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Dave Darrin at Vera Cruz by H. Irving Hancock

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coast opposite us. This sugar mill stands on a lagoon, and that
is as much of a description as Carmody could furnish in his hastily
penned letter. But we know that there are, along this part of
the coast, three such deserted sugar mills, each standing on a

"Plainly, the Carmodys must be in the house near one of these three
mills, but which one it is we cannot even guess. Admiral Fletcher
sent me the news two hours ago, by wireless. Ever since then we
have been in earnest communication upon the subject, and now I
have my orders in the matter."

"It would be possible, of course, for us to visit each one of
these lagoons in turn. However, if we visited the wrong mill
first, these bandits undoubtedly have some means of signaling
to comrades. Our landing party might be observed, and the news
of the attempt at rescue would be signaled by fires or otherwise,
and the discovery of our designs would undoubtedly result in the
Carmody party being butchered at once.

"Acting under the orders of Cosetta, or, I might say, under his
threats, Mr. Carmody has sent appeals in every direction he could
think of for the funds to pay the hundred thousand dollar ransom
demanded for the party. These requests have been carried on through
agents of Cosetta, but none of the appeals have borne fruit.
Wearied, Cosetta has announced that on a certain morning, if the
ransom has not arrived, Carmody and all the members of his party,
even including the children, shall be shot and buried in hidden
graves. There is little doubt that Cosetta will carry out his
threat, and to-morrow morning is the time set for this wholesale

Fire flashed in the eyes of the Navy officers who heard this

"As you may be certain," continued Captain Gales, "Admiral Fletcher
has wired me that this proposed atrocity must be prevented, and
the American captives rescued at all hazards. Now, attend me
while I show you the detail chart for this part of the coast."

Captain Gales turned to his desk, where the map was spread.

"Here, as you will see," he continued, "is a sugar mill belonging
to the Alvarez plantations. Ten miles to the eastward of the
Alvarez mill is the Perdita mill; ten miles to the westward of
the Alvarez mill is the Acunda mill. To-night there will be no
moon. At nine o'clock we shall lie to off the Alvarez mill, and
three sixty-foot launches will be lowered to the water. Lieutenant
Cantor will command one of these launches, Ensign Darrin another
and Ensign Dalzell the third. Each launch will carry one automatic
gun, and a landing party of a corporal, six marines, a petty officer
and twelve seamen. Each party will be armed, but, gentlemen,
I must caution you as to the extreme seriousness of any conflict
on shore, or of firing, even though your fire is not directed
at human beings. These are days when our relations with Mexico
are of an extremely delicate nature. If we send an armed party
on shore, and its members fight, it will be difficult, indeed,
for our government to make the claim that an act of war was not
committed on the soil of a nation that is, at present, at peace
with us. The consequences of a fight are likely to be grave indeed.
Therefore, the officer in command of each landing party is especially
warned that the rescue of the American prisoners must be accomplished
by strategy, not by fighting."

Captain Gales looked keenly at each of the three young officers
concerned, to make sure that they understood the full gravity of
the situation.

"Strategy, remember---not fighting," Captain Gales repeated.
"Now, the '_Long Island_' will not go within four miles of the
coast. Yet, despite the darkness to-night, it is likely that
a craft as large as this ship would be noted from the shore, and
her errand suspected. That might result in the execution of the
American captives before aid could reach them. So, when we reach
a point opposite the Alvarez mill, Lieutenant Cantor's launch
will be put over the side first, while the ship continues under
slow headway."

Lieutenant Cantor will lie to, while the other two launches are
being lowered. Ensigns Darrin and Dalzell will then steam back
and report to Lieutenant Cantor. Under slow speed it will take
the launches, commanded by the two ensigns, each about an hour
and ten minutes to reach their respective lagoon destinations.
It will take the lieutenant just under thirty minutes to reach
the Alvarez lagoon. Ensign Dalzell will go to the Perdita lagoon,
and Ensign Darrin to the Acunda lagoon. Forty minutes after Dalzell
and Darrin have steamed away, Lieutenant Cantor will run in to
the Alvarez mill. Our launches are not likely to be observed
from shore, where the '_Long Island_,' if she remained in these
waters, would be sure to be seen and recognized.

"Therefore, after dropping the steamers, we shall go ahead at
cruising speed and not return opposite the Alvarez mill until
called by a rocket, which Lieutenant Cantor will send up as soon
as the rescue has been accomplished---or has failed. But,
gentlemen"---here Captain Gales' voice sank low, yet vibrated with
intense earnestness---"all of you will realize the extreme
importance of your mission, and the awful consequences of failure.
Therefore, I feel certain that none of you will break the Navy's
long list of traditions for zealous, careful, successful
performance of duty. Lieutenant Cantor will be in command of the
expedition, as a whole."

For some minutes the officers remained in the captain's quarters,
discussing further the important work of the coming night.

As no instructions for secrecy had been asked or expected, Commander
Bainbridge soon told the news to a few of the "_Long Island's_"
ranking officers, who, in turn passed it on.

"Of all the luck that some officers have!" groaned Lieutenant
Trent, as he passed Dave Darrin. "How did you work it, Darrin,
to secure one of the details for to-night that any subordinate
officer on this ship would have been delighted to see come his

"I don't know," Dave laughingly admitted.

"Darrin, are you hard up?" asked Lieutenant Holton, five minutes

"I have a few dollars left," Dave smiled.

"If you can get me shifted to your detail for to-night I'll reward
you with a month of my pay," promised the lieutenant.

"Thank you," Dave smiled, gravely. "Even if the change could
be easily arranged, I'm afraid I wouldn't give up my chance for
six months' pay."

"No chance for me, then," sighed Holton. "I can't remember that
I ever had six months' of my pay together at one time."

"Darrin," exclaimed Lieutenant Commander Denton, still a little
later, "I never realized that you had so much impudence! The
idea of a mere ensign leading such an expedition ashore to-night!
I wanted that myself."

"I am not at all sure that my performance will be one of glory,"
smiled Darrin.

"It won't, if Cantor can manage to queer you in any way," murmured
Denton to himself, as he moved on.

In the ward-room that evening the "impertinence" of two new ensigns
in capturing such prized details was commented upon with a great
deal of chaffing. Even Lieutenant Cantor was declared to be much
too young to be entrusted with such important work.

At eight o'clock the fortunate lieutenant and ensigns were once
more sent for, to go over the map and instructions with Captain

At nine o'clock, just before the "_Long Island_" was abreast of
the Alvarez mill, the first launch was cleared away and lowered,
falling behind and lying to.

Then Darrin, with his own crew, went down over the side to the
launch towing alongside. It was Coxswain Riley who stood by to
catch the young commanding officer's arm.

"Hullo, Coxswain," was Dave's greeting. "Are you to handle the
launch to-night?"

"No, sir," Riley answered, saluting. "I am the petty officer
in charge of the seamen. Coxswain Schmidt handles the launch,

As soon as his party had hurried aboard, Darrin gave the order
to cast off. Under slow speed astern the launch joined Lieutenant
Cantor's craft.

"I'm glad that I'm to have you on shore tonight with me, Coxswain,"
said Dave, heartily.

"Thank you, sir," answered the coxswain, saluting and actually
blushing with pleasure.

Soon after Dan's launch ranged up with the other two, and the
"_Long Island_" was vanishing in the distance ahead, not a light
showing, for it is the privilege of the commander of a war vessel
to sail without lights, when the interests of the services may
be furthered thereby. Nor did any of the launches display lights.

As each of the boats was to run at slow speed, it was hoped that
each landing party would reach shore without detection.

Lieutenant Cantor went over the instructions once more, talking
in low tones across the water.

"And above all, remember that there is to be no fighting," Cantor
added, impressively, looking straight into Darrin's eyes.

"Punk orders, when each man is provided with a hundred rounds
of rifle ammunition, and when each automatic gun is supplied with
two thousand rounds!" grumbled Coxswain Riley, under his breath.

"Gentlemen, you will now get under way," ordered Lieutenant Cantor.
"You will remember each sentence of your instructions!"

Silently, two of the launches stole away into the night, bound
east and west, while the third launch awaited the time to start

On Darrin's launch there was little talking, and that in whispers.
Dave had made a most careful study of the map, and felt certain
that he could give the course straight into the lagoon on which
the Acunda mill stood.

"Coxswain Schmidt," said Ensign Darrin, in a low voice, when still
some four miles away from the proposed place of landing, "when you
are close enough to shore to signal the engineer, you will do so
by hand signal, not by use of the bell. Seaman Berne will watch
for your signals, and convey them to the engineer."

"Very good, sir," replied both coxswain and seaman.

"Probably it won't be my luck to find the American captives at
the Acunda plantation," murmured Darrin.

None the less, when he at last sighted the lagoon, his heart began
to beat excitedly.

Under reduced speed, now, the launch stole into the lagoon. Less
than a quarter of a mile from shore the sugar mill, deserted since
the rebellion first took acute form, stood out dimly against the
dark sky.

To within a hundred and fifty yards of the mill the launch ran,
then swung in at a nearly ruined old wharf.

Ensign Dave Darrin was first to step ashore, signing to his men
to follow him with all stealth.

"Corporal," Darrin whispered, "unless summoned later, you will stand
by the launch with your men, to prevent it being rushed in case the
bandits are abroad to-night. Coxswain Riley, you will form your men
loosely and follow me, keeping about a hundred yards to the rear,
making no sound as you advance."

Officer and men were all in dark uniforms, which in the blackness
of the night would not be seen at any distance, whereas the white
tropical uniforms would have immediately betrayed the raiders.

About seven hundred feet beyond the sugar mill Darrin had already
located the house. Like the old mill, the residence was in darkness.
Not a light shone, nor was there a sound to be heard.

"This eerie stretch of ground makes one think of a graveyard," thought
Darrin, with a comical little shiver, as his left hand gripped his
sword scabbard tightly to prevent it clanking against his left heel.

He turned to look behind him. Riley and twelve armed seamen were
following him like so many unsubstantial spectres.

Past the mill, and down the road to the house strode Darrin, but
his moving feet made hardly a sound.

A little before the house ran a line of flowering tropical hedge.
Darrin gained this, and was about to pass in through an opening
in the hedge when a figure suddenly appeared in the darkness right
ahead of him.

A rifle was leveled at the young ensign's breast, and in a steady
voice came the hail that set the young ensign's heart to beating

"_Quien vive_"

It was the Spanish challenge---"Who goes there?"



Dave's sword hung at his side. His revolver was in its scabbard
over his left hip, but just out of view of the sentry.

As to his being in uniform, he realized that the night was so
dark that there was little danger of his nationality being discovered.

All these thoughts flashed through his mind in a twinkling, as
they should with a good officer.

Darrin's course of action was as swiftly decided.

"Amigo," he replied, tranquilly. "Amigo de los prisoneros!" (Friends
of the prisoners).

By the time the second explanation had left his lips Dave had
bounded forward, struck aside the rifle, and had gripped the sentry
by the throat, bearing him to the ground.

A blow from one of the young ensign's fists, and the fellow lay

Espying trouble from the rear, Coxswain Riley started his men
on a swift run toward the spot. In a few moments the sentry,
doubtless badly scared, had been gagged, and bound hand and foot
with the handy hitches of jack tars.

"Leave him there," Darrin directed in an undertone. "Coxswain,
post eight men around the house, and take command of them. I
will take the other four men with me."

Swiftly Darrin led his little squad around to the rear of the
house, since the front was closed and dark.

A doorway stood open, showing a room lighted by two candles that
stood on a table. Around the table were seven men, eating and
drinking. Plainly they had not heard the brief scuffle at the

With a nod to his four men Darrin led the way inside. Instantly
the seven men were on their feet, staring wildly at the intruders.
One man started for a stack of rifles that stood in a corner,
but Ensign Darrin hurled him back.

"Don't let any man reach for a gun, or draw any sort of weapon,"
Darrin ordered, quickly.

Then to the Mexicans, in Spanish, Dave shouted:

"Stand where you are, and no harm will be done to you. We have
not come here to molest you, but you hold Americans prisoners
here, and we mean to take them away with us."

"No, no," answered one of the Mexicans, smilingly, "you are mistaken.
We have no prisoners here."

Dave's heart sank within him for one brief moment. Had he made
a mistake in invading this house, only to find that his mission
was to be fruitless?

Then he suspected Mexican treachery.

"Pardon me," he urged in Spanish, "if I satisfy myself that you
are telling the truth. Stand where you are, all of you, and no
harm shall come to you. But don't make the mistake of moving
or of reaching for weapons."

Darrin strode swiftly past the group and stepped into a hallway,
in which were stairs leading above.

"Are there any Americans here," he shouted, "who want help? If
so, there are American sailors here ready to give aid."

From above there came a single exclamation of joy, followed by
a scurrying of feet.

From above sounded a voice demanding in Spanish:

"Shall I let the prisoners go?"

"You will have to," answered the same voice that had answered
Dave. "We are attacked by _los marineros Americanos_." (American

For the men in the other room now knew that there were more than
these four seamen at hand. As soon as he heard voices inside Riley
had cleverly caused his men to walk about the house with heavy tread,
and the Mexicans believed themselves to be outnumbered.

"Is it true that there are American sailors below?" called a man's
husky voice.

"A detachment from the United States Navy, sir," Dave replied,
gleefully. "Are you Mr. Carmody?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Then bring down your party. We have force enough to resist any
attempt to hold you, and if any harm is offered you, we shall
avenge it. Shall I come upstairs for you, Mr. Carmody?"

"If you don't mind," answered the voice of the man above. "There
are two guards up here who seem undecided whether to shoot us
or to let us pass."

Instantly Ensign Darrin ran to the stairs, mounting them. Yet
he was careful to take no chance of being surprised in the dark,
for he well understood the treachery of the natives with whom
he had to deal.

However, Darrin reached the landing unattacked. Down the hallway
he saw an open door, through which a dim light shone. Before
the door were two Mexicans, each armed with a rifle.

"You will permit the American party to pass," Dave commanded,
bluntly, in the best Spanish that he had learned at Annapolis.

One of the sentries again called out loudly, demanding instructions
from below.

"You will have to let the prisoners pass," came from downstairs.

At that both sentries moved away from the door.

"Will you be good enough to come out?" Darrin called, keeping
his eye on the two guards, who stood glowering sullenly at him.
He had not drawn his revolver, and did not wish to do so.

The door was cautiously opened and a man's head appeared. One
look at Dave and the door was flung wide by a tall, serious-eyed
man whose hair was gray at the temples.

"Come," he called to those behind him. "I see the uniform of
our own Navy. I never paid much attention to it before, but at
thus moment it's the most welcome sight in the world."

Head erect, shoulders thrown back, an expression of deep gratitude
in his eyes, John Carmody stepped out into the hallway.

Behind him was a middle-aged woman, followed by two pretty girls.
Then came another woman, younger than the first, who led two
boys, one of four years, the other of six.

"I was sent here," Dave announced, cap in hand, "to find and rescue
John Carmody, his wife and two sons, and a Mrs. Deeming and her
two daughters."

"We are they," Mr. Carmody declared.

"Do you know of any other prisoners, Americans or otherwise, who
are held here by the bandits, sir?" Ensign Darrin inquired.

"I do not know of any other captives here," replied Mr. Carmody,
promptly. "In fact, I do not believe there are any others."

"Mr. Carmody, if you will lead your party down the stairs and
through the hallway to the room at the end of the passage, I will
bring up the rear of this little American procession."

Mr. Carmody obeyed without hesitation. One after another the
trembling women followed, Mrs. Carmody leading her two young sons.

Out in the hallway Mr. Carmody caught sight of the sailors, who
stood revealed in the light of the room, as with watchful eyes
they held the seven Mexicans at bay.

"Mr. Carmody," called Dave, just before he entered that room,
"I will ask you to lead your party out of doors. You will find
other American sailors there, sir."

Entering the room, Dave stood, cap still in hand, until the last
of the American women had passed into the open. Then, replacing
his cap, the young naval officer turned to the Mexican who had
spoken to the others and who now stood sullenly eyeing the sailors.

"I have carried out my orders," Dave declared, in Spanish. "I
regret that I have no authority to punish you as you deserve.
Instead, therefore, I will wish you good night."

Signing to his sailors to pass out before him, Dave was the last
to leave the room. All four of the young sailors, however, stood
just outside, where their rifles might sweep the room, at need,
until their officer had passed out.

"Hicks," called Dave, to one of the party of sailors who had surrounded
the house, "lead these people to the water. The rest of us will
bring up the rear."

Seeing the women and children of his party under safe guidance,
Mr. Carmody turned back to speak to their rescuer.

"Sir," asked the older man, "did you know that, on account of
the failure to raise the ransom money, we were all, even the babies,
to be put to death at sunrise?"

"Yes, sir," Dave nodded.

"Then perhaps you are able to understand the gratitude to which
I shall endeavor to give some expression as soon as we are in
a place of safety."

"It is not my wish to hear expressions of gratitude, Mr. Carmody,"
Dave Darrin answered. "As to safety, however, I fancy we are
safe enough already."

Mr. Carmody shook his head energetically.

"We have twenty men to the nine we saw in that house," Dave smiled.
"Surely they will not endeavor to attack us."

"Cosetta, the bandit, was he to whom you spoke in the house,"
replied John Carmody. "He has but a few men in the house, but
there are twenty or thirty more sleeping in the stables behind
the house. Altogether, unless he has sent some away, he must
have more than sixty men hereabouts."

"Then we must go on the double quick to our boat," returned Darrin.
"Hicks," he called down the straggling line, which was now just
outside the grounds and headed toward the mill, "keep the whole
party moving as rapidly as possible."

Yet Darrin was not afraid for himself, for he halted while the
party hastened forward, scanning the darkness to his rear. Seeing
the ensign standing there alone, Riley and half a dozen sailors
came running back.

"I'm afraid you're headed the wrong way, Riley," smiled Dave.
"I hear there is a large force behind us, and we must embark
as rapidly as possible."

"It won't take us long to tumble into the launch, sir," the coxswain
replied, doggedly, "but we won't leave our officer behind. We
couldn't think of doing it."

"Not even under orders?" Darrin inquired.

"We'd hate to disobey orders, sir," Riley mumbled, looking rather
abashed, "but-----"

"Hark!" called Dave, holding up a hand.

Back of the flowering hedge he heard the swift patter of bare feet.

Out of the darkness came a flash of a pistol shot. It was answered
instantly by a ragged but crashing volley.

Long tongues of flame spat out into the night. The air was full
of whistling bullets.

Pseu! pss-seu! pss-seu! Sang the steel-jacketed bullets about
the ears of the Americans.

Then the sailor nearest Ensign Dave Darrin fell to the ground
with a stifled gasp.



Outnumbered, the Americans did not falter.

Save for Hicks, the guide, and the wounded man, the sailors threw
themselves automatically to one knee, bringing their rifles to

For a moment Ensign Darrin felt sick at heart. He was under orders
not to fire, to employ no armed force in a way that might be construed
as an act of war in the country of another nation.

Yet here were his men being fired upon, one already wounded, and
American women and children in danger of losing their lives.

Perhaps it was against orders, as given, but the real military
commander is sometimes justified in disregarding orders.

At the first sound of shots all of the sailors, except Hicks,
came running back, crouching close to earth. As soon as they
reached the thin little line the men knelt and waited breathlessly.
Dave's resolution was instantly taken. Though he might
hang for his disobedience of orders, he would not tamely submit
to seeing his men shot down ruthlessly.

Still less would he permit American women and children to be endangered.

Orders, or no orders---

"Ready, men!" he shouted, above the sharp reports of the Cosetta
rifle fire. "Aim low at the hedge! Fire at will!"

Cr-r-r-rack! rang out the American Navy rifles.

Filled with the fighting enthusiasm of the moment, Darrin drew
his automatic revolver, firing ten shots swiftly at different
points along the hedge.

From behind that screen came cries of pain, for the Mexican is
an excitable individual, who does not take his wounds with the
calmness evinced by an American.

Another American sailor had dropped. John Carmody, who had remained
with the defending party, snatched up one of the rifles. Standing,
he rushed in a magazine full of bullets, then bent to help himself
to more from the belt of the rifle's former carrier.

Fitting his revolver with a fresh load of cartridges, Dave held
his fire for any emergency that might arise.

A marine dashed up, nearly out of breath.

"Sir," panted the marine, "Corporal Ross wants to know if you
want to order the Colt gun and the marines up here."

"No," Dave decided instantly. "Help one of our wounded men back
to the launch and tell Corporal Ross to remain where he is. Is
the Colt loaded and ashore?"

"Yes, sir; ready for instant action."

"Did Hicks get the women and children to the launch?"

"No sir; he has hidden them behind the lower end of the sugar
mill. The air is too full of bullets to expose the women to them."

"Good for Hicks! Tell him I said so. He is to remain where he
is until either the Mexicans' fire ceases or he receives different
orders from me."

"Very good, sir."

Stooping, the marine picked up the worse injured of the two wounded
sailors and swiftly bore him away in his arms.

"Cease firing!" shouted Darrin, running along his valiant little
line of sailors. "Load your magazines and let the rifles cool
until the Mexicans start up again."

For, with the exception of a shot here and there from behind the
hedge, the destructive fire had ceased.

"We must have hit a few of them," chuckled Darrin to John Carmody,
who stood beside him.

"I hope you killed them all," replied the planter. "They're brutes,
when they have their own way."


"Aye, aye, sir."

"Pass the word to the men and we'll slip back. I don't like the
silence behind the hedge. I suspect that the men have been withdrawn
and that we are to be flanked below the sugar mill. Tell the
men to fall back by rushes, not returning any fire unless ordered."

"Aye, aye, sir."

A moment later ten jackies were retreating. They gained the sugar
mill, and passed it.

"Hicks," called Ensign Darrin, "get your party aboard. Run for it!"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"And help this wounded man back to the launch."

The sailor, who had been carrying the second wounded man, turned
him over to Hicks, who carried his burden manfully.

Dave continued to retreat more slowly with his fighting force,
taking frequent observations rearward. From the hedge a few,
sniping shots came now and then, but, as no one was hit, Darrin
did not allow the fire to be returned.

Suddenly, three hundred yards away, a volley crashed out on the

"Flanked!" muttered Darrin, grimly, as Riley threw his men into
line to meet the new attack. "I expected it. Aim two feet above
the ground, men, and fire at will until you have emptied your
magazines twice."

Down by the launch, and not thirty feet from the wharf, stood
Corporal Ross with his marines and the Colt machine gun. The
marines were wild to join in the firing, but would not do so until
ordered. Darrin was loath to let them draw the enemy's fire until
the women had been made as safe as possible on the launch.

As the American firing ceased, Dave called the order:

"Load magazines, but reserve fire. Rush three hundred feet closer
to the wharf and then halt and form again."

This move was carried out, but a third sailor dropped wounded.

As a lull came in the firing, Ensign Darrin blew a signal on his
whistle. In response, two marines came sprinting to the spot.

"Take this wounded man to the launch," Darrin ordered.

"Corporal Ross hopes, sir, you'll soon give him leave to turn
the machine gun loose," one of the marines suggested respectfully.

"I'll give the order as soon as the time comes," Darrin promised.
"Tell Corporal Ross that one flash from my pocket lamp will mean
'open fire,' and that two flashes will mean 'cease firing.'

"Very good, sir."

The wounded man was borne away. Again Dave attempted a rush, then
reformed his men, this time not more than two hundred and fifty
feet from the stern of the launch.


"Aye, aye, sir!"

"You will take command here. I must see to the safety of our

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Fire when you think best, but do not let the men waste ammunition.
We have but a hundred rounds apiece."

"I know it, sir."

Then Dave dashed down to the wharf, just before which stood Corporal
Ross looking the picture of disappointment. He had hoped for
permission to open fire.

Ensign Darrin and John Carmody ran to the launch together. Aided
by Coxswain Schmidt, Hicks had done his work well, placing the
women and children flat along the bottom of the craft, where they
were little likely to be found by flying bullets.

Again the fire had slackened. Dave stood with the marines, peering
into the blackness beyond.

"Can't you call in your party and make a quick dash down the
lagoon?" inquired John Carmody, approaching, a rifle still gripped
by one hand and a cartridge-belt thrown over one shoulder.

"We can't travel fast in the lagoon, sir," Dave answered, "and
Cosetta's men can run as fast along the shore, keeping up a fire
that would be more deadly when we're crowded together aboard the
launch. I want to silence the scoundrel's fire, if possible,
before we try the dash out into the Gulf."

"You appear to have discouraged the men who flanked you," said
Mr. Carmody, looking towards the shore.

"Yes, sir; but, judging by the rifle flashes there were not more
than twenty men in that flanking party. We still have to hear
from another body, and I believe they are hiding in the mill,
ready to snipe us from there. Besides, probably a smaller party
has been sent from the flankers to lie in wait and get us as we
go through the lagoon. It's a bad trap, Mr. Carmody, and we must
move slowly, if we wish to get away with our lives."

While they stood watching, Riley's handful of men came running to
the spot.

At the same moment shots rang out from the roof of the sugar mill.

"There we are!" Darrin exclaimed. "And men on a roof are the
hardest to hit."

In a jiffy a yell rose from the flankers, who now rose and came
charging forward across some four hundred feet of intervening

"Give 'em the Colt, Corporal!" Ensign Darrin roared.

There was a yell of rage from the Mexicans as the machine gun
barked forth. With the muzzle describing an arc of several degrees,
many of the flankers were hit. The others threw themselves flat
on the ground to escape its destructive fire.

From the mill another score of charging Mexicans had started,
yelling in Spanish:

"Death to the Gringos."

Leaping forward, Darrin felt a sudden sting of pain in his right
foot. A bullet, sent in low, had ripped the sole of his shoe,
inflicting a painful wound.

"Cease firing, Corporal!" Dave ordered, hobbling to the machine
gun. "Swing her nose around. Now, give it to 'em."

As the machine gun barked forth again the raiders from the mill
found good excuse for halting. There are times when a machine
gun is worth a battalion of infantry.

Yet one bullet is enough to kill a man. A marine fell at Dave's
feet. The young ensign bent over him; one look was enough to
prove that this defender of his countrymen was dead.

As the fire from the machine gun ceased, a wild cheer rose on the
air. Now, from four different points groups of Mexicans rose and
charged, firing as they ran.

One desperate dash, and they would overwhelm the crippled little
Navy party.

Defeat for Dave Darrin's command meant the massacre of all the
survivors of his rescue party, and of the American men and women
in their care!

Ensign Dave Darrin realized this with a sickening heart.



Prompt action alone could save the women and children who lay
cowering in the launch.

"Corporal, kneel with your men, and let them have it as fast as
you can!" ordered Dave. "Riley, get your men into the boat, and
take the Colt with you. Post it as fast as you can on the starboard

Dave himself stood behind the kneeling marines, a fair target for
every hostile bullet.

John Carmody, too, felt in honor bound to risk himself beside
the young Navy ensign.

"All sea-going, sir!" called Coxswain Riley. "Schmidt, make ready
to cast off," sang back Darrin.

Now the different groups of Mexicans, who had been halted for a
minute under the brisk fire, saw their prey slipping away from them.

With yells of fury, Cosetta's men rose and attempted the final

"Marines aboard!" yelled Darrin.

Almost in the same instant, loaded revolver in hand, Dave sprang
to the gunwale and landed on the after deck.

Without waiting for the order from his chief, Schmidt cast off,
with the aid of the single sailor under his own command. The
engineer went ahead at slow speed for a few seconds while Riley
steered the launch clear of the wharf and headed for deeper, safer

"Half speed ahead!" shouted Darrin, as Schmidt sprang to the wheel,
while Riley, snatching up his rifle, joined the fighting men.
Uttering howls of rage as they saw their prey escaping them,
the Mexicans rushed out onto the wharf in a mad attempt to board
before it was too late.

Three men would have succeeded in boarding the launch, had they
not been shot down as they leaped for the after deck.

"Give it to them with the Colt, Corporal!" Dave called. "Every
other man fire with his rifle!"

Before he had finished speaking, the reloaded Colt belched forth
its rain of death. It was the machine gun, with its muzzle swiftly
turning in an arc of a circle that did the most execution among
the outlaws, but the riflemen did their share.

Until his rifle barrel was too hot to hold in his hands, John
Carmody shot rapidly, yet coolly putting into his work all the
pent-up indignation that he had felt for days against Cosetta
and his men.

"Stop the gun!" ordered Dave Darrin, resting a hand on the shoulder
of the marine corporal. "Don't waste its fire."

The launch was now free of the shore, and moving down the lagoon at
half speed. On the wharf fully a score of Mexicans either lay dead
or dying.

Dave's spoken order to the engineer caused the launch to increase
its speed.

"Line up at the starboard rail," Dave called to the men grouped
about him. "We're going to catch it from the shore."

The launch was a few hundred yards down the lagoon when Darrin,
alertly watching, made out several figures on the eastern shore.

Patiently he waited until the first flash from a rifle was seen,
which was followed instantly by the report and the "pss-seu!"
of a bullet.

"Let 'em have the rest of what's in the Colt," the young ensign
directed, calmly. "Men, don't fire too rapidly, but keep up your
work. We want to be remembered by Cosetta, if he has the good luck
to be still alive."

It was neither a heavy nor an accurate fire that came now from
the enraged Mexicans. Helped out by the Colt, the fire from the
moving craft was sharp enough to discourage the rapidly diminishing
ardor of the miscreants on shore.

Just as the launch rounded the point of land at the mouth of the
lagoon, and stood out into open water at full speed, a stray bullet
killed Seaman Hicks.

"Yes, sir, he's dead, poor fellow!" exclaimed Riley, looking up
as Ensign Dave stepped hastily forward for a look at his man.
"Hicks was a fine sailor too."

"For a party that wasn't expected to fight," returned Darrin wearily,
"we've had a pretty big casualty list---two killed, and three

"You're wounded yourself, sir," exclaimed Riley.

"Oh, my boot was cut," Darrin assented, indifferently.

"Look at your wrist, sir," urged the young Coxswain.

Dave glanced down at his left wrist, to find it covered with blood.

"It must look worse than it is," Darrin commented, listlessly.
"I didn't even feel it."

"It will need attention, sir, just the same," Riley urged. "Let
me fix it up, sir, with a first aid bandage."

There was a water cask aboard. As the launch was now out of close
range, and the Mexicans had apparently given up firing, Riley
brought a cup of water, poured it over the wrist, and wiped away
the blood.

"A scratch, as I thought," smiled Dave. "Not even enough to get
excused from watch duty."

"You'll have it dressed, sir, won't you, as soon as you get aboard
the '_Long Island_' again?" urged Riley, applying the sterilized
bandage with swift skill. "If the scoundrels used any of the
brass-jacketed bullets of which they're so fond, a scratch like
that might lead to blood poisoning, sir."

In a few minutes more the launch was out of rifle range. Dave
ordered the course changed to east by north-east, in order to
reach the rendezvous of the three launches.

"Steamer ahead, sir!" sang out the bow lookout, a few minutes later.

"Whereaway?" called Darrin, moving forward.

"Three points off starboard bow, sir," replied the sailorman.
"It looks like our own launch, sir."

By this time Darrin was well forward. He peered closely at the
approaching craft, for she might be a Mexican Federal gunboat
that had fallen into the hands of rebels or outlaws.

"It's our own launch," pronounced Darrin, a minute later. He
reached for the whistle pull and blew three blasts of welcome,
which were promptly answered.

The two craft now neared each other. "Launch ahoy, there!" called
a voice from the bow of the other craft.

"Aye, aye, sir!" Darrin answered.

"Is that you, Ensign Darrin?"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Lay to. I am coming alongside."

As the launch under Dave's command lost headway, then lay idly
on the light ground swell, the other launch circled about her,
then came up under the port quarter.

"Did you find the American party, Ensign Darrin?" demanded Lieutenant

"Yes, sir; I have the entire party aboard and uninjured."

"Was there any trouble?" asked Cantor.

"Yes, sir. We were fired upon, and forced to defend ourselves."

"You fired upon the natives?" exclaimed Lieutenant Cantor, in an \
astonished tone.

"I had to, sir."

"In the face of orders not to fight?" pressed Dave's enemy.

"Sir, if I had not fought, I would have lost my entire command,"
Darrin answered, with an indignation that he could not completely

"Ensign Darrin," came the sharp rebuke,

"You have disobeyed the orders of Captain Gales, which were repeated
by me just before we parted company. Did your fire hit any of the

"I think we must have done so, sir," Dave returned dryly. "Several
of them lay down, at all events."

"Any losses in your own command?" pressed Cantor.

"Two men killed and four wounded."

"The consequences of disobedience of orders, sir!" cried Lieutenant
Cantor, angrily. "Ensign Darrin, I am certain that you should not
have been entrusted with the command of a launch."

"That sounds like a reflection on the Captain's judgment, sir!"
Dave rejoined, rather warmly.

"No unnecessary remarks," thundered Cantor. "I shall not place you
in arrest, but on our return to the ship I shall report at once your
flagrant disobedience of orders."

Darrin did not answer, but the hot blood now surged to his head,
suffusing his cheeks. He was deeply humiliated.

"Young man, if you call that good sense," rumbled the deep voice
of John Carmody, "then I don't agree with you. You condemn

"Who is speaking?" roared Lieutenant Cantor.

"My name is John Carmody," returned the planter, coolly.

"Then be good enough to remain silent," commanded Cantor.

"Since I'm on a government boat," retorted the planter, "I suppose
I may as well do as I'm ordered. But at some other time I shall
air my opinion of you, young man, as freely as I please."

Lieutenant Cantor bit his lips, then gave the order to proceed
to the appointed rendezvous.

As Cantor's launch neared Dalzell's steamer, the lieutenant ordered
a rocket sent up. From away over on the horizon an answering
rocket was seen.

Forty minutes later the "_Long Island_" lay to close by. Cantor's
launch was the first to go in alongside.

"Were you successful?" hailed the voice of the executive officer
from the bridge.

"Ensign Darrin was, sir," Cantor replied, through the megaphone.

"Are all the missing Americans safe?"

"Yes, sir," Cantor continued.

"And all our own men?"

"Two killed, sir, and four wounded, through what I believe to be
disobedience of orders."

Instructions came for Lieutenant Cantor's launch to lay alongside.
Soon after the men were on deck and the launch hoisted into place.
Then, under orders, Darrin ran alongside. First of all
his wounded men were passed on hoard, being there received by
hospital stewards from the sick bay. Then, amid impressive silence,
the two dead men were taken on board.

"Ensign Darrin," directed the officer of the deck, from the bridge,
"you are directed to report to Captain Gales, at once."

Saluting, and holding himself very erect, Dave Darrin stepped
proudly aboard. His face was white and angry as he neared the
captain's quarters, but the young ensign strove to command himself,
and tried to keep his sorely tried temper within bounds.

"You will pass inside, sir, at once," directed the marine orderly,
as the young officer halted near the door.

Acknowledging the marine's salute, Dave Darrin passed him and
entered the office.

Lieutenant Cantor, erect and stern, faced Captain Gales, who looked
the sterner of the two.

"Ensign Darrin," began the battleship's commanding officer, rising,
"most serious charges have been preferred against you, sir!"



Ensign Darrin bowed, then awaited further communication from his
commanding officer.

"It was particularly set forth in the orders," resumed Captain
Gales, "that any form of conflict was to be avoided by the expedition
of which you commanded a part, was it not?"

"It was, sir," Darrin admitted.

"And yet, by the report which Lieutenant Cantor has turned in,
you opened fire on Cosetta and his band and have returned to ship
with two men killed and four men wounded. Is that report correct?"

"It is, sir," admitted the young ensign, "with one exception."

"State the exception, Ensign Darrin," ordered the captain, coldly.

"The exception, sir, is that Cosetta's fellows opened fire on us

Dave Darrin stood looking straight into Captain Gales's eyes.

"Ensign Darrin, did you do anything to provoke that fire?" asked
the commanding officer.

"Yes, sir," Dave admitted.

"Ah!" breathed Captain Gales, while Cantor gave an almost inaudible
ejaculation of triumph.

"What was it, sir, that you did to provoke Cosetta into ordering his
fellows to fire?" questioned Captain Gales.

"Why, sir, I found and rescued the Americans after whom you sent
me," Dave explained. "They were Cosetta's prisoners. There was
not a shot fired on either side until after I had placed the released
prisoners under the protection of my own men, and had started away
with them. Then the Mexican bandits opened fire on us."

"Couldn't you have escaped without returning the fire?"

"We might have been able to do so, sir."

"Then why didn't you?" pressed the captain.

"Because, sir, I felt sure that we would lose most of our men if
we tamely submitted, and ran, pursued by superior numbers, to our
launch. Moreover, I was much afraid that some of the Americans we
were trying to rescue would be hit."

"In your judgment, Ensign Darrin, there was no other course open
save to return the fire?"

"That was my exact judgment of the situation, sir," replied the
young ensign earnestly.

"And still is your best judgment?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Hm!" commented Captain Gales. "And yet you have returned to
ship with your casualties amounting to thirty per cent of your
command, and one-third of your casualties are fatalities."

"Those are the facts, sir," interposed Lieutenant Cantor. "Therefore,
in the face of fighting against orders, and sustaining such losses
to his own immediate command, I felt it my duty, sir, to prefer
charges against Ensign Darrin."

"This is a most unfortunate affair, sir," commented Captain Gales.

Dave Darrin felt the hot blood mounting to his face. He tried
to control his wrath, but could not refrain from asking a question.
"Sir, do you wish me to hand my sword to you?" he said gravely,
with a quick movement of his right hand toward his sword hilt.

"Not yet, at any rate," answered Captain Gales, calmly. "I wish
to hear your story."

"Very good, sir," Dave returned, then plunged at once into a narrative
that was stripped to the bare facts. He told everything from
the landing of his men to the final escape from the lagoon under
Mexican fire.

"Of course, sir, Coxswain Riley and Corporal Ross will be able
to bear me out as to the facts of which they have knowledge.
And I would suggest, sir," Darrin added, "that Mr. Carmody, who
knows more of Cosetta than any of us, will be able to give you
an excellent opinion of whether I was obliged to throw my command
into the fight."

"How much of your ammunition did you bring back?" asked Captain
Gales, his face betraying nothing of his inward opinion.

"All the Colt ammunition was used, sir."

"And the rifle ammunition?"

"I do not believe, sir, that any man brought back more than three
or four of his cartridges. Some of the men, undoubtedly, have
no ammunition left."

"It is evident, sir," hinted Lieutenant Cantor, "that Ensign Darrin
did his best to bring on an engagement. And his thirty per cent
casualty list-----"

"Thank you, Lieutenant," broke in Captain Gales. "The number
of casualties, while unfortunate, is to be justified only by a
decision as to whether it was expedient and right to engage the
brigand, Cosetta."

Lieutenant Cantor's only comment was an eloquent shrug of his

"Ensign Darrin," continued Captain Gales, "if your story is true
in every detail, then it would appear to me that your action,
while I regret the necessity for it, could hardly be avoided.
In that case, your conduct does not appear to render you liable
to censure. Until further notice you will continue in your duties.
Lieutenant Cantor will, as early as possible, turn in a written
report of the work of the expedition, and you, Ensign Darrin,
will make a written report on your own part in the affair. You
will make your report through Lieutenant Cantor, who will hand
it to me with his own report. Lieutenant Cantor, in his report,
will make such comment on Ensign Darrin's statements as he sees
fit. You may go to your quarters, Darrin, and begin your report."

"Very good, sir," Darrin returned. Saluting, he left the office.

Out in the passage-way Dave encountered Dan, who had been waiting
for him.

"What's in the wind?" asked Danny Grin, eyeing Dave anxiously.

"Cantor," Dave returned, grimly.

"Is he trying to make trouble for you because you behaved like
a brave man?" Dan asked, angrily.

"That is his plan."

"The contemptible hound!" ejaculated Dan Dalzell. "Do you think
he is going to succeed in putting it over on you?"

"That's more than I can predict," Darrin answered his chum. "Cantor
is a bright man, and in rascality I believe him to be especially

"I'd like to call the fellow out!" muttered Dan.

"Don't think of it," Dave Darrin urged, hastily, for he knew only
too well the quality of Danny Grin's temper when it was fully
aroused. "A challenge would suit Cantor to the skies, for it
would enable him to have my best friend kicked out of the Navy."

"I won't think of it, then," promised Ensign Dalzell, "unless
that fellow tries my temper to the breaking point."

Dave went hastily to his own quarters, where he laid aside his
sword and revolver, bathed and dressed himself. Then he sent
a messenger in search of a typewriting machine. When that came
Darrin seated himself before it. Rapidly, he put down all the
essential circumstances of the night's work.

Scanning the sheets closely, Dave made two or three minor changes
in his report, then signed it.

Through a messenger, Darrin inquired if Lieutenant Cantor could
receive him. A reply came back that Dave might report to him
at once.

"This is my report, sir," Dave announced,

Dave was about to turn on his heel and leave the room, when Lieutenant
Cantor stopped him with:

"Wait a few moments, if you please, Darrin. I wish to run hastily
through your report."

Declining the offer of a chair, Darrin remained standing stiffly.

As he went through the report, Cantor frowned several times.
At last he laid the signed sheets down on his desk.

"Darrin," asked the division commander, "do you realize that you
are out of place in the Navy?"

"I do not, sir," Dave answered, coldly.

"Well, you are," pursued Lieutenant Cantor. "With your talents
you should engage in writing the most improbable kinds of romances."

"That report is true in every respect, sir," Dave frowned.

"It appears to me to be a most improbable report---as highly
improbable as any official report that I have ever seen."

"The report is true in every detail," repeated Dave, his face

Lieutenant Cantor rose from his desk, facing his angry subordinate.

"You lie!" he declared, coldly.

"You cur!" Dave Darrin hissed back, his wrath now at white heat.

Instantly he launched a blow full at Cantor's face. The lieutenant
warded it off.

Within three or four seconds several blows were aimed on both sides,
without landing, for both were excellent boxers.

Then Dave drove in under Cantor's guard with his left hand, while
with his right fist he struck the lieutenant a blow full on the
face that sent him reeling backward.

Clutching wildly, Cantor seized a chair, carrying it over with
himself as he landed on the floor.

In an instant Lieutenant Cantor was on his feet, brandishing the
chair aloft.

"Ensign Darrin," he cried, "you have made the error of striking
a superior officer when on duty!"



"I know it," Dave returned, huskily.

"You have committed a serious breach of discipline," blazed the

"I have struck down a fellow who demeaned himself by insulting
his subordinate," Darrin returned, his voice now clear and steady.
"Lieutenant Cantor, do you consider yourself fit to command others?"

"Never mind what I think about myself," sneered the lieutenant.
"Go to your quarters!"

"In arrest?" demanded Dave Darrin, mockingly.

"No; but go to your quarters and remain there for the present.
You are likely to be summoned very soon."

Saluting, Ensign Dave turned ironically on his heel, going back
to his quarters.

In an instant Danny Grin came bounding in.

"There's something up, isn't there?" Ensign Dalzell asked, anxiously.

"A moment ago there was something down," retorted Dave, grimly.
"It was Cantor, if any one asks you about it."

"You knocked him down?" asked Dan, eagerly.

"I did."

"Then you must have had an excellent reason."

"I did have a very fair reason," Darrin went on, "the fellow passed
the lie."

"Called you a _liar_?"

"That was the purport of his insult," Dave nodded.

"I'm glad you knocked him down," Dalzell went on, fervently.
"Yet I see danger ahead."

"What danger?" Dave asked, dryly.

"Cantor will report your knock-down feat to Captain Gales."

"Let him. When he hears of the provocation Captain Gales will
exonerate me. Cantor will have to admit that he deliberately
insulted me."

"If Cantor does admit it," muttered Danny Grin, doubtfully. "I
haven't any faith in Cantor's honor."

"Why, he'll have to do it," Dave contended, proudly. "Cantor
is an officer in the United States Navy. Can you picture an officer
as telling a deliberate falsehood?"

"It wouldn't be extremely difficult to picture Cantor as doing
anything unmanly," Dan replied, slowly.

"Oh, but he couldn't tell a falsehood," Darrin protested. "That
would be impossible---against all the traditions of the service."

"My infant," Dan retorted, "I am afraid that, some day, you will
have a rude awakening."

While these events were happening Captain Gales was closely
questioning John Carmody. Coxswain Riley and Corporal Ross of
the marines had already been before him.

As Darrin left his division officer's quarters Cantor turned to
wipe his stinging cheek, which he next examined closely in a glass.
Then he turned back to his desk, smiling darkly.

Rapidly he wrote his comment on Darrin's report, signed his own
report, and then leaned back, thinking hard.

"I'll do it!" he muttered, the sinister smile appearing again.

Picking up his pen, He began to write a separate report, charging
Ensign David Darrin with viciously knocking him down while on duty.

This report Cantor folded carefully, tucking it away in an inner
pocket of his undress blouse. Then, gathering up the other reports
in one hand, he pushed aside the curtain and stepped outside.

"Hullo, Trent," he offered, in greeting, as that officer suddenly

"Cantor, I want to talk with you for a moment," urged Lieutenant

"Just now, I am on my way to the commanding officer with official
reports," Cantor objected.

"But what I have to say is urgent," Trent insisted. "Can't you
spare me just a moment?"

"If you'll be extremely brief," Cantor agreed, reluctantly.

"You may think I am interfering," Trent went on, "but I wish to
say that I heard that fracas in your quarters, between yourself
and Darrin. I happened to be passing at the moment."

Cantor gave an uneasy start. He felt a moment's fright, but hastily
recovered, for he was a quick thinker.

"It was outrageous, wasn't it, Trent?" he demanded.

"I should say that it was," replied his brother officer, though
he spoke mildly.

"I don't know what to make of young Darrin," Cantor continued.
"First he insulted me, and then struck me."

"Knocked you down, didn't he?" asked Trent.

"Yes," nodded Cantor.

"What are you trying to do to that youngster?" asked Trent, coolly.

"What am I trying to do to him?" Cantor repeated, in seeming
astonishment. "Nothing, of course, unless I'm driven to it. But
Darrin insulted me, and then followed it up with a blow."

Trent fixed his brother officer with a rather contemptuous glance
as he answered, stiffly.

"Cantor, there are two marines aft. Go and tell your version
to the marines."

"Are you going to call me a liar, too?" demanded Cantor, his eyes
blazing, as he turned a threatening face to Trent.

"Keep cool," urged Lieutenant Trent, "and you'll get out of this
affair more easily than you would otherwise."

"But you spoke," argued Cantor, "as though you doubted my word.
If you were outside my door at the time, then you know that I
asked Darrin, 'Am I a liar?' Then he struck me at once."

"Are you going to prefer charges against Darrin for knocking you
down?" demanded Lieutenant Treat.

"I am most certainly," nodded Cantor, taping his breast pocket
wherein hay the report.

"Then I am obliged to tell you, Cantor," Lieutenant Trent went
on, "that at the courtmartial I shall be obliged to appear as
one of Darrin's witnesses. Further, I shall be obliged to testify
that you said to him, 'you lie.' Then Darrin knocked you down,
as any other self-respecting man must have done."

"But I didn't tell him he lied," protested Cantor, with much seeming
warmth. "On the contrary, I asked him if he meant to imply that
I lied."

"That may be your version, Cantor," Lieutenant Trent rejoined,
"but I have just told you what my testimony will have to be."

"What's your interest in this Darrin fellow?" Cantor demanded,

"Why, in the first place," Trent answered, calmly, "I like Darrin.
And I regard him as an excellent, earnest, faithful, competent
young officer."

"But why should you try to shield him, and throw me down, if this
matter comes before a court-martial?"

"Because I am an officer," replied Trent, stiffly, drawing himself
up, "and also, I trust, a gentleman. It is both my sworn duty
and my inclination to see truth prevail at all times in the service."

"But think it over, Trent," urged Lieutenant Cantor. "Now, aren't
you ready to admit that you heard me ask, 'Am I a liar'?"

"I can admit nothing of the sort," Trent returned. Then, laying
a hand on the arm of the other lieutenant, Trent continued:

"Cantor, all the signs point to the belief that we shall be at
war with Mexico at any time now. We can't afford to have the
ward-room mess torn by any court-martial charges against any officer,
unless he richly deserves the prosecution. Darrin doesn't; that
I know. I have no right to balk any officer who demands a courtmartial
of any one on board, but it is right and proper that I should
he prepared to take oath as to what I know of the merits of the
matter. I must assume, and I hope rightly, that you really have
an erroneous recollection of what passed before the blow was struck.
Cantor, you have the reputation of being a hard master with young
officers, but I know nothing affecting your good repute as an
officer and a gentleman. I am ready to believe that you, yourself,
have a wrong recollection of what you said, but I am very certain
as to the exact form of the words that I heard passed. Good night!"

Barely returning the salutation, Cantor passed on to Captain Gales's
office, to which he was promptly admitted.

The hour was late, but the commander of the "_Long Island_" was
anxious to get at the whole truth of the evening's affair ashore,
and so was still at his desk.

"Oh, I am glad to see you, Lieutenant Cantor," was the captain's
greeting, as that officer appeared, after having sent in his
compliments. "You have both reports?"

"Here they are, sir," replied the younger officer, laying them
on the desk.

"Be seated, Lieutenant. I will go through these papers at once."

For some minutes there was silence in the room, save for the rustling
of paper as Captain Gales turned a page.

At last he glanced up from the reading.

"I note, Lieutenant Cantor, that you are still of the opinion that
the fight could have been avoided."

"That is my unalterable opinion, sir," replied the lieutenant.

"You are aware, of course, Mr. Cantor, that your report will form
a part of the record that will go to the Navy Department, through
the usual official channels?"

"I am well aware of that, sir."

"Have you any other papers to submit in connection with Ensign

For the barest instant Lieutenant Cantor hesitated.

Then he rose, as he replied:

"No other papers, sir."

"That is all, Lieutenant," nodded the captain, and returned his
subordinate officer's salute.



"The captain's compliments, sir, and will Ensign Darrin report to
him immediately?"

Darrin had dressed for breakfast the morning after, but there
were yet some minutes to spare before the call would come to the
ward-room mess.

"My compliments to the captain, and I will report immediately,"
Ensign Dave replied.

Turning, he put on his sword and drew on his white gloves. Then,
with a glance over himself, he left his quarters, walking briskly
toward the commanding officer's quarters.

Captain Gales, at his desk, received the young ensign's salute.
On the desk lay the papers in the matter of the night before.

"Ensign, I have gone over the papers in last night's affair,"
began the "Old Man," as a naval vessel's commander is called,
when not present.

"Yes, sir?"

The captain's face was inexpressive; it was impossible to tell
what was going on in his mind.

"I have given careful attention to your report, and also to that
of Lieutenant Cantor. I have talked with Mr. Carmody, and have
asked Coxswain Riley and Corporal Ross some questions. And so
I have come to the decision-----"

Here the captain paused for an instant.

How Dave Darrin's heart thumped under his ribs. The next few
words would convey either censure, criticism or exoneration!

"-----that Lieutenant Cantor's charges are not well sustained,"
continued, Captain Gales.

Dave Darrin could not repress the gleam of joy that flashed into
his eyes. The memory of the men killed under his command and the
present sufferings of the wounded had preyed upon him through a
long, wakeful night.

But here was a veteran in the service, prepared, after hearing
all possible testimony, to declare that he, Darrin, was not blamable!

"I had hoped," resumed Captain Gales, "that the affair on shore
could he conducted without firing a single shot, However, Ensign
Darrin, the fact has been established to my satisfaction that
you did your work well; that you did not allow your men to fire
a shot until you had been attacked in force. Nor did you fire
upon Mexican troups or reputable natives, but upon a body of
bandits---outlaws---who are enemies of all mankind. Not to have
returned the fire, under such circumstances, would have been
censurable conduct. That several times through the night you held
your party's fire, and at no time fired oftener than appeared to be
absolutely necessary, is established by the eye-witnesses with whom
I have talked. Nor were the losses to your command higher than
might have been looked for in a fight against superior numbers, such
as you encountered. I have endorsed these views of mine upon
Lieutenant Cantor's report and also upon your own. I can find no
fault with your course of action."

"I cannot tell you, sir, how highly I appreciate your decision."

"Of course you do, Darrin!" cried Captain Gales, holding out his
hand. "No young officer in the service enjoys being censured
when he has used the very best judgment with which Heaven has
endowed him. No man of earnest effort, likes to have his motives
questioned. And I am happy to say, Ensign Darrin, that I regard
you as the same faithful, hardworking officer that I considered
you when you had not been more than three days aboard the '_Long
Island_.' I congratulate you, Ensign, upon your skilful handling
of a bad situation last night. Now, I am not going to keep you
here longer, for mess call is due in two minutes, and you will
want your breakfast."

With a heart full of joy and gratitude Dave hastened back to his
quarters, where he laid aside his sword and gloves.

Just outside the ward-room door he encountered John Carmody, who
appeared to have been waiting there purposely.

"Now, Mr. Darrin," cried the planter, holding out his hand, "I
want to try to give you some idea of my gratitude for the magnificent
work you did last night for my dear ones and our friends. I don't
know how to begin, but-----"

"Please don't try to begin," laughed Dave. "An officer of the
American Navy should never be thanked for the performance of his
duty. I can't tell you how delighted I am that my efforts were
successful, and that the scoundrels, who had tried to violate
Mexico's sacred duty of hospitality, were roundly punished. Tell
me, sir, how are the ladies this morning?"

"All of them are in excellent spirits, Mr. Darrin. I suppose
you have not seen them yet. They are in full possession of the
captain's quarters, and are at breakfast now."

The breakfast call sounded, and in twos and threes the officers
of the "_Long Island_," passed into the ward-room.

John Carmody was provided with a seat beside the chaplain.

"Darrin, you lucky dog!" called Lieutenant-Commander Denton, as
soon as the officers were seated.

"Am I really fortunate?" Dave smiled back.

"Yes; for you were privileged to order the firing of the first
shots in the Mexican war that is now close at hand. You are, or
will be, historical, Darrin!"

Dave's face clouded as he replied, gravely:

"And I am also aware, sir, that I had the misfortune to lose the
first men killed."

"That was regrettable," replied another officer, "but we of the
Navy expect to go down some day. The two men who were killed
died for the honor and credit of the service, and of the Flag,
which we serve. It is the lot of all of us, Darrin. If war comes
many a soldier and sailor will find an honored grave, and perhaps
not a few here will lose their mess numbers. It's just the way
of the service, Darrin!"

"Cantor, you were out of luck last night," observed Lieutenant
Holton, who sat next to him.

"In what way?" asked Cantor, but he flushed deeply.

"You had only a boat ride, and missed the fight," replied Holton.

"Oh!" replied Cantor, and felt relieved, for he had thought that
Holton referred to something else.

"Where are we heading now?" asked Dave.

"Didn't you notice the course?" inquired Dalzell.

"About westerly, isn't it?"

"Yes; we are bound for Vera Cruz," Danny Grin answered. "We shall
be there in two hours. Mr. Carmody and his party have no notion
of going back to their plantation at present. Instead, they'll
take a steamer to New York."

Breakfast was nearly over when an orderly appeared, bringing an
envelope, which he handed to Commander Bainbridge.

"Pardon me," said the executive officer to the officers on either
side of him. Then he examined the paper contained in the envelope.

"Gentlemen," called Commander Bainbridge, "I have some information
that I will announce to you, briefly, as soon as the meal is over."

Every eye was turned on the executive officer. After a few moments
he continued:

"Yesterday, at Tampico, an officer and boatcrew of men went ashore
in a launch from the 'dolplin.' The boat flew the United States
Flag, and the officer and men landed to attend to the purchase
of supplies. An officer of General Huerta's Federal Army arrested
our officer and his men. They were released a little later, but
Admiral Mayo demanded a formal apology and a salute of twenty-one
guns to our insulted Flag. Some sort of apology has been made
to Admiral Mayo, but it was not satisfactory, and the gun salute
was refused. Admiral Mayo has sent the Mexican Federal commander
at Tampico something very much like an ultimatum. Unless a
satisfactory apology is made, and the gun salute is fired, the
Washington government threatens to break off all diplomatic
relations with Mexico and to make reprisals. That is the full
extent of the news, so far as it has reached us by wireless."

"_War_!" exploded Lieutenant-Commander Eaton.

"We mustn't jump too rapidly at conclusions," Commander Bainbridge
warned his hearers.

"But it _does_ mean war, doesn't it?" asked Lieutenant Holton.
"That chap, Huerta, will be stiff-necked about yielding a gun
salute after it has been refused, and Mexican pride will back
him up in it. The Mexicans hate us as only jealous people can
hate. The Mexicans won't give in. On the other hand, our country
has always been very stiff over any insult to the Flag. So what
hope is there that war can be averted? Reprisals between nations
are always taken by the employment of force, and surely any force
that we employ against Mexico can end in nothing less than war."

As the officers left the table nothing was talked of among them
except the news from Tampico.

The rumor spread rapidly forward. Cheering was heard from the

"The jackies have the word," chuckled Dan Dalzell. "They're sure
to be delighted over any prospect of a fight."

"If we have a real fight," sighed Darrin, his mind on the night
before, "a lot of our happy jackies will be sent home in boxes
to their friends."

"A small lot the jackies care about that," retorted Danny Grin.
"Show me, if you can, anywhere in the world, a body of men who
care less about facing death than the enlisted men in the United
States Navy!"

"Of course we should have interfered in Mexico long ago," Dave
went on. "Serious as the Flag incident is, there have been outrages
ten-fold worse than that. I shall never be able to down the feeling
that we have been, as a people, careless of our honor in not long
ago stepping in to put a stop to the outrages against Americans
that have been of almost daily occurrence in Mexico."

"If fighting does begin," asked Dalzell, suddenly, "where do we
of the Navy come in? Shelling a few forts, possibly, and serving
in the humdrum life of blockade duty."

"If we land in Mexico," Dave retorted, "there will be one stern
duty that will fall to the lot of the Navy. The Army won't be
ready in time for the first landing on Mexican soil. That will
be the duty of the Navy. If we send a force of men ashore at
Tampico, or possibly Vera Cruz, it will have to be a force of
thousands of our men, for the Mexicans will resist stubbornly,
and there'll be a lot of hard fighting for the Navy before Washington
has the Army in shape to land. Never fear, Danny boy! We are
likely to see enough active service!"

Dave soon went to the bridge to stand a trick of watch duty with
Lieutenant Cantor.

For an hour no word was exchanged between the two officers. Cantor
curtly transmitted orders through petty officers on the deck below.
Dave kept to his own, the starboard side of the bridge, his alert
eyes on his duty. There was no chance to exchange even a word
on the all-absorbing topic of the incident at Tampico.

Vera Cruz, lying on a sandy stretch of land that was surrounded
by marshes, was soon sighted, and the "_Long Island_" stood in
toward the harbor in which the Stars and Stripes fluttered from
several other American warships lying at anchor.

A messenger from the executive officer appeared on the bridge
with the information that, after the ship came to anchor, Ensign
Dalzell would be sent in one of the launches to convey the Carmody
party ashore.

There was no chance for the rescued ones to come forward to say
good-bye to Darrin on the bridge, for they went over the port
side into the waiting launch.

Dalzell, however, manoeuvred the launch so that she passed along
the ship's side.

A call, and exclamations in feminine voices attracted Dave's notice.

"Mr. Darrin, Mr. Darrin!" called four women at once, as they waved
their handkerchiefs to him. Dave, cap in hand, returned their

"Thank you again, Mr. Darrin."

"We won't say good-bye," called Mrs. Carmody, "for we shall hope
to meet you and your splendid boat-crew again."

At that the jackies on the forecastle set up a tremendous cheering.

Not until Dave had gone off duty did another launch put out from
the "_Long Island_." That craft bore to one of the docks two
metal caskets. Brief services had been held over the remains of
the sailor and the marine killed the night before, and now the
bodies were to be sent home to the relatives.

After luncheon a messenger summoned Ensign Darrin to Commander
Bainbridge's office.

"Ensign Darrin," said the executive officer, "here are some
communications to be taken ashore to the office of the American
consul. You will use number three launch, and take a seaman
orderly with you."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Darrin went over the side, followed by Seaman Rogers, who had
been in the landing party the night before, Both were soon ashore.
Rogers, who knew where the consul's office was, acted as guide.

Crowds on the street eyed the American sailors with no very pleasant

"Those Greasers are sullen, sir," said Seaman Rogers.

"I expected to find them so," Ensign Darrin answered.

They had not gone far when a man astride a winded, foam-flocked
horse rode up the street.

"Do you know that man, sir?" asked Seaman Rogers, in an excited

"The bandit, Cosetta!" Dave muttered.

"The same, sir."

But Darrin turned and walked on again, for he saw that the recognition
had been mutual.

Espying the young ensign, Cosetta reined in sharply before a group
of Mexicans, whose glances he directed at Dave Darrin.

"There he goes, the turkey-cock, strutting young officer," cried
Cosetta harshly in his own tongue. "Eye the young Gringo upstart
well. You must know him again, for he is to be a marked man in the
streets of Vera Cruz!"

It was a prediction full of ghastly possibilities for Ensign
Dave Darrin!



Seaman Rogers led the way briskly to the American consulate.

"The consul is engaged, sir, with the Jefe Politico," explained
a clerk at a desk in an outer office. "Will you wait, or have you
papers that can be left with me?"

"Thank you; I shall he obliged to wait," Dave decided, "since
I was instructed to hand the papers to the consul himself."

He took a chair at a vacant desk, picking up a late issue of a
New Orleans daily paper and scanning the front page.

Seaman Rogers strolled to the entrance, watching the passing crowds
of Mexicans.

"Is there any very late news from Tampico?" Darrin inquired, presently.

"Nothing later than the news received this morning," the clerk

"The bare details of the dispute there over the insult to the Flag?"
Darrin inquired.

"That is all, sir," the clerk replied.

So Dave turned again to the newspaper. Several things were happening
in the home country that interested him.

"It was half an hour before the _Jefe Politico_, a Mexican official,
corresponding somewhat to a mayor in an American city, passed
through on his way out.

"You will be able to see the consul, now," suggested the clerk,
so Dave rose at once, passing into the inner office, where he
was pleasantly greeted.

Dave laid a sealed packet of papers on the desk before the consul.

"If you have time to wait, pardon me while I glance at the enclosures,"
said the consul.

Ensign Darrin took a seat near a window, while the official went
rapidly through the papers submitted to him.

Some were merely communications to go forward to the United States
in the consular mailbag.

Still other papers required careful consideration.

"If you will excuse me," said the consul, rising, "I will go into
another room to dictate a letter that I wish to send to your captain."

Dave passed through another half hour of waiting.

"It will be some time before the papers are ready," reported the
consul, on his return. "In the meantime, Mr. Darrin, I am quite
at your service."

"I wonder if you have received any further news about the Tampico
incident," Dave smiled, questioningly.

"Nothing further, I fancy, than was sent by wireless to all the
American warships in these waters."

"Is that incident going to lead to war?" Darrin asked.

"It is hard to say," replied the consul, musingly. "But the people
at home are very much worked up over it."

"They are?" asked Dave, eagerly.

"Indeed, yes! In general, the American press predicts that now
nothing is so likely as United States intervention in this distracted
country. Some of our American editors even declare boldly that
the time has come to bring about the permanent occupation and
annexation of Mexico."

"I hope our country won't go that far," Dave exclaimed, with a
gesture of disgust. "I should hate to think of having to welcome
the Mexicans as fellow citizens of the great republic."

"I don't believe that we need worry about it," smiled the consul.
"It is only the jingo papers that are talking in that vein."

"How does Congress feel about the situation?" Dave asked.

"Why, I am glad to say that Congress appears to be in line for as
strong action as the government may wish to take."

"It really looks like war, then."

"It looks as though our troops might land on the Mexican coast
by way of reprisal," replied the consul. "That would bring stubborn
resistance from the Mexicans, and then, as a result, intervention
would surely follow. There may be men with minds bright enough
to see the difference between armed intervention and war."

"I'm stupid then," Ensign Dave smiled. "I can't see any difference
in the actual results. So you believe, sir, that the people of
the United States are practically a unit for taking a strong hand
in Mexican affairs?"

"The people of the United States have wanted just that action for
at least two years," the consul answered.

"That was the way it looked to me," Dave nodded. "By the way,
sir, did you hear anything about an armed encounter between a
naval party and Cosetta's bandits last night?"

"Why, yes," cried the consul, "and now I remember that the landing
party was sent from your ship. What can you tell me about that?"

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