“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 fast:
It was the Spanish challenge—–“Who goes there?”
DAVE DARRIN TO THE RESCUE
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).