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May 11, 1940 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-05-11

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Page Eight

PERSPECTIVES

THE PR TREDT . .Continued from Page Four

As they came abreast of Aserradero,
however, they had described another
cloud of smoke on the horizon, a huge
rolling =pillar that spread plume-like
across the sky. It was an accursed day
for the navy of Spain, .without a doubt.
The torpedo-boat destroyer was not
pursued further, and the Commander
soon ordered the speed lowered. 'There
was notieverly much coal in the sbuskers
:after their Atlantic passage; they
would have barely enough to roach Ha-
vana and he knew there were no other
American vessels in the vicinity which
woeld give chase.
The engines in the bowels of theFer-
naado churned ahead rhythmically,
steadily, and Suarez patted the iron
plates 4f the chartroom bulkhead as
one wol caress a gallant horse. He
sat in the small cramped spaee brood-
ng over a chart of western Cuba. Above .
him Morales' boots paced back and
forth, bOack and forth on the bridge
deck. Damn the man, couldn't he stand
still? The rigging vibrated resonantly
in a freshening breeze and through the
porthole he could see the small white
crests were beginning to form on the
wave tops. If the seas continued to in-
crease he would ring for reduced speed
rather than risk stove-in bow plates. He
sipped a small goblet of excellent wine
and twiddled his pointers about the
chart.
Those fires today; if they were the
blazing coffins of his comrades, they
were of .course partly to blame. To
Suarez's professional mind they indi-
cated that inflammable material had
not been =removed from the Spanish
cruisers. They must have sailed out to
battle with hangings still in the port-
holes of the ofifcers' quarters, with
polished woodwork still aboard, and
with the other combustible portions of
the vessels still intact. He smiled grim-
ly to think of the grumbling that the
crew had done when his first official
act on assuming command had been
to jettison all such articles, and to ef-
ficiently strip the destroyer for battle.
There was another probable cause-
the decks of the antiquated Spanish
ships were not metal sheather; they
were simply wooden planks, baked by
the tropical sun, and caulked with pitch.
Pitch-God, that would make a fire
fit to roast the empire in. Commander
Suarez took pride in the fact, though,
that Cervera's officers, inefficient per-
haps, at any rate knew how to die like
men. He on the other hand was a
better officer in the technical sense,
but had preferred to ive rather than
go down fighting. Eh bien. La vida es
sueno. as the poets say. Life is a dream,
and we are all dreamers.
It was madness to expect rusty bat-
'ered hulks like the Spanish squadron
to stand up against a modern American
fleet, fresh from the navy yards. He
knew that most of the Spanish vessels
hadn't been back to Spain for repairs
for years, and there was no base in the
Caribbean capable of servicing a vessel.
Cervera must have known this and re-
alized the consequences. The blame for
the squadron's destruction, he supposed,
rested upon the Captain-General of
Cuba, Blanco, who had ordered the
cally from his headquarters in Havana.
What gross stupidity. The worst enemy
of the Spanish empire was not the en-
emy it fought; it was the Castilian
higher command.
He and his men were sailing to join
Blanco. Suarez supposed that eventu-
ally they also would go down as the re-
sult of some stupid, silly order. Appar-
ently the generals had not profited
from the English cavalry's charge at
Balaclava in the Crimean War. What a
pity they had not read Tennyson.
For no apparent reason the Com-
mander recalled a lovely little island
in the South Pacific. he had visited

c,/j.7o ~negf-
O0 H TAKE FROM ME this peace grown big
With clock-eyed tower
And midnight blackened bush.
Take this -desire to find belonging
In potted flower
And room dusted with lampstreaked hush.
In solitary loneness, all I feel-
This great intensity
Of vacuumed pressure bearing
Soundlessly the-crash of crowding silence-
Will one day stifle me
With happiness weeping
Itself to pain, until the pressure stifles, stifles,
With its beauty and its sadness,
--Nancy Mikelson

when a midshipman on the training
cruiser. The vivid blinding sand of the
narrow beach, separating so beautifully
the green of the tropical foliage and the
emerald calm of the deep lagoon inside
the barrier reef. The muscular browt
skinned natives, as yet unspoiled by
contact with white traders. The distant
booming of the surf, the scent of
strange, drowsy tropical flowers heavy
in the languid air and the deep peace
that hung upon the island like a silken
shawl. All of these things came sud-
denly to Suarez's memory, and he felt
keenly that the tragedy of his life was
being enacted at that moment. If the
Fernando were his private yacht, he
and his men could sail away that mom-
ent to a new life of fresh cleanness,
free of the taints of official corruption.
Why should they serve men determined
or heedless that they should die use-
lessly for an empty ideal? They were
men with the minds of men, minds cap-
able of thinking; why should they obey
orders of those of inferior intelligence
because they had better birth or great-
er political influence? He crashed his
wine glass through the open porthole
and into the sea. By the gods, why in-
deed? He must muster the officers and
put the situation to them.

Hastily gathered in the saloon, the
five officers of the ship listened to his
reasoning. Suarez reminded them that
empire was a thing of the past for their
country; that the naval service, cor-
rupt and stagnant before, would now
become unbearable; that they in their
careers, as he himself had so many
times been passed over, would find a
junior with more powerful influences
at court suceeding to posts rightfully
belonging to them. He rapidly sketched
the life that would be theirs on the
island. There was copra on the island;
there would be wealth for the taking.
They would be their own masters, and
through benevolent rule of the natives
could rapidly develop the land's natu-
ral resources. As the island belonged
to Spain, their destroyer would con-
tinue to fly the Spanish flag, and even-
tually they could reveal the results of
their labors to a grateful nation and
receive their reward. The men, of
course, would be jubilant over securing
such a life in exchange for probable
massacre such as they had witnessed
that morning, but it was up to the of-
ficers to decide the course they were to
follow. Commander Suarez undid the
collar of his tight uniform jacket and
wiped his brow with a fine white linen
handkerchief.

Concluding what he had to say, the
officer urged them to think it over, to
discuss it among themselves, if they
wished, and then to report to him,
singly, in his cabin to give him their
decisions. He stepped outside, and the
young officers, their mouths agape,
shocked at this audacious scheme,
.watched him go, speechless with aston-
ishment. The cabin began to pitch and
roll as the slim, speeding craft, be-
ginning to feel a quartering sea, slashed
through the dull grey ocean. Their
chairsscraped awkwardly, and some cups
on the buffet began to clink-clank
back and forth monontonously, in un-
ison with the ship's motion.
Waiting for the officers to report to
him in his cabin, Commander Suarez
lit a cigar and sat easily at his small
tidy desk. It was a decisive step that
he had taken-he might be construed
as counciling mutiny against the gov-
ernment, but he felt as though a weight
had been lifted from his shoulders. If
they decided against sailing toward the
South Seas he would of course resign
the command of the Fernando Luis to
Lieutenant Morales, and place himself
under parole until they reached Ha-
vana, The Commander had his code
of honor. He would undoubtedly be
court-martialled and shot in that even-
tuality, but he felt that it was well
worth the risk.
Lieutenant Morales was the first to
present himself. He saluted smartly
and said that in his opinion the scheme
was inadvisable. The Commander
thanked him, and again saluting, the
young man left the room. The others
following him reported their opinions
in similar terms. Next to the last, young
Ensign Julio entered the room, his face
pale and his lips bloodless. He was ob-
viously still shaken by the mass butch-
ery he had witnessed that morning
from the crow's nest.
In ringing tones he professed himself
willing to follow his Commander to the
nether regions if need be. The older
man was touched, as all older men are
when they discover that they are ap-
parently the beau ideal of some young-
ster. He offered him a glass of wine.
They drank to Espana and Suarez, re-
alizing that the majority of officers
were opposed to the scheme, advised
the Ensign that under the circum-
stances it would be out of the question
to pursue such a course. He thanked
him for his confidence in his com-
mander, however, and the young man,
again saluting, left the room abruptly,
his face filled with emotion. He was
nothing more than a boy.
The last to appear was Engineer-
Officer Gonzales, an untidy, unkempt
fellow with the stench of the engine
room strong upon him. He slouched
insolently into the cabin and growled
bluntly,
"I antm opposed to your plan, Suarez."
The Commander's face reddened with
quick anger.
"Engineer - Officer Gonzales!" he
thundered. "I am still the commanding
officer of this vessel. I demand that
you address me in proper fashion."
The man stiffened to attention, mum-
bling an apology. His somewhat stupid
face stared at the bulkhead; his years
in the navy had taught him how to
beard a superior officer in his own
cabin,
Suarez's voice lashed out at Gonzales,
castigating him and all that the man
seemed to represent.
"I suppose hat to your mind such an
act would be mutiny? Wouldn't it? An-
swer me, man!"
"Yes, sir," he muttered doggedly.
"Perro,-"
"Non perro, you dull clod," the Com-
mander roared, "can you not realize
that by colonizing and developing this
island for Spain we can perform a much
(continued on Page Nine)

One 7Wihoutl1Iingji
IN an alien land
all is strauge.
Here on neither hand
tall mountains range,
Here the air is not
fresh from the sea
nor is the blood hot
with desire to be free.
In an alien land
all little things
fence-like stand
to one without wings
who, resigned and meek
to petty days,
yet did not seek
these aimless ways,
Only here is change.
of more than place.
Here more strange
than a neighbor's face
is the hidden heart
and too open hand ...
he has no part
in an alien land.
- Frank M. Conway

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