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Title: Up the Forked River - Or, Adventures in South America
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Strange Adventure Series.--No. 2.



Adventures in South America



Author of "TEDDY AND TOWSER," etc., etc.


Henry T. Coates & Co.

Copyrighted, 1904,
Henry T. Coates & Co.

[Illustration: "I AM BETRAYED--SINK THE TUG."]





Two friends were seated in the private office of Rowland & Starland,
Montgomery Street, San Francisco, not long ago, discussing a subject
in which both were much interested.

Each gentleman was past three-score, but they were well preserved, of
rugged health, well to do and prosperous. They had got on for many
years without so much as a shadow of difference between them. They had
made the tour of Europe together, had engaged in many an outing and
now as the evening of life was drawing on, they took matters with that
complacency and comfort which was creditable to their good sense and
which was warranted by their circumstances.

Mr. Thomas Starland, the junior partner, removed his cigar, leaned
back in his chair, and, looking kindly into the face of his friend,

"Teddy, you came to California a number of years before I did."

The other, who was in a reminiscent mood, smoked in silence for a
minute or so, looking up to the ceiling, and, when he replied, it was
as if communing with himself:

"Yes; it is close upon half a century. How times flies! I was a small
boy, and I often wonder how it was Providence took such good care of

"True, you were a young lad, but you had the best of companions."

"That is hardly correct, so far at least as one was concerned. When I
left home in the East to join my father, who had come to California
ahead of me, my companion was an Irishman named Micky McGuigan, who
was as green as I."

"I have heard you speak of another comrade--a four-footed one."

"Ah, yes, our dog Towser, one of the most faithful and intelligent
brutes that ever lived. He died long ago of old age and I have showed
my gratitude and love for his memory by placing a monument over his
remains. Micky--peace to the memory of the good fellow--has also
rested in the tomb for years, and it was not long after that my good
father followed him,--so of all my companions on my first coming to
the Pacific coast, not one remains."

"You could hardly have passed safely through the many dangers without
the help of others," suggested Mr. Starland.

"I admit that. No braver man than Micky McGuigan ever lived. He had
the traditional Irishman's love of a fight and he got plenty of it.
But, Tom, our perils began, as you know, before we touched foot in
California. Off the southern coast our steamer, the _Western Star_,
was sunk in a collision. Teddy and I were left on the uninhabited
coast (so far as white people are concerned), without so much as even
a gun or pistol. Finding ourselves marooned, we struck into the
interior, stole a couple of guns and some ammunition (what's the use
of denying it at this late day?) from some Indians, and then went it

"I recall something of a partnership you made with an experienced

"Yes; good fortune brought us together, and it was a lucky thing
indeed for us that we were picked up by Jo Harman, who piloted us
through no end of dangers. We spent weeks in hunting for gold in what
was then one of the wildest regions in the world."

"How did you make out?"

"We picked up a few particles, just enough to keep hope alive, but, in
the end, had to give it up and take our chances in the diggings like
the rest of the fortune hunters."

"Well, Teddy, we have proved that there are other ways of getting
treasure than by digging in the earth for it."

"Yes, though it takes digging in any circumstances, and we had as hard
times, at the beginning, as any of those who now dwell on Nob Hill."

From the above brief conversation, you will recall the principal
character whom you met in the story of "Teddy and Towser." The lad who
passed through more than one trying adventure had become a man well
along in middle life. After settling in California, he made it his
home. He married a lady of Spanish descent, to whom a single child was
born,--Warrenia, now a miss almost out of her teens. Although Mr.
Starland was younger than his partner and married later in life, his
son Jack was several years the elder of the daughter of Mr. Rowland.

Since these two young people have much to do in the chapters that
follow, the reader must be given a clear understanding of them and
their peculiar relation to each other.

While the parents had been partners in prosperity, they were also
united in affliction, for each had lost his wife by death, when the
children were small. Neither married again, for they had loved their
life companions too deeply and profoundly to think seriously of trying
to replace them.

Another minor but curious coincidence must be noted. Years after the
marriage of the partners, Mr. Starland employed a Spanish priest to
trace the genealogy of his wife, who felt a strong curiosity in the
matter. In doing so, he discovered that several generations earlier,
during the time of the Spanish settlement of the Southwest, the
ancestors of Mrs. Starland and Mrs. Rowland were related. This was
surprising but peculiarly pleasing to both families. Because of this
remote relationship, so triturated indeed that it had really vanished
into nothingness, Jack Starland and Warrenia Rowland called
themselves cousins.

It was just like the headstrong, impulsive, mischievous youth to go
still further. He hinted that the priest had not told the whole truth,
having been bribed to suppress it by the father of Warrenia, for
mysterious reasons, which he dared not divulge. What did this young
hopeful do but insist that he and Warrenia were brother and sister!
The idea, grotesquely impossible on the face of it, caused no end of
merriment and ridicule, but Jack stubbornly maintained his claim. He
declared further that the real name of Warrenia was the same as his
own,--that is Starland. He often addressed her as Miss Starland, and
she, with her fun-loving disposition, pretended to agree with him.
When together, they almost invariably spoke to or of each other as
brother and sister, and there were not lacking those who believed they
were actually thus related.

The odd whim gave the parents no little amusement and they too at
times humored it. The very absurdity of the fancy gave it its

You can understand how deeply each parent loved his child. Nothing
seemed more natural than that the son and daughter should become man
and wife when they grew up, though neither father as yet had made any
reference to such an event which would have been pleasing to both and
eminently fit in every respect.

Jack and Warrenia grew to maturity as if they really were brother and
sister. She was sent East to attend one of the most famous young
ladies' schools in the country. Jack was on the point of entering
Harvard, when he received an appointment to West Point. There under
the strict regulations he gained few opportunities of seeing his
"sister." When he did so, it was when she and some of her classmates,
under proper chaperonage visited the model military institution on the
banks of the Hudson.

Jack was graduated in time to take part in our war with Spain. He won
a fine reputation at San Juan Hill, and would have received his well
merited promotion, but when a Major by brevet, he resigned to become
interested in his father's business, which was growing to a degree
that new blood and vigor were required for its full development.


Perhaps Jack Starland's most noticeable trait in boyhood was his
fondness for the water. He was a magnificent swimmer and learned to
handle a small boat with the skill of a veteran sailor. Some of his
dare-devil exploits in cruising among the Farallones and down the
coast caused his father great concern. He placed such severe
restrictions upon the lad that he rebelled. One day he slipped out of
the house, went down to the wharf and engaged to go as cabin boy on a
South Sea whaler. At the critical moment, however, his conscience
asserted itself and he drew back. His father never knew of this
particular episode in the life of his son. Had it been carried out, it
would have broken the parent's heart.

It was shortly after this that Jack received his appointment to the
Military Academy. He had told his "sister" Warrenia of his narrow
escape from playing the part of a fool and ingrate, and naturally she
was horrified.

"There never would have been the slightest excuse for such folly and
wickedness," said she, as the two sat in a palace car of the overland
train, flying eastward; "you have the kindest of fathers and you can
never do enough to repay your obligations to him."

"I admit all that," replied the young man smiling, "but what's the use
of rubbing it in when I _didn't_ run away?"

"But you started to do so," she persisted.

"And stopped in time: what was wrong in _that_?"

"It was wrong that you should have had a minute when you seriously
intended to commit the crime."

"Commit the crime!" he repeated, with a reproving look; "perhaps it
would have been a crime, but I'm not so sure about that."

"I am; Jack I'm ashamed of you."

"So am I; but don't forget that I was younger then than now."

"Yes; two or three months; persons sometimes grow a good deal in that

"They may not grow so much in stature, but they do in sense."

"I have heard of such instances, but I do not remember to have met

"Come now, sister," laughed the youth who admired his friend's
brilliancy, "I beg you to let up; I confess all you have charged; I am
a base villain, for whom hanging would be too good; you will be filled
with remorse when I become General of the army and you recall all the
harsh words you have said of me."

"_When_ you become General I will mourn my cruelty in sackcloth and
ashes. But I am willing to change the subject. Let us drop the past
and talk of the future. Your term at West Point I believe is four

"Provided I'm not 'found' as the expression goes. But I'm not really
admitted as yet, though I passed the preliminary examination before
leaving home and won my appointment in a competitive contest. The
decisive examination will take place at the Point when I get there; I
understand it is severe, but I am quite confident."

"You always were, no matter what issue was involved."

Since we have already learned that all went well with the young man,
it is not necessary to repeat the speculation of the couple as they
steamed eastward. Jack did enter the Military Academy, and, as I have
said, made a creditable record for himself. Warrenia Rowland at the
same time became a student in the famous young ladies' seminary, to
which further reference will be made later, and the two were graduated
within a few weeks of each other.

It would be supposed that the military career upon which Major Jack
Starland entered would have extinguished his love of boating and the
water, but it did not. Could he have chosen his profession it would
have been that of the navy, and he would have entered the Academy at
Annapolis, but that could not be arranged and he threw his whole
energies into the military work.

Now it chanced that Jack's room mate and intimate friend was the son
of a prominent ship builder in the East. This youth was as fond of the
sea as the young Californian. In one respect he was more fortunate,
for his father had presented him with a superb yacht, with which he
had cruised up and down the Atlantic coast and made a trip or two to
the West Indies. I may as well add that this same yacht was placed at
the disposal of our government at the opening of the war with Spain
and did good service in scouting in Cuban waters.

The cadets at West Point have only one vacation during their four
years' course; that comes at the end of two years and lasts for a
couple of months. Jack Starland made a flying visit home and then
accepted the invitation of his room mate to go on a cruise with him in
his yacht. It being in the summer time, the craft headed northward and
visited Newport, Bar Harbor and several other noted resorts on the
Atlantic seaboard.

The excursion was a continual delight to both young men, who, as you
are aware, must have been fine specimens of physical vigor, or they
would not have been in the Military Academy. Jack wrote such a glowing
account of his holiday that his father's heart was touched. He read
the letter to his partner who remarked:

"A good sailor was spoiled when Jack became a soldier."

"I never knew a lad with a stronger liking for a nautical life.
Nothing would have delighted him more than to become a sailor. What
makes me respect Jack, is that with all this overwhelming fondness for
a sailor's life, he has had too much good sense to yield to it. He has
never asked me to allow him to go to sea, but has always placed my
wishes first. Do you know, Teddy, that even when a headlong, impetuous
youngster, he must have withstood temptation with Roman firmness. Of
course for the last year or two no thought of going contrary to my
desires has ever entered his mind."

(Ah, fond parent, you are but a single example of multitudes of
fathers, who have kept their eyes closed to what was going on within
touch of their hands.)

"A father is a poorer judge of his children than others. My love for
Jack is hardly second to yours, but I am not blind to his faults. I am
glad to say that he hasn't any more of them than he is entitled to
have. No father ever had a more obedient son; judging the boy
therefore, in cold blood, I must say I agree fully with you. If
anybody had suggested to Jack when a boy that he should go contrary to
your wishes or run away, he would have made it a _casus belli_."

(From which remark, it would appear that the father of a boy is not
always the only one who makes an error concerning the youth.)

"What I'm getting at, Teddy, is this: the reading of that letter from
Jack has caused me to decide upon a piece of extravagance. I'm going
to present him with a handsome yacht."

"It will cost you a tidy sum, Tom."

"I know that, but it will be a good investment. He may not have many
opportunities for enjoying it while he is an officer of the army, but
unless we have war very soon, Jack will follow the example of many
others who have been educated at West Point and resign, holding
himself at the disposal of the government whenever needed. Of course
his ultimate destination is here, in our business, in this office, and
the yacht will come in handy during his vacation times."

"And probably add to the number of his vacations."

"Which will be well; for it can be said of few of our business men
that they have more vacations than are necessary or good for them."

"May I give you a suggestion, Tom?"

"I am always glad to receive anything of the kind from you."

"We can make as good yachts on this side of the continent as in the
shipyards of the East. Nevertheless, purchase Jack's yacht in the


"To bring it through the Golden Gate, he will have to come around Cape

"A pretty risky voyage,--one that tests the staunchness of a boat and
the seamanship of the captain."

"True, and make it a condition that Jack himself shall bring the yacht
to California."

"It shall be done,--nothing will delight the young rascal more."


The reputation of the Misses Credell's Young Ladies' Seminary was
international and the halo of its history was sanctified by time. It
was founded by the grandmother of the estimable sisters, one of the
foremost educators of her day, and one who took up the profession of
teaching through love for it, since her wealth made her independent
for life.

At the period when the institution rises before us, its students
represented the four quarters of the globe. There were young women
fitting for the missionary field in India and China; the daughters of
eminent financiers in England, Germany, France and Spain, those whose
parents' influence was felt in distant climes, including several from
the revolution-pestered republics of South America.

Manuela Estacardo was the only child of the deceased sister of
President Pedro Yozarro, Dictator of Atlamalco. She was a brilliant
daughter of the tropics, gifted in mind and person, with the midnight
eyes and hair, the dark complexion, classical features, small white
teeth and faultless form rarely seen except in the fervid sunlight of
the low latitudes. Positive and negative electricity draw together,
which perhaps explains why the two most devoted intimates at the
seminary were Señorita Estacardo and Warrenia Rowland. The latter was
a true product of the North, with blue eyes, pink skin, hair like the
floss of the ripening corn, and a figure as perfect as her sister's of
the South, while the mental gifts in one were equalled in the other.

The friendship of these two began with their first meeting, and
continued unrippled to the sad day of gladness when they were
graduated. Manuela spent most of her vacations in the home of Warrenia
in California, and the promise had been solemnly given by the latter
that she would visit her friend after her return to her distant home
under the equator. The story of this sweet comradeship cannot be told
in a fractional part of its fulness. To prevent any misunderstanding,
however, on the part of the reader, let it be known that though Major
Jack Starland and the Señorita were often together, and they became
the warmest of friends, there never was and there never could be any
tenderer feeling between them. And this was true for the best of
reasons: the dark-eyed Señorita had pledged her heart to a certain
young officer of her own country. Both were as loyal in their
affections as is the magnet to the pole and there was no possible room
for complications.

When Mr. Starland presented the handsome yacht to his son Jack,
neither he nor his partner Mr. Rowland dreamed of the strange
consequences that were to follow. Jack resigned his commission in the
army, his yacht, which he had named the Warrenia, in honor of his
"sister," was returned to him with the thanks of the United States
government, and he was then ready to carry out the stipulation of his
father, that he should bring the craft around Cape Horn to San
Francisco. Her usefulness when in the naval service, required her
presence in the Atlantic, but she was now free to go whither her owner
willed. Thus the perilous voyage had been postponed for a few years.

Manuela Estacardo had returned to her home in tropical America, and
she and her dearest friend, Warrenia Rowland, were never laggard in
their correspondence. The South American insisted that Warrenia should
make her long-promised visit, and the daughter of the North was eager
to do so. The journey, however, was so long and difficult that no
practicable way presented itself until in a twinkling, as may be said,
the path was cleared by the decision of Major Starland to double Cape
Horn with his yacht.

What was to prevent his taking Warrenia as a passenger, ascend the
Amazon to the home of Manuela and pay that cherished visit? The plan
was so simple that every one to whom it was mentioned wondered why it
was not thought of before. Aunt Cynthia would accompany her niece as
chaperon, and the pause would cause little delay in the voyage. What
matter if it did, for time was of no special consequence, and a few
weeks, one way or the other, were not worth taking into account.

When Mr. Rowland proposed to his partner that a condition of the gift
of the yacht to his son ought to be the severe test of a voyage under
the latter's direction around Cape Horn, he never imagined that his
daughter was to share the danger. But he could not ask that the young
man of whom he was so fond should be compelled to face a peril of that
nature in which he would refuse his daughter a share. It cost him a
pang to yield, but he did so without murmur, and fondly kissed her
good bye, with never a thought of the remarkable experience she would
be called upon to pass through.

As for good Aunt Cynthia, she was wholly ignorant of what in the most
favorable circumstances was inevitable. The smothering temperature,
the plague of insect life and the actual dangers from the character of
the natives themselves, were wholly unknown and unsuspected by her.
Had she understood one-half the truth, not even her love for her niece
would have impelled her to leave her comfortable home, nor would she
ever have given her consent that Warrenia should engage in any such
wild, foolhardy undertaking. But Aunt Cynthia's education had been of
the early fashionable kind, which furnished only the smallest modicum
of knowledge. You may be sure that the younger ones, who knew a good
deal more about the country and the people, took care not to enlighten
her when they answered her numerous inquiries.

However, all was satisfactorily arranged and Señorita Estacardo was
thrown into transports of delight by the receipt of a letter saying
that by the time it reached the young woman, a Miss Rowland would be
out on the ocean in the charge of their old friend, Major Jack
Starland, and well on their way to the home of the Señorita, where
they intended to make a good long visit, before resuming their long
voyage around the southern point of the continent and then up the
western coast to San Francisco.

Ascending the mighty Amazon to the mouth of the Rio Rubio, known also
as the Forked River, the yacht reached the home of Señorita Estacardo,
who, it need not be said, gave the most joyous welcome to the girl
whom she loved more than any one else in the wide world.

Before reaching its present destination, the _Warrenia_ came to the
little republic of Zalapata, where a pause was made for two or three
days, during which the Major and the young ladies called upon General
Bambos, the President and Dictator, who treated them with the utmost
consideration. Later, he became the guest of Major Starland on the
yacht, upon which he spent most of his time while the Americans lay
off that quaint town. The susceptible heart of the bulky South
American crackled into flame on the first sight of the northern
beauty, though he smothered the secret so well that none except the
young woman herself suspected it and with her it was scarcely more
than a suspicion.

From Zalapata the yacht steamed to Atlamalco, the home of Manuela
Estacardo. There the party was received by the other impressionable
type of the tropics, General Pedro Yozarro, who left nothing undone to
make their visit pleasant in the highest degree. The novelty of her
experience was its chief enjoyment to Miss Rowland, who found a thrill
in the life, with its conditions the opposite of those to which she
had always been accustomed. She and her aunt were received into the
household of General Yozarro, who immediately became their humble
slave. Since the death of his wife and sister, the latter taking place
shortly after the return of his niece, Manuela, the latter had been
the head of the household and its retinue of servants.

The Señorita had been told the agreement between Major Starland and
Miss Rowland, which was that during their visit to this part of the
world, they were to be known as brother and sister. She was to be
addressed as Miss Warrenia Starland. Her hostess faithfully carried
out the wishes of her friend.

"It was Jack's proposition," explained Warrenia; "he seems never able
to get over that absurd fancy of his boyhood that we are really
brother and sister, when in fact we do not bear the slightest relation
to each other. I wanted him to use my name, but he is so stubborn he
wouldn't agree to it. You know there is some similarity in our names,
but he said it would be much more convenient for me to take his."

"There are several good reasons why you should do so," said the
Señorita with a meaning smile; "one of which is that you will grow
accustomed to it."

"But what advantage is there in that?"

"It will come easier when you _do_ make the change."

"I can't pretend to misunderstand you, but I am sure that will never
take place; neither Jack nor I has such a thought."

"How do you know what his thoughts are?"

"Would he not have told me long ago?"

"Hasn't he done so?"

"Not so much as by a hint. It has really been as brother and sister
between us. He has always accepted that relation and so have I."

"You give no reason why it should not soon assume a tenderer and
closer nature; I believe it will; I shall be delighted."

"Ah, my dear Manuela, I know your heart, but we of the North do not
make love as you of the tropics. One of these days, Jack will meet the
right woman."

"I believe he met her years ago."

"Meaning me, but you are mistaken."

"How is it with _you_?"

"I am still heart free. I won't deny that I have met one or two with
whom I was pleased, but it was nothing more."

"Because your love has gone elsewhere; it went long ago; you may think
I am mistaken, my darling Warrenia, but you will soon find I am not."

Then both laughed, kissed and talked of other things.


General Fernando De Bambos, President and Dictator of Zalapata, had
summoned one of the most momentous councils of war in the history of
the Republic. Those present were our old friend, Major Jack Starland,
who was a guest of the General, and Captain Alfredo Guzman, Chief of
Staff. The other leaders sulked because they were not invited to the
conference, but General Bambos dared not trust them with the important
matters that were oppressing his ponderous brain and had troubled him
for weeks.

The meeting was held in the upper room of the east wing of the palace,
safely removed from eavesdroppers, two armed guards on the outside of
the door adding to the isolation of the council. General Bambos,
though short of stature, weighed an eighth of a ton. His uniform
gleamed with blue, scarlet and gold, and the crimson sash around his
waist, with its gilt tassels almost touching the floor, was six
inches nearer his head in front than at the rear. His crimson
countenance was set off by a prodigious mustache, the waxed ends of
which, when he grinned, tickled his temples. He was short-breathed,
asthmatic and possessed a tempestuous temper. The big curved sword at
his side flipped the ground when he strode to and fro, as was his
custom while agitated, though during his calmer moods, the formidable
weapon swung fairly clear of the floor.

Captain Guzman, Aide and Chief of Staff, was swarthy, deliberate and
cool, and of moderate stature. He had proved himself a good soldier in
more than one fight with their neighbors in that breeding-nest of

At the present time, the _Warrenia_ was absent for a few days at San
Luis, down the river, while Jack Starland was the honored guest of
General Bambos, who was eager to secure his valuable military ability
for the republic. He really knew nothing of the young American's
experience in military matters, but he was not ignorant of the bravery
of his people, and had learned how completely they crushed Spain in
the late war. When he heard the youth addressed as "Major" he was
immediately fired with the ambition to gain him as an ally, in the new
revolution that was impending.

"Comrades," said the General, as he heaved ponderously to his feet,
addressing the two who sat at the table, listening expectantly to him,
"you will agree with me that golden opportunities come to nations as
well as to men. Such an opportunity has opened to the Republic of

As he spoke, he leaned forward with his hands resting on the table,
and the chubby fingers doubled in upon the palms. His huge mustache
twitched, and his little black eyes shone upon the placid countenance
of Captain Guzman, lolling in his chair at the farther end and
languidly smoking a cigarette. The Captain calmly met the flickering
glare and the General shifted it to Major Starland on his right, who
was looking through the open window on the other side of the
apartment, as if the blue sky, with its fleecy clouds, framed by the
opening, was all that interested him. None the less, he was thinking
hard and not a word escaped him.

"I repeat that such an opportunity has now opened to the Republic of

The thin husky voice climbed several notes of the register, and the
right hand of the speaker thumped so hard on the table that it shook.
The noise would have been considerable, had not the impact been dulled
by the fleshy cushion that smothered the knuckles of the orator.

Without stirring a muscle, Major Starland glanced sideways at the face
of the General, who swung his head around like a turtle peeping from
his shell and stared again at Captain Guzman. The latter snatched his
cigarette from his lips and nodded quickly several times.

General Bambos swung back to the upright poise, or rather went a
little beyond it since his bulky protuberance in front gave him
the appearance of leaning backward. The deepening crimson of his
countenance showed the profundity of his anger.

"How much longer shall we submit to the insults of that infamous
tyrant, President Yozarro of the Republic of Atlamalco. Actuated by my
fervent love of peace, my affection for my people, and my ardent
desire for their happiness, I have acquiesced in wrong, vainly hoping
that a sense of justice would restrain the oppressor from going too
far. But he mistakes our calmness for fear, until every man of
intelligence clearly perceives that unless resistance is made,--not
simple resistance alone, but aggressive protest, the grand, glorious
Republic of Zalapata will become a mere appanage of Atlamalco. I have
remonstrated with General Yozarro, and in return he treats me with
contumely and insult. My nature revolts, my blood is stirred--"

To make more emphatic the ebullition of his circulation, General
Bambos abruptly stopped speaking and snatched out his perfumed silk
handkerchief from beneath the partly unbuttoned breast of his coat,
and mopped his lumpy forehead. He had carefully conned his oration,
but his surging emotion would not give him pause. The climax leaped
from him. At the highest reach of his vibrant, staccato voice, he

"The time has come to draw the sword!"

Grasping the top of his scabbard with his left hand, and the handle
of his sword with his right, he made a curving swing upward, while
drawing the blade from its nestling place. There was always difficulty
in doing this, since when the arm was extended to its limit, two or
three inches of the point of the weapon remained in the sheath. The
only way to overcome the hitch was to push downward and backward with
the hand which inclosed the upper part of the scabbard. In his
excitement, the General forgot this necessity, and, with the right arm
extended to the highest elevation, the weapon was not free from the
incumbrance at the other end. He tugged, swore under his breath and
grew purple of countenance.


Major Starland, without the shadow of a smile, looked at the lower
hand of the General and nodded meaningly. The other recovered his wits
at the same moment, liberated the blade by the method indicated, and
flourished it so far aloft that the keen point nipped the ceiling.

"The time has come to draw the sword! Liberty, justice, equality and
right is the war cry of the patriots of Zalapata!"

Carefully adjusting his weapon so that it would not interfere, the
General sagged down in his chair, and puffing from his exertion and
excitement, looked into the faces of his friends to signify that he
was now ready to listen to their sentiments. A brief silence followed,
and then Major Starland said in an even voice:

"I have learned of some of the insults received from General Yozarro,
Dictator of the Republic to the west, but I am not clear as to the
last outrage: may I be enlightened?"

He looked invitingly at Captain Guzman, who silently puffed for a
minute or so before speaking:

"A month ago, the single boat which constitutes the navy of President
Yozarro was engaged in target practice; one of the shots passed over
the boundary and struck the dwelling of a citizen of Zalapata,
smashing in a side-wall and scaring the family to that extent that
they are still a-tremble. Complaint was made to President Yozarro, who
treated the complainant with contempt. Then appeal was had to
President Bambos, who despatched a messenger to Yozarro, demanding
damages and an apology, and the salutation of our flag. What answer
did the tyrant send? He kicked the messenger down the steps of his
palace, bidding him to tell our revered President that if he or
anyone else came to him on a similar errand, he would ram him down the
throat of one of his cannon and fire at the palace of General Bambos."

"But that threat is idle," gravely remarked Major Starland.

"Why?" demanded President Bambos.

"Neither he nor you have any ordnance big enough to allow a man to
serve as a charge for it."

"A quibble!" commented the Captain; "it does not lessen the deadly
nature of the insult."

"What is the amount of the claim?"

General Bambos nodded to the Captain to answer.

"Forty-two _pesos_."

"Ah-um!" mused the American, who picked up a pencil from the table and
made a few figures on a blotting pad; "the present value of a _peso_
is twenty-eight cents. That would make the total damage eleven dollars
and seventy-six cents in the currency of my country. Does President
Yozarro refuse to pay this claim?"

"He not only refuses to pay the just demand," thundered the President,
"but accompanies his refusal with an unpardonable insult."

"No one can deny that you have cause for indignation, but knowing how
deeply you have the good of your people and country at heart, General,
I would ask whether there is not some way of settling the dispute
without going to war."

"Explain yourself," said the President severely, for, having set his
heart on having war, he did not mean to be bluffed out of it.

"Why not refer the dispute to The Hague Tribunal of Arbitration?"

"What good could come from that?"

"Suppose it decided in your favor and ordered General Yozarro to pay
the claim?"

"That wouldn't wipe out the insult."

"But, if he was ordered to apologize?"

"He wouldn't do it."

"How do you know he wouldn't?"

"Don't I know the man better than The Hague Tribunal or anyone else
knows him?"

"If you have so clear a case against President Yozarro, the decision
is sure to be in your favor."

"You forget, Sir, that The Hague has insulted the Republic of
Zalapata through its President."

"I was not aware of that."

"When the members assembled a short time ago, I sent a representative
with a request that he be permitted to act as one of them. Do you know
what reply was made? They said they had never heard of the Republic of

"In other words, they told you to make a reputation first. Quite
natural, under the circumstances. Nevertheless, I would beg to insist
that the proper course is to refer this quarrel to The Hague Tribunal,
unless the President of the United States can be induced to act as
arbitrator. More than likely he will settle the wrangle by paying the
claim out of his own pocket."

"You mistake your man!" roared General Bambos; "you fail to see that
that would relieve General Yozarro from punishment for his insults and
outrages against Zalapata. It would encourage him to continue his
infamous course, since our powerful neighbor on the north would
relieve him from all penalty. Moreover, it would display a fatal
timidity on the part of the United States regarding their pet
idol,--the Monroe Doctrine. Such a subterfuge cannot be permitted."

"I had thought of offering to pay the bill myself."

With fine sarcasm, General Bambos said: "I am glad you are provided
with a surfeit of funds. Perhaps you will be willing to float our last

"That depends upon its size; if it isn't more than a few hundred
dollars I am quite ready to give you a lift."

"I must decline to permit any more quibbling."

"Will you consent that I shall close the incident by paying this claim
against President Yozarro of the Republic of Atlamalco?"

"I do if you will agree to enforce the other conditions."

"What are they?"

"That he shall apologize, salute our flag and pledge himself never
again to turn his gun in the direction of our boundary line."

"You have added impossible terms, General, for you would bind him to
make no resistance in the event of your going to war with him."

"And don't you perceive on your part that there is nothing to
arbitrate? This talk of arbitration is very fine for the one who is in
the wrong. Suppose a set of employees refuse to work any longer unless
their wages are doubled. The employer, knowing it means his ruin,
refuses, and the strikers demand that the dispute shall be referred to
arbitration. Is that just?--is it common sense?"

"Not on the part of the employees. But your supposition is hardly
supposable; the employers would incur no risk in agreeing to
arbitration, since no committee on earth would fail to decide in their
favor, after the whole truth was made clear to them. I have noticed
that it is generally the one who is in the wrong who refuses to
arbitrate. At the same time, I concede that there can be no such thing
as forced arbitration. Every employer or capitalist has the right to
run his own business to suit himself, just as any man, or set of men,
have the right to quit work and to try to persuade their friends to
quit with them; but, your pardon, General; we are wandering from the

"A suggestion I was about to make. When you reflect that a respectful
demand has been made upon President Yozarro for the payment of a just
claim, and that he brutally refuses, what would you advise, most wise
and honored Sir?"

"I have offered to pay the claim myself."

"Your offer is declined, since you cannot enforce all the conditions."

"I have named arbitration."

"And I have pointed out the impossible folly of such a thing."

"Admitting that President Yozarro refuses to comply with the decision
of The Hague Tribunal, you will not only be free to carry out your
original intention, but you will be justified before the world."

"No more than I shall be justified now, for many of the Atlamalcans
themselves condemn the course of their President."

"Why not make one more appeal to him?"

"How shall I shape my message? Whom shall I send to bear it to him?"

"I will be the messenger."

"And be returned to me from the throat of a cannon?"

"I will take my chances on that; if they have a gun capacious enough
to expedite matters in that fashion, the journey certainly will not
be a monotonous one. You forget one thing, General."

"What is that?"

"My sister is the guest of President Yozarro; I am anxious to see her;
this gives me the opportunity."


Major Jack Starland decided to make his ambassadorial trip to the
Atlamalcan Republic by water instead of land, and to take as his
companion, Captain Guzman, though there would have seemed to be slight
choice between the two routes.

The Rio Rubio, flowing from the foot of the Andes, eastward to the
Atlantic, forks a few miles to the westward of Atlamalco, the two
branches reuniting twenty leagues to the eastward. The island thus
formed is twenty miles across the widest part, and tapers to the east
and west. As if nature aimed to provide for two distinct communities,
a precipitous mountain spur, which sprawls several hundred miles north
and south, ribs the territory almost mathematically in the centre, and
tumbles onward, broken and disjointed, to the shores of the Caribbean
Sea. The rumors that gold and diamonds are awaiting garnering in the
wild solitudes have roused the earth hunger of more than one powerful
nation, but the grim dragon that crouches in the pulsing jungles, on
whose forehead flames the legend, "MONROE DOCTRINE," sends them
scudding back across the seas.

The western half of the island forms the Republic of Atlamalco, whose
President and Dictator is General Pedro Yozarro; the eastern half
constitutes Zalapata, with General Fernando de Bambos at its head. The
name "republic," as applied to the peppery provinces has as much
appropriateness as if given to Russia or China. The respective
population of the two republics is about the same, and but for the
whimsical, intense jealousy that is the most marked peculiarity of
South American countries, the two might grow rich, prosperous and of
considerable strength, for no region on the globe is more favored in
the way of climatic and natural resources.

Major Starland understood the delicate tensity of the relations
between Zalapata and Atlamalco. They had been at war before, with the
advantage at times on one side and then on the other, the final result
being no decisive change in their mutual strength or in their
combative propensities. The addition of a "gunboat" to the power of
Atlamalco naturally made her more aggressive and demonstrative.
President Bambos dreamed of acquiring two similar engines of war, when
he would proceed to wipe his hated rival off the earth; but the loan
which he tried to float remained inert and the northern barbarians,
whose shipyards send forth most of the navies of the world, insisted
upon cash or security as preliminary to laying the keels of the
Zalapatan fleet. The project therefore hung fire. Though the craft
that roamed up and down the bifurcated river was referred to as a
gunboat, it was simply an American tug, some seventy-five feet in
length, of the same tonnage and with a single six-pounder mounted fore
and another aft. From New York it had sneaked southward, so far as
possible, through the inland passage to the Gulf of Mexico and then
puffed across the Caribbean and so on to the Rio Rubio and thence to
its destination.

As intimated, Major Starland had the choice of two routes to the
western Republic: one by mule path or trail through the Rubio
Mountains, and the other by boat, fifty miles up the Rio Rubio: he
chose the latter.

On the morning following the council of war, he and his swarthy
friend, Captain Guzman, hoisted sail on their little catboat, at the
wharf of the capital, and catching the favoring breeze, curved out
into the stream, which was half a mile wide, and began their voyage
against a moderate current. Old campaigners like them needed little
luggage. The native officer took none at all, while the Major's was in
a small hand bag, which he had brought from his yacht, twenty miles
away at San Luis.

The American seated himself at the stern, where he controlled the
tiller, while the native lounged on the front seat smoking his eternal
cigarette. Behind them the pretty little capital, with its five
thousand inhabitants, distributed mostly in adobe huts, shabby and of
small dimensions, gradually sank out of sight, and finally vanished
behind a bend in the river. To the right, stretched the immense
undulating plain of exuberant forest, with its tropical luxuriance,
its smothering climate and its overwhelming animal life. The banks on
either hand were flat, and so low that a continuous east wind often
brought an overflow of the shores for leagues inland. Here and there
the bamboo or adobe hut of a native peeped from the rank foliage, and
the naked or half-dressed occupants stared stupidly at the craft as it
skimmed past. The head of the family lolled on the bank, or in the
shade beside his home and smoked; the stolid wife slouched hither and
thither like an automaton, plodding at her work or perhaps scratching
the ground, that it might laugh a harvest, though oftener her work lay
in fighting off the prodigious growth which threatened to strangle
everybody and everything. She took her turn at smoking, while the
youngsters, most of them without a thread of clothing, frolicked and
tumbled in the simple delight of existence. But all these were such
common sights to the voyageurs that they gave them no more than
passing attention.

Captain Guzman was not a talkative man. He preferred to lounge, to
smoke, to fight, or to think. Major Starland had plenty of thinking to
do and little work. Having guided the craft out into the middle of the
stream, he rested the tiller between his elbow and side and held the
boat to its course, while he also lazily puffed at his cigar. He
glanced from side to side, like one who was familiar with the scenery
and he figured out that if the breeze held, they would reach Atlamalco
early on the morrow, for he did not mean to continue the voyage after
darkness had set in.

No one, however, can sail for a mile over the tropical waters of South
America without a striking experience with its myriad animal life. The
swarms of fish often clog the progress of vessels. Numerous tiny
thumps against the prow of the boat told of the miniature collisions,
and, looking over the side, the American saw more fish than water.
They varied in length from a few inches to a couple of feet or more.
Recognizing one vicious species, he caught up a pole and thrust an end
into the current. Instantly fierce snaps followed, and when he drew
out the dripping stick, its extremity was gouged as if with dagger

"What little demons those caribs are!" he said, holding up the pole
for the Captain to see. The native nodded his head and silently smoked
on. Had either of them trailed his hand in the current alongside the
boat, a finger would have been nipped off in a flash by those
concentrated sharks.

There was a rush like that of the Atlamalcan tugboat and an immense
alligator surged up from the muddy depths, and kept pace with the
craft, as though tied to it. His piggish eyes surveyed the two men as
if meditating the crushing of the boat and its occupants in one
terrific crunch, like the hippopotamus of the Nile. He partly opened
and smacked his jaws, in anticipation, and slightly increasing his
speed, passed forward to the prow.

Finally Captain Guzman showed an interest in matters. Sitting up, he
drew his revolver from the belt around his waist, aimed quickly and
fired. The bullet darted into the nearer eye and ripped through what
little brain the saurian possessed. With a snort, it whirled, darted
several rods out into the stream, and then spun round and round, as if
caught in the vortex of a whirlpool. Slight in one sense as was the
wound, it was mortal and quickly drew the attention of other
alligators, who seemed to be projected upward from the ooze of the
river, and assailed their unfortunate comrade with remorseless
ferocity. In a twinkling he was torn piecemeal by the cannibals,
whose taste of blood set aflame their rapacity. Had they known enough
they might have smashed the boat with their tails or rolled it over
with their snouts; but, unaware of their own strength, they kept up
their wild darting to and fro and were soon left behind.


The Captain resumed his lolling posture, placed another cartridge in
his revolver and lit a fresh cigarette. By and by his eyes closed and
Major Starland saw that he slept. The American arose to his feet,
yawned and stretched his arms over his head, holding the tiller in
place between his knees.

"Unless I am alert I shall fall asleep too, and then the mischief will
be to pay. It isn't prudent to disturb these creatures, but to hold a
position of armed neutrality. If the fools don't know their power, it
isn't wise to set them investigating."

To the right on the mainland, the low flat plain extended to the limit
of vision. The tall, reedy grass came down to the edge of the water,
and the nodding plumes showed for some distance out in the stream.
Several miles in advance, on the same shore, the dark green mass of a
forest buffeted against the soft sky, the species of trees being
innumerable and so closely wedged in many places, that not even the
attenuated Captain Guzman could have forced his way through except by
scrambling from limb to limb.

The southern bank was similar, but far to the westward, the rugged
outline of the Rubio Mountains rose in the sky and wore the soft blue
tint of the sea of clear atmosphere. Beyond the mountains, snuggled
the Republic of Atlamalco which was the destination of the American.

On the northern bank, two-score wild cattle that had been browsing on
the succulent grass, loafed down to the river and waded out till the
current bathed their sides. They sought the water for its coolness at
this oppressive period of the day and to escape the billions of insect
pests that at times make life a torment. Their tails, whose bushy tips
flirted the water in showers over their heads and backs, were never
idle. Some of them kept edging outward until no more than their
spines, horns, ears, and the upper part of their heads remained in

The leader of the herd was a magnificent black bull, who stood on the
bank and bellowed at the boat sailing past, as if challenging it to a
fight to the finish. He was afraid of nothing on earth and revelled in
a battle which would allow him to display his tremendous prowess,
power and wrath.

Seeing that the boat paid no heed to his thunderous challenge, the
bull galloped sideways and backward to shore, and trotted along its
bank, looking at the craft, thrusting out his snout and calling for it
to come ashore and have it out with him. Major Starland picked up his
Krag-Jorgensen from where it leaned beside his feet and sighted at the
bull, into whose bellowing there seemed to intrude a regretful note
over the ignoring of his challenge.

"It's a pretty good distance, but I can drop you so quickly you would
never know what did it, and, being that you wouldn't know, where's the
satisfaction to either of us? I'll be hanged if I uncrown such a noble
monarch in that pot fashion!"

The weapon was laid down and the Major resumed his seat and care of
the tiller. At this time the bull was standing on a slight rise of
ground, just clear of the water with Major Starland contemplating the
superb fellow. Something dark and sinuous suddenly darted out like a
black streak of lightning from the mud just in front of the animal and
the cry of the bull changed to one of frenzy. He was scared at last.

Still bellowing, he planted his four hoofs rigidly in the mud, and
leaned so far backward that his legs were inclined at a sharp angle.
His feet sank slowly and he yielded a short, reluctant step. Then he
paused and putting forth his great strength gradually moved the hoofs,
one after the other, backward. He strove mightily to continue his
retreat, but the uplifted fore foot was instantly jammed down again,
and the utmost he could do was to hold his own.

The black thing which had flashed out from the mud a few paces away
was the head of a gigantic anaconda that had hidden itself in the
slime and was waiting for cow or bull to come within reach. The
instant the king of the herd did so, the head shot from its
concealment and the teeth were snapped together in the cartilage of
the animal's nose. Then the serpent began drawing its victim forward
with terrific power. The bull knew his peril and resisted to the last
ounce of his strength.

But the reptile was a fool. Had it voluntarily freed itself, or
allowed the bull to get clear of the enveloping mushy earth, it could
have whirled its entire length around the quadruped and mashed it to
pulp. But the Atlamalcan tugboat, if tied by a hawser to the reptile
could not have drawn it forth, for it will allow itself to be pulled
asunder before yielding. Nor can any conceivable power induce the
serpent to let go, its unshakable resolve being to draw its prey
within its folds, instead of meeting its victim.

It was a veritable tug of war, and the sympathies of Major Starland
were wholly on the side of the bull. Slipping a bit of rope over the
tiller to hold it in place, he knelt on one knee and sighted with the
utmost care. The six or eight feet of the reptile which was clear of
the mud had been stretched to nearly double its natural length by the
furious pulling of the bull, and was as tense as a violin string and
so attenuated as to be hardly one-half its ordinary diameter. The
American aimed at a point just back of the head and the bullet sped
true. Perhaps, as is sometimes the case, the serpent's body would have
yielded in the end, but the missile expedited matters. It snapped
apart, the bull with another bellow whirled about and galloped up the
bank and away, with the appendage dangling and flapping from his nose,
there to hang until it sloughed off.

The report of the rifle awakened Captain Guzman, who sat up, but did
not understand all that had taken place until it was explained to him.
Then the two partook of the lunch they had brought with them. When the
brief twilight closed over forest and stream, they had passed
three-fourths of the distance between the respective capitals of the
republics. Night had fully come, however, before the boat was sheered
toward the mainland, and drawing it up the bank beyond the reach of
the current, the two stepped out and walked a short way to a hut that
had caught their notice some time before.

Here, strange to say, the native man and wife had only two children,
both boys, six or eight years of age, naked and not ashamed. Captain
Guzman, who spoke Spanish as well as the American, explained that they
desired food and lodging for the night. The husband told them they
were welcome, while the slatternly helpmate said nothing, but did her
part with commendable diligence. No fire was burning, nor was one
started, though the cinders on the outside showed that food was
sometimes cooked after the manner of civilized peoples. No table,
chairs or furniture were seen, while the floor was of smooth, hard
earth. A large, earthen bowl was nearly filled with a mixture of
tomatoes, onions, olives and several kinds of fruit chopped together.
This was set outside on the ground, between the two guests, who ate
and were filled.


Through the hot pulsing of the tropical midnight, with its myriad
throbbings of animal life, came the sound of husky coughing, steadily
growing more distinct, until the two men seated on the outside of the
native hut, on a fallen tree, smoking and listening, identified it as
the voice of the Atlamalcan tugboat, named for its owner, _General
Yozarro_. In the vivid moonlight, a dim mass assumed form up the
river, the sparks tumbling from its small smokestack helping to locate
the craft, which constituted the navy of the little Tabascan republic.
The puffing grew louder, the throbbing of the screw, and the rush of
the foamy water from the bow struck the ear more clearly, and the
outlines of the craft were marked as it rushed past, near the middle
of the river, with the starred, triangular flag of Atlamalco wiggling
from the staff which upreared itself like a needle from the stern.

In the flood of illumination every part of the vessel was plainly
seen: the wheelhouse and even the outlines of the captain at the
wheel, the upper deck, the gleam of the one cannon at the front near
the pile of wood, and the other at the rear, as well as the forms of
several men in sombreros lounging here and there, as if playing the
part of sentinels, though there was no earthly call for any service of
that nature.

So distinct was everything, that Major Starland saw the Captain reach
upward, grasp a cord and pull down. The hoarse throb of the steam
whistle awoke the echoes along shore and as it rolled through the
forests and jungles caused hundreds of denizens of the solitude to
wonder what sort of new beast was coming among them.

Gradually the boat grew hazy and indistinct, but the throbbing of the
engine and the soft wash of the current lingered long after the craft
itself had faded from view.

"It may be that President Yozarro is afraid President Bambos will
forget he has a navy," suggested the American.

"He does not mean to attack him, I am sure."

"He has no cause for doing so, which is generally the reason why these
wasps sting their neighbors. If they waited for a just cause there
would be eternal peace. Ah, my yacht is not due for several days! I
would it were here."

"What would you do, Major?"

"Declare on the side of General Bambos; I shouldn't ask better sport
than to blow that crab out of the water."

"Is General Bambos a better friend of yours, Major, than General

"I count neither as a friend, but Yozarro has my sister as his guest,
though she has overstayed her time. I may be wrong, but I am not
convinced that she is a willing visitor."

"He holds also the gunboat that we saw pass but a short time ago."

"And I have a yacht with a single gun; with that my crew would make as
short work of the _General Yozarro_ as we did with the Spanish fleets
at Manila and Santiago."

Captain Guzman shrugged his shoulders and smoked in silence.

"My boat will be here in two or three days. Then I shall ask no help
from Bambos or any one else in this part of the world."

"Why not wait, Major? Who knows that if your sister is restored to you
through the help of General Bambos, you may not have to ask General
Yozarro to help you make _him_ give her up?"

It was a contingency of which Major Starland had not thought. Prudence
told him to be patient till the coming of the _Warrenia_, with her
crew of a dozen men, beside the captain. Three of the crew had fought
against Spain and would welcome a scrap with the Atlamalcan navy.

But the American was restless. He carried a pretext for calling upon
General Yozarro, and his anxiety would not allow him to remain
quiescent. That night as he slept in the hammock which he had brought
from his boat and swung in front of the native hut, he heard as in a
dream, the puffing of the tug on its return to Atlamalco. He did not
rouse himself to look at her, as she glided past in the moonlight, but
it was a great relief to know that she had gone back. President
Yozarro was so proud of his navy that most of the voyages up and down
the Rio Rubio were taken for his personal pleasure. He would be at
home, therefore, on the morrow when his American visitor presented

And such was the case. The forenoon was no more than half gone, when
the small sailing craft rounded to at the wharf in front of the native
town, and Major Starland leaped ashore. It was agreed that Captain
Guzman should await his return to the pier. The alert American noted
everything. The tug seemed to be crouching beside the wharf, a hundred
feet distant, like a bull dog waiting for some one to venture nigh
enough for him to leap forward and bury his fangs in his throat. But
no steam was up, and the war craft, like everything else, was adrowse
and sleeping.

The city of Atlamalco sprawled over half a square mile, the most
ancient dwellings being made of adobe, squat of form and with only a
single story. The more pretentious were of a species of bamboo, of
large proportions, and, although divided into a number of apartments,
they too consisted of but a single story, like most houses in an
earthquake country. They were of flimsy make, for the climate was
generally oppressive, and the narrow streets were fitted only for the
passage of footmen and animals with their burdens. The swarthy, untidy
inhabitants are among the laziest on earth, for, where nature is so
lavish, the necessity for laborious toil is wanting. The avenues
leading to the wharf slope gently upward, winding in and out, and
mingling in seemingly inextricable confusion.

Pen cannot describe the vegetable exuberance of this portion of South
America. Sugar, coffee, cocoa, rice, tobacco, maize, wheat, ginger,
mandioc, yams, sarsaparilla, and tropical fruits beyond enumeration
smother one another in the fierce fight for life. The chief dependence
of the people is upon mandioc, manioc, or cassava, which the natives
accept as a direct gift from the prophet Sunè. This, however, is not
the place to dwell upon the endless variety of trees and the fauna and
flora of that extraordinary country.

Major Starland left his rifle in charge of Captain Guzman, and, with
his revolver at command, strolled up the main street. The hottest part
of the day being near, few of the people were astir or visible. Most
of them were asleep within doors, their siesta beginning before the
mid-day meal and lasting long afterward.

A single pony came stumbling forward at the first turn of the street,
so heaped over with bundles that little more than his head, ears and
front legs below the knees were in sight. His driver, swarthy,
long-haired, and in sombrero, slouched at the side of the animal,
whacking his haunches now and then, swearing at him in mongrel
Spanish, to both of which the brute paid no more heed than to the tiny
flies that nipped in vain at his armor-like hide.


A few paces after the second turn brought the American to the palace
of President Yozarro,--a long, low, bamboo structure, standing on
slightly rising ground, where it could catch what little air sometimes
caressed the town at this time of day. The largest apartment at the
rear was the cabinet or council room of the Dictator and President,
since the open windows on that side were sure to receive the cool
breath of the mountains when it stole through the open windows.

The American officer was fortunate in the time of his call. In the
long hall he met two men in uniform, well advanced in years and
stooping in an unmilitary way, whom he recognized as the leading
officers and counsellors of President Yozarro. It was manifest that
they had been holding a conference. The Major saluted them as he
passed down the hall to where a guard stood outside the door, musket
in hand.

"Will you say to his Excellency that Major Starland desires to speak
with him?" asked our friend in excellent Spanish. The Major did not
send in his card, for, truth to tell, he had none printed in the
language of the country, and he knew the other possessed no knowledge
of English.

The guard tapped on the door and disappeared for a minute. When he
came back, he held the door open and nodded to the visitor. Major
Starland, hat in hand, passed within with brisk, military step,
saluted and awaited the pleasure of the President of the Atlamalcan

The latter was seated behind a large desk at the farther side of the
room, smoking a cigarette and facing the visitor. He was of short
stature and lacked the protuberant rotundity of President Bambos. Like
him his mustache was of glossy blackness and was waxed to needle-like
points, but the hair of General Yozarro was cropped and there was a
white sprinkling about the temples and behind the ears. This, with the
crows' feet and wrinkles, showed that he was fully ten years the
senior of his brother President. He was in European dress, his coat,
waistcoat and trousers being of spotless white duck, his linen
irreproachable, his feet inclosed in patent leathers, and a diamond of
eight or ten carats scintillated in his snowy shirt front. He had been
heard to boast that this remarkable gem had been taken from the
mountains of his own province.

The moment his glittering black eyes rested upon the trim figure of
the American he rose and gracefully waved him to a seat on his right.
Thanking him for his courtesy, Major Starland walked briskly thither,
sat down, crossed his legs, cleared his throat and expressed his
pleasure at seeing his distinguished friend looking so well. President
Yozarro returned the compliment in the flowery language of his
country, and asked the caller to do him the great honor of telling him
in what way he could serve him. He assured him that it would be the
joy of his heart, if his humble aid would be accepted by one whom he
held in such warm friendship and lofty esteem.

While thus overwhelming his caller, President Yozarro snatched up his
cigarette box from his desk and held it out to the American, who
accepted the courtesy with thanks, lighted the wisp of fragrant
tobacco to which, as we know, he was unaccustomed, and sat back at

"Your Excellency, I come from President Bambos."

"I am delighted to welcome you, and how is my esteemed brother?"

"Never better; when he told me of a slight misunderstanding, I
volunteered to lay the matter before you, knowing how willing you
would be to listen patiently, and aware too of your deep sense of

"You do me honor, my good friend," replied President Yozarro, bowing
and smiling so broadly that his white teeth gleamed through his
mustache. "I am eager as always to right any wrong and to correct any

"Three days ago when your excellent gunboat was at target practice, on
the Rio Rubio, one of the shots injured the dwelling of a citizen of

"It grieves me to learn that," replied the President, as if the
episode was wholly new to him; "I am impatient to do what I can to
repair the carelessness of my gunner: will it please you to have him
shot, as a warning to others to be more careful?"

"By no means; the payment of the slight sum--only forty-two
_pesos_--with an expression of regret, will more than satisfy
President Bambos."

"I shall hasten to comply with so moderate and just a demand: will you
be good enough to convey this statement to my esteemed brother?"

Considering the moderate sum involved, it would seem that President
Yozarro might well have closed the incident by passing over the amount
to the ambassador, but, since he made no offer to do so, the
ambassador could not in common courtesy remind him of it. The
Atlamalcan Republic had its own methods and red tape ruled there as

"I am sure that President Bambos could ask nothing more, and I shall
take pleasure in repeating your gracious words to him."

President Yozarro bowed, smiled, muttered "_Gracias_," and lit another

"I beg your Excellency that I may have the privilege of a few words
with my sister, Miss Starland, who came ashore from my yacht last week
to visit her friend Señorita Estacardo, and whom it has not been my
pleasure to see since then."

"My good friend makes another request which it shall be my delight to
grant," replied President Yozarro, with his bland smile, as he crossed
his shapely legs, leaned back and blew the puffs of his cigarette
toward the ceiling.

Major Starland felt that he was getting on swimmingly. He had already
decided to hand over to President Bambos the amount of the damages for
the injury to the property of one of his citizens, quite content to
place it to his personal account of profit and loss. Uneasy over the
prolonged absence of Miss Starland, he would quickly arrange matters
with her during the impending interview.

"I have a pleasant surprise for you," said the President, after his
caller had expressed his acknowledgments; "the Señorita made known so
warm a wish to see her brother that I hastened to take her, as she and
I supposed, to him."

"I do not understand your Excellency."

"She is now at Zalapata, whither she went in our gunboat."


"Last night; we must have met on the way, for you could scarcely have
made the voyage between the capitals since sunrise."

This remark explained that night trip of the _General Yozarro_, whose
going the Major had seen and whose returning he had heard.

"Yes," added his host; "she had but to make known her wish, when she
and her friend Señorita Manuela, my niece, became my guests on my
gunboat, and were landed at Zalapata last evening, where she will be
disappointed to find you absent, though your meeting will be deferred
but a short time."

With many acknowledgments, Major Starland bade President Yozarro good
bye, passed out into the hall and hurried down the street to the
wharf, where Captain Guzman was placidly awaiting him. The same
drowsiness that he had noted on his arrival, brooded over everything,
and no time was lost in casting off and heading down the river.

But during the absence of the American, the Captain had had a visitor,
who did not step ashore, but helped in getting the boat under way, and
showed by his action, that he meant to remain with them, if they did
not object thereto.

"Who is he?" asked Starland, at the first opportunity to speak
privately to his friend.

"Martella, a deserter from President Yozarro."

"That won't do, Captain; I cannot permit him to go with us."

"Not so, Major; he is more valuable than you think; he will tell you
something you ought to know."


The little craft was fairly under way, and with favoring wind and
current, ought to reach Zalapata in the course of ten or twelve hours.
Martella, the new recruit, so to speak, seeing there was nothing just
then for him to do, sat down at the bow of the boat and smoked his
cigarette, while Captain Guzman kept company with Major Starland at
the stern.

"Two years ago, when there was war between Atlamalco and Zalapata,"
explained the native officer, "we captured a party of raiders in the
mountains and shot them all excepting one. He was Martella, who, being
wounded, was saved at my prayer. Since then we have been friends."

"He ought to be your life friend if there is any such thing as
gratitude in his nature."

"I have been to see him and he comes to see me. Martella is one who
speaks the truth."

"I was not aware that--barring yourself--there was any man in this
part of the world who had that virtue."

"What did President Yozarro tell you?" asked the Captain so bluntly
that the American resented it.

"You have no warrant for asking that question."

"Pardon me, Major; I do not ask to know what he said about the claim
of President Bambos, for I already know that."

"You do! Well, what was it?"

"He said he would pay the amount of the claim and asked you to tell
President Bambos he is very sorry."

"You are right; that is what he said."

"But he did not pay you the money; and, begging pardon again, Major,
you intended to pay it yourself to President Bambos, as if it came
from General Yozarro."

"You would be called a mind reader, Captain, in my country, for you
are right in everything you say. It will spoil his game, however, if
General Bambos is as keen as you."

"If he is, he will not let you discover it; he is determined to go to
war against General Yozarro, and no matter what you do, you cannot
prevent it, unless----"

"Unless what?"

"You take away the cause of his making war."

"The cause! You speak in riddles."

Instead of directly replying, the Captain asked the startling

"You inquired of General Yozarro about the Señorita, your sister: what
answer did he make to you?"

"You have not forgotten the tugboat we saw pass down the river last
night; I heard it returning to Atlamalco."

"So also did I."

"On its first voyage, it carried my sister as one of the passengers,
she not knowing I had left Zalapata, and she is there awaiting my

Captain Guzman, sitting at the elbow of the American, gazed off toward
the wooded plain as if in reverie. His words did not seem to be
addressed to any one, but were as if he communed with himself:

"Five hours after the gunboat went up the river, it passed where we
were resting on its way back to Atlamalco. The distance from where we
were to Zalapata is eighty miles and to make the trip the boat would
need eight or ten hours."

"What the mischief are you driving at? General Yozarro told me he took
the lady thither."

Captain Guzman withdrew his gaze from the shore, and looking calmly in
the face of Major Starland, said:

"General Yozarro lied."

"How can you know that?"

"Do you not see that the gunboat could not do what he said it did? But
Martella here was on the boat and knows all."

"Call him, that I may question him."

"No need of that; I have questioned him; I know that your real
business with General Yozarro was to meet the Señorita, your sister,
and I know all that Martella knows."

"And what is that?"

"Señoritas Starland and Estacardo were passengers on the boat, but ten
miles down the river they went ashore, and, under the escort of two
soldiers, set out for the summer home of General Yozarro."

"Where is that?"

"A mile from the river among the mountains; the air there is cooler
than at Atlamalco, and General Yozarro spends much of the hot season
at _Castillo Descanso_, or 'Castle of Rest.' Señorita Estacardo is his
niece; he is a widower; he loves your sister and he hopes by his
kindness and attention to win her for his wife, and to do this, he
sees he must keep you and her apart as long as he can."

"The infernal scoundrel! She shall die before wedding him!"

"He knows how you feel: that is why he strives to keep you apart."

"He'll have a good time in doing it! Do you know the path that leads
to the summer quarters of this precious dog?"

"Well enough to guide you thither, but Martella knows it better than

"Can he be hired to guide us thither?"

"No, for he will do so without pay."

"I shall join General Bambos in his war against Yozarro, and we'll
make him pay dear for his deviltry."

"Do you prefer the friendship of General Bambos to that of General

"I don't care a picayune for either, but I will use one against the

"You forget that there is no choice between the good will of the two.
When you came up the forked river you first called at Zalapata."

"What of it?"

"General Bambos was a guest on your yacht."


"He met Señorita Starland; he has a wife and several children, but he
loves the Señorita as much as does General Yozarro."

"What a couple of wretches! Do you tell me that _that_ is why he means
to go to war with General Yozarro?"

"That is his reason; I could not tell you before; his claim for
damages is a pretext; he hopes to defeat General Yozarro and to compel
him to give up the Señorita. Neither he nor General Yozarro cares for
you, whom they regard as an obstacle; they will be glad to put you out
of the way."


All this seemed incredible and yet a little reflection convinced Major
Starland that the sagacious native was right. The American had two
treacherous enemies to meet in the Dictators who professed to be his

"I will go back to Atlamalco; I will call the dog to account; what
will he dare say for himself?"

"I am sure," observed the soft-voiced Captain, "that Major Starland
will not be so unwise as that."

"Why will it be unwise?"

"General Yozarro will not see you when you return."

"He dare not refuse! I will bring up my yacht and lay his confounded
town under tribute."

"He has a gunboat."

"All you folks refer to that tub as a gunboat, when it is only an old
tug, which he has painted over and fitted up with a couple of
six-pounders. It is not worth taking into consideration: I will force
myself into his presence and compel him to undo what he has done and
to beg my pardon on his knees."

The Captain indulged in his expressive shrug and smoked in silence. He
was giving the American a few minutes in which to regain his poise.
The American did so.

"Why did Martella leave his service?" he abruptly asked.

"General Yozarro caused his brother to be shot, because he ran the
gunboat aground the other day. It was upon a mound formed under water
one night by the forked river, which no one could see. The boat was
not injured, but he shot Martella's brother, who was the pilot.
Martella, therefore, hates him."

"No more than I do. Had I known what you have told me when talking
with him this forenoon, I should have put a bullet through his

"There are better ways than that; let us go to the home of General
Yozarro in the mountains and bring away the Señorita; Martella will go
with us."

"He will be shot as a deserter if taken prisoner."

"He won't be taken prisoner; perhaps, too, he may gain the chance to
slay General Yozarro; it will delight his heart if he can do so."

"No more than it will delight mine; talk with him, Captain; if he will
help me through with this business, he will never regret it."

Captain Guzman made his way past the sail to the bow where the native
was sitting, gazing thoughtfully back over the stream they were
leaving behind them. He turned his head as his friend approached, and
the two talked in low tones, both seemingly calm, though each was
stirred by strong emotion. Then the Captain came back to the American,
who, with his hand on the tiller, was holding the boat to her course.
He ran in quite close to the southern shore and was studying the Rubio
Mountains, whose craggy crests were visible in the sky throughout the
whole voyage between the capitals of the republics. He was consumed
with resentment that anyone had dared to hold the daughter of an
American citizen a guest without her consent,--in other words a
prisoner, as if she were a criminal. Manifestly there was a
"sovereign remedy" for all this. The great United States Government
would not permit the outrage, and any wrong done to one of its people
would cost the miserable offender dear.

But the leading Republic of the world lay many leagues to the
northward. It would take weeks to bring a naval vessel thence, and
certainly a number of days before one could come from the nearest
port. Meanwhile, the hours were of measureless value. The Major ground
his teeth when he thought he had allowed his yacht to pass down the
river to San Luis, with the understanding that she need not return for
several days. There was no way, however, of getting word to Captain
Winton, who could not suspect the urgent necessity for his presence in
this part of the land of abominations.

"Martella will be glad to go with us; he says we should go ashore just
this side of the point of land ahead."

"He doesn't seem to have any weapons with him," remarked the Major,
scrutinizing the fellow, who was looking at him with a curiously
intent expression.

"He could not bring his musket, but he has a knife under his coat,
and none knows better how to use it."

"Bring him here."

Guzman motioned to his friend, who rose to his feet, touching a
forefinger to the front of his sombrero, and skilfully picked his
course along the careening boat.

"Take the tiller for a few minutes, Captain."

The moment Martella came within reach, the American extended his hand
and addressed him in his native tongue:

"The Captain says you are ready to show us the way to _Castillo
Descanso_, where Señoritas Estacardo and Starland are staying."

Martella nodded his head several times and said eagerly, "_Si, si,

"Are you certain they are there?"

"I am not, but I think so."

"The deuce! Captain, I thought you said he was certain."

"So he is,--as certain as one can be; he saw them go ashore last night
and start inland under the escort of two soldiers, and heard them say
they were going to _Castillo Descanso_; isn't that true, Martella?"

"It is true, but perhaps they did not arrive there."

"Oh, hang it!--that is as near right as one can be. Show the Captain
where to direct the boat and we'll soon set things humming."

Martella pointed out the spot, and Guzman, who was an expert
navigator, turned the prow inward, while the Major lowered the sail,
and they rounded to at a place where all were able to leap ashore dry
shod. The craft was carefully made fast, and leaving what slight
luggage they had behind, they were ready to press inland without loss
of time. The leader carried his rifle and belt full of cartridges and
his revolver; the Captain his revolver, while the private was armed
only with a long frightful knife, which he kept, so far as possible,
out of sight under his jacket.

Standing beside one another for a minute or two, the American asked
his guide:

"Did General Yozarro start for this point when he left Atlamalco in
his tug?"

"I heard him say he intended to take the Señorita to Zalapata to meet
her brother, and Señorita Estacardo went along to bear her company."

"That's what the villain told _me_; did he pass beyond this point?"

"He did so for several miles."

"What cause did he give for turning back?"

"He said war was about to break out between the republics; I heard
that much, but I was one of the firemen and could not hear all; he
said afterward that he discovered something ahead which caused him to
turn back in haste."

"What was it?"

"Nothing, for there was nothing to see."

"He planned it from the first to deceive the Señoritas."

"You speak the truth, but why should he take the pains to do that,
when he might have gone overland and made the halt in the mountains?"

It was Captain Guzman who answered:

"Such a journey would have been long and hard for the Señoritas; the
voyage is far more pleasant."

"Why did he start at night?"

"It was easier for him to see the danger which was not there, or for
him to make the Señoritas believe he saw it."

"General Yozarro is devilish sly; let us go."


Since every one in tropical America called Warrenia Rowland by the
surname of Major Jack Starland and the two were accepted as brother
and sister we will do the same for the present, and thus avoid
possible confusion.

These two had been on the Forked River but a short time, when they
awoke to a most unpleasant fact, in addition to that which has already
been mentioned. While the climate was wholesome enough to those
accustomed to it, it was highly dangerous to visitors. The air was
damp, oppressive and miasmatic, probably because of the rank
vegetation that grew everywhere. Still further, the insect pests were
intolerable at times. Several cases of illness among the crew of the
yacht, though fortunately none was fatal, alarmed Aunt Cynthia and
caused some uneasiness on the part of Major Starland, as well as of
Captain Winton. In the circumstances, the Major felt warranted in
urging the plea of business as a legitimate one for haste in leaving
the detestable country.

It has been intimated that after Miss Starland had been delivered over
to her dearest friend, the yacht dropped down the river to Zalapata,
and left Jack there. Captain Winton, who was a cousin of Aunt Cynthia,
intended to steam some twenty miles farther eastward to the city of
San Luis, where a few needed supplies would be taken aboard. Then the
boat would return to Zalapata for its owner, and continue on to
Atlamalco, there to receive the young woman for the homeward voyage.

Major Jack Starland was considerate enough to decide to remain most of
the time at the capital of General Bambos, knowing the school mates
would wish to devote the all too-brief period to each other.
Consequently he would only be in the way. The Major gave no specific
instructions to Captain Winton, but left much to his discretion. It
was intimated to him that he might return to Atlamalco in the course
of a few days,--an elastic term which might be halved or doubled
without any blame attaching to the skipper.

General Bambos was delighted for the time with the companionship of a
man who had received the thorough military training of his visitor.
Ignorant as most of the prominent South Americans are, the majority
have heard of West Point, and all know something of the courage and
achievements of the greatest nation in all the world. The General
consulted often with his guest and Major Starland never did, or rather
never attempted to do, a more praiseworthy thing than when he strove
to impress upon the bulky Dictator the folly and crime of war.

"It was truthfully characterized by our General Sherman as 'hell'; it
has been the curse of the ages and brought misery and death to
millions, besides turning back the hands on the dial of progress for
centuries. Shun it as you would the pestilence that stalks at

Such discourse is thrown away upon the South American leader to whom
revolutions are as the breath of his life. General Bambos blandly
smiled and cordially agreed with the wise sentiments, but laid the
blame eternally on the other fellow. If _he_ would only do that which
is just, wars would cease and blessed peace would brood forever over
all nations and peoples.

Major Starland took another tack. There had been hostilities between
Zalapata and Atlamalco in the past, with no special advantage accruing
to either side. On the whole perhaps the latter Republic had been the
gainer, since the last treaty ceded to General Yozarro a small strip
of territory on which _Castillo Descanso_ stood, the same having been
a bone of contention for a long time.

The purchase of a tugboat by General Yozarro had unquestionably tipped
the scales in his favor. The American did his best to show Bambos this
fact and to warn him that in case of another war between the
republics, Zalapata was sure to be the chief sufferer. Bambos could
not gainsay this and he was now seeking to balance things, by floating
a loan which was to be used in arming his troops with modern weapons.
He made a tempting offer to Major Starland to enter his service,
agreeing to pay him an enormous salary in gold, though one might well
question where he was to obtain a fractional part of it, and to place
him in supreme command of the military forces of the Republic.

While the American was illimitably the superior in mentality to the
gross Dictator, he failed to perceive an important truth, which did
not become clear to him until after his plain talk with Captain
Guzman. The great object of the obese nuisance in warring against
Yozarro was to place Miss Starland under deep obligations to him,
though he was too cunning to intimate anything of that nature. When
Jack Starland kindly but firmly declined his offer, he feared that he
would become an obstacle to his scheme; and although he hid any such
feeling, he would have been glad to have him disappear from the stage
of action. What galled Bambos was the fact that the American lady was
the guest of his rival, who he knew would do his utmost to woo and win
her. To bring to naught anything of that nature, he determined to wage
war against Yozarro and shatter the opportunity that fortune had
placed in the hands of that detested individual. It cannot be said
that the logic of Bambos was of the best, but it must be remembered
that the gentle passion plays the mischief with numskulls as well as
with men of wisdom.

Such in brief was the situation, when Major Jack Starland yielded to
his growing unrest over the visit of his sister to her friend. He had
learned that General Yozarro was a widower--though as in the case of
Bambos that would have made little difference in his wayward
promptings--and he decided that it would be well to shorten the visit
of Miss Starland or to bear her company, so long as she stayed in
Atlamalco. He would be welcomed by the young women themselves, and,
although Yozarro might wish him to the uttermost parts of the earth,
he, too, would be gracious. So the sail of the American and Captain
Guzman up the forked river becomes clear to the reader.

Never was mortal man more infatuated with woman than was General
Yozarro, from the moment he first laid eyes on the "Flower of the
North," as he poetically named her. His passion was too absorbing to
be concealed, and in the sanctity of their apartments the niece
rallied her friend on the conquest she had made.

"But it is the very one I do not wish to make," protested the annoyed
American; "I like General Yozarro, chiefly because he is your
relative, but absolutely my feeling can never go beyond that."

"I thought your heart had not wandered elsewhere."

"It has not, and it can never pass to him, my dear Manuela."

"May I not say that you might go farther and fare worse? He is one of
the kindest-hearted of men, is wealthy and would always be your

"You name the very quality I cannot tolerate in the one whom I love; I
care nothing for wealth, for I do not need it; I want no man to be my
slave, and I shall never marry any one who is not an American like

"But many of your young women marry titles abroad."

"And too often hate themselves afterward for doing so. Misery and
wretchedness generally follow, for there is something unnatural in
such a union, with nothing of love on either side. Then, too, your
uncle is double my age, and it is impossible--utterly impossible for
me to return any affection on his part, if it really exists."

"There can be no doubt of _that_," replied the impulsive Atlamalcan,
throwing her arms around her friend and affectionately kissing her.
"Be assured I shall never urge you to do anything contrary to your own
pure nature. More than that, I shall take the first opportunity to
impress upon General Yozarro the hopelessness of any love he may feel
toward you."

"That is just like your true self!" exclaimed the American, returning
the ardent caresses of her friend; "my stay with you is to be too
brief to allow any such cloud to come between us. Much as I hate to
cause you distress, Manuela, I shall not stay another day if he
persists in forcing his attentions upon me."

"Have no fear of that. He is too good, too considerate, too honorable
to bring pain to any one. He will be grieved when I tell him the
truth, as I shall lose no time in doing, and will hasten to repair the
injustice. So let us kiss again, and say and think no more about it."

True to her promise, Señorita Estacardo took the first occasion to
explain frankly the situation to her uncle. He listened thoughtfully,
admitted his grief that his new-born hope should be crushed, but
declared he would accept the facts like an honorable man and take
every pains that their visitor should not be annoyed in any way by

Nothing could have been more delightful than the few days that
followed. General Yozarro took his niece and her friend on several
voyages down the Rio Rubio, and far enough westward to give her
glimpses of the magnificent fauna and flora of that interesting
region. There were times when the exuberance of vegetation and
foliage, the sweep of the mighty waters, and the superabundance of
animal life filled her with awe and a certain fear, but her wonder
never abated. The guns on the craft were fired several times for her
entertainment, but the General prudently refrained from pointing out
the target until he had made sure where the missile had struck, when
he found no difficulty in doing so.

No knight of the Crusades could have been more attentive to her
slightest wish. Indeed he was so gracious and thoughtful that she felt
at times a certain compunction. She wished she could give her
affection to one who possessed so many admirable qualities, but
compressing her lips, she shook her head and said again and again:
"It can never be."

Now and then spots showed on the sun. She caught glimpses of the
volcano-like nature of the man, when some of the crew or his people
displeased him. She was horrified to overhear some words which made
known the shooting of the brother of Martella for a trifling fault,
and she learned, too, of Yozarro's ferocious cruelties to others,
including some who had been taken prisoners in honorable warfare.
Underneath that suave, smiling exterior lurked Satan himself.


But the fly was still in the ointment. General Yozarro showed in
innumerable ways that his passion swayed him more absolutely, if
possible, than before. It appeared in the touch of his hand when
assisting Miss Starland to mount or alight from her horse on which she
rode with her friends through the picturesque country that surrounded
the capital,--in the glance of his ardent black eyes, in the sigh
which he pretended to try to keep from her, and in the many hints
which he dropped of his lonely life since the death of his wife. The
young woman could not touch upon these themes, lest he accept it as
encouragement; so she contented herself with parrying them. She began
to long for the time when she should turn her back upon Atlamalco

On a certain balmy forenoon, General Yozarro, his niece and Miss
Starland rode out from the town and over the trail leading into the
Rubio Mountains. They were on their way to _Castillo Descanso_, which
had been the cause of much fighting between the republics, and which
had finally fallen into the possession of the Dictator of Atlamalco.
It was a considerable way in the mountains and stood upon an elevation
that brought it out in clear view from the capital.

"It is fully three centuries old," explained Señorita Estacardo to her
friend, "and is unlike anything I have ever seen in this part of the
world. I suppose there are plenty of similar buildings along the Rhine
and perhaps on your own Hudson, which has been called the Rhine of

"How came it to be built?"

"I can only repeat the legends that have come down to us. Some great
pirate or general of Spain or Portugal--I don't know which--came up
the river in quest of gold mines of which he had heard stories from
the natives. You know that the first Spaniards who crossed the ocean
to our continent cared more for gold than any or everything else, and
stopped at no crimes to obtain it."

"That was the case with many other nations."

"Well, this buccaneer landed his crew here and tramped inland to the
mountains, where the gold was reported to be. He took with him several
hundred native prisoners to work the mines. He is said to have been
very successful, and while his slaves were digging in the mountains,
he set many others to work building him a home.

"Oh, there was no element of romance lacking, for he brought with him
a young and beautiful bride and it was for her that the Castle was
built. He must have learned from Columbus, Balboa, Pizarro and the
other early explorers that the worm sometimes turns and that it was
wise for him to make his position safe against any revolt of the
Indians. So the house which you are about to visit was put up. It is
of solid stone and three stories high,--something almost unknown in an
earthquake country like ours."

"But what became of this fine old gentleman?"

"I declare I forgot that. He lived there for years and then found that
the danger against which he had made such full preparations was not
the one that threatened him. The natives did not revolt, though why
they did not I do not understand, for he treated them like beasts of
burden and killed many in mere wantonness. It was his own men who rose
against him. They had gathered a great deal of gold, but grew
homesick. They hated the country and begged him again and again to
leave or allow them to go, since they had enough wealth for all. He
swore that not one should depart till the store of gold was increased
ten-fold. Then, and not until then, would he weigh anchor, spread sail
and pass down the river to the ocean and so homeward.

"Well, although I suppose the men were able to gather more gold, it is
not to be supposed they could have gotten as much as he wished. So
they took the shortest way to close up the business. They killed the
captain and his bride, carried aboard ship all the wealth they had
collected, set sail and passed out from further chronicle. What do you
think of the story, Warrenia?"

"It has the true flavor and makes me anxious to look through the

General Yozarro, who was riding in advance along the narrow trail, and
listening to the words of his niece at the rear, called over his

"That privilege shall be yours in a brief time, Miss Starland; I am
glad you are interested."

"How could any one help it? Is the Castle yours, General?"

"Yes; it may be said to be a part of the spoils of war. The boundary
line between Atlamalco and Zalapata runs through these mountains, but
its precise course has never been defined. The Castle rightfully
belonged to Atlamalco, but General Bambos claimed that it stood on his
territory. Since he was deaf to argument and reason nothing remained
but to refer it to the arbitrament of arms, with the result that
General Bambos is quite sure not to open the dispute again."

"Did those visitors of the long ago take away all the gold in the

"That is quite impossible."

"Why do _you_ not dig or mine for what is left?"

"I have thought of that, but it seems wise to wait until I gain some
one to share my lonely life with me."

"Would it not be more considerate to finish the work before that time,
so that you both will be at leisure to enjoy it? How much better than
waging war with your neighbors!"

"I have sufficient gold for me and mine. You mean it would be better
for my neighbors to refrain from waging war against me. I made a
religious vow long since never to go to war except in the defence of
my rights, and that you know is one's solemn duty."

It was the same old argument that General Bambos had used in
discussing the question with Major Jack Starland.

The young woman made no reply, for she saw it would be useless, and
her escort added:

"Your counsel is good, Miss Starland, but suppose General Bambos
should construe such action on my part as unfriendly?"

"Surely he cannot do so, unless you enter his territory, and that I am
sure you have no thought of doing."

"You know not the perfidy of that man," was the commentary of the
Dictator, his words inspired by jealousy.

When the Castle of Rest was reached it justified all that Señorita
Estacardo had said of it, though it lacked moat and drawbridge and the
other feudal accessories. It was of massive rock and stone, sixty or
more feet in length and almost as broad. The lowest floor consisted
of two large rooms, with broad openings instead of doors, rough and
unfurnished and with walls several feet in thickness. At the time of
its building, it would have resisted any armament that could have been
brought to bear against it. The crevices between the stones throughout
the structure had been filled with clay or adobe, which in the course
of centuries had hardened to the consistency of rock itself. The
second and third stories contained each four apartments, whose walls
were of less thickness, but the whole constituted a veritable
Gibraltar. Sloping stone steps connected each story, but only the
rooms of the second contained anything in the nature of furniture.

It was evident that General Yozarro had given this portion recent
attention, for the windows, tall, narrow and paneless, had been
screened by netting with the finest of meshes, though none can be fine
enough to wholly exclude the infinitesimal insects like the
coloradilla, or red flea, whose bite is as the point of a red hot
needle, the sand fly, and other devilish insects beyond enumeration.
Matting was spread on the smooth stone floors, there were imported
chairs of costly make, stands, a bureau and much of what constitutes
the appointments of a modern residence in a tropical country. The
doors were made of a species of wood, beautifully carved, but showing
no effects of the tooth of time, except in the gray faded color, for
paint had never touched them. They were powerful enough to defy a
battering ram, fitted with enormous locks and heavy bars that could be
slipped into the massive iron receptacles.

"Had that old buccaneer been given notice of the attack by his men,"
said Miss Starland, when the building had been inspected from top to
bottom, "he might have shut himself in one of these rooms and bade
them do their worst."

"Perhaps he did," suggested General Yozarro.

"And yet the legend says he fell."

"Starvation and thirst are enemies to whom the bravest must

"It looks, General, as if you had been rejuvenating this fine old

"I have done so to a certain extent in honor of your coming. Besides I
thought my niece would find a stay here pleasant during the
oppressive weather and I prepared it partly for her. You observe how
much cooler it is here than in the capital."


All had observed this fact which was natural. The elevation of the
structure, which was open to every breeze that fluttered through the
mountains, made it one of the most comfortable places in that part of
the world. Another thing had been noted by the young women. Two armed
sentinels were pacing outside, and two more came forward from the
lower apartments and saluted the General and his party. They relieved
one another at regular intervals, and three of them had their wives
domiciled on the second floor. These were slatterns, not wholly
lacking in a certain comeliness, and eyed the visitors with shy
curiosity. The latter spoke to them in Spanish, to which they smiled
and replied in soft, awed monosyllables, and respectfully watched the
movements of the young women.

General Yozarro descended the lower stairs, leaving his young friends
on the second floor, where they lingered a few minutes to admire the
view from the windows. The broad, wooded plain, stretching to the
verge of vision, the town nestling in the lowlands a few miles away,
the sweep of the river, and the cloudless blue sky formed a picture
that would always linger in the memory of all whose privilege it was
to look upon them.

The two turned to descend the steps, when the Señorita missed one of
her gloves. Hurriedly glancing about her, she said:

"I must have dropped it in the story above; I'll run up and search,
while you may find it below or on the outside."

She darted off like a bird, and Miss Starland moved down the sloping
steps which gave back not the slightest sound. The female servants had
preceded her, so that for a brief time she was alone. She reached the
lower floor, and was passing through the opening leading out doors,
when she heard some one speaking in a low, but excited voice. She
paused and discovered that he was swearing frightfully, the passion of
the speaker being the more fearful because of the repression of the
tones. With a shock which cannot be described, she recognized the
voice as General Yozarro's, and, more shameful than all, he was
addressing one of the women.

In her distress, and determined not to hear the words, Miss Starland
softly ran up the steps and was looking through the rooms again for
the missing glove, when her friend, with a glowing smile, came down
holding it up in her hand. Both laughed over the insignificant
incident, and Miss Starland took care as they descended that her own
merriment continued. General Yozarro, thus warned, finished his
imprecations, and met them with his usual smiles and graciousness. In
his snowy suit, sombrero in hand, he was the acme of cool politeness
and courtesy. Had not Miss Starland identified his voice unmistakably,
she could not have believed what her ears had told her.

That one revelation, however, did its work. She was resolved to leave
Atlamalco on the first opportunity and never to set foot within the
Republic again. She had come to look upon this man with a mortal
horror, for, under the mask of chivalry, he carried the blackest of

The return ride was trying to the last degree. General Yozarro seemed
to have forgotten his promise to his niece, and tortured her friend
with attentions which filled her with resentment. When he assisted her
to dismount, he pressed her hand for an instant until the rings on her
fingers dented the flesh and almost caused her to cry out with pain.
He uttered endearing expressions in a voice so low that no ears except
those for which they were intended heard them, and they gave no heed.
Her friend seemed to see nothing of all this, though she must have
been aware of it.

The irrepressible lover, more hopelessly enmeshed than ever, insisted
upon their visitor sitting with him and his niece on the piazza in the
moonlight, but in desperation, she pleaded a headache--when she had
never suffered therefrom--and kept her room.

"And Jack never dreams of anything of this kind," was her thought; "he
is only a few miles away, and I shall insist that I be taken to him on
the morrow."

Having made her resolution, she carried it out. At the table, which
was set in the large back room of General Yozarro's city house, and
provided with the choicest fruits and every delicacy that the fertile
republic could furnish, she made known her wish. She longed to see
her brother on an important matter, and begged that she might be taken
to him with the least possible delay. The others expressed their
regret, and the General offered to send for her relative.

"The one who goes to take the message can as well take me along," said
she, determined to force the point.

"Do you expect to remain with him long?" inquired the General.

"I know of nothing to prevent our coming back quite soon."

"Your wish is my command; I shall be very busy today on important
matters. Suppose we take the ride to Zalapata on my gunboat this

"That will be delightful!" exclaimed the niece, and though it was not
the exact arrangement her friend wished, she could offer no objection
and it was so agreed.

Thus it came to pass that the _General Yozarro_ steamed past Major
Jack Starland and Captain Guzman, while the two sat smoking in front
of the native's hut on the northern shore of the Rio Rubio, without
either party suspecting how near they were to each other.

The long day gave General Yozarro abundant time to perfect his schemes
which were carried out with precision and a faultless nicety of

Two miles beyond the hut, while the young women were partaking of
refreshments in the Captain's room, which had been specially fitted
for their reception, he came to them in great agitation.

"I have just discovered that General Bambos has obtained a boat
somewhere and is descending the river with the undoubted purpose of
attacking Atlamalco."

"Let us hasten back ahead of him," said his startled niece, who like
her friend was in dismay over the tidings.

"It will never do to flee before him; he must be kept from reaching
our capital; a battle with him is a necessity."

"With us on board?"

"I do not see how it can be helped--but hold! I will land you here and
send you to _Castillo Descanso_, where you will be beyond all harm.
Ah! that is it! That is it!"


The tug rounded to and approached the shore so close that by running
out the gangplank, the young women were readily assisted to land. They
were nervously eager, for there was no saying when the hostile craft
would appear and open fire, since its crew and leader must be unaware
of the presence of the noncombatants.

General Yozarro could not have been more thoughtful. He was profuse in
his regrets because it was necessary to subject them to this
inconvenience, and he assured both over and over again that everything
would be done for their comfort.

"You know the Castle is prepared for your stay, which I hope will be
brief; I shall see that nothing is neglected and you will hear from me

The three were standing for a minute or two on the bank, having but
little luggage to take with them, since, when they left Atlamalco
nothing like this had been dreamed of by the two.

"But, General," said the Señorita, "it is a mile to the Castle; how
are we to reach there alone and at night?"

Before he answered, two men came silently out of the gloomy wood. They
were in the uniform of soldiers, and one of them, saluting, said:

"General, we have the horses saddled and waiting."

"That is fortunate; I will assist you to mount."

This time he did not press the hand of Miss Starland, when with his
slight help, she vaulted into the saddle, nor did he sigh or give
expression to anything sentimental. The time was too critical for
anything like that. He waved them farewell, hurried aboard over the
plank, which was quickly drawn in, and the screw of the tugboat began
churning the muddy water, as she circled slowly about and headed up

The young women, being mounted, looked apprehensively out over the
moonlit stream, expecting and dreading the coming of the other boat
which was to fire the opening gun of another senseless and vicious
conflict between the peppery republics. The situation, however, was
too dangerous for them to wait more than a few minutes, and one of the
soldiers, doffing his sombrero, spoke with the utmost deference:

"I will lead the way and your horse will follow. My comrade will walk
at the rear; be assured there is no danger."

Each man carried a musket and the one who had spoken turned inland.
The horse of the American followed, the gait of all being the ordinary
walk. The Señorita was only a few steps behind her, while the second
soldier silently stalked at the rear. The American noticed that they
were following a clearly marked path or trail, which soon began
descending, then climbed upward, and wound around and between rocks,
the gloom in some places being so deep that she caught only shadowy
glimpses of the guide in front, as he plodded onward like one familiar
with his course. At times there were openings where the light was like
that at mid-day. She might well have trembled had not her animal been
sure-footed, for they had penetrated no more than a few hundred
yards, when the little procession began threading along the face of a
mass of rocks, where the path was so narrow that she felt the swish of
her skirts against the mountain wall, and on her right it sloped
downward perpendicularly, until what seemed a bottomless pit was
hidden in a pool of gloom. A misstep by any member of the party would
have sent him or her to instant destruction. But the animals and men
moved confidently, though the pace was slow. Evidently, with the
exception of the women, all were familiar, not only with this method
of traveling, but with this particular route.

As soon as our friends had become accustomed to the work, the thoughts
of both reverted to the river, and they listened with shrinking
foreboding for the sound of the guns that would mark the opening of
the fight between the two craft. General Yozarro had declared that he
would not permit the boat of his enemy to reach the capital, and he
intimated that as soon as he was released from the care of the ladies,
he would be quick to open the naval battle.

"He steamed up stream," reflected Miss Starland, "but he will not go
far; he is seeking a favorable position near by and the conflict will
be a fierce one."

But the minutes passed and the silence was unbroken. Naught but the
myriad voices of the jungle thrummed into her ears and she found
herself wondering what the explanation of the continued silence could
be. Had General Yozarro changed his mind and hastened to his capital,
with the decision to offer defence there? She could not believe it. It
seemed more probable that he had hurried down the river toward
Zalapata to meet his antagonist, who may have turned and fled to his
own town. Even this looked unlikely, but it was the only explanation
that presented itself. She would have liked to converse with her
friend, but the circumstances were unfavorable. The continual shifting
of conditions compelled her to keep a firm seat and rein and to watch
every step of her horse.

As the minutes passed and they penetrated farther into the interior,
without hearing the boom of the gun, a disquieting question forced
itself upon her. How did it come about that when she and her friend
were put ashore, two soldiers were awaiting them, with properly
saddled animals? It could not have been accident or coincidence. They
must have been there by order of General Yozarro, who intended from
the first that the landing should be made. No other theory was
reasonable. Had any doubt lingered, it would have been removed by the
silence of the armed craft.

This question inevitably suggested the other as to the reason why
General Yozarro had adopted so extraordinary a policy. Had he wished
to send the two to the Castle, there was not the shadow of a
difficulty in doing so, by the simplest and most direct means. As we
know, they had already visited the gloomy building and would not have
hesitated to accompany him again. Why all this mystery of landing them
from the boat at night and sending them into the mountains in charge
of two of his soldiers?

The thoughts that thronged upon the American were too perplexing for
solution, and she resolutely put them away for a more convenient
season. When she and her comrade could sit down and talk in quietude,
they might formulate the explanation which at present was beyond

One resolution, however, had crystallized: she would lose no time or
opportunity in getting beyond the domain of General Yozarro and would
never again willingly enter it. She had had more than enough of
Zalapata as well as Atlamalco, and yearned for the return of Jack's
yacht, when they could flit from a country which she had come to
detest unutterably. She dearly loved Manuela and could not reconcile
herself to the thought of losing her companionship forever; but from
this time forward, the American must voyage to the country which had
been her home for years, and where she could be assured of respectful


Suddenly her plodding pony stood still, with a slight neigh and ears
erect. They were at that moment winding around the face of a
precipice, with the wall on the left rising to a height of a hundred
feet or more, and sloping downward on the right into a gorge of
Stygian blackness. The path was a yard or over in width, so there was
plenty of foothold, and the halt could not be due to any lack of that

The guide was motionless, a dozen paces in advance. Something seemed
to have caught his notice and caused him to hesitate. Peering beyond
his head in the vivid moonlight, Miss Starland discerned a crouching
form, lithe and sinewy, and resembling a huge hound. It had been
approaching from the opposite direction, when it was checked by sight
of the man. A growl pierced the stillness, as it stood lashing its
sides with its long tail. Then it began inching forward with intent
to attack the obstacle in its path. The latter maintained his
stationary pose, but at sight of the beast stealthily creeping upon
him, he raised his gun to his shoulder, took a quick aim and fired.

[Illustration: AN OBSTACLE IN THE PATH.]

The space was short and the shot sped true. Upon receiving the bullet,
the beast emitted a rasping screech and leaped directly upward, as if
impelled from a springboard, and falling on its side, rolled over the
edge of the precipice, down which it sped, clawing, snarling and
bringing the loose dirt streaming after it, until it vanished in the
gloomy depths and all became as it was before.

The soldier coolly reloaded his gun, without stirring from his
position, turned his head and said in a conversational tone: "Come on;
all is well." Then he resumed his walk, and the pony of Miss Starland,
as if all had been clear to him from the first, plodded onward.

"Do you know what that animal was?" called the Señorita from the rear.

"How should I know anything about him?"

"It was a jaguar."

"Said to be one of the most dangerous animals of your country."

"I hope you have no fear of that particular one."

"No, but there must be others."

"They are not plentiful in these mountains; at any rate, the guide
will take good care of you."

A few minutes later, the procession began descending the trail, which
broadened and was partly hidden by undergrowth and trees, that lined
the sides and overshadowed the party at intervals. Several times Miss
Starland had heard an odd chattering, which she could not identify,
but which did not disturb the others. This showed that the soldiers
understood and so long as that was the case, she need not be disturbed
in mind.

In the lowest part of the valley-like depression, where she could
catch only dim glimpses of her guide, she was dreadfully startled by
an object alighting like a feather on her horse directly in front. It
was so close that she instantly saw it was a monkey, which in pure
mischief had dropped from one of the branches and perched itself on
the shoulders of the pony. Looking round at her it chattered and
seemed on the point of climbing upon her head when she struck it so
sharp a cuff that it toppled over sideways from the horse upon the
trail, down which it went clawing and chattering its anger; but,
though, it dropped from sight, it must be believed it suffered no
harm, because of its own nimbleness.

Her friend saw enough to understand what had taken place and called

"I hope you are not frightened, Warrenia; the little fellow meant no

"But I do not wish his company; you are welcome to it."

"I care little either way, but they are revengeful, and when you cuff
the next one's ears, don't do it too hard, or it may rouse the others
to attack you; heigho! here's another!" exclaimed the Señorita, as one
of the agile creatures bounded from somewhere upon her horse and
whisked out of sight again.

A soft murmur stole through the night, and gradually increased in
depth of volume, until when the party rounded a bend in the trail,
they came upon the cause. To the right and a hundred feet above them,
a sheet of crystalline water poured over the edge of the rocks and
tumbled into the valley below, whence it wound its course to the Rio
Rubio, only a short distance away. The falls were twenty feet in
width, with a descent perhaps twice as great, and in the moonlight
they looked like a motionless sheen of silver, which might have been
believed to be the case but for the churning of the snowy foam below.
From this a fleecy mist was continually ascending, and a little way
above, it displayed a faint rainbow, whose exquisitely delicate beauty
caused an exclamation of delight from the visitor who saw the picture
for the first time in her life.

But to the escort it was a familiar sight, and they gave it only a
glance, as they trudged onward. They were unemotional automata, who
knew nothing except to obey the orders of their terrible chief. He had
commanded them to give safe conduct to the young women to the Castle,
and that was their sole task. So far as the American was aware, not a
word had been spoken by the man at the rear, and the guide opened his
lips only when necessary.

Several times while pressing over the trail, they had caught sight of
the stone structure, and noted the twinkling of the lights from the
upper story. Making another turn, and climbing a slight ascent, they
came to the small plateau on which it stood, only a few rods in

Proof again appeared that this journey had been pre-arranged. Instead
of two guards, some eight or ten men were patrolling and lounging on
the outside of the grim building. One of these came forward and spoke
for several minutes, in low tones, with the guide. A call was made to
the man at the rear and he advanced and took part in the conversation.

The ponies halted of their own accord. While Miss Starland was waiting
and wondering, her friend dropped lightly from the saddle and came to
her side.

"Give me your hand, Warrenia; we are done riding for tonight."

The next moment the two young women stood beside each other on the
ground. Naturally the Señorita took charge of her guest and led the
way through the broad opening to the lower part of the Castle, where a
native woman was standing. Manuela recognized her as a servant of her
uncle's household, and addressed her by name. She replied that their
apartment was ready and conducted the two into the lower division of
the building, which was dimly lit up by a lamp fastened to a bracket
in the wall. Still under the lead of Juanita, as she was called, the
couple passed up the steps to the principal apartment, which they had
inspected the day before.

"You will wish to be together," said the servant with a broad smile,
"and this is your home, so long as you honor the Castle with your

"Yes, we shall stay together," the Señorita hastened to say, slipping
her arm under that of her friend, who pressed it affectionately. "You
may leave us now, Juanita, and when we want you, we will call."

The apartment was the one that had been provided with conveniences and
appointments, such as two young ladies were likely to need, even to
the little knick-knacks that are considered indispensable by them. A
glance around the room, in the mellow light of the lamp on the mantel,
showed nothing lacking.

"It seems to have been specially prepared for us," said the Señorita.

"And that, my dear friend, is the one thing that troubles me; I do not
understand it; do you?"


Señorita Estacardo drew her chair beside the snowy couch and faced her
friend, who did the same regarding her. Reaching out her hand, she
lovingly inclosed that of Miss Starland, just as she used to do in the
dear old days at the Seminary. The American young woman leaned forward
and kissed the dark cheek, and for a minute they sat without speaking.
Then with the black eyes gazing into the blue ones, the owner of the
former said in a voice, scarcely above a whisper:

"Warrenia, I do not understand it."

"And, Manuela, I'm afraid I do."

"Tell me, then."

"Surely you have a suspicion. Why should we mince matters? He has
forgotten his pledge to you and is more resolute than before."

"I fear you are right. The thought has been growing upon me ever since
we left the boat. Need I tell you that you are no more shocked and
grieved than I?"

"No, nothing that mind can conceive will ever throw a shadow upon your
loyalty and goodness. I have known you too long and too well for me to
have room for such an injustice."

The other's answer to this was to throw her arms impulsively around
the neck of her friend and to kiss her again and again, murmuring:

"Thank you and bless you! I can never be the angel that you are and I
would gladly die for you."

There were no tears in the eyes of either; they were too brave for
that. It was the American who spoke when they became more composed:

"We are agreed upon the one thing, and, therefore, must be right. But
you can aid me to clear up several points that trouble me. Why did
General Yozarro put us ashore and send us here?"

"I suspect his reason for that. You know he has spoken of sending us
to the Castle to spend a few days of the hot weather. He had the
preparations made and this room fitted for us. We should have come
here today, but for your change of mind. You demanded to go to
Zalapata and he could not refuse. His plan that you should come to the
Castle was not changed, but he had to seem to defer to your wishes. To
have come directly here would have been a plain disregard of them, so
he spent the day in planning this deception, and carried it out
without the least difficulty."

"Must he not have seen that when we went ashore and found the escort
waiting with ponies, we should see that the whole thing was
pre-arranged? In no other way could it have come about."

"True, but when we understood it all it would be too late to do us any

"What of his story that General Bambos had sent a boat up the river to
attack Atlamalco?"

"It was pure invention."

"We certainly have heard no sounds of a battle between the boats."

"Because there has been none. He saw no more of a hostile fleet than
did we, for none exists; he has gone back to Atlamalco."

"I suppose he will be here tomorrow with some cunning falsehood to
explain why the conflict did not take place. He will say he gave
chase to the enemy, who fled without firing a shot, but how can I
pretend to believe him?"

"There is no call for any such pretense. If he tries further
deception, ask him to make clear how the two soldiers were waiting on
shore with horses. If he makes a reasonable explanation of that, he
has more ingenuity than I ever supposed."

"We can have no trouble in convicting him, but, Manuela, my dread is
that it will not help matters, but rather make them worse. I must
confess that his conduct is beyond my comprehension."

"It is not beyond mine."

"What is your theory?"

"It is not a theory but a fact. My uncle is so hopelessly in love with
you that his ordinary common sense has left him."

"It may be as you say, but much remains that is unaccountable to me."

"I see little that is not made clear by what I have said. You and I
know that when a man becomes as blindly infatuated as he, his conduct
violates reason and the simplest prudence and he does things that
would be absurd in a child. Frightened by the prospect of losing you,
he gave all his thoughts and energies to preventing it. This was the
only method that suggested itself, and we cannot deny, my dear friend,
that it has been quite successful up to this point."

"But of what possible avail can it be to him? Idiot that he is, he
must know that this situation can last but a short time. Jack will
find it out within twenty-four hours, and General Yozarro must know
what will happen _then_."

"Dearest Warrenia, you do not see as much in this as I. What stronger
proof can I give of my love to you than to say that we must separate
and you must leave this part of the world with the least possible
delay? Your own loveliness is your peril. It ought to be your greatest
protection, but it is not. I would that your yacht was in the river
this very hour and that we could make haste to it, for you are in
greater danger than you suspect."


The cheek of the American blanched, and she looked earnestly at her
friend, as if she did not take in the full meaning of her words. She
spoke in a whisper:

"Tell me what you mean."

The other rose from her chair, walked across the room to the closed
door, and turned the big key in the massive lock. Then she lifted the
ponderous bar and dropped it into place.

"It may not be necessary," she said, as she came back, sat down and
took the hand which she had released; "for though some of the servants
may be in the next room, or in the hall outside, none can hear what we
say. It will do no harm, however, to be certain. If you could have
your wish you would be in Zalapata tonight?"

"Most assuredly I should."

"Because the Major is there, but if he chanced to be away, your
situation would be no better than at Atlamalco."

"I am certain it would be a thousand-fold better."

"I am afraid, dear friend from the North, that I see some things
clearer than you; General Bambos is just as much infatuated with your
loveliness as General Yozarro."

"But he has a wife and family!" was the horrified exclamation of Miss

"That makes not the slightest difference to him."

An expression of unutterable scorn darkened the face of the American.

"Impossible as it seems, Manuela, I must believe you. How can you live
here?" she asked with impulsive disgust; "you cannot trust _any_ man
in this country."

"Ah, my dear Warrenia, they are not all alike; I certainly know _one_
who is different from the two we have been talking about."

And the dark countenance became delightfully darker, and was aglow
with the radiance of perfect love and trust.

"I am glad to assure you I believe every word you say; I forgot
Captain Ramon Ortega, the brave officer and faultless gentleman,
whose greatest good fortune is to come when he wins you."

"And his good fortune will be no greater than mine; but, Warrenia, to
leave the most winsome of subjects for the most hateful, you will be
safer at Zalapata with Major Jack, but neither of you will be secure
until you are on the yacht and beyond reach of General Bambos, as well
as of General Yozarro. I could almost advise you to wait here, and yet
something whispers it will not do."

"But how am I to leave? It will not do to attempt the journey alone to
Zalapata, and what way is there of sending word thither?"

"Why shall we not have our ponies brought up and ride direct to the
capital? They are here already, with proper saddles. We can start
tomorrow after breaking fast, and we should reach the capital by

"Do you know the route?"

"As well as the walks around the old Seminary, where we spent the
happiest days of our lives; I have gone over it many times in my
girlhood and have done so since coming home."

"Neither of us carries any firearms and we must face danger."

"I was never in any danger, though I suppose there must be more or
less of it. I shouldn't like to meet a jaguar, tiger cat or zaratu,
but we might do so without any harm coming to us."

"What of the serpents?"

"The big ones are near the streams and in the marshy country; we have
a few coral snakes with their black heads and ringed bodies, but we
are as safe from them without as with firearms. This part of the world
is not so much infested as others. If I have no hesitation in making
the venture should you feel any?"

"I do not; shall we take an escort?"

"It would seem we ought to do so, but I believe it best to have none."

"For what reason?"

"They would be soldiers of General Yozarro."

The significance of these words was not lost upon the other, who
hastened to say:

"Let us go alone."

They sat communing until the night was far advanced. Their plans for
the morrow may be summarized in what has been stated. Both believed
that no special risk would be run in venturing upon a journey of
something more than twenty miles by daylight, without firearms or
escort. As a rule, strangers had little to fear in passing through any
section of either republic, and there were several native huts along
the trail, where the Señorita had obtained refreshment and secured
lodging on some of the journeys that were begun too late in the day to
be completed before nightfall. Although she was always in the company
of others, it was not on account of any misgiving or fear on her part.

Very rarely or never was a wheeled vehicle seen either in Zalapata or
Atlamalco, and the connecting roads were naturally no more than simple
trails; but all of these were so clearly marked that there was no
cause for even a stranger losing his way. While the bifurcation of the
river made the water communication between the republics more
convenient, many preferred the overland journey. The ride through the
craggy mountains, whose width may be roughly given as less than half a
dozen miles, was romantic and easy enough when made on the back of a

The strange, disturbing situation in which Miss Starland found herself
kept her awake long after the gentle breathing of her friend at her
side told her she was unconscious. The conditions were so singular and
so alarming that at times she was mystified and doubted the wisdom of
the course they had decided upon. She could not believe that the path
was as free from danger as the Señorita supposed. None the less, she
was resolved to make the venture. There was one comforting feature
about it all: if they were followed and brought back under some
pretext by the soldiers of General Yozarro, no unpleasant consequences
would result therefrom to them. The man would be ready with some
plausible justification of his course, but would be as effusive in his
courtesy as ever. Finally the sorely troubled one slept.

Neither awoke until the sunlight streamed through the narrow windows,
and then the two were roused by the knocking on the outer door, and
the call of Juanita that she was waiting with their food. She was
admitted and the meal on the broad silver tray was set on the stand in
the middle of the apartment. Nothing could have been more appetizing,
in that smothering climate, consisting as it did wholly of fruit, and
delicious cocoa, including prepared rice, mandioc and cassava, the
last being the most popular food in that part of the world.

Juanita having left the meal, courtesied, called down the blessings of
the saints upon the visitors, and, assuring them that it would be her
happiness to come whenever wanted and to act the part of slave all her
life to them, went away, and once more our friends were alone. The
Señorita did not fasten the door, for there was no call to do so, and
in due time, the two drew up their chairs and partook of the food with
the zest of youth and health. There was abundance for both and they
fully enjoyed it. By and by, Juanita returned and removed the remains
of the repast.

Miss Starland walked to each of the narrow windows in turn and gazed
out over the surrounding country. One of the openings gave a view of
the Rio Rubio, as it wound to the eastward, until its reunion and
onward flow to the Atlantic. She descried a catboat leaning far over
and skimming up stream toward Atlamalco, and a canoe, in which were
two natives, was observed, as one of the occupants swung his paddle
like an American Indian and drove the tiny craft toward the northern
shore. But as her vision roved up and down the river, she failed to
see that for which she longed above everything else. The yacht which
had brought her to this part of the world was still absent. In neither
direction could she catch a glimpse of Atlamalco or Zalapata. The
other window opened to the south, or toward the mountains, where the
view had no interest for her.

As she had done before, she remarked upon the massiveness of the walls
and the straightness of the window openings.

"They are so narrow that we could not force ourselves through."

"Our old buccaneer friend must have had them made thus on purpose.
Suppose some of those who hated him--which means all the
others--should have become strong enough to clamber up the walls
on the outside,--was it not well to make it impossible for them
to enter the Castle?"

The matter, however, was of slight interest to our friends and they
hurried their preparations for the journey. The Señorita donned her
hat and led the way down the steps to the outside. To both it looked
as if the number of guards had been increased during the night, for
more than a dozen were in sight, without regarding those who had lain
down to rest. The young women were saluted by all as they appeared,
and the soldiers whom they recognized as their escort of the night
before, came forward to learn their wishes.

"Carlos, the ponies that brought us here are still with you?"

"They are, Señorita."

"Have them saddled and brought out; we are to ride to Zalapata today,
and wish to make an early start."

The man removed his hat, bowed and spoke with the utmost respect:

"I am grieved not to hasten to comply with your commands; but we have
orders from General Yozarro that the Señoritas are to remain here till
he comes, which will be in a few hours, I think. It fills my heart
with sorrow, but as a soldier, the Señorita knows that no choice is
left to me."

And this time, he made two obesiances,--one for each of the dumfounded
young women.


The two looked at each other in speechless amaze. This was a direct
interference with their personal freedom, the first either had known.

The Señorita was the first to find speech. Addressing the soldier, she

"You say this is the order of General Yozarro?"

"Were it not, I should not dare utter the words."

"What is his reason for the command?"

It was essentially a feminine question, but the soldier did not
hesitate with the reply:

"War impends between Zalapata and Atlamalco; we are expecting at
almost any hour an attack upon _Castillo Descanso_; the Señorita
observes the armed force that has been placed here by General Yozarro;
he cannot allow the Señoritas the danger of falling into the hands of
the perfidious General Bambos and his barbarians."

It was on the tongue of Miss Starland to declare that she would prefer
a hundred times that eventuality to remaining in charge of the
Atlamalcans, but instead, her companion said what was in the minds of

"The order of General Yozarro may apply to me, but cannot apply to my
friend who owes no allegiance to Atlamalco or Zalapata. She comes from
the Great Republic of the North, and no one elsewhere has the right to
say yea or nay to her."

"It distresses me very much, Señorita Estacardo, that special weight
was laid by General Yozarro upon the order as affecting _la

And looking toward the latter, he again removed his hat and bowed low,
instead of contenting himself with the military salute that would have
been the proper thing under the circumstances. The soldier was above
the ordinary native in intelligence.

His words showed the futility of further argument. Without a word, but
throwing back her head with a scornful gesture, the Señorita nodded to
her friend to accompany her back into the gloomy building. Silently
and slowly the two went up the sloping stone steps and re-entered the
room which they had left a few minutes before. The Señorita locked the
door and the two faced each other.

"What do you make of it, Manuela?"

"Only one thing can be made of it; it is as I said; General Yozarro is
determined you shall remain here for some time to come and he gives no
more thought to the foolhardiness of his action than if he were a
child too young to walk."

"What of the story of a war between the republics?"

"I do not believe a word of it."

"Meantime, what are we to do?"

"Sit down, fold our hands and be good; but," she added with a flash of
her eyes, "that is the last thing to do; I long to meet my uncle face
to face. It is the first time he ever offered such an insult to the
daughter of his dead sister and to her friend. I hope he will not
delay his coming."

"I wish to be present when you meet; I, too, shall have something to
say, which I do not think he will soon forget."

But the hours wore slowly away and General Yozarro came not. Was he
not shrinking from her whose fiery temper he well knew? Which of the
two did he fear the most? The northerner may have been of cooler
blood, but her anger, when once set aflame, was all the more profound.
She abominated the man with his sleek smile, his oily manner and his
tempestuous profanity when he thought himself beyond her hearing. She
could not think that the other Dictator, with all his stupidity and
grossness, was one-half as wicked as he. Were she free to do so, she
would not hesitate to throw herself upon his protection.

"Where can Jack be?" she asked after the mid-day repast, and when the
two had talked over every phase of the situation for the twentieth
time. "Surely he must soon learn of this and he will be quick to call
General Yozarro to account."

"I place little hope on that; do not forget, my dear Warrenia, that
the Major is only one man against hundreds."

"But what of the yacht?"

"It is many miles away; no one can say when it will return; remember,
too, General Yozarro's gunboat."

The lip of the American curled with contempt.

"Let them meet and it will be Manila Bay over again on a small scale.
I only wish Captain Winton knew of this! He would sink the miserable
craft or chase her to the foot of the Andes."

In the momentary reaction, Señorita Estacardo smiled:

"You have full faith in your countrymen."

"So have _you_; so has every one who knows them, and who does not? So
will General Yozarro and his barbarians, if they ever rouse the anger
of my people. But why do we speculate? It seems we can do nothing but
wait. Manuela, can we not steal away when night comes?"

"I have asked myself that question, but I cannot see any hope of doing
it. Neither of us can leave without being observed; guards will be on
all sides and we shall be turned back as we were this morning. Let us
go to the upper part of the Castle and look over the country. It may
avail nothing, but it will be a relief to this monotony."

They climbed to the rooms above, which, as we know, were copies of
those they had just left, with the narrow windows on all sides. The
Señorita walked to the opening on the south which commanded a view of
the densely wooded mountains that stretched clear across the island
to the main branch of the Rio Rubio. She expected to see nothing in
that direction of interest and made the survey because her companion
passed to the windows on the north.

"Come to me!" called the American; "here is something strange."

The Señorita was at her side on the instant. Looking across the mile
of rugged country to where the northern stream wound its way, they saw
a small sailboat speeding to the eastward, the moderate breeze causing
it to careen far to one side. Its prow cut the curling water and the
foam spread out like a fan in its wake.

"If we had a glass we might study it closely," said Miss Starland
regretfully, as she scrutinized the craft.

"I don't think there is anything of the kind in the Castle, but it can
make little difference. The boat is a strange one to us, and whoever
is guiding it is no concern of ours."

"Probably you are right, but it looks to me as if there are two or
three aboard,--ah! there are three and they are heading toward shore.
They must land near where we left the boat last night."

"And what of that?"

"It looks as if they are coming to the Castle; they will soon be

"That does not seem likely to me; the only ones whom we expect are
General Yozarro and his friends, and so long as he has the larger
craft, he will not use such a puny boat as that."


The American did not reply, but held her gaze upon the little vessel,
whose curving to the right might change at any moment; but it kept
straight on under the propulsion of the breeze until hidden from sight
by the tops of the trees. The three men had certainly approached land,
though it could not be said they had left the boat.

"What do you make of it?" asked Miss Starland.

"Probably three natives have run to shore for a little while and will
soon pass out again and continue on their way."

"Let us keep watch."

They did so, and when an hour had passed and the sun was low in the
sky, the craft had failed to appear. Far to the westward, a thin,
dark, shadowy line lay motionless against the horizon, too far off to
be identified.

"I think it is the smoke of the gunboat," said the Señorita; "General
Yozarro means to come to the Castle over the same course we followed."

They looked long and anxiously, but the horizontal streak of vapor
gradually faded without bringing the craft into view. The tug had
steamed in the opposite direction, or there had been a change of mind
and the fires were banked or allowed to go out.

Miss Starland was still gazing, hoping and dreading the appearance of
the craft, when her friend pressed her arm and asked in a hurried

"Do you see him?"

She indicated a point in the trail no more than a furlong distant,
where it emerged around a mass of rocks, between the Castle and the
waterfall. The path just there was so narrow as to permit the passage
of only a single person or animal. Withdrawing her gaze from the
distance, she made out the form of a man, standing at the curve. He
was motionless, and evidently studying the Castle.

His dress and swarthy countenance, plainly visible in the sunlight,
showed that he was a native, who, for some reason, felt a peculiar
interest in the grim structure. He may have stood thus for some
minutes before the Señorita observed him, but he remained for a brief
while longer, so stationary that he might well have been taken for a
figure of stone.

"Do you know him?" asked the American.

"Only that he is an Atlamalcan; he wears the blue jacket; that of the
Zalapatans is red,--the two tints being the distinguishing features of
their uniforms; you observe he is dressed the same as our guards."

"Have you ever seen him before?"

"He is too far off for me to observe his countenance clearly, but, so
far as I can say, he is a stranger. I think he is a member of our

"Why then is he not with them? What is his object in going out there
and posing in that way?"

"I wish I could answer your questions. Perhaps our captain suspects we
are dreaming of escape and he has sent out guards to watch the Castle
from all sides."

"It seems more likely to me that he came from the small boat; he may
be a messenger from General Yozarro."

"If so, his action is inexplicable. If a messenger, he would hurry to
the Castle and deliver his message."

"Perhaps he has done so and is going away."

While all was conjecture, the man moved. It was then noted that he
carried no gun though he doubtless had smaller weapons. He turned
slowly about, facing the other way, strode a dozen steps or so and
then passed from sight. Thinking he might appear again the two watched
the spot for the following half hour, during which he was not seen
again. Then, looking in the direction of Atlamalco they were unable to
detect any trace of the finger of smoke which had faded out and which
they thought might come to view again.

"General Yozarro may have sailed further up the river," suggested the

"What could he hope to accomplish by that, except to run away from
General Bambos?"

"He may turn into the main stream, where it bifurcates, and come down
to the junction, when he can steam up to Zalapata."

"Let us stop speculating about him. Just now I am more interested in
the stranger, and, as sure as I live, there he is again!"

The brief twilight was already closing in, when the form of a
man--presumably the one whom they had already noted--came into view at
the point where he was first observed. Instead of pausing as before,
he continued to advance toward the plateau on which stood the Castle.
His pace was an ordinary one, showing neither haste nor hesitation. It
was a striking proof of the shortness of the tropical twilight that
although the flickering figure steadily drew nearer, it as steadily
grew more indistinct. When his head and shoulders rose over the edge
of the plateau, it was almost impossible to see his countenance,
though no doubt remained that he was an Atlamalcan soldier. A little
closer approach and he was hidden from the sight of the watchers in
the upper story.

The interior was now so dark that they descended to where the lamp
supported by the bracket at the side of the wall, was lighted. At the
same moment, the knock of the servant Juanita sounded, and she brought
their evening meal. The Señorita questioned her and she said that a
soldier had just arrived and was talking to Captain Navarro of the
guard, but she knew nothing of his errand.

The two friends were in a flutter, and, tarrying only long enough to
partake slightly, they hastened to their lookout. They waited and
looked for a considerable time, but saw nothing of the stranger in
whom they were so much interested.

When it had become wholly dark, they passed to the living apartment,
which was moderately illuminated by the lamp. The gloom outside would
continue until the moon appeared, when the light would be as vivid
almost as mid-day.

Suddenly some one knocked on the door. The peculiar sound showed that
it was not a servant claiming admission. Señorita Estacardo sprang up,
turned the key and drew open the massive structure for a few inches.
Then she recoiled at sight of the soldier in the blue jacket standing
before her, bowing low with hat in hand.

After his "_buenas noches_," he uttered the amazing words:

"I have come for the American Señorita."

"Who are you?"

He stepped softly inside, pushed the door shut and placed his finger
to his lips as a warning for them to be cautious. The young women were
frightened by his presumption, and the Señorita was about to command
him to leave, when, bowing low, he handed a slip of paper to her.

"It is for the other Señorita," he explained.

The wondering young woman took the paper and handed it to her friend,
who had come forward. Moving a little aside, so as to stand under the
lamp, she saw her name pencilled on the outside in a familiar
handwriting, and unfolding the slip, she read:

     "You can trust the bearer fully; he is our friend; do
     exactly as he tells you, and do it quickly, for there is not
     a moment to lose.

                         "Jack Starland."


It will be recalled that the catboat, in which Major Jack Starland was
descending the river in company with Captain Guzman and the Atlamalcan
deserter, Martella, landed them at the spot where the young women had
left the tug the night before, the cause for which action on their
part has been made clear. This took place early in the afternoon, and,
under the guidance of Martella, the three started inland over the
trail that had been followed by the two ponies less than four and
twenty hours before.

While all doubt of the presence of his sister at the Castle had been
removed, the young American officer did a big lot of thinking when
tracing the path through the mountains. He felt certain that when
General Yozarro sent the two thither under escort, he had arranged to
prevent their leaving until it should suit his pleasure. It followed,
therefore, that despite the outrage, it was necessary for Starland to
act with great prudence. He had only two companions and he placed
little reliance on the Atlamalcan. To attempt to bluff matters with
such an insignificant force would be the height of folly. One
man-of-war from the United States would find it child's play to blow
these miserable little republics off the face of the earth, and when
his government should be appealed to, it would be certain to bring
down a heavy hand upon the offenders; but days and weeks must pass
before that could be brought about, and there was no saying what
deviltry would be wrought in the meantime. If ever there was call for
hurry and the display of the wisdom of the serpent it was now.

When therefore the three drew near the plateau on which the Castle
stood, the Major said:

"You and I, Captain, will wait here while Martella goes forward and
learns how the land lies."

"If the Señoritas are restrained of their liberty by only five or six
Atlamalcans, why should we hesitate?"

"We shall not, if such proves to be the fact; but if there are more,
it is not well to attack until that is the only means left. It will be
little trouble for Martella to learn the truth."

"Do you mean that he shall make himself known?"

"If necessary; what objection is there to that?"

"He is a deserter from the service of General Yozarro, who will show
him no mercy if he once lays hand on him."

"It cannot be generally known as yet; I understand he merely came away
with you, as if for a visit; he will be safe for several days. Such is
my view; am I right, Martella?"

"Perhaps so, but I am not afraid of the risk."

"I do not wish you to run into unnecessary danger, but you need no
instruction from me; make all haste."

The native strode from them at an even pace until he was shut from
sight by the bend in the trail. We know what he then did. He did
not think it wise to reveal himself at the time and made his
reconnoissance therefore from a distance. It did not take him long
to learn that the Castle was guarded by a dozen men at least and
probably by more. This was reported to his friends on his return.

"That puts a different face on matters," was the comment of the
American; "it would be madness to attack such a force when we have
only one rifle among us."

Until now Major Starland had held slight opinion of the courage and
ability of the deserter, but the latter straightway made a proposal
whose daring fairly took away his breath.

"Señor the Major may have been right when he said my desertion would
not be known for several days, but he mistook when he thought I had
made no mention of it. I told Valentin Herrera, the engineer of the
gunboat, before I left; I asked him to tell General Yozarro with word
from me that if I ever gained a chance I should kill him just as
surely as he killed my brother. The engineer promised to bear the
message to General Yozarro and I doubt not that it will be repeated
to him before the sun sets."

"Martella, you're a fool!"

"Perhaps," replied the native with a grin and shrug; "but Señor the
Major does not reflect that General Yozarro would have me shot for
leaving the boat without his permission. He can do no more with me
than that,--why should I rob myself of the pleasure of sending him an
insulting message?"

"In other words, you might as well be in for a sheep as a lamb. Very
well; have you any plan to offer?"

"I will go to Captain Navarro of the guard and tell him I come as a
messenger from General Yozarro, who is waiting with the gunboat to
take the Señoritas to Atlamalco, and he must not delay in obeying the

The American looked at him in amazement.

"Have you the nerve for that, Martella?"

"I await only your permission."

"I cannot permit you to run such risk; better that I should go myself
and make the demand upon Captain Navarro."

"The captain has been warned not to permit any such thing, on his
life. You know that though General Yozarro may be aware I have left
his service, it is not likely to be known to Captain Navarro."

"It is a fearful risk, Martella. You are a good deal braver than I
thought; I accept your offer; but you have no acquaintance with the
ladies; they will not come away with you."

"You can write me a few lines to hand to the American Señorita that
will explain it all to her."

Major Starland had a feeling that it was hardly right to allow this
simple hearted fellow to sacrifice himself in this manner. He turned
to Captain Guzman, who was silently smoking a cigarette.

"What do you think of it?"

"It is the only plan that will succeed and there is no certainty that
it will not fail. But let it be tried."

"Will the captain of the guard obey a verbal order which it is
proposed to say is sent by General Yozarro?"

Martella lifted his shoulders.

"If he refuses we shall be no worse off than before."

"We shall not, but you're likely to be. However, here goes!"

He whipped out his note book and hastily penned the few lines that
have already been revealed.

"God go with you, Martella! You are a valiant man; I can hardly
believe you will succeed, but the need is desperate."

The deserter quietly shoved the little fold of paper in his pocket,
close to his terrible knife, and without another word passed up the
trail, his friends following him as far as was thought prudent. It was
not well for them to be seen by any of the guard, since it must draw
suspicion to the plan.


So it was that the daring native came up the plateau, saluted the
first sentinel whom he saw, and brusquely announced that he had
immediate business with Captain Navarro. The latter was in one of the
large lower apartments engaged with his evening meal. When word was
brought to him, he sprang up and hastened outside, where Martella was
standing erect, like a true soldier of the Atlamalcan army, and
saluted him.

"Do you come from General Yozarro?" was the inquiry.

"Directly from him," was the unblushing response.

"What are his commands?"

"That I bring the American Señorita to him without delay."

"Where is the General? I am expecting him any hour."

"You know I am one of the firemen on the gunboat; it lies against the
shore where we stopped last night when the Señoritas were brought

This was the critical moment. If Captain Navarro had learned of the
desertion of Martella, the life of the latter was not worth a moment's
purchase, but in reality he knew nothing of it. The Captain, well
aware of the ferocious temper of the Dictator, stood in as abject awe
of him as did every other citizen of Atlamalco. But as the two
conversed, the wits of the officer gradually returned to him.

"Where is the escort of the Señorita?"

"Standing before you."

"You do not come alone?"

"I do--"

"But how is it the General himself does not come?"

"Perhaps the Captain would like to put that question to General

"I shall be pleased to read your order."

"The only order I bear has just been given to you."

"Impossible! General Yozarro would never do a thing like that."

"Perhaps you would like to say that also to the General. But I will
save you the trouble; I will tell him myself that you refuse to do as

Martella turned to move off, but the Captain caught his arm.

"No, no, no, Martella! You must not do that; you see the dilemma I am
in; if I make a mistake, it will cost me my life."

"It is with you whether you shall make a mistake or not; I have done
my duty."

He made again as if to go, but the officer would not permit it. The
moment had come for Martella to play his trump card. The two were
standing within hearing of several soldiers who, in accordance with
the loose discipline of the army, made no attempt to hide that they
were listening. Lowering his voice, the messenger said:

"Step aside one moment, Captain; I have something for your private

When they were beyond hearing of the group, the soldier spoke in a
guarded voice:

"Are you blind, Captain? Do you not see which way the wind blows?
General Yozarro does not wish his relative, Señorita Estacardo to come
to him, because she would be troublesome; you know of some of the
General's conquests among the other sex; he is in love with the
beautiful Señorita from the North, but she has friends and he must
protect every step. If he sent you a written order, it might return to
vex him, when the relatives of the Señorita call upon him to explain,
but what does he care for poor devils like us upon whom he will be
able to lay the blame of a misunderstanding? He will be able to swear
that it was all a blunder of others. I respectfully suggested that a
written order would be asked for by you, for you are an excellent
officer who insists that everything shall be done in the order of true
discipline. You know the temper of the General; he swore at me and
declared that if you dared hesitate, he would have you shot. Then he
cooled down and told me to explain if you asked questions. I have done
so, when in the case of another officer whom he esteemed less, the
favor would have been refused."

"You relieve me inexpressibly by your words, though I must look upon
it as strange that you come alone. I am curious to know what you will
say to _la Americana_, if she refuses to go with you, as she is almost
sure to do."

"Do you think the General has forgotten anything? Is he not too much
of a veteran in the affairs of the heart? I am to tell the Señorita
that her brother is waiting on the gunboat to receive her; she started
last night for Zalapata to meet him, and she is impatient over the
delay. You must be sure she will hasten to obey the request."

Captain Navarro was not wholly free from misgiving.

"I can understand that the General may have reasons of his own for not
coming himself for the Señorita, but I do not understand why her
brother does not hasten to her."

"Heard you not that he was ill with fever and needs his sister to
nurse him?"

For the first time in the interview the Captain laughed.

"I beg you, Martella, not to hint to the General how stupid I was."

"Be assured I shall not. You know how many things we see which we must
not see, and of late I have had many chances to view such things on
the gunboat. I shall say to the General that you were as prompt and
obedient as you always are to do his bidding, and that he has no
better officer in his army than you."

"And you shall not be forgotten, Martella; I will order the horse
saddled for the Señorita."

Each minute added to the tension of the situation. Martella did not
doubt that General Yozarro was on the way to the Castle, and more than
likely was quite near. He was likely to arrive at any moment. He
glanced stealthily around, determined, if he saw him or any of his
escort, to make a break for it, with the chances a hundred to one
against saving his neck.

Every nerve was tugging for haste, yet the first sign of impatience
would ruin everything. He wished inexpressibly that the young woman
should appear and that they could start at once without waiting for
the pony. But that, from the nature of the circumstances, could not
be. With superb coolness and courage, he said:

"While the horse is preparing, I will go and ask her to make ready; I
hope," he added with a light laugh, "that she will not ask too many
questions. Where shall I find her?"

"The room of the Señoritas is in the second story facing the north; a
light is burning within."

Without any injunction to the Captain to make haste, Martella
saluted, and walked deliberately into the building, where no questions
were asked, since he had been seen in converse with the officer and no
one doubted that he came direct from General Yozarro.

Suppose, what was quite likely, that suspicion should again enter
the brain of the Captain, when he gained time to think over the
extraordinary situation? Suppose, what was also likely, that General
Yozarro should arrive while the bogus messenger was inside the Castle?
He would be caught like a rat in a trap.

And yet knowing all these things, Martella gave not the first evidence
of hurry. He went up the stone steps with dignified tread, knocked at
the right door, and was admitted to the apartment, where, as we know,
he explained to the two young women the remarkable errand on which he
had come.


There was not a doubt in the mind of Miss Starland when she read
the few pencilled lines handed to her by the deserter. She was too
familiar with the handwriting to be mistaken. She passed the paper
to her companion.

"You must not hesitate," said the latter, the moment she caught its
meaning; "go at once."

"Will you come with me?"

"No; I am not asked to do so. I can be of no help, and _I_ have
nothing to fear from my uncle, General Yozarro."

Little preparation was needed. Attired in the light, gauzy material of
the tropics, it only remained for her to adjust her hat and to catch
up the reticule containing a few indispensable articles. Still she
lingered, impressed by the importance of the step she was about to

Martella stood like a statue, but the tension had become almost

"Shall I retire till the Señorita is ready?" he respectfully asked.

"There is no necessity; I have simply to go with you."

"May I then be permitted to say that not a moment must be thrown away?
General Yozarro is expected, and if we linger it will be too late."

Just then the alert ears of the man heard an unusual stir below.

"I fear he has come; we must not stay."

He lowered his voice to a whisper and could not repress signs of
agitation. In the trying instant he decided upon his course of action.
He would go down stairs, and in the excitement, try to slip outside.
Then he would make a dash for life, with the chances still a hundred
to one against success.

The friends embraced affectionately, and the Señorita gently pushed
the other through the door which she opened.

"God and the saints be with you! Linger not another second."

Martella stepped outside, replaced his hat and with his deliberate
walk, led the way down the stairs, which were dimly lighted by the
lamp below. Sternly repressing all signs of haste, he slipped his
right hand under his jacket and rested it on the handle of his knife.

"They shall have a fight for it!" he muttered; "if the General is
within reach, my knife shall find his heart."

But the flurry that had startled him was not caused by the arrival
of General Yozarro. It was due to the natural curiosity over the
departure of one of the young women, which had become known, when the
saddled pony was brought to the front of the Castle where Captain
Navarro was waiting, with one of his soldiers holding the bridle.
Whatever the officer may have thought, it was evident there was no
change in his intentions.

Miss Starland walked lightly forward, fastening her reticule to her
girdle, so as to leave her hands free, bowed to the Captain, who
snapped off his hat, replaced it, and, slightly stooping, took the
tiny foot for a moment in his hand, and assisted her to the saddle and
reached the reins to her. She said "_Adios_!" to him and the others
gathered round, whereat there was a general uncovering. Martella
saluted and with his former dignified tread, walked toward the edge
of the plateau, in the direction of the trail leading to the river
from which he had come. The most wrenching effort of his life was to
restrain himself from breaking into a lope and calling upon his charge
to do the same with her horse. He succeeded by a supreme effort.

It was a hundred yards to the point where the bit of level land
dipped, and half the distance was passed, when Captain Navarro called:

"Stop, Martella! Wait!"

The man instantly halted, thrusting his hand under his jacket and
closing his iron fingers about the handle of his weapon. Matters had
gone too far for any drawing back. It was now to keep on or fight to
the death, for he had no doubt that the officer had changed his mind
and meant to hold both until the arrival of General Yozarro.

"I will pause to hear what he speaks," he said in a low voice to the
wondering young woman; "your horse knows the trail; keep on; you have
not far to go to meet your brother and his friend."

She had checked the pony, but twitched the rein and he walked steadily
toward the darkness, leaving the grim Atlamalcan to have it out with
Captain Navarro. The latter was approaching fast and came up panting
slightly from the exertion.

"Martella, you will not forget to remind General Yozarro that I was
quick to obey his command, as soon as you gave it to me?"

"Have no fear, Captain."

In the immeasurable relief and the dread of awaking distrust, the
deserter punished himself. Instead of immediately following his
charge, he remained facing the officer. It seemed wise to indulge in
some pointless converse.

The Captain looked inquiringly at him, not understanding the cause of
his hesitation.

"Is there anything more you would say to me, Captain? Though I have
lingered longer than I expected, I can afford a few more minutes."

"No, no, except to repeat that you shall be remembered by me. I am
sorry that I detained you; it is best you should make haste."

"Then, if you are sure, I will follow the Señorita, but I can wait a
brief while longer, Captain."

It was the latter who now showed nervousness, though the strain upon
him was not a tenth of what the other suffered.

"Off with you! Do you not see that you may lose the Señorita?"

The pony with its rider was passing from view below the margin of the
plateau, and the man now made the haste that looked natural. Although
the trail was easily followed, his place was in advance. While gliding
past the stirrup, he said:

"We have been fortunate, Señorita, but much danger still threatens."


Something prompted Martella to turn his head and look back. Not
Captain Navarro alone, but two of the soldiers had come to the head
of the path and stood out in clear relief in the strong moonlight,
looking after the vanishing couple. Martella grimly thought:

"The Captain is not easy in his mind, but it is now too late for him
to stop me."

A little way down the trail, under the shadow of the deep foliage,
stood the two men who were awaiting the coming of the messenger and
young woman. The time, brief as it was, had been trying to the last
degree to Major Jack Starland, who came forward into the moonlight and
approached the halted pony, which pricked his ears and showed some
timidity. But the rider readily controlled him.

"Halloa, Jack!"

"My dear Warrenia!"

He reached up and pressed the small gloved hand and the grasp was
warmly returned.

"General Yozarro seems to have forgotten to be a gentleman," she said.

"He never was one; if I ever meet the scoundrel I shall slap his face,
if his whole army is looking on."

"Then I hope you will never meet."

The party was stationary, though still near enough to the Castle to
justify uneasiness.

"Where are we going, Jack?"

"To the river; we have a boat there, in which we shall sail to
Zalapata, there to stay till the yacht returns, and then good bye
to this infernal country forever."

"And none will be gladder than I; but what of General Yozarro?
Martella told me he is expected every minute at the Castle."

"No one knows better than our good friend, but what of it?"

"Which route will he be likely to take,--by land or the river?"

The question did not seem to have occurred to Major Starland, who
turned to Martella for an answer.

"I think he will come by the gunboat and land where we did."

"Then there is a good chance of meeting him and his party?"

"Nothing is more likely; we must not forget to prepare for them, for
they may be close at hand."

"What do you suggest?"

"I will walk far enough in advance to give warning. When I see or hear
aught of them, I will whistle like this."

He illustrated and added:

"When that falls upon your ears, you will make haste to turn off into
the wood."

"But there are many places where we cannot turn off, without taking a
plunge down a precipice."

"Then run back till you find one."

Martella now strode down the path, which was so deeply shadowed that
he quickly slipped from view.

"With your permission, Major, I will follow next, keeping a short way
in advance of the Señorita and the horse. You may take the front or
rear, as you think best."

"I will keep at the bridle. I cannot see that danger threatens from
the Castle, and surely we are well guarded in front."

There was no call for delay and the procession moved in the order
named, the guide being so well to the fore that only at intervals
was a glimpse caught of the shadowy form, where the moonlight flooded
the winding trail, which gradually descended until it reached the
Rio Rubio to the northward. The three composing the main party did
not speak, for all their senses were centred in those of sight and
hearing. It had been in the mind of Miss Starland to propose that her
pony should be dismissed. The task of walking was nothing to her, and
the animal was really an incumbrance, but she saw as yet no objection
against utilizing him: the necessity of parting with him might come at
any time.

Past the murmuring waterfall, along the rocky face of the towering
precipice, with fleeting glimpses of the myriad monkeys eternally
flitting through the tropical forest, with the discords of nocturnal
animals, and the squawking and cries of disturbed birds of a hundred
different species, amid the soft moonlight and deep shadows, our
friends threaded their way, listening and peering into the gloom,
their hopes high, and yet with misgiving in every heart.

Half the distance was traversed, when the pony stepped around a
projecting bend of the trail, which sloped abruptly along the face of
the mountain wall. Major Starland paused and with a gentle pressure of
the bridle rein checked the animal.

"Some distance must be passed before the path broadens," he said; "I
hope we shall not hear Martella's signal when half-way thither."

Captain Guzman had also paused as if with the same thought. He was
twenty paces in advance, but did not speak.

"Shall we wait for a few minutes?" asked Miss Starland.

"It will avail nothing; the passage must be made."

"But Martella will be farther away and that will help."

"He may go so far that we shall not hear his signal."

Nevertheless, they remained motionless for a few minutes until Captain
Guzman was seen to move forward again. The delay was fortunate, for a
hundred yards down the trail, the three were suddenly thrilled by the
vibrant whistle, whose echo came back from the opposite cliffs.
Captain Guzman whirled and came running back.

"Hurry! Not a moment is to be lost!"

The trail was narrow, but an expert animal could turn.

"Don't take the risk!" commanded the Major excitedly; "give me your
hand and dismount."

"I can do it; let me alone."

Without hesitation, she jerked the head of the pony around, so as to
face the appalling slope, and, speaking firmly to him, continued
pulling strongly on the bit.

"It is madness! You will both be carried over."

But she gave no heed. The intelligent animal pressed his haunches
against the rocky wall, and began carefully turning. His four hoofs
were set close together, the front ones on the very edge of the
abyss, over which his head projected, and down which the dirt began
crumbling. The support of one hoof yielded and he sank partly
sideways. The Major uttered an angry exclamation and tried to snatch
his sister from the saddle. She resisted and not for a second did she
lose her superb nerve. The horse saved both by partly rearing, and
with his fore legs in air swung round as if on a pivot and set his
feet down again on firm earth, with his nose pointed toward the
Castle. She twitched the rein and spoke sharply. He broke into a
gallop up the path, with the indignant officer running at his heels,
and Guzman close behind him.

"'Twas the maddest folly I ever saw, but heavens! what nerve!"

Brief as was the distance, when they reached the summit of the trail,
Martella dashed up after them.

"I saw him!" he said excitedly; "he came on the gunboat and has
several officers with him; they will pass within a few minutes."

Miss Starland now took the hand of her brother and dropped lightly to
the ground.

"It was quite interesting, Jack: I hope you weren't scared."

"My heart was in my mouth; I gave you up; if you had gone over, it
would have been your own fault."

"But I didn't go over."

Martella seized the bridle, pulling so hard that the pony's head was
drawn horizontal. A rod or two and they reached the broadening path
and turned abruptly off among the trees and undergrowth. Where the
vegetation was so profuse and dense, a little way was sufficient to
hide them from any one passing over the path.

As always, Martella assumed the lead, the horse still reluctantly
following with the others around and behind him. Suddenly the beast
refused to go farther.

"What's the trouble?" asked the Major.

"Something has frightened him," suggested Captain Guzman.

The guide was savagely stamping. Then he stopped and tugged again at
the rein. The horse dragged back but allowed himself to be drawn a
little farther. All came to a pause, grouping themselves together,
where one was hardly visible to the others.

"What was it?" asked the Major, in a whisper, of Martella.

"He smelled a serpent in front of us, and I stamped him to death."

"Was it venomous?" the American was prompted to ask.

"I think it was a coral snake, but he was not large."

"If he had bitten you?"

"Pardon me, Major, he did not."

"There may be others near us."

"Perhaps; their bite is sure death; we must be ready to crush them
under our feet--hist! here come General Yozarro and the officers."


There were six of them, all coming out as clearly in the powerful
moonlight as if the sun were in the heavens. The stout form of General
Yozarro was at the front, walking at a moderate pace up the slope.

The moment he entered the field of vision, Major Starland heard
Martella gasp, as if catching his breath. Then the American felt a
hand upon his rifle, as if the other were trying to draw it from his

"My chance can never be better," whispered the deserter.

"I will not allow murder to be done; a brave man would not ask it."

The native loosened his straining grip upon the weapon, and all
silently peered from the gloom at the procession filing past. None of
the spectators spoke, but each caught the sounds of fitful
conversation among the Atlamalcans. No one could have been more
generous than the Dictator in the way of imprecations, which was no
cause for surprise to Miss Starland.

Until the purchase of the tugboat, General Yozarro had usually passed
between his capital and the Castle of Rest on horseback. Now, however,
he preferred the water route, although it compelled him to walk a
difficult mile.

At the moment when the rear of the procession was opposite our
friends, who were breathlessly watching from their hiding place, the
pony suddenly threw up his head and emitted a resounding whinny that
could have been heard a mile away.

"That means a fight!" exclaimed the Major, tightening his grasp on his
rifle; "be ready, Captain and Martella!"

The moment the alarming cry echoed among the mountains, General
Yozarro and his friends stopped and stared in the direction of the
disturbance. Martella was the only one with the quickness of resource
to meet the crisis. In a twinkling, he slipped the bridle of the horse
over his head, unfastened the cinch and flung the saddle to the
ground. Then, pointing the nose of the animal toward the trail, he
gave his haunch a pinch like the nipping of a fire ant. The animal
responded with a snort and leap, and then trotted to the group who
stared at him in astonishment.

The Major and the Captain caught the shrewdness of the action. By
driving out the horse without any belongings, he gave the impression
that he was an estray, probably cropping the herbage, when disturbed
by the approach of strangers. He had not been ridden long enough to
show the marks of bridle or saddle, unless examined closely, which was
not likely to be the case.

"They may learn the truth," whispered Martella; "be ready!"

The animal slowed his pace and walked snuffing suspiciously to the
waiting company. When one of the officers reached out to grasp his
forelock, he flirted his head away. The brute preferred his freedom to
serving a master.

Some natural surprise was expressed that he should be wandering alone,
so far from the Castle, and the listening friends heard General
Yozarro suggest that it might be worth while to look farther. They
were about to do so when he changed his mind.

"Captain Navarro is not careful with his horses: I must remind him to
have a better care of my property."

With this observation, the General resumed the lead and almost
immediately the party disappeared, vastly to the relief of our
friends. Martella waited only until they were beyond sight, when he
led the way back to the trail.

There was no further call for him to act as advance scout, though he
again placed himself at the head of the little company. He could
readily have captured the horse and offered to do so, but Miss
Starland refused the favor, saying it was a grateful relief to walk,
after having been so long in doors. Accordingly the pony was left to

The situation had changed. The danger was transferred to the rear,
though it was not likely to threaten for some time to come. General
Yozarro would not dream of the truth until he reached the Castle.
There he would quickly learn that the cunning of the deserter had
drawn the American Señorita from his custody and probably taken her
beyond reach. It would require less than an hour for him to go to
_Castillo Descanso_, and only a short time to hasten back over the
trail to the river.

Would he do so?

This was the question Major Starland asked himself, while tramping
directly behind his sister. Such a thing would be so daring an outrage
that it seemed improbable. What excuse could he offer when coming into
the presence of the two American visitors for so high-handed an
interference with their rights? Hitherto he had shown a fulsome
obsequiousness to both, and acted the part of a high-toned gentleman.
How could he throw off that courtesy which seemed a part of his
nature, and still forbid their going and coming as they pleased?

Doubtless the Major would have convinced himself that what he mentally
outlined was not to be feared from the Dictator, except for a most
important fact that obtruded itself: the presence of Martella, the
deserter, with the company of fugitives, as they must now regard
themselves. That would justify him in pursuing the ingrate to the
uttermost confines of his dominion, and to make his shelter by General
Bambos a _casus belli_, especially if the message left with the
engineer of the tugboat had been delivered. Acting under this
pretext, Yozarro would be able to bring the man's companions within
his power, with the opportunity of carrying out the plans he had
formed respecting them. His infatuation had destroyed his tact,
judgment and sense, of which his furnishment had never been great.

Strange that one of the most likely contingencies of the peculiar
situation did not present itself to any one until it flashed upon
Major Starland, while threading the mountain trail and when near its
termination. General Yozarro's tugboat must have come ashore directly
behind the catboat of his predecessors. He would recognize the smaller
craft, and know that the American had gone to the Castle to join his
sister, no doubt with the intention of bringing her away. He must have
destroyed the usefulness of the catboat and thus estopped the flight
of the fugitives by that means.

While such action on his part would appear to have been certain, yet
it did not accord with his conduct when on the way to _Castillo
Descanso_. The sight of the pony would have told him the truth, and
he would have been certain to make an investigation on the spot. But
that was not done, nor was there anything in the words or manner of
the Atlamalcans to show that he held a suspicion of the real

"Martella must have thought of all this, yet he did not show it by
word or act."

Walking briskly, they soon passed up a slight incline, descended
another and arrived within a short distance of the Rio Rubio. Then,
for the first time, the officer recalled that the trail bifurcated
like the river itself. One fork turned to the right, which led to
where the sailboat had been secured. Without pausing, Martella turned
down this, and a few minutes later all stood on the river's margin.


There nestled their boat with no sign of having been visited during
their absence. Its prow was drawn well up the bank, and the sail
lay in a roll on the boom and at the foot of the single mast with
everything snug. Martella hastily examined every portion of the hull,
stepping into the water to do so, and finally said with a grin:

"None of them saw it."

"That is better fortune than I expected. Providence has been kind to
us, but where is _their_ boat, Martella?"

They listened for the blowing off of steam, but, save for the never
silent sounds from the forest and jungle, all was silent.

"It is not far away; General Yozarro made the landing above and passed
up the other trail to where it joins this one. It was lucky, for, had
he come here, as he did last night, he must have seen our boat. He
would have crippled it, and when he met the horse along the trail, he
would have known we were near. There is no need of undue haste, and if
you do not care, I will visit the gunboat."

"Are you not running great risk?"

"The only ones there are the engineer and two firemen; I have nothing
to fear from them."

"You have my permission."

The vegetation and foliage were so intricate that, instead of taking
the shorter distance, the native loped back over the trail to the
forking, and then went down the other to the river's edge. As he
expected, he found the tug lying against the shore. In a country where
wood is superabundant and coal almost unknown, the former was used
exclusively on the craft. A large quantity was always piled at the
front, some of the kinds belonging to the most valuable exports, with
such a close grain that it gave out as fervid heat as the mineral
itself. Instead of maintaining a high pressure of steam, the engineer
allowed it to sink. The return of General Yozarro was not looked for
under several hours, and with so much resinous wood at hand, the
furnace could be quickly fired up. It was a saving all round to let
the steam moderate, which explains why our friends heard nothing of
the craft sleeping less than thirty rods away.

Despite the confidence of Martella, he knew his venture was not wholly
free from risk, and in the face of his comradeship with the crew, it
was not unlikely that they would seek to win the good will of the
Dictator by delivering the deserter to him. If there were others
beside the engineer and firemen on board, it would be imprudent to the
last degree to entrust himself to them. He therefore spent
considerable time in reconnoitering.

Moving stealthily here and there, and peering out from the shadows, he
soon made out the form of a man seated on the gunwale at the front,
doubtless in quest of coolness. He was smoking a cigarette and
something in his appearance was so familiar that the deserter called,
in a guarded voice:

"Valentin, is that you?"

The man looked sharply around and removed the cigarette from between
his lips.

"Martella!" he replied in the same careful voice.

"Who else is on the boat?"

"Only Juarez and Dominguez."

He had mentioned the names of the two firemen.

"Is it safe for me to join you in a smoke?"

"For a little while only."

Martella came out in the moonlight, moved softly up the plank which
connected the boat with the shore, and seating himself beside his old
acquaintance, lit a cigarette. They talked for some minutes, as if no
cloud had come between them, and then the visitor, heeding the warning
of the engineer, bade him good bye and hurried back to his friends,
who were becoming impatient over his absence.

Major Starland and the others noted that the deserter was in high
spirits, but no one could understand why this should be the case.

"It is as I thought," said Martella; "the gunboat landed General
Yozarro and the officers who have gone to the Castle."

"We knew that before."

"And he did not dream of the presence of our boat so near. Things
would have been different had he known it."

"I may add, Martella, that that information is not new to us."

"But some things are new. The only ones on the boat are the engineer
and two firemen. There will be no trouble about it."

"Trouble about what?"

"Capturing the boat; the crew will make no resistance, for it is not
intended that they shall do any fighting. If they do, we can defeat
them easily."

"So you have a plan for capturing that old tug of General Yozarro?
What do you think of it, Captain?"

"It can be done with little trouble as Martella says. I was thinking
of the same thing while he was away. It would be a fine trick to play
on General Yozarro."

"And I should be glad to help, but it will not do."

"Why not?"

"Despite what General Yozarro said, the two republics are not at war.
If they were, the capture would make your fortune. As it is, it would
bring your ruin. General Bambos would be obliged not only to disavow
the act, but to punish you for the offence."

"I was thinking," said Martella, "that perhaps the Major would be
willing to take the responsibility."

"I admit that the temptation is strong, and, were not Miss Starland's
interests at stake, nothing would please me more than to capture that
wheezy tug and scuttle it, but it may bring unpleasant consequences to
her and therefore is not to be thought of."

Captain Guzman said these words were wise, and Martella was compelled
reluctantly to accept the situation, though it irked him. The sail of
the boat was hoisted, Miss Starland was given a seat at the stern, and
the men united to shove the craft into deeper water.

"There is little wind," observed the Captain, "but it is favoring and
we ought to be at Zalapata soon after daylight."

The two natives placed themselves at the bow, and the Major as usual,
took charge of the tiller, thus bringing himself close to his sister.
The wooded shore so blanketed the catboat, that Martella took up a
pole to push the craft out into the stream. Soon, enough impulse
caught the sail to give headway, and they moved slowly out toward the
middle of the river. Martella laid down the pole, and seated himself,
still grinning.

"Major, I have pleasing news for you," he chuckled.

"I am listening."

"The engineer gave my message to General Yozarro."

"He did! It is fortunate for you that you and he did not meet."

"More fortunate for _him_ than for _me_," was the significant comment.


The sailboat crept slowly out into the middle of the river, the breeze
being so light that only a faint rippling was heard at the bow, and
the craft hardly answered her helm. Major Starland had noted that the
wind was not favorable, and he was compelled to tack toward the
northern shore. He ran close in and was cheered by a freshening of the
breeze which added perceptibly to the speed.

"At this rate," said his sister, "we shall not reach Zalapata till
tomorrow is well advanced."

"It cannot matter, for there is no special need of haste."

"Suppose, when General Yozarro returns, he pursues us?"

"It is not impossible; it will be easy for him to overhaul such a
slow-sailing boat as this, but he dare not offer us harm. Are we not
free born Americans, and will not our government be quick to punish
such an offence?"

"You must not forget that the South American is an idiot, for, had he
not been, he would not have dared to forbid my leaving the Castle."

"Since a long sail is before us, why not let me adjust a couch for you
to sleep?"

"Sleep! As if I could sleep at such a time as this! I had all I needed
last evening when in prison."

It will be remembered that Captain Guzman and Martella were seated at
the bow, facing those at the stern. Thus the moonlit river beyond was
in clear view, and the sombre, motionless form of the tugboat could be
made out where it snuggled against the southern bank. The deserter was
speaking in low tones to the Captain, when he uttered an exclamation
which caused the officer to turn his gaze to the rear.

That which the former fireman saw was a number of sparks mingling with
the heavy vapor that was beginning to tumble out of the smokestack.
The next moment both saw that the craft was heading out into the

"General Yozarro and his officers have returned!" called Martella;
"the firemen are cramming the furnace with wood; they mean to pursue

Jack Starland and his sister looked behind them. The Atlamalcan had
spoken the truth. The time seemed much too short for the party to have
made the journey to the Castle and back. In fact, it was impossible
for them to have done so, but there could be no doubt that they were
all on the tugboat. The explanation instantly flashed upon Martella.

"Captain Navarro suspected the truth some time after we left and
hurried to take us to the Castle again. Some news may have reached
him, or his own sense told him of my trick. He met the General on the

Such undoubtedly was the fact. Had our friends suspected aught of that
nature, they would not have frittered away the precious minutes as
they had done.

Meanwhile, the resinous wood flung into the furnace of the tugboat was
doing its work. From the single smokestack poured the murky vapor,
sprinkled with crimson sparks which were tossed right and left high in
air, to drop hissing into the water. In the moonlight, a snowy winrow
at the bow showed that the tug was plowing ahead with fast increasing
speed. Capable of making a dozen miles an hour, she was already doing
her best, and coming up with the sailboat hand over hand.

Only a few minutes were given the fugitives in which to decide what to
do. A straight away race was hopeless, for the pursuer, now no more
than an eighth of a mile distant, was sure to overhaul them in a very
brief time.

"I am inclined to let General Yozarro come up with us," said the
Major; "I have no fear of his molesting me or Miss Starland, and I am
rather curious to hear what he has to say for himself. We are in our
own boat, or at least not in his, and we have committed no crime
against the Atlamalcan Republic, whatever that name means."

"You must not think for an instant of such a thing," said his sister
with great earnestness.

"Why not? Do you hold him in fear?"

"No; but he will take vengeance upon Martella, who has served us so

"Great heavens! I never thought of that; and he will be as merciless
with Captain Guzman for having helped Martella."

"And with _you_ for crossing his path."

"With me! I long for a meeting with him; but, Captain," added the
American, raising his voice; "it will not do for you and Martella to
be on board when General Yozarro overtakes us."

"I think you are right," replied the Captain; "the General and I have
never loved each other, and even General Bambos would not object
strongly if it is proposed to shoot me for aiding an Atlamalcan to
desert from his navy."

Martella said nothing, but no one understood the situation better than

"I will head the boat for the southern shore, where you two can look
out for yourselves."

"I am afraid you will not have the time to reach it."

"It _must_ be done!"

The American had pushed the tiller sharply round, and the boat was
speeding diagonally for the bank. The change of course gave her a
fairer wind, but the tug was coming up so fast that it looked as if
she must head off the fugitives. Full steam had been put on, and our
affrighted friends, when they looked back, saw the tumbling foam at
the bow, the spreading wake streaming fanlike to the rear, and the
dark figures crowding forward, amid whom it was easy to believe they
discerned the form of General Yozarro cursing the engineer for not
attaining better speed.

"If we cannot make it," said Martella to the Captain, "we must jump
over and swim."

"We cannot swim any faster than we are going now, and the water
abounds with enemies."

"None is so treacherous as Yozarro; I at least will try it; I can let
myself over softly and make so long a dive that perhaps he will not
notice me."

"Wait a few minutes, Martella, for I do not like your plan."

The brief interval decided the question. It seemed that the sailboat
might touch land before the pursuer could interpose to head them off.
Martella decided to take his chances with the others.

The tug was now so near that Yozarro called:

"Stop or we'll blow you out of the water!"

"Blow and be hanged!" called back Major Jack; "if you fire on an
American citizen, your nuisance of a republic will be wiped off the

"You have a deserter with you; I demand his surrender."

Therein shone the cunning of General Yozarro. If an American was fired
upon in Atlamalcan waters for carrying off a deserter, it was little
satisfaction our citizen would be able to obtain. Without hesitation,
Major Starland shouted:

"We have the man; come and get him!"


General Yozarro's red-hot temper burst into uncontrollable flame, and
he committed a blunder which allowed the game to flit when it was
within his grasp. To the consternation of every one, he gave an
instant order to fire upon the sailboat. The officers protested, but
the Dictator was irrestrainable. He hurried down from the upper deck
and ordered two sailors to train the gun at the front on the little
craft. The better to accomplish this, he shouted to the Captain to
slacken speed, so as not to distract the aim of the gunners.

For a minute or two Major Starland could not believe what he heard,
but the movements on board the tug left no doubt of the frightful
purpose of the raging creature on the larger boat. Holding the tiller
steady and keeping the head of the small craft straight toward shore,
the Major said to his sister:

"If they hit us, it will be by accident; you would better stoop your

She instantly obeyed and he leaned forward himself, so as to offer as
small a target as possible. Captain Guzman and Martella sat
motionless, watching the tug rushing down upon them and ready to leap
ashore the instant they came within reach.

All a-tremble with the intensity of his rage, General Yozarro stood to
the rear and beside the six-pounder whose muzzle was pointed toward
the little boat. He measured with his eye when the right instant came,
and snapped the lanyard. A spout of smoke and flame shot from the
muzzle and the boom rolled across the river and was echoed from the
further shore, as the solid missile sped on its errand.

Barely more than a hundred yards separated the two craft, when the
explosion came. General Yozarro had aimed to sink the other boat,
reckless of the lives he sacrificed. It may have been and it probably
was because he took the best aim he could, that the ball missed the
catboat by twenty feet and crashed harmlessly into the jungle beyond.

The delay caused by the slackening speed of the tug gave our friends
the chance they were prompt to use. Not the slightest change had been
made in the course of the craft, whose prow the next moment impinged
sharply against the shore, and Captain Guzman and Martella sprang out.
Instead of running away, however, they seized the gunwale and tugged
to draw the bow up the bank.

Grasping the hand of his sister, Major Starland dashed after them.
They had the length of the boat to travel, but quickly did it and
joined their friends on land.

"Why do you dally?" he called angrily; "if you wait another minute,
you will be taken! Off with you!"

"Fret not about us," was the gruff response of Martella; "attend to
the Señorita, and we'll look after ourselves."

The great fear in the minds of all was that General Yozarro would fire
the rear gun. It would take a few minutes to bring it to bear, and,
although neither he nor his men knew how to aim to hit, an accident
might result in harm. The passing seconds were of measureless value.

But, before the tug could veer, a gleam of returning reason came to
the ruffian. He had done an outrageous thing, but providentially
without evil consequences. It would not do for him to repeat the
crime. He might claim, as doubtless he meant to claim, that the first
shot was fired as a warning to bring the smaller craft to, though in
all his life he never tried harder to destroy and kill.

He shouted to the Captain to head for land, and the officer did so
with a skill born of experience. In rounding to, he narrowly missed
smashing the smaller boat.

Now, through one of those coincidences which occur oftener in this
life than is supposed, the catboat had touched shore at the opening of
a clearly-marked trail, leading into the interior. It was pure chance
or providence, for even Martella knew nothing of the path, which was
one of many that wound down to the river. It was his intention to
plunge into the jungle with no other thought than that of immediately
finding a hiding place for his friends and himself, when he happened
upon the path. Yielding to impulse, he called out the fact and told
the others to follow, as he hurried up the slight incline.

But a few paces told him this would never do, for their pursuers would
be right behind them. He abruptly stopped.

"We must turn off," he said, "and let them pass us."

"They may not do so," suggested Starland.

"They will not know where to look for us."

He began picking a course among the matted vegetation, unmindful of
the dangers that might threaten. Miss Starland went next, then her
brother, and then Captain Guzman. They penetrated no more than twenty
feet, when, at a whispered word from Martella, all halted, and, as
they had done earlier in the evening, watched for their pursuers to
pass. In this instance, however, the path was so screened that nothing
could be seen, and our friends depended wholly upon their sense of

Less than ten minutes elapsed between the landing of the two parties.
General Yozarro was the first to set foot on shore, and, noting the
trail, he started up it on a lope, with the others hurrying after him.
Their footsteps were heard by the crouching fugitives, who were unable
to see a single shadowy form.

"How long will they keep that up?" asked Major Starland when the last
had gone by.

"Not long," answered Captain Guzman; "they know the Señorita cannot
travel fast, and that, if we took the trail, they must quickly come up
with us."

"Failing to overtake us, what will they do next?"

But for the darkness, the Captain would have been seen to shrug his
shoulders. It was the deserter who spoke:

"They can do nothing but wait."

"Martella, I am now ready to join you in capturing the tugboat."

"_Esta buena! Esta buena!_" whispered the delighted fellow; "it makes
no difference, if there is more risk, for we do not know how many they
have left behind."

"Hang the risk! Lead on!"

In his eagerness, Martella took no pains to hide the noise of tearing
through the jungle, and the next moment they emerged into the trail
again. The Major had already instructed his sister to stay at the
rear, with the Captain directly in front of her. There was likely to
be sharp fighting, and she must keep out of it.

"When we rush aboard, remain on the bank till I call to you."

She promised to do as told, and the three men, their heads bent
forward, went down the trail at the double quick, she readily keeping
pace with them. The brief distance was quickly passed, and the three
drew together on the edge of the river, just within the shadow.

"The Captain is in the pilot house," whispered Martella, indicating
the figure of a man who had seated himself; "but I don't think there
are any others beside the engineer and firemen."

"Leave the Captain to me," said the American, who sprang into the
moonlight and led the way up the gang plank with the two at his heels.
In his left hand was his rifle and in his right his revolver.


In his haste General Yozarro had given no orders to secure the tugboat
in place, nor was there need of doing so. The water was deep enough to
permit the craft to lie against the bank, where it was held by the
gentle turning of the screw. With a few more vigorous revolutions, the
prow would have gouged into the bank, or taken the boat into the river
on the proper direction of the wheel.

Running across the gangplank, with a firearm in each hand, Major
Starland bounded up the few steps leading to the upper deck. The
Captain of the boat was seated in the pilot house, calmly smoking a
cigarette while he waited. His gaze being turned dreamily toward the
river, he saw nothing of the intruder, or, if he heard his footsteps,
he was not disturbed. His awakening came, when the athletic American
strode forward and thrust a revolver through the window of the pilot

"Do as I tell you and you won't be hurt; try to do different and I'll
blow your brains out!"

These words, uttered in Spanish, were to the point. Without them, the
action of the officer would have made his meaning clear. The Captain
was cooler and braver than any of his countrymen. He did not stir, but
looking into the face of the other, removed his cigarette and said:

"I shall be pleased, Señor, to be told in what way I can serve you."

"You shall learn in a moment; at present continue smoking, and hold
yourself ready for orders."

He bowed and with a smile that showed his even white teeth, replied:

"I am happy to do as you say."

"Are you armed?"

"I am the Captain of this boat; General Yozarro does not allow me to
attend to any other duty; I have no weapon on me; would you prefer to
search me?"

"I accept your word."

The Major turned to look for Guzman and Martella. The sound of voices
showed that they were on the boat.

[Illustration: "A DARING CAPTURE."]

"Warrenia," he called, "come aboard!"

She was alert and moved quickly up the plank.

"Now, Captain, steam out into the river."

"Pardon me, do you not wish the gangplank drawn in?"

"We have no time; do not wait."

The Captain was on his feet, one hand resting on a spoke of the wheel,
while the other gripped the curved piece of brass, which being drawn
upward twice sent an order to the engineer to back the boat. Major
Starland stood listening with some misgiving, for he did not know how
things had gone below. The response, however, indicated that all was
well, for almost on the instant, the screw began churning, and the
boat slowly receded, allowing the gangplank, after being drawn askew,
to drop with a splash into the water.

Knowing the purpose of their leader, Guzman and Martella had hurried
into the engine room, where Valentin Herrera, the engineer, was found
dozing. The place was smotheringly hot, and below, the firemen were
asleep, so used to it that they would have slumbered in tophet itself.

There was consternation for a moment, but it did not take the
visitors long to impress upon the men that the boat had been captured
and that their lives depended upon their prompt acceptance of the
changed conditions.

"How many are with you?" asked the engineer, who knew his former
fireman so well that he did not feel much personal fear of him.

"Enough to hold you all at our mercy."

"You know Captain Ortega is in the wheelhouse."

"Major Starland has attended to him."

"I have heard no pistol shot."

"The Captain is a wise man and has surrendered; Valentin, I want to
make General Yozarro angrier than before," added Martella with a grin.

"He cannot be any angrier than he has been ever since I gave him your
message; but I accept the situation. He cannot condemn his men for
being overpowered when he leaves them no weapons with which to fight.
You needn't fret about the firemen or me--"

Just then the gong clinked in response to the switching in the pilot
house above.

"That means go back."

"I wouldn't wait, Valentin; our leader, _el Americano_, is impatient,
and is quick to use the revolver he carries."

"It is my duty to obey orders," commented the engineer, with another
grin, as he made the necessary shifting of cranks and levers to set
the machinery to plunging and swinging. The drowsy firemen cared
little for what was going on over their heads and slouchily threw
wood into the furnace.

"It is my wish to go to Zalapata," Major Starland explained to the
Captain of the tug; "General Yozarro set out to take my sister there
last night, but seems to have changed his mind, for he brought her
only part way. We will now complete the journey."

"At the highest speed, Señor?"

The American did not catch the significance of this question, but
accidentally he made the best answer.

"There is no haste necessary; we shall be able to reach there soon
after sunrise; you know how fast to go; am I understood?"

"Perfectly, Señor."

Feeling himself master of the craft, Starland now went back into the
Captain's cabin to see his sister, whom he found seated in the
quarters which had been occupied by her and the Señorita Estacardo
the evening before. Although this species of craft are not intended
to carry passengers, outside the necessary equipment, General Yozarro
had caused the small compartment to be fitted up and furnished
suitably for the entertainment of guests. The swinging lamp was
lighted overhead, and the bottles, glasses and fragments of cigarettes
showed how the Dictator and his friends had spent most of the time in
coming from Atlamalco.

Miss Starland was flustered and nervous, but the cool self possession
of her brother greatly reassured her.

"That was a clever trick we played upon the scamp," said he with a

"What do you intend to do with the boat?"

"Take you to Zalapata; it would serve him right if I scuttled it, but
I will turn it over to Bambos to keep or destroy as he pleases--"

She was about to speak, when shouts and calls caused both to hurry
outside. As might have been anticipated, General Yozarro and his party
had speedily returned and had halted on the edge of the river, the
President shouting his orders for Captain Ortega to return at once.
The Major, standing beside the pilot house, could not deny himself
the pleasure of answering for the other.

"The Captain is under my orders; he cannot obey you."

"That is my boat!" howled General Yozarro; "return at once or suffer
the consequences of your thievery."

"I'll suffer the consequences, but I am only borrowing it for a little
while; you did not seem to be able to deliver Miss Starland to
Zalapata, and I will do it myself; I place at your disposal the small
boat we left behind."

"I shall make known your crime to your government," shouted the
Dictator, for nothing better to say.

"I shall be glad; perhaps it would be better to lay it before The
Hague Tribunal. The whole world will be interested in learning what a
cowardly wretch calls himself President of the Atlamalcan Republic."


It is quite probable that General Yozarro felt himself unequal to the
situation, for he said nothing more. He could plainly be seen standing
out in front of his friends, who, he noted, were busy at something.
They were hoisting the sail of the catboat and the whole party
scrambled aboard, as it was shoved from shore. Their weight sank the
craft low, but it buoyed them safely, and the smaller craft began its
pursuit of the larger one, somewhat after the manner of a handcar
chasing a locomotive.

As before, there was no comparison in their speed, despite the fact
that the tug had slowed down considerably. Major Starland ordered the
Captain to hold their relative position. His contempt for the ruffian
Dictator was so deep that he could not forbear exulting over him.

The men in the fire room knew that they had no choice except to obey
the orders sent down to them. No responsibility could attach to them,
and the American would visit fearful punishment upon any disobedience
or treachery.

Guzman and Martella came to the upper deck, where Major Starland was
holding converse with Captain Ortega.

"I wish," said the Major, speaking too low for the Captain to hear
him, "you would find out how many are in the boat yonder. I make it

The three gave several minutes to scrutiny and agreed there were
seven, which was more than had been supposed.

"And all are heavily armed, some with pistols and some with swords; if
they should come alongside, they could give us a pretty fight."

Captain Guzman took it upon himself to say:

"General Yozarro and Captain Sepulveda--if he is there--are the
biggest cowards in the Atlamalcan army, but the others are fighters. I
know three of them who are worse than tiger cats. They are eager for a
chance to attack us."

"And they should have it, but for two reasons: it will be too great a
trial for my sister. We could beat them off, except for the danger in
our rear."

The two looked inquiringly at the American.

"That Captain at the wheel is one of the bravest of men. He is devoted
to General Yozarro, or at least holds him in fear; the moment he
gained a chance to strike a blow for him he would strike hard, no
matter at what risk to himself."

"He carries no arms; he has no chance."

"He may know where he can lay hand on a weapon; if he attacked us
behind, while we were repelling boarders--as I am sure he would--the
jig would be up. So I have ordered him to keep the present distance
between us and their boat. After awhile, we shall pull away from

There was no driving off the uneasiness regarding Captain Ortega.
Starland sauntered over to the pilot house, and, with assumed
carelessness, kept furtive watch of the man. He could see nothing
suspicious in his deportment. He had flung away his cigarette, and
both hands were upon the spokes of the wheel, which now and then were
shifted slightly as cause arose. He peered keenly ahead, for the
bifurcated river has its treacherous places, like our own Mississippi,
and he who guides so large a craft in its current has need to keep his
wits about him. The moonlight gave a fine view of the broad stream,
and the Captain seemed to feel no interest in anything else.

"I don't know whether he is up to mischief or not," reflected the
American; "if he is, he is mighty sly. Let him try to play me false
and I won't hesitate a minute to shoot him."

The Major looked toward the other boat, which instead of trailing
directly at the rear, was following a parallel course, about half way
between the tug and the southern shore, and some two hundred yards to
the rear. Filled with so many men, the craft looked like a variegated
bouquet floating down the muddy Rio Rubio.

It was the fact that General Yozarro maintained a pursuit which,
in the nature of things, was hopeless, that caused Major Starland
misgiving. It must be that the Dictator was counting upon some move
in his favor by the Captain of the tug, which held the former to
his course, and the latter was biding his time. Studying hard, the
American could think of no scheme which promised the slightest success
in this direction, but none the less, he was convinced that something
was on foot, and that it could be frustrated only by alertness on his
own part.

In this uncomfortable frame of mind, he came down from the upper deck
and followed his two friends forward, where they were leaning against
the pile of wood near the gun. Both were smoking and occasionally
glancing up at the pilot house, as if they too were apprehensive of
the man, whose head and shoulders were in sight. He had resumed
smoking and the tip of his cigarette glowed in the moonlight.

The three stood for a few minutes without speaking, when Martella
straightened up and asked in a low voice:

"Have you noticed, Major, that our speed has increased within the last
few minutes?"

The American looked off over the water and then at the shore, but
could see nothing to enlighten him.

"The other boat is falling behind," said Captain Guzman.

Glancing at the smaller craft, all doubt was instantly removed. The
tug was steadily drawing away from it.

"Captain," he called, looking up at the pilot house; "we are going too
fast; slacken your speed."

"As you please, Señor; I beg your pardon."

The signal was sent down to the engineer, who quickly brought about a
diminution in the progress of the tug.

"Probably it was unintentional--"

At that moment, all felt a jar through the craft, accompanied by such
a rapid slackening of pace that the three took an involuntary step

"We've run aground!" exclaimed Starland.

"There's no doubt of it," calmly added Martella.


"It was done purposely!" added the American, placing his hand on his
revolver. Glancing up from where he stood, the head and shoulders of
Captain Ortega were in fair sight through the lowered slide at the
front of the pilot house. He made no attempt to elude the bullet that
he must have expected.

But prudence told the American to wait. The services of the other were
too valuable for the time to be thrown away, even though the man was
under suspicion. Besides, there was one chance in a hundred that the
mishap was unintentional.

Hardly had the motion of the boat ceased, when the double clinking of
the gong in the engine room sounded, accompanied by the jangling of
the bell, which called upon the engineer to reverse instantly at full
speed. The water at the stern was threshed into muddy foam, but the
craft did not slide off the incline up which it had partly glided.

"Give her full head!" called Major Starland.

"We are doing so, Señor!" replied the placid Captain.

"Your life depends on getting the boat off."

The other made no reply, but with the hand on the pulse of his
patient, as may be said, he noted all the symptoms. He was seen to
turn and look in the direction of the catboat, as if he expected
something from that. He was not disappointed.

General Yozarro and his friends were quick to note the mishap that had
befallen the tug and they headed their craft toward it. They meant to
board, and, despite the bravery of the defenders they were quite
certain to succeed, since, as has been shown, the "house was divided
against itself."

The American dashed to the stern, calling upon Guzman to follow. It
took them but a moment to turn the muzzle of the gun so that it bore
directly upon the catboat.

"If you come any nearer, I'll blow you out of water!"

Then the Major added a bit of information which perhaps was

"We Americans always hit what we aim at."

General Yozarro saw that it would never do. He was heard to speak
sharply to the man at the tiller, and the small boat immediately
veered off. Daring as some of the inmates might be, they had not the
courage to advance straight against the throat of a gaping

"Martella, take charge of the other gun!" called the Major to the
deserter, who, as quick as himself to note the danger, had stepped
to the side of the second piece of ordnance. The two half-circles
commanded by these included the whole horizon, a fact which General
Yozarro and his comrades were not likely to forget.

It would seem that it was impossible for Captain Ortega, with the aid
of the engineer, to effect any change in the position of the tugboat,
while it stuck to the submerged bank, like a bull ramming its head
against a stone wall. Instead of staying motionless the stern swung
slowly to the right and then to the left, as if trying to wriggle its
nose out of the mud. This caused the muzzle of the cannon to wabble,
sometimes being directed straight at the sailboat, and sometimes to
one side of it. But the gun was so easily shifted that the American
could readily perfect the aim whenever he chose, and that would be
done the instant the enemy tried to run in upon him.

There was a fighting chance for the Atlamalcans. They were so near
that by fiddling back and forth they might by a sudden dash close in.
Most likely, had the wind been strong they would have tried this, but
the breeze remained so soft that quick action was impossible. The
situation was so critical that Major Starland warned the others of
what was certain to follow an attempt to board.

"General Yozarro, I hold a repeating rifle in my hand; you are in
clear view; just before firing the cannon, I shall shoot you, and when
I pull trigger, you'll drop!"

The Dictator was on his feet about to summon the others to surrender,
with threats of the consequences that would follow a refusal. The
words of the American threw him into a panic and in his haste to
scramble back, he tumbled over the man directly behind him, not
ceasing his frantic efforts till he was cowering at the stern.

The laugh of the American was heard, before he called out:

"I'll pick you out, no matter where you are in the boat, but I sha'n't
fire till you try to run in on us. We'll rake you fore and aft, and if
you don't believe what I say, all you have to do is to test me."

The General could be heard consulting with his officers. Evidently the
counsels were divided and some favored making the rush, despite its
danger, for, as has been shown, not all of them were poltroons, but
that awful threat of the American had done what it was intended to
do. Had General Yozarro followed his own promptings, he would have
withdrawn, but he lacked the courage to do that, and in his dilemma
tried diplomacy.

"Major Starland, I have naught against you, though you have stolen my
property, but I have the right to demand that you surrender the
deserter with you. Do that, and we will trouble you no more."

"You are not troubling me in the least; I'm enjoying this, though it
doesn't seem to give you much amusement. However, you may as well save
your words regarding the noble Martella, who has served us so well. He
has cast his fate with us and I consider him worth a thousand such as

There was really no call for the General to keep up the conversation
and he subsided. The action of the current steadily bore his boat
forward, but the helmsman shied off toward the northern bank, and bye
and bye, was farther down stream than the tug. Either one or the other
of the six-pounders carefully followed the relative change of
position, and an eighth of a mile below the smaller craft glided out
of sight around a sweeping bend in the river.

All this time the screw of the tugboat was viciously churning, but the
prow held fast. Once or twice a trembling of the hull seemed to show a
partial lessening of the hold, but nothing more.

The danger of boarding having passed for the time, Major Starland
returned to the cabin to speak to his sister. She had understood
everything that had taken place and needed no cheering. Then he
rejoined Captain Guzman and Martella at the front.

"We are free of the General for awhile."

"But there is no saying for how long," remarked the Captain.

"What do you think he means to do?"

"I cannot guess, unless it is to keep on to Zalapata and to appeal to
General Bambos."

"Which is likely to be bad for you, Captain, unless Bambos is anxious
after all to go to war, as he pretended the other day."

"I think," said Martella, "he means to get more men and attack the

"But where will he get the men from? He is a long way from Atlamalco."

"Yet not very far from _Castillo Descanso_, where he has quite a force
as you know."

"That will take many hours and we shall not stay here forever."

"There is no saying how long it will be."

"I must have a few words with the Captain."

Major Starland immediately left the lower deck and climbed to the
pilot house, where the executive of the tugboat, having nothing
pressing on his hands, had sat down on the stool placed there for his
convenience and was smoking another cigarette. Looking around, as he
heard the footsteps, he touched his forefinger to his hat and said:

"_Buenas noches_, Señor! We are still fast."

"That cannot be disputed."


The American leaned on the bottom of the slide, with his face scarcely
two feet from the other, and with the revolver at his hip within
instant reach.

"Captain Ortega, will you answer a question truly?"

"That depends upon the question, Señor; if I answer at all, it shall
be truly, but I may choose to leave it unanswered."

"Did you run this boat aground on purpose?"

Captain Ortega took two or three complacent whiffs, gazed off over the
moonlit river and then removing the wisp of tobacco from between his
lips, smiled, and looking into the face before him, coolly replied:

"I did, Señor."

"It was after my warning to you."

"Begging pardon, Señor, it could not well have been before."

"What did you hope to accomplish?"

"To help General Yozarro to recover his boat."


"I expected him to dash forward and board."

"He lacked the courage to attempt it."

"I am sorry to agree with you."

"But he was wise; I kept one of the guns continually bearing upon him
and would have blown him and his men to kingdom come."

Again the Captain puffed his cigarette. He looked dreamily down the
river where the sailing craft had passed from sight.

"You would not have harmed General Yozarro or anyone in the boat."

"You are insulting, Captain; I could not have missed them."

"The port gun had no charge in it!"

"Good heavens! is that the truth?" demanded the astounded American.

"You have only to examine the piece for yourself to learn that it is."

"Did General Yozarro know it?"

The Captain puffed several times so hard that the point of fire
touched his mustache, then he impatiently flung the bit out of the
window. Superbly self-possessed as he was, he could not conceal his

"How could he help knowing it, when by his own orders the charge was
withdrawn before we left Atlamalco? What his whim was I didn't ask and
do not care."

"Knowing that, why did he hesitate?"

"Because," replied Captain Ortega with a sneer, "he feared you might
have learned the truth, and reloaded the gun. I had no way of telling
him different."

"Why did you not tell _me_?"

Looking straight in the eyes of the American, the Captain said:

"I am an Atlamalcan!"

"And the best of the lot! But, Captain, did you not fear I would carry
out my threat of shooting you when you ran the boat aground?"

"I expected you to _try_ to do so, but I, too, should have done some
shooting also."

"You told me you were unarmed."

"And when I said I had no weapon on me, it was the truth, but I did
not tell you that I did not know where to lay hand on a revolver
whenever it should become necessary."

"I respect your frankness; I can suspect your plan, but may I not hear
it from your own lips?"

"I was on guard, and had you raised your weapon when standing below, I
should have fired my own first, and pardon me, Señor, I should not
have missed. Your two friends were also in fair range and would have
received my attention in the same moment."

"I must consider it fortunate that I did not act on my impulse, for at
no time did I fear anything of that nature from you. Having refrained,
what then was your plan?"

"I had not a doubt that General Yozarro would board, having every
reason to believe the port gun was empty, without any such thought on
your part. The moment he tried to do so, I should have left the wheel
and done what I could to help him; I think I should have been able to
give him some assistance, Señor--I beg your pardon, I think I heard
you called Major."

"Little doubt you would; it was that I feared more than anything else,
though I doubted your having a pistol. My fear of you was my chief
reason for trying to frighten them off from boarding."

Captain Ortega seemed to think the subject entertaining, for he lit
another cigarette--first offering the box to the American--crossed his
legs, leaned back at his leisure, looked smilingly up in the
American's face, and said in an even voice:

"It may be treason, Major, but General Yozarro is a coward! He spoiled
everything by refusing to attack, when nearly every man in his boat
was eager for it. When I was on the point of calling to him that the
gun was empty, he tumbled back in the boat at your threat. I was so
filled with contempt that I vowed I would give him no help; I shall do
nothing more to aid him, for, after I opened the door, he was too
scared to enter it. To prove I am in earnest, Major, I now surrender
my only weapon."

With which he drew out a beautiful silver-mounted revolver from under
his loose jacket and extended it, with the muzzle turned toward
himself, to the wondering American.

"I decline to take it, provided you will give me your parole to remain
neutral in whatever may occur while I am on this craft."

"You have my pledge," said the Captain, shoving the weapon back.

"Can you tell me what General Yozarro is likely to do?"

"I can, but to do so, would be a violation of my neutrality."

"A fair hit!" laughed the American; "I spoke without thought, but it
will not touch the question of neutrality if you tell me how much
longer we are likely to remain fast in the mud."

"You may be aware that we feel the ocean tide to some extent in this
part of the Rio Rubio. Some time beyond midnight, if we do not drive
farther upon the shoal, the tide will lift us clear. You may not have
noticed, Major, that the screw has been driving us forward most of
the time, instead of backward. It is doing so now, but with your
permission, I will order the engineer to reverse."

"Well, I'll be hanged! I heard you do that a good while ago."

"That signal was for _your_ benefit; there was another sent down the
tube for the private ear of the engineer which you did not hear."


Major Starland thrust his hand through the window of the pilot house.

"Give me the pleasure, Captain."

The other smilingly returned the pressure. Each saluted and the
American passed back into the cabin, where his sister awaited him.
He explained the situation.

"Do you know who he is, Jack?"

"I believe his name is Captain Ramon Ortega."

"Have you never heard it before?"

"It seems to have a familiar sound, but I cannot identify it."

"He is the betrothed of Manuela."

"Why didn't I remember it? I can't help admiring the fellow, for he is
the soul of honor."

"She could have told you that."

"You and he are acquaintances, but he does not seem to recognize you."

"He cannot fail to know me, for we have met, but I think he prefers to
be a stranger, while our relations are so peculiar. He will not allow
me to leave without a few words."

"Great heavens! I came near shooting him, but I guess it wasn't any
nearer than he came to shooting me. He is as brave as he is high

The young woman had removed the remnants of the feast left by General
Yozarro and his guests so that the small, richly furnished apartment
looked tidy and attractive. She reclined on the silken covered lounge
placed against the side of the cabin, and her brother bade her good
night and returned to his comrades, seated at the front and talking in
low tones. To them the Major told of his talk with Captain Ortega.

"You do not doubt what he told you, Major?" said Guzman inquiringly.

"It is impossible."

"General Yozarro has not a braver or more honorable officer in his
army. Three years ago, when we were at war with Atlamalco, and neither
republic owned a fleet, we had a fight with three hundred Atlamalcans
in the mountains. Each force was about the same and it was one of the
hottest fights I ever saw, for the respective forces were commanded by
Generals Bambos and Yozarro."

"Did each take a personal part in it?"

"Yes," replied Captain Guzman with a grin and shrug of the shoulders,
"that is to say, so far as directing matters was concerned. I saw
Bambos peeping out from behind a big rock, swinging his sword,
shouting and yawping till he seemed ready to burst, but taking good
care when the bullets were whistling near that he was out of reach. I
didn't see anything of Yozarro, but--"

"I did," interrupted Martella; "he was in a deep hollow and made sure
his head never rose a half inch above the edge. He did his part too in
bellowing orders, but I don't suppose he commanded any more attention
than Bambos, Captain."

"Both forces fought independently of their leaders."

"You commanded yours, Captain, and did it well."

"Not so well as Captain Ortega, for it was that thundergust flank
movement which drove us headlong out of the mountains, with some of
the men never halting till they reached Zalapata. Captain Ortega and
no one else won that battle."

"General Yozarro knows his worth," said Martella; "he would have made
him a general long ago if it was not that he is jealous of him. He
is the only one I know who doesn't fear General Yozarro. They often
quarrel, for the Captain is plain of speech to every one. Yozarro has
announced that he means to make him admiral of the fleet which he
intends to build up. That I suppose is why he has placed him in charge
of the gunboat, so that he shall have all the training and experience
he can."

"How does he feel toward you, Martella?"

The native gave his usual shrug and grinned.

"I know enough to keep away from him. He will never forgive me for
deserting. He knows my grievance and may pity me, but he would be glad
to shoot me, if he had a fair excuse for doing so. I don't mean to
tempt him, even if he has given you his pledge of neutrality and is
the most honorable of men. If General Yozarro finds fault with him, it
will be just like Captain Ortega to say right before all the other
officers 'I gave you a chance, but you had not the courage to use it
and I would not waste any more effort on you.'"

None of the three could make a satisfactory forecast of the policy of
General Yozarro. It seemed to the American that he might be able to
secure two or three pieces of cannon and open a bombardment of the
boat from the shore, but this presupposed an unreasonable delay.
Captain Guzman said:

"He has no way of getting cannon this side of Atlamalco, and that
would take a day or two; he has no wish to destroy his own property,
and, if he had such a wish, he couldn't do it, for only by accident
would he hit the boat."

"That squelches my theory, which I didn't believe in myself. I'll have
another talk with the Captain, though his sense of honor isn't likely
to allow him to say much."

It was beyond midnight and the two were conversing in a friendly way,
but without anything important being said, when they looked in each
other's face with a pleased expression. A welcome fact had become
known to both at the same moment.

"The boat is moving," whispered the American.

With the screw motionless, she had been lifted clear by the tide and
now swung clear. The Captain drew out his watch and held it so the
moonlight lit up the face.

"There is no reaching Zalapata until toward noon, provided we get
there with this gunboat, Major."

The significant intonation and smile which accompanied these words
puzzled the American, who would have given much to have had them
explained. But it was useless to question the Captain and the only
comfort was in the thought that he was an honorable foe.

"Now for Zalapata!" he added.

"I assume, Captain, that you are familiar with all the windings and
dangers of the river."

"Didn't I prove it by running aground? But there will be no more
mishaps of that nature while I hold the wheel."

"Your pledge is sufficient," remarked the American, who again passed
to the lower deck and joined his friends. He told them of the curious
remark of Captain Ortega, but none of the three could guess his

"The only thing that is certain," said Captain Guzman, "is that
General Yozarro and the rest are somewhere down the river and we
shall hear more from them."

No one felt any disposition to sleep and none really needed rest. The
engineer and firemen caught cat naps whenever they could. Captain
Ortega was probably in the same state with his three male passengers.
His duties did not require long runs as a rule, but the present demand
having arisen, he was equal to twenty hours or more at a stretch.


The tropical night wore away and the growing light in the east showed
that day was dawning. With the exception of the men who wrought below,
Miss Starland was the only one who slept during those monotonous
hours, but she was astir early, and with the help of Martella set
about preparing the morning meal for the crew and passengers. General
Yozarro could be counted upon to carry a well stocked larder, and
little solid food is required in so warm a country. Many of the fish
in the bifurcated river are of delicious flavor, but rice and fruit
form the principal diet. She prepared coffee and the first food that
was ready was taken below by Martella for the men who did the hardest

"The Captain must not be forgotten, Martella; will you carry a tray to

"Not for all the gold in the Rubio Mountains; you told me you allowed
him to keep his pistol."

"True, as you said, it isn't best to tempt him too far; I will take
his food to him."

"Permit me to do so," interposed Captain Guzman, who thereupon
performed the pleasing task. Ortega was first invited to come to the
cabin to join them, but he replied that his duties required him to
remain in the pilot house. The delicate feeling that prompted his
refusal was understood by the brother and sister.

Just as the meal was finished, all were startled by the hoarse,
tremulous whistle overhead. Two long blasts sounded, and the clink of
the little brass lever was heard as it dropped back to its resting
place against the sounding tube.

"What does that mean?" asked Major Starland, who the next moment
bounded to his feet and hurried to the Captain, with Guzman at his

"Captain, what is the cause of that signal; have you so soon forgotten
your neutrality?"

"It is a salutation to the steamer just coming round the bend.

A sepulchral tremolo rumbled across the water, and the topmast of a
craft was discerned gliding along over the stunted tops of the timber
growing on the projecting point of land which for the moment shut the
hull from view. From the highest point fluttered the most beautiful
flag ever bathed in the sunlight of heaven. It seemed to be bounding
forward as if borne at the head of a charging regiment.

"By heavens!" exclaimed the happy American, to whom the answering
signal was one of the most familiar sounds on earth; "that's the
_Warrenia_, my own yacht!"

"I am pleased to know it," said Captain Ortega.

Miss Starland was scarcely behind the others in climbing to the upper
deck. The Captain lifted his hat, they smiled at each other, but there
was no other sign of recognition.

First the clean cut prow, with the pretty flag of the Triton Navy
dallying from the staff, then the graceful hull and the peak with the
flag of our country streaming in the gale created by its own motion,
and the whole magnificent craft steamed round the bend and headed
toward the tugboat. With dancing eyes centered upon the thrilling
picture, our friends saw a snowy puff shoot upward from the brass
cylinder and the old welcome signal shuddered across the water.

"Will the Señorita oblige me by replying?" asked Captain Ortega. The
radiant young woman, with a smile and inclination of her head, but
with no further evidence that they were acquaintances, stepped into
the door that the Captain opened for her, and grasping the cord
answered the boat named for herself. Then, thanking the courteous
officer, she passed out again and excitedly waved her handkerchief at
a lady who was seen standing in front of the others at the bow.

"That's Aunt Cynthia! There! she has raised her glass! She knows me!
Bless her dear heart!"

The woman had recognized her niece and her handkerchief was also
a-flutter. An understanding was had through the signalling of the
whistles and the two craft rapidly approached each other. Major
Starland swung his hat in greeting, again the whistles bellowed
across the decreasing space and all was gladness and joy.

While they were yet too far apart to converse readily, the Major had
noted another form near the pilot house, a little to one side of Aunt
Cynthia. It was bulky and broad, was in gorgeous uniform of blue and
gilt, with the golden sash high up in front and low at the back, and
the point of his scabbard touching the deck.

"What the mischief is General Bambos doing there?"

"Probably he is a self-invited guest," suggested Captain Guzman.

"True, and I can afford to welcome him; it is fortunate that the yacht
took aboard new supplies at San Luis."

The tinkling of signal bells and the reversing of screws and the
shifting over of wheels brought the two boats so nearly alongside that
conversation became facile among all parties. Holding off the _General
Yozarro_, Captain Ortega waited to know the wishes of his chief
passenger, who now became the supreme authority on both crafts.

Under the manipulation of the adepts at the respective wheels, the
boats were laid beside each other and the gangplank of the yacht
connected the two. Miss Starland was the first to run across and was
clasped in the arms of her delighted relative. Then her brother,
Captain Guzman and Martella followed. General Bambos bowed as nearly
to the deck as he could, with his plumed hat sweeping the air, and
expressed his happiness at meeting the charming young American
Señorita again. Then, while the boats remained lashed, he asked an
explanation of the situation, which was a mystery to him as it was to
nearly all the others.

Major Starland took it upon himself to enlighten him and his friends,
doing so with a succinctness that left no doubt in the mind of any
one. The broad face grew solemn, when he succeeded at last in
comprehending the remarkable story.

"You will permit me to say, Major, that you have committed a serious
international offence."

"And I am prepared to bear all the consequences of my crime."

"They are likely to be graver than you seem to think; it is your duty,
first of all, to apologize--"

"Apologize to that scoundrel of a Yozarro! I'll see him hanged first!"

"You will not deny that it is your honorable duty to restore the
Atlamalcan navy to my excellent compatriot, General Yozarro."

"You seem to be concerned for the brother with whom, only a day or
two ago, you were eager to go to war. I don't want that old tub which
he calls a gunboat; he is welcome to it; Atlamalco holds a single
solitary gentleman, Captain Ramon Ortega, who is up there at the
wheel, and he is at liberty to take the boat back to his chief with my
compliments, and that chief may go hang."

"But that will hardly do; you took it by force from him and should
return it in person. It is the only way by which an international
complication can be prevented."

Yielding to an impulse inspired by the humor of the situation, Major
Starland said:

"Very well; I'll take it upon myself to deliver the _General Yozarro_
to its owner with my own hands."


Major Jack Starland carried out his thoughtlessly formed plan. I fear
it must be conceded that his motive was not a wholly chivalrous one.
He saw the chance for humiliating the man for whom he felt only
unmitigated contempt. He had not a whit of respect for the pompous
Bambos, but the ponderous nuisance had not insulted him and his
unpardonably. No doubt had the opportunity come to the President of
the Zalapatan Republic, he would have acted with similar dishonor, but
in the affairs of this world, men are judged by their deeds instead of
their motives. Only One can be unerring in his judgments.

"General Bambos and I will go aboard the tugboat and steam up the
river till we find Yozarro. We may have to go to Atlamalco, but it
makes no difference; the _Warrenia_ will act as our escort, and I
shall make sure the affair is conducted in the highest style of the
art. I don't wish to involve my government in the broil."

Accordingly, after everything had been explained to Captain Winton of
the yacht, the American officer and the General walked beside each
other across the gangplank, which bowed threateningly under the
unusual weight, the support was drawn in, and both craft began moving
at moderate speed up the bifurcated river. The _Warrenia_ dropped a
little way to the rear, and held thus while the two ascended the

Excusing himself for a few minutes, the Major left the General in the
cabin and went forward for a few words with Captain Ortega, who,
cigarette in mouth, smilingly saluted and welcomed him.

"You understand, Captain, the arrangement that has been made?"

"I heard what was said; you have agreed to turn over this boat in
person to General Yozarro."

The American nodded.

"You will permit me to say, Major, that you have done a foolish thing.
When you left the gunboat as you did, I was free to pick up the
General and that should have been the end of the affair."

"True, but I am quite willing to feed his vanity to the extent
demanded by General Bambos; but I wish to say, Captain, that I am in
the dark as to where we shall find your President. He sailed down the
river ahead of us, but the yacht saw nothing of him, when it seems he
should have been met, and we have not observed him on our way."

"Pardon me, Major, you should say 'I,' not 'we.'"

"Do you know where General Yozarro is?"

"I have known for several hours; I believe my status has been changed
by the late occurrences and I may speak freely."

"Unquestionably; no cause remains for further secrets between us."

"Then I may say that some hours ago, when you stood where you are now
standing, discussing this question with me, my eyes were resting on
General Yozarro."

"You astonish me, Captain; be more explicit."

"I knew when he sailed out of sight around the bend in the river, that
he would not go far. He did not. He ran to the southern bank, lowered
his sail, and pulled the boat so far under the overhanging vegetation
that neither you nor your friends noted it. Knowing where to look, I
was more fortunate. The General signalled to me to come to land, so
that he and his men could attack you."

"Why did you not do so? Yet it would have been your death warrant to
have made the attempt."

"That was not the reason why I did not go to him; I had given the
General one opportunity, and was too impatient with him to provide a
second. But, more than that, you had my parole."

"True; I had forgotten that. May I ask what you think General
Yozarro's plan is?"

"He does not understand why I refused to obey his signal, and there
will be a hot quarrel over it when we meet. He expects me to return,
sooner or later, for he must know that the purpose of yourself is to
reach Zalapata with the Señorita, after which I shall be at liberty to
return to Atlamalco. I shall, therefore, find him not far from where I
saw him a few hours ago."

"I beg to renew the assurances of my distinguished consideration,
Captain," said the American, saluting and passing back to the cabin.

The massive Dictator of the Zalapatan Republic was puffing and
striding to and fro over the short length of the cabin, the point of
his scabbard titillating against the floor, for his steps, though of
moderate length for an ordinary man, were long for a person of his
build. His face was redder than ever, and it was clear that he was
agitated over some great question that was wriggling through his

When he wheeled and faced the American, he whipped off his plumed hat
and sagged down upon the lounge at the side of the cabin. It creaked
but held.

"Pardon me, General, you seem disturbed in mind," remarked the young
officer, drawing up a stool and seating himself opposite.

"I _am_ disturbed, Major; nothing in all the world could have happened
to cause me greater regret."

"You refer to the affair of last night; I cannot see that you have any
concern with that."

"Captain Guzman was involved with you."

"If you are so afraid of offending General Yozarro, you can easily
disavow the act of your officer, though he deserves all praise for
what he did."

"Be assured that I shall disavow his crime in the strongest terms,
and, if General Yozarro demands it, the Captain shall be severely

"The other day, when you were talking with him and me, you were hot
for war against Atlamalco."

"True, but since then I have received a great light."

The amazed American waited to catch a ray himself, but it came not and
he said:

"I delivered your message to General Yozarro yesterday."

"And he received it graciously?"

"Most graciously; there was no hint about sending me back to you from
the muzzle of one of his cannon; he begged me to assure you he would
have your complaint investigated and would do his utmost to meet your

"What I might have expected from my noble compatriot!" exclaimed the
Dictator with greasy unctuosity; "I was sure of it."

"But you did not look for such magnanimity, when in council with
Captain Guzman and me. May I ask to what is due this marked change
of sentiment on your part?"

General Bambos lifted himself to his feet and swung across the cabin
several times, finally crashing back to his former seat on the vexed

"You have heard of General Simon Bolivar?" was his unexpected

"Who has not? He was the great Liberator, born in Venezuela in 1783,
who freed Peru, which then became Bolivia, and was rejected by
Colombia, because she did not know how to appreciate his greatness.
His was the finest character ever produced by South America."

"I am glad to hear that you appreciate him," said General Bambos, his
small black eyes glowing.

"The greatest compliment ever paid General Bolivar was when he was
called the South American Washington. _He_ is the standard by which
the world's heroes are measured."

"You have many heroes in the United States; I have read of Abraham
Lincoln: how does _he_ compare with Washington?"

"The two stand side by side, and sometimes it is hard to see which is
foremost. One was the creator and the other the preserver of his

"How do _I_ compare with Washington and Lincoln?"


The question for the moment took away the breath of the American. He
looked into the crimson, flabby countenance and wondered if the man
was in earnest. He was. By great effort, Major Starland held back the
laugh tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Well," said he, pulling himself together and speaking slowly,
"perhaps you come, say within a thousand miles of each. I don't see
how the distance can be shortened."

"That depends upon the place you give others," blandly observed the
Dictator, who accepted the rating as a compliment; "where do you place
General Bolivar?"

"I should have to make careful calculation; he might come within a
mile or two, but remember that the modern world has not yet produced
the peer of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, nor do I see any
signs that she is likely to do so. Have you been figuring on a
comparison yourself?"

"I am too modest to claim to stand on the same plane with either of
your great heroes, but reflection convinces me that I have been
selected by heaven to be the successor of General Simon Bolivar."

"Inasmuch as to when?" said the Major gravely.

"I beg pardon; I do not understand your question, Major."

"I wait for you to explain _your_ meaning: what is your ambition?"

"It is to form a grand confederation of South American states; as you
know, our continent is divided into no end of petty republics. Why
should they not unite into one powerful, resistless whole?"

"The only obstacle is themselves; each country is so jealous of every
other that it prefers to fight rather than to fuse. Zalapata and
Atlamalco are illustrations; they are continually quarreling and at
war over trifles that would shame a couple of schoolboys."

"All that is ended; henceforth General Yozarro and I are brothers,
and the two republics will join hands in the path of progress. Our
example will be quickly followed by Venezuela, by Colombia, by
Ecuador, by Bolivia, by Brazil and all the states down to and
including Patagonia. Will not that be the grandest confederation
the world ever saw?"

"Undoubtedly--when it is formed. Is the conception your own, General?"

"It is; it has been forming in my mind for weeks and months; more than
once I was in despair, and not until last evening did the splendor of
the scheme burst upon me in all its fulness."

"You are dreaming what others dreamed before you, but the only one
who made a fair start toward its realization was Simon Bolivar, and
he died disappointed and brokenhearted. I suppose the first step will
be to send ambassadors, or whatever you choose to call them, to the
different republics of South America, proposing a meeting of
representatives to consider the great scheme?"

"That will be the first step. It will take some time for a full
exchange of views, and a committee will be named from each government
to draw up the plan for confederation."

"Your scheme contemplates that this union shall be a republic, like my
own country?"

"No other form can flourish in the clear sunlight of liberty of South

"Not the least important step, after the plan has been formulated,
will be the choice of the Chief Magistrate; who should he be?"

The American knew what was coming, but the enjoyment of prodding the
bulky ignoramus was none the less exquisite.

"The thoughts of all would naturally turn to the man who originated
the grand scheme; they would feel profound gratitude, and inquire
whether he is competent to carry out the plan and make the dream a
realization; an immense majority will insist that the responsibility
and honor shall go to him."

"And in that case you would be the man?"

The little head wabbled forward on the short neck.

"There can be no forecasting the whims of the public; the hero of
today is the traitor of tomorrow, and vice versa; suppose some one
other than you should be fixed upon; suppose General Yozarro should
be called to the head of the confederation?"

The crimson countenance became more crimson; the breaths shifted to
pants, and the tiny eyes twinkled with a sinister light.

"Impossible! Such an outrage can never be."

"Let us assume that it does come about; it is best, you know, to
consider all sides of an important question."

"I would never consent! I would withdraw from the union! I would
shatter the whole scheme, if I were treated with such shameless

"You forget that each republic would bring forth its own particular
crop of favorite sons, and you would stand no more chance of selection
than I. You declare yourself warmly in favor of the confederation;
which do you place the higher,--the beneficent scheme itself or your
own ambition?"

"It is not ambition, sir, but simple justice that I demand _and will

"Do you consider yourself the only man on the South American continent
qualified to be the president of such a union?"

"By no means; there are plenty beside me, but none with such paramount
claims to the honor."

"Admitting this, our own Washington or Lincoln, or any one of our
leaders, was ready at all times to lay down his office for the good of
his country; that, and only that spirit, is true patriotism; I don't
believe there are ten native men between Nicaragua and the Straits
of Magellan, who have ever experienced the feeling. Your strongest
republics refuse to pay their just debts, and when England, Germany
and some of the European Powers try to compel them to be honest, they
bellow over the Monroe Doctrine and are ready to fight the United
States because she won't come down and help them play the defaulter.

"No, General; the first step toward the success of your scheme is an
impossible one; that is, the reconstruction and making over of the
_genus_ South American. When somewhere a so-called republic is
set up, and a President elected for a term strictly defined by its
Constitution, the President refuses to go out of office at the close
of that term and starts a revolution. Several others with a similar
ambition do the same, and there you have the normal republic in this
part of the world. Atlamalco, Zalapata and most of your governments
are simply world's nuisances."

"Your statements, sir, are not only false but insulting; I have more
faith in my patriotic countrymen than you, for I know them better;
they are brave, unselfish, long suffering----"

General Bambos had progressed thus far in his speech, when he emitted
a rasping shriek, clapped his hand behind him and made so tremendous a
leap that his crown bumped against the ceiling of the cabin. At the
same time, the tenor of his remarks abruptly changed, and he danced
and rubbed with pain. One of the pestilent "fire ants" of his country
had managed to snuggle among the crevices of the lounge, and its nip
was like that of a red hot pair of pincers.


The fire ant of the tropics does not merely bite into the animal or
person who disturbs it, but bites out, as may be said. It abstracts a
fragment of one's anatomy, so that, had General Bambos been placed on
a delicate pair of scales immediately before and after his nipping,
there would have been an appreciable difference in his weight. Since
Major Starland himself had suffered from the fierce little pest, he
understood what had befallen the other. He tried to express his
sympathy, but instead, threw back his head and gave way to merriment.

The victim was suffering too much from his hurt to pay heed to the
laughter which must have struck him as untimely, but no doubt he would
have turned on the American, had not the hoarse whistle of the tugboat
sounded, and brought him hurrying from the cabin. They were nearing
the bend of the river around which the Major had seen the catboat
containing General Yozarro and his friends disappear. That Captain
Ortega was right in what he said was proved by the emergence of the
smaller craft from under the heavy foliage along shore. In answer to
the signal of the tug, it glided out from shelter, propelled by two of
the men with poles. The sail was not hoisted, for the wind had fallen
to a calm. The Captain turned to meet the catboat, for he knew the
depth of the water permitted him to run close to the bank, but he
halted when a few rods away and waited for the other to come up.

General Yozarro could not be expected fully to understand the changed
conditions, with the American yacht steaming forward a short way
behind his own boat. Captain Ortega called out a brief explanation,
and the men continued poling until the smaller craft lay alongside the
larger one. General Bambos, holding to a stanchion with one hand,
reached down with the other and helped his illustrious compatriot to
climb upon his own property, the others following more nimbly, until
all had transferred themselves, and the catboat was made fast by one
of the crew.

The President of Zalapata, saluting and bowing low, conducted the
other dignitary to the cabin, with the officers trailing after
them. For the moment, Major Starland found his situation a trifle
embarrassing. General Yozarro scowled savagely at him, but the others
paid scant attention. There was some crowding, for it will be
remembered that the apartment was of slight size. The American waited
till a lull came in the conversation and then, with an elaborate
military salute, said:

"General Yozarro, I have the honor of returning to you the boat which
necessity compelled me to borrow last night."

The General had seated himself on the lounge, at the risk of suffering
the same mishap which had befallen his neighbor and still kept him
slyly rubbing the injured part. He was too overflowing with rage to
make any pretence to the courtesy which marked their previous chats.
His prodigious mustache bristled, his thick lips trembled and his
black eyes gleamed threateningly. He glared at the American, standing
among his own officers, who made what room they could for him in the
restricted space, and when he could command his tumultuous feelings,
he spoke:

"You come to surrender the boat! You surrender yourself also, _el

"Well, hardly; I stayed aboard at the suggestion of my friend, General
Bambos, that this thing might be done in due and ancient form.
American citizens are not in the habit of surrendering at the demand
or whim of any South American nobody."

Removing his hat, the Major bowed low and smiled.

"Does he speak the truth?" bluntly asked General Yozarro, turning to
Bambos. The face of the American flushed at the slur, but he held
himself in hand.

"He does; he remained at my request," said General Bambos with a nod.

"There were others who took part in this crime; one of them was
Captain Guzman of your staff, General."

"I need not assure you, General, that it was without my knowledge; I
disavow what he did and will reprimand him; if Your Excellency demands
it, I will have him shot."

"Not much!" muttered Major Starland, loud enough for all to hear; "is
that the way you reward one of your bravest officers, General Bambos?"

"I rule in Zalapata without the aid of _los Americanos_," was the
freezing reply.

"And without the aid of common gratitude and decency,--_that_ is

"I will take the matter into consideration," said General Yozarro,
whose brain was not nimble enough to decide the simplest question
off-hand. "At present, I do not demand the death of Captain Guzman,
but I thank you for your words, General, which is only one of the many
proofs I have received of your disinterested friendship."

If the countenance of General Bambos had not already been as crimson
as it could well be, he would have blushed. He saluted and muttered
something about the pleasure he felt in deserving the regard of his
distinguished compatriot.

General Yozarro strove to restrain his anger, but it was plain to
every one that he was seething with rage. While Major Starland was
wondering what could be the cause, the explosion came:

"One of my men, the basest of wretches, deserted my service yesterday
and allied himself to Captain Guzman and to you. He sent me the most
shockingly insulting of messages; since he is not on this boat, he
must be on the other."

"Such is the fact, General," replied the Major, compressing his lips,
but looking straight into the eyes of the other.

"He must be surrendered to me."

"I receive no orders from you; you murdered the brother of Martella,
though he had done nothing wrong; the message he sent to you was not
respectful perhaps, but it was better than you deserved; Martella has
done me and mine the best of service, and he shall never be
surrendered to you."

The fury of General Yozarro threatened to suffocate him. He rose to
his feet and the others glanced apprehensively at the face of the man
who had dared to defy the terrible Dictator, and who folded his arms
and still looked him calmly in the eye.

"_El Americano_, you are here on my boat and here you will stay till
that deserter takes your place. I give you the choice; if he is not
turned over to me to be shot, you shall be shot in his stead."

With all his contempt for this man, Jack Starland had never dreamed
of anything like this. The words of Captain Ortega came back to him.
There was a certain shadowy strength in the position of General
Yozarro. No flag of truce had been called into use, and the American,
after having forcibly captured the boat of the other, had voluntarily
placed himself in his power, following the suggestion of General
Bambos and his own impulses.

It was Bambos who broke the oppressive hush by saying to him:

"The words of General Yozarro are just; comply with what he demands,
and he will be glad to restore you to your friends; am I not correct,

"I suppose so," was the sour response.

"Then my answer is that I'll see the whole gang of you hanged first!
You don't get Martella without the biggest fight of your lives, and
you don't keep me on this old tub without a bigger fight; I'm not
afraid of the whole pack of jail birds of you!"


"Arrest him!" commanded General Yozarro, speaking directly to Colonel
Carlos Del Valle, his chief of staff, standing next to the American;
"put him in irons."

The officer addressed reached out his hand to lay on the shoulder of
Jack Starland, who, at that instant, recalled the knockout blow he had
given Cadet Hillman of the First Class, one memorable spring morning
at old Fort Putnam, West Point. It was the same lightning-like stroke
which crashed into the face of the colonel and sent him staggering and
toppling back to the opposite side of the cabin. Then, whipping out
his revolver, Starland backed from the cabin, ran down the steps to
the bow of the boat, and before any one suspected his purpose, shouted
to his own executive officer:

"Captain Winton, I am betrayed! Open fire, and sink this tug!"

Then he wheeled about and with leveled weapon, added:

"I will kill the first man who attempts to lay a finger on me!"

General Yozarro and his officers showed more promptitude than would
have been expected. Seeing that a conflict was inevitable, they set
out to win by their own quickness. Their armament was heavier than
that of the American yacht,--that is to say, though his pieces carried
smaller missiles, he had two of them, while that of the _Warrenia_ was
a brass saluting twelve-pounder.

The port gun was slewed around and pointed at the other craft, now
within twenty-five yards, and in a twinkling it bore fairly.

"Fire!" shouted the excited General, too savage to regard the usual

Major Starland shuddered, for he saw the gun seemingly directed true
and knew it must do great destruction on his yacht. The gunner snapped
the lanyard, but a dull click followed and there was no discharge.

General Yozarro uttered an oath and Captain Ortega called from the
pilot house:

"That is the one which was not loaded!"

Jack Starland had forgotten the fact in the flurry of the moment. He
smiled and looked across at his own boat. Captain Winton did not throw
away a second. He signalled to the engine room, quickly veered, and
the brass twelve-pounder was pointed fairly at the tug. Meantime, by
working frantically, the gunners quickly loaded the piece on the
Atlamalcan craft and swung it around to bear on the other.

"Look out for the Major!" called Captain Winton; "he is standing at
the front."

While the native gunners were awaiting the critical second, there was
a white puff, a red belch of flame, and a thunderous report rolled
over the river and against the shores. A smashing sound, the
splintering of wood and a number of yells followed, the ball having
torn its way through the cabin and splashed into the river beyond.

In this crisis, General Yozarro displayed unexpected coolness. General
Bambos hurriedly sagged down behind the pile of wood at the front, as
if mortally hurt, but he was merely taking precautions against
becoming so.

"Quick!" roared General Yozarro; "sink their boat!"

The haste was unwise, for the gunners were not wholly lacking in
skill, but they were flustered by the furious orders of their brutal
chief, and fired sooner than they intended. It would have seemed
that with so brief a distance separating the combatants a miss was
impossible; but the heavy missile only grazed the foremast, dropping
somewhere among the trees on the southern shore.

"Hurrah!" shouted the delighted Major, swinging his hat; "let the good
work go on! Keep it up! The Stars and Stripes forever!"

Colonel Del Valle had recovered from the fierce blow that sent him
spinning across the cabin and was aflame with anger. He, too, had a
revolver, and, heedless of the wild turmoil and confusion, in which a
half dozen were injured by the flying splinters, he sneaked forward
toward the hurrahing American. He raised his hand tremulous with fury,
and sighting as well as he could through his watery, bloody eyes, let

The crack of the weapon amid the tumult caused Major Starland to turn
like a flash. He saw he had forgotten himself, and that in all
probability he had a fight on his hands.

"I don't want to kill you, Colonel, but you need a lesson."

The officer was backing away, when at the flash of the other weapon,
he uttered a howl and skurried into the cabin with his right arm
dangling useless. The American saw his pistol fall, and darting
forward, picked it up. He now had two revolvers, and with only a
single empty chamber in each. He backed against the pile of wood, to
prevent any one getting behind him, and confronted the mob. Moreover,
it was necessary that his friends should see where he was in order to
avoid harming him.

A gun on each boat had been fired, and it now became a race as to
which could reload and fire again. The American won, because of a
slight advantage at the start. No attempt was made on the tugboat
to bring the second piece into action. The captains of each craft
displayed admirable skill. Captain Winton tried to keep out of range
of his enemy, but Captain Ortega swung around so as to hold him in
direct line all the time.

Starland's mate and one of his seamen were handling the cannon on the
yacht. The latter had served at Manila and knew his business. As cool
as if taking part in the naval maneuvers, he waited until sure the
second shot would do the business. Without giving heed to the crew
striving desperately to bring the other gun to bear, he crouched till
the gun was pointed exactly right and then blazed away.

He had aimed at the screw of the tugboat and he struck it so fairly
that the stem snapped off and the blades dropped to the bottom of the
river. This was at the suggestion of the mate, who, not wishing to
kill any one, only sought to put the other craft out of action.

It was done. The tug was as helpless as a log, but not until Captain
Ortega called from the pilot house, making known the nature of the
disaster, did General Yozarro understand the mortal injury his navy
had received.

"Bully!" shouted the Major; "put the next shot through her boiler!
Don't mind me! I can swim and don't care for a little thing like being
blown up!"

General Bambos heard the terrifying news and climbed tremblingly to
his feet.

"Don't let them fire again! We shall all be killed!"

"Only one thing can save you," replied the Major aglow with the light
of triumphant battle; "run up the white flag! The next shot will send
you to kingdom come!"

It was General Yozarro, who, catching the panic, whipped out his white
silken handkerchief, and standing within arm's length of his prisoner,
excitedly fluttered it aloft.

"Cease firing!" commanded Major Starland; "they have surrendered!"


The notice was in the nick of time. The gun on the yacht was loaded
and trained again, and, had it been fired, would have played the
mischief on the Atlamalcan boat.

Captain Winton began edging the _Warrenia_ toward the other, with the
purpose of running alongside and receiving its submission. Reading his
intention, Major Starland called:

"Don't do that! You can't trust these scoundrels! They will board!"

"That's what we want 'em to do!" called back the captain.

"I'd like it too, but we have ladies to look after; send a boat to
take off General Yozarro and me."

In the midst of the hubbub and confusion, Captain Ortega was seen
to lean out of the window of the pilot house, quickly level his
revolver and fire in the direction of the American. It looked like
a deliberate attempt to assassinate the unsuspecting officer before
anyone could interfere. Jack Starland did not observe the act, but the
cry of a man alongside of him caused him to turn his head. Taking
advantage of the confusion, one of General Yozarro's officers had
slipped behind the American unnoticed by him, and was stealing upon
him with drawn knife. The two Generals could not have failed to see
him, but neither interposed. A few seconds more and the weapon would
have been driven into the back of Starland. Captain Ortega, however,
sent his bullet straight and true, the miscreant falling dead in his

Still leaning out of the window, with smoking pistol in hand, Captain
Ortega, as cool as ever, made himself heard above the din:

"You mustn't forget down there that we have surrendered!"

The wheel being useless, he now came out of the pilot house and stood
like a general overlooking and directing his forces.

It was begun and ended, as may be said, in the twinkling of an eye.
Jack Starland did not forget the lesson. He was yet in the midst of
as treacherous a lot of wretches as so many Apaches. He edged farther
forward with his glances alternating between his own craft and the
excited throng near him, and so alert that further interference in
his behalf was unnecessary.

Looking up to Captain Ortega, he caught his eye and saluted:

"Thank you with all my heart!"

The other returned the salute but did not speak. His weapon was still
in his hand and not a movement below eluded him. Generals Bambos
and Yozarro were standing beside each other, the latter with his
handkerchief still in his hand, though he ceased to flutter it, since
the necessity had passed. Now and then the two spoke in low tones, for
the turmoil was succeeded by a hush that was impressive.

The order of Major Jack was obeyed on board his own boat. Holding the
yacht so that, like the other, it drifted with the current, the tender
was lowered, and two seamen entered and began rowing toward the
motionless tug. With slow, even strokes and without any sign of
misgiving, they rounded to alongside. Major Starland shoved one
revolver in his pocket, where it could be instantly drawn, and held
the other ready for any emergency.

"You first, General," he said bowing to the leader who had

Holding back, he sullenly asked:

"Why should I go aboard your vessel?"

"In accordance with the rules of civilized warfare, of which, of
course, you know nothing. For the first time in your life you will be
among gentlemen, and, therefore, need feel no fear."

With ill grace, the Dictator stepped carefully down and seated himself
at the bow of the smaller boat.

"And now myself," was the good natured remark of the American, as he
lightly followed. It was a trying moment, for he half expected a shot
in the back, even though it would have meant the death of General
Yozarro and the destruction of the tugboat. Captain Ortega must have
feared something of the kind, for he stepped to the edge of the upper
deck, leaned forward with his revolver grasped and kept a keen watch
upon every man. It is not impossible that his vigilance averted a

With the same even stroke, the small boat was rowed across the brief,
intervening space, and the mate, Dick Horton, reached down, took the
hand of the General and gave so lusty a pull that he stumbled forward
and barely saved himself from sprawling on his hands and knees. The
next instant Jack sprang among his friends, who crowded around,
grasped his hands and showered him with congratulations.

During the flurry, Aunt Cynthia and Miss Starland had been kept beyond
reach of harm, but they were now among the group that welcomed the
owner of the pretty craft.

"Had you wished to give them the safest place," said he, "you should
have let them stand at the bow in plain sight."

"Only the fear of a possible accident prevented that being done,"
replied the mate.

When General Yozarro saw the young woman in the laughing, happy
company, he took off his hat, bowed low and said with his old-time

"The pain of this meeting is turned to delight by the sight once more
of your beauteous countenance and your charming self."

Looking him in the eyes, she measured her words:

"_Que V. se atreva á dirigirse á mi, es el mayor insulto de mi vida._"

The face crimsoned as if from the sting of a whiplash across the eyes,
and those of the bystanders who understood the words, broke into a
thrilling murmur of applause. General Yozarro tried to hide his
repulse by turning to Major Starland:

"I have come aboard this vessel at your command; what do you desire of

"Your sword."

The Dictator meekly drew the blade from its scabbard and extended the
hilt toward the American, who recoiled.

"I refuse it; keep it; and take with you the remembrance that the most
dangerous thing mortal man can fool with is an American."

"Are you through?"

"I am, and I hope never to look upon your face again."

"_Mal rayo te parta!_ Your wish is reciprocated; I will return to my

"_Adios_, General Yozarro!"

The sullen fellow made no reply, and was assisted over the side and
rowed back to the crippled tug by the two sailors who had brought him
away. During the unique interview, the crew and officers crowded the
gunwale and watched proceedings with the keenest interest. Among them
was the bulky General Bambos.


It may be thought that the most galling experience of General Yozarro
was the scarifying repulse of Miss Starland, when he presumed to
address her; but unknown to all except the author of the insult and
himself, he was compelled to taste a deeper dreg in the cup of
wormwood and gall. While he paused, facing the group of Americans, a
man on the outer fringe succeeded in catching his eye and made the
most taunting grimace conceivable. He repeated it several times, the
last being accompanied by a flirt of the forefinger across the throat
to signify that that was the way he would like to serve the murderous
tyrant. The man who thus grossly insulted him was Martella, the
deserter, who chuckled with delight when he heard the stinging answer
given to General Yozarro by Miss Starland. The others were too
interested in what was going on before them to observe the by-play.
General Yozarro set his teeth, and took consolation in the thought:

"General Bambos will give him to me and I will punish him; I will do
the same with Captain Guzman for aiding the foul ingrate."

But the Dictator never did either. Jack Starland was not the one to
forget the service of his friends. He had no trouble in persuading
Martella to engage himself as one of the firemen on the _Warrenia_,
for wages that were three-fold what he had received--when he did
receive them which was not often--in his own country. Something in the
nature of a compromise was made with Captain Guzman. He could not be
induced to go so far as the great Republic of the North, but halted at

"I am so accustomed to revolutions," said he with a grin and shrug,
"that I should die of weariness in your noble country, but here I
shall have all that my heart craves."

"It has much that look," replied Major Starland, as he shook him by
the hand, after compelling him to accept a generous _douceur_ from
himself and Miss Starland.

Returning from this digression, the small boat was kept under careful
survey until it returned from the _General Yozarro_. Some feared that
a musket shot might be fired at the seamen, for the Atlamalcan is
hot-headed and reckless, and the fully loaded saluting gun was kept

"If I have to fire again," grimly said the mate, "I shall send the
ball through her boiler, and sink the whole gang."

Fortunately the necessity did not arise. The most prominent form on
the tug was that of Captain Ramon Ortega, standing in front of the
pilot house on the upper deck. Pistol in hand, his watchfulness no
doubt prevented any treacherous act, for all who knew him knew his
unflinching sense of honor and his personal bravery. When the peril
passed, he put away his weapon and stood with hands thrust in the
side pockets of his light jacket.

Up went the hand of Miss Starland and she fluttered aloft her

"I see no reason why he should not recognize me as a friend _now_,"
she explained to the Major at her side.

The other saw her and lifted his hat and bowed low. Jack Starland did
the same and called a cheery good bye to him.

"He is the foremost gentleman of the Atlamalcan Republic, and
Señorita Manuela will secure a prize in him."

"No greater than he will secure in her; but what is to become of

"Of whom?"

"Their boat is so injured that they are helpless."

"No doubt General Yozarro will be able to float another loan big
enough to provide his navy with a new screw; until then, he may limp
along as best he can."

At this moment, Mate Horton came forward with the same question.

"We might tow them down to Zalapata, even with General Bambos on
board, but I am not impressed that it is my duty. Let them drift with
the current and they will bump up somewhere. It is well that they
should have a few hours for meditation. Besides, they have the tender
and catboat and can send ashore for help, if they need it. No; I shall
have nothing more to do with the gang; they must look out for

Captain Winton emitted a resounding blast from the whistle, to which
the tug responded, and steamed down the river. His intention was to
maintain a moderate speed, passing Zalapata without stop, and to make
the first halt at San Luis, which ought to be reached some time during
the night.

The Captain did not forget one important fact. While he had been
fortunate in ascending the forked river, he had the slightest possible
knowledge of it. The utmost circumspection was necessary on his part.
The stream was broad and deep, but it had its snags, its "sawyers"
like the Mississippi, and its dangerous shoals and shallow places. An
experienced pilot can generally locate such spots by the crinkling
circles at the surface, but there was a certain risk which would
baffle even Captain Ortega. Below San Luis, the river so broadened
and deepened, and was so comparatively free from obstructions that
practically all peril would be left behind.

Captain Winton strove unremittingly to keep the channel, though that
was not always possible. His good fortune in coming up the stream gave
him confidence of making the down trip in safety. Fifteen minutes
after expressing this belief to Major Starland, the bow of the yacht
suddenly rose several feet, there was a quick slackening of speed and
the boat settled to rest. No one needed to be told what it meant: the
_Warrenia_ had run upon a mud bank and was fast.

"Captain Ortega's performance over again!" said Major Starland, "with
the exception that he did it on purpose and I don't think you did."

"I am somewhat of the same opinion myself," growled the Captain, "but
here we must stay for several hours at the least."

An instant investigation showed that the yacht had suffered no injury.
She was staunchly built, and the impact was like that of a solid body
against yielding cotton. Had the mud been rock or compact earth the
result must have been disastrous.

The screw was kept viciously going, but it could not drag the boat
off. Then the crew toiled for an hour shifting what was movable to the
stern, but without result. Next, an anchor was carried a hundred feet
up stream and imbedded in the oozy bed of the river, while sturdy arms
on board tugged at the connecting hawser by means of a windlass, with
the screw desperately helping, but the hull would not yield an inch.
Finally the efforts were given up. Nothing remained but to wait till
the rising tide should lift the mountainous burden and swing it free.

When the accident occurred, the tug had been left far out of sight in
the winding stream, but about the middle of the afternoon it slowly
drifted into view around a sweeping bend. The fact of its coming
sideways showed that it was swayed wholly by the current.

"That is curious," remarked the puzzled Major to Mate Horton; "why
don't they anchor, or pole to land, or tow the tug ashore with the
smaller boats? There is no need of letting the vessel become a
derelict simply because she has lost her screw."

The interest of those on the yacht naturally centred in the gradually
approaching craft, which was closely scanned through the various
glasses. Miss Starland stood beside her brother, her instrument
leveled, while he used only his unaided eyes. After a time he

"That boat seems to be moving slowly."

"It isn't moving at all."

She handed the binocular to him, and a moment after pointing it, he

"You are right; it looks as if they did not care for a closer

Mate Horton joined them. He had noticed the same thing.

"What do you make of it, Major?"

He glanced at Miss Starland and then at his friend without speaking.
She caught the by-play.

"Don't be afraid to speak before me; you do not seem to have noticed
something else about the boat yonder."

"What is that?"

"It has a good many more men on board than when we parted company with


Major Jack Starland flashed up the glass and studied the other craft.

"By Jove! you are right; where do you suppose they came from, Dick?"

"The General must have established communication with his friends soon
after we left him; he certainly has a strong crew."

"That means he intends to attack us; it looks as if there is to be a
naval battle between an American yacht and the navy of the Atlamalcan

It was Miss Starland who said this without a trace of excitement, and
as if the impending struggle was of only passing interest.

"She is right," observed the mate; "it is hard to tell which has the
advantage with one crippled and the other hard aground."

"They will wait till night and then come at us in their small boats.
As nearly as I can make out, they have all of twenty men on board.
What is your opinion, Miss Starland?"

She pointed the glass again for several minutes before replying:

"There are nearer forty, for it is certain that some are keeping out
of sight. I suppose they are well armed, and it seems to me we are in
a bad situation."

"There's no denying it," remarked her brother with a grave face; "they
will wait till night and then dash upon us from several sides at the
same time; the hour or two before the moon rises will be their

"But why," was the natural feminine inquiry, "does General Yozarro
molest us? He has always claimed to be your friend, and, until today,
has treated us both with courtesy. What pretext can he offer for his

"While there is little in his excuse, it will doubtless be that the
owner of this yacht captured his flimsy tug which he persists in
calling a gunboat, or rather that I stole it, for which offence he
means to punish me."

"Will he not in the end have to reckon with our government?"

"Yes, but he must first reckon with _us_; the affair is a ridiculous
one in which to involve the United States, and I shall not feel proud
of my part, if forced to make the appeal; but General Yozarro will
find it is no child's play in which he engages when he attacks us. We
have not a very full supply of small arms on board, but we shall make
things lively for him."

When night closed in, the relative position of the two craft was
unchanged. Every possible preparation was made on the yacht, for there
could be no doubt of the hostile intentions of the Atlamalcans. A
small boat was seen to leave its side and pass to the southern shore.
Followed through the glasses, it disclosed two seamen swaying the
oars, but when it returned after a brief absence, it held six
passengers. The crew of the crippled tug was fast growing and General
Yozarro had certainly made good use of his time.

The twelve-pounder of the _Warrenia_ was loaded to the muzzle. Six
rifles were distributed among the men, several of whom had revolvers
and all knives. Lookouts were placed at all points. The conviction was
that during the brief period of gloom before the rising of the moon,
two or three or possibly more small boats, crowded with armed men,
would dash simultaneously upon the grounded craft and strive
desperately to board her.

The sanguinary fight that impended, with the certain loss of life on
both sides, could be averted by a surrender, which calm judgment would
have justified under the peculiar circumstances, but it was not
strange that even Miss Starland and Aunt Cynthia hinted nothing of
that nature. As for the officers and crew, they eagerly awaited the
conflict with a band whom they despised. Although greatly outnumbered,
not one doubted their ability to repel the attempt to board. There was
only one condition that they would have changed; that was the presence
of the ladies. They could be safeguarded during the fight, but it
would have been better had they been far away. Such absence, however,
was impossible and no one referred to it.

But the naval battle never took place. When all the defenders were
alert and on edge, it was observed that the yacht was floating. The
disappointment was felt keenly even by the bellicose cook. There
was a general peering into the gloom in the hope of discerning the
approaching boats, and a sigh when they failed to appear.

"It sometimes takes more courage to run away than to fight," said
Major Starland with a laugh; "therefore we shall run away."

He called his orders to Captain Winton, who, having shaken off the
clutch of the mud, turned the prow of the craft so as to flank the
obstruction, and signalled the engineer to go ahead at moderate speed.
At the same time, he sent out a reverberating blast from the whistle,
which the Atlamalcans might accept as a parting salute.

The yacht steamed carefully down the river, and in the early hours of
the morning passed Zalapata, where a few lights twinkled, and then
proceeded toward the more pretentious town of San Luis. The only ones
awake on the _Warrenia_ were those whose duties required them to be
alert, and Captain Winton, knowing that General Bambos was absent,
held the whistle mute as he went by.

       *       *       *       *       *

If the yacht _Warrenia_ and its crew and passengers had been called
upon to pass through a series of stirring incidents while in tropical
America, a rare and most gratifying experience now came to them. The
weather remained calm and the run to the southern extremity of the
continent was as smooth and tranquil as it had been across the
Caribbean Sea. When the neighborhood of Cape Horn was reached, Major
Starland, in order to keep his pledge with his father, took the wheel.
Captain Winton lit his pipe, sat down in the pilot house and grimly
waited until his services were necessary.

But not for an hour were they required, except now and then, in the
way of simple relief. He had passed that danger region more than once,
but never had he seen it so free of storm and rough weather. There was
not a single moment when the yacht was in the slightest danger. In
fact, to emphasize the wonderful, summer-like calmness of those
usually turbulent waters, which are the dread of veteran navigators,
Miss Starland held the spokes of the wheel for several hours. Such
good fortune is not likely to come to a navigator once in a score of

When the yacht steamed out of the wide mouth of the Amazon and headed
southward, the assumed relationship between Major Starland and his
"sister" was dropped. There was no call to keep it up, since every one
on board knew the truth.

The _Warrenia_ was well up the western coast of South America and
steaming rapidly toward the city of the Golden Gate. Hardly a breath
of air rippled the bright waters, and the sky overhead was brilliant
with its myriads of stars, whose gleam was intensified in the soft
crystalline atmosphere.

Major Starland was seated on a camp chair, where he and Miss Rowland
were sheltered from the wind created by the motion of the yacht. She
hardly needed the gaudily-colored zarape wrapped about her shoulders.
They had been talking of their strange experiences, of Manuela
Estacardo, of Captain Ortega and of those whose memories were much
less pleasant.

You can imagine the trend of that low, delightful conversation, for
the scene, the surroundings, the time, indeed all the circumstances
tended to draw them closer. What was said was too sacred in its
nature, for us to quote in full: the conclusion is enough.

"Warrenia, you have played the sister for some weeks to perfection.
You must have become accustomed to hearing yourself called 'Miss
Starland;' it certainly has a familiar sound by this time."

"Yes," she replied, ceasing her efforts to disengage her hand from the
fingers that had made it prisoner; "it could not well be otherwise.
You know there is quite a similarity in our names."

"What I wish to ask, Sweetheart, is whether you will not agree to make
a slight change in the term by which you were addressed so long."

"In what way?" she asked, as if she did not know what was coming.

"Instead of being 'Miss Starland,' will you not consent that your
correct name shall be 'Mrs. Starland?'"

At first she begged for time in which to consider the proposition, but
Jack was always headlong and presumptuous, as you know, and he
insisted, and what could she do but consent? And among all the friends
the two most pleased were "Teddy" Rowland and his partner, Tom
Starland, when they heard the good news.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors;
otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author's
words and intent.

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