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Produced by Annie R. McGuire

[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.

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"An hour's sport with a Spanish cruiser - that's what it will be," Benito
Bastian said to himself.

But the care he was giving to his boat looked like more serious business
than an hour's sport. She is a swift sharpie that he called _Villa
Clara_, after his native town, and she was drawn up on the beach and
turned over, and Benito was scraping her clean. If she ever did fast
sailing, he wanted her to do it that night.

"Let this wind hold, and give me a dark night," he went on, "and it will
take a faster cruiser than _El Rey_ to catch me."

Benito is a handsome dark-eyed Cuban boy, who lives on the little Cuban
island called Ginger Key, forty miles north of the Cuban coast. The boys
of Ginger Key, like their older brothers, are full of excitement just
now; for occasionally a band of Cuban patriots makes its way over from
Florida and goes into hiding in the thick woods, and watches its chance
to land on the coast of Cuba. These hands need guides; and it is the
Ginger Key boys who know the waters well, and the coast too. Benito
handles his sharpie to perfection on the darkest nights and in all kinds
of weather; and as to helping his countrymen, the Cuban insurgents, he
feels about it just as the Boston boys felt about Bunker Hill.

"I ought to be doing something for the cause," he said to himself
several months ago. "It's a pity I'm only sixteen; they may think I am
too young. But I know these waters as well as any man on the key."

He looked down regretfully at his bare feet and legs, for his trousers
were rolled well up. He took off his old straw hat and smiled at it; but
he could not see how his brown eyes flashed, nor how handsome his brown
hair looked, waving in the wind. He is tall and strong for his age, and
brown as a berry - not only from the sun, but by nature.

"Yes, they'll say I'm only a boy, that's sure," he continued; "so I must
have my wits about me if I want to get a chance."

Two large parties of armed men Benito saw land on Ginger Key, and saw
neighbors of his pilot them across to Cuba, dodging the Spanish
cruisers. Then a third party came and went into camp, while the schooner
_Dart_ cruised up and down in the Florida straits. This last party staid
so long that something seemed to be wrong, and Benito made up his mind
that he might be useful; at any rate, he would try. He said little, but
learned all he could, and when the opportunity came he went to the
leader of the party.

"You don't get away very fast," he said to the leader, taking care to
speak in a low voice. "It's ticklish work, landing men near Sagua la
Grande. That's well watched."

The man looked at him curiously, surprised that this boy should know so
much about his arrangements.

"Yes," he answered, "that is well watched. _El Rey_, the big Spanish
cruiser, patrols that coast day and night."

"I think I could draw her off long enough for you to land your men,"
Benito whispered.

"You?" the man exclaimed; "why, you are only a boy!" It was just as
Benito expected.

He went on to unfold the plan he had made; and it was a plan so full of
daring and danger that the man opened his eyes wide.

"Well," said he, "you're full of grit, if you _are_ only a boy. But you
are very young, and I don't know anything about you. I don't even know
whether you could make your way over to Cuba. You run over there alone
and bring me some token to show that you've been there, and then I will
talk to you."

"That's easy," Benito answered. "What shall I bring you?"

The man thought a moment. "Bring me a bunch of red bananas," he
answered. "They are plenty in Cuba, but you raise only yellow ones on
this key. If you bring me a bunch of red bananas, I will know that you
have been in Cuba."

Forty-eight hours later Benito laid a bunch of red bananas in the
leader's tent, and gave him some valuable information about the
movements of the cruiser.

"I think you'll do," said the man. "You are not all talk and no action,
like some of these fellows. If you can draw the cruiser off and keep her
out of our way for two hours, you are worthy to call yourself a Cuban."

"Very good," Benito answered. "I will try."

They talked over the details of the plan, and agreed that they must wait
for a pitch-dark night and a brisk wind. On the morning that Benito
scraped his boat, there was every promise of such a night. There would
be no moon, the sky was overcast, and a lively breeze came in from the

Seventy-five men and a great many cases of rifles were on board the
schooner _Dart_, at five o'clock that afternoon, the hour agreed upon
for sailing to make sure of reaching Sagua la Grande by midnight; and
the sharpie _Villa Clara_ seemed impatient for Benito to hoist her

"We will give you a line and tow you over," said the leader.

"Oh, I guess you don't know the _Villa Clara_," Benito answered. "I
think she will show the schooner the way."

"One thing I must ask you," were the leader's last words before he went
on board the schooner - "do your father and mother know what danger you
are going into to-night?"

"I have no father or mother," Benito replied, sadly; "so if I don't come
back it will not make much difference."

None knew better than he the risk he was taking. The cruiser would blow
him out of the water if she could; and if any of them were captured,
they would either be shot or be sentenced by the Spaniards to long terms
of imprisonment.

The night was all they could ask, and just what they had waited for. No
moon, the sky full of black clouds to obscure the stars, and half a gale
blowing from the southeast. Benito was willing to risk his life on the
sharpie being a faster boat than the Spanish cruiser on such a night.

Neither schooner nor sharpie showed a light; and if Benito had been
captured on the way over his captors would have been astonished at the
cargo he carried. In the bottom of his boat were a dozen boards, each
two feet long by a foot wide, with a shallow tin can nailed to the
middle of each board. And there were four canisters of colored fire - one
red, one yellow, one green, and one white. And there were several yards
of fuse, and a box of sand. The colored fire and the fuse Benito had
bought when he visited Cuba for the bananas.

"The schooner is to lie to as soon as we sight the lights on the Cuban
coast," was the arrangement Benito made with the leader. "After I find
the cruiser you will see her lights moving; but she will be nearer to me
than to you. I will give you a white light when all is safe. When I burn
a white light you can land your men."

The sharpie and the schooner kept well together till they were near the
coast of Cuba, and they saw the lights of Sagua la Grande before ten
o'clock. This was so much earlier than they had expected that it made
some difference in Benito's plans. By midnight the cruiser, following
her usual course, should be somewhere off Cardenas; but instead of that
they saw her lights directly in front of the spot where they proposed to
land the men.

"So much the better," said Benito, when he boarded the schooner for a
moment before setting his dangerous plot in motion. "I will coax her
down to the eastward."

The leader of the party gave him a warm grip of the hand before they

"You are a brave lad," said he. "When you are under the cruiser's fire,
remember that it is in the cause of freedom."

"Oh, I don't think they can hit me," Benito answered; "and I am sure
they can't catch me." And he was off.

The schooner and the sharpie had this great advantage; they could see
the cruiser's lights, but she could not see them.

Benito beat down the coast till he was about five miles to the eastward
of the cruiser, and several miles from the shore. Then he took up one of
his boards with the shallow tin can nailed to it.

He poured sand into the can till it was about two-thirds full, and then
put in a good inch of red fire. Through a little hole that he had
punched in the side of the can he inserted the end of a full half-yard
of fuse, and wound it round and round the can, and tied it with a cord
to keep it out of the water. Cautiously he struck a match under the
stern seat and touched it to the fuse, and laid the board on the surface
of the water and left it floating there.

This done, he headed the sharpie for shore. The long fuse was used
because he desired to be close under the shore before the red fire
burned. The southeast wind was just right for him, and the sharpie
fairly flew through the water. He was close enough in, and was pouring
sand into the second can fastened to a board, when the red light blazed

What a glare it made! Certainly that lurid light must be visible for
twenty miles.

It was green fire that Benito poured into his second can, and for this
he used a much shorter fuse - just long enough to give him time to
escape from the circle of light that was sure to follow. The red fire
had hardly died out before the green fire blazed up, but by that time
Benito was half a mile away.

"That will stir them up," he said to himself. The sharpie was making a
long run to the northeast then, seaward and away from the cruiser; but
he kept an eye on her lights. "It's plain enough what that means. First
the red light, a signal from a party about to land; then the green
light, an answering signal from their friends on shore. At least that's
what I want the cruiser to think, and I believe she will; and she'll
hunt those lights."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, a moment later, "the cruiser has seen the lights,
for she's moving. I've started her, sure. Now the excitement begins."

The cruiser's lights grew larger and larger. She was standing down the
coast, almost straight toward the green light, which still burned. She
ran up within a half-mile of it, and fire belched from one of her

C-r-a-s-h! crash! Not one great boom, but a continuous roar.

"That's her Gatling!" Benito exclaimed. "Lucky I didn't burn my lights
on the boat, as I thought of doing."

Spain's cruisers are as modern as our American vessels, and fitted with
every deadly appliance. The one thing that _El Rey_ lacks is a
search-light; if she had carried a search-light that night Benito would
not be alive to tell this story.

The green light disappeared under the shower of bullets, and the cruiser
kept on her course. That was against the wind, and the sharpie could not
compete with steam against the wind; but Benito was heading out seaward,
off to the northeast, further and further away from the schooner.

When he was full three miles out from shore again, and perhaps eight
miles from the _Dart_, he set off another red light, giving it, as
before, a long fuse. He was hardly fifty feet away from it when there
came another crash from the cruiser - a deep boom this time from one of
her heavy guns, followed by a shower of bullets from the Gatling; he
heard them whistling and shrieking through the air, but he was not
struck. The red light had not even begun to burn yet; the cruiser's
watchful men had seen the spark burning at the end of the fuse.

"All right, Spaniard!" Benito exclaimed. He had never been under fire
before, and his lips were set firm, and his free hand involuntarily
closed into a tight fist. "All right, Spaniard! I've got you waked up,
anyhow. You're chasing a party of insurgents, ain't you! I wish I dared
tell you that you're chasing a boy, while the insurgents are getting
ready to land ten miles up the coast!"

He stood in for the shore again, still beating to the eastward as close
as the wind would allow; and when the fuse's spark blazed up into a
bright red light the cruiser was heading towards it.

"A little careful about showing this light; that's what I'll have to be;
a little careful," he said to himself, as he struck a match to set off
his second green light close to shore. He kept the sharpie between the
spark of fuse and the cutter's lights as long as he could to hide the
fire, and then stood out seaward to the northeast again.

As the green light blazed up he turned his head a moment to look at it,
and in that instant a strange thing happened. When he looked towards the
cruiser again she had disappeared! Save for the green fire burning there
was not a spark of light on all that black sea.

"I thought she'd do that!" Benito exclaimed. "She's trying my own game,
and has put out all her lights. Well, I'll give her a white light in a
few minutes, and that will be something new for her to think about."

He was still running out seaward and eastward, and the sharpie was
bending down to her work, and cutting the waves like a knife, when
suddenly he heard the throbbing of an engine and the splash of a
propeller. Before he had time to think a great black wall of iron,
looming twenty feet above his head, was right on top of him.

The cruiser was accidentally running him down in the darkness! He could
see nothing on the water, but there was light enough in the sky to make
out her great black form towering over him. His first impulse was to cry
out; but he shut his teeth tight and waited for the blow.

But the blow did not come. The next instant the black mass was shooting
past him, her iron side hardly six feet from the sharpie's stern.

"Good sharpie! Good old girl!" he exclaimed; and in the excitement he
patted the boat on the gunwale. "If you hadn't been a flier, we'd been
goners that time."

Benito's heart was in his throat for a few minutes; he would not pretend
to deny that. But no wonder, for no boat ever had a narrower escape. He
ran out several miles more and burned his white light, which said to the

"Land your men! I have the cruiser busy." And then he ran out five miles
further to the northeast and burned another red light.

"That's an extra touch, that last red light," he said to himself. "They
gave me a close rub, so I'll just mix them up a little worse."

Then he put the sharpie about, and headed her for Ginger Key. He had
risked his little all - his life and his boat - in the cause of his
country, and his night's work was done. With the wind on his starboard
quarter he knew that no cruiser in Cuban waters could overtake him.
Before he had gone far he saw lights on the cruiser again, and they
showed her to be nearly where he had burned the white fire, fully ten
miles from the schooner. And by that time the men were all on shore.

Next day Benito was on Ginger Key as usual; but it was not till nearly a
month later that a passing schooner carried to the key a letter with an
Havana postmark, addressed to Benito Bastian. The letter was only a few
lines, without any signature; but it enclosed a Spanish draft for two
hundred dollars.

"We landed safely, and are with friends," the letter said. "We have made
up this little testimonial for a brave boy we know."


A Story of the Revolution.




[1] Begun in HARPER'S ROUND TABLE No. 836.

The next morning Cato was sent over to the Hewes' mansion with a note
signed by both the twins, and addressed to Carter. It requested him to
come to Stanham Manor and spend the day, and plans were laid to have a
glorious time.

But what was their disappointment when Cato brought back the news that
their new-found friend and old-time enemy had left that very morning
with his father for New York.

The twins were much cast down, but there was soon to be a greater burden
on their minds, for after luncheon they had been told that a parting
would shortly take place between them, and that Mr. Daniel Frothingham
was going to take William back with him to England.

For some reason Uncle Nathan had a marked partiality for William, but he
was the last person in the world to have held a preference in this
regard, as it was absolutely impossible for Uncle Nathan to tell the
twins apart.

The boys had listened to the news of the coming separation in dignified
silence, and as soon as possible they had made their way back to the
garden behind the house. Their feelings at first were too deep for

"I will not go, unless you go too," said the elder boy at last, seating
himself on the edge of a grass-plot. He had hard work to keep from

"You said you wanted to go to England," said George. "You have talked
about it often."

"Well, it's not fair," said William. "Why should he choose me?"

"It may not be for long," answered George. "You'll come back - or
probably I can go over there to see you."

"And we may be able to get into the army," said William, trying to be

George sat down beside him. "I do wish I were leaving with you," he
said, choking back the tears, "but he refused to think of sending us
both. Aunt Clarissa asked him." He put his arm about his brother's
shoulders. "I'm going to be sent to town to school," he added.

"I tell you what let's do," said William. "Let's draw lots, and see which
one of us will go to London."

He broke a bundle of spears of grass and tore them off, some longer than
others. Then he rubbed two of them in his hands.

"I don't know which it is," he said; "but if you get the shorter one,
you go, and if you get the longer one, I go."

George drew at once. It was the shorter spear. So far as Uncle Nathan's
preference went, it counted for nothing with his nephews.

The departure that took place the following week was an affair of the
greatest moment. Although the young Frothinghams did not know it at the
time, it was a long farewell they were taking of Stanham Mills.

Good-byes were said at last, and, to tell the truth, tears were shed in
plenty as they parted from their sister.

The twins' belongings were packed into small boxes, then the old chaise
was harnessed up, and seated beside their Uncle Daniel, and followed by
Nathaniel Frothingham and Cato on horseback, they set out to make the
long journey to the city. Mr. Wyeth had started the previous afternoon.

The young Frothinghams had been to New York only once before, when they
were very small indeed, and their recollections of the first visit were
somewhat vague.

It was long after dusk when the little party arrived at their
destination. They had been rowed across the river from Paulus Hook, and
went with their uncle at once to a tavern which in the days of Dutch
supremacy had been one of New York's most aristocratic dwelling-houses.
Now it was the rendezvous for merchants of Tory principles and army
officers. Young, befrilled, and powdered dandies who aped the manners of
the Continent hero exchanged their pinches of snuff with as much
gallantry and courtesy as if they had met at the palace of St. James.

The Stanham party had been driven from the ferry in a rough lumbering
affair - half coach, half omnibus - and had been deposited with their
small box and the saddle-bags at the door of the tavern.

As they had gone down the hallway they caught a glimpse, through the
open door on the right, of a group of men in red coats, with much
glitter of gold lace and many buttons, who could be seen through the
thick clouds of tobacco smoke seated about a large steaming punch-bowl
on a great oak table. They were some of the officers of his Majesty's
forces that had been sent to "protect" the inhabitants of his "thankless

Everything was new to the boys - the sound of the many voices, the
snatches of songs and choruses that now and then came up from the
coffee-room, the jingle of spurs and sabres as a party of troopers made
their way across the stone flagging of the court. In all directions were
delights, and in their little room they could hardly sleep from
excitement that first night.

Early in the morning they looked out of the window, still thrilled with
the pleasure that all young natures feel at being amidst new
surroundings. It was a beautiful day, and the wind blowing from the
southward was filled with the fresh smell of the sea. Their room was
high up, and they could look over the sloping roofs and house-tops
across the river and out into the bay, where two or three huge
men-of-war lay straining at their anchors.

"Isn't it fine!" exclaimed William, as they knelt on the floor with both
elbows on the window-sill, drawing short breaths with gasps of sheer

At the end of the street was a small green, and here a company of
infantry was drilling. They could catch the glint of the sunlight upon
the muskets, and almost hear the energetic words of the young officer,
who strode up and down the front.

"Oh, to be a soldier!" said William.

"Wouldn't it be grand?" said George, the martial spirit that animates
almost every boy welling up in him so strongly that he quivered from the
top of his head to the soles of his bare feet.

Just then a two-horse equipage was seen coming down the street, with the
dust flying up from the great red wheels. In it sat a man, richly
dressed, with his three-cornered hat set sideways over his powdered
hair, his chin resting on his hands, which were supported by a
gold-headed cane, and a sneer was upon the cruel lips.

It was Governor Tryon, who had put down the so-called "rebellion" in the
Carolinas, and for his "fidelity" in hanging several people who strongly
expressed their views had been honored by the post of being his
Majesty's representative, the Governor at New York.

The boys were craning their necks to get a good view of the red-wheeled
coach, when suddenly there was a knock on the door. It was old Cato.

"Come on, young gentlemen," he said. "Hurry on yo' close; yo' uncles is
waitin' breakfast down below stairs."

They jumped up, and in a few minutes were both arrayed in the quaint
costumes in which we first saw them. True, the pink breeches, despite
Aunt Polly's careful ironing, showed traces of the plunge into the
brook, and the buttons on the heavy velvet coats were not all mates; but
Aunt Clarissa had sacrificed some of her treasures, and the lace
trimmings were fresh and clean.

"I wish we had swords," said George, thinking of the glimpse of a young
periwigged dandy he had seen talking to some ladies in the tavern parlor
the night before.

The two uncles greeted the twins quite cheerfully. The ship that was
going to take Uncle Daniel back to England was to sail early on the
morrow, and he appeared glad indeed at the prospect of leaving America
behind him. As the boys sat down, Mr. Wyeth came up and joined the

"Well, my young gentlemen," he said, bowing over the back of his chair,
"we're glad to see you in the city; and what do you think of it?" he

"It's very fine," ventured George, but then he could say no more. He
grasped his brother's hand underneath the table. He could not speak of
the prospect of leaving William then, for, of course, no one else knew
that the twins had decided in their own way which one was to go with
Uncle Daniel.

A party of officers in all the bravery of their red coats and glittering
accoutrements came laughing through the doorway. They hardly
acknowledged Mr. Wyeth's salute, and seated themselves at a table,
thumping loudly with their fists, and calling for the waiter.

The twins looked at them in wide-eyed admiration.

"This is a loyal house," said Mr. Wyeth, with a sigh of pleasure. "But I
do assure you, sir," addressing Uncle Daniel, "that there are other
taverns in the town where seditious speeches are made openly, and where
men gather whose conduct and whose thoughts approach almost to open
rebellion." He lowered his voice. "The merchants here have followed the
pernicious example of the misguided Bostonians, and have refused to
import English goods. If this keeps up, ruin to the country must follow.
Secret societies have been formed, and their abominable proclamations
can be seen posted on almost every corner. They say England has no right
to impose a tax of any kind."

Uncle Nathan frowned, but he restrained his tendency to burst into rage.
"There are the gentlemen who can take care of the rebels," he said,
nodding towards the group of officers. "The prisons should be filled
with malcontents, who dare to dispute the authority of the King." Uncle

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Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, November 26, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 7)