Page:Yule Logs.djvu/21

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5
A FIGHTING MERMAID

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?"