Page:Yule Logs.djvu/53

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37
THE FIGHTING MERMAID

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