It was a struggle, now, of trained athletes. Each used his left hand in struggling for the advantage, watching, warily, also, for a chance to use his feet or knees.
On the other side of the house the firing still continued.
Neither Dave nor his antagonist spoke. Silently they battled, until both went to the ground.
Though Dave might have won with his fists, Cantor’s superior weight and muscle counted in this deadly clinch. And now Darrin found himself lying with both shoulders touching, while Cantor, kneeling over him, fought to free his knife hand for the final thrust.
On the ground beyond, through the hail of fire from their own comrades, wriggled Riley and two sailormen. The instant they neared the corner of the house all three leaped to their feet, dashing to the aid of their young officer.
“Don’t shoot, Riley!” panted Ensign Dave Darrin. “Stun him!”
In a twinkling Riley reversed his clutch on his aimed rifle, bringing down the butt across the traitor’s head. Cantor rolled over.
“Shall I wind up this Greaser, sir?” asked one of the sailormen, thrusting the muzzle of his rifle against Cosetta’s breast.
“No!” Dave commanded, sharply. “We don’t kill when we can take prisoners.”
So the seaman contented himself with standing guard over the wounded brigand.
Suddenly the machine gun began to rip into the ranks of the bandits in front of the house. An instant later a dozen sailors whom Riley had left behind reached the flanking position for which they had rushed, and began pouring in a raking fire on the bandits. Assailed from two sides Cosetta’s now leaderless band broke in wild confusion, and fled, leaving behind many dead and wounded.
Quickly Trent surrounded the house, but there was no one inside. And then Trout came upon his subordinate.
“Why, Darrin, you’re hurt!” he cried, pointing to Dave’s left arm.
As the firing died out Dave glanced down at his sleeve.
“Off with your blouse!” spoke the lieutenant, in a tone of command.
Riley helped to remove the blouse, meanwhile explaining:
“We didn’t crawl all the way to you, sir. We ran until we got into a hail of bullets from our own messmates. Then, sir, that we might reach you, we threw ourselves down and crawled a few yards.”
“Riley,” declared Dave, heartily, “you’re as good a man as there is in the United States Navy!”
Whereat the petty officer fairly blushed with pride.
“All our men are so good,” added Trent, genially, “that it’s a difficult task to pick the best.”
The surviving bandits had fled. Trent’s orders forbade pursuing beyond the house. So, while Riley and Dave were examining the deep wound in the latter’s forearm, Trent gave orders to bury the dead in shallow graves and to pick up the wounded for removal to Vera Cruz.