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.”