As you will know by my telegram we are either off on a safe sea going boat or waiting for one. There is no turning back from here and the only reason I thought of doing so was the knowledge of the way you would suffer and worry. I argued it out that it was selfish in me to weigh my getting laughed at and paragraphed as the war correspondent that always Turned Back against a month of uneasiness for you, but later I saw I could not do it much as I love you for the element of danger to me is non-existent; it is merely an exciting adventure and you will have to believe me and not worry but be a Spartan mother. I would not count being laughed at and the loss of my own self respect if I really thought there was great danger, but I do not. You will not lose me and if I go now I can sit still next time and say "I have done better things than that." If I had not gone it would have meant that I would have had to have done just that much harder a stunt next time to make people forget that I had failed in this one. Now do cheer up and believe in the luck of Richard Harding Davis and the British Army. We have carte blanche from The Journal to buy or lease any boat on the coast and I rocked them for $1000 in advance payment because of the delay over the Vamoose.
I am so happy at thinking I am going, I could not have faced anyone had I not, although we had nothing to do with the failure, we tried to cross fairly in the damn tub and it was her captain who put back. I lay out on the deck and cried when he refused to go ahead, we had waited so long. The Cubans and Remington and Michelson had put on all their riding things but fortunately I had not and so was spared that humiliation. What I don't know about the Fine Art of Filibustering now is unnecessary. I find many friends of my Captain Boynton or "Capt. Burke." Tonight the officers of the Raleigh give me a grand dinner at which I wear a dress suit and make speeches--they are the best chaps I ever met in the Navy. Lots of love and best wishes to Dad and to Nora for a happy, happy New Year. You know me and you know my conscience but it would not let me go back in order to save you anxiety so you won't think me selfish. God bless you.
KEY WEST, January 2nd, 1897. DEAR FAMILY:
I have learned here that the first quality needed to make a great filibuster is Patience, it is not courage, or resources or a knowledge of the Cuban Coast line, it is patience. Anybody can run a boat into a dark bayou and dump rifles on the beach and scurry away to sea again but only heroes can sit for a month on a hotel porch or at the end of a wharf, and wait. That is all we do and that is my life at Key West. I get up and half dress and take a plunge in the bay and then dress fully and have a greasy breakfast and then light a huge Key West cigar, price three cents and sit on the hotel porch with my feet on a rail-- Nothing happens after that except getting one's boots polished as the two industries of this place are blacking boots and driving cabs. I have two boys to black mine at the same time every morning and pay the one who does his the better of the two-- It generally ends in a fight so that affords diversion-- Then a man comes along, any man, and says, "Remmington's looking for you" and I get up and look for Remington. There is only a triangle of streets where one can find him and I call at "Josh" Curry's first and then at Pendleton's News Store and read all the back numbers of the Police Gazette for the hundredth time and then call here at the Custom House and then look in at the Cable office, where Michaelson lives sending telegrams about anything or nothing and that brings me back to the hotel porch again, where I have my boots shined once more and then go into mid-day dinner. In the meanwhile Remington is looking for me a hundred yards in the rear. He generally gets to "Josh's" as I leave the Custom House-- In the afternoon I study Spanish out of a text book and at three take a bicycle ride, at five I call at the garrison to take tea with the doctor and his wife, who is sweeter than angel's ever get to be with a miniature angel of a baby called Martha. I wait until retreat is sounded and the gun is fired at sunset and having commented unfavorably on the way the soldiers let the flag drop on the grass instead of catching it on the arms as a bluejacket does, I ride off to the bay for another bath-- Then I take the launch to the Raleigh and dine with the officers and rejoice in the clean fresh paint and brass and decks and the lights and black places of a great ship of war, than which nothing is more splendid. We sit on the quarter-deck and smoke and play the guitar and I go home again, in time for bed. I vary this programme occasionally by spending the morning on the end of a wharf watching another man fish and reading old novels and the "Lives of Captain Walker" and "Captain Fry of the Virginius," two great books from each of which I am going to write a short story like the one of the Alamo or of the Jameson Raid-- The life of Walker I found on the Raleigh and the life of Captain Fry with all the old wood cuts and the newspaper comments of the time at a book store here. I don't know when we shall get away but it is no use kicking about it, Michaelson is doing all he can and the new tug will be along in a week anyway. I shall be so glad to get to Cuba that I will dance with glee. DICK.
MATANZAS, January 15th, 1897. DEAR MOTHER:
I sent you a note by Remington which he will mail in the States-- From here I go to Sagua La Grande. It is on the northern coast. I think from there I shall cross over to Cienfuegos on the Southern coast and then if I can catch a steamer go to Santiago to see my old friends, at the Juraqua mines and MacWilliams' ore road and "the Palms"-- Everywhere I am treated well on account of Weyler's order and I am learning a great deal and talking very little, my Spanish being bad. There is war here and no mistake and all the people in the fields have been ordered in to the fortified towns where they are starving and dying of disease. Yesterday I saw the houses of these people burning on both sides of the track-- They gave shelter to the insurgents and so very soon they found their houses gone. I am so relieved at getting old Remington to go as though I had won $5000. He was a splendid fellow but a perfect kid and had to be humored and petted all the time. I shall if I have luck be through with this in a few weeks but it has had such a set back at the start that I am afraid it can never make a book and I doubt if I can write a decent article even. I am so anxious not to keep you worrying any longer than is necessary and so I am hurrying along taking only a car window view of things. Address me care of Consul General Lee, Havana and confine your remarks to what is going on at home. I know what is going on here. I don't believe half I hear but I am being slowly converted. Remington is more excitable than I am, so don't misunderstand if he starts in violently. I am getting details and verifying things. He is right on a big scale but every one has lied so about this island that I do not want to say anything I do not believe is true. This is a beautiful little city and after Jaruco, where we slept two days ago, it is Paris. There we slept off the barnyard and cows and chickens walked all over the floor and fleas all over us. It was like Honduras only filthier. Speaking of Paris, tell the Kid I expect to go over to him soon after I return to New York.
January 16th, 1897. DEAR MOTHER:
It is very funny not knowing what sort of a place you are to sleep in next and taking things out of a grab bag, as it were-- In Europe you can always guess what the well known towns will give you for you have a guide book, but here it is all luck. Matanzas was a pretty city but the people were awful, the hotel was Spanish and the proprietor insolent, though I was spending more of Willie Hearst's money than all of the officers spend in a week, the Consul could not talk English or Spanish, he said he hadn't come there "to go to school to no Spaniard" and he gloried in the fact he had been there three years without knowing a word of the language. His vice-Consul was worse and everything went wrong generally. Every one I met was an Alarmist and that is polite for liar. They asked Remington if he was the man who manufactured the rifles and gave us the Iowa Democrat to read. To night I reached here after a six hours ride through blazing fields of sugar cane and stopped on my way to the hotel to ask the Consul when the next boat went to Saqua la Grande-- I had no letter of introduction to him as I had to the Matanzas consul, but as soon as he saw my card he got out of his chair and shook hands again and was as hearty and well bred and delightful as Charley himself and unlike Chas he did not ask me 14 francs for looking on him. He is out now chasing around to get me a train for to-morrow. But I won't go to-morrow. My hotel looks on the plaza and the proprietor and the whole suite of attendants are my slaves. It is just as different as can be. My interpreter does it, he calls himself MY VALET, although I point out to him that two shirts and twelve collars do not constitute a wardrobe even with a rubber coat thrown in. But he likes to play at my being a distinguished stranger and I can't say I object. Only when you remember the way I was invited to see Cuba and expected to see it, and now the way I am seeing it from car windows with A VALET. What would the new school of yellow kid journalists say if they knew that. For the first time on this trip I have wished you were both with me, that was to night. I never see anything really beautiful but that it instantly makes me feel selfish and wish you could see it too. It has happened again and again and to night I wish you could be here with me on this balcony. The town runs down a slope to the bay and in the middle of it is the Plaza with me on the balcony which lets out of my sleeping room-- "the room" so the proprietor tells me, "reserved only for the Capitain General." It is just like the description in that remarkable novel of mine where Clay and Alice sit on the balcony of the restaurant. I have the moonlight and the Cathedral with the open doors and the bronze statue in the middle and the royal palms moving in the breeze straight from the sea and the people walking around the plaza below. If it was in any way as beautiful as this Clay and Alice would have ended the novel that night.