Cutting A cable.
The cadet’s report was soon
made. Under ordinary circumstances he would have
been ordered to report back to the Uncas, but that
stanch little gunboat was then miles beyond the western
horizon. Moreover, the admiral had other work
for the cadet.
As to Miss Stuart; there was a parting
between her and Clif that was such as should be between
acknowledged lovers, but it was a parting of the most
decided kind, for his duty lay in the war, hers on
land. She was sent to Key West on a cruiser that
was then leaving the squadron to recoal.
What the young man and the girl said
to each other cannot concern us here, for we have
now to do with Faraday’s experience as a sailor.
His love affair had to await the events of war, and
so may the story of it.
Clif’s next service began on
the morning following his escape. A small boat
left the flagship and headed for Point Rubalcava on
the Cuban coast. It was bent upon a dangerous
mission; so hazardous, in fact, that volunteers had
been called for to man the boat.
The first one to offer his services
had been Clif Faraday. There was no lack of followers
among the brave American tars. Fifty offered
themselves a moment after the cadet stepped forward,
and the task was to select from them twelve men to
form the boat’s crew.
“It is necessary to cut the
cable as a war measure,” said Rear Admiral Sampson,
when the selection had been made. “You will
proceed cautiously toward shore and grapple for the
cable. If you find it, cut it. If not, you
must go ashore and locate the landing place of the
wire. Are you ready for the service?”
“Ay, ay, sir!” came the ready response.
Rear Admiral Sampson looked upon the
brave, eager faces of the men for a moment with evident
“There is danger of discovery,
and attack from the shore batteries,” he added.
“Success will depend upon your quickness and
The men well knew the danger that
lay before them, but there was no sign of faltering
upon their faces. Rather, there was an eagerness
for instant action that was not lost upon the commanding
“Then go!” he exclaimed, heartily.
The boat was lowered, and quietly set out upon its
It was in charge of a lieutenant,
and Clif Faraday, in recognition of his being the
first to volunteer, was placed beside him in the stern
to steer the boat through the rough waters.
It was still dark, though the eastern
sky gave promise of the near approach of day.
The time had been selected to enable the boat to near
the shore without great danger of detection in the
dim light. But by the time they should succeed
in grappling the cable there would be sufficient light
to enable them to complete their task.
“All seems quiet on shore,”
said Clif, after a time, to the lieutenant, as they
both peered forward at the coast line now looming up
before them. “The Spaniards don’t
seem to be looking for us.”
“True,” responded the
lieutenant. “It looks that way. But
you can’t sometimes always tell. They may
have a surprise for us.”
“If they don’t shoot any
straighter than they have been doing,” said
Clif with a laugh, “they’ll never touch
“That’s true, too,”
assented the lieutenant. “But still you
must remember ”
“The Maine!” interrupted Clif.
“Yes, remember the Maine!
But, as I was saying, these fellows might possibly
aim at something else beside our boat and hit us accidentally.
At any rate, I hope they don’t see us. We
are not out to capture a fort armed as we are with
nothing but revolvers, and in this open boat we would
be an easy prey to decent marksmanship.”
“Still, the boys like action,” said Clif.
“We may have plenty of it yet,”
replied the lieutenant, with a suspicion of uneasiness
in his tone.
Meanwhile the boat, guided by Clif’s
hand, had drawn nearer the shore. They could
see plainly the outlines of the fortifications, which
had been recently battered by shell from American
gunboats, and which they knew the Spaniards had attempted
to repair. But as far as they could see all was
The boat was following what was supposed
to be the course of the cable, and the men were constantly
seeking to secure it with their grappling irons.
The crew proceeded cautiously but expeditiously with
its work, the boat passing to and fro across what
they supposed was the line of the cable.
“How is it, Wilson?” at
last said the lieutenant, speaking to one of the men
who was leaning over the side of the boat. “Struck
“Not yet, sir,” was the response.
Nearer and nearer to the shore came
the boat, the men coolly continuing their labors,
seemingly as unmindful of danger as though the coast
was not lined by hostile forces. The sun peeped
above the face of the water to the eastward, and the
darkness slowly receded before it. Every detail
of the frowning fortification ashore was now plainly
visible to the boat’s crew.
Clif looked intently along the shore,
but there was no hostile movement to be seen.
But he realized that the fast growing light of the
rising sun must betray their presence to the enemy,
if any such were on watch.
“What a fine target we would
make for them, too,” he thought. “And
close range at that.”
His thoughts were interrupted by an
exclamation from one of the men who had been previously
addressed by the lieutenant.
“Hurrah!” cried the man. “I’ve
The boat was quickly brought to a
standstill, and willing hands assisted him. In
a few moments the heavy cable appeared above the surface
of the water and was drawn up to the boat.
“Now, men, quick with the saws!”
cried the lieutenant, excitedly. “Quick
work, and we’ll be done and away before the Spaniards
It required quick work, indeed quicker
than any of the brave boat’s crew then thought.
The lieutenant had no more than given
his orders when an interruption, startling and unwelcome,
occurred. He had been anxiously scanning the
outlines of the fortifications and congratulated himself
that no movement was visible in that quarter.
The Spaniards were napping, he thought, and all was
But the reverse was the case, as he
quickly discovered. No sooner had one of the
sailors began to saw away at the cable than suddenly
and without warning a shower of bullets rained around
them in the water and the ominous boom of a cannon
from the shore told they had been discovered.
“A masked battery to the left!”
cried Clif. “They have ambushed us!”
This was true. The fortifications
which had alone received the lieutenant’s attention
remained silent, while from the left a concealed battery
kept up a raking fire upon the small boat and the intrepid
The Spaniards had not yet gotten the
range, it is true, but it was a tight place to be
in in an open boat, unarmed, helpless and
exposed to the raking fire from shore.
But the men in that boat were full
of nerve. Not once did they falter while shells
and shot whistled and burst over their heads, beyond
them and even among them.
“Hurry up, Wilson,” cried
the lieutenant to the sailor sawing the cable.
“That cable must be cut before we leave the spot.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” responded
the other. “If it kills every man of us!”
It began to look as if that would
be their fate. The Spanish shot and shell, which
at first fell harmlessly into the water, now dropped
nearer and nearer. Clif heard an awful buzzing
and whizzing sound in the air, and seemed to feel
something hit him in the face and head. It was
not his first time under fire, and he knew that a
shell had passed near them.
The fire from shore increased in rapidity
and with more accuracy. From another quarter,
a jut of land nearer to the boat, came a fusilade from
Mauser rifles, and their bullets passed near the heads
of the American crew.
It was a hot place, but the men worked
coolly on, determined that their orders should be
executed at all hazards. By rapid work one piece
of the cable was cut, but that was not enough.
Another cut must be made at least fifty feet away,
so that the Spaniards could not repair it by splicing.
As the last strands parted and the free end of the
cable fell back into the water, it was discovered
that the sailor held the shore end in his grasp, and
that to complete their work they must now draw closer
to the fire of their enemies.
“Fifty feet nearer shore!”
exclaimed the lieutenant, and the crew grasped the
oars and unflinchingly began to carry out the order.
The shots of the Spaniards began to
tell. Bullets splintered the sides of the boat,
and they had not moved but a few feet from the spot
when another volley severely wounded two of the men.
Wilson, the man who had been so active,
fell into the bottom of the boat severely wounded
in the shoulder, and another sailor who was near where
Clif sat, was shot in the thigh. But the boat
kept on, rowing nearer and nearer.
Clif resigned the tiller to the lieutenant,
while he bound up the men’s wounds and comforted
them as best he could. Then he jumped back to
This was an unfortunate move for him,
for in that position he and the lieutenant were the
most conspicuous figures in the boat, and the Spanish
riflemen were making every effort to pick off the officer.
A bullet, intended for the lieutenant, struck Clif
in the arm as he took his place.
“Are you wounded?” shouted
the officer above the din, noticing that Clif momentarily
“It is nothing,” replied
Clif, resolutely clinching his teeth and continuing
to guide the boat.
Just then the welcome sound of the
firing of cannon to seaward reached their ears.
“It is the New York!”
cried Clif. “She is taking a hand in the
It was true. With deadly accuracy,
the flagship was hurling shrapnel shell over the heads
of the bluejackets into the battery on shore.
And thus between the two fires the
little band in their frail boat continued coolly with
their labors, Clif assisting those who became wounded
wholly unmindful of the fact that he himself was bleeding
But it was soon over. The terrible
havoc of the well-directed shrapnel shot from the
New York quickly silenced the masked battery and dispersed
the gunners and the cutting of the cable received no
further interruption from the Spanish forces.
They were enthusiastically received
upon their return to the flagship, bearing a section
of the cable to be cut up as souvenirs. The wounded
were tenderly cared for, and Clif himself examined
the nature of his own injury. Fortunately, though
it had bled freely, it was but a slight flesh wound,
which gave him no uneasiness after being properly bandaged.
This operation was just completed,
when a jaunty young ensign appeared, and turning to
“Cadet Faraday, you are requested
to report to the rear admiral at once.”
Clif saluted and promptly followed the officer.