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 Gales.
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, sir.”
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 shoreward.
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.”