Page:Yule Logs.djvu/38

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22
A FIGHTING MERMAID

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.


CHAPTER IV


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.