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Tacon The Governor And Marti The Smuggler
by [?]

In 1834 Don Miguel Tacon, one of the most vigorous and tyrannical of the governor-generals of Cuba, took control of the island, which he ruled with a stern will and an iron hand. One of the purposes in which he was most earnest was that of suppressing the active smuggling on the coast, all the naval vessels under his command being ordered to patrol the coast night and day, and to have no mercy on these lawless worthies. As it proved, all his efforts were of no avail, the smugglers continuing to ply their trade in spite of Tacon and his agents.

The despoilers of the revenue were too daring and adroit, and too familiar with the shoals and rocks of the coast waters, to be readily caught, and the lack of pilots familiar with this difficult navigation prevented any close approach to their haunts. In this dilemma Tacon tried the expedient of offering a large and tempting reward to any one who would desert the fraternity and agree to pilot the government vessels through the perilous channels which they frequented. Double this reward, an almost princely prize, was offered for the person of one Marti, dead or alive.

Tacon had good reason to offer a special reward for the arrest of Marti, who was looked upon as the leader and chief offender of the smugglers. A daring and reckless man, notorious as a smuggler and half pirate, his name was as well known in Cuba as that of the governor-general himself. The admirers of his daring exploits grew to know him as the King of the Isle of Pines, this island being his principal rendezvous, from which he sent his fleet of small, swift vessels to ply their trade on the neighboring coast. As for Tacon’s rewards, they were long as ineffective as his revenue cutters and gunboats, and the government officials fell at length into a state of despair as to how they should deal with the nefarious and defiant band.

One dark, dull night, several months after the placards offering these rewards had been posted in conspicuous places in Havana and elsewhere, two sentinels were pacing as usual before the governor’s palace, which stood opposite the grand plaza of the capital city. Shortly before midnight a cloaked individual stealthily approached and slipped behind the statue of the Spanish king near the fountain in the plaza. From this lurking-place he watched the movements of the sentinels, as they walked until they met face to face, and then turned back to back for their brief walk in the opposite direction.

It was a delicate movement to slip between the soldiers during the short interval when their eyes were turned from the entrance, but the stranger at length adroitly effected it, darting lightly and silently across the short space and hiding himself behind one of the pillars of the palace before they turned again. During their next turn he entered the palace, now safe from their espionage, and sought the broad flight of stairs which led to the governor’s rooms with the confidence of one thoroughly familiar with the place.

At the head of the stairs there was another guard to be passed, but this the stranger did with a formal military salute and an air of authority as if his right to enter was beyond question. His manner quieted all suspicion in the mind of the sentinel, and the newcomer entered the governor’s room unchallenged, closing the door behind him.

Before him sat the governor-general in a large easy-chair, quite alone and busily engaged in writing. On seeing him thus unattended the weather-beaten face of the stranger took on a look of satisfaction. Evidently his secret plans had worked fully to his desire. Taking off his cloak, he tossed it over his arm, making a noise that attracted the governor’s attention. Tacon looked up in surprise, fixing his eyes keenly upon his unlooked-for visitor.