Adventures and Letters HTML version

course was like a cat's cradle. We first headed for a big steamer and sounded "general
quarters." It was fine to see the faces of the apprentices as they ran to get their cutlasses
and revolvers, their eyes open and their hair on end, with the hope that they were to board
a Spanish battleship. But at the first gun she ran up an American flag, and on getting
nearer we saw she was a Mallory steamer. An hour later we chased another steamer, but
she was already a prize, with a prize crew on board. Then we had a chase for three hours
at night; after what we believed was the Panama, but she ran away from us. We fired
three shells after her, and she still ran and got away. The next morning I went on board
the New York with Zogbaum, the artist. Admiral Sampson is a fine man; he impressed
me very much. He was very much bothered at the order forbidding correspondents on the
ship, but I talked like a father to him, and he finally gave in, and was very nice about the
way he did it. Since then I have had the most interesting time and the most novel
experience of my life. We have been lying from three to ten miles off shore. We can see
Morro Castle and houses and palms plainly without a glass, and with one we can
distinguish men and women in the villages. It is, or was, frightfully hot, and you had to
keep moving all the time to get out of the sun. I mess with the officers, but the other
correspondents, the Associated Press and Ralph Paine of The World and Press of
Philadelphia, with the middies. Paine got on because Scovel of The World has done so
much secret service work for the admiral, running in at night and taking soundings, and
by day making photographs of the coast, also carrying messages to the insurgents.
It is a wonderful ship, like a village, and as big as the Paris. We drift around in the sun or
the moonlight, and when we see a light, chase after it. There is a band on board that plays
twice a day. It is like a luxurious yacht, with none of the ennui of a yacht. The other
night, when we were heading off a steamer and firing six-pounders across her bows, the
band was playing the "star" song from the Meistersinger. Wagner and War struck me as
the most fin de siecle idea of war that I had ever heard of. The nights have been perfectly
beautiful, full of moonlight, when we sit on deck and smoke. It is like looking down from
the roof of a high building. Yesterday they brought a Spanish officer on board, he had
been picked up in a schooner with his orderly. I was in Captain Chadwick's cabin when
he was brought in, and Scovel interpreted for the captain, who was more courteous than
any Spanish Don that breathes. The officer said he had been on his way to see his wife
and newly born baby at Matanzas, and had no knowledge that war had been declared. I
must say it did me good to see him. I remembered the way the Spanish officers used to
insult me in a language which I, fortunately for me, could not understand, and how I
hated the sight of them, and I enjoyed seeing his red and yellow cockade on the table
before me, while I sat in a big armchair and smoked and was in hearing of the marines
drilling on the upper deck. He was invited to go to breakfast with the officers, and I sat
next to him, and as it happened to be my turn to treat, I had the satisfaction of pouring
drinks down his throat. I told stories about Spanish officers all the time to the rest of the
mess, pretending I was telling them something else by making drawings on the
tablecloth, so that the unhappy officer on his other side, who was talking Spanish to him,
had a hard time not to laugh. I told Zogbaum he ought to draw a picture of him at the
mess to show how we treated prisoners, and a companion one of the captain of the
Compeliton, who came over with us on the Dolphin, and who showed us the marks of the
ropes on his wrists and arms the Spaniards had bound him with when he was in Cabanas