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Title: Where Duty Called - or, In Honor Bound
Author: Browne, George Waldo, 1851-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Where Duty Called - or, In Honor Bound" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]

Round the World Library No. 86

Where Duty Called





Author of "On His Merit," "Zip, the Acrobat," "Cast Away in the
Jungle," etc.



79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York

Copyright, 1904


Where Duty Called

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian.

Printed in the U. S. A.



      I.  "A Grand Opportunity."
     II.  A Suspicious Craft.
    III.  The Young Exile.
     IV.  Put in Irons.
      V.  Escape from the _Libertador_.
     VI.  A Swim for Life.
    VII.  Taken Ashore.
   VIII.  Jaguar Claws.
     IX.  The Mystery of the Photograph.
      X.  "We have been Betrayed!"
     XI.  A Perilous Flight.
    XII.  A Lonely Ride.
   XIII.  In the Enemy's Country.
    XIV.  Indian Warfare.
     XV.  A Friendly Voice.
    XVI.  Colonel Marchand.
   XVII.  A Cunning Ruse.
  XVIII.  Ronie Receives a Commission.
    XIX.  The Scout in the Jungle.
     XX.  Adventures and Surprises.
    XXI.  "The Mountain Lion."
   XXII.  A Fight with the Guerillas.
  XXIII.  The News at La Guayra.
   XXIV.  Interview with General Castro.
    XXV.  The Spy of Caracas.
   XXVI.  "It is Manuel Marlin!"
  XXVII.  Good News.
 XXVIII.  Victory and Peace.




"Hurrah, boys! here is a letter from home.  At least, it is from the
homeland, as it is postmarked New York.  Who can be writing us from
that city?" and the youthful speaker, in his exuberance of feeling,
waved the missive over his head, while he began to dance a lively step.

"I know of no better way to find out than to open it, Harrie, or let
one of us do it for you; you seem suddenly to have lost your faculty
for doing anything rational yourself.  Hand it to Jack if you do not
want to trust me with it."

"Your very words, to say nothing of your impatient gestures, Ronie,
show that you are not one whit less excited than I am over receiving
some news from the great world outside of this lost corner," replied
the first speaker, beginning to tear open the end of the bulky envelope
he held in his hand.

"There must be a lot of news, judging by the size of the package," said
the second, approaching so he could look over the shoulder of his
companion while he tore open the covering.

"Go slow, lads," said a third person, who had been sitting slightly
apart from the others, but who moved near to the twain now.  "It won't
do to get unduly excited in this climate."

The three were none other than our old friends of the jungles of Luzon,
Ronie Rand, Harrie Mannering and Jack Greenland, whose exploits in
opening up one of the great forest tracts on that island were described
in "Cast Away in the Jungle," first of THE ROUND WORLD SERIES.  They
had not been long in Manilla, the capital of the island, since
completing that hazardous undertaking, when an incoming steamer brought
them the letter which awakened such an interest, and which was to play
such an important part in their future actions.  As its bulk indicated,
it was a lengthy epistle, and this length was more than doubled in
reading matter by the fine chirography which covered its large pages.

Standing where he could not scan the mysterious pages, Professor Jack
fell to watching the countenance of Harrie Mannering as he followed
with his eye the closely written pages.  As he read, his features began
to change their expression from gayety to seriousness, and by the time
he had finished a puzzled look had settled upon his sunburned but
good-looking face, and his lips, forming themselves unconsciously into
a pucker, gave vent to a prolonged whistle.  Then, as if to obtain a
more comprehensive understanding of the message, he returned to the
beginning, and was about to read it through again, when Jack said:

"Look here, boy, you are taking an unfair advantage of a fellow.  You
must know that I am just as much interested in news from the homeland
as you, so read it aloud this time.  If it is good news, I want to
enjoy it with you; if it is bad news, then I certainly ought to share
it with you."

"Forgive me, or rather us, Jack--for I am sure Ronie has seen every
word--but it is all so strange and unexpected that my head is not quite
clear yet as to whether I have been reading or dreaming."

"Then it is all the more necessary that I should hear it, as it is
possible my poor head may help unravel the skein.  You remember the
story of the great novelist, Sir Walter Scott, who, upon recovering
from a long illness, was given a book to read for amusement.  But upon
reading the book, he could get so little sense out of it that he feared
he had lost his reason.  In this perplexed state of mind he handed the
work to another to read without giving his reason, while he waited
anxiously for the result.  She, after reading a few chapters, threw the
book aside, declaring it was such senseless twaddle that she did not
care to follow it any further, whereupon the great author breathed

"No offense was meant, Jack, and I will try and make amends at once.
In the first place, this is an invitation for us to start upon another
undertaking somewhat similar to the one we have just completed."

"What! return to the jungles of Luzon?"

"No; it is to South America this time--to Venezuela.  A party of men,
some of whom are connected with the local government, are anxious to
open up the interior of the country in quest of rubber trees.  The
writer, who is one of the company, and, I judge, an influential member,
has recommended us as 'capable persons'--you needn't laugh, Ronie, for
those are his words--to survey and engineer for the party.  If we
conclude to go, he wants us to meet him at Caracas as soon as possible.
In the meantime, he will get everything in readiness to start as soon
as we arrive.  I am at a loss to know what to think of it.  The writer,
who is Colonel Rupert Marchand, is very enthusiastic over the scheme,
and he seems anxious that we should come.  I never thought the colonel
was one to get wild over anything that was not likely to prove

Jack made no reply in words, but took the letter from the hand of his
young friend, and began to hastily run over its contents, saying, by
way of apology for his action:

"You will pardon me, Harrie, but it may not be best for us to read
aloud or talk to any great extent here.  There may be those about whose
motives are not friendly."

Thinking this suggestion a wise one, Harrie and Ronie willingly
followed their companion to a more retired place, where the three spent
fully five minutes looking over the lengthy missive together before one
of them spoke.  Then Ronie said:

"Well, what do you think of it, Jack?"

"That it is a grand opportunity for two such adventure-loving fellows
as you are to embrace.  But I would not advise less daring and
energetic youths to think of it for a moment."

"So you think there is likely to be some dangerous experiences attached
to the journey?"

"It has all of that appearance, though you may come out of it without a
scratch.  Colonel Marchand, unless I have misjudged him, is just such a
man as would throw all thought of hazard to the wind if the prize was
worth striving for."

"You do not believe he would lead any one into needless danger, Jack?"

"Certainly not; he is too good a soldier for that, and you know he made
an honorable record in our recent war with Spain."

"I judge, then, you think the people we should be likely to fall among
might be a dangerous element," said Ronie.

"That is just what I meant.  The inhabitants of the interior of the
country where he would have you go are treacherous and dangerous, if
they happen to take a dislike to you; and that they are more prone to
dislike than to like has been my experience."

"What about this rubber business?" said Harrie.  "Colonel Marchand
speaks as if he wants us to take an interest in the company as part pay
for our work.  He seems very enthusiastic over that."

"His excuse for having us take some shares is that we might possibly
have more interest in the venture," said Ronie.  "That stipulation
makes me think there may be some sort of a trap to inveigle us into a
profitless adventure, though I do not think the colonel would do that."

"You are as well able to judge of that as I am.  In regard to the
rubber part of the venture, to use a poor simile, that is very elastic.
Unless you have given the matter some consideration you will not, at
first thought, realize the importance of that commodity, which must
govern the possibilities of the article in the markets.  I will
acknowledge that I am very favorably impressed with the idea.  Rubber
is fast becoming one of the most important commercial articles in
existence.  Turn whichever way you will, do whatever you wish, and you
will almost invariably find that rubber is the most necessary thing

"Not only is it used in large quantities toward helping clothe men and
creatures, but it is used in house furnishings, such as mattings for
floors, stairs and platforms, on board of ships, as well as in houses,
and in hundreds of other places.  It is utilized largely in the
manufacture of druggists' materials; in the manufacture of all kinds of
instruments and machinery that require pliable bearings and supporters,
printers' rollers, wheel tires, rings on preserve jars.  Erasers on
lead pencils call for tons of the article.

"Then steam mills must have rubber belts, cars rubber bearings, and gas
works call for miles of rubber hose, to say nothing of that used in
gardens and on lawns.  Billiard tables alone call for nearly a third of
a million dollars' worth of rubber every year, while over a million
dollars are spent for the rubber used in baseball and football!
Typewriters call for a vast amount; so do the makers of rubber stamps,
water bottles, trimmings for harness, and fittings for pipes of one
kind and another.  Altogether, the rubber factories of the United
States alone utilize sixty million pounds of rubber annually.  You will
not wonder now if I say that rubber ranks as third among the imports of
the country, and that its handling is one of the most profitable
callings of the day.  If this is the electrical age, as it has been
called, it is rubber that makes possible the many applications of

"I had not thought it of such importance," remarked Harrie, frankly.
"Where does it all come from?"

"A very pertinent question," replied Jack.  "Originally it came from
India, hence the name of India rubber, which still clings to it, though
the great bulk now, and that which is of the better quality, comes from
other countries.  Foremost among these is South America.  It is true a
large amount comes from Central America, the west part of Africa, and
the islands of the Indian Archipelago, but the best rubber comes from
the great belt of lowlands bordering upon the Amazon, the Rio Negro and
the Orinoco, the last named tract lying largely in Southern Venezuela.
This country in many respects is the Eldorado of South America."

"Then we shall not be going into a country without at least one source
of wealth."

"No; Venezuela is wonderfully well favored by nature.  Capable of
producing abundant supplies of first quality coffee, sugar cane, cocoa
palm and cotton plant, it has its rich gold mines, its mines of
asphalt, affording paving enough for the cities of the world; while
last, but not least, are its rubber forests, which have only very
recently been considered as a valuable and available resource.  It is
here American capital has entered the field of conquest."

"Do you think we had better go there, Jack?"

"That is a question you must answer yourselves.  I know you will not
act hastily, and, having acted, will not regret the step taken."

"What about the climate, Jack?" asked Harrie.  "I believe you have been

"Yes, I have been there," replied the other, shaking his grizzled head
slowly, "and it was likely at one stage of the scene that I should stay
there forever.  But I am not answering your question.  The climate of
South America, as a whole, is not very bad, though much of its
territory lies within the torrid zone.  This is largely due to local
modifications.  The burning heat of the plains of Arabia is unknown in
the western hemisphere.  The hottest region of South America, as far as
I know, is the steppes of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela; but even
there the temperature does not reach a hundred degrees in the shade,
while it rises to one hundred and twelve degrees in the sand deserts
surrounding the Red Sea.  In the basin of the Amazon, owing to the
protection of vast forests and the influence of prevailing easterly
winds, offshoots of the trade winds, which follow the great river
nearly to the Andes, the climate is not very hot or unhealthy."

"What do you say, Ronie?  Is it go, or stay here until something else
comes our way?"

"I will suggest the way I would settle it.  Let each one take a slip of
paper, and, without consulting the Others, write upon it his answer.
Whatever two of us shall say to be our decision, to go or to remain

His companions were nothing loath to agree to this, so paper and
pencils were quickly obtained, and each one wrote his reply.  Upon
comparing notes a moment later, it was found that all three had written
the short but decisive word:




"I tell you, boys, there is something wrong about this vessel."

The speaker was Jack Greenland, and his companions were Ronie and
Harrie, but the scene is now many leagues from the quiet corner where
they took their vote to hazard a journey to the rubber forests of
Venezuela.  Instead of the quaint old buildings of Manilla on the one
hand, and the sullen old bay, filled with its odd-looking crafts, on
the other, roll the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, almost as placid
as the southern sky that bends so benignly over their heads, while they
stand by the taffrail of the rakish ship upon which they have only
recently taken passage to the South American coast.

To explain in detail this change of base would require too much space.
A few words will suffice to describe the long journey by water and land
necessary to make this stupendous change.  In the first place, having
decided unanimously to undertake the trip, they were exceedingly
fortunate in finding that they could leave Manilla within twenty-four
hours by steamer for San Francisco.  This required some smart hustling,
but our trio were used to this, and the next morning found them safely
aboard ship, looking hopefully forward to a speedy and safe arrival in
the city of the Golden Gate.  In this they were not disappointed, while
the run down the coast to Panama was also made under favorable
conditions.  Then the isthmus was crossed with some delay and vexation,
when their adventures and misadventures began in earnest.

At Colon tidings of war in Venezuela reached them.  These being
somewhat indefinite, and the republic in question being a land of
revolutions and uprisings, but little attention was given these vague
reports.  They had barely left port, however, before the captain of the
little coastwise vessel declared that they were likely to have trouble.

The next day they were, indeed, fired upon by a strange craft, and
instead of keeping on toward La Guayra, the port of Caracas, he put to
sea.  While bent upon this aimless quest, they were overtaken by a
tropical storm, and were eventually driven upon one of the small isles
forming the lower horn of that huge crescent of sea isles known as the
Windward Islands.  From this they managed to reach, after repairing
their damages somewhat, Martinique, where our three heroes were only
too glad to part with such uncertain companions.

There was a strange ship in this port, which immediately attracted
them.  Learning that the captain, though he had taken out papers for
Colon, intended to stop at La Guayra, they engaged passage.  At the
outset they had felt some distrust in doing this, while the commander
showed equal hesitation in taking them.  Still, it was their only
chance to get away, so they resolved to take their chances, with the
determination to keep their eyes and ears open.  Thus they had
frequently expressed the opinion among themselves that they had been
justified in their suspicions, though this was the first outspoken
belief in the fact.

"I agree with you, Jack," declared Ronie.

"What have you learned that is new, Jack?" asked Harrie.

"Enough to confirm what doubts I already had as to her character.
Captain Willis does not intend to put in at La Guayra, as he claimed he
should to us."

"Perhaps he dares not," said Ronie.

"Ay, lad, that's where you hit the bull's-eye.  He dares not do it."

"That means either that his intentions are not honest, or that the war
in Venezuela is more than a civil war," said Harrie.

"Now you've hit the bull's-eye with a double shot.  I do not believe he
is honest," nodding in the direction of the commander, "and that this
is an international war!"

"Whew!" exclaimed the young engineers in the same breath.  While both
had really about come to this conclusion, the proposition seemed more
startling when expressed in so many words.

"Before we fully agree to this," continued Professor Jack, "let's
compare notes.  In the first place this vessel before undergoing some
slight alterations came to Martinique as a Colombian vessel, officered
and manned by Englishmen.  Upon reaching this island she was
immediately sold, and her English crew discharged.  But her captain
remained the same, while she still carried the English colors.  The
next day it was claimed she had been again sold, this time passing into
the possession of followers of General Matos, the leader of the
Venezuelan revolutionists.  Her English flag was now replaced by the
colors of Venezuela, and she was renamed from the _Ban Righ_ to the
_Libertador_.  Can the chameleon beat that in changing colors?  It is
my private opinion she is a cruiser in the employ of the insurgents,
and that we are booked for lively times."

"With small chance of reaching Caracas for a long time, if at all,"
added Ronie.

"How came England to allow such a vessel to leave her port?" asked

"She must have been deceived as to her real character.  Thinking she
was a Colombian ship, and being on peaceful terms with that republic,
she had no business to stop her.[1]  Hi! what have we here?"

Jack's abrupt question was called forth by the sudden appearance almost
by his side of a tall, slender youth, whose tawny skin and dark
features proclaimed that he belonged to the mixed blood of the South
American people.  He had risen from the midst of a coil of rope, and in
such close proximity that it was evident he had overheard what had been
said.  The three Americans realized their situation, though the opening
speech of the young stranger reassured them.

"Señors speak very indiscreetly," he said, "of affairs which they must
know bode them ill, in case their words reach the ears of others."

"Who are you?" demanded Jack, who was the first to speak.  He
remembered having seen this youth among the men on board, but had not
given him any particular notice, although he noticed that he presented
an appearance that showed he did not belong to the class of common
sailors, while dressed no better than the poorest.  There was an air of
superiority about him which they did not possess.

"It is not always well for one to be too outspoken to strangers," he
answered, glancing cautiously about as he said the words.  "Even coils
of rope have ears," he added, significantly.

"You overheard what we said?" queried Jack, who continued to act as
spokesman for the party.

"_Si, señor_.  I could not help hearing some of it, though you did
speak in a low tone.  My ears are very keen, and not every one would
have heard the little I did."

"It is not well for one to repeat what one hears, sometimes," said
Jack, by way of reply.

"I have a mind as well as ears, señors," replied the youth.  "While I
can see as well as I can hear, I can think for both eyes and ears.  You
are not satisfied with the appearance of the _Libertador_?"

"I judge you are pretty well informed as to our opinion," replied Jack,
more vexed than he was willing to show that they should have been
caught off their guard.  "Listeners are not apt to hear any good of
themselves, we are told."

"Had I been a spy," retorted the youth, with some animation, "I should
have remained quietly in my concealment, and not shown my head at all,
and most assuredly not when I was likely to hear that which was to
prove the most important."

"Please explain, then, your motive in addressing us at all."

"Not here--not now," he answered.  "When the Southern Cross appears in
the sky, and the sharp-eyed, doubting Englishman at the head sleeps, I
will meet one of you here, and make plain many things you do not

"Why not meet all of us?" demanded Jack, suspiciously.

"Because one of you in conversation with me would create less suspicion
than all of you would be likely to do.  That is my only reason, señor."

"By the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please," exclaimed Professor
Jack, "there is a bit of common sense in that.  One of us will be here,
if we find it convenient."

"Good, señor.  Now, as we seem to be attracting attention, it may be
well for us to separate.  I will be on hand at the appointed time."

A moment later the unknown youth mingled with the motley crew, leaving
our friends wondering what their meeting with him portended.

"He seems honest," declared Ronie.

"He must be half Spaniard, and the other is doubtless something worse,
if that is possible," said Jack, who confessed that he had no liking
for the South American races.

"Shall we accept his proposition?" asked Harrie.  "I will confess I am
curious to know what he has to tell."

"I do not understand what this disturbance between the countries
means," said Ronie.  "When foreign nations take a hand in the affair it
would seem to show that something more serious than a civil revolt is
likely to follow.  There could not have been a suspicion of this
outside preparation of war in the United States, or Colonel Marchand
would have known of it.  I do not see how this has gone on under the
American eyes."

"It is probably due to the fact that these republics of South America
are almost continually at war.  Venezuela has had a stormy time of it
from the very first.  I think one of us had better listen to what this
young Venezuelan has to say.  He is evidently not in sympathy with the
commander of this vessel."

"Who is working in the interest of Matos, the leader of the

"As President Castro is at the head of the government, and the target
for the fire of the whole world at this time."

It was finally decided that Harrie should meet the stranger at the
appointed time, while Ronie and Jack were to remain nearby to lend
their assistance in case the youth showed any signs of treachery.
Having come to this decision, the three waited, as may be imagined,
with considerable anxiety for the hour to come.

[1] Jack hit nearer the truth than he realized at the time.  The _Ban
Righ_ had, in fact, awakened the suspicions of the English authorities,
and the attention of the custom officers was directed to her by the
placing of a searchlight on her foremast.  An examination disclosed the
fact that parts of guns and gun-mountings had been stowed away below
deck, where passages had been cut to allow the crew to move about with
facility.  She was released and permitted to leave port because the
Colombian official in London claimed that she was being fitted out for
the service of his government.  Sailing ostensibly for Colon, she
called at Antwerp, where she was loaded with 175 tons of Mausers and
180 tons of ammunition, besides field guns, billed as "hardware,
musical instruments and kettledrums."  She also took on here a French
artillery captain, a doctor, and two sergeants.  The guns were mounted
before she reached Martinique, and while there a sham sale was made.
So it will be seen that Jack and the young engineers had ample reason
for mistrusting the vessel whose career reads like a chapter from
romance rather than the actual history of a ship that, possibly, did
more to foment international disputes concerning the Venezuelan war
than anything else.--AUTHOR.



The night proved clear and beautiful, a typical southern evening most
fitly closing a day that had been flawless.  All the afternoon the sky
and sea, so nearly of the same cerulean hue that where they met they
matched so perfectly as to seem a curtain of the same texture, had
appeared to vie with each other in their placidity, while now the stars
overhead were scarcely brighter than their reflections in the waters
below.  On the rim of the distant horizon shone with a soft luster the
glorious radii of the gem of the Antipodes, the Southern Cross.

Harrie was promptly on hand to keep his meeting with the strange youth,
but no earlier than the other, who greeted him in his musical voice:

"Señor is in good season.  It is well, for our time cannot be long in
which to talk.  While we speak let us walk slowly back and forth, arm
in arm, so we shall not be overheard."

He spoke in a low tone, a little above a whisper, while Harrie allowed
his arm to be drawn into the other's grasp, though he was very watchful
not to be taken unawares in case of an attack on him.

"In the first place," said the young Venezuelan, "I judge señor is
anxious to know who it is who has placed himself in his way.  But
before that I would speak of the ship which is at this moment bearing
us whither we fain would not go."

"What about the ship?" asked Harrie, as he hesitated.  "What have you
to say of that?"

Lowering his voice so our hero could barely catch his words, he said:

"It is a pirate ship, señor!"

Harrie could not repress a low exclamation at this startling
announcement, but he quickly recovered his presence of mind, saying, as
he recalled the wild deeds of Morgan and his freebooters, Conrad and
his Blue Water Rovers, who once boasted dominion over these seas:

"How can that be?"

"At least it is outlawed by the Venezuelan Government, and a big reward
offered for its capture.  It is a conscript working in the interest of
Matos, the outlaw."

"Who are you who says this, and how come you by this information?  You
appear to be one of the crew; why is this so?"

"I could answer the last question by asking the same of señor.  I am
here solely with the hope of getting back to my native land, and to the
side of my dear mother.  Perhaps you will understand my situation
better when I tell you that I belong to a family that once ruled
Venezuela.  The two Guzman Blancos, the elder of whom was an American,
were my ancestors.  My name is Francisco de Caprian.  My family is
hated by Matos, while father, who is not living now, did something to
incur the displeasure of Castro, so I am in ill-favor all around," he
added, with a smile which disclosed two rows of very white teeth.

"Notwithstanding this," he added, "I am anxious to get back to Caracas,
to protect my dear mother in these perilous times, and, it may be,
strike one blow more for my country.  The De Caprians can trace their
ancestry back to Juan Ampues, who founded the first Spanish settlement
in Venezuela, and one of them was a captain under Bolivar.  Whatever
they may say of my family, they have ever been true to their native
land.  The illustrious General Blanco did much for downtrodden
Venezuela, if some complained of him.  You cannot suit all, señor, at
the same time.  Whither do you wish to go?"

"To Caracas," replied Harrie.

"I am glad to hear that, señor, for it will enable us to join fortunes.
That is, if you do not hesitate to associate with me.  I am frank to
say that I am likely to involve you in trouble; but, at the same time,
judging you are strangers there, I may be able to help you.  Then, too,
I do not believe they will dare to molest you to any serious extent, so
long as your country is not mixed up in this imbroglio.  Yet a South
American aroused is like a wild bull, whose coming actions are not to
be gauged by his former behavior.  I never have found an American who
could not take care of himself."

"Thank you, Señor Francisco.  I trust you have not found one who would
desert a comrade in an hour of need."

Quick and earnest came the reply, while the young Venezuelan grasped
Harrie's hand.

"Never, señor."

"You shall find my friends and me faithful to our promises."

"I was confident of that, or I should not have dared to address you.
Believe me, the risk was greater than you may realize.  Were my
identity to become known on this ship I have no doubt but I should be
hung at the yardarm, or shot down like a brute, within an hour."

The youthful speaker showed great earnestness, and with what appeared
to be genuine honesty and candor.  At any rate, Harrie was fain to
believe in his honor, and without further delay related enough of his
experiences for the other to understand the situation of his friends
and himself.

"I was very sure you were here involuntarily," said Francisco, when he
had finished.  "It is likely we can be of service to each other.  From
what I have been able to pick up, we are to coast along the shore of
Venezuela, leaving here and there arms and ammunition for Matos and his
insurgents.  It is possible we shall stop at Maracaibo.  In case we do
so, that will be the place for us to leave the _Libertador_.  If there
is a chance before, we shall be remiss as to our personal welfare if we
do not discover and improve it.  The eyes of the watch are upon us," he
said, in a lower tone, "and we had better separate.  Keep your eyes and
ears open until we have opportunity to speak to each other again."

Before Harrie could reply, the other had slipped away, and he was fain
to return to his companions, whom he found anxiously awaiting him.  In
a few words he apprized them of what had passed between him and the
young Venezuelan outlaw, Francisco de Caprian.

"His words only confirm what we had concluded, and for that I am
inclined to believe the young man in part, at least.  I was in
Venezuela at the time of the downfall of that pompous patriot Guzman
Blanco, and I knew something of the De Caprians.  Possibly it was this
fellow's father who was mixed up in the muddle, and who was killed,
according to report, soon after I got away.  Mind you, I say this, but
it will be well for us if we are careful whom we trust.  In Venezuela
every man is a revolutionist, and where revolutions reign the
sacredness of human faith is lost.  As we seem to be in for our share
of lively times, it may be well for us to look at the situation

"I am surprised at the small amount I know of these South American
republics," declared Harrie.  "Though they are much nearer to us, I
really know far less of them than I do of European nations of to-day,
or the ancient empires that crumbled away long years ago."

"It is usually so," replied Jack.  "It is a trait of human nature to be
reaching after the things beyond our reach, while we push right over
those near us.  The history of South America is a most interesting one,
but the most interesting chapter is close at hand, when out of the
crude material shall crystallize a government and a people that shall
place themselves among the powers of the world.  I should not know as
much as I do of Venezuela if it had not been for the two years I spent
there quite recently--years I am not likely to forget."

"Ojeda, the Spanish adventurer who followed Columbus, named the country
Venezuela, which means "Little Venice," from the fact that he found
people living in houses built on piles, which suggested to him the
'Queen of the Adriatic,'" said Ronie.

"Very true," argued [Transcriber's note: agreed?} Jack.  "These were
natives living about Lake Maracaibo, but the name was extended to cover
the whole country, though its original inhabitants did not, as a whole,
live in dwellings on poles, and move about in canoes.  This Alonso de
Ojeda carried back to his patrons much gold and many pearls that he
stole from the simple but honest natives."

"If I am not mistaken, Vespucci, who had so much to do with naming the
new continent,[1] accompanied Ojeda's expedition," said Harrie.

"Very true," replied Jack.  "I am glad to think that he was more humane
than the majority of the early discoverers, who treated the natives so
cruelly.  The Indians of this country were not only rapidly despoiled
of their gold and pearls, but they were themselves inhumanly butchered
or seized and sold into captivity.  The result was they soon became
bitter enemies to the newcomers, who thus found colonization and
civilization not only difficult but dangerous.  Among those of a kinder
heart who came here was Juan Ampues, whom your young friend, Harrie,
claims was an ancestor of his.  Ampues succeeded, through his kindness,
in winning over the natives to his side, and he was thus enabled to
found the first settlement in Venezuela.  This was in 1527, and the
town whose foundations he laid still exists under the name he gave it,
Santa Ana de Coro.  But for the most part the Spaniards treated the
Indians in a brutal manner, and in the end the unfortunate race was
looted and slain."

"But I have read that the people of Venezuela fell into worse hands
when the country was leased for a while to the Germans," said Ronie.

"Right!" declared Jack, earnestly.  "You are evidently well posted on
history.  Germany's hold was broken in 1546, but it took two hundred
years to conquer and settle Venezuela, while all the slaughter of human
lives and vast outlay of wealth proved in the end a poor investment for
old Spain.  One by one her American dependencies have slipped away from
her control, and Venezuela has the honor of being the first to gain her
freedom from Old World tyranny.

"The first effort to break the chains was made in 1797.  This was
unsuccessful, and another attempt was made in 1806, this time by
General Francisco Miranda, who invaded Venezuela with an expedition
organized in the United States, This revolution was successful only so
far as it served to awaken the people to the possibility that lay
before them.  The prime opportunity came when Napoleon dethroned
Ferdinand of Spain, and the inhabitants of this dependency declared
that they would not submit to this Napoleonic usurpation.  Though this
movement was made under a claim of allegiance to the deposed king of
Spain, he was incapable of seeing that it was for his interest to stand
by them, so he renounced their declaration.  The result was another
declaration made on July 5, 1811, a declaration of independence and a
constitution in some respects like ours."

"It seems a bit strange that they should have an independence day that
comes so close to ours," said Harrie.

"Yes; and it is quite as singular that the first blow for liberty was
struck by their ancestors on the same day in April that our forefathers
fired their opening guns upon the British at Concord and Lexington,"
replied Jack.

"What means that confusion and those loud voices upon the deck?" asked
Ronie, as they were arrested in the midst of their conversation by the
sounds of a great commotion having suddenly begun over their heads.

"There is something new afoot!" declared Jack.  "It sounds as if there
was going to be a fight.  Follow me, and we will find out what it

[1] Our geographies were wont to credit this nobleman with having given
his name to the continent, but modern research has shown this to be an
error.  The country was already called by the native inhabitants
Amarca, or America, which Vespucci very appropriately retained in his
written account of the New World, the first that was given to the
scholars of that day.  From this fact his name became associated with
that country, and he became known as "Amerigo" Vespucci, which was very
appropriate, though his real name was Albertigo.  Later writers,
without stopping to investigate, declared that the continent had been
named for him, and in that way others accepted the mistake as a fact.
The truth is the name of "America" is older and grander than that of
any of those who followed in the train of Columbus, and was that
appellation given it by the ancient Peruvians, the most highly
civilized people on the Western Continent at the coming of the Great



As the three hurried to the deck of the _Libertador_ they found the
noise and confusion increasing, though the seamen were fast falling
into their line of duty with greater regularity.  Captain Willis was on
hand giving out his orders in his brusque manner.

"Where away has it been sighted, lookout?" called the commander.

"Off our windward quarter, captain."

"Maintain your watch, sir, and report if there is any change."

"They have sighted land," whispered Jack.  "It must be one of the
islands lying off the Venezuelan coast."

Both of his companions could not help feeling a thrill of pleasure at
this announcement, while they hoped it might lead to their speedy
escape from their present uncertain situation.  But, from their
position, no trace of the looked-for shore could be discovered, and it
is safe to say no three upon the vessel watched and waited for the
morning light with greater anxiety than the two young engineers and
their faithful companion.

At different intervals the lookout announced the situation as viewed
from his vantage ground, but no satisfactory word came until the dawn
of day, when even those upon deck saw in plain sight the shore of one
of the tropical islands dotting the sea.

While our friends were looking on the scene with intense interest,
Francisco de Caprian passed by them, whispering as he did so:

"The island of Curacao.  It looks as though we were going to touch at
the port."

He did not stop for any reply from our party, but Jack said to his
companions a moment later:

"If I am not mistaken Curacao belongs to the Dutch.  It is about fifty
miles from the Venezuelan coast, and westward of Caracas."

"Which means that we have passed the line of that city," said Ronie.


"Had we better try and land here?"

"I am in doubt.  Perhaps young De Caprian will be able to advise us.
There is no doubt but they intend to stop here."

This was now evident to his companions, and half an hour was filled
with the exciting emotions of entering harbor after a voyage at sea.
As they moved slowly toward the pier it became evident that they had
been expected, for, early as it was, quite a throng of spectators were
awaiting them, and among the crowd were to be seen a small body of

At this moment Francisco managed to pause a minute beside them, saying:

"They are stopping here to take off one of Matos' officers.  The island
seems to have been turned into a sort of recruiting ground for the

"Aren't the Dutch neutral in this quarrel?"

"They are supposed to be, but it is my opinion considerable secret
assistance is being given the insurgents from Europe--particularly from
the Germans.  But I shall create suspicion if I talk longer.  Above
all, appear to be indifferent to whatever may take place."

"You do not think we had better try and leave the vessel here?"

"You could not if you would.  Every movement of yours is watched.  Be
careful what you say or----"

Francisco de Caprian did not stop to finish his sentence, though his
unspoken words were very well understood by the anxious trio, who saw
him among the most active of the mixed crew a moment later.

Then they were witnesses of the embarkation of a small squad of
Venezuelan soldiers under charge of an officer who appeared in a
supercilious mood.

"Whoever he is," whispered Jack, "he stands pretty near the head, and
he evidently intends that every one shall know it.  Our stop is going
to be short.  Well, the shorter the better, perhaps, for us.  If we
should succeed in getting ashore we should find ourselves in the power
of the insurgents, which, it may be, we are at present," he added, with
a smile.  "All we can do is to keep our eyes open and await further

Jack realized that his companions knew this as well as he, so he did
not expect a reply, while they watched the following scenes in silence.
They saw the last of the little party of insurgents on shipboard, and
soon after the _Libertador_ was once more ploughing her way through the
blue water of the Caribbean.  Their course was now south-southwest, but
nothing occurred during the rest of the day to break the monotony of
the voyage.  The newcomers went below immediately, so that our friends
saw nothing of them.  Toward night Francisco found opportunity to speak
a few words to the three.

"We are steering directly for the Venezuelan shore," he said.  "I
overheard Captain Willis say that he intended to land somewhere near
Maracaibo, where, I judge, our passengers are going.  We may find
opportunity to escape then."

"Do you think we shall touch port again soon?" asked Ronie.

"The officer and his followers whom we took aboard at Curacao are to be
left somewhere near Maracaibo.  That is all I have been able to learn.
They are extremely careful what they say."

The following morning it was found that the _Libertador_ was flying
signals, which Jack declared were intended to attract the insurgents.

"Mark my words, we are approaching the shore so closely that we shall
soon sight land."

Jack proved himself a true prophet, but before this announcement came
from the lookout, something of a more startling nature took place.
About an hour after sunrise the sail of a small coastwise vessel was
sighted, and within another hour the stranger had been so closely
overtaken that she was hailed in no uncertain tones.

The reply was uttered in defiance, and the sloop showed that she was
crowding ahead with all the speed she could, a steady breeze lending
its favor.  But it soon became evident that it would be a short race,
and then the bow-chaser of the _Libertador_ was brought to bear upon
the fugitive.

As the first shot our heroes had heard in the war rang out over the
sea, and the leaden messenger struck in close proximity to its target,
the strange sloop was seen to soon slacken its flight.  A few minutes
later, in answer to the stentorian command of Captain Willis, she lay

"It is war in earnest," said Harrie, as they saw a boat let down from
the cruiser, and the second officer, accompanied by half a dozen men,
started toward the prize.  "I wonder what they will do with the sloop
now she has capitulated?"

"We shall know as soon as the mate and his men return," replied Jack.

It proved in the end that an officer and half a dozen men were sent
from the _Libertador_ to take charge of the captured sloop, which took
an opposite course from that pursued by her captor.  The latter
continued along the coast, flying her signals, but did not offer to
touch shore until Jack assured his companions that they must be near to
Maracaibo.  Then an unexpected thing happened.  Though aware that they
were continually under close surveillance, they had not been molested
in any way until now they were ordered below.  Upon showing a little
hesitation in obeying, Ronie Rand was sent headlong to the deck by a
blow from one of the sailors, sent to see that the order was carried

"Our only way is to obey at present," whispered Jack, leading the way
to their berths below, followed by their enemies.  They were left here
by the latter.  For a little time the three remained silent, each busy
with his own thoughts.  Finally Harrie said:

"This begins to look serious.  Why is it done?"

"It looks to me as if they were afraid we might try to leave them as
soon as we come to port, and they have taken this precaution."

"What can they wish to keep us for?" asked Ronie.  "We have been of no
benefit to them."

"True.  But they may possibly fear to let us go free, as we are
Americans, and would be likely to inform our government about some
things they think we may have learned of them."

"Hark!  I believe they are coming back."

While this did not prove true at the time, it was less than an hour
later when an officer, with four companions, did visit them, the former
saying he had received orders to put them in irons.

Upon listening to this announcement, the three looked upon their
captors and then each upon his companions, Unable, at first, to
comprehend the statement.

"Why should we be accorded such treatment?" demanded Jack.  "We have
done no harm to any one, but have come and remained as peaceful
citizens of a country that has no trouble with your government or its

The officer shook his head, as much as to say: "I know nothing of this.
My orders must be obeyed."  Then he motioned for his men to carry out
their purpose.

Although they were not armed, except for their small firearms, and the
Venezuelans carried heavy pistols and cutlasses, the first thought that
flashed simultaneously through the minds of our heroes was the idea
that they could overpower the party, and thus escape the indignity
about to be heaped upon them.  But, fortunately, as later events
proved, the calmer judgment of Jack prevailed.  If they succeeded in
overpowering these men, they must stand a slim chance of escaping.  In
fact, it would be folly to hope for it under the present conditions.
Thus they allowed the irons to be clasped upon their wrists and about
their ankles.  This task, which did not seem an unpleasant one to them,
accomplished to their satisfaction, the men returned to the deck,
leaving our friends prisoners amid surroundings which seemed to make
their situation hopeless.



During the hours which followed--hours that seemed like ages--the
imprisoned trio were aware of a great commotion on deck, and Jack
assured his companions that the _Libertador_ had come to anchor.

"We are in some port near Maracaibo," he said.  "I feel very sure of

"If we were only free," said Harrie, "there might be a possibility that
we could get away.  It begins to look as if we are not going to regain
our freedom."

"I wish we had resisted them," exclaimed the more impulsive Ronie.  "I
know we could have overpowered them."

"It would have done no good in the end," replied Jack.  "In fact, it
would have worked against us in almost any turn affairs may take.  In
case we do escape, we shall be able to show that we have not given
cause for this treatment.  The United States Government will see that
we are recompensed for this."

"If we live to get out of it," said Ronie.

"That is an important consideration, I allow," declared Jack.  "But I
never permit myself to worry over my misfortunes.  So long as there is
life there is hope."

"I wonder if Francisco knows of this," said Ronie.

"If he does, and he must learn of it sooner or later, he will come to
us if it is in his power," replied Harrie, whose faith in the outlawed
Venezuelan was greater than his companions'.

Some time later, just how long they had no way of knowing, it became
evident to them that the _Libertador_ was again upon the move.  Whither
were they bound?  No one had come near them, and so long had they been
without food and drink that they began to feel the effects.  Had they
been forgotten by their captors, or was it a premeditated plan to kill
them by starvation and thirst?  Such questions as these filled their
minds and occupied most of their conversation.

"I wonder where Colonel Marchand thinks we are?" asked Harrie.

"I tell you what let's do, boys," suggested the fertile Jack Greenland.
"Let's remind them that we are human beings, and that we must have food
and drink or perish.  Now, together, let us call for water!"

The young engineers were not loath to do this, and a minute later, as
with one voice that rang out loud and deep in that narrow place of
confinement, they shouted three times in succession:

"Water! water! water!"

This cry they repeated at intervals for the next half hour without
bringing any one to their side, when they relapsed into silence.  But
it was not long before an officer and two companions brought them both
food and drink.  They partook of these while their captors stood grimly
over them, ready to return the irons to their wrists as soon as they
had finished their simple meal.  The only reply they could get to their
questions was an ominous shake of the head from the leader of the
party.  So Jack gave up, and he and his companions relapsed into
silence which was not broken until the disappearance of the men.

"This beats everything I ever met with," declared Jack, "though I must
confess I have been in some peculiar situations in my time."

Nothing further occurred to break the monotony of their captivity for
what they judged to be several hours.  Then they suddenly became aware
of a person approaching them in a stealthy manner.  At a loss to know
who could be creeping upon them in such a manner, they could only
remain silent till the mystery should be solved.  This was done in a
most unexpected way by a voice that had a familiar sound to it, though
it spoke scarcely above a whisper:

"Have no fear, señors, it is I."

The speaker was Francisco de Caprian, and he was not long in gaining
their side.

"How fares it with you, señors?"

"Poorly," replied Jack, speaking for his captors as well as himself.
"What does this mean?"

"I cannot stop to explain now.  This ship is now bound to Porto
Colombia for some repairs.  It stopped off Maracaibo to land General
Riera and his staff.  From what I have overheard the present commander
will leave her there, and one of Matos' more intimate followers will
become the captain.  It is possible we may fare better in Porto
Colombia than out to sea here.  But I am not certain.  The captain
seems concerned over what to do with you, and desperate measures may be
carried out.  I cannot say.  But one fact remains.  Every moment we are
being carried farther and farther from Caracas.  As far as I could I
have arranged for immediate flight.  I have bribed a sailor, who will
help us get a boat.  The night promises to be dark, which will
materially aid us in escaping.  But there is a lookout who stands in
fear of his life lest he lets anything pass his gaze.  It is not more
than an even chance that we can succeed in evading him and the others.
Do you care to take that chance with me, señors, or remain here and
possibly escape with more or less harm?"

"For one," said Ronie, "I am in favor of getting away as soon as

"Will it be possible for us to take our trunk with us?" asked Harrie.
"We can ill afford to lose that."

"I thought as much, señor," replied Francisco.  "I think we can manage
to take it along."

Though it was too dark for them to see the countenance of their
companion, the young engineers looked anxiously toward him while they
waited for his answer.  Jack spoke in a moment:

"I know how you feel, boys, and I think I have some of that spirit
myself.  I have always found, too, that the bold dash for freedom
always counted best.  If you think we had better take our chances now,
I am with you, by the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please!"

"Good!" exclaimed Harrie and Ronie together.  "You hear, Francisco,
that we are going with you?"

"_Si, señors_.  We will begin at once.  For I will free you from those
irons.  Then you must follow my directions to the letter."

While he was speaking Francisco began to work upon the manacles upon
Ronie's wrists, and he showed that he had come prepared for his task,
as inside of five minutes the three were free, very much to their

"Now," said Francisco, "you had better remain quietly here for what you
judge to be an hour.  Then you come upon deck, being careful to get
astern without being seen.  During this interval of waiting I will have
a boat in readiness, and be prepared to lower your chest into it at
short notice.  You will have to bring this with you, and if it is too
heavy to handle easily and rapidly, I should advise you to remove
whatever of its contents you can spare.  You understand?"

"We do, Francisco, and we will not fail to be on hand."

"I will be there to assist you.  In case I fail to accomplish my
purpose in getting the boat, you will hear an alarm, in which case you
had better replace your irons and stay where you are until the
excitement blows over.  Under these circumstances it will be for your
interest to look out for yourselves, as you will know that I cannot
help you."

"We shall not desert you," replied the young engineers, while they
clasped his hands as he started to leave them.

"He is a brave fellow, and thoroughly unselfish," said Harrie.

Exchanging now and then a few words, they waited and listened while the
silence remained unbroken.  At times the sound of footsteps reached
their ears, and constantly the steady swish of waters, but nothing to
warn them that the plans of Francisco had miscarried.

"The hour must be passed," declared Jack at last.

"And we must be moving," added Ronie.

"Can you find your chest easily?" asked the first.

"I think so," replied Harrie.  "Follow me."

The next five minutes were occupied in reaching the deck with their
burden.  Upon feeling the salt sea breath the three breathed easier,
while they glanced about to see if the way was clear.  As Francisco had
prophesied, the night was quite dark, though there were signs in the
west that the clouds were breaking away.  No one was to be seen nearby,
and silently the three stole along toward the place where they expected
to meet Francisco, bearing the chest containing the instruments, charts
and papers of the young engineers.  Fortunately, this was small, as
they had not taken more than was necessary.

Harrie and Ronie bore this between them, while Jack followed with every
sense strained to catch the first sight or hear the first movement of
their enemies.  In this way they had passed half the distance, and had
caught a glimpse of one ahead whom they believed to be their friend,
when a sharp voice rang out an alarm that for a moment fairly took away
their breath.  Before they had fairly recovered the cry was answered
from the fore part of the vessel, and they realized that their flight
had been discovered.

"Quick, señors!" called Francisco.  "In a moment we shall be too late."

Ronie and Harrie quickened their advance, while Jack prepared to meet
the enemy hand-to-hand, if it should be necessary, while he kept close
beside his companions.

"The boat is ready," said Francisco.  "Let me fasten the rope about the
chest.  If we can lower that before they get here, we will give them
the slip."

Already they could hear the crew of the _Libertador_ rushing wildly
about, uttering confusing cries, which told that they had little idea
of what was taking place, the majority doubtless thinking they had been
attacked by some unknown and mysterious foes.  Above this medley of
voices rang the stern command of the captain, trying to bring order out
of the excitement.

Francisco had now arranged the rope about the chest, and then it was
lowered down the ship's side, rapidly, hand over hand.

"They are coming!" exclaimed Jack, hoarsely.  "If I only had a weapon
of some kind I would show them the mettle of my arm."

"Over the rail!" said Francisco, and he and Harrie shot down the line
at a furious rate.  But before Ronie and Jack could follow they found
their retreat cut off, and themselves confronted by a dozen armed men,
with others coming swiftly toward the scene.



Thinking that his friends were close beside him, Harrie dropped into
the boat arranged for their flight.  At the same moment Francisco
landed in the bow of the slight craft rocking at its moorings, while
flashes of light and wild orders of men under the stress of great
excitement came from the deck of the _Libertador_.

"Are you all here?" asked the young Venezuelan, while he looked
hurriedly upward to the scene of excitement Over their heads, rather
than about him.

"Jack and Ronie are not here!" replied Harrie.  "Hark!  That must be
them engaged in a hand-to-hand fight."

"We must cut loose!" exclaimed Francisco, through his clinched teeth.
"Some of them are coming over the rail!"

"Boat ahoy!" thundered a stentorian voice from the vessel.

Francisco was in the act of cutting the boat adrift at that moment, and
before the sound of the speaker's voice had died away the fugitives
were several yards astern.

"Ply the oars, for your life!" said Francisco.  "Our lives depend on
our work for the next few minutes."

Loath as he was to make this flight without his friends, it was really
all that Harrie could do, and he lent his arm to that of his companion,
and with each stroke of the oar they were taken farther and farther
from the scene of wild commotion reigning upon the deck of the outlawed

"They are laying to," panted Francisco.  "They have sighted us, and
boats will be lowered to give us pursuit.  Ha! that shows they mean

A volley of firearms at that instant awoke the night scene,
illuminating the sea for a considerable distance.  But the shots flew
wide of their mark, though the light from the guns had disclosed their
position, so the following volley whistled uncomfortably near.  A
darkness deeper than ever succeeded the discharge of firearms, and
under this cover the fugitives managed to get beyond range before the
third volley could be sent after them.

Harrie had improved the passing gleams to look for Ronie and Jack, but
he had failed to learn aught of their fates, and his heart was very
heavy, as he concluded that he alone had been permitted to escape.
Francisco was silently bending over his oar, sending the boat swiftly
through the water into the unknown dangers that must lie in their

Meanwhile, how has it fared with Jack and Ronie, who found their escape
cut off at the very moment they were about to follow their companions?

"By the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please!" gritted the first,
seizing upon a stout lever that some one had dropped nearby, and which
promised to be a formidable club when wielded by his nervous arms,
"when ye keelhaul old Jack Greenland ye'll hear Gabriel's trumpet
sounding not far away!"

Then, as the mob rushed forward, he sprang in front of Ronie, who had
suddenly found himself flung back from the ship's rail, to be sent
headlong to the deck, and swinging his primitive weapon over his head
he mowed down a semi-circle of the seamen as if he was cutting a swath
of grain.  By that time Ronie, whose determined nature was aroused by
this rough treatment, was upon his feet, holding in his right hand a
serviceable small arm that he had been able to pick up.

Shots were fired upon them by the crew of the _Libertador_, but,
fortunately, the assailants proved but poor marksmen.  One burly
ruffian attempting to fell Ronie, the latter pointed at his body and
discharged his firearm.  At least he cocked the weapon and pulled the
trigger, but it failed to respond.  Realizing that it was empty, he
used it as a club, and a moment later had cleared his path of the big
seaman.  At that moment Jack cried out:

"Quick--into the sea!"

An instant later their forms disappeared over the rail, and they shot
headforemost into the water.  Almost simultaneously with their escape
the deck where they had just stood swarmed with the armed rabble.

Ronie for a brief while lost consciousness, and then the voice of Jack
came faintly to his ears:

"Where are you, lad?"

"Here, Jack."

"Good!  I will be with you in a minute.  Drop astern as fast as you

Ronie was a good swimmer, and as soon as he had recovered from the
shock of his headlong leap from the vessel he gathered himself
together, and when Jack came alongside he felt equal to the task which
seemed to lie ahead.

"Are you hurt, my lad?" asked Jack.

"No, Jack."

"Then keep beside me, and mind that you do not waste any of your
strength, for if we do not find Harrie and the boat it is likely to be
a long swim."

"Where can he be?  I believe they are lowering a boat from the ship."

"Let them lower away, lad.  It'll be a long chase before they overhaul
us.  Let's keep a little more to the right, for the boat has in all
probability gone that way, if they got away.  I am not sure they did,
but it looked like it."

Then, the cries of the excited officers and crew of the _Libertador_
growing fainter, as they swam on and on, Ronie and Jack steadily forged
ahead, peering with anxious gaze into the gloom about them for a sight
of their friends.

At the end of an hour the dark hulk of the _Libertador_ had faded from
view, and no more did the shouts of the exasperated men on board reach
their ears, while they, feeling the fearful strain upon them, moved
slowly through the water, hope slowly dying out in their breasts.

"We shall not find them!" declared Ronie.

"We must!" said Jack.  "Let's shout to them again, now, together:

"Boat a-h-o-y!"

As they had done a dozen times before without receiving any welcoming
reply, they sent their united voices far out over the sea, shimmering
now in the starlight.  Still no response--no sound to break the
dreadful silence of their watery surroundings.

"My old arms are not quite tired out yet, lad; hold upon me."

"No--no, Jack.  I am young and strong.  I can bear up a while longer.
If I only knew Harrie had escaped I should feel better."

"We can only hope that they have, and fight for our lives a little

Nothing more was said for some time, while they continued their battle
with the sea, each stroke of the arm leaving them a little weaker,
until it seemed to the castaways that they could not hold up much

"The race is almost over, lad," said Jack, at last.  "I feel worse for
you than for myself.  You have been a true boy.  It does not matter so
much with an old wornout veteran like me, but you are----"

"Look, Jack!" exclaimed Ronie, in the midst of his speech.  "I believe
that is the boat!"

His companion glanced in the direction pointed out by Ronie, and a glad
cry escaped his lips.

"Boat, ahoy!" he cried.  "Help!  H-e-l-p!"

Then they listened for a reply, fearing lest the other should fail to
catch their faint appeal, for both were so hoarse and exhausted that
their united voices could not reach far.

"It is a sloop," declared Jack.  "It is coming straight down upon us.
They cannot miss us--ay, they are veering away!  They have not heard
us--they have not seen us--they are going to pass us.  Once again, lad,
shout for your life.  It is our only hope."

Never did two poor mortals appeal with greater desperation for succor,
and a moment later a low cry of rejoicing left their sea-wet lips as
the reply rang over the water in a piercing tone:

"Ahoy--there!  Where away?"

"Here--to your lee!" replied the castaways, and then, quite overcome,
they suddenly lost consciousness.



Neither Jack or Ronie had a full realization of what followed.  The
sound of a voice that seemed to be muffled rang dimly in their ears,
and soon after strong arms lifted them bodily from the water, to place
them in the bottom of a boat.  Some one spoke in a language they could
not understand, when the boat started back to the larger craft awaiting
its return.  By the time they had been taken upon the deck of this
strange sloop both had recovered sufficiently to understand their

A motley-looking crew stood around them, but they did not give these
particular attention at the time, as one who was in command immediately
caught their notice.  He was a stout-framed, bewhiskered man of middle
age, and in spite of his foreign dress, plainly an American.  But he
seemed to be the only American on board the sloop.  Prefacing his
question with an oath, he demanded:

"Who are you, and where did you come from?"

Understanding the suspicious character of the _Libertador_, Jack was
wise enough not to acknowledge that they had come from that vessel
until he should deem it good policy to do so.  Accordingly he answered:

"We are two castaways who fell overboard from a ship just out from

"Pretty seamen!" declared the other, showing that he scouted the idea.
"Is it a trick of yours to fall overboard every time you step on deck?"

"We were only passengers," replied Jack.  "As you will see, like
yourself, we are Americans, who have come to this country with peaceful

"As if anybody was peaceful at such a time as this.  What are your

"Mine is Jack Greenland, and my friend's is Roland Rand," replied Jack,

"Names are nothing," grunted the other.  "You look like drowned rats.
If you will go below with one of the men he will see that you have a
change of clothing."

"We do not care for that, sir, Captain----"

"Captain Hawkins, sirrah.  If you prefer wet duds to dry ones it is not
my fault.  Shift for yourselves while I look after my men, who are as
lazy a lot of devils as ever swore in Spanish."

Jack and Ronie were in a dilemma.  While they hesitated about arousing
further the other regarding their identity, it seemed cowardly not to
say or do something for Harrie and Francisco, whom they believed afloat
in the boat, though not certain of this.  Exchanging a few hurried
words, Jack then ventured to address the captain again, though he felt
he was treading upon dangerous ground.  There was that air of mystery
about the sloop and those who manned her, which already created a
feeling in the breasts of our twain of doubt as to the honesty of the
craft.  What was this single American doing in these waters with a
Venezuelan crew, not one of whom did they believe could speak a word of
English, and certainly not one of whom appeared as if he would shrink
from cutting a man's throat in case that person stood between him and
any purpose he may have had in view.

"Captain Hawkins," said Jack, frankly and fearlessly, "we wish to ask
whither you are bound.  We realize we are under great favor to you, but
we are very anxious to learn the fate of a couple of friends whom we
have reason to believe were adrift at the time we found ourselves in
the sea."

"Humph!" grunted the captain.  "I should like to know what you expect
of me.  You may thank your stars that I am an American, as that fact
alone has spared your lives."

"For which we are very grateful.  But for the sake----"

"If you haven't been on this craft long enough to know that I am her
master it's because you ---- ---- idiots, and fit food for the fishes
only.  I will leave you at the first sod of earth that I see.  Is that

It was a trying situation.  It was evident that it would be worse than
useless to continue this subject under his present mood.

"They are better off than we were," declared Jack, aside to Ronie.
"That is, if they really gained the boat."

"I would give a good deal to know," said Ronie.

"Captain Hawkins is tacking ship," declared Jack, a moment later.

"What does that mean?"

"I cannot tell, unless, by the great horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you
please! he means to keep his word, and run us ashore at the first point
of land to be reached."

"That will take us away from Harrie," said Ronie.

"Too true, lad; too true!"

"Jack, what do you make of Captain Hawkins and his men?"

"They are greater mysteries to me than the officers and crew of the
_Libertador_.  I set them down at once as pirates, but these fellows
stump me out of my boots.  All we can do is to watch and wait.  They
have done us one good turn, anyway."

Standing by the rail of this strange sloop, Jack and Ronie watched in
silence the scenes that followed.  Dark clouds had again risen on the
sky, obscuring the stars in the west, while throwing a gloom over the
sea far and wide.  Captain Hawkins paid no further attention to them,
but appeared oblivious of their presence.

"Are all of the ships that ply in these waters like those we have
found?" asked Ronie, in a low tone.

"Not all, lad," replied Jack; "but I fear by far too many have followed
in the wake of Sir Henry Morgan and his buccaneers.  By my faith, lad,
we must be going over very nearly the same course pursued by that
infamous outlaw of the sea when he sailed with his expedition to sack
the coast of Venezuela in the last half of the seventeenth century.  In
1668 he captured the important city of Puerto Bello, the booty obtained
amounting to over 250,000 pieces of eight, to say nothing of rich
merchandise and precious gems.  Encouraged in his unholy warfare by
these ill-gotten gains, he rallied his lawless forces for another raid.
So, early in 1669, he sailed with fifteen vessels and 800 men in this
direction, making the rich city of Maracaibo his object.  Again success
came to him, and at that city and Panama he reaped a greater harvest of
spoils than he had done at Puerto Bello.  But this time Spain had got
wind of his intentions, and sent a mighty squadron to intercept and
capture him.  At last it seemed as though the bold outlaw must yield,
but his daring stood him still in hand, and by a sudden and unexpected
swoop upon his unsuspecting foe he carried confusion and dismay into
their midst, burning several of their ships and actually routing the
fleet.  There was still a blockading fort to pass, but throwing his
colors to the breeze, now bearing directly down upon the guns, and then
veering off, he succeeded in running the gantlet without the loss of a

"As may be imagined, Morgan was king of the buccaneers now.  Did he
need more men he had but to say so, and they flocked to his standard by
scores.  So a year later, in command of thirty-seven vessels and over
two thousand men, he started upon the most difficult and the most
audacious expedition ever planned by the wild outlaws of this coast.
The outcome was too horrible to contemplate.  The Spaniards fought
well, for their all was at stake, but against the demoniac followers of
a man who knew neither mercy nor hesitation in carrying out his
infamous purposes.  Panama was laid in ruins, and her unhappy
inhabitants were nearly all inhumanly butchered or spared to fates even
worse.  Following this terrible expedition, the infamous leader was
knighted by an infamous king, and for a time it seemed as if his evil
deeds were to bear him only fruits of contented peacefulness.  But it
was not long before his old spirit began to reassert itself, he fell
into trouble, was seized for some of his crimes, thrown into prison,
where his history ends in oblivion."

Ronie was about to speak, when the cry of "land--oh!" came from the
lookout, when their attention was quickly turned toward a dark line
that had seemed to come up on the distant horizon.

"The sloop is about to lay to," declared Jack.

"And it looks as if they were going to lower a boat," added Ronie.

"By the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please! that is what they are
doing.  I wonder what is on hand now?"

They were kept in suspense but a short time, when Captain Hawkins
approached them, saying:

"Whatever else Jerome Hawkins may have to answer for, it cannot be said
that he ever failed to keep his word.  You said you wanted to go to
Venezuela.  Yonder lies its shore, and I bid you a hearty God-speed.
No thanks, sirrah," as Jack was about to speak, "you go your way and
I'll go mine."

Without further words he turned upon his heel, and our twain had no
further opportunity to exchange speech with him.  A moment later they
were ordered by gestures more forcible than speech to enter the boat,
and knowing they could do no better, they obeyed.  A crew of four
accompanied them, and in a short time the keel of the boat grated upon
the sandy shore of a point of land jutting out into the sea.

Understanding what was expected of them, and knowing it would avail
nothing to resist, Jack and Ronie sprang out upon the land.  Without
even a parting gesture, the boatmen started upon their return to the
sloop, whose dark hull loomed up gloomily in the distance.  So intense
was the feeling of the utter loneliness hanging over the hapless couple
that neither of them spoke until they had seen the boat reach the
strange sloop and the four seamen climb to the deck, when Jack said:

"Well, my lad, we are in Venezuela at last."

"But how different is our coming from what we had expected."



Jack Greenland made no reply to the remark of Ronie.  In fact, there
did not seem anything for him to say by way of answer.  They saw that
the country which lay back of them appeared barren and desolate.  A few
sickly shrubs pushed their crabbed heads above the sand dunes, but as
far as they could see in the night the country was nearly level, and
nothing more inviting than a sandy plain.  The only cheerful sight that
greeted their gaze was the crimson streak marking the eastern horizon,
and which announced the breaking of a new day.

"I would give a good deal to know where Harrie is at this moment," said

"We can only hope that he is able to look after himself," replied Jack.
"And we can only make the most of our situation.  As for me, I feel
better on this sand bar than I have felt on board such ships as we have
known since leaving Colon."

"If this is a sample of Venezuela," said Ronie, "I am heartily sick of
it already."

"It is not.  From what Captain Hawkins said, I judge we are on or near
the shore, where the narrow tongue of water connects Lake Maracaibo
with the sea.  If this is the case we are twenty miles from the city.
The lake is about one hundred and twenty miles long and ninety miles

"But there must be some town nearer than the city you mention," said

"Quite likely.  As we can do no good by remaining here we might as well
do a little prospecting.  It may be well for us to move cautiously, as
it is uncertain how we shall be treated.  It is unfortunate that our
letters of credit and other papers were lost with our chest."

"And all of our instruments and charts.  Truly, Jack, it would seem as
if we had been prompted to undertake this trip under the influence of
an unlucky star."

Jack made no reply to this, but led the way from the shore, closely
followed by Ronie.  It was getting light enough for them to move with
ease, as well as to get a good idea of their surroundings, which were
not very inviting so far.  But in the distance could be seen the dim
outlines of the mountains and the borders of one of those luxuriant
forests for which South America is noted.

Something like half a mile was passed in silence, when Jack paused,

"If I am not mistaken, there is a small settlement off to our right.
Perhaps we had better get a little nearer, though I hardly believe it
will be good policy for us to be seen until we get a better
understanding of our situation.  We certainly cannot boast of being
able to present a very attractive appearance," he added, ruefully,
while he looked over his companion and himself.

In their bedraggled garments, not yet fully dry, it was small wonder if
they did present a decidedly disheveled appearance.

"Do you think we are liable to an attack from the inhabitants in case
we should be seen?"

"I do not know what to think.  If this rebellion is general then we are
in constant danger.  I know of no better way than for us to push ahead
and find out."

Suiting action to his words, Jack resumed the advance, with Ronie still
beside him.  It was now rapidly growing lighter, which was a source of
satisfaction to them, as the cover of the growth they were entering
promised to prove as effective a shield as the darkness had been when
upon the sand plain.

Contrary to the expectations of Jack, they had not found the settlement
looked for.  In fact, as far as they could see, there were no signs of
habitation anywhere in that vicinity.  Thus, as they advanced, a
feeling of loneliness came upon them that they could not throw off.

"I would give a good sum, if I had it, just to hear some one speak,"
declared Jack, thrusting his hands into his pockets, to pull them out
the next moment with a prolonged whistle, which caused Ronie to start
with fear at the unexpected sound.

"What is it, Jack?"

"By the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please! talk of being penniless
when one pulls out of his pockets a whole handful of Spanish coin."

"It must be what you took in exchange at Colon," said Ronie, appearing
relieved to find that nothing worse than a happy discovery had for a
moment seemed to upset his companion.  "I may have a little, too,"
beginning to search his pockets.  "If I have not got money, then I have
something here that may prove of use to us," producing a small pocket

"Right, lad," said Jack.  "Zounds! here's something that pleases me
quite as much as the Spanish silver pieces.  Here is the old knife I
have carried with me on so many jaunts that it seems a part of myself.
It had slipped down between the lining and the outside cloth of my
jacket.  In this jungle one feels better to have something with which
to defend himself, even if it is nothing more than a good, stout knife,
with a blade that has been tried and tested in some tough scrimmages.
I think more of the old knife than ever."

The revival of Jack's usual good spirits served to encourage Ronie to
somewhat forget their perils and uncertainty.

"Let's see," said Jack, dropping the coin back into his pocket, but
holding the knife firmly in his hand, "if I'm not mistaken, by going
due west we shall eventually reach the shore of Lake Maracaibo.  We
shall not have much difficulty then in reaching the city, from which we
can go by rail to Caracas; if not all of the way, nearly so."

"In that case the compass will come in handy," said Ronie, and having
selected their course, they now pushed forward with better courage than
at any period since they had come to land.

It must have been half an hour later, and the sun was now sending its
bright bars of light down through the umbrageous branches of the forest
trees, one kind of which was laden with a profusion of bright and
beautiful flowers, making the largest and most magnificent bouquets of
floral offerings Ronie had ever seen, even in the Philippines, where
the vegetation abounds on the grandest scale, when they were attracted
by the sound of a human voice.

"There we get what a few minutes ago I was willing to give a big silver
piece to hear," declared Jack.  "By my faith, the fellow has lusty
lungs.  He must be getting excited, too."

"His tone shows he is in great fear," said Ronie.  "Whoever he be, he
is in some great danger or critical situation."

"Perhaps we had better push ahead, so as to lend him a helping hand in
case he needs one."

Quickening their pace they tore through the tropical vegetation, the
undergrowth of which stood high over their shoulders, in the direction
of the appeals for help.  These grew rapidly louder and more fraught
with terror.

"He is close at hand," panted Jack, and the next moment they came upon
a startling sight, which, for a brief while, held them spellbound.  The
underbrush had here been beaten down, and bruised into fragments by the
furious trampling back and forth of a huge specimen of that king of the
South American forest, the jaguar.  The cause of the anger of this
terrible brute, equal in size and ferocity to the tiger of the jungles
of Asia, was the sight of a human being--a man--suspended in midair,
almost over the head of the maddened creature.  It was this person who
had given forth his frantic cries for help, and who, unconscious of the
arrival of strangers upon the scene, was continuing to utter his
piteous appeals.  His situation was as singular as it was startling.
Somehow his feet had become caught in the topmost branches of a tall,
slender sapling, which, bowed by his weight, held him head downward in
the air, swaying to and fro like the pendulum of a clock.  Fortunately,
the tree was too small for the jaguar to climb so as to reach him in
that way, while he hung just above the clutch of the brute as it sprang
upward time and again in its furious attempt to seize its prey.

At that moment the infuriated creature was crouching to the earth
preparatory to making another vault into the air in order to pounce
upon its victim.  Then the scent of newcomers reached its nostrils, and
its small, piercing eyes quickly became fixed upon its prey within
reach.  The long tail lashed the air with renewed fury, the lissom form
hugged closer to the ground, as it made swift preparation to spring
upon the couple who had dared to enter its domain at this critical time.

To Jack and Ronie it was a moment not to be forgotten.  The first
clutched his knife savagely, but what could he hope to do against such
a foe with so simple a weapon?  In the brief interval between the
discovery of the brute and its attack upon them, Ronie's gaze fell upon
a thrice-welcome sight.  This was nothing less than a short,
serviceable-looking firearm, lying scarcely a yard distant from his
feet.  It was doubtless the property of the man hanging from the
pendant tree, and who had somehow dropped it at the outset of his
meeting with the jaguar.

He had no time to think of this, or even to question whether the gun
was loaded or empty before the dark form of the jaguar shot into the
air, and the maddened creature came like a cannon ball toward the twain.

"Jump for your life!" cried Jack, and so closely followed the animal
upon his words that, as the couple separated, Ronie springing to the
right and he to the left, an outstretched paw of the creature brushed a
shoulder of each as it sped past them!

The jaguar had not struck the ground a few feet away, flinging up a
cloud of dirt where he landed in a heap, before Ronie had seized the
firearm.  It was the work of but another instant for him to cock the
gun and bring its stock to his shoulder.

As quickly as this was done, the jaguar had as quickly recovered from
the effect of its disastrous jump, had wheeled about, and now crouched
for a second leap, his maddening rage increased twofold by his recent
failure.  The muzzle of Ronie's firearm now caught its attention, and
our hero was now its object.

So hurriedly had this all taken place that Ronie was still in ignorance
as to the condition of his weapon, and knowing that his life hung upon
the result, he took hasty aim and pulled the trigger.

A quick, sharp report sent a thrill of joy through his frame, while it
was so swiftly followed by a cry of rage that the latter seemed an echo
of the first, and then the jaguar again sprang upward and forward,
fully ten feet into the air before it descended at Ronie's feet,
snarling, twisting, struggling, in an outbreak of fury frightful to

Trembling lest his shot had only served to add to the volcano of
ferocity burning in the brute's form, Ronie would have failed to
retreat quickly enough to escape its claws had not Jack's ringing voice
warned him of his danger.  The next moment his companion was beside him.

"You fixed the creature," declared Jack, "but it dies hard.  Give it
plenty of room, lad, we can afford to."

Then, in silence they watched the dying struggles of the brute, as it
beat earth and space with its lacerated body, now groveling in the
dust, now bounding upward in blind endeavor to reach an enemy it could
not see, each moment growing weaker, until it lay at last quite still,
scarcely less terrible to look upon in death than it had been in life.

"Your shot saved us," said Jack, frankly.  "It was well done, lad,
exceedingly well done, and it alone has saved us from the claws of the



"It seemed as if I could not miss, Jack; but I do not care to go
through that ordeal again."

"Nor I, Ronie.  But now that we are safe, let's look after the chap
over our heads.  It must be he needs our aid bad enough.  I never saw
one in just such a predicament."

The hapless man had ceased his outcries, and was trying to find out
what had taken place underneath him, and as to what bearing it would
have upon his fate.  Seeing no other way to reach him, Ronie
immediately climbed the tree holding him.  His weight, added to that of
the other's, caused the sapling to bend so that Jack was soon able to
reach the poor fellow by standing under him.

"A little lower, lad, and I shall be able to get him.  His feet are
caught in the tree's bootjack, but I--there!  I have got him free and
clear.  Look out that the tree doesn't hang you up."

Jack quickly laid the man upon the ground, and began to straighten out
his limp limbs.

"Has he fainted?" asked Ronie, quickly joining him by springing from
the tree to the earth, leaving the sapling to leap back into its normal
position with a force that cut the air like a lash.

"He is overcome by his experience.  But he'll soon come out all right,
as I do not see that he has been injured more than a few scratches.
Looks like a tolerable sort of a fellow for a South American.  Got a
little of the native blood in him mixed up with the Spanish.  He
belongs to the common class."

The man was a person of middle age, of slight figure, but wiry build.
He presented a somewhat warlike nature by the armament he carried about
his body.  This consisted of a pair of heavy pistols, a huge knife, and
inside his stout jacket a pair Of smaller pistols were to be seen.  He
also had fastened about his waist by a belt a good stock of cartridges,
evidently for the firearm Ronie had picked up.  Certainly it had not
been for a lack of means of defense that he had fared so roughly in his
meeting with the jaguar.

It seemed like a long time to our friends before he opened his eyes and
revived enough to seek a sitting posture.  Then he rubbed his head,
stared stupidly about, and tried to regain his feet, giving expression
to his surprise in Spanish.  Both Jack and Ronie were able to converse
in that language, and Jack at once assured him of his safety at that

He was profuse in his thanks, though somewhat reticent in regard to
himself.  He had climbed a tree near the sapling, but somehow had lost
his footing and fallen into the topmost branches of the latter.
Lodging between the branches of this his weight had brought it and him
into the positions in which they had been found.  The jaguar had come
along, and discovering him began at once its attempted attack.  That
was what Jack and Ronie made out of his disjointed account.

"I do not know what to make of him," said Jack, aside in English.  "He
is either afraid of us, or he is a rogue.  Probably both.  I will see
if I can find out where we are."

Then, addressing the Venezuelan, he said:

"How far is it to the nearest town?"

"You mean San Carlos, señor?"

"_Si, señor_," replied Jack, at a hazard.

"Have you friends at San Carlos?" asked the other, without answering
the question propounded him.

"I hope so, señor."

This reply seemed to stagger him for a moment, but he managed to
recover in a moment, when he said:

"How long have you been in this country, Señor Americanos?"

"Since sunrise," was the reply, which gave the other a second surprise.

"I do not understand, señor."

Thinking nothing could be gained by withholding all of the truth from
him, Jack soon explained how they had been lost overboard from a vessel
in the gulf, picked up by another, and then left ashore among strangers
in a strange land.  He did not consider it necessary or advisable to
enter into descriptions of the ships they had recently left.  If his
account aroused at first some suspicion in the mind of the Venezuelan,
Jack's honesty of tone quickly dispelled this, and the other said:

"You have been unfortunate, señors.  There are many ships upon the sea
at this time who do not care to pick up strangers.  No doubt the craft
was one of Castro's spies.  They are looking far and wide for the
_Libertador_, but they cannot find her," he concluded, showing evident
pleasure at the thought.  Then he asked, as if a new thought had come
suddenly to him:

"What do they say of us in the Great Republic?"

"The sympathy of the United States is ever with the down-trodden,"
replied Jack, cautiously.  "But we are not able to say just how our
nation looks upon the revolution here, except that it will see fair
play, for you must remember it has been nearly a year since we left

The other showed his disappointment at this, but soon asked:

"Have you friends in this country?"

"If we were at Caracas we might find them."

At this the man shook his head.

"It would be worth more than your lives to get to Caracas at this time.
The 'Sons of Liberty' are looking sharp after the dogs of Castro."

"This man is one of the insurgents," was the thought which came
simultaneously to Jack and Ronie.  Then the latter asked:

"You said we were near to San Carlos.  Is this town held by Castro or
by the followers of Matos?"

"You prove yourself a stranger, señor, by your words.  San Carlos holds
the blackest spot on fair Venezuela, the dungeon that keeps in captive
chains the noble El Mocho."

"You mean General Hernandez, señor?  I have heard of him.  But I
thought he was once friendly to Castro."

"So he was, señor, until the tyrant abused the common people, then El
Mocho led his gallant followers against Castro, was betrayed by a
cowardly dog, and now he lies at San Carlos a captive."

"Do you live near here?"

"_Si, señor._"  Then he added, with a curve of his lips, which gave an
ugly-looking smile: "When I am at home.  I was going hither when I met
with this little adventure, which would have ended the warfare of
Manuel Marlin for the freedom of poor Venezuela.  If you will come with
me the hospitality of my humble home is at your disposal."

"I do not think we can do any better than to go with him," said Jack,
aside to Ronie, "providing we keep our eyes and ears open."

Ronie was about to signify his assent, when an object nearly buried in
the crumpled foliage and torn up earth where the jaguar had made its
stand, caught his attention.  It was about the size of an ordinary
postal card, and at first glance looked like a piece of cardboard.  But
Ronie had discovered on the other side a portrait, which prompted him
to pick up the photograph, as it proved to be.

It was crumpled and soiled, but hastily brushing as much of the dirt
from it as he could, he gazed earnestly at the sweet, womanly face
pictured before him.  As he gazed the color left his countenance, his
hand shook so it threatened to drop the card, while he exclaimed in a
husky voice:

"My mother!"

Jack showed almost as much emotion as his young companion, as he
stepped quickly beside him, saying:

"Your mother's photograph in this place?  How can that be?"

"I do not know, Jack.  But it is surely hers.  See!  It was taken in
New York."

"Doubtless Señor Marlin can throw some light upon the matter," declared
Jack.  "You picked it up almost under where he had been hanging.  The
photograph fell from one of your pockets, Señor Manuel?" asked Jack,
addressing the Venezuelan.

The latter had retreated a few paces, and he showed considerable
agitation, while he shook his head, replying in a low tone:

"If it was in my pocket, I did not know it, señors.  Some one else must
have dropped it here.  It would not be strange, as there are many
scouts in the forests at this time."

Both Jack and Ronie felt sure that the man was trying to deceive them,
but deemed it wise not to let him know it.

"I mistrust the fellow," whispered Jack, aside.  "We must keep a close
watch upon him.  I do not think he understands English, so he does not
know what relation the portrait may bear to you.  Let's feign
indifference in the matter, and keep with him."

So Ronie placed the photograph in one of his pockets without further
remarks, though he found it difficult to conceal his emotions.  While
he was doing this Jack signified to Manuel Marlin that they were
anxious to go to his home, or at least to be shown the way out of the
forest.  Then, with rapid steps, the Venezuelan led the way out of the
jungle, not once looking back in his hasty advance.  This gave our
friends opportunity to exchange thoughts, though they were careful not
to say enough to arouse the suspicions of their guide.

"I cannot understand what it means," declared Ronie.  "How could
mother's picture be brought here, and why?"

As this was a question Jack could not answer, he merely shook his head,

"This fellow, or some of his friends, may have been in New York, and
accidentally picked it up.  In that case it would not indicate any
cause for worriment."

"I cannot help feeling, Jack, that there is some other explanation.  I
cannot help thinking that in some way it portends trouble to mother.
It can do no harm to question this fellow more closely in regard to the

"We will take our chances on that score, though I believe he is a
thoroughbred liar."

Then they did question this man as closely as they thought prudent, but
without gleaning a single ray of light upon the subject.  In fact, he
persisted in maintaining an absolute ignorance in regard to it.  So
finally Ronie was compelled to drop the subject, while he tried in vain
to find some plausible explanation of the mystery.

Manuel Marlin showed that he was glad of the sight ahead, when at last
they reached the edge of the forest, and found themselves looking at
the rim of sandy sea-coast, with the glimmer of water in the distance.
The day was very calm, and the bay stretched as smoothly as if formed
of plate glass, while overhead the sky had that peculiar flat
appearance so common in the tropics.

"Does señors see that dismal building on yonder point of land?" asked
their guide, and, without waiting for their reply, went on: "It is the
fort of San Carlos, where the 'El Mocho' is chained like a dog!"

"Look yonder!" exclaimed Ronie, "there is a train of men going thither

"Looks to me as if they were conducting prisoners to the penitentiary,"
said Jack.  "If my old eyes do not deceive me one of them is an

"I am sure you are right, Jack.  Let's get a little nearer, so we can
see as they pass along."

Their guide showed some hesitation in doing this, though he led the way
somewhat circuitously forward, so as to gain a view of the soldiery
train without being seen themselves, saying as he did so:

"This is more of the dirty work of Castro's dogs of war."



Ronie and Jack paid but little heed to the words of their companion, as
their attention was already fixed upon the file of men moving with
martial steps toward the gloomy structure, whose walls had echoed to so
many cries of distress from its heart-broken captives.  Even now this
squad was taking thither two prisoners, as Jack had said, and one of
these had awakened an exciting interest.  He was surely an American,
and in the distance there seemed something familiar about him, which
caused them to hold their breath while they watched and waited.  Then
the truth of their convictions finally overpowered their doubts, and
Ronie exclaimed under his breath:

"It is Harrie, Jack!"

"Ay, lad; and Francisco is with him."

"What does it mean, Jack?"

"One thing certain, lad; they have escaped the sea.  It is better than
becoming victims to that."

"I agree with you, Jack.  Now that we have found them it will be our
duty to rescue them.  Perhaps Manuel here can give us some light on the

The train had by this time passed beyond them, and not thinking it wise
to follow, our friends turned to their companion for such information
as he might be able to give.  Upon learning that the prisoners were
friends of theirs, Manuel suddenly became very friendly.

"So you belong to the Sons of Liberty!" he exclaimed.  "Yonder
penitentiary is where Castro imprisons some of his most important
captives.  But it won't be so for long.  The mountain Indian[1] cannot
long hold his own against the noble Matos, who belongs to the Guzman
Blanco family.  Señors shall soon see their comrades free."

While this thought tickled the vanity of the Venezuelan to a high
degree, it did not afford any satisfaction to Jack and Ronie, the last

"We must act promptly in their behalf.  Have you any plan to suggest,

"Only this, señor.  I know of one who lives in San Carlos, who makes it
his business to keep posted on what is going on.  I will see him at
once, and no doubt he will be able to give us information that will be
of assistance."

Ronie and Jack gladly agreed to this, and while Manuel was seeing his
friend it was thought best for them to remain at his home.  This proved
to be less than a mile away, so it was only about an hour later that
the Venezuelan started upon his errand, leaving our twain anxiously
awaiting his return.  Since he had learned that they had friends in the
hands of his enemies, he had grown very friendly.  They had not thought
it best to say anything to create a feeling of distrust, but Ronie
freely confessed to Jack, as soon as they were alone:

"I want to know what Harrie's imprisonment means before I decide to
which side I belong."

"It is generally prudent to take the side of the government," replied
Jack.  "I can easily understand how an insurgent like Manuel can come
to hate the name of Castro, and call him a savage from the mountains.
Mountaineers sometimes are men who accomplish much, and President
Castro seems to be one of them.  I remember a few years ago, about
eight, when I was in this country, he suddenly appeared from obscurity
to lead a body of men against President Crespo in the interest of
President Andrade.  He soon proved that he was made of good metal, for
he usually led his followers to victory.  The Crespo party being
successful, the president offered Castro a position in his cabinet if
he would desist from further opposition.  Possibly the daring
mountaineer foresaw greater possibilities, for he declined the honor.
Then, when President Crespo named General Andrade as his successor,
Castro appeared on the Colombian frontier with the nucleus of a
revolutionary army.  From the very outset success perched upon his
banner, and after overcoming the government troops wherever he met
them, taking city after city, all the time receiving reinforcements to
his army, he laid siege to the capital.  President Andrade fled at this
point of the war, and General Castro was declared ruler of the
republic.  Our country a few months later was the first, I think, to
recognize him as ruler.  I do not think he has been elected president
by vote of the people.[2]  Be that as it may, his dash and courage,
with considerable military ability, has endeared him to a large number
of the people.  General Matos and his followers, on the other hand,
claim that he has been corrupt in his management of the country's
affairs, as well as dictatorial beyond the bounds of endurance."

From a discussion of the affairs of the country, they began to seek
some solution to the mystery of the photograph found in such a strange
way, Ronie firm in his belief that his mother was in dire distress at
that very moment.

"I cannot help thinking that for some reason she is in this country,
Jack, and in trouble."

"Tut--tut, lad! that cannot be.  The mere fact that her picture has in
some way found its way to this place does not prove that she is nearby,
too.  No doubt, as soon as we reach Colonel Marchand we shall get good
news from her.  She may have sent her photograph by him to you, and
some of the rebels have stolen it."

"Forgive me, Jack.  Of course that may have been the case.  Now you
speak of it, it is really the most likely solution to the mystery.  By
that I am led to believe that you think Colonel Marchand has joined
President Castro's party."

"He would be likely to do it.  In fact, it would be good policy for him
to do so, as it would be necessary for him to be on good footing with
the government in order to carry out the business venture which has
drawn us all to this country."

"I agree with you, Jack.  I feel better, too, in regard to mother.  Now
if we can rescue Harry safely it will bring great relief.  I wish
Manuel would come with some word of him."

"Do not get impatient, lad.  It is likely to take the fellow some time
to get his information, even if he gets any.  I do not have great faith
in the rascal, and if we were not in his own house, I should not expect
to see him back."

If Jack counseled patience in waiting for the insurgent's return, he
quite forgot his advice before Manuel Marlin put in an appearance, and
with good reasons, for it was well into the following night before he
came.  He seemed then greatly excited, and told his story in a
disjointed way.

"Señors' friends came ashore in a boat from the _Libertador_," he
declared, in what seemed an exultant tone.  "Then Castro's spies
captured them and threw them into prison.  But señors need not fear,
for the Sons of Liberty will soon free them.  Even now Matos is hewing
his way toward the capital.  Many recruits are being added to his army,
and never did the prospects of down-trodden Venezuela look brighter."

"So our friends are held as prisoners of war?" asked Jack.

"As spies under Matos," replied Manuel.  "Perhaps I should add, señors,
that Francisco de Caprian has been recognized as an old offender
against Castro.  But they cannot hold him any more than they can hold
long El Mocho."

If this information did not disturb the spirits of Manuel Marlin, it
did awaken considerable uneasiness on the part of Ronie and Jack.

"Perhaps, if we should see the authorities at San Carlos they might set
Harrie, at least, free," said Ronie.

Manuel shook his head.

"No power below Castro's can free them until Matos enters San Carlos."

Ronie was about to reply, when a commotion outside of the dwelling
arrested their attention, and before they were able to understand what
it meant, the wife of the Venezuelan hurriedly entered the apartment,

"Fly, for your life, Manuel!  The yard is full of soldiers searching
for the Gringos!"

Even Ronie knew this last word was a term applied by the Spanish races
to Americans, and that he and Jack were the objects sought for by the

Manuel Marlin quickly anticipated the truth, and he cried out in alarm:

"We have been betrayed!  Some one has carried the news of your coming
to El Capitan.  Quick! flee from here, if you value your lives and

[1] President Castro was horn of humble parentage, his parents being of
mixed blood, mostly Indian, in the mountainous district of Western
Venezuela.  Thus the revolutionists were wont to paint him as an
untamable savage, who had come to the surface in the turbulent broil of
the uprisings of the times and had hewn and burned his way to the
presidency.  Manuel Matos was of superior birth, and was related by
marriage to the Guzman Blanco family.  He had had some military
experience under President Blanco, but was more of a civic leader.  He
claimed that the Castro administration was corrupt.--AUTHOR.

[2] Singularly enough, General Castro was elected President for a term
of six years on February 20, 1902, within a few days of this



Renewed outcries now came from outside the building, and it seemed
evident that the mob was about to enter the place.  Certainly it would
unless something could be done to evade such a movement.  Jack
Greenland was the first to speak:

"Can't you or the woman parley with them long enough for us to slip
away by the rear of the building, Manuel?"

"Me--parley?  They would string me up like a dog.  Curses upon their
pig heads!"

By this time his wife had become calmer than he, and she showed that if
he was lacking in courage to meet the enemy, she was not.  So she
immediately offered to keep the crowd at bay long enough for them to
effect their escape, her husband showing great eagerness to profit by
her heroism.  Accordingly, she returned to the front part of the
dwelling without loss of time, and a moment later Ronie heard her
challenging the leader of the would-be captors.

"While it may not be good policy for us to use them too freely, it may
not be amiss for us to provide ourselves with firearms," said Jack.

"Si, señors," replied Manuel, quickly darting away from them, but
returning in an incredibly short time with a couple of short, but
serviceable weapons, one of which he handed to each of his companions.

"Follow me, señors.  They are getting impatient, and Dolores will not
be able to hold them back long.  I think we had better cross the bay to
the other shore.  I have a boat."

As Ronie and Jack had no better plan to offer, they followed the
speaker in silence.  He led the way to the rear of his humble dwelling,
where they paused to listen for sounds of their enemies.  These came
from the front, and judging that the soldiers had not yet surrounded
the place they plunged boldly into the midst of the dense tropical
plants which reached above their heads, Manuel still leading the way.
But they had not gone far before he suddenly stopped, and motioned for
his companions to do the same.

As the three fugitives thus abruptly paused they heard the sound of
footsteps, which rapidly became plainer.  There were evidently several
persons approaching at a headlong rate, and knowing only enemies were
likely to be in that vicinity, they dropped swiftly and silently to the
earth, the broad leaves of the thrifty plants about them affording
shields for their bodies.

A minute later, half a dozen men burst through the rank vegetation
within a yard of where they were lying!  Jack and Ronie, believing they
were going to be discovered, thought hastily of flight in another
direction, but the party quickly swept past and disappeared in the
distance below them.  As soon as they felt it was prudent they resumed
their flight, having no further cause for alarm until they came in
sight of the narrow body of water ahead.  Between the growth and this
was a broad belt of sand, where not a shrub found sustenance.  The
clear, starlit night made this space almost as bright as by day.

"Hark!" panted Manuel Marlin, "they are coming!  They have scented us
like bloodhounds.  Our only hope is in reaching the boat.  It is just
above that highest sand bar.  Run for your lives, señors!"

Ronie and Jack now heard plainly the sounds of their enemies
approaching from their rear, and the exciting words of their companion
were not needed to urge them ahead.  With light, swift steps they
bounded forward across the open country.  When about halfway to the
shore a volley of bullets was sent after them, and then their pursuers
burst out from the growth into sight.

The aim of the pursuing crowd must have been poor, for their shots
failed to strike any of the fugitives, who were urged on to greater
effort, if that were possible.  Jack, glancing back, saw the party
following at a furious pace upon their heels, and instinctively glanced
toward the water.  It was nearer to the boat than back to their
pursuers, and he felt confident they would be able to reach the little
craft in season.  Ronie was slightly ahead, while Manuel was as far
behind, unable to make as good speed as the young American engineer.

"Don't leave me!" sputtered the latter, and as if he were going to make
this a necessity he stumbled over a sand knoll, to measure his length
on the ground.  His companions, not hearing him fall upon the soft
earth, and being ahead, were not aware of his mishap until prolonged
yells from their pursuers and piteous cries from him, caused both to
look backward.

The ring of triumph in the tones of the soldiers in the distance told
plainly that they anticipated a certain capture of at least one of the
fugitives, but Manuel rallied quickly, and was again upon his feet.

"Keep on for the boat!" cried Jack, who felt that it would be fatal for
them to stop now.  So they sped ahead, with Manuel sprinting his best
to overtake them, and the armed posse behind madly pursuing.

They were soon close down to the boat, drawn up on the white sand, out
of the reach of the water, and then Ronie and Jack, panting for breath,
stopped beside it.

"Quick! push it out into the water," said Jack, seizing upon the
gunwale and giving the object a furious shove toward the tide.  Ronie
had already caught upon the boat, and together they sent it forward
more than its length in the twinkling of an eye.  But the short delay
enabled Manuel to overtake them, so, as the boat floated on the water,
he sprang into the stern.  There were a pair of oars in the bottom, and
Jack and Ronie each took one of these, to begin to send the light craft
flying across the narrow bay, while the Venezuelan steered for the
opposite shore.

Renewed cries from their pursuers reached their ears in the midst of
this flight, and another volley of shot followed them.  But the latter
proved as ineffectual as the first, and glancing back a few minutes
later, Manuel gave expression to a chuckle of delight, while he said:

"We've outstripped them, señors.  There is not another boat they can
get in season to follow us before we reach the land."

Nothing further was said until the keel of the boat grated on the sand,
when Ronie and Jack jumped out upon the land, closely followed by
Manuel.  The shadowy forms of their enemies could be discerned upon the
other side of the water, but feeling comparatively safe from them, our
twain turned to their guide for such suggestion as he might have to
offer.  It was a beautiful tropical night, the full, round moon of the
South, now fairly above the horizon, was gliding over a sky of
cloudless blue, having already driven the stars into the background of
space, so that only Venus, the zone of Orion and the brilliant radii of
the Southern Cross were visible.

Away from their feet stretched the silvery mirror of the sea, marking
the meridian of the moon.  So calm and silent lay the deep water that a
satellite sky seemed carved from its azure depths.  Upon the other
hand, the country, growing more and more broken in the distance, lay
clothed in its tropic verdure as silent and mysterious as the Blue
Water Empire.  The beauty of nature, however, had no attraction for
Manuel Marlin, who felt that his life was at stake, and only swift
flight could save him.

"A friend of mine, living a short distance from here, has a couple of
horses you can get," he said.  "I shall not need one," he added, seeing
their looks of inquiry, "as I shall not go very far.  I have friends
who will afford me protection until this shall blow over."

Then he led the way up from the shore and along a path at times nearly
choked with the overhanging growth, until they finally reached the home
of a planter.  After considerable trouble Manuel succeeded in rousing
the owner, who did not appear in very good humor at being thus
disturbed.  But as soon as he understood the errand of his untimely
caller he became more genial.  Would he let the Americanos have horses
to carry important news to the revolutionists near Caracas?  Most
assuredly he would for so important a purpose!  It will be noticed that
Manuel did not try to stick very near to the truth in the matter, and
neither of our friends felt like correcting him under the circumstances.

Finally the planter ordered out a couple of peons, who soon brought
forward a pair of small, but hardy ponies, which their owner declared
were good for all that might be required of them.  Leaving Manuel to
arrange for the loan of them in such a manner as he thought best, Ronie
and Jack sprang into the saddles and prepared to start upon their long
and hazardous journey.

"Keep your eyes open for our friends, Manuel," were the parting words
of Ronie.

"Trust me for that, señor, and may you live to come back with the
welcome word that Caracas is once more safe from the spoils of the
mercenary knaves that flock to the mountain savage."

Murmuring an unintelligible reply to this, the couple then urged their
ponies forward, and a moment later were starting side by side upon the
first stage of a ride through a country overrun with hostile armies and
dangers which they had not stopped to contemplate.



Ronie and Jack were crossing the vast plain which extends westward and
southward along the shore of Lake Maracaibo, upon the border of which
stands that beautiful city by the same name, and which is the capital
of the State of Zulia.  The climate of this region is warm, but cooled
by the lake breezes, as well as by the breath of old ocean, it becomes
very enjoyable.  Thus they rode on under conditions that must have been
pleasant had it not been for the shadows of war which overhung every
step of their journey.

The road, if the trampled path at places overgrown with rank
vegetation, and at others smooth and bare as an open floor, deserved
the dignity of the name, soon after leaving the sand belt of the coast,
wound across broad fields of sugar cane, indigo and tobacco, or through
great plantations given over to the cultivation of cacao trees, which
yield those luscious beans that have been described as affording food
for gods.  These trees to flourish well have to be protected by some
taller species of tree, and for this purpose the tall, over-arching
_Erithynas_ is raised, giving the scene the appearance at a distance of
being a huge forest, rather than a cultivated field.

Frequently the progress of our heroes was checked, if not quite
stopped, by growths of weeds which had sprung up on deserted
plantations.  In Venezuela land is so cheap that it is more
advantageous to abandon a tract of land when it becomes worn out by
cultivation, and clear a new territory, than it is to reclaim the old.
The latter thus soon becomes a forest of weeds, which, insignificant at
first, soon develop into trees with branches, so that by the second
season these overtop the head of a man on horseback.  These huge
tree-weeds afford support for dense masses of creepers, among which
Ronie noticed the convolvulus, begonias and passion flowers.  These at
places hung their flowering heads so as to form graceful festoons, or
anon lifted them proudly to the breeze, forming picturesque bowers and
floral archways.

If displaying beauty and magnificence in their bountiful offerings,
these jungles were anything but pleasant paths to follow, and it
required skillful management on the part of the rider to save himself
from being pulled from his seat, or escape that fate he might expect at
the hands of the hangman.  The native riders show wonderful ability to
run these gantlets, which the newcomer must naturally lack.  Now
hanging by one leg down the side of his horse, or stretching himself
along its back, he would escape the blows a novice would be sure to
receive while continuing his flight with speed scarcely abated.

By and by, however, Ronie and Jack came out into a more thickly
populated country.  The sun was beginning to crimson the eastern
horizon with its early beams, and the two drew rein for a short

"I am afraid we have kept too far to our right," said Jack.  "Manuel
spoke of leaving the mountains over our shoulder, and we seem to be
approaching them."

"If the country is becoming more broken, it has the appearance of being
more thickly populated.  Do you think, Jack, we need to stand in much
fear of the insurgents in this vicinity?"

"Manuel spoke of a victory for his side recently at Barquisimete, and
if I am not mistaken, we shall pass near that city--certainly near
enough to be within range of the revolutionists.  In fact, I feel
pretty sure that the revolution is mainly centered in this part of the

"I almost wish we had taken the route to Valencia."

"No doubt, whichever we had taken we should wish we had taken the other
before we reached our destination.  But that is not the right way to
look at it.  We must put on a bold front and push ahead."

"In order to do that we must see that our horses have sufficient food
to enable them to keep moving, even if we go hungry ourselves."

"Right, my lad, and if there is an inn in yonder village I suggest we
stop there long enough to allow them rest and feed."

"I agree to that.  Shall you claim to be a revolutionist or a follower
of Castro?"

"At present that must depend on circumstances.  Ha! as I thought, we
are approaching a coffee planter's little republic, with the liberty of
his followers left out.  Look beyond that ridge, and in the valley
formed by the twin ranges of foothills you will see a typical peasant
settlement, which certainly denotes that not far ahead we shall come
upon some wealthy planter.  These peons of Venezuela are to all intents
and conditions slaves, resulting from the debts, it may be, contracted
by their remote ancestors, as generation after generation have been
doomed to work to satisfy the laws and customs of a country which never
outlaws its debts, when those debts have been contracted by a weaker
party.  The consequence is that the poor of these South American States
are destined to remain poor until some radical change has been made in
this direction.  It is true, Venezuela is not as bad off in this
respect as some of the other republics, but it is bad enough here.  Ay,
in South America the word 'republic' loses the significance of liberty
that it bears in other lands.  It is natural a people condemned to
lifelong poverty, for no fault of their own in most cases, should be
ever ready to listen to the call to arms as a summons to a holiday.  So
you see it is easy to raise an army of this sort, and it is small
wonder Venezuela has been bothered with so many outbreaks against its
peace and progress.  But here we are close upon the spacious abode of
the coffee planter, who is the principal man of this vicinity, unless
there happens to be another of his class."

After having seen the pyramidal structures of the peasants or peons,
with roofs slanting to within a few feet of the ground, and thatched
with palm leaves, the collection looking like a colony of beehives,
Ronie was somewhat surprised to find now a dwelling that closely
resembled the houses of his native land.  It was, in fact, a fine
residence, standing back several rods from the road, and reached by a
broad avenue running under rows of stately trees resembling the
American elms.  He was to learn that these were known here as the
_Alcornoque_, lifting as graceful heads, and as tall, tapering trunks
as their northern cousins.  Everything about this home of the coffee
planter denoted wealth and comfort, in marked contrast to the humble
huts scarcely beyond the vision, and of a style of architecture
peculiar to the country.

"Whoever lives here must be a man of importance," remarked Ronie.

"True, lad, and being such a rich man, we are running little risk in
assuming him to be a follower of Castro at this time.  The cultivation
of coffee is, in fact, a more certain way of earning a competence, and
it may be, something above a living, than any other calling in
Venezuela.  For this reason nearly all others have been neglected.
Sugar cane can be raised profitably, but that requires more capital to
start with, and more manual labor to carry it on.  To cultivate sugar
successfully one must fertilize it, so to speak, with gold.  But any
man, if he is poor, can have a coffee estate if he has courage to work
and wait for a short season.  The day his bushes yield their first red
berries he finds something coming into his pockets.  The berries are
worth as high as thirty dollars a hundred pounds, and cost less than
one-third to raise.  So you see a poor man, who may have hired the use
of a piece of land, which he pays for on long instalments, may plant a
coffee farm with the aid of his family, living on products that mature
earlier on the same land, until at the end of three years he gathers
his first crop of berries, followed by a full crop the next year.  We
shall doubtless meet with more of these small coffee plantations after
this.  If I mistake not, here comes the planter himself.  Let us risk
it in claiming to be friendly to the government."

Their approach had evidently attracted the owner of the estate, for
Ronie had already seen a small, wiry-framed man, of a very dark
complexion and dashing dress, coming, toward them.  He now stopped to
allow them to come forward, saying in a tone of apparent friendliness:

"Good-morning, señors," somewhat to their surprise speaking in their

"Good-morning," replied both in unison.

"You must have taken an early start, señors."

"It is because our journey is a long one, señor," replied Jack, who
acted as spokesman.  "Our horses are tired, and we would bespeak for
them food and rest at your hospitality."

"Dismount, gentlemen.  My men will look after them, while I entertain

While Jack and Ronie did as they were told, a couple of peons appeared
on the scene, to lead the tired animals away, as the hospitable planter
requested his visitors to follow him to his favorite morning retreat
under one of the beautiful shade trees standing in his yard within
sight of his house.  If he had shown a friendly spirit in his tone so
far, his next words, as the three sank upon the rustic benches
encircling the tree, showed that he was not free from concern in regard
to the character of his early callers:

"You say your journey is a long one, sirs; no man travels a long
journey without an urgent purpose.  Especially is this true on an
occasion like this."

Jack, who could see no good likely to result from appearing mysterious,
replied frankly and promptly:

"We are bound for Caracas, though it may not be well for every idle ear
to catch the word."

"Right, sir.  Who would you see in Caracas?"

"President Castro."

"Then your journey will be in vain, for the President is unavoidably
kept away from the capital.  You might have traveled much quicker by

"Possibly.  But as you say the President is not in Caracas, that would
not have helped us.  Can you tell if Minister Bowen is at the capital?"

"If he is, he would hardly be accessible at this time.  Come,
strangers, throw off your cloak of reticence and let us be frank with
each other.  My name is José Pelado, and having lived several years in
your country, I am free to confess I have imbibed some of your Yankee

Our Americans immediately gave their names, adding that it was to
obtain assistance in securing the freedom of a companion that they were
on their way to the capital.

"I expected something of this kind.  It is fortunate that you have come
thus far without molestation, and I will assure you you cannot go as
far on your next stage without falling into the hands of the guerilla
hordes that infest the jungles.  But, pardon me for keeping you from
the rest and food that you must need.  Partake of such refreshments as
I can offer you, then we will discuss the situation."

Ronie and Jack were not loathe to do this, though while they ate, their
host related to them much they had not known of the situation in the
country.  He showed that he was not only an educated man, but that he
was well posted upon affairs, while he was very pronounced in his
admiration for Castro.

"Venezuela has had revolutions and shades of revolutions, but not one
more unwarranted than this.  Castro is a patriot, and the uprising that
he led a few years since, and which placed him at the head of the
government, is no more to be compared to this than the snarling of a
cowardly cur seeking to rob a bigger dog of his breakfast because he is
too lazy to hunt for his own, is to the good, honest bark of a mastiff
that seeks to defend his master's property.  Andrade's administration,
following Crespo's, was grossly dishonest, and would have drained the
republic of its healthy interest, had it not been for the mountain
patriot, Castro, who fought his way straight from the Venezuelan
frontier, a good thousand miles, to Caracas, the capital.  In a
twinkling Andrade went out and Castro went in.  He lost no time in
setting about to clear up the clouded system of government.  It
required a masterly hand to guide the current of affairs.  He soon
found it difficult to know whom to trust.

"Among those who had rebelled with apparent honesty against Crespo and
then his successor, Andrade, was the hunchback warrior, Manuel
Hernandez, called by friends and foes alike as 'El Mocho.'  His forces
were scattered about in this region, he having rallied them by
inflammable speeches against Andrade, whom he declared had been
selected by fraud.  Finally two thousand men, under the command of a
relative of Crespo, met his band of scarcely five hundred near
Valencia.  In this unequal fight Crespo was killed and his men utterly
routed by the hunchback, who instantly sprang into wild favor.  His
little army was swiftly increased by recruits.  The people in general
rejoiced at the fate of Crespo, who had made himself obnoxious to many.
But the military prestige of Hernandez suffered an early frost.
Andrade sent his minister of war to treat with him, and in the next
battle he was defeated, his troops utterly routed, and he himself put
into prison.

"Then Castro's triumph completely changed this.  Andrade fled, and many
of the followers of El Mocho joined the new ruler, who soon freed
Hernandez, and offered him a place in his cabinet.  Hernandez accepted,
though it proved that he had not stifled his ambition to become
president.  He improved his new opportunity to inflate some of Castro's
followers with his wild dreams.  He believed he had had the experience
now to enable him to overthrow the ruling power, so he stole out of the
capital between two days, leading a small army at his heels.

"El Mocho made a desperate fight for his cause, but he misjudged the
ability of his rival.  Castro did not worry over his escapades, but
when the favorable opportunity came he caught the hunchback rebel and
returned him to the prison where he is likely to remain for a goodly
time.  Castro is the last man to be baffled where so much is at stake.
What can be on foot now?"



The last words of José Pelado were called forth by the sudden
appearance of a peon with the announcement that a body of insurgents
had been seen the night before, and that a flock of cattle had been
killed or driven away by them.  Upon receiving this intelligence, the
coffee planter replied in Spanish in a tone that showed great anger.
When he had conversed with the messenger for a few minutes he turned
back to his guests, saying:

"The hungry hounds are again abroad.  That mountain outlaw, Juan
Rhoades, is at his old pranks, and this time he has become bolder than
common from the fact that he has succeeded in calling about him more
than five hundred rebels.  News also comes from San Carlos that two
spies are in this vicinity, and that efforts are being made to hunt
them down.  Well, let the fools look after themselves.  Rhoades had
better give me a wide berth."

Ronie and Jack were beginning to think it was about time for them to be
on their way.  Their horses were well rested by this time, so they
proposed to Señor Pelado that they bid him good-by.  He seemed
disappointed to find they were not going to stay longer, and showed his
good-will by offering to send an escort of men to protect them in case
they should be attacked by Rhoades and his outlaws.  But our heroes
stoutly opposed this, while thanking him for his kindness.

"Two will be able to get through where a larger body might attract
attention and find it difficult to escape," replied Jack.

"You seem like plucky fellows, and I think you will get through all
right.  In case you do need help, do not hesitate to call on José
Pelado.  If you succeed in meeting General Castro give him my regards."

These parting words were not spoken until Ronie and Jack had regained
their saddles, and were heading their horses toward Caracas.  As they
dashed out upon the road they noticed a crowd of peons watching them
with looks not altogether friendly.

"Did you notice that tall fellow--the one with the extraordinary
mustache--who stood somewhat in the background while we talked with
Pelado?" asked Ronie.

"That I did, lad, and I says to myself: 'That fellow is hatching
mischief.'  He was not in sight the last part of our stay."

"I did not see him, Jack.  What do you think he will do--follow us?"

"Not exactly; but if we do not meet some of his confederates before
night I shall be happily disappointed.  At any rate, it behooves us to
be on the lookout continually."

The way now wound through a coffee country, and they were frequently
met by these small planters, sometimes singly, but more often by twos
or in squads.

"The idleness that usually follows in the footsteps of war seems lo
have fallen on the inhabitants," remarked Jack.

As this did not seem to call for any reply, Ronie remained silent, his
mind busy with the thoughts of past adventures and conjectures over the
possibilities ahead.  So the midday was passed, and the afternoon came
on apace, while they moved leisurely on so as not to exhaust their
horses.  These were given their noon meal, and allowed two hours of
rest under the friendly shade of a tacamahaca, which was fragrant with
the resinous substance that it exuded from its trunk, an opaque,
lemon-colored sort of wax which the natives on the Orinoco used very
much for torchlights.  This was a tree of great size and beauty.  They
were now in a region broken by the outlying spurs of mountain, and
about sunset reached a mountain hamlet which bore a decidedly deserted

It had been their intention to push on beyond this place, preferring to
pass the night at some isolated planter's than here, but Ronie's horse,
which had showed slight lameness for several hours, now became unable
to go any farther.  In this dilemma they looked about for a stopping
place.  In this matter they soon found they were not to be given much
choice.  The dwellings were so nearly alike, and built after the
pyramidal style of architecture already described, slanting roofs
reaching nearly to the ground, thatched with palm leaves, four posts
with ox hides stretched between composed the walls, so the collection
looked like a colony of beehives.  Unfortunately, they were soon to
learn that it was not "a land of milk and honey."  The houses possessed
no doors and windows, professedly for the reason that they were not
needed in that climate.  Neither were they needed to protect the
occupant from prowling thieves, for the very simple reason that the
owner owned nothing worth stealing!

After passing nearly the length of this poverty-marked hamlet, our
heroes hailed with delight the appearance of a building which looked
like a palace when compared to the others.  It did prove to be a sort
of public house, or, rather, a hospital where people seeking the
bracing atmosphere of this mountain retreat and the mineral water to be
found here could stop.  The lower half of the walls were made of stout
planks in the rough, with doors and windows.  The upper portion was
left open to allow free passage of air and light.  Ample protection
from sun and storm was afforded by the slanting roof, which reached to
within five feet of the ground.  Under these overhanging eaves a narrow
veranda encircled the building.

Half a dozen swarthy-hued men in loose attire, a pair of breeches,
tightly buttoned at the knees, and a shirt of bright colors, marked off
like a checkerboard, lounged about the abode, but not one of them
offered them any attention, except to stare upon them with undisguised
curiosity, as our twain paused in front of the main entrance.  Upon
dismounting and entering the building, they were greeted by the
proprietor with many smiles and much scraping and bowing.

"Señor, Americanos have heard of the wonderful curative powers of the
waters of San Andrea, and have come hither to recover their wasted
vitality?" he half questioned, half answered, bowing at almost each
word which he delivered in a musical tone.

"Partly for that, and partly for pleasure," replied Jack.  "Our horses
are tired, and one of them is lame.  We ourselves are weary and dust
laden, and so desire rest and quiet more than we do food."

"_Si, señors_," waving one hand to a group of peons, who instantly left
the apartment, ostensibly to look after the jaded animals, and the
other toward an opening leading into an adjoining room.  Thinking it
was meant for them to repair thither, Jack and Ronie did so at once.
It must have been dark in the room at midday; it was certainly now too
dusky for them to distinguish each other with clearness.  Seeing two or
three clumsy, cedar chairs, covered with rawhide, standing near the
wall, they each selected a seat, while they glanced about them with
feelings hard to describe.  If the place boasted as the resort for
invalids and pleasure seekers, it had very little to offer in the way
of the comforts of either.  It was in truth scarcely better fitted to
accommodate its guests than the tent of the wandering Arab of the
desert.  In addition to the rude chairs mentioned, there was a rough
table placed against the wall, evidently because it could not stand
alone, and a couple of grass hammocks that were intended for the double
purpose of bed and lounge.  Nothing in the shape of a bowl in which to
lave their dust-stained faces and hands was to be seen, while they were
to learn a little later that water was too scarce at this resort of
mineral springs to show any need of it.

"Well," said Jack, in a low tone, "this beats anything we have found
before.  But if they will give our poor horses care we can get along

"I suppose we had better give them our personal attention," said Ronie.

"In due course of time, lad.  I wish now we had kept nearer the
seacoast, but I will not borrow trouble.  Who is coming now?"

The visitor proved to be an attendant of the house, who wished to
inquire in regard to the wants of their "illustrious guests."

"We need nothing more at present," replied Jack, "than a couple of
basins of cool water in which to lave these bodies and limbs of ours."

"_Si, señors_; your slightest wish is law at San Andrea," and, bowing
very low, the speaker withdrew, and our friends were left alone for
more than half an hour, when the man returned bearing in either hand a
small calabash filled with water that was too thick with mud to spill
over.  These rude dishes possibly contained a quart of the dirty liquid
each.  Depositing these vessels on the table, the servant expressed the
wish that they might enjoy a "very excellent bath."

"No doubt we shall," declared Jack.  "Did you have to bring this far?"

"From the river, señor; two kilometers away."

"Horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please, we'll excuse you for the time
it took you.  But haven't you water nearer than a mile?"

"A little, señor.  Supper will be ready when you have washed."

After supper they went to examine their-horses, to find that Ronie's
did not show much improvement.  One of the peons, however, had
interested himself so far as to bandage the limb in some black
decoction that he claimed was good for a sprain, which was evidently
the trouble with the creature.  This man became very friendly upon
finding that his efforts were so well appreciated, and he began to talk
glibly of other matters, saying, among other things:

"You come from Maracaibo, I think, señors.  Did you see anything of
Captain Rhoades and his bold riders?"

"We heard of him," replied Jack.  "We have been looking for them.  Are
you expecting them this way?"

"No one can tell where El Capitan will strike next, señor.  He is very
brave, and he moves about as if he and his men had wings."

"Is it possible that Castro's hirelings have penetrated into this
region?" asked Jack, as a feeler.

"Possible it may be, but not probable.  He has been whipped on every
hand, and I have no doubt General Matos will ride into Caracas its
conquerer before we are much older."

"_Si, señor_," replied Jack, who, finding that nothing more was likely
to be learned, led the way back into the house.  A few men were
standing about in the reception-room, but everything seemed very quiet,
giving little indication of the storm so soon to rise.

Ronie and Jack lay down upon their hammocks without delay, believing it
would be good policy to rest while they; might, knowing not what an
hour might bring forth.  They had slept about three hours, when they
were awakened by a commotion in the adjoining apartment, supplemented
by loud voices.  In a moment they were sitting bolt upright, listening
to catch what was being said.  The tones were loud enough for them to
do this, but the speakers, all of whom were talking in Spanish, spoke
in such excitement and disjointed manner that it was some time before
even Jack could understand sufficient to explain the situation.

"I think it is a band of the mountain guerrillas," he whispered to
Ronie, as they moved close together.  "It may be Rhoades' band, I
cannot say.  Ha! they are speaking of a couple of Americanos coming
this way.  Now the proprietor is telling them there are two stranger
Americanos in here.  Lad, they mean us!  It looks so we have got to get
out or fall into their hands."

Before his companion could reply an ugly-looking visage appeared above
the edge of the woodwork forming the walls of the building, and which,
as has been said, were built only half the height of the structure.
Then it became evident from the sounds that the body of soldiers in the
adjoining room were about to enter their quarters!

"We are in for it now!" said Jack.  "We might as well make a bold dash
for liberty.  The time for palavering is past."



Ronie realized that it was a critical moment for them.  While it was
too dark in the room to see anything plainly, the dark visages above
the walls were silhouetted against the background of the night with
vivid clearness.  They proved beyond a doubt that the building was
surrounded by the armed men.  All this flashed through his mind very
quickly, for they lost no time in attempting to make their escape.

"Follow me," whispered Jack, leading the way to the rear wall.  Then,
notwithstanding the presence of the enemies without, he caught upon the
top of the wall, and, springing into the air, cleared the obstruction
with an agility some young athletes might have envied.  Nor was Ronie a
bit behind him.  Seizing firmly on the wall, the young engineer bounded
upward, and, turning a complete somersault, landed on his feet a couple
of yards beyond the other side of the wall.

Jack struck within half a dozen feet of him, outside of the cordon of
watchers surrounding the building.  At the same moment an outburst of
cries from inside the building told that the mob within had entered the
room our twain had just left so unceremoniously.  Without stopping to
hear more, they darted into the thicket of bushes bordering the
clearing about the dwelling.

They were barely in time to escape a volley of bullets sent after them
by the insurgents, who had rallied with celerity and prepared to start
in pursuit, giving expression to loud yells of mingled surprise and
consternation at the bold act just performed.  These cries served to
tell the fugitives of their situation without doing any material harm.
At any rate, Ronie and Jack found themselves several rods from the
building before their enemies mustered for pursuit.  But at the very
outset it promised to be a stern chase.

Unacquainted with the grounds as they were, Ronie and Jack had to be
constantly on the watch against running into some of the impassable
thickets that grew in every direction.  The woods seemed to be full of
the insurgents, for go whither they would they soon found their further
flight cut off in that course by a body of the armed outlaws lying in
wait for them, or crossing their path like so many hounds running down
a brace of foxes.  They could still hear the outcries and excitement
prevailing at the building they had left.

"Hist!" exclaimed Jack, suddenly grasping Ronie by the arm.  "I hear
them coming from the right and left.  Down upon your hands and knees,
lad.  We must crawl for it."

It was evident the enemies were too numerous for them to risk a
hand-to-hand struggle, so the fugitives dropped close to the earth and
began a tedious advance through the matted bushes which formed a sort
of hedge between the parties of insurgents.  Jack was slightly ahead,
but Ronie kept as near to him as possible.  In this way they advanced
for three or four yards.  It was quite dark in the growth, but they
could discern the forms of the natives plain enough to see that a dozen
or more were within a few paces of them.  Then Jack paused, signaling
to Ronie to do the same by a gentle grip upon his wrist.

It had become very still in the jungle-like forest, and Ronie was
wondering what this movement of his companion meant, when a sharp
scream pierced the night air.  It was a woman's voice, freighted with
great fear and suffering.

"We are not the only ones in trouble," whispered Jack.

"What does it mean?  Hark, Jack! she is pleading for her liberty.
There is a man's voice, and he, too, is begging for some one to spare
his life.  Is there nothing we can do for them?"

"It looks as if we had about all we could look after to save our own
lives, lad.  But, as long as it is in our way let's creep a little
nearer the place."

The insurgents, having apparently moved farther to their right, they
cautiously advanced, being careful not to disturb a bush or make any
noise.  They advanced in this way for a few rods, when they found
themselves on the margin of a sunken swamp, dense with a growth of
vines and bushes enveloped in moss and lichens.  Finding this
impenetrable, they crawled along its border, though forced to steer
more to their right than they thought prudent.  It was evidently this
impassable jungle which had changed the course of the insurgents.

They must have advanced a hundred rods without finding any end to the
swamp, when the sound of voices now became distinctly heard, though
they were not raised above an ordinary tone.  It was the same woman
speaking they had heard before, while her accents were scarcely less
intense.  She was saying, in Spanish:

"Have mercy, señors!  I have never wronged you nor the poor country you
profess to be fighting for.  My poor husband died in her defense, and I
am willing to give my life in her cause, but do not torture me."

"Tell us where he is and we will spare you," replied a masculine voice,
pitched in a high key.

"Alas!  I do not know.  I would that I did, señors.  But if I did you
cannot think me cowardly enough to betray him, not at the price of my
poor life.  God forbid that I should for a moment have such a thought
or that you should so far misjudge me in my weakness.  He is all there
is left me--if he yet lives, which I am not certain--my noble son, the
noblest of the De Caprians."

At the mention of that name Ronie and Jack instantly remembered the
brave young exile then with Harrie in prison at San Carlos, and, as may
be imagined, listened with excitement hard to suppress for the next
words, which were hissed rather than spoken by the man who held her a

"You lie!" and the concealed listeners fancied they could see him lift
his armed hand over her head, as if he would kill her then and there.
Her reply was spoken with the calmness born of despair:

"Think as you will, señor; I have spoken the truth.  Had I a dozen
lives depending on my answer, it would be the same.  Kill me if you
wish.  I can die without a regret, knowing that Francisco is not here
to witness my death or suffer at your hands, El Capitan."

"She is Francisco's mother," whispered Ronie, anxiously.

"Ay, lad; and he is Rhoades, the insurgent leader."

"Must we let him butcher her in cold blood and remain inactive?" asked
Ronie, whose hot nature was aroused by this unwarranted treatment of a
helpless captive.

"Hist!" warned Jack.  "We are watched by an enemy in yon coppice."

Ronie saw nothing in the direction indicated by his companion, but
under the circumstances he felt certain he was right, and he grasped
his firearm more firmly, feeling that it would not be long before he
would be obliged to use it.  The voices of the speakers ahead had
become silent, so that not a sound broke the stillness of the scene.

"What can we do, Jack?"

"I have been thinking lad, that it may be well for us to do a little
scouting, in order to get a better idea of the situation.  That fellow
in the thicket has got to be disposed of before we can do much else.
If you will lie here and not let any of them spring a surprise on you,
I will see what I can do in the way of Indian warfare.  I do not
believe I have lost the little cunning I picked up in fighting the
Igorrotos of Luzon."

Without waiting for Ronie's reply, Jack began to creep to their rear,
moving so silently that our hero was not aware of his retreat until he
had fairly left his side.  The voice of the insurgent chief again fell
on his ear, followed by the reply of the woman, which was spoken too
low for him to distinguish.  Jack had now disappeared, and he knew he
was alone in the midst of enemies.

Five minutes dragged themselves slowly away without bringing any
material change in the situation.  Ronie had not discovered any sign of
Jack, but twice he had seen a man's head thrust cautiously above the
matted undergrowth where he knew one of their enemies lurked.
Evidently the scout, for such he judged him to be, was getting uneasy
and anxious to end the suspense.  During the time he had heard a small
body of horsemen ride up to where the insurgent leader and his prisoner
were stopping.

"Jack told me at the end of five minutes to lift my cap on the muzzle
above the rim of bushes," he mused.  "The time must be up now.  I think
I will try it."

Then Ronie removed the covering on his head, and, placing it on the end
of his rifle barrel, gently raised the weapon as he had been told, in
doubt as to what the result would be.  He had barely accomplished the
simple feat before the sharp report of a firearm rang out, and a bullet
sped just over him with a hearty zip!  The cap dropped by his side, and
when he came to pick it up he found that it had a hole through its
crown where the bullet had gone.  Most assuredly the insurgent was a
good marksman, and he shuddered to think what his own fate would have
been had he carelessly exposed himself.

The shot of the sharpshooter brought an exclamation from the lips of
the chief, but beyond that Ronie heard nothing to explain to him what
was succeeding.  He fancied at first he heard the man starting toward
him, but he was not quite sure of it.  He was becoming alarmed in
regard to Jack.  Where could he be all this time?  Had he fallen into
some trap and become a prisoner?  In the midst of these reflections he
suddenly became aware of the presence of some one near him, and he was
about to act in his defense when the familiar voice of Jack caused him
to stop.

"Easy, lad!  It's all right with him yonder.  Your ruse worked to
perfection and just in the nick of time.  I managed to handle him
without making a disturbance.  His shot has not seemed to arouse them,
and it is time for us to act.  The road is not far away, and the
insurgents seemed to have halted near the outlet of this swamp.  I
judge they are waiting for some of their force to join them.  Besides
the woman, they have one or two other captives, which I judge they are
taking to headquarters.  If you feel like looking at them, follow me.
We might as well go that way as any other, for the woods are full of
the cusses behind us.  Somehow, they run an idea we have taken to the
mountains, which is natural, I suppose."

Ronie was nothing loath to move, as he had begun to tire of this
inactivity, so he kept close behind Jack, who began to worm his way
along the margin of the lowlands, until, after several minutes of this
tedious advance, Jack paused.

"If I am not mistaken, we are within gunshot of these brown-skinned
rebels," he whispered.  "But there is no doubt but they are on the
lookout for us, and we must move with great caution.  Let's make
another hitch."

Once more they went forward, keeping close to the earth, and under the
cover of the overhanging tropical vegetation, being careful how they
disturbed each bush, and with their eyes constantly trying to pierce
the gloom around them.  So, like woodsmen following some Indian trail
in the days of the pioneers, they wormed their way along, Jack ever and
anon lifting his head slightly so as to get a wider view of his
surroundings, but always careful not to expose any part of his figure.

Finally he paused again, Ronie quickly imitating his example, while he
listened for the explanation he knew his companion was ready to make.
Though slightly behind him, he had discovered the shadowy outlines of
several horsemen drawn up in a semi-circle.

"We have reached the road," said Jack, softly.  "Can you see the
horsemen just to our right, where the way curves slightly?"

"Yes," replied Ronie, in the same cautious tone.

"And the woman?  She is a little beyond the main body, on the gray

"I see her, now that you have called my attention to her.  I should
know her by her skirts."

"Right, lad.  The brook is just below.  The crafty dogs are still
harkening and waiting.  But they will not wait much longer.  Hark! a
body of horsemen are coming up the road at this moment!  It is probably
these they are waiting for."

"What do you propose to do, Jack?"

"Get a little nearer, lad."

"Do you think we can save her?"

"We will try, but it can be done only at great risk and under cover of
the excitement of the meeting of these squads.  Come on, lad, every
moment is precious to us."



In the work that followed, Jack Greenland showed that he was no novice
in woodcraft, but it would take more space than I can give to it to
describe minutely the details of what I shall only attempt to outline.
It would not do for them to leave the thick fringe of bushes
overhanging the road, and yet, in order to accomplish his purpose, it
was necessary for them to shorten the space between them and the rebel
riders under "El Capitan," as the mountain insurgent was called.  To do
this more safely, Jack retreated about a yard, and then crept forward
in the same direction of the road.  In spite of his extreme caution,
Ronie heard a stick snap under his knee, when his heart came into his
mouth.  Fortunately, one of the horses stamped its foot at this moment,
and thus the fainter sound was drowned by the heavier.  Then the harsh
voice of the insurgent was heard to exclaim:

"Fire on the head of the laggard!  I cannot wait here any longer.
Forward, men! on to the mansion, which shall be the cage for our bird."

Without further delay the body of half a dozen riders struck their
impatient steeds smartly with their spurs, and would have swiftly
disappeared from the scene, but for an accident to the foremost.  His
animal, thus suddenly aroused, reared into the air and then plunged
forward, but, either stepping into a hole or stumbling, it staggered
ahead, coming nearly upon its knees.  Its rider was flung headlong into
the bushes within a hand's reach of our amateur scouts!

This mishap plunged the rest of the riders into confusion, nearly
unseating Rhoades himself, but who rallied with a horrible imprecation
upon the head of his unfortunate follower.  With rare presence of mind
the woman on the gray horse wheeled her spirited animal quickly around
to make a bold dash for freedom.  There were horsemen behind her, but
that was her only way of escape, if she could hope to get away at all.
In a moment the entire scene had become one of wildest excitement, and
above the clatter of hoofs and the cries of his men, rang the voice of
the leader, as he swung his own horse around, calling upon his
panic-stricken followers:

"Don't let her escape!  Shoot her if must be, but stop her!"

The mountain outlaw was about to carry out his own order, when he
received a terrific blow from Jack Greenland, which tumbled him from
his seat to the ground.  Jack and Ronie had been quick to perceive that
in this exciting tableau lay their chance of action.

"Mount the free horse and ride down the road for your life!" said Jack.
"A bold dash will carry us through."

Then he sprang forward to capture the horse ridden by the insurgent
chief, knowing that, could he be successful in this, it would throw the
squad into confusion.  Without a leader they were not likely to make a
very effective pursuit.  I have described the result of his swift and
daring onset.  And, as Rhoades, stunned by the blow, sank helpless to
the earth, the fearless American seized the bridle rein of the
frightened horse before it could clear itself from the hand of its
former master.  Almost simultaneously with this action Jack would have
been in the saddle, but for the fact that the right foot of the
insurgent had caught in the stirrup.  This caused a brief delay, but,
wrenching the offending limb aside, the captor vaulted into the seat
just as two or three shots whistled through the air at random from the
discomfited insurgents, who were at a loss to account for just what was
being enacted in their midst.  One of these bullets cut away a lock of
his silvered hair, but, unminding his narrow escape, he turned the
horse sharply about, crying to the woman, who had succeeded in heading
her steed down the road:

"Ride for your life.  It is your only hope."

She had already reached the outside circle of the little group, and her
horse, a spirited one, cleared the last of the dismayed riders, to bear
her down the way at a terrific pace, her long, black hair streaming in
the wind as she sped on.  Once a white face was turned backward for a
moment, and then she disappeared from sight.

Meanwhile Ronie was having an experience equally as exciting and even
more dangerous to his life and liberty.  He had succeeded in catching
upon the bridle of the horse that had thrown its rider, and he gained
the saddle an instant later, while the terrified animal reared and
plunged furiously.  But the young engineer had secured a firm hold on
the reins, and was likely to obtain quick control over the creature,
when he found stout hands laid on the bridle with a power which threw
the struggling brute back upon its haunches.

The attack of the insurgents, three in number, was so sudden and
powerful that Ronie's escape seemed impossible.

"Shoot the dog!" cried one of the insurgents.

"Don't let him get away!" exclaimed the chief, who had rallied by this
time sufficient to realize something of the situation.

Ronie knew he could expect no assistance from Jack, who was having all
he could attend to, and he resolved to make a desperate attempt to get
away.  Accordingly, he whipped out the stout knife which had been given
him by Manuel Marlin, and as the shots of his enemies sped past his
head, he cut the reins upon which the insurgents were clinging, when
the men, suddenly losing their hold, staggered forward, leaving the
animal freed from their clutches.

Finding itself thus relieved of the weight dragging it down, the horse
flung up its head, gave vent to a wild snort, and bounded madly over
their writhing forms, to rush like a whirlwind down the road, scarcely
a head behind Jack, mounted on the chief's fleet-footed steed.  Though
nearly unseated by this abrupt onset, Ronie held fast to his position,
while he was borne on at a rate of speed which fairly took away his
breath.  Even Jack, going at his terrific pace, was passed, and then
the woman on the stout gray was outdistanced.  Without check or
guidance to its headlong flight, Ronie soon found that his horse was
running away!

The cries and the rifle shots of his enemies were soon lost in the
distance, but the young engineer had barely recovered his equilibrium,
so to speak, when he became conscious of the approach of a body of
horsemen from ahead.  Naturally expecting only enemies, he began to
wonder how he was to come out of this new danger.  The sounds of the
approaching horses told that this party were coming at a gait almost as
swift as that by which he was carried along.  Thus he was not given
sufficient time in which to prepare for the meeting, if any preparation
could be made by him in his plight, before he found himself carried
into the very midst of a squad of a dozen horsemen, sweeping toward him
at a breakneck pace.  Wild shouts rang in his ears, but if efforts were
made to stop him he was not aware of it.  In some manner, never quite
plain to him, he was carried through the party of riders, brushing
against them on the right and left, but clearing them in an incredible
space of time, to be still carried on with unabated speed.

So far Ronie had not gathered his scattered faculties enough to act,
but now, remembering that the bridle was still left on the head of the
horse he bestrode, he leaned forward and grasped the side straps close
down to the bit.  Perhaps the animal had begun to tire of its wild race.

At any rate, it quickly yielded to the strong hands wrenching at its
mouth, and began to slacken its speed.

All this really took place in less time than it has taken to describe
it, even in outline, and the excitement and confusion of the surprised
riders in his rear were yet ringing in his ears, when Ronie, for the
second time, became aware of the approach of horsemen.  But before he
could obtain control of his own horse, or anticipate who might now be
in his pathway, a stentorian voice thundered in English:

"Halt!  Who comes here?"



It was fortunate for Ronie Rand that he had succeeded in getting
control of the horse he rode, or his experiences in Venezuela would
have terminated in a tragic manner.  With the thrilling command of the
leader of this body of horsemen, the firearms of his soldiers leaped to
their shoulders, and in another moment a volley of bullets would have
stopped the advance of our hero.  Seeing only the inevitable to be met,
he cried out:

"I am an American!  I surrender if need be."

"Hold, men!" called out the officer.  "He is a lone American.  He
cannot belong to the gang we are running down.  Who are you, sir?"

"My name is Roland Rand, sir, and I have only recently reached this
country.  With a friend I am on my way to Caracas, and just escaped
from the rebels under El Capitan."

Ronie had answered thus boldly and openly, for he was certain the body
of soldiers in front of him were not a part of the insurgents he had
just escaped by so narrow a margin.  By this time the sound of other
horses approaching came from near at hand, and the officer ordered his
men to be in readiness to meet them.  Believing them to be Jack and the
captive woman, he wheeled smartly about, saying:

"I believe they are friends of mine.  Hold up, Jack!" he cried, as the
latter, with the woman riding abreast of him, came into sight.  "I
believe these are friends."

"Halt!  Who comes here?" demanded the officer.

"Friends," replied Jack, suddenly checking his headlong flight, while
the woman followed his example.  Then, before anything further could be
said or done, the officer did a most unexpected thing.  Urging his
horse close beside Ronie, he cried:

"Roland Rand!  Is it possible I find you here?"

Ronie, at first thinking the other meant to do him harm, shrank back,
but he quickly rallied at the familiar tone of the speaker.  Then, with
a wild feeling of joy, he looked more closely upon him, to exclaim the
next moment:

"Colonel Marchand!"

"At your service, Mr. Rand, but I am puzzled to know how it is I meet
you here, where I least expected to find you."

"It is a very long story to tell, Colonel Marchand, and I will gladly
explain it all to you at the first opportunity.  This is my friend,
Jack Greenland," signifying that individual, who had not yet recovered
from the surprise he had experienced.

"Glad to meet you, too, Mr. Greenland.  But where is Harrie, Ronie?  Is
he coming behind you?"

"He is in prison at San Carlos, colonel.  Jack and I were on our way to
Caracas to find relief for him."

"What is he in prison for?  The penitentiary is mainly filled with
rebels now."

"That is the charge against him.  He was taken under suspicious
circumstances, but I can vouch for his honor."

"Then you are not rebels, Ronie?"

"No, sir--that is, we have not committed ourselves as being against the

"Good!  You evidently carry a level head.  I am at the head of a
regiment fighting for President Castro.  We were in hot pursuit of a
body of the insurgents whom we routed in a fight below here.  But who
is this woman with you?"

"She is a captive in the hands of Rhoades' guerrillas.  I do not know
her name.  Perhaps she will give it herself.  We were trying to strike
a blow in her behalf."

The strange woman, thus appealed to, said, in that musical voice so
common to the better class of Venezuelans:

"You are very kind, señors.  I do not know that you would care to hear
my name, for it has too often been a bone of contention in this unhappy
land.  My husband was Francisco de Caprian.  I am not ashamed to say

Colonel Marchand uttered an exclamation of surprise, and, though Ronie
Rand was expecting this reply, he could not wholly conceal his emotion
at the mention of that name which he had learned to both fear and
respect.  He could not refrain from saying:

"You are Francisco's mother?"

"You know my son!" she cried somewhat wildly.

"We met him on the _Libertador_, señora.  He is now in prison at San
Carlos with our friend."

"Then he lives!  They told me he was dead.  Oh, my son!  When shall I
meet him again?"

"I do not understand this," declared Colonel Marchand, brusquely.  "You
talk of the _Libertador_, the outlawed scourge of the coast, of the De
Caprians, every one of whom is denounced as spies, and of loyalty to
Castro, the patriot president, all in the same breath."

"I will explain fully if I am given the opportunity," replied Ronie,

"Pardon me, Ronie," Colonel Marchand hastened to say.  "I do not doubt
you, but this is no time for explanations here.  We have dallied too
long already, if we would catch our birds.  Go to the rear, you three,
under an escort to protect you.  Mind you, Lieutenant Garcia, the woman
remains with you until I return.  We will make short work of the
mountain rebels."

Upon finishing his brusque orders, Colonel Marchand wheeled smartly
about and dashed up the road, followed by his troops, numbering half a
hundred or more, Lieutenant Garcia and three privates remaining to look
after the two Americans and Señora de Caprian.  The lieutenant showed
by his reluctance to move on his duty that he was not well pleased with
the plan, and he was heard to exclaim under his breath that it was a
shame to be cheated of the sport at this juncture.  However, he soon
recovered his good nature, and, requesting his companions to follow,
rode sharply in an opposite direction to that just taken by his
superior officer.

About two miles below they came upon a small town, where Lieutenant
Garcia ordered a halt until he should receive further orders from
Colonel Marchand, or meet him in person.  This place, which had been
the scene of a stirring skirmish a few days before, was now in the
hands of the government troops, which the latter did not hesitate to
display in their actions.  Though Señora de Caprian was treated with
extreme courtesy, Ronie and Jack did not fail to observe that a strict
watch was kept over her, and the room assigned her at the house where
the little party made its headquarters had a guard stationed outside
the door.  Of course, our heroes were allowed their liberty, but they
were only too glad to improve the interval of waiting for the
reappearance of Colonel Marchand by throwing themselves down upon the
floor and seeking sleep.

It was broad daylight when they awoke, and the sound of a body of horse
outside the building at once attracted their attention.  They were soon
highly pleased to find that Colonel Marchand had returned.  News came
to them that he had been successful in his pursuit of El Capitan and
his mountain rebels.  As anxious as they were to see their old friend,
Ronie and Jack deemed it wise to wait until he had sought them.

This did not give over half an hour's suspense before an orderly called
upon them to say that the colonel was awaiting them in his
headquarters.  It is needless to say that they lost no time in obeying
this request to see him.  They found the genial commander established
in one of the smaller buildings of the village, engaged in studying a
map of the country.  But at sight of them he quickly forgot his chart,
and motioned for them to be seated, saying:

"I have sent for you that I might know your story.  We have sent the
rebels flying back into their mountain caves like rats driven to their
holes.  They will not dare to show a head for at least twenty-four
hours, so I have a half-day's leisure, except that I must prepare my
report to send to General Castro.  First I want to hear your story, and
I suggest you begin at the very beginning, so I may understand its
details and know how to act."

Ronie, acting as spokesman, told their story in as few words as
possible from the time they had left Manilla to the present moment,
interrupted several times by the impulsive officer, who was both
surprised and pleased at the information they gave him.

"By the right hand of Bolivar!" he exclaimed finally, "you may not be
aware of it, but you bear valuable intelligence that I shall take the
liberty to forward to General Castro.  The character of the _Ban Righ_
or the _Libertador_ has been pretty well known to us, but you make
plain some things which have been dark.  I can see how Harrie fell
under suspicion under the conditions that he was taken prisoner."

"You can secure his freedom, can you not, Colonel Marchand?"

The colonel was a tall, slender man, with flashing, black eyes and long
mustache, which he was wont to twist very vigorously when he was
excited.  He gave these a savage twirl now, and, springing to his feet,
began to pace to and fro furiously.

"I know what I can do, I can try," he declared, returning to his seat
after pacing back and forth several times.  "If I had been a little
more successful up this way, and he himself had not met with so many
reverses, I can imagine he might be more willing to grant my request.
But I will try--of course, I will try!  I can but fail.  If I do," and
here he lowered his voice, "by the right hand of Bolivar, the sword of
Leon Marchand shall be sheathed while Cipriano Castro holds the rein of

Both Ronie and Jack were somewhat taken aback by this speech, which
they could see was not a discreet one to make, especially in that
place.  But the excitement of Colonel Marchand passed as quickly as it
had arisen, and he resumed, with marked calmness:

"Coming here strangers, as you have, you can have little idea of the
real feeling slumbering like a volcano in the hearts of us Venezuelans.
The truth is, our people are the most ungrateful on the face of the
earth.  All of the revolutions and political plots that have harassed
our country have been almost entirely uncalled for, though I will
confess our leaders have made an excuse easy through their eagerness to
"feather their nests," as you would say.  But honest men have ever
found little encouragement to remain honest, when the populace stands
ready to take up the cry of 'fraud' the moment some disgruntled office
seeker utters such a cry to cover his own disappointment.  The
utterance of the word becomes instantly the battle cry to call the mob
to riot and ruin.  From a Venezuelan riot a general uprising will
follow in a single day, until the country is ravaged far and wide.
This is accounted for mainly by the fact that the population is made up
to nine out of ten of Indians, half-breeds and mulattoes, who are
naturally ignorant and easily aroused to fight.

"Matos is followed by just such a rabble.  He is rich, but not a
soldier by training.  Still, it was enough that he was brilliant in
uniform and pompous in bearing; these, coupled with the rattle of the
drum and the tramp of many feet, aroused the mongrel crowd, until the
disgruntled rebel found himself tagged by an army of ragged,
boisterous, hungry men, who gladly followed him, and follow him still.
We saw an example of the stock in El Capitan's mountain horde.  He
escaped me only by the skin of his teeth."

"Here I am making a proclamation of war when I ought to be preparing my
dispatch for General Castro.  I will use every argument I can for
Harrie, as I know he is a noble boy, and that his imprisonment is
unjust and wicked."

"How about Francisco de Caprian?" asked Ronie, for Colonel Marchand had
not hinted of him.

"I can do nothing," he replied, with a shake of the head.  "The De
Caprians are very much in ill-favor just now.  However, for your sake I
will mention him, and suggest that it will do no harm to set him free.
I think you said he suggested that he was willing to espouse our cause.
By the way, what do you say to a campaign under the illustrious Castro,
the modern Bolivar of Venezuela?  I will mention your willingness, and
you can answer me afterward."

Then Colonel Marchand became very busy with the preparation of his
dispatch.  When it was finished he called an orderly, who was told to
see that it was forwarded to the commander-in-chief with as great
promptness as possible.

"Bring me back a reply," added the colonel, and when he had seen the
messenger depart he turned to resume his conversation with Ronie and



"Speaking about joining our forces," said Colonel Marchand, "under the
circumstances it will be impossible for me to fulfill my promise to you
when I wrote.  Neither would it be practicable to carry out plans made
under different conditions.  Join our army for a while; it will prove a
lively vacation for you, and just as soon as this little cloud blows
over we will start.  We will have the government behind us, too.  It is
a great undertaking in more senses than one.  I expect to become
regularly attached to Castro's army within a short time.  In fact, I am
away now only temporarily.  What do you say to becoming comrades under

"I should want to consult Harrie before I decided," replied Ronie.

"So you shall.  Now that is settled, let us talk of other matters.  It
is perfectly natural, however, that you should cast your fortunes with
ours for a short time.  Venezuela does not forget that it was due to
Miranda's experience gained in fighting for the independence of the
Great Republic that he learned something of what might come to his
native land, and that it was the friendship of Lafayette, Hamilton and
Fox which encouraged him to push forward.  When the revolution opened
in 1810, the United States furnished Venezuela with her munitions of
war.  Two years later, when the earthquake destroyed twenty thousand of
our people, she sent supplies with a liberal hand to us.  In this
crisis, which I believe is to be the most important affair in her
history, we stand in need of Northern friendship.  Europe is against
us, and in the jealousy of the powers there would gladly hail any
pretext upon which she could seize us."

"The Monroe Doctrine must be a great safeguard to you."

"If it hadn't been for that these little South American republics would
have been swallowed by European powers long before this."

"While the swallowing would have caused some bloody wars."

"Very true, but we are used to that.  There has not been a time within
my remembrance when there has not been a war of some form in process.
Speaking of the European nations swallowing us, you may forget that we
are three times as large as France or Germany, and five times as large
as Italy.  We are larger than any European country outside of Russia.
Something of its natural features may be understood from the fact that
it holds within its domain some beautiful bodies of inland water, the
largest of which, Lake Maracaibo, is somewhat larger than Lake Ontario.
Within the republic are over a thousand rivers, the largest of which is
the Orinoco, next in size to the Amazon of the rivers of South America.

"In regard to its physical features, the country may be divided into
three great zones, increasing in size according to the following order:
First, the zone of agriculture; second, the zone of grazing land; last,
the larger in area than both of the others, the zone of the forests.
There are two seasons, the wet and the dry, called winter and summer.

"Venezuela is thinly populated, having about two and one-half millions
of inhabitants.  They still preserve the type of the Spanish race,
which afforded them origin, though they have become largely a
cosmopolitan race, due to the mixture with the natives.  These have
retained to a wonderful extent their primitive beauty, so the men are
manly and symmetrical, the women graceful and beautiful."

"How is it about the wild horses our geographies describe as still
roaming with flowing manes and foaming nostrils and llanoes and
pampas?" asked Ronie.

"They disappeared before the buffalo vanished from your Western plains.
I would say also of the people, instead of the wild beauties your books
tell you are yet living in almost primitive simplicity, you will find,
when you get to the capital, women and maidens looking quite as
anxiously for the fashion sheet from Paris as her sisters in New York.
We are apt to think the only civilization is that around us.  How well
do I remember that my first impressions were that the little space
about me in which I was reared comprised the world.  Gradually my
vision extended, and my knowledge expanded, until I find it is a big
old world, and that it holds many people."

Colonel Marchand's kindly words, and his willingness to inform his
friends, put our couple very much at their ease.  Ronie improved the
first opportunity to speak of that matter which was frequently
uppermost in his mind, the finding of his mother's photograph under
such peculiar circumstances.  He was unable to offer any solution of
the mystery, while he showed a deep concern.

"I cannot think your mother would come to this country, even with the
hope of meeting you, without first sending me word of her intentions.
Of course, I should have tried and met her at La Guayra."

"You have not heard from her?"

"Not a word, though I did expect to get a letter in regard to your
coming.  I feel very sure the photograph must have been brought from
New York by some disinterested party, who came into possession of it by
accident.  I cannot imagine anything else, though this is rather hard
to believe."

Realizing that Colonel Marchand had affairs that needed his attention,
Ronie and Jack asked if they might look about the town, and the simple
request being granted, they passed the next few hours in exploring the
place, though finding little to interest them.  The regular inhabitants
had nearly all fled, and those who had remained appeared ill at ease
under the existing conditions, as they might have been expected to be.

"I tell you what it is, Jack," said Ronie, "it looks to me as if these
revolutions are sapping the very life out of the country."

"Ay, lad; and now it looks as if you and I were to become actors in one
of them.  I wonder what is going on yonder."

These words were spoken by Jack as their attention was caught by the
sight of a group of people gathered near the building where they had
been lodged.  As they advanced with quickening steps, it became evident
that a fight or street brawl was in process.  Around this a couple of
dozen or more civilians had clustered, and by the way they encircled
the combatants it looked as if they were trying to shield them from the
gaze of the soldiers, should any of these happen to come that way.  For
a wonder not one of these was in sight at that moment, though the
steady tread of the sentry within the building could be heard as he
paced back and forth with measured step.

"Better give them a wide berth," declared Jack.  "It never does any one
good to get mixed up in one of these senseless encounters.  Why, if you
should go to the assistance of one of them, thinking he was being
abused, the chances are more than even he would join with the other in
abusing you.  By the horn of rock--Gibraltar, if you please! this does
not seem to be a fight by common brawlers, for their _mantas_ show they
belong to the better class of civilians."

The garment which had attracted the attention of Jack was the _manta_
or _poncho_ made of white linen, which has the quality of repelling the
heat of the sun on a warm day.  These garments are worn almost
continually by certain classes, among them the vaqueros, or riders of
the pampas.  That of the latter consists of two blankets sewed
together, one of a dark blue color and the other of a bright red.
These hues are universally selected for a purpose, as they receive
light and heat differently, and are used so as to afford the best
results.  Thus in dark and cloudy days the dark side of the blanket is
turned outward; on other days this is reversed.  The double blanket
thus formed is quite two yards square, with a hole in the center to
admit the head of the owner.  Its purpose is two-fold, to protect the
rider from the heavy dews and showers of the tropics, and to spread
under him at night when there is no place to sling up his hammock.  But
the effect of this linen _manta_ worn by these street fighters was even
better than that of the woolen _cobija_ of the vaqueros.  These
_mantas_ worn by this twain were fancifully embroidered, and showed
that they were expensive garments.  At a distance they would present a
striking, picturesque appearance.

Our heroes found it difficult to get near enough to obtain a view of
the stirring scene in the little opening made by the encircling
on-lookers, and, caring little for the affair, anyway, quietly
retreated.  Then, the alarm having been spread, no doubt, the soldiers
began to appear in sight, and a squad led by an orderly started in to
disperse the crowd.  But the spectators seemed too earnest to be easily
driven off, while the soldiers themselves quickly became so interested
in the contest that they tried little more than to get a good look at
the tableau.

"I never saw a Venezuelan yet who didn't relish a good fight," remarked

"But look there, Jack!" exclaimed Ronie.  "What is going on that way?"

As Ronie pointed toward the rear of the building already mentioned,
Jack saw half a dozen loungers hanging along in a manner suspiciously
like a row of loafers, and not in knots, as men of this kind usually

"See! two of them are helping away a woman.  Why, Jack! it is the
prisoner, Señora de Caprian!  She is trying to escape."

In a moment the whole situation was plain to them.  The brawl and fight
was simply a ruse to catch the attention of the soldiers while the
captive woman made her escape.  So cleverly had it been carried out so
far, that it was likely to succeed beyond the most sanguine expectation.

Ronie glanced hurriedly around to see that the orderly and his men were
in the thickest of the mob, oblivious of all except the hand-to-hand
tussle.  Another minute and the captive would be beyond recapture,
except, possibly, after a long chase.  His first thought was that of
gladness for the unfortunate woman, then he remembered that there was
another side to the question, and that it might be well to retain her
as a prisoner of war.  He decided quickly upon his course of action;
whether it was right or wrong must be proven in the future.



"She must not be allowed to escape, Jack!" exclaimed Ronie.  "I heard
Colonel Marchand say that she knows secrets which it would not be well
for his enemies to learn."

"Ay, lad; it is not too late for us to stop them."

Without further delay the twain sprang forward, and were in season to
intercept the fugitives.  As they brought their firearms to bear upon
the men who had constituted themselves Señora de Caprian's escort,
Ronie cried, sharply:

"Stand where you are!"

The woman uttered a cry of dismay at this command, while the men
suddenly stopped, facing the determined Americans with frightened looks.

"Let me pass, señors, I implore you," begged the prisoner, the tears
springing to her eyes, while she clasped her hands and turned upon them
such looks of agony as haunted them for many a day.  Ronie, at least,
felt that he had committed an act which he should regret, and it is
possible if the opportunity had remained when he could have allowed her
to escape with safety, he might have done it.  But the die was cast,
and there was no retreat.  The loud, authoritative words had aroused
others.  The soldiers were suddenly recalled to their duty, while the
sight of the fugitive and their captors quickly caught the attention of
the newcomers upon the scene, foremost among these being Colonel

He instantly comprehended the situation, and a look of admiration for
the prompt deed lightened the bronze upon his cheeks, while he said:

"By the soul of Bolivar! you have done well, señors.  Soldiers, secure
the prisoner immediately, and see that her liberators are taken into

"I hope there will be no cause for us to regret what we have done,
colonel," said Ronie, who really felt sorry for the prisoner.

"You may cut off my right hand if you do, Señor Rand.  At present it is
necessary that we hold the woman as a prisoner of war, but she shall be
well treated, and I have no doubt be set free soon."

Ronie knew Colonel Marchand was a man of his word, and he felt better
over what he and Jack bad done.  This pleasure was further increased by
the words of the colonel as they accompanied him to his headquarters.

"This will prove a good day's work for you, Ronie.  I only regret I had
not been able to report it to General Castro when I sent my dispatch,
but better late than never.  What do you say to going with us on our
campaign toward Maracaibo?  We start within an hour.  The rebels are
rallying in that direction, and we must look after them before they
become too strong."

The fact that it was likely to take them nearer to Harrie, if not quite
to San Carlos, was enough to shape their decision, and inside of an
hour they were mounted and riding with the troops toward the west,
Ronie getting his first taste of warfare.

The days that followed would never be forgotten by our American
soldiers in the service of Venezuela.  Colonel Marchand seemed to be
always on the move, but the enemy was even more active than he, and
always kept one scene ahead of him.  For instance, he left the little
hamlet where Ronie and Jack joined his forces to go to another country
town called Verona, where it was reported the insurgents had made a
raid.  Upon reaching this settlement, which was little more than a
collection of coffee planters' conical dwellings, it was ascertained
that the enemies had been gone a few hours, and that they were headed
toward Juan.  Hither, posthaste, dashed the Venezuelan cavalry,
resolved to be in season this time, only to find that again the bird
had flown.  But Castro's troops were led by a captain who had the name
of never sleeping, and once more he followed on their heels.  Then he
learned they had gone back to Verona!  Thus two weeks were spent in
vain advances and retreats, swift dashes ahead and equally as rapid
doubling upon the track, until we finally find the grimy riders halted
near the rim of a little plain which formed the foot of a mountain
range trending away toward the more lofty peaks making the highest
elevations of land in the Western World.  As may be imagined, the
doughty colonel was in no enviable mood, as he sat by the door of his
tent, whose roof was the bended sky.  It was one of those inns found at
those outposts between the agricultural and pastoral regions.

The men were busy getting the evening meal, which was to be made up
largely of a fat bullock killed a few minutes before.  Evidence had
been witnessed where the insurgents had broken into a herd that very
day and slaughtered several of the best beeves.  This killing of cattle
was characteristic of Venezuelan warfare.  The ragged troops of the
revolutionists must be fed, and what easier way to do it?

Ronie and Jack, who had ridden until they were tired and sore, were
attending to their tough ponies before spreading their ponchos over the
stony spot which they had cleared of the rank vegetation so as to
prepare their couch for the night, as there were no posts upon which to
hang their hammocks, when a messenger informed them that Colonel
Marchand wished to see them immediately.  At a loss to know what this
order could mean, they lost no time in answering the summons.

They found the colonel, usually so genial, very much out of humor.  At
first Ronie feared that he had done something to arouse this uncommon
state of mind on the part of his superior.

"Sergeant Rand," greeted the colonel, brusquely, giving our hero a
title quite unexpected to him, "I have sent for you to see if your
Yankee ingenuity and courage cannot help me out of this difficulty."

"I am at your service, colonel," replied Ronie, with a military salute,
"and I am sure my friend here is equally as faithful."

"Ay, ay, Colonel Marchand; where Ronie Rand leads I----"

"Sergeant Rand, if you please, Señor Greenland," interrupted the
officer.  "I will now explain what I want of you."

Though taken somewhat aback by this greeting, our twain bowed and
waited respectfully for the other to explain.

"In the first place," began the colonel, "I need not tell you how I
have been buffeted about for the last ten days.  It has set my teeth on
edge.  On every hand my scouts have been baffled by these scoundrels of
the bush, who make a farce of war and style themselves 'Sons of
Liberty!'  Word comes in that they are everywhere successful, and that
Castro is discouraged.  I know better than the last.  He is not that
kind of a man.  But enough of that.  What I want of you is simply this:
Take as many men with you as you wish, and reconnoiter the country as
far as you think best, and report to me as often as possible.  Are you
willing to undertake this hazardous mission?"

"I am willing to do my duty, Colonel Marchand."

"Ay, ay, colonel," added Jack.

"Spoken like true soldiers.  I know I can depend on you.  Now name the
number of men you want to go with you, and I will have them detailed at
once.  Remember you are to have command of the squad, with your friend
as deputy."

"I assure you, colonel, we appreciate the honor.  I think three men
will be sufficient.  A small body of men can go where a large one would
be likely to attract attention."

"Good!  My scouts dare not stir out of their hammocks without an army
is at their heels.  How soon can you be ready to report, sergeant?"

"In half an hour, colonel."

"Thank you, sergeant.  That will give me time to detain [Transcriber's
note: detail?] the men, and I will see that you have the best in the
regiment.  By the way, sergeant, I wish to say that I have received as
yet no reply from General Castro, but I probably shall before you get
back.  I would also add that I expect to move to Baracoa in the
morning, where I shall await news from you."

"Well, Jack, what do you think of this?" asked Ronie, as soon as they
had left the presence of Colonel Marchand.

"Looks as if we were going to taste of real warfare," replied Jack.  "I
can't say that I am sorry, for as long as we cannot go ahead with our
work it will serve to break the monotony."

"If I only knew that mother was safely at home, and Harrie was with us,
I really think I should enjoy it.  If there was only some way I could
get a letter sent to her, I would write to mother in New York, hit or

"Perhaps the colonel will have a chance to get it to the capital,"
suggested Jack.  "If you want to write it, I will see that everything
is got in readiness for our start."

"You are very kind.  I think I will do it.  It will certainly do no

So Ronie wrote his letter to his mother, describing briefly his recent
experiences, and speaking particularly of the portrait he had picked
up.  He had to make his letter short, for he not only prepared that,
but he ate a hasty meal, which Jack had prepared, and with his faithful
companion presented himself at the commander's tent in exactly half an

"I am glad to find you so punctual," remarked the colonel.  "Yes, I
will send your letter along at the first opportunity.  Here are the men
who are to accompany you.  I wish you success, but I do not believe I
need to caution you to move cautiously.  You have been here long enough
to know something of the character of these bush rebels."

In this brusque manner Colonel Marchand saw them depart, though he did
not return to his papers until they had disappeared beyond the line of
forest vegetation which encircled the clearing in the shadows of the
mountains.  His eye trained upon the spot where he had last seen them
after they had vanished for several minutes, he finally turned back,
saying, under his breath:

"I hope I shall not be disappointed in them as I have the others who
have gone before them."



Riding at a leisurely pace, the five scouts started upon their
dangerous quest, Ronie and one of the Venezuelans riding side by side,
with Jack and another behind them, leaving the single man to follow.
The young sergeant was pleased to find that the trio selected to
accompany him by Colonel Marchand were very prepossessing men, one of
them a man with gray hair, while the others were but a little over
twenty years of age.  The oldest, whose name was Riva Baez, claimed he
knew the country well, so it was he who rode beside our hero to show
the way.

"About ten kilometers to the west we shall strike the main road to
Truxillo," he remarked.  "But it may be well for us to avoid that.  El
Capitan and his followers are believed to be hovering around the
foothills between here and Barquisimete.  It is a country just suited
to ambuscade and concealment."

"How far is it to the nearest town?"

"Less than five kilometers.  It is a small town called Caro."

"Is it held by the insurgents?"

"No, though it bears the marks of one of their raids.  The people have
been left too poor to be either feared or sought for."

"We need not go there?"

"About a kilometer this side we can strike a mountain road leading into
the wild country."

"Where we are likely to find El Capitan and his insurgents?"

"_Si_, Sergeant Rand."

"Then that is our course, señor.  Show us the way."

Nothing further was said until possibly three miles had been passed,
when Riva Baez drew rein.  The road they had taken soon after leaving
the encampment of the troops, by this time had sort of "dwindled away,"
as Jack put it, until it was now little more than a cattle path.  The
country ahead was thinly populated, if settled at all.  The guide of
the little party was the first to speak:

"If we follow this course half a kilometer farther we shall come out
upon the road leading to Caro, which winds down from the mountains.
Beyond, the country is infested with the insurgents, and we are likely
to run upon them at every turn.  If we keep on through Caro we shall
soon come into the lower country, where we shall find a string of towns
along the way, but the people, as a rule, unfriendly to us.  If we bend
to the left here we shall be able to make a short cut over the spur of
the ridge and reach the region of Maracaibo without much risk of
stirring up El Capitan's hornets.  Which way shall we go, sergeant?"

"Our purpose is to learn all we can of the enemy," replied Ronie.
"According to your account, we shall learn very little of them by
keeping to the left.  Neither are we especially anxious just at present
to seek towns in the lower country.  But we will go to Caro first."

"_Si_, Sergeant Rand," and without longer delay Riva Baez led the march
forward again.  Owing to the unfavorable conditions of the route, they
had advanced slowly, and it was now past midnight.  The moonbeams
tipped the treetops with a silvery halo, but underneath this foliage it
was so dark that our riders had to pick their way with constant
caution, lest they should run into some trap of nature or set by the
hand of an enemy that claimed this country as his own.

Nothing to cause them actual alarm, however, took place, and after a
while Riva declared they were close down to Caro, which he described as
lying in a narrow valley through which wound one of the numerous
mountain streams watering the country.  Upon receiving this
intelligence, Ronie called a halt, and after a short consultation with
his guide and Jack, he decided to enter the town alone with the former,
leaving the others to await their return, unless called by a signal
agreed upon.  With this understanding he and the guide rode cautiously
forward, the road overhung with the dense vegetation springing from a
rich soil under most favoring conditions of the atmosphere.

A ride of less than five minutes, even at a slow pace, brought the two
scouts in sight of the little hamlet made tip of coffee planters'
homes.  At that time the silence of sleep lay upon the place, no sound
of night breaking the gentle murmur of the river flowing parallel with
the road.  Near the edge of the first plantation Ronie motioned for his
companion to stop, when he slipped from the saddle to the ground.

"I am going to make a little exploration alone," he whispered.  "Do you
remain here with the horses.  I will not be gone over ten minutes.  If
I am, you may understand that I am in trouble, and act at your own

"Look sharp, señors," warned Riva Baez.  "No one seems to be astir,
but, for all that, one of El Capitan's sharpshooters may be lying in
wait to shoot you down like a jaguar."

"I have had a bit of experience among the Igorrotes of Luzon," replied
Ronie, "and you can count upon me not running headlong into an ambush.
What a beautiful night it is," he could not refrain from adding.

"If you think this is delightful, sergeant, you ought to witness a
night on the Orinoco in the great rubber country of the south."

Without making any reply to this, Ronie stole silently forward upon
foot, soon finding himself in the midst of the beehive homes of the
small coffee planters.  But not a soul seemed to occupy the primitive
dwellings without doors or windows, but left free for the passage of
the night breeze.

"It is singular no one should be awake," he mused, "but the houses
appear to be as deserted as if they had never been occupied.  There is
a mystery about this I do not understand.  I am inclined to risk my
chances and enter one of them.  I will if they all prove to look as
empty as these."

With these thoughts in his mind he moved stealthily along past hut
after hut, reached by avenues bordered by stately, flowering plants of
tropical brightness and verdure.  But everywhere he went prevailed the
utter loneliness and emptiness which had first struck him as so
unusual.  Finally, satisfied in his own mind regarding the actual
situation, he ventured to enter one of the dwellings, though not
without extreme caution.  He crept along under cover of a row of
broad-leafed guamos bearing pods eight or ten inches in length, which
were filled with rows of black beans enveloped in a pulp of snowy
whiteness and agreeable sweetness.  But if these facts had been known
to the young scout at this time they would certainly have been unheeded
by him, as he made his stealthy advance.  He was aware that the time
for his return to Riva Baez was nearly passed, but he disliked to
return until the mystery of the silent town had been solved.  So he
continued his advance until at last he stood on the earth floor under
the thatched roof, where the complete silence of undisturbed repose

The conviction which had at first forced itself upon him had before
this become a settled fact.  The dwelling was entirely deserted.  Not
only was this the case with the hut he had entered, but it was true of
all the others.  Caro was an abandoned town!

Anxious now to return to his companions with the intelligence, he lost
no further time in retracing his steps, but he had barely gained the
road when he was aware of the approach of a horse!  Ay, listening a
moment, he was certain there were two of them.  Knowing it was
necessary for him to be on the alert for enemies, he drew back into the
mass of plants and waited until he should obtain a good view of the
riders who were abroad, half expecting one of them to be Riva Baez.  He
was rewarded a moment later by the sight of his guide, who had become
uneasy and had come in search of him.  A signal from him attracted the
Venezuelan's attention, and he showed unfeigned delight at finding his
leader so quickly.

Riva Baez expressed little surprise when Ronie told him that Caro was a
deserted settlement, though he could offer no satisfactory explanation
for the fact.

"El Capitan may have taken them all captives, or butchered them in cold

"There is nothing to show that violence has been done them.  The huts
are simply deserted, just as if the owners had been called suddenly
away for a brief absence."

"True, Sergeant Rand.  Shall we stop here a while or push on toward the
next place?"

"We have no time to waste at this stage of action," replied the
energetic young American.  "Let's move on into the country of the
insurgents.  We can learn nothing by keeping away from them.  The day
will soon be breaking."

"_Si_, sergeant; I am at your command.  We will climb the hill back of
us, and then turn to the right.  At the top of the hill I think a call
will bring our comrades."

"The safer call is to go to them.  I will wait on the hill while you
are gone."

From the vantage he had gained where he waited for his companions to
rejoin him, Ronie obtained a wide sweep of the surrounding country, a
view he knew was likely to prove of great value to him in his future
actions.  He could not follow, even in the pale light of the western
moon, which was beginning to lose its glory before the coming of the
new light on the eastern horizon, the trend of the mountain ranges as
he had not been able to do before.  He was really in the region of a
distinct offshoot of mountains from those that lead away from the
greatest mountain chain on the globe, the mighty Andes.  The mountain
system which crosses Venezuela in this district is an offset from the
eastern Cordillera, and runs down to the Caribbean Sea in irregular
conformity with the eastern shore of the Lake of Maracaibo.  From this
chain the Venezuelan system of two ranges, running almost side by side,
extends toward the east, the most northerly branch, which follows quite
closely to the seashore culminating in the Island of Trinidad.  As he
looked down upon it in the still morning atmosphere, the whole panorama
of country appeared like a solid mass of forest, uneven, it is true,
but unbroken by the hand of man.  The intense silence which had hung
over deserted Caro was intensified here, so that it became oppressive.
Ronie could not fully throw off this spirit of utter loneliness which
weighed down his very soul, so that he exclaimed involuntarily, in an

"Strange I should feel so impressed that something wrong is going to
happen.  Somehow, I cannot shake off the impression that I stand in the
presence of a power that portends me mortal danger."

He had only partially succeeded in overcoming this passing weakness
when he hailed with delight the reappearance of his companions, and the
five then moved ahead with their accustomed caution.

Half an hour later, when the light of the new day was beginning to
penetrate the tropical foliage with growing brightness, they were still
slowly moving along the narrow way, overhung by tall, graceful trees,
adorned at their tops with brilliant flowers, when the silence of the
scene was suddenly broken by a loud rifle shot.  It was, in fact, two
reports blending into one, for two bullets cleft the air; with a swift,
hissing sound.  One of these struck the horse ridden by Riva Baez, and
the poor animal reared suddenly into the air, and snorted with pain and
terror.  The other bullet cut away a lock of hair from the temple of
Ronie, and for an instant he was stunned by the force of the shot.



While Riva Baez was struggling with his wounded horse, whose sudden
plunge had nearly unseated him, Ronie was also active, but in quite
another manner.  The flash of the shots from the treetops had not sent
out its blaze of lurid light before he had discovered a pair of dark
forms crouching in the foliage overhead, and the double report had not
died away before he had covered one of these with his rifle, his clear,
ringing voice exclaiming:

"Hold, there!  Move an inch, and I will send a bullet through your

Immediately cries of fright were uttered by the twain in their lofty
ambush, but neither man offered to move.  The companions of Ronie and
Riva Baez, who had fallen behind a little, startled by these shots and
outcries, now dashed hurriedly upon the scene.

"Cover the other rebel up there with your Mauser, Jack," commanded
Ronie.  "Do not hesitate to fire if he dares to lift a finger."

Jack quickly comprehended the situation, and no sooner had his youthful
commander spoken than he took swift aim at the trembling wretch in the
tree, saying, loud enough for the victim to hear:

"Ay, sergeant; I glory in such shooting!"

By this time Riva had succeeded in quieting his horse, which had not
received a fatal wound, and the veteran scout was ready to do his part
in the exciting drama.

"Stand at the foot of the tree to receive them, boys," ordered Ronie.
"I am going to invite them to join us.  Their company may be more
desirable than we think."

Then, addressing the twain above, he continued in the best Spanish he
could command:

"Come down, señors, as quickly as may be."

"Spare our lives, señor!" begged the one whom the young American had
selected as his victim.

"Upon the condition that you surrender peacefully.  As proof that you
mean what you profess, please drop your weapons down to my men."

Without delay, the couple dropped their Mausers, which were caught by
the young Venezuelans.

"If you have any other firearms, kindly let them down, We have more use
for them than you."

This demand was followed by two braces of heavy pistols, followed by a
couple of ugly-looking knives.

"Any more such playthings?" asked Ronie.

"No, señor.  We have no more weapons, unless you call this rope such."

"Let that down, too.  It will come in handy in a few minutes.  You were
very thoughtful to take it along with you."

The stout hempen rope was next thrown to the ground, after which the
terrified sharpshooters waited for the succeeding order.

"Now, come down yourselves.  Don't waste any powder, boys, if they are
foolish enough to think of trying to run away."

"Ay, sergeant, trust us for that," replied Jack.

Ronie soon had the satisfaction of seeing the two cringing before him
like a couple of curs about to receive a whipping.  One of them was
evidently a half-breed, while his companion, who had done the talking
so far, showed more of Spanish blood.

"You have been caught in an ugly game, señors," said Ronie, whereupon
both bowed, the spokesman saying:

"Do not shoot us, Señor Americano.  If you will spare our lives, we
will fight for you."

"A pretty mess you'd make of it.  You were scouts for El Capitan?"

"_Si, señor_."

"You mistook us for Castro's soldiers?"

"_Si, señor_.  We could not see very plain, and we thought you were
only two."

"Which made your shooting more justifiable, I suppose.  Seeing you are
such poor marksmen, we will forgive you, providing you will answer my

"_Si, señor_."

"Where is El Capitan?"

"At Morova."

"How far is that from here?"

"Four kilometers, señor."

"What is he doing there?"

"Waiting for reinforcements."

"What does he need reinforcements for?"

"To whip the dogs of Castro."

"No doubt he needs them.  But are there any of Castro's soldiers in
this vicinity?"

"_Si, señor_, at Baracoa."

This bit of information caused Ronie to resume his questioning with
greater interest, for he knew this referred to Colonel Marchand's

"How many men has El Capitan under him?'

"Five thousand, señor."

"Beware, señor, for I know now you lie."

"He will have, señor, before he reaches Valencia."

"So he is headed in that way?"

"_Si, señor_."

"What I want to know is, how many men has he now?  Be careful, for
another lie will send your cringing souls to purgatory.  How many men
has El Capitan now?"

"Spare me, señor!  I do not lie.  El Capitan has about two hundred with
him now, but he expects more soon."

"Do you mean to say he has two hundred at Morova?"

"Señor misunderstood me.  He will have two hundred as soon as Calveras
reaches him with his troops."

"Dog!" cried Ronie, looking as fierce as he could, while he threatened
to resort to violence then and there, "you are trying to cheat me.  I
asked you how many soldiers El Capitan has at Morova."

"Fifty, señor," and the frightened wretch and his companion seemed
about to collapse.

"That is all now," declared the young sergeant.  "Secure them, men, at

Nothing loath, his companions began to carry out his order, Jack
assisting Riva Baez in binding the spokesman of the twain.  While they
were doing this, the former heard the sound of paper crumpled in the
prisoner's pocket.  Thrusting his hand into the receptacle, he quickly
drew forth two soiled and wrinkled missives.

"What have we here?" he asked.  "As I live, here is a dispatch for
Colonel Marchand from General Castro," handing, as he spoke, the paper
to Ronie.  Then, his eye falling upon the well-known envelope and stamp
of his own country, he exclaimed:

"A letter for you, Ronie; and from New York!"

If honest Jack Greenland had unconsciously committed a breach of good
respect in thus addressing a superior, Ronie did not heed it, while he
took the crumpled missive handed him, his own hand trembling and a mist
coming over his eyes at this unexpected communication from his native
land.  This mist deepened and his hand shook more violently, as he
murmured, after glancing at its superscription:

"It is from mother, Jack!"

It was fortunate for the reputation of our hero that his companions
were attentive to their duty, or the prisoners might have eluded their
captors.  But he was certainly excusable for his temporary lack of
discretion.  The finding of this letter from his mother, under the
circumstances and condition of affairs, was enough to rob him of his
usual presence of mind.  While the others completed their tasks, he
examined the missive, to find that it had already been opened.  With
blurred sight, he ran hastily over its closely-written page, saying,
when he finished:

"It is as I expected.  Mother was to leave New York soon after writing
this, to meet me in Caracas.  This was directed in the care of Colonel
Marchand, and has been forwarded through the courtesy of General Castro
to the colonel.  She is here in this country, and in trouble, as I have

"Let us hope it is nothing serious," said Jack.  "At least, we can only
hope for the best until we are able to learn more and do more.  Has the
dispatch to Colonel Marchand been opened?"

"Excuse me, Jack, for forgetting my duty.  It must be duty before
personal afflictions, I suppose.  Yes, this has been opened.  In that
case, it will do no harm for me to read it, particularly as I may learn
something to guide us in our work.  It says," he continued, while he
scanned the document, "that General Castro has been elected president
of the republic for a term of six years.  It says also that a body of
his troops have been defeated at Barquismoto by the insurgents; that
the _Libertador_ has fixed on and sunk a Venezuelan ship named _Crespo_
off Cumarebo, and that Matos has succeeded in landing twenty thousand
rifles and two million cartridges at Trinidad.

"Now I come to news that interests us more.  General Castro has sent to
San Carlos demanding that Harrie be set at liberty immediately.  That
is good news indeed.  But he goes on to say that he cannot set
Francisco free until his case has had an investigation.  Well, this has
proved to be a pretty fortunate capture."

"A newsy one, certainly, and not all of it bad news, by any means.
Shall we take these fellows along with us, sergeant?"

"Pardon me, Jack, I must be more mindful of my duty.  Yes, I suppose we
shall have to do so.  It is also necessary that one of us return to
Colonel Marchand with all haste possible, apprising him of what we have
done, and to take him this dispatch from the general.  While you are
arranging for one of the boys to undertake this duty, I will write a
few words to the colonel."

Then Ronie prepared his first war dispatch, succinctly describing what
he had done and discovered.  By the time he had finished this Jack had
got one of the younger Venezuelans in readiness for his journey back to
the regiment.  Though he was loath to trust these important messages
with this scout, Ronie felt that he could not do any better.  He could
not very well spare Jack or Riva Baez.  Then, too, the latter vouched
for the honesty and capability of the other, so he saw him depart with
full confidence that the arduous duty would be performed faithfully.

The hands of the prisoners having been securely bound behind them, they
were ordered to march in front of Jack and the younger Venezuelan,
while Ronie and Riva Baez rode in front.  In this manner the journey
was resumed, though continued but a short time.  It was now getting to
be sunrise, and Riva having a friend in that vicinity, it was deemed
best to stop there for a while--at least, long enough for the animals
to recuperate.

The plantation of this man proved to be a huge farm of many thousand
acres, but much of it valueless on account of the revolutionary state
of the country.  He was at home, and as soon as he learned the
character of his visitors from his old friend Riva, he extended a most
cordial greeting to them, promising to do everything in his power to
assist them.  The sight of the prisoners pleased him hugely, for he was
a most pronounced admirer and supporter of Castro, and he quickly
placed the two spies in quarters from which they could not escape
without help.

"How is it," asked Ronie, "that you keep from being molested by the
insurgents, when you are situated in the heart of the debatable ground?"

"The reason is simply because I can muster a force that can outwhip any
army of curs that El Capitan can muster," he replied, rather
vaingloriously.  "Oh, they have tried it, Sergeant Rand, but I have
routed them like a band of monkeys, and I can do it again."

Our little party fared sumptuously at the hands of this rather pompous
Venezuelan, whose name was Don Isadora Casimiro, and so they could find
no fault if he was a bit boastful and radical in his ideas.  He
insisted that they remain with him during the day, showing the
advantage they would gain by waiting until nightfall before starting
out.  As much as Ronie disliked this inactivity, he believed it was
wisest to do so.  During the day the news was brought in by one of Don
Isadora's scouts that El Capitan was mustering his forces to march on
San Carlos with the purpose of liberating El Mocho.

As soon as the shadows of night began to fall, Ronie prepared to start
anew on his expedition, Jack and the two Venezuelans accompanying him,
the prisoners being left in care of the followers of Don Isadora.  The
ride for half an hour continued through an archway of trees growing on
the plantation of their host, when Riva declared that they had reached
the limit of his broad domains.  They soon after entered a valley, the
hoof-strokes of their horses muffled by the soft, spongy earth.

It must have been nearly midnight, for they had ridden several miles up
and down the country without discovering any trace of the enemy, when
Riva, who was slightly ahead of the others, abruptly paused in his
advance.  Ronie quickly gained his side, where he stopped to learn the
cause of this unexpected halt.  It required no words on the part of the
guide to explain his action, as he mutely pointed with his right hand
to a ravine, or gorge, running parallel with the road.  The sound of
human voices came up distinctly to the ears of Ronie.

Handing the rein of his horse to his companion, he silently dismounted,
and crept toward the brink of the chasm overhanging the place.  In a
moment the light of a camp-fire struggled dimly upward through the
thick foliage, while with the sound of voices came the noise and
confusion of a body of men moving about.

"I believe it is an encampment of El Capitan," he whispered to Jack,
who had joined him.  "I have a mind to get a little closer."

"I need not tell you to be careful," said Jack.  "Can I go with you?"

"I do not believe you had better, Jack.  I will not be gone long.  From
the sounds, I judge the party below are about to start on some midnight

Before he had finished speaking, Ronie began to lower himself down the
descent, moving with such care that he made no noise.  The bank did not
prove to be perpendicular, but its smooth side sloped gently away to
its foot, and covered as it was with rank vegetation, Ronie had little
difficulty in descending, except that at places the matted mass of
growth was so dense that he could penetrate it only after persistent
effort.  At the end of five minutes he found himself so near the bottom
that his next step was upon the thatched roof of one of the primitive
buildings that seemed to form a row on this side.



The sight which met Ronie's gaze was one of wildness bordering upon
grandness.  Its wildness consisted of a body of armed troops drawn up
in front of the rude building, a mob of untamable savages, as the
spectator from a civilized country must have judged them.  They were
half clad, poorly fed, as shown by their emaciated visages, and armed
mainly with the rude implements that the uncivilized use.  This wild
aspect of the scene was given the touch of a certain grandeur by the
sublime attention this motley throng paid to him who stood upon a
slightly-raised dais addressing them at this moment.

This speaker was a man of stalwart figure, with a countenance naturally
dark, bronzed by long exposure to the tropic sun, and flashing eye that
could look without flinching upon the midday sun or upon the wildest
rabble that ever gathered under the shadows of the land of revolutions.
His speech was uttered in a manner and tongue in keeping with the man
and the scene.  Ronie could not understand all of the fierce language
which seemed to have partaken of the mountain boldness and flowed from
the lips of the orator like a torrent springing from its fountain head
amid the rugged fastness of its native gorge, but he understood enough
to catch the import of this stimulating harangue.  He knew the man was
El Capitan, and he was evidently resuming a speech which, for some
reason, had been temporarily broken.

"Soldiers of freedom," he was saying, "the time for action has come.
You have rallied bravely at my call, and now I am ready to lead you to
battle and victory!  Our path is clearly marked.  To-night let us teach
that braggart, Don Isadora, that he is not a little king; that he
cannot longer defy El Capitan!  From the smoking ruins of his estate we
will sweep downward like a torrent from the mountain, and like a
torrent we will gather volume as we sweep along.  A trail of devastated
plantations shall mark our course wherever the foolhardy defy us, and
above the ruins of the smaller towns shall rise the captured columns of
Valencia, La Guayra, Caracas--ay, Caracas!  When the capital shall be
ours, then will we make laws that lift the poor man into his just
deserts, while the lawless rich shall feel the spur of oppression as
his meeted judgment.  Then shall the name of El Capitan stand beside
that of Crespo, the mountain lion!"

As might have been expected, this bombastic speech was frequently
interrupted with wild applause, especially when the orator compared
himself to the late president of the republic.  In one respect, at
least, the harangue of El Capitan was apt.  Crespo, like himself, was
of humble birth and very large of stature.  Whether he would equal the
ex-president in other ways remained to be seen.  Crespo was the idol of
his brave followers, who were a dashing, picturesque soldiery, that the
inhabitants of Venezuela looked upon very much as the Parisians must
have looked with awe upon Napoleon's Mamelukes.

The story of this Venezuelan conqueror is a most interesting one.
Following the rule of three or four presidents and dictators who
succeeded the noted Blancos[1]--there were two of these, father and
son--were three or four presidents and dictators whose main object
seemed to be to rob the government of all the money they could, and
then flee from the country.  Such proceedings gave the right man an
excuse and an opportunity to rebel.  This man was General Crespo, who
with seven hundred followers set out to conquer the country.  You have
read history, know how the ambitious Pizarro, in the stormy days of
conquest following the discovery of America by Columbus, overthrew the
empire of the Incas with a handful of followers--only thirteen at the
start.  Crespo did better than that, for with only seven men he made
himself president of a country more than twice as large as Spain and
Portugal together, while I am glad to be able to say there was less of
bloodshed and far less of inhuman sacrifice of innocent lives than in
the case of the conqueror of the Incas.

I cannot refrain from giving the following story as typical of the man:
His half-wild followers needed arms, and there was no manufactory to
replenish them.  In this extremity, when almost any other leader must
have faltered, Crespo gave the order for his men to strip their bodies
naked to the belt, and cover them with a liberal coating of grease.  In
this shape they were to charge upon an encampment of the enemy
numbering more than six to one.  This was to be done under cover of
darkness, and as they ran through the camp each man was to hold his
left hand straight out from his body.  If it came in contact with a man
wearing a shirt he was to overpower him and seize his firearms.  If the
body was like his own, he was to know it was a friend, and to keep on.
In this wild, impressive manner less than three hundred half-naked men,
armed only with their short knives, routed and disarmed over three
thousand troops, comprising the flower of the government's army.

It will be noticed that El Capitan's appeal was personal rather than
patriotic.  Like many another Venezuelan revolutionist, he was fighting
for selfish purposes, but his barbaric followers did not stop to
consider this.  Some one, with a memory of other days, asked concerning
the liberation of El Mocho, when El Capitan replied:

"El Mocho is not to be trusted," meaning, no doubt, in his mind that he
did not propose to give such a dangerous rival opportunity to be in his

Ronie felt that he had learned enough to show him his path of duty.
Every moment was precious if he would warn Don Isadora of his peril,
and he had no desire to leave the well-meaning don to the hands of this
mountain outlaw.  So he at once began his ascent of the bluff, which he
found extremely difficult.  But he accomplished the feat in safety, to
find Jack and the Venezuelans anxiously awaiting him.  A few words
sufficed to explain the situation to them, when they heartily agreed
with him that it was best for them to hasten to the plantation of the
don as quickly as possible.

"I judge from what I heard while I was leaving my perch that El Capitan
is expecting another body of his followers to join him this side of Don
Isadora's.  This division comes from the way of San Carlos.  If it is
half as large as the force now under him he will lead a formidable army
against the don."

"A mere rabble," said Riva.  "Don Isadora has some trained soldiers
under him."

By this time the four were riding silently away, being careful to move
as cautiously as they could.  Riva again led the way, but Ronie and
Jack were close behind him, while the younger Venezuelan kept as near
to them as he could.  In this manner the return journey to the don's
plantation was speedily made, and without being discovered by the enemy.

As may be expected, the wealthy planter was profuse in his thanks for
the information they gave him, and he began to prepare for the enemy at
once, with a confidence in his ability to defeat the other that was
sublime.  As much as Ronie would have liked to remain and see the
outcome of the affair, he felt it was his duty to start immediately to
find Colonel Marchand.  Don Isadora seemed to understand that it was
the proper course for the scouts to pursue, so he offered no objections.

As our little party rode out of the grounds, having left their
prisoners under the don's care, they saw that he had mustered his
entire forces, numbering fully a hundred men, all of whom were armed
with Mausers, pistols and short knives.

"El Capitan will be the one surprised this time," remarked Ronie to his
companions.  "I really wish we could stay and see the fun."

Little did any one of the quartet dream of the amount of "fun" in
warlike earnest that he was to take part in before they should get
beyond the don's big estate.

[1] Bolivar the "Liberator" was followed by others who managed the
affairs of Venezuela very satisfactorily, until in 1846 two political
parties formed.  These were styled the "Liberals" and the
"Conservatives," and trouble increased swiftly.  In 1859 Guzman Blanco
became the head of the stronger party, holding his sway until 1864,
when he was succeeded by a rival.  In less than ten years, however, his
son came to the front, and, more powerful than his father, he made
himself president, with all the prerogatives of a dictator.  This
office he held until 1884, when Crespo became president.  Still the
hold of Blanco was not broken, and two years later he reassumed the
reins of government, but in 1890 his successor was defeated, and he
suffered a loss of his good name.  In fact, a complete change of heart
for the family which had been dominant in affairs for over thirty years
followed.  His name was stripped from one of the States where it had
been placed, and the public statues he had caused to be erected were
torn down, and much of the really good work he had done was destroyed.
But these radical denunciations could not remove the name of the
pompous leader from the historic pages of Venezuela, and it is well to
be so, for with all his shortcomings he did much for the rising
republic, though his stalwart figure is the landmark of a stormy



Our scouts had gone about a mile, and Ronie was riding slightly in
advance, when he became aware of the approach of a body of horsemen
coming at a leisurely trot.  In a moment he signaled for his companions
to stop.

"We cannot avoid meeting them," he said, "and no doubt they are a part
of El Capitan's army.  We have started too late to escape them.  Is
there any path turning off from the road that we can turn into, Riva?"

"None, señor."

"Then we must turn aside here.  Quick! push your horses back into the
forest, making as little noise and disturbance as you can."

They were so successful in this work that before the approaching riders
had come into sight they were all safely ambushed where they could peer
out upon the passers-by without being seen, except by some scrutinizing
eye.  Ronie and Jack sat in their saddles, side by side, while Riva and
his companion were only slightly removed.  As the sound of the horsemen
indicated their close proximity, our hero parted the bushes enough to
enable him to obtain a good view of the road.

"If our horses will only keep quiet," he began, "there is a----"

Ronie's attention, in the midst of his speech, had become fastened upon
the foremost of the approaching riders, so his companions never knew
what he was about to say.  Nor did he speak until the horsemen were
within half a dozen yards of them.  The body of men were riding two and
two, and what had arrested his eyes was the sight of the nearest rider
in the lead.

"It must be--it is Harrie!" he whispered.

"Ay, lad!" responded Jack, who had been watching as eagerly and closely
as his companion.

"He is lashed upon the horse, and his hands tied behind him.  What does
it mean?"

Jack had no time to reply, but the situation was plain to both.  The
horsemen were a portion of El Capitan's followers, and were on their
way to attack the don.  Could they stand idle there and see Harrie
taken to some fate they could not understand?  Ronie's impetuous
temperament would not permit it.  He believed a sudden attack, a few
shots, and the unsuspecting enemy could be routed, and their friend
rescued.  Jack must have been revolving the same daring scheme in his
mind, for at this critical moment he nudged Ronie, whispering:

"Ready when you say the word, sergeant."

Our hero spoke hastily to Riva and his companion, who quickly
comprehended what was wanted of them.  Then the clear command of the
young sergeant broke the stillness of the lonely scene:

"Ready, men, fire!"

In the twinkling of an eye the flashes of the Mausers lightened the
night, and three of the leading riders reeled in their seats, while
sudden commotion took place among the others.

"Forward--charge!" thundered Ronie, setting the example by dashing
furiously from his covert.  "Look sharp, Harrie; we are here to save

The animal bestridden by the young engineer began to snort and plunge
excitedly, but Ronie was soon at its bit.  His comrades were as swiftly
charging upon the surprised insurgents, who, no doubt thinking they had
been attacked by superior numbers, broke and retreated in wild disorder.

"Give them a parting shot, lads!" cried Jack, who, in his adventurous
career had led more than one regiment upon an enemy.

The Mausers spoke right merrily, the reports mingling with the yells of
the discomfited rebels, who fled down the road as fast as they could
make their steeds go.

In the midst of this rout and confusion Ronie freed Harrie, but he had
barely accomplished this before the thunder of horses' hoofs down the
road suddenly increased in volume, and loud shouts reached their ears.
The clatter of retreating horses abruptly stopped, and it was apparent
to the scouts that the insurgents had come to a stand.

"El Capitan is on the road," declared Ronie.  "He is rallying his men.
Come on, boys!  We can do no better than to return to the don's.  Ha!
who comes here?  Halt!  Who comes?"

"A friend from Don Isadora," was the prompt reply.  "Word came to him
of a party of rebels taking an American prisoner to El Capitan, and he
sent me to warn you."

"In good time, señor.  We have saved our friend.  Hark!  Yonder riders
are El Capitan's hornets.  Back to the estate, and we will go with you."

There being no need of silence now, the six horsemen rode back to the
estate at a furious gait, the messenger going ahead when they had
nearly reached the avenue leading to the building, so as to inform the
don of the approach of friends.  He hailed them with hearty gladness,
but quickly prepared to meet the expected onset of the enemy.

Ronie and his companions having decided to lend their assistance to the
defenders of the estate, Harrie asked for a rifle, that he might join
his friends.  This was soon forthcoming, and while they waited for the
attack of the mountain rabble he found opportunity to say to Ronie:

"I don't know how glad I am to see you, for I have supposed you were
drowned on the night we started to escape from the _Libertador_.  How
is it I find you here?"

"It is a long story, Harrie.  I will tell it at the first opportunity.
Jack and I have seen our share of excitement, and it looks as if it
wasn't over yet.  Did you escape from the prison at San Carlos?"

"Not through my own efforts.  An order came from General Castro for me
to be set at liberty.  This was done, and a small escort started with
me to find the regiment of Colonel Marchand.  Only think he is
somewhere in this vicinity.  We were surprised by a body of rebels, who
put my guard to rout and made me a prisoner.  I do not know what would
have become of me if you had not rescued me as you did.  Hark! the foes
are coming!"

It was a part of the don's plan to hold back his men, and not to fire
upon the enemy until they should come into close quarters, so no
response was given to the shouts and shots of the oncoming horde, whose
leader expected to carry everything before him by storm.  A tempest of
lead followed his command to attack, but not a man was injured on the
estate.  Thinking that an easy victory lay before him, El Capitan then
ordered his men to the double-quick.

Don Isadora proved that he had had some military experience, as his men
were not only all well armed, but they stood coolly at bay waiting for
his word to open the fight on their part.  Even Ronie began to get
impatient before his stentorian voice cried:

"Now, men, mow them down like grass--fire!"

The entire side of the estate toward the road was illuminated by a
sheet of flame as his followers obeyed the sharp command, and it was
like mowing a swath through grass to see how the motley mob led by the
"mountain lion" went down.  The roar of rifles was followed by wild
shouts and shrieks of pain, while those who had escaped the deadly fire
beat a hasty retreat.

"Follow them up, men!" cried the don, but he had barely uttered the
order before a bullet from a stray shot hit him, and staggering back,
he fell into the arms of Jack Greenland, while he murmured:

"I am a dead man!"

It was a sad occurrence.  The moment the Venezuelans found their leader
had fallen, confusion and disorder reigned.

"Is he fatally hurt?" asked Ronie, anxiously, as Jack bent over him.

"I cannot tell yet, sergeant.  The wound is bleeding profusely.  Some
of you help me get him where I can examine him more closely.  Is there
a surgeon about the place?"

No one seemed to know.  But half a dozen lusty fellows lifted the
wounded don and bore him into the house, while others stared after them
in complete dismay.

"El Capitan is rallying," said Ronie.  "It's too bad for us to be in
this condition.  He will sweep the place, now the don has fallen."

"Why not take the lead, Ronie?" asked Harrie.  "Some one must, or we
are all lost."

"I am not sure they would follow me.  Here comes Señor Riva."

"Sergeant Rand, Don Isadora begs me to tell you that he is better, but
is not able to lead his men.  He beseeches of you to do this."

There was no opportunity for hesitation.  El Capitan was already
advancing for his second attack.

"Help me rally them, Riva, and I will do it," replied Ronie.

Swiftly the word was carried along the ranks, when new life was
enthused into the men, who were really brave fellows.  The young
sergeant decided that prompt action would be the most successful, and
to meet El Capitan halfway would show him that the forces on the
plantation were alive to the situation.  So the word for an advance was
passed along the line.  It met with a hearty response, and as Ronie
sprang forward with his rousing command he found himself supported by a
determined force.

"Open fire--charge!"

The volley of shots was succeeded by loud cheers from the Venezuelans,
who bounded forward under the lead of their gallant champion.

"Forward!" cried Sergeant Rand.

Harrie was close behind him, and so was Riva Baez, all three having
dismounted from their horses as soon as returning to the estate.  A
random volley from the rebels answered their first fire, and at the
second, in spite of all that the mountain chief could do, his followers
fled in wild disorder, disappearing from the scene with a rapidity that
was surprising.

That night, at the very outset of his campaign, El Capitan received his
first defeat.



Great rejoicing reigned at the plantation of Don Isadora following the
complete rout of the enemy, and this joy was increased by the fact that
the don had not received a fatal wound.  In fact, it was believed with
careful nursing he would soon be about again.  As he deserved, Ronie
was the hero of the occasion, while his friends shared with him the
praise showered upon them by one and all.

As soon as the news of the victory had been carried to the master of
the estate he sent for our hero, and was lavish in his commendation,
declaring that he had been instrumental in saving them all from the
brutal clutches of El Capitan.  But, as pleasant as all this hearty
applauding was, Ronie was glad to break away from his admirers in order
to be alone with Harrie and Jack.  He and the former had much to say,
all of which was listened to with sincere interest by the latter.
Harrie explained how he and Francisco had drifted about in their boat,
looking in vain for their companions until daylight, when they had
sighted land, and gone ashore.  Soon after, they were captured and
thrown into prison, as Ronie knew.  Then came the unexpected release,
the journey to find Colonel Marchand, the capture by El Capitan's
followers, and the rescue by his friends, which seemed the most
miraculous part of his adventures.  Ronie, in turn, told what had
befallen Jack and himself, saying in conclusion:

"There is only one thing more that troubles me.  If I knew mother was
safe I could bear this troublesome waiting without murmuring.  But I am
afraid some fearful fate has overtaken her.  I shall not rest until I
know the truth."

"You know I am with you, Ronie," said Harrie.

"Ay, lad; you can count on old Jack Greenland to stand by you both,
through thick and thin."

"God bless you, Jack!" exclaimed Ronie, clasping one hand, while Harrie
seized the other, echoing the words of his friend:

"God bless you, Jack; a nobler soul never lived."

When the three had hastily reviewed the troubles they had passed
through they decided unanimously to return to Colonel Marchand with
such haste as was consistent with safety.  They had important
intelligence to bear, beside the fact that El Capitan was upon his
track.  Under the changed circumstances, they decided to take the
captives with them, and of course Riva and his friend would keep along.
While the don was very loath to see them depart, he knew it was their
duty to go, and so he offered to send an escort of fifty men to conduct
them on their way as far as might be deemed necessary.  At first
thought, Ronie felt like declining this, but he finally asked for an
escort of ten men, who went with them until noon of the second day,
when they turned back and the scouts kept on, reaching the encampment
of the Venezuelan regiment that night in safety.

I need not describe the reception accorded our heroes by the impetuous
colonel, any more than I need dwell upon the scenes that followed.  The
campaign had now opened in deadly earnest, and weeks of great activity
and considerable fighting and skirmishing ensued.  El Capitan rallying
after a few days from his discomfiture at Isadora sought in every way
to disconcert and capture the doughty Venezuelan regiment.  In his
efforts he was encouraged on every hand by the reports of the success
of the insurgents in almost every section.  First intelligence came of
the capture of a town on the island of Margarita by the audacious
cruiser _Bolivar_, erstwhile the _Libertador_, and earlier the _Ban
Righ_.  Close upon this, Castro's troops under Castillo were defeated
near San Antonio.  In May, reports of insurrections came in from every
quarter.  Castro suppressed two newspapers which had become pronounced
against him, and in his lack of sufficient funds to carry on the war,
levied a million bolivars from the widow of Guzman Blanco, the former
president.  Then the revolution broke out in the State of Bolivar, and
after five days' fighting the president of the State was driven out of
the capital.  In June General Matos, encouraged by the success of his
followers, announced a provincial government, with himself as president.

This bit of news reached Colonel Marchand at the close of a warm day's
fight with his old-time enemy, El Capitan.  As usual, it had been a
draw game, and the colonel was sitting in his hammock feeling in
anything but an amiable mood.

"By the soul of Bolivar!" he exclaimed, slapping his knee by way of
emphasis, "he is like a ground mole, that runs for its hole the moment
an enemy is in sight.  I wish we might meet a foe worthy of our steel.
Orderly, send for Sergeant Rand at once."

Ronie was with his friends, discussing the outcome of the recent
meeting with the enemy, and deliberating upon their own fortunes since
they had become comrades under Castro, when this order was given him.

"I wonder what this means?" he exclaimed.  "Say to Colonel Marchand I
will report at once."

Upon reaching the officer, the young sergeant found that he was anxious
to send a message to President Castro, and at the same time to
reconnoiter the country between them and the capital.

"Castro must take the field himself," declared our hero, in the course
of the conversation.  "If this growth of the insurgents is allowed to
continue much longer his cause will become hopeless."

"By the soul of Bolivar! you are right, Sergeant Rand, and it is just
what I want you to say to Castro himself.  You can do it and not offend
him, while I could not.  You will go to him at once, taking as many men
as you choose.  I have only to instruct you to start as soon as may be."

"It shall be as you say, colonel.  I desire to have only three
companions, Señor Riva Baez and my countrymen, Harrie Mannering and
Jack Greenland."

"As you say, sergeant.  Here are the dispatches I wish you to hand to
President Castro personally."

Handing this package to our hero, the colonel offered no further delay.
With feelings akin to gladness, Ronie returned to his expectant

"I hail it as good news," he said.  "We are to meet the 'Little
Captain,' President Castro, with what haste we can.  I say we, for I
have the honor of being selected by Colonel Marchand to choose such
companions as I wish and hasten to the capital.  You know whom I

Ronie was really pleased with this commission, as it would enable him
to enter a wider range of inquiry concerning his mother than he had
been situated to do so far.  Thoughts of her were last in his mind as
he lay down to rest after a day's campaigning and the first to arouse
him in the morning.

"Poor mother! how I pity you, and wish that I knew where you are!"

Within an hour the little party was ready to start, deciding to go by
the way of La Guayra, which they reached without adventure, This
old-fashioned Spanish town is the chief seaport of Venezuela, as well
as the entrance way to the capital, situated about five miles inland
behind the series of mountain peaks whose chain runs down to the very
edge of the water.  Our young engineers did not fail to notice, as they
looked out over the harbor, the close affinity to the same cerulean hue
that touched both sea and sky, so it was difficult to tell where they
met on the horizon, and blended like a curtain of the same soft
texture.  Under the reflections the vessels appeared to rest flat on
the mirror-like surface, in the words of the poet:

  "Like a painted ship upon a painted sea."

The most conspicuous spot about La Guayra is the little fortress made
famous by Charles Kingsley, in his "Westward Ho," as the prison house
of his heroine, the Rose of Devon.  This was the residence of the
Spanish governors in the days when Venezuela was a dependency of Spain.
Past this ancient point of defense against attacks from the sea and the
winds lead those three ways of travel to the capital, aptly
illustrating the changes of centuries; first, but of least importance
now, the mule path worn no doubt by the natives in their passages back
and forth; second, the wagon track, cut, it may be, when the continent
was young; and finally, that iron-banded course of modern construction,
the railroad.  Caracas is embowered among the mountains three thousand
feet above the streets of La Guayra.

Their arrival was soon after the bombardment of Macuto by Venezuelan
ships on account of an outbreak there.  As this place was near to La
Guayra, great excitement was prevailing in the latter place.  In fact,
the inhabitants everywhere were in an uproar.  News came that General
Riera, who, it will be remembered, was a passenger on the _Libertador_
when our heroes were on that vessel, had captured La Vela de Coro,
while the insurgents had also captured Barquisemoto, and Riera had
sacked Coro, the capital of the State of Falcon.

Our party did not continue their journey to the capital, on account of
the fact that Castro was toward Barcelona, where the revolution had
become centered.  With this bit of news came a rumor which, if it bore
but a light bearing on the international contention focused on
Venezuela, awakened an anxious interest on the part of Ronie Rand and
his friends.  Riva Baez first learned of it from a native who had come
down from the mountainous districts.  This man said an American woman
was held by the insurgents as a hostage of war.  He could not give the
name of the woman, but believed she had not been long in the country.

"It is mother!" exclaimed Ronie, as Riva related the story to him.  "I
must see this man at once."

"I am sorry, señor, but he disappeared before I started to find you.
Knowing how you would feel about it, and not being able to find you at
once, I went to speak to him again, fearing he would slip away.  He was
gone, and no one could tell me where he had left for.  I believe he is
a spy."

"Do you not know of some one who saw him?"

"I will see what I can learn, Sergeant Rand."

"Thank you, Riva.  Meanwhile, the rest of us will do a little looking
around.  Describe the fellow as minutely as possible."

This Riva did, with the graphic speech peculiar to him, and then the
four went out to look for the missing man.  In the midst of this
unsuccessful search Ronie learned that Castro had returned to La Guayra.



A soldier's first duty is always to obey his superior in command.  Upon
hearing of General Castro's return to La Guayra, Ronie immediately
abandoned his search, leaving his companions to carry it on, while he
sought the president.  He found him without difficulty, for he was
already besieged with callers.  But our hero had only to send in his
passport from Colonel Marchand to receive an urgent request to come at

He was a little disappointed in the personal appearance of the man who
had become so prominent in the affairs, and whose name he had heard
spoken more often than any dozen others since he had come to Venezuela.
He was below medium height, of rather slight build, and moved with a
limp in one limb, caused by a wound he had received in battle.  His eye
was the feature which bespoke most the man, and as Ronie stood before
him he seemed to read him at a glance.

"Sergeant Rand," he greeted, in a hearty manner, which quickly won the
American boy's friendship, "I welcome you gladly to La Guayra.  Colonel
Marchand sends his message by you?"

"Here are your dispatches, General Castro.  I trust they will prove
valuable to you."

"Be seated, sergeant, while I read them."

Ten minutes of silence followed, during which Ronie had ample time to
study the man before him, who seemed absorbed in the written messages
just placed in his hands.  Then he laid the last one down, and said:

"If I am not mistaken, you are the young American the colonel spoke of
in such laudable terms in his last.  It seems by what he says now that
you have not let your reputation suffer by more recent conduct.  It was
your friend I sent to have liberated from the penitentiary at San
Carlos, was it not?"

"It was, general."

"Is he in La Guayra?"

"He is."

"I wish he had come with you, for I am heartily glad to meet two such
allies in a time when the whole world seems against me.  Forgive me for
saying that, as I would not have you think I distrust your own
republic.  But tell me of what you have seen in the West, Sergeant
Rand.  I am glad to get such information as I believe you can give me
of the hotbed of rebellion in my poor country.  Take your time, and do
not be afraid to speak of yourself."

Then Ronie described such portions of the events that had come under
his observation as he thought the other would be pleased to hear,
referring to himself very modestly, while General Castro listened with
great interest, now and then asking some question or expressing
admiration at the conduct of Colonel Marchand and his regiment.  He was
especially pleased with the rout given El Capitan at the estate of Don
Isadora, and he made Ronie describe the affair so minutely that he was
forced to speak of the part he had taken.

"I have heard nothing so pleasing," said the president.  "You shall be
rewarded for your gallant conduct.  I am again saying that I am sorry
this friend, or these American friends of yours, did not accompany you
here.  I will send for them."

"I am afraid you will not find them readily, as they are in search of a
man in La Guayra that we want to find very much."  Then he hastened to
add: "But this is a personal matter, General Castro, and you will
pardon me for introducing it to you.  I did not intend to."

"What concerns my comrades, concerns me," cried Castro, with possibly
more vehemence than he had intended.  "Tell me all about it, Sergeant

Thus urged, Ronie explained what he knew in regard to his mother, the
president listening attentively to every word.  When he had finished,
the latter said:

"Sergeant, this is a grave matter.  To say nothing of my feelings for
you, I cannot afford to let this affair escape my notice.  It might
easily be construed to mean an offense against your government.  Have
you communicated with Minister Bowen?"

"No, General Castro."

"I should advise you to do so as early as may be.  But in the meantime
we will leave no stone unturned to find her."

"You are very kind, general.  What would you suggest that we do first?"

"Find the man who had her photograph, and make him tell all he knows."

"I have regretted, general, that we did not return and do that."

"You were hardly prepared to do it, as I understand your condition."

"True, General Castro.  We were glad to escape with our lives, and we
have been kept escaping ever since."

"You have proved lively enough in the race.  You spoke of that young De
Caprian.  What do you know of him?"

"I believe he is as true a patriot as you have in Venezuela," replied
Ronie, boldly.

"I would not let anybody else say that," declared Castro, frankly.
"You think I have misjudged the man, Sergeant Rand?"

"Perhaps I ought not to say it, but he appeared honest to us."

"You would like to see him set free?"

"Not if he is an enemy to your government, General Castro."

"I understand.  When you go to San Carlos to get your man I will send
by you the papers which shall give him his freedom.  I will try him a
while, and if he proves faithful his mother shall be given her liberty.
I have given orders to see that she is given all the privileges
possible under the circumstances.  I have been very much interested in
your intelligence, Sergeant Rand, and I trust I shall meet your friends
when you come again."

Taking this as a hint that the interview was ended, Ronie saluted in
military style, and was in the act of withdrawing when Castro said:

"Sergeant, I wish to ask you a question, and trust you will answer it
in the same good faith in which it is asked.  What do you believe would
be the most effective thing for me to do toward quelling this rebellion
in the vicinity from which you have come?"

The answer to be made came as quick as a flash into Ronie's mind, and
without stopping to consider how it might sound expressed in so many
words, he said:

"Take the field yourself, General Castro!"

If this reply suited him or not, the president did not show it by the
look upon his features, as he said, simply:

"Good-day, Sergeant Rand."

While in doubt as to the effect his words would have upon the energetic
president of the republic, Ronie was pleased in a large measure with
his interview.  He regretted that Harrie was not with him, and he
resolved that the next time he would not go alone.  Upon second
thought, he could not see that there would be any occasion for him to
call again.  Then he drove these thoughts from his mind, and thinking
of his mother and what her fate might be, he began to look anxiously
for his companions.

About half an hour later he found his friends, but they had to report a
failure in regard to finding the unknown man they had hoped to find.
Riva Baez, as well as Harrie and Jack, listened with interest to
Ronie's account of his meeting with General Castro.

"I have faith to believe he will help us find your mother," said
Harrie, "and with his assistance we cannot fail."

"Unless we are too late," replied Ronie.  "I cannot bear this

"I have always found it good policy to 'make haste slowly,'" declared
Jack, quoting an old saw.  "Meanwhile let us see how Castro takes to
your advice, sergeant."

"To think that I should have dared to speak in that way," said Ronie,
who feared he had overstepped his position so far as to incur the
displeasure of his superior.  But he was speedily disarmed of this
fear, for the following day General Castro came out with a proclamation
in which he defined his purpose of taking the field personally, and of
leading the campaign in the West.  An hour later a summons came for our
three Americans to visit the commander, and they met with a welcome
that proved the president had only the kindliest feelings toward them.
They were urged to accompany his army, and were only barred from being
offered a commission from the fact that General Castro did not wish to
curtail any of the liberties they might have if they were not regularly
attached to his forces.

"You can go as far as Valencia with me, and from thence I will send you
an escort to San Carlos, so you may find your man if you can, and also
see that young De Caprian is given his liberty.  To prove my good faith
with him, I will hold a commission for him, if he wishes to accept it."

Thanking the general for the kindly interest in them, our three
withdrew, certain that at last something definite was being done.  The
next day the entire force moved toward Valencia, and they accompanied
the Venezuelans, Riva also going along.

The week that followed was one of great activity; but very little was
accomplished that seemed to forward matters with the impatient Ronie
and his friends.  Leaving Castro's army at Valencia, they reached San
Carlos to find that the bird they were after had flown.  As near as
they could learn, he had disappeared the morning our heroes had been
driven away, and that he had not been seen since he had taken them
across the bay in the boat.  It was currently believed that he had
either been shot or drowned.  In this way was lost what might have
proved an important clew in their search for Ronie's mother.

Their disappointment was brightened somewhat by the joy with which
Francisco hailed his liberty.  He embraced his American friends, and
showered upon them praises for their action in his behalf.  When he was
told about his mother, he grew less demonstrative, but learning that
she was unharmed, with a promise of good protection, he recovered
exuberance of spirits.

"I shall accept any commission General Castro will bestow upon me," he
said, "and I will show him my fealty to him and the true government of
my country.  I am impatient to see him."

Knowing nothing could be gained by remaining longer at San Carlos, our
heroes returned to the army at once.  Having learned that he had
removed to Ocumare, they headed thither, learning all along the way
that the insurgents were everywhere successful, until it seemed as if
the government was doomed.  These accounts were rendered more hopeless
to the cause by the fact that before they could reach him, Castro had
begun his retreat toward Caracas.

In the face of this, he issued his decree of amnesty to all insurgents
laying down arms within forty days.

"Unless he makes some more decided stand and wins a decided victory to
offset all this noise on the other side, Castro will have no government
for them to lay down their arms to," said Jack, grimly.  "Of course it
isn't my dish that's cooking, but I feel just like saying so much."

"General Castro will act decisively when the time comes, according to
his idea," said Ronie.

In the midst of this uncertainty word reached them from La Guayra that
the cables were to be cut, and that Minister Bowen had sent to
Washington for warships.

Castro's next movement was to take charge of his troops at Guaicaipuro,
and to establish his government there.  Then followed the week's battle
with the insurgents led by Mendoza at La Gloria, which was to prove the
turning point in the war.  Colonel Marchand's regiment of volunteers
was there, and in the thickest of the fight our heroes had ample
opportunity to prove the metal of which American soldiers are made.  It
was a bitter fight, the more trying as it was made with
bush-fighters--scattered bodies of men who fought after the style of
the North American Indians, from behind trees, or whatever cover was at
hand.  Fortunately, our friends escaped without a scratch, though
Colonel Marchand received an ugly wound that was likely to drive him
from the field for a time.

His was not the only regiment that covered itself with glory, for there
was another, led by a boyish captain, who seemed everywhere in the
thickest of the fight.  This little band gained the high-water mark of
the battle, and it was that more than any other which turned the tide
of the struggle and made of La Victoria a victory indeed.  The name of
that gallant leader, who received special mention in the list of honor,
was Francisco de Caprian.  General Castro had no longer any reason to
doubt his loyalty to Venezuela, and the president greeted him with the
promise that his conduct had chased away the shadows upon his family

The result of this victory for the government at La Victoria was such
that Matos, the head of the insurgents, gave up active command, while
Castro prepared for a triumphal return to Caracas.



Immediately after the victory at La Victoria our three Americans were
forced to part with Francisco, who was to return to the capital with
General Castro, while they were called to Don Isadora's estate, the
owner thinking he had got on the track of a clew to the whereabouts of
Mrs. Rand.  The don received them with open arms, he having fully
recovered from the effects of his wounds, but the errand proved
fruitless, and they felt obliged to abandon the quest in this vicinity.

So they again found themselves in La Guayra.  But their stay here was
short.  Ronie was anxious to get to Caracas, that he might consult with
Mr. Bowen, to see if nothing could be done by him toward finding his
mother.  General Castro was also to join with him, and altogether he
felt very hopeful, though aware that his mother might be beyond his
power of help before this.  But he was a brave youth, and he resolved
to do all he could and hope for the best.

It has been said that the capital of Venezuela, while only five miles
inland from its port, La Guayra, is situated in the mountains, three
thousand feet above the seashore.  The railroad which connects the two
coils about this rugged ascent like a steel lariat thrown by a dextrous
hand, now winding in and out where some bottomless abyss is encircled
like a huge letter U upon the landscape, or anon clinging upon the rim
of some sharp-pointed rock, where the same train creeps around the
angle, showing mortal fear by its snail-like pace.  Another has aptly
compared it to a spider's thread strung from crag to crag.  Time and
again the engineer can look back from his cab into the windows of the
rear coach, while between him and the object of his gaze yawns a
rock-walled well hundreds of feet in depth.

The young engineers were standing on the rear platform, watching with
admiring gaze the wild scene stretching away from their feet.

"Isn't it grand, magnificent!" exclaimed Harrie.  "I never saw its
equal.  Did ever you, Jack?"

"Nothing to surpass it, lad; not even the Alpine Pass of the Colorado.
Where can one find a grander combination of sea, plain, valley and
mountain?  And whoever saw a greener plain on a bluer sea?"

"Or a sky quite as serene," added Harrie.

Ronie was fain to agree with his enthusiastic companions, while they
admired together the rugged panorama falling away from them to the
foothills trending from the base of the mountain like the huge roots of
some great tree which had burst from their imprisonment in the earth
and stood out as the bold supports of the mighty burden they upheld.
Between these ridges, or leaping from their gnarled sides in silvery
cascades, numerous streams of water made bright bands on the background
of gray and dark green.  Below the mountains, groves of royal palms,
standing with park-like regularity and so far apart that their white
trunks shone like pillars cased in silver foil, were to be seen.  Out
from among these gleamed the white and yellow roofs of the cottages of
the people.  Beyond these glistened the white line of breakers, forever
coming and forever going, leaving only a chalk mark to tell where they
have been but will never be again.  Outside of this lay old ocean,
throbbing under the hot, fierce tropical sun like a hunted creature
panting to get its breath, but never resting.

Still up, up, crept the iron conqueror, until it broke the veil of mist
in cloudland, up where the trees were jeweled with dewdrops and the
track reeked with the wine of the sky.  At one place they could look
down into three thousand feet of space, and soon after their sight was
gladdened by the view of the valley on the other side and the thrice
welcome sight of Caracas.  Again they were pleased by the happy
blending of art and nature, the beautiful country, the basin under its
stupendous rim, the city marked by the towers of its numerous churches,
the dazzling roofs of public buildings, the regular streets lined with
picturesque cottages, the gardens of white houses of the coffee
planters, and beyond more mountains.

Caracas was founded by Diego de Losada in 1567, and named the "City of
Santiago de Leon de Caracas."  The picturesque valley which forms its
site was the capital of the heroic tribe of natives known as "the
people of Caracas," which name was very appropriately given to the
capital of the race which after two hundred years of warfare succeeded
in annihilating the original owners of the soil.  This long struggle
against the stronger power by the weaker forms one of the most glorious
pages in South American history, and scintillates with deeds of heroism
and human sacrifice.

Now the ascent has been made, they find that the city is overlooked by
mountains smooth and bare of trees, but covered with a light-green
sward, except where some stream affords a band of a darker tint.  The
clouds seem of more than northern fleeciness, and hang over the peaks
like smoke, or float lazily from valley to valley, giving varying hues
to the beautiful landscape.  The climate is delightful; the first
impressions of the capital pleasing.

Caracas has a population of about eighty thousand, it being the usage
that only one family shall occupy a house.  It is a city of culture and
fashion, of public statues to scholars and artists, as well as
warriors, for not all of the history of this interesting republic is
filled with war.  While a land of hotheaded people, whose career has
been largely filled with riots and revolutions, here and there are to
be found evidences of a high civilization, producing marked contracts
of the rival forces of man.

What struck our energetic American as unexpected was the air of repose
which rested upon the scene, giving little hint of the excitement
reigning outside.  Slowly along the streets, as if there was no
occasion for haste, moved trains of mules bearing on their backs bags
of coffee, or quite enveloped under huge bales of fodder, which had the
appearance at a distance of some huge, lifeless bulk upon legs.  Then
there were bodies of foot soldiers, wearing blue uniforms with scarlet
trousers and facings, also moving with a deliberation which at least
bespoke their importance.  This sight was enlivened by the appearance
of an open fiacre whirled along the street by a pair of small but fiery
horses, driven by a coachman from his high box seat, the gold trimmings
to his hat and coat rivaled for brightness by the ornaments on his top
boots.  Evidently the carriage bore some person of importance in haste
to his destination.

The cause of this undue haste, as well as the disturbance of the
equanimity of this everyday sight, was explained by the sounds of
another party approaching.  Then, as the travelers upon the streets
moved with unaccustomed celerity to one side, a body of men mounted
upon high-stepping horses, strikingly caparisoned and carefully
groomed, appeared in sight, the riders presenting a bold effect in
their uniforms of white duck and high black boots.

"The president's bodyguard," said Ronie.  "General Castro and his
troops have returned, and we have got here just in the nick of time."

"There is the general riding in the center," declared Harrie.  "How the
people are cheering him!  It cannot be that they knew of his coming so
soon.  Shall we follow them?"

"Perhaps we might as well," said Ronie.  "I suppose Francisco is in the
train somewhere.  Ay, look, boys! there he comes.  Doesn't he look
fine?  He has the natural military bearing of his race.  Well, I am
glad of his good fortune."

With these words Ronie began to move along with the crowd which had
quickly collected, and cheering lustily began to surge ahead in the
direction taken by the martial train that now moved along the street
farther than they could look.  It was not long before they found
themselves surrounded by a jostling, but good-natured, mob, each member
of which seemed determined to keep in sight of the marching column.
The band had now begun to play, and as the strains of martial music
filled the air, Ronie Rand was conscious of hearing a voice muttering
in a deep, sullen tone:

"Curses upon him!  His triumph shall be short.  Soon shall the sons

The rest, if spoken aloud, and the words given seemed to have been
uttered involuntarily, were lost to our hero, but he caught his breath
at what he had heard.  It was not the import of the words, but the tone
of the speaker which caused such emotion that he could constrain
himself with difficulty from trying to break through the mob and find
him.  It was the voice of Manuel Marlin, of San Carlos!

So satisfied was Ronie of this fact that he immediately tried to push
his way forward so as to reach the man, whispering for his companions
to follow.  But people in a crowd like that give away slowly, when they
can, and when Ronie had reached the spot where the other must have been
at that time he was missing.  Nor could he find any trace of him.

"I am sure it was he," he said to Harrie and Jack, as soon as he
explained his sudden action.  "But he has slipped away from me."

"Let's keep along.  He will doubtless follow the throng," said Harrie.
So they moved with the spectators toward the most notable building in
Caracas, the Federal Palace, which is built around a great square
overflowing with flowers and fountains, and lighted by swinging
electric lights.  The palace is lightly built, and though painted in
imitation of stone, looks like an airy castle which might be blown over
at the next flaw of wind.  It is profusely ornamented with statues made
either of plaster of Paris or of wood painted so as to imitate marble.
If this gives the building an unstable appearance and given over to
frivolous amusements, it is in keeping with its environments, the
high-colored walls and open fronts of the adjoining buildings that help
to fill this American Paris, and it is by all odds the handsomest
building in the city.  And, rather than given over to scenes of
frivolity and mimic life, here are the chambers of the two branches of
legislature, the different offices of the department of state, and the
reception hall of the president, in which is the national portrait
gallery.  The dome of this chamber, which is two hundred feet in
length, and bears many pictures of warlike scenes, is painted with a
panorama of life-size figures depicting the last battle of the
Venezuelans against the Spaniards.  It is really a work of artistic
merit.  So, altogether, the Federal Palace is a building of substantial
business, and it has played an important part in the shifting affairs
of the republic.

To Guzman Blanco, more than all others, does the city owe these public
buildings.  These were originally convents or monasteries, until Guzman
overthrew the power of the church.  The Federal Palace was one of these
church buildings, so was the present opera house and the university.
All of them seem well located for their new uses, and go to show that
the church must have had a strong hold on the wealth of the capital
before this daring adventurer overcame them.

Anxious to get sight of this spy, if possible, Ronie and Harrie did not
try to get in so as to witness the president's reception, though Jack
did so, in the hope that he might find the man if he should dare to
remain with the crowd.  But the rest of the day passed, however,
without bringing success to them, and the two young engineers were
standing near the entrance to one of those cathedrals which form such
an important portion of the buildings of the capital.  They had barely
gained a position where they could watch the comers and goers without
being noticed themselves, when they were glad to see Captain Francisco
de Caprian approaching, with their old-time friend, Jack Greenland.

Naturally, the countenance of the first was radiant with joyous

"It has been a great day for Caracas," he said.  "President Castro has
reason to be proud of it, as nothing has happened to mar its perfect
harmony.  Yet there is a rumor afloat--I know not how it got
started--that there is a secret enemy in the capital, a spy, waiting
for a favorable chance to strike a deadly blow at the hero himself."

"I suppose efforts will be made to capture him?" said Ronie.

"Be assured of that.  A handsome reward is offered.  Oh, they will get
him, soon or late."

Then a sigh escaped the lips of the handsome young officer, and he
murmured to himself rather than to his companions:

"I would, dear father, you might have been spared to witness this day,
for I believe you would have rejoiced with the rest of us."  Then,
suddenly remembering his companions, he said: "Forgive me, señors, but
to me these very shadows of this building are sacred.  It was here, in
the last revolution, my dear father, with nine others, made their final
stand and fought so good a fight that it was found necessary to build a
fire in the tower and smoke them out with the fumes of sulphur.  Ay, it
was a desperate test for the ten," said Francisco, while his dark eyes
lighted with an intense light and his thin hand quivered spasmodically.

"Did your father and his friends perish?" asked Harrie and Ronie, both
deeply interested in this simple narrative.

"It was their only alternative, señors, for to yield meant death and
torture.  Father, let it be said to his credit, gave his companions
opportunity to surrender; but, let it be said to their credit, they
stood bravely together.  Then, their last shot spent, and the fumes of
the drug rapidly overpowering them, they threw themselves from the
tower into the street.  It is said they went downward to their fate
with clasped hands.  I am glad I did not witness the sad sight.  But I
believe a brighter day is dawning for poor Venezuela, and that her
brave defenders did not give their lives in vain."

Our three friends were deeply touched with this pathetic story, related
in such gentle tones as to make it seem like some sweet vision rather
than one of grim war's bitter sacrifices.  Looking beyond their heroic
companion, they were struck with the peacefulness of their
environments, so well in accord with the manner of the speaker, all
tending to soften the tragic interest of the scene of warlike and
heroic action.  Where the ill-fated band of patriots, the last to make
a stand at that time, must have fallen, ran the sunken rails of the
tram cars, and in sight were the notion shops and confectionery stores,
where laughing, prattling children were wont to come to find the simple
toys and playthings to amuse them.  At nighttime electric lights
illuminated with their dazzling splendor the now peaceful scene, while
seekers of religious promises wended their way softly in and out of the
old cathedral.

"I am afraid I have made you sad, señors, when there is so much to make
one happy.  But I forgot that this is not for you, and that your heart
is heavy, Señor Rand, over the fate of your poor mother.  Let us hope
you, too, may soon find your cup of joy full to overflowing."

"Have you heard how Colonel Marchand is?" asked Harrie, seeing that
Ronie did not feel like replying to their friend.

"He is likely to recover, but his campaigning is doubtless over until
some time in the future.  Come, señors, I shall insist that you stop
with me to-night, and it is time you seek rest."



It was a beautiful morning, that which followed, and our friends were
astir early.  Wandering out upon the streets, eager to learn if any new
tidings had come of the spy, they soon found themselves walking under
the refreshing shade of rows of ornamental trees.  In following this
course, they came somewhat abruptly upon a plaza floored for a wide
space with rare mosaics, and lit at night by swinging electric lights.

"This is the Plaza de Bolivar," said Jack, "a favorite place for the
president's band to come and play.  See, there is the statue of the
republic's hero."

Ronie and Harrie had already discovered an equestrian statue, mounted
upon a heavy pedestal, while the rider held with one hand a
straightened rein on his refractory steed, and with the other he
pointed his sword high into the air, as if he would pierce some
imaginary enemy stationed in space.  It was a bizarre affair, the
weather-stained image of a horse rearing into the air after the fashion
of some huge rocking-horse.  From the bold figure of man and steed
their gaze dropped to the base, where they saw in raised letters the
name of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Venezuela.  Instinctively, our
Americans uncovered their heads out of respect to the memory of the man
who was not only a great warrior, but a notable statesman, and a poet
of considerable merit.  His proclamations to the armies are examples of
masterly eloquence, and as much to be admired as his military genius,
which won for him the applause of the five republics that he liberated.
The statue of Bolivar is in bronze, and is considered one of the most
notable examples of modern art.

When his young companions had tired of looking at the equestrian figure
of the warrior, Jack said:

"Now come with me, lads, and I will show you a sight worth two of this
to you and me."

Without reply, Ronie and Harrie followed their friend until they came
upon a delightfully retired retreat, which, without the bizarre
attractions of the Plaza Bolivar, had a freshness and quiet beauty the
other lacked.  Anticipating now what they were to meet, to our young
Americans there was indeed an air of sanctity and hallowed peace that
the more ornate spot did not possess.  With reverential steps they
moved silently but swiftly along the clean, graveled path bordered with
deep, green grass and overhung with interlacing branches of the trees
which formed a roof over their heads, until they reached the center of
the plot, where the torrid sun of the tropics beat down upon the head
of the statue they had come to see.

This was the Plaza Washington, and the man honored here was the
American patriot, the Father of His Country, who had been given this
honored recognition in the capital of the United States of Venezuela.
Uncovering their heads, the three stood for several minutes in a
silence that seemed too sacred to be broken, while they looked upon the
calm, benign features of Washington, honored thus by a race they had
not expected would pay such homage.  At that very moment, unobserved by
them, a couple of natives a little way off, at the uncovering of their
heads, removed their wide-brimmed headgear, and looked on with
respectful attention.  Farther removed, a group of women, dark-eyed,
dark-featured, but not unpleasant of countenance, also paused in their
morning work to watch the newcomers with respectful admiration rather
than curiosity.  Evidently these people understood and shared with
these strangers from a far-away land this spirit of national pride and
patriotism, for true patriots always revere the memory of heroes.

"Isn't it strange Washington should be given a statue here?" asked

"Not so very strange," replied Jack, "when you come to think that the
histories of the two countries are so nearly alike, up to the day of
these two heroes, they might be written by the same historian with
slight modifications.  Bolivar was the Washington of Venezuela.  Then,
too, you will remember that Miranda, the pioneer of patriots in this
country, served his apprenticeship under Washington, fighting for our
country.  When he had finished there he returned to his native land to
take up her battles.  What he learned with our army helped him here.

"Bolivar had no small task on his hand when he undertook to free five
republics, and who conquered a territory nearly half as great as Europe.

"It is a common practice for the inhabitants here to strew their
garlands of flowers about this place, and once I remember, upon a
holiday, coming here, to find the statue of Washington, pedestal and
base, literally decked with floral wreaths.  Never, it seemed to me,
not even in our own land, did the noble countenance of Washington look
grander than here, surrounded by a race that did not speak his
language, but whose hearts beat as patriotically, as if they understood
every word."

"It was a happy thought that they should have sculptured him as a man
of peace rather than of war," said Ronie.  "It is more happy in its
effect, as I look upon him, than the warlike figure of Bolivar."

"Very true; at least, from our standpoint.  While they did well to
select this phase of his character, no doubt it thrills their hot veins
more to look on the defiant form of their beloved leader.  What I have
said of the two men was truth, but similarity stops there.  Bolivar had
very much of the savage wildness about him, and he was reckless,
headstrong, and sometimes foolhardy.  But his career was a grand one,
as viewed by his countrymen.  It was filled with bold, cunning,
victorious marches.  His Valley Forge was the torrid jungles and
sun-swept plains of a tropical clime; his Delaware, filled with
floating ice, to be crossed in mid-winter, the broken mountain pass, or
the pathless swamp filled with deadly malaria.  Like our Washington, he
came of a distinguished family, and he was educated in Europe for the
court and camp.  But, if educated abroad, his love for his native land
never failed, and Venezuela never had a truer son, or a more valiant
fighter for her natural rights.

"Ay, lads, his campaigns were filled with such stupendous feats of
activity and accomplishment as few have ever equaled.  Starting on the
seacoast near Pallao, with his foot soldiers and rude cavalry mounted
on mule back, he crossed the continent.  The perils of
mountain-climbing and the hardships of the jungle were met and overcome
by his indomitable followers, inspired by his glowing example, living
much of the time on berries and roots, sleeping at night upon the
ground, to free in turn Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia; then,
sweeping down the Pacific coast, to finally overthrow the empire of
Peru.  He was a young man filled with the love of freedom and the fire
of ambition.  So little was his heroism appreciated by those whom he
thus met that time and again he was forced to meet the assassin, only
to find himself deserted at last by those whom he had looked upon and
rewarded as friends.  So he died alone, of heartaches over the
ingratitude of a people he had led out of bondage.  But to-day tardy
justice makes him, as he deserved to be, the hero of five republics."

"Why should his countrymen, after all he had done for them, strip him
of his honors and leave him forlorn and disappointed?" asked Ronie.

"It was owing largely to the inborn fickleness of people of a tropical
clime.  Two charges, one directly opposed to the other, were brought
against him.  One party claimed, after having rid them of kings, he
tried to make a dictator of himself, with power more absolute than that
of those he had deposed.  The other said it was because, upon his
followers asking him to accept such power, he declined and went into
voluntary exile at Santa Marta.  Be that as it may, it was nearly
twenty years after his death before there was one bold enough to give
him the place in public opinion that he deserved.  He caused an artist
to design a statue that should perpetuate his memory.

"Now we come to see how closely the history of this country is blended
with our own.  On the neck of the statue the artist placed a miniature
in the form of a medallion which the family of Washington had given
Bolivar.  On the reverse of this was a lock of Washington's hair, with
the inscription:

"'This portrait of the founder of liberty in North America is presented
by his adopted son to him who has acquired equal glory in South

"You will notice that none of the insignias of honors showered upon him
in his hours of triumph by different countries have been retained by
the artist, this portrait of the Father of Our Country having been the
only ornament it was deemed he would have cared for, as in life he was
prouder of this than all else.  So you see, the busts and statues of
the Liberator bear only this tribute, while those of his followers are
decked with glittering ornaments."

"I have read of a very pretty story connected with its presentation,"
said Harrie.  "It was during the time of Lafayette's visit to our
country in 1824.  A banquet was given in his honor and the memory of
Washington by Congress.  In the midst of the rejoicings and tributes
paid to the venerable visitor, Henry Clay arose to say that, while they
were enjoying the fruits of independence, the grand institutions
founded by their patriotic forefathers, there were those in the
Southern continent who were fighting as valiantly for liberty, with
less hope of ultimate victory.  Continuing to wax eloquent, the great
orator said:

"'No nation, no generous Lafayette, has come to their succor; alone,
and without aid, they have sustained their glorious cause, trusting to
its justice, and with the assistance only of their bravery, their
deserts and their Andes--and one man, Simon Bolivar, the Washington of
South America.'

"There was wild cheering then, while men sprang to their feet and
clapped their hands.  Then Lafayette, the generous, asked that he might
send the Southern hero some token of their sympathy and appreciation of
his valor.  The result was, Lafayette sent Bolivar the portrait of
Washington, and it proved a gift the young patriot of the Southland
revered, while his people grew to admire and cherish it."

"True, my lad, and this spirit has spread so that you will see pictures
of Washington wherever you go.  Now it is a portrait; then the American
army crossing the wintry Delaware, under its beloved leader; or, the
war over and victory's mantle of peace spread over the land, he stands
before the door at Mount Vernon.  You find squares and public houses
named after Washington, with numerous other testimonials of him, all of
which seems very pretty to the visitor from the North."

While Jack had been speaking, his gaze had become turned in an opposite
direction to where the figure of a man was to be seen skulking in the
thicket of flowers.  Harrie and Ronie had already discovered the
suspicious person, but had understood that he would flee at the
slightest indication that he had been seen.  Thus, before Jack had
finished his speech, Ronie began to retrace his steps, with apparent
carelessness, in the direction of a row of yellow, blue and pink
houses, with high, barred windows, from which peeped shyly dark-eyed,
swarthy-skinned women.  But the moment he had passed beyond the range
of the concealed man's eyes, he darted into the shrubbery so as to
intercept the man should he try to escape by flight.

The wisdom of this action was apparent when Jack and Harrie started
toward the spot, when he fled precipitately.  This flight, however,
took him right into the path of Ronie, who quickly covered him with his
pistol, at the same time ordering him to stop, which he did with
trembling limbs, to begin to beg for his life.

A good square look at him revealed his identity to Ronie, who exclaimed
to his companions:

"Come quick, boys! it is the spy, Manuel Marlin!"



Ronie did not have to repeat his call, for almost before he had
finished the last word Harrie and Jack were beside him.  It was then
but the work of a moment to disarm the terrified fellow, when he was
ordered to march in front of them to the headquarters of the army.
Then he fell upon his knees, actually too weak to stand up longer, and
with clasped hands and white face, begged for his life.

"Spare me, señors!  I am not a spy, but if you take me before the
officers of Castro they will condemn me without a trial and I shall be
shot!  Spare me, I beg of you."

His pathetic supplications touched the hearts of his young captors, but
they did not feel it would be right to let him go.

"If you are innocent you can prove it," said Ronie.  "I know you are in
sympathy with the insurgents, but I promise you shall have a fair
opportunity to prove your innocence of being a spy if you are not one."

During these words of Ronie he bent a closer look upon him, and he
suddenly recognized our hero as one of the couple who had saved him
from the jaguar.  He saw that Jack was another of his captors.

"I remember you, señors," he said.  "You saved my life, but it would
have been better for me to have been eaten by the jaguar than to fall
into the hands of Castro.  I will tell you something, señor, that will
be worth more to you than my miserable life if you will let me go."

"It is of my mother!" exclaimed Ronie.  "You had her photograph.  Tell
me where she is."

"If you will spare my life."

"I am a soldier under Castro; you know a soldier's duty, señor."

"I thought you were one of us," he murmured.  "But I am going to tell
all I know.  She was taken prisoner by some of El Capitan's men.  As
the angels are my witness I had nothing to do with that.  Her portrait
fell upon the ground during the struggle and I picked it up.  That is
all I had to do about it."

"Where is she now?" demanded Ronie, with extreme earnestness.

"She is held as a prisoner at the old convent in Durango under command
of El Capitan."

"Then she lives!" cried Ronie, in great joy.

"_Si, señor_.  I can lead you to the place, and will if you will give
me my liberty."

"That is beyond my power.  I cannot--ha! here comes an officer now."

The newcomer was none other than Captain de Caprian, who asked:

"Whom have we here, señors?"

"A man we found prowling in the city under what we thought to be
suspicions circumstances, so we stopped him.  He is from San Carlos,
and claims he is not a spy."

"I shall leave it for you to say what is to be done with him," said
Francisco, "promising to see that he is fairly treated."

"I know not in regard to his being a spy," replied Ronie, "but he has
given me valuable information in regard to my mother's fate."

"Does he know of her?" asked Francisco, eagerly.  "That fact alone
ought to save his life.  What has he told you?"

In a few words Ronie explained what he had learned, when the other
said, with an intonation of joy in his voice:

"I am so glad, Señor Roland.  No time must be lost in going to her
rescue.  I have this morning received word that my mother has been
given her liberty, and that she is on her way to meet me after many sad
months of separation.  But, dear Roland, as much as I long to meet that
mother, if you are willing, and General Castro will permit, I want to
go with you to help save your mother.  My company will be sufficient

Ronie and Harrie could not conceal their emotion at the earnest words
of their young friend, who showed that he spoke from the heart.

"Nay----" began Ronie, but the other checked him.

"I know what you would say, Señor Roland, but as much as mother and I
want to see each other, we can both wait until this duty is performed.
I am going to General Castro at once for leave of absence.  You can let
this man accompany us if you think he is to be trusted.  I will meet
you near the old cathedral half an hour hence."

After a short conference among themselves, in which Manuel Marlin was
allowed to express his opinion, it was decided to let him go with them.
He might prove a valuable companion, for they were all inclined to
think he would not be false to his pledges.

Before an hour had passed, so promptly did they act, Captain de Caprian
led out his regiment of gallant men, to start upon the long and arduous
journey to Durango on the merciful errand of saving a captive from the
power of El Capitan.  Were the truth told, more than one of the brave
band hoped they might meet the bold outlaw himself.

I need not describe that journey to Durango.  The town proved to be a
little hamlet under the brow of the Cordilleras, where the insurgents
sometimes made their headquarters.  Knowing this, the advance was made
with extreme caution as soon as the regiment had entered the debatable
country.  Scouts were constantly on the lookout, and among these were
our young engineers.

"I can scarcely wait for the time when we shall attack them," declared
Ronie to Harrie and Manuel, as the three halted on the brink of a steep
hill overlooking the hidden town.

"How quiet the place seems," replied Harrie.  "It must be El Capitan
and his troops are away."

"Off on one of his raids, no doubt.  It will be so much the better for

"Still I really think Francisco will be disappointed if we do not find
the rebel chief."

"I wonder if yonder old vine-clad building is where mother is
imprisoned?" asked Ronie, pointing to what the three felt must be the
ancient convent pictured by those who claimed to have been there.

"_Si, señors_," replied Manuel.  "But look there, _señors_! what does
the coming of that llaneros mean?"

The question from Manuel was called forth by the sudden appearance of
one of the riders of the llanos, or plains of Venezuela, who drew rein
almost in front of the old convent.  With what truly seemed wonderful
celerity the people began to collect, coming from every quarter.

"Perhaps that fellow has discovered our men and is giving the alarm,"
said Ronie.

"I wish I was near enough to hear what he says," replied Manuel.  "If
you will wait for me, señors, a few minutes I will find out."

Manuel Marlin then began the descent into the town, and as the distance
was not far, he soon got within hearing of the new arrival.  It was not
over fifteen minutes before he returned to his anxious companions with
the somewhat startling announcement:

"It is as I expected, señors; El Capitan is on his way home, and is
expected within a few hours!"



Ronie and Harrie heard this announcement with considerable alarm, as
with their first thought they believed they had come too late to
accomplish their purpose.

"We must get back to the regiment as soon as possible," declared Ronie.
"If we act promptly we may yet rout the inhabitants of the town and
save mother.  How many men has El Capitan under him, do you think,

"I am sorry that I am not able to tell," replied the Venezuelan.  "I
think by what I could catch that he is coming back with a large force."

"Which makes it the more necessary that we act quickly.  Come on, boys!"

His companions needed no urging to follow him, and it was not long
before they were able to rejoin Captain de Caprian, who was anxiously
awaiting them.  But their news did not disconcert the brave young

"It only fulfills my wishes," he said.  "We have only to storm the town
without loss of time, and then get ready to meet El Capitan.  Ay, we
will give him a welcome home that he little expects.  I wish Señor
Greenland would--but here he comes!"

Jack had also been out on a reconnoissance, and he brought in the same
news that the others had--that El Capitan was expected at Durango
within a few hours.

"They say he comes with five thousand troops," added Jack.

Our heroes turned to see what effect this announcement would have upon
Francisco, but as far as they could see the young captain did not show
that he had heard the words.  Fifteen minutes later the regiment was
ordered forward, and then was begun a swift, but silent, advance upon
the stronghold of the insurgents, Captain de Caprian giving out his
orders calmly and confidently, as if about to enter one of the camps of
Castro.  Could he reasonably hope to meet successfully El Capitan's
superior numbers?  What if the latter had five thousand men under his

Ronie and Harrie could not help asking each other these questions, as
they fell into line and moved sternly forward.  When near to the lower
end of the town Captain de Caprian divided his men into two bodies, so
as to attack the place simultaneously from different parts.  Our heroes
remained with his division, and entered the mountain hamlet from the
nearest quarter, this advance being along a narrow road overhung by a
range of hills on either side.

In order to give the other division time to gain a position above them,
it was necessary to make a brief delay before opening the attack.  But
the wait was not long before the signal was given for the double
assault, and the word rang along the ranks:

"Forward! double-quick---charge!"

It goes without saying that exciting scenes followed.  Ronie, Harrie
and Jack managed to keep together, and it was their good fortune to be
among the first to come within close proximity to the convent where
Mrs. Rand was supposed to be imprisoned.  This had, in fact, been a
part of Captain de Caprian's plans.

The surprise was complete as far as the insurgents were concerned.  The
onset of the government troops came like a tempest from a clear sky.
Women shrieked and fled, followed by men who made scarcely more
resistance, until they succeeded in rallying about the old convent.
Here then was fought the lion's part of the battle.  A hundred or more
of the insurgents made a desperate stand, but they might as well have
hoped to stem the mountain torrent which swept down the gorge just
behind their native hamlet.  They seemed to quickly realize this, and
the cry for quarter soon rang out above the medley of battle.

"Forward!" still shouted the youthful commander.  "Force an entrance to
the old building before it is too late."

Captain de Caprian showed that he realized what was likely to follow
inside the structure, for he had barely uttered his order before a cry
with womanly sharpness in it rang out--an appeal for help.

Our heroes were already storming the door, having dashed aside the
sentinels on duty there.  The next moment, led by Ronie, and followed
by a dozen of the troops, our three burst into the convent.  Running
swiftly along the main passage they soon came upon a scene which sent
the blood coursing fiercely through their veins.  It would appear that
the insurgents, finding they were being routed by the government
troops, sought to kill the few prisoners they held within this old
building.  At the very moment our rescuers appeared on the scene, one
of them was swinging over his head the ugly-looking knife he carried in
the act of slaying the woman who was kneeling at his feet.  Ronie sent
the miscreant senseless to the floor, and the next moment clasped his
mother in his arms.

"I was in season, mother," he murmured; "you are safe."

But she had fainted, and as gently as possible, with the assistance of
Harrie and Jack, he bore her to a bench where the fresh air could cool
her fevered temple.

"To think if we had been a minute later," said Ronie.

"She opens her eyes," declared Harrie.  "She has been spared."

It was indeed an affecting scene, during which Jack Greenland drew
apart.  He found that three other captives, all Venezuelans, had been
rescued, and that these had been all the persons held in the convent.

Renewed commotion outside now caught his attention, and he returned to
the side of his friends.

"I think El Capitan is coming, and that the boys are preparing to
welcome him home," he said, grimly.  "I think I will help in the
greeting, if you will excuse me, lads."

"Forgive me, Jack, for forgetting my duty," said Harrie.  "But I felt
so anxious for Ronie's mother."

"I must go, mother," declared Ronie.

"Oh, my son!" she implored, "must you leave me here and now?"

It was a serious problem for the young engineers to decide, between
filial and martial duty.  Happily Jack quickly settled the matter by

"It is your duty, lads, to remain here.  I know Captain de Caprian
would wish it.  Look sharp to yourselves, while I join the troops in
their welcome to El Capitan."

The young engineers were fain to agree to this, feeling that it was
better they should.  Especially was this the situation as they were not
regularly attached to the regiment.

The "welcome" extended to El Capitan and his followers was given near
the lower end of the town, where the mountain ranges drew so near
together that the valley was narrow, uncomfortably narrow for the
surprised insurgents.  El Capitan will never forget that "welcome," nor
will his men, who quickly scattered like sheep scaling the
mountainside.  If outnumbering the government troops three to one,
numbers did not count then.  Among those who won special distinction
was Manuel Marlin.

As soon as he could do so, Captain de Caprian sought his American
friends to congratulate them, while he described the complete victory
of his troops.  Altogether, it was a happy occasion to them.

"I shall order an immediate return to the capital," declared the young
patriot.  "You had better go to Caracas with us, friends."

They were nothing loath to do this, and it was an exceedingly happy
company which found its way back to the mountain citadel, where they
were hailed with delight by the president himself.  El Capitan, the
insurgent chief who had been so feared, was turned over to the proper
authorities, while Manuel Marlin, in consideration of his recent
bravery, was fully pardoned for any error of the past.  Our friends at
this time witnessed what seemed to them rather a peculiar trait of
public justice.  This was the return to Caracas of El Mocho, who, it
will be remembered, had been kept a prisoner at San Carlos for a long
time.  He had been accused, and apparently with good reason, of
infidelity to the government.  But this was now overlooked, and General
Castro openly welcomed him to his arms, upon his promise to be faithful
in the future.

"It is a good specimen of South American sense of justice," remarked
Jack.  "One day a man is hunted as an enemy, and the next he is
embraced as a loved friend.  It may be all right.  I cannot say."

In their happiness our heroes had no desire to criticise, much more to
condemn, such a practice.  Ronie was extremely thankful for this
meeting with his mother.  While they had many explanations to make and
long stories to tell of what had happened since their parting, there is
little I need repeat here.  It was perfectly natural that Mrs. Rand
should seek to improve the opportunity to meet Ronie in Caracas, and
she did not dream of the suffering it was going to cost her, of the
terror of captivity or the horrors of her long imprisonment, but these
had been safely passed, and all felt like rejoicing over the outcome.

Another couple especially happy were Francisco and his mother, whom our
Americans quickly learned to love and respect.  She proved indeed to be
a gentlewoman of the noblest type, who adored her patriotic son.

Naturally it was not long before our engineers felt it was time for
them to move on their work, but this could not be done until Colonel
Marchand, who joined with them in their happiness, could recover from
his wounds so as to accompany them.  While these healed, and our
friends passed the time pleasantly in the capital, flitting back and
forth between their friends, the warlike affairs of the republic grew
apace.  There was some fighting to be done, but mainly it had come to
be a matter of diplomacy and argument between the powers, until finally
the glad news of a peaceful negotiation came to them.

Once more President Castro had triumphed, achieving this time, it
seemed, his grandest victory.  When the account of this rang over the
mountain city our American engineers began to prepare for an arduous
campaign of an altogether different kind from that which befell them


"Engineer Ralph," by Frank H. MacDougal, No. 87 of the ROUND THE WORLD
LIBRARY, is a splendid story of a boy's supreme struggle to success.

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