Page:The Fall of Maximilan's Empire.djvu/122

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said: "They are mounting heavy guns on the inshore parapet. I shall be at my lock-strings at day break, not daylight." The answer came back, grand in its simplicity: "A shot fired at one ship will be answered by both."

It was a dangerous position, especially for a sidewheel steamer, with the machinery above water, exposed to a plunging fire that might instantly sink her, or at least cripple her beyond repair. To a certain extent remaining there involved a cool calculation of chances; the experiences of a long war at home had led the officers of the American vessel to think that a first shot rarely takes effect, and the shower of grape and canister that their five heavy guns and as many howitzers were ready to belch forth at the flash of the enemy's pieces, would probably cause such havoc as to make the second shot, if ever fired, as harmless as the first.

The chain was hove in, until the anchor was "up and down," so that a turn of the engines would drag it off into deep water until opportunity should offer to lift it. The steepness of the shore aided in this, as every fathom of movement deepened the water. A sharp axe was also laid near the bitt where the hawser was belayed, ready to sever it at a stroke.

And so the night wore away, officers and men anxiously awaiting the approach of dawn, and keeping the guns pointed at suspicious-looking prominences on the uncertain silhouette of the northwest