hollow structure
behind them, causing the mare to plunge violently in a terrified effort
to escape.

"Now is your chance!" whispered Comly.

Quick to take the hint, Ridge flung himself on the animal's back and
dashed away, followed by a harmless bullet from Herman Dodley's
revolver.

Ere he could fire another shot the naval man snatched away the weapon,
flung it into the sea, and started on a run after the disappearing
horseman.  As he ran he shouted: "Look out for that horse, you in the
boat, and get it aboard lively!  Do you understand?"

"Ay, ay, sir," came a cheery answer from out of the darkness.

Behind the Ensign ran Major Dodley, swearing, and also shouting:

"Corporal of the guard!  Turn out the guard!  Quick!  This way!"

Then all other sounds were drowned in the roar of the passing train.
When it subsided a confused struggle between a dark mass and a number
of dimly seen white forms was going on in the shallow water.  Several
sailors were lifting Señorita bodily into a little flat-bottomed boat,
and two young men in soaked uniforms were aiding them.  Then, as two
boats, one in tow of the other, began to move away, a squad of soldiers
with muskets in their hands came running down to the beach.

"Fire!" commanded Herman Dodley, beside himself with rage.  "Fire at
that boat.  A deserter is escaping in it."

"Don't you dare fire!" came back in a stern tone from the darkness.
"This is a boat from a United States man-of-war, commanded by an
officer in the discharge of his duty."

The bewildered soldiers hesitated, and then, in compliance with
repeated orders, coupled with threats, from their Major, fired a few
harmless shots in the air, after which they returned to camp.  There
Herman Dodley prepared another telegraphic report for General Shafter,
that aroused that irascible warrior to profanity, and resulted in the
speedy transference of his offending aide to New Orleans on recruiting
service.

So our hero was at length fairly started on his momentous mission, with
its secret yet undivulged.  As the _Speedy_, with the bewildered
Señorita and her young master safely on board, slipped swiftly past the
great transport _Yucatan_, Ridge, shivering in his wet clothing, said
to Ensign Comly, who also shivered, "How I wish I could call out and
tell Rollo all about it!"

"Yes, wouldn't it make him open his eyes?  But you can't, so let's go
below for something dry."



CHAPTER X

ON THE CUBAN BLOCKADE

Twelve hours after leaving Tampa Bay the swift despatch-boat on which
Ridge Norris was a passenger entered the northwest passage of Key West
Harbor, and was headed towards the quaint island city that had been
brought into such sudden prominence by the war.  The port was filled
with United States cruisers, gun-boats, yachts converted into
torpedo-boat destroyers, Government hospital-ships, and others flying
the flag of the Red Cross Society, transports, colliers, supply-ships,
water-boats, and a huddle of prizes--steamers and sailing-vessels
captured off the Cuban coast.  Amid these the _Speedy_ slowly threaded
her devious way to the Government dock.

The hot tropical-looking city, with palm-trees towering above its
low-roofed houses, was filled to overflowing with soldiers, sailors,
newspaper correspondents, refugees from Cuba, and a multitude of other
persons, all attracted by its proximity to the seat of war.  From every
mast-head and prominent building the stars and stripes were flung to
the breeze that swept in from the sea; while from more humble
positions, but in even greater numbers, fluttered the flag of free
Cuba.  On every point commanding the harbor mouth batteries were being
erected and great guns mounted.  Bands played national airs, and one
man-of-war enveloped in a cloud of white smoke was engaged in
target-practice with her secondary battery.  Every Government vessel in
the harbor had on war paint of invisible lead color, not pretty, but
most business-like in appearance.  All were also in fighting-trim, with
topmasts lowered and every superfluity removed from their decks.  The
whole scene was of exciting interest, and Ridge gazed eagerly upon it
as Ensign Comly pointed out its various features, with explanatory
remarks.

There were several reasons why the _Speedy_ should stop at Key West.
One was that she might receive mail and despatches for the blockading
fleet.  Another was to procure a bale of hay and some corn for
Señorita, since, in their hurried departure from Tampa, these had been
forgotten, and thus far she had been fed on sea-biscuit.  A third
reason was that Ridge might procure a saddle and bridle, besides a few
other necessary articles of outfit for his proposed trip.

He had already been furnished with his bogus despatches to Spanish
commanders, every word of which he had carefully read, to see that they
contained no compromising errors, and with a supply of money.  Now he
provided himself with a repeating-rifle in a water-proof case, a
revolver, fifty rounds of ammunition for each, an India-rubber poncho,
a small quantity of quinine, a phial of powerful cholera mixture, a
stout sheath-knife, and a tin cup.

Within an hour the _Speedy_ was again off, running out of the south
channel, past the grim walls of old Fort Taylor, and a few miles
farther on passing Sand Key light, which rises from a bit of coral reef
barely lifted above the wash of a tranquil sea.  At that time this was
the most southerly point of United States territory.  In the deep water
just beyond Sand Key lay a great battle-ship, tugging sullenly at her
pondrous anchors, and looking like some vast sea monster, uncouth and
relentless.

From here it was eighty-five miles in a straight line to Havana, and
within five hours Ridge was thrilled by the sight of a cloud-like speck
that he knew marked the highlands of Cuba.  Gradually the coast was
revealed, then came the low-trailing smoke of ships on blockade as they
patrolled wearily before the entrance to Havana Harbor, and after
awhile the outlined cathedral spires of the city itself.  There lay the
wreck of the _Maine_, and there waited the Spanish army that
Captain-General Blanco had sworn should yield its last drop of blood in
resisting an invasion by the hated Yankees.  There also the guns of
time-blackened Morro sullenly faced the floating fortresses that only
awaited a signal to engage them in deadly conflict.

Running close to Commodore Watson's flag-ship, the _San Francisco_, the
_Speedy_ broke the tedious monotony of blockade by delivering an
eagerly welcomed mail, with its wealth of news from the outside world.
Then the saucy craft was off again, headed to the eastward.  Matanzas
and Cardenas, both under blockade, were passed during the night, and
while off the latter place Dick Comly told Ridge the story of his
classmate, Ensign Worth Bagley, who lost his life on board the
torpedo-boat _Winslow_, in Cardenas Bay, on May 11th, or less than one
month before, and who was the first American officer killed in the war.

"They only went in to find out who was there," began Comly, "the
_Wilmington_, _Hudson_, and _Winslow_.  The last, being of least
draught, ran ahead, and got within range of some hidden batteries
before she discovered them.  She was turning to go out when they opened
fire.  In a minute the little ship was riddled by shot and shell.  Her
commander was wounded, her steering-gear had gone wrong, her engines
were crippled, and she lay helpless.  The _Hudson_ ran up to tow her
out of range, and poor old Bagley had just sung out for them to heave
him a line, as the situation was getting rather too warm for comfort,
when a bursting shell instantly killed him, together with four of the
crew.  In spite of the hot fire, the _Hudson_ ran a line and brought
out what was left of the _Winslow_ and her company; but you'd better
believe the little craft was a mighty sad-looking wreck.  Hello!
What's that?"

A string of colored signal-lights had flashed out for a moment directly
ahead of the _Speedy_, and then disappeared.  The strangest thing about
them was that they had been shown just above the surface of the water,
instead of from a masthead, as would usually be the case on a war-ship.
The _Speedy_ had been slipping quietly along, showing her regular side
lights, which, as she was of low freeboard, must also have appeared
close to the water from a short distance, and might have been mistaken
for a signal.  Now she quickly displayed the night-signal of the
American blockading fleet, as well as her own private number, but no
answer came to either.  By the time the _Speedy's_ crew were at
quarters it was evident, from muffled sounds borne down the wind, that
the stranger was a steamer in full retreat.

"Give her a blank shot," ordered Captain Boldwood, and the words had
barely left his mouth before the forward six-pounder gun had roared out
its summons to halt; but the stranger paid no heed.

A solid shot, well elevated, had as little effect.  By this time the
despatch-boat was rushing ahead at full speed in the direction the
unknown steamer was supposed to have taken.  Suddenly her search-light,
sweeping the black waters with a broad arc of silver, disclosed a
shadowy bulk moving swiftly at right angles to the course they were
taking, and heading for a beacon blaze that had sprung up on the
starboard or in-shore hand.

"Port your helm!" cried Captain Boldwood.  "Mr. Comly, try to disable
her.  Make every shot tell if possible."

Again and again the six-pounder hurled its messenger of destruction,
but apparently without effect.

"Looks as though I couldn't hit the side of a barn at a hundred feet,"
muttered the Ensign to Ridge, who stood beside him, thrilled by the
novel experience.  Then he sighted his gun for a third shot, sprang
back, and jerked the lanyard.  A flash, a roar, a choking cloud of
smoke, and then a yell from the _Speedy's_ crew.  In the glare of the
search-light the fugitive steamer was seen to take a sudden sheer, that
a minute later was followed by a crash, and then she remained
motionless.

Instantly the _Speedy_ was slowed down and moved cautiously towards the
wreck, with busy lead marking soundings every few seconds.  The beacon
for which the chase had steered no longer blazed; but in a few minutes
the search-light disclosed a wooded shore.

"Have a boat ready, Mr. Comly, and prepare to go on board with half a
dozen men."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"May I go with you?" asked Ridge, eagerly.

"Certainly, if the Captain says so."

But, to the young trooper's disappointment, Captain Boldwood refused
permission.  "Your business is of too important a nature for you to
assume any needless risks outside of it," he said.

So Ridge could only watch enviously the departure of the boat with its
crew of armed men.  It had not been gone two minutes when a bright
flame shot from the steamer's deck.

"They have set her on fire and abandoned her!" exclaimed the Captain.
"I pray to God, Comly may be cautious.  Quartermaster, show the recall."

The words were hardly spoken when there came a great blinding flash, an
awful roar, and the _Speedy_ listed to her beam ends.  A vast pillar of
flame leaped a hundred feet into the air, a huge foam-crested wave
rolled out to sea, and then all space seemed full of flying fragments.
The wreck had been destroyed by an explosion of her own cargo.

"Lower away the yawl!  Quick, men!  There may be some left to pick up.
Yes, Mr. Norris, you may go now."

They rescued Comly, bleeding from a wound in the head, and three of his
crew, all more or less injured, but the others had gone down with their
boat, crushed beneath a hurtling deck beam.

The _Speedy_ stood off and on until daylight enabled her commander to
locate the scene of catastrophe and examine what was left of the
shattered steamer.  He found that she had been run ashore on one of the
small outlying cays that are numerous off Cardenas Bay, and with other
floating wreckage he picked up a life-preserver on which was painted,
"_Manuel Ros_, Barcelona."

"How strangely and unexpectedly things turn out," he said to Ridge as
he turned from examining this telltale relic.  "Our Government learned
some time ago that the _Manuel Ros_ was taking on board at Cadiz a
cargo of improved mines, submarine torpedoes, and high explosives for
use in Puerto-Rican harbors.  It was positively stated that she would
not attempt to run the Cuban blockade.  Nevertheless, we were all
notified to keep a sharp lookout for her, especially around Santiago
and Cienfuegos.  She was reported to be very fast, and I can well
credit it, for there are few ships in these waters can show their heels
as she did to the _Speedy_.  As it is, I am afraid she would have
gained Cardenas Harbor in safety if it had not been for Mr. Comly's
last lucky shot, which must have crippled her steering-gear.  And to
think that a ship which would have been considered a handsome prize by
any cruiser should be destroyed by the little _Speedy_.  I wonder,
though, where the _Wilmington_ that generally patrols this vicinity
could have been?"

This mystery was explained a little later when the cruiser in question
hove in sight, having been lured from her station by a small Spanish
gunboat the evening before.

After making his report of what happened, the commander of the _Speedy_
again headed his craft to the eastward, and ran all that day, together
with most of the following night, within sight of the Cuban coast.

It wanted but an hour of daylight, when Ridge, who was sleeping on
deck, was aroused and told that the place of his landing was at hand.
A pot of coffee together with a substantial lunch had been prepared for
him, and Ensign Comly, whose wound had proved to be slight, was waiting
in a boat manned by four sailors.

Señorita was hoisted in a sling and dropped overboard to swim ashore in
tow of the boat, and at the very last the _Speedy's_ commander
whispered the countersign of the Junta that was to open a way through
the Cuban lines.

Then the boat was noiselessly shoved off, and slipped away through the
chill darkness towards the denser shadow of the land that waited with
manifold perils to test the courage of our young trooper.



CHAPTER XI

A LIVELY EXPERIENCE OF CUBAN HOSPITALITY

"Good-bye, old man!  Good luck, and hope we shall meet again soon."

With these words, accompanied by a warm hand-clasp, Ensign Dick Comly
stepped into his boat, and it was shoved off from the bit of Cuban
beach on which Ridge Norris had just been landed.  For a couple of
minutes the young trooper stood motionless, listening with strained
ears to the lessening sound of muffled oars.  It was the last link
connecting him with home, country, and safety.  For a moment he was
possessed of such a panic that he was on the point of shouting for
Comly to come back and take him away.  It did not seem as though he
could be left there alone in the dark, and amid all the crowding
terrors of that unknown land.

Just then Señorita, who stood dripping and shivering beside him, rubbed
her wet nose softly against his cheek, as though begging for sympathy,
and in an instant his courage was restored.  It was enough that another
creature more helpless than he was dependent upon him for guidance and
protection.

"It's all right, girl," he whispered, throwing an arm about the mare's
neck.  "We'll stick to each other and pull through somehow."  Then
plucking a handful of dried grass, he gave the animal a brisk rubbing
that warmed them both.  By the time it was finished, birds were
twittering in the dense growth behind them, and the eastern sky was
suffused with the glow of coming day.

Knowing nothing of his surroundings, nor what eyes might in a few
minutes more discover these new features of the beach, Ridge now
removed his slender belongings to a hiding-place behind some bushes,
where he also fastened Señorita.  Then he set forth to explore the
shore with the hope of finding a path into the interior; for to force a
way through the tangled chaparral that everywhere approached close to
the water's edge seemed hopeless.

He had not gone a dozen paces when Señorita uttered a shrill neigh of
distress at being thus deserted, and began a noisy struggle to break
loose.  With a muttered exclamation of dismay Ridge ran back.  It was
evident that the mare would not consent to be left.

"Very well," said the young man.  "If you can't be reasonable and
remain quietly behind for a few minutes, we must make our exploration
in company.  Perhaps it is better so, after all, for when I do discover
a trail we shall be ready to take instant advantage of it, and get the
more quickly away from this unpleasantly conspicuous place."

While thus talking in a low tone to the mare, Ridge was also equipping
her for the road.  He had just finished tightening the saddle-girth and
was about to mount, when Señorita uttered a snort indicative of some
strange presence.  Turning quickly, her master was confronted by a
sight that caused his heart to sink like lead.  Only a few paces away
stood a young man of dark but handsome features, clad in a well-worn
suit of linen and a broad-brimmed palmetto hat.  A military belt filled
with cartridges encircled his waist, and from it hung an empty scabbard
of untanned cowhide, designed to carry a machete.  With that weapon
held in one hand and a cocked pistol levelled full at Ridge in the
other, he presented the appearance of a first-class brigand.

The young trooper made a movement towards his own revolver, but it was
instantly checked by the stranger, who said, sternly, in Spanish:

"Hold there!  If you but touch a weapon I shall shoot you dead!  You
are my prisoner, and will obey my commands.  That I am prepared to
enforce them I will show you."

With this he sounded a low whistle that was answered by a rustle in the
bushes, from which half a dozen armed ragamuffins of all shades of
swarthiness, from jet black to light chocolate, appeared as though by
magic.  All were provided with machetes, some carried rifles, and each
looked as though it would afford him the greatest pleasure to cut into
small pieces the stranger who had invaded their territory.

"You see," said their leader, with a smile, "that you are hopelessly
surrounded, and that with a nod I can have you killed."

"Yes, I see," replied Ridge, "and I should be pleased to know into
whose hands I have fallen.  Are you Cubano or a Spaniard?"

"And I will ask if you are American or Spaniard?"

"But my question came first," insisted Ridge.

"While I am in a position to have mine answered," replied the other,
again smiling.  "But I will not press it at this moment.  We will first
seek a place better suited to conversation, since here we are liable to
be interrupted.  The American gunboats have an unpleasant habit of
dropping shells among any party whom they may discover on the beach.
Then, too, many Cubanos have been seen about here lately, and they
might molest us, while it is also nearly time for the Spanish _lancha_
that patrols this coast at sunrise and sunset.  So you see--  Disarm
him!"

This last was an order to two men who had moved noiselessly up behind
Ridge while his attention was diverted by their leader.  Now they
seized our young trooper, took his weapons, and marched him away,
though allowing him to retain his hold on Señorita's bridle.  For a few
paces they crashed through the underbrush, hacking a rude path for the
mare with their machetes as they went.  Then they struck a dim trail
that ended at a grass-grown and little-used road.  Crossing this, they
entered the grounds of what had evidently been a fine plantation,
though a young forest growth was now rapidly spreading over its once
well-cultivated fields.  A weedy approach between rows of noble trees
led to the blackened ruins of a large house and outlying buildings.
The stone walls were already over-run with a tangle of vines from which
flamed blood-red blossoms.  Several horses cropped the rank grass about
these ruins, and into one of them, which had been given a temporary
thatch of palm leaves, the prisoner was led.

"Here we had begun to break our fast when your mare notified us of your
proximity," said the leader, who had already motioned to his men to
loose their hold on the young American.  "Now if you will honor us with
your company, we will resume that interrupted pleasure.  Manuel, we
wait to be served."

Upon this a grinning negro brought in a basketful of yams that had
evidently been roasted among the ashes of an open fire, and set it on a
rude table.  Beside it he placed a calabash containing a drink mixed of
water, lime-juice, and brown sugar.  "Let us eat," said the host,
reaching for one of the ash-encoated yams.  "But hold," he added, as
though with a sudden thought.  "Excuse me for a moment."  Thus saying,
he stepped outside, only to return with Ridge's saddle-bags, which he
coolly opened.  "Coffee, as I live!" he cried, "and hard biscuit, the
first bread I have seen in many a month!  Señor, we are under
obligations to you for these welcome additions to our _menu_.  Manuel,
hast thou forgotten how to make coffee, strong, and black as thine own
ebony face?  Waste thou not one precious grain, or, by holy St. Jago, I
will blow out thy meagre brains."

Provoked as Ridge was at seeing his entire stock of provisions thus
appropriated to be expended on a single meal, he was not in a position
to remonstrate.  So, a little later, when a revised edition of
breakfast was pronounced ready, he sat down with the host whom he did
not yet know whether to consider as friend or foe, and ate heartily of
the food thus provided.

The furnishing of that rude table was unique, for, mingled with shells
from the beach and those of cocoanuts, both of which were used in place
of cups, gourds, plantain-leaves, and wooden trays, appeared several
dishes of cut glass and dainty china, generally cracked or chipped, and
looking wofully out of place.

Seeing that Ridge noticed these, the host said, carelessly:

"Ah yes, señor, we have seen better days!"  Then, lighting a cigarette,
he continued, more sternly, "Now, sir, can you give any reason why I
should not have you led out and shot as a spy?"

"You would not dare do such a thing!" replied Ridge, indignantly.

"Oh! wouldn't I?  My friend, you do not realize into whose hands you
have fallen.  Now, merely to prove that I have both the inclination and
power to carry out my threat, I will have you shot.  Lope!  Garzo!"

Two of the ragged bandits immediately appeared.

"Bind me the arms of this man and blindfold him."

The order was deftly obeyed.

"Now take him from my sight and shoot him."

Seizing Ridge by the shoulders, the men began to drag him away.

Until this moment he had not known whether to acknowledge himself an
American or claim to be a Spaniard, nor had he believed that the
extremely courteous leader of bandits with whom he had just
breakfasted, and who might be either a Cuban patriot or a Spanish
guerilla, would do him serious injury.  Now, moved by an agony of
terror, he shouted out the word whispered to him a few hours before by
the commander of the _Speedy_, the secret countersign of the Cuban
Junta.

Its effect was magical.  The men who were dragging him to a summary
execution loosed their hold and stared at him in amazement, while the
young leader sprang to where Ridge stood, tore the bandages from his
eyes, severed his bonds, and embraced him.

"Why, my brother, did you not disclose your identity long ago?" he said.

"Because," replied Ridge, in a voice that still trembled from his
recent fright, "I knew not to which side you belonged."

"What!  Did you for a moment think that I might be a vile Spaniard?  I,
Enrico del Concha, a Cuban of the Cubans?  Alas! that such a suspicion
should fall upon one of my name."

"And what," inquired Ridge, "did you take me for?"

"A Spanish spy, of course.  Do you not speak the language without even
a Cuban accent?  Did you not decline to tell me how or what you were?
Above all, did you not carry on your person despatches addressed to
certain Spanish generals?"

Ridge clapped a hand to his breast pocket.

"Yes, señor, they are gone," laughed the other.

"My rogues are clever thieves, and took them from you when we first
met, together with your money, for which they were searching.
Hereafter you must provide for your private papers a place of greater
safety.  Now let us have one more cup of that delicious coffee while
you confide to me who you are and why you are here."



CHAPTER XII

DENOUNCED BY A FRIEND

Under the circumstances, Ridge felt that a frank avowal of his
personality and present plans would be wiser than any attempt at
deception, and this he proceeded to make.  To all that he had to tell
the bandit leader paid closest attention, and listened without a word
of interruption until the narrative was finished.  Then he said:

"It is indeed great news that the Americans are about to invade Cuba.
Until now they have promised much and done worse than nothing, since,
by their blockade of Cuban ports, they have only starved to death
thousands of miserable reconcentrados.  Now if they will proceed with
judgment and are not swept off by fevers, something may be
accomplished.  At the same time, from the ignorance displayed in
sending on so important a mission as yours one so ill equipped for it,
I cannot hope for much from them."

Ridge flushed hotly.  "What do you mean?" he asked.

"I mean," replied the other, coolly rolling a cigarette as he spoke,
"that you have shown yourself to be about as fit for the duty you have
undertaken as a babe in arms.  Did you not, upon landing, waste a whole
hour of precious darkness during which you might have gained a safe
distance from the always-guarded coast?  Did you not allow yourself to
be betrayed by your horse, and captured without resistance?  Did you
not lose your despatches at the outset, and almost your life as well?
Are you not at this moment densely ignorant of the route you are to
travel, and of how to meet the enemies you will encounter on every hand?

"Yes, my friend, brave and resolute as you may be, you are also but a
babe in your undertaking.  Your only forethought lay in securing the
countersign of the Junta, which has for the moment saved your life,
since I should certainly have caused you to be shot but for it.  Also,
if I had not discovered you, the Spanish hawks who patrol the coast
would have had you in their clutches a few minutes later.  Nor do you
at this moment know how to find your way to Holguin, much less to
Santiago."

"But," argued Ridge, whose self-conceit and confidence in his own
ability to carry out the mission he had so bravely undertaken were
rapidly oozing away, "I have a good map of the country, a good horse,
plenty of money with which to hire guides, am well armed, and could
make a good fight if necessary.  I speak Spanish perfectly, am dark of
complexion, possess the countersign of the Junta for Cubans, and
letters from the chief of the Spanish secret service for Spaniards.
Why, then, may I not succeed as well as another?"

"You _had_ those things; but, with the exception of your ability to
speak Spanish, your darkness of skin, and the countersign, all of them
have been taken from you."

"But you will restore them?"

"And if I should, would they serve you?  Do you imagine that any true
Cuban would disclose to an utter stranger the military secrets of his
country for money?  If you do, you are sadly mistaken.  Could you fight
an enemy who would lie in ambush and shoot you in the back, reserving
the examination of your despatches until you were dead?  Even should
you succeed in presenting those same despatches to a Spanish general,
do you not know that he would hold you prisoner, or at least delay your
departure until he had transmitted them to Havana for verification?
Yet you hope to gain a complete knowledge of the military situation in
this great province, and rejoin your friends more than a hundred miles
away within a week.  Amigo, you are very ignorant."

"Possibly I am," admitted Ridge, "but I have learned much from you
within a short time; and if you will let me go, I will still undertake
to accomplish my task within the time allotted to me."

"I admire your spirit," replied del Concha, "and will gladly release
you, with all your property restored; but before so doing I wish to
make some suggestions.  In the first place, your people should have
chosen an intelligent Cuban for this work--a man like myself, for
instance."

Ridge was on the point of saying that his superior officers had feared
to trust a Cuban, but prudently refrained from so doing.

"As they did not have the sense for that," continued the speaker, "it
is most fortunate that you have met me, for I can give you, in a few
words, the position and strength of every Spanish force in the
province, as well as the location and condition of the Cuban armies, to
which I will also gladly forward news of the anticipated American
landing.  Thus you will be free to make your way, directed by guides
whom I will furnish, straight to Santiago without encountering any
dangers other than those incident to travel through a rough country."

"While thanking you for your kind offer," replied Ridge, "I must still
decline it.  My orders are to communicate directly with the Spanish
commanders at Holguin and Jiguani, and I shall certainly attempt to
carry them out, since the first lesson taught every American soldier is
that of absolute and unquestioning obedience to orders."

"My dear Lieutenant!" exclaimed del Concha--for this was the rank that
Ridge had seen fit to assume--"I begin to perceive why you were chosen
for this hopeless task, and though I utterly disapprove your proposed
course of action, I cannot but admire your resolution.  Also I cannot
find it in my heart to leave you to your own helpless devices.
Therefore I shall accompany you to the vicinity of Holguin.  Then I
shall at least be on hand to learn your fate as soon as it is decided."

Willing as he would have been to set forth alone, Ridge was glad to
have the company of one so familiar with the country as del Concha
appeared, and one also whom he believed he might trust.  His confidence
in the acquaintance thus strangely made was strengthened a little later
as they rode together, and the latter, in answer to his questions,
disclosed a portion of his own history.

"I came to this place last evening," he said, "in the hope of getting a
few shots at the Spanish lancha, which, as I told you, patrols the
coast twice daily; for Spaniards have become so scarce of late, and
confine themselves so closely to the larger towns, that it is sometimes
difficult to maintain my record of one for each day."

"What do you mean?" asked Ridge.

"I mean that during the past year I have personally killed, or caused
to be killed, a Spanish soldier for each day that has passed."

The young American regarded his companion with horror.

"Moreover," continued the other, coolly, "I have sworn to maintain that
average so long as I live and the present war continues.  When I found
you this morning I thought my duty for the day was accomplished, but
now it is with pleasure that I shall look elsewhere for my dead
Spaniard of this date."

"Are all Cubans animated by your spirit?" asked Ridge, whose soul
revolted at this calm discussion of what seemed to him cold-blooded
murder.

"All who have suffered what I have are, or should be, filled with my
longing for vengeance," answered del Concha.  "Listen.  The ruined
plantation we have just left was my home.  There I was born.  There in
the care of a loving father and a devoted mother, in company with a
brother who was older than I, and a younger sister, I grew up.  In
spite of cruel taxation, we were wealthy; in spite of unrighteous laws,
we were happy.  Finally Spain's oppression of Cuba became unbearable,
and the war to throw it off was begun.  My father refused to take part
in the rebellion, but my brother joined the insurgents and was killed
in battle.  I took his place; and, because his sons aided the
insurrection, my noble father, still loyal to Spain, was seized by the
Spaniards and thrown into prison.  Two days later, without trial or
previous warning, he was shot to death in the prison-yard.

"For giving bread to starving women and children whose husbands and
fathers fought in the Cuban army, my mother and sister were driven from
their home to the nearest city, where the former, always delicate,
died, literally of starvation, and from which my sister disappeared, so
that I do not know her fate.  At that time, also, our house was
stripped by the soldiers of everything that could be carried away, and
then burned.  It is for this record of crime that I determined to spare
no Spaniard who should come within my reach."

"I am afraid," said Ridge, slowly, with a clear vision of his own dear
home and its loved inmates in his mind, "that in your place I should
act as you have acted."

Although the city of Holguin lies only about twenty miles from the
place where Ridge landed on the coast, the way to it was so obstructed,
first by swamps and dense forests, and later by wooded hills and
swollen streams, that evening shadows were closing in when Ridge and
his ragged escort came within sight of its low roofs.  On the still air
were borne to their ears at the same moment the clear notes of Spanish
bugles sounding the "Retreat."

Ridge had speculated much that day concerning his reception by the
Spaniards, and as to how he should enter their lines.  Now del Concha
proposed a plan that seemed feasible.

"Ride in at full speed," he said, "while I with my men will follow as
though in hot pursuit close up to the lines.  Of course we will
exchange shots, though both must carefully fire too high to do any
damage.  Is it well?  Then adios, my friend, until we meet again."

A few minutes later the newly posted Spanish guard was startled by the
sound of shots, and then by the sight of a fugitive horseman speeding
towards them, followed closely by a party of mounted insurgents who
were firing at him.  Drums were beat and trumpets sounded.  A small
body of troops hastily advanced from the city, opening their ranks to
receive the panting horse and its apparently exhausted rider, but
closing them to give an ineffective volley against his pursuers, who
were now flying in consternation.

Half an hour afterwards, Ridge, addressed as Señor Remelios, stood in
the presence of General Pando, the Spanish commander of the eastern
diocese of the island, and second only to the Captain-General, who was
carefully reading a despatch just handed him by the young trooper.

"You say, señor, that you have just come from Gibara, where you were
secretly landed last night?"

"Yes, General."

"Also from this note, signed by Lieutenant Carranza, I learn that the
Americans are about to land in force at Cienfuegos."

"Such are Señor Carranza's latest advices."

"Um!  They conflict, however, with news just brought from the south
that a landing has already been effected at Guantanamo."

Here the old soldier peered keenly at our hero, who experienced a
thrill of uneasiness.

At this moment there came a challenge from the sentry stationed at the
door.  It was satisfactorily answered, and another individual hurriedly
entered the room.

"Your Excellency," said this person, making a profound salute, "pardon
my intrusion; but I am come to denounce the man now standing before you
as a Yankee spy.  His despatch is a forgery and utterly false, since
the American army is not to land at Cienfuegos, but at Santiago."

Just here Ridge obtained his first view of the speaker's face, and was
overwhelmed with dismay to recognize in it the features of the man who
had ridden with him all that day under the guise of a Cuban patriot.
It was that of Enrico del Concha.



CHAPTER XIII

TO BE SHOT AT SUNRISE

Never in his life had our hero experienced a feeling of such utter
helplessness as he did upon recognizing del Concha.  The treachery
unfolded by the man's words was beyond his comprehension, and he knew
not how to combat it.  For a moment he stared speechless at the
traitor, then he turned to the General, who was gazing at him with
stern inquiry.

"Your Excellency," said Ridge, "the man who thus seeks to gain your
favor, and, as I suppose, a reward, by denouncing me, is doubly a
traitor.  He kills Spaniards at every opportunity, and now seeks my
life at your hands because he knows that I am one.  It is true that I
was captured by him and his band of Cuban ruffians.  To save my life, I
told him the story that he now brings to you.  After thus allaying his
suspicions, I seized a favorable opportunity to escape.  By the
superior swiftness of my horse I finally reached this place in safety,
though pursued by him to your very lines and hotly fired upon, as can
be proved by many witnesses.  Now, therefore, I, José Remelios, bearer
of despatches from the Señor Carranza, denounce this man as a doubly
dyed traitor, and demand that he be arrested on a charge of being a
Cuban spy."

"Have you ever seen him kill a Spaniard?" asked General Pando.

Ridge was obliged to admit that he had not.

"Then how do you know that he has done so?"

"From his own boastful confession.  He claims to have taken the life of
a Spanish soldier for every day of the last year."

The General smiled.  "That is certainly a very boastful claim," he
said, "but one not to be believed for a moment.  Think you, sir, that
such a number of Spaniards could be killed without my knowledge? or
that, in any case, one man could thus overcome the brave, experienced,
and well-armed soldiers of Spain?  Your credulity, señor, is
refreshing.  Also I have no hesitation in telling you that ever since I
took command of the eastern diocese, this man, recommended to me by my
predecessor in office, has been the most faithful and valuable of my
secret agents among the Cubans.  Time and again he has furnished early
information of important events which has subsequently proved correct
in every detail.  With such a record in his favor, am I now to doubt
him upon the mere word of a stranger?  No, señor, the honor of a
Spaniard forbids.  I am obliged, therefore--"

Just here came an interruption of voices at the door.  Hearing them,
del Concha, who had remained silent during the foregoing conversation
and apparently careless of what was said concerning him, uttered a few
hurried words to the General in a low tone, and disappeared behind a
screen that stood close at hand.  Directly afterwards a lieutenant and
two soldiers entered with a prisoner, whom Ridge recognized as one of
the ragged Cubans who had escorted him to Holguin.

"General," said the officer, saluting, "I bring a Cuban deserter who
claims to have information of pressing importance that he will impart
to no one but yourself, so I have ventured to intrude; but if it is
your pleasure, I will remove him and seek to extort his secret."

"Oh no," replied the commander; "it is not worth the trouble.  Let him
speak, and quickly, for I am pressed with business."

"I come, Excellenza," began the deserter, in a trembling voice, "with
the hope of clemency and a reward, to notify your Excellency that this
señor"--here he pointed to Ridge--"is not what he pretends.  I was of a
band who captured him on the coast, and I overheard his confession to
our leader.  From his own mouth, therefore, I learned that he is a spy,
and--"

"An American bearing false despatches," interrupted the General,
irritably.  "You see I already know all that you would say.  Remove
your prisoner, soldados."  Then, in a lower tone to the officer, he
added: "Take him away and dispose of him.  Such _canaille_ are as
troublesome as fleas.  Immediately upon completing the job you may
return, as I have other business for you."

With a salute, the officer hurried after his men.  At the same time del
Concha emerged from his place of concealment, and the General, turning
to Ridge, said:

"You have doubtless noted, señor, how quickly the information
concerning yourself brought by this gentleman is confirmed.  Therefore
you will not be surprised to have me order you into confinement until
your case can be reported to Havana"--at this moment came the startling
sound of a volley of musketry, evidently fired close at hand--"and a
decision concerning it received from the Captain-General," concluded
the speaker, paying no heed to the firing.

As Ridge was about to utter a protest, the officer who had left the
room a minute before, re-entered it, saluted with stiff precision, and
stood awaiting orders.

"Lieutenant Navarro," said the General, "you will remove this
gentleman, who is charged with being an American spy, and bid the
officer in charge of the guard-house hold him in closest custody until
he receives further instructions.  Adios, Señor Remelios.  May your
night's rest be peaceful."

Perceiving that resistance or protest would be useless, Ridge passively
allowed himself to be led away.  A file of soldiers stood outside, and,
surrounded by these, he was marched to the guardhouse, where, after
being searched and relieved of everything contained by his pockets, he
was led into a bare, cell-like room.

A wooden stool and a heap of filthy straw in one corner constituted its
sole furnishing.  Through a grating in the door came the flickering
light of a lamp burning in the corridor, while outer air was admitted
by a small iron-barred opening in one of the side walls some six feet
above the floor.  The place reeked with dampness, and, in spite of
these openings, its air was foul and stifling.  A few minutes after
Ridge entered it, and as he sat in dumb despair, vainly striving to
realize his unhappy situation, a soldier brought him a bowl of bean
porridge and a jug of water.  Without a word, he set these down and
departed.

A little later other soldiers came and gazed curiously at him through
the grated door, always speaking of him as "el Yanko," and making merry
at his expense.  Thus several hours passed, and he still sat
motionless, trying to think; but his brain was in a whirl, and he
seemed as powerless to concentrate his thoughts as he was friendless.
He realized dimly that at regular intervals a guard, pacing the outer
corridor, paused before the door of his cell to peer in at him, and so
make sure of his presence; but he paid slight attention to this
official scrutiny.

Suddenly his ear caught a sound strange to that place--a girlish voice
laughing merrily and evidently exchanging brisk repartee with the
soldiers in the guard-room.  It was a pleasanter sound than any he had
heard, and he listened to it eagerly.  After a little the voice seemed
to draw nearer, and he could distinguish the words, "el Yanko."  He,
then, was the subject of that gay conversation.  A moment later, from
the same source, came an expression that numbed him with the awfulness
of its possible meaning.  "To be shot at sunrise?  Poor fellow!"  Could
he be the "poor fellow" meant?  Of course not; but then he might be.
Such a summary disposition of prisoners was not unknown to Spanish
jailers.

While his mind was busy with this startling question the laughing
voice, now lowered almost to a whisper, approached his door, and he
became conscious of a scrutiny through the grating.  Also a discussion
was going on outside, and he heard:

"No, no, not a smile, not a word, unless you open the door so that I
may see el Yanko.  I have never seen one in all my life--never."

A short pause, then a key turned, and the door was gently opened.  Two
figures entered.  A soldier and a slender girl, who clung fearfully to
his arm.  They stood and looked at Ridge as he sat on his wooden stool,
and he stared back.  For a moment the three gazed at one another in
silence.

Then the girl exclaimed, pettishly:

"If that is all your famous Yanko amounts to, I have already seen
enough, since he looks exactly like other men, only more ugly than
some.  Come, let us go."

With this she playfully turned her companion about and pushed him from
the cell.  As she did so she made a quick backward movement with her
right hand, and something fell on the straw pallet as though flung
there.  A second later the door was relocked, and, with merry laughter
again echoing through the dim corridor, they were gone.

Curiously Ridge fumbled in the musty bedding until he found a small
packet enveloped in brown paper.  He opened it eagerly.  Inside were
two tiny steel saws, made from a watch spring, and a little tube of
oil.  There was also a bit of white paper on which was writing.  By
holding this close to the lamp-lighted grating.  Ridge read:

"You have only till daylight.  Saw out a bar and squeeze through.
Friends will await you outside.  Destroy this."  There was no signature.

"What friends can I have in this place?" thought the young trooper, as
he nervously chewed the bit of paper to a pulp.  At the same time he
was tremulous with a new hope.  "Perhaps I can do it," he said, "and
anything will be better than sitting in idleness, with a prospect of
being shot at sunrise."

Standing on his wooden stool he could easily reach the lower end of the
iron bars closing the cell window, and he at once began work on them.
At first he seemed to produce about as much effect as would the gnawing
of a mouse, but after a while his tiny saw was buried in the tough
iron.  Then footsteps approached, and Ridge had barely time to fling
himself on the vile-smelling pallet before a sentry was peering in at
the grating.  A ray of light fell where he lay, but fortunately failed
to reach the side on which the barred aperture was located.  So the
prisoner made a long bunch of the straw, covered it with his coat, and
placed his water-jug at one end, thus causing the whole to bear a rude
resemblance to a human figure.

After that he worked steadily, only pausing at the sound of footsteps,
but not leaving the scene of his operations.  He found that he must cut
two bars instead of only one, and a saw snapped in twain when the first
was but half severed.  After that he handled the other with intense
caution, and his heart throbbed painfully with anxiety as the work
neared completion.

For hours he toiled, and he knew that daylight could not be far off
when the second bar was finally cut.  To bend it aside took all his
strength, and so occupied was he in doing this that for the first time
that night he heeded not a sound of footsteps in the corridor.

"What goes on here?" questioned a harsh voice, and Ridge's heart leaped
into his mouth.  With desperate energy he wrenched the bars to one
side, hearing as he did so a fumbling at the lock of his door.
Utilizing his strength to the utmost, he pulled himself up, forced his
body through the narrow opening, and pitched headlong to the ground
outside.  At the same time came fierce shouts, a pistol-shot, and a
great clamor from the place he had left,

But strong hands were helping him to his feet, and a voice was saying
in his ears: "You have done well, amigo.  Now we must fly for our
lives."

Of course it could not be; but to Ridge's senses, confused by the shock
of his fall, it seemed as though the voice was that of the false friend
who had betrayed him.



CHAPTER XIV

REFUGEES IN THE MOUNTAINS

Without a knowledge of direction or purpose, Ridge suffered himself to
be guided by his unknown friend through several narrow streets.  They
ran at top speed and in silence, but behind them came a clamor of
soldiers from the guard-house.  By their shouts that a prisoner was
escaping, these aroused that portion of the town, and frightened
occupants of squalid houses caught shadowy glimpses of the fugitives as
they sped past.  To the pursuers these same spectators pointed eagerly
the course taken by those who fled, so that the scent of the chase was
kept hot.

A sudden turn disclosed three horses, one bearing a rider, and all
standing motionless.  A glad whinny of recognition came from one as
Ridge Norris gained its side, and in another moment his own Señorita
was speeding him away from the scene of his recent danger.

As the three swept through the outer picket-line unharmed by its thick
flying bullets, they were startled by a clatter of hoofs at right
angles to their course, and coming swiftly towards them.  A cavalry
patrol warned by the uproar, and catching sight of the fugitives in the
growing dawn, was striving to intercept them.  They also fired as they
rode, and two of those who fled bent low over their horses' necks that
they might offer as small a mark as possible.  Not so the young
American, who now found himself under fire for the first time in his
life.  He had found his rifle still attached to the saddle; and now,
with every drop of blood in his body at fighting heat, he sat erect,
half turned, and fired back until every shot in his magazine was
exhausted.  As a result, several of the pursuers dropped from the
chase; but it was hotly maintained by the others, who also kept up a
desultory shooting.

They had gained a good mile from town when suddenly one of Ridge's
companions uttered a sharp cry, in a voice distinctly feminine, and
reeled in her saddle.  The other, whom Ridge now knew to be del Concha,
leaped from his horse and caught her in his arms as she fell.

"We must make a stand and fight!" he cried, as Ridge reined Señorita to
a sudden halt beside him.  "Drive the beasts ahead and conceal yourself
on the other side.  I will remain here."

They were already among the foothills of the Almiqui Mountains, and had
just passed a low crest which, for the moment, hid them from their
pursuers.  The ambush was so quickly arranged that, two minutes later
when these appeared, they saw nothing of it and heard only a rush of
horses' hoofs in the ravine below.

With a yell the Spanish cavalrymen put spurs to their steeds and dashed
down the declivity.  The first two were allowed to pass.  Then came a
double flash of flame from the bushes and one of the riders fell, while
another uttered the cry of a wounded man.  Two more were killed before
the panic-stricken horsemen were borne beyond range.  Those who
remained unhurt left the road and fled for their lives down the bed of
a little stream that crossed it at the foot of the hill.  The wounded
man was despatched by del Concha where he lay, before Ridge could
interpose a word in his behalf.

"And why not?" asked the Cuban, as he coolly wiped his machete on the
grass.  "Can the blood-debt that I owe them ever be paid?  Are they not
adding to it every day?  Even now, does not she who is dearest of all
the world to me lie wounded at their hands?"

"But, I thought you were in their service, and that they trusted you."

"So they do trust me, and to their sorrow," replied del Concha, with a
bitter laugh.  "But there is no time for explanations.  A precious life
hangs in the balance, and only instant action may save it.  If you can
recover the horses, or even one of them, all may go well.  If not,
there is little room for hope."

Without reply Ridge whistled a shrill note that echoed sharply among
the hills.  The distant neigh of a horse came in answer, and he started
on a run down the road.  At the foot of the slope he encountered
Señorita coming back to meet him; and springing to her back he went in
pursuit of her companions whom he soon discovered grazing by the
wayside.  At sight of him they fled at full speed; but they might as
well have raced with the wind as with the fleet-footed mare; and,
within ten minutes from the time of leaving del Concha, Ridge returned,
leading the horse the Cuban had ridden.  The other was left, tied to a
tree where he had captured it.

Del Concha was holding in his arms their wounded comrade, apparently a
slender youth, whose face was now disclosed to Ridge for the first time
by the light of the newly risen sun.  Although it was of deathly
pallor, and the eyes were closed, he instantly recognized it as
belonging to the girl of the laughing voice who had so cleverly
contrived to aid him the evening before.

"Yes," said del Concha, noting the look of recognition, "it was she who
carried you the saws and message.  She is the bravest girl in all Cuba,
and the sweetest.  It was for my sake and that of her country that she
aided you; for she is a devoted patriot, and my _fiancée_.  We were to
be married as soon as an American army landed.  She would have it so.
Now if she dies, I cannot bear it."

While he spoke, the grief-stricken man, in whom there was slight
resemblance to the debonair bandit of the day before, laid his burden
gently down, and mounted the horse that Ridge had recovered.

"Now give her to me," he said; and, tenderly lifting the light form,
Ridge placed it once more in his arms.  The girl had been shot in the
back, and the cruel Mauser bullet, long but slender as a lead-pencil,
had passed through her body.

"My only hope is to get her to the nearest camp of refugees, and that
is still five miles away," said del Concha.

After that they rode in silence, the sorrowing lover, with his precious
burden leading the way, and the young American oppressed by the sadness
of the incident for which he felt wholly, though unwittingly to blame,
following with the spare horse.  Mingled with our hero's self-reproach
was also a decided curiosity as to how del Concha would explain the
double part he had played the evening before.

As they advanced into the heart of the mountains, ever climbing, their
road grew rougher and narrower, until finally it was a mere trail.
Although they passed occasional ruins of huts, they did not see one
that was inhabited or habitable.  Neither did they encounter a human
being until their destination was reached, though for the last mile of
their progress they were constantly watched by wild-looking figures
that peered at them from behind rocks or bushes.  Often, after a single
glance at the horsemen, these ragged scouts would dart away, scurrying
through the brush with the noiseless speed of rabbits, and one able to
see them would have observed that all took the same direction.  It was
towards a camp of Cuban refugees, snugly hidden in one of the most
inaccessible recesses of the mountains, and to it they bore the news of
approaching visitors.

Therefore the camp was in a state of expectancy even before the
new-comers were challenged by its outpost, and as del Concha had long
since been recognized, they received a cordial greeting.  The wounded
girl was at once taken to a commodious hut, where she could be cared
for by nurses of her own sex, while a substantial breakfast, roughly
cooked and of the simplest character, was made ready for the two men.
It was served on the ground just outside the hut of the Cuban General
commanding the camp and its few hundreds of ragged soldiers.  This
officer expressed great joy upon learning from Ridge that an American
army was about to land in Cuba, and promised to harass any expedition
sent against it from Holguin.

After breakfast, while del Concha was gone to inquire concerning his
sweetheart, the General took Ridge to his private observatory, a superb
palm, occupying an eminence, and towering above the surrounding forest.
From its leafy crown one could look directly down on Holguin and, with
a good glass, clearly discern the movements of its garrison.

While thus alone with the General our young trooper asked questions
about del Concha.

"He is one of the bravest and most patriotic of Cubans," declared the
other, warmly.  "No one has done more than he to advance our cause."

"Has he ever been suspected of being a Spanish spy?" asked Ridge.

"Certainly not, señor.  Such a question is almost an insult."

"Yet the lieutenant has good cause for his inquiry," said del Concha
himself, who joined them at that moment.  "Moreover, he is entitled to
an explanation from me, which I will hasten to give before he shall
demand it."

"It will afford me great pleasure to hear it," said Ridge, "for some of
your recent actions have been, to say the least, very puzzling."

"As, for instance, when I denounced you to General Pando.  Certainly
you must have thought badly of me at that time.  I did it, however, to
save both you and myself, since shortly after you left us I learned
that one of my troop had deserted for the purpose of betraying you to
the Spanish General, who, he hoped and believed, would give him a
liberal reward for so doing.  As Pando supposes me to be one of his
agents--in which capacity, by-the-way, I have been able to render
valuable service to Cuba--"

"Indeed, yes," muttered the General.

"--I saw at once," continued del Concha, "that in order to save us both
I must forestall the deserter and do the denouncing myself.  You
witnessed the result in the reception accorded the man when he appeared
with his stale news, and are aware of his fate."

"No, I am not," said Ridge.

"Did you not hear the volley by which he was shot within one minute
after being led from Pando's presence?"

"Was that it?" asked the young American, in an awe-stricken tone.

"Certainly; and served him exactly right, too.  Also saved me the job
of punishing him.  After that, and after you had been removed, Pando
confided to me that, as yours was a perfectly clear case, he should not
bother Blanco with it, but should promptly dispose of it by having you
shot at sunrise.  He also honored me with a mission to Santiago, on
which he desired that I should set forth immediately.  I of course
accepted, only with a mental resolve to take you along, and this, with
Eva's help, I was in a fair way to accomplish when the dear girl
received her terrible wound."

"Bless her!" exclaimed Ridge, fervently, now fully realizing for the
first time all that had been done for him.  "I hope, with all my heart,
that her wound is not serious."

"I fear it is, though for the present she seems quite comfortable."

"And you are going to Santiago?"

"Not one step beyond this point until she is out of danger."

"But I must go," said Ridge, decidedly.

"Certainly; and I have a competent guide ready to start at any moment,
and conduct you on the next stage of your journey."



CHAPTER XV

DIONYSIO CAPTURES A SPANIARD

While Ridge was greatly disappointed at losing the guidance and
companionship of the young Cuban, in whom his confidence was now wholly
restored, he could not, under the circumstances, urge him to go
farther, nor did he dare longer delay his own journey.  With Señorita,
all his belongings, including his undelivered despatches, and the money
stolen when he was captured by del Concha, had been restored to him.
So he now added to his outfit a grass-woven hammock that he purchased
in the refugee camp, and was then ready to set forth.

The new guide awaiting him was a coal-black negro named Dionysio, who
was of such huge stature that the other Cubans seemed pygmies beside
him.  He was armed only with a great machete, ground to exceeding
sharpness, and he disdained to ride a horse, declaring that he could,
on foot, cover a greater distance in less time than any horse on the
island, which Ridge was able to credit after a short experience with
his ebony guide.  Besides, being a big man and a very strong one,
Dionysio was a silent man, as taciturn as an Indian, and never spoke
except upon necessity.

When Ridge was introduced to him he was sitting in the shade of a
corojo-palm, smoking a cigarette and lovingly fingering the razor-like
edge of his machete.

"This is the Señor Americano whom you are to guide to Jiguani, and
afterwards, if he requires it, to Santiago," said del Concha,

Dionysio looked keenly at Ridge, but uttered no word.

"He is ready to start."

The negro stood up, to signify that he was also ready.

"You will not let the Spaniards kill him," Dionysio tapped his machete
significantly.

"Well, my friend, adios," said del Concha, "and may you come safely to
your journey's end!"

Accepting this farewell as a signal to move, the black giant set forth
at a swinging pace, and, in order not to lose sight of him, Ridge was
obliged instantly to follow.  In another minute, therefore, they had
crossed the clearing, plunged again into the forest, and the refugee
camp was as lost to their view as though it had not existed.

The silent guide bore on his shoulders a burden of yams rolled in a
hammock, but it in no way interfered with the freedom of his movements.
For miles he maintained, up hill and down, the same speed with which he
had set out, and which so taxed Señorita's endurance that Ridge was
finally forced to call a halt.  The heat of the sun was by this time
intense, while the forest steamed from a succession of brief but
drenching showers that had swept over it since they started.

As Dionysio comprehended what was wanted he proceeded, without a word,
to construct a small bower of branches and palm leaves, beneath which
he slung Ridge's hammock.  The young trooper's eyes were so leaden with
sleep that he had no sooner slipped into this than he was lost in a
dreamless slumber.

When he next awoke, greatly refreshed by his long nap, the great heat
of the day was past, and the shadows of coming evening produced a
pleasant coolness.  For a few minutes Ridge lay in a state of lazy
content, gazing with languid interest at his surroundings.  The sky, so
far as he could see it, was cloudless, the crisp leaves of a tall palm
close at hand rustled in a light breeze like the patter of rain, gayly
plumaged paroquets and nonpareils flitted across his line of vision,
and the air was filled with the pleasant odor of burning wood, mingled
with the fragrance of a cigarette that Dionysio smoked while squatted
on his heels before a small fire.  A little beyond, Señorita, tethered
to a tree, cropped at a small patch of coarse grass, and--but Ridge
could not credit his senses until he had rubbed his eyes vigorously to
make sure that they were doing their duty--another horse was sharing
the grass-plot with her.  As he assured himself of this, Ridge sat up,
and was about to demand an explanation of the negro, when his question
was checked by another sight still more amazing.

A human figure staring fixedly at him with glaring eyes was rigidly
bound to the trunk of a near-by tree.  It was that of a young man in
the uniform of a Spanish officer.  His face was covered with blood,
upon which a swarm of flies had settled, and he was so securely
fastened that he could not move hand nor foot.  He was also gagged so
that he could make no sound beyond an inarticulate groan, which he
uttered when he saw that Ridge was awake and looking at him.

With an exclamation of dismay the young American leaped from his
hammock.  At the same moment Dionysio rose to his feet with a broad
grin on his black face, and spoke for the first time since Ridge had
made his acquaintance.

"Him Holguin Spaniard," he said, pointing to the prisoner.  "Me catch
him.  Keep him for Americano to kill.  Now you shoot him."

[Illustration: "'Him Holguin Spaniard.  Now you shoot him,' said the
Cuban."]

Thus saying, the negro handed Ridge a loaded pistol that he had taken
from the Spaniard, and then stepped aside with an air of ferocious
expectancy to note with what skill the latter would fire at the human
target thus provided.

Mechanically Ridge accepted the weapon, and with blazing eyes strode
towards the hapless Spaniard, who uttered a groan of agony, evidently
believing that his last moment had arrived.  As the young trooper
passed the place where Dionysio had squatted, he snatched the negro's
big machete from the ground.

At this the latter chuckled with delight, evidently believing that the
blood-thirsty Americano was about to hew his victim in pieces, an
operation that, to him, would be vastly more entertaining than a mere
shooting.  Then he stared in bewilderment; for, instead of cutting the
prisoner down, Ridge began to sever the lashings by which he was bound.
As the keen-edged machete cut through the last of these, the released
man fell forward in a faint, and the young American, catching him in
his arms, laid him on the sward.  "Bring water!" he ordered, with a
sharp tone of authority, and the negro obeyed.

"You no kill him?" he asked, as he watched Ridge bathe the blood from
the unconscious man's face.

"Not now," was the evasive answer.  "Where did you get him?"

Little by little, one word at a time, he gained from the taciturn negro
an idea of what had taken place while he slept.  It seemed that, while
he had followed rough mountain trails in his roundabout course to and
from the refugee camp, there was a much better road to which they had
closely approached, when he was forced by exhaustion to call a halt.
After he fell asleep, Dionysio, going for water to a spring that he
knew of, had detected a sound of hoof-beats advancing along this road
from the direction of Holguin.  Concealing himself near the spring, he
waited until the horseman, a Spanish officer, rode up to it.  Then he
leaped upon the man, dragged him to the ground, and had him secured
almost before the astonished officer knew what was happening.  He was
also dazed by a wound in the head received as he was hurled from his
horse.

Dionysio was on the point of killing him, as he had many a Spaniard,
but reflecting that the Americano whom he was guiding would doubtless
enjoy that pleasure, he generously decided to yield it to him and
reserve the victim until Ridge should finish his nap.  So, after
gagging the Spaniard, that he might not disturb him who slept, Dionysio
flung him across his shoulder and carried him to camp.  There he
secured him to a tree so that Ridge might see him upon awakening, and
then calmly resumed his duties as camp cook and sentry.  The
unfortunate prisoner, wounded, bound, and powerless to move or speak,
tormented by heat and insects, and parched by a burning thirst, had
thus suffered for hours, while the young American who was to kill him
slept close at hand, blissfully unaware of his presence.

As Ridge pityingly cleansed the face of this enemy whose present
sufferings had been terminated by unconsciousness, he all at once
recognized it as that of the officer who had conveyed him from General
Pando's quarters to the guard-house in Holguin.  At the same time,
noting a slight rustle of paper somewhere in the man's clothing, he
began a search for it, and finally discovered a despatch in an official
envelope.  Carefully opening this without breaking the seal, he found
it to contain two papers.  One was a personal note from General Pando
to the Spanish commander at Jiguani, calling his attention to the
other, which was an order to set forth at once with his entire force
for Santiago, where an American army was about to land, and where he
would be joined by 5000 troops from Holguin.

"This is interesting," commented Ridge, "and of course must not be
allowed to reach its destination.  So I will just put in its place my
Carranza despatch to this same gentleman, informing him that the
Americans are to land at Cienfuegos.  It will have added weight if it
appears to come from General Pando, and will surely start him off in a
direction where he can do no harm.

"I wonder, though, what I had best do with you," he continued,
meditatively, addressing the unconscious form beside him.  "Of course
you will recognize me as soon as you are able to sit up and take
notice.  Of course, also, I can't kill you in cold blood; nor can I
turn you over to the tender mercies of Dionysio, for that would amount
to exactly the same thing.  I don't dare let you go, and I can't be
bothered with you as a prisoner; so what on earth I am to do with you
I'm sure I don't know.  I almost wish you wouldn't wake up at all."

Just here, owing to Ridge's kindly ministrations, the cause of his
perplexity opened his eyes, looked the young American full in the face,
and smiled a faint smile in which recognition and gratitude were
equally blended.



CHAPTER XVI

ASLEEP WHILE ON GUARD

Of course there was no further thought of continuing the journey that
evening, for the Spanish officer was in no condition to travel, and our
young trooper was not one to desert even an enemy who was helpless and
in distress.  So he informed Dionysio that they would remain where they
were until morning, and ordered him to make things as comfortable as
possible for the night.

"You no kill him?" asked the negro, who had regarded his companion's
actions of the past half hour with evident disfavor.

"Not to-night," replied Ridge.  "I am going to save him until morning.
He will be stronger then, and in a better condition to afford us
entertainment.  Besides, I want time to think out the best way of doing
it."

"To-morrow you kill him?" persisted the other.

"Perhaps.  That is, if I have hit upon a good plan.  Something novel
and interesting, you know."

"You no kill him, me kill him," muttered Dionysio, as he sullenly began
to make preparations for the night.

The remark, though not intended for the young American, still reached
his ears and caused him a feeling of uneasiness.

"I believe you would, you black devil," he said to himself, "but you
sha'n't commit your cowardly murder if I can help it."  Then he again
turned his attention to the prisoner, who was by this time sitting up
and regarding his captors curiously.

"Are you going to kill me?" he asked, as Ridge rejoined him.

"No, of course not.  What put such an idea into your head?"

"Because it so often happens that undesirable prisoners are disposed of
in that way.  You know I was ordered to have one shot only last night
at just about this hour."

"Was it last night?" murmured Ridge.  "It seems a month ago."  Then he
added, aloud, "Yes, I know, for I recognize you as Lieutenant Navarro,
the officer who brought in the deserter, disposed of him according to
General Pando's order, and then conducted me to prison."

"For which reason I should think you would now want to kill me," said
the other, with a smile.

"We Americans are not in the habit of killing persons merely for
obedience to orders."

"You are an American, then?"

"Yes," admitted Ridge, "and I thought you knew I was one."

"I was not certain, nor was the General, though he was determined to be
on the safe side, and have you placed beyond a chance of making
mischief."

"So I understood," laughed Ridge, "and for that reason I came away
without waiting to say good-bye."

"Your escape raised an awful row," said the other, "and the General is
furious over it.  Swears he will hang every man, woman, or child
connected with it if he discovers who aided you.  Do you care to tell
me how it was effected?"

"No," was the prompt reply, "I do not."

"I didn't suppose you would.  At the same time I am greatly interested
in it, especially as it caused me to be sent on my present mission.
General Pando feared that you might make the same attempt at Jiguani as
at Holguin.  So I was ordered to get there first and have a reception
prepared for you.  Now, having failed to carry out his instructions, I
do not know that I should dare present myself before him again, even if
you should set me free, which, of course, is something not to be hoped
for.  What do you propose to do with me, anyway?"

"I don't know," replied Ridge, "but we will consider the situation
after supper, which I see is ready."

The simple meal of roasted yams, which in war time was the principal
article of food known to Cuban campaigners, was quickly eaten, and the
two young men, already regarding each other more as friends than
enemies, renewed their conversation.

"I am not anxious to resume my connection with General Pando's army in
any case," began Lieutenant Navarro, "since it is about to march
against your countrymen, whom I esteem highly."

"Why?" asked Ridge.  "Were you ever in my country?"

"Yes, and quite recently.  You see, I have some distant cousins of my
own name living in New Mexico, and only a year ago I paid them a visit.
I was so charmed with the country, and so cordially welcomed, that I
expressed a desire to remain with them and become a citizen of the
United States, They encouraged the idea, and offered me an interest in
a great ranch, where one of them, Maximilian by name, who is about my
own age, proposed to become my partner.  I accepted the offer, declared
my intention of becoming a citizen before the proper authorities, and
then returned to Spain to settle up my home affairs and procure money
for my new undertaking.

"Unfortunately I had not served out my full military term, and before I
could purchase exemption for the remaining time, there was a call for
more troops to quell this miserable insurrection, and I was ordered
with Blanco, the new Captain-General, to Cuba.  Of course I don't mind
fighting Cubans, whom I detest; but I do object to fighting against
those whom I already consider as my adopted countrymen, especially as I
have recently learned that the cousin with whom I was to go into
business has joined the American army."

"Maximilian Navarro of New Mexico!" exclaimed Ridge.  "Why, I know him
well.  He is a captain in my own regiment, the First Volunteer
Cavalry--the Rough Riders, as we are called.  I saw him only five days
ago, and hope soon to meet him again, before Santiago."

"Then are we friends rather than enemies!" cried the young Spaniard,
grasping the other's hand, "and I will go with you to meet my cousin."

"Would you go as a deserter?"

"No, but as a prisoner of war under your protection."

"Of course," replied Ridge, who had just gained an inspiration.  "A
prisoner of war on parole, for you will give me your promise not to
serve against the United States unless exchanged, will you not?"

"Most willingly," replied the other.

"But," continued Ridge, "if I take you to your cousin, I want you first
to do me a favor."

"Gladly."

"And before I give you my whole confidence you must earn it."

"If it lies within my power, I will do so."

"Very good," said Ridge.  "According to our laws, you are a citizen of
the United States from having filed your intention to become one.
Therefore, while not desiring you to fight against your native land, I
am going to ask you to prove your loyalty to your adopted country by
aiding my present mission."

"How may I do so?"

"By continuing your journey to Jiguani, delivering your despatches,
which, by-the-way, I have examined; procuring for me a Spanish uniform,
and meeting me two days later at Enramada.  From there we will go
together into Santiago, where you shall introduce me as your friend.
Then will come my turn; for when the Americans land we will join them,
and I shall take pleasure in presenting you to my friends as my friend.
Will you undertake to do this?"

"Señor Teniente, I will," answered the young Spaniard, "and there is my
hand on it.  One thing, however, I must ask," he continued.  "How will
you deliver me from the hate of yonder black devil by the fire?  But
for you he would have taken my life long since, and when he discovers
that you do not intend to kill me, he will assuredly make an attempt to
do so."

"I have no doubt he would if he had a chance," replied Ridge, "but we
must take turns at watching, and see that he doesn't get one.  I will
remain on guard the first half of the night, since you need sleep more
than I, and will also show how fully I trust you by restoring your
pistol."

"Your confidence will not be misplaced, señor."

With these arrangements perfected, the little camp sank into quiet, the
only sounds being the chirping of insects, the harsh cries of night
birds, and those made by the horses, which occasionally snorted at some
fancied alarm.  The two white men lay in their respective hammocks
under the rude thatch of palm leaves, while Dionysio occupied a similar
but smaller shelter beyond the fire.

For a long time Ridge watched the flicker of its flames, until they
finally died down, and the darkness was only illumined by the fitful
flashing of fire-flies.  As these were the most brilliant he had ever
seen, his eyes followed their zig-zag dartings until they exercised a
hypnotic influence, and his heavy breathing showed him to be fast
asleep.

A few minutes later the occupant of the other hammock lifted his head
and listened.  Then he slipped noiselessly to the ground and
disappeared in the profound darkness at the back of the hut.  For an
hour longer the peace of the camp was unbroken.  At the end of that
time one of the horses snorted more loudly than usual, while the other
dropped heavily to the ground as though lying down.

After awhile, if Ridge had been awake, he might have noted a slight
rustling in the grass, as though some animal were making a cautious way
through it towards the hut.  But his slumber was too profound to be
easily broken, and no instinct warned him of approaching danger.

The rustling drew closer, until it sounded within a few feet of the
unconscious sleeper.  Then a black bulk slowly lifted from the ground,
and gradually assumed the proportions of a man standing motionless.  Of
a sudden this figure, whose blurred outlines were barely discernible,
made a quick movement, and the hammock of the young Spaniard was cut in
twain by the sweeping blow of a machete.

At the same moment a pistol-shot rang out, followed by another and
another.  There was a smothered yell, a rush of feet, a brief struggle
from the place where the horses were tethered, a crash, and directly
afterwards Señorita, trembling in every limb, made her way to where her
young master stood, as he had leaped from his hammock, dazed, and
uncertain what to do.



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE HANDS OP SPANISH GUERILLAS

In addition to his alarm, Ridge was overcome with a guilty knowledge of
having fallen asleep while on guard.  Of course, he felt certain that
he had only closed his eyes for a minute; but in that minute something
dreadful, for which he was responsible, had happened.  He had no idea
what it was, but imagined the worst, and was greatly relieved to hear
the voice of his prisoner-comrade at his side.

"What on earth--" he began; but just then Señorita dashed up to him in
a state of terror, and for the moment demanded his attention.  As he
soothed her he called loudly for Dionysio, but there was no response.

"I am afraid he has escaped," said the young Spaniard, in rather a
faint voice, from the ground, to which he had dropped exhausted by
weakness and the intense strain of the past few hours.  "He tried to
kill me, you know."

"Tried to kill you!" exclaimed Ridge, incredulously.  "But wait a
moment.  We must have a light.  This darkness is awful."

Thus saying, he stepped to where a few coals of the camp-fire still
smouldered, and began to throw on sticks, which, after a little
coaxing, sprang into a bright blaze.  By its light he detected two dark
forms lying motionless a short distance away, and, with pistol held
ready for action, went to discover their nature.

"Navarro must have been dreaming, or else greatly mistaken," he said to
himself, "for here is Dionysio fast asleep.  Come, wake up!" he cried
aloud, at the same time prodding the prostrate form with his toe.  As
there was no response, he stooped to give the sleeper a vigorous
shaking; but almost with the first touch he sprang back in horror.  The
man lay on his back, but with his head so twisted about that only its
rear portion was visible, and Ridge instinctively knew that he was
dead.  The other motionless form was that of a dead horse, the one
recently ridden by Lieutenant Navarro.

Having made this ghastly discovery, Ridge hastily returned to the hut
to gain from his companion an explanation of what had happened,

"I could not sleep," said the young Spaniard, in answer to his
inquiries, "though I lay still and tried hard to do so, until, by your
heavy breathing, I discovered that you were no longer awake."

"I am awfully ashamed of myself," said Ridge.

"It is not to be wondered at," rejoined the other, consolingly.  "You
had not so much at stake as I, for only my life was threatened.
Somehow, I felt certain that the black fiend who thirsted for my blood
was also lying awake, and would make an attempt to kill me in my
hammock before morning.  So, without disturbing you, I moved to the
back of the hut and waited for him.  It must have been an hour before
the horses began to give signs of great uneasiness, and then one of
them fell.  I suppose he must have killed it."

"Yes," said Ridge, "I reckon he did, since it now lies dead, and
bleeding from a stab behind the left fore-shoulder."

"I imagined something of the kind," continued the other, "but still
thought it safer for both of us not to disturb you.  So I waited, more
keenly alert than before, but heard nothing, until I saw him slowly
rise and stand beside my hammock.  The blow that he dealt it would have
cut me in two had I still occupied it; and, with this discovery of his
design, I fired three shots, one of which, I think, must have hit him.
At any rate, he uttered a great cry and staggered away."

"After that," said Ridge, "he must have tried to escape on my horse,
which probably flung him over her head and broke his neck.  Didn't you,
old girl?"

Had Señorita possessed the power of speech, she would certainly have
answered "Yes," for that was exactly what had happened.

"At any rate," continued the young trooper, with a sigh of relief, "I
am mighty glad my neglect of duty did not result more seriously.  At
the same time we are left in an awkward shape for continuing our
journey."

"How so?" asked the other.  "I am not afraid to walk."

"But I have lost my guide."

"You have lost one and gained another, who will serve you with equal
skill, since I know very well the road to Jiguani."

"Of course you must know it," replied Ridge.  "How stupid of me not to
remember! and, as we can take turns at riding my horse, we shall
doubtless get along all right."

There was no more sleep for either of the young soldiers that night;
and by earliest dawn, having already eaten their frugal breakfast of
roasted yams--an article of diet of which Ridge was becoming heartily
tired--they set forth on the road to Jiguani.

As they were already on the southern slope of the mountains and
descending into a broad valley, they made such rapid progress, by
alternately riding and walking, that the sun had not passed its
meridian when they reached the Cauto--the longest river in Cuba.  There
was formerly a small settlement at the crossing, but it had long since
been destroyed, and now only presented the sight, so common in Cuba, of
charred ruins devoid of human presence.  There was neither bridge nor
boat, but Lieutenant Navarro declared the river fordable at this point.
Ridge regarded dubiously the chocolate-colored flood already swollen by
the first of the summer rains, and wished that they had at least two
horses with which to cross it.  As they had not, and as nothing was to
be gained by delay, he took his companion up behind him, and Señorita,
thus doubly burdened, plunged bravely into the stream.  Until they were
half-way across all went well, the mare cautiously feeling her way, and
the water not reaching more than to her belly,  Then, without warning,
she dropped into a hole so deep that the turbid current closed above
the heads of her riders as well as her own.

Reappearing on the surface, the mare struck out for shore, with Ridge
swimming beside her, and the young Spaniard, who was a poor swimmer,
clinging desperately to her tail.  Fortunately the channel into which
they had plunged was so narrow that within two minutes they had reached
its farther side in safety, and could once more touch bottom.  Wading
up-stream to a point where the road left the river, they emerged from
the water, soaked and dripping, but thankful to have met with no worse
harm than a ducking.

As Ridge turned to laugh at the forlorn appearance presented by his
companion, the latter uttered an exclamation of dismay, and at the same
moment they were surrounded by half a dozen as villainous-looking
ruffians as our troopers had yet seen in Cuba.  His heart sank within
him.  Again was he a prisoner with the prospect at least of having his
journey seriously delayed.  In the confusion of the moment he did not
note that those into whose hands he had fallen wore blouses and
trousers of blue drilling traversed by narrow, vertical stripes of
white, the campaign uniform of the Spanish army in Cuba; but his
companion instantly recognized it, and demanded, with a tone of
authority, "Who commands here?"

"I do," replied the most ill-favored of the crew, stepping forward.

"You are a guerilla, are you not?"

"A captain of irregular cavalry, señor.  And you?"

"I," replied the lieutenant, "am a major of regulars, attached to the
staff of General Luis Pando, and on an urgent mission to Jiguani.  My
horse was killed by insurgents this morning, and I had a narrow escape,
leaving one of them dead."

"Which is the reason that two of you rode one horse in crossing the
river, and so led me to mistake you for 'mamby?'" [1] said the guerilla
captain.

"Very likely, sir, though I can't be accountable for your mistakes.
Now you may let your men make a fire by which we can dry ourselves, and
you may also have food prepared, for we are hungry."

"But your friend, Major, who is he?" asked the other, scanning Ridge's
brown canvas uniform doubtfully.

"None of your business, sir.  Let it be sufficient that he is my
friend, and do as I bid you without further words."

At this Discipline, even though suspicious, yielded to the voice of
Authority, and the guerilla made surly announcement that both fire and
food were close at hand.

This proved true; for, on gaining the face of the bluff, our friends
found themselves in the presence of some twenty more guerillas, who
were gathered about fires, cooking and eating strips of meat from a
recently butchered steer.  Their horses were picketed close at hand,
and beyond them grazed a herd of small wild-looking Cuban cattle.  For
these this detachment of "beef-riders" had scoured the country-side,
and they were now returning with them to Jiguani.  A scout from this
party, patrolling the river-bank, had notified the captain that
strangers were about to cross from the other side, and he had thus been
enabled to prepare for their reception.

He was evidently disappointed that they and their belongings could not
be seized as prizes of war, and manifested this by the envious glances
that he cast at Señorita as well as upon the weapons that Ridge was
drying and cleaning.  Especially was the young trooper's rifle an
object of longing admiration, and, after a critical examination, the
captain even went so far as to offer to buy it; but Ridge refused to
part with the gun, whereupon the man turned sulky, and declined to hold
further intercourse with him.

After a while the whole party again took the road, Lieutenant Navarro
riding a spare horse that he had "requisitioned" from the guerilla
leader.  The latter rode with his guests at the head of the
advance-guard, and Ridge noticed that, as two scouts were still in
front of them, while others of the guerillas rode on either side, they
were completely surrounded, and practically prisoners.  He suggested as
much to his companion, but the latter only smiled, and said:

"What matters it, so long as we are safely escorted to Jiguani?"

"But I don't want to go there."

"True.  I had forgotten.  You wish to proceed to Enramada, where I am
to join you."

"Yes, on the second day from now."

"With only slight delay we might travel together."

"I have reasons for preferring to go alone."

"You will be in danger from the Cubans."

"Ask your guerilla captain if he thinks so."

The latter said he did not believe there were any insurgents on the
Enramada road just then, since their chief, General Garcia, had
withdrawn from Bayamo, and was understood to be collecting his entire
force near El Cobre, in the Sierra Maestra, or southern coast range.

"Very well, then," said Ridge.  "I desire to leave you as soon as we
come to the Enramada road, and I wish that you would inform your
guerilla friend that I propose to do so."

"I will do better; for when we reach the forks, which will be shortly,
I will order you to take the one to the left, while we keep to the
right, and he will not dare attempt to detain you."

But the guerilla, who had determined to possess himself of Ridge's
horse and rifle, did dare do that very thing.  Thus, when at the
forking of the roads the order was given as proposed, and Ridge started
to obey it, the captain whipped out a pistol, and declared that the
stranger must accompany him into Jiguani for examination before the
authorities.

At this our young trooper clapped spurs to Señorita, flung himself flat
on her back, and dashed away on his chosen road, followed by a
scattering volley of pistol-shots, and by four of the best mounted
among the guerillas, who, at their captain's command, sprang after him
in hot pursuit.


[1] Derisive term applied by Spaniards to Cuban insurgents.



CHAPTER XVIII

DEATH OF SEÑORITA

From the earliest days of Spanish rule in Cuba human life has been held
very cheap.  Especially of late years, when thousands of men, women,
and children have been wantonly murdered, has the killing of a man for
any reason been lightly regarded.  So in the present instance the
guerilla captain instructed those detailed to overtake the escaping
prisoner to kill him and bring back all his property.  It seemed to him
an easy task for his well-mounted beef-riders, familiar with every foot
of that region, to overtake and overpower one who had already travelled
far that day, and was evidently a stranger to the country.  When they
had done so he would obtain that coveted rifle.  On the whole, he was
glad that one of his prisoners had made a foolish dash for liberty, and
rather wished the other would do the same thing.

But the other contented himself with denouncing the action of the
guerilla captain in bitter terms, and promising to report it the moment
they reached the Spanish lines.  At all of which the latter only smiled
contemptuously.

In the mean time Ridge, lying low on his horse's neck to offer as small
a target as possible to the shots fired by his pursuers whenever they
sighted him, was uttering words of encouragement in Señorita's ear, and
she was responding with such a burst of speed that the beef-riders were
quickly left far behind.  At length nothing was to be seen or heard of
them; and, believing that they had given over the chase as hopeless,
the young trooper allowed the panting mare who had borne him so bravely
to slacken her heading pace until it was reduced to a walk.

He was still in the broad Cauto valley, where the sabanetas, or open
glades of tall grasses, were interspersed with wide tracts of
impenetrable jungle and forests of palms.  By these his view was
limited on every side, but he knew that the mountains among which he
hoped to find the insurgent leader lay to the southward.  So he
determined to leave the road by the first trail leading in that
direction, and continue on it until he should meet some one willing to
guide him to his destination.

Having formed this crude plan, and believing that Señorita had been
allowed sufficient time to recover her breath, he began to urge her to
a better speed, but, to his surprise, she failed to respond.  Neither
words nor spur served to move her from the slow walk into which she had
fallen.  Such a thing had not happened since the beginning of their
acquaintance in far-away San Antonio, and the young trooper dismounted
to discover what had gone wrong.

He had not far to look, for, as he touched the ground, a red trickle of
blood caught his eye.  The plucky little mare had been hit by one of
the beef-riders' shots, but had given no sign until now, when her
weakness could no longer be overcome.  So copious was the flow of blood
that it was evident an artery had been severed, and already had the
loss been very great.  In vain did Ridge strive to stanch the cruel
outspurt.  He had no proper appliances, and the evil was too serious to
be remedied by his simple skill.  Even as he made the attempt the
gallant beast swayed, staggered, and then sank with a groan to the
ground.  Almost sobbing with grief and dismay, Ridge flung himself
beside her and threw an arm caressingly across her neck.

"Poor old girl!  Dear old girl!" he cried.  "To think that I should
have brought you here just for this.  It is too bad! too bad!  And what
shall I do without you?"

Then with a sudden thought he sprang to his feet and began an eager
search on both sides of the road for water, but found none.
Disappointed and heavy-hearted, he returned to Señorita.  She lay as he
had left her, but motionless and with closed eyes.  Again he knelt at
her side, and at the sound of his voice the loving eyes were once more
opened.  At the same time, with a mighty effort, the proud head was
uplifted, as though the mare were about to struggle to her feet.  Just
then came a shot from behind them, and, with a bullet intended for her
young master buried deep in her brain, the dear horse yielded up her
life.

The shot was so instantly followed by a clatter of hoofs, that Ridge
had barely time to snatch his rifle and fling himself to the ground
behind Señorita's body before the beef-riders appeared charging up the
road, yelling and firing, as they came.

With his rifle resting across the mare's side, Ridge took quick aim and
fired.  One of the advancing horsemen threw up his arms and fell over
backward, but the young American did not see him; for, without waiting
to note the effect of his shot, he dropped the rifle and seized his
revolver.  It was a self-cocking weapon, and as rapidly as he could
pull the trigger he delivered the contents of all six chambers at the
guerillas.  Whether or not they fired in return he did not know, but as
the smoke from his own fusillade cleared away he saw one man lying
motionless in the road, and another dragging himself into the grass at
one side.  From that direction also came the furious plunging of a
horse.  Of the others who had pursued him nothing was to be seen.
Hastily reloading his revolver, and throwing another cartridge into the
chamber of his rifle, Ridge nervously awaited further developments.
Would they again charge upon his front, or would they seek to outflank
him by crawling through the dense growth on either side?  The latter
would be the safer move, and could be easily made.

As our young soldier realized this, he decided to forestall the attempt
by taking to the grass himself, and in another moment he was cautiously
creeping on hands and knees amid the hot brown stalks that grew many
feet above his head.  Fearing that his movement might attract
attention, he did not go far; but, after making his way for a few rods
parallel to the road, he again gained its edge and halted at a place
where, peering between the grass stems, he could see his dead horse.

Here he lay motionless until he became convinced that his enemies had
beaten a retreat and would trouble him no more.  Thus thinking,
impatient of delay, and painfully cramped by his position, he was about
to rise when the long silence was broken by a low cuckoo call close at
hand.  Was it a signal or the note of some strange bird?  As Ridge
hesitated, the call was answered from the other side of the road.
Again it sounded from the side on which he lay; then, from the opposite
side a man's head came slowly into view, low down among the grass
stems.  After hasty glances both up and down the road it was withdrawn,
and the cuckoo notes were again exchanged.  Then two of the baffled
beef-riders rose boldly to their feet and stepped out in full view,
close beside the dead horse.  The young trooper could not distinguish
their words; but, from their angry gestures, they were discussing his
disappearance and the advisability of a further attempt to capture him.

At the same moment his own thoughts were of a most conflicting nature.
One of the men was covered by his rifle, and his finger was on its
ready trigger, but he hesitated to pull it.  They had killed his horse
and sought to take his life.  Even now they would shoot him down
without mercy, and as a pastime, if the opportunity offered.  Knowing
this, and realizing his danger if those men should discover him, the
young American still hesitated to fire from ambush and take human life
in cold blood.

That others did not feel as he did about such things was shown while he
hesitated, for the two beef-riders had been in sight but a few seconds
when there came a flash and a roar of guns from the opposite side of
the road, a little beyond where Ridge was hiding.  Both the guerillas
fell as though struck by a thunder-bolt, and their blue-clad forms lay
motionless across Señorita's body.  Her death was amply avenged.

At this startling demonstration in his behalf, Ridge sprang to his feet
in full view of half a dozen men, ragged and swarthy, who were running
down the road with yells of delight.  They halted at sight of the
stranger, and some raised their weapons; but he, recognizing them as
Cubans, called out: "I am Americano, and those Spaniards whom you have
so bravely killed sought my life.  Viva Cuba libre!"

Upon this they again advanced with shouts and eager questions.  They
belonged to a detachment of the Cuban army on its way to join General
Garcia, and had been attracted by the sound of firing.  Coming to
discover its cause, they had seen the dead horse, and were stealing
cautiously towards it when halted by the familiar cuckoo call of their
enemies.

That Ridge had suffered at the hands of the Spaniards, and fought with
them, was a sufficient passport to their favor.  Thus when he explained
his desire to meet their general they consented to guide him to the
Cuban rendezvous, which they said was high up in the mountains.

With a heavy heart and tear-dimmed eyes the young American turned from
a last look at his beloved horse, and set forth with these new
acquaintances on their toilsome march.  He carried only his arms, but
the Cubans had stripped the dead--both men and horses--of everything
valuable, and were thus well laden with trophies.

A short distance from the spot where Señorita had given her own life in
saving that of her master, they turned into a barely discernible trail
that soon brought them to the foot-hills, where they camped for the
night.  All the next day they pushed on, with infrequent halts, ever
climbing higher over trails so rough and obscure that only experienced
eyes could follow them.  Here and there they passed food-stations
guarded by old men, poorly clad women, and naked children.  Each of
these consisted of a thatched hut, an open fire, and a sweet-potato
patch, and to the marching Cubans they supplied roasted potatoes,
sugar-cane, and occasionally a few ripe mangoes.

Ridge and a guide, to whom he had promised money, outstripped the
others, and shortly before sunset of the second day reached the summit
of a pass lying between the great bulk of El Cobre on the east and Pico
Turquino, the tallest mountain in Cuba.  From this point was outspread
a superb view of densely wooded mountain slopes tumbling steeply down
to the boundless blue of the Caribbean Sea.  Here the guide departed,
promising shortly to return, leaving Ridge to gaze upon the wonderful
panorama unfolded on all sides, and thrilled with the thought that he
had crossed Cuba.

While he stood thus, forgetful of everything save the marvellous beauty
of his surroundings, he was puzzled by a sound as of distant thunder
coming from a direction in which no cloud was visible.  As he
speculated concerning this phenomenon, he was startled by a voice close
at hand saying, in English: "That is a welcome sound to Cuban ears,
señor, since it is the thunder of American war-ships bombarding the
defences of Santiago."



CHAPTER XIX

CALIXTO GARCIA THE CUBAN

"The thunder of American war-ships!"  Instantly, as Ridge learned its
nature, the mighty sound took on a new significance, and seemed like
the voice of his own glorious country demanding freedom for an
oppressed people.  Filled with this thought, he turned to the man who
had suggested it, and found himself in the presence of one wearing the
uniform of a Cuban officer.  The latter had taken off his hat, and the
young American noted a livid bullet scar in the centre of his broad
white forehead.  The man was elderly, fine-looking, and smooth-shaven
except for a heavy white mustache.  His picture had been published in
every illustrated paper and magazine in the United States.

Promptly giving a military salute, Ridge said, "I believe I have the
honor of addressing General Garcia."

"Yes, I am Calixto Garcia.  But who are you?"

"An officer of the American army, come to you with a message from its
commanding General."

"Have you credentials or despatches by which you may be known?"

"Only this, sir."  Here Ridge lowered his voice and gave, for the
second time since landing in Cuba, the secret countersign of the Junta.

"It is sufficient," said the General, smiling and holding out his hand.
"Now what is your message?"

"That the American army of invasion, having sailed from Tampa, is due
within the next two days to arrive off Santiago; and General Shafter,
who commands it, is desirous of an interview with you before landing
his troops.  He asks you to name the place of meeting."

"Thank you, sir, for bringing me this great news, and gladly will I
meet your General whenever he may choose to come.  Also I will fix the
place of meeting down yonder at Aserraderos.  From this station I will
watch day and night for his ships, and when they come will be ready to
receive him."

"Very good, sir.  I will so report to my General."

"But how do you expect to communicate with him?" asked Garcia,
curiously.

"I propose to go from here to Enramada, to which place I was about to
ask you to favor me with a mount and a guide.  At that point I have
arranged to meet a friend who will give me Spanish protection, and
under whose escort I shall visit Santiago.  After that I shall be
guided by circumstances.  But if I live I shall certainly be at
Daiquiri in time to meet the American army."

"You have undertaken a difficult task, and I only hope it may be
accomplished," replied the General, thoughtfully.  "Of course I will
furnish you with a horse and an escort to Enramada, which place, as you
are doubtless aware, is already occupied by my men."

"By the Cubans?" cried Ridge, in dismay.

"Certainly.  We drove out the Spaniards several days ago, and have
advanced our lines to within a few miles of Santiago.  At present that
city is surrounded on three sides by the forces of Generals Castillo
and Rabi."

"In that case, sir, I shall ask for protection to the extreme limit of
the Cuban lines, both for myself and my friend."

"Is he a Spaniard?" asked Garcia, suspiciously.

"He is an American citizen," replied Ridge, "though at present
appearing as a Spaniard, and wearing the uniform of a Spanish officer."

"What is his name?"

"He is travelling under the name of Ramon Navarro."

"Very Spanish indeed, and he could not have done a more reckless or
foolish thing than attempt to pass himself off as a Spaniard in this
part of the island.  If he is discovered near Enramada he will
undoubtedly be killed without a chance to explain who he really is.
But that is the way with you Americans.  Confident in your own
ignorance, you are always pushing ahead without stopping to count the
cost."

"At the same time we generally get there."

"Get where?" asked the other, sharply.

"To the place we start for."

"Oh yes, you get there, in some shape, though perhaps sorry that you
have done so.  In the present campaign, for instance, I have no doubt
that the very first Americans landed will make a dash for Santiago,
without waiting for artillery or even provisions.  If they win a
victory, it will be by the good fortune that often attends fools; but
the chances are that when they enter Santiago it will be as prisoners
of war."

"Sir!" cried Ridge, "I am an American, and an officer in the American
army."

"Pardon, señor; I forgot," replied the General.  "I was allowing myself
to utter aloud my thoughts, a thing extremely wrong and ill-advised.  I
have really no doubt in the world that your gallant countrymen will
conduct themselves most admirably.  Now if you will come to my poor
camp I will make you as comfortable as possible for the night, and in
the morning we will decide what is best for you to do."

"Thank you, sir," said our young trooper, "but with your permission I
should prefer to make a start at once, with the hope of reaching
Enramada before my comrade, and thus preventing a sad mistake on the
part of your troops."

"But, my young friend, you have already travelled far to-day and are
exhausted."

"I still have some strength left."

"Night is upon us, and the trails are very dangerous."

"There is a young moon, and you will furnish reliable guides," replied
Ridge, smiling.

"If I should not furnish them?"

"Then I would set forth alone."

"You are determined, then, to proceed at once?"

"I am, sir, unless detained by force."

"Ah, heavens!  These Americans!" cried the General, with an air of
resignation.  "They will leave nothing for to-morrow that may be
squeezed into to-day.  They know not the meaning of 'mañana.'  Ever
impatient, ever careless of consequences, and yet they succeed.  Can it
be that theirs is the way of wisdom?  But no, it is their good fortune,
what they call 'luck.'  Yes, señor, it shall be as you desire.  In an
hour all shall be in readiness for your departure."

"Couldn't you make it half an hour, General?" asked Ridge, with an
audacity that drew forth only a grunt from the Cuban leader.

So it happened that in something less than an hour from the time of
this important interview our young American, well fed, and provided
with a pass through the Cuban lines for himself and one friend, was
retracing his steps down the northern slope of the Sierra Maestra.  He
was mounted on a raw-backed but sure-footed Cuban pony, and escorted by
half a dozen ragged cavalrymen.  They had barely started before he was
thankful that he had not attempted to make the journey unguided; nor
had they gone a mile before he knew that he could never have
accomplished it alone.  Often he found himself traversing narrow trails
on the brink of black space where a single misstep would have brought
his career to a sudden termination.  Again he passed through gloomy
tunnels of dense foliage, slid down precipitous banks, only to plunge
into rushing, bowlder-strewn torrents at the bottom, and scramble up
slopes of slippery clay on the farther side, All this was done by the
feeble and ever-lessening light of a moon in its first quarter, and as
it finally sank out of sight the leader of the escort called a halt,
declaring that they could not move another rod before daybreak.

Thus Ridge was forced to take a few hours of rest, and so exhausted was
he that his companions had difficulty in rousing him at dawn.  Again
they pushed forward, shivering in the chill of early morning, and
blistered by the sun's fervent heat a few hours later, until ten
o'clock found them on the grass-grown highway leading from Santiago to
Bayamo, and a few miles west of Enramada.  Here, as Ridge believed
himself to be well in advance of his comrade, he decided to await his
coming.  At the same time he sent one of his escort into Enramada to
discover if Lieutenant Navarro had by any chance reached that place,
and to arrange for fresh mounts.  Then he threw himself down in the
scant shadow of a thorny bush for a nap.

Apparently his companions, who had promised to keep a close watch of
the highway, did the same thing, for when he next awoke it was with a
start and the consciousness that a horseman was dashing past at full
speed on the road to Enramada.

In less than a minute the shamefaced squad was in hot pursuit, but
though they strove to atone for their neglect of duty by furious
riding, they did not overtake the horseman until they discovered him
halted by an outpost, who allowed him to pass as they came in sight.
When they in turn were halted they learned that the man whom they had
followed so briskly was a Cuban scout just in from a tour of
observation.

So Ridge rode slowly into Enramada, reported to the officer in command,
and remained in that wretched village until nightfall in a state of
nervous impatience.  He was most anxious to push forward, since every
minute was now of value, but could not desert the friend whom he had
promised to meet at this place.  He feared that without his protection
Navarro would come to grief among the Cubans, and also he was depending
upon the young Spaniard for a safe entry into Santiago.

At length dusk had fallen.  The impatient young trooper had eaten a
supper of tough bull-beef and "those everlasting yams," as he called
them, with his Cuban friends, and was pacing restlessly to and fro a
short distance beyond a camp-fire, about which they smoked their
cigarettes, when a ragged, slouch-hatted figure approached him.

"Señor Americano."

"Well, what do you want?"

"If Don José Remelios desires the company of Ramon Navarro into
Santiago, I am ready."

"Good Heavens, man!"

"Hush!  Tell them you can wait no longer.  Set forth alone, follow the
railroad, and I will meet you."

Then, before Ridge could reply, the figure darted away and was lost in
the night shadows.

Fifteen minutes later the young American, despite the polite protests
of his entertainers, had left Enramada, dismissed the escort who had
passed him through the Cuban pickets, declined further guidance, on the
plea that he could not get lost while following the railway, and was
watching anxiously for the appearance of his friend.

Suddenly he was confronted by a motionless horseman dimly seen on the
embankment ahead of him, and in another minute the comrades were
exchanging greetings.

"How did you reach Enramada without my knowledge?" asked Ridge,
finally.  "I have watched every moving creature in the place since
noon."

"Slipped in, disguised by this horrible Cuban costume, after dark,"
laughed Navarro.  "Shouldn't have come at all but for my promise, and a
recollection that I was a prisoner of war on parole, since I learned at
Jiguani that Enramada was occupied by the insurgents."

"But I have a pass for you from Garcia himself."

"Even had I known it I should not have ventured among those who might
have recognized me; for where a Spaniard is concerned, any Cuban will
kill him first and examine his pass afterwards."

"I suppose that is so," replied Ridge, with a memory of del Concha.
"Anyhow, I am mighty glad everything is turning out so well.  Now,
hurrah for Santiago, and the American army that is to capture it!"

"Do you believe they can do it?"

"Of course I do," was the confident answer.  But a few hours later,
when from a wooded hilltop he looked down, upon the widespread city in
which were quartered 10,000 veteran troops, protected by strong
intrenchments, formidable batteries, and by Admiral Cervera's powerful
squadron, he wondered if, after all, his countrymen had not undertaken
a task far more difficult than they imagined.



CHAPTER XX

THE TWO ADMIRALS

It was a glorious morning, and a glorious sight was disclosed by the
rising sun--a palm-shaded city of red-tiled roofs, dominated by a fine,
double-towered cathedral, and a broad, land-locked bay set in a circle
of rounded hills and rugged mountains.  On the placid bosom of the bay
rode Cervera's proud squadron of war-ships--five mighty cruisers, four
of which were of the latest model and most approved armament; two
wicked-looking torpedo-boat destroyers, each claimed to be more than a
match for any battle-ship afloat, and a few gunboats that had been used
for coast patrol.  From the war-ships came the cherry notes of bugles,
and from the Plaza de Armas, in which a regiment was passing in review,
swelled the inspiring music of a full military band.  Beyond the city
every near-by elevation was occupied by a stout block-house, each
displaying the red and yellow flag of Spain, and forming the nucleus
for radiating lines of rifle-pits.  Far down at the entrance to the bay
rose the grim walls of Santiago's Morro Castle, and beyond it floated
against the blue sky soft smoke clouds that Ridge felt sure must come
from the American ships on blockade.

This was Santiago.  This the peaceful scene that was soon to be
transformed into a battle-field.  Here, within a few days, victory and
defeat would meet face to face.  Which side would claim the former?
Until this moment Ridge had never doubted.  He had often heard the
boast that his own regiment could drive every Spaniard out of Cuba, and
had believed it.  Now he knew that here alone was work cut out for an
army.

These reflections of our young trooper were interrupted by his
companion, who said, "It is a wonderful picture; but I am too hungry to
gaze on it any longer; so let us hasten into the city, with the hope of
finding a breakfast."

Both the young men wore Spanish uniforms that Navarro had brought with
him, and, protected by these, they rode boldly down to the nearest
outpost.  Here the lieutenant demanded that they be conducted to
headquarters, to which they were accordingly sent under guard.

Many of the narrow streets through which they passed were indescribably
filthy, but these became cleaner as they neared the Casa Municipal.
Here they were graciously received by General Linares, to whom they
were presented by one of his staff, who recognized Navarro as a friend.
The General complimented them on having eluded the Cubans, and was much
gratified to learn that Pando's army was on its way from Holguin to
reinforce him.  After a few minutes of conversation, during which he
promised to give both of them details for field duty, he dismissed
them, and they were at liberty to accept an invitation to breakfast at
the San Carlos Club.

In the cool club-house, which faces the Plaza de Armas, where the band
plays in the evening and fountains plash softly amid blossoming
shrubbery, Ridge and his companion were introduced to many officers, a
number of whom were from the warships.

Santiago was very dull just then; its communication with the outside
world was cut off.  No ships could enter its beautiful harbor, business
was almost at a standstill, and there was little to talk about.  So the
advent of two strangers into the club was hailed with joy, and they
were plied with questions.  No one seemed to suspect that our young
American was other than what he professed to be, though his answers to
many of their questions were necessarily vague and unsatisfactory.  In
order to entertain them, the resident officers proposed various trips
to places of near-by interest, such as the fortifications, the barracks
where Lieutenant Hobson of the American navy was confined, the Morro,
from which a view of the blockading squadron could be had, or to the
Spanish war-ships lying in the harbor, the last of which was accepted
for that morning.

As soon, therefore, as breakfast was over, the new-comers were escorted
to the water-front, where lay several steam-launches.  As they reached
the landing-place a fine-looking man, white bearded, with twinkling
eyes and kindly features, drove up in a carriage, and alighting with
springy step, was instantly saluted by every officer present.  He
acknowledged the courtesy by lifting his hat and speaking to several of
them, whom he called by name.  Emboldened by his kindness, these
ventured to present the new arrivals and mention their desire to visit
the Spanish ships; whereupon Admiral Cervera, bravest and most
chivalrous of Spain's commanders, promptly invited them to accompany
him to the flag-ship.

As they steamed down the bay in the superbly appointed launch flying an
Admiral's flag and manned by a picked crew in snowy duck, Ridge sat
silent, in a very confused frame of mind, and paying scant attention to
the gay conversation carried on by the other members of the party.  He
had been overcome by the courtesy of his reception in Santiago, and was
feeling keenly the meanness of his position.

"I'll be shot for disobedience of orders before I ever again undertake
to act the low-down part of a spy," he reflected, bitterly.  At the
same time he was wondering how he should manage to escape the kindly
but embarrassing attentions of these new-found friends, and reach
Daiquiri in time to communicate with General Shafter upon his arrival.

In spite of these thoughts, he did not fail to admire the beauty and
massive symmetry of the ships they were approaching.  There lay the
_Cristobal Colon_, latest product of Italian skill; the splendid
_Vizcaya_, that had recently attracted the admiration of all who saw
her in New York Harbor; the _Almirante Oquendo_, that had been received
with such wild enthusiasm in Havana; the _Maria Teresa_, famed for the
richness of her interior fittings; the _Reina Mercedes_, used as a
hospital-ship; the _Pluton_ and the _Furor_, low, black, and ugly to
look upon, both holding records for enormous speed, and more dreaded as
engines of destruction than all the others put together.  Stripped to
fighting trim, these ships were the very embodiment of modern
sea-power, and in his ignorance Ridge wondered if anything afloat could
resist them.  From them his attention was at length attracted to the
Admiral, who was saying:

"I am about to send this launch, under a flag of truce, out to the
American flag-ship to procure some supplies for our prisoners, the
Señor Hobson and his men.  So if you have a desire to view the Yankee
ships at close range I shall be pleased to have you accompany it.
Possibly you speak the English, in which case you might prove of use as
interpreter."

"I do not speak it so well as does my friend the Señor Remelios,"
replied Lieutenant Navarro, to whom this invitation had been extended.

"Then it may be that he will do me the favor to accompany the launch,"
suggested the Admiral, and of course Ridge gladly embraced the
opportunity thus offered.

"Perhaps I can stay on board the American ship," he said to himself,
"and not be compelled to revisit Santiago until I can do so as an
honest fighter, instead of as a contemptible spy.  And what a chance it
will be for Navarro to escape from the Spaniards!"

Half an hour later the trim launch, now displaying a large white flag
forward, had passed the masts of the sunken _Merrimac_, the frowning
Morro on its lofty headland, and, standing out to sea, was drawing near
the superb cruiser _New York_, flag-ship of Admiral Sampson's fleet.
On either side of her, in imposing array, lay the great battle-ships
_Iowa_, _Massachusetts_, _Texas_, and _Oregon_, the last of which had
recently hurried to the scene of conflict from San Francisco, making a
record voyage of 13,000 miles by way of Cape Horn.  Besides these there
was the _Brooklyn_, swiftest of American cruisers, together with half a
dozen more--cruisers, gunboats, yachts, and torpedo-boats--all in
war-paint, all ready for instant action, and all flying the banner of
stars and stripes.  At the wonderful sight Ridge's heart glowed with
patriotism and a new courage.  How impregnable looked the huge
battle-ships!--how terrible!  Nothing could withstand them!  He felt
sure of that.

The young Spaniard who sat beside him gazed on the outspread American
fleet in silent amazement.  He had thought Cervera's ships formidable,
but now it seemed to him they would be but playthings for these modern
leviathans.

As the Spanish launch ranged alongside the flagship, an object of
curious attention to all on board, it was courteously received; but, to
Ridge's disappointment, only the officer in charge was permitted to
leave it.  A few minutes later, however, a cadet tripped lightly down
the side ladder to say that the gentleman who spoke English was
requested to report on deck.  As in obedience to this order our young
trooper followed him up the ladder, he found opportunity to say in a
low but earnest voice:

"I must see the Admiral, alone if possible.  Have important
communication for him.  Try and arrange an interview."

The cadet looked back in surprise, and then nodded his head.  The next
moment they were on deck, when the "Señor Remelios" could barely
control his joyful emotions at finding himself once more among his
countrymen and beneath his country's flag.

After a brief transaction of business the guests were invited into the
ward-room, which they had scarcely entered when word was passed that
the one speaking English was again wanted on deck.  Promptly obeying
this summons, Ridge was conducted to a large after-cabin which he found
occupied by two officers.  One, with stern features, iron-gray beard,
deeply lined forehead, and piercing eyes, he instantly recognized as
Admiral Sampson.  The other he guessed to be Captain Chadwick,
commander of the ship.

"Well, sir," began the former, sharply, as the new-comer was left
standing, cap in hand, before them, "I understand that you wish to make
a private communication of importance.  What is it?  Are you desirous
of deserting your countrymen and joining us?  If so, I would advise you
to go elsewhere before declaring your intention, because on board this
ship we have very little sympathy for deserters."

"Seeing that I am an American soldier, sir, belonging to Colonel Wood's
First Volunteer Cavalry, and am here by special order from General
Miles, I don't think there is much danger that I shall desert," replied
Ridge.

Both of his hearers uttered exclamations as he announced his
nationality, and Captain Chadwick muttered, "I should never have
suspected it."

At that moment Ridge caught sight of his own face in a mirror, the
first he had seen in two weeks, and was startled to note how very
Spanish he looked.

In a few minutes he had explained the situation, and given General
Garcia's message appointing Aserraderos as a meeting-place to the
American commander.  When his report was finished, he added: "Now, sir,
can't I remain here until the army arrives?  I never realized until
to-day how humiliating it is to be a spy."

"I wish I might say yes," replied Admiral Sampson, meditatively, "but
fear I cannot.  According to your own account, you have not completed
your mission by making a study of the condition and defences of
Santiago, upon which you are to report to the commander of the first
American force that lands.  Also, I could not detain one who comes as a
Spanish officer under flag of truce, without making things very
unpleasant for such of our men as are held prisoners by the enemy.  You
must not think of your position as humiliating, but as one of great
importance and responsibility, as well as of great danger.  You say,
too, that you have a Spanish friend in the launch who wishes to remain
here with you, and whom you cannot desert, but I certainly could not
receive him under the circumstances.  Therefore, much as I regret to
say so, it seems to me that both my duty and yours point to your return
by the way you came."

As Ridge, admitting the justice of this decision, was about to take his
leave, the executive officer of the ship entered hastily and reported:

"A heavy smoke to the eastward, sir, believed to be that of the
transports bringing General Shafter's army."



CHAPTER XXI

A SPANIARD'S LOYALTY

Both officers sprang to their feet at the startling announcement that
the eagerly awaited but long delayed transports were in sight, and
Admiral Sampson extended his hand to Ridge, saying:

"Go back to Santiago and your duty, my boy.  I will convey your report
concerning the meeting with Garcia to General Shafter."

Then all hurried to the deck, and in another minute the great war-ship
had started eastward to welcome the troops, while the Spanish launch,
which had been hastily dismissed, was heading towards Santiago Bay with
every member of the party she had brought out still on board.

"What is about to happen?" asked one of the Spanish officers, in
bewilderment.

"The ships bringing the American army have been sighted," replied
Ridge, who saw no reason for withholding information that must soon be
known to every one.

Upon this there was great excitement in the launch, which was pressed
to its utmost speed, that the news might be carried to Admiral Cervera
and General Linares as quickly as possible.

At his own request, Ridge, in company with Lieutenant Navarro, was
permitted to carry it to the General, who said, quietly:

"Very good, gentlemen; and now, since the time for action has arrived,
I will assign you to the important duty of patrolling the coast, from
which you will bring to me, at Sevilla, earliest word of any attempted
landing by the enemy.  You will act independently, but in co-operation
with Captain del Rey, who is already scouting in the neighborhood of
Guantanamo with his company of cavalry.  It is supposed that the
landing will be made there, but--as Heaven only knows what these
Yankees may do--we must watch every possible point."

Nothing could have suited Ridge better than this; and a few minutes
later, with Santiago left behind, he and his companion were galloping
in the direction of the Morro, from whose lofty walls they would be
able to command a vast sweep of ocean and coast.  Already were its
garrison crowding tower and battlement to gaze wonderingly at the
American fleet coming from the eastward.  A double column eight miles
long of ships, crowded to their utmost capacity with armed men, was
advancing under low-trailing banners of black smoke, like a resistless
fate.  As they neared the war-ships, that had for a month impatiently
awaited them, these thundered forth a welcome from their big guns.
Bands played, swift steam-launches darted to and fro, and a mighty
volume of cheering from twice ten thousand throats was borne to those
who listened on land like the roar of a breaking tempest.  The American
army and navy had met at last, and were joined in a common cause.

For an hour our young trooper watched with swelling heart this
wonderful meeting of his countrymen.  Then he had the satisfaction of
seeing one of the transports steam away to the westward in the
direction of Aserraderos.  While his companions asked one another the
meaning of this manoeuvre, he believed it to indicate that the meeting
between Generals Shafter and Garcia, for which he had arranged, was
about to be effected.

As it was evident that no landing was to be attempted that day, the
young men so reported to General Linares at Sevilla, where they also
spent the night.  Another day of suspense and anxious waiting was
passed, with the American transports rolling idly in the offing, and
making no effort to discharge their human freight.  At the same time
the war-ships kept the Spaniards in a state of feverish excitement by
shelling every place along twenty miles of coast where a landing might
be made.

A swarm of Spanish scouts watched these operations from the hill-tops,
and at short intervals during the day reported the enemy's movements to
General Linares; but of them all none was so active as Ridge and his
companion.  From earliest dawn until dark they scoured the country
lying adjacent to the coast, gaining a complete knowledge of its
so-called roads, which were but the roughest of trails, only intended
for saddle or pack animals, and of its defences.  They also made such
full reports to headquarters of everything that was going on as to
completely win the confidence of the Spanish commander.  Consequently
he was not prepared to accept, without further proof, the abrupt
statement made by a major of his staff, that one of his favorite scouts
was an American, and probably a spy.

It was the second day after the arrival of the transports.  The two
officers were alone in the room occupied by General Linares as an
office, and from it Ridge had just departed after making a report to
the effect that he had not yet seen anything indicating the selection
of a landing-place on the part of the enemy.

"What makes you think him an American?" asked the General.

"Because," replied the Major, "I have recognized him.  His face was
familiar from the first, and when I saw him ride I knew that I had also
seen him ride before, but could not tell where.  Only now has it come
to me, and I know that in Yokohama I saw him within a year win the
great hurdle-race of the English and American residents."

"Even that would not make him an American."

"It was everywhere proclaimed that he was such."

"Are you certain that this is the same man?"

"I am certain.  I now also recall his name.  It was Norreese--the Señor
Norreese."

"But he was introduced by Lieutenant Navarro, who is known to every
one, and whose loyalty is beyond question."

"Did Lieutenant Navarro know him in Spain?"

"I will ask him."

So an orderly was despatched to request Lieutenant Navarro to report
immediately at headquarters.

The two friends were eating a hasty lunch when this message reached
them, and Ridge had just announced his intention to start for Daiquiri
as soon as it was finished.  He alone knew that the American landing
would be made there, and he wished to be on hand when it was effected.
Navarro had arranged to go with him, and both were impatient of the
delay promised by the General's order.

"It is too bad!" exclaimed Ridge; "for we ought to be there now, since
they may already be landing.  I hope the General doesn't want to send
us off in some other direction."

"For fear that he may," said the other, "you had better start at once
towards Daiquiri, and I will follow the moment I am at liberty to do
so."

"That's good advice," repeated Ridge, "and I will do as you suggest."

With this understanding, and having arranged a place of meeting, the
young trooper set forth on his twelve-mile ride over the narrow trails
of the broken and densely wooded hill country lying southeast from
Sevilla, while Navarro hastened to obey the summons of the Spanish
General.

"How long have you known the Señor Remelios?" was the first question
asked of the young Lieutenant.

"Only since meeting him in Holguin, where General Pando introduced us,
and ordered me to accompany him."

"Have you noted anything suspicious in his actions--anything that would
lead you to suspect him of being other than what he claims?"

"I have not, sir," answered the Lieutenant, calmly, though with inward
trepidation, since the question showed that a suspicion of some kind
had been directed against his friend.

"Neither have I," said the General; "for he has admirably performed the
duties assigned to him.  At the same time I am desirous of asking him
some questions, and so have sent for him.  I will request also that you
remain during our interview, and carefully compare his answers with
your own knowledge of his recent movements."

Just here the Major who had recognized Ridge, and who had gone to bring
him to headquarters, returned with the information that he whom they
sought was not to be found.

"Do you know where he is?" asked the General, sharply, of Lieutenant
Navarro.

"I do not, sir, though I think it likely that he has started for
Siboney, where we had planned to go together to watch the American
ships."

"Then you will accompany Major Alvarez to that place, find the Señor
Remelios, and use your friendly influence to bring him back here.  If
for any reason he should refuse to come, he must be compelled by force,
for he is suspected of being an American spy.  I tell you this, because
there is no question of Lieutenant Navarro's loyalty, and I assign you
to this duty to show how entirely I trust you."

"I will do my best, sir," replied the young Spaniard, acknowledging
this compliment with a bow.  Then, wondering in which direction his
duty really lay, he departed in company with the Major, who was
impatient to make good his charges against the Señor Remelios.

Lieutenant Navarro had been moody and unhappy ever since the coming of
the American transports.  He had not confided his trouble to his
companion, but had performed his duties mechanically, and would not
talk of anything else.  Ridge noticed this change in his friend, and
had formed a shrewd guess as to its cause, but waited for the other to
speak first concerning it.

In the mean time, as the young trooper neared Daiquiri, he met scouts
from Captain del Rey's detachment hastening towards headquarters with
news that the Americans were landing.  At this he increased his speed,
until he finally reached the hill agreed upon as a place of meeting
with Navarro, and then his heart was thrilled with the sight out-spread
before him.  Half a dozen transports and a few of the smaller war-ships
lay in the little harbor.  Steam-launches towing strings of boats
crowded with troops were plying between the ships and the one small
pier that offered a landing-place.  The Spaniards had retreated,
burning houses and bridges behind them, and already dark masses of
American troops were forming on the narrow strip of level land
separating the hills from the sea.  These were his own people, and
Ridge longed to rush forward and join them, but was faced by two
obstacles.  One was a strong Spanish force concealed in a ravine
between him and the Americans as though to dispute their advance at
that point, and the other was the memory that he had promised to await
at this place the coming of Navarro, whom he expected to see with each
minute.

Suddenly, as he impatiently wondered what he ought to do, there came a
quick rush of feet, and the young Spaniard, breathless with haste,
stood beside him.

"Amigo," he gasped, "you are in great danger.  By some mischance the
General has discovered that you are an American, and Major Alvarez is
charged with your capture.  You have been traced to this point, and
even now the hill is being surrounded to prevent your escape.  Within
two minutes soldiers will ascend from all sides, and, until they come,
you are my prisoner."

At this Ridge started back and clapped a hand to his pistol.

"But I do not forget," continued the other, "that I am also your
prisoner, on parole not to fight against your countrymen, or that to
you I owe my life.  So I am come to save yours and aid your escape, or
die beside you in making the attempt.  First, though, let us exchange
prisoners, for, amigo, it has come to me within these two days that I
cannot desert my own people in this time of their need.  Let me then
remain with them until all is over, which must be shortly.  Then, if I
still live, I will return to you and seek my cousin.  Oh, my friend,
grant me this favor, and with every breath I will thank you!  May it be
so?  Will you do as I ask?"

"Of course I will," answered Ridge, heartily.  "I had already guessed
your feelings, and made up my mind to give back your parole if you
should ask for it.  So now you are free to act as seems to you best."

"God bless you, amigo!" cried the young Spaniard, his face radiant with
joy.  "Now they come!  Conceal yourself, while I do what may be done to
save you."



CHAPTER XXII

ROLLO IN CUBA

The sound of voices and of men crashing through the underbrush as they
advanced up the hill from all sides was distinctly heard, and Ridge
realized, with dismay, how completely he was surrounded.  It did not
seem possible that he could escape, but he mechanically obeyed his
friend's instructions, and, diving into a dense thicket, lay flat on
the ground beneath its leafy shelter.

At that same moment Navarro raised a great shout of "Here he is!  There
he goes!  Look out for him!"  He also fired several shots in rapid
succession; and one of these wounding the horse that Ridge had ridden,
sent it crashing in terrified flight directly towards the Spanish
troops in the ravine.  After the flying animal sprang the lieutenant,
firing as he ran, and yelling to those on the hill to follow him.

With savage cries, and as eagerly as hounds in sight of a fox, the
Spaniards gave over their careful beating of every covert, and rushed
from all sides towards the scene of disturbance.  Several of them
passed so close to Ridge that he could have touched them, but in their
blind haste they failed to notice him.  In another moment they had
swept over the crest of the hill and were plunging down its farther
side.  Before they reached the bottom, Ridge's wounded and terrified
horse burst from cover directly among the ambushed troops in the
ravine, by whom it was quickly killed.  Then came the pursuers.

"Where is he?  What have you done with him?" demanded Lieutenant
Navarro, excitedly.

"Who, señor?"

"The spy! The Americano!"

"We have seen no one, only this brute of a horse."

"But he was mounted on it.  I saw him and fired.  He fled in this
direction, and we pursued him."

"He must have been hit and fallen from the saddle."

"Then he is still close at hand," panted Major Alvarez, who had just
reached the scene, "and alive or dead we must find him.  Scatter, men,
and search!" he added, fiercely, turning to the baffled soldiers of his
command, who were crowding confusedly behind him.

This command was never obeyed; for at that moment, with a shriek and a
roar, a shell from one of the American war-ships dropped into the
ravine, and burst among the startled Spaniards.  Their presence had
been detected by the firing on the hillside, and with the range thus
obtained the Yankee gunners sent shell after shell with deadly
precision among the ambushed troops.

Completely demoralized by the awful effect of this fire, the Spaniards
broke from cover and fled, leaving a score of dead behind, and bearing
with them a desperately wounded officer.  They carried him as far as
Sevilla, which place they did not reach until the following morning,
and where General Linares bent pityingly over him.

"Loyal and brave even unto death," he murmured.  "For this last
faithful service to Spain you shall rank as Captain."  Then, as the
closed eyes of the wounded man were opened with a look of recognition,
the General turned to those who had brought him, and said:

"He is too valuable to our cause, and too brave a Spaniard to die if we
can save his life.  Therefore carry Captain Navarro to the hospital in
Santiago, and deliver my orders that he receive the best of care."

So the painful journey was resumed, but on the crest of San Juan
Heights, overlooking the city, the litter-bearers found that they were
carrying a dead man.  It was useless to convey him farther, and a
little later they buried him, with full military honors, on the sunny
slope that was shortly destined to become the scene of one of the
world's decisive battles.

In the mean time Ridge Norris, snatched from the very jaws of
destruction by the prompt devotion of his prisoner-friend, had emerged
from his concealment, and hastened down the hill in a direction
opposite to that taken by those who sought his life.

After awhile, believing that he had gained a safe distance from them,
he paused to consider his situation.  A minute later, when he had just
planned to make a great circuit that should outflank the Spaniards in
the ravine, and bring him to where the Americans were landing, a rush
of approaching feet and a medley of voices caused him to plunge into
the dense growth bordering the trail.  Then catching a glimpse of the
retreating Spaniards, whom he imagined to be searching for him, he
forced his way still deeper into the tangle, until they were lost to
hearing as well as to sight.

Half an hour afterwards, reassured by the unbroken silence of his
surroundings, our young American attempted to regain the trail he had
left, but, to his dismay, had failed to do so when darkness overtook
him.  The idea of spending a night in that Cuban jungle was decidedly
unpleasant; but as there was nothing else to be done, Ridge quickly
made such preparations for it as his limited resources would allow.
His knowledge of Cuban woodcraft was much greater now than it had been
two weeks earlier, and within fifteen minutes he had constructed a rude
hammock of tough vines, over which was laid a great palm-leaf.  This
would at least swing him clear of the ground, with its pestilent
dampness and swarming land-crabs.  Although he knew that he should
suffer from cold before morning, he dared not light a fire, for it
would be almost certain to attract unwelcome attention.  So he lined
his swinging-bed with such dried grasses as he could find, and nestling
in it tried to sleep.  For hours this was impossible.  The forest about
him was filled with strange rattlings, dashings, and other
indescribable sounds.  He was also cold and hungry.  But at length he
lost consciousness of his unhappy position, and drifted into troubled
dreams.

When next he awoke the sun was shining, and there was a confusion of
voices close at hand.  He could not catch the drift of conversation;
but, as the tongue spoken was Spanish, he lay motionless and listened,
expecting each moment to be discovered by some straggler.  For several
hours his unseen neighbors cooked, ate, smoked cigarettes, laughed, and
talked without suspecting his presence within a few yards of them;
while he, desperately hungry, cramped, and filled with impatience at
this aggravating detention, wondered if they were going to stay there
forever.

When, after what seemed an eternity of suspense, those who had
unwittingly kept him prisoner took their departure, the sun had passed
its meridian, and Ridge, parched with thirst, was suffering as much
from the breathless heat as he had with cold a few hours earlier.  As
he cautiously approached the scene of the recent bivouac he found it to
be where a small stream crossed a narrow trail, and, after quenching
his thirst, he followed the latter in what he believed to be the
direction of Daiquiri.  At any rate, it was the opposite one from that
taken by his recent unwelcome neighbors.  Up hill and down the dim
trail led him, across streams and through dark ravines, but always
buried in dense foliage, through which he could gain no outlook.

After our young trooper had followed the devious course of this rough
pathway for several miles, he suddenly came to a halt, and stood
spellbound.  From directly ahead of him came a burst of music swelling
grandly through the solemn stillness of the forest.  A regimental band
was playing "The Star-spangled Banner," and never before had such
glorious notes been borne to his ears.  Tears started to his eyes; but
without pausing to brush them away he dashed forward.  A minute later
he stood on the brow of a declivity looking down upon the sea-coast
village of Siboney, which he instantly recognized, though its
transformation from what it was when he had last seen it was wonderful.
Then it had been a stronghold of Spanish troops.  Now the
fortifications crowning its encircling hills, abandoned by those who
had erected them, stood empty and harmless; while in the village, and
on the narrow plain surrounding it, an advance-guard of the American
army was pitching its tents.  Over a building on a hill-side opposite
to where Ridge stood, which he remembered as headquarters of the
Spanish Commandant, floated an American flag, evidently just raised,
and from that quarter also came the inspiring music that had so
quickened his pulses.

Ten minutes later he stood before that very building, having passed
through the American lines unquestioned, though stared at curiously by
those who noticed him at all.  He wore the first Spanish uniform they
had ever seen, and, not recognizing it, they took him for a Cuban
officer, several of whom had already visited the camp.  So the young
American, looking in vain for a familiar face among the thousand or so
of his busy countrymen, made his way to headquarters, where, for the
first time, a sentry halted him and demanded his business.  While he
was thus detained an officer issued from the building, mounted a horse,
and was about to ride away when Ridge sprang forward, calling:

"General!  General Lawton!"

The officer halted, looked keenly at the sun-browned young man in
Spanish uniform, and, almost without hesitation, said:

"You are Sergeant Norris of the Rough Riders, I believe?"

"Yes, sir," replied Ridge, saluting, and overjoyed at being recognized.

"I looked for you at Daiquiri," continued the General, "and hope you
can give good reason for not reporting there as ordered."

"I believe I can, sir."

"Then come in with me and give it to Major-General Wheeler, who is at
present in command."

Within half an hour the young scout had been complimented by both
Generals on the success of his recent undertaking, and had furnished
them with information of the utmost value concerning the obstacles to
be encountered between Siboney and Santiago.  The first of these he
stated would be found at Las Guasimas, where the two trails from
Siboney to Sevilla on the Santiago road formed a junction some three
miles inland.  A little later he had the honor of guiding General
Wheeler on a reconnoissance over one of these trails, and pointing out
the location of a strongly intrenched Spanish force, posted to oppose
the American advance.

When they returned to Siboney the sun had set, and Ridge, faint for the
want of food, was wondering where he should find a supper, when a
mighty cheering, mingled with wild cowboy yells, rose from a point
where the Daiquiri road entered the village.

"It sounds as though your irrepressible comrades had arrived," said the
little General, turning to his young guide with a quizzical smile,
"though I did not expect them before to-morrow.  Perhaps you would like
to go and welcome them."

"Thank you, sir.  Indeed I should," and in another moment Ridge was
hastening in the direction of the familiar sounds.

How his heart swelled with loving pride, as he sighted the red and
white guidons of the on-sweeping column; and when the one bearing the
magical letter "K" came into view, he could have wept for very joy.

But he didn't weep.  There wasn't any time, for in another minute he
was among them, proclaiming his identity to incredulous ears.

When the Riders of Troop K were finally forced to acknowledge that he
was really their own sergeant whom they believed was left behind in
Tampa, all military discipline was for the moment flung to the winds.
They yelled and whooped and danced about him, slapping him on the back,
wringing his hands, and acting so like madmen, that the rest of the
command stared at them in blank amazement.

As for Rollo Van Kyp, he first hugged his recovered tent-mate into
breathlessness, and then invited the entire troop to take supper with
him at the Waldorf in celebration of the prodigal Sergeant's return.
To this invitation a hundred voices answered as one:

"Yes, we will!  Yes, we will!  Rollo in Cuba, yes, we will!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE "TERRORS" IN BATTLE

"Couldn't you let me begin that supper with a hardtack right now?"
pleaded our hungry young trooper, as soon as he could make himself
heard.  "It's a day and a half since my last meal, which was only a
small ration of boiled rice, and it seems as though a hardtack at this
minute would do me more good than the promise of a hundred Waldorf
suppers."

The hunger that demanded even a despised hard-tack was at that time so
incredible to the well-fed Riders, that at first they could not believe
his request to be made in earnest.  When, however, they saw the
eagerness with which he began to devour one of the iron-clad biscuits,
hesitatingly offered by Rollo Van Kyp, they were convinced that he was
indeed on the verge of starvation.  They were also reminded of their
own keen appetites, for, amid the excitement of that day's landing and
their forced march from Daiquiri, they had eaten nothing since a
daylight breakfast.  But each man carried three days' rations, and
camp-fires were quickly ablaze in every direction.  From these
delicious odors of boiling coffee and frizzling bacon so stimulated
their hunger, that when, tin cup and plate in hand, they sat down to
that first meal on Cuban soil, they pronounced it equal to any ever
served in New York City.

While Ridge, sharing his chum's cup and plate, was striving between
mouthfuls of this thoroughly enjoyable supper to answer a few of the
innumerable questions showered upon him, he suddenly became aware of an
officer standing on the edge of the fire-light and regarding him with
interest.  As our young trooper sprang to his feet with a salute, he
was covered with confusion to recognize in the motionless figure his
own Lieutenant-Colonel, and to remember that in all this time he had
neglected to report his return to the regiment.  He began a confused
apology, but the other interrupted him, laughing.

"It is all right, Sergeant," he said.  "We heard of you from General
Wheeler, who, by-the-way, is much pleased with the results of your
expedition.  So I came to find you, with a reprimand for not having
reported at once to Colonel Wood, but when I saw you devouring
hardtack, I was quite willing to accept starvation as your excuse.
Now, however, the Colonel would be pleased to see you."

After an hour spent at headquarters, where he was honored with an
invitation to eat a second supper, during which his apparently
unappeasable appetite for hardtack and bacon caused much amusement.
Ridge was allowed to return to his comrades.  A throng of these
gathered about the camp-fire of Rollo Van Kyp's mess, and, unmindful of
the showers that fell at short intervals, listened for hours with
breathless interest and undisguised envy to the story of his recent
adventures.  They were happily reassured by his description of the
strength of Santiago's fortifications, and his assertion that the
Spaniards would put up a good fight before surrendering them; for they
had been inclined to think and speak contemptuously of the enemy who
they feared would yield without a struggle.

So the greater part of the night was passed.  They ought to have been
asleep, storing up strength against the morrow; but who could sleep
amid the uproar and excitement of that first night at Siboney?  Not the
Rough Riders, at any rate.  Half a dozen transports had come into the
little bay; and from them scores of boat-loads of troops and supplies
were being landed through the roaring surf on the open beach.  A
thousand naked figures, screaming, ducking, and splashing one another
like so many schoolboys on a frolic, assisted and impeded the landing
of their comrades, who, crowded into pontoons and small boats, were
pitched, howling with delight, from the crest of each in-rolling
breaker.  A half-moon and the powerful search-lights of two war-ships
flooded the whole extraordinary scene with brightness.  On shore the
dripping arrivals crowded about the red camp-fires drying their soaking
uniforms, cooking, eating, singing, laughing, and filled with
irrepressible happiness at having escaped from their "prison hulks" and
reached Cuba at last.

Thus, at dead of night, was an army landed on a hostile shore, and by
two o'clock in the morning five thousand American troops were crowded
in and about the village of Siboney.

Acting on the reports brought him by Ridge Norris and by certain Cubans
whom the Spanish rear-guard had driven back the day before, as well as
upon the knowledge gained by his own reconnoissance, General Wheeler
had determined to attack the enemy, who were strongly posted at the
forking of two roads leading from Siboney to Sevilla.  The broader of
these roads bore to the right through a narrow valley, while the other,
merely a rough trail, climbed the hill back of the village and followed
the crest of a ridge to the place of intersection.  Both passed through
an almost impenetrable growth of small trees and underbrush, thickly
set with palms, bamboos, Spanish-bayonets, thorn bushes, and cactus,
all bound together by a tangle of tough vines, and interspersed with
little glades of rank grasses.  To the right-hand trail, miscalled the
wagon-road, were assigned eight troops from two regiments of dismounted
regular cavalry, the First and Tenth (colored), under General Young.
With these Colonel Wood and his Rough Riders, advancing over the
hill-trail, were to form a junction at the forks, locally known as Las
Guasimas, three miles away.

So at earliest dawn the troops detailed for this duty were astir, after
but three hours of troubled sleep.  The regulars, having the longer
route to traverse, were given a half-hour's start of the others, who,
in the mean time, made coffee and bolted a few mouthfuls of food.  Then
troops were formed, First Sergeants called the roll, the order,
"Forward march!" was given, and the Riders, burdened with
blanket-rolls, haversacks, canteens, tin cups, carbines, and
cartridge-belts filled to their utmost capacity, began to scramble up
the steep hill-side.

The sun was already red and hot, the steaming air was breathless, and
by the time the top of the first hill was gained the panting troopers
were bathed in perspiration that trickled from them in rivulets.  A
short breathing-space was allowed, and then, with Ridge Norris and a
Cuban scout to feel the way, the line of march was again taken up.
Next behind the scouts came a "point" of five men, then Capron's troop
strung out in single file and acting as advance-guard.  Behind these
followed the main body of the little army, headed by Colonel Wood.  For
an hour and a half they toiled forward in this fashion, laughing,
joking, commenting on the tropical strangeness of their surroundings,
and wondering if there was a Spaniard nearer to them than Santiago.

At length a halt was called, and the wearied men, suffering greatly
from the sweltering heat, gladly flung themselves to the ground.  At
the same moment Ridge was reporting to Colonel Wood that he had located
the Spaniards only a few hundred yards ahead, and behind strong
intrenchments.  Upon this the Colonel moved cautiously forward to study
the position, leaving his men to fan themselves with their hats and
exchange laughing comments upon one another's appearance, utterly
unconscious of the enemy's proximity.

Suddenly word was passed back for silence in the ranks.  Then came
"Attention!" and "Load carbines!"

"Something must be up," whispered Rollo Van Kyp to Mark Gridley, and
just then all eyes were directed inquiringly towards Ridge Norris, who
was taking a place with his own troop.

"The Spaniards are right in front of us," he whispered, and almost
instantly the startling news was passed down the line.  There was no
joking now, nor complaints of the heat, but each man stood with
compressed lips, peering into the dense underbrush on either side, and
wishing that the suspense was over.

Now came the hurried forming of a line of battle.  One troop was sent
straight to the front, two were deployed to the left, and two more, one
of which was that of Ridge and Rollo, were ordered to force their way
through the thickets on their right, down into the valley, where they
were to make connection with the regulars.  While these movements were
being executed, and with a suddenness that caused every man's nerves to
tingle, a sharp firing began somewhere off in the right, and ran like a
flash of powder along the whole line.

Blanket-rolls and haversacks had already been flung aside, and the
sweating troopers, with their flannel shirts open at the throat and
sleeves rolled up to the elbows, bore only their carbines, ammunition,
and canteens of water.  At first Ridge had only his revolver, but
within five minutes he had snatched up the carbine of a man who fell
dead at his side, and was as well armed as the rest.

For an hour the Riders fought blindly, seeing no enemy, but pouring
their own volleys in the direction from which the steady streams of
Mauser bullets seemed to come.  The smokeless powder used by the
Spaniards gave no trace of their location, while the sulphurous cloud
hanging over the Americans formed a perfect target for the Spanish fire.

Still the dark-blue line was steadily advanced, sometimes by quick
rushes, and again by a crawling on hands and knees through the high,
hot grass.  Always over the heads of the troopers and among them
streamed a ceaseless hail of bullets from Mauser rifles and
machine-guns.  Men fell with each minute, some not to rise again, some
only wounded; but the others never paused to note their fate.  Those
who could must push on and get at the Spaniards.  Those who were
helpless to advance must, for the present, be left to care for
themselves as best they might.

At length the ever-advancing line reached the edge of a grassy valley
set here and there with clumps of palms.  To the left was a stone
building, formerly a distillery, now a Spanish fort, and directly in
front was an intrenched ridge.  To this the Spaniards had been slowly
but surely driven, and now they occupied their strongest position.

At almost the same moment, and as though animated by a single thought,
Roosevelt on the extreme left and Wood on the right gave the order to
charge.  With a yell the panting, smoke-begrimed Riders broke from
cover and sprang after their dauntless leaders.  They charged by
rushes, running fifty feet, then dropping in the hot grass and firing;
then reload, rise, and run forward.  On their right the regulars were
doing the same thing in the same manner with the precision of machines,
while the colored troops stormed the ridge with a steadiness and grim
determination that won for them undying fame, and answered forever the
question as to whether or not the negro is fitted to be a soldier.

The assault was unsupported by artillery; those making it had no
bayonets, and the Spanish fire, ripping, crackling, and blazing in
vivid sheets from block-house and rifle-pit, was doubling and trebling
in fury; but there was no hesitation on the part of the Americans, no
backward step.

The Spaniards could not understand it.  This thin line of yelling men
advancing with such confidence must have the whole American army close
behind them.  In that case another minute would see an assault by
overwhelming numbers.  Thus thinking, the Spaniards faltered, glanced
uneasily behind them, and finally ran, panic-stricken, towards
Santiago, while Rough Riders and regulars swarmed with exulting yells
and howls of triumph into the abandoned trenches.  The first land
battle of the war had been fought and won.  Wood, Roosevelt, Young,
Rough Riders, and regulars had covered themselves with glory, and
performed a deed of heroism that will never be forgotten so long as the
story of the American soldier is told.

"If we only had our horses we could catch every one of those chaps,"
said Rollo Van Kyp, as he sat in a window of the ruined building just
captured by the Riders, happily swinging his legs and fanning himself
with his hat.  The young millionaire's face was black with powder,
covered with blood from the scratching of thorns, and streaked with
trickling perspiration.  His shirt and trousers were in rags.

"It's a beastly shame we weren't allowed to bring them," he continued,
"for this fighting on foot in the tropics is disgustingly hot work.
Now if I were in Teddy's place--"

"Private Van Kyp," interrupted Sergeant Norris, sternly, "instead of
criticising your superiors you had better go and wash your face, for
your personal appearance is a disgrace to the troop.  But oh, Rollo!"
he added, unable longer to maintain the assumed dignity under which he
had tried to hide his exultation, "wasn't it a bully fight? and aren't
you glad we're here? and don't you wish the home folks could see us at
this very minute?"



CHAPTER XXIV

FACING SAN JUAN HEIGHTS

The fight of Las Guasimas, in which Rough Riders and colored regulars
covered themselves with glory, was only a first brisk skirmish between
the advanced outposts of opposing armies, but its influence on both
sides was equal to that of a pitched battle.  It furnished a notable
example of the steadiness and bull-dog tenacity of the American
regular, as well as the absolute fearlessness and determination to win,
at any cost, of the dudes and cowboys banded under the name of Rough
Riders.  It afforded striking proof that it is not the guns, but the
men behind them, who win battles, since an inferior force, unsupported
by artillery, and unprovided with bayonets, had charged and driven from
strong intrenchments nearly four times their own number of an enemy
armed with vastly superior weapons.  It inspired the Americans with
confidence in themselves and their leaders, while it weakened that of
the Spaniards in both.  To the Rough Riders it was a glorious and
splendidly won victory, and as they swarmed over the intrenchments,
from which the fire of death had been so fiercely hurled at them that
morning, they yelled themselves hoarse with jubilant cheers.

Then came the reaction.  They were exhausted with the strain of
excitement and their tremendous exertions under the pitiless tropical
sun.  Strong men who had fought with tireless energy all at once found
themselves trembling with weakness, and the entire command welcomed the
order to make camp on the grassy banks of a clear stream shaded by
great trees.

In their baptism of fire eight of the Riders had been killed outright,
thirty-four more were seriously wounded, and fully half of the
remainder could show the scars of grazing bullets or tiny clean-cut
holes through their clothing, telling of escapes from death by the
fraction of an inch.  Ridge Norris, for instance, found a livid welt
across his chest, looking as though traced by a live coal, and marking
the course of a bullet that, with a hair's deflection, would have ended
his life, while Rollo Van Kyp's hat seemed to have been an especial
target for Spanish rifles.

After regaining their breath, and receiving assurance that the enemy
had retreated beyond their present reach, these two, in company with
many others, went back over the battle-field to look up the wounded,
and bring forward the packs flung aside at the beginning of the fight.

At sunset that evening the Riders buried their dead, in a long single
grave lined with palm-leaves, on a breezy hill-side overlooking the
scene of their victory.  The laying to rest of these comrades, who only
a few hours before, had been so full of life with all its hopes and
ambitions, was the most impressive ceremony in which any of the
survivors had ever engaged.  It strengthened their loyalty and devotion
to each other and to their cause as nothing else could have done, and
as the entire command gathered close about the open grave to sing
"Nearer my God to Thee," many a voice was choked with feelings too
solemn for expression, and many a sun-tanned cheek was wet with tears.
The camp of the Rough Riders was very quiet that night, and the events
of the day just closed were discussed in low tones, as though in fear
of awakening the sleepers on the near-by hill-side.

After the fight of Las Guasimas, its heroes rested and waited for six
days, while the remainder of the army effected its landing and made its
slow way to the position they had won over the narrow trails they had
cleared.  These days of waiting were also days of vast discomfort, and
the patient endurance of drenching tropical rains and steaming heat,
the wearing of the same battle-soiled clothing day after day and night
after night, and, above all, of an ever-present hunger, that sapped
both strength and spirits.  They had started out with but three days'
rations, and four days passed before a scanty supply of hard-tack,
bacon, and coffee began to dribble into camp.  The road to Siboney,
flooded by constant rains, bowlder-strewn, and inches deep in mud, was
for a long time impassable to wagons; and during those six days such
supplies of food and ammunition as reached the idle army were brought
to it by three trains of pack-mules that toiled ceaselessly back and
forth between the coast and the front, bringing the barest necessities
of life, but nothing more.

So the American army suffered and prayed to be led forward, while the
Spaniards between them and Santiago strengthened their own position
with every hour, and confidently awaited their coming.  The invaders
now occupied the Sevilla plateau, and were within five miles of the
city they sought to capture.  In their front lay a broad wooded valley,
to them an unknown region, and on its farther side rose a range of
hills, that Ridge Norris told them were the San Juan Heights, strongly
protected by block-houses, rifle-pits, and bewildering entanglements of
barbed wire, a feature of modern warfare now appearing for the first
time in history.  With their glasses, from the commanding eminence of
El Poso Hill, crowned with the ruined buildings of an abandoned
plantation, the American officers could distinctly see the Spaniards at
work on their intrenchments a mile and a half away, and note the
ever-lengthening lines of freshly excavated earth.

But for six days the army waited, and its artillery, which was expected
to seriously impair, if not utterly destroy the effectiveness of those
ever-growing earthworks, still reposed peacefully on board the ships
that had brought it to Cuba.  Only two light batteries had been landed,
and on the sixth day after Las Guasimas these reached the front.  At
the same time came word that General Pando with 5000 Spanish
reinforcements was nearing the besieged city from the north.  In that
direction, and only three miles from Santiago, lay the fortified
village of Caney, held by a strong force of Spanish troops.  If it were
captured, Pando's advance might be cut off.  So General Shafter, coming
ashore for the first time a week after the landing of his troops,
planned a forward movement with this object in view.  Lawton's division
was to capture Caney, and then swing round so as to sever all outside
communication with Santiago.  While he was doing this, demonstrations
that should deter the Spaniards from sending an additional force in
that direction were to be made against San Juan and Aguadores.  These
movements were to occupy one day, and on the next the reunited army was
to attack the entire line of the San Juan ridge.  In the mean time no
one knew anything of the valley lying between this strongly protected
ridge and those who proposed to capture it.

So the order was issued, and late in the afternoon of June 30th, in a
pouring rain, the camps were broken, and the drenched army eagerly
began its forward movement.  Lawton's division marching off to the
right slipped and stumbled through the mud along a narrow, almost
impassable, trail over the densely wooded hills until eight o'clock
that evening, when, within a mile of Caney, it lay down for the night
in the wet grass without tents or fire, and amid a silence strictly
enjoined, for fear lest the Spaniards should discover its presence, and
run away before morning.

At the same time Wheeler's division of dismounted cavalry, including
the Rough Riders and Kent's infantry division, advanced as best it
could over the horrible Santiago road, ankle-deep in mud and water, to
El Poso Hill, on and about which it passed a wretchedly uncomfortable
night.  Seven thousand heavily equipped men, mingled with horses,
artillery, pack-mules, and army wagons, all huddled into a narrow gully
slippery with mud, advance so slowly, however eager they may be to push
forward, that although the movement was begun at four o'clock, midnight
found the rearmost regiment still plodding wearily forward.

With the coming of daylight, on July 1st, the army lay beneath a dense
blanket of mist that spread its wet folds over the entire region they
were to traverse.  It was eight o'clock before Grimes's battery of four
light field-pieces, posted on El Poso Hill, opened an ineffective fire
upon the heights across the broad valley.  For twenty minutes the
Spaniards paid no attention to the harmless barking of the little guns;
then the smoke cloud hanging over them proved so admirable and
attractive a target that they could no longer resist firing at it.  So
shells began to fall about the battery with such startling accuracy
that a score of Americans and Cubans gathered near it were killed or
wounded before they could seek shelter.  Among these first victims of
the San Juan fight were several of the Rough Riders.

About this time General Sumner, temporarily in command of the cavalry,
was ordered to advance his troops into the valley as far as the edge of
the wooded belt, and within half a mile of the San Juan batteries.

"What shall I do when I get there?" asked General Sumner.

"Await further orders," was the curt reply.

There were other changes in commands that morning; for
Brigadier-General Young, being prostrated by a fever, the Colonel of
the Rough Riders was assigned to his duties, and became "General" Wood
from that hour.  At the same time his Lieutenant-Colonel stepped into
the vacancy thus created, and as "Colonel" Roosevelt was destined to
win for himself and his dashing command immortal fame before the
setting of that day's sun.

So the Rough Riders, together with five other regiments of dismounted
cavalry, started down the deep-cut road, which in places was not over
ten feet wide, and was everywhere sticky with mud, while an entire
infantry division was crowded into it behind them.  Like all other
roads in that country, this one, now densely packed with human beings
advancing at a snail's pace along nearly three miles of its length, was
bordered on both sides by an impenetrable tropical jungle.

The Spaniards were advised of the forward movement, and though they
could not see it, were already directing a hot fire at this road, of
whose location they were, of course, well aware, and from the outset
dead and wounded men marked the line of American progress.  After a
mile of marching under these conditions, the foremost troops came to a
place where the San Juan River crossed the road.  A short distance
beyond it crossed again, thus forming the ox-bow to be known ever after
that memorable day as the "Bloody Bend."  A little farther on was open
country, and here General Sumner obeyed instructions by deploying his
troopers to the right in a long skirmish line on the edge of the
timber.  In this position they lay down, sheltering themselves as best
they could behind bushes or in the tall hot grass, and anxiously
awaited further orders from headquarters.  The Spanish fire, which they
might not return, was ceaseless and pitiless, though because of absence
of smoke none could see whence it came.

Already the loss in killed and wounded was assuming alarming
proportions, and still on-coming troops were pouring into that Bloody
Bend, where they must accept, with what fortitude they could command,
their awful baptism of fire.  Fifty feet above their heads floated the
observation balloon of the engineers, betraying their exact position
and forming an admirable focus for the enemy's fire, which, after
awhile, to the vast relief of every one, shot the balloon to pieces so
that it dropped from sight among the trees.

For hours the troops waited thus in the frightful tropical heat,
monuments of patient endurance.  The dead and the living lay side by
side, though such of the wounded as could be reached were dragged back
to dressing-stations on the river-banks.  Even here they were not safe,
for the dense foliage that afforded a grateful shade also concealed
scores of Spanish sharp-shooters.  These maintained a cowardly and
deadly fire, the source of which could rarely be discovered, upon all
coming within range, regardless of whether they were wounded men,
surgeons in discharge of their duties, hospital stewards, or Red Cross
assistants, thus adding a fresh horror to warfare.

It was a terrible position, and the American army was being cut to
pieces without a chance to fire a gun in self-defence.  To advance
appeared suicidal, to attempt a retreat meant utter destruction.  No
orders could come over the blockaded road from the Commander-in-Chief,
miles in the rear, nor could word of the awful situation be sent back
to him in time.  The men thus trapped gazed at one another with the
desperate look of hunted animals brought to bay.  Must they all die,
and was there no salvation?

Suddenly a mounted officer dashed into the open, pointing with his
sword to the nearest hill crowned by a block-house.  Then through a
storm of bullets he spurred towards it, and, with a mighty yell ringing
high above the crash of battle, his men sprang after him.



CHAPTER XXV

RIDGE WINS HIS SWORD

A few minutes before this, while the Rough Riders lay in sullen
despair, with death on all sides and filling the air above them, a
staff-officer from headquarters, keenly anxious concerning the
situation and for the honor of his chief, appeared among them.
Whatever happened, he could not afford to betray uneasiness or fear.
So he walked erect as calmly as though inspecting troops on parade,
apparently unconscious of the bullets that buzzed like hornets about
him.  He was studying the position of the several regiments, and his
face lighted with a smile as he found himself among the men of the
First Volunteer Cavalry.

"Hello, Rough Riders!" he cried.  "Glad to see you taking things so
cool and comfortable.  By-the-way, there is a promotion for one of you
waiting at headquarters.  It came by cable last evening.  Sergeant
Norris is promoted to a lieutenancy for distinguished service.  If any
one knows where he is, let the word be passed.  It may be an
encouragement for him to hear the good news."

Those men near enough to catch the officer's words raised a cheer, and
Ridge, who lay among them, sprang to his feet with a flushed face.

"That's him!" shouted Rollo Van Kyp, and the officer, stepping forward
with extended hand, said, "I congratulate you, Lieutenant Norris, and
am proud to make your acquaintance."

At that moment Colonel Roosevelt, on horseback, and so forming the most
conspicuous target for Spanish bullets on the whole field, dashed to
the front, pointed to the nearest block-house, and called upon his men
to follow him.  With a yell they sprang forward, and Ridge, being
already on his feet, raced with the front rank.

In line with the Rough Riders were their fighting partners, the black
riders of the Tenth United States Cavalry, and at the first intimation
of an advance these leaped forward in eager rivalry of their white
comrades.  Across the plain they charged, and then up the steep
hill-side, while the Spanish fire doubled in fury, and the tall grass
in front of them was cut as though by the scythe of a mower.
Spectators in the rear gazed appalled at the thin line of troopers thus
rushing to what seemed certain destruction.

"It is not war--it is suicide!" cried a foreign attache.

Whatever it was, it afforded an example that others were quick to
follow, and the moment the intention of the Rough Riders became
evident, regiment after regiment on the left--dismounted cavalry and
infantry, regulars and volunteers, Hawkins's men and Kent's--broke from
the cover that had afforded them so little protection, and swept across
the open towards the deadly intrenchments crowning the main ridge of
San Juan Heights.  There was no order for this glorious charge.  The
commanding generals had not even contemplated such a bit of splendid
but reckless daring.  Even now, so hopeless did it seem, they would
have stopped it if they could; but they might as well have tried to
arrest the rush of an avalanche by wishing.  It was a voluntary
movement of men goaded beyond further endurance by suffering and
suspense.  As one of the foreign military spectators afterwards said,
"It was a grand popular uprising, and, like most such, it proved
successful."

The Rough Riders and the negro troopers who charged with them had no
bayonets, and did but little firing until more than half-way up the
hill they had undertaken to capture.  With carbines held across their
breasts, they simply moved steadily forward without a halt or a
backward glance.  Behind them the slope was dotted with their dead and.
wounded, but the survivors took no heed of their depleted ranks.
Roosevelt, with the silken cavalry banner fluttering beside him, led
the way, and there was no man who would not follow him to the death.

Half-way up the hill-side Ridge Norris pitched headlong to the ground,
and some one said: "Poor fellow!  News of his promotion came just in
time."  As the young Lieutenant fell, another officer, cheering on his
men immediately behind him, also dropped, pierced with bullets.  The
sword that he had been waving was flung far in advance, and as Ridge,
who had only stumbled over an unnoticed mound of earth, regained his
feet unharmed, he saw it lying in front of him and picked it up.  He
was entitled to carry a sword now, and here was one to his hand.

The Spaniards could not believe that these few men, frantically
climbing that bullet-swept hill-side, would ever gain the crest.  So
they doggedly held their position, firing with the regularity of
machines, and expecting with each moment to see the American ranks melt
away or break in precipitate night.  They did melt away in part, but
not wholly, and their only flight was a very slow one that bore them
steadily upward.

Just under the brow of the hill they paused for a long breath, and then
leaped forward in a fierce final rush.  Over the rifle-pits they
poured, tearing down the barbed-wire barricades with their bare hands,
and making a dash for the block-house.  Already the dismayed Spaniards
were streaming down the farther side of the hill.  A last withering
volley crashed from the loop-holed building, and then its defenders
also took to panic-stricken flight.  In another minute the flaunting
banner of Spain had been torn down, and the stars and stripes of
freedom waved proudly in its place.  At the same moment, from earthwork
and rifle-pit fluttered the yellow silk flags of the cavalry and the
troop guidons; while to distant ears the news of victory was borne by
the cheer of exhausted but intensely happy men.

Many of them were for the moment incapable of further effort, but as
many more, inspired with fresh strength by success, dashed down the
opposite side of the hill in pursuit of the flying Spaniards.  Among
these was Ridge Norris, waving his newly acquired sword, and yelling
that there were other hills yet to be captured.  A few minutes later
these found themselves madly charging, for a second time, up a steep,
bullet-swept slope in company with other cavalrymen and long lines of
infantry.  Now they were assaulting San Juan Heights, defended by the
strongest line of works outside of Santiago.  The Spaniards had deemed
the position impregnable, and so it would have been to any troops on
earth save Americans or British; but the men now swarming up its
slippery front not only believed it could be taken, but that they could
take it.  And they did take it, as the first hill had been taken, by
sheer pluck and dauntless determination.  In vain did the Spaniards
hurl forth their deadliest fire of machine-gun and rifle.  The grim
American advance was as unchecked as that of an ocean tide.  Finally it
surged with a roar like that of a storm-driven breaker over the crest,
and dashed with resistless fury against the crowning fortifications.
In another minute the Spaniards were in full flight, and from the
hard-won heights of San Juan thousands of panting, cheering, jubilant
Yankee soldiers were gazing for the first time upon the city of
Santiago, which, only three miles away, lay at their feet, and
apparently at their mercy.

While the troops who had thus stormed and carried San Juan were
exulting over their almost incredible victory, word came that Lawton's
men had performed a similar feat at Caney, and after hours of
ineffective firing had finally won the forts by direct and unsupported
assault.

Thus the entire line of Santiago's outer defences, many miles in
length, had fallen to the Americans; but could they hold them until the
arrival of their artillery?  This was the question anxiously discussed
at headquarters, where several of the Generals declared immediate
retreat to be the only present salvation of the American army.  The
existing fortifications of San Juan Heights were unavailable for use
against the Spaniards, and it did not seem possible that the tired
troops could dig new ones in time.  The enemy had as yet suffered but
slight losses, and still occupied his inner line of forts,
block-houses, and rifle-pits, nearly, if not quite, as strong as those
just won from him.  Beyond lay Santiago, with barricaded streets,
loop-holed walls, and everywhere bewildering mazes of barbed wire.

While the commanding officers discussed the situation, arguing hotly
for and against retreat, their men dug trenches along the farther crest
of the San Juan hills.  All night long they worked by the light of a
full moon, excavating the gravelly soil with bayonet and meat-tin,
filling hundreds of bags with sand, and laying them in front of the
shallow pits, with little spaces between them, through which
rifle-barrels might be thrust.  At the same time they scooped out
terraces on the slope up which they had charged, and there pitched
their camps, a long way from drinking-water, but close to the
firing-line.  Thus by daylight they were ready for any movement the
enemy might make.  Nor were they prepared any too quickly, for with
earliest dawn the Spaniards opened a heavy fire, both artillery and
rifle, on the American position.  In places the opposing lines were not
three hundred yards apart, and across this narrow space the Spanish
fire was poured with unremitting fury for fourteen consecutive hours.

The Americans only returned this fire by an occasional rifle-shot, to
show that they were still on hand, and through the interminable hours
of that blistering day they simply clung by sheer grit to the heights
they had won.

On the previous day the Americans had lost over a thousand men killed
or wounded, and during the present one-sided fight one hundred and
seven more fell victims to Spanish bullets; but the trenches had been
held, and that day's work settled forever the question of their
retention.

In the mean time Lieutenant Norris, who had miraculously escaped unhurt
from the very front of two fierce charges, was curious to know whose
sword he was carrying; and so, after San Juan Heights had been safely
won, he strolled back over the battle-field to try and discover its
owner.  After a long search he found the little mound of earth over
which he had stumbled, and was startled to see it was a recently made
grave.  Beside it lay an officer in Rough Rider uniform, face down, and
wearing an empty scabbard.  His, then, was the sword; but who was he?
A gentle turning of the still body revealed the placidly handsome
features of the young New-Mexican, Arthur Navarro.  Near the grave,
across which one of his arms had been flung, as though lovingly, lay a
wooden cross bearing a rudely cut inscription in Spanish.  It had
evidently been overthrown by the charging Americans.  Now Ridge picked
it up, read the inscription, and stared incredulous.  "Captain Ramon
Navarro, Royal Spanish Guards.  Died for his country, June 22, 1898."

"My friend Ramon, killed the very day he saved me from capture!"
murmured Ridge.  "But how marvellous that they should have buried him
here, that his grave should have saved my life by giving me that fall,
and that the bullets intended for me should have taken the life of the
cousin who was to have been his partner!"

So the two, one from the New World and one from the Old, who loved each
other, but had been separated during life by the calls of duty, were
united in death; for they buried the young New-Mexican close beside his
Spanish cousin, and the grasses of San Juan Hill wave above them both.

Wearing the sword thus intrusted to him, and which he would send to
far-away New Mexico at the earliest opportunity, Lieutenant Norris bore
his full share of the second day's fighting on San Juan Heights.  Late
that night, as he was coming in from the trenches, he was called to
General Sumner's tent to act as interpreter.  A deserter, apparently a
Spanish sailor, had just been brought in, and was evidently trying to
convey some important information that no one present could understand.

"He says," exclaimed Ridge, after listening intently to the man, "that
Admiral Cervera's ships--coaled, provisioned, and under full head of
steam--are about to make a dash from the harbor.  He thinks they will
start soon after sunrise, or when our ships have drawn off to their
accustomed day-time distance."

Although the reliability of this startling news was very doubtful, it
was deemed of sufficient importance to be immediately transmitted to
Admiral Sampson.

"Who is the best rider in your command?" asked the General, turning to
Colonel Roosevelt, who had assisted at the examination of the Spanish
deserter.

"Lieutenant Norris," was the unhesitating answer.

"Then let Mr. Norris take my orderly's horse, make his way with all
speed to Siboney, press into service the first steam craft he comes
across, and carry this fellow's statement, with my compliments, to
Admiral Sampson."

Five minutes later our young trooper, once more on horseback, and in a
blaze of excitement, was galloping for dear life over the rugged road
by which the army had come from the coast.



CHAPTER XXVI

MUTINY ON A TRANSPORT

On the memorable morning of July 3d the sun had risen from the fog-bank
that promised a hot day before our young trooper, wearied and
mud-bespattered with his journey, and his face still powder-grimed with
the smoke of the day's fighting, rode into the village of Siboney.  It
no longer presented the scenes of excited bustle and eager enthusiasm
that had marked it on the eve of Las Guasimas, for the army had
departed long since, and only its shattered wrecks of humanity had
drifted back.  Now Siboney was a place of suffering and death; for here
had been established the hospitals to which wounded men limped
painfully from the distant front, or were brought in heavily jolting
army wagons.

On this peaceful Sunday morning--for it was Sunday, though Ridge did
not know it at the time--a great stillness brooded over Siboney, and
almost the only persons visible were medical attendants, who moved
quietly about the big hospital tents or the fever-infested buildings
that had been pressed into the same service.

In the little harbor lay but a single steam-vessel, a transport, though
others could be dimly seen far out at sea, where they spent most of
their time, which fact largely accounted for the woful lack of supplies
at the front.  A boat from the single ship that had ventured into the
harbor lay on the beach discharging freight.  To it Ridge hurried, and,
addressing himself to the man who appeared to be in charge, said:

"I have an important communication for the Captain of your ship.  Will
you take me off to her?"

With a contemptuous glance at the disreputable-looking young trooper,
the man answered:

"See about it when I get ready to go."

"Please make haste, then, for my business is very important, and I am
in a great hurry."

"Oh, you be.  Reckon you'd better swim out, then, for I've been hurried
by you landlubbers 'bout as much as I propose to be on this v'y'ge."

Ridge's face flushed, and he wanted to make an angry retort; but there
was no other boat available, and he could not afford to throw away this
chance.  So he bit his lips and silently watched the deliberate
movements of the men, who seemed to find a pleasure in aggravating him
by their slowness.

The boat could have been unloaded in five minutes, but the operation
was made to consume a half-hour, during which time Ridge stood silent,
though with finger-nails digging into the palms of his clinched hands.
All at once, without a word of warning, the boat's crew began to shove
their craft from the beach.

"Hold on!" cried Ridge, springing forward.  "I am going with you."

"Why aren't you aboard, then?" asked the mate, with a grin, as his men
gave another shove that launched the boat into deep water.

Leaping into the sea, Ridge barely succeeded in clutching a gunwale and
pulling himself aboard, amid chuckles of laughter from the crew.  His
ducking had not improved his personal appearance, and as he now sat in
the bow of the boat dripping water from every point, he formed an
object for so much rude wit and coarse merriment, that upon reaching
the transport he was furious with pent-up wrath.

On gaining the deck of the ship he hurried forward, and found her
Captain smoking an after-breakfast cigar in his comfortably appointed
cabin.

"Well, sir, who are you? and what do you want?" demanded this
individual, as Ridge presented himself at the door.

"I am an army officer bearing a message of the utmost importance from
General Sumner to Admiral Sampson; and as this is the only steam-vessel
in the harbor, I have come to ask that you will carry me to the
flag-ship."

"If you haven't got cheek!" ejaculated the Captain.  "So you are an
army officer, are you?"

"That is what I said."

"You don't look it.  Are you the Quartermaster-General?"

"Certainly not."

"Thought not.  Didn't know but what you'd claim to be, though, since
he's the only army officer that I take orders from."

"But I am not giving an order.  I am making a request that any American
should be glad to grant, seeing that my message concerns the safety of
the United States fleet, and may alter the whole course of the war."

"What is it?" demanded the Captain, bluntly.

"You have no business to ask," replied Ridge.  "At the same time I will
tell you, that you may be induced to get your ship under way the more
quickly.  The Spanish squadron is about to make a dash from Santiago
Harbor with the hope of taking our fleet by surprise and escaping."

"What is that to me?" asked the Captain, coolly.

"What is that to you!" cried Ridge.  "Why, some of our ships may be
destroyed if they are not warned in time."

"That is their lookout, not mine.  Besides, Uncle Sam can afford to pay
for them; while if this ship should be injured the loss would fall on
the owners, and I should lose my job."

"Do you mean that you refuse to take me out to the flag-ship?"

"Of course I do," responded the Captain; "and not one foot nearer to
it, or to any other warship, does my vessel move this day than she is
at present."

"Then, sir," said Ridge, still struggling to maintain his calmness, "I
will thank you to set me ashore again, as speedily as possible."

"Why should I set you ashore?" asked the Captain, with exasperating
indifference.  "You came on board without an invitation, and now you
may stay here until the next boat is ready to run in, which will be in
the course of an hour or two."

"By which time half the American fleet may have been destroyed for lack
of warning," groaned Ridge.  Then he added, his face blazing with
anger: "I hope you are not an American, and I don't believe you can be,
for you are a traitor, a coward, and a contemptible cur.  I only hope I
may meet you again some time when I am off duty, and can give you the
thrashing you deserve."

"All right, my young mud-lark," replied the Captain.  "I'll give you a
dose of medicine whenever you want it.  Now clear out of here, and
don't let me catch sight of you again!"

Ridge did not hear these last words, for he was already walking rapidly
aft, filled with a tumult of rage and perplexity.  What ought he to do?
What could he do?  Was ever any one so utterly helpless in a crisis of
such importance?  Not until he reached the extreme after part of the
ship did a ray of light break upon the situation.  Then he caught sight
of a yacht steaming swiftly into the harbor.  She might be a
despatch-boat, or a destroyer, or any one of half a dozen things; but
whatever she was, she could help him if she only would.

Close at hand was a jack-staff upholding an American ensign.  Acting
upon the impulse of his despair.  Ridge hauled down this flag, and then
half-masted it, union down, thus making a signal of distress that
called for prompt aid from any vessel sighting it.  Then he gazed
eagerly at the swiftly approaching yacht.  She must have noticed his
signal, for she was now headed directly for the transport, and Ridge,
clinging with one hand to an awning stanchion as he stood on the rail,
frantically waved his hat.

Suddenly a bellow of rage close at hand caused him to look in-board.
The Captain of the transport, his face purple with passion, was rushing
towards the jack-staff.

"How dare you hoist the signal of a mutiny?" he howled.  "I'll show--"

"Because there is one on board," shouted Ridge, springing in front of
the infuriated man, and at the same moment whipping out his revolver.
"Halt where you are!" he added, fiercely.  "For if you dare touch that
flag before I am through with it I will blow out your traitorous
brains!"

The Captain, cowed by the steadily levelled muzzle of that pistol,
obeyed this order and stood still; but at the same time he yelled for
any of the transport's crew who might be within hearing to tumble aft
in a hurry.

In another minute they came--mates, deck-hands, engineers, stewards,
and stokers--blocking the narrow gangways on either side of the
deck-house.  But beyond this they dared not go; for they too were
confronted by that levelled pistol, and its holder's assurance that he
would fire at the first man who advanced another step.

Thus the single figure with a cocked revolver and the unarmed mob that
it held at bay faced each other for a full minute, during which time
the purple-faced Captain raved, foamed at the mouth, and, with bitter
curses, ordered his men to make a rush at the young pirate.  That they
did not obey was because of the unflinching steadiness of the young
pirate's gaze, which they realized would detect their slightest forward
movement.

All at once Ridge caught a glimpse of a man on the roof of the
deck-house, just as he dodged from sight behind the life-raft.  He
thought he had also seen a gun in the man's hand.  The next instant he
sprang over the ship's rail into the sea, and as he did so a shot rang
out behind him.  It was not repeated when he came to the surface, for
the very good reason that an armed boat from the steam-yacht was so
close at hand, that ere the young trooper had cleared his eyes of salt
water, its occupants were hauling him aboard.

"Sergeant Norris!" cried an amazed voice from the stern sheets.  "Can
it be possible?"

"Lieutenant Norris, if you please," answered our dripping hero, with
what dignity he could command.  "But oh, Comly! get me aboard your ship
as quick as you can.  It is a matter of life or death!"

"But I am ordered to investigate the mutiny on that transport" replied
the bewildered Ensign.

"I am the mutiny, and in capturing me you have got the whole of it,"
declared Ridge.  "So, as you value your future prospects, get me aboard
the _Speedy_, before it shall be too late."

"All right," answered the young naval officer.  "I'll risk it for your
sake.  So here goes."

Once on board the despatch-boat our young trooper placed the whole
situation in a few words before Captain Boldwood, who no sooner
comprehended it than he ordered his little ship headed up the coast
with all speed.

"It will be almighty rough on the Admiral," he said to Ridge, "if
Cervera comes out while he is away, after all his careful planning and
weeks of weary waiting."

"What do you mean?"

"Only that Admiral Sampson has chosen to-day, of all days, to come down
here for an interview with General Shafter, and we were sent ahead to
make things ready for him at Siboney.  He was to have followed us
within half an hour; but perhaps we can turn him back in time.  At any
rate, we'll do our best."

So the little _Speedy_ flew back over the way she had just come,
displaying from her masthead as she went a string of gay bunting that
read:

"The enemy's ships are escaping."



CHAPTER XXVII

DESTRUCTION OF THE SPANISH SHIPS

As the _Speedy_ rounded the first headland those on board saw the great
war-ship they were to intercept coming leisurely down the coast, not
more than a mile away.  The yacht fired a gun to call attention to her
momentous signal, and within a few seconds an answer, showing that it
was seen and understood, was displayed from the _New York_.  At the
same time the latter began to turn, so as to retrace her course.  She
had hardly begun the movement before the _Speedy_ slipped up under her
quarter.

"Where did you get your information?" called out Captain Chadwick
through a megaphone.

"Messenger from the Commanding General," was the answer.

"All right.  Keep on, and warn the fleet, if you reach them before we
do."

"Ay, ay, sir!" and then the swift yacht had moved beyond range even of
a megaphone.

All at once the little group of officers gathered on the _Speedy's_
bridge, of course including Lieutenant Ridge Norris, knew that they
were not to have the honor of warning the fleet; for a line of smoke,
evidently moving seaward, appeared above the hills from the direction
of Santiago Bay.

"They are coming out!" cried the _Speedy's_ Captain; "and, if they have
the pluck to keep on, we are about to witness one of the greatest
sea-fights of the century."

If the entire American blockading fleet had been on hand the coming
contest would have been too unequal to be interesting.  As it was, the
_Massachusetts_, _New Orleans_, and _Newark_ had gone to Guantanamo
after coal, while the _New York_ was too far away to take any active
part in the fighting.  This left only the _Brooklyn_, _Oregon_, _Iowa_,
_Indiana_, and _Texas_ on guard, with the converted yachts _Gloucester_
and _Vixen_ acting as picket-boats.

The American ships lay some three miles off shore under low steam, and
their crews were preparing for Sunday morning inspection.  Two of the
battle-ships were overhauling their forward turrets, and repairing
damages received during a bombardment of the forts on the previous day.
The _Brooklyn_ lay farthest to the westward, and the _Indiana_ at the
eastern end of the line, with the _Texas_, _Iowa_, and _Oregon_ between
them.  Inshore of these were the two yachts.

In Santiago Bay, about to rush out on these unsuspecting ships, were
four of the finest cruisers in the world, possessed of greater speed
than any of the Americans except the _Brooklyn_, and under a full head
of steam: with them were two torpedo-boat destroyers, ranking among the
most powerful and swiftest of their class.

At half-past nine o'clock of that peaceful Sunday morning, as the
_Speedy_ was still some five miles to the eastward of Santiago Bay,
with the _New York_ just completing her turn, two miles farther down
the coast, a shot from the _Iowa_ drew attention to her fluttering
signal, "The enemy is escaping."

Almost at the same moment the same startling signal broke out from a
masthead of the _Texas_, which opened the battle with the mighty roar
of a twelve-inch shell.  The _Brooklyn_ was also flying signal
250--"The enemy is escaping"--and within three minutes from the
discovery of that moving smoke behind the Morro her forward eight-inch
battery was in full play against the _Maria Teresa_, first of the
Spaniards to show her glistening hull around the point.

Dashing at full speed from the harbor-mouth, outlined by the smokeless
flames of her forward turret and port batteries, Admiral Cervera's
flag-ship was quickly headed to the westward, and for the most open
point of the blockade.  Behind her steamed the _Vizcaya_, _Colon_,
_Oquendo_, and the torpedo-boats _Furor_ and _Pluton_.

During the whole long blockade, the one standing order given by Admiral
Sampson to cover an emergency like the present had been, "Should the
enemy come out, close in and engage."

Now the ships that he had left on guard did close in with what speed
they could command, while their sweating stokers toiled like demons in
the hideous heat of the fire-rooms to produce still greater heat and
more steam.  As the on-rushing Spaniards cleared the harbor's mouth,
every American ship was moving towards them and delivering a fire so
incredibly terrific and of such deadly accuracy that its like was never
known in the whole history of naval warfare.

At the outset the little _Gloucester_, commanded by
Lieutenant-Commander Richard Wainwright, who had been navigating
officer of the _Maine_ at the time of her destruction, made a dash for
her legitimate opponents, the two torpedo-boats.  They in turn sought
shelter behind the _Oquendo_, and for a minute it looked as though the
yacht were about to attack the big cruiser.  Then the _Texas_ began to
pay particular attention to the _Oquendo_; and, seemingly content to
leave her in such good hands, the Gloucester again started after the
destroyers.  Suddenly a great shell from the _Indiana_, hurled over the
yacht, struck one of them fairly amidships, and, with a roar heard high
above the din of firing, the unfortunate boat plunged to the bottom,
carrying with her all on board.

The _Gloucester_ now directed her energies against the remaining
destroyer, running well within range of the shore batteries to get at
her, and within ten minutes had so riddled her with a storm of small
projectiles that she lowered her colors, turned in towards the beach,
struck on a reef, and in another moment was being helplessly pounded to
pieces by the surf.  At the same time small boats from the plucky yacht
that had placed her in this sad plight were busily engaged in rescuing
such of her crew as could be reached.

In the mean time both the _Teresa_ and _Oquendo_ had received so
frightful a fire from the _Indiana_, _Iowa_, and _Texas_, that within
six miles of Santiago Harbor the former, enveloped in flames, and no
longer capable of defending herself, was also headed for the beach,
where the gallant little _Gloucester_ soon afterwards came to her
assistance and rescued hundreds of her perishing crew, including brave
old Admiral Cervera.

A few minutes later the _Almirante Oquendo_, with colors lowered and
flames pouring from her open ports, also turned slowly inshore, and was
beached within half a mile of the Spanish flag-ship.  It was only forty
minutes since the fight began; but in that short space four of the
Spanish squadron had been destroyed, without loss of life to the
Americans, and but slight damage to their ships.  With the burning
_Teresa_ and _Oquendo_ stayed the battle-ship _Indiana_, her men
working in eager emulation with those of the _Gloucester_ to save the
lives of their recent enemies.

The next victim to succumb beneath the terrible American fire was the
superb _Vizcaya_, which, pounded to death by the _Brooklyn_, _Oregon_,
and _Texas_, was run on the beach at Aserraderos, seventeen miles west
of Santiago Bay, a few minutes after eleven o'clock.  Like her
unfortunate consorts, she also was a mass of flame, and had no sooner
struck than scores of her people leaped overboard to escape being
roasted alive.  Among these swimmers a body of Cuban troops poured a
cowardly fire from the beach; but Captain Evans of the _Iowa_ quickly
put a stop to that, and stood by the blazing wreck so long as there was
a Spaniard left to be rescued from flame or flood.

Of all Cervera's powerful squadron only a single ship was now left, the
swift _Cristobal Colon_, which, by keeping behind the others, had as
yet come to little harm.  When the _Vizcaya_ was run ashore, the
_Colon_ was more than four miles ahead of her leading pursuer, the
_Brooklyn_.  Close on the heels of the latter came the wonderful
battle-ship _Oregon_, which had unexpectedly developed such
extraordinary speed that, although starting next to the last of the
American ships, she now very nearly led the chase.  Next behind her
came the _Texas_, while the superb _New York_, though still far in the
rear, was overhauling all three, and had the race been long enough
would eventually have exchanged broadsides with the _Colon_.

But she was not to be granted that satisfaction; for shortly after one
o'clock, when the chase had lasted two hours, the _Oregon_ threw a
couple of great thirteen-inch shells, at a range of five miles, so
close to the flying Spaniard that they deluged her with tons of water.
Upon this, to the surprise of every one, and without making any sort of
a fight, the finest ship of the Spanish navy lowered her flag and was
headed in for the beach.  After she had thus surrendered, and before
the Americans could board, she was wrecked by her own crew, who opened
sea-valves, smashed out dead lights, threw overboard the breech-blocks
of their great guns, and in many other ways worked what destruction
they could in the time allotted.  As a result of this vandalism, the
fine ship rolled over on her side soon after striking, and would have
slipped off into deep water had not the _New York_ rammed her to a
better position higher up the beach.

Thus was destroyed the fine squadron that had been a menace to the
Americans ever since the war began.  Spain's loss was 600 human lives,
1200 prisoners, and six ships, valued at $12,000,000; while that of the
Americans was one man killed and three wounded, all on the _Brooklyn_,
together with a few trifling injuries to the _Brooklyn_, _Iowa_, and
_Texas_.

And Ridge Norris, from the deck of the little _Speedy_, had been a
spectator of the whole affair from beginning to end.  Thrilled with
such excitement as he had never before known, he had seen ship after
ship wearing the proud colors of Spain driven helplessly to the beach
by the withering blasts of Yankee gunnery, until all were destroyed.
Never before had our young American been so proud of his country and
his countrymen.  Now his wonderful day was to be crowned with a great
honor; for, no sooner was it certain that the _Colon_ had surrendered,
than a message from the flag-ship bade the _Speedy_ return with all
haste to Siboney and land the army officer whom she had brought out,
that he might convey the glorious news to General Shafter and the men
in the trenches before Santiago.

"That's you, old man!" cried Ensign Comly, "And I envy you your present
job a heap more than I did the one you were undertaking the last time
we set you ashore."

So back past the blazing wrecks of Cervera's squadron and on to Siboney
dashed the despatch-boat.  The transport from which Ridge had been
rescued that morning still lay in the harbor, and her Captain, hailing
the _Speedy_, eagerly asked for news; but none was given him, and he
was treated to a contemptuous silence that caused him to grow more
purple-faced than ever.

As Ridge was rowed ashore he directed Ensign Comly's attention to a
large steam-yacht painted lead-color in imitation of the war-ships, but
flying a Red Cross flag, that had evidently just arrived.

"She looks a little like Rollo Van Kyp's _Royal Flush_," he said; "but
what is her name?  G-r-a-y--Gray man?  Gray mare?  Oh no, _Gray Nun_.
Queer name for a yacht, isn't it?"

"Yes; and those nurses on her deck don't look a bit like nuns," replied
Ensign Comly.  "Believe I'll make a call if we lie here this evening,
for I understand that some of the nicest girls in the country have
enlisted under the Red Cross since you chaps were sent to Santiago."

"Wish I could join you," sighed Ridge; "only I haven't spoken to a girl
in so long that I shouldn't know what to say."



CHAPTER XXVIII

LAST SHOT OF THE CAMPAIGN

The American army occupying the muddy trenches before Santiago had been
rendered very unhappy that morning by a rumor that Cervera's ships had
made a dash from the harbor, evaded the blockade, and escaped almost
unharmed.  How this rumor started no one knew, but it spread like
wildfire, and was generally believed.  There was ample opportunity for
discussing it, since all firing had ceased, while under a flag of truce
an envoy from General Shafter demanded the surrender of Santiago.  So
the men in the trenches were free to stand erect and stretch
themselves, to wander about, leaving their rifles in position between
the sand-bags, and even to make little fires, over which to boil cups
of coffee, all without drawing the fire of a single Spanish
sharp-shooter.  It was a very novel sensation, and they enjoyed it.  At
the same time they were not happy, for Cervera's ships had escaped.
What could the Yankee sailors have been about to let such a thing
happen?  What a disgrace it was, and how the whole world would jeer!
Even Santiago seemed hardly worth capturing now.

All at once a sound of shouting was borne faintly to their ears from
the distant rear.  What had happened?  Had they been outflanked by the
Spaniards and attacked from that direction?  No, for a band was playing
on El Poso Hill, and the sound of shouting was advancing, like a roar
of the sea.  No one looked towards Santiago now, but all eyes, turned
to the rear, were fixed on the point where the Sevilla road left the
timber.  At this place they gazed in eager but silent anticipation.
Suddenly a horseman emerged from it and dashed at full speed across the
valley, waving his hat and yelling as he came.

Up the slope of San Juan Hill he charged and through the terraced
camps, that broke into a jubilant roar as he reached them.  But he did
not pause until he had gained the very trenches, where among the
wondering Rough Riders he slipped wearily from his foam-flecked horse,
shouting huskily but exultantly as he did so:

"Sampson has destroyed the Spanish fleet!  Not a ship escaped!  I know,
for I saw the whole fight!"

"Hurrah!"  "Hooray!"  "Whoop-ee!"  "Wow, wow, wow!" howled the Riders,
as in their wild jubilation they danced, hugged each other, and flung
things in the air.  Then they raised Ridge high on their shoulders and
bore him as proudly aloft as though he alone had achieved the wonderful
victory of which he brought the news.  Indeed, they seemed to believe
that but for his presence with the American ships things might perhaps
have gone differently, and Rollo Van Kyp only voiced the general
sentiment when he said:

"Lucky thing for Sampson that he had at least one 'Terror' along to see
that the scrap was conducted according to rules.  How I wish, though,
that the _Nun_ had got here in time to take part in that fight, for she
can outfoot the old _Corsair_--_Gloucester_, I mean--almost two to one.
If she had only been on hand I believe she would have captured one of
these little fellows alive, before he had a chance to make the beach."

"The who?" asked Ridge, in perplexity, for the latter part of this
remark had been addressed to him alone.

"The _Nun_.  _Gray Nun_ is her whole name.  My yacht--used to be the
_Royal Flush_, you know.  I offered her to the government as a gift, to
be converted into a war-ship.  But they wouldn't accept her.  So I
changed her name, and turned her over to the Red Cross people, to use
as long as they had need of her.  Don't know, though, as they took me
up, for we left about that time, and I haven't heard since."

"But they did!" exclaimed Ridge.  "And she reached Siboney to-day, for
I saw her there not more than two hours ago, flying a Red Cross flag,
and crowded with nurses."

"Good enough!" cried Rollo.  "That is almost as fine news as the other.
The old _Flush_ must feel funny, though, all cluttered up with nurses,
for that isn't exactly the kind of a crowd she has been used to.  Same
time, if my steward carried out the orders I wired him, she must be
loaded to the muzzle with good things to eat and drink, for I told him
to fill her up with the best to be had in New York City.  So if any of
the fellows are hankering for a change of grub, all they've got to do
is to catch a fever or a Mauser bullet, and apply for a berth on the
Nun.  For my own part I prefer hardtack, bacon, and good health; but
then tastes differ, you know."

"It was a splendid thing to do!" exclaimed Ridge; "and I don't believe
there is another in the command would have thought of it.  The boys
will be prouder than ever of the old regiment to know that it contains
a fellow not only able but willing to do such a thing."

"Oh, pshaw!" replied Rollo, flushing.  "There isn't one but would do as
much and more, only some of them don't happen to have yachts lying
idle.  And you mustn't tell them, old man.  I wouldn't for anything
have it get out that the _Nun_ is my boat.  That's the reason I changed
her name.  Some of them might think I was putting on airs, you know, if
it should get out that I kept my yacht here at Siboney."

"But you'll get leave to run down and see her, won't you?"

"Not much, I won't.  The dear old skipper would be sure to give me
away, though his orders are not to mention my name in connection with
her."

So the bountiful supply of delicacies and comforts of every kind
provided by Rollo Van Kyp were distributed among the sick and wounded
in the Siboney hospitals, and many a fever-stricken patient owed his
life to the devoted care of the "gray nuns," as the nurses brought by
the yacht were generally called; but only Ridge Norris knew whose was
the generous forethought that had provided all these things.

In the mean time the truce, first declared on that memorable Sunday,
was extended from day to day, for one reason or another, for a week.
General Linares had been wounded early in the fighting, General Vara
del Rey had been killed at Caney, and the command of Santiago had
finally devolved upon General Toral.  To him, then, was sent the
summons to surrender.  This he refused to do, but begged for time in
which to remove women, children, and other non-combatants from the city
before it should be bombarded.  This was allowed, and nearly 20,000 of
these helpless ones, frightened, bewildered, and half famished, were
driven from Santiago to seek such refuge as the surrounding country
might afford.  War-wrecked and devastated as it was, its resources in
the way of food and shelter were so slender that hundreds of them died
from exposure, starvation, or disease, and but for the generosity of
the Americans, who fed them to the full extent of their ability,
thousands more must have perished.

And others came out from the beleaguered city; for an exchange of
prisoners had been effected, and just before sunset on the third day of
the truce three horsemen rode towards the American lines along the
palm-shaded highway leading from Santiago.  Two of them were Spanish
officers, but one wore the white duck uniform of the American navy, and
behind him clattered an ambulance in which were seven of the proudest,
happiest sailormen ever turned loose from an enemy's prison.  They were
Hobson and his men, the heroes of the _Merrimac_, free at last to
return to their own people.  And never did heroes receive a more royal
welcome than that accorded this handful of blue-jackets by their
comrades of the army.  From the outermost trenches all the way to
Siboney, where a launch awaited them, their progress was an ovation of
wildest enthusiasm.  Every soldier of the thousands whom they
encountered first saluted and then cheered until he was hoarse, while
one regimental band after another crashed forth its most inspiring
music in their honor.  Out on the star-lit sea lay the great flag-ship
from which these men had departed on their desperate mission more than
a month before, and when, late that evening, they again reached it,
they were once more safe at home with their work well done, and their
fame established forever.

For a week the truce continued, and while the Spaniards strengthened
their defences, the Americans lengthened their lines, built roads over
which to bring up their artillery, provided their camps with bomb-proof
shelters, and received reinforcements.  Knowing all this, General Toral
still refused to surrender, and during the afternoon of Sunday, July
10th, the white flags were taken down and a bombardment of the city was
begun.  For two hours, or until the coming of darkness, a heavy
cannonade with brisk rifle-fire was kept up by both sides, but with
little damage to either.  With sunrise of the following morning it was
resumed.

"I wonder what it is all for?" asked Rollo Van Kyp, as he crouched in
the hot trench, industriously firing his carbine at the flashes from
the Spanish rifle-pits.  "We don't seem to hit them, and they certainly
don't hit us.  Now if Teddy would only order a charge, it would be
something sensible.  But this play-fighting is disgusting!"

Just then a Spanish shell burst close above the heads of this
particular group of Rough Riders, and a fragment from it cut the staff
of the troop guidon, planted in the soft earth, so that the silken flag
fell outward.  In an instant Rollo had leaped over the protecting
embankment, picked up the fallen flag, and, amid yells of approbation
from his comrades, restored it to its former position.  Then,
half-turning and swinging his hat defiantly above his head, the daring
young trooper sprang back to his place of safety.  As he did so,
something seemed to go wrong, and instead of landing on his feet he
pitched awkwardly, and then lay motionless in the bottom of the trench.

At the same moment trumpet and bugle along the whole line sounded the
order "cease firing," and once more the white flags of truce fluttered
in the sunlight.  Santiago was again summoned to surrender; and this
time the summons was so seriously considered that, two days later, it
was obeyed.  Although no one knew it at the time, the last shot of the
campaign had been fired and the war was virtually ended.

But the last shot had stricken down brave, generous, light-hearted
Rollo Van Kyp just as he had covered himself with glory and was within
a hair's-breadth of safety; for, as Lieutenant Norris knelt anxiously
beside his friend, the gallant young trooper lay as though dead, with
blood streaming over his face.



CHAPTER XXIX

TWO INVALID HEROES

Rollo Van Kyp, carefully lifted from the bloody trench in which he had
fought and suffered so cheerfully, was borne to the rear, and the
assistant surgeon of his regiment accompanied him to the hospital at
Siboney.  Ridge Norris wanted to do this, but his duties would not
permit of his absence, for officers were becoming scarce, and as yet no
one knew but that the fighting might be resumed at any moment.  So he
watched the departure of the ambulance with a heavy heart, and the
whole troop shared his sorrow at the loss of their well-loved comrade.

The next day the assistant surgeon returned and reported Rollo's wound
apparently so serious that there was little hope for him.  "There was
just one chance," he added, in answer to Lieutenant Norris's anxious
inquiry for details, "and, by good luck, I secured it for him at the
last moment.  He would surely have died in Siboney, but if he can get
home and into a Northern hospital he may pull through.  By the greatest
good fortune a Red Cross ship was about to start for the States with a
number of the worst cases; and, just as she was sailing, I managed to
get Van Kyp aboard.  She was so crowded that they weren't going to take
him, until her skipper--as big-hearted a Yankee sailorman as ever trod
a deck--said he would give up his own cabin rather than have a Rough
Rider left behind to die."

"What was his name?" asked Ridge.

"Haven't an idea."

"Do you know the name of the ship?"

"Yes, of course.  She is the _Gray Nun_, a converted yacht."

"Rollo Van Kyp's own boat!" cried Ridge.

"You don't mean it?"

"I do."  And then Ridge told all that he knew of his friend's splendid
contribution to the service that was doing more than the government
itself towards alleviating the sufferings of the American troops before
Santiago.  When he finished, he said, "Of course the skipper recognized
Van Kyp?"

"No, he didn't," replied the other--"at least, not then, for the poor
chap's face was covered to protect it from the sun, and I didn't
mention his name until after he had been taken aboard, when I gave it
to the surgeon in charge.  At first I only described him as a Rough
Rider wounded in recovering his troop flag, and the skipper said that
was all he wanted to know about him."

Besides his news of Rollo, the surgeon had brought from Siboney a
number of letters recently arrived there for the Rough Riders, and one
of these was handed to Ridge.  Opening it curiously, for he did not
recognize the handwriting of its address, the latter read as follows:


"DEAR MR. NORRIS,--I have just been made very happy by learning from a
friend of yours, a Mr. Comly, who is in the navy, that you are not only
alive and well, but still with your regiment, and have done all sorts
of splendid things.  This is news that will cause great rejoicing among
all your friends, including your own family, who have been very anxious
and unhappy concerning you.  Major Dodley reported in New Orleans that
you had been placed under arrest for desertion--of course no one who
knew you believed that for a moment--but had escaped and run away.
Your father was so furious that he gave the Major a horse-whipping in
front of the St. Charles, and made him take back every word.  Then he
telegraphed and wrote to Tampa; but half of your regiment had left, and
those who remained behind could tell nothing except that you had
disappeared in a very mysterious manner.  You may imagine the distress
of your father.

"I had returned to my own home, but Dulce wrote me all about it, and I
received her letter when on the point of starting for New York to offer
my services as a Red Cross nurse, for I didn't feel that I could let
the war go on a day longer without having some share in it.  I was
accepted, and immediately assigned to duty aboard the society's ship
_Gray Nun_, to which I am still attached.  That is how I happen to be
here, and I am so glad I came, for I don't believe even you can imagine
how much we were needed.  I have also discovered you, and shall write
to Dulce at once.  Hoping that we may meet before long, I remain,

"Very sincerely your friend,

"SPENCE CUTHBERT.

"On board _Gray Nun_, off Siboney, _July_ 8, 1898."


"Whew!" whistled Ridge, softly, as he finished reading this letter.
"If that isn't a budget of news!  Spence Cuthbert here in Cuba nursing
wounded soldiers!  But it is just like the dear girl to do such a
thing.  If I had only known of it sooner, though, I might have found a
chance to run down to Siboney and see her.  Now it is too late, for the
_Nun_ has gone again.  She will discover Rollo, though, and take care
of him.  Lucky fellow!  Wish I was in his place!  And Comly, too!  He
must have made that call and scraped an acquaintance.  What cheek those
navy chaps have, anyway!  So Dodley reports me as a deserter, does he?
And the dear old dad horsewhipped him.  Oh, if I had only been there!
It is a shame that I haven't managed to write home, and I'll do so this
very minute."

In pursuance of this resolve, Ridge did write a long letter to his
mother, in which he told of his great disappointment at not seeing
Spence Cuthbert before she left Cuba, and sent it to Siboney to be
forwarded at the first opportunity.

After that, other exciting events in connection with his duty occupied
our young Lieutenant's attention; for at a meeting of Generals Shafter
and Toral, under a great tree midway between the American and Spanish
lines, the latter finally agreed to surrender the entire province of
Santiago, with all the troops within its limits.  On this occasion each
General was accompanied by members of his staff, and to Ridge again
fell the honor of acting as official interpreter.  Thus for days he was
kept so continually busy that he hardly found time for sleep.  Then, on
Sunday, the 17th of July, one week after the firing of the last shot,
and two weeks after the destruction of Cervera's ships, at precisely
noon, the red and yellow banner of Spain was lowered forever from over
Santiago's municipal palace, and the glorious stars and stripes proudly
flung to the breeze in its place.  The impressive ceremony was
witnessed by the Ninth Regiment of United States Infantry, two mounted
troops of the Second Regular Cavalry, and by the brilliant staff who
surrounded General Shafter.  Besides these, Spanish officers and
citizens of Santiago crowded every window, doorway, and portico of the
cathedral, the San Carlos Club, the Venus restaurant, and other
buildings facing the Plaza de Armas, and watched the proceedings in
silence.

As the starry flag of the United States ran slowly to the top of the
tall staff the Ninth Regiment band crashed forth the inspiring strains
of "The Star-spangled Banner," and every American present, excepting,
of course, the troops on duty, bared his head.  At the same moment the
thunder of distant artillery firing a national salute of twenty-one
guns and exultant cheering from the trenches a mile beyond the city
told that the glorious news had reached the waiting army.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, General Leonard Wood, formerly
Colonel of the Rough Riders, was installed as Military Governor of the
conquered city, and one of the first to congratulate him upon this new
honor was the young Lieutenant of his old command, who had been
permitted to do so much towards bringing the Santiago campaign to its
happy conclusion.  For Ridge Norris, in appreciation of his recent
services, had been one of the very few guests invited to witness the
change of flags.

Shortly after it was all over, as Ridge was slowly making his way back
to camp, no longer upheld by excitement and utterly weary from his
recent labors, he encountered a forlorn little group of natives, who
aroused his instant sympathy.  A young woman, gaunt and hollow-cheeked,
with three children, trying to make her way back to the city, had sunk
exhausted by the road-side.  One of the children was a babe held
tightly pressed to her bosom.  Of the others, one was a small boy, who
stood manfully by his mother's side; while a little girl, burning with
fever, lay tossing and moaning on the ground.

As Ridge reached this group the woman cried, imploringly, "Help, Señor
Americano!  For love of the good God help me reach the city before my
little ones perish!"

Ridge could understand and could talk to her in her own tongue.  So in
a few minutes he had learned her pitiful story.  It was that of many
another--a tale of starvation, sickness, death of her husband, and of
homeless wandering for days.  Now her one desire and hope was to return
to her home in Santiago.  Even before she had concluded her sad
narration our young trooper had picked up the fever-stricken child,
and, with the others following him, was retracing his steps towards the
city.  He did not leave them until they were safe in the wretched hovel
they called home, and he had procured for them a supply of food.  Then,
followed by fervent blessings, he again started for the American lines.

[Illustration: Ridge escorts a Cuban family into Santiago.]

That evening he could not eat the coarse camp fare of his mess, and the
next morning found him raving in the delirium of fever.  When, a little
later, the Rough Riders were removed to a more healthful camp-ground, a
few miles back in the hills, Lieutenant Norris, with several other
fever-stricken members of the command, was taken to one of the Spanish
hospitals in Santiago, where, three days later, Spence Cuthbert found
him.



CHAPTER XXX

ROLLO MAKES PROPOSITIONS

The month of August was drawing to its close when an expectant throng
of people gathered about the wharf of the great military camp recently
established for the home-returning American army at Montauk Point, on
the extreme eastern end of Long Island.  Most of the throng were
soldiers, but among them was a little group of civilians accompanied by
a young trooper wearing a brand-new uniform, but looking very pale and
weak, as though recovering from a severe illness.  He was Rollo Van
Kyp, only just out from the New York hospital to which he had been
taken more than a month before.  With him, and anticipating his every
need, were Mr. and Mrs. Norris and Dulce.  Their Long Island summer
home had not been sold, and now there was no need that it should be,
since Mr. Norris's affairs had taken a decided turn for the better.  As
soon, therefore, as they learned that the army was to be sent to
Montauk, they went to this cottage and fitted it up as a convalescent
hospital, for any of their boy's wounded comrades to whom he might
desire to show particular attention.  Thus Dulce, though not enrolled
in the Red Cross service, wore a nurse's costume, and Rollo Van Kyp,
who had insisted on coming down to welcome his home-returning comrades,
was one of her patients.  Now they were looking for Ridge, of whose
illness they had not yet learned.

Those Rough Riders left behind at Tampa had already been transferred to
Montauk, together with all the horses of the regiment, and these hearty
young troopers formed the greater part of the throng now assembled to
greet the heroes of Las Guasimas, of San Juan, and of the Santiago
trenches, for Colonel Roosevelt and his men were coming home, and the
_Miami_, on which they were embarked, was nearing the wharf.  Her decks
were crowded with men, worn and weary, clad in battle-stained uniforms,
and filled with a great joy at once more breathing the air of their
native land.  Already was Rollo recognizing familiar faces, and eagerly
pointing them out.

"But where is my boy?" cried Mrs. Morris.  "I cannot see him."

The others did not answer, for they too were greatly disappointed at
not discovering the face they most longed to see.

At length the slow-moving ship was made fast, its gang-plank was run
out, and the eager troopers began to swarm ashore.  Some were so weak
that comrades were obliged to support their feeble steps; but all were
radiant with the joy of home-coming.  Cheer after cheer greeted each
troop, as with silken guidons fluttering above them they marched from
the ship, and finally a perfect roar of welcome announced the
appearance of their Colonel.

"There's Teddy!" cried Rollo, with a feeble attempt at waving his hat.
"Oh, how good it is to see him again!"

"But my boy!  Where is my boy?" cried the distracted mother, crowding
her way to the very front rank of spectators.  As she did so, Colonel
Roosevelt passed close to her, and she clutched his arm.

"Oh, sir, my boy!  Where is my boy?  Do not tell me he is dead!"

"It is Mrs. Norris, Colonel," explained Rollo Van Kyp, pressing
forward, "and she is disappointed at not seeing the Lieutenant."

"Thank God, my dear fellow, that you are alive!" exclaimed the Colonel,
grasping Van Kyp's hand.  Then, in a lower tone, he added, "We had to
leave poor Norris behind.  He was too ill to be brought on a transport,
but he may come at any time on a hospital-ship.  Here is a note for his
family from one of the hospital nurses.  My dear madam," he added,
turning to Mrs. Norris, "your son is alive, but detained for a time at
Santiago.  If you will excuse me now, I will see you again very
shortly, and tell you of all the fine things he has done."

With this the embarrassed Colonel passed on, thankful at having thus
concluded one of the interviews with anxious parents that he so dreaded.

For a moment Mrs. Norris stared after him in speechless agony; for the
mother's keen ear had overheard his low-spoken words to Rollo Van Kyp,
and she knew that her boy had been left in Cuba too ill to be moved.
Then she uttered a moan, and fainted in her husband's arms.

A little later, when the saddened group had been driven back to the
cottage that had been so happily prepared for the reception of their
soldier, they read Spence Cuthbert's note, hastily written as the Rough
Riders were embarking at Santiago.  It told of the terrible suffering
that had impelled her to remain behind when the _Gray Nun_ went north,
of her disappointment at not hearing anything from Ridge, and how she
had at last discovered him in the Santiago hospital, to which she had
been transferred immediately after the surrender.

"I did not dare write sooner," she continued, "for we had no hope that
he could live; but now he is again conscious, and has recognized me.
The doctors talk of sending him north as soon as he can be moved; but,
remembering the horrors of the _Seneca_ and the _Concho_, I dread the
voyage for him even more than I do the pestilent air of this awful
hospital.  In fact, I am in despair, and know not what is best to be
done."

"I know!" exclaimed Rollo Van Kyp, as Dulce, with tear-filled eyes,
finished reading this pitiful note.  "He must be brought back on the
_Nun_.  Mr. Norris, she leaves New York to-morrow with a fresh lot of
nurses for Santiago, and if you will only take the run down on her you
can bring the dear old chap back in comfort."

Mr. Norris hesitated a moment.  "Do you realize," he asked, "that if
your yacht brings back a single yellow-fever patient it may never be
safe to use her again?"

"My dear sir!" cried Rollo, "if she were all that I had in the world
she would still be at the service of my dearest friend."

So Mr. Norris thankfully accepted the young millionaire's offer, and
sailed the very next day for Santiago.

A week later a Red Cross nurse, worn and wearied almost to the point of
exhaustion by her days and nights of caring for sick and dying
soldiers, sat in a Santiago hospital beside one of her patients, gently
fanning him.  His eyes were closed, and she hoped that he slept.  As
she watched him her own eyes slowly filled with tears; for she did not
believe he would ever gain sufficient strength to bear removal from
that house of sorrow.  The air of the ward was hot, damp, and lifeless.
Sickening odors rising from the streets of the filthy city drifted in
through its open windows.  The whole atmosphere of the place was
depressing, and suggestive of suffering that could only end with death.

"Poor Ridge!" she murmured bitterly to herself.  "After all your
splendid work, it is cruel to leave you here to die, deserted and
forgotten!"

Just then the patient opened wide his eyes, and an expression of eager
anticipation flitted across his white face.  "Dad is coming," he
whispered.  "I hear his footstep.  Oh, Spence, he is here, and will
take us home!"

The nurse listened, but heard only the moans of other sufferers, and
thinking that this one had dreamed of his father's coming, tried to
soothe him with hopeful promises.  Then, all at once, she uttered a
little cry of joy, for at the far end of the long white ward she saw
one of the house surgeons escorting a familiar figure.  In another
minute Mr. Norris, seeming to bring with him a breath of bracing
northern air, stood beside his son's cot.

"I thank God and you, Spence Cuthbert, that my boy is still alive!" he
cried.  "And now, how soon can we take him north?  I have Van Kyp's
yacht waiting out here in the harbor, and we can start at a moment's
notice."

"I believe I could go this very minute, dad," said Ridge, his voice
already strengthened with hope and happiness.  "But, father," he added,
anxiously, "we must take Spence with us; for she has promised to stay
with me as long as I need her, and I know I couldn't travel without
her."

"Of course we will take her, son, and keep her, too, just as long as we
can."

For three days longer Ridge lay on that cot, gaining strength with each
moment of renewed hope and eager anticipation.  During this time Mr.
Norris occupied the intervals of rest from watching beside his son with
visiting the battle-fields near the city over which the young trooper
had so bravely fought.  On these expeditions he was accompanied and
guided by a Cuban named del Concha, recommended by General Wood, to
whom he had rendered valuable service by the giving of intelligent and
honestly patriotic advice.  When del Concha discovered that the
American señor whom he was asked to guide was father to his friend, the
brave _teniente_ Norris, he was overjoyed to be of assistance to him,
and completely won the elder gentleman's heart by praise of his son and
stories of the latter's exploits while executing his dangerous mission
among the Spaniards of Cuba.  Del Concha also told of himself; and,
among other things, that, on the very day he had learned of Santiago's
surrender, he had married his sweetheart, the brave girl who had
assisted Ridge to escape from the Holguin prison, and who was now very
nearly recovered from her wound.

At length the joyous day came when Ridge could be moved, and he was
carefully borne in a litter, by four of the stalwart negro troopers, in
whose company he had charged up San Juan Heights, through the streets
of Santiago to the waiting yacht.  Besides the young trooper and his
proud father, the _Nun_ carried northward a score more of convalescent
soldiers, to whom Spence Cuthbert, and a group of her companion nurses,
also returning home from their glorious service, gave devoted care.

On the day that Montauk was to be reached, Ridge was strong enough to
be carried on deck, where, from a pillowed steamer-chair, he gazed
happily at the loved features of the nearing coast.  He was the very
first to spy his mother, who again waited in trembling eagerness on the
wharf, this time not to be disappointed.

"And there are Rollo," he said, to the girl who stood beside him, "and
Dulce, and the Colonel.  And oh, Spence, to think that but for you I
should certainly never have seen them again!"

For many days after the home-coming of our young trooper the Norris
cottage was strictly quarantined against a possible outbreak of
yellow-fever; but, as Rollo Van Kyp said:

"Who cares?  I'm sure I don't; for all of the world I want to see just
now is held within these walls."

The very first time Ridge was allowed to go out, he was driven to the
Rough-Rider camp to be mustered from service with his regiment.  On
this occasion he wore a lieutenant's uniform, at which his mother,
seated beside him in the carriage, gazed with such undisguised pride
that he laughingly accused her of being more susceptible to the
influence of brass buttons than any girl of his acquaintance.

Only once after this did our young lieutenant wear his uniform, and
that was when, two months later, he was married in a little Kentucky
church to Spence Cuthbert, who, at his earnest request, wore as her
wedding-dress the costume of a Red Cross nurse.

Dulce was, of course, maid of honor, while Rollo Van Kyp was best man.
When the simple ceremony was over, and they were all gathered to wish
the radiant couple God-speed on their wedding journey, Rollo unfolded
the great news he had received that morning.

"Teddy has been nominated for Governor of New York!" he cried.  "And I
am to stump the State with him.  When he is elected he is going to make
me a Colonel on his staff, so that Dulce won't have to marry a mere
private after all."

And Dulce, blushing furiously, replied, "I would rather marry a private
soldier who had charged up San Juan Hill than any staff-officer in the
world."

"How about taking both?" asked Rollo.





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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