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Title: When Santiago Fell - or The War Adventures of Two Chums
Author: Stratemeyer, Edward, Bonehill, Captain Ralph
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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Transcriber Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italic_.



[Illustration: "A RUSH WAS MADE AND THE OX CART CAME TO A SUDDEN
HALT."]



                          WHEN SANTIAGO FELL


                        _THE WAR ADVENTURES OF
                              TWO CHUMS_

                                  BY

                        CAPTAIN RALPH BONEHILL

        AUTHOR OF "A SAILOR BOY WITH DEWEY," "OFF FOR HAWAII,"
                "GUN AND SLED," "LEO, THE CIRCUS BOY,"
                       "RIVAL BICYCLISTS," ETC.

                            [Illustration]

                        CHATTERTON-PECK COMPANY
                            NEW YORK, N. Y.


BY THE SAME AUTHOR


  WITH CUSTER IN THE BLACK HILLS;
    Or, A Young Scout among the Indians.

  BOYS OF THE FORT;
    Or, A Young Captain's Pluck.

  THE YOUNG BANDMASTER;
    Or, Concert Stage and Battlefield.

  WHEN SANTIAGO FELL;
    Or, The War Adventures of Two Chums.

  A SAILOR BOY WITH DEWEY;
    Or, Afloat in the Philippines.

  OFF FOR HAWAII;
    Or, The Mystery of a Great Volcano.

  _12mo, finely illustrated and bound in cloth.
       Price, per volume, 60 cents._


NEW YORK

CHATTERTON-PECK COMPANY 1905


Copyright, 1899, by

THE MERSHON COMPANY



PREFACE.


"When Santiago Fell," while a complete story in itself, forms the first
volume of a line to be issued under the general title of the "Flag of
Freedom Series" for boys.

My object in writing this story was to present to American lads a
true picture of life in the Cuba of to-day, and to show what a fierce
struggle was waged by the Cubans against the iron-handed mastery of
Spain previous to the time that our own glorious United States stepped
in and gave to Cuba the precious boon of liberty. The time covered is
the last year of the Cuban-Spanish War and our own campaign leading up
to the fall of Santiago.

It may be possible that some readers may think the adventures of the
two chums over-drawn, but this is hardly a fact. The past few years
have been exceedingly bitter ones to all living upon Cuban soil, and
neither life nor property has been safe. Even people who were peaceably
inclined were drawn into the struggle against their will, and the
innocent, in many cases, suffered with the guilty.

This war, so barbarously carried on, has now come to an end; and,
under the guiding hand of Uncle Sam, let us trust that Cuba and her
people will speedily take their rightful place among the small but
well-beloved nations of the world--or, if not this, that she may join
the ever-increasing sisterhood of our own States.

Once more thanking my numerous young friends for their kind reception
of my previous works, I place this volume in their hands, trusting that
from it they may derive much pleasure and profit.

                                                Captain Ralph Bonehill.

  _January 1, 1899._



CONTENTS.


    CHAPTER                                         PAGE

         I. Off for the Interior                       1

        II. The Escape from the Gunboat                8

       III. In the Wilds of the Island                15

        IV. In a Novel Prison                         22

         V. Lost among the Hills                      30

        VI. From One Difficulty to Another            37

       VII. Fooling the Spanish Guerrillas            45

      VIII. Andres                                    52

        IX. Across the Canefields                     59

         X. A Council of the Enemy                    66

        XI. A Wild Ride on Horseback                  74

       XII. A Daring Leap                             81

      XIII. Friends in Need                           87

       XIV. General Calixto Garcia                    95

        XV. A Prisoner of War                        102

       XVI. A Rescue under Difficulties              108

      XVII. A Treacherous Stream to Cross            116

     XVIII. Alone                                    123

       XIX. The Cave in the Mountain                 130

        XX. Señor Guerez                             137

       XXI. The Attack on the Old Convent            145

      XXII. The Routing of the Enemy                 154

     XXIII. On the Trail of My Father                161

      XXIV. In the Belt of the Firebrands            168

       XXV. Escaping the Flames                      176

      XXVI. A Disheartening Discovery                184

     XXVII. Gilbert Burnham                          191

    XXVIII. A Battle on Land and Water               198

      XXIX. Looking for my Cuban Chum                205

       XXX. Once More among the Hills                212

      XXXI. The Battle at the Railroad Embankment    220

     XXXII. A Leap in the Dark                       229

    XXXIII. Captain Guerez Makes a Discovery         238

     XXXIV. The Dogs of Cuban Warfare                244

      XXXV. The Last of the Bloodhounds              252

     XXXVI. Cast into a Santiago Dungeon             261

    XXXVII. The Fall of the Spanish Stronghold       271



WHEN SANTIAGO FELL.



CHAPTER I.

OFF FOR THE INTERIOR.


"We cannot allow you to leave this city."

It was a Spanish military officer of high rank who spoke, and he
addressed Alano Guerez and myself. I did not understand his words, but
my companion did, and he quickly translated them for my benefit.

"Then what are we to do, Alano?" I questioned. "We have no place to
stop at in Santiago, and our money is running low."

Alano's brow contracted into a perplexing frown. He spoke to the
officer, and received a few curt words in reply. Then the Spaniard
turned to others standing near, and we felt that we were dismissed. A
guard conducted us to the door, and saluted us; and we walked away from
the headquarters.

The reason for it all was this: Less than a month before we had left
the Broxville Military Academy in upper New York State to join Alano's
parents and my father in Cuba. Alano's father was a Cuban, and owned a
large sugar plantation some distance to the eastward of Guantanamo Bay.
He was wealthy, and had sent Alano to America to be educated, as many
rich Cubans do. As my father and Señor Guerez were well acquainted and
had strong business connections, it was but natural that Alano should
be placed at the boarding school which I attended, and that we should
become firm friends. For a long time we played together, ate together,
studied together, and slept together, until at last as chums we became
almost inseparable.

Some months back, and while the great struggle for liberty was going
on between the Cubans and their rulers in Spain, certain business
difficulties had taken my father to Cuba. During his stop in the island
he made his home for the greater part with Señor Guerez, and while
there was unfortunate enough during a trip on horseback to fall and
break his leg.

This accident placed him on his back longer than was first expected,
for the break was a bad one. In the meantime the war went on, and the
territory for many miles around Santiago de Cuba was in a state of wild
excitement.

Not knowing exactly what was going on, Alano wrote to his parents
begging that he be allowed to come to them, and in the same mail I
sent a communication to my father, asking if I could not accompany
my Cuban chum. To our delight the answer came that if we wished we
might come without delay. At the time this word was sent neither Señor
Guerez nor my father had any idea that the war would assume such vast
proportions around Santiago, involving the loss of many lives and the
destruction of millions of dollars of property.

Alano and I were not long in making our preparations. We left
Broxville two days after permission was received, took the cars to the
metropolis, and engaged immediate passage upon the _Esmeralda_ for
Santiago de Cuba.

We had heard of the war a hundred times on the way, but even on
entering the harbor of the city we had no thought of difficulty in
connection with our journey on rail and horseback outside of the city.
We therefore suffered a rude awakening when the custom-house officials,
assisted by the Spanish military officers, made us stand up in a long
row with other passengers, while we were thoroughly searched from head
to foot. Each of us had provided himself with a pistol; and these,
along with the cartridges, were taken from us. Our baggage, also,
was examined in detail, and everything in the way of a weapon was
confiscated.

"War means something, evidently," was the remark I made, but how much
it meant I did not learn until later. Our names were taken down, and
we were told to remain in the city over night and report at certain
headquarters in the morning. We were closely questioned as to where
we had come from; and when I injudiciously mentioned the Broxville
Military Academy, our questioner, a swarthy Spanish lieutenant, glared
ominously at us.

"I'm afraid you put your foot into it when you said that," was Alano's
comment at the hotel that evening, when we were discussing our strange
situation. "They are on the watch for people who want to join the
insurgents."

"Perhaps your father has become a rebel," I ventured.

"It is not unlikely. He has spoken to me of Cuban independence many
times."

As might be expected, we passed an almost sleepless night, so anxious
were we to learn what action the Spanish authorities would take in our
case. When the decision came, as noted at the opening of this story, I
was almost dumb-founded.

"We're in a pickle, Alano," I said, as we walked slowly down the
street, lined upon either side with quaint shops and houses. "We can't
stay here without money, and we can't get out."

"We must get out!" he exclaimed in a low tone, so as not to be
overheard. "Do you suppose I am going to remain here, when my father
and mother are in the heart of the war district, and, perhaps, in great
danger?"

"I am with you!" I cried. "For my father is there too. But how can we
manage it? I heard at the hotel last night that every road leading out
of the city is well guarded."

"We'll find a way," he rejoined confidently. "But we'll have to leave
the bulk of our baggage behind. The most we can carry will be a small
valise each. And we must try to get hold of some kind of weapons, too."

We returned to our hotel, and during the day Alano struck up an
acquaintanceship with a Cuban-American who knew his father well. Alano,
finding he could trust the gentleman, took him into his confidence,
and, as a result, we obtained not only a good pistol each,--weapons we
immediately secreted in our clothing,--but also received full details
of how to leave Santiago de Cuba by crossing the bay in a rowboat and
taking to the woods and mountains beyond.

"It will be rough traveling," said the gentlemen who gave us the
directions, "but you'll find your lives much safer than if you tried
one of the regular roads--that is, of course, after you have passed
the forts and the gunboats lying in the harbor."

Both Alano and I were much taken with this plan, and it was arranged we
should leave the city on the first dark night. Two days later it began
to rain just at sunset, and we felt our time had come. A small rowboat
had already been procured and was secreted under an old warehouse. At
ten o'clock it was still raining and the sky was as black as ink, and
we set out,--I at the oars, and Alano in the bow,--keeping the sharpest
of lookouts.

We had agreed that not a word should be spoken unless it was necessary,
and we moved on in silence. I had spent many hours on the lake facing
Broxville Academy, and these now stood me in good stead. Dropping my
oars without a sound, I pulled a long, steady stroke in the direction I
had previously studied out.

We were about halfway across the bay when suddenly Alano turned to me.
"Back!" he whispered, and I reversed my stroke as quickly as possible.

"There is a gunboat or something ahead," he went on. "Steer to the
left. See the lights?"

I looked, and through the mists made out several signals dimly. I
brought the boat around, and we went on our way, only to bring up, a
few seconds later, against a huge iron chain, attached to one of the
war vessels' anchors, for the vessel had dragged a bit on the tide.

The shock threw Alano off his feet, and he tumbled against me, sending
us both sprawling. I lost hold of one of the oars, and at the same
moment an alarm rang out--a sound which filled us both with fear.



CHAPTER II.

THE ESCAPE FROM THE GUNBOAT.


"We are lost!" cried Alano, as he sought to pick himself up. "Oh, Mark,
what shall we do?"

"The oar--where is that oar?" I returned, throwing him from me and
trying to pierce the darkness.

"I don't know. I---- Oh!"

Alano let out the exclamation as a broad sheet of light swept across
the rain and the waters beneath us--light coming from a search-lantern
in the turret of the gunboat. Fortunately the rays were not lowered
sufficiently to reach us, yet the light was strong enough to enable me
to see the missing oar, which floated but a few feet away. I caught it
with the end of the other oar, and then began pulling at the top of my
speed.

But all of this took time, and now the alarm on board of the war vessel
had reached its height. A shot rang out, a bell tolled, and several
officers came rushing to the anchor chains. They began shouting in
Spanish, so volubly I could not understand a word; and now was no time
to question Alano, who was doing his best to get out a second pair of
oars which we had, fortunately, placed on board at the last moment. He
had often rowed with me on the lake at Broxville; and in a few seconds
he had caught the stroke, and away we went at a spinning speed.

"They are going to fire on us!" he panted, as the shouting behind
increased. "Shall we give up?"

"Not on my account."

"Nor on mine. If we give up, they'll put us in prison, sure. Pull on!"

And pull we did, until, in spite of the cold rain, each of us was
dripping with perspiration and ready to drop with exhaustion.

Boom! a cannon shot rang out, and involuntarily both of us ducked our
heads. But the shot flew wide of its mark--so wide, in fact, that we
knew not where it went.

"They'll get out a boat next!" I said. "Pull, Alano; put every ounce of
muscle into the stroke."

"I am doing that already," he gasped. "We must be getting near the
shore. What about the guard there?"

"We'll have to trust to luck," I answered.

Another shot came booming over the misty waters, and this time we
heard the sizz of the cannon ball as it hit the waves and sank. We were
now in the glare of the searchlight, but the mist and rain were in our
favor.

"There is the shore!" I cried, on looking around a few seconds later.
"Now be prepared to run for it as soon as the boat beaches!"

With a rush our craft shot in between a lot of sea grass and stuck her
bow into the soft mud. Dropping our oars, we sprang to the bow and took
long leaps to solid ground. We had hardly righted ourselves when there
came a call out of the darkness.

"_Quien va?_" And thus challenging us, a Spanish soldier who was on
guard along the water's edge rushed up to intercept our progress. His
bayonet was within a foot of my breast, when Alano jumped under and
hurled him to the ground.

"Come!" he cried to me. "Come, ere it is too late!" and away we went,
doing the best sprinting we had ever done in our lives. Over a marsh
and through a thorny field we dashed, and then struck a narrow path
leading directly into a woods. The guard yelled after us and fired his
gun, but that was the last we saw or heard of him.

[Illustration: "AN ALARM RANG OUT, A SOUND WHICH FILLED US BOTH WITH
FEAR."]

Fearful, however, of pursuit, we did not slacken our pace until
compelled to; and then, coming to a thick clump of grass at the foot of
a half-decayed banana tree, we sank down completely out of breath. I
had never taken such fearful chances on my life before, and I trusted
I would never have to do so again, little dreaming of all the perils
which still lay before us.

"I believe we are safe for the present," said Alano, when he could get
his breath. "I wonder where we are?"

"We're in a very dark, dirty, and wet woods," I returned gloomily.
"Have we got to remain here all night?"

"It's better than being in a Spanish prison," replied my Cuban chum
simply. "We can go on after we are a bit rested."

The rain was coming down upon the broad leaves of the banana tree at a
lively rate, but Alano said he thought it must be a clearing shower,
and so it soon proved to be. But scarcely had the drops ceased to fall
than a host of mosquitoes and other insects arose, keeping us more than
busy.

"We must get out of this!" I exclaimed, when I could stand the tiny
pests no longer. "I'm being literally chewed up alive. And, see, there
is a lizard!" And I shook the thing from my arm.

"Oh, you mustn't mind such things in Cuba!" said Alano, laughing
shortly. "Why, we have worse things than that--snakes and alligators,
and the like. But come on, if you are rested. It may be we'll soon
strike some sort of shelter."

Luckily, through all the excitement we had retained our valises, which
were slung across our backs by straps thrown over the shoulder. From my
own I now extracted a large handkerchief, and this served, when placed
in my broad-brimmed hat, to protect my neck and ears from the insects.
As for Alano, he was acclimated and did not seem to be bothered at all.

We pursued our way through the woods, and then ascended a steep bank
of clay, at the top of which was a well-made road leading to the
northward. We looked up and down, but not a habitation or building of
any kind was in sight.

"It leads somewhere," said Alano, after a pause. "Let us go on, but
with care, for perhaps the Spanish Government has guards even as far
out as this."

On we went once more, picking our way around the numerous pools and
bog-holes in the road. The stars were now coming out, and we could
consequently see much better than before.

"A light!" I cried, when quarter of a mile had been traversed. "See,
Alano."

"It must be from a plantation," he answered. "If it is, the chances
are that the owner is a Spanish sympathizer--he wouldn't dare to be
anything else, so close to the city."

"But he might aid us in secret," I suggested.

Alano shrugged his shoulders, and we proceeded more slowly. Then he
caught my arm.

"There is a sugar-house back of that canefield," he said. "We may find
shelter there."

"Anywhere--so we can catch a few hours' nap."

We proceeded around the field with caution, for the plantation house
was not far away. Passing a building where the grinding was done, we
entered a long, low drying shed. Here we struck a match, and by the
flickering light espied a heap of dry husks, upon which we immediately
threw ourselves.

"We'll have to be up and away before daybreak," said my chum, as he
drew off his wet coat, an example which I at once followed, even though
it was so warm I did not suffer greatly from the dampness. "We would
be sorry fellows to give an explanation if we were stopped in this
vicinity."

"Yes, and for the matter of that, we had better sleep with one eye
open," I rejoined. And then we turned in, and both presently fell
asleep through sheer exhaustion.

How long I had been sleeping I did not know. I awoke with a start, to
find a cold nose pressing against my face.

"Hi! get out of here!" I cried, and then the owner of the nose leaped
back and uttered the low, savage, and unmistakable growl of a Cuban
bloodhound!



CHAPTER III.

IN THE WILDS OF THE ISLAND.


To say that I was alarmed when I found that the intruder in our
sleeping quarters was a bloodhound would be to put the fact very
mildly. I was truly horrified, and a chill shook my frame as I had a
momentary vision of being torn to pieces by the bloodthirsty animal.

My cry awoke Alano, who instantly asked what was the matter, and then
yelled at the beast in Spanish. As the creature retreated, evidently
to prepare for a rush upon us, I sprang to my feet and grasped a short
ladder which led to the roof of the shed.

"Come!" I roared to my chum, and Alano did so; and both of us scrambled
up, with the bloodhound snarling and snatching at our feet. He even
caught the heel of my boot, but I kicked him off, and we reached the
top of the shed in temporary safety. Baffled, the dog ran out of the
shed and began to bay loudly, as though summoning assistance.

"We're in for it now!" I groaned. "We can't get away from the dog, and
he'll arouse somebody before long."

"Well, we can't help ourselves," replied Alano, with a philosophical
shrug of his shoulders. "Ha! somebody is coming now!"

He pointed through the semi-darkness, for it was close to sunrise. A
Cuban negro was approaching, a huge fellow all of six feet tall and
dressed in the garb of an overseer. He carried a little triangular
lantern, and as he drew closer he yelled at the bloodhound in a Cuban
_patois_ which was all Greek to me, but which Alano readily understood.
The dog stopped baying, but insisted upon leading his master to the
very foot of the shed, where he stood with his nose pointed up at us.

There was no help for it, so Alano crawled to the edge of the roof and
told the overseer what was the trouble--that the dog had driven us
hither and that we were afraid of being killed. A short conversation
followed, and then my chum turned to me.

"We can go down now," he said. "The overseer says the dog will not
touch us so long as he is around."

We leaped to the ground, although I must admit I did not do so with a
mind perfectly at ease, the bloodhound still looked so ugly. However,
beyond a few sniffs at my trousers-leg and a deep rumble of his voice,
he offered no further indignities.

"He wants to know who we are," said Alano, after more conversation.
"What shall I tell him?"

"Tell him the truth, and ask him for help to reach your father's
plantation, Alano. He won't know we escaped from Santiago de Cuba
without permission."

Alano did as directed. At the mention of Senor Guerez' name the
overseer held up his hands in astonishment. He told Alano that he knew
his father well, that he had met the señor only two weeks previously,
and that both Alano's father and my own had thrown in their fortunes
with the insurgents!

"Is it possible!" I ejaculated. "My father, too! Why, he must be still
lame!"

"He is," said Alano, after further consultation with the newcomer.
"My father, it seems, had to join the rebels, or his plantation would
have been burned to the ground. There was a quarrel with some Spanish
sympathizers, and in the end both your father and mine joined the
forces under General Calixto Garcia."

"And where are they now?"

"The overseer does not know."

"What of your mother and sisters?"

"He does not know about them either;" and for a moment Alano's
handsome and manly face grew very sober. "Oh, if I was only with them!"

"And if I was only with my father!" I cried. My father was all the
world to me, and to be separated from him at such a time was more than
painful. "Do you think he will help us?" I went on, after a moment of
silence.

The overseer agreed to do what he could for us, although that would not
be much. He was an insurgent at heart, but his master and all around
him were in sympathy with the Spanish Government.

"He says for us to remain here and he will bring us breakfast," said
Alano, as the man turned and departed, with the bloodhound at his side.
"And after that he will set us on a road leading to Tiarriba and gave
us a countersign which will help us into a rebel camp if there is any
around."

We secreted ourselves again in the cane shed, and it was not long
before the overseer returned, bringing with him a kettle of steaming
black coffee, without which no Cuban breakfast seems complete, and some
fresh bread and half a dozen hard-boiled eggs. He had also a bag of
crackers and a chunk of dried beef weighing several pounds.

"Put those in your bags," he said to Alano, indicating the beef and
crackers. "You may find it to your interest to keep out of sight for a
day or two, to avoid the Spanish spies."

The breakfast was soon dispatched, the provisions stored in our
valises, and then the overseer took us up through the sugar-cane fields
to where a brook emptied into a long pond, covered with green weeds,
among which frogs as broad as one's hand croaked dismally. We hurried
around the pond, and our guide pointed out a narrow, winding path
leading upward through a stony woods. Then he whispered a few words to
Alano, shook us both by the hand, and disappeared.

"He says the countersign is 'Sagua'--after the river and city of that
name," explained my chum as we tramped along. "You must wave your hand
so if you see a man in the distance," and Alano twirled his arm over
his head.

Stony though it was in the woods, the vegetation was thick and rank. On
every side were the trunks of decaying trees, overgrown with moss--the
homes of beetles, lizards, and snakes innumerable. The snakes, most of
them small fellows not over a foot long, at first alarmed me, but this
only made Alano laugh.

"They could not harm you if they tried," he said. "And they are very
useful--they eat up so many of the mosquitoes and gnats and lizards."

"But some of the snakes are dangerous," I insisted.

"Oh, yes; but they are larger."

"And what of wild animals?"

"We have nothing but wild hogs and a few deer, and wild dogs too. And
then there are the alligators to be found in the rivers."

The sun had risen clear and hot, as is usual in that region after a
shower. Where the trees were scattered, the rays beat down upon our
heads mercilessly, and the slippery ground fairly steamed, so rapid was
the evaporation. By noon we had reached the top of a hill, and here
we rested and partook of several crackers each and a bit of the beef,
washing both down with water from a spring, which I first strained
through a clean handkerchief, to get clear of the insects and tiny
lizards, which abounded everywhere.

"I can see a house ahead," announced Alano, who had climbed a palm tree
to view the surroundings. "We'll go on and see what sort of a place it
is before we make ourselves known."

Once again we shouldered our traps and set out. The way down the hill
was nearly as toilsome as the upward course on the opposite side had
been, for gnarled roots hidden in the rank grasses made a tumble easy.
Indeed, both of us went down several times, barking our shins and
scratching our hands. Yet we kept on, until the house was but a short
distance off.

It was set in a small clearing; and as we approached we saw a man come
out of the front door and down the broad piazza steps. He was dressed
in the uniform of a captain in the Spanish army.

"Back!" cried Alano; but it was too late, for by pure accident the
military officer had caught sight of us. He called out in Spanish to
learn who we were.

"He is a Spanish officer!" I whispered to Alano. "Shall we face him and
trust to luck to get out of the scrape?"

"No, no! Come!" and, catching me by the arm, Alano led the way around
the clearing.

It was a bad move, for no sooner had we turned than the officer called
out to several soldiers stationed at a stable in the rear of the house.
These leaped on their horses, pistols and sabers in hand, and, riding
hard, soon surrounded us.

"_Halte!_" came the command; and in a moment more my Cuban chum and
myself found ourselves prisoners.



CHAPTER IV.

IN A NOVEL PRISON.


I looked with much foreboding upon the faces of the soldiers who had
surrounded us. All were stern almost to the verge of cruelty, and the
face of the captain when he came up was no exception to the rule. Alano
and I learned afterward that Captain Crabo had met the day previous
with a bitter attack from the insurgents, who had wounded six of his
men, and this had put him in anything but a happy frame of mind.

"Who are you?" he demanded in Spanish, as he eyed us sharply.

Alano looked at me in perplexity, and started to ask me what he had
best say, when the Spanish captain clapped the flat side of his sword
over my chum's mouth.

"Talk so that I can understand you, or I'll place you under arrest," he
growled. And then he added, "Are you alone?"

"Yes," said Alano.

"And where are you going?"

"I wish to join my father at Guantanamo. His father is also with
mine," and my chum pointed to me.

"Your name?"

Seeing there was no help for it, Alano told him. Captain Crabo did not
act as if he had heard it before, and we breathed easier. But the next
moment our hearts sank again.

"Well, we will search you, and if you carry no messages and are not
armed, you can go on."

"We have no messages," said Alano. "You can search us and welcome."

He handed over his valise, and I followed suit. Our pistols we had
placed in the inner pockets of our coats. By his easy manner my chum
tried to throw the Spaniards off their guard, but the trick did not
work. After going through our bags, and confiscating several of my silk
handkerchiefs, they began to search our clothing, even compelling us to
remove our boots, and the weapons were speedily brought to light.

"Ha! armed!" cried Captain Crabo. "They are not so innocent as they
seem. We will look into their history a little closer ere we let
them go. Take them to the smoke-house until I have time to make an
investigation to-night. We must be off for Pueblo del Cristo now."

Without ceremony we were marched off across the clearing and around the
back of the stable, where stood a rude stone building evidently built
many years before. Alano told me what the captain had said, and also
explained that the stone building was a smoke-house, where at certain
seasons of the year beef and other meat were hung up to be dried and
smoked, in preference to simple drying in the sun.

As might be expected, the smoke-house was far from being a clean place;
yet it had been used for housing prisoners before, and these had taken
the trouble to brush the smut from the stones inside, so it was not so
dirty as it might otherwise have been.

We were thrust into this building minus our pistols and our valises.
Then the door, a heavy wooden affair swinging upon two rusty iron
hinges, was banged shut in our faces, a hasp and spike were put into
place, and we were left to ourselves.

"Now we are in for it," I began, but Alano stopped me short.

"Listen!" he whispered, and we did so, and heard all of our enemies
retreat. A few minutes later there was the tramping of horses' feet,
several commands in Spanish, and the soldiers rode off.

"They have left us to ourselves, at any rate," said my chum, when we
were sure they had departed. "And we are made of poor stuff indeed if
we cannot pick our way out of this hole."

At first we were able to see nothing, but a little light shone in
through several cracks in the roof, and soon our eyes became accustomed
to the semi-darkness. We examined the walls, to find them of solid
masonry. The roof was out of our reach, the floor so baked it was like
cement.

"We are prisoners now, surely, Mark," said Alano bitterly. "What will
be our fate when that _capitan_ returns?"

"We'll be sent back to Santiago de Cuba most likely, Alano. But we must
try to escape. I have an idea. Can you balance me upon your shoulders,
do you think?"

"I will try it. But what for?"

"I wish to examine the roof."

Not without much difficulty I succeeded in reaching my chum's broad
shoulders and standing upright upon them. I could now touch the ceiling
of the smoke-house with ease, and I had Alano move around from spot to
spot in a close inspection of every bit of board and bark above us.

"Here is a loose board!" I cried in a low voice. "Stand firm, Alano."

He braced himself by catching hold of the stone wall, and I shoved
upward with all of my strength. There was a groan, a squeak; the board
flew upward, and the sun shone down on our heads. I crawled through
the opening thus made, and putting down my hand I helped Alano to do
likewise.

"Drop out of sight of the house!" he whispered. "Somebody may be
watching this place."

We dropped, and waited in breathless silence for several minutes, but
no one showed himself. Then we held a consultation.

"They thought we couldn't get out," I said. "More than likely no one is
left at the homestead but a servant or two."

"If only we could get our bags and pistols," sighed Alano.

"We must get them," I rejoined, "for we cannot go on without them. Let
us sneak up to the house and investigate. I see no dogs around."

With extreme caution we left the vicinity of the smoke-house, and,
crawling on hands and knees, made our way along a low hedge to where
several broad palms overshadowed a side veranda. The door of the
veranda was open, and, motioning to Alano to follow, I ascended the
broad steps and dashed into the house.

"Now where?" questioned my Cuban chum, as we hesitated in the broad and
cool hallway. "Here is a sitting room," and he opened the door to it.

A voice broke upon our ear. A negro woman was singing from the
direction of the kitchen, as she rattled among her earthenware pots.
Evidently she was alone.

"If they left her on guard, we have little to fear," I said, and we
entered the sitting room. Both of us uttered a faint cry of joy, for
there on the table rested our valises and provisions, just as they had
been taken from us. Inside of Alano's bag were the two pistols with the
cartridges.

"Now we can go at once," I said. "How fortunate we have been! Let us
not waste time here."

"They owe us a meal for detaining us," replied my chum grimly. "Let me
explore the pantry in the next room."

He went through the whip-end curtains without a sound, and was gone
several minutes. When he came back his face wore a broad smile and he
carried a large napkin bursting open with eatables of various kinds, a
piece of cold roast pork, some rice cakes, buns, and the remains of a
chicken pie.

"We'll have a supper fit for a king!" he cried. "Come on! I hear that
woman coming."

And coming she was, in her bare feet, along the polished floor. We
had just time left to seize our valises and make our escape when she
entered.

"_Qué quiere V.?_ [What do you want?]" she shouted, and then called
upon us to stop; but, instead, we ran from the dooryard as fast as we
could, and did not halt until the plantation was left a good half mile
behind.

"We are well out of that!" I gasped, throwing myself down under the
welcome shade of a cacao tree. "Do you suppose she will send the
soldiers in pursuit?"

"They would have hard work to find us," replied Alano. "Here, let us
sample this eating I brought along, and then be on our way. Remember we
have still many miles to go."

We partook of some of the chicken pie and some buns, the latter so
highly spiced they almost made me sneeze when I ate them, and then went
on our way again.

Our run had warmed us up, and now the sun beat down upon our heads
mercilessly as we stalked through a tangle where the luxurious
vegetation was knee-high. We were glad enough when we reached another
woods, through which there was a well-defined, although exceedingly
poor, wagon trail. Indeed, let me add, nearly all of the wagon roads
in Cuba, so I have since been told, are wretched affairs at the best.

"We ought to be in the neighborhood of Tiarriba," said Alano about the
middle of the afternoon.

"We won't dare enter the town," I replied. "Those soldiers were going
there, you must remember."

"Oh, the chances are we'll find rebels enough--on the quiet," he
rejoined.

On we went, trudging through sand and shells and not infrequently
through mire several inches to a foot deep. It was hard work, and I
wished more than once that we were on horseback. There was also a brook
to cross, but the bridge was gone and there was nothing left to do but
to ford the stream.

"It's not to our boot-tops," said Alano, after an examination, "so we
won't have to take our boots and socks off. Come; I fancy there is a
good road ahead."

He started into the water, and I went after him. We had reached the
middle of the stream when both of us let out a wild yell, and not
without reason, for we had detected a movement from the opposite bank,
and now saw a monstrous alligator bearing swiftly down upon us!



CHAPTER V.

LOST AMONG THE HILLS.


Both Alano and I were almost paralyzed by the sight of the huge
alligator bearing down upon us, his mouth wide open, showing his cruel
teeth, and his long tail shifting angrily from side to side.

"Back!" yelled my Cuban chum, and back we went, almost tumbling over
each other in our haste to gain the bank from where we had started.

The alligator lost no time in coming up behind, uttering what to me
sounded like a snort of rage. He had been lying half-hidden in the mud,
and the mud still clung to his scaly sides and back. Altogether, he was
the most horrible creature I had ever beheld.

Reaching the bank of the brook, with the alligator not three yards
behind us, we fled up a series of rocks overgrown with moss and vines.
We did not pause until we were at the very summit, then both of us drew
our pistols and fired at the blinking eyes. The bullets glanced from
the "'gator's" head without doing much harm, and with another snort
the terrifying beast turned back into the brook and sank into a pool
out of sight.

"My gracious, Alano, supposing he had caught us!" I gasped, when I
could catch my breath.

"We would have been devoured," he answered, with a shudder, for of
all creatures the alligator is the one most dreaded by Cubans, being
the only living beast on the island dangerous to life because of its
strength.

"He must have been lying in wait for somebody," I remarked, after a
moment's pause, during which we kept our eyes on the brook, in a vain
attempt to gain another look at our tormentor.

"He was--it is the way they do, Mark. If they can, they wait until you
are alongside of them. Then a blow from the tail knocks you flat, and
that ends the fight--for you," and again Alano shuddered, and so did I.

"We can't cross," I said, a few minutes later, as all remained quiet.
"I would not attempt it for a thousand dollars."

"Nor I--on foot. Perhaps we can do so by means of the trees. Let us
climb yonder palm and investigate."

We climbed the palm, a sloping tree covered with numerous trailing
vines. Our movements disturbed countless beetles, lizards, and a dozen
birds, some of the latter flying off with a whir which was startling.
The top of the palm reached, we swung ourselves to its neighbor,
standing directly upon the bank of the brook. In a few minutes we had
reached a willow and then a cacao, and thus we crossed the stream in
safety, although not without considerable exertion.

The sun was beginning to set when we reached a small village called by
the natives San Lerma--a mere collection of thatched cottages belonging
to some sheep-raisers. Before entering we made certain there were no
soldiers around.

Our coming brought half a dozen men, women, and children to our side.
They were mainly of negro blood, and the children were but scantily
clothed. They commenced to ask innumerable questions, which Alano
answered as well as he could. One of the negroes had heard of Señor
Guerez' plantation, and immediately volunteered to furnish us with
sleeping accommodations for the night.

"Many of us have joined the noble General Garcia," he said, in almost a
whisper. "I would join too, but Teresa will not hear of it." Teresa was
his wife--a fat, grim-looking wench who ruled the household with a rod
of iron. She grumbled a good deal at having to provide us with a bed,
but became very pleasant when Alano slipped a small silver coin into
her greasy palm.

Feeling fairly secure in our quarters, we slept soundly, and did not
awaken until the sun was shining brightly. The inevitable pot of black
coffee was over the fire, and the smoke of bacon and potatoes frying in
a saucepan filled the air. Breakfast was soon served, after which we
greased our boots, saw to our other traps and our bag of provisions,
which we had not opened, and proceeded on our way--the husband of
Teresa wishing us well, and the big-eyed children staring after us in
silent wonder and curiosity.

"That is a terrible existence," I said to Alano. "Think of living in
that fashion all your life!"

"They know no better," he returned philosophically. "And I fancy they
are happy in their way. Their living comes easy to them, and they never
worry about styles in clothing or rent day. Sometimes they have dances
and other amusements. Didn't you see the home-made guitar on the wall?"

On we went, past the village and to a highway which we had understood
would take us to Tiarriba, but which took us to nothing of the sort. As
we proceeded the sun grew more oppressive than ever, until I was glad
enough to take Alano's advice, and place some wet grass in my hat to
keep the top of my head cool.

"It will rain again soon," said Alano, "and if it comes from the right
quarter it will be much cooler for several days after."

The ground now became hilly, and we walked up and down several places
which were steep enough to cause us to pant for breath. By noon we
reckoned we had covered eight or nine miles. We halted for our midday
rest and meal under some wild peppers, and we had not yet finished when
we heard the low rumble of thunder.

"The storm is coming, sure enough!" I exclaimed. "What had we best
do--find some shelter?"

"That depends, Mark. If the lightning is going to be strong, better
seek the open air. We do not want to be struck."

We went on, hoping that some village would soon be found, but none
appeared. The rain commenced to hit the tree leaves, and soon there was
a steady downpour. We buttoned our coats tightly around the neck, and
stopped under the spreading branches of an uncultivated banana tree,
the half-ripe fruit of which hung within easy reach.

The thunder had increased rapidly, and now from out of the
ominous-looking clouds the lightning played incessantly. Alano shook
his head dubiously.

"Do you know what I think?" he said.

"Well?"

"I think we have missed our way. If we were on the right road we would
have come to some dwelling ere this. I believe we have branched off on
some forest trail."

"Let us go on, Alano. See, the rain is coming through the tree already."

It was tough work now, for the road was uphill and the clayey ground
was slippery and treacherous. It was not long before I took a tumble,
and would have rolled over some sharp rocks had Alano not caught my
arm. At one minute the road seemed pitch-dark, at the next a flash of
lightning would nearly blind us.

Presently we gained the crest of a hill a little higher than its
fellows, and gazed around us. On all sides were the waving branches of
palms and other trees, dotted here and there with clearings of rocks
and coarse grasses. Not a building of any kind was in sight.

"It is as I thought," said my Cuban chum dubiously. "We have lost our
way in the hills."

"And what will we have to do--retrace our steps?" I ventured anxiously.

"I don't know. If we push on I suppose we'll strike some place sooner
or later."

"Yes, but our provisions won't last forever, Alano."

"That is true, Mark, but we'll have to---- Oh!"

Alano stopped short and staggered back into my arms. We had stepped for
the moment under the shelter of a stately palm. Now it was as if a wave
of fire had swept close to our face. It was a flash of lightning; and
it struck the tree fairly on the top, splitting it from crown to roots,
and pinning us down under one of the falling portions!



CHAPTER VI.

FROM ONE DIFFICULTY TO ANOTHER.


How we ever escaped from the falling tree I do not fully know to this
day. The lightning stunned me almost as much as my companion, and both
of us went down in a heap in the soft mud, for it was now raining in
torrents. We rolled over, and a rough bit of bark scraped my face; and
then I knew no more.

When I came to my senses I was lying in a little gully, part of the way
down the hillside. Alano was at my side, a deep cut on his chin, from
which the blood was flowing freely. He lay so still that I at first
thought him dead, but the sight of the flowing blood reassured me.

A strong smell of sulphur filled the air, and this made me remember the
lightning stroke. I looked up the hill, to see the palm tree split as I
have described.

"Thank God for this escape!" I could not help murmuring; and then I
took out a handkerchief, allowed it to become wet, and bound up Alano's
cut. While I was doing this he came to, gasped, and opened his eyes.

"_Què_--_què_----" he stammered. "Wha--what--was it, Mark?"

I told him, and soon had him sitting up, his back propped against a
rock. The cut on his chin was not deep, and presently the flow of blood
stopped and he shook himself.

"It was a narrow escape," he said. "I warned you we must get out into
the open."

"We'll be more careful in the future," I replied. And then I pointed to
an opening in the gully. "See, there is a cave. Let us get into that
while the storm lasts."

"Let us see if it is safe first. There may be snakes within," returned
Alano.

With caution we approached the entrance to the cave, which appeared
to be several yards deep. Trailing vines partly hid the opening; and,
thrusting these aside, we took sticks, lit a bit of candle I carried,
and examined the interior. Evidently some wild animal had once had its
home there, but the cave was now tenantless, and we proceeded to make
ourselves at home.

"We'll light a fire and dry our clothing," suggested Alano. "And if the
rain continues we can stay here all night."

"We might as well stay. To tramp through the wet grass and brush would
be almost as bad as to have it rain--we would be soaked from our waists
down."

"Then we'll gather wood and stay," said he.

Quarter of an hour later we had coaxed up quite a respectable fire in
the shadow of a rock at the entrance to the cave, which was just high
enough to allow us to stand upright, and was perhaps twelve feet in
diameter. We piled more wood on the blaze, satisfied that in its damp
condition we could not set fire to the forest, and then retired to dry
our clothing and enjoy a portion of the contents of the provision bag
Alano had improvised out of the purloined napkin.

As we ate we discussed the situation, wondering how far we could be
from some village and if there were any insurgents or Spanish soldiers
in the vicinity.

"The rebels could outwit the soldiers forever in these hills," remarked
Alano--"especially those who are acquainted in the vicinity."

"But the rebels might be surrounded," I suggested.

"They said at Santiago they had too strong a picket guard for that,
Mark."

"But we have seen no picket guard. Supposing instead of two boys a body
of Spanish soldiers had come this way, what then?"

"In that case what would the Spanish soldiers have to shoot at?" he
laughed. "We have as yet seen no rebels."

"But we may meet them--before we know it," I said, with a shake of my
head.

Scarcely had I uttered the words than the entrance to our resting-place
was darkened by two burly forms, and we found the muzzles of two
carbines thrust close to our faces.

"Who are you?" came in Spanish. "Put up your hands!"

"Don't shoot!" cried Alano in alarm.

"Come out of that!"

"It's raining too hard, and we have our coats off, as you see. Won't
you come in?"

At this the two men, bronzed and by no means bad-looking fellows,
laughed. "Only boys!" murmured one, and the carbines were lowered and
they entered the cave.

A long and rapid conversation with Alano, which I could but imperfectly
understand, followed. They asked who we were, where we were going, how
we had managed to slip out of Santiago, if we were armed, if we carried
messages, if we had the countersign, how we had reached the cave, and
a dozen other questions. Both roared loudly when Alano said he thought
they were rebels.

"And so we are," said the one who appeared to be the leader. "And we
are proud of it. Have you any objections to make?"

"No," we both answered in a breath, that being both English and
Spanish, and I understanding enough of the question to be anxious to
set myself right with them.

"I think our fathers have become rebels," Alano answered. "At least, we
were told so."

"Good!" said the leader. "Then we have nothing to fear from two
such brave lads as you appear to be. And now what do you propose to
do--encamp here for the night?"

"Unless you can supply us with better accommodations," rejoined my chum.

"We can supply you with nothing. We have nothing but what is on us,"
laughed the second rebel.

Both told us later that they were on special picket duty in that
neighborhood. They had been duly enlisted under General Garcia, but
were not in uniform, each wearing only a wet and muddy linen suit,
thick boots, and a plain braided palm hat. Around his waist each had
strapped a leather belt, and in this stuck a machete--a long, sharp,
and exceedingly cruel-looking knife. Over the shoulder was another
strap, fastened to a canvas bag containing ammunition and other
articles of their outfit.

These specimens of the rebels were hardly what I had expected to see,
yet they were so earnest in their manner I could not help but admire
them. One of them had brought down a couple of birds, and these were
cooked over our fire and divided among all hands, together with the few
things we had to offer. After the meal each soldier placed a big bite
of tobacco in his mouth, lit a cigarette, and proceeded to make himself
comfortable.

"The Spaniards will not move in this weather," said one. "They are too
afraid of getting wet and taking cold."

Darkness had come upon us, and it was still raining as steadily as
ever. Our clothing was dry; and, as the cave was warmed, the rebel
guards ordered us to put out the fire, that it might not attract
attention during the night.

We were told that we had made several mistakes on the road and were
far away from Tiarriba. If we desire to go there, the rebels said they
would put us on the right road.

"But if you are in sympathy with us, you had better pass Tiarriba by,"
said one to Alano. "The city is filled with Spanish soldiers, and you
may not be able to get away as easily as you did from Santiago."

Alano consulted with me, and then asked the rebel what we had best do.

"That depends. Do you want to join the forces under General Garcia?"

"We want to join our fathers at or near Guantanamo."

"Garcia is pushing on in that direction. You had best join the army and
stay with it until Guantanamo is reached."

"But we will have to fight?" said my Cuban chum.

The guard smiled grimly, exhibiting a row of large white teeth.

"As you will. The general will not expect too much from boys."

There the talk ended, one of the rebels deeming it advisable to take a
tramp over to the next hill and back, and the other crouching down in a
corner for a nap. With nothing else to do, we followed the example of
the latter, and were soon in dreamland.

A single call from the man who had slept beside us brought us to our
feet at daybreak. The storm had cleared away, and now it was positively
cool--so much so that I was glad enough to button my coat up tightly
and be thankful that the fire had dried it so well. The second rebel
was asleep, and had been for two hours. We followed one out of the cave
without arousing the other.

A tramp of half a mile brought us to a high bank, and here our rebel
escort left us.

"Across the bank you will find a wagon-road leading to the west," he
said. "Follow that, and you cannot help but meet some of our party
sooner or later. Remember the new password, 'Maysi,' and you will be
all right," and then he turned and disappeared from sight in the bush.

The climb to the top of the bank was not difficult, and, once over
it, the road he had mentioned lay almost at our feet. We ran down to
it with lighter hearts than we had had for some time, and struck out
boldly, eating a light breakfast as we trudged along.

"I hope we strike no more adventures until the vicinity of Guantanamo
is reached," I observed.

"We can hardly hope for that, Mark," smiled my chum. "Remember we are
journeying through a country where war is raging. Let us be thankful if
we escape the battles and skirmishes."

"And shooting down by some ambitious sharpshooter," I added. "By the
way, I wonder if our folks are looking for us?"

"It may be they sent word not to come, when they saw how matters were
going, Mark. I am sure your father would not want you to run the risk
that----Look! look! We must hide!"

Alano stopped short, caught me by the arm, and pointed ahead. Around a
turn in the road a dozen horsemen had swept, riding directly toward us.
A glance showed that they were Spanish guerrillas!



CHAPTER VII.

FOOLING THE SPANISH GUERRILLAS.


"_Halte!_"

It was the cry of the nearest of the Spanish horsemen. He had espied
us just as Alano let out his cry of alarm, and now he came galloping
toward us at a rapid gait.

"Let us run!" I ejaculated to my Cuban chum. "It is our only chance."

"Yes, yes! but to where?" he gasped, staring around in bewilderment. On
one side of the road was a woods of mahogany, on the other some palms
and plantains, with here and there a great rock covered with thick
vines.

"Among the rocks--anywhere!" I returned. "Come!" And, catching his
hand, I led the way from the road while the horseman was yet a hundred
feet from us.

Another cry rang out--one I could not understand, and a shot followed,
clipping through the broad leaves over our heads. The horseman left the
road, but soon came to a stop, his animal's progress blocked by the
trees and rocks. He yelled to his companions, and all of the guerrillas
came up at topmost speed.

"They will dismount and be after us in a minute!" gasped Alano. "Hark!
they are coming already!"

"On! on!" I urged. "We'll find some hiding-place soon."

Around the rocks and under the low-hanging plantains we sped, until the
road was left a hundred yards behind. Then we came to a gully, where
the vegetation was heavy. Alano pointed down to it.

"We can hide there," he whispered. "But we will be in danger of snakes.
Yet it is the best we can do."

I hesitated. To make the acquaintanceship of a serpent in that dense
grass was not pleasant to contemplate. But what else was there to do?
The footsteps of our pursuers sounded nearer.

Down went Alano, making leaps from rock to rock, so that no trail
would be left. I followed at his heels, and, coming to a rock which
was partly hollowed out at one side and thickly overgrown, we crouched
under it and pulled the vines and creepers over us.

It was a damp, unwholesome spot, but there was no help for it, and
when several enormous black beetles dropped down and crawled around my
neck I shut my lips hard to keep from crying out. We must escape from
the enemy, no matter what the cost, for even if they did not make us
prisoners we knew they would take all we possessed and even strip the
coats from our backs.

Peering from between the vines, we presently caught sight of three of
the Spaniards standing at the top of the gully, pistols in hand, on the
alert for a sight of us. They were dark, ugly-looking fellows, with
heavy black mustaches and faces which had not had a thorough washing in
months. They were dressed in the military uniform of Spain, and carried
extra bags of canvas slung from their shoulders, evidently meant for
booty. That they were tough customers Alano said one could tell by
their vile manner of speech.

"Do you see them, Carlo?" demanded one of the number. "I thought they
went down this hollow?"

"I see nothing," was the answer, coupled with a vile exclamation. "They
disappeared as if by magic."

"They were but boys."

"Never mind, they were rebels--that is enough," put in the third
guerrilla, as he chewed his mustache viciously. "I wish I could get a
shot at them."

At this Alano pulled out his pistol and motioned for me to do the same.

"We may as well be prepared for the worst," he whispered into my ear.
"They are not soldiers, they are robbers--bandits."

"They look bad enough for anything," I answered, and produced my
weapon, which I had not discharged since the brush with the alligator.

"If they are in the hollow it is odd we do not see them on their
trail," went on one of the bandits. "Perhaps they went around."

His companions shook their heads.

"I'll thrash around a bit," said one of them; and, leaving the brink of
the gully, he started straight for our hiding-place.

My heart leaped into my throat, and I feared immediate discovery. As
for Alano, he shoved his pistol under his coat, and I heard a muffled
click as the hammer was raised.

When within ten feet of us the ugly fellow stopped, and I fairly held
my breath, while my heart appeared to beat like a trip-hammer. He
looked squarely at the rock which sheltered us, and I could not believe
he would miss discovering us. Once he started and raised his pistol,
and I imagined our time had come; but then he turned to one side, and I
breathed easier.

"They did not come this way, _capitan_!" he shouted. "Let us go around
the hollow."

In another moment all three of the bandits were out of sight. We heard
them moving in the undergrowth behind us, and one of them gave a scream
as a snake was stirred up and dispatched with a saber. Then all became
quiet.

"What is best to do now?" I asked, when I thought it safe to speak.

"Hush!" whispered Alano. "They may be playing us dark."

A quarter of an hour passed,--it seemed ten times that period of time
just then,--and we heard them coming back. They were very angry at
their want of success; and had we been discovered, our fate would
undoubtedly have been a hard one. They stalked back to the road, and a
moment later we heard the hoof-strokes of their horses receding in the
distance.

"Hurrah!" I shouted, but in a very subdued tone. "That's the time we
fooled them, Alano."

My Cuban chum smiled grimly. "Yes, Mark, but we must be more careful in
the future. Had we not been so busy talking we might have heard their
horses long before they came into view. However, the scare is over, so
let us put our best foot forward once again."

"If only we had horses too!" I sighed. "My feet are beginning to get
sore from the uneven walking."

"Horses would truly be convenient at times. But we haven't them, and
must make the best of it. When we stop for our next meal you had best
take off your boots and bathe your feet. You will be astonished how
much rest that will afford them."

I followed this advice, and found Alano was right; and after that
I bathed my feet as often as I got the chance. Alano suffered no
inconvenience in this particular, having climbed the hills since
childhood.

We were again on rising ground, and now passed through a heavy wood of
cedars, the lower branches sweeping our hats as we passed. This thick
shade was very acceptable, for the glare of the sun had nearly blinded
me, while more than once I felt as if I would faint from the intense
heat.

"It's not such a delightful island as I fancied it," I said to my chum.
"I much prefer the United States."

"That depends," laughed Alano. "The White Mountains or the Adirondacks
are perhaps nicer, but what of the forests and everglades in Florida?"

"Just as bad as this, I suppose."

"Yes, and worse, for the ground is wetter, I believe. But come, don't
lag. We must make several more miles before we rest."

We proceeded up a hill and across a level space which was somewhat
cleared of brush and trees. Beyond we caught sight of a thatched hut.
Hardly had it come into view than from its interior we heard a faint
cry for help.



CHAPTER VIII.

ANDRES.


"What is that?" ejaculated Alano, stopping short and catching my arm.

"A cry of some kind," I answered. "Listen!"

We stepped behind some trees, to avoid any enemies who might be about,
and remained silent. Again came the cry.

"It is a man in distress!" said Alano presently. "He asks us not to
desert him."

"Then he probably saw us from the window of the hut. What had we best
do?"

"You remain here, and I will investigate," rejoined my Cuban chum.

With caution he approached the thatched hut, a miserable affair,
scarcely twelve feet square and six feet high, with the trunks of palm
trees as the four corner-posts. There were one tiny window and a narrow
door, and Alano after some hesitation entered the latter, pistol in
hand.

"Come, Mark!" he cried presently, and I ran forward and joined him.

A pitiable scene presented itself. Closely bound to a post which ran
up beside the window was a Cuban negro of perhaps fifty years of age,
gray-haired and wrinkled. He was scantily clothed, and the cruel
green-hide cords which bound him had cut deeply into his flesh, in many
places to such an extent that the blood was flowing. The negro's tongue
was much swollen, and the first thing he begged for upon being released
was a drink of water.

We obtained the water, and also gave him what we could to eat, for
which he thanked us over and over again, and would have kissed our
hands had we permitted it. He was a tall man, but so thin he looked
almost like a skeleton.

"For two days was I tied up," he explained to Alano, in his Spanish
_patois_. "I thought I would die of hunger and thirst, when, on raising
my eyes, I beheld you and your companion. Heaven be praised for sending
you! Andres will never forget you for your goodness, never!"

"And how came you in this position?" questioned my chum.

"Ah, dare I tell, master?"

"You are a rebel?"

The negro lowered his eyes and was silent.

"If you are, you have nothing to fear from us," continued Alano.

"Ah--good! good!" Andres wrung his hand. "Yes, I am a rebel. For two
years I fought under our good General Maceo and under Garcia. But I
am old, I cannot climb the mountains as of yore, and I got sick and
was sent back. The Spanish soldiers followed me, robbed me of what
little I possessed, and, instead of shooting me, bound me to the post
as a torture. Ah, but they are a cruel set!" And the eyes of the negro
glowed wrathfully. "If only I was younger!"

"Were the Spaniards on horseback?" asked Alano.

"Yes, master--a dozen of them."

Alano described the bandits we had met, and Andres felt certain they
must be the same crowd. The poor fellow could scarcely stand, and sank
down on a bed of cedar boughs and palm branches. We did what we could
for him, and in return he invited us to make his poor home our own.

There was a rude fireplace behind the hut, and here hung a great iron
pot. Rekindling the fire, we set the pot to boiling; and Andres hobbled
around to prepare a soup, or rather broth, made of green plantains,
rice, and a bit of dried meat the bandits had not discovered, flavoring
the whole mess with garlic. The dish was not particularly appetizing to
me, but I was tremendously hungry and made way with a fair share of
it, while Alano apparently enjoyed his portion.

It was dark when the meal was finished, and we decided to remain at
the hut all night, satisfied that we would be about as secure there
as anywhere. The smoke of the smoldering fire kept the mosquitoes
and gnats at a distance, and Andres found for us a couple of grass
hammocks, which, when slung from the corner-posts, made very
comfortable resting-places.

During the evening Alano questioned Andres closely, and learned that
General Garcia was pushing on toward Guantanamo, as we had previously
been informed. Andres did not know Señor Guerez, but he asserted that
many planters throughout the district had joined the rebel forces,
deserting their canefields and taking all of their help with them.

"The men are poorly armed," he continued. "Some have only their
canefield knives--but even with these they are a match for the Spanish
soldiers, on account of their bravery"--an assertion which later on
proved, for the greater part, to be true.

The night passed without an alarm of any kind, and before sunrise we
were stirring around, preparing a few small fish Alano had been lucky
enough to catch in a near-by mountain stream. These fish Andres baked
by rolling them in a casing of clay; and never have I eaten anything
which tasted more delicious.

Before we left him the Cuban negro gave us minute directions for
reaching the rear guard of the rebel army. He said the password was
still "Maysi."

"You had better join the army," he said, on parting. "You will gain
nothing by trying to go around. And you, master Alano--if your father
has joined the forces, it may be that will gain you a horse and full
directions as to just where your parent is," and as we trudged off
Andres wished us Godspeed and good luck over and over again, with a
friendly wave of his black bony hand.

The cool spell, although it was really only cool by contrast, had
utterly passed, and as the sun came up it seemed to fairly strike one
a blow upon the head. We were traveling along the edge of a low cliff,
and shade was scarce, although we took advantage of every bit which
came in our way. The perspiration poured from our faces, necks, and
hands; and about ten o'clock I was forced to call a halt and throw
myself on my back on the ground.

"I knew it would be so," said my chum. "That is why I called for
an early start. We might as well rest until two or three in the
afternoon. Very few people travel here in the heat of the day."

"It is suffocating," I murmured. "Like one great bake-oven and
steam-laundry combined."

"That is what makes the vegetation flourish," he smiled. "Just see how
it grows!"

I did not have far to look to notice it. Before us was a forest of
grenadillo and rosewood, behind us palms and plantains, with an
occasional cacao and mahogany tree. The ground was covered with long
grass and low brush, and over all hung the festoons of vines of many
colors, some blooming profusely. A smell of "something growing green"
filled the hot air, and from every side arose the hum of countless
insects and the occasional note of a bird.

"I wouldn't remain on the ground too long," remarked Alano presently.
"When one is hot and lies down, that is the time to take on a fever.
Better rest in yonder tree--it is more healthy; and, besides, if there
is any breeze stirring, there is where you will catch it."

"We might as well be on a deserted island as to be in Cuba," I said,
after both of us had climbed into a mahogany tree. "There is not a
building nor a human soul in sight. I half believe we are lost again."

Alano smiled. "Let us rather say, as your Indian said, 'We are not
lost, we are here. The army and the towns and villages are lost,'" and
he laughed at the old joke, which had been the first he had ever read,
in English, in a magazine at Broxville Academy.

"Well, it's just as bad, Alano. I, for one, am tired of tramping up
hill and down. If we could reach the army and get a couple of horses,
it would be a great improvement."

My chum was about to reply to this, when he paused and gave a start.
And I started, too, when I saw what was the trouble. On a limb directly
over us, and ready to descend upon our very heads, was a serpent all of
six feet in length!



CHAPTER IX.

ACROSS THE CANEFIELDS.


"Look, Mark!" ejaculated Alano.

"A snake!" I yelled. "Drop! drop!"

I had already dropped to the limb upon which I had been sitting. Now,
swinging myself by the hands, I let go and descended to the ground, a
distance of twelve or fifteen feet.

In less than a second my Cuban chum came tumbling after me. The fall
was no mean one, and had the grass under the tree been less deep we
might have suffered a sprained ankle or other injury. As it was, we
both fell upon our hands and knees.

Gazing up at the limb we had left, we saw the serpent glaring down at
us, its angry eyes shining like twin diamonds. How evil its intention
had been we could but surmise. It was possible it had intended to
attack us both. It slid from the upper limb to the lower, and stretched
out its long, curling neck, while it emitted a hiss that chilled my
blood.

"It's coming down! Run!" I began; when bang! went Alano's pistol, and I
saw the serpent give a quiver, and coil and uncoil itself around the
limb. The bullet had entered its neck, but it was not fatally wounded;
and now it came for us, landing in the grass not a dozen feet from
where we stood.

Luckily, while traveling along the hills, we had provided ourselves
with stout sticks to aid us in climbing. These lay near, and, picking
one up, I stood on the defensive, certain the reptile would not dare to
show much fight. But it did, and darted for me with its dull-colored
head raised a few inches out of the grass.

With all of the strength at my command I swung the stick around the
instant it came within reach. It tried to dodge, but failed; and,
struck in the neck, turned over and over as though more than half
stunned.

By this time Alano had secured the second stick, and now he rushed in
and belabored the serpent over the head and body until it was nearly
beaten into a jelly. I turned sick at the sight, and was glad enough
when it was all over and the reptile was dead beyond all question.

"That was a narrow escape!" I panted. "Alano, don't you advise me to
rest in a tree again. I would rather run the risk of fever ten times
over."

"Serpents are just as bad in the grass," he replied simply. "Supposing
he had come up when you were flat on your back!"

"Let us get away from here--there may be more. And throw away that
stick--it may have poison on it."

"That serpent was not poisonous, Mark. But I will throw it away,--it is
so covered with blood,--and we can easily cut new ones."

The excitement had made me forget the heat, and we went on for over a
mile. Then, coming to a mountain stream, we sat down to take it easy
until the sun had passed the zenith and it was a trifle cooler.

About four o'clock in the afternoon, or evening, as they call it in
Cuba, we reached the end of the woods and came to the edge of an
immense sugar-cane field. The cane waved high over our heads, so that
what buildings might be beyond were cut off from view. There was a
rough cart-road through the field, and after some hesitation we took to
this, it being the only road in sight.

We had traveled on a distance of half a mile when we reached a series
of storehouses, each silent and deserted. Beyond was a house, probably
belonging to the overseer of the plantation, and this was likewise
without occupant, the windows and doors shut tightly and bolted.

"All off to the war, I suppose," I said. "And I had half an idea we
might get a chance to sleep in a bed to-night."

"We might take possession," Alano suggested.

But to this proposition I shook my head. "We might be caught and shot
as intruders. Come on. Perhaps the house of the owner is further on."

Stopping for a drink at an old-fashioned well, we went on through the
sugar cane until we reached a small stream, beyond which was a boggy
spot several acres in extent.

"We'll have to go around, Alano," I said. "Which way will be best?"

"The ground appears to rise to our left," he answered. "We'll try in
that direction."

Pushing directly through the cane, I soon discovered, was no mean work.
It was often well-nigh impossible to break aside the stout stalks, and
the stubble underfoot was more than trying to the feet. We went on a
distance of a hundred yards, and then on again to the stream, only to
find the same bog beyond.

"We'll have to go further yet," said Alano. "Come, Mark, ere the sun
gets too low."

"Just a few minutes of rest," I pleaded, and pulled down the top of a
cane. The sweet juice was exceedingly refreshing, but it soon caused a
tremendous thirst, which I gladly slaked at the not over clear stream.
Another jog of quarter of an hour, and we managed to cross at a point
which looked like solid ground.

"How far do you suppose this field extends?" I asked.

"I have no idea; perhaps but a short distance, and then again it may be
a mile or more. Some of the plantations out here are very large."

"Do you think we can get back to the road? I can't go much further
through this stubble."

"I'll break the way, Mark. You follow me."

On we went in the direction we imagined the trail to be, but taking
care to avoid the bog. I was almost ready to drop from exhaustion, when
Alano halted.

"Mark!"

"What now, Alano?"

"Do you know where we are?"

"In a sugar-cane field," I said, trying to keep up my courage.

"Exactly, but we are lost in it."

I stared at him.

"Can one become lost in a sugar-cane field?" I queried.

"Yes, and badly lost, for there is nothing one can climb to take a view
of the surroundings. Even if you were to get upon my shoulders you
could see but little."

"I'll try it," I answered, and did so without delay, for the sun was
now sinking in the west.

But my chum had been right; try my best I could not look across the
waving cane-tops. We were hedged in on all sides, with only the setting
sun to mark our course.

"It's worse than being out on an open prairie," I remarked. "What shall
we do?"

"There is but one thing--push on," rejoined Alano gravely; "unless you
want to spend a night here."

Again we went on, but more slowly, for even my chum was now weary. The
wet ground passed, we struck another reach of upland, and this gave
us hope, for we knew the sugar cane would not grow up the hills. But
the rise soon came to an end, and we found ourselves going down into
a worse hollow than that we had left. Ere we knew it, the water was
forming around our boots.

"We must go back!" I cried.

"I think it is drier a few yards beyond," said Alano. "Don't go back
yet."

The sun had set, so far as we were concerned, and it was dark at the
foot of the cane-stalks. We plowed on, getting deeper and deeper into
the bog or mire. It was a sticky paste, and I could hardly move one
foot after another. I called to Alano to halt, and I had scarcely done
so when he uttered an ejaculation of disgust.

"What is it?" I called.

"I can't move--I am stuck!"

I looked ahead and saw that he spoke the truth. He had sunk to the
tops of his boots, and every effort to extricate himself only made him
settle deeper.

I endeavored to gain his side and aid him, but it was useless. Ere I
was aware I was as deep and deeper than Alano, and there we stood,--and
stuck,--unable to help ourselves, with night closing rapidly in upon
us.



CHAPTER X.

A COUNCIL OF THE ENEMY.


"Well, this is the worst yet," I said, after a minute of silence.
Somehow, I felt like laughing, yet our situation was far from being a
laughing matter.

"We have put our foot into it, and no mistake," rejoined Alano
dubiously.

"Say feet, Alano,--and legs,--and you'll be nearer it. What on earth is
to be done?"

"I don't know. See, I am up to my thighs already. In an hour or so I'll
be up to my neck."

To this I made no reply. I had drawn my pistol, and with the crook of
the handle was endeavoring to hook a thick sugar-cane stalk within my
reach. Several times I had the stalk bent over, but it slipped just as
I was on the point of grasping it.

But I persevered,--there was nothing else to try,--and at last my eager
fingers encircled the stalk. I put my pistol away and pulled hard, and
was overjoyed to find that I was drawing myself up out of my unpleasant
position.

"Be careful--or the stalk will break," cautioned my Cuban chum, when
crack! it did split, but not before I was able to make a quick leap on
top of the clump of roots. Here I sank again, but not nearly as deeply
as before.

The leap I had taken had brought me closer to Alano, and now I was
enabled to break down a number of stalks within his reach. He got a
firm hold and pulled with all of his might, and a moment later stood
beside me.

"Oh, but I'm glad we're out of that!" were his first words. "I thought
I was planted for the rest of my life."

"We must get out of the field. See, it will be pitch dark in another
quarter of an hour."

"Let us try to go back--it will be best."

We turned around, and took hold of each other's hands, to balance
ourselves on the sugar-cane roots, for we did not dare to step in the
hollows between. Breaking down the cane was slow and laborious work,
and soon it was too dark to see our former trail. We lost it, but this
was really to our advantage, for, by going it blindly for another
quarter of an hour, we emerged into an opening nearly an acre square
and on high and dry ground.

Once the patch was reached, we threw ourselves down on the grass
panting for breath, the heavy perspiration oozing from every pore. We
had had another narrow escape, and silently I thanked Heaven for my
deliverance.

Toward the higher end of the clearing was a small hut, built of logs
plastered with sun-baked clay. We came upon it by accident in the dark,
and, finding it deserted, lit our bit of candle before mentioned and
made an examination.

"It's a cane-cutter's shanty," said Alano. "I don't believe anybody
will be here to-night, so we might as well remain and make ourselves
comfortable."

"We can do nothing else," I returned. "We can't travel in the darkness."

Both of us were too exhausted to think of building a fire or preparing
a meal. We ate some of our provisions out of our hands, pulled off our
water-soaked boots, and were soon asleep on the heaps of stalks the
shanty contained. Once during the night I awoke to find several species
of vermin crawling around, but even this was not sufficient to make me
rouse up against the pests. I lay like a log, and the sun was shining
brightly when Alano shook me heartily by the shoulder.

"Going to sleep all day?" he queried.

"Not much!" I cried, springing up. "Hullo, if you haven't got breakfast
ready!" I added, glancing to where he had built a fire.

"Yes; I thought I'd let you sleep for a while," he answered. "Fall to,
and we'll be on our way. If we have good luck we may strike a part of
General Garcia's army to-day."

"If we can get out of this beastly canefield."

"I've found a way out, Mark. Finish your meal, and I'll show you."

Breakfast was speedily dispatched, and, having put on my boots, which
were stiff and hard from the wetting received, and taken up my valise,
I followed Alano to the extreme southwest end of the clearing. Here
there was an ox-cart trail, leading in a serpentine fashion through the
canefield to still higher ground. Beyond were the inevitable rocks and
woods.

"We seem to have missed everything," I said pointedly. "We have been
lost several times, and even now we don't know where we are."

"We know we're not sinking to the bottom of that sugar-cane field,"
replied my Cuban chum grimly. "That's something to be thankful for. Ah,
look--there is quite a respectable-looking highway. Let us take to that
and keep our eyes and ears open. It must lead to somewhere."

We had reached the highway at right-angles, and now we pursued a course
directly eastward, which we felt must bring us closer and closer to the
vicinity of Guantanamo. I asked Alano if he recognized the country at
all, but he shook his head.

"I was never out in this direction," he explained. "My journeys have
always been from Guantanamo to Santiago by water."

As we progressed we passed several isolated huts, and then a village
containing perhaps a score of dwellings. The separate huts were
deserted without exception, but in the village we came across three
tall and bony colored women, who eyed us with great suspicion.

Alano began to open a friendly conversation in Spanish with them, and
offered to pay them well if they would get us up a good dinner. But
this they could not do, for there was little to be had outside of some
vegetables. They said they had had some meat, but it had all been
confiscated by the soldiers who had passed through only the evening
before.

"She means a body of Spanish soldiers," said Alano, after some more
talk with the oldest of the women. "She says there were about a hundred
of them on horseback, and they were following up a detachment of
General Garcia's volunteers."

"If that is so they can't be far off," I rejoined. "We must be more
careful than ever."

"If only we could catch up to them, get around them, and warn our
fellows!" remarked Alano, his black eyes sparkling.

"It's easy to see you're a rebel," I said, laughing.

"And why not--if my father is one? Come, what do you say?"

"I am with you, if it can be done. But we mustn't run into needless
danger, Alano."

"We will take care, Mark."

Luckily, the sun had gone under the clouds, so it was not so warm when
we resumed our journey, after the negro women had supplied us with the
best meal at their command. They smiled broadly when Alano told them
he was a rebel sympathizer, and each declared her husband had joined
General Garcia's army several weeks previously.

The road now led along the southern edge of a deep ravine, bordered
upon either side with wild plantains and cacao trees, with here and
there an occasional palm. The highway was stony, and presently Alano
called a halt.

"Hark!" he said, holding up his hand; and we listened, to discern the
tramping of horses' hoofs some distance ahead.

"There are a good many horses," I said. "Perhaps it is the Spanish
detachment."

Alano nodded. "Follow me, and take to the woods if I hiss," he replied.

On we went again, but slower than before. The road now wound around
to the right, up under a cliff backed up by a small mountain. As the
sun was behind the mountain, the path was dark in its more sheltered
portions.

Suddenly Alano let out a soft hiss, and we leaped back behind a
convenient rock.

"They are just ahead!" he cried softly. "They have quartered themselves
for the middle of the day in a cave-like opening under the cliff, where
it is, no doubt, cool and pleasant."

"Well, what had we best do?"

"Get around them, by some means, Mark. But, hold up! Wouldn't it be
fine if we could draw close enough to overhear them--if they are
talking over their plans!"

"It would be risky," I hesitated.

"Yes, but think of the service we might do my countrymen!"

"That is true. Well, I'm with you, Alano, but for gracious' sake be
careful!"

We talked the matter over for a few minutes, and then retraced our
steps to where a narrow path led to the top of the cliff. Climbing
this, we crawled along the edge of the cliff until we reached a spot
directly over the encamped Spaniards.

They were a hearty, bold-looking set of men, handsomely uniformed
and thoroughly armed, presenting a decided contrast to the dirty
guerrillas we had previously encountered. A number of the soldiers were
reclining upon the ground smoking, but a half-dozen of them, evidently
officers, were gathered in a circle, conversing earnestly.

"They are holding a council of war!" cried Alano, after he had strained
his ears to catch what was being said. "They are waiting for Captain
Crabo to join them with another detachment, and then they are to aid
some others in surrounding the left wing of General Garcia's army,
which is encamped in the valley on the other side of this mountain."



CHAPTER XI.

A WILD RIDE ON HORSEBACK.


I was of course deeply interested in what Alano had to say, and my
heart gave a sudden leap when he mentioned that General Garcia's wing
of the rebel army was so close at hand. Instantly I thought of my
father. Was he in the ranks?

I was about to speak when my Cuban chum motioned me to silence. As
cautiously as a cat he drew closer to the edge of the cliff, throwing
himself flat on his face as he made the movement. I followed suit,
knowing full well that I would scarcely be able to understand the
council of war being held below, but anxious to get a better view of
the soldiery we now considered our enemies.

Evidently the Spanish officers did not imagine any outsiders were
near, for they spoke rather loudly, while each gesticulated a good
deal in his own particular manner. Ten minutes passed, and then there
came a pause. Alano touched me on the arm, and, as silently as we had
advanced, we turned and retreated into the brush back of the cliff.

"I have their plans well in mind, Mark," he whispered. "Oh, if only we
could find General Garcia and tell him all!"

"Did you find out just where the general is located?"

"Pretty nearly--in that direction"--my Cuban chum waved his hand.
"There is a ravine to cross and then a pass through the mountains. I
believe the rebels now hold the pass, but the Spaniards mean to gain
the high ground and hem them in. If they do that, my people will be
slaughtered like cattle in a pen."

"And supposing our fathers are with the rebels?" I put in quickly.

"Yes, I was thinking of that, Mark. We had best---- Hist!"

Alano stopped short. From a distance came the sounds of horses' hoofs.

"It must be Captain Crabo," said Alano. "Lay low!"

We drew still further into the brush and waited. Nearer and nearer came
the horses. Then came a shout and a sudden halting.

"They've challenged the newcomers," whispered Alano, as we heard the
words "_Quien va?_"

Evidently the reply was satisfactory, for in a moment more the new
arrivals had joined the force under the cliff. Looking from our
shelter, we saw that Captain Crabo was the same individual who had had
us locked up in the smoke-house some days previously.

"We don't want him to lay hands on us again," I said, and Alano smiled
grimly. "Why not get out at once?" I went on.

"Wait till I hear what Captain Crabo has to say, Mark. He may bring
news, and we want to learn as much as we can. If they----"

My Cuban chum was forced to stop speaking, for with a quick movement I
had placed a warning hand over his mouth. Some of the soldiers who had
been resting were coming up the cliff, evidently to take a look at the
surroundings.

"Come!" I whispered into Alano's ear, and turned to retreat. He
followed me, and a distance of fifty feet was covered through the
undergrowth, when we found ourselves at the edge of another cliff and
actually hemmed in by the advancing men.

What were we to do? It was a serious question, and one to be decided
instantly. Already the foremost of the men was less than two rods
behind us. We looked around for a place to hide, but none was at hand.
Then Alano gave a cry.

"They are coming from the other direction too! We are lost!"

Scarcely had the words left his lips than we heard a yell from two of
the Spanish soldiers. We were discovered, and all thoughts of further
concealment in that hemmed-in spot were out of the question.

Hardly realizing what I was doing in my agitated frame of mind, I ran
down to the very edge of the cliff at a point about a hundred and fifty
feet above where the soldiers were encamped. Looking down I discovered
a series of crags leading to the highway below. Here a score or more of
horses were tethered to a mahogany tree.

"Come, it's our only chance!" I ejaculated, and leaped for the nearest
crag below me at the imminent peril of tumbling and breaking my neck.

Down I went, jumping and rolling from one projection of rocks to
another, with Alano but a short distance behind me. I heard a command
to stop, and then a shot, but paid no heed. With a final bump I reached
the foot of the cliff, less than a dozen feet from where the horses
were standing.

My sudden appearance startled several of the animals, and they plunged
and broke their halters. But they did not run away, and the fact that
they were loose gave me another idea.

"The horses, Alano! Let us ride away on them!"

"Yes! yes!" he replied, and in a twinkle we had secured two of the
nearest of the animals. We leaped into the saddle just as a second shot
rang out. The bullet struck my horse a glancing blow on the flank, and
off he tore up the highway as though dug with a spur.

I heard Alano coming behind me, but did not dare look back, for the
highway was a poor one and my beast needed all of my attention.
Fortunately, riding had been taught to me at Broxville Military
Academy, so I felt fairly well at home in the saddle. Gathering up the
reins, I sent the animal along at all the speed at his command. The
shouting behind continued, but no more shots were fired, for the trees
now hid both of us from our pursuers.

"That was a clever move," cried Alano, as he presently ranged up beside
me. "We have escaped them and provided ourselves with as good horses as
one would wish to ride."

"They will certainly follow us, Alano. We must see if we can't throw
them off the trail."

"I see no side road."

"Well, come on until we strike something." I answered.

Forward we went, making both horses do their best. Half a mile was
covered and we forded a small mountain torrent. As the animals paused
to stick their noses into the cooling liquid, we listened and heard the
Spaniards coming after us on the remainder of the animals.

"Quick!" cried Alano. "They have lost no time in following."

"There is a side road, leading into the mountains," I returned. "We had
better take that."

We turned off as I had advised, and it was not long before another
half-mile was covered. Having reached an elevation of several hundred
feet, the road became broad and tolerably level, and we went on faster
than ever.

"We ought to be getting close to the rebel camp," said Alano, a while
later. "By the looks of the country we should be near that pass the
rebels are supposed to be occupying."

"I doubt if it is long before we strike some of your people now," I
answered. "But supposing we slack up a bit? The horses can't stand this
strain in the heat."

"Oh, they are used to the heat. But we can take it easier if you say
so. There isn't any use of our riding ourselves sore the first day in
the saddle."

"I suppose they can put us down for horse thieves if they want to."

"Not much, Mark. Why, it's more than likely these horses were
confiscated from my countrymen in the first place."

Thus conversing, we galloped along for half a mile further. Then, as
Alano paused to readjust his horse's saddle, I fancied I heard some
suspicious sounds behind us, and drew my chum's attention to them.

"Horses!" cried Alano. "They must have found our trail, and are coming
after us! Come ahead, or we'll be captured after all!"

Once more we urged our animals forward. But not for long. Coming to a
turn in the road, Alano yelled to me to halt, and pointed ahead.

I gave a groan as I looked. A mountain stream, all of twelve feet wide
and twice as deep, crossed the roadway. There had been a rude bridge
of tree trunks, but this was torn away, and thus our further retreat
seemed hopelessly cut off.



CHAPTER XII.

A DARING LEAP.


For the moment neither Alano nor myself spoke as we gazed at the gap
before us. Then I gave a groan which seemed to come from my very soul.

"We are lost, Alano! They have hemmed us in!"

My Cuban chum did not answer. Instead, he gazed to the right and the
left.

But this was useless. On our right was a stony undergrowth impossible
to traverse, on the left a thick jungle leading down into what looked
like a bottomless morass.

The hoof-strokes of the pursuing horses sounded nearer, and I expected
every moment to see the band of Spanish cavalrymen dash into sight
with drawn arms, ready to shoot or cut us down. Alano must have been
thinking the same, for I saw him grate his teeth hard.

"Mark!" he cried suddenly. "Come, it's our only hope."

"What?"

"To cross the stream."

"But how? We can't jump it."

"We'll make the horses do it. Be quick, or it will be too late. Watch
me. I am certain these horses know how to do the trick."

He rode back a distance of two hundred feet. Then on he came, like the
wind, his animal well in hand. A cry of command, and the horse rose in
the air and went over the chasm like a bird.

Could I do as well? There was no time left to speculate on the subject.
Our pursuers were but just around the turn. I rode back as Alano had
done and started to make the leap.

"_Halte!_" It was the cry of Captain Crabo, who was in the lead of the
oncoming cavalrymen. I paid no attention. The edge of the mountain
stream was reached, and I cried to my horse to move forward.

But he was stubborn, and made a balk for which I was hardly prepared.
Down went his front feet against a bit of sharp rock, and the shock
threw me over his head and directly into the middle of the mountain
torrent!

I heard Alano give a cry of alarm, and then the waters closed over my
head. Down and down I went, for at this point the water was at least
fifteen feet deep. The sunlight was shut out as I passed under several
overhanging rocks, only to bump up against the roots of a tree, where
the water rushed rapidly in several directions.

Dazed to such an extent that I hardly knew what I was doing, I caught
at the roots, held fast, and drew my head above the surface of the
stream. I was out of sight of those who were after me, and prudently
concluded to remain where I was.

My hiding-place was far from agreeable. The tree roots were slimy, and
I imagined they must be the home of water snakes. Just over my head was
a mass of soil over which crawled innumerable black beetles, some as
big as a man's thumb. Within reach of my hand, a large green-and-white
frog blinked at me in amazement.

The shouts of the Spaniards reached me in a muffled way, as I heard
them dismount and tramp up and down the torrent in search of me. I
expected every moment to be discovered, but that moment did not come,
and quarter of an hour passed.

By this time I could scarcely hold on longer to the tree roots. I
listened as well as I could, and, hearing no sound, let go my hold. The
rush of water speedily carried me fifteen feet further down the stream,
and here I caught hold of some bushes and pulled myself up on the bank
and out of sight.

I was now on the same side to which Alano had crossed, and I soon
discovered that several of the Spaniards had also come over, although
on foot. They were in the neighborhood of the highway, and I could make
out enough of their talk to know they were deploring their luck in not
being able to find me and stop my Cuban chum.

Feeling that it would be foolhardy to leave my place of concealment
for some time to come, I endeavored to make myself as comfortable as
possible under the shelter of a clump of wild orange trees. These were
full of the tempting-looking fruit, which, however, I found on sampling
was so bitter it fairly puckered my mouth. But in my bag were some
biscuits, and, as these were thoroughly water-soaked, I ate several
with a relish.

Twice did the Spaniards pass within fifty feet of my hiding-place, and
each time I felt like giving myself up for lost. They remained in the
vicinity until nearly sundown, and then withdrew in the direction from
whence they had come, growling volubly among themselves over their
ill-luck.

With cautious steps I left the clump of wild oranges, and hurried to
the highway. As Alano was on horseback, I felt he must have kept to the
road. How far he had gone there was no telling, although it must be
several miles if not much further.

While at the military academy we boys had, like many other school
fellows, adopted a peculiar class whistle. This I felt certain Alano
would remember well, and, at the risk of being spotted, I emitted the
whistle with all the strength of my lungs, not once, but half a dozen
times.

I listened intently, but no answer came back; and, satisfied that my
chum was not within hearing, I went on my way, up the road, keeping an
eye open for any enemy who might be in ambush.

It was now growing dark, and I felt that in another half-hour night
would be upon me. To be alone in that wilderness was not pleasant, but
just then there appeared to be no help for it.

At the distance of half a mile I stopped again to whistle. While I was
listening intently I fancied I heard a rustle among the trees to my
right. I instantly dove out of sight behind some brush, but the noise
did not continue, and I concluded it must have been made by some bird.

Presently the road took another turn and made a descent into a canyon
from which the light of day had long since fled. I hesitated and looked
forward. Certainly the prospect was not an inviting one. But to turn
back I felt would be foolish, so I went on, although more cautiously
than ever.

At the bottom of the hollow was a bit of muddy ground, over which a
mass of cut brush had been thrown, probably to make the passage safer
for man and beast. I had just stepped on this brush when something
whizzed through the air and encircled my neck. Before I could save
myself, I was jerked backward and felt a rawhide lasso cutting into my
windpipe. I caught hold of the rawhide and tried to rise, but several
forms arose out of the surrounding gloom and fell upon me, bearing me
to the earth.



CHAPTER XIII.

FRIENDS IN NEED.


I speedily found that my enemies were five in number; and, as they were
all tall and powerful men, to struggle against them would have been
foolhardy.

"Don't choke me--I give in," I gasped, and then the pressure on my neck
was relieved.

"_Americano_," I heard one of the fellows mutter. "No talk, you!" he
hissed into my ear, and flourished a knife before my eyes to emphasize
his words.

I shut my mouth, to signify that I agreed, and then I was allowed to
rise, and in a twinkle my hands were tied behind my back. Two of the
men conducted me away from the spot, while a third followed us. The
other two men remained on guard at the highway.

I wondered if Alano had been captured, but just then did not give the
subject much thought. There was no telling whether the men were Spanish
or Cuban sympathizers; but, no matter to what side they belonged,
I noted with a shudder that they were a decidedly tough class of
citizens.

Leaving the highway, we made our way along a rocky course leading to a
small clearing at the top of a plateau. Back of the clearing was a rude
hut, set in a grove of sapodilla trees. Around the hut half a dozen
dirty soldiers were lying, who leaped up at our approach. An earnest
conversation in a Spanish _patois_ followed, and then one of the men
spoke to me in Spanish.

"No speak Spanish, eh?" he growled, in return to my assertion to that
effect. "Who you be? Where you go to?"

"I am on my way to Guantanamo, to join my father," I said, and made as
much of an explanation as I deemed necessary.

The soldiers glared suspiciously at me when my words were translated to
them. Then, without ceremony, they began to search me, taking all I had
of value from me.

"You are not going to rob me, I trust," I said, and the man who could
speak English laughed coarsely.

"We take all we get," he replied. "All right in war, _amigo_."

I was not his _amigo_, or friend, but I was forced to submit; and,
even as it was, I was thankful my life had been spared, for they were
a cruel-looking band, with less of the soldier than the bandit about
them.

When I saw a chance, I started in to question them concerning Alano,
but the nearest fellow, with a flat blow from his dirty hand, stopped
me.

"No talk!" growled he who could speak English.

After this I said no more, but from where I had been placed, at the
rear of the hot and ill-ventilated hut, I watched the men narrowly
and tried to understand what they were talking about. I heard General
Garcia mentioned and also the word "machete," the name of the long,
deadly knives most of the Cuban soldiers carried.

At last the men around the hut began to grow sleepy, and one after
another sought a suitable spot and threw himself down to rest. The
youngest of the party, a fellow not over twenty, was left on guard.

With his pistol in his lap, this guard sat on a flat rock, rolling
cigarette after cigarette and smoking them. From my position in the hut
I could just catch his outline, and I watched him eagerly. I pretended
to go to sleep, but I was very wide awake.

It must have been well past midnight, and I was giving up in despair,
when the last of the cigarettes went out and the guard's head fell
forward on his breast. In the meantime I had been silently working at
the rawhide which bound my hands. In my efforts my wrists were cut not
a little, but at last my hands were free.

Feeling that the guard and the others were all asleep, I arose as
silently as a shadow. Several of my captors lay between me and the
entrance of the hut, and it was with extreme caution that I stepped
over them. The last man sighed heavily and turned over just as I went
by, and with my heart in my throat I leaped out into the open.

But he did not awaken, nor did the guard notice my appearance. As I
passed the latter I saw something shining on the ground. It was the
pistol, which had slipped from the guard's lap. I hesitated only an
instant, then picked it up and glided onward to the end of the plateau.

"_Halte!_" The command, coming so suddenly, was enough to startle
anybody, and I leaped back several feet. A man had appeared before
me, one of the fellows left to guard the highway below. Following the
command came an alarm in Spanish.

On the instant the camp was in commotion. The guard was the first to
awaken, and his anger when he found his pistol gone was very great.
While he was searching for his weapon, the others poured from the hut
and ran toward me, leveling their weapons as they came.

I was caught between two fires, for the man before me also had his
pistol raised, and I did not know what to do. Then, to avoid being
struck, and not wishing to shed blood, I leaped toward some near-by
bushes.

Bang! crack! A musket and a pistol went off almost simultaneously, and
I heard a clipping sound through the trees. Just as my former captors
turned to follow me into the thicket, there came another shot from down
in the hollow of the highway.

"_Cuba libre!_" I heard echo upon several sides, and a rattle of
musketry followed. From a dozen spots in the hollow I saw the long
flashes of fire, and I at once knew that a portion of the Cuban army
was at hand and had surprised the Spanish sympathizers who were
attempting to hold the highway.

The moment the battle started below the plateau those who had held me
captive gave up pursuing me, and rushed back to the hut to obtain their
entire belongings--feeling, doubtless, that the region would soon get
too hot to hold them. I watched them turn away with keen satisfaction,
and remained where I was, the guard's pistol still in my possession.

For fully half an hour the firing kept up, and then came a rush along
the highway and again I heard the cry of "_Cuba libre!_" raised,
showing that the rebels were getting the best of the encounter and had
driven the Spanish soldiers from their hiding-places. On went one body
of men after the other down the road, until the sounds of their voices
and firearms were almost lost in the distance.

Certain that the plateau was now absolutely deserted, I ran back to the
hut and found my valise, which had been thrown in a corner. My pistol
was gone, but as I had another, fully loaded and just as good, I did
not mind this. With my satchel over my shoulder, I crawled cautiously
down to the highway and hurried in the direction I had before been
pursuing.

I had just reached the opposite side of the hollow, where all was pitch
dark, on account of the shade, when a feeble moan came to my ears.
Moving silently in the direction, I found a negro lying on his back, a
fearful wound in his shoulder.

The man could speak nothing but a Cuban _patois_, yet I understood
that he was in pain and desired his shoulder bound up. Wetting my
handkerchief in the water at the hollow, I washed the wound as best I
could and tied it up with strips of muslin torn from the sleeve of his
ragged shirt and my own shirt sleeve. For this, I could note by his
manner, that he was extremely grateful.

"_Americano?_" he said.

"Yes," I replied.

Then he asked me several other questions, from which I made out that he
wanted to know which side I was on. Feeling certain I was safe, I said
"Cuba," and he smiled faintly.

"I want to find General Garcia," I continued, emphasizing the name.
Then I tapped my breast, said General Garcia again, and pointed off
with my finger.

He nodded and attempted to sit up. With his bony finger he pointed
up the highway, and circled his finger to the northwest to signify I
was to turn off in that direction. Then he caught me by the arm and
whispered "Maysi" into my ear--the password.

Feeling I could do no more for him at present, I went on, and at the
distance of an eighth of a mile came to a side road, which was the
one he had described to me. It was narrow and rocky, and I had not
proceeded over two hundred feet in the direction when a soldier leaped
out from behind a banana tree and presented his gun.

"_Halte!_" he cried.

"Maysi!" I called promptly.

The gun was lowered, and, seeing I was but a boy, the guard smiled and
murmured "_Americano?_" to which I nodded.

"General Garcia," I said, and tapped my breast to signify I wished to
see the great Cuban leader.

Without a word the guard led me on a distance of a hundred feet and
called another soldier. A short talk ensued, and the second man
motioned me to follow him through a trail in the brush. We went on for
ten minutes, then came to a clearing hemmed in by a cliff and several
high rocks.

Here were over a hundred soldiers on foot and twice as many on
horseback. In the midst of the latter was the Cuban general I had asked
to see--the gallant soldier who had fought so hard in the cause of
Cuban liberty.



CHAPTER XIV.

GENERAL CALIXTO GARCIA.


My first view of General Calixto Garcia was a disappointing one.
For some reason, probably from the reports I had heard concerning
his bravery, I had expected to see a man of great proportions and
commanding aspect. Instead, I saw an elderly gentleman of fair figure,
with mild eyes and almost white mustache and beard, the latter trimmed
close. But the eyes, though mild, were searching, and as he turned them
upon me I felt he was reading me through and through.

He was evidently surprised to see a boy, and an American at that. He
spoke but little English, but an interpreter was close at hand, who
immediately demanded to know who I was, where I had come from, and what
I wanted.

"My name is Mark Carter, and I have journeyed all the way from Santiago
de Cuba," I replied. "I heard that my father and his friend, Señor
Guerez, had joined General Garcia's forces."

"You are Señor Carter's son!" exclaimed the Cuban officer, and turned
quickly to General Garcia. The two conversed for several minutes, and
then the under-officer turned again to me.

"General Garcia bids you welcome," he said, and at the same time the
great Cuban leader smiled and extended his hand, which I found as hard
and horny as that of any tiller of the soil. "He knows your father and
Señor Guerez well."

"And where are they now?" I asked quickly.

"They were with the army two days ago, but both went off to escort the
ladies of Señor Guerez' family to a place of safety. The señor was
going to take his wife and daughters to an old convent up a river some
miles from here."

This was rather disheartening news, yet I had to be content. I asked if
my father was well.

"Very well, although hardly able to walk, on account of a leg he broke
some time ago."

"And have you seen Alano Guerez? He is about my own age, and was with
me up to this morning," I went on, and briefly related my adventures on
the road, to which the officer listened with much interest.

"We have seen nothing of him," was the reply I received. "But he may be
somewhere around here."

The officer wished to know about the Spanish detachment we had met, and
I told him all I knew, which was not much, as I had not understood
the Spanish spoken and Alano had not interpreted it for me. But even
the little I had to say seemed to be highly important, and the officer
immediately reported the condition of affairs to General Garcia.

By this time some of the soldiers who had taken part in the fight at
the foot of the plateau came back, bringing with them several wounded
men, including the negro whose wound I had bound up. The disabled ones
were placed in a temporary hospital, which already sheltered a dozen
others, and General Garcia rode off with his horsemen, leaving the foot
soldiers to spread out along the southeastern slope of the mountain.

Left to myself, I hardly knew what to do. A black, who could speak a
few words of "Englis'," told me I could go where I wanted, but must
look out for a shot from the enemy; and I wandered over to the hospital
and to the side of the fellow I had formerly assisted.

The hospital, so called, consisted of nothing more than a square of
canvas stretched over the tops of a number of stunted trees. From one
tree to another hammocks, made of native grass, were slung, and in
these, and on piles of brush on the ground, rested the wounded ones.
Only one regular doctor was in attendance, and as his surgical skill
and instruments were both limited, the sufferings of the poor fellows
were indeed great.

"Him brudder me--you help him," said the black who spoke "Englis'," as
he pointed to the fellow whose wound I had dressed. "Jorge Nullus no
forget you--verra good you."

"Is your name Jorge Nullus?"

"Yeas, señor--him brudder Christoval."

"Where did you learn English?"

"Me in Florida once--dree year ago--stay seex months--no like him
there--too hard work," and Jorge Nullus shrugged his shoulders. "You
verra nice leetle man, señor," and he smiled broadly at his open
compliment.

"Do you know Señor Guerez?" I questioned quickly.

"Me hear of him--dat's all."

"Do you know where the old convent on the river is?" I continued.

The Cuban nodded. "Yeas--been dare many times--bring 'taters, onions,
to Father Anuncio."

"Could you take me there--if General Garcia would let you go?"

"Yeas, señor. But Spaniards all around--maybe shoot--bang!--dead," and
he pointed to his wounded brother. The brother demanded to know what
we were talking about, and the two conversed for several minutes. Then
Jorge turned again to me.

[Illustration: "GENERAL GARCIA, THE GALLANT SOLDIER WHO HAD FOUGHT SO
HARD IN THE CAUSE OF CUBAN LIBERTY."]

"Christoval say me take you; you verra good leetle man, señor. We go
now, you say go."

"Will you be allowed to go?"

"Yeas--General Garcia no stop me--he know me all right," and the negro
grinned and showed his teeth.

I was tempted to start at once, but decided to wait until morning, in
the hope of finding Alano. In spite of the fact that I knew my chum
would be doubly cautious, now we were separated, I felt decidedly
anxious about him. The Spanish troops were on every side, and the
soldiers would not hesitate to shoot him down should they learn who he
was.

The night passed in comparative quietness. Toward morning we heard
distant firing to the northwest, and at five o'clock a messenger dashed
into camp with the order to move on to the next mountain, a distance
of two miles. Through Jorge I learned that the Spaniards had been
outwitted and driven back to the place from whence they had come.

There now seemed nothing for me to do but to push on to the convent on
the river, in the hope of there joining my father. We were, so I was
told, but a few miles from Guantanamo, but the route to the convent
would not take us near the town.

Jorge's brother felt much better, so the negro went off with a light
heart, especially after I had made it plain to him that my father would
reward him for any trouble he took on my account. I told him about
Alano, and before leaving camp we walked around among the sentries in
the hope of gaining some information concerning him. But it was all
useless.

"Maybe he went on to Father Anuncio's," said my negro guide, and this
gave me a grain of comfort.

The soldiers and Jorge and myself left the camp at about the same
time, but we did not take the same road, and soon my guide and I found
ourselves on a lonely mountain trail overlooking a valley thick with
brush and trees. The sun shone brightly, but the air was clear and
there was a fine breeze blowing, and this made it much cooler than it
would otherwise have been.

I missed the horse, and wondered if Alano still had the animal he had
captured. It might be possible he had ridden straight on to Guantanamo,
and was now bound from there up the river. If that was so, we might
meet on the river road.

"Werry bad road now," said Jorge, as we came to a halt on the mountain
side. "Be careful how you step, Señor Mark."

He pointed ahead, to where a narrow trail led around a sharp turn. Here
the way was rocky and sloped dangerously toward the valley. He went on
ahead, and I followed close at his heels.

"No horse come dis way," observed Jorge, as he came to another turn.
"Give me your hand--dis way. Now den, jump!"

We had reached a spot where a tiny mountain stream had washed away a
portion of the trail. I took his hand, and we prepared to take the leap.

Just then the near-by crack of a rifle rang out on the morning air.
Whether or not the shot was intended for us I cannot say, but the
sound startled me greatly and I stumbled and fell. Jorge tried to grab
me, but failed, and down I shot head first into the trees and bushes
growing twenty feet below the trail!



CHAPTER XV.

A PRISONER OF WAR.


By instinct more than reason, I put out both hands as I fell, and this
movement saved me from a severe blow on the head. My hands crashed
through the branches of a tree, bumped up against the trunk, and then I
bounced off into the midst of a clump of brush and wild peppers.

"Hi, yah!" I heard Jorge cry out, but from my present position I could
not see him. "Is you killed?" he went on.

"No, but I'm pretty well shook up and scratched up," I answered.

"Take care--somebody shoot," he went on.

I concluded I was pretty well out of sight, and I kept quiet and tried
to get back the breath which had been completely knocked out of me. A
few minutes later I heard a crashing through the brush, and my guide
stood beside me.

"Lucky you no killed," he observed. "Bad spot dat."

He searched around and soon found a hollow containing some water, with
which I bathed the scratches on my face and hands. In the meantime he
gazed around anxiously in the direction from which he imagined the shot
had come.

"Maybe no shoot at us," he said, quarter of an hour later. "Me find
out."

With his ever-ready machete he cut down a young tree and trimmed the
top branches off, leaving the stumps sticking out about six inches on
every side. On the top of the tree he stuck his hat, and then, having
no coat, asked me for mine, which he buttoned about the tree a short
distance under the hat, placing a fluttering handkerchief between the
two.

With this rude dummy, or scarecrow, he crawled up the side of the gully
until almost on a level with the trail. Then he hoisted the figure up
cautiously and moved it forward.

No shot was fired, and after waiting a bit Jorge grew bolder and
climbed up to the trail himself. Here he spent a long time in viewing
the surroundings, and finally called to me.

"Him no shoot at us. Maybe only hunter. Come up."

Not without some misgivings, I followed directions. To gain the trail
again was no easy matter, but he helped me by lowering the end of the
tree and pulling me up. Once more we proceeded on our way, but with
eyes and ears on guard in case anybody in the shape of an enemy should
appear.

By noon Jorge calculated we had covered eight miles, which was
considered a good distance through the mountains, and I was glad enough
to sit down in a convenient hollow and rest. He had brought along a
good stock of provisions, with which the rebel camp had happened to be
liberally provided, and we made a meal of bread, crackers, and cold
meat, washed down with black coffee, cooked over a fire of dead and
dried grass.

"We past the worst of the road now," remarked Jorge, as we again moved
on. "Easy walkin' by sundown."

He was right, for about four o'clock we struck an opening among the
mountains where there was a broad and well-defined road leading past
several plantations. The plantations were occupied by a number of
Cubans and blacks, who eyed me curiously and called out queries to
Jorge, who answered them cheerfully.

The plantations left behind, we crossed a brook which my guide said
ran into the river, and took to a path running along a belt of oak and
ebony trees, with here and there a clump of plantains. We had gone but
a short distance when we crossed another trail, and Jorge called a halt
and pointed to the soft ground.

The hoofprints of half a dozen horses were plainly visible, and as they
were still fresh we concluded they had been made that very day, and
perhaps that afternoon.

"Who do you think the horsemen are, Jorge?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Can't say--maybe soon tell--me see," and on he went, with his eyes
bent on the ground.

For my part, I thought it best to keep a watch to the right and the
left. We went on slowly until the evening shadows began to fall. Then
Jorge was about to speak, when I motioned him to be silent.

"There is something moving in yonder brush," I said, pointing with my
hand. "I think I saw a horse."

We left the road and proceeded in the direction, moving along slowly
and silently. I had been right; there was not one horse, but half a
dozen, tethered to several stunted trees.

No human beings were present, but from a distance we presently heard
the murmur of voices, and a minute later two Spanish soldiers came into
view. Jorge drew his pistol, but I restrained him.

The soldiers had evidently come up to see if the horses were still
safe. Satisfied on this point, one passed to the other a roll of
tobacco for a bite, and both began to converse in a low but earnest
tone.

Jorge listened; and, as the talk ran on, his face grew dark and full
of hatred. The backs of the two Spaniards were toward us, and my guide
drew his machete and motioned as if to stab them both.

I shook my head, horrified at the very thought. This did not suit
Jorge, and he drew me back where we might talk without being overheard.

"What is the use of attacking them?" I said. "Let us be on our way."

"Them men fight General Garcia's men--maybe hurt my brudder," grunted
Jorge wrathfully. "They say they have prisoner--kill him soon."

"A prisoner?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"At camp down by river. They kill udder prisoner, now rob dis one an'
kill too. Bad men--no good soldiers."

I agreed with him on this point. Yet I was not satisfied that he should
go back and attack the pair while they were off their guard.

"It would not be fair," I said, "and, besides, the noise may bring more
soldiers down upon us. I wish we could do something for their prisoner,
whoever he is."

We talked the matter over, and, seeing the soldiers depart, concluded
to follow them. We proceeded as silently as two shadows, and during the
walk Jorge overheard one soldier tell the other that the prisoner was
to be shot at sunrise.

A turn in the path brought us to a broad and roughly flowing stream.
Here a temporary camp had been pitched. Half a dozen dirty-looking
Spaniards were lolling on the ground, smoking and playing cards. From
their talk Jorge said they were waiting for some of their former
comrades to join them, when all were to travel back to where the
Spanish commander, Captain Campona, had been left.

"There ees the prisoner," said Jorge, in a whisper, and pointed along
the river shore to where rested a decaying tree, half in and half out
of the water. The prisoner was strapped with rawhides to one of the
tree branches, and it was--my chum Alano!



CHAPTER XVI.

A RESCUE UNDER DIFFICULTIES.


Mere words cannot express my astonishment and alarm when I saw who the
prisoner tied to the tree was. As I gazed at Alano my heart leaped into
my throat, and like lightning I remembered what Jorge had told me the
Spaniards had said, that the prisoner was to be shot at sunrise.

Alano shot! I felt an icy chill creep over me. My own chum! No, no,
it must not be! In my excitement I almost cried aloud. Noting how
strangely I was affected, my guide placed his hand over my mouth and
drew me back into a thicket.

"It is Alano Guerez!" I whispered, as soon as I was calm enough to
speak--"Señor Guerez' son!"

"Ah, yah!" ejaculated Jorge. "I see he is but a boy. _Perros!_ [Dogs!]"

"We must save Alano," I went on. "If he was shot, I--I would never
forgive myself."

Jorge shrugged his shoulders. "How?" he asked laconically. "Too many
for us."

"Perhaps we can do something when it grows darker."

The guide drew down the corners of his mouth. Then, as he gazed at the
river, his big black eyes brightened.

"Yeas, when it is darker we try. But must be careful."

"Perhaps we can get to him by the way of the river."

Jorge smiled grimly. Catching me by the arm he led me along the bank,
overgrown with grass and rushes. Not far away was something that looked
like a half-submerged log covered with mud. Taking a stone he threw it,
and the "log" roused up and flopped angrily into the stream.

"Alligators!" I cried, with a shiver. "No, we won't be able to get to
him by way of the river. But we must do something."

"We cross river, and I tell you what we do," replied my guide.

Crossing was not an easy matter, as neither of us cared to attempt
swimming or fording with alligators in the vicinity. But by passing
along the bank we presently discovered a spot where half a dozen rocks
afforded a footing, and over we went in the semi-darkness, for the sun
was now setting.

As we hurried down the course of the stream again, Jorge cut several
cedar and pine branches which appeared to be particularly dry. Then he
handed me a number of matches, of which, fortunately, he had an entire
box.

"We will put one pile of branches here," he said, "and another further
down, and one further yet. Den I go back to camp. You watch tree over
there. When you see light wait few minutes, den light all dree fires."

"But how will that help us?"

"Soldiers see fires, want to know who is dar--don't watch Alano--me go
in and help him. After you make fires you run back to where we cross on
stones."

Jorge's plan was not particularly clear to me, yet I agreed to it, and
off he sped in the gloom. Left to myself, I made my way cautiously to
the water's edge, there to await the signal he had mentioned.

It was a hot night and the air was filled with myriads of mosquitoes,
gnats, flies, and other pests. From the woods behind me came the
occasional cry of a night bird, otherwise all was silent. Frogs as big
as one's two hands sat on the rocks near by, on the watch for anything
in the shape of a meal which might come their way.

But bad as the pests around me were, I gave them scant consideration.
My whole mind was concentrated upon Alano and what Jorge proposed to
do. Silently I prayed to Heaven that the guide might be successful in
rescuing my chum.

About half an hour went by,--it seemed an extra long wait to me,--when
suddenly I saw a flash of fire, in the very top of a tree growing
behind the Spaniards' camp. The flash lasted but a second, then died
out instantly.

Arising from my seat, I ran to the furthest pile of boughs and waited
while I mentally counted off a hundred and eighty seconds, three
minutes. Then I struck a match, ignited the heaped-up mass, and ran to
the second pile.

In less than ten minutes the three fires, situated about three hundred
feet apart, were burning fiercely, and then I ran at topmost speed
for the spot where the river had been crossed. I had just reached the
locality when I heard a shout ring out, followed by two musket shots.

A painful, anxious two minutes followed. Were Alano and Jorge safe? was
the question I asked myself. I strained my eyes to pierce the gloom
which hung like a pall over the water.

Footsteps on the rocks greeted my ears. Someone was coming, someone
with a heavy burden on his back. Once or twice the approaching person
slipped on the rocks and I heard a low cry of warning.

"Mark!"

It was the voice of Alano, and my heart gave a joyful bound. In another
second my Cuban chum appeared in view, carrying on his manly back the
form of Jorge.

"Alano," I ejaculated excitedly, "what is the matter with him?"

"He has been shot in the leg," was the reply. "Come on, help me carry
him and get to cover. I am afraid they are on my track!"

"Run into the woods!" groaned Jorge. "Den we take to trees--dat's best."

As Alano was almost exhausted, I insisted that the guide be transferred
to my back, and this was speedily done, and on we went, away from the
river and directly into the forest. Of course, with such a burden I
could not go far, and scarcely a hundred yards were traversed when I
came to a halt, at the foot of a giant mahogany tree.

Not without a good deal of difficulty Jorge was raised up into the
branches of the tree, and we followed.

"Still now and listen!" cried Jorge, with a half-suppressed groan.

With strained ears we sat in the mahogany tree for fully half an hour
without speaking. We heard the Spaniards cross the river and move
cautiously in the direction of the three fires, and presently they
returned to their own camp.

"Thank fortune, we have outwitted them!" murmured Alano, the first to
break the silence. "You poor fellow!" he went on to Jorge; "you saved
my life."

He asked about the wound which had been received, and was surprised,
and so was I, to learn that it was but slight, and what had caused the
guide's inability to run had been a large thorn which had cut through
his shoe into his heel. By the light of a match the thorn was forced
out with the end of Jorge's machete, and the foot was bound up in a bit
of rag torn from my coat sleeve, for I must admit that rough usage had
reduced my clothing to a decidedly dilapidated condition.

As we could not sleep very well in the tree without hammocks, we
descended to the ground and made our way to a bit of upland, where
there was a small clearing. Here we felt safe from discovery and lay
down to rest. But before retiring Alano thanked Jorge warmly for what
he had done, and thanked me also.

"I thought you were a goner," he said to me. "How did you escape when
the horse balked and threw you into the stream?"

I told him, and then asked him to relate his own adventures, which he
did. After leaving me, he said, his horse had taken the bit in his
teeth and gone on for fully a mile. When the animal had come to a halt
he had found himself on a side trail, with no idea where he was.

His first thought was to return to the stream where the mishap had
occurred, his second to find General Garcia. But Providence had willed
otherwise, for he had become completely tangled up in the woods and
had wandered around until nightfall. In the morning he had mounted his
horse and struck a mountain path, only to fall into the hands of the
Spanish soldiers two hours later. These soldiers were a most villainous
lot, and, after robbing him of all he possessed, had decided to take
his life, that he might not complain of them to their superior officer.

"From what I heard them say," he concluded, "I imagine they have a very
strict and good man for their leader--a man who believes in carrying on
war in the right kind of a way, and not in such a guerrilla fashion as
these chaps adopt."

"I don't want any war, guerrilla fashion or otherwise," I said warmly.
"I've seen quite enough of it already."

"And so have I," said my Cuban chum.

Of course he was greatly interested to learn that his father was on the
way to place his mother and sisters in the old convent on the river.
He said that he had seen the place several years before.

"It is a tumbled-down institution, and Father Anuncio lives there--a
very old and a very pious man who is both a priest and a doctor. I
shouldn't wonder if the old building has been fitted up as a sort of
fort. You see, the Spaniards couldn't get any cannon to it very well,
to batter it down, and if they didn't have any cannon the Cubans could
hold it against them with ease."

"Unless they undermined it," I said.

"Our people would be too sharp for that," laughed my Cuban chum. "They
are in this fight to win."

Jorge now advised us to quit talking, that our enemies might not detect
us, and we lay down to rest as previously mentioned. I was utterly worn
out, and it did not take me long to reach the land of dreams, and my
companions quickly followed suit.

In the morning our guide's heel was rather sore, yet with true pluck he
announced his readiness to go on. A rather slim and hasty breakfast was
had, and we set off on a course which Jorge announced must bring us to
the river by noon.



CHAPTER XVII.

A TREACHEROUS STREAM TO CROSS.


I must mention that now that we had gained the high ground of the
mountains the air was much cooler and clearer than it was in the
valleys, and, consequently, traveling was less fatiguing.

Jorge went ahead, limping rather painfully at times, but never uttering
a word of complaint. Next to him came Alano, while I brought up in the
rear. It is needless to state that all of us had our eyes and ears wide
open for a sight or sound of friend or enemy.

The road was a hard one for the most part, although here and there
would be found a hollow in which the mud was from a few inches to
several feet deep. Jorge always warned us of these spots, but on
several occasions I stepped into the innocent-looking mud only to find
that it was all I could do to get clear of the dark, glue-like paste.

It was but eleven o'clock when we came in sight of the river, which at
this point was from thirty to forty feet wide. Looking up and down the
water-course, we saw that it wound its way in and out among the hills
in serpentine fashion. The bottom was mostly of rough stones, and the
stream was barely three to four feet deep.

"How will we get over?--by swimming?" I questioned, as we came to a
halt on a bank that was twenty feet above the current.

"Find good place by de rocks," said Jorge. "Must be careful. Water
werry swift."

I could see that he was right by the way the water dashed against the
rocks. Our guide led the way along the bank for a distance of several
hundred feet and began to climb down by the aid of the brush and roots.

"That doesn't look pleasant," remarked Alano, as he hesitated. "Just
look at that stream!"

Picking up a dry bit of wood he threw it into the water. In a few
seconds it was hurried along out of our sight.

Nevertheless, we followed Jorge down to the water's edge. Before us was
a series of rocks, which, had the stream been a bit lower, would have
afforded an excellent fording-place.

"De river higher dan I think," said our guide. "You take off boots,
hey?"

"That we will," I answered, and soon had my boots slung around my neck.
Alano followed my example, and with extreme caution we waded down and
out to the first rock.

"Any alligators?" I cried, coming to a pause.

"No 'gators here," answered Jorge. "Water too swift--'gators no like
dat."

This was comforting news, and on I went again, until I was up to my
knees. The water felt very refreshing, and I proposed to Alano that we
take advantage of our situation and have a bath.

"I feel tremendously dirty, and it will brace us up. We needn't lose
more than ten minutes."

My Cuban chum was willing, and we decided to take our bath from the
opposite shore. Jorge declined to go swimming and said he would try his
luck at fishing, declaring that the river held some excellent specimens
of the finny tribe.

We had now reached the middle of the stream. I was two yards behind
Alano, while Jorge was some distance ahead. We were crossing in a
diagonal fashion, as the fording rocks ran in that direction.

Suddenly Alano muttered an exclamation in Spanish. "It's mighty swift
out here!" he cried. "Look out, Mark, or----"

He did not finish. I saw him slip and go down, and the next instant his
body was rolling over and over as it was being carried along by the
rushing current.

"Jorge, Alano is gone!" I yelled, and took a hasty step to catch hold
of my chum's coat. The movement was a fatal one for me, and down I
went precisely as Alano had done. The water entered my eyes and mouth,
and for the moment I was blinded and bewildered. I felt my feet touch
bottom, but in the deeper water to obtain a footing was out of the
question.

When my head came up I found myself at Alano's side. I saw he had a
slight cut on the forehead and was completely dazed. I caught him by
the arm until he opened his eyes and instinctively struck out.

"We're lost, Mark!" he spluttered.

"Not yet," I returned. "Strike out for the shore."

With all the strength at our command we struck out. To make any headway
against that boiling current was well-nigh impossible, and on and on
we went, until I was almost exhausted. Alano was about to sink when he
gave a cry.

"The bottom!" he announced, and I put down both feet, to find the
stream less than three feet deep. With our feet down, we were now able
to turn shoreward; and five minutes later Jorge had us both by the
hands and was helping us out.

"Well, we wanted a bath and we got it," were Alano's first words. "Have
you had enough, Mark?"

"More than sufficient," I replied, with a shudder. "Ugh, but that is a
treacherous stream, and no mistake!"

"You lucky boys," said Jorge. "Horse get in and roll over, he lose his
life."

We stopped long enough to wring out our clothing and put on our boots,
and then followed our guide again. Half an hour later we reached a
sheltered spot and here took dinner. By the time the repast was ended
our light summer suits were almost dried. Luckily, through it all each
of us had retained his hat.

"We haven't had the fish Jorge promised us," said Alano, as we were
preparing to resume our journey. "A bit of something baked wouldn't go
bad."

"Fish to-night," said the guide.

"Have you a line and hook, Jorge?" I asked.

"Yes, always carry him," he answered; and, upon further questioning, I
learned that to carry a fishing outfit was as common among the rebels
as to carry a pistol or the ever-ready machete. They had to supply
themselves with food, and it was often easier and safer to fish in the
mountain streams than to shoot game or cattle.

We made a camp that night under the shelter of a clump of grenadillo
trees; and, as Jorge had promised, he tried his luck at fishing in a
little pool under some rocks. He remained at his lines, two in number,
for nearly an hour, and in that time caught four fish--three of an
eel-like nature and a perch. These were cooked for supper, and tasted
delicious.

"When will we reach the old convent?" I asked, as we were about to turn
in.

"Reach him by to-morrow afternoon maybe, if no storm come," said Jorge.

"Do you think there will be a storm?"

The guide shrugged his shoulders.

"Maybe--time for storm now."

The fire had been put out as soon as the fish were baked, that it
might not attract the attention of any Spaniards who might be in the
neighborhood. At eight o'clock we turned in, making our beds on a
number of cedar boughs, which were easy to obtain in this mountainous
locality. We had no coverings but our coats, but found these sufficient
under the shelter of the grenadillos.

How long I slept I did not know. I awoke with a start and raised up.
All was silent. I gazed around in the gloom, and saw that Alano and our
guide slumbered soundly.

"I must have been dreaming," I muttered to myself, when a rustle in
the brush behind me caused me to leap to my feet. There was another
rustle, and then came what I imagined was a half-subdued growl of rage.

Fearful that we were on the point of being attacked by some wild
animal, I bent over my companions and shook them.

"Wake up! Wake up!" I cried. "There are wild beasts about! Quick, and
get your pistols ready!"

And then I looked toward the bushes again, to see an ugly, hairy head
thrust forward and a pair of glaring eyes fastened full upon me!



CHAPTER XVIII.

ALONE.


"What is it?" cried Alano, as he scrambled to his feet.

"I don't know!" I yelled. "Look! look!"

As I spoke I pulled out my pistol. By this time Jorge was also aroused.

"_Que ha dicho V.?_ [What did you say?]" he demanded, leaping up and
catching at his machete.

"An animal--a bear, or something!" I went on. "There he is!"

I raised my pistol, and at the same time our guide looked as I had
directed. I was about to pull the trigger of my weapon when he stopped
me.

"No shoot! _Puerco!_" he cried, and gave a laugh. Leaping forward, he
made after the animal, which turned to run away. But Jorge was too
quick for him. Presently there was a grunt and a prolonged squeal, and
then I understood what my wild beast was--nothing but a wild pig! In
a couple of minutes Jorge came back to camp dragging the tough little
porker by the hind legs. He had killed the animal in true butcher's
style.

"We have pork to-morrow," he grinned, for Cuban negroes are as fond of
pig meat as their Northern brothers. Taking a short rope from one of
his pockets, he attached it to the pig's hind legs and hung the body up
on a convenient tree branch.

The incident had upset my nerves, and for the balance of the night I
slept only by fits and starts, and I was glad when dawn came and the
rising sun began to gild the tops of the surrounding hills. The sight
was a beautiful one, and I gazed at it for some time, while Jorge
prepared some pork chops over a tiny fire he had kindled.

"We carry what pork we can," he said. "No use to leave it behind.
Father Anuncio very glad to get pig, so sweet!" and once again Jorge
grinned. After breakfast the guide cut up the balance of the animal,
wrapped the parts in wet palm leaves, and gave us each our share to
carry.

Our involuntary bath had done me good, and I stepped out feeling
brighter and better than I had for several days. I was becoming
acclimated, and I was glad of it, for had I been taken down with a
fever I do not know what I would have done.

Alano was as eager as myself to reach the old convent on the river,
and we kept close upon Jorge's heels as our guide strode off down the
mountain side toward a forest of sapodillas and plantains.

"I trust we find everybody safe and sound," I remarked. "The fact that
your father thought it best to conduct your mother and sisters to the
convent would seem to indicate he was disturbed about their safety."

"I am hoping he did it only to be clear to join the rebel army,"
replied Alano. "I hope both your father and mine are in the ranks, and
that we are allowed to join too."

I did not wish to discourage my Cuban chum on this point, yet I had my
own ideas on the subject. I was not anxious to join any army, at least
not while both sides to the controversy were conducting the contest in
this guerrilla-like fashion. I was quite sure, from what I had heard
from various sources, that up to that date no regular battle had been
fought in the eastern portion of Cuba, although the western branch
of the rebel army, under General Gomez, was doing much regular and
effective work.

The reasons for this were twofold. In the first place, General Gomez'
forces were composed mainly of white men, while a large portion of the
soldiers under General Garcia were black. Nearly all of the Americans
who came to Cuba to fight for Cuban liberty, came by way of Havana or
Jibacoa and joined General Gomez, and these fellows brought with them a
large stock of arms and ammunition. It was said that there were three
armed men in the West to every man who had even a pistol in the East.
Many of the negroes were armed only with their machetes, which they
tied to their wrists with rawhides, that they might not lose this sole
weapon while on the march or in a skirmish. To shoot off a cartridge in
a pistol without doing some effective work with it was considered under
General Garcia and his brother officers almost a crime.

The guerrilla warfare in the mountains I felt could be kept up for
a long time, perhaps indefinitely. The Spanish troops had sought to
surround General Garcia a dozen times, only to discover, when too late,
that he and his men had left the vicinity. The Cuban forces moved
almost always at night, and often detachments of soldiers were sent off
on swift horses to build false campfires dozens of miles away from the
real resting-place of the army.

In the valley we crossed through a large coffee plantation. In the
center was a low, square house with several outbuildings. The house was
closed tightly, and so were the other buildings, yet as we drew close
I fancied I heard sounds from within.

I notified Jorge, and a halt ensued. Hardly had we stopped than the
door of the house flew open and out rushed half a dozen well-dressed
Spanish soldiers.

"_Halte!_" came the command, but instead of halting we turned and
fled--I in one direction, and Alano and our guide in another. Bang!
bang! went a couple of guns, and I heard the bullets clipping through
the trees. Surprised and alarmed, I kept on, past a field of coffee
and into a belt of palms. Several of the soldiers came after me, and I
heard them shouting to me to stop and promising all sorts of punishment
if I did not heed their command.

But I did not intend to stop, and only ran the faster, past the palms
and into a mass of brushwood growing to a height of ten or twelve feet.
At first the bushes were several feet apart, and I went on with ease;
but soon the growth was more dense, and numerous vines barred the way;
and at last I sank down in a hollow, unable to go another step, and
thoroughly winded.

I remained in the hollow at least half an hour, trying to get back my
breath and listening intently to the movements of my pursuers. The
soldiers passed within fifty feet of me, but that was as close as they
got, and presently they went off; and that was the last I heard of
them.

In the excitement of the chase I had dropped my pig meat, and now I
discovered that nearly all of my other traps were gone, including my
pistol, which had left my hand during a nasty trip-up over a hidden
tree root. The trip-up had given me a big bump on the temple and nearly
knocked me unconscious.

Crawling around, I found a pool of water, in which I bathed my
forehead, and then I set about finding out what had become of Alano and
Jorge. I moved with extreme caution, having no desire to be surprised
by the enemy, who might be lying in ambush for me.

Moving onward in the brush I soon discovered was no light undertaking,
and it was fully an hour before I found my way out to where the vines
grew less profusely. The spot where I emerged was not the same as
that at which I had entered the undergrowth, and on gazing around I
was dismayed to find that the whole topography of the country looked
different.

I was lost!

The thought rushed upon me all in an instant, and I half groaned
aloud as I realized my situation. I must be all of a mile from the
plantation, and where my friends were I had not the remotest idea.

The sun beat down hotly in the valley, and it was not long before I was
both dry and hungry. I searched around for another pool, but could not
find any, and had to content myself with the taste of a wild orange,
far from palatable.

Noon came and went and found me still tramping around the valley
looking for Alano and Jorge. In my passage through the bushes my
already ragged clothing was torn still more, until I felt certain that
any half-decent scarecrow could discount me greatly in appearance.

At four o'clock, utterly worn out, I threw myself on the ground in a
little clearing and gave myself up to my bitter reflections. I felt
that I was hopelessly lost. Moreover, I was tremendously hungry, with
nothing in sight with which to satisfy the cravings of my appetite.
Night, too, was approaching. What was to be done?



CHAPTER XIX.

THE CAVE IN THE MOUNTAIN.


I lay in the clearing in the valley for all of half an hour. Then,
somewhat rested, I arose, unable to endure the thought that night would
find me in the wilds alone and unarmed.

I could well remember how the sun had stood when I had separated from
my companions, and now, using the sun as a guide, I endeavored once
more to trace my steps to the path leading down to the river. Once the
stream was gained, I resolved to search up and down its banks until the
old convent was sighted.

My course led me up the side of a small mountain, which I climbed with
great difficulty, on account of the loose stones and dirt, which more
than once caused my ankle to give a dangerous twist. A sprained ankle
would have capped the climax of my misfortunes.

Just as the sun was beginning to set behind the peaks to the westward
of me, I reached a little plateau which divided a ridge from the
mountain proper. Here I rested for a few minutes and obtained a
refreshing drink at a spring under some rocks. Then I went on, in some
manner satisfied that I was on the right path at last.

But, alas! hardly had I taken a score of steps than I stepped on a bit
of ground which appeared solid enough, but which proved to be nothing
but a mass of dead brushwood lying over a veritable chasm. The whole
mass gave way, and with a lurch I was hurled forward into black space.

As I went down I put out my hands to save myself. But, though I caught
hold of several roots and bits of rocks, this did not avail; and I did
not stop descending until I struck a stone flooring twenty feet below
the top of the opening. Fortunately the floor was covered with a large
mass of half-decayed brush, otherwise the fall must have been a serious
if not a fatal one.

As I went down, on hands and knees, a lot of loose branches, dirt, and
small stones rolled on top of me, and for the minute I had a vision of
being buried alive. But the downfall soon ceased; and, finding no bones
broken, I crawled from under the load and surveyed the situation.

I felt that I was now worse off than ever. The well-hole--I can call
it nothing else--was about ten feet in diameter, and the walls were
almost smooth. The top of the opening was far out of my reach, and, as
for a means of escape, there seemed to be none.

However, I was not to be daunted thus easily, and, striking a match
and lighting a cedar branch, I set about looking for some spot where I
might climb up. But the spot did not present itself.

But something else did, and that was an opening leading directly into
the mountain. On pulling at a projecting rock, I felt it quiver,
and had just time to leap back, when it fell at my feet. Behind the
rock was a pitch-black hole, into which I thrust the lighted branch
curiously. There was a cave beyond--how large was yet to be discovered.

I had no desire to explore any cave at that moment, my one idea being
to get out of the well-hole and proceed on my way. But getting out of
the hole was impossible, and I was forced to remain where I was, much
to my disgust and alarm.

Jorge had been right about the coming storm. At an hour after sunset
I heard the distant rumble of thunder, and soon a lively breeze blew
through the trees and brush on the mountain side. A few flashes of
lightning followed, and then came a heavy downpour of rain.

Not wishing to be soaked, I retreated to the cave I had discovered,
although with caution, for I had no desire to take another tumble into
a deeper hole. But the floor of the cavern appeared to be quite level,
and with rising curiosity I took up my lighted cedar branch, whirled it
around to make it blaze up, and started on a tour of investigation and
discovery.

That I should not miss my way back, I lit a pile of small brush at the
mouth of the opening. Then I advanced down a stony corridor, irregular
in shape, but about fifty feet wide by half as high.

The opening appeared to be a split in the mountain, perhaps made ages
before by volcanic action. I felt certain there was an opening above,
for in several spots the rain came down, forming small pools and
streams of water.

Suddenly the idea struck me to watch which way the water ran, and I did
so and learned that its course was in the very direction I was walking.
Moreover the tiny streams merged one into another, until, several
hundred feet further on, they formed quite a water course.

"If only this stream flows into the main river!" I thought, and on
the spur of the moment resolved to follow it as far as I was able,
satisfied that if it led to nowhere in particular I could retrace my
steps to its source.

I now found the cave growing narrower, and presently it grew less than
a dozen feet in width, and the stream covered the entire bottom to the
depth of several inches. Throwing my boots over my shoulders, I began
wading, feeling sure of one step ere I trusted myself to take another.

It took me fully ten minutes to proceed a hundred feet in this fashion.
The stream was now not over six feet wide and all of a foot deep.

Making sure that my torch was in no danger of going out, I continued
to advance, but now more slowly than ever, for in the distance I could
hear the water as it fell over a number of rocks. There was a bend
ahead; and this passed, I fervently hoped to emerge into the open air,
on the opposite side of the mountain and close to the bank of the river
for which I was seeking.

At the bend the water deepened to my knees, and I paused to roll up my
trousers, in the meantime resting the torch against the wall, which
afforded a convenient slope for that purpose.

I had just finished arranging my trouser-legs to my satisfaction, when
a rumble of thunder, echoing and re-echoing throughout the cavern, made
me jump. My movement caused the cedar branch to roll from the rocks,
and it slipped with a hiss into the stream. I made a frantic clutch for
it, and, in my eagerness to save it from going out or getting too wet,
I fell on it in the very middle of the stream.

With a splutter I arose to find myself in utter darkness. Moreover,
the cedar branch was thoroughly soaked, and it would take a good many
matches to light it again. And what was still worse, every match my
pocket contained was soaked as badly as the torch.

I must confess that I was utterly downcast over my mishap, and if there
had been any dry ground handy I would have thrown myself down upon it
in abject despair. But there was only water around, and, disconsolate
as I was, I felt I must either go forward or backward.

How I became turned about I do not know, but certain it is that, in
essaying to return to the spot from whence I had come, I continued on
down the stream. I did not notice the mistake I had made until fifty
yards had been passed and I brought up against an overhanging rock with
my shoulder. Putting up my hands, I was dismayed to discover that the
passage-way was just high enough to clear my head.

Realizing that I must be walking into a trap, I endeavored to turn
about, when I slipped and went down again. Before I could gain my
footing I was swept around a bend and into a much broader stream. All
was as dark as before, and I soon learned that the bottom of the new
water-course was beyond my reach. Putting my hand up, I learned that
the rocky ceiling was not over two feet above the surface of the water,
and the distance between the two was gradually but surely growing less!



CHAPTER XX.

SEÑOR GUEREZ.


I was horrified over the discovery that I had made. Here I was, in
absolute darkness, hemmed in by water and rocky walls, and drifting
rapidly I knew not whither.

In my terror I cried aloud, but only echo answered me--a peculiar echo
which made me shiver from head to foot.

On and on, and still on, was I dashed by the underground current,
which seemed to grow more powerful as I advanced, until my head grazed
repeatedly against the wall over me, and I felt like giving myself up
for lost. Oh, how bitterly I regretted the curiosity which had led me
to explore the cavern in which chance had so strangely placed me!

But now what was this--a light? At first I could scarcely believe the
evidence of my senses. There was a bright flash--then total blackness
again.

What could it mean? Perhaps I was dreaming--or the fearful situation
had turned my brain. Then came a second flash and a revelation.

It was the lightning from without, shining through some opening into
the waters under and around me! I was nearing the outer world. Oh, for
a breath of fresh air again!

Even as the thought crossed my mind, my head struck the rocky ceiling
again, and under I went, to find that I could not come up, the water
now rising to the very rocks. But a stronger light could be seen, and
I dove along, came up once, twice--and then emerged into the open air
with a splutter and a gasp, on the verge of exhaustion.

The underground stream emerged at the very base of the mountain, and
on both sides were level stretches of swamps, covered with rushes and
other tropical growths. Swimming for the nearest bank, I drew myself up
and fell on my breast, too worn out to stand.

It did not matter to me just then that it was night, that I was alone,
and that it was raining in torrents. I was safe from drowning--that was
my one thought, and never was a thought sweeter to a boy.

For fully fifteen minutes I remained on the bank of the stream. Then,
having recovered somewhat from the effects of my awful experience, I
arose and took as good a view of my situation as was possible. I waited
for a strong flash of lightning, and by this saw that my former wish
had been realized and that I was within a few hundred feet of the river
upon which the convent was said to be located.

While the storm and the night lasted there was nothing to do but to
seek shelter wherever it might be found; and, as the lightning now
appeared to die away, I walked to the very mountain side, and found
shelter under an overhanging rock, flanked by several tall trees.
Here I wrung what water I could from my clothing and made myself as
comfortable as my miserable condition permitted.

Never was a person more glad to see the sun than I. Old Sol came up
clear and strong, and my clothing quickly dried upon my body as I
walked along.

Passing around the swamps, which were full of monstrous toads and
numerous lizards, I reached the bank of the larger stream and started
to hunt for the convent for which Alano, Jorge, and myself had been
bound. As I hurried on, as rapidly as the formation of the ground
permitted, I could not help but wonder what had become of my chum
and our negro guide. Had they escaped, to roam around looking for
me, or had they fallen into the hands of the Spaniards at the coffee
plantation?

Having had no breakfast, it was not long before I began to feel hungry.
To satisfy the cravings of my appetite I picked several almost ripe
plantains, which, however, proved rather poor eating. I also spent some
time in a hunt for berries, but none were to be found.

By noon I calculated I had covered four or five miles, and reached a
narrow woods, growing on both sides of the river. Beyond the woods was
a village, a decidedly poor-looking settlement composed of a score of
rude dwellings built of logs and thatched with palm leaves to keep out
the rain.

I did not know whether to enter the village or not, and remained in the
woods for some time, watching the inhabitants, consisting of a score of
men and women and perhaps fifty children of all ages. The children were
dirty, and wore hardly any clothing, but they seemed to be as happy as
though such a thing as war had never been mentioned. Most of the men
were at work curing some wild-hog meat, while the women were engaged in
braiding mats and other articles for sale or exchange.

At last three of the children, running close to the woods, espied me,
and set up a shout of wonder and alarm, at which the men stopped work
and came rushing forward with their clubs and machetes. Seeing there
was no help for it, I stepped out into the open, and was immediately
surrounded.

Not a soul in the settlement, which went by the name of Jiawacadoruo,
could speak a word of English, and for the time being I was partly at a
loss to make them understand that I came as a friend who meant no harm.
At the word "_Americano_" they grinned, and one of them queried "_Cuba
libre?_ [For Cuban liberty?]" and I nodded. Then I pointed to my mouth
and stomach to signify that I was hungry.

At once half a dozen of the women rushed off, and soon I was presented
with several bowls of broth, made of chicken meat and vegetables,
strongly flavored with the inevitable garlic, and a pot of strong black
coffee. There was also a dish of boiled arrowroot, made from the native
maranta, and this tasted best of all to me.

While I was eating I tried, by every means in my power, to make these
Cubans understand that I wanted to find the old convent, but failed
utterly. Finally an idea struck me, and I essayed to carry it out.
Tearing a page from a blank book in my pocket, I drew upon it a rough
representation of a river and pointed to the stream, at which the men
gathered around nodded that they understood.

Next I drew the picture of a boy at one end of the river, and pointed
to myself. I am not by any means an artist; but we had had drawing
lessons at Broxville Academy, and I managed to represent the boy as
walking rapidly, as if in a great hurry to get to where he was going.
This caused the men to laugh heartily.

The next thing to do was to draw the old convent. Never having heard
the structure described, I had to draw entirely upon my imagination,
and my knowledge of convent architecture was decidedly limited. Yet
I managed to draw a fairly good representation of a ruined stone
building, with a cross at the top, and before it put a priest, to whom,
by an inspiration, I suddenly pointed and cried "Father Anuncio."

A dozen exclamations followed, and the men nodded to show that they now
knew what was wanted. A parley followed, and one tall negro stepped
forth and motioned that he was ready to be my guide by pointing first
to me and then to my picture of the old convent.

Luckily I still retained a few silver pieces in my pocket, and before
leaving I left two of these behind, to be divided among the crowd of
negroes, for let me say in passing that all of the inhabitants of
Jiawacadoruo are people of color. With my newly made guide I started up
the river, and the settlement was soon lost to sight.

I wondered how long it would take to reach the old convent, and tried
to put the question to Bumbo, as I made his name out to be, but
without success. Instead of answering with his fingers or by pointing
to the sun, he merely grinned and walked faster, until it was all I
could do to keep up with him.

It was almost sundown when we passed a bend in the stream and mounted
a bluff overlooking a wide expanse of swamp land. The topmost point of
the bluff reached, the guide pointed ahead, and there, almost at our
feet, I saw the massive outlines of what long years before had been
an imposing Spanish convent, planted in that out-of-the-way spot for
certain noble families who had left Spain under a cloud during the wars
of the seventeenth century.

As we approached the building, which was now little more than a mass
of ruins, I saw several men standing just outside of the inclosed
courtyard. One was a priest, and two others were in the uniform of
officers in the Cuban army. One of the latter I recognized as Señor
Guerez, having met the gentleman once while he was on a business visit
to the United States.

"Señor Guerez!" I called out, as I ran to him; and he turned in
amazement.

"Mark Carter!" he ejaculated, with a strong Spanish accent. "I am much
astonished."

"Is my father with you?" I demanded eagerly, as I looked around.

"No, my boy; I am sorry to say it."

"And where is he?" I went on, my heart rising to my throat, as I saw a
look of anxiety cross the gentleman's bronzed features.

"Your father was made a prisoner by the Spanish authorities two days
ago," replied the señor, and the answer all but prostrated me.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE ATTACK ON THE OLD CONVENT.


"My father a prisoner!" I gasped out, when I could speak.

"Yes, Mark."

"And how was he captured? and why?"

"It is rather a long story. But tell me, where is Alano?" And now it
was Señor Guerez' turn to become anxious.

In a few words I explained matters, to which the planter listened with
close attention. His brow darkened when I mentioned the Spaniards up at
the coffee plantation.

"I know them," he said. "We are expecting an attack from them every
day."

"An attack at this place?"

"Yes." He turned to his companions, and introduced me to Father Anuncio
and to Lieutenant Porlando, both of whom shook hands warmly when they
were informed who I was. "You see, many of the planters have brought
their families here," Señor Guerez went on, "and the Spanish think to
subdue us if they can make our wives and daughters prisoners. But that
shall never be while we have strength to fight."

"Tell me of my father," I said impatiently.

"Come inside, my boy," said Alano's father; and giving Bumbo a bit of
silver I sent him off, and followed the others into the courtyard,
in the rear of which was the convent building proper, although wings
extended out upon both sides.

In a shady corner I was introduced to La Señora Guerez and to Alano's
two sisters, Inez and Paula, two girls of ten and twelve, now quite as
dark as their father and mother, and very beautiful, with their black
wavy hair and sparkling eyes full of good humor and merriment. Mother
and daughters could speak a little English, and for Alano's sake they
fairly made me feel like one of the family.

I was impatient to hear about my father; and as soon as the señor had
told the others of what I had said concerning Alano, Señor Guerez told
me his story.

"As soon as we felt that the war was going to be severe and probably of
long duration," said he, "your father and I telegraphed to Dr. Walford
to keep you at Broxville Academy until you heard from us by letter. Two
days later came a return message stating that you had already gone to
New York and taken steamer for Cuba. The worthy doctor could not tell
by what route you had gone.

"This being the case, your father and I concluded to let you come on,
and I dispatched Pedro, one of my faithful servants, to meet you at
Santiago de Cuba and conduct you in safety to the plantation, where
your father was still down with his broken leg, which was, however,
mending rapidly.

"Several days went by, and matters became very troublesome about my
plantation. Some of the men had joined the Cuban forces under Brigadier
General José Maceo, a brother to the late Antonio Maceo, and my
neighbors begged me to join also and become captain of a company of
white Cubans--they not caring to serve under Maceo or Garcia and also
not caring to go as far west as where the forces under General Gomez
were located.

"While I was deliberating, a body of Spanish guerrillas came along
and burned down two of my largest storehouses and threatened my wife
with violence. This angered me, and I got my gun and shot two of the
rascals--one in the leg and the other in the shoulder. A battle royal
ensued between my workmen and the guerrillas, and the guerrillas
received the worst of the encounter and were forced to retreat, with
three men wounded and one man dead.

"This settled the matter, and I joined the Cuban forces under Garcia
without delay. Your father also took part in the battle and saved my
wife from great indignities. When I called my white men together, and
my white neighbors, they speedily formed a company of volunteers, and I
was chosen the captain, with Lieutenant Porlando for my first officer
and your father for second lieutenant. We were all supplied with good
horses and first-class weapons, and the very next day after effecting
our organization defeated a body of the Spanish troops and drove them
ten miles up the road and away from the mountains which General Garcia
is using as a stronghold.

"As it was perilous in the extreme to leave the women-folks home alone
while the men were away, it was decided by me and my neighbors to bring
them all here and leave them with Father Anuncio and a strong guard. It
was believed that no one would dare molest any woman while sheltered by
this old convent. There are within the walls over a dozen ladies and
nearly thirty children, besides a company of picked men and six men who
were wounded at one time or another."

"But my father?" I put in, as the señor paused.

"I am coming to that, Mark. It was two days ago that our company was
in the vicinity of Guantanamo. I had received valuable information
concerning the contemplated movements of the Spanish troops, and this
information I wished to place in the hands of General Garcia and his
staff. Your father offered to find a certain captain, while another of
the company rode off to find the general.

"Your father was accompanied by a private named Hawley, an American
who settled near me several years ago. The pair were gone about six
hours when Hawley came riding back to our camp, severely wounded in
the thigh. He said they had met a company of Spanish soldiers, who
had discovered them ere they were aware. Your father had been taken a
prisoner, while Hawley had had a hard time of it to escape."

"And have you heard of him since then?" I asked anxiously.

"I heard from him yesterday. Some of our soldiers, while tramping
through the woods, came across a Spaniard who was severely wounded.
They treated him as well as he could possibly expect, dressed his
wounds, and gave him a supply of water and bread and meat; and in
return he told them about their prisoner, your father. He said your
father was to be sent on to the authorities at Santiago as an American
spy."

"A spy!"

"Yes, my boy, a spy. It is, of course, a foolish charge, but I am
afraid it may cause your father a good deal of trouble."

"Why, they place spies in dungeons and often shoot them, Señor Guerez!"

"Let us hope for the best, Mark," he returned soothingly.

"Would they dare shoot an American citizen?"

"Unfortunately your father was caught wearing a Cuban uniform and with
our flag pinned to his hat--as I have it."

I bowed my head, and something like tears started to my eyes. This news
was awful. Supposing my father was shot as a spy? I would be left alone
in the world. Overcome by my emotions, I felt compelled to turn away,
when Señor Guerez placed a kindly hand on my shoulder.

"Don't be too downcast, my boy. It may not go so badly with your
parent, and I will do all I can for both of you. As soon as I can
arrange certain matters with the men who are in charge here, I will
follow up those who have your father in charge and see if he cannot be
rescued."

"Oh, will you do that?" I cried, catching his hand. "You are more than
kind, Señor Guerez!"

We were about to continue the conversation, when the lieutenant to
whom I had been introduced came rushing up all out of breath. He had
been walking down by the river, field-glass in hand, and had made an
important discovery, which he imparted to the others in Spanish.

It was to the effect that a large body of Spanish soldiers were riding
through the woods, back of the river, and it looked as if they were
bound for the old convent. They were heavily armed, and on the back of
a mule could be seen a small cannon.

"As I expected," muttered Señor Guerez. "I'll take a look at them."

He ran up to the roof of the convent, glass in hand, and, nobody
stopping me, I followed him. A long, searching look and he dashed down
the glass, hurried below, and issued a dozen rapid orders.

Men flew in all directions, some to get their guns and pistols, and
others to shut the gates leading to the courtyard and to place square
bits of blocks into the deep windows.

I tried to get an explanation from somebody, but all were too busy.
Señor Guerez was the only one who gave me a hint of what was wrong.

"'Tis a body of Spanish soldiers led by a priest who is a rival to
Father Anuncio. He wishes to get the good father to give up this old
convent, which means that we must vacate too. It is a ruse of the
enemy."

No more was said. Quarter of an hour later a white flag was waved and
a man came up to the old convent gates. A short talk ensued between
him, Señor Guerez, Father Anuncio, and several others, and then the man
withdrew.

Hardly had he gone than all of us heard the cracks of a dozen or more
guns, and as many bullets flattened themselves on the convent walls.

"They have opened the fight," remarked Señor Guerez grimly, while
several of the women and children shrieked. "Now we will show them what
we can do."

He selected the best of his soldiers, and placed them at convenient
loopholes in the upper part of the old building. Weapons were ready for
use, and at a word of command the fire of the Spaniards was returned.

A yell of surprise and rage went up, and there immediately followed
another volley of musketry from without. This was returned, and this
sort of thing lasted for quarter of an hour, when the enemy retired
behind the bluff I have previously mentioned.

But they did not remain quiet long. Presently, looking through his
field-glass, Señor Guerez announced that they had succeeded in mounting
the cannon they had brought along. The weapon was duly loaded and
sighted, and we awaited with thrilling interest the effect of this
rather formidable weapon.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE ROUTING OF THE ENEMY.


Boom!

The Spanish gunners had fired the cannon perched on the bluff, its
muzzle pointed directly for the doors of the old convent.

Hardly had we heard the report than there was a crash and the splinters
flew in every direction. The shot had struck the frame of the doors and
shattered it badly.

A cry of rage went up from the Cubans, and, rushing to the loopholes
left in the blocked-up windows, they sought to pick off the gunners
with their carbines. But the Spaniards prudently kept out of sight, so
this movement was useless.

"Two more shots like that, and the doors will come down," muttered
Señor Guerez, with a grave shake of his head. "I wish we had a cannon
to fire in return."

A consultation was held, and all of the women and children were told to
retire to an inner room of the convent, where the damage done by the
cannon might not reach them.

This had scarcely been accomplished when the Spaniards fired a second
shot. But their aim was poor, and the ball only plowed up the ground
fifty feet outside of the courtyard.

Señor, or rather Captain, Guerez, as I should now call him, collected
his men together, and a short but exciting debate took place, only a
few words of which were plain to me. Alano's father favored leaving the
convent by a rear passage-way leading to a woods and surprising the
enemy by coming up in their rear.

Just as a third shot from the cannon struck the roof of the convent and
tore off a corner of the stonework, it was agreed upon to carry out
this project. Four men were left to exhibit themselves occasionally, so
that the Spaniards might think the soldiers still there, and Alano's
father asked me to remain with them.

"I do not advise you to take part in the fighting," he said. "But if
you find it necessary to defend yourself, you'll find guns in plenty in
the dining-hall closet, with cartridges in one of the drawers."

In less than ten minutes the company of soldiers, fifty-six strong,
were on their way, leaving the convent as silently as shadows. The
moment the last of them had taken to the passage-way, the entrance
was closed and bolted, and I found myself left behind with the women
and children and the four guards, none of whom could speak a word of
English.

After firing the third shot the Spaniards paused, probably to hold
a council of war. To divert suspicion from the movements of Captain
Guerez and his men, the four guards and myself passed out in plain
sight of them several times. Of course we did not remain long, nor did
we show ourselves in the same place twice. Our appearance called forth
half a dozen shots from as many muskets, but we were too far off for
these to have any effect. One bullet did hit near where a guard had
shown himself, but its force was spent and it did no damage.

Nearly half an hour had passed, when suddenly we heard a yell and a
wild shouting, and all of the Spaniards dashed into view, running
hither and thither as though panic-stricken. Captain Guerez had
surprised them completely, and they thought it was a re-enforcement
for the old convent and not the soldiers from that place themselves.
A hundred shots rang out, and, using a field-glass, I saw that the
Spaniards were completely demoralized. They formed into a hollow square
once, but this was speedily broken up, and then off they rode and ran,
helter-skelter, down the bluff and across the river, some fording and
some swimming, for their very lives.

The engagement had lasted less than quarter of an hour when some of the
Cubans came riding toward the convent gates, bringing with them several
wounded men--some of their own party--and three of the Spaniards who
had been captured.

Captain Guerez had, in the meantime, followed the Spanish leader across
the stream. The pursuit was kept up for nearly half an hour, at the end
of which time the Spaniards were driven so far off it was likely they
would not dare to return for a long while, if at all.

When Alano's father came back it was found he had received a sword
thrust through the fleshy part of the leg. The wound was not a
dangerous one, but it was painful, and his wife and daughters did all
they could to ease his sufferings.

"I am sorry for your sake, Mark, that I am wounded," he remarked, as he
rested upon a cot. "I will have to keep quiet for a few days, and thus
our quest after your father will have to be delayed."

"You wouldn't dare to leave here just yet anyway, would you?" I asked,
much disappointed, yet feeling that it was no more than I could expect.

"Hardly, my boy. I do not expect those Spaniards to return; we have
given them far more than they expected. They would not attack us
without re-enforcements, and there are no other Spanish troops within a
good many miles."

Now that the old convent had been once attacked, it was decided to keep
a strict watch, day and night, upon the roof and through the grounds.
A detail of men was formed, instructions to keep a constant lookout
given, and then Captain Guerez passed over his command temporarily to
Lieutenant Porlando.

The remainder of the day passed quietly enough, I occupying the time
in repairing my clothing, which needed many a stitch. In this work
the elder of Alano's sisters helped me, Señora Guerez keeping by her
husband's side and having the younger sister to assist her.

I found Inez Guerez a most companionable girl. Her stock of English was
as limited as was my knowledge of Spanish, yet we managed to make each
other understand, laughing roundly over the mistakes we made. When I
mentioned Alano and told what great friends we were, tears stood in her
dark eyes, and she said she trusted he would soon reach the old convent
in safety. My father and she had also become great friends, and she
said she hoped he would escape from his Spanish captors ere they had a
chance to thrust him into a dungeon at Santiago.

Having had no sleep the night before, I retired early, and was soon
in the land of dreams, despite the many misgivings I had concerning
my father's welfare. Fervently I prayed that he might escape from the
Spaniards who held him, and that we might speedily be reunited.

When I awoke in the morning the sky was darkly overcast and it was
raining furiously. The downpour caused the river to rise, and the lower
end of the old convent was partly under water.

A fair breakfast was had, consisting of coffee, bread, and some fried
plantains, which to me tasted particularly fine, and then I went to
Captain Guerez, to find him much improved and in good spirits.

"We would not go off anyway in such a storm as this," he said, as he
sipped a bowl of coffee. "It will be fresh and cool after it is over,
and by that time I think I will be able to ride once more, and I think
my cousin will come to remain with my wife and girls."

The downpour up to noon was terrific, then the sun came out strongly,
and the hills and valleys were covered with a heavy mist as the water
evaporated. By sundown it became cooler, and the roof of the old
convent proved a most delightful lounging place.

We were all out there, watching the shadows as the sun set behind the
hills in the west, when one of the guards announced that two men were
approaching from a trail leading through the woods to the northwest. A
field-glass was at once procured, and Lieutenant Porlando took a long
look at them.

"A black and a boy," he announced in Spanish, and I leaped forward and
begged for the use of the glass for a minute. My request was readily
granted, and I waited for the two newcomers to reappear among the trees.

"They are Alano and Jorge!" I exclaimed a minute later.

"Alano!" cried my chum's sisters. "Are you certain?"

"Yes, it is Alano, and he carries his arm in a sling."

And down we rushed in a body and asked to be let out of the courtyard.
Inez was the first to emerge into the open, and off she rushed at full
speed, to find herself a minute later in Alano's arms, with Paula close
behind.



CHAPTER XXIII.

ON THE TRAIL OF MY FATHER.


"Mark!" ejaculated my Cuban chum, when, on releasing himself from his
sisters' embraces, he espied me. "So you have reached here before me. I
am very glad to see it."

"You are wounded?" I queried, as we shook hands. Had it not been for
the girls and Jorge we would have fairly hugged each other. "How did
that happen?"

"It's quite a story. Are my father and mother safe?"

"Yes, although your father, too, is wounded."

"Those soldiers at the coffee plantation, then, did not manage to catch
you?"

"No."

"They caught me and Jorge, and we were their prisoners for five or six
hours. We would not have gotten away, only Jorge bribed one of the
servants at the plantation, another negro. He cut the cords with which
we were bound, and we got out of the cellar into which we were put at
night."

"And that wound?"

"I got that when they came after us, ten minutes later. They couldn't
see us and fired blindly, and I got a bullet across the forearm. But
it's a mere scratch," Alano added, as he saw Inez and Paula look
serious.

He wanted to know all about my adventures, but there was no time to
tell of them just then, for the convent gates were soon reached and
here Alano's mother met him and, after a warm embrace, led him to his
father's side. It was a happy family gathering, and I thought it best
to withdraw for the time being. I walked again to the roof; and an hour
later Alano joined me there.

His story was soon told. After escaping from the coffee plantation he
and Jorge had become lost like myself in the forest. They, however,
had not made their way to the mountain side, but had entered a valley
between that mountain and the next, and, coming to a branch of the
river, had floated down it until overtaken by the storm at night.

The storm had driven them to shelter under some shelving rocks, and
here a temporary camp was made and Jorge went out on a search for food.
Little could be found, but in the morning the guide had brought down
several birds with a stick and these they had cooked and eaten with
keen relish. The way was then resumed, when, at noon, they had found
themselves on the wrong road and many miles out of their way.

[Illustration: "THE SPANIARDS WERE COMPLETELY DEMORALIZED."]

Jorge was much chagrined at his mistake and wanted Alano to kick him
for his thoughtlessness. The stream was left, and they took a cut
through the woods, which at last brought them to the old convent, as
described.

When Alano had finished, I told him my story in all of its details,
especially my adventures in the mountain stream and on the underground
river. He listened in silent amazement.

"It was a wonderful escape!" he cried, when I was through. "A wonderful
escape! I would like some day to explore that cave."

"It was nothing but a big hole in the ground, and I never want to see
it again," I answered, with a shudder. "But now you are here, what do
you expect to do?"

"If my father will permit me, I'll join you and him in the search for
your father," he answered. "But it may be that he will wish me to
remain here with my mother and my sisters."

"Yes, somebody ought to remain with them, Alano."

"My father is expecting Señor Noenti, a relative of mine. If he comes
he will look after my mother and sisters. He is a very brave and
powerful man."

Alano and I slept together that night, just as we had often done at
Broxville Academy. It was a good deal to me to have my chum by me
again. We had missed each other more than mere words can tell.

We had just finished breakfast the next day, and Captain Guerez was
trying to walk around a bit on his wounded leg, when several newcomers
were announced. Among them was Señor Noenti, who was warmly received by
the Guerez family.

During the morning it was arranged that he should remain at the old
convent during Captain Guerez' absence, and by hard pleading Alano
obtained permission to join us in our hunt for my father. Jorge and
three other trusty men were to go along also. Alano's father pronounced
himself quite able to ride, and each of us was fitted out with a good
horse, a brace of pistols, and a quantity of ammunition sufficient
to last for several engagements. We also carried with us two days'
rations. When they were gone we would have to depend upon what we found
for our meals. But armed as we were, and in a country where everything
grew in profusion, it was not likely that such a small body would lack
for something to eat. Starvation was common in the regular Cuban army,
but only when the troops remained in one mountainous region for a long
while and ate up everything in sight.

Captain Guerez had a well-formed idea concerning the highways and
trails the party having my father a prisoner would take; and, after
an affectionate farewell to his wife and daughters, he led our little
party up past the bluff the Spaniards had occupied and along a path
skirting the mountain which had caused me so much trouble. Our horses
were fresh, and we made good time until sunset, when we reached a small
village called Molino. Here there were a number of blacks and the
poorer class of whites. All, however, made us welcome, and here it was
decided to remain for the night.

The principal man living in the place was a Spaniard named Curilos,
a fellow who years before had been a sailor. He was a comical fellow
in the extreme and a good singer, accompanying himself in singing on
a home-made guitar, a rough-looking instrument, but one very sweet in
tone. How a sailor had ever settled there was a mystery to me, but
there he was and apparently more than content.

Curilos' home was of long tree branches, fastened together with tough
vines, which grow everywhere in profusion. The branches were twined and
intertwined and lashed to four corner-posts. The roof of this abode
was covered with dried palm leaves, and was quite water-proof. In one
corner was a rude fireplace of stone, and the smoke curled up through a
hole in a corner of the building.

I slept in this structure on a hammock stretched from one corner-post
to another. It was as good a bed as one would desire had it not been
for one thing, as disgusting to me as it was annoying: the house was
overrun with vermin--a not uncommon thing, even in the dwellings of the
middle classes.

It was hardly sunrise when Alano's father called us for breakfast,
after which we leaped into the saddle once more and rode off at a stiff
gait. The ride of the afternoon had left me a little sore, I not as yet
being used to such traveling, but I made up my mind not to complain, as
it would do no good and only worry Captain Guerez and my chum. Riding
never bothered Alano, as he had been used to the high, stiff Spanish
saddle from early boyhood.

As we proceeded on our way we of course kept a strict lookout for
enemies, and on more than one occasion Alano's father called a halt,
while he rode ahead to make certain that the road was clear.

"If we're not careful the Spaniards may surprise us and make us all
prisoners," he said grimly. "Although I hardly think any troops are
near us at present," he added a minute later.

Having stopped for dinner in the middle of a dense woods, we rode out
in the afternoon on a broad plateau overlooking numerous valleys. Far
to the southward could be seen the buildings in Guantanamo. By the aid
of the field-glass Captain Guerez pointed out a portion of his immense
plantation.

As this was the first sight I had had of Alano's home, I gazed at it
with interest. While I was looking, I saw a small column of smoke
curling upward from a broad stretch of canefields. I watched it for
several seconds, and then called Alano's attention to it.

"There should be no smoke there," he said gravely, and called his
father, who had turned away for the moment to give Jorge some
directions.

"What is it--smoke?" cried Captain Guerez, snatching the glass. "Let
me see if you are not mistaken." He gave a searching look and then a
groan. "You are right, boys, the Spaniards have kept their word. They
threatened to burn down my fields if I did not declare in their favor,
and now they are doing it. In a few hours the whole of my property will
be nothing more than a blackened waste!"



CHAPTER XXIV.

IN THE BELT OF THE FIREBRANDS.


"Do you mean to say, father, that they will dare to burn down all of
our sugar-cane fields?" demanded Alano.

"Dare, Alano? They will dare do anything, now they have heard that I
have thrown in my fortunes with the insurgents," replied Captain Guerez
bitterly.

"What of your house and barns?" I put in soberly.

"Most likely they will be ransacked first and then the torch will be
applied," answered Alano's father with increased bitterness. "Ah, well,
such are the fortunes of war. _Cuba libre!_" he muttered firmly.

Alano's parent was first tempted to ride in the direction of his
plantation in the hope of saving something, but speedily gave up the
idea. There was no direct course hither, and the roundabout trail
which must be pursued would not bring him to Guantanamo until the next
morning.

"And by that time the Spaniards will have done their dastardly work
and gone on," he remarked.

Several times as we rode along the plateau, Captain Guerez stopped to
take a look through the field-glass, but he said nothing more excepting
in an undertone to his son.

By sundown the plateau came to an end, and we plunged into a valley
which was for the most part divided into immense sugar plantations,
some of them half a mile or more in length.

"This is something like that at home," remarked Alano to me, as we
moved on side by side. "That is, like it was," he hastened to add.

"The fields will grow again, won't they?" I asked.

"Oh, yes; but my father's loss will be very great."

"I suppose so. Did he have much sugar on hand?"

"The storehouses were full. You see, shipments have been at a
standstill for a year or more."

"It will take a long while, after the war is over, to get back to
prosperity, I am afraid, Alano?"

"It will take years, and perhaps prosperity will never come. General
Garcia is determined to fight to the bitter end, and so is General
Gomez, and so long as both remain among the mountains and forests it
will be impossible for the Spaniards to make them surrender. I heard
father say we could lead the Spanish troops a dance from one spot to
another for years, and in the meantime Spain will get no revenue from
Cuba, while the expense of keeping the war up will foot up to millions
of piasters--something that even Spain cannot stand."

"I wish it was all over, and that we were all safe," I returned
shortly. "I've seen all the war I want."

"And yet you haven't seen any regular battle," laughed my Cuban chum.
"I'm afraid you wouldn't make much of a fighter, Mark, if Uncle Sam got
into a muss."

"Oh, that would be different!" I burst out. "I would fight for our
country every time."

Alano laughed more loudly than ever. "That's just it--you would fight
for the United States just as we are now willing to fight for our
beloved Cuba."

I had to smile, for I saw that he was right. Cuba was as much to him as
our United States was to me, and let me add that I am a Yankee lad to
the backbone, and always hope to be.

Having passed the end of a large plantation, we came to several
storehouses, which were wide-open and empty, and here we pitched our
camp for the night.

"How close are we to the spot where my father was taken?" I asked of
Alano's father after supper.

"We have passed that locality," was the answer, which surprised me not
a little. "By to-morrow noon I hope to reach a village called Rodania,
where I will be able probably to learn something definite concerning
his whereabouts."

This was certainly encouraging, and I went to bed with a lighter heart
than I had had since leaving the old convent. Hope in a youthful breast
is strong, and I could not but believe that so far all had gone well
with my parent.

Fortunately, the storehouse in which I slept with Alano and Captain
Guerez was a clean affair, so we were not troubled as we had been at
Molino with vermin. We turned in at nine o'clock, and ten minutes
sufficed to render me forgetful of all of my surroundings.

I awoke with a cough. I could not breathe very well, and sat up in the
darkness to learn what was the matter. The wind had banged shut the
storehouse door, and it was strangely hot within.

"I'll open the door and let in some fresh air," I said to myself, and
arose from the bunch of straw upon which I had made my bed.

As I moved across the storehouse floor I heard several of the horses
which were tethered outside let out snorts of alarm. Feeling something
was surely wrong, I called to Alano and his father.

"What's the trouble?" cried Captain Guerez and Alano in a breath.

"I don't know, but the horses are alarmed," I answered.

By this time all were aroused by a shout from Jorge, who had been left
on guard. As we stepped into the open air, he came running up from a
path leading into the immense sugar-cane field back of the storehouse.

"_Fuego! fuego!_ [Fire! fire!]" he shouted at the top of his powerful
lungs.

"Where?" demanded Alano's father quickly.

"In the fields! A band of Spanish guerrillas just came up and set fire
all around."

"That cannot be, Jorge. This is the plantation of Señor Corozan, a
stanch supporter of Spain. They would not burn his fields."

"Then they are rebels like ourselves."

This last remark proved true, although we did not learn the fact until
some time later. It seemed Señor Corozan had left the plantation
immediately after refusing the demands of a Cuban officer for food for
his soldiers, and in consequence the rebel had dispatched a detachment
to burn up everything in sight. It was a wanton destruction of
property, but it could not very well be avoided, through the peculiar
conditions under which the war was being carried on.

Just now, however, there was no time left to think of these matters.
A stiff breeze was blowing, and looking over the sugar-cane fields we
could see the fire leaping from place to place. Then, turning about,
we made another discovery. The very storehouse in which we had been
sleeping was on fire. The smoke from the smoldering straw was what had
caused me to cough and wake up.

"To horse, everyone!" shouted Captain Guerez. "We had best get out of
here, for there is no telling how far this fire extends, or how the
wind may shift around!"

Everyone understood what he meant--that we were in danger of being
caught in the midst of the conflagration; and everyone lost not an iota
of time in loosening his animal and saddling him. In less than three
minutes we were off, and riding down a narrow trail between the fields
with all the speed at our animals' command.

As we passed along, the sky above us grew brighter, and we could hear
the crackling of the cane in the distance. Then I felt a live ember
drop upon my neck, which raised a small blister before I could brush it
off.

"Jupiter! but this is getting hot!" I gasped, as I urged my horse on
beside that of Alano. "I wonder if there is any danger of that fire
catching us?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," he panted. "The only thing we can do is to
ride for the hills, where the fire won't have such a chance."

On and on we went, now in a bunch and then again scattered into two or
three groups. To gain the hills we had to cross a bit of a valley, and
here our poor horses sunk into the mud half up to their knees.

Captain Guerez had been riding in the rear, but now he went ahead, to
shout a word of guidance to the men in advance. Alano dashed on with
his father, expecting me to follow. But my horse had become temporarily
stuck, and ere he could extricate himself I had to dismount.

Once free again, I was on the point of leaping into the saddle as
before, when a turn of the wind brought a shower of burning embers in a
whirl over our very heads. I ducked and shook them off, letting go of
my steed for that purpose.

It was a foolish movement, for the embers also struck the animal, who
instantly gave a snort and a bound and ran off. I made a clutch at his
tail as he passed, but missed it, and a second later I found myself
utterly alone, with the fire of the sugar-cane fields hemming me in on
all sides!



CHAPTER XXV.

ESCAPING THE FLAMES.


My situation was truly an appalling one. Here I was, with the fierce
fire from the sugar-cane fields swirling about me, my horse and
companions gone, left utterly alone, with the horrifying thought that
each moment must be my last.

As the horse disappeared in a cloud of eddying smoke, I attempted to
rush after him, only to slip in the mire and roll over and over. When
I scrambled up I was covered with mud from head to foot, and the live
embers from the burning fields were coming down more thickly than ever.

But life is sweet to all of us, and even in that supreme moment of
peril I made a desperate effort to save myself. Seeing a pool of water
and mud just ahead of me, I leaped for it and threw myself down.

It was a bath far from sweet, yet at that time a most agreeable one. I
allowed what there was of the water to cover my head and shoulders and
saw to it that all of my clothing was thoroughly saturated. Then I
arose again, and, pulling my coat collar up over my ears, leaped on in
the direction taken by my companions.

The air was like that of a furnace, and soon the smoke became so thick
I could scarcely see the trail. The wind was blowing the fire directly
toward me, and to have stood that onslaught for long would have been
utterly impossible.

But just as I felt that I must sink, and while I murmured a wild prayer
for deliverance, the wind shifted and a cooling current of air reached
me. This was wonderfully reviving, and, breathing deeply, I gathered
courage and continued on my way.

Almost quarter of a mile was covered, and I had gained the base of
the hills, when the wind shifted again, and once more the fire rushed
onward and it became so hot I could not breathe except with difficulty.

"Mark! Mark! where are you?"

It was a most welcome cry, coming from Captain Guerez. In an instant
more Alano's father dashed up through the smoke.

"Captain Guerez!" I gasped, and ran up to his side. "Save me!"

"Where is your horse?" he asked, as he caught me up and assisted me to
mount behind him.

"He ran away."

No more was said. Turning his animal about, Captain Guerez dug his
spurs deep into the horse's flesh, and away we went up the hillside at
a rate of speed which soon left the roaring and crackling sugar-cane
fields far behind.

In fifteen minutes we had joined the others of the party, on a plateau
covered with stunted grass and well out of reach of the fire. Here
it was found that my runaway horse had quietly joined his fellows. I
was tempted to give him a whipping for leaving me in the lurch, but
desisted upon second thought, as it would have done no good and I knew
the animal had only done what I was trying to do--save my life.

"That was a narrow escape for you, Mark!" cried Alano, as he came up
with an anxious look on his face. "You ought to be more careful about
your horse in the future."

"You can be sure I will be, Alano," I answered; and then turned to
Captain Guerez and thanked him for what he had done for me.

It was hardly dawn; yet, as all had had a fair night's rest, it was
determined to proceed on our way and take a somewhat longer rest during
the hot noon hour.

"This fire will necessitate a change in our course," said Captain
Guerez to me.

"Will that delay us much?"

"Not over a few hours. We will reach Rodania by nightfall."

The captain was right, for it was not yet six o'clock when, from the
side of one mountain, we saw the buildings of Rodania perched upon the
side of another. We traveled across the tiny valley separating the two,
and just outside of the town Captain Guerez called a halt.

"I think I had better send Jorge ahead and see if the coast is clear,"
he said. "The coming of the negro into town will not be noticed, and he
can speedily learn if there are any Spaniards about."

This was agreed upon, and, after receiving his instructions, the
colored guide hurried away, to be gone less than half an hour.

"Spanish soldiers dare yesterday," he announced. "All gone now--on the
road to Cubineta."

"Did they have any prisoners?" questioned Captain Guerez.

"Yes, dree--two Cubans and an _Americano_."

"My father!" I cried. "Oh, Captain Guerez, cannot we overtake them
before they manage to get him to some fort or prison?"

"We'll try our best, Mark," replied Alano's father.

"Why can't we travel after them at once?" put in Alano, fairly taking
the words out of my mouth.

"We will," replied his father. "The long noontime rest has left our
horses still fresh. Forward, all of you! We will take a short cut, and
not visit Rodania at all."

During the halt I had taken the opportunity to brush off my clothing,
which was now thoroughly dry. I had taken a bath at noon, so now felt
once more like myself, although several blisters on my neck and hands,
received from the fire, hurt not a little. I told Jorge of the bums,
and he ran into the woods for several species of moss, which he crushed
between two rocks, putting the crushed pulp on the blisters.

"Take burn out soon," he announced; and he was right. In less than half
an hour after the application was made the smarting entirely ceased.

We were now in the depths of a valley back of Rodania, and here the
trail (they are called roads in Cuba, but they are only trails, and
sometimes hardly that) was so choked up with vines and so soft that our
progress was greatly impeded, and about eight o'clock we came to a halt
in the darkness.

"The mud beyond is all of two feet deep, and we can't get through it,"
declared one of the men, who had been sent in advance. "We'll have to
go back."

This was discouraging news, and I looked in perplexity at Alano's
father, whose brow contracted.

"I'll take a look myself," he said, and, dismounting so that his horse
might not get stuck, advanced on foot.

In my impatience I went with him. The way was very dark, and I
suggested that a torch be lighted.

"An excellent plan," said Alano's father, and immediately cut a cedar
branch. By its blaze we were enabled to see quite well, and succeeded
in finding another path around the muddy spot.

To save our horses we walked them for half a mile. It was tough
traveling, and the clouds of mosquitoes made the journey almost
unendurable. I was glad when, at early dawn, we emerged from the valley
on a bit of a rise, where the ground was firm and the growth somewhat
limited.

A broad highway now lay before us, the main road from Rodania to
Cubineta. It was one of the best highways I had seen since leaving
Santiago de Cuba, and this was explained by Captain Guerez, who said
the road had been put into condition just previous to the breaking out
of the war.

As usual, one of the party was in advance, and this was a lucky thing,
for about ten o'clock the soldier came tearing toward us on his horse
and motioning us to take to the woods.

Captain Guerez was on the lookout, and turned to us quickly.

"Dismount!" he cried in Spanish, and we leaped to the ground, and led
our animals into a thicket growing to the left of the highway. The
vidette followed us, stating that a large body of Spanish cavalry was
approaching.

We forced our horses into the thicket for fully a hundred feet and tied
them fast. Then, with cautious steps, we returned to the vicinity of
the road and concealed ourselves behind convenient trees and bushes.

By this time a thunder of hoofs could be heard, and soon the cavalry
appeared, at least two hundred strong. They were the finest body of
men I had seen in the island, and looked as if they had just come over
from Spain, their uniforms and weapons were so clean and new. They were
riding at a brisk pace, and hardly had we caught a good look at them
than they were gone, leaving a cloud of dust behind them.

Captain Guerez was the first to speak, when they were well out of
hearing.

"It's a good thing we did not run into them," he remarked grimly. "Our
little detachment would have stood small chances with such a body of
well-armed men."

"They form a great contrast to the rebels," I could not help but murmur.

"They do indeed, Mark. But why not? The rebels, especially in this
district, were never soldiers. When the war broke out they were
without uniforms or weapons; and what was and is worse, many of them
knew nothing about the use of a firearm. You will find the men in the
western provinces, where the whites predominate, both better trained
and clothed--although, let me add, their hearts are no more sturdy or
loyal than you will find here in the East."

Thus talking, we went on and on, until Alano, who had gone ahead this
time, came back with the information that Cubineta was in sight.

"And the village seems to be under guard of the Spanish soldiery," he
added, words which caused me, at least, considerable dismay.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A DISHEARTENING DISCOVERY.


"Under Spanish guard!" I cried, and looked questioningly at Alano's
father.

"That's too bad," he said gravely. "However, there is no help for this
unexpected turn of affairs, and we must make the best of it. Alano, my
son, you are sure you are not mistaken?"

"There are a number of Spanish soldiers on the highway, and with the
field-glass I saw that more soldiers were scattered round about."

"Then your report must be true. I'll ride ahead and take a view of the
situation."

I begged to go along, and Captain Guerez agreed. Alano came too, while
the others withdrew to a thicket, to avoid being surprised by any of
the Spaniards who might be out foraging.

A turn in the highway brought us in full view of Cubineta. Of course we
were not foolish enough to expose ourselves. Screened behind bushes and
vines, we took a survey through the glass of the place, its people, and
the soldiers.

Cubineta was not a large village, but it was a pretty place and
evidently thriving--or had been thriving before the war put a blight
upon all Cuban industries. There was one long street of stores and
dwellings, a church, a _casa_ or town-house, and at the farthest end
what looked to be a hastily constructed fort, built of heavy logs and
sods.

"The Spaniards are evidently going to use the place as a center or
depot for supplies," was Captain Guerez' comment. "Under the present
circumstances I hardly know what is best to do."

"Perhaps they have my father a prisoner in that fortress," I suggested.

"It is not unlikely, Mark--if the men who held him have not yet gone
further than Cubineta."

"Can't we steal into town under cover of night?" I continued.

"We might do that--if it would do any good."

"I want to join my father at any hazard."

"That might be very foolish, Mark. How can you assist him if you are
yourself made a prisoner?"

"Would they hold a boy like myself?"

"You are not so young as you would like to make them imagine," laughed
Alano's father shortly. "Besides, if left free, they would be afraid
you would carry messages for your father. I think the best thing we can
do just now is to let Jorge go into town, pretending he is half starved
and willing to do anything for anybody who will give him food. By
taking this course, no one will pay much attention to him, as there are
many such worthless blacks floating about, and he can quietly find his
way around the fort and learn what prisoners, if any, are being kept
there."

This was sensible advice, and, impatient as I was to catch sight of my
parent, I agreed to wait. We rode back to where the others had made
their camp, and Jorge was called up and duly instructed. The black
grinned with pleasure, for he considered it a great honor to do spy
work for such an influential planter as Captain Guerez. Possibly he had
visions of a good situation on the plantation after the war was over;
but, if so, he kept his thoughts on that point to himself.

Jorge gone, the time hung heavily on the hands of all; but I believe
I was the most impatient of the crowd, and with good reason. Alano
noticed how uneasily I moved about, and soon joined me.

"You must take things easy, Mark," he said. "Stewing won't do any good,
and it will only make you sick, combined with this hot weather, which,
I know, is about all you can stand."

"If only I felt certain that my father was safe, Alano! Remember, he is
all I have in the world. My mother has been dead for years, and I never
had a brother or a sister."

"I think it will all come out right in the end," he answered, doing his
best to cheer me up. "They won't dare to--to----" He did not finish.

"To shoot him? That's just what I fear they will do, Alano. From what
I heard at Santiago de Cuba, the Spaniards are down on most Americans,
for they know we sympathize with you and think Cuba ought to be free,
or, at least ought to have a large hand in governing itself."

When nightfall came most of the others lay down to sleep. But this was
out of the question for me, tired though I was physically, and so I was
left on guard, with instructions to call one of the men at midnight.

Slowly the hours went by, with nothing to break the stillness of the
night but the hum of countless insects and the frequent note of a
night bird. We had not dared to build a campfire, and in consequence
there was no getting where the smoke drifted and out of the way of the
mosquitoes.

At midnight I took a walk around to see if all was safe. The man I
was to call slept so soundly I had not the heart to wake him up, so I
continued on guard until one, when a noise down by the road attracted
my attention.

Pistol in hand I stalked forward, when I heard a low voice and
recognized Jorge. The negro had been walking fast, and he was almost
out of breath.

"Well?" I inquired anxiously. "Is my father there?"

"I think he is, señor," replied the guide. "I go to prison-fort--da
have six Cubans dare an' one _Americano_."

"My father!"

"I talk to some men, an' da tell me prisoners come in last night--some
from Rodania, udders from udder places. _Americano_ in a prison by
himself, near the river. I swim up close to dat prison--maybe we make
hole in wall an' git him out."

"Could we do that, Jorge, without being discovered?"

"Tink so, señor--work at night--now, maybe. Swim under river an' come
up by fort, den dig with machetes--make hole under fort."

"If only we could do that!" I cried; and then, struck with a sudden
idea, I caught Jorge by the arm. "Jorge, if I go, will you come and
show me the way and help me?"

"Yes, señor."

"Then let us go at once, without arousing the others. More than two
might spoil the plan. Go back to the road and wait for me."

The guide did as directed, and I turned back into camp. Here I awoke
the man previously mentioned, and told him I was going off to meet
Jorge. He but partly understood, but arose to do guard duty, and I
hurried off.

I felt that I was not doing just right in not notifying Captain Guerez
and Alano, but I was impatient to meet my father and was afraid if I
told them what Jorge had said they would want to delay matters. As
events turned out it would probably have been much better had I been
guided by their advice.

A short but brisk walk brought the guide and myself in sight of the
town. On the outskirts the campfires of the Spanish soldiers burned
brightly. These we carefully avoided, and made a détour, coming up
presently to the bank of the stream upon which the fort was located.

The river was broad and shallow, and as it ran but sluggishly we might
have forded across, but this would have placed us in plain view of the
sentries, who marched up and down along the river bank and in front of
the prison-house.

Disdaining to undress, we dropped down into the stream and swam over,
with only our faces out of water, and without a sound, to a spot
behind the building opposite. We came up in a tiny hollow, screened by
several small bushes, and crawled on our stomachs to the rear of the
wing in which the guide said the American prisoner was incarcerated.

I had a long and broad dagger which I had picked up the day previous,
and Jorge had his machete, and with these we began to dig a tunnel
leading under the wooden wall of the fort. Fortunately, the ground was
not hard, and soon we broke through the very flooring of the prison. I
was in the lead, and in great eagerness I poked up my head and gazed
around me.

"Hullo, who's there?" cried a startled voice, in English, and my heart
sank completely, for the prisoner was not my father at all.



CHAPTER XXVII.

GILBERT BURNHAM.


"Are you alone?" I asked, when I had recovered sufficiently to speak.

"An American!" came the low cry. "Yes, I am alone. Who are you, and
what do you want?"

"I came to save you--that is, I thought my father was a prisoner here,"
I stammered. "Are you tied up?"

"Worse, chained. But I think the chain can easily be broken. If you'll
help me get away from here, I'll consider myself in your debt for life."

"I'll do what I can for you. But keep quiet, for there are a number of
guards about," I whispered.

With an effort I squeezed through the hole that had been made, and felt
my way to the prisoner's side, for the interior of the cell was dark.
He had a chain around one wrist, and the chain was fastened by a large
staple driven into a log of the wall of the fort.

Jorge had come up behind me, and, learning of the staple, began to cut
at the woodwork surrounding it with his machete. The lower end of the
blade was fairly keen, and he made such rapid progress that in less
than five minutes a sharp jerk cleared the staple from the log, and the
prisoner was free.

"Good for you," he whispered to the colored guide. "Now which is the
way out of this hole?"

"Follow me, and keep very quiet," I whispered, and motioned to Jorge to
lead the way.

Soon the guide had disappeared into the opening we had made. Going from
the prison was worse than getting in, and the man we were trying to
rescue declared the passage-way too small for him.

We commenced to enlarge it, I with my dagger and he with his hands. We
had just made it of sufficient size when we heard a cry from outside.
Jorge had emerged into the open, only to be discovered by a sentry
who chanced to be looking his way. There was a shot, and half a dozen
soldiers came running up, at which the guide took to the river with a
loud splash.

"I'm afraid we are lost!" I cried, and stopped, half in and half out
of the hole. Then the prison door was banged open, and the rays of a
lantern flared into the cell.

The American I had discovered promptly showed fight by leaping on the
intruder. But this was madness, as the soldier was backed up by four
others, all armed with pistols and guns. In the meantime another light
flashed from outside the hole, and I felt myself caught, very much like
a rat in a trap.

"_De donde viene V.?_ [Where do you come from?]" demanded a cold, stern
voice, and I felt myself grabbed by the hair. Realizing that resistance
was useless, I gave myself up, and immediately found myself surrounded
by a dozen Spanish soldiers. In the meantime Jorge had made good his
escape.

The soldiers marched me around to the entrance of the fort, where an
officer began to question me in Spanish. He could speak no English, and
as soon as he found my command of Spanish was very limited he sent off
for an interpreter. Then I was taken inside the fort and consigned to
one of the prison cells.

My feelings can be better imagined than described. Bitterly I regretted
having started on my midnight quest without notifying Captain Guerez.
My hasty action had brought me to grief and placed me in a position
from which escape seemed impossible. What my captors would do with
me remained to be seen. That they would treat me in anything like a
friendly fashion was out of the question to expect. It was likely that
they would hold me as a prisoner of war.

Presently the door of the cell was opened, and somebody else was thrown
in bodily and with such force that he fell headlong. The door was
banged shut and bolted, and the crowd which had been outside went away.

The new arrival lay like a log where he had been thrown, and for a few
minutes I fancied he must be dead from the way he had been treated.

I bent over him, and in the dim light of the early dawn made out that
it was the American I had sought to rescue. I placed my hand over his
heart and discovered that he still breathed, although but faintly.

There was nothing at hand with which I could do anything for him. My
own pockets had been turned inside out by my captors, and even my
handkerchief, with which I might have bound up an ugly wound on his
brow, was gone. I opened his coat and vest and his shirt around the
neck, and gave him as much air as I could.

"Oh!" he groaned, as he finally came to his senses. "Oh! Don't kick me
any more! I give in!"

"You're all right--they have put you in a cell with me," I hastened to
reassure him, and then he sat up.

"Who--what----" he paused. "In a cell, eh? And they caught you, too?"

"Yes."

"That's too bad." He drew a deep breath. "Did you fight with them?"

"No. I saw it would be no use."

"I was a fool to do it. I'm too hot-blooded for this sort of work. I
ought to have stayed in Boston reporting local affairs."

"Are you a reporter?"

"Hush! Yes; but I don't want it to become known if I can help it. They
think I am nothing more than an inquisitive American."

"Then why did they lock you up?"

"That was more of my hot-headedness. I was sketching a picture of the
town and this fort or prison, when a Spanish officer came up and tried
to snatch the drawing from my hand. Instead of demanding an explanation
I promptly knocked him down. Then a couple of guards ran for me, and I
dusted. But it was no use. They sent a company of soldiers after me,
and here I am."

"And here we are both likely to remain for some time to come," I added
bitterly.

"Looks that way, that's a fact. By the way, you said something about
your father, didn't you?"

"Yes. My father is a prisoner of the Spaniards, and I felt almost
certain he was in this fort."

"What's your father's name?"

"Richard Carter. My name is Mark."

"And my name is Gilbert Burnham. I've heard of your father, come to
think of it. He joined the Cuban army along with a plantation owner
named Guerez and another American named Hawley."

"You are right. Did you hear anything at all of him here in Cubineta or
the vicinity?"

"No. But then, you see, that is not strange, as I talk very little
Spanish. I certainly haven't seen any Americans here but you and
myself."

Gilbert Burnham asked me to tell him my story; and, feeling that I
could lose nothing by so doing, I favored him with a recital of my
efforts to get to my father. He was quite interested.

"By Jove, young man, if I get clear from here I'll do what I can to
help you," he said.

Then he told me his own history--how he had grown tired of newspaper
reporting in Boston and begged the head editor of the paper he
represented to send him on an "assignment" to Cuba. He had been in the
island four months, and had had a varied list of adventures, although
none of a particularly thrilling or perilous nature.

"But now it looks as though I was in for it," he concluded moodily.
"That officer I knocked down will make matters as hard as he can for
me."

"And I'm afraid trying to break away from prison won't help matters," I
said.

"You are right there. But, heigho! we must make the best of it."

Yet making the best of it was small satisfaction to me. Tired out in
body and mind, I sank down in a corner of the gloomy and damp cell and
gave myself up to my bitter reflections.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A BATTLE ON LAND AND WATER.


It was about eight o'clock in the morning that the door of the prison
cell was opened and Gilbert Burnham and I were ordered to march out
into a larger apartment.

The order was given by a Spanish officer who spoke fairly good English,
and the officer was backed up by a guard of eight men, all well armed.

"They are going to run no chances on us now," remarked the newspaper
correspondent, as he arose from the floor, upon which he had been
resting.

"We had better be as civil as possible," I answered. "If we anger them
they have it in their power to make us mighty uncomfortable."

"I'll keep as civil as my hot-headedness will permit," he grumbled.

We were led from one end of the fort to the other, where there was a
narrow room, provided with a small, square table and half a dozen
benches. At the table sat several officers I had seen before. One was a
particularly ugly-looking fellow, and Burnham nudged me and said this
chap was the fellow he had knocked down.

"And he's got it in for me," he added.

I was marched to the front of the table, and the officer who could
speak English forced me to clasp my hands behind me. This done, one of
the officers at the table asked a number of questions in Spanish.

"_No habla V. castellano?_ [Do you not speak Spanish?]" he asked me.

"No, señor," I replied.

He glared at me suspiciously for a moment, then spoke to the other
officer.

"Who you are?" demanded the latter.

"I am Mark Carter, an American boy. I came to Cuba to join my father,
who was stopping at a plantation near Guantanamo."

This was repeated in Spanish. At the mention of my name several of
those present exchanged glances.

"You son of Richard Carter?" was the next question.

"Yes, señor. I understand he is a prisoner. Is it true?"

My question remained unanswered, and it was plain that my captors
intended to give me no information.

"Why you break in the fort? Did this man pay you to do that?" And the
Spanish officer pointed to Gilbert Burnham.

"I never saw or heard of this man before, señor. I broke in because I
thought my father was a prisoner there. I heard an American was there,
and I thought it must be he."

"Aha, I see! Well, your father is not here, as you have found out."

"Where is he?"

This question also remained unanswered. The officers began to consult
among themselves, and then I was ordered back to the cell. I tried to
protest, and pleaded for liberty, for a chance to find my parent, but
it was all in vain. I was hustled off without ceremony and made as
close a prisoner as before.

It was nearly noon before Gilbert Burnham joined me. In the meantime
I had had nothing to eat or drink, and was beginning to wonder if my
enemies meant to let me die of hunger and thirst.

The face of the newspaper correspondent was much downcast.

"I'm to catch it now," he said. "To-morrow morning they are going to
start to transport me to some regular fortress, and there I suppose
I'll be permitted to languish until this bloody war is over. I wish I
had made a dash for liberty when I was out in that courtroom."

"They would have shot you dead. They were too well armed for anything
of the sort."

"Maybe. But this is tough. Is there a pitcher of water anywhere?"

"Not a drop."

At this he stormed more than ever, and finally shouted to the guard to
bring some _agua_. But no one paid any attention to his cries, further
than to order him to be silent, under penalty of being gagged, and then
he subsided.

Slowly the morning wore away. The sun was shining brightly outside, and
the cell, with only one narrow window, high up to the ceiling, was like
a bake-oven. Once I climbed up to the window sill and looked out, only
to have the muzzle of a gun thrust into my face, while a guard outside
ordered me to drop. I dropped, and made no further attempt to get a
whiff of fresh air.

I wondered if Jorge had escaped in safety and if Captain Guerez would
do anything to save me. I felt certain he would be very angry over the
way I had acted, and, looking back, I felt that I richly deserved to be
censured.

It was high noon, and I and my companion were walking the floor,
impatient for food and drink, when the door opened and a guard came in
with a platter and an earthenware pitcher. He set both on the floor
and withdrew without a word.

"Well, here's something, anyway," remarked Gilbert Burnham. "Bah! a
stew of onions and garlic, not fit for a dog to eat. Let me have some
of the water."

Neither of us could do more than taste the mess which had been served;
and as for the water, it looked as if it had been scooped from the
river, and was both warm and muddy. I had just finished taking a
gingerly drink, when a shot from outside startled both of us. Several
more shots followed, and then came a blast on a trumpet from somewhere
in the distance.

"Hullo! that means a fight!" ejaculated Gilbert Burnham, his face
brightening. "I hope it's a body of rebels to the rescue."

"So do I, and I further hope they release us," I replied.

At the first shot an alarm had been sounded in and about the fort. We
could hear the soldiers hurrying in several directions and a number of
orders issued in Spanish. The firing now continued to increase, and
presently we heard a crash of splintered woodwork.

"It's getting interesting, eh, Carter?" said Gilbert Burnham. "If only
they don't grow too enthusiastic and fire in here!"

Scarcely had he spoken than we heard a little noise up at the window.
A bullet had entered and buried itself in the woodwork opposite.

"Better lay down," I urged, and set the example, which the newspaper
man was not long in following. The firing and shouting kept on
steadily, and we heard the occasional splashing of water, telling that
the encounter was taking place on the river as well as on land.

The battle had been going on with more or less violence for half an
hour, when there came a wild rush through the fort, and some shooting
just outside of our cell. Then the door went down with a crash, and we
found ourselves confronted by a score or more of dusky rebels, all of
whom wore the flag of Cuba pinned to their hats and coats.

"_Americano!_" shouted one of them, and allowed us to come outside.
Then, without waiting to question us, the crowd dashed to the entrance
of another cell and succeeded in liberating several of their own
countrymen. But now the soldiers of the fort rallied, and the intruders
were driven back.

Feeling it was our one chance to escape, we went with the insurgents,
and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Cubineta, in a spot backed
up by a forest of palms and oaks. As we ran along Gilbert Burnham
paused and pointed to the dead body of a Spanish soldier.

"He won't need his weapons any more, poor fellow," he said, and
stooping down secured two pistols, one of which he gave to me. There
was also a belt of cartridges, and this was speedily divided between us.

"I think the road to the camp I left is behind us," I remarked, as I
took a view of the situation, in the meantime screening myself from our
enemies by diving behind a clump of trees. "I think I'll go in that
direction. Do you want to come along?"

My companion was willing to go anywhere, so long as we kept clear of
the Spanish forces, and off we went on an easy run down the highway,
keeping our pistols in our hands and our eyes to the right and the
left, as well as ahead. Quarter of an hour of this sort of traveling
brought us to the spot where I had left Alano and the others.

The temporary camp was deserted.



CHAPTER XXIX.

LOOKING FOR MY CUBAN CHUM.


"Gone, eh?" remarked Gilbert Burnham, as he saw the disappointed look
upon my face. "Well, you could hardly expect anything different, with
the fighting going on. It's more than likely they took part in the
attack."

"I presume so," I answered. "But where can they be now? The firing has
about ceased."

"The rebels have withdrawn from the town, that's certain. Let us try to
find the main body of the insurgents, and there we'll probably learn of
the whereabouts of your friends."

I considered this good advice, and, leaving the vicinity of what had
been the former camp, we struck out on a trail which took us in a
semi-circle around Cubineta.

It was one of the hottest days I had yet experienced since landing on
the island, and we had not progressed a half-mile before I was fairly
panting for breath. As for Gilbert Burnham, he declared that he must
halt or collapse.

"Talk about balmy groves and summer skies," he growled. "I would rather
be at the North Pole any time. Why, I'll bet a dollar you could bake
bread on that bit of ground out there!" and he pointed to a stretch of
dark soil, dried as hard as stone by the fierce rays of the sun.

"The average Cuban never thinks of traveling in the sun between eleven
and three o'clock, and I don't blame him," I rejoined. "Let us climb a
tree and take it easy."

We mounted an oak, I making certain first that there was no snake on
it, and took seats near the very top. By parting the branches we could
get a fair view of Cubineta, and we saw that the attack was at an end.
The rebels had retreated out of sight, but not before setting fire to
the fort, which was burning fiercely, with nothing being done to save
it from destruction.

"To me it looks as if the rebels were bunched in the woods to the
north," I said, after a long and careful survey. "I wish we had a
field-glass."

"I'm glad we took the pistols, Carter. They may come in very handy
before we reach safe quarters again."

"I'm sure I don't want to shoot anyone, Burnham," I answered.

"But you believe in defending yourself?"

"Yes. But what do you propose to do, now you have escaped?"

"Get back to the coast and take the first vessel I can find for the
United States."

"Then you've had sufficient of reporting down here?"

"Yes, indeed! If any other young man wants to come down here and take
my place, he is welcome to do so." And Gilbert Burnham spoke with an
emphasis that proved he meant every word he uttered.

As soon as we were cooled off and rested, we resumed our way, through
a heavy undergrowth which, on account of the entangling vines, often
looked as if it would utterly stay our progress. But both of us were
persevering, and by four o'clock had reached the section of country I
had fancied the rebels were occupying.

My surmise was correct. Hardly had we proceeded a dozen yards along a
side road than three Cubans leaped from behind some brush and commanded
us to halt. We did so and explained that we were Americans, at the
same time pointing to the burning fort and then crossing our wrists as
though tied.

The rebels understood by this that we had been prisoners, and as we did
not attempt to draw our pistols, they shouldered their long guns and
conducted us to the officer in command.

"Look for Captain Guerez?" said the officer, whose name I have
forgotten. "He ride off dat way!" and he pointed with his hand to the
westward. "He look for you, I tink."

This was comforting news, and I asked if Alano's father had taken part
in the attack on Cubineta, to which I received the reply that both the
captain and all under him had taken part and that one of the insurgents
had been killed.

"Was it his boy Alano?"

"No, man named Ciruso."

I waited to hear no more, but, thanking the officer for his trouble,
hurried off down a trail leading to the westward, with Burnham at my
side.

We were descending a short hill, covered with a stunted growth of
brush, which tripped us up more than once, when my companion suddenly
uttered a howl and tumbled over me in his effort to retreat.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Spiders, or crabs, as big as your foot," he cried. "Look! look!" He
pointed to several holes in the sand, beside a small brook. At the
entrance to each hole sat an enormous land crab, gray in color, with
round, staring eyes, well calculated to give anyone a good scare.

"They are only crabs, and won't hurt you, unless you try to catch hold
of them," I laughed. "Alano told me of them, and I've met them before."

"More of the beauties of this delightful country," said Burnham
sarcastically.

I advanced and stamped my foot, and instantly each crab scampered for
his hole, in the clumsy fashion all crabs have. I fancied some of them
hissed at us, but I might have been mistaken.

The brook crossed, we ascended the next hill and entered a plantain
grove where the fruit hung in profusion on all sides. We found some
that was almost ripe, and made a refreshing meal.

"Hullo, Mark!"

The welcome voice rang out from a grove of oaks on the other side of
the plantains. I started, then rushed ahead, to find myself, a minute
later, in Alano's arms, with Captain Guerez looking on, highly pleased.

"We thought you were killed!" ejaculated my Cuban chum, when our
greeting was over. "Where on earth have you been?"

"Haven't you seen Jorge?"

"No," put in Alano's father.

"It's a long story. Let me introduce another American," and I presented
Gilbert Burnham.

Sitting down in as cool a spot as we could find, each related all he
had to tell. My story is already known.

"When you did not show up in camp I was much worried," said the
captain, "and I sent men out at once to hunt up both you and Jorge.
During this search one of the men, Circuso, met some of the Spanish
troops, and fought desperately to escape them, but was shot and killed."

"Poor chap!" I could not help but murmur. "Did he leave a family?"

"No; he was a bachelor, without kith or kin."

"I think he might have escaped," put in Alano, "but he was so fierce
against the soldiers from Spain. He said they had no right to come over
here and fight us, and he was in for killing every one of them."

"While the hunt for you and Jorge was going on," continued Alano's
father, "the rebel leader, Captain Conovas, arrived and said he had
instructions to attack Cubineta and make an attempt to release the
prisoners at the fort. I decided to join him in the attack, at the same
time thinking you might be a prisoner with your father.

"We operated from the south and from across the river, and soon took
possession of the fort, only to be repulsed with a heavy loss. Then our
party withdrew to this quarter, and here we are."

"And what of my father?" I asked anxiously. "He was not at the fort,
nor have I been able to hear anything of him."

"The Cuban forces captured several prisoners, and they are being held
in a valley just below here. I was on the point of journeying hither to
interview them on that point when Alano discovered you coming through
the plantain grove," answered Captain Guerez.

"Then let us go and question them now," I cried.

The captain was willing, and off we hurried on horseback, Burnham and
myself being provided with steeds which had belonged to the Spanish
prisoners.

Riding was much more comfortable than walking, and the road being
fairly level the distance to the valley mentioned was soon covered.
Here it was found that four of the Spaniards had died of their wounds,
but there were six others, and these Captain Guerez proceeded to
examine carefully, taking each aside for that purpose.

"Your father is _en route_ for Santiago," he said, when the examination
was over. "When he arrives there he is to be tried by court-martial for
plotting against the life of a certain Spanish leader, General Gonza.
If we wish to save him we must start after him without an instant's
delay."



CHAPTER XXX.

ONCE MORE AMONG THE HILLS.


Fortunately the road leading to the northern shore of Santiago Bay was
well known to Captain Guerez, who at one time had been a commissioner
of highways in that district.

"I do not know how we will fare on this trip," he remarked, as we rode
off only four strong--the captain, Alano, Burnham, and myself. "At one
spot we will have to pass the railroad, and I understand that is now
under strict Spanish surveillance."

"We'll have to take matters as they come," I returned. "We must save my
father at any cost--at least, I shall attempt to do so."

"I am with you, Mark," said the captain earnestly. "Next to my family,
there is no one to whom I am more attached."

"And I go in for helping any American," put in Burnham.

Alano simply smiled at me. But that smile was enough. I felt that my
Cuban chum could be depended upon to stick to me through thick and thin.

Nightfall found us in the midst of a long range of hills, covered
with a heavy growth of oaks, cedars, and mahogany. The vines which
I mentioned before were here as thick as ever, and in the darkness
Gilbert Burnham suddenly gave a yell and slid from the back of his
horse to the ground.

"What's the matter?" we cried in chorus.

"Matter!" he growled. "Nothing, only a vine caught me under the chin,
and I thought I was about to be hung."

We laughed at this, but my humor was soon short, as another vine
slipped over my forehead, taking my Panama hat with it.

After this we were more careful, fearful that some of us might be
seriously injured, and a little later we went into camp in the midst of
a tiny clearing.

We were just finishing our supper when a most doleful howl arose on the
air, coming from the rear and to the right of us. I leaped up and drew
my pistol, expecting to be attacked by some wild animal.

"Here's excitement!" ejaculated the newspaper correspondent. "What can
it be--a bear?"

He had hardly finished when a perfect chorus of howls arose, coming
closer. I gazed in alarm at Captain Guerez and Alano. My chum laughed
outright.

"Don't get scared, Mark; they are only wild dogs."

"Wild dogs!" put in Burnham. "Well that is the worst yet! And they are
not dangerous?"

"If you met a large number of them alone they might be," replied
Captain Guerez. "But they won't think of attacking such a party as
ours. They'll hang around until we leave and then search the camp for
stray food."

In spite of this explanation, however, Burnham insisted that a guard be
kept during the night, and we each took two hours at the task. Before
the sun had struck us from over the treetops, we had breakfast and were
off. Sure enough, the wild dogs rushed in the moment we had left the
opening. They were a lean and ugly-looking set of curs.

"It's a terrible thing when these wild dogs and a bloodhound on the
trail meet," observed Captain Guerez. "Of course one wild dog cannot do
much, but the whole pack will fall on the bloodhound, and in the end
the larger dog will be killed and literally torn to shreds."

A storm was approaching, but this did not discourage us, although
Burnham growled as usual. In fact, we soon found that he was a chronic
fault-finder, but then he seldom meant half that he said, and, taken
all in all, he was good company.

"If the storm grows heavy it will give us a good chance to cross the
railroad tracks," remarked the captain. "The sentries will relax their
vigilance and more than likely seek shelter under the trees."

"Won't we strike some settlement before that?" I asked.

"Oh, yes; we are on the outskirts of Los Hanios now."

Five minutes later we rode into a small village occupied principally
by half a hundred cattlemen, for we were now coming to the meadows and
valleys in which immense herds of cows and sheep are pastured. The
people of Los Hanios took but little interest in the revolution, and as
a consequence had been but little molested either by the Spaniards or
Cubans, although a portion of their cattle had been confiscated.

From one of the head cattlemen Captain Guerez learned that a body of
Spaniards had passed through the village the afternoon before bound for
Santiago. They had several prisoners, who were tied hands and feet, and
fast to the mules which carried them. At least one of the prisoners had
been _un Americano_.

At Los Hanios we procured dinner, a splendid meal--the best I had
eaten since leaving the steamer, for it consisted of prime roast beef
done to a turn, potatoes and beans and coffee. Burnham attended to
the cooking, saying he had cooked many a meal for himself during his
Bohemian life at the "Hub," and consequently all the dishes were turned
out in true American style, garlic and such stuff being for once
tabooed.

Yet I hurried matters, wishing to catch up with my father as soon as
possible. I wondered if he knew I was after him, and how he was faring.
I felt certain that to be bound to the back of a mule over these rough
trails could be anything but a pleasant sensation.

While we were still in sight of Los Hanios it began to rain, and we
had not made over a mile when the downpour became very heavy. Burnham
wished to take shelter under some trees, but I would not hear of it,
and Alano and his father backed me up in my idea.

"We can rest a-plenty when Mr. Carter is once more safe," said the
captain, and that ended the discussion.

On and on we went, until, looking ahead, we espied a turn in the road.
Beyond this was a bank six or eight feet in height, and this was where
the railroad tracks were located.

"We had best dismount and go ahead on foot," said the captain. "A
sentry could easily see our animals if he had his eyes about him."

"If he wasn't asleep," put in Burnham. "I fancy these Spaniards and
Cubans do a lot of sleeping whenever they get the chance."

"Not in war-times," said Alano, who did not fancy this slur upon his
countrymen. "Of course we are not so nervous and impatient as some of
the Americans," he added pointedly, and Burnham took the hint and said
no more on the subject.

A fierce rattle of thunder stopped all talking soon after. The
lightning became almost incessant, and glared and flared along the
railroad tracks as far as eye could see. We came together close to a
clump of berry bushes.

"Wait a moment," whispered Captain Guerez. "I think I saw a sentry not
over fifty feet away!"

At this announcement all of us crouched down, and each looked to his
weapons, feeling that a crisis might be at hand. Alano's father moved
like a shadow up to the railroad bank.

"I was right," he announced, after a particularly bright flash of
lightning; "I saw his gun-barrel plainly."

"Can we pass him?" asked Alano.

"We can try, but----"

"If he sees us why can't we make him a prisoner?" I broke in. "If we
did that, we would have a chance to bring our horses up the bank and
over the tracks."

"I was thinking as much," said the captain. "The horses must be gotten
over; that is necessary."

He deliberated for a minute, and then motioned us forward, warning
us at the same time to keep perfectly silent. On we went, to where
something of a trail led up over the railroad embankment. There were a
few bushes growing in the vicinity, and we skulked beside these, almost
crawling along the ground.

Several minutes passed, and the top of the embankment was reached and
we stood on the glistening tracks. Down we plunged on the opposite
side, and not over a dozen paces from where the Spanish sentry was
standing.

"_Halte!_" came the unexpected cry, and the man rushed forward,
pointing his gun as he ran. But for once fate was in our favor. A
trailing vine tripped him up and he went headlong.

Before the Spanish soldier could collect his senses, or make a movement
to rise, Captain Guerez and myself were on him. The captain sat down
astride of the fellow's back, while I secured his gun and clapped my
hand over his mouth, to keep him from calling for assistance. A second
later Alano and the newspaper man came up, and the Spaniard was our
prisoner.

"Now bring the horses over, as quickly as possible!" said the captain
to his son and Burnham. "Mark and I will guard this fellow."

At once Alano and Burnham departed. The prisoner struggled wildly to
escape, but we held him fast, and presently Captain Guerez pulled out
his sword and pointed it at the fellow's throat.

"Not a sound, on your life!" he commanded in Spanish, and the prisoner
became mute instantly.

The sharpness of the lightning and the deafening thunder had frightened
our animals a good deal, and Alano and the newspaper man had all they
could do to bring them up the embankment, which in one spot was quite
steep. Just as the railroad tracks were reached one of the horses broke
away, and with a loud snort ran down the road, his hoofs clattering
loudly on the ties and the iron rails. Alano endeavored to catch him,
with the result that another broke loose and went up the road in the
same fashion.

"_Halte!_" came from half a dozen different directions, and as if by
magic as many Spanish sentries showed themselves along the embankment.
A flash of lightning revealed Alano and Burnham, and crack! crack!
crack! went three carbines almost simultaneously. The alarm was taken
up on several sides, and soon we found the best part of a company of
Spanish soldiery swooping down upon us.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE BATTLE AT THE RAILROAD EMBANKMENT.


"We are lost!" cried my Cuban chum, as he came stumbling down to where
his father and I stood, with our prisoner between us.

"We're in for it, that's a fact!" ejaculated Gilbert Burnham, as he
came after Alano, bringing the remaining two horses. "Come on, can't we
ride two on a horse and escape them?"

Captain Guerez shook his head. There was no time left to answer, for
some of the soldiers were already less than a score of yards away. The
captain waved his hand and ran off, followed by all of us, and leaving
our late prisoner standing with mouth wide open in amazement.

To try to go back whence we had come, and thus expose ourselves on the
top of the railroad embankment, would have been foolhardy. Instead,
the captain led the way directly into a grove of sapodilla trees some
distance up the track.

Our Spanish pursuers called upon us to halt, not once, but many times;
and when we did not heed their repeated commands, they opened fire in
a manner which made us feel far from comfortable, for a bullet grazed
the captain's hand, and another whizzed so closely to my ear that I
nearly fell from ducking. There may be those who can stand up coolly
under fire; but I must confess I am not one of them, and I am willing
to give a flying bullet all the room it wishes in which to spend itself.

Hardly had we reached the grove of sapodillas than Captain Guerez
swung around and began to use his own pistol in a most effective
way, wounding two of the soldiers in advance of the main body of the
Spaniards. Seeing this, the rest of us took courage and also opened
fire, although I must confess I aimed rather low, having no desire to
kill anyone. The cracks from our four pistols brought consternation to
our pursuers, and they halted and fell back a dozen paces.

"Come on," whispered Captain Guerez. "Our only hope is to lose
ourselves in the woods. The enemy outnumbers us five to one."

Away he went again, with all of us close upon his heels. Another volley
from the Spaniards rang out, but did no damage, as the trees and brush
now hid us from view.

We had passed along a distance of a hundred feet when we heard a
crashing in the brush coming from a direction opposite to that being
taken by ourselves. Fearing another company of Spanish infantry was
coming up, Captain Guerez called us to his side.

"Here is a narrow ravine, leading under the railroad tracks," he said
hurriedly. "Let us go down into that and work our way to the other side
of the embankment."

No opposition was made, and into the ravine we fairly tumbled, just as
the soldiers came up once more. Bushes and stones hid us from view, and
we went on only when the thunder rolled, that no sounds of our progress
might reach our enemies' ears.

Ten minutes later found us close to the railroad embankment. But here
we came to a halt in dismay. The ravine had been filled up by the
recent rains, so that crawling under the tracks was out of the question.

"Now what is to be done?" asked Alano in a low voice. "We can't stay
here, that's certain."

"Some of the soldiers are coming up the ravine after us!" exclaimed
Burnham a moment later. "Hark!"

We listened, and found that he was right. At least half a dozen of the
Spaniards were advancing in a cautious manner, their guns ready for
immediate use.

"Let us climb this tree," said Captain Guerez, pointing to a tall
monarch of the forest, whose spreading branches reached nearly to the
opposite side of the embankment. "Be quick, all of you!"

He leaped for the tree, and Burnham followed. I gave Alano a boost up,
and he gave me a hand; and inside of forty seconds all of us were safe
for the time being. As we rested on the upper branches of the tree we
heard the far-away whistle of a locomotive.

"A train is coming!" said Alano.

"If we could only board it!" I put in eagerly. "It would carry us part
of the way to Guantanamo, wouldn't it?"

"It would--going in that direction," said Captain Guerez, with a wave
of his hand. "But the train may be filled with Spanish soldiers, and
what then?"

The locomotive kept coming closer, and presently we heard the rattle of
the cars as they bumped over the rails, which were far from being well
ballasted. The captain was peering out from behind the tree branches,
and he gave a deep breath as a flash of lightning lit up the scene.

"It is a freight train!" he exclaimed softly. "Come down to the branch
below, all of you!"

We understood him, and one after another we dropped to the branch
mentioned. It was directly over the track upon which the freight was
pounding along, and we calculated that the distance to the top of the
tallest cars would not be over six or eight feet.

"We can't jump with that train running at twenty or thirty miles an
hour," I said, with a shudder. "We'll slip and be ground to death under
the car wheels."

"Mark is right--a jump is out of the question," added Gilbert Burnham.
"I'd rather risk staying here."

"The train may have supplies for the soldiers about here and stop,"
whispered Captain Guerez. "Watch your chances."

On and on came the train, and in a few seconds more we realized that
those in charge had no intention of stopping in that vicinity. Yet as
the headlight came closer we lowered ourselves in readiness to make a
leap.

Suddenly there was a shrill whistle, and down went some of the brakes
on the long train. I glanced in the opposite direction from whence
the freight had come and saw on the tracks one of our runaway horses,
which stood staring in alarm at the glaring headlight. Evidently the
engineer had been startled by the sudden appearance of the animal, and,
not realizing exactly what it was, had, on the impulse of the moment,
reversed the locomotive's lever and whistled for brakes.

The train could not be stopped in time to save the beast, which was
struck and sent rolling over and over down the embankment. Then the
train went on still further, the locomotive finally coming to a halt
about fifty yards beyond the tree upon which all of us were perched.

As it slowed up the top of one of the tall freight cars rolled directly
beneath us. Giving the word to follow, Captain Guerez let himself drop
on the "running board," as it is termed by train hands--that is, the
board running along the center of the top of a freight car from end to
end. All of us came after him, the quartette landing in a row less than
two yards apart. As soon as each had struck in safety he lay down flat,
that those below the embankment, as well as those on the train, might
not have such an easy chance to discover us.

Scarcely had the train halted than some of the Spanish soldiers
came running up to ascertain why it had stopped. But their shouting
evidently frightened the train hands, who possibly thought a band of
rebels was at hand and that the horse on the track had been a ruse to
stop them. The engineer whistled to release brakes, and put on a full
head of steam, and on went the train, while the Spaniards yelled in
dismay and flourished their weapons.

"By Jove! that was a move worth making!" remarked Gilbert Burnham,
after the long train had covered at least an eighth of a mile. "We are
clear of those chaps now."

"Where will this train take us?" asked Alano of his father.

"The next village is Comaro, but I do not know if the train will stop,"
was the reply. "Two miles further on is Los Harmona, but we must not go
there, for I understand there is a strong Spanish garrison stationed in
the village. Let us get down between the cars and watch our chance to
spring off. If we remain here some of the brakemen may come along and
give the alarm."

The lightning and thunder were decreasing in violence, and the rain
had settled into a thin but steady downpour. The captain was nearest
to the front end of the freight car, and led the way down the narrow
ladder to the platform below. Once on this, and on the platform of the
car ahead, we divided into pairs on either side and awaited a favorable
opportunity to leave the train.

Comaro was reached and passed in the darkness, and the long freight
began to pull out for Los Harmona at a steady rate of twenty-five
miles or more an hour. No chance had been given us to jump off without
great danger, and now it began to look as if we would be carried right
into the fortified town, or further.

"Some distance below here is, unless I am greatly mistaken, a wide
patch of meadow," said Captain Guerez. "I do not believe a leap into
the water and mud would hurt any of us very much, and, under the
circumstances, I am in favor of taking the risk, in preference to being
carried into Los Harmona."

"If you go I will follow," I said, and Alano said the same.

"Well, I don't intend to be left alone," smiled Burnham grimly. "But
what will we do after we strike the meadow?"

"The meadow is not very broad," answered the captain, "and beyond is a
highway leading almost directly into Guantanamo. We will take to this
highway and trust to luck to get on as originally intended. Of course
the loss of our horses is a heavy one, but this cannot be helped. If
we---- Ha!"

Captain Guerez stopped short, and not without good reason. From the
interior of the freight car had come the unmistakable sounds of human
voices. We heard first two men talking, then a dozen or more. The
conversation was in Spanish, and I did not understand it. But Alano
and his father did, and my Cuban chum turned to Burnham and me in high
excitement.

"What do you think!" he whispered. "This car is filled with Spanish
soldiers bound for Guantanamo! They heard us talking, and they are
going to investigate and find out where we are and who we are!"



CHAPTER XXXII.

A LEAP IN THE DARK.


My readers can readily believe that all of us were much alarmed at
the prospect ahead. We had not dreamed that the freight car contained
soldiers, although all of us had heard that the Spanish Government was
transporting troops by this means wherever the railroads ran.

Alano had scarcely explained the situation, when Captain Guerez
motioned us to withdraw from the side edges of the platforms, so that
the soldiers looking out of the broad side doors of the car could not
catch sight of us.

"We must jump as soon as the meadow appears," whispered the captain.
"Be prepared, all of you."

He had scarcely finished when we heard a clatter of feet, and knew that
one or more of the Spaniards had crawled from a side door to the top of
the car. Then followed cautious footsteps in the direction of the rear
platform. Finding no one there, the Spanish soldiers came forward.

"Ha!" cried one, as he espied Captain Guerez. "Who are you?"

"Friends," was the reply, of course in Spanish.

"Friends? And why ride out here, then?"

"We have no money, _capitan_. We are dirt-poor."

"And where do you intend to go?"

"Los Harmona--if the train will ever reach there."

"What will you do there?"

"We may join the Spanish soldiery, _capitan_--if you will take us."

"Ha!" The Spanish officer tugged at his heavy mustache. He was only a
sergeant, but it pleased him to be called captain. "Why did you not
come into the car instead of sneaking around outside? If you want to
become soldiers we will take you along fast enough. But you must not
play us false. Come up here."

"I am afraid--I may fall off," answered Alano's father, in a trembling
voice.

All the while the conversation had been carried on he had been peering
sharply ahead for the meadow and the water to appear. We now shot out
of the woods, and on either side could be seen long stretches of swamp.
He turned to us and spoke in English. "All ready to jump?"

"Yes," we answered in concert.

"Then jump--all together!"

And away we went, leaving the rude steps of the freight cars with an
impetus that took each several yards from the tracks. I made a straight
leap and landed on my feet, but as quickly rolled over on my shoulder
in the wet grass. Burnham came close to me, but took a header, which
filled his nose and one ear with black mud. Alano and his father were
on the opposite side of the track.

A pistol shot rang out, followed by half a dozen more, but the bullets
did not reach any of us. In a moment the long train had rolled out of
sight. We watched its rear light for fully an eighth of a mile, when it
disappeared around a bend behind a bit of upland.

"Hullo, Mark, how are you?" It was the voice of Alano, who came up on
the tracks directly the freight had passed. He was not hurt in the
least. Captain Guerez had scratched one arm on a bit of low brush, but
outside of this the entire party was uninjured.

"Come now, follow me; there is no time to be lost," said the captain.
"Those soldiers may take it into their heads to have the train run back
in search of us."

"Yes, that's true," said Burnham. "Which way now?"

"We'll walk back on the tracks until we reach dry ground."

The plunge into the wet meadow had completed the work of the rain in
soaking us to the skin, but as the night was warm we did not mind this.
Keeping our eyes on the alert for more Spanish sentries, we hurried
along the railroad embankment for a distance of several hundred yards.
Then we left the tracks and took a trail leading southward.

Our various adventures for the past few hours had completely exhausted
Burnham, while the others of the party were greatly fatigued. The
newspaper man was in favor of stopping under a clump of palm trees and
resting, but Captain Guerez demurred.

"We'll reach a hut or a house ere long," he said. "And there the
accommodations will be much better."

"Well, we can't reach a resting-place too soon," grumbled Burnham.
"I can scarcely drag one foot after the other, and it's so close my
clothing is fairly steaming."

"You are no worse off than any of us," I made answer, as cheerfully as
I could.

The highway was a stony one, and the rains had washed away what little
dirt there was, making walking difficult. However, we had not very far
to go. A turn brought us in sight of a long, low house built of logs
and thatched with palm; and Captain Guerez called a halt.

"I'll go forward and investigate," he said. "In the meantime be on
guard against anybody following us from the railroad."

He was gone less than quarter of an hour, and on returning said it
was all right. A very old man named Murillo was in sole charge of the
house, and he was a strong Cuban sympathizer.

The place reached, we lost no time in divesting ourselves of a portion
of our clothing and making ourselves comfortable in some grass hammocks
spread between the house posts.

"We ought to start early in the morning," I said, my thoughts still on
my father.

"We will start at four o'clock," announced Captain Guerez. "So make the
most of your rest."

The captain had intended to divide up the night into watches, but
Murillo came forward and volunteered to stand guard.

"You go to sleep," he said in Spanish. "I sleep when you are gone. I
know how to watch."

Feeling the old man could be trusted, we all retired. In a few minutes
Burnham was snoring, and shortly after the others also dropped asleep.

It lacked yet a few minutes of four o'clock in the morning when Murillo
came stealing into the house and shook everyone by the shoulder.

"Spanish soldiers down by the railroad," he explained hurriedly. "They
intend to come up this road."

"Then let us be off!" cried Captain Guerez.

All of us were already arranging our toilets. In a few seconds we were
ready to leave, and Murillo was paid for the trouble he had taken in
our behalf.

"Have they horses?" asked Captain Guerez; and Murillo nodded.

"Then come, all of you!" cried Alano's father. He started out of the
door, and we came after him. Hardly, however, had he taken a dozen
steps than he pushed each of us behind a clump of bushes.

"Soldiers!" he muttered. "They are coming from the opposite direction!"

"We are caught in a trap!" exclaimed Alano. "We cannot go back, and we
cannot go forward."

"Here is a how d'ye do!" put in Burnham. "I'm sure I don't want to take
to those beastly swamps."

Murillo had followed us to the doorway. His face took on a troubled
look, for he wanted us to get away in safety.

"More soldiers coming the other way!" he cried. "What will you do? Ah,
I have it! Come into the house at once?"

"But what will you do?" queried Captain Guerez impatiently.

"I'll show you. Come, and you shall be safe."

The old man spoke so confidently that we followed him inside at once.
Pushing aside a rude table which stood over a rush matting, he caught
hold of a portion of the flooring. A strong pull, and up came a
trapdoor, revealing a hole of inky darkness beneath.

"Into that, all of you!" he cried; and down we went, to find ourselves
in a rude cellar about ten feet square and six feet deep. As soon as
the last of us was down, Murillo replaced the trapdoor, matting, and
table, and we heard him throw off some of his clothing and leap into
one of the hammocks.

We had been left in total darkness, and now stood perfectly still and
listened intently. Not more than three minutes passed, when we heard
the tramping of horses' hoofs on the rocky road. The house reached, the
animals came to a halt, and several soldiers dismounted. A rough voice
yelled out in Spanish:

"Hullo, in there! Who lives here?"

"I do," replied Murillo, with a start and a yawn, as though he had just
awakened from a long sleep.

"Have you seen anything of four strangers around here?"

"No, _capitan_."

There was a pause, and the leader of the soldiers came tramping inside.

"You are sure you are telling me the truth?"

"Yes, _capitan_."

"It is strange."

The newcomer was about to go on, when a shout from outside attracted
his attention. The soldiers from the opposite direction had come up.
A short conference was held, of which, however, we heard nothing
distinctly. Then some of the soldiers came inside, and we heard their
heavy boots moving directly over our heads.

"You say you saw nobody?" was again asked of Murillo.

"No, _capitan_, not a soul. But then I have been asleep since evening.
I am an old man, and I need a great deal of rest."

"You are lazy, no doubt," came with a rough laugh. "Andros, what do you
think?"

"What should I think? There seems to be no one around. We might make a
search."

"Yes, we'll do that. It can do no harm. Tell the other men to scour the
woods and brush."

The order was given; and a moment later those who had first come in
began to search the house.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

CAPTAIN GUEREZ MAKES A DISCOVERY.


We listened in much consternation while the soldiers overhead moved
from one portion of the dwelling to another. Would they discover us?

"Be prepared for anything!" whispered Captain Guerez, and they were the
only words spoken.

There was no second story to the house, so the search through the rooms
took but a few minutes, and the soldiers came to a halt around the
table.

"I suppose you are a rebel," said the officer abruptly to Murillo.

"I am an old man, _capitan_; I wish to end my days in peace."

"I know your kind." The officer paused. "Well, comrades, we may as well
be on our way."

These words caused me to utter a deep sigh of relief. They had not
discovered us, and now they were going away. But the next words sent a
chill down my backbone.

"Can there be a cellar under the house?" questioned one of the others.

"There is no cellar," said Murillo simply. "There is a little hole,
half full of water. You can look down if you wish."

"We will."

What could it mean? We held our breath as the old man led the way to
the apartment used as a kitchen. We heard him raise another trapdoor,
some distance behind us.

"Humph! A man would be a fool to get in there!" we heard the officer
remark, and then the trap was dropped again into place. "We will go."

The soldiers passed through the kitchen and toward the front door. One
of them must have taken a last look around, for suddenly he uttered a
cry.

"Ha! what is this? A collar and a tie! Do you wear these?"

"Confound it, my collar and tie," murmured Burnham. "I knew I forgot
something."

"They belong to my nephew," said Murillo calmly.

"Your nephew? Where is he?"

"He is now at Baiquiri at work on one of the shipping wharves."

"He must dress well?" remarked the officer dryly.

"Alfredo earns much money. He was educated at the college."

The officer tapped the floor with his heavy boot. "You tell a good
story," he said. "Beware lest we find you have been lying. Come!" The
last word to his companions.

The soldiers went outside, and we heard a call to the men sent out into
the woods and brush. A few minutes later there followed the sounds of
horses' hoofs receding in the distance.

"Now we can get out of this hole, thank goodness!" burst out Burnham.

"Wait--Murillo will inform us when the coast is clear," said Captain
Guerez.

Fully five minutes passed before the old man raised the trap. His face
wore a satisfied smile.

"We fooled them nicely, did we not, _capitan_?" he said.

"You did well, Murillo," said Alano's father. "Here is a gold piece for
your trouble."

But the old man drew back, and would not accept the coin. "I did it not
alone for you," he said. "_Cuba libre!_"

We all thanked him heartily, and then Alano's father asked him in what
directions the two bodies of soldiers had gone. That from the railroad
had taken the highway to Canistero.

"We will have to take another road, not quite so short," said Captain
Guerez. "It is unfortunate, Mark, but it cannot be helped. Forward!"

Much refreshed by our night's rest, we struck out rapidly, and by
noon calculated that we had covered eight miles, a goodly distance in
that hilly district. A little before noon we came out on a clearing
overlooking a long stretch of valley and swamp lands.

"Just below here is the village of San Luardo," said the captain. "It
is there we ought to find out something concerning your father. It may
be possible he is quartered somewhere in the village, that is, if the
journey to Santiago has been delayed."

"Is the village under guard?" I questioned anxiously, my heart giving a
bound when I thought how close to my parent I might be.

"Yes, every village in this district is under Spanish rule."

"Then how can we get in?"

"I have been trying to form a plan," was the slow answer. "Let us get a
little closer, and I will see what can be done."

We descended from the clearing, and just before noon reached the
outskirts of the village. The captain had been right; two companies of
freshly imported soldiers were in control of San Luardo.

As we surveyed the situation from a bit of woodland, we heard the heavy
creaking of an ox-cart on the stony road. Looking down we saw the
turnout coming slowly along, loaded with hay and straw, probably for
the horses of the Spanish soldiers.

"I will go into town in that!" cried Captain Guerez. "Stop that
fellow!" and he indicated the driver.

A rush was made, and the ox-cart came to a sudden halt. When the
dirty fellow who drove it saw us he turned pale, but a few words from
Alano's father soon reassured him, and he readily consented to allow
the captain to hide himself under the hay and straw and thus pass the
guards. The driver was working for the Spaniards, but his heart was
with the insurgents.

Stripping himself of his coat and everything else which gave him a
military appearance, Captain Guerez rubbed a little dirt on his face,
neck, and hands, leaped into the ox-cart, and dove beneath the straw.
If discovered, he intended to explain that he was out of work and was
willing to do anything the Spaniards desired.

Once more the cart creaked on its way toward the village, and we were
left alone. Withdrawing to a safe and cool shelter, we sat down to rest
and to await the captain's return.

"I wish I could have gone along," I said to my chum.

"Father can do the work better alone," replied Alano, who had great
faith in his parent's ability.

"Perhaps so. He wouldn't want me anyway--after the mess I made of it
when I discovered Mr. Burnham."

"Mess!" cried the newspaper man. "Why, it was through you that I
escaped, my boy. You're all right. But I fancy Captain Guerez knows
just exactly what he wishes to do, and probably one person can do it
better than two."

"The fact that you are an American would make everyone regard you with
suspicion," added Alano.

Two hours went by, which to me seemed a day, and then came a peculiar
whistle from the road. At once Alano leaped to his feet.

"My father is back!" he announced, and we ran forth to meet the
captain. At first we hardly knew him, for he had taken some grease and
some burnt cork and transformed himself into a negro. He was out of
breath, and one of his hands was much scratched.

"I had a narrow escape," he panted. "Come with me! There is not a
moment to lose!"

Although almost out of breath, he ran off, and we went with him through
the woods and up the side of a small hill, which course took us around
San Luardo. Not until the town was left well behind did the captain
stop and throw himself on a patch of deep grass. He was too exhausted
to speak, yet he saw my anxiety and smiled.

"Don't worry, Mark; so far your father is safe," were his brief words.

"That's good!" I cried, with a weight lifted from my heart, for during
the wait I had conjured up any number of dreadful thoughts concerning
my parent.

"Yes, so far he is safe. They have him a prisoner at San Luardo, but
they intend to remove him to Santiago before nightfall."

"Before nightfall!" My heart seemed to stop beating. "How will they do
it? Can't we stop them and rescue him?"

"We must rescue him," was the reply. "That is why I hurried back. If
they get him to Santiago he will be--that is, Mark, I am afraid you
will never see him alive again."

I understood Captain Guerez only too well. My father was doomed to die
the death of a spy, and he would be shot very shortly after his removal
to the seaport town.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE DOGS OF CUBAN WARFARE.


In a few minutes Alano's father recovered sufficiently to tell his
story. He had entered the village in safety, and soon put himself into
communication with several citizens who were Cuban sympathizers. From
one of these he had learned that my father was being kept a prisoner
in what had formerly been a cattle-house, but which was now doing duty
as a Spanish prison. No one was allowed to talk to the prisoners, but
by bribing the man who owned the building the captain had succeeded
in getting word to my father that he was around and that I was with
him, and that both of us intended to do all in our power to effect his
release.

This word having been passed to my parent, Captain Guerez has set
about perfecting a plan whereby my father might be supplied with tools
for freeing himself, and also a pistol. But in this work he had been
discovered, and a struggle and flight followed. Luckily, the Spaniards
had not discovered whom he was working for in particular, there being a
dozen prisoners in the same building, so it was not likely my parent
would suffer in consequence.

"We must watch the road to Santiago," said Captain Guerez, when he had
finished, washed himself, and had a refreshing drink of water. "It is
our one chance."

"If only we had horses!" put in Alano.

"We must find animals, my son."

The captain spoke decidedly. "Necessity knows no law," and it was easy
to see he intended to obtain the horses--if not in one way, then in
another. Of course I did not blame him. To me it seemed a matter of
life and death.

As rapidly as we could, we made our way around the hills to the
Santiago road. We had just reached it when Burnham, who was slightly in
advance, halted us and announced a camp off to our left. Captain Guerez
surveyed the situation and smiled.

"Cattle dealers," he said. "They have brought in horses to sell to the
Spanish authorities. I'll make a deal with them."

He went off, with Alano at his side. Instead of following, Burnham and
I concealed ourselves in the bushes, to watch who might pass on the
highway to the seaport town. There was no telling when those who had my
father in custody would be along.

It was a long while before the captain and my chum came back, but when
they did each rode a strong horse and led another behind. Burnham and
I were soon in the saddle; and then all of us felt safer, for being
in the saddle would place us in a position equally as good as that
occupied by any of our enemies.

"Look well to your pistols," said the captain. "It may be that a sharp
and wild dash will be the only way in which Mark's father can be
rescued."

"I hope the guard having him in charge is not too large," I answered,
as I did as he suggested.

"We'll all hope that, Mark."

With pistols ready for use, we ranged up behind a heavy clump of trees
and awaited the coming of the guard from San Luardo. I was on pins and
needles, as the saying goes, and started up at the slightest sound. For
this Burnham poked fun at me; yet he himself was on the alert, as I
could see by the way he compressed his lips and worked at the ends of
his mustache.

"Hark!" said Captain Guerez presently, and we all sat like statues and
listened. From down the road came the tramp of a dozen or more horses
and mules. The guard with the prisoners was advancing. The decisive
moment was at hand. I swallowed a strange lump in my throat and
grasped my pistol tighter. For my father's sake I would fight to the
bitter end.

From out of a cloud of dust rode a vidette, heavily armed and with
his eyes and ears on the alert for anything which might sound or look
suspicious. As he came nearer we drew back behind the trees, and
Captain Guerez motioned us to absolute silence.

The vidette passed, and then the main body of the guard came on. There
were three soldiers in front and three behind, and between rode two
prisoners on mules, both whites and evidently Americans. I strained my
eyes to their utmost, and soon distinguished my father's familiar face
and form.

My father! The sight thrilled me to the soul, and I had all I could do
to restrain myself from riding forth to meet him. An exclamation came
to my lips, but the hand of my chum checked it, while a look from him
told plainer than words that he realized how I felt.

"Attention!" whispered Captain Guerez. "Are you all prepared to fight?
I think these guards are raw recruits, and if so a few volleys will
cause them to take to their heels."

"I am ready," I said grimly.

"And I," added Alano.

"You can count on me," put in Burnham.

"Very well. I will take the first fellow to the left. Alano, you take
the second; Mark, you the third; and you, Burnham, take any one in the
rear you choose."

"I'll take the middle guard," muttered the newspaper man.

"I know you can all fire well, so aim for the sword arm," went on the
captain. "There is no necessity for killing the fellows, unless it
comes to close quarters. Ready? Take aim--fire!"

The words "Take aim!" had been spoken aloud, causing several of the
guards to draw rein in alarm. At the command to fire, our pistols
blazed away simultaneously, and our several aims were so good that four
of the guards were hit, three in the arms and one in the side.

"Forward, and fire again!" shouted the gallant captain, and out of the
clearing we dashed, discharging our weapons a second time.

The detachment of Spanish soldiers was taken completely by surprise.
The lieutenant in command had been wounded, and when he saw us coming
from the woods he imagined we must outnumber his men, for he gave a
hasty order to retreat, and led the way. For a third time we fired,
and scarcely had the echo died among the hills than every one of the
soldiers was going back the way he had come, as rapidly as his horse
would carry him, the vidette, who had turned also, going with them.

"Mark!" cried my father, when he saw me. "Is it possible!"

"Father!" was all I could say. With my knife I cut the rawhide thongs
which bound him to the mule's back, and in a second more we were in
each other's arms. The other prisoner was also released, and both were
speedily provided with weapons.

"We must not lose time here--follow me!" shouted Captain Guerez. "You
can talk all you please later on," he added to me and my happy parent.

All of us followed him back into the woods, and along a trail which he
declared must bring us to another seaport town, eight miles to the east
of Santiago Bay. We put spurs to our steeds, and long before nightfall
half a dozen miles of the uneven way had been covered.

As fast as we were able to do so, my father and I rode side by side,
and never had I felt happier than then, while he was equally pleased.
As we journeyed along I told my story from beginning to end, and then
he told his own--how he had been captured and taken for a spy, how
cruelly he had been treated, and all. Just before he had received
Captain Guerez' message he had given up all hope, and even while on the
road he had been fearful that the plan to rescue him would miscarry.

"What do you think we had best do?" I asked, after our stories were
told.

"I wish to get out of the country as soon as possible, Mark. I cannot
stand the climate. Half a dozen times I have felt as if I was going to
be taken down with the fever. That injured leg took away a good bit of
my strength."

"Can we take passage from the town to which we are bound?"

"We can try," answered my father.

Another half-mile was covered, and we were beginning to consider that
we had made good our retreat from the spot where the encounter with the
Spanish soldiers had occurred, when suddenly a deep baying broke out at
our rear, causing Alano and the captain to give a simultaneous cry of
alarm.

"What is it?" asked Burnham.

"What is it!" was the answer from the captain. "Can't you hear? The
heartless wretches have set several bloodhounds on our trail!"

"Bloodhounds!" we echoed.

"Yes, bloodhounds!" ejaculated Alano. "Hark! there must be three, if
not four, of the beasts!"

"Will they attack us--on horseback?"

"Certainly--they'll fly right at a fellow's throat."

"But how can they track us--we have not been on foot."

"They are tracking the mules Señor Carter and Señor Raymond ride," put
in Captain Guerez. "Hark! they are coming nearer! In a few minutes more
they will be upon us! Out with your pistols and fight the beasts as
best you can. It is our only hope!"



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE LAST OF THE BLOODHOUNDS.


The announcement that the bloodhounds would soon be upon us filled me
with dread. I had had one experience with this class of beasts, and I
did not wish to have another. I looked around at our party and saw that
the others, even to the captain, were as agitated as myself. A Cuban
dreads an unknown bloodhound worse than a native African does a lion or
an American pioneer does a savage grizzly bear.

"Have your pistols ready!" went on the captain, when an idea came into
my head like a flash, and I turned to him.

"If they are following the mules, why not turn the mules into a side
trail?" I said. "My father can ride with me, and Mr. Raymond can double
with somebody else."

"A good idea!" cried Captain Guerez. "Quick, let us try it."

In a twinkle my father had leaped up behind me, and Alano motioned Mr.
Raymond to join him. A small side trail was close at hand, and along
this we sent the mules at top speed, cutting them deeply with our
whips to urge them along.

"Now to put distance between them and ourselves!" cried my father, and
once more we went on. As we advanced we listened to the bloodhounds. In
a few minutes more we heard them turn off in the direction the mules
had taken, and their bayings gradually died away in the distance. Then
we slackened our speed a bit, and all breathed a long sigh of relief.

"That was a brilliant idea, my boy!" said Mr. Raymond warmly. "Mr.
Carter, you have a son to be proud of."

"I am proud of him," said my father, and he gave my arm a tight
squeeze. From that moment on, Mr. Raymond, who was a business man from
the West, became my warm friend.

It must not be supposed that we pursued our journey recklessly. Far
from it. The captain rode in advance continually, and on several
occasions called a halt while he went forward to investigate. But
nothing offered itself to block our progress, and late that night,
saddle-weary and hungry, we came in sight of the seaport town for which
we were bound.

"I believe the bark _Rosemary_ is in port here," said Mr. Raymond. "And
if that is so, we ought to be able to get on board, for I know the
captain well."

"Then that will save us a good deal of trouble," replied my father.
"But of course we can't go aboard openly--the Spanish authorities
wouldn't allow that."

How to get into the town unobserved was a question. Finally Alano's
father said he would ride in as a horse dealer, taking all of our
animals with him. To disguise himself he dirtied his face once more,
and put on my hat and coat, both rather small for him. Then driving
three of the horses before him, he went on.

We went into camp under some plantains, and it was not until three
o'clock in the morning that Captain Guerez came back. He returned with
a smile on his face, for he had sold two of the worst of the steeds at
a good price and had in addition found the _Rosemary_ and interviewed
her captain.

"The captain said he couldn't do anything for you to-night," he
explained. "But to-morrow, if it is dark, he will send a rowboat up
the shore to a rock he pointed out to me with his glass. You are to be
at the rock at one o'clock sharp--if it's dark. If it is not, you are
to wait until the next night. He says to try to come on board from the
quay will only bring you to grief."

"Good for Captain Brownley!" cried Mr. Raymond. "I felt sure he would
not go back on me. Once on board, Mr. Carter, and the three of us will
be safe."

"There is, therefore, nothing to do but to wait," went on Captain
Guerez. "I shall see you safe off, and then return to Father Anuncio's
convent with Alano and join the rest of my family once more."

As soon as it was light we rode and tramped through the woods and the
swamps to the seacoast, where it did not take long to locate the rock
the captain of the _Rosemary_ had pointed out to Captain Guerez. This
accomplished, we retired to a near-by plantain grove, there to eat and
rest, and spend a final day together.

The thought of parting with my chum was a sad one, yet I felt it my
duty to remain with my father. Alano was also affected, and often
placed his brown hand affectionately on my shoulder while we conversed.

"Let us both hope that this cruel and senseless warfare will soon
cease, and that Cuba will be free," I said.

"Yes, Mark, and that we will soon be together again," he replied. "I
hope your journey proves a safe one; and when you get back you must
remember me to all of the other boys."

"I'll do it; and you must remember me to your mother and your two
sisters," I said.

With it all, however, the day passed somewhat slowly, for we were
impatient to see what the night would bring forth. The sun set clearly,
and soon the heavens were bespangled with countless stars.

Mr. Raymond shook his head. "Captain Brownley won't risk coming
to-night," he remarked. "They could easily spot a boat from the town
shore, it is so clear."

But about ten o'clock it began to cloud over, and at eleven it started
to rain, a gentle but steady downpour. Not a star remained, and out on
the water it was as dark as Erebus.

"A kind Providence is with us!" cried my father. "We could not possibly
imagine a better night."

Slowly the time wore on, until Captain Guerez' watch indicated ten
minutes to one. We sat close beside the rock, paying no attention to
the rain, although it was gradually soaking us to the skin.

"Here they come!" whispered my father, and a few seconds later a
rowboat containing four sailors loomed up through the darkness. As
silently as a shadow the boat glided up past the rock and into the
swamp grass.

"On time, I see," said Mr. Raymond, as he advanced. "Is Captain
Brownley here?"

"No, he's watching at the ship, and will give us the signal when to
come aboard," replied one of the sailors, who was in command. "Come
aboard, if you are ready, sir."

"We are," said my father.

There was a short but affectionate good-by on both sides. Captain
Guerez wrung my hand tightly, and I gave Alano a warm squeeze. Then Mr.
Raymond, Burnham, father, and myself stepped into the rowboat, and the
sailors pushed off with their long oars. In another instant the craft
swung clear of the shore and was turned in the direction from whence we
had come. I was going to cry out a last parting to my chum, when the
sailor sitting nearest checked me.

"Be silent, my lad; if we're discovered we'll all be shot."

"Yes," put in my father, "don't make a sound. Leave everything to these
men. They have their instructions and know what they are doing."

On and on over the Bay of Guantanamo glided the rowboat. The rain still
came down, and if anything the night was blacker than ever. I wondered
how the sailors could steer, until I saw one of them consulting a
compass which lay in the bottom of the craft, looking it by the rays of
a tiny dark-lantern.

I reckoned that the best part of half an hour had gone by, when the
sailors rested on their oars, while one took up a night-glass. For five
minutes he waited, then put the glass down.

"It's all right," he whispered. "Let fall. No noise now, on your life!"

Forward went our craft again, and now I noticed that each oar was bound
with rubber at the spot where it touched the rowlock, to keep it from
scraping. Thus we moved onward in absolute silence.

From out of the darkness we now saw a number of lights, coming from
the town and the shipping. A few minutes later we ran up to the dark
hull of a large vessel. A rope ladder was thrown down to us, and a
sailor whispered to us to go up. We followed directions as rapidly as
we could, and once on the deck we were hurried below, while the rowboat
was swung up on the davits.

"Ah, Mr. Raymond, glad to see you!" said Captain Brownley, a bluff New
Englander, as he extended his hand. "A fine night to come on board."
And then he turned to us and we were introduced.

The _Rosemary_ was bound for Philadelphia, but would not sail for three
days. She was under strict Spanish watch, so it was necessary for us
to keep out of sight. We were locked in a stateroom, but made as
comfortable as circumstances permitted.

From time to time during the three days the captain came to us with
various bits of news. One was to the effect that the Spanish detachment
which had had my father and Mr. Raymond in charge had reported a
conflict with a Cuban force fifty or sixty strong. Another was that
the United States had declared war upon Spain and was going to bombard
Havana.

"I wonder if it is true that we are to fight Spain?" I said to Burnham.
"What do you think?"

"We ought to fight Spain," answered the newspaper man. "Cuba deserves
her freedom, and if she can't help herself against Spanish imposition
and brutality we ought to give her a friendly hand."

We talked the matter over at some length; but neither of us knew the
truth--that war was really declared, and that not Havana, but Santiago,
was to be attacked by the time the year was half over.

At last came the hour when the ship's anchors were hove apeak and the
sails were set. We sailed at high noon, and, having a good wind, soon
passed outside of Guantanamo Bay, which, as my readers may know, is
situated but a few miles to the eastward of Santiago Bay.

"Free at last!" cried my father, as he came on deck to get the fresh
air. "I must say I am not sorry to leave Cuba--since the times have
grown so troublesome."

He had scarcely spoken when a small Spanish revenue cutter hove in
sight, steaming down the coast evidently from Santiago Bay. While
Captain Brownley was examining the craft, there was a flash of fire,
and a dull boom sounded over the water.

"Great Scott! What does that mean?" demanded Burnham, leaping up from
his seat near the rail.

"It's an order to heave to," answered Captain Brownley grimly. "We are
not yet out of the woods, it would seem."

"Then that means for us to get out of sight again," said my father,
and, as the captain nodded, the four of us ran for the companion-way,
descended to the cabin, and secreted ourselves in the cabin pantry.

Five minutes later the Spanish revenue cutter steamed alongside, and
we heard the tramp of half a dozen strange pairs of feet on the deck
above.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

CAST INTO A SANTIAGO DUNGEON.


"Those fellows evidently mean business," whispered Mr. Raymond, as an
angry discussion drifted down to us. "Is it possible they got wind that
we are on board?"

"Let us hope not," shuddered my father. "Hist! they are coming down
into the cabin!"

After this we remained as quiet as mice, hardly daring to breathe.
We heard loud talking, partly in Spanish and a few words in very bad
English. "I know they are here," growled one Spaniard. "We shall make a
large hunt, _capitan_."

"If you insist, I cannot help myself," answered Captain Brownley. "But
it is a most unusual proceeding."

At this the Spaniard muttered something in his own language. He began
to hunt in one direction, while his followers hunted in another. Soon
two of the men came to the pantry and forced the door. We tried to
escape observation, but could not manage it, and were ordered forth at
the point of several long pistols.

"Ha! as I suspected! All _Americanos_!" muttered the Spanish commander
of the revenue cutter. "A fine haul! A fine haul, indeed!"

Then turning to his second in command he issued orders that some irons
be brought on board. At the same time a dozen Spanish marines from the
cutter were formed in line, with loaded carbines, to cover the crew of
the _Rosemary_.

"I place all of you under arrest," said the Spanish captain.
"You"--pointing to my father, Burnham, Mr. Raymond, and myself--"as
spies; and you and your men"--this to Captain Brownley--"as enemies of
Spain, assisting these spies to escape."

In vain Captain Brownley tried to argue the matter. The Spanish
commander would not listen to a word. "The Yankee pigs have declared
war on us!" he burst out at last. "Now let them take care of
themselves."

"Then war is really declared?" came from several of us simultaneously.

"Yes, war has been declared. More than that, we have already
whipped the Yankee pigs who dared to attack our noble ships in the
Philippines," said the Spaniard bombastically.

But, as all American boys know, the Spaniard was mistaken. The American
squadron under Commodore, afterward Admiral, George Dewey, was not
defeated. Instead, it gained a most glorious victory, some of the
particulars of which will be related in a volume to follow this, of
which more later.

The news was staggering, and while we talked it over among ourselves,
each of us was handcuffed, I being linked to Mr. Raymond, while my
father was linked to Burnham. Captain Brownley and his first mate
were also handcuffed, and the sailors were told to obey the Spanish
captain's orders or run the risk of being shot down.

The announcement that a naval battle had been fought in the Philippines
seemed to worry Mr. Raymond a good deal. "I wonder if Oliver knows
anything of this?" he half muttered.

"Oliver, who is he?" I asked.

"Oliver is my son," answered the merchant. "He took a trip to China
a year ago, and from there went to Manila, the principal city of the
Philippines. I haven't heard of him for a number of months now. He is
perhaps a year older than you."

"I never heard much of the Philippines," I answered. "I know they are
a good way off--somewhere between Australia, the Hawaiian Islands, and
China. Do they belong to Spain?"

"Yes, but she is having as much trouble to hold them as she is having
to hold Cuba."

We were now ordered to keep silent, and compelled to march from the
cabin of the _Rosemary_ to the deck of the Spanish vessel. Here we were
made to stand in a line, our weapons having previously been taken from
us. The course of the sailing vessel had been eastward toward Cape
Maysi, but now both craft were headed westward.

"I'll wager we are bound for Santiago," murmured Burnham, who stood
beside me, and he was right, for in a little over an hour the narrow
entrance to Santiago Bay came into view, with Morro Castle, a famous
old fortress, standing high upon the rocks to the right.

The bay is several miles long, and Santiago stands well in on the
northeast shore. The land-locked harbor was alive with vessels, but not
one of them floated the familiar Stars and Stripes of our own country.

"There is where we made our way across the bay when first Alano Guerez
and I escaped from Santiago," I whispered. "I am afraid I'll not get
another such chance now."

Soon one of the numerous docks in front of the city was reached, and we
were marched ashore. The news of our capture had spread, and a large
crowd of curiosity-seekers gathered, to jeer and pass all sorts of
unpleasant remarks. The city was now under stricter Spanish rule than
ever before, and as we marched from the dock to the city prison not
another American was to be seen.

At the prison a brief examination was held. When it was learned that my
father was present, I was thrust aside and told that he could speak for
me. Yet he was allowed to say but little. The authorities were certain
that he, Burnham, and Mr. Raymond were spies, and the four of us were
sentenced to confinement in another prison several squares away--a low,
dingy pile of stone, every opening of which was heavily barred and
grated.

Within this prison came the hardest parting of all. I was separated
from my father, and, when I remonstrated, received a sharp blow on my
shoulder from a jailer's sword. Mr. Raymond and I were paired off as
before, and conducted through a long stone passage-way and down a dirty
flight of steps. Sunshine and fresh air were left behind, and the way
was lit up by a smoky kerosene lamp. We were taken to a dungeon cell
several feet below the sidewalk and locked in, and then our jailer left
us.

I was too overcome to speak when we were left alone. Mr. Raymond
strained his eyes and peered around at the four bare walls, the bare
ceiling overhead, and the stone flooring with its water pitcher and
heap of musty straw in one corner.

"This is awful!" he murmured. "Mark, how long do you think you can
stand living in this place?"

"No longer than I have to!" I cried. "I'll get out just as fast as ever
I can."

"If we ever do get out!" he concluded significantly.

The remainder of the day passed slowly. For supper the jailer brought
us some stale bread and some more water, no fresher than that already
in the pitcher. That night I did not sleep a wink.

I expected that another examination would be held the next day, or,
at the latest, within a week; but I was doomed to disappointment. No
one but the jailer came near us, and he only to bring us our bread
and water and occasionally a stew of ill-flavored meat and potatoes,
reeking with garlic. Of this both of us tried bits of the potatoes, and
sometimes mouthfuls of the meat, but it was all we could do to choke
them down.

"How long is this to last?" I asked Mr. Raymond one day, as both of us
walked up and down the narrow cell like two caged animals.

"God alone knows, Mark," he answered. "If there is no change soon I
shall go mad!"

"It is inhuman!" I went on. "A Christian would not treat a dog like
this."

"They are very bitter against us Americans, Mark. Now the United States
have declared war against them, they must realize that Cuban freedom is
assured."

Another week went on, and then we were taken up into the prison yard.
Here I saw my father,--thin, pale, and sick,--but I was not permitted
to converse with him. We were placed in two rows with a hundred other
prisoners, and inspected by General Toral, the military governor of
Santiago and surrounding territory. After the inspection we went back
to our various dungeon cells; and many weary weeks of close confinement
followed.

One day a curious booming reached our ears, coming from we knew not
where. I heard it quite plainly, and called Mr. Raymond's attention to
it.

"It is the discharging of cannon," he said. "And it is not a salute
either," he added, as the booming became more rapid and violent.

It was not until long afterward that I learned the truth, that a fleet
of Spanish warships commanded by Admiral Cervera had been "bottled
up" in Santiago Bay by our own warships under Admiral Sampson and
Commodore Schley, and that the Yankee gunners were now trying what they
could do in the way of bombarding Morro Castle and the ships which lay
hidden from them behind the mountains at the harbor's entrance.

The booming of cannon kept up for several hours and then died away
gradually, but a few days later the bombardment was continued. We
now felt certain that a battle of some sort was on, and Mr. Raymond
questioned the jailer.

"The Yankee pigs will be well whipped," growled the fellow, and that
was all we could get out of him.

Again the days lengthened into weeks, and nothing of importance
happened--to us. But in the outside world great events were taking
place. The entrance to Santiago Bay was being blockaded by the vessels
under Sampson's command, and an army of invasion was gathering at
Tampa, Fla., to land on the southeastern coast of Cuba and attack
Santiago from the rear. The army of invasion, under command of General
Shafter, was sixteen thousand strong, and left Tampa in between thirty
and forty transports.

A landing of the army was effected at Baiquiri and other points, and
here General Shafter consulted with General Garcia, and it was decided
that about three thousand Cuban troops should co-operate with the
United States forces. Among the Cuban troops was the company commanded
by Alano's father; and my chum, let me add right here, was in the fight
from start to finish.

The Spanish authorities now saw what the Americans were up to, and
without delay Santiago was fortified from end to end. Every road
leading from the city was barricaded with logs and earthworks, and
barriers of barbed wire were strung in various directions. Thousands
of Spanish troops had been gathered in the vicinity, and these were
hurried to San Juan Hill, El Caney, and other points of vantage just
outside of Santiago proper.

As the American forces advanced closer and closer to the city Admiral
Cervera became anxious for the safety of his fleet. He knew that if
Santiago was captured there would be nothing left for him to do but to
try to escape from the bay, and that would mean to go forth and fight
the American warships stationed on the blockade beyond Morro Castle.

One day the jailer came in evidently much depressed. We had expected
the usual stew that day, but got only a chunk of dry bread. "And you
are lucky to get even so much," said the Spaniard, as he hurried out.

"Something has gone wrong," remarked Mr. Raymond, as he translated the
fellow's words to me. "I begin to believe that Santiago is suffering
some sort of an attack."

He had hardly spoken when the dull booming of cannon broke once more on
our ears. It was a strange sound, and I threw myself down on our straw
bed to listen.

I was half in a doze,--dreaming of my school days at Broxville,--when
suddenly came an awful crash that to me sounded like the crack of doom,
and the dungeon was filled with pieces of stone, dirt, and cement, and
a thick smoke that all but choked us. Mr. Raymond was hurled flat on
top of me, and for the space of several seconds neither of us could
speak or move.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE FALL OF THE SPANISH STRONGHOLD.


"Wha--what does this mean?" I managed to gasp at last.

"The dungeon has been struck by a shell!" answered Mr. Raymond,
breathing with difficulty. "There is a bombardment going on!"

"But we may be killed!"

"Let us trust not, Mark. Are you hurt much?"

"I have a cut in my cheek, and another in my left arm."

"And I have a bad bruise in the right leg," answered my fellow
prisoner. "But still----Oh, Mark, look! The sunshine!"

Mr. Raymond broke off short and pointed upward. He was right. The shell
which had torn up the sidewalk above us had left a hole in the dungeon
ceiling nearly a foot in diameter.

"Can we get out?" I burst out eagerly.

"Perhaps--but the city is in the hands of our enemies."

"I don't care," I went on recklessly. "Anything is better than staying
here."

"That is true." Mr. Raymond arose and measured the distance from the
hole to the cell floor. "It's all of ten feet, Mark."

"Let me balance myself on your shoulders," I said, and now my athletic
training at the military school stood me in good stead. Mr. Raymond
raised me up into the air, and I caught the edge of the hole with ease.

Yet to pull myself up was no mean task. But I worked desperately, and
finally found myself on the pavement. Crowds of people were rushing
hither and thither, and no one paid any attention to me. Slipping off
my jacket, I let down one sleeve.

"Take hold of that, and I'll pull you up!" I cried to Mr. Raymond; and
he did as bidden, and soon stood beside me.

A guard was now running toward us, and as he came on he discharged
his Mauser rifle, but the bullet flew wide of its mark. "_Halte!_" he
yelled, but we did nothing of the sort, but took to our heels and ran
as if the very Old Nick was after us. Our course soon took us into a
crowd of Cubans, and leaving these we made our way into a street which
was little better than an alleyway for width. Finding the door of a
house wide open, we slipped into the building and hid ourselves in an
apartment in the rear.

All day long the tumult continued, but we could not learn what it was
about, excepting that a force of American soldiers were advancing
upon El Caney and San Juan. "If our forces take those hills," said Mr.
Raymond, "Santiago is doomed, for the heavy artillery and siege guns
can knock down every building here."

"Then I hope we get out before the hills are taken," I answered.

We remained in the building all day, and during that time I managed
to scrape up a loaf of bread and the larger part of a knuckle of ham,
besides several cocoanuts. On these we lived for the next twenty-four
hours, and we had more than many starving Cubans still staying in the
doomed city.

As we waited for nightfall I wondered how my father was faring. It was
not likely that the prison had been struck more than once. Probably
he was still in his dungeon cell. Oh, if only I could get to him and
liberate him!

But Mr. Raymond shook his head at the idea. "You would only be captured
yourself, Mark. Better try to escape with me to the American camp. If
Santiago is taken, your father will be sure to be liberated sooner or
later."

I thought it over, and decided to accept his advice. We left the
building at eleven o'clock. The moon was shining, but it had been
raining and the clouds were still heavy in the sky.

As silently as possible we stole along one street and then another
until the outskirts of Santiago were reached. Once we met a detachment
of Spanish soldiery, but avoided them by crouching behind an abandoned
barricade until they had passed.

The hardest part of our task was still before us--that of getting
beyond the Spanish picket line. On and on we went, but now much slower,
for we felt that we were running not only the risk of capture but the
risk of being shot down without warning.

At four o'clock in the morning we felt we could go no further for the
present and climbed into the limbs of a mahogany tree. We had been
sitting here several hours when suddenly a fierce rattle of musketry
rang out. It was the attack of General Lawton's infantry upon El Caney.
The attack had but fairly opened, when we saw the pickets around us
ordered forward and then to the right. The way was now open for us to
escape, and, descending to the ground, we hurried on, through the brush
and over the rocks, carefully to avoid any well-defined trail which the
Spaniards might be covering.

An hour of hard traveling brought us to a valley to the north of
El Caney, and here we encountered a body of several hundred Cuban
soldiers.

"Mark!" came the cry, and a moment later I found myself confronted by
Alano, while Captain Guerez sat on horseback but a short distance away.

Now was no time to compare notes, and soon both Mr. Raymond and myself
were supplied with guns taken from several of the enemy that had died
on the field of battle. Then, with a good-by to Alano, I set off for
the American forces, accompanied by Mr. Raymond.

The gallant attacks upon El Caney and San Juan hills are now matters of
history. All know how the brave boys of the American army were repulsed
several times, only to dash to the very tops of the hills at last,
carrying all before them, and causing the Spaniards to fall back to the
intrenchments before Santiago.

We had fallen in with a body of Regulars sent to Cuba from the West,
and I think I can safely say that I never fought harder in my life than
on that day, and on the day following, when the Spaniards tried to
drive us from the position we had gained on the top of El Caney Hill.
I was in the very front in the final attack, and when it was all over
discovered that I had received a severe wound in the left arm, one from
which I have not fully recovered to the present time.

The hills were now ours, and everywhere along the American lines it
was felt that Santiago was doomed. This was on the 2d of July. On
the 3d, early in the morning, Admiral Cervera attempted to escape
with his fleet from Santiago Bay by running the gantlet of United
States warships stationed outside. It was Sunday, and in less than
fifteen minutes after his first vessel appeared around the rocks of
Morro Castle, one of the fiercest naval battles of history was on. The
Spanish admiral had four powerful fighting ships and two torpedo-boat
destroyers, but they were no match for the warships under gallant
Commodore Schley, who was in command during Admiral Sampson's absence.
The enemy tried to escape by running along the shore westward, but the
fire from our side was too heavy; and in less than three hours the
battle was over, and all of the Spanish ships were either sunk or run
ashore, and over seven hundred men were taken prisoner. The loss to the
Americans was but one man killed and no ship seriously injured!

What a cheer went up when the news of the Spanish fleet's destruction
reached the soldier boys! The hooraying lasted the best part of the
day, and many of the soldiers cut up like a lot of schoolboys just out
of school. It was a scene I shall never forget.

Admiral Cervera had aided the Spanish army in the attack on our forces,
by throwing shells over Santiago into our ranks. Now he was gone,
Santiago was even more defenseless than ever, and General Shafter
immediately sent word to General Toral that unless he surrendered the
American artillery would bombard the city.

There were several days of delay, and finally the Spanish general,
seeing how useless it would be to continue the fight, agreed to
surrender under certain conditions. These conditions were not accepted,
and another wait of several days took place--a time that to me seemed
an age, so anxious was I to get word concerning my father's welfare.

At last, on the 14th of July, General Toral gave up the struggle, and
three days later the American troops marched into the city and hoisted
the glorious Stars and Stripes over the civic-government building.

It was a grand time, never to be forgotten. As our boys came in
the soldiers of Spain went out, giving up their arms as they left.
Twenty-four hours later, I received an order which permitted me to call
upon my father and Burnham.

"Mark! alive and well!" burst from my parent's lips on seeing me. "They
said you were dead--that a shell had killed you."

"That shell did not kill me; it gave me my liberty," I answered, and
told my story, to which my father and Burnham listened with keen
interest. My father was much broken in health, and as soon as I could I
had him removed to a hotel, where care and good food soon restored him
to his accustomed vitality.

The Cuban troops, as a body, were not permitted to come into Santiago
at once, the authorities fearing a riot between them and the Spaniards,
but Alano and his father visited us, and a joyous reunion was had all
around.

"Cuba will be free now," said Captain Guerez. "If Spain knows when she
has enough, she will now bring this war to a close."

Alano's father was right; the Santiago campaign was the first and last
to be fought by the American troops on Cuban soil, and soon after Spain
asked that a peace commission be appointed to settle the matter without
further appeal to arms. This was done; and the war ceased. Cuba was
granted her absolute freedom, with the United States to protect her
until all internal difficulties were settled and she was fully able to
manage her own affairs.

Alano and his father remained in the Cuban army, and were later on
stationed but a short distance away from the plantation owned by
Captain Guerez. Thus they were near their home and able to visit
constantly the other members of the family, who at that time returned
to the plantation. Burnham remained in Santiago, reporting constantly
for the newspaper he represented.

Two months after my father was released from prison we set sail for
the United States. Mr. Raymond accompanied us, and we made the trip
in the _Rosemary_, under our former friend Captain Brownley, who had
succeeded, though not without much difficulty, in having both himself
and his vessel released.

"How good to be back home again!" I cried, as we stepped ashore.
"Foreign countries are all well enough, but as for me--give me our own
United States every time!"

"You are right, Mark," answered my father. "There is no better place on
earth to live than in our own dear native land."

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I bring to a close my story of adventures in Cuba during the
Cuban-Spanish conflict and the Spanish-American campaign. I had seen
many startling happenings, and was, as told above, heartily glad to
sail away and leave the Queen of the Antilles to carve out her future
without my aid.

During my confinement with Mr. Raymond I had become much interested in
that gentleman and what he had to say concerning his son Oliver, then
supposed to be at Manila, where the first naval battle of our war with
the Dons had occurred. As a matter of fact, Oliver Raymond had been
with the Asiatic squadron when the fight came off, and the news he sent
to his father was truly interesting. But I will let him tell his own
tale in another volume, to be entitled "A Sailor Boy with Dewey; or,
Afloat in the Philippines," after which I will expect to be with my
readers again in still another story to be called "Off for Hawaii; or,
the Mystery of a Great Volcano."

And now for the present, kind reader, good-by and good luck to you.


THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber Note


Que, Què and Qué all appear once and left as is. Ciruso and Circuso are
each used once but may represent the same individual. Due to context,
granadilla (Passionfruit) on page 57 was assumed a typo for grenadillo
trees (p. 121). The images were repositioned so as to not split
paragraphs. The cover image was constructed from images provided by the
University of Michigan and The Internet Archive and is placed in the
Public Domain.





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