As the American firing ceased, Dave called the order:
“Load magazines, but reserve fire. Rush three hundred feet closer to the wharf and then halt and form again.”
This move was carried out, but a third sailor dropped wounded.
As a lull came in the firing, Ensign Darrin blew a signal on his whistle. In response, two marines came sprinting to the spot.
“Take this wounded man to the launch,” Darrin ordered.
“Corporal Ross hopes, sir, you’ll soon give him leave to turn the machine gun loose,” one of the marines suggested respectfully.
“I’ll give the order as soon as the time comes,” Darrin promised. “Tell Corporal Ross that one flash from my pocket lamp will mean ‘open fire,’ and that two flashes will mean ‘cease firing.’
“Very good, sir.”
The wounded man was borne away. Again Dave attempted a rush, then reformed his men, this time not more than two hundred and fifty feet from the stern of the launch.
“Aye, aye, sir!”
“You will take command here. I must see to the safety of our passengers.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Fire when you think best, but do not let the men waste ammunition. We have but a hundred rounds apiece.”
“I know it, sir.”
Then Dave dashed down to the wharf, just before which stood Corporal Ross looking the picture of disappointment. He had hoped for permission to open fire.
Ensign Darrin and John Carmody ran to the launch together. Aided by Coxswain Schmidt, Hicks had done his work well, placing the women and children flat along the bottom of the craft, where they were little likely to be found by flying bullets.
Again the fire had slackened. Dave stood with the marines, peering into the blackness beyond.
“Can’t you call in your party and make a quick dash down the lagoon?” inquired John Carmody, approaching, a rifle still gripped by one hand and a cartridge-belt thrown over one shoulder.
“We can’t travel fast in the lagoon, sir,” Dave answered, “and Cosetta’s men can run as fast along the shore, keeping up a fire that would be more deadly when we’re crowded together aboard the launch. I want to silence the scoundrel’s fire, if possible, before we try the dash out into the Gulf.”
“You appear to have discouraged the men who flanked you,” said Mr. Carmody, looking towards the shore.
“Yes, sir; but, judging by the rifle flashes there were not more than twenty men in that flanking party. We still have to hear from another body, and I believe they are hiding in the mill, ready to snipe us from there. Besides, probably a smaller party has been sent from the flankers to lie in wait and get us as we go through the lagoon. It’s a bad trap, Mr. Carmody, and we must move slowly, if we wish to get away with our lives.”
While they stood watching, Riley’s handful of men came running to the spot.