Ch 10: Arrested; Imprisoned; Deported

I was taken to the cuartel at the Punta fortress, and within an hour was before some semblance of court martial. Colonel Pagaleri fortunately presided; he showed me much consideration during my examination. I answered all questions frankly; denial was futile, but my heart sank as charge after charge was substantiated by the seizure of the despatches I had risked so much to secure. A letter from the Government to President McKinley, a full list of the rebel forces in eastern Cuba, the official offer of their co-operation with the United States, and three maps I had myself prepared, I felt would seal my doom.
   I asked, as my right, that the British consul should be notified of my arrest. "Spies have no rights but the rope," sneered the portly commandante, and I was taken out "incommunicado." My prison chamber was dirty, but the rats broke the solitude; it was at least airy, a large grated frame opening seaward. No bed was provided, but rodents and dirt were forgotten, and I sank on the floor worn in body and broken in spirit, at this sequel that meant failure of all I had tried to accomplish.
   I asked, as my right, that the British consul should be notified of my arrest. "Spies have no rights but the rope," sneered the portly commandante, and I was taken out "incommunicado." My prison chamber was dirty, but the rats broke the solitude; it was at least airy, a large grated frame opening seaward. No bed was provided, but rodents and dirt were forgotten, and I sank on the floor worn in body and broken in spirit, at this sequel that meant failure of all I had tried to accomplish.
   Toward morning I dropped into a troubled sleep, and woke at daybreak in a raging fever. The loneliness also grew terrible as the hours passed on, and I had so little spirit left, that I began to feel the sensations that lead men to dash their heads against prison walls, and wondered how many days would elapse before insanity supervened. In the afternoon, I bribed a passing soldier to bring me coffee. My dollar brought a tolerable cup with a stale roll, but the fever increased with the chill stone floor, and during the second night I wandered deliriously, and forgot my troubles. At about 3 o’clock, with first glimpse of dawn in the sky, the officer of the guard came, and he very considerately ordered me a cot and rug, which induced sleep, and I awoke refreshed.
   I knew nothing of my impending fate. From my window I could see La Cabana fortress, and as the bloody executions of that death ditch recurred to me, I wondered how I should face the rifles of the firing squad. Below my grating the black waters of the bay surged against slimy rocks, and hungry sharks showed occasional fins, as they hunted for morsels expelled by the foetid sewer at Los Fossos. My bars were loose and rusty; but escape from La Punta meant a horrible death below. After retreat sounded, the guards in the courtyard chattered noisily, and interesting snatches of my impending fate were served up for my special delectation. I had accepted those despatches without thought, but I could not now face the penalty with fortitude. Spain could not have been blamed for dealing harshly with me. At such a crisis other countries would have shot me without compunction, and in such a war, life is but of individual value.
   On Wednesday morning the "Olivette" passed my bars. Scanning her decks, I saw that she was crowded down with Americans; merchants, Red Cross workers and correspondents leaving the Island. Before my capture, General Lee was preparing to sail, and I suddenly realised that with my secret capture no one would know of my plight, and I might rot in prison before I could communicate with the outer world. But my disappearance had been rightly attributed; Lewis, McReady, and Bryson had made inquiries, and assured themselves of my capture before they sailed. Long cable messages were sent to England, the British Foreign office was notified, and Lord Salisbury at once wired Havana for full particulars. Mr. Creelman, Mr. Massingham, Mr. McKenzie, Mr. Broadhurst and other prominent journalists in London kindly interested themselves in my behalf. Mr. Labouchere, Mr. T. P. O’Conner, M.P and Mr. J. O’Kelly, M.P. who had tasted Spanish prison in the last war, brought my case before the House of Commons, and the authorities in Havana found they could no longer keep my incarceration there a secret.
   But I was not anticipating help from the British Government. When one is identified in quarrels of strange nations, the consequences must be borne. I had frequently gone beyond my province in Cuba, but the Spanish authorities decided to avoid complications by quietly shipping me a prisoner to Puerto Rico. Sir Alexander Gollan was then informed that I had been expelled from Cuba; he reported it to London, and the incident was apparently closed. Fortunately there were some friends who were not satisfied at the Consul General's terse report of my expulsion. Only two boats had left Havana; one to Key West, the other a transport bound for San Juan; and when it transpired that I was not on the American vessel, and that Colonel Perez and a guard were seen taking me toward the Spanish transport, fresh representations were made.
   In the stifling lower hold of the transport "Buenos Aires", with a Negro murderer named Hernandez, and several hundred yellow-fever convalescents, my condition was not enviable. When we reached San Juan, thanks to the kindness of Mr. Bronson Rea, then in Puerto Rico, I obtained a change of clothes. At this time, though, The British Government were demanding the release of my friend, Freeman Halstead, correspondent of the "Herald," and also a British subject, then in Morro Castle, under sentence of nine years' imprisonment as a spy for taking photographs of San Juan harbour. Governor-General Maccias, having no wish for further complications over one of Blanco's prisoners, refused my landing and I was rushed off to the "Buenos Aires" again, and sent to Spain.
   Shut below in that filthy transport were over a thousand invalid soldiers, yellow-fever convalescents. To be invalided from Spain's army was to be an invalid indeed, and the poor wretches packed in the sorry bunks were too weak to move. They vomited and defecated where they lay, and the condition between decks may be imagined, but not described. At night those who had died were carried out and dropped over the side; but the thought of repatriation in their beloved Spain buoyed up the men wonderfully, though many died directly they reached the shore. When I was first conducted below, some of these poor fellows reviled me as they lay in their misery, "Yankee pig", "mambi" and "nanigo" being among the most complimentary appellations. Seeing that one young soldier, after a fit of retching, was hanging exhausted over his bunk, I gently laid the limp form back, and readjusted the blanket, thinking nothing of the incident. His comrades witnessed this simple act of common humanity. No more gibes were cast at me, and before I had divined the reason of the change, a few petty services to the stricken men had gained me the friendship of every soldier below decks.
   A few had brought bottles of common red wine from the hospital, and they were not satisfied until I had made a pretence, at least, of partaking of the precious store. At the end of that terrible voyage I was called from berth to berth to say farewell, and was deeply touched by their manifestations of regard won by simple kindness. These poor fellows had been torn from home, and impressed into hateful service; and next to the women and children of Cuba, I think humanity called for intervention on behalf of the Spanish conscript. Ignorant he was, often a brute; but he was treated as a galley slave by the officers who robbed him, and he at least faithfully served the country that treated him so badly.
   We all suffered severely from cold, and, but for the kindness of the superintendent of cargo, one of those true Spanish gentlemen that retain one's hope for the race, who permitted me to sleep on deck several nights, I believe I also should have succumbed in the stench of the frightful "Black Hole" below. But for the hostility of certain officers on board, he would have accorded me better accommodation. The chief engineer of the vessel proved a Scotchman, Mr. Cook, and he also extended me much kindness on the trip to Cadiz, which we reached on April 15th.
   The disembarkation at Cadiz was a memorable sight. On the starboard side, steam launches, gay with bunting, brought out high army officers in resplendent uniforms, diplomats, and a vast crowd, to welcome officers and officials returning rich to Spain. The port gangway led down to large floats manned by Red Cross helpers, who lifted the emaciated forms of fever-stricken soldiers from the terrible hold, placed them temporarily in clean uniforms to save the comments of the crowd on the wharf, among whom were country people, wives and mothers and fathers, in the last extremes of poverty, waiting to see their dear ones. They had walked fifty, sixty, and seventy miles to greet the returning heroes. They waited on in suspense and gave pitiful cries of horror at the wrecks Cuba had sent them. It was inexpressibly sad. As I watched those silent tragedies, tears blinded my eyes, and I forgot my own distress, impending imprisonment as a spy, possible deportation to North Africa, and the anxiety of my friends to learn my fate. One group of Andalusian women at first failed to recognise their boys, and then, with gurgles of pain at the change, yet joy of reunion, they clasped the saffron-hued skeletons in their arms: "My son! My son!" Two soldiers died on the pier, and a frenzied mass of relatives surged forward, impelled by a sickening dread for their individual dear ones. But the guards drove them back; the ambulances were now full, and the people were forced to endure the suspense until the next day.
   The chief of police assured me that I should be sent to Africa on May 1st, and there was some excitement among the crowd of sight-seers when I was taken ashore. The advent of a "Yankee Spy" had been heralded, and with minds inflamed by the spectres of manhood from Cuba, their jeers and expletives aroused neither my wonder nor resentment.
   On the day before the formal declaration of war, though, I was released upon the demands of the British Government. The charges formulated against me for bearing arms against Spain were withdrawn when the Spaniards found that I must be sent to England for trial under the Foreign Enlistment Act, when impolitic truths of their rule in Cuba might be evolved. Being captured before a declaration of war, the designation "spy" could not be sustained, and I was ordered over the frontier, with a warning not to return to Cuba on pain of death. Chaperoned by two police guards, ordered to see me over the French boundary, but by no means adverse to enjoyment en route at my expense, I watched the gay fiesta in Seville, where the great Andalusian fair was turned into a jollification, to celebrate the impending success of Spain. As the great religious procession of the 19th wended its way from the Alcazar to the glorious Giralda, the people knelt reverently in the picturesque streets, and it seemed that the whole nation, fearful of threatening peril, sought blindly for divine protection.
   The proletariat held the sidewalks, the broad highway was filled with carriages of every description and horsemen, the animals gaily caparisoned, the young ladies vivacious and beautiful in their national costume, their mammas and chaperons fat and vulgar in the same trappings. With a roar of acclamations and a cloud of dust, a party of picadores galloped by, with their horns, whistles and bells adding to the din of voices and laughter. It was a pandemonium, clad in the gayest of colours and softened by the semi-tropical background of palms and orange-trees, the blue river, and the picturesque architecture massed indescribably in the rear. One hour later the cacophony suddenly ceased and the stillness of death reigned over the city. From afar rose the distant sound of ten thousand voices merged as one: "Bravo, matador!" and I realised that no dire disaster had overtaken the gay throng; the bull fight had started, and the first bull had fallen.
   That evening a dozen men gathered outside a book-stall. In a glazed frame, ten inches square, the day's bulletin was posted, announcing the decision of the Cabinet to resist to the utmost, and that war was imminent. It was fiesta, so the issue of a special edition was out of the question. "Manana" the twenty-five words scrawled there would be placed in type. The few who read the significant tidings smiled contemptuously, nay, pityingly. "Poor Yankees," said one, in irony; others shrugged their shoulders, drew their capes in place, and swaggered off down San Fernando.
   Thousands of pesetas had been spent on lavish decoration; and as night fell, and the parks and avenues were lit with millions of coloured lights, the famed old city was a veritable fairyland. I stood on the balcony of the Vasadera and looked down on the gay masqueraders. Away in every direction they spread, promenading in the brilliantly illuminated avenues, showering confetti, dancing to the dozen bands in the dozen plazas, flirting, drinking, and laughing. On the Guadalquivir, boats flitted from side to side, festoons of lamps were reflected in the blue waters, until the river was as a flowing stream of light, and the heavens were ablaze with fireworks.
   The unsurpassed brilliance of the scene was intoxicating, but my mind was suddenly filled with other sounds and visions; the despairing cry of the starving women and children in Cuba, perishing by thousands; the moans of Spain's conscripts, wasted by fever and hunger, and unpaid for months; the horrible shambles of the Cabanas, where those who had rebelled against a nation's oppression were shot like dogs; the rattle and crash of battle in the manigua, the screams of the wounded, and the rallying cries of the patriots and Imperialists.
   On the eve of a crisis, when the integrity of the nation was at stake, and a tottering ministry was striving to raise a paltry sum by public subscription, all over the country the people were wining, dining, and dancing, and expending in worthless spectacle hundreds of thousands of pesetas, while Prime Minister Sagasta, in an interview with a foreign correspondent, referred with pride to the vast sacrifice Spaniards were prepared to make in defence of their country.
   I arrived in Madrid the next day, finding nothing to indicate the war on hand, except that the great daily papers had three of their columns devoted to it. I was more amused than flattered to find one-third of a leading column devoted to my presence in Spain. It seems to me to be an inexplicable editorial vagary to give an equal space to the manifesto of President McKinley that involved two nations in war, and to one who, as the papers themselves remarked, was extremely ignorant, for he spoke execrable Spanish.
   Before continuing our journey, my two celadores intimated that they would not seriously object to my witnessing the great patriotic bull-fight, provided I took them with me; and being interested therein, I earned their undying gratitude by buying tickets for the extraordinary function. In whispers, audible across the arena, they begged me not to open my mouth lest my accent betray me to the audience. With the Latin hate of the Anglo-Saxon at that time, in the presence of twelve thousand elite Spaniards inflamed with blood-lust and patriotism, the warning was pertinent. "Yankee spy" greeted every one who spoke English, and Britishers as well as Americans had received rough handling on the streets.
   After a splendid bout between bull and troupe, Bombetta stepped out, and with a master stroke brought the panting animal down amid frantic acclamations. The famed matador responded with a smart simile:
As I have triumphed over this magnificent bull, so will the glorious Spanish nation, upholding the traditions of the past handed them by their illustrious sires, triumph over that shameless animal, the Yankee pig!
   Yells and filthy expletives rang from all sides, though the highest ladies in the land were present. "Death to the Yankees!" "We will tweak their noses!" rose with cries unfit for publication. Above the din could be heard the screams of agony from a disembowelled horse, and the moans of the dying bull which had fallen under the thrust, but died slowly. After this the people wanted more excitement, and in response to the yells of "Fuego! Fuego!" the next bull was decorated with explosive banderillas that burnt holes in the poor brute's sides and drove him mad with pain; he had previously killed seven horses, and blood ran in streams from the wounds inflicted by the picadores in the encounter. After six bulls and twenty seven horses had been killed, the bloody scene closed.
   Two days later we reached San Sebastian, where my two shadows left me as I crossed the Urumea into France at the Irun frontier. Once over the border, French antipathy to America became strongly marked. At Bordeaux a large crowd yelled, "Viva Espana! Death to McKinley," and even in Paris hostility was painfully evident. Though Rochefort denounced Spain, French sympathy, directed by the Bourse and holders of Spanish bonds, was strongly for the Spaniards. Crossing from Boulogne to Folkestone, were several American families, going to England to escape painful manifestations, and for days there had been a general exodus of Americans from Paris. The antithesis of this feeling in England was distinctly refreshing. Never were the two great English-speaking countries on more cordial terms, and with few exceptions, press and people extolled America's "holy war". The feeling was universal.
   Ten days later I reached New York again en route for Cuba. The full report of Dewey's victory in Manila on May 1st had just arrived, and it stirred the Americans as victory alone can stir a nation. The very sky was obscured by myriads of the stars and stripes, for Old Glory fluttered from every point of vantage. From the Hudson came the discordant screaming of a thousand steam sirens; bay tug, ocean greyhound, and ferryboat joined to rend the heavens, while an immense crowd of patriots filled City Hall Square, before the Journal bulletin boards, and sang the National Hymn while tears of effusive joy and gratitude ran down many a face.

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