FIRST TO INVADE MEXICO
“Gentlemen,” began Captain Gales, seriously, though there was a pleasant smile on his face, “I imagine I have extremely pleasant news for two of you. Commander Bainbridge and Lieutenant Trent have already some idea of the news, but I will go over it again for the benefit of all here.”
“I may go on breathing again,” Dave thought grimly. “Then this communication can hardly be in reference to any complaint that Cantor may have lodged against me.”
“Messrs. Cantor, Darrin and Dalzell will tonight,” resumed the captain, “lead the first expeditions by United States forces that have been made in a great many years.”
Had war been declared? Both Dave and Dan fairly jumped with eagerness.
“A letter, coming by some mysterious, round-about route,” continued Captain Gales, “has reached the American consul at Vera Cruz. An American party, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. John Carmody and two small sons, and of Mrs. Sarah Deeming and two daughters nineteen and sixteen years of age, came down by muleback from the plateau some three weeks ago. Carmody is a planter up in that part of the country, and the Deemings were his guests. Different bands of bandit raiders have visited the Carmody plantation from time to time within the last two years, stealing stock and supplies, and levying money blackmail, until Carmody found himself practically ruined, unless the present crops should turn out well.
“Three weeks ago Carmody learned that it was high time for isolated Americans to reach the protection of some large town. Attended by two peons (native laborers), and travelling on mule back, the party started through the mountains for Vera Cruz. Four hours out from the plantation the party was halted by a score of men led by a brigand named Cosetta, who is reported to be the right hand man of the notorious Zapata himself.
“Cosetta, it appears, believed that he could force Carmody to pay a large indemnity, in money, for the release of himself and family and their woman friends. First of all, the Americans were taken to a house near a deserted sugar mill, somewhere on the 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 lagoon.
“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.