Round the World with The Boy Journalists: I
PLOTTING IN PIRATE SEAS
By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER
Round the World with The Boy Journalists PLOTTING IN PIRATE SEAS HUNTING HIDDEN TREASURE IN THE ANDES
Romance-History of America IN THE DAYS BEFORE COLUMBUS THE QUEST OF THE WESTERN WORLD
NEW YORK: GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PLOTTING IN PIRATE SEAS
BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER
Author of "Hunting Hidden Treasure in the Andes," "In the Days Before Columbus," "The Quest of the Western World," "The Aztec-Hunters," "The Boy with the U. S. Census," etc.
Illustrated by C. A. FEDERER
NEW YORK GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
CHAPTER I PAGE AMERICAN ALL THROUGH 11
CHAPTER II WHERE BLACK MEN RULE 27
CHAPTER III THE BLOOD-STAINED CITADEL 47
CHAPTER IV THE GHOST OF CHRISTOPHE 66
CHAPTER V THE ISLE OF THE BUCCANEERS 81
CHAPTER VI A CUBAN REBEL 99
CHAPTER VII A NOSE FOR NEWS 117
CHAPTER VIII THE POISON TREES 135
CHAPTER IX THE HURRICANE 155
CHAPTER X THE LAKE OF PITCH 177
CHAPTER XI THE MORNING OF DOOM 196
CHAPTER XII A CORSAIR'S DEATH 217
CHAPTER XIII THE HUNGRY SHARK 231
CHAPTER XIV TRAPPED! 242
"NOT THAT WAY—TWO MORE STEPS, BOY, AND YOU Frontispiece ARE DEAD" PAGE FOR A HUNDRED FEET THEY FELL AND STUART 72 CLOSED HIS EYES IN SICKENING DIZZINESS
HIS VISION DISTORTED BY THE VENOM-VAPOR OF THE 144 POISON TREES, THE LAND-CRABS SEEMED OF ENORMOUS SIZE AND THE NEGRO WHO CAME TO RESCUE HIM APPEARED AS AN OGRE
ABOVE THE HOARSE SHOUTS OF RUFFIANS AND JACK-TARS, 224 ROSE TEACH'S MURDEROUS WAR CRY
PLOTTING IN PIRATE SEAS
AMERICAN ALL THROUGH
The tom-tom throbbed menacingly through the heavy dark of the Haitian night.
Under its monotonous and maddening beat, Stuart Garfield moved restlessly.
Why had his father not come back? What mystery lay behind?
Often though the boy had visited the island, he had never been able to escape a sensation of fear at that summons of the devotees of Voodoo. Tonight, with the mysterious disappearance of his father weighing heavily on his spirits, the roll of the black goatskin drum seemed to mock him.
Hippolyte, the giant negro who had been their guide into this back-country jungle, rocked and grimaced in balance with the rhythm.
"Why are they beating that drum, Hippolyte?" demanded Stuart, suddenly.
"Tonight the night of the Full Moon, Yes," was the answer. "Always Voodoo feast that night. Often, queer things happen on night of Full Moon, Yes!"
Stuart turned impatiently to the door, as much to get his eyes away from the hypnotic swaying of Hippolyte as to resume his watch for his father. The negro's reference to "queer things" had added to the boy's uneasiness.
Little though Stuart knew about his father's affairs, he was aware that his investigations dealt with matters of grave importance to the United States. Ever since Mr. Garfield had resigned his position in the U. S. Consular Service and left the post in Cuba, where he had stayed so many years, he had kept a keen eye on international movements in the West Indies.
Mr. Garfield was an ardent and flaming patriot. He believed the Monroe Doctrine with a conviction that nothing could shake. He regarded all the islands of the West Indies as properly under the sheltering wing of the United States. He looked with unfriendly eye upon the possession of certain of the islands by England, France and Holland, and especially distrusted the colonies of European powers upon South American and Central American shores.
Stuart was even more intense in his patriotism. He had not lived in the United States since early childhood, and saw the country of the Stars and Stripes enhaloed by romance.
Though Stuart had been brought up in Cuba, all his tastes ran to things American. He had learned to play pelota, and was a fair player, but the rare occasions when he could get a game of baseball suited him far better. He cared nothing for books unless they dealt with the United States, and then he read with avidity. Western stories fired his imagination, the more so because the life they described was so different from his own.
Stuart was not the type of boy always seeking a fight, but, beneath his somewhat gentle brown eyes and dark hair, there was a square aggressive chin, revealing that trait of character known as a "terrible finisher." It took a good deal to start Stuart, but he was a terror, once started. Any criticism of the United States was enough to get him going. His Cuban schoolmates had found that out, and, whenever Stuart was around, the letters "U. S." were treated with respect.
This square chin was aggressively thrust forward now, as the boy looked into the night. There was trouble in the air. He felt it. Deeper down than the disturbed feelings produced by the tom-tom, he sensed a prescience of evil on its way.
When, therefore, a figure emerged from the forest into the clearing, and Stuart saw that this figure was not his father, but that of a negro, the boy stiffened himself.
"You—Stuart?" the newcomer queried.
"Yes," replied the boy, "that's my name."
The negro hardly hesitated. He walked on, though Stuart was full in the doorway, jostled him aside roughly, and entered. This attitude toward the white man, unheard of anywhere else, is common in up-country Haiti, where, for a century, the black man has ruled, and where the white man is hated and despised.
A hard stone-like gleam came into Stuart's eyes, but even his mounting rage did not blind him to the fact that the negro was twice his size and three times as muscular. Nor did he forget that Hippolyte was in the hut, and, in any case of trouble, the two blacks would combine against him.
The negro who had pushed him aside paid no further attention to the boy, but entered into a rapid-fire conversation with Hippolyte. Stuart could follow the Haitian French dialect quite well, but there were so many half-hidden allusions in the speech of the two men that it was easy for him to see that they were both members of some secret band.
The intruder was evidently in some authority over Hippolyte, for he concluded:
"Everything is well, Yes. Do with the boy, as was arranged."
So saying, he cast a look at Stuart, grinned evilly, and left the hut. The boy watched him until his powerful figure was lost to view in the forest.
Then he turned to Hippolyte.
"What does all this mean!" he demanded, as authoritatively as he could.
For a moment Hippolyte did not answer. He looked at the boy with a reflection of the same evil grin with which the other had favored the white boy.
A quick choke came into the boy's throat at the change in the negro's manner. He was in Hippolyte's power, and he knew it. But he showed never a quiver of fear as he faced the negro.
"What does it all mean?" he repeated.
"It is that you know Manuel Polliovo?"
Stuart knew the name well. His father had mentioned it as that of a conspirator who was in some way active in a West Indian plot.
"I have heard of him," the boy answered.
"Manuel—he send a message, Yes. He say—Tell Stuart he must go away from Haiti, at once. His father gone already."
"What does that mean!" exclaimed Stuart. The first words of the warning had frightened him, but, with the knowledge that his father was in danger, the fighting self of him rose to the surface, and his fear passed.
"How?" returned the negro, not understanding.
"That my father has gone already?"
Hippolyte shrugged his shoulders with that exaggeration of the French shrug common in the islands.
"Maybe Manuel killed him," came the cheerful suggestion. "Jules, who tell me just now, says Manuel, he have the air very wicked and very pleased when he tell him."
Stuart doubted this possibility. Ever since the American occupation of Haiti, in 1915, murder had become less common. The boy thought it more likely that the missing man had been captured and imprisoned. But just what could Manuel be doing if he dared such drastic action? The lad wished that he knew a little more about his father's plans.
A small revolver was in his pocket, and, for one wild moment, Stuart thought of making a fight for it and going to the rescue of his father. But his better sense prevailed. Even supposing he could get the drop on the negro—which was by no means sure—he could not mount guard on him perpetually. Moreover, if he got near enough to try and tie him up, one sweep of those brawny arms would render him powerless.
"And if I do not go?" he asked.
"But you do go," declared Hippolyte. "It is I who will see to that, Yes!"
"Was it Manuel who sent you the money?"
"Ah, the good money!" The negro showed his teeth in a wide grin. "Manuel, he tell Jules to find boy named Stuart. If you big, tie you and take you to the forest; if little, send you away from the island."
This was one point gained, thought Stuart. Manuel, at least, did not know what he looked like.
"I suppose I've got to go to Cap Haitien."
"But now, Yes!"
"It's a long walk," protested Stuart. "Twenty miles or more."
"We not walk, No! Get mules near. Now, we start."
The boy had hoped, in some way, to get the negro out of the hut and to make a bolt for the woods where he might lie hidden, but this sudden action prevented any such ruse. He turned to the table to put into his knapsack the couple of changes of clothing he had brought. There was no way for him to take his father's clothes, but the boy opened the larger knapsack and took all the papers and documents.
"See here, Hippolyte," he said. "I give you all these clothes. I take the papers."
The negro grinned a white-toothed smile at the gift. He cared nothing about the papers. He would do what Jules had paid him to do, and no more.
As they left the hut, it seemed to Stuart that the nerve-racking beating of the tom-tom sounded louder and nearer. They walked a mile or so, then, as Hippolyte suggested, at a small half-abandoned plantation, they found mules. Once mounted, the negro set off at breakneck speed, caring nothing about the roughness of the road, all the more treacherous because of the dead-black of the shadows against the vivid green-silver patches where the tropical moonlight shone through.
"What's the hurry?" clamored Stuart, who could see no reason for this mad and reckless riding.
"The dance stop at dawn! I want to be back, Yes!"
They galloped on as before.
A few miles from the town, Stuart snatched at an idea which flashed upon him suddenly.
"Hippolyte," he said. "You want to get back for the voodoo dance?"
"You'll be too late if you take me into town. See."
He showed his watch and held out a twenty-five gourde bill.
"Suppose I give you this. It's all the money I have. You can tell Jules to tell Manuel that you saw me get on board a steamer in Cap Haitien, and that you saw the steamer start. Then you can be back in plenty of time for the dance."
Hippolyte hesitated. The temptation was strong.
"Unless, of course," the boy added carelessly, "you like this white man, Manuel, so much."
An expression of primitive hate wrote itself on the ebon face, a peculiarly malignant snarl, as seen by moonlight.
"I hate all whites!" he flashed.
"Then why should you do a good turn for this Manuel?"
The instincts of a simple honesty struggled with the black's desire. A passing gust of wind brought the rhythmic beating of the tom-tom clearer to their ears. It was the one call that the jungle blood of the negro could not resist. He held out his hand for the money.
"You go into Cap Haitien alone?" he queried, thickly.
"Yes, I'll promise that," the boy agreed.
He dismounted, swung his knapsack on his back, and handed the reins of the mule to Hippolyte, who sat, still uncertain. But the negro's head was turned so that he could hear the throbbing of the drum, and, with an answering howl that went back to the days of the African jungle, he turned and sped back over the rough trail at the same headlong speed he had come.
"If he doesn't break his neck!" commented Stuart, as he saw him go, "it'll be a wonder!"
There were yet a couple of hours before dawn, and Stuart plodded along the trail, which could lead to no other place than Cap Haitien. He walked as fast as he could, hoping to reach the city before daylight, but the first streaks of dawn found him still nearly two miles from the town. He did not want to enter the town afoot by daylight. That would be too conspicuous, and there were plans germinating in the boy's head which needed secrecy. He must hide all day, and get into Cap Haitien the next night.
Stuart slipped off the road and wriggled his way through the dense thicket, seeking a place where there was light enough to read, and yet where the foliage was dense enough to prevent him being seen by anyone passing that way.
A few moments' search only were required before he found the ideal spot, and he threw himself down on a pile of leaves with great zest. That mule had been hard riding.
"First of all," he said to himself, half aloud, "I've got to find out where I'm at. Then I'll maybe be able to figure out what I ought to do."
Stuart's mind was not so quick as it was strong. He was a straight up-and-down honest type of fellow, and thoroughly disliked the crafty and intriguing boy or man. He began cautiously, but got warmed up as he went on, and made a whirlwind finish.
It was characteristic of him, thus, not to plunge into any wild and desperate attempt to rescue his father, until he had time to puzzle out the situation and work out a plan of action. He began by reading all the papers and documents he had taken from his father's knapsack. This was a long job, for the papers were full of allusions to subjects he did not understand. It was nearly noon before he had digested them.
Then he lay on his back and looked up through the tracery of leaves overhead, talking aloud so that the sound of his own voice might make his discoveries clearer.
"The way I get it," he mused, "Father's on the trail of some plot against the United States. This plot is breaking loose, here, in Haiti. This Manuel Polliovo's in it, and so is a negro General, Cesar Leborge. There's a third, but the papers don't say who he is.
"Now," he went on, "I've two things to do. I've got to find Father and I've got to find out this plot. Which comes first?"
He rolled over and consulted one or two of the papers.
"Looks like something big," he muttered, kicking his heels meditatively. "I wonder what Father would say I ought to do?"
At the thought, he whirled over and up into a sitting posture.
"If it's dangerous to the U. S.," he said, "that's got to come first. And I don't worry about Father. He can get out of any fix without me."
The glow of his deep-hearted patriotism began to burn in the boy's eyes. He sat rigid, his whole body concentrated in thought.
"If Manuel Polliovo has captured Father," he said aloud, at last, "it must have been because Father was shadowing him. That means that Manuel doesn't want to be shadowed. That means I've got to shadow him. But how?"
The problem was not an easy one. It was obvious that Stuart could not sleuth this Cuban, Manuel, without an instant guess being made of his identity, for white boys were rare in Haiti. If only he were not white. If only——
Stuart thumped on the ground in his excitement.
Why could he not stain his skin coffee-color, like a Haitian boy? If sufficiently ragged, he might be able to pass without suspicion. It might be only for a day or two, for Stuart was sure that his father would appear again on the scene very soon.
This much, at least, he had decided. No one was going to plot against his country if he could help it. There was not much that he could do, but at least he could shadow one of the conspirators, and what he found out might be useful to his father.
This determination reached, the boy hunted for some wild fruit to stay his appetite—he had nothing to eat since the night before—and settled down for the rest of the afternoon to try and dig out the meaning of his father's papers, some of which seemed so clear, while to others he had no clew. It was characteristic of the boy that, once this idea of menace to the United States had got into his head, the thought of personal danger never crossed his mind. The slightly built boy, small even for his age, the first sight of whom would have suggested a serious high-school student rather than a sleuth, possessed the cool ferocity of a ferret when that one love—his love of country—was aroused.
His first step was clear. As soon as it was dark enough to cover his movements, he would go to the house of one of his father's friends, a little place built among the ruins of Cap Haitien, where they had stayed two or three times before. From references in some of the letters, Stuart gathered that his father had confidence in this man, though he was a Haitian negro.
As soon as the shadows grew deep enough, Stuart made his way through the half-grown jungle foliage—the place had been a prosperous plantation during French occupation—and, a couple of hours later, using by-paths and avoiding the town, he came to this negro's house. He tapped at the same window on which his father had tapped, when they had come to Cap Haitien a week or so before, and Leon, the negro, opened the door.
"But, it is you, Yes!" he cried, using the Haitian idiom with its perpetual recurrence of "Yes" and "No," and went on, "and where is Monsieur your father?"
"I don't know," answered Stuart, speaking in English, which he knew Leon understood, though he did not speak it. "I have missed him."
"But where, and but how?" queried Leon, suddenly greatly excited. "Was he already going up to the Citadel?"
Stuart's face flushed with reflected excitement, but his eyes held the negro's steadily. Leon knew more than the boy had expected he would know.
"No," he replied, "I don't think so. I shall have to go."
"It is impossible, impossible, Yes!" cried Leon, throwing up his hands in protest. "I told Monsieur your father that it was impossible for him. And for you——"
A graphic shrug completed the sentence.
Stuart felt a sinking at the pit of his stomach, for he was no braver than most boys. But the twist of his determination held him up.
"Leon," he said, trying to keep his voice steady, though he felt it sounded a little choked, "isn't there the juice of some root which will turn the skin brown, nearly black?"
"But, Yes, the plavac root."
The Haitian peered at the boy.
"You would make yourself a black man?" he continued.
Stuart ignored argument.
"Can you get some? Tonight? Right away?"
"Ah, well; you know—" Leon began.
The boy interrupted him sharply.
"If my father told you to get some, you would get it," he declared peremptorily.
This was a shrewd guess, for, as a matter of fact, there were a number of reasons why Leon should do what Mr. Garfield told him. The negro, who had no means of finding how much or how little the boy knew, shrugged his shoulders hugely, and, with a word of comment, left the house, carrying a lantern. He was back in half an hour with a handful of small plants, having long fibrous roots. These he cut off, placed in a pot, covering them with water, and set the pot on the stove over a slow fire.
"It will not come off the skin as easily as it goes on, No!" he warned.
"Time enough to think about that when I want to take it off," came the boy's reply.
The decoction ready, Leon rubbed it in thoroughly into Stuart's skin. It prickled and smarted a good deal at first, but this feeling of discomfort soon passed away.
"It won't rub off?" queried Stuart.
Leon permitted himself a grim pleasantry.
"Not against a grindstone!"
This positive assertion was as reassuring in one way as it was disquieting in another. Stuart did not want to remain colored for an indefinite period of time. In his heart of hearts he began to wonder if he had not acted a little more hastily, and that if he had asked for Leon's advice instead of ordering him around, he might have found some milder stain. But it was too late to repent or retract now. His skin was a rich coffee brown from head to foot, and his dark eyes and black hair did not give his disguise the lie.
"I'm going to bed," he next announced, "and I want some ragged boy's clothes by morning, Leon. Very ragged. Also an old pair of boots."
"That is not good," protested the Haitian, "every boy here goes barefoot, Yes!"
Stuart was taken aback. This difficulty had not occurred to him. It was true. Not only the boys, but practically nine men out of ten in Haiti go barefoot. This Stuart could not do. Accustomed to wearing shoes, he would cut his feet on the stones at every step he took on the roads, or run thorns into them every step he took in the open country.
"I must have boots," he declared, "but old ones. Those I've been wearing," he nodded to where they lay on the floor—for this conversation was carried on with the boy wearing nothing but his new brown skin—"would give me away at once."
"I will try and get them," answered Leon. His good-humored mouth opened in a wide smile. "Name of a Serpent!" he ejaculated, "but you are the image of the son of my half-sister!"
At which saying, perhaps Stuart ought to have been flattered, since it evidenced the success of his disguise. But, being American, it ruffled him to be told he resembled a negro.
He went to bed, far from pleased with himself and rather convinced that he had been hasty. Yet his last waking thought, if it had been put into words, would have been:
"It's the right thing to do, and I'm going through with it!"
WHERE BLACK MEN RULE
Stuart was not the only person on the streets of Cap Haitien the next morning who was conscious of personal danger. Manuel Polliovo was ill at ease. Bearing the secret that he bore, the Cuban knew that a hint of it would bring him instant death, or, if the authorities had time to intervene, incarceration in a Haitian prison, a fate sometimes worse than death. Even the dreaded presence of U. S. Marines would not hold the negro barbarians back, if they knew.
Manuel was by no means blind to his peril. He was relieved in the thought that the American, Garfield, was where he could not do him any harm, but there were other dangers. Hence he was startled and jumped nervously, on hearing a voice by his elbow.
"Do you want a guide, Senor?"
"A guide, Boy! Where to?"
The answer came clear and meaningly:
"To the Citadel of the Black Emperor!"
The Cuban grew cold, under the burning sun, and, professional conspirator though he was, his face blenched. His hand instinctively sought the pocket wherein lay his revolver.
Yet he dare not kill. Five years of American occupation had bred a sense of law and order in the coast towns, at least, which had not been known in Haiti for a century and more. Any violence would lead to inquiry, and Manuel's record was not one which would bear investigation.
How came this ragged Haitian urchin to know? Manuel's swift glance at Stuart had shown him nothing but a Creole lad in clothes too big for him and a pair of boots fastened with string. The messenger meant nothing, it was the message which held menace.
To the Cuban this apparently chance street encounter was ominous of black threat. It revealed treachery and might mean a trap. But from whence? Swiftly Manuel's keen brain, the brain of an arch-plotter, scanned the manifold aspects of this sudden threat.
How much labor, how many wild adventures, what a series of dangers would Stuart have escaped, had he but been able to read the thoughts of that crafty brain!
Did his fellow-conspirators want to get rid of him? So Manuel's doubts ran. Did they count on his shooting the boy, in a panic, and being lynched for it, there and then, on the street of Cap Haitien? Or of his being imprisoned, tried and executed for murder? Such a plot was not unlikely.
But, if so, who had sent the boy?
Was Cesar Leborge playing him false? True, from that bull-necked, ferocious negro general, Manuel knew he could expect nothing but brutality, envy and hate; but such a design as this boy's intervention seemed too subtle for the giant Creole's brain. Manuel accounted himself master of the negro when it came to treachery and cunning. Moreover, he knew Leborge to be a sullen and suspicious character, little likely to talk or to trust anyone.
What did the boy know? Manuel flashed a look at him. But Stuart was idly fiddling in the dust with the toe of his ragged boot, and the Cuban's suspicions flashed to another quarter.
Could the Englishman, Guy Cecil, be to blame? That did not seem any more likely. Manuel was afraid of Cecil, though he would not admit it, even to himself. The Englishman's chill restraint, even in moments of the most tense excitement, cowed the Cuban. Never had he been able to penetrate into his fellow-conspirator's thoughts. But that Cecil should have talked loosely of so vital, so terrible a secret? No. The grave itself was not more secretive than that quiet schemer, of whom nothing ever seemed to be known. And to a negro boy! No, a thousand times, no!
Stay—was this boy a negro boy? Suspicion changed its seat in the wily Cuban's brain. That point, at least, he would find out, and swiftly. He looked at his ragged questioner, still fiddling with his toe in the dust, and answered.
"Well," he said, "you can show me what there is to be seen in this place. But first I will go to the Cafe. No," he continued, as the boy turned towards the new part of the town, built under American oversight, "not there. To the Cafe de l'Opera. Go down the street and keep a few steps in front."
Stuart obeyed. He had seen the first swift motion of the Cuban's hand, when he had been accosted, and had guessed that it was pistolwards. It was uncomfortable walking in front of a man who was probably aching to blow one's brains out. Nasty little cold shivers ran up and down Stuart's back. But the tents of the U. S. Marines, in camp a little distance down the beach, gave him courage. With his sublime faith in the United States, Stuart could not believe that he could come to any harm within sight of the Stars and Stripes floating from the flagstaff in front of the encampment.
While Stuart was thus getting backbone from his flag, Manuel was concentrating his wits and experience on this problem which threatened him so closely.
Was this boy a negro?
A life spent in international trickery on a large scale had made the Cuban a good judge of men. He knew native races. He knew—what the white man generally ignores or forgets—that between the various black races are mental differences as wide as between races of other color. He knew that the Ewe negro is no more like the Riff in character, than the phlegmatic Dutchman resembles the passionate Italian. If a black, to what race did this boy belong? Was he a black, at all?
The bright sun threw no reflected lights on the boy's skin, the texture of which was darker than that of a mulatto, and had a dead, opaque look, lacking the golden glow of mulatto skin. The lad's hair showed little hint of Bantu ancestry and his feet were small. True, all this might betoken any of the Creole combinations common in Haiti, but the Cuban was not satisfied. If the skin had been stained, now——
"Boy!" he called.
Stuart looked around.
"Here are some coppers for you."
The boy slouched toward him, extended his hand negligently and the Cuban dropped some three-centime pieces into it.
Stuart mumbled some words of thanks, imitating, as far as he could, the Haitian dialect, but, despite his desire to act the part, feeling awkward in receiving charity.
Manuel watched him closely, then, abruptly, bade him go on ahead. The scrutiny had increased his uneasiness.
This self-appointed guide was no negro, no mulatto, of that Manuel was sure. The money had been received without that wide answering grin of pleasure characteristic in almost all negro types. Moreover, the palms of the boy's hands were the same color as the rest of his skin. The Cuban knew well that a certain dirty pallor is always evident on the palms of the hands of even the blackest negroes.
The boy's reference to the "Citadel of the Black Emperor" showed that he was aware of this secret meeting of conspirators.
This was grave.
More, he was disguised.
This was graver still.
Was this boy, too, afraid of Haiti, that savage land at the doors of America; that abode where magic, superstition and even cannibalism still lurk in the forests; that barbarous republic where the white man is despised and hated, and the black man dominates? That land where the only civilizing force for a century has been a handful of American marines!
That this boy was disguised suggested that he was in fear for his life; but, if so, why was he there? How did he come to know the pass-word of the conspiracy? For what mysterious reason did he offer himself as a guide to the haunted place of meeting?
Who was this boy?
Manuel turned into the Cafe de l'Opera, a tumble-down frame shack with a corrugated iron roof, to order a cooling drink and to puzzle out this utterly baffling mystery.
The Cuban's first impulse was to flee. Had anything less imperious than this all-important meeting been before him, Manuel would have made his escape without a moment's delay.
Cap Haitien is no place for a white man who has fallen under suspicion. Of the four gateways into Haiti it is the most dangerous. In Jacamal, a white man may be left alone, so long as he does not incur the enmity of the blacks; in Gonaive the foreign holders of concessions may protect him; in Port-au-Prince, the capital, he is safeguarded by the potent arm of the American marines; but, in the country districts back of Cap Haitien, the carrion buzzards may be the only witnesses of his fate. And, to that back country, the Cuban must go. All this, Manuel knew, and he was a shrewd enough man to dare to be afraid.
Stuart squatted in the shadow of the building while the Cuban sipped from his glass. Thus, each doubting the other, and each fearing the other, they gazed over the busy desolation of Cap Haitien, a town unlike any other on earth.
Save for a small and recently rebuilt section in the heart of the town—which boasted some 10,000 inhabitants—flimsy frame houses rose in white poverty upon the ruins of what was once known as "the little Paris of the West Indies." Of the massive buildings of a century ago, not one remained whole. The great earthquake of 1842 did much toward their destruction; the orgy of loot and plunder which followed, did more; but the chiefest of all agents of demolition was the black man's rule.
The spacious residences were never rebuilt, the fallen aqueducts were left in ruins, the boulevards fell into disrepair and guinea-grass rioted through the cracked pavements. Back of the town the plantations were neglected, the great houses fallen, while the present owners lived contentedly in the little huts which once had been built for slaves. The ruthless hands of time, weather and the jungle snatched back "Little Paris," and Cap Haitien became a huddled cluster of pitiful buildings scattered among the rubbish-heaps and walls of a once-beautiful stone-built town.
This appearance of desolation, however, was contradicted by the evidence of commercial activity. The sea-front was a whirl of noise.
The din of toil was terrific. Over the cobblestoned streets came rough carts drawn by four mules—of the smallest race of mules in the world—and these carts clattered down noisily with their loads of coffee-sacks, the drivers shouting as only a Haitian negro can shout. At the wharf, each cart was at once surrounded by a cluster of negroes, each one striving to outshout his fellows, while the bawling of the driver rose high above all. Lines of negroes, naked to the waist, sacks on their glistening backs, poured out from the warehouses like ants from an anthill, but yelling to out-vie the carters. The tiny car-line seemed to exist only to give opportunity for the perpetual clanging of the gong; and the toy wharf railway expended as much steam on its whistle as on its piston-power.
Stuart had visited the southern part of Haiti with his father, especially the towns of Port-au-Prince and Jacamel, and he was struck with the difference in the people. Cap Haitien is a working town and its people are higher grade than the dwellers in the southern part of the republic. The south, however, is more populous. Haiti is thickly inhabited, with 2,500,000 people, of whom only 5,000 are foreigners, and of these, not more than 1,000 are whites. The island is incredibly fertile. A century and a quarter ago it was rich, and could be rich again. Its coffee crop, alone, could bring in ample wealth.
To Stuart's eyes, coffee was everywhere. The carts were loaded with coffee, the sacks the negroes carried were coffee-sacks, the shining green berries were exposed to dry on stretches of sailcloth in vacant lots, among the ruins on the sides of the streets. Haitian coffee is among the best in the world, but the Haitian tax is so high that the product cannot be marketed cheaply, the American public will not pay the high prices it commands, and nearly all the crop is shipped to Europe.
"Look at that coffee!" Stuart's father had exclaimed, just a week before. "Where do you suppose it comes from, Stuart? From cultivated plantations? Very little of it. Most of the crop is picked from half-wild shrubs which are the descendants of the carefully planted and cultivated shrubs which still linger on the plantations established under French rule, a century and a half ago. A hundred years of negro power in Haiti has stamped deterioration, dirt and decay on the island."
"But that'll all change, now we've taken charge of the republic!" had declared Stuart, confident that the golden letters "U. S." would bring about the millennium.
His father had wrinkled his brows in perplexity and doubt.
"It would change, my boy," he said, "if America had a free hand. But she hasn't."
"Because, officially, we have only stepped in to help the Haitians arrive at 'self-determination.' The treaty calls for our aid for ten years, with a possibility of continuing that protection for another ten years. But we're not running the country, we're only policing it and advising the Haitians as to how things should be handled."
"Do you think they'll learn?"
"To govern themselves, you mean? Yes. To govern themselves in a civilized manner? No. I wouldn't go so far as to say that slavery or peonage are the only ways to make the up-country Haitian negro work, though a good many people who have studied conditions here think so.
"The program of the modern business man in Haiti is different: Make the negro discontented with his primitive way of living, give him a taste for unnecessary luxuries, teach him to envy his neighbor's wealth and covet his neighbor's goods, and then make him work in order to earn the money to gratify these wishes, and civilization will begin.
"Mark you, Stuart, I don't say that I endorse this program, I'm only telling you, in half-a-dozen words, what it really is. It is sure, though, that when the black man rules, he relapses into savagery; when he obeys a white master, he rises toward civilization."
Stuart remembered this, now, as he sat outside the cafe, and looked pridefully at the tents of the U. S. Marines in the distance. He realized that American improvements in the coast towns had not changed the nature of the Haitian negro, or creole, as he prefers to be called.
Under his father's instruction, the boy had studied Haitian history, and he knew that the Spaniards had ruled by fear, the French had ruled by fear, the negro emperors and presidents had ruled by fear, and, under the direct eye of the U. S. Marines, Haiti is still ruled by fear. In a dim way—for Stuart was too young to have grasped it all—the boy felt that this was not militarism, but the discipline necessary to an undeveloped race.
Only the year before, Stuart himself had been through an experience which brought the innate savagery of the Haitian vividly before his eyes. He had been in Port-au-Prince when the Cacos undertook to raid the town, seize the island, and sweep the United States Marines into the sea. And, as he had heard a Marine officer tell his father, but for a chance accident, they might have succeeded.
In October, 1919, Charlemagne Peralte, the leader of the Cacos, was killed by a small punitive party of U. S. Marines. The Cacos may be described as Haitian patriots or revolutionists, devotees of serpent and voodoo worship, loosely organized into a secret guerilla army. They number at least 100,000 men, probably more. About one-half of the force is armed with modern rifles. The headquarters of the Cacos is in the mountain country in the center of the island, above the Plain of Cul-de-Sac, where no white influence reaches. No one who knew Haitian conditions doubted that revenge would be sought for Charlemagne's death, and all through the winter of 1919-1920, the Marines were on the alert for trouble.
The Cacos leadership had devolved upon Benoit, a highly educated negro, who had secured the alliance of "the Black Pope" and Chu-Chu, the two lieutenants of Charlemagne. Upon Benoit fell the duty of "chasing the white men into the sea" and exterminating the Americans, just as Toussaint l'Ouverture drove the English, and Dessalines, Christophe and Petion drove the French, a century before.
Nearly four years of American occupation had passed. That the purpose of the United States was purely philanthropic was not—and is not—believed by the vast majority of the Haitians. Though living conditions have improved vastly, though brigandage on the plains has ceased, and though terrorism has diminished, at heart only the Haitian merchants and job-holders like the American occupation. The educated Creoles tolerate it. The semi-savages of the hills resent it.
On January 16, some of the white men in Port-au-Prince noticed that the Creoles were excited and nervous. At the Cafe Bordeaux, at the Seaside Inn, at the Hotel Bellevue, strange groups met and mysterious passwords were exchanged. Sullen and latent hostility was changing from smouldering rancor to flaming hate. Port-au-Prince was ripe for revolt.
Stuart remembered his father's return that night.
"Son," he had said, putting a revolver on the little table beside his bed, "I hope you won't have to use this, but, at least, I've taught you to shoot straight."
That night, Benoit, gathering up the local detachments of his forces, moved them in scattered groups through the abandoned plantations and off the main roads to the outskirts of the city. He had over 1,800 men with him. Most had modern rifles. All had machetes. All over the island other bands were in readiness, their orders being to wait until they heard of the fall of Port-au-Prince, when the massacre of all whites might begin.
Benoit's plan was to take the city at daybreak. At midnight, he started three columns of 300 men each, from three directions. They wandered into the city by twos and threes, taking up positions. Their orders were, that, at the firing of a gun at daybreak, when the stores opened, they were to rush through the business district, setting fires everywhere and killing the white men and the gendarmerie. Benoit believed that, while his men could not withstand a pitched battle with the Marines, they could sweep the town in guerilla fashion when the Marines were scattered here and there, putting out fires. Moreover, the Cacos general was sure that, once a massacre of the whites was begun, race hatred would put all the black population on his side.
Two o'clock in the morning came. Mr. Elliott, manager of a sugar refinery at Hascoville, a suburb two miles out of the city, was sleepless, and a vague uneasiness possessed him. Thinking that the fresh air might be beneficial, he went to a window and looked out.
"Out of the myriad hissing, rustling and squawking noises of a tropic night, he heard the unmistakable 'chuff-chuff-chuff' of a marching column of barefoot men. He made out a single-file column moving rapidly across a field, off the road. He made out the silhouetes of shouldered rifles. Far off, under a yellow street lamp, he glimpsed a flash of a red shirt. That was enough. He telephoned to the Marine Brigade that the Cacos were about to raid Port-au-Prince.
"Benoit's bubble," continued the report of the Special Correspondent of the New York World, "burst right there. Only about 150 of his 300 'shock troops' had reached the market-place. No fires had been set. The people were all in bed and asleep. There were no materials for a panic.
"The Marines, in patrols and in larger formations, spread through the streets swiftly to the posts arranged for emergency. Leslie Coombs, one of the Marines, saw several men enter the market, where they had no right to be; he ran to the door and was set upon by machete men, who slashed him and cut him down, but not until he had emptied his automatic.
"The shooting and hand-to-hand fighting spread in a flash all through the business part of the city. The rest of the surprise detachment of the Cacos made a rush for the center of the city. One block was set on fire and burned.
"The Marines deployed steadily and quickly. They put sputtering machine guns on the corners and cleaned the principal streets. There was fighting on every street and alley of a district more than a mile square.
"The Cacos stood their ground bravely for a while, but their case was hopeless. The American fire withered them. First those on the rim of the city, and then those inside, turned their faces to the hills. The main body, realizing that the plan of attack was ruined, started a pell-mell retreat.
"The Marines moved from the center of the city, killing every colored man who was not in the olive-drab uniform of the gendarmerie.
"As the sky turned pink and then flashed into blazing daylight, the fight became a hunt. On every road and trail leading from the city, Marine hunted Cacos.
"One hundred and twenty-two dead Cacos were found in and about the city; bodies found along the line of retreat in the next few days raised the total of known dead to 176. There were numerous prisoners, among them the famous chieftain, Chu-Chu." It was a swift and merciless affair, but, as Stuart's father had commented, no one who knew and understood Haitian conditions denied that it had been well and wisely done.
Stuart had seen some of the fighting, and his father had pointed out to him that Port-au-Prince is not the whole of Haiti, nor does one repulse quell a revolt. The boy knew, and the Cuban, watching him, knew that for every man the Marines had slain, two had joined the Cacos and had sworn the blood-oath before the High Priest and the High Priestess (papaloi and mamaloi) of Voodoo.
Revolt against the American Occupation, therefore, was an ever-present danger. Stuart wondered whether the negro who had been sent to him by Manuel were a Cacos, and, if so, whether his father were a prisoner among the Cacos. Manuel, for his part, wondered who this boy might be, who had darkened his skin in disguise. One thing the Cuban had determined and that was that he would not let the boy know that his disguise had been penetrated. None the less, he must find out, if possible, how the lad had come to know about the meeting-place of the conspirators.
Finishing his drink, the Cuban rose, and, motioning to Stuart to precede him, walked to the sparsely settled section between the commercial center of the town and the Marine encampment. When the shouts of the toiling workers had grown faint in the distance, the Cuban stopped.
"Boy!" he called.
Stuart braced himself. He knew that the moment of his test had come. His heart thumped at his ribs, but he kept his expression from betraying fear. He turned and faced the Cuban.
"In my right-hand pocket," said Manuel, in his soft and languorous voice, "is a revolver. My finger is on the trigger. If you tell one lie—why, that is the end of you! Why did you mention the Citadel of the Black Emperor?"
Stuart's heart gave a bound of relief. He judged, from Manuel's manner, that his disguise had not been guessed. Elated with this supposed success, he commenced to tell glibly the tale he had prepared and studied out the day before.
"I wanted to give you a warning," he said.
The Cuban's gaze deepened.
"Warning? What kind of a warning? From whom?"
"Cesar Leborge," answered Stuart. He had judged from his father's papers that the two were engaged in a conspiracy, and thought that he could do nothing better than to provoke enmity between them. The proverb "When thieves fall out, honest men come by their own," rang through his head.
Manuel was obviously impressed.
"What do you know about this?" he asked curtly. "Tell your story."
"I hate Leborge," declared Stuart, trying to speak as a negro boy would speak. "He took away our land and killed my father. I want to kill him. He never talks to anybody, but he talks to himself. The other night I overheard him saying he 'must get rid of that Cuban at the Citadel of the Black Emperor.'
"So when I saw you here in Cap Haitien, I took a chance on it's being you he meant. If it hadn't been you, my asking you if you wanted a guide wouldn't have been out of the way."
"You are a very clever boy," said Manuel, and turned away to suppress a smile.
Certainly, he thought, this boy was a very clumsy liar. Stuart had never tried to play a part before, and had no natural aptitude for it. His imitation of the Haitian accent was poor, his manner lacked the alternations of arrogance and humility that the Haitian black wears. Then his story of the shadowing of Leborge was not at all in character. And, besides, as the Cuban had convinced himself, the boy was not a Haitian negro at all.
Then, suddenly, a new thought flashed across Manuel's mind. He had thought only of his fellow-conspirators as traitors. But there was one other who had some inkling of the plot—Garfield, the American.
And Garfield had a boy!
The Cuban's lip curled with contempt at the ease with which he had unmasked Stuart. He had only to laugh and announce his discovery, for the boy to be made powerless.
It was a temptation. But Manuel was too wily to yield to a temptation merely because it was pleasurable. As long as the boy did not know that he had been found out, he would live in a Fool's Paradise of his own cleverness. Believing himself unsuspected, he would carry out his plans—whatever they were—the while that Manuel, knowing his secret, could play with him as a cat plays with a mouse she has crippled.
He decided to appear to believe this poorly woven story.
"If you hate Leborge, and Leborge hates me," he said, "I suppose we are both his enemies. I presume," he added, shrewdly, "if I refused to take you with me to the Citadel of the Black Emperor, you would shadow me, and go any way."
A flash of assent came into the boy's eyes, which, he was not quick enough to suppress. Decidedly, Stuart was not cut out for a conspirator, and would never be a match for the Cuban in guile.
"I see you would," the Cuban continued. "Well, I would rather have you within my sight. Here is money. Tomorrow, an hour after sunrise, be at the door of the hotel with the best horses you can find. I wish to be at Millot by evening."
Stuart took the money and preceded Manuel into the town, chuckling inwardly at his cleverness in outwitting this keen conspirator. But he would have been less elated with his success if he had heard the Cuban mutter, as he turned into the porch of the hotel,
"First, the father. Now, the son!"
THE BLOOD-STAINED CITADEL
A foul, slimy ooze, compounded of fat soil, rotting vegetation and verdigris-colored scum, with a fainter green mark meandering through it—such was the road to Millot.
Stuart and the Cuban, the boy riding ahead, were picking their away across this noisome tract of land.
For a few miles out of Cap Haitien, where the finger of American influence had reached, an air of decency and even of prosperity had begun to return. Near the town, the road had been repaired. Fields, long abandoned, showed signs of cultivation, anew.
Two hours' ride out, however, it became evident that the new power had not reached so far. The road had dwindled to a trail of ruts, which staggered hither and thither in an effort to escape the quagmires—which it did not escape. Twice, already, Stuart's horse had been mired and he had to get out of the saddle and half-crawl, half-wriggle on his belly, in the smothering and sucking mud. So far, Manuel had escaped, by the simple device of not passing over any spot which the boy had not tried first.
This caution was not to serve him long, however.
At some sight or sound unnoticed by the rider, Manuel's horse shied from off the narrow path of tussocks on which it was picking its way, and swerved directly into the morass.
The Cuban, unwilling to get into the mud, tried to urge the little horse to get out. Two or three desperate plunges only drove it down deeper and it slipped backward into the clawing mire.
Manuel threw himself from his horse, but he had waited almost too long, and the bog began to draw him down. He was forced to cry for help.
Stuart, turning in his saddle, saw what had happened. He jumped off his horse and ran to help the Cuban. The distance was too great for a hand-clasp. The ragged trousers which Stuart was wearing in his disguise as a Haitian lad were only held up by a piece of string; he had no belt which he could throw. There was no sapling growing near enough to make a stick.
Then there came into the boy's mind an incident in a Western story he had read.
Darting back to his horse, he unfastened the saddle girth, and, hurrying back to where Manuel was floundering in the mud, he threw the saddle outwards, holding the end of the girth. It was just long enough to reach. With the help of the flat surface given by the saddle and a gradual pulling of the girth by Stuart, the Cuban was at last able to crawl out.
The gallant little horse, freed from its rider's weight, had reached a point where it could be helped, and the two aided the beast to get its forefeet on solid land.
This rescue broke down much of the distance and some of the hostility between Manuel and Stuart, and, as soon as the road began to rise from the quagmire country, and was wide enough to permit it, the Cuban ordered the boy to ride beside him. Naturally, the conversation dealt with the trail and its dangers.
"You would hardly think," said the Cuban, "that, a hundred years ago, a stone-built road, as straight as an arrow, ran from Cap Haitien to Millot, and that over it, Toussaint l'Ouverture, 'the Black Napoleon,' was wont to ride at breakneck speed, and Christophe, 'the black Emperor,' drove his gaudy carriage with much pomp and display."
To those who take the road from Cap Haitien to Millot today, the existence of that ancient highway seems incredible. Yet, though only a century old, it is almost as hopelessly lost as the road in the Sahara Desert over which, once, toiling slaves in Egypt dragged the huge stones of which the Pyramids of Ghizeh were built.
Stuart and the Cuban had made a late start. In spite of the powerful political influence which the Cuban seemed to wield, his departure had been fraught with suspicion. The Military Governor, a gigantic coal-black negro, had at first refused to grant permission for Polliovo to visit the Citadel; the Commandant of Marines had given him a warning which was almost an ultimatum.
Manuel, with great suavity, had overset the former and defied the latter. His story was of the smoothest. He was a military strategist, he declared, and General Leborge had asked him to investigate the citadel, in order to determine its value as the site for a modern fort.
Stuart's part in the adventure was outwardly simple. No one thought it worth while to question him, and he accompanied the Cuban as a guide and horse-boy.
Although the road improved as the higher land was reached, it was dusk when the two riders arrived at the foothills around Millot.
Dark fell quickly, and, with the dark, came a low palpitating rumble, that distant throbbing of sound, that malevolent vibrance which gives to every Haitian moonlit night an oppression and a fear all its own.
Muffled, dull, pulsating, unceasing, the thrummed tom-tom set all the air in motion. The vibrance scarcely seemed to be sound, rather did it seem to be a slower tapping of air-waves on the drum of the ear, too low to be actually heard, but yet beating with a maddening persistence.
There was a savagery in the sound, so disquieting, that a deep sigh of relief escaped from the boy's lungs when he saw the lights of Millot twinkling in the distance. Somehow, the presence of houses and people took away the sinister sound of the tom-tom and made it seem like an ordinary drum.
Millot, in the faint moonlight, revealed itself as a small village, nestling under high mountains. Signs of former greatness were visible in the old gates which flanked the opening into its main street, but the greater part of the houses were thatched huts.
When at the very entrance of the village, there came a ringing challenge,
"Halt! Who goes there?"
"A visitor to the General," was Manuel's answer.
The barefoot sentry, whose uniform consisted of a forage cap, a coat with one sleeve torn off and a pair of frayed trousers, but whose rifle was of the most up-to-date pattern, was at once joined by several others, not more splendidly arrayed than himself.
As with one voice, they declared that the general could not be disturbed, but the Cuban carried matters with a high hand. Dismounting, he ordered one of the sentries to precede him and announce his coming, and bade Stuart see that the horses were well looked after and ready for travel in the morning, "or his back should have a taste of the whip."
This phrase, while it only increased the enmity the soldiers felt toward the "white," had the effect of removing all suspicion from Stuart, which, as the lad guessed, was the reason for Manuel's threat. Feeling sure that the boy would have the same animosity to his master that they felt, the soldiers seized the opportunity to while away the monotonous hours of their duty in talk.
"What does he want, this 'white'?" they asked, suspiciously.
"Like all whites," answered Stuart, striving to talk in the character of the negro horse-boy, "he wants something he has no right to have."
"And what is that?"
"Information. He says he is a military strategist, and is going to make La Ferriere, up there, a modern fort."
"He will never get there," said one of the soldiers.
"You think not?"
"It is sure that he will not get there. Permission is refused always, Yes. The General is afraid lest a 'white' should find the buried money."
"Christophe's treasure?" queried the boy, innocently. He had never heard of this treasure before, but rightly guessed that if it were supposed to be hidden in the Citadel of the Black Emperor, it must have been placed there by no one but the grim old tyrant himself.
"But surely. Yes. You, in the south"—Stuart had volunteered the information that he came from the southern part of the island—"have you not heard the story of Dimanche (Sunday) Esnan?"
"I never heard it, No," Stuart answered.
"It was of strange, Yes," the soldier proceeded. "Christophe was rich, ah, how rich! He had all the money of the republic. He spent it like an emperor. You shall see for yourself, if you look, what Christophe spent in building palaces, but no one shall say how much he spent on his own pleasures. He had a court, like the great courts of Europe, and not a 'white' in them. Ah, he was very rich and powerful, Christophe. It is said that, when he died, he left 65,000,000 gourdes (then worth about $15,000,000) and this he buried, should he need money in order to escape. But, as even an ignorant like you will know, he did not escape."
"I know," replied Stuart, "he blew out his brains."
"Right over there, he did it!" the soldier agreed, pointing into the night. "But listen to the story of the treasure:
"When I was but a little older than a boy like you, into the Vache d'Or (a former gambling-house of some fame) there strolled this Dimanche Esnan. He swaggered in, as one with plenty of money in his pocket.
"Upon the table he threw some coins.
"The croupier stared down at those coins, with eyes as cold and fixed as those of a fer-de-lance ready to strike. The play at the table stopped.
"It was a moment!
"The coins were Spanish doubloons!"
"A pirate hoard?" suggested Stuart.
"It was thought. But this Dimanche had not been off the island for years! And the buccaneers' treasure is at Tortugas, as is well known.
"This Dimanche was at once asked if he had found Christophe's treasure, for where else would a man find Spanish doubloons of a century ago? It was plain, Yes!
"Well, what would you? President Hippolyte sent for him. He offered to make him a general, a full general, if he would but tell where he had found the treasure. He showed him the uniform. It was gold laced, yes, gold lace all over! Dimanche was nearly tempted, but not quite.
"Then they let him come back here, to Cap Haitien, Yes. All the day and all the night he was kept under watch. Ah, that was a strict watch! Every one of the guards thought that he might be the one to get clue to the place of the buried treasure, look you!
"But the general here, at that time, was not a patient man, No! Besides, he wanted the treasure. He wanted it without having the President of the Republic know. With sixty-five million gourdes he might push away the President and be president himself, who knows?
"What would you? The general put Dimanche in prison and put him to the question (torture) but Dimanche said nothing. Ah, he was stubborn, that Dimanche. He said nothing, nothing! The general did not dare to kill him, for he knew that the President had given orders to have the man watched.
"So the prison doors were set open. Pouf! Away disappears Dimanche and has not been seen since. He still carries the secret of the treasure of Christophe—that is, if he is not dead."
"But didn't the President try to find the hoard on his own account?" asked Stuart.
"But, most surely! My father was one of the soldiers in the party which searched in all the wonderful palaces that Christophe had built for himself in 'Without Worry,' in 'Queen's Delight,' in 'The Glory,' in 'Beautiful View,' yes, even in the haunted Citadel of La Ferriere. No, I should not have liked to do that, it is surely haunted. But they found nothing.
"Me, I think that the money is in the citadel. Has not the ghost of Christophe been seen to walk there? And why should the ghost walk if it had not a reason to walk? Eh?"
"That does seem reasonable," answered Stuart, in response to the soldier's triumphant tone.
"But, most sure! So, Boy," the guard concluded, "it is easy to see why the General does not like any 'white' to go to the Citadel. Perhaps the 'white,' whose horses you look after, has seen Dimanche. Who knows? So he will not be let get up there. You may be sure of that."
"One can't ever say," answered the boy. "I must be ready for the morning," and, with a word of farewell, he sauntered into the village of Millot, to find some kind of stabling and food for the horses, and, if possible, some shelter for himself.
Morning found Stuart outside the door of the general's "mansion," a straw-thatched building, comprising three rooms and a narrow brick-paved verandah. From what the soldiers had said the night before, the boy had not the slightest expectation of the Cuban's success.
He had not waited long, however, before Manuel came out through the door, obsequiously followed by a coal-black general daubed with gold lace—most of which was unsewn and hanging in tatters, and all of which was tarnished. He was strongly, even violently, urging upon Manuel the need of an escort. The Cuban not only disdained the question, but, most evidently, disdained and disregarded the man.
This extraordinary scene was closed by the General, the commandant of the entire commune, holding out his hand for a tip. Manuel put a five-gourdes bill (two dollars and a half) into the outstretched palm, and mounted his horse to an accompaniment of a profusion of thanks.
A short distance out of Millot, the two riders came to the ruins of Christophe's palace of "Without Worry" (Sans Souci). It was once a veritable palace, situated on the top of a small hill overlooking a deep ravine. Great flights of stone steps led up to it, while terrace upon terrace of what once were exquisitely kept gardens, filled with the finest statuary, stepped to the depths below.
Now, the gardens are waste, the statuary broken and the terraces are washed into gullies by the rains. The palace itself is not less lamentable. The walls are crumbling. Everything movable from the interior has been looted. Trees grow outward from the upper windows, and, in the cracks of masonry and marble floors, a tropic vegetation has sprung up. Moss covers the mosaics, and the carved woodwork has become the prey of the worm.
A little further on, at a hut which the General had described, Manuel and Stuart left their horses, and then began the steep climb up La Ferriere. From the steaming heat of the plain below, the climbers passed into the region of cold. The remains of a road were there, but the track was so indistinct as to render it difficult to follow.
"Where the dense forest begins," Manuel explained, "we shall find a warder. I would rather be without him, but the General does not dare to send a message that a 'white' may visit the Citadel unaccompanied. Besides, I doubt if we could find the way, though once this was a wide road, fit for carriage travel, on which the Black Emperor drove in pomp and state to his citadel. It is incredible!"
"What is incredible?" asked Stuart.
"That Christophe should have been able to make these negroes work for him as no people in the world have worked since the days when the Pharaohs of Egypt built the Pyramids. You will see the vast size of the Citadel. You see the steepness of the mountain. Consider it!
"The materials for the whole huge pile of building and the three hundred cannon with which it was fortified, were dragged up these steep mountain scarps and cliffsides by human hands. Christophe employed the troops mercilessly in this labor and subdued mutiny by the simple policy of not only shooting the mutineers, but also a corresponding number of innocent men, as well, just to teach a lesson. Whole villages were commandeered. Sex made no difference. Women worked side by side with men, were whipped side by side with men, and, if they weakened, were knifed or shot and thrown into a ditch. One of Christophe's overseers is said to have boasted that he could have made a roadway of human bones from Sans Souci to the summit."
The words "bloody ruffian" were on Stuart's lips, but, just in time, he remembered his character, and replied instead,
"But Christophe was a great man!"
The boy knew well that though Toussaint L'Ouverture, the "Black Napoleon," had truly been a great man in every sense of the word, a liberator, general and administrator, the Haitians think little of him, because he believed that blacks, mulattoes and whites should have an equal chance. Dessalines and Christophe, monsters of brutality, are the heroes of Haiti, because they massacred everyone who was not coal-black.
Manuel cast a sidelong glance at Stuart, smiling inwardly at the boy's attempt to maintain his disguise, that disguise which the Cuban had so quickly pierced, and shrugged his shoulders.
"What would you!" he rejoined. "You see yourself, it is the only government that Haitians understand. To this day, a century later, this part of the island is better than the south, because of the impress of the reign of Christophe. Nothing changes Haiti!"
"The Americans?" queried Stuart, trying to put a note of dislike into his voice, but intensely interested in his own question.
"They have changed nothing!" declared the Cuban, emphatically. "They have painted the faces of the coast towns, and that is all. You heard that drum, the night before last? Not until the tom-tom has ceased to beat in Haiti, can anything be changed."
He rose, threw away the stump of his cigar, and motioned to the boy to take up the trail.
A few hundred yards higher, a raucous shout halted them.
There was a rustle of branches, and a negro colossus, of the low-browed, heavy-jawed type, plunged through the thicket and barred the path.
Bareheaded, barefooted, his shirt consisting of a piece of cloth with holes for head and arms, his trousers torn to tatters by thorns, the warder of the Citadel looked what he was, a Caco machete man, little removed from the ferocity of African savagery.
To his shout, the Cuban deigned no answer.
He broke a switch from a bush, walked toward the negro guard with a contemptuous look and lashed him across the face with the switch, ordering him to lead the way.
Stuart expected to see the Cuban cut down with one stroke of the machete.
Far from it. Cowed at once, the negro cringed, as to a master, and, without a word as to Manuel's authority, led the way up the trail.
A hundred yards higher, all sign of a path was lost. The negro warder was compelled to use his machete to cut a way through thorny underbrush and creepers in order to make a path for the "white's" feet.
The afternoon was well advanced when openings amid the trees showed, beetling overhead, the gray walls of the Citadel. An hour's further climbing brought them to the guard-house, where eight men watch continually, each relief for a period of a month, against the intrusion of strangers into Christophe's Citadel.
An irregularly disposed clump of posts, stuck into the ground, supported a rusted and broken tin roof, without walls, but boasting a brushwood pile on one side—such was the entire barracks of the La Ferriere garrison. The furniture consisted only of a log on which to sit, a few cooking utensils, and a pile of rags in the driest corner.
True, there was plenty of room in the Citadel. Many a chamber in the ruined place was dry and sheltered from the weather, many a corner was there where the watchers could have made themselves warm and comfortable. They were not forbidden to sleep there. On the contrary, they were encouraged. But never a one would do so. They declared the place haunted and were in a state of terror even to be near it.
Manuel, after pausing for a moment to take his breath, strode up to the group.
"Get in there, some of you!" he ordered, "And show me the way. I want to see over the place."
A chorus of wails arose. The guards shrank and cowered at the suggestion. Their terror was more than panicky, it was even hysterical. They shook with convulsive jerks of fear, as though they had a spasm disease.
"Christophe!" cried one of them, in a sort of howl. "Christophe! For three days he is here, Yes! We see him walk, Yes! If we go in, he will make us jump off the cliff!"
And another added, with an undertone of superstitious horror,
"And his ghost will be waiting at the bottom to carry our ghosts away!"
"Fools!" declared Manuel, "open the door!"
He pointed to where the huge, rusty iron-bound door frowned in the blank wall of gray stone.
The negro guards hung back and gabbled together, but Manuel turned upon them fiercely with uplifted switch. At that, the giant warder, who had already acknowledged the mastership, slouched forward and pulled open the creaking door, leaving a dark opening from which came the smell of foul air and poisonous vegetation.
Manuel motioned with his head for Stuart to precede him.
The boy hesitated. He was brave enough, but the terror of the negroes was catching. He would not have admitted to being afraid, but there was a lump in his throat and his legs felt unsteady.
The Cuban, who felt sure that Stuart was not the negro horse-boy that he seemed, judged this appearance of fear as evidence that the boy was still playing a part, and turned on him with a snarl.
"Get in there, you!"
Screwing up his courage, Stuart stepped forward, though hesitatingly and unwillingly. Just as he crossed the threshold, the giant warder reached out a gaunt hand and pulled him back.
"Not that way!" he said. "Two steps more, Boy, and you are dead!"
Manuel started. From his pocket he took a portable electric light and flashed it upon the ground just within the entrance.
The negro guard was right. Immediately before him lay a deep pit, how deep there was no means of saying. Once it had been covered with a trap-door, which could be worked from the Inner Citadel. Thus Christophe, if he pleased, could send a message of welcome to his visitors, and drop them to a living death with the words of hospitality on his lips.
"If I had gone first," said Manuel quietly, turning to the guards, "not one of you would have said a word!"
The negroes slunk away under his gaze. The accusation was true. They had no love for the "whites." Only the fact that they believed Stuart to be a negro boy had saved him.
The boy looked down at that profound dungeon, from which rose a faint stench, and shuddered.
There was a heavy pause. Manuel was debating whether he dare try and force the guards to show the way. If he ordered it, he would have to force it through, or the prestige he had won would be lost. He dared not. As between the terror of a white man's gun, and the terror of a "ha'nt," the latter was the more powerful.
Motioning Stuart to enter and showing the narrow ledge around the pit with the spotlight, he followed. Then he turned to the guards clustered outside.
"Close the door!" he ordered, curtly.
This command was obeyed with alacrity. The negro guards were only too anxious to see that hole in the wall shut. Suppose the ghost of Christophe should come gliding out among them!
So far, the Cuban was safe. He had reached the Citadel and entered it. He had no fear that the warders would open it again to spy on him. Their terror was too real.
Raising the spotlight so that it flashed full upon Stuart's face, the Cuban spoke.
"Understand me, now," he said curtly, and with a hard ring in his voice. "How much of your story may be true and how much false I have not yet found out. But, if what you say about hating Leborge is true, I will put you in a place where you will be able to see him. You have a pistol, I know. If you see Leborge raise pistol or knife against me, shoot, and shoot quickly! I will make you rich!"
Stuart thought to himself that if the conspirators were to come to quarreling, that was the very time he would keep still. He, certainly, had no desire for bloodshed, nor any intention to fire at anybody, if he could help it. But he only answered,
Manuel's intention was no less concealed. He planned either to reveal the boy to his fellow-conspirators, or else, to reveal him to the negro warders as a white intruder. Either way, he figured, there would be an end to the boy.
By the light of his lamp, consulting a small manuscript chart of the ruin, Manuel passed through many tortuous passages and dark chambers until he came to a ruined wall. Climbing a few feet up the crumbling stones, he set his eye to a crevice, nodded as though satisfied, wrenched away several more stones, laying these down silently and beckoned Stuart to come beside him.
The boy looked down on a circular hall, the outer arc of which was pierced with ruined windows opening to the sky.
"Leborge will sit there!" whispered Manuel, pointing. "Kill him, and you will be rich!"
Stuart nodded. He did not trust himself to speak.
Walking as silently as he could, Manuel left the place, pondering in his own mind what he was going to do with the boy. Should he reveal the secret and have his fellow-conspirators kill him? Should he turn him over to the machetes of the negroes? Or should he kill the boy, himself? One thing he had determined—that Stuart should not reach the plains below, alive.
And Stuart, in that hole of the ruined wall, crouched and watched. Of what was to happen in that room below, what dark plot he was to hear, he had no knowledge. Yet, over his eager desire to find out this conspiracy against the United States, above his anxiety with regard to the fate of his father, one question loomed in ever larger and blacker proportions—
He had got into the Citadel. How was he to get out?
THE GHOST OF CHRISTOPHE
Manuel was no coward. Somewhere, back in his Spanish ancestry, had been a single drop of an Irish strain, adding a certain combativeness to the gallantry of his race. That drop, too, mixed badly with Spanish treachery, and made him doubly dangerous.
Certainly the Cuban was no coward. But, as he came out from the murk of those chambers with their rotting floors, many of them undermined by oubliettes and dungeons, he felt a chill of fear. Even the occasional bursts of sunshine through the cloud-fog which perpetually sweeps over La Ferriere did not hearten him. He passed into the open space back of the outer walls and set himself to climb the long flight of stone steps that led to the battlements, where, he thought, his fellow conspirators might be. But, on the summit, he found himself alone.
The battlements cowed his spirits. With walls fifteen feet thick, wide enough to allow a carriage to be driven upon them, they looked over a sheer drop of two thousand feet. Sinister and forbidding, even the sunlight could not lessen their grimness.
As if in memory of the hundreds of victims who had been bidden jump off those ramparts, merely for Christophe's amusement, or who had been hurled, screaming, as penalty for his displeasure, a ruddy moss feeding upon decay, has spread over the stones, and this moss, ever kept damp by the cloud-banks which wreathe the Citadel continually is moistly red, like newly shed blood. In cracks and corners, fungi of poisonous hues adds another touch of wickedness. Manuel shivered with repulsion. Probably not in all the world, certainly not in the Western Hemisphere, is there a ruin of such historic terror as the Citadel of the Black Emperor on the summit of La Ferriere.
[Footnote 1: This ruin, now, is nominally in territory under the jurisdiction of an American provost-marshal. It is therefore less difficult of access than formerly, but it is still considered unsafe for travelers.]
A gleam of sun revealed the extraordinary impregnability of the place. The double-walled entrance from the hillside, pierced by but a single gate, could only be battered down by heavy artillery, and no guns powerful enough for such a feat could be brought up the hill. The Inner Citadel, access to which was only by a long flight of steps, is unapproachable from any other point, and a handful of defenders could keep an army at bay.
The cliff-side is as sheer as Gibraltar, affording not even a foothold for the most venturesome climber. The walls are built upon its very verge and are as solid as the rock itself. Its gray mass conveys a sense of enormous power. "It towers upon the last and highest precipice," says Hesketh Prichard, "like some sinister monster of the elder world, ready to launch itself forth upon the spreading lands below."
The Citadel commands the whole of the Plain of the North clear to the distant sea. At its south-eastern end it faces toward the frontier of St. Domingo, the sister republic, fifty miles away. Christophe built it as a central base, controlling the only roads and passes which command the range from Dondon to Valliere, and rendering attack impossible, from the southern side, through Marmalade. (Many names in Haiti give an irresistible appearance of being comic, such as the Duke of Lemonade, Duke of Marmalade, Baron the Prophet Daniel, and Colonel the Baron Roast Beef, but they are intended seriously.)
Manuel had gazed over the landscape but a few moments when the sun was veiled in one of the cold, raw cloud-fogs which continually sweep the summit. Billowing, dank masses hurtled about him, blotting out even the outlines of the ruin. For several minutes the grey mists enwreathed him, then, as they lightened, the Cuban saw before him, shadow-like and strange, the figure of the Black Emperor himself.
The warders' terror of the ghost of Christophe cramped Manuel's heart for a moment and he fell back. His hand flashed to his pocket, none the less.
The figure laughed, a harsh coarse laugh which Manuel knew and recognized at once.
"General Leborge," he exclaimed, surprise and self-annoyance struggling in his voice. "It is you!"
"But Yes, my friend, it is I. You see, I am not so daring as you. I came secretly. I have been here three days, waiting for you."
"But the meeting was set for today!"
"It is true. But it was more difficult for me to get here than for you. See you, as a stranger you had not the suspicion of intrusion to combat. No, if it were known that I were here, there would be political difficulties—ah, many! Yes!"
The Cuban nodded. He was not especially interested in the political embroilments of his co-conspirator. As a matter of fact, the plot accomplished, it was Manuel's purpose to let enough of the truth leak out to make it seem that Leborge had been a traitor to the Haitian Republic.
"Have you seen Cecil?" he asked.
"Not yet, No!" answered the negro general. "Me, I had thought he would come with you."
"He didn't. And he wasn't on the road from Cap Haitien, either. Queer, too. First time I ever knew him to fail."
"So! But I have a feeling he will not fail. He will be here today. Come down to the place of meeting. I have some food and we can have a mouthful while waiting for him."
The big negro cast a look at himself.
"I do not think we shall be interrupted, No!" he commented.
The Cuban showed his teeth in the gleam of a quick smile.
"The guards are too much afraid of the ghost of Christophe to dare enter the place," he said. "That was a good idea of yours."
The two men turned away from the battlements to the steps which led down toward the dwelling rooms, and Manuel laid finger on lip.
"It is well to be a ghost," he said, "but if the guards should chance to hear me talking to the ghost, they might begin to think. And thinking, my dear Leborge, is sometimes dangerous."
The huge negro nodded assent and hung back while Manuel descended the stair.
At the entrance into the high room, ringed with windows, in a small ruined opening of which Stuart crouched watching, Manuel waited for Leborge. Together they entered.
At the door of the room the negro started back with an exclamation of astonishment, and even Manuel paused.
On a square block of stone in the center of the room, which Manuel could have sworn was not there when he looked into the chamber a short half-hour before, sat Guy Cecil, complacently puffing at a briar pipe. His tweeds were as immaculate as though he had just stepped from the hands of his valet, and his tan shoes showed mark neither of mud nor rough trails. Manuel's quick glance caught these details and they set him wondering.
"By the Ten Finger-Bones!" ejaculated Leborge. "How did you get in here?"
"Why?" asked Cecil, in mild surprise.
"Polliovo didn't see you come. I didn't see you come."
The negation was insolent in its carelessness.
"But how did you get in?"
The Englishman took his pipe from his mouth, and, with the stem, pointed negligently to a window.
"That way," he said.
The negro blustered out an oath, but was evidently impressed, and looked at his fellow-conspirator with superstitious fear.
The Cuban, more curious and more skeptical, went straight to the window and looked out. The crumbling mortar-dust on the sill had evidently been disturbed, seeming to make good the Englishman's story, but, from the window, was a clear drop of four hundred feet of naked rock, without even a crack to afford a finger-hold, while the precipitous descent fell another fifteen hundred feet. To climb was a feat manifestly impossible.
"Permit me to congratulate you on your discovery of wings, Senor Cecil," remarked Manuel, with irony.
The Englishman bowed, as at a matter-of-course compliment, and, by tacit agreement, the subject dropped.
Yet Manuel's irritation was hard to hide. Not the least of the reasons for his animosity to Cecil was the Englishman's undoubted ability to cover his movements. In the famous case when the two conspirators had negotiated an indigo concession in San Domingo and the profits had suddenly slipped through Manuel's fingers, the Cuban was sure that the Englishman had made a winning, but he had no proof. Likewise, with this plot in hand, Manuel feared lest he should be outmanoeuvred at the last.
Following Cecil's example, Leborge and Manuel rolled out to the center of the room some blocks that had fallen from the walls, and sat down. Stuart noticed that the Cuban so placed himself that he was well out of a possible line of fire between the negro general and the embrasure where the boy was hidden. This carefulness, despite its air of negligence, reminded Stuart of the role he was expected to play, and he concentrated his attention on the three conspirators.
Although the Cuban was apparently the only one who had reason to suspect being overheard, the three men talked in low tones. The language used was French, as Stuart gleaned from a word or two which reached his ears, but the subject of the conversation escaped him. One phrase, however, attracted his attention because it was so often repeated, and Stuart surmised that this phrase must bear an important relation to the main subject of the meeting. The boy did not fail to realize that a conference so important that it could only be held in so secret a place must be of extraordinary gravity. This phrase was——
"Mole St. Nicholas."
The words held no meaning for Stuart, though he had seen reference to them in his father's papers. He suspected that the phrase might be some catch-word referring to a subject too dangerous for mention, possibly the Presidency of Haiti. Following out this theme, the boy guessed that he was a witness to the hatching of one of the political revolutions, which, from time to time, have convulsed the Republic of Haiti. If so, the matter was serious, for, as the boy knew, ever since the treaty of 1915, the United States was actively interested in forcing the self-determination of Haiti, meanwhile holding the country under a virtual protectorate. Such a revolution, therefore, would be a deliberate attack upon the United States.
This impression was heightened by his catching the words "naval base," which could only deal with possible developments in a state of war. Stuart strained his ears to the utmost, but isolated words were all that he could glean.
Later, Stuart was to learn that his guess was at fault in general, but that the conclusion he had reached—namely, that injury to the United States was intended—was not far wide of the mark.
As the conference proceeded, it became evident to the hidden observer that the relations between the conspirators were growing strained. The Cuban seemed to be in taunting mood. The veins on the negro general's bull neck began to swell, and he turned and called Manuel,
A moment after, his raucous voice insulted the Englishman with the description,
"Snake that does not even hiss!"
Stuart expected to see violence follow these words, but the Cuban only moved restlessly under the insult; the Englishman smiled. It was a pleasant smile, but Stuart was keen enough to grasp that a man who smiles when he is insulted must either be a craven or a dangerous man with an inordinate gift of self-control. Cecil could not be a coward, or such men as Manuel and Leborge would not so evidently fear him, therefore the other character must befit him.
Another word which repeated itself frequently was——
This confirmed Stuart in his suspicions that the conspiracy, whatever it might portend, was directed against the authority of the United States, since the Panama Canal Zone is under American jurisdiction.
The conference was evidently coming to a crisis. The negro was becoming excited, the Cuban nervous, the Englishman more immovable than ever.
Came a sudden movement, following upon some phrase uttered by Manuel, but unheard by the boy, and the Cuban and Leborge leaped to their feet, a revolver in each man's right hand.
Spoke the Englishman, in a quiet voice, but sufficiently deepened by excitement to reach the boy's ears:
"Is there any reason, Gentlemen, why I should not shoot both of you and finish this little affair myself?"
A revolver glittered in his hand, though no one had seen the action of drawing.
In the flash of a second, Stuart understood Manuel's plot. It was the Cuban who had provoked the negro to draw his weapon, counting on the boy's shooting his supposed enemy, as had been agreed upon. Then Manuel would drag him out of his hiding-place and kill him for an eavesdropper. He crouched, motionless, and watched.
"Sit down, and put up your weapons," continued Cecil, his voice still tense enough to be heard clearly. "This is childishness. Our plans need all three of us. It will be time enough to quarrel when we come to divide the spoils. First, the spoils must be won."
Negro and Cuban, without taking their eyes from other, each fearing that the other might take an advantage, realized from Cecil's manner, that he must have the drop on them. With a simultaneous movement, they put away their guns. The negro sat down, beaten. Manuel, with a swift and hardly noticeable side-step, moved a little nearer to Cecil, putting himself almost within knife-thrust distance.
A slight, a very slight elevation of the barrel of the tiny revolver glittering in the Englishman's hand warned the Cuban that the weapon was covering his heart. An even slighter narrowing of the eyelids warned him that Cecil was fully ready to shoot.
With a low curse, the Cuban retreated to his stone and sat down. He did not sprawl loosely in dejection, as had the negro, but he sat with one foot beside the stone and his body leaning half-forward, his muscles tense, like a forest cat awaiting its spring.
The conference came to a head quickly, as Stuart saw. The outbreak of mistrust and hostility, followed by discussion, proved how closely linked were the plotters. Yet each man wanted the business done as quickly as possible, and wanted to be free from the danger of assassination by his comrades.
Leborge drew from his pocket a paper which he showed to the other two, and, in turn, Manuel and Cecil produced documents, the Englishman using his left hand only and never dropping the barrel of his revolver. Few words were exchanged, and these in the low tones in which the conference had been carried on before. Of the contents of the papers, Stuart could not even guess. Whatever they were, they seemed to be satisfactory, for, so far as the boy could judge, harmony returned among the conspirators. But the Englishman kept wary watch with his gun.
"All goes well, then," concluded Leborge, rising and shivering in the damp air, for the clouds were eddying through the ruined windows in raw and gusty blasts.
"It can be done next spring!" declared the Cuban.
"It will be done, as agreed," was the Englishman's more cautious statement.
"Then," said Manuel, raising his voice a trifle in a way which Stuart knew he was meant to hear, "the sooner I get down to Cap Haitien the better. I had trouble enough to get up."
"It might be well," suggested the Englishman, "if Leborge should repeat his trick of appearing as the ghost of Christophe. The guards will be so frightened that they will think of nothing else, and you will be able to get away without any unpleasantness."
"And you?" queried the Cuban. "How will you go?"
Again the Englishman nodded toward the window.
"I will use the wings you were kind enough to say I must possess," he answered, enigmatically.
Peering out cautiously from his post of observation in the embrasure, Stuart saw that both Manuel and Leborge hesitated at the entrance to the dark passage which led from the Dining Hall and Queen's Chamber to the inner court, from whence went the paths leading respectively to the outer gate, whither Manuel must go, and to the battlements, where Leborge was to reappear as the ghost of Christophe.
"You are afraid of each other?" queried Cecil, with his faint smile. "Well, perhaps you have reason! I will go through the passage with both of you. As I said before, each of us needs the other."
Relief and hate passed like shadows across the faces of Leborge and Manuel. Each had intended to kill the other in the dark of those passages, each had feared that he might be slain himself. As Cecil knew, once out in the open, mutual distrust and watchfulness would ensure the keeping of the peace.
Stuart, listening intently for the sound of shots, heard in the distance the Englishman's voice:
"I forgot my pipe. I'll just go back for it."
And then he heard steps coming at a light, but fast run. Evidently Cecil wanted to gain time.
The Englishman came in swiftly, picked up his pipe—which he had left on the stone—slipped across toward the window, moved a loosened stone and drew out from a cavity in the wall a green bundle from which some straps were hanging. These he buckled on as a body-harness. Stuart had never seen fingers that moved so quickly, or which had less appearance of hurry.
A thought struck him. Impulsively, he leaped from the embrasure.
A glitter told him that the gun was covering him.
He spoke breathlessly.
"Manuel expected me to kill Leborge. He'll kill me for not doing it."
In answer to a commanding look of interrogation, Stuart went on:
"I'm an American, and straight. I'll tell you all about it, later. Guess there isn't much time, now. Take me with you."
Cecil knew men. He looked at the boy, piercingly, and answered:
"Very well. If you've got the nerve."
Eye flashed to eye.
Came the decision:
"Your belt's too small. Take mine!"
The Englishman unfastened his own belt, grasped the boy by the shoulders, spun him round, ran the belt under his arms and through the two sides of the harness he had strapped on himself. He took a step and a heave and both were on the window-sill.
At the sight of the abyss below, a sudden panic caught Stuart's breath and heart, and he seemed to choke.
"What do we do?" he gasped.
"We jump!" said Cecil.
They leaped clear.
For a hundred feet they fell, and Stuart closed his eyes in that sickening dizziness which comes from a high fall.
Then he felt Cecil's arm grip him in a bear hug, and, a second after, his breast bone seemed to cave in, as a sudden jerk and strain came on the strap by which he was bound to the Englishman.
Instinctively he tried to squirm free, but the grip and the strap held firm.
Then the falling motion changed into a slow rocking see-saw, coupled with a sense of extraordinary lightness, and Stuart, looking overhead, saw the outstretched circle of a modern parachute.
THE ISLE OF THE BUCCANEERS
Swaying in sea-sick fashion, Stuart saw the forests, far below, seem to rise up to meet him. Under the influence of the double motion of drop and roll, the whole earth seemed to be rocking, and the sense of the void beneath him made Stuart feel giddy and faint. The fall was slower than he had expected.