Page:Yule Logs.djvu/39

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23
A FIGHTING MERMAID

Not knowing whom they might question, or even address with safety, the young adventurers finally turned into the brilliantly-lighted cafe of the Pasaje, where they hoped to gain some guiding clew from chance bits of conversation. The place was so crowded that for several minutes they failed to find vacant seats at any of the little tables scattered about the floor. At length they secured two that had just been vacated, and slipped into them. Two other seats at the same table were occupied by a supercilious-looking Spanish officer and a fashionably-attired civilian. The former, with an expression of deepest hatred cast toward Carl Baldwin, slowly rose, reversed his chair with a loud scraping on the marble pavement that attracted general attention, and reseated himself with his back turned squarely toward the young American. The latter had suspected the nature of the insulting epithets applied to him in the streets, but had been unable to reply to them on account of his limited knowledge of Spanish. With enforced silence his anger had smouldered until now, when it broke into a sudden fierce heat. Acting upon the impulse of the moment, he lifted his own chair, planted it in front of the Spaniard, deliberately reoccupied it, and stared his enemy full in the face, but without uttering a word.

As Carlos Moranza realised his companion's intention, he started towards him, but was detained by the fourth man who had been seated at the table, and who whispered hurriedly—

"Fly for your life, amigo, while there is yet time. For a Moranza to be arrested in Havana means sure and speedy death."

"But I cannot leave my friend," gasped the young Cuban, bewildered at being thus promptly recognised where he believed himself to be unknown.

"He will only suffer imprisonment. They dare not kill him. His Government is too powerful."