“That I cannot do,” Dane replied as he drew back a step. “I have strict orders to give it to Major Studholme, and to no one else.”
“It must be very important, then,” and the officer smiled.
“It is, and the Major must get it at once. Where is he?”
“Over there,” and the Lieutenant motioned across the water to the right where the small boats were still busy landing people from the ships. “He’s got his hands full straightening things out. But he can do it if any one can.”
The officer now turned his attention to several impatient men who were standing near, so further conversation was out of the question. Dane had taken no notice of those around him. Neither did he see three men watching his every movement. They had evidently overheard his conversation with the officer, and seemed greatly pleased. As Dane left the place and walked toward the road leading to the mill-pond, the three followed. They kept some distance behind until they came to a grove of rough tangled trees, when they started forward at a run. Dane, hearing them coming, stopped and looked back. Instinctively the caution of the wild possessed him, causing him to stand on the defensive, and his eyes to gleam with the light of danger.
“What do you want?” he demanded, as the three suddenly stopped before him. “You seem to be in a hurry.”
“We are,” one of the men replied. “We want that message you have for the Major.”
“What do you want it for?”
“Never mind about that. Hand it over, and be damn quick about it, too.”
Dane’s body now quivered with excitement, and the thrill of battle swept upon him. His eyes narrowed until they became mere slits, and his hands clenched hard as he drew himself to his full height.
“If you want the message I carry, come and take it,” he challenged. “That is the only way you can get it.”
“Don’t be a fool,” another of the men warned. “You might as well hand over that message first as last. It will save you a lot of trouble. We’re going to get it, so make up your mind to that.”
“How?” Dane asked.
“Oh, you’ll soon know. Out with it. We’re in a hurry.”
“So am I,” Dane replied.
Then he slightly crouched, and with a sudden tiger-like spring he was upon them. A sledge-hammer drive to the jaw of one sent him reeling backwards among the trees, while a mighty swinging blow to the right crumpled up another in the middle of the road. So astonished was the third at this unexpected attack, and the complete knock-out of his companions, that he did not raise a hand in their defence. A sudden terror possessed him, so leaping aside just in time to escape the whirlwind of a man charging upon him, he ran as he had never run in his life before.
Dane stood looking after him, and a smile overspread his face.
“Hi, there, you’ve forgotten the message,” he called. “Come back and get it.”