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 still.
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 front.
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 sailors).
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.