“What can we be waiting for?” asked Dan, fidgeting.
“I’ve an idea that we shall find out soon enough,” Dave replied.
Dalzell glanced appealingly at Lieutenant Trent, who stepped over to say:
“I see you both want to know what we’re to do. My orders are only general, and rather vague. Our work won’t be cut out for us until the Mexican garrison starts something.”
“But will the Mexicans start anything?” Danny wanted to know. “So far they seem as patient as camels about fighting.”
Another landing party, from the “Florida,” moved up to position about a block away from Trent’s small command.
“I don’t mind fighting,” sighed Dan, ten minutes later, “but waiting gets on my nerves.”
All the time small detachments of sailors and marines were moving gradually through the lower part of Vera Cruz, moving from one point to another, and always the leading detachments went further from the water front.
At last Trent, receiving his signal from a distance, marched his men up the street, away from the fortress of San Juan de Ulloa.
Only a quarter of a mile did they march, then halted. Fully three hundred Mexicans followed them, and stood looking on curiously.
“I wonder if any one ashore knows the answer to the riddle of what we’re doing,” sighed Danny Grin.
“We’re waiting orders, like real fighting men,” Dave answered, with a smile.
“But there isn’t going to be any fighting!”
“Where did you get that information?” Dave asked.
Noon came; no fighting had been started. By this time nearly every officer and man ashore believed that the Mexican general at Vera Cruz had decided not to offer resistance. If so, he had undoubtedly received his instructions from Mexico City.
More minutes dragged by. At about fifteen minutes past noon, shots rang out ahead.
“The engagement is starting,” Dan exclaimed eagerly to his chum.
“The shots are so few in number, and come so irregularly, that probably only a few Mexican hotheads are shooting,” Dave hinted, quietly. “Troops, going into action, don’t fire in that fashion.”
“I wonder of any of our men are firing back.”
“All I know,” smiled Darrin, “is that we are not doing any shooting.”
Pss-seu! sang a stray bullet over their heads. Only that brief hiss as the deadly leaden messenger sang past.
Pss-chug! That bullet caught Dalzell’s uniform cap, carrying it from his head to a distance some forty feet rearward.
“Whew! That gives some idea of the spitefulness of a bullet, doesn’t it?” muttered Danny Grin, as a seaman ran for the ensign’s cap and returned with it.
“It must be that I didn’t get iron-rust enough on this white uniform,” commented Dalzell, coolly, gazing down at the once white uniform that he had yellowed by a free application of iron rust. “My clothing must still be white enough to attract the attention of a sharpshooter so distant that I don’t know where he is.”