The men now bent to their oars with a will, keeping up a steady but fairly fast pace for an hour, by which time we were able not only to distinctly hear the roll and splash of the sweeps, but also to see the schooner as a small, vague, indefinite shadow of deeper blackness against the dark background of the overcast sky. The rascals had taken in every thread of canvas, so that it was only her hull we saw; but having once sighted this, we never again allowed our glances to stray from it.
We had arrived within about a quarter of a mile of our quarry, and were congratulating ourselves upon having so far escaped detection, when a voice from the shadow hailed us in Spanish, demanding who we were and what we wanted.
"Oars!" murmured the first luff, in tones of deep but suppressed excitement; "do not answer! not a sound, for your lives!"
About half a minute of intense anxiety now ensued, when the hail was repeated ; and immediately afterwards the ghastly blue-white radiance of a portfire lit up the scene, distinctly revealing the hull, spars, and rigging of the schooner, with the figure of the man who held the firework standing by the fore rigging, one hand grasping a backstay, and the other holding the portfire high above his head, with sparks shooting and dropping into the water alongside, and the white smoke curling lazily upward between the naked masts.
"Boats ahoy!" hailed the voice again, "if you do not instantly sheer off I will open fire upon you! Do you hear?"
"What does the fellow say, Farmer?" demanded Richardson; "you understand that lingo, don't you?"
I translated; whereupon he murmured——
"Oh yes, my hearty, we hear well enough; but we shall just have to take our chance. Give way, men, with a will! At them before they have time to recover from