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   Chapter 4 No.4

Yule Logs By Various Characters: 11545

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


The part of the city in which our lads found themselves was dark and deserted, save for an occasional soldier pacing a lonely beat and a few slouching figures that seemed trying to avoid observation. At the suggestion of Carlos they kept the middle of the ill-paved streets, for in Havana no one uses the narrow side-walks at night. To do so would be to invite a knife-thrust from the first dark pasadizo. Even in the more open spaces that they sought, each lad kept a hand in the pocket containing his revolver, and they took care not to allow any person to approach them closely from behind.

At length they came to a region of plazas and lighted thoroughfares, in which they encountered ever-increasing numbers of beggars and soldiers. The former were pitiable objects, horribly emaciated by the starvation which Spain was deliberately inflicting on her rebellious subjects, while most of the soldiers were mere boys, ill-fed, poorly clad, and wasted by sickness, but well armed and insolent to all save their own officers. These latter, who swaggered by in noisy, cigarette-smoking groups, seemed the only well-fed persons in the city, as well as the only ones who still found life worth the living. They stared impudently at our lads, and more than one, recognising Carl Baldwin as an American, treated him to insulting epithets, most of which he fortunately failed to understand.

Not knowing whom they might question, or even address with safety, the young adventurers finally turned into the brilliantly-lighted café of the Pasaje, where they hoped to gain some guiding clew from chance bits of conversation. The place was so crowded that for several minutes they failed to find vacant seats at any of the little tables scattered about the floor. At length they secured two that had just been vacated, and slipped into them. Two other seats at the same table were occupied by a supercilious-looking Spanish officer and a fashionably-attired civilian. The former, with an expression of deepest hatred cast toward Carl Baldwin, slowly rose, reversed his chair with a loud scraping on the marble pavement that attracted general attention, and reseated himself with his back turned squarely toward the young American. The latter had suspected the nature of the insulting epithets applied to him in the streets, but had been unable to reply to them on account of his limited knowledge of Spanish. With enforced silence his anger had smouldered until now, when it broke into a sudden fierce heat. Acting upon the impulse of the moment, he lifted his own chair, planted it in front of the Spaniard, deliberately reoccupied it, and stared his enemy full in the face, but without uttering a word.

As Carlos Moranza realised his companion's intention, he started towards him, but was detained by the fourth man who had been seated at the table, and who whispered hurriedly-

"Fly for your life, amigo, while there is yet time. For a Moranza to be arrested in Havana means sure and speedy death."

"But I cannot leave my friend," gasped the young Cuban, bewildered at being thus promptly recognised where he believed himself to be unknown.

"He will only suffer imprisonment. They dare not kill him. His Government is too powerful."

For a moment Carlos Moranza hesitated. Then his resolution was taken.

"I cannot desert him," he cried; and, gaining the place where Carl Baldwin sat, he grasped his arm with the intention of dragging him from the café. At this, the officer, who had cowered irresolute beneath his adversary's unflinching gaze, clapped a hand to his sword and attempted to rise. In an instant the young American had thrust him back with such force that the frail chair crashed beneath him, and the uniform of Spain was rolled ignominiously in the dust.

Then, without regarding the man further, or noticing the other inmates of the café, who were thronging towards them, Carl turned to his friend, saying-

"I don't think I like this place, West. Isn't there some other in which we might be just as happy?"

"Yes, yes, come quick," replied Carlos, starting towards the street as he spoke; but it was too late, for at that moment a file of soldiers appeared in the doorway. They were led by the Spanish spy who had followed our friends from Key West, and who had been sitting in the Café Pasaje brooding over the futility of his attempts to apprehend them when the two lads unsuspectingly entered it.

"There they are! Seize them!" he now cried exultingly, and the obedient soldiers rushed forward.

With all the latent fury of his nature aroused and blazing from his blue eyes, the young Anglo-Saxon American fought single-handed the minions of Spain. Two of them fell like logs beneath crashing blows from his fists. Two more were hurled breathless to right and left. The others hesitated, and even shrunk before him as with a cry of "Come on, West!" he dashed toward the doorway. At that moment some one flung a chair before him. He tripped over it, staggered wildly, and then measured his length on the pavement with half-a-dozen Spanish soldiers on his back.

When next he was allowed to regain his feet, he was helplessly bound and being marched away to prison, together with Carlos Moranza, who was in the same unhappy plight. Even then the spirit of the young American was unsubdued; and, in defiance of his enemies, he raised a cry on gaining the street that he felt certain was as good Spanish as it was English.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" he shouted, with all the breath left in him.

"Silencio, Gringo!" growled the nearest soldier, at the same time striking his prisoner full in the mouth with the flat of his hand.

For a wonder, Carl Baldwin retained sufficient wisdom to accept the blow without a word, though, ha

d he known the full value of his outcry, he might have been tempted to repeat it.

A crowd had already gathered in front of the café, and from it instantly arose answering shouts, in tones indicating both derision and amazement, of "El gallo! El canto del gallo!"

Carlos Moranza wondered how his friend had obtained a knowledge of the Junta's defiant password for the current month, since even to him it had only been revealed under promise of a strict secrecy that he had not broken. He had used it but once, and then the whispered "Canto del gallo" had instantly admitted him to the presence of the Junta's agent in Key West. No matter, though, how Carl had discovered it, he was justified in using it under the circumstances, for it might raise friends to their assistance, if, indeed, there were any within hearing who understood its hidden meaning. Thus thinking, the young Cuban also uplifted his voice in a ringing "Canto del gallo."

At sound of this second note of defiance, the Spanish spy, with a malediction upon the gallipollo, sprang towards the lad, but, ere he could strike a blow, some one in the crowd hurled a paving-stone that stretched him senseless on the ground. As though this were a signal, the mob, led by a tall man in the dress of a carbonero or charcoal-burner, rushed upon the slender file of soldiers, and swept it irresistibly before them.

A few moments of pandemonium-shots, yells, screams of pain, cries of exultation, a crash of flying missiles, the ominous clatter of a cavalry patrol galloping down the street, and then all was over. The mob melted away like a puff of smoke, leaving only a few innocent and inoffensive citizens to be cut down by the sabres of the troopers. The prisoners who had caused the outbreak had also disappeared, and when the Spanish spy, slowly regaining his senses, became aware of this fact, he gnashed his teeth with rage.

Our lads were in the meantime dragged at top speed through a labyrinth of narrow streets and dark alleys, until, breathless and bewildered, they finally found themselves in a dimly-lighted room, surrounded by a group of those who had effected their release. One of these severed the cords binding their arms with two blows of a dirk-like machete, and said in reassuring tones-

"Fear nothing, se?ors; you are with friends, sworn to aid all who suffer in the cause of Cuba. Tell us, then, who you are, whence you come, and how it happens that you possess the most secret password of the Junta."

"I," replied the young Cuban boldly, for to him alone of the two was this address intelligible, "am Carlos Moranza, son of--"

Here the lad was interrupted by a great cry from one of his auditors, and in another instant he was folded in a close embrace by the carbonero who had led the mob to the rescue.

"Carlos, my son! my own brave boy! do you not know your father?" cried the man, half-sobbing, half-laughing in the excitement of his discovery.

"Father! my father! can it be?" screamed Carlos, staring wildly at the man. "It is indeed his voice; but without hearing it I should never have known him. But, father, they told me you were shot, and I have mourned you as dead."

"I was indeed captured and condemned to be shot, but managed to escape," replied General Moranza. "And I should have joined you in the land of freedom ere this, but for Catina."

"What of her?" inquired the young Cuban eagerly. "Is she still alive and well? I heard that she was a prisoner, condemned to Africa, and am here to effect her release, if it be not too late."

"The child is indeed an inmate of the vile Jacoba, and sentenced to transportation in a ship that will sail on the morrow," replied the General. "This I learned but an hour since from Don Estevan."

"Now I know," interrupted Carlos. "It was also he who gave me warning in the café."

"'Twas to meet him, who is a true friend of the cause," continued the other, "that I lingered near the Pasaje, and so was on hand to rescue from Weyler's clutches those who appealed for aid with the password of the Junta."

"Yes," laughed Carlos, "the 'Canto del gallo' of my friend, who yet declares that he knew nothing of its secret value, did us a fine service; but of Catina, my father, what more have you to tell?"

"Nothing, my son; all efforts to rescue her have been made in vain, and on the morrow the little one will sail away for ever. I have lacked two things-a demonstration of sufficient magnitude to attract attention from the prisons, and the means of conveying her from the island undiscovered. But alas--"

"Both of them I can supply," cried Carlos eagerly. "Such a demonstration may be contrived as will cause every Spaniard in Havana to tremble in his shoes and call on the saints for protection. As for a conveyance, it is already at hand. Furthermore, the transport ship can certainly be prevented from sailing on the morrow, and shall be."

"What then, my Carlos? Have the United States espoused our cause and sent a fleet to our aid?"

"Not so, father, only two of her brave citizens, of whom this, my dearest friend, is one, have come with me; but we have brought that which may accomplish all that I claim and more. Do not question me as to its nature, for I am bound to present secrecy. Only be prepared for our demonstration which will be made to-morrow night; effect the release of the little one from La Jacoba, bring her to the dock of the fishmarket on the exact stroke of midnight, and her safety together with thy own shall be assured."

After another hour spent in joyful congratulations, explanations, and a perfecting of details for the proposed rescue, our lads took their departure, and cautiously returned to the place where Professor Rivers anxiously awaited them.

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