Ch 7: A Trip Across Cuba

I will not enter into details of my journey through the West, as I wish to deal more fully with my trip through less known districts across the Trocha. Sufficient to say that all the leaders were absolutely against compromise, and after some trials and adventures, I obtained, both by courier and personal interview, the signed statements of all Cubans of note, rejecting in every detail the autonomy offered by Spain. In the West, in Pinar del Rio and in Havana, General Rodriguez, the respective chiefs of his brigades, General Betencourt and his commanders in Matanzas, General Maximo Gomez, Miguel Gomez, Carrillo and Robau in Santa Clara, and all subordinate officers in their respective commands, attested their solemn determination to continue the fight until Spain relinquished the island. "Independence or Death" was the universal motto, and in Havana and Matanzas it seemed that death was more likely to claim the rebel force before victory was theirs. They were in a pitiful condition, ragged and absolutely starving. December was an exceptionally cold month, and pneumonia made sad ravages among the emaciated patriots. But recruits constantly slipped out through the barriers, and when General Rodriguez read to his assembled command his rejection of autonomy, loud "Vivas!" were raised, and it was evident that the leaders and men of superior intelligence were not alone in the determination to fight on to the bitter end. I had finished the first half of my journey on January 1st, in Las Villas.
   To reach eastern Cuba from Santa Clara, the great Trocha had to be crossed. Finding the trip by land fraught with difficulty, I took the more devious route, passing round it by sea. On January 3rd, 1898, I safely entered Nuevitas to take the train for Puerto Principe City. My boatman smuggled my saddle and riding outfit ashore that night. I had registered at the Hotel Telegrafo under an assumed name. The proprietor, a Cuban Spaniard born in New York, was a lieutenant in the Spanish service, but an ardent patriot at heart. I soon learned that the authorities in Havana had cabled the commanders of various ports to frustrate my mission, and a celador of police visited the hotel that night after I had retired, to make inquiry into my identity; but mine host assured him that I was the engineer of a Minas sugar-estate, and he retired satisfied.
   There was an American prisoner under guard in the hotel, who was to leave in the morning. My curiosity was aroused, and I soon learned that it was Colonel Funston, commander of Garcia's Artillery, who had been captured at Minas a few days previous. He was fortunately without arms; thin and emaciated by a long campaign, he did not seem an important prisoner. The officers searched him carefully, and finding nothing upon him, concluded that he was a deserter, and sent him to General Latorre in Nuevitas. Had they known that the man in their hands was the redoubtable American artillerist, who had virtually shelled Spain from the interior of Santiago, he would have fared badly; but he was sent to the consul at Caibarien on the following day, on condition that he should leave Cuba. He was under close surveillance, and I did not attempt to communicate with him, since it might have compromised us both. He weighed but ninety-five pounds then, and I feared he was going home to die. We met again at Tampa in the following June. He then wore the uniform of Colonel of United States Volunteers. "I do not believe in giving commissions to such small men; they do not inspire the respect of their troops," remarked an officer one day as Funston passed. His opinion may have been altered since by the continued dash and bravery of that officer at the head of his Kansas regiment in the Philippines, and his promotion on the field to Brigadier General for his gallant services.
   The insurgents were strong in Puerto Principe, Consequently but one train per week ran from Nuevitas to the inland capital, Puerto Principe City, though that railroad furnished sole means of communication with the outside world. General Pando was in the town, holding a conference with Generals Castellanos and Latorre, and evidently important operations were pending. The hotel was crowded with officers, and I had to keep close in a fusty little chamber to escape their demand for identification cards and passports. I was relieved to hear that a train left on the second morning.
   Punctually at six o’clock, we pulled out. The American cars were moving forts, each cased in loop-holed sheets of iron. A company of soldiers marched beyond the engine, prodding the track with long poles for dynamite. Other companies were posted in fortified freight cars, and a rough dining car was fixed in the centre of the corridor, as the journey of seventy miles might take that number of hours.
   On the trip I met a young captain of commissary, a Cuban of Irish descent, named O'Reilly, who had entered the military supply service before the war, and continued to hold his position, since it entailed no hostile act against Cuba, and his resignation or desertion to the insurgents would have led to reprisals against his family, living on an estate at Minas.
   The railway runs for forty miles through dense woods and swamp, after which the country becomes clearer, and Principe City stands in the centre of a vast savannah. We were keeping a sharp lookout for insurgents; the train fairly crawling through the woods, as frequent attempts were made to blow up the troop cars. This seems reprehensible warfare, but either the engine or troop cars were always the objective, and passenger cars were spared. By thus attacking the line of communications, the Spaniards were forced to employ thousands of men to guard the tracks and trains, and consequently had less strength to employ in the field. Singularly the largest stockholders in this particular railway were Cubans then in the manigua, and they were constantly destroying their own property, to prevent the enemy's use of the same.
   Some twenty miles from Nuevitas a shot rang out. I ran to the outer platform of the car and saw our advance-guard tearing back toward the train, dragging the body of one of their number. From the dense underbrush dropping shots came thick and fast, though not a leaf stirred. The troops in the armoured cars were now replying vigorously, the train pulled up with a jerk, and the guard tumbled aboard. The limp body was handed up with scant ceremony, but the poor boy was already dead.
   The fire was too hot to stand exposed, and I withdrew inside. The Mausers crashed regularly, and above them rang out staccatoed detonations of the Cubans' Remingtons, while the bullets slashed angrily against the iron facings of the cars, and rang on the metal fittings, like the bull's-eye shots in a Coney Island shooting-gallery. The Cubans soon realised the futility of wasting fire on such defences, and did not shoot long after the guard had gained cover. Then we could see the glint of machetes in the trees, and the Spaniards yelled that the Mambis were charging. I quietly seized my things, thinking if the Cubans rushed the train I could go back with them. A few only broke cover, yelling like fiends; the leader fell. To charge in face of such a fire was suicide, and they wheeled and disappeared in the forest.
   It was evening when we reached our destination, and, thanks only to my friend the captain, did I get through the station unquestioned, for at every turn the secret police scrutinise strangers, opening their parcels and searching their clothes for insurgent papers. I was carrying several private letters to leaders in the field, and a note to a lawyer. Dr. Prada, a member of the local Junta, who had been sentenced to imprisonment for life by Weyler and reprieved by his successor. A friend gave me a trustworthy guide to carry me to the house, and in due time I reached a handsome residence, was presented to a comfortable matron, the Senora Prada, and in turn to her three vivacious daughters.
   "Their house and they were at my disposition, and the senor would be in soon." With feminine inquisitiveness the good lady tried deftly to elicit the purport of my visit, the girls chatted nineteen to the dozen, and I made myself very much at home. We discussed the situation, I with great freedom. Later a young son entered. Wishing to air the only English he knew, he remarked inappropriately: "Spanish vera good, Cuban no vera good, me Spanish" This was a revelation, and put me on my guard; I retired shortly after, promising to see the senor later, and returned to my friend for explanation.
   "Fool! Scoundrel!" he exclaimed angrily, "why, he took you to the house of Colonel Prada. I congratulate you amigo that the colonel was out. Had you delivered the letter you would have now been in jail, and who could tell the end? The colonel is not a bad man, and his wife is muy simpatico; but then his clear duty to Spain?"
   Later he guided me in person to the man I sought. I found Dr. Prada an exceedingly intelligent gentleman. Though under surveillance and but recently released from horrible imprisonment, he was still allied to the cause. His brother, a graduate of an American college, joined us later, and they formulated plans by which I could reach the field.
   The difficulties of passing the Trocha debarred correspondents from the eastern provinces. The conditions in Camaguey and Oriente were as an unknown book, though the insurgents were better organised there than in any other part of the island.
   Puerto Principe, of some 40,000 inhabitants, is a typically Cuban city. Shut in closely by forts and barricades, and practically besieged by the insurgents, news travelled fast. I discovered that my advent had been passed in strict confidence from mouth to mouth until half the town knew of it, and the authorities would assuredly get some inkling ere long. On the street also I met Captain Baccalo, who, as a swashbuckling subaltern, had been deputed to uphold the honour of the Spanish army, impugned by an article of mine in a British military paper. His insults to evoke an acceptance of his challenges to mortal combat were so tiresome that I had been forced to cool his ardour some weeks before by thrashing him in the Tacon cafe, in answer to his loud voiced remarks on the cowardice of the foreign pigs who feared to duel. My companion and I were then set upon by all the officers in the place, some drawing their swords, and only prompt intervention of a colonel of Weyler's staff had saved us from their fury. This colonel courteously apologised for his compatriots, but Baccalo swore to be revenged, and later Mr. Decker, with a chair in his stalwart arm, held off some friends of the gallant captain, who attacked us on Teniente Bey. Fearful of a scene now in Principe, I averted my face, and passed quickly onward; but the captain turned suspiciously, and I felt that he recognised me. My hotel keeper, a rabid Spaniard, was a suspicious knave, and watched me closely, while I was also shadowed by the omnipresent sleuths. It was imperative that I should strike out at once with my papers. I walked to my room, telling the waiter not to disturb me, and bolted the door. A stealthy jump from the back window landed me into an adjoining yard, and I soon had my effects in a Cuban butcher's house. A patriotic milkman, who served the outlying forts, put everything in his panniers, crossed the barrier on his usual rounds, and dropped the stuff in a bush near the outposts. For thus risking his liberty, he refused to accept a cent.
   I had that morning ridden with Captain O'Reilly beyond the defences, and with a bold face I again passed through the same embrasure, unquestioned by the guards. I lay trembling under the bush where I found my effects; the cover was scanty, and risk of capture imminent. The air was fragrant with perfume of flowers, wafted from the glorious gardens in the outskirts, and gradually a sombre veil seemed drawn over the brilliant scenery; the distant hills turned from emerald to purple, and then died away as dusk crept up stealthily. The moon ascended even as the sun disappeared. The wait had seemed eternity; but the sunset bugles now rang out, the sweet strains of the "Ave Maria" stole across from the little chapel, deep-toned chimes boomed from the cathedral, and the nocturnal buzzing of the insects heralded the approaching night.
   Then I heard a bird-like whistle, and my guide crept up. True to his word, Senor Prada had arranged everything. This muscular practico, a Columbian by birth, shouldered my pack, and we crept fearfully forward toward the forts. It was then pitch dark, the campfires at the outposts gleamed fitfully; a cavalry patrol clattered noisily toward us, but we crouched unseen in the grass, and they passed on. Then we reached the wire barricade and patrol road, intersected with forts, passing round the city.
   The silent form of a sentinel loomed up not ten yards from us, and we lay quiet until he resumed his march. On the left a group of soldiers were gambling, the pale light of the campfire playing on their swarthy faces. Another sentry approached and forced a second halt. Then again we crawled on through the long wet grass until water gleamed below. "Careful, Senor! Not a sound!" warned my guide; and we cautiously waded in, sinking deeper and deeper. We were soon swimming; the practico with my bag, fortunately waterproof, on his back. A whining "Sentinela Alerta!" rose from the opposite bank. "Alerta!" echoed another sentry nearer yet, and I fitfully imagined the volleys that would ring out if we were discovered, and the story of some heroic engagement that would be coloured by our dead bodies on the morrow; but we passed the lines at last, and waded to land, some distance beyond the forts.
   There was one spot now where ambushes were frequently thrown out to intercept the insurgents passing down the disused highroad toward the outposts. The Columbian reconnoitred it. Again his reassuring whistle, and we pressed hurriedly along the camino, past once beautiful estates, until a clump of royal palms was reached. A bird-like chirrup greeted us, the guide answered, and then I descried two figures on horseback silently awaiting our approach. "Los Cubanos!" said my guide; and I soon made out the familiar jip-jap hat and white uniform of the Cuban cavalry. The rebels lent me a mule, and we rode out to the chief of the zona. Our coming was unexpected, and as the loud challenge rang out, twenty forms seemed to spring from the ground. I was a little ahead, and glanced down the barrels of loaded rifles covering me, until the guards came up and explained matters.
   "You are very brave, my friend, to cross those lines!" said the captain commanding the zona, as he warmly greeted me; but my trembling hand belied it, and I was more than relieved to find myself safe at last within the Cuban outposts.
   Before us stretched the vast forest, in the dark vistas of which the sun never penetrated; behind lay the plain I had just crossed. The half-moon was partially obscured, but a dark arcade on the edge of the woods was illuminated by a blazing log fire hissing with the night dew that dripped from branches above. Around it moved a group of rebels, their very surroundings making them brigand-like. They crowded round to hear the news, but Canon came to my relief, saying I was tired and needed rest. I had brought a hammock and canopy, which two asistentes fixed, and I turned in.
   "Surely this is a land of milk and honey!" I thought, when I awoke to find a breakfast of sweetened coffee, plantains, a roll, and fresh beef cooked on the grill, awaiting me. I learned, later, that the luxuries formed the greater part of a repast sent for the special delectation of the commandante, but unselfishly apportioned to me in that courtesy which is the unfailing attribute of every true Cuban I met.
   At an early hour an orderly had ridden over to headquarters with the report of the previous day. I here witnessed a military organization impossible in the troop-ridden west. Round Principe and other points held by Spain, regular Cuban zonas were established that prevented the egress of any small force, and harassed large columns that marched out until warning had reached headquarters and the army prepared for the attack.
   At midday the orderly returned with general orders, one of which directed Lieutenant Betencourt to provide a horse for the stranger that had entered the lines, and selecting efficient escort to bring him with every care to the "Cuartel General." We set off without delay through a well-wooded country, intersected with large plains of magnificent grass that rose over our horses' heads. Fording several rivers, and passing delightful cocoanut groves, we rode through winding trails for twelve miles, when the picket halted us. It was then six o'clock, and the sudden roll of horse-drums awoke the echoes, and the inspiriting strains of the Cuban national hymn rose through the trees. Victor Pacheco's band of the crack regiment of Camaguey cavalry is not pretentious, but on that cool tropical evening the distant music was as sweet as the siren's delusive melodies that caused Ulysses to wax his ears. As we rode toward General Recio's pavilion, the soldiers who had swarmed from their rude quarters to hear the music, threw up their hats as we passed, with loud vivas for the strange officer.
   General Lopez Recio received me at once. I delivered my papers and messages, and received a cordial welcome. We sat and talked, long after silencio had sounded, and the camp sunk to sleep, and at a late hour I crawled under my own bit of canvas and turned in.
   It was still dark when "El Diana" rang out, the sweet reveille admirably sounded by the trumpeters aided by cornets of the band, which then struck up a lively gallop entitled "Al Machete." A heavy miasma hung over everything; the moon, trying to pierce the dampness, made one vast spot of translucent vapour in the white cloud. In wide avenues opening through the forest, campfires of the army gleamed through the mist, forms of the soldiers who had emerged from their palm-leaf huts to cook a frugal meal, being faintly discernible. The general's orderly brought me coffee and camp-made cigarettes. It was growing rapidly lighter, and finally the sun rose like a huge red fire-balloon, mounting slowly above the trees. Gaining strength, its rays effectively dispelled the mists and dried off the dripping country with incredible rapidity.
   General Recio, a wealthy planter before the war, was a brave and capable officer. His delicate wife, whom I had met in Havana prison a year before, suffering for her relationship, had just managed to reach the field to join her husband. He had secured her the safest place possible in a distant prefect's house, but he felt her risks and privations and the separation from his family keenly. The long struggle had made him taciturn, and war was eminently distasteful to him. Yet the mention of autonomy made his eyes flash. He had never looked for American intervention, and evinced no surprise when I showed him the President's message. "We have but one life to give to Cuba," he remarked sadly, "and that may be expended in vain, but this generation must give it willingly to free their country for future ages."
   His staff were all men of wealth and education, most of them exceedingly young. I especially recall Doctor Clark, a surgeon of English descent. Majors Bazan and Delmonte, and Captain Arostigui, brother to the British proconsul in Havana. Singularly also the brigadier of this command, General Bernabe Sanchez, was formerly British Consul at Nuevitas. He had been badly wounded just before my arrival and sent to New York for treatment.
   The sun is unbearable in the manigua from ten until two, and the camp was drowsily resting in the shade. The bright young lawyer, the chief of judiciary, whose name I have forgotten, was under my canvas, initiating me into the mysteries of Cuban law.
   Bazan came over and advised a photograph of the Escolta, and when I promised to take it on the morrow, he said significantly, "Manana sera otre dia (Tomorrow is another day)." And at that moment a solitary horseman galloped into camp, drew up before General Recio, and saluting gravely, said, "El enemigo!" Someone echoed his words, and, as if by magic, the camp was infused with life.
   "The enemy! The enemy!" shouted the troopers. The bugler of the guard sounded the alarm. "Boots and Saddles" followed, and then "General Assembly." Within five minutes the cavalry had struck camp and formed up, staff officers galloped off to report the strength and disposition of the Spaniards, and the long line of ragged infantry was moving forward, laughing and chatting glibly as they marched. When the columns did move out in Camaguey, they came prepared to fight; the Cubans were too strong to permit any of the tactics employed in the west, and there were no towns for the soldiers to crawl into each night before sunset.
   The chief of staff gave me a serviceable horse, and I was instructed to go with Colonel Molina, commanding the infantry. Delmonte joined us later, and then, to my chagrin, I learned that Molina was only to act as rear guard with the impedimenta, and see that supplies were pushed up to the force. His orders were to give me a practico and escort, and facilitate my journey to the insurgent government at Esperanza. As that was the object of my visit, I could not complain, much as I regretted the lost opportunity of witnessing a fight of fair proportions.
   Molina was an interesting companion, and we rode several miles together to a prefectura from which I was to start on my journey as soon as possible. Cuban-born, he had accepted a commission in the Chilean army, and attained the rank of major, when he resigned and returned to Cuba to fight. With a practical military training, he was speedily promoted to colonel of infantry. He used the regulation kit of Chile, which I was surprised to see equalled the most approved equipment of Europe.
   I was fretting with impatience in the prefect's house, having decided to secure my guide and ride toward the combat; but not until next morning could we start, and adjudging it too late to overtake the general, we headed for the Government. After a ride of thirty-two miles, we off-saddled for the night in an old cattle-shed, and made the best meal possible of plantains, and it was just after midnight when the practico's stentorian voice sent me springing from my hammock. "Alto! Quien va?"
   "Cuba!" was the prompt response from the approaching party. One advanced and gave the countersign, and then a party of scouts rode up. "Be on your guard. Castellanos with a strong column is marching to attack the Government. The force advancing south was a blind to draw off the general; they too have now wheeled, and are making a forced march to rejoin the main body," they said, as they galloped on to spread a general alarm and hurry forward all outlying divisions.
   This was news indeed, welcome and unwelcome. After all, we were in the path of the fight, and were even ahead of Recio, who was not apprised of the feint until he had lost a day. We rode hard next morning, keeping to winding side-trails, and avoiding the highroad leading from Puerto Principe to Moron on the north coast, along which the Spaniards were advancing.
   We camped after sunset on a loma, loosening our saddle girths and tying our horses near. Not daring to light a fire, we went hungry. In a camp of four, and a country swarming with the enemy, the feeling of loneliness and uncertainty is depressing, and we turned in early, posting guards at an hourly relief. About seven o'clock a sudden glare in the sky about a mile distant aroused us, and the cracking of rifles and loud yells and shouts were borne over on the cool night air. The enemy at last!
   We mounted and rode cautiously toward the firing. The practico led us through devious trails, the glare appearing one moment in front, then on our right or behind; but he was never at fault, and we finally came to the edge of a wood bordering a vast savannah. A stream was before us, and beyond it the Spaniards. Crouching in the underbrush, we could see everything plainly. The soldiers had halted on the highroad near two plantations. Both charming residencias were blazing fiercely, a plot of cane in rear was also burning, and the scene was thus as bright as day. The soldiers ran fiercely to and fro, waving firebrands, like imps of darkness, in the brilliant glare. Five hapless prisoners; an aged Cuban lady, a girl of perhaps seventeen, a sturdy boy, and two Negro women, were brought out and taken to the rear.
   The cane burned furiously, and the heat forced out a white man and two Negroes hiding therein. They made a wild dash for liberty, but volleys rang out, and two dropped, while one gained the road and disappeared. But the white man, an old retainer, sprang up again and continued his flight, though wounded. The soldiers shot at him wildly, and we could scarce forbear a cheer as he sprang at the fence with an agility born of fear. The woods were close, but he missed his footing and rolled back, scrambled up again, and was all but over as the foremost soldiers sprang at him. Two machetes glinted in the firelight, and he fell back with a thud.
   Several outhouses and homes of the farm workers were now blazing, and then we saw an example of the crass superstition of the Spaniard. Before each house in outlying districts of Cuba where churches are few, a plain wooden cross is erected. To prevent ignition, soldiers were stationed at each, to pour water over the sacred emblem. Yet before that cross they could burn homes, loot, and commit unspeakable excesses, upon the very people whose hands had fashioned it as sanctifying their residence.
   We watched this pitiful scene of destruction until the flames died out, and the soldiers, selecting cows from the looted stock, prepared supper and camp for the night. Then we crept back to our horses, and pushed ahead toward the Government.
   The district north of Puerto Principe is fertile; and though the lack of railroads is an insuperable drawback to the production of sugar for export, immense farms for cattle raising occupied the glorious savannahs. The Spaniards held but two towns in the interior, and three beside Nuevitas on the coast. Consequently there had been no attempt at reconcentration except in the vicinity of those places; and shut off entirely from the west by the Trocha, the interior of the eastern provinces was Free Cuba to all intents and purposes. The inhabitants dwelt on their farms or in the little Cuban villages as before the war.
   The Spaniards were now laying waste the most fertile and populous district of Camaguey. General Blanco and his Government in Madrid had assured the civilised world, not two weeks before, that there should be no further destruction of property, their desire being to build up Cuba, and inspire the people with confidence that they should return to their homes. The Presidential message that asked Congress to give time to Spain was hinged on this very clause, and in treacherous duplicity here were Weyler's tactics religiously followed.
   On a by-path in the Espinosa district we soon overtook fugitives warned of the enemy's approach by the blaze of burning houses. They had dashed from their homes, thinking the soldiers were upon them, and when they found we were friends, they embraced us as deliverers.
   It had rained heavily the day before, and the road was a quagmire in which delicate Cuban ladies in their night-clothes waded to their knees. An old man suffering from fever fell by the roadside; a pretty girl of sixteen threw herself on his breast, weeping bitterly, and exclaiming, "Padre Mio!" She was scantily dressed, having in her haste donned a tiny pair of satin shoes, relics of city balls before the war, and then been forced to fly in her undergarments. I wrapped my coat round her, and allayed their fears by assuring them that the Spaniards had halted. Some of the men returned with us to two unpretentious houses deserted nearby, and we seized all the clothes and food we could, and rode back rapidly to the fugitives. Behind a bush we found one woman crazed with terror, and clasping convulsively to her breast a girl of twelve who had escaped quite nude. A young English girl, daughter of the resident engineer of the Sanchez estate, who had remained in the interior with friends, dragged one bedridden member of the family nearly a mile.
   After cutting a way through the bush to a safe retreat for the refugees, and making several trips, carrying the women on our horses, we masked the gap against chance discovery, and rode on, promising to send pacificos to help them into a more comfortable haven in the morning. Later we met a scout who reported that Recio was then riding hard with the cavalry, to overtake the enemy, who had two days' start, leaving the infantry to come up as speedily as possible. We then decided to halt until daybreak where the road forks to La Rosa and Moron.
   We lay in the wet grass, and I slept soundly. It seemed but ten minutes when the guide aroused me, and I found the grey dawn breaking to day. We were sore, hungry, and tired, when we remounted, and rode toward Esperanza. But the Spaniard was up betimes to escape the heat of the day, and smoke rising on our right showed that he was taking the other road toward Cubitas. The character of the country made it possible for us to keep near the enemy, who invariably marched on the highroad; their canvas shoes, and the risk of ambuscade, keeping them severely to beaten tracks.
   Turning our horses by a trail, discernible only to the practico, we rode toward San Jacinto and emerged on the road, ahead, but uncomfortably close to the Imperial troops. The people in the district had just been alarmed, and were hurrying out in all stages of dishabille to reach the prefectura, which stood back in the woods and could hardly be attacked. Two columns of smoke now rose barely half a mile behind us, and the fugitives from those houses came screaming down the road, fortunately all on horseback. They were preparing to dress when alarmed, and had escaped by the rear gates as the Spaniards tore down the fences and swarmed in the front.
   The last family caught my attention especially. Three children were riding a stocky pony; a Cuban, evidently a planter, carried his prostrate wife in front on a tall gray mare that resented the double burden, while a girl, riding bareback, nestled a pet cat under the arm that held the halter, and with the other hand urged her parent's mount forward with a riding switch, calling "Papa!" She was extremely pretty, her complexion fair for a Cuban; but her brilliant eyes, classical features, and glossy hair that fell over her shoulders in glorious profusion, were typical of her race. "How like Miss Cisneros!" I thought; and some days later I learned they were first cousins.
   As we reined up, she perceived that we were strangers, and crimsoned with shame at her scanty attire, vainly trying to hide her bare feet under her petticoat. By so doing she dropped her pet cat; and puss, with no fear of Spaniards, darted for home.
   There was no time for conversation. "Hurry, Senorita!" I said as we closed in behind them, for the road, flanked by woods here, soon passed over a wide savannah, which we must cross before reaching cover, and if the Spaniards came up we should make an easy target. The scout took the half-conscious woman before him, and by hard riding we gained the woods as the advance guard of the enemy broke cover across the plain. Wide cavalry flanks came through the bush and closed in, and the enemy formed into close column to cross the open. "We must check them here!" said the practico, I supposed in joke; but I soon saw that he was in earnest, and I tried to imagine Spartans about to hold Thermopylae, for surely the odds, three facing an army corps, were greater than Leonidas against Xerxes. But the nonchalance of the Cubans reassured me.
   For some distance the road ran parallel to the fringe of the woods, with some six hundred yards of low bush intervening. Tying our horses some distance back, we crept forward through the trees, and could soon hear the Spaniards talking, the hemp soles making a curious shuffling as the tired hordes slouched along. I was trembling too much to take aim, but blazed indiscriminately at the massed light uniforms that appeared a haze through the tangle. The practico and soldier fired steadily, changing their position repeatedly. Some distance down a Mauser and Remington "pah pahed" and banged alternately; and I afterwards learned that two of General Roloff's aides, Captain Alfredo and Lieutenant Jack, a brave young American I met later, were also "holding the enemy." The column halted on the plain, as if expecting a machete charge; our ruse was working. We could see the force stretching away for over a mile. There were six battalions of infantry, two batteries of light artillery, a regiment of cavalry, and a squad of guerillas, some 12,000 in all. It was almost as strong an army corps as one of Weyler's devastating columns, and being far less scattered, was the most formidable Spanish force I saw. Castellanos had mobilised every soldier possible to attack the insurgent Government. But a few days before, a practico named Perez, court-martialled for theft, escaped arrest, stole a horse, and rode to Puerto Principe. He offered to guide the Spaniards against his former comrades, and Castellanos had taken advantage of the offer. Luckily there have been few such traitors in Cuba, or the cause must long since have been lost.
   Before us some companies formed in double line, the front rank kneeling, and firing with rifle butts on the ground. Their bullets chipped the leaves off the highest trees, while those in the rear fired regular volleys that spat angrily against the trunks well above us. Then a shell screamed overhead and burst half a mile away, but others came nearer. It was getting too hot; the Spaniards were "held," and we crept to our horses and rode off through the trees. We could hear the enemy banging away for twenty minutes to clear the woods of the fictitious enemy, and then they threw out flanks and went on again, later burning Pueblo Nuevo and the houses on the highroad to La Citia.
   This was on January 11th, I believe, though the track of days is lost in the manigua. We found General Recio had countermarched, and was already near Esperanza, so we pushed our jaded horses toward Cubitas. A cocoanut grove made our bivouac near the little Cuban capital. The pacificos had torn down the roughly made bridges and thrown barricades on the road; but at daybreak, scouts announced that the Spaniards were closing in. The Government then packed all their belongings and rode out of the town one hour before the attack began.
   A popular fiction credited President Maso with holding nominal office away in the wilds of the Cubitas Mountains, hunted day and night by the Spaniards. His Government, however, had occupied the little town of Esperanza, renamed Agremonte City after the first president of "Cuba Libre," for eight months, dwelling in houses almost on the highroad. The enemy had never previously attempted to march into the heart of Camaguey, though the route lay on one of the best roads in Cuba.
   A little party of rebel infantry checked the soldiers at the last destroyed bridge, but thanks to the traitor Perez, the artillery gained a ridge near the town and opened fire. Thirty rounds I counted, and not one shell struck the place; but the handful of men were finally driven from the river crossing, and fell back with loss, while Recio with his cavalry tried vainly to hold out until his infantry should arrive. Clinging to every bit of cover, the troopers replied to the withering volleys of the enemy, and the fight raged for two hours longer. Cavalry carbines are at great disadvantage against Mauser rifles, and gradually the long line of Spaniards crept forward.
   Everything portable had been carried from the houses to the woods; so Recio sent troopers with firebrands to various points, and at a given signal the torch was applied. The Cubans then fell back to a hill behind, where they took up a good position, and the enraged Spaniards rushed into the burning town, to be met by a withering fire that killed nine, and drove them back.
   By Blanco's orders, placards had been posted on fences and trees as the columns marched, pointing out the advantages of autonomy, and advising everyone to return to the nearest town, where work and food would be provided. The Cubans knew little of the thousands then dying of starvation in the cities, but they placed no faith in Spain, and no one followed this advice.
   "Death to Spain! Death to autonomy! Long live Cuba free!" yelled the insurgents during the fight. "Long live Spain! Death to autonomy! Death to Cuba!" were the vituperative brickbats sent in reply.
   "In some things we differ. In this we agree. Neither Cuban nor Spaniard wants autonomy," rhymed a New York Cuban. And both sides cried down autonomy, though they would have equally welcomed the termination of hostilities.
   Dr. Clark dressed the wounded Cubans by the river, and they were either sent off through the woods to a hospital, or returned to fight. Recio's infantry arrived next day thoroughly worn out, but he posted his force to hold the road leading to the government offices and official printing depot. Castellanos, informed of the location by Perez, had wished to capture these workshops, and both forces took long-range shots at each other for two days, when the Spaniards started to retire. The tireless Cubans, though short of ammunition, harassed them every step of the way; their food ran out, and as they were obliged to forage in force instead of marching all day, their return to Principe became unduly prolonged.

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