Ch 4: Of Life and Politics in Havana

He that has not seen Seville has seen no marvel, says an Andalusian proverb that certainly may be applied to Havana. The Antillian capital is a cosmopolitan city, in which a striking reproduction of a dozen latitudes are merged into a harmonious whole. From, the approaching vessel a distant view suggests an entirely eastern city, but nearer the shore, on the west, the white stone and general structure of the one modern church, and the rows of buildings backing San Lazaro beach, resemble Cadiz viewed from the sea. Upon entering the harbour, Casa Blanca and Regla, nestling upon palm-capped ridges on the eastern side of the bay, transport one mentally to Las Palmas of Grand Canary. Once ashore, the narrow streets and multi-coloured houses around Teniente Rey seem a bit of old Seville transplanted. Cross to the Prado, the theatres and row of palatial cafes in the Central Park, with their orthodox marble tables on the sidewalks, and the lounging crowd, are truly Parisian. Within a stone's throw, behind the Villanueva terminus, the great markets and streets of clothes-dealers represent East London. The Indian Park district resembles Madrid; but just across the railroad, the Chinese quarter, with hordes of pigtails, the native theatre and pagoda, opium dens and "chop" houses, is truly Celestial, though the African consorts of the Mongolians, and the naked Chino-Negro offspring, swarming the gutters, are hardly congruent thereto.
   Given strong olfactory nerves, penetrate the foetid Negro quarter, at the head of the bay and near the Recogidas. With the slovenly termagants, squalling brats, and the languid squalor, it could be mistaken for Sierra Leone or Liberia. The occasional black swells and their gorgeous "ladies," who arrogantly sweep through their fellow "trash," en route for cheap ball or promenade, resemble their church-going prototypes in civilised Africa. The nightly racket, with obscene Congo songs and dances, or the occasional outrages by the nanigos, both relics of ante-slave days in the Dark Continent, could only be equalled in Darkest Africa with its fetish dancers, Porros, human leopards, or other blood gangs of the Imperri country, or Ashanti.
   The city was ever gay, despite the hideousness of the struggle for human existence of the oppressed lower classes. The three distinct races of Cuba are more strongly marked in the capital than elsewhere. First, the Cuban proper, wealthy or once wealthy planters, and the professional class, descendants of the old, blue-blooded Castilian stock, in whom noblesse oblige is by no means dead. They are refined and highly educated, a number are graduates of American colleges; and with them the hope of free Cuba lies.
   The Spaniard in Cuba is not even typical of his race. As in days of yore, Cuba to the poor Spaniard at home has been El Dorado. Dazzled with the prospect, he emigrated to Cuba by his thousands, at an early age. He was soon employed, at a small pittance and board, in one of the innumerable bodegas, small groceries that stand in each corner, or in the cafes or stores. At seventeen he must serve his country; and to escape conscription, he enlisted in the Volunteers of Cuba, a body in which no Cuban is eligible for service.
   The one thought of the Spaniard was to make money and retire to Spain he worked hard for sixteen hours per day, was frugal, and slept in the cellar or under the counter. He could seldom write or read, and was more or less an ignorant brute from his earliest days. Thus the hard-working and commercial class in the large cities, shop assistants, police, waiters, janitors, carters, labourers, boatmen, messengers, and stevedores, were all Spaniards. Banded together in the Instituto de Voluntarios, they formed a strong and armed body politic; an intransigent party, ignorant and rabid, to whom even the Captain-General was subservient. As an absolute political factor, these volunteers have been the great curse to Cuba. There were thirty thousand in Havana, sixty thousand in the island. What cared the Spaniard for the future of Cuba? To secure all the riches possible, and to return to Spain, was his aim in life; and to this end the Spanish party, from Captain-General down, strenuously upheld the proscriptive policy that meant dollars for the moment, but disaster eventually.
   One instance: just before the war, London speculators were negotiating for the construction of a railway across Puerto Principe, with great additional projections to join Santa Clara and Santiago. An immense wave of prosperity to eastern Cuba would have followed, but the road would take time to build, and the officials then in power might not have remained to benefit by its completion. They commenced extortion at once. First an utterly ridiculous valuation was clapped on the land over and above the price first asked by the owners, an almost prohibitive tariff was imposed on all imported materials, taxation on every pretext was in course of evolution, and the promoters threw up the scheme in disgust. Thus for the sake of a few paltry thousands for the pockets of rapacious officials, the great eastern provinces of Cuba are undeveloped to this day, and millions of capital shut out. These sections instead yield the few dollars squeezed annually from the miserable squatters who alone occupy the glorious valleys. The immense mining resources of Santiago are undeveloped for a similar reason.
   By a simple system of political jugglery the Spanish party retained absolute control of the government, internal and municipal. In large cities Peninsulars owned much property, and might have been expected to control the franchise; but in the typically Cuban town of Guines, only 500 Spanish-born residents are registered, out of 12,580 Cuban inhabitants. Yet the electoral list contained the names of 415 Spaniards and but 32 Cubans, and even on the Municipal Board there was not a single Cuban member. Guines examples the whole.
   During the past twenty years the province of Matanzas has had twenty governors; eighteen of these were born in Spain, two only were Cubans; one, General Acosta, had served all his life in the Spanish army, and fought against his own people; the other, Senor Munoz, was educated in Spain, and a rabid conservative. In the Spanish Cortes, usually three, never more than six, deputies represented Cuba out of the four hundred and thirty members. Their representation in the Senate was even more easily restricted. A crown minister, bishop, grandee of Spain, a general, vice-admiral, ambassador, counsellor of state, judge, or attorney-general was eligible. There are but three Cuban grandees, and no Cuban had a chance to fill the other positions, so the above qualifications were practically prohibitive. This restricted their senatorial representation to professors of over four years' presidency in a university, those who paid over S800 annually in taxes, or mayors of cities of over 20,000 population. No one else was eligible. It was therefore possible, rather than probable, for a true Cuban to enter the Upper House.
   Obnoxious tariffs were permanent, for the Custom House proved an easy means for corrupt officials to rob the government of millions by fraudulent entry. In Cuba compromise was always possible. All officials had to purchase appointments that paid a meagre salary but with unlimited perquisites.
   Fraud was incumbent on the whole political system. Its existence was known and tolerated in Madrid. Senor Robleclo, speaking of defalcations in certain accounts in Havana, asked the government what had been done to recover one proven deficit of $32,811,516. General Pando, speaking in the Cortes in March 22, 1890, said: "This liquidation of estates confiscated in Cuba during the war shows a deficit of $14,000,000, the defalcations of the Board of Debt are over $12,000,000, and in addition to the Oteiza frauds and other items, we have a grand total of $40,000,000 shortage." Pando complained of the wrongful diversion of money from the Spanish treasury; but these vast sums are only a part of the amount drawn from Cuba by corrupt officials, who have spared no effort to extort sufficient to satisfy themselves and their superiors in Madrid. All the frauds were but part of the huge political game, and were perpetrated without risk of punishment.
   The deferential duties also forced the colonists to pay an exorbitant price for goods from Spain, or submit to 100 per cent ad valorem duty on imports from other countries. During the depression in the sugar market after the '68 war, many wealthy planters closed down their ingenios, being unable to replenish their grinding plant by reason of the tariff on the machinery which Spain herself could not furnish and had no reason to protect. Needless to add, under such proscriptive policy even the riches of Cuba had dwindled, and were speedily becoming exhausted. During the twelve years prior to the late war the exports of both sugar and tobacco, staple products, decreased to less than one-half their former value. Spain and Spain's alike suffered from national decadence, that moral debility and social corruption, called by Aristotle "oliganthropy," that has destroyed great ancient powers, and which is slowly but surely menacing the very national existence of the Latin today as a factor in the world's development.
   Many of the Spanish emigrants rose to become property owners, and obtained official positions in spite of illiteracy. They were distinctly ambitious, and some of the social functions of the wealthy were ridiculous, the pompous but ignorant "Four Hundred" aping a patronizing air of superiority which could not cloak the blatant vulgarity exuding from every pore.
   Everything Spanish centred round the loyal Instituto, the members of which have placed themselves beyond the pale of civilization by certain acts, which probably culminated in the "Maine" outrage. In May of 1870 the volunteers raided the Villanueva theatre, where an exclusive Cuban opera, was in progress, and poured volleys indiscriminately into the audience, killing many women and children. Captain-General Dulce, who had the temerity to attempt to arrest the culprits, was driven to a warship by a tipsy mob and forced to retire to Spain. Two years later, scratches were discovered on the tomb of Colonel Castenon, a volunteer killed in a duel with Orasco, the Cuban writer. Suspicion fell on some medical students of the Havana College, a Cuban institution; the whole medical class was arrested by General Clavyjo, and released when their innocence was proven. Enraged at the acquittal, the volunteers seized the innocent lads; they were tried by illegal drum-head court-martial, and since none would confess the crime, all were sentenced to death. One-fourth of their number was selected for instant execution; these were shot down on the Prado in cold blood by the citizen soldiers. Among the dead were four lads of fifteen. Sentences on the remainder were magnanimously commuted to imprisonment for life. Later Castenon's son arrived from Spain and testified that the scratches were made by masons in fixing the tomb; the students were innocent. A magnificent monument today marks the grave of the young Cuban martyrs. Built of pure Carrara marble, weeping Justice stands above with broken sword and distorted scales. History, at her side, points to the open doors of corruption through which an exquisitely chiselled figure of Innocence is emerging with Truth. On the anniversary, November 27th, despite the threats of the volunteers to destroy the tomb, the families of the boys went to lay flowers on the grave. Their grief had been assuaged by time, but mothers and sisters still wept silently, and I could not fail to notice only old men in the party paying tribute to the martyrs of Spanish infamy. The younger male relatives of these, the most prominent Havana families, were away, fighting to free their country from the grip of their brothers' murderers.
   Early in the war an aged planter, sitting under the portals of the Tacon cafe, talked earnestly to a friend. The waiter, a volunteer, overhearing the words "Cuba Libre," denounced him as a rebel, and armed loyalists shot him in the back as he rose, astounded at the accusation. General Campos in '95 refused to execute insurgent prisoners and estranged the Instituto. After his failure to check Gomez, instead of the volunteers offering their services to help the hardly pressed troops, they paraded round the palace, swearing to hang Campos, and at daybreak he resigned and retired. Weyler was a man after their own heart.
   One beautiful morning early in June, I was aroused by an unusual excitement on the Prado where the volunteers were assembling for early parade. It was barely 6.30, but already crowds of uniformed men had gathered in excited groups near my hotel, and I soon learned that one of their number, Fernandez, who had killed his captain in an unseemly quarrel over a woman, had been sentenced to be shot next day. Greatly enraged were the redoubtable patriots that one of the loyal Instituto should be forced to pay the penalty of his crime, and wild talk was indulged in; but after recording a protest, they went to duty quietly and waited for the morrow.
   "LaLucha," Weyler's official journal, that afternoon announced the execution without comment, and added that William Molina, a rebel lieutenant of Pinar del Rio, would also be shot for the crime of incendiarism. A few weeks previously General Weyler had received instructions from Madrid to withhold the extreme penalty for rebellion. The incessant executions were arousing notice in Europe, and I learned also, on excellent authority, that the Queen of Spain had for once been able to influence her iron-willed mentor, Canovas, whose brutal procedure was by no means her Majesty's. The Captain General was ordered to follow a conciliatory policy in the "conquered" West, with the view of inspiring the "defeated" insurgents with confidence and inducing their surrender. Weyler, who knew the absolute falsity of his successive reports, realised the futility of conciliation, but from that day forth, every insurgent who surrendered or was captured, unless it were expedient to execute him secretly, was court-martialled for rebellion and incendiarism, formally acquitted on the former charge, and sentenced to death on the latter. Thus Molina was to die for incendiarism.
   It is obvious that he was selected to die as a mere stage effect to offset the execution of the volunteer. When I met Molina in Pinar del Rio in February, he had but recently landed; he was captured soon afterwards, sick and travel-worn, by the humane General Velasco. His leader, General Rivera, and a dozen other high Cuban officers were confined at the time; but he was the least known, if the least guilty, and could be killed without foreign comment. There was no attempt made to specify charges; as in all cases, the court-martial was a farce, lasting as many seconds as it took the officers of the court to affix their signatures to the charge sheet. There was no true charge against Molina beyond his presence in the field, and he was entirely unprepared for his fate when he was told to prepare for the chapel where the condemned spend their last hours on earth. He was completely dazed, but wrote a short farewell to his widowed mother and sisters in Florida, in which he deplored that they would now have no protector, but that they must remember he died for Cuba. The kind-hearted officer of the death guard promised to, and did forward the letter, and a few trinkets, including the silken scapular that he wore to the last, the handiwork of his sister before he left for the war.
   At daybreak next morning I crossed the foetid cesspool from Havana to La Cabana, and without molestation passed with a group of officers down the slope to the death-ditch, Los Laureles.
   It was a glorious morning, and below the heights of the fortress lay the city, white and glistening in the sunlight. The bells of the churches called to early mass; their discordant tones, softened by distance, mingling with the resonant swells of the organ and voices of the choir that were wafted across the bay from the cathedral. Beyond the ramparts a vast crowd had gathered, jostling and cursing in their attempt to gain a point of vantage where they could look over the heads of the guard. On several occasions I have stood with barely half-a-dozen people at the bi-weekly executions; the shooting of a "rebel dog" was far too common to attract or interest. But the death of a Spanish volunteer was a different matter. Some hundreds of his comrades had their arms, and were muttering ominously in the Fosso; the general crowd also were volunteers in mufti or their friends, and trouble seemed imminent. The hour had passed, and the mob yelled for the mambi; but not until another battalion had been marched from El Morro to reinforce the guard did the tragedy begin.
   The preliminary thump of the drum was the signal for absolute silence, the silence of excessive anticipation. Then the band joyously blared the inspiring strains of "El Tambor Mayor," and the regiment of Cazadores marched blithely across the parade and formed three sides of a square, facing the musty wall of the fortress. The commandante and staff of the fort, smoking cigarettes and chatting gaily, sauntered into the centre; the band stopped suddenly. Putting into his instrument the pathos possible only to an emotional Latin, the trumpeter sounded a pitiful silence and the postern was thrown back.
   First came the lay brothers, Negroes in black gowns, capouches, and dirty lace capes, bearing cracked lanterns, and a cross rusty with age and use; then the guard, with fixed bayonets, and the tightly pinioned prisoner supported by the shambling prison priest in a faded robe.
   Closely and with sad heart I watched the face of the condemned, worn and emaciated from long confinement in a dark dungeon; the sunlight blinded him, and it was painfully apparent that all hope had been crushed from the young officer by his captivity; that he was meeting death as one for whom life had long ceased to be of pleasure or value. Then came the frightful awakening. The open air, the sunlight, the birds singing in the laurel trees; the sight of the glorious country; the sparkling bay below, in which he had bathed as a boy, before political oppression drove his family to exile; the tolling bell of the cathedral in which he had worshipped; the hum of the busy city awakening for the day; all this caused a sudden revulsion, awakened a desire to live, to taste freedom once again and breathe God's pure air. The change was apparent to all; the listless attitude was gone in an instant. Life is precious at nineteen, and the poor fellow suddenly realised what he was losing.
   While the priests were chanting, the fanatical crowd held their peace, for the Spaniard is ignorantly superstitious of the Church. But when Molina, awakening to his position, faltered, reeled back, and stopped undecided, "Cuban dog!" "Nanigo!" "Death to the mothers that bear such offspring!" "Life to Weyler and Spain!" rang from all sides, and some of these noble Spaniards mingled "Coward!" with other vile epithets. A few humane persons expostulated; an aged Cuban near me had the temerity to pray audibly; but the effect of the uproar was electrical upon the prisoner.
   He straightened up. His mother and his country were insulted; his pride of race was touched. With shoulders back and head erect, he stepped firmly into the square, his eyes blazing with indignation. He glanced contemptuously at the crowd. He listened to the priest, a little impatiently I thought, and as he was roughly dragged forward, he shook himself free and knelt on the ready sanded strip. A sergeant and four men formed three feet behind him. They levelled their rifles; the triggers clicked ominously. Molina braced himself for the shock, and waited in suspense. Then in refined and unintentional cruelty the crisis was delayed while a Negro lay brother came leisurely across the parade with the cross for the condemned to kiss. Perfunctorily he applied his lips to the sacred emblem; again he prepared for the volley. But a further delay followed, during which his tried fortitude almost forsook him; the young body was shaking with convulsive trembling. But at last the sergeant held his sword in the air; the squad were taking aim. With a flash the sword fell; the volley rattled out. The young martyr was dead.
   The band burst into the Cadiz march, but stopped after a few bars, and the renewed execrations died away when the mangled body was dragged off, and fresh sand spread over the bloody tracks; the great event was yet to come. Again the postern opened, and the death procession hove in sight. Trembling in every limb, the murderer Fernandez was led forth, held up by two priests. As he reached the square there were shouts of recognition from all sides, which the homicide was too frightened to heed. Loud murmurs and protests arose, and dispensing with all preliminaries, I supposed to get the execution over before a riot arose, the commandante jerked Fernandez into position, and the firing squad stepped out. A loud chorus of "No! No!" arose from all sides; the volunteers shouted, howled, and gesticulated; a rescue seemed imminent. I saw the officers suppress a smile with difficulty. Then the postern swung back again, an aide dashed into the square, shouting, "Alto!" and waving a blue paper.
   The squad fell back promptly; if the farce had not had previous rehearsal, at least the actors were perfect in their parts. The commandante then announced that in view of the loyal services rendered by the volunteers in the past, General Weyler had craved and received the Queen's pardon for Fernandez that no slur might rest upon the honourable name of the loyal Instituto. A roar of exultation went heavenward in reply. Fernandez arose dazed, and with yells of "Viva Weyler!" "Viva los Voluntarios!" "Viva Espana!" the volunteers danced in their delirious joy.
   "Thank God that first poor boy died so bravely!" said a voice in my ear, and turning, I found a young lieutenant of artillery who had read my feelings in my face. Then with an angry "Get to your pigsties before you grunt, swine!" he flung some gesticulating soldiers aside, and strode away: one Spaniard ashamed of his race.
   Executions were frequent throughout Weyler's regime, and every week if there were no shooting there was the garrotte, and the local verdugo reaped a rich harvest. Two weeks after Molina's death, the aged patriot Hchevarri was shot in the back like a dog. The execution was soon over, and I stood on the steps at La Punta as the body was brought across the bay for burial. A grey-haired Cuban lady knelt with her daughters over the rough box, the wife dry-eyed and silent, the sweet-faced girls weeping bitterly; but they were refused permission even to possess the remains after death. Soon the lumbering dead-cart drew up. "Come, Widow! Marry a loyal man next time!" shouted the brutal sergeant; the soldiers pulled the coffin from the recumbent women, and tilting it roughly, pushed it over the stone balustrade. This caused the blood to rush to one end, and pour through the badly fitting joints, splashing over the kneeling forms on the steps, and making a pool on the ground that the brave man had given his life to free. The soldiers drew their machetes and dipped the points in gore; "to warm the soul," as the guerillas say.
   Mrs. Hchevarri died broken-hearted a few weeks later; the fate of her unfortunate daughters, who were left penniless, I have never heard.
   Beside the public executions, secret official murders frequently took place. Prominent Cubans of revolutionary sympathies were taken outside the lines at night and shot. Their bodies were then brought in and buried without recognition, as insurgents killed in battle.
   Colonel La Barerra, the infamous chief of police in Havana, had a complete system of espionage, and swayed his power rather to blackmail than to stamp out the revolution. I could fill pages with revolting details of cases that came under my personal notice, of murder and outrage perpetrated by this blackguard and his assistants Escalante, Pratts, Prinn, and other satellites. They blackmailed with impunity under threat of exile, and to intimidate others they deported many innocent people, who were finally pardoned by General Blanco. Their dupes were forced to play the spy, and, as in the case of Beato, who betrayed Mrs. Sotolongo, were hung when their usefulness was over and their knowledge dangerous.
   A young Cuban friend of mine named Arisa and his companion Posada came under Barerra's ban, and were murdered in cold blood on the night of August 13th, 1897. Arisa was the son of a sugar-exporter; Posada, the son of the Consul-General of Portugal. During the summer they visited friends, expatriated Cubans, in Mexico. On their return they were arrested, but released. We sat that night in the annex of the Inglaterra hotel, joking at their experience, and discussing the coming fiesta at the Vedado. We broke up at a late hour, and next day I learned that Arisa and Posada had disappeared. Their friends feared the worst, and while aiding in the search, my assistant Garcia learned that they had been arrested as they left the hotel, thrust into a coach in Central Park, and driven rapidly away.
   Senor Diego, a stock-broker in the Casa Nueva, had told me that day of cries for help, and shots near his house in Tulipan during the night, and of a waiting dead-cart in El Cerro driving rapidly away. A local journal, "El Diario", also mentioned the arrival in the Colon morgue of two bodies of rebels shot crossing the lines. The coincidence seemed suspicious, and since the municipal doctor was an acquaintance of mine, I drove over and asked for a permit to view the dead insurgents. "They are interred already," he stated, "buried at daybreak by order," adding, sotto voce, "The rebels are wearing patent boots, silk vests, and white shirts, it seems; at least, these were. They were no insurgents!" He would say no more, for "still tongue, safe neck" was a good Havana maxim; but our suspicions were fully confirmed when the cemetery morgue-keeper openly sold the clothes of the missing men as his perquisite.
   The relatives obtained no redress until General Blanco's arrival, when the bodies were exhumed and recognised. The miscreant police-officers had then sailed for Spain, save Colonel Escalante, who was suspended from office. Angered at my share in this and other exposures, Escalante and some of his gang swore to kill me. Twice I was waylaid at their instigation, but escaped unscathed. Following the discovery of a huge dynamite bomb at the American Consulate on November 26th, a small bomb in a sugar-cane sample case was delivered with my newspapers. I threw the package to the janitor to open for me. He carelessly split the lid instead of withdrawing it, thereby disarranging a clever fuse attachment that otherwise would have ignited and blown us to atoms. Escalante was implicated in these outrages, and finally dismissed by General Blanco.
   Hatred to Spain seemed to be imbibed in the air of Cuba, and Cuban-born sons of Spaniards proved invariably rebels, especially when born of Cuban mothers. "Take a Cuban wife for a rebel son," was a pertinent Spanish aphorism, and the revolution caused houses to be divided, son against father, the mother and daughters usually siding with the son. The colonials were persecuted terribly under Weyler's reign of terror, since they all had some relative with the insurgents, and in consequence were rated as "suspects" against whom any outrage would be tolerated.
   Famous desperadoes, as Alcade Maury and Colonel Fonsdeviela, who murdered many people in the Havana suburbs, including the American Dr. Ruiz, had their prototypes all over the island; Spanish ruffians by no means typical of their race, but who had the official backing of Spain in her effort to crush the rebellion at all costs.
   The prisons in Cuba were filled to overflowing with political prisoners charged with most trivial offences. General suspects were herded like animals in filthy pounds and given scanty sustenance, though their friends could send in food and comforts by sufficiently bribing the jailer; prominent prisoners were more closely guarded. Inquisitorial tortures and the lash were frequently used to extract confession.
   Every week a ship loaded with deportados and invalid soldiers left Havana; the Cubans, political suspects, gazing wistfully on their fatherland for the last time, were bound for the African penal hells, Chaferinas or Cueta, or the pestilential isle of Fernando Po in the Gulf of Guinea. Their sobs were drowned by the exultant cheers of the inutile soldiers, who looked back at the fading coasts and realised that they were exchanging hardships and the tyranny of compulsory service for home in their beloved Spain. The deportados, sent to exile, had less hope than their more active brothers captured in the field, whose torture sooner or later would be ended by the firing squad.
   The insurgents in Havana Province were particularly aggressive during the summer of '97, which was extremely dry. During June and July great efforts were made by the Spaniards to entrap the young leader, Nestor Aranguren and his dashing cavalrymen recruited from the best families in the island. I applied for permission from the Marquis Ahumada to join the Spanish columns, but received a courteous refusal, since "the rebels might capture and murder" me. It was not politic to explain that I should fall among friends, so I had to view the operations from the railroad and interior towns. General Molina led three columns into the Guira Melena district, which is shut in by a triangular barrier formed by the railway lines running from Havana to Batabano, and the Guines and Matanzas roads, joining at Aguacate.
   For days the troops operated in this zone, but the tireless Cubans, hemmed in but never caught, skirmished with the Spanish hordes with impunity until the operations were abandoned. To follow Molina's discomfiture, Weyler took the field again in person, and bravely rounded up a vast quantity of cattle, corralled by permission under the forts on the outskirts of the towns. He had placed an embargo on the importation of livestock from abroad; so hundreds of head were driven into Havana and sold at an exorbitant price. I could name a dozen reconcentrados who thus lost their only means of subsistence. They did not get a cent for the stolen stock, and starved to death. If, as Weyler affirms, starvation was unavoidable, why did he loot cattle and sell them for his own benefit? The beasts could have been taken, and the meat issued to the perishing reconcentrados; but I saw in Santiago de las Vegas and Guines droves of milch cows seized and sent to Havana to be sold, while in both places the blood from the beasts killed for the soldiers was lapped from the ground by famished people, and the discarded entrails fought over and devoured raw. It was a sight I shall never forget.
   On his return from this campaign I first met Weyler. He rode into Guanabacoa with a large force, harassed all the way by bushwhacking Cubans, who tried in vain to get through the flanks for one shot at him. When the general arrived. Alcade Maury provided a luncheon, at the close of which I was presented. To describe this man or brute, to whom human life was as nothing, is a difficult task. He greeted me cordially enough, and apologised for his travel-stained condition due to the campaign. He was a dapper little man, decidedly under the medium build, with bushy eyebrows and side whiskers, a determined face, with thin cruel lips over a sensuous double chin. He wore the regulation light blue and white cotton uniform, rough riding-boots, and a large straw sombrero. He looked hot, tired, and dirty; given a black patch and cutlass, he was the orthodox pirate of fiction. He talked simply, in a thick voice, and exhibited a trying, nervous twitching of eyebrows and hands with every sentence. His keen, blue eyes pierced one through; their glance was absolutely distrustful, and showed that he would suspect his own brother. We talked of the reconcentrados, of war, and chiefly of the United States. He seemed suspicions at my knowledge, and asked me sharply: "How long have you been here?" I equivocated, replying I had been in Havana but a few weeks.
   The Americans, he thought, were encouraging the Cubans with the ultimate hope of seizing the island. As to the insurrection he declared that there were not five hundred rebels in the west, a statement I knew to be false, and said he would soon pass eastward and destroy Garcia and the rebels there. He believed Gomez dead, or a fugitive.
   "In that case these poor reconcentrados can go back to their homes soon?" I remarked interrogatively. Weyler lifted his eyebrows. "Ah, but these Cuban women have borne rebel sons and will encourage them," was his significant reply. "Then, General, what of their future? Must all starve?" "These people are but eating the fruit of the tree they sowed," he said. "I am here to crush the rebels, others must see to the resettlement of Cuba. This is war. I meet war with war. I have done as Sherman did. The distress is bad, but the measure necessary. The rebels will not fight us openly, and as it is difficult to quell them by bullets, we must starve them out. It is their own doing. They could surrender and end the war, and save their wives and children, but they persist in combating Spain, and this is the result. What of the families of our soldiers killed in the war?"
   That was the only excuse I ever heard the general make for holding as hostages and starving 500,000 innocent women and children.
   A Cuban lady in deep black approached, and was received with deference, though Weyler frequently shook his head and frowned ominously, for his visitor was imploring him to grant something. "Madam, I kiss your feet. May God guard you many years!" he said as he dismissed her. Then I saw the true Weyler. He was in a boiling rage and cursed his officers. The mask of affability was off. His quick eyes snapped viciously, and his features were distorted with passion, but for no apparent reason. He was not Beauty before, he was decidedly the Beast now. It is impossible to picture an expression so completely changed. His heart was as adamant, but I believe that man's life was a hell, that, in re-echo of Cleomenes of old, "scenes of blood lay dreadful on his soul." Hence his varying moods and frequent outbursts. He did not entirely regain his equanimity; but he invited me to ride into Havana with him, and failed to hide his relief when I declined the honour. That afternoon, as he rode in triumph through the capital at the head of his men, I was surprised at the coolness of his reception. His bodyguard, picked men recruited from the negro Bomberos, or firemen, commanded by a seven-foot black of ogrish aspect, marched first, then the Captain-General and a guard of dragoons; but even in Obisbo Street only the gamins yelled "Viva Weyler," the volunteers saluted, and cried "Viva Espana!" The general public received the hero with contemptuous silence.
   "There can be slain no sacrifice to God more acceptable than an unjust and wicked king;" but, in a wide application of Seneca, but one attempt was made on Weyler's life, a bomb thrown in the palace. Yet he walked nightly down the Prado with only an aide and three secret police sauntering behind. Some Cubans often debated with me the feasibility of seizing him there one night, dragging him down the steps to the Punta beach and shipping him down the coast to Gomez, to be held as a hostage for all Cuban prisoners. This would have been easy in the darkness with a launch, and a tug in the offing that could race the obsolete boats in the harbour. We worked persistently in planning this. The guards were to be overpowered by sudden onslaught from the rear; the general seized, pinioned, and embarked. Lack of funds delayed the attempt. Finally we chartered a tug in Key West; but the owner drew back at the last, and just as another boat was offered, Weyler was recalled. It would have been a master stroke, and one I regret that was not carried out. "It is good for one to taste the meal he cooks for others," as the Spaniards say. The general was absolutely implacable. When the devoted young American lady Miss Someillian begged on bended knees for her father's liberation from imprisonment on a groundless charge, she reminded him that he too had a daughter. "Yes," was the prompt reply, as he roughly threw off the pleading girl, "and if her father were a filibuster she would loyally disown him."
   Colonel Laborde, who had served Spain faithfully at home in the past, and whose Cuban-born sons became rebels, pleaded in vain with Weyler for the life of his son Edward, captured on the filibuster "Competitor." "We have been soldiers of Spain together," said the old officer, "and you. General, have also a son you love." "Yes," was the reply, "and if my own son were disloyal and rebelled today against Spain, with my own hand would I sign his death decree."
   These incidents throw side lights on Weyler's character, and he is one of the few men of whom it seems impossible to relate anything really redounding to his credit.
   If Premier Canovas had replaced Weylerism with true clemency at an early date, the history of Cuba today would have been different. The dead statesman supported him to his last day, and after six months of the brutal regime the loss of Cuba to Spain was obvious to all but the blinded ministers in Madrid. Using turf and scriptural metaphors, Spain backed the wrong horse; and when reason prevailed and Blanco arrived with the autonomy that two years earlier would have saved the situation, like the doom of the foolish virgins, "Too late, too late, ye cannot enter now!" was the cry that greeted him.
   At the end of July the insurgent fires burned nightly on the hills behind Havana; the cane of Fernandez de Castro and on other fortified estates nearer the city blazed repeatedly. The rebels were at the gates of the capital at that time, and I had secret information that General Castillo, a young professor of languages then with the rebels, and Delgado and Hernandez, would simultaneously attack the fortified barricade guarding Havana, Castillo, at the suburb of Jesus del Monte, and the two latter at Mariano, a pretty little watering-place on the western j side. Thinking the latter would be the more interesting fight, I drove to Mariano on the evening before the elate, and registered at the dirty and only hotel Santa Clara.
   A heavy thunderstorm had cleared the air, and it was a glorious night for the rainy season. As I sat on the piazza, the soft throbbing of the organ from the little church blended with the rippling of the sea on the sandy shore; the moon shone clearly, making a flow of silvery sheen on the water, the pure radiance lighting up the distant spires and domes of Havana city and softening the squalor of the reconcentrados' hovels. Campfires flickered from the Vedado and the forts along the Almanares River. The great Santa Clara and Vedado batteries loomed grimly in the distance; the moon's pale effulgence rested on their massive guns, making them gleam like polished silver. Too far away to heed the racket of the gay city, the suburb seemed sleeping.
   The silence was broken only by the bugles of the outposts sounding the nightly retreat, and the faraway baying of dogs. From a fort in the valley a few conscripts, thinking of Spain, were singing the constitutional hymn as they lay round the campfire. I looked almost sadly on this peaceful scene, as I thought of the horrors the morrow would bring forth, the bloodshed and strife that was inevitable.
   Up the main street some troops now approached. A passing column I thought, as a party of horsemen rode along, followed by some shambling infantry. As they marched under the shadow of the piazza, I could not see them closely.
   "Alto! Quien vive?" challenged the sentinel at the Cuartel. "Viva Cuba Libre!" shouted a dozen voices, and the warning shot of the sentinel was drowned in the volley that followed. At the same time mine host, also an officer in the volunteers, dashing up with a cry of "Los Mambis," dragged me inside and commenced to barricade the door and windows. The Cubans had rushed the forts, and entered the very outskirts of Havana unchecked. The firing now became general, the insurgents trying to storm the Cuartel from which the soldiers blazed incessantly. Finding the door resisted their efforts, they placed a guard over the building and commenced to search for clothes. They were terribly ragged and emaciated, several clad only in sugar-sacks, and they went from house to house demanding food and apparel, giving a receipt for the same to be redeemed later.
   "Open that door!" demanded a stern voice at the hotel; "open or we will burst it in." The proprietor and his assistants lay on the floor still as death. "This house belongs to a bad Spaniard; let us burn him out," suggested one; and then a woman beside me began to whine, and call on the Virgin for protection. "Oh, there are only women there!" growled another. "If you want to find a black-hearted Spaniard, there is one!" and at this they trooped over to the opposite corner, a large bodega owned by a notorious volunteer, Colonel Echezaretta. Here they were met with a volley; for the owner and his assistants, all volunteers, had formed a barricade of rum-barrels and were entrenched. Amid the lurid flashes the Cubans could be seen tearing down the iron bars of the windows, the shutters were demolished, and then they poured in. The brutal face of the colonel loomed above the crowd; he felled the first man with the butt of his gun, then a machete flashed, and with a sickening gurgle he in turn sank back dead; the others fled from the rear. The insurgents cleaned out the place, blowing open the safe and obtaining a rich haul, for this man's goods were as the spoils of war.
   By this time the garrisons from the forts were formed, and led down against the Cubans by one brave young officer. As usual, every one of his superiors had deserted their posts and gone into the city for pleasure, and when the rebels suddenly dashed up to the barricade, the leaderless soldiers had not attempted to stay their passage. This lieutenant now formed his troops behind garden walls and on the rooftops of houses where they could sweep the town. The rebels likewise entrenched themselves, one shouting to the people to lie flat on the floor to escape shots. From house to house the fight raged; the bullets crashed through our shutters, ricocheted on the roof and pavement. The young lieutenant was wounded, and then the Spaniards retired. Delgado next posted guards at the head of every street to hold the approaches.
   I tried to get outside when the firing ceased, but the hotel-keeper dared me to unbar the door. "You must be crazy," he said, "or are you a rebel trying to betray me to your comrades?" and the rascal got so excited I thought he would shoot me in my tracks. Still both from front and back I could see all that I wanted. The Cubans did not come to the house again, but visited a large cafe opposite. Two young Spanish waiters, half dead with fear, had concealed themselves, one in a barrel, the other in the refrigerator. Several rebel officers came in and opened wine; a piano stood near, and some played and sang. Suddenly, like Jack from the box, a terrified head and shoulders popped from the ice-chest, and begged not to be killed. Nearly frozen, the Spaniard had been forced to come out. How the Cubans laughed! They rubbed his hands, gave him wine, and quite reassured, he played while they sang.
   Foraging parties went from house to house and searched for food and clothes. Several invaded the residence of an English shipper, Mr. Hall, taking the clothes from his wardrobe with apologies, stating that he could buy others and their needs were great. Some English ladies staying in the house were terrified, but two lieutenants assured them they need fear nothing, and no one else spoke to them. Though told one door led to a lady's bedroom, some soldiers pushed in and opened the wardrobe. Delgado, seeing this, gave them several strokes with his sheathed machete. "Are we fiends that we war on women, or do you want corsets to improve your ugly figures?" he demanded; and then the party withdrew. Some of the men afterwards returned demanding money, and obtained several dollars, though they begged that they should not be reported, as they would be shot if discovered. Houses of Spaniard and Cuban were treated alike unless the owner was known as a volunteer. Then they took everything he had.
   After the fighting, parties carried the dead and wounded off through the lines to the woods. All the clothing was collected, and the men came up in batches, obtaining such garments as they most needed, and according to fit. Behind the church in the Plaza Domingo, Hernandez had a clandestine meeting with his fiancee, Leona Calve, sister of a dentist of Philadelphia then staying with them. It was a terrible risk for the girl, though she were an American born in New Orleans; but these Southern beauties will go through fire and water for the man they love. With little addition, a novelist in Cuba could write romances of life by the tome, far stranger than fiction's fairy flights, but with unhappy and thus unorthodox sequels. The brave Spaniards were all in hiding, and only friends saw her; but the little tete-a-tete was rudely broken by the advent of the cavalry from Havana, who suddenly charged down on the Cuban guards.
   "Viva Espana!" they yelled; their sabres flashed in the moonlight, and my heart froze as I saw the weak outposts turn to withstand their furious onslaught. A line of Cubans was thrown across the road, two sharp volleys rang out, and the cavalry drew up, wheeled, and retreated in confusion leaving their dead on the street. But they were only the advance guard. The Cubans had entered at nine and it was now one o’clock, and the troops from the immense Havana garrisons were en route at last. The outposts galloped in, announcing the approach of a Spanish column, and having completely outfitted their men and obtained supplies, Delgado and Hernandez marched out on one side as the Spanish regulars poured in on the other. Instead of pursuing the Cubans, the Spaniards wasted several hours drinking and investing the town.
   When all danger was past the hotel-keeper came to me and presented his bill, explaining that he wanted money badly. Demurring at its exorbitance for such wretched accommodation, I paid the mercenary wretch. Then he sneaked off to the Cuartel and informed the soldiers that a Yankee at his house had tried to communicate with the rebels, and I was hauled off and lodged in the Cuartel of the Bomberos. Dr. Calve was also arrested, mainly because he talked English, and probably twenty Cubans were brought in during the night. I was rather more annoyed than alarmed, and could sleep but little on the filthy floor, swarming with scorpions and other unclean beasts.
   A Spanish prison is never desirable under any circumstances. Fortunately, and by the merest chance, I had among my papers the card of Mr. McLean, manager of the Mariano Railroad, owned by a British company. The military commandante knew him well; my passport was in order, and next morning, after a short examination, my papers were returned and I was liberated with apologies.

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