By KIRK MUNROE
It was a grand success. Every one said so; and moreover,
every one who witnessed the experiment predicted
that the Mermaid would revolutionize naval warfare as
completely as did the world-famous Monitor. Professor
Rivers, who had devoted the best years of his life to perfecting
his wonderful invention, struggling bravely on
through innumerable disappointments and failures, undaunted
by the sneers of those who scoffed, or the
significant pity of his friends, was so overcome by his
signal triumph that he fled from the congratulations of
those who sought to do him honour, leaving to his young
assistants the responsibility of restoring the marvellous
craft to her berth in the great ship-house that had witnessed
These assistants were two lads, eighteen and nineteen
years of age, who were not only the Professor's most
promising pupils, but his firm friends and ardent admirers.
The younger, Carlos West Moranza, was the only son of
a Cuban sugar-planter, and an American mother who had
died while he was still too young to remember her. From
earliest childhood he had exhibited so great a taste for
machinery that, when he was sixteen, his father had sent him
to the United States to be educated as a mechanical engineer
in one of the best technical schools of that country.
There his dearest chum was his class-mate, Carl Baldwin,
son of the famous American shipbuilder, John
Baldwin, and heir to the latter's vast fortune. The elder
Baldwin had founded the school in which his own son
was now being educated, and placed at its head his life-long
friend, Professor Alpheus Rivers, who, upon his
patron's death, had also become Carl's sole guardian.
In appearance and disposition young Baldwin was
the exact opposite of Carlos Moranza, and it was this as
well as the similarity of their names that had first attracted
the lads to each other. While the young Cuban was a
handsome fellow, slight of figure, with a clear olive complexion,
impulsive and rash almost to recklessness, the
other was a typical Anglo-Saxon American, big, fair, and
blue-eyed, rugged in feature, and slow to act, but clinging
with bulldog tenacity to any idea or plan that met
with his favour. He invariably addressed his chum as
"West," while the latter generally called him "Carol."
The Rivers submarine boat, finally christened Mermaid,
had been evolved during long years in the great Baldwin
shipyard located on the Delaware, less than a mile distant
from the Baldwin technical school, and during his
lifetime John Baldwin had taken a deep interest in its
construction. Thus Carl had been familiar with its every
detail from the time that he could remember anything,
and had grown up with an abiding faith in its possibilities.
That his chum was also enthusiastic concerning it constituted
one of the strongest bonds of sympathy between
them. Now that its complete success had been demonstrated
by four hours of trial, during most of which time
it had been manœuvred under water with a party of six
distinguished engineers on board, Carl's elation was only
little less than that of the inventor, whose very life was
bound up in it. Like him, however, the lad was slow to
express his deepest feelings; but the enthusiasm of the
day found ample vent through the young Cuban, who
had been permitted to share in the glorious result, and who
poured forth his exultation in a torrent of words as the
two lads left the shipyard and wended their way homeward.
"It is the crowning triumph of the century, my Carol,
and will make immortal the name of our honoured instructor.
To have lived until this day and to be allowed
a share in such glory is a vast privilege. Of war, what a
revolution will be made! Oh, if my poor country possessed
but one of these marvels, how quickly would she
be free! To destroy the ships of Spain and open to the
world every Cuban port! What an achievement! what
honour! Carol, why may it not be done? Why may
we not take this Mermaid, and with her liberate Cuba from
her centuries of slavery?"
"Because," answered Carl Baldwin slowly, "she is
not ours to take, and even if she were, we would not be
allowed to use her in any such fashion. The Government
would not permit us."
"But if she were ours. If the Professor would consent
to allow us to attempt the experiment. If we could
escape the vigilance of the American cruisers, and manage
to convey our marvel of marvels to the scene of action,
would you not join in the enterprise, my Carol? Would
you not aid in striking the blow for freedom?"
"It would certainly be most interesting to test the
little craft in actual service," replied the young American
"Interesting, say you? It is of vital importance. What
she has done is nothing. Who knows what she may accomplish?
When will there come another such chance
for trying her in warfare? Where in the world is there
a prize to be gained equal in value to that of a free Cuba?
That my father has sacrificed all but life itself for her is
my proudest boast; that I may soon fight by his side, my
fondest hope. Oh, if you cold-blooded Americans could
but witness the cruelty, the oppression, the despair, the
horror of it all. But, if I cannot win over my dearest
friend among them, how may I hope to persuade others?
Ah, Dios! it is hard, it is bitter, it is pitiful, that but for
want of a single helping hand all should be lost."
At this point the young Cuban's feelings so overpowered
him that words failed to express them, and as
Carl Baldwin's policy was to remain silent during these
outbursts, the lads reached the school building in which
they lodged without further conversation.
Since Carlos Moranza had left home, the affairs of his
native land had come to a sorry pass. The struggle for
freedom had begun. Spanish armies devastated the fair
island, killing its inhabitants, laying waste their fields, and
destroying their homes, while Spanish war-ships patrolled
its coasts to cut off all outside aid from the insurgents.
The latter, devoid of nearly everything necessary for
carrying on a war, save a desperate determination to resist
to the death, occupied the interior of the island, where
they found impregnable strongholds amid its rugged
mountains and dense forests. The sympathies of the
American people were with them, and expeditions for
their relief were constantly fitting out in the southern
ports of the United States. Many of these failed to reach
their destination, since international law compelled the
Government to prevent them from sailing, if possible.
Thus, in addition to the Spanish fleet patrolling the Cuban
coasts, the southern waters of the United States were
guarded by an equally numerous fleet of American men-of-war
and vessels of its revenue marine.
From the very outset of the war Don Cćsar Moranza,
after placing his only daughter, Catina, who was two
years younger than Carlos, in what he conceived to be a
safe retreat, had linked his fortunes with those who fought
for liberty. He had quickly risen to the command of a
Cuban army, and, as General Moranza, the dashing cavalry
leader, proved such a terror to the Spaniards, that to capture
him became an important object of their campaigns.
With all the impetuosity of his nature Carlos longed
to take part in the glorious struggle, and, in every letter
that he found means of transmitting to his father, pleaded
to be allowed to join him. Thus far his petitions had
been denied on the ground that he would still have ample
opportunity for fighting after he had become a skilled
engineer. In the meantime he could do much for the
cause where he was, and must remember that to perfect
himself in his chosen profession would be of greater value
to Cuba than the winning of a battle. This stimulant
was what made young Moranza one of the most brilliant
scholars in the Baldwin Polytechnic; for he felt that every
problem solved was a blow struck for his country. At the
time of the Mermaid's successful trial trip, in which the
young Cuban had been allowed to participate as a distinguished
reward of merit, he had received no word from
his father or sister for many weeks, and so was filled with
anxiety concerning them.
As the lads reached the school they separated, Carlos
proceeding directly to his room, and the other going in
search of Professor Rivers to report the safe housing of
the Mermaid. The Professor was so buried in thought
that for a few moments he apparently took no notice of
Carl's entrance. Suddenly, lifting his head and looking
squarely at the lad, he exclaimed—
"Yes, yes, my boy, all is well so far as we have gone,
but what will she do in actual service? How will she
behave in face of an enemy? Is she capable of single-handed
and successful attack against a fleet? Until these
questions are answered how may I know whether my lifework
is a success or a failure? To solve them I would
willingly engage a navy in single combat; but where may
I find one willing to accept my challenge?"
"Why not in Cuba, sir?" suggested Carl with a sudden
"Cuba! Cuba!" repeated the Professor slowly, as
though bewildered by the idea thus presented, and then
he plunged once more into abstracted thought.
After waiting a few moments longer, and seeing that
his guardian was disinclined for further conversation just
then, Carl Baldwin departed to tell his friend of the seed
he had planted. To his dismay he found Carlos standing
as though petrified, and staring with bloodshot eyes at a
telegram evidently just received.
"What is it, West? What has happened?" inquired
young Baldwin anxiously.
"Read that," replied the other huskily.
With this he extended the message, which was signed
by the president of the Cuban Junta or War Committee,
whose headquarters were in New York City.
"General Moranza captured by treachery and shot
by order of Weyler. His daughter seized, imprisoned,
and held for transportation to a penal colony. May God
help you in this hour of your affliction!"
"For my father's death I grieve not," cried the young
Cuban. "He died for the cause he loved, and may be
avenged. But for my sister, my own little Catina, in
prison, at the mercy of those brutes, and consigned to the
living death of a convict! How may I bear it? What
can I do? Tell me, my friend, for I am going mad."
"No," cried Carl Baldwin, "you shall not go mad,
nor even yield to despair, for we will yet save her. The
Professor shall go with us, and we will take the Mermaid.
Even now he is inclined to consider some such undertaking.
And when he reads this message he will be as
ready to set forth as you or I. Oh yes, my dear fellow,
we can rescue her and we will. Instead of going to a
penal colony, she shall come to this country, and be as
free as you are at this moment."
As he spoke the young American seized his friend's
hand, and the latter looking into the brave blue eyes, now
blazing with excitement, believed that Catina would be
The submarine boat Mermaid was a cigar-shaped shell of
aluminium bronze, extremely light and strong, about forty
feet in length and eight in greatest diameter. On its upper
side was a small railed platform or deck, from the centre
of which rose a low turret provided with four bull's-eyes,
from which an observer might glance out ahead, astern,
or on either side. Another bull's-eye was fitted into the
hinged and water-tight cap that closed the turret when the
boat was submerged.
The interior of the boat was divided into three compartments.
Of these, the one farthest forward was fitted
with an air-lock, through which a person wearing a diver's
suit might leave the vessel while she was under water and
return to her at will. This hold was also pierced for a
bull's-eye through which could be made to shine an
electric search light of intense power.
The central compartment was the living and operating
room. It also contained a dynamo, an air compressor,
and a small condenser, by means of which sea-water could
be made drinkable. In the after compartment was located
a compact but powerful gasoline engine. This furnished
the motive power for running on the surface, and also
stored electricity by which the screw could be turned when
surface air was no longer available. Beneath the floor of
the central compartment was a tank for water ballast,
which could be filled or emptied at will of the operator.
In all parts of the boat were hundreds of tubes, wires, cocks,
valves, and other devices of amazing ingenuity for ensuring
the safety of her crew and the discomfiture of an enemy.
She was indeed, as Carlos Moranza had said, one of
the crowning scientific marvels of the century. On the
day succeeding that of her trial trip, the young Cuban
was full of hope and courage, for Professor Rivers had
been won to his cause by the enticing prospect of achieving
the rescue of a young girl from a dreadful fate, and at
the same time testing under most trying conditions the
powers of his beloved boat. He had only stipulated that
she should not be used for the destruction of either life or
Thus it happened that in less than a week one of the
most powerful tugs on the Delaware cleared for Havana.
She had in tow a great dumping scow, such as is used in
New York harbour for conveying the city garbage far out
to sea. This scow was built with a long central pocket,
the bottom of which was longitudinally divided into two
parts. Each of these was hung on massive hinges, and
could be made to drop or open outward, thus allowing
the contents of the pocket to fall into the sea. Then, by
means of a donkey-engine, the great valves could be
drawn up and closed as before.
The question of how to get the Mermaid to Havana
had proved most puzzling. She was too small to undertake
such a voyage by herself, and had she been shipped
on the deck of another vessel, her every movement would
have been watched and heralded, while the success of the
proposed expedition depended upon its secrecy. Thus,
at the very outset, the would-be rescuers seemed to be
confronted by an insurmountable difficulty. Then Carl
Baldwin had thought of the sea-going dumping scows,
several of which had been built in his father's shipyard,
where one recently completed even now awaited
"Why couldn't we take the Mermaid to Cuba in it?"
he suggested, after several other plans had been dismissed
"The very thing," cried Carlos Moranza. "In that
way we could carry her right into Havana harbour, and
there offer the scow for sale to the Spaniards as a blind.
It is a noble idea, my Carol, and will prove our salvation."
"It might be done," said the Professor thoughtfully.
"Let us go and take some measurements."
This they did, and found that the pocket of the dumping
scow was amply large to hold the Mermaid, at the
same time allowing her free egress and exit. It would
even float her when closed and half filled with water.
Only a few alterations that readily suggested themselves
to the Professor were needed to exactly suit the great
craft to their purpose.
While he took charge of these, and Carlos took a trip
to New York for consultation with the President of the
Cuban Junta, Carl Baldwin arranged for the charter of
the finest sea-going tug on the Delaware, and through
her captain for the purchase of the dumping-scow.
The Professor had long since placed the practical
direction of his school in the hands of able assistants, so
that he was free to leave it at a moment's notice for any
length of time. Thus, when he announced that he was
about to devote a few weeks to the testing of his pet
invention, and should need the assistance of his two ranking
pupils, their departure was effected without arousing
The clearing of the tug, with its novel tow, for Havana,
was, however, quite another thing; and, from the moment
their destination was announced, both craft were watched
by Government officials and Spanish spies to see that no
contraband cargo was taken aboard. Of course nothing
of the kind was found; but this did not prevent a revenue
cutter from escorting the tow down the river and across
Delaware Bay until it was clear of the breakwater and
well out at sea. Finally, the cutter turned back; but even
then her commander continued to watch the tow through
"In spite of their seeming innocence, I regard that as
one of the most suspicious departures ever made from the
Delaware," he remarked to a lieutenant who stood beside
him. "The pretence of trying to sell that scow in Havana
is only the baldest kind of a bluff. Any fool knows that
those blooming Spaniards aren't going to put themselves
to either the expense or trouble of carrying garbage out
to sea so long as they can dump it in their harbours.
Hello! What's that? Look quick and tell me if you
don't see something between us and them."
Through the glass thrust into his hand, the lieutenant
took a long and comprehensive survey of the intervening
"No, sir, I don't see anything," he reported at length.
"Neither do I now," said the other after another look.
"I would have sworn, though, that I saw something like
a raft moving towards that scow."
The commander had indeed caught a glimpse of the
Mermaid rising to the surface to get her bearings, but she
had instantly dived, nor did she again visit the surface
until safely within the shadow of the great scow.
She had run down the river the night before, and had
lain behind the breakwater with only a small portion of
her turret above the surface, until the tow, with its accompanying
cutter, had passed out to sea. Then she
followed, with her eyes just awash, and dove deep beneath
the revenue vessel when it turned back. Upon next
coming to the surface, she had been allowed to rise a
little too far, and so was very nearly discovered.
"It was a close shave," admitted Carl Baldwin, after
the Mermaid was safely ensconced within the closed pocket
of the great scow; "but a safe miss is as good as a
thousand miles, and now we are all right till we get to
"Don't you be too sure of that," admonished the
captain of the tug gruffly. "There's many a cruiser
between here and there, and every one of 'em is sartin to
So it proved. At Charleston, where the tug put in
for coal, leaving her tow in the lower bay, the scow was
boarded by revenue officers, who did not leave her until
she was again at sea; and all the while the poor little
Mermaid was dodging about under water, only coming
up now and then for a breath and a quick glance at her
surroundings, like a hunted sea-fowl.
Off the mouth of the St. John's River, the tow was
hove-to by a blank shot from a Government cruiser, and
again was the Mermaid forced to seek safety at the bottom
of the sea. This time she avenged herself by rising directly
beneath the cruiser, and demonstrating to the Professor's
entire satisfaction how easily he could if he chose place
and fire a torpedo that would blow her from the water.
It had been decided to touch at Key West, the most
southerly extremity of Florida, as well as of the United
States, and only eighty-five miles across the Gulf Stream
from Havana, and finally, after many narrow escapes from
discovery, our adventurers reached the port of that quaint
island-city in safety.
Here they found several American men-of-war, a small
fleet of torpedo-boats, four revenue cutters, and a Spanish
cruiser, to all of whom the strange tow, slowly making its
way up the harbour, seemed an object of especial interest.
Their fame had preceded them; every one knew that they
were bound for Havana, and that they had been objects
of suspicion all the way down the coast. So, before they
came to anchor, they were boarded by United States
officers, and a guard was placed on both tug and scow,
with orders to allow no communication between them and
the shore, except under strict surveillance.
In the meantime, the little Mermaid had sunk quietly
out of sight, nor did she again rise to the surface until
safely beneath a wharf covered with freight sheds, that
extended out to deep water. Here, hidden in deepest
shadow, she lay unobserved until nightfall, when our lads
found no difficulty in gaining the streets of the town,
leaving the Professor in charge of his beloved boat.
As Carlos Moranza had visited Key West before, he
led the way without hesitation amid throngs of promenaders,
among whom white was the rarest colour to
be seen. Coal-black negroes from Jamaica, sallow-complexioned
Spaniards, swarthy Cubans, mulattoes, quadroons,
octoroons, and Creoles, with faces tinted in every
shade of brown or yellow, jostled each other on the side-walks,
all talking, singing, or laughing, with eager gesticulations.
Electric lights gleamed among the softly nestling
leaves of tall cocoa-palms. Open carriages, bearing cigarette-smoking
men in white linen, gaudily-clad negresses,
or languid Cuban women, whose only sign of animation
lay in their flashing eyes, rattled over the white pavements,
while, above all, innumerable flags, displaying the blue and
white stripes, the crimson field and single white star of Cuba
Libre, fluttered in the faint night breeze.
The entire city, which is wholly Cuban in sympathy,
as well as two-thirds so in population, was rejoicing over
the news just received of an insurgent victory. The
exulting throngs were most dense about the building
occupied by an agent of the Cuban Junta, on a balcony
of which the glad tidings were being read aloud from
a paper just snatched off the press, while a guard stationed
at the main entrance forbade admission, except to such
persons as were of well-attested patriotism.
"Halt! You may not pass!" cried one of these, as
our lads, having forced their way through the crowd,
sought to enter.
For answer Carlos Moranza spoke a few words in so
low a tone that only he might hear them.
Instantly the man stood aside, touched his cap respectfully,
and motioned them to enter.
As they did so, a third person attempted to pass the
guard in their company, but was seized on the threshold.
"Is this hombre of your party, seńor?" asked the
"Certainly not," replied Carlos. "I never saw him
So the intruder, who was evidently of Spanish blood,
was ignominiously thrust back, and as he slunk away he
muttered words that boded no good to Carlos Moranza,
in case they should again meet.
In the meantime the young Cuban, accompanied by
Carl Baldwin, made his way to the balcony where the
agent of the Junta had just finished reading of Garcia's
victory. As Carlos touched him on the shoulder he turned
quickly and frowned at sight of a stranger. Again the lad
whispered his magic formula, and in another moment the
agent was embracing him with the fervour of a life-long
friendship. Then he led his guests to a private room,
where for half-an-hour he engaged Carlos in earnest conversation,
of which young Baldwin could only understand
an occasional word.
When our lads finally left the building and regained
the street, the latter asked curiously, "What was it all
about, old man?"
"He said," replied Carlos, "that the Spanish cruiser
now in port is here for the express purpose of escorting us
to Havana, and that, as soon as we are outside Key West
harbour, she will place a guard on both tug and scow."
"Hm!" remarked Carl Baldwin reflectively; "we can't
"I should say not," agreed Carlos Moranza; "only
I'd like to know how we are to prevent it."
"Just you leave it to me, and I'll show you the trick,"
rejoined the young American.
So intent were the lads upon their conversation, that they
mistook another freight shed for the one beneath which
the Mermaid was hidden, and walked a few paces beside it
before discovering their error. When they did so, they at
once began to retrace their steps, and in turning a corner
of the building came plump upon a cloaked figure evidently
on their trail.
"Hello! what do you mean, sir, by following us?"
cried Carl Baldwin, seizing the stranger's arm as he spoke.
With a muttered oath the man wrenched himself free
and darted away, but not before the gleam of a street light
had revealed his features to Carlos Moranza.
"The very fellow who tried to force his way into the
quarters of the Junta!" he exclaimed, "and more than
likely a Spanish spy. It is a narrow escape, my Carol, for
if our blunder had not forced us to turn back, he must
have discovered the Mermaid. In that case we should
indeed have met with trouble."
"Let us hasten, then, before he returns."
"I don't believe he will dare do that. He is too badly
But the spy did return, and, crouching in deepest
shadow, became convinced that those whose business he
was so anxious to discover had passed beneath the wharf.
As he dared not attempt to follow them through the impenetrable
gloom into which they had disappeared, he
sought a hiding-place, and from it watched with infinite
patience for them to again come forth.
They had, in the meantime, safely regained the snug
living-room of the Mermaid, and reported all that had
happened, to the Professor. Then Carl Baldwin unfolded
his scheme for delaying the Spanish cruiser in port until
after their departure.
As a result, the submarine boat was allowed to drift
down the harbour with the ebbing tide, until she came
abreast the great black hull of a man-of-war. Then she
imperceptibly sank beneath the surface.
The watch officer of the Spanish cruiser, leaning on
her after-rail and gazing musingly down into the dark
waters sweeping seaward, speculated idly concerning the
stream of phosphorescent light tailing out from under her
counter, but thought of it only as a natural phenomenon.
Had he known that it was caused by the motion of the
Mermaid's propeller necessary to hold her in position
against the stream while she hovered like a gigantic fish
directly above the screw of his ship, how easily could
he have won the promotion for which he longed. But
he suspected nothing; and as Carl Baldwin, working
from the diving chamber of the submarine craft, had
succeeded in fastening one end of a short length of
stout wire rope to the propeller blade, and shackling
the other to a ring-bolt in the massive rudder, the officer
turned with a sigh and walked away.
On the following morning the Spanish spy, weary
and cramped with his long vigil, was amazed to see
an utter stranger emerge cautiously from beneath the
wharf he had been watching, and walk quickly away.
For a moment the spy was undecided as to whether
he should follow this person or seek to discover where
he had come from. Then choosing the former course,
he followed Professor Rivers at a respectful distance,
until he had the vast satisfaction of seeing him meet,
near the custom-house, the captain of the tug that was
avowedly bound for Havana.
There was a connection then between those who hid
beneath the wharf and the suspected tow anchored in
the harbour. Undoubtedly a store of contraband goods
was concealed under the wharf, and an effort would be
made to convey them on board the tug before she sailed.
What a reward was in prospect for him could he but
A little later the spy, with two companions, all armed,
occupied a skiff that made its way cautiously through the
dark spaces beneath the wharf he had watched so long.
Suddenly between them and the outer daylight two men
appeared one after the other. Both slid down one of
the piles supporting the pier and dropped into the water,
or at least the exulting spy thought they did so as he
hastily urged his boat in that direction.
To his amazement and disgust, when he reached the
spot where they had disappeared, he could discover no
trace of them. Neither was there a boat or a hiding-place
into which they could have gone. The man was
furious at being thus baffled, and uttered many a fierce
Spanish oath. Finally, convinced that further search in
that direction was fruitless, he pulled out into the harbour
to watch the mysterious tow that still lay at anchor. As
he drew near to it he saw its captain come off from
shore alone. Then the guard from one of the revenue
cutters was withdrawn, anchors were lifted, and the tow
began to move slowly down the channel. It was certain
that no one save the captain had gone aboard, nor had
any cargo been taken in except a few tons of carefully
Never in his life had the spy been so puzzled and
disappointed; but it was a slight consolation to know
that Spain's vigilant cruiser would accompany the Gringos
to Havana. Even now was the black-hulled warship
preparing to follow the departing tow. As the massive
anchor broke away from the bottom, her great screw
began to churn the water, and she slowly forged ahead.
Suddenly her screw ceased to act, she took a sheer in
the wrong direction, there was a vast amount of confusion
on her decks, and in another minute she was fast
aground on a bank of the narrow channel. Every eye
in Key West harbour was fixed upon her, and before any
one again thought of the departing tow, it had gained the
high seas, and was beyond the jurisdiction of either Spain
or "Uncle Sam." A little later, with the saucy Mermaid
safely hidden in the ample receptacle of the great dumping
scow, the tow had vanished in the direction of Havana.
That night the spy boarded a swift passenger steamer
bound for the same port, which at sunrise of the following
morning passed beneath the frowning walls of Moro
Castle in company with the tow he had come to watch.
The Mermaid retained her berth even after a pilot had
boarded the tug, and her crew looked eagerly upon the
wonderfully beautiful scene unfolding before them as they
passed through a narrow entrance into the broad, landlocked
harbour of Havana.
Carl Baldwin, to whom everything was excitingly
novel, viewed with delight the grim Moro with its tall
lighthouse tower, the white Cabanas fortress, the tinted,
flat-roofed buildings of the city across the placid basin,
the quaint cathedral spires, and the thousand other curious
features of Spain's chief stronghold in the New World.
Carlos Moranza, filled with conflicting emotions at
again approaching his native land under such strange
conditions, gazed in silence, but as though hoping with
the very intensity of his vision to pierce the crowding
walls and discover the prison of his beloved sister.
Professor Rivers had eyes only for the warships, of
which the harbour held half-a-dozen, as he speculated
upon the ease with which his little Mermaid could humble
their pride and render them powerless.
At this very moment the Spanish spy was regarding,
and triumphantly recognising, all three of the Americans
through a glass levelled at them from the deck of the
steamer on which he was a passenger. Thus it happened
that, as the captain of the tug was preparing to go ashore
and make formal entry at the custom-house, after having
successfully passed examination by both health officers
and port authorities, two barges filled with soldiers dashed
out from the mole and headed directly towards the new
arrivals. One of these took possession of the tug, while
the other, in which sat the exulting spy, ranged alongside
the dumping scow.
For nearly an hour the soldiers searched every compartment
and corner of the two vessels, even overhauling
the coal in the tug's bunkers. When there was no longer
an unexplored crevice, even the spy was forced to confess
that there was no person aboard unaccounted for in the
tug's papers, and that he must have laboured under a
delusion as to what he had seen. He was bewildered,
mortified, and angry, and was rendered furious by the
ridicule heaped upon him by the officer to whom he was
obliged to report his failure to discover anything that
would justify a seizure of the tug.
This craft the Spaniards would have been glad to
possess, but when its captain went ashore and announced
his desire to dispose of the dumping scow, the authorities
only laughed at him, and referred him to General Weyler,
who happened at that time to be absent with an expedition
to the interior. This was gratifying information, as it
afforded an excuse for remaining in Havana harbour until
he should return.
In the meantime the Mermaid, having sunk out of sight
on the approach of danger, had found safe refuge under
the stern of a Spanish man-of-war that was moored
close at hand. Here she received a supply of fresh air
through a flexible tube, one end of which was supported
on the surface of the water by a small float. During the
time that her occupants were thus compelled to remain in
hiding, they amused themselves by so wedging the rudder
of the warship as to render it immovable.
With the earliest twilight of that evening they returned
to the tug and held a short consultation with her captain,
who had used his eyes to such good purpose while on
shore that he was enabled to direct them to a place from
which he believed they could gain the city streets. This
was most important, for though in the darkness they might
have landed anywhere along the quay, they would still
have been shut off from the streets by a tall and stout
iron fence, the gates of which were always guarded, and
at sunset locked for the night. This is in accordance
with a regulation that not only forbids any vessel to
enter or leave the port of Havana between sunset and
sunrise, but also prohibits all communication between the
city and its harbour during the night.
The place indicated by the captain was a dock in
which lay a number of fishing craft, and the entrance to
which was closed by iron gates. As it was not likely that
these extended very far below the surface, it was possible
that the Mermaid might pass beneath them. This proved
to be the case; for when, after a long search and several
narrow escapes from discovery, the dock was reached, the
Mermaid managed to squeeze under the barrier, and when
she next rose to the surface she was inside the city lines.
Here she remained with her deck just awash, and in charge
of the Professor, while the two lads, filled with hopeful
excitement, set forth in search of information that should
guide their future action.
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
"Fly for your life, amigo, while there is yet time.
For a Moranza to be arrested in Havana means sure and
"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, had 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
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, seńors; 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
"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
"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
Although amid the excitements of the night Carl and
Carlos had not realised the flight of time, the hours of
waiting passed by their companion in anxious suspense on
board the Mermaid had seemed interminable. He had
not dared desert his boat for a minute, nor would it have
been safe to move from the precise position in which the
lads had left her. So he could only watch from the
turret of his submerged craft, with every sense keenly
alert for the return of his young friends. After a while
he seemed to hear guarded footsteps and whispering
voices close at hand, though unable to see the figures
to which they belonged. The impulse to turn on a
search light and thus discover the nature of his surroundings
became so strong that at length he disconnected the
wires in order to remove the temptation.
He had hardly done this and resumed his position in
the turret, when there came a shout, a shot, and a rush
of feet. Then a cry in English of—
"Show a light, Professor; a light—quick!"
The startled man struck a match and held it aloft,
where it was instantly extinguished by a little puff of wind.
But its purpose was served, for even as it expired two
dark forms leaped into the black water that closed above
them. At the same moment half-a-dozen shots rang out
spitefully, and one of them, evidently attracted by the
Professor's light, glanced from the Mermaid's iron turret.
Then two dripping figures scrambled aboard, the turret
hatch was closed, and, with her crew safely reunited, the
marvellous craft sank beneath the surface, without leaving
a trace to be discovered by the flashing lanterns that, a
few minutes later, were exploring every inch of the dock
in which she had lain.
The lads had made a second narrow escape, and that
they had made it at all was not due to any lack of precaution
on the part of the Spanish spy, who, fully convinced
that they were in some way connected with the mysterious
tow in the harbour, had taken every means to intercept
them in case they should attempt to regain it from the
water-front of the city.
Daylight was tinting the eastern sky when the Mermaid
again cautiously showed her eyes above the surface in
close proximity to her tow, and, in obedience to a safety
signal from the captain of the tug, who had long been
watching for her, quickly regained her old position within
the capacious pocket of the dumping scow. In the meantime
the lads had recounted their adventures and told of
their joyful meeting with General Moranza, together with
what Carlos had promised should be done on the following
To all of this the Professor gladly agreed; for would
it not afford him the longed-for opportunity of testing the
powers of his beloved boat to the utmost? Thus, even
before regaining her berth in the scow, the Mermaid paid
a submarine visit to the Spanish transport that was to
have borne many a heart-broken exile away from Cuba
that day, and so tampered with propeller and steering-gear
that her date of sailing was certain to be indefinitely
postponed. A few hours later our adventurers watched
with intense interest the consternation and bewilderment
manifest on board the transport, and, when it became
evident that she could not be moved, began to make
active preparations for the coming night.
On the part of the Professor these consisted in mixing
certain chemicals that required the utmost delicacy and
skill in handling. Carl Baldwin devoted himself to so
arranging a number of giant dynamite crackers, that they
might be ignited under water and made to explode on
reaching the surface, while Carlos spent his time in
carrying out a design that he had borne in mind ever
since the planning of their expedition. It was the preparing
for service of two Cuban flags. One was a transparency
fitted with electric wires and made fast to a
float that would support it on the surface of the water.
This was intended only for night use, while the other,
which was of silk with a slender staff of steel, was designed
to attract attention by daylight.
Shortly before sunset, with everything in readiness for
her great venture, the Mermaid forsook her snug berth and
began to move across the harbour, with the eyes of her
turret just awash and the flag of free Cuba fluttering
bravely a foot above the surface of the water. It did not
attract attention until it passed slowly within a hundred
yards of the Spanish battle-ship Alfonso XIX., when a
clamour of voices from her decks announced its discovery.
A few minutes later a boat, manned by Spanish bluejackets
and commanded by a dapper lieutenant, dashed
forth in pursuit of the hated emblem. It was easily
overtaken and the officer stretched forth a hand to seize
it. As he touched its steel staff he received an electric
shock that caused him to utter a scream of terror and
fall like one paralysed in the bottom of his boat. With
this the little flag, proudly displaying its broad stripes of
white and blue and a single white star in a crimson field,
danced away over the placid waters towards another great
ship flying the red and yellow ensign of Spain. Again
was the bait taken, and a second boat was sent in pursuit.
This time not only was the man who attempted to seize
the Cuban emblem numbed as though by a stroke of
lightning, but the boat's crew was thrown into a state of
wildest panic by the explosion, close under their bows,
of a giant fire-cracker.
"Isn't it great fun?" cried Carl Baldwin, who was
in charge of the diving-room, the ventilation, and the
"It is bewildering," answered the Professor, without
taking his eyes from the pressure-gauge that indicated
their exact distance below the surface. "At this moment
we three are demonstrating the worthlessness, as fighting
machines, of the world's navies. From this time on, the
nations of the earth will be compelled by fear to live at
peace with each other."
"I wish we could sink just one Spanish ship," said
Carlos Moranza from the engine-room.
"Of course we could do it," replied Professor Rivers.
"In fact, we could within one hour's time destroy every
warship in this harbour, but it would be a wicked and
cowardly act. No, no, my boy, we will not harm a single
human being in this glorious experiment. At the same
time I am perfectly willing to inspire them with a wholesome
"Just scare 'em stiff," laughed Carl Baldwin.
By the time darkness had settled over the scene the
entire Spanish fleet was fully aroused. News of the mysterious
happenings in the harbour had even spread to all
parts of the city, and General Moranza realised that his
powerful friends were already at work.
Some two hours later, while the officers and crew of
the Alfonso XIX. were still discussing with bated breath
the recent supernatural appearance of the Cuban emblem,
they were startled by again seeing it floating on the surface
but a short distance from them. This time, instead
of being a simple silken flag, it was outlined in flames of
red white and blue. There was a confused shouting of
orders, and then the rattling fire of a machine-gun began
to tear through the water just beyond the blazing emblem.
With the first sound of firing it vanished, but a minute
later the Alfonso XIX. lay in a glow of diffused light that
seemed to come from beneath her very keel. And so it
did, for that was the point from which the Mermaid was
just then operating her 4000 candle-power search-light.
As the Spaniards waited in breathless terror for what
should happen next, and fully expecting to be hurled into
eternity by some tremendous explosion, a dense volume of
sickening smoke rose slowly from the water on both sides
of the ship, until she was completely enveloped in its
suffocating folds. In a vain effort to escape this terror
against which they could not fight, the Spaniards slipped
their moorings with the idea of steaming out to sea, but,
to their dismay, the great screw, that should have driven
them through the water at a speed of twenty miles an
hour, refused to move, and the vast bulk of the Alfonso XIX.
only drifted helplessly.
Now the fiery emblem of free Cuba was again seen
moving swiftly from point to point, fired at by ship after
ship, disappearing with each shot only to flash out again
a moment later in some unexpected quarter. Its erratic
course was marked by eddying clouds of pungent smoke,
bursts of flame, and loud explosions that threw the whole
harbour into an uproar of terror. The panic-stricken
ships of Spain dropped their moorings and made desperate
efforts to escape from the enemy that they could
neither see nor fight, but which seemed to hold them at
its mercy. Some of them could not move, others could
not be steered, and all drifted helplessly, colliding with
one another, running aground, blinding each other with
flashing search-lights that incessantly swept the black waters
in every direction, and filled with terrified men who implored
the saints to save them.
Nor was the alarm confined to these, but it spread to
the city, where in every quarter church-bells rang madly,
drums sounded their quick call to arms, trumpets blared,
masses of people poured through every avenue leading to
the water-front, and Havana was dominated by such a
reign of terror as its history had never known. While
the confusion was at its height, a heavy firing from the
south announced an insurgent attack, and, with the general
call for troops that followed, even the military guards of
the prisons were temporarily pressed into service.
At five minutes before midnight, as marked by Carlos
Moranza's watch, the cause of all this turmoil slipped
unnoticed into the dock of the fishmarket, and lay motionless
with only her low turret rising above the surface. At
exactly midnight the young Cuban closed his watch with
a snap, and listened eagerly to a rapidly approaching rattle
of wheels. Then a carriage dashed through the crowds
lining the water-front, and staring like so many bewildered
moths at the flashing search-lights of the warships. As
it drew up sharply at the head of the dock, a man in
the uniform of a Spanish general leaped from it, and was
quickly followed by a slender youth, apparently a mere
boy, also in uniform.
At this moment the whole scene was suddenly illumined
by a glare of light that seemed to come from the
very waters of the dock, and a great cry rose from the
spectators as they fell back in affright. Only two men
dared press forward—the Spanish general and his aide.
These stood for a moment on the very edge of the stone
coping. Then the lad seemed to slip down into the water.
As he disappeared, the general, waving his plumed chapeau
high above his head, uttered a loud cry of "Viva Cuba
libre!" and sprang after his companion.
Half-an-hour later the little Mermaid was slipping
swiftly but unseen beneath the very walls of Moro Castle
and out of Havana harbour. In her tiny cabin, Catina
Moranza, weak with reaction from the terrible strain of
the past few days, lay sobbing in her brother's arms, and
striving to tell of her blessed deliverance from the horrors
of La Jacoba. At the same time General Moranza stood
beside Professor Rivers and watched with wondering
admiration his conning of the most powerful battle-ship
the world had ever known.
Two miles out at sea they found their tug, that, with
its tow, had taken advantage of the dire confusion in
Havana harbour to leave it unnoticed. Here the Mermaid
took the last dive of her eventful cruise, and in another
minute was once more safely ensconced within the dumping
Ten days later the clumsy tow, with the real object of
its long voyage still unsuspected, moved slowly up the
Delaware River, and came to anchor off the Baldwin shipyard.
In answer to the chaff of such acquaintances as rallied
him on the folly of trying to sell a dumping scow to the
Spaniards of Havana, the captain of the tug was wont to
say, "Yes, it is true I failed to sell the scow, but I made
five thousand dollars out of the trip all the same."
Professor Rivers is equally satisfied with the success of
his venture, and so of course is Carlos Moranza. As for
Carl Baldwin, he made the home voyage in a state of
"Why didn't you tell me, West, that your sister, instead
of being a mere child, as I was led to suppose, was
the very loveliest and most beautiful girl in the world?"
he asked of his friend after his introduction to Catina.
"Because," answered Carlos Moranza, who had heretofore
only seen the young lady in question through the
eyes of a brother, "I didn't know she was."