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 The first cutter reached the Seahorse Key closely followed by the second. It was within an hour of high tide, the ordinary rise and fall of which was two and a half feet. On the Key was a light house, and a cottage for the keeper of it; but the former was no longer illuminated, and the house was as dark as the head of the tower. So far as could be discovered there was no one on the Key, though the boats did not stop to investigate this matter. The crews still pulled a moderate stroke with their muffled oars, the men were not allowed to talk, and everything was as silent as the inside of a tomb.  
The pilot stood up in the stern sheets of the cutter, gazing intently in the direction of the point nearly a mile ahead. The outlines of the buildings could be discerned, and Amblen soon declared that he could make out the tops of the 258 masts of several vessels to the westward of the point with which the peninsula terminated. This looked hopeful, and indicated that the information upon which the expedition had been sent out was correct. Christy began to think he should have a busy night before him when Amblen said there were at least three vessels at the port.
The battery was first to be visited and cared for if there was one, and it was not probable that a place so open to the operations of the blockading force would be without one, especially if the people were actually engaged in loading cotton, as the masts of the vessels indicated, though the hulls could not yet be seen. As the first cutter approached nearer to the place the outlines became more distinct, and soon embodied themselves into definite objects. Both officers in the stern sheets watched with the most anxious vigilance for any moving object denoting the presence of life and intelligence.
As the boats came nearer to the shore, a breeze sprang up, and cooled the air, for early as it was in the season, the weather was very warm, and it was not uncommon for the thermometer to rise above ninety. These breezes were usually present 259 to cool the nights, and doubtless the inhabitants slept the sounder for the one which had just begun to fan the cheeks of the officers and seamen of the expedition.
"There is a battery there, Mr. Passford," said the pilot in a very low tone. "I can make it out now, and it is just where I supposed it would be."
"I can see something that seems like an earthwork at the right of the buildings," added Christy. "Can you make out anything that looks like a sentinel?"
"I can see nothing that denotes the presence of a man. If there were a sentinel there, he would be on the top of the earthwork, or on the highest ground about it, so that he could see out into the bay, for there can be no danger from the land side of the place," added Amblen.
"I can hardly imagine such a thing as a battery without a sentinel to give warning if anybody should try to carry it off. There must be a sentry somewhere in the vicinity."
"I can't say there isn't, though I can't make out a man, or anything that looks like one," replied the pilot.
"Very likely we shall soon wake him up, Mr. 260 Amblen; and in that case it will be necessary for us to find a safer place than in front of the guns of the battery, for I do not feel at liberty to expose the men to the fire of the works, whatever they are."
"All you have to do is to pull around to the other side of the point into the bay, where the vessels are. I am confident there is no battery on that side, and there can hardly be any need of one, for this one commands the channel, the only approach to the place for a vessel larger than a cutter."
"I fancy this battery does not amount to much, and is probably nothing more than an earthwork, with a few field guns behind it. Suppose we should wake it up, and have to make for the bay, can we get out of it without putting the boats under the guns of the battery?"
"Without any difficulty at all, sir. We have only to pull around the North Key, and pass out to the Gulf, beyond the reach of any field gun that can be brought to bear on us," replied Mr. Amblen.
"If they have one or two field batteries here, they may hitch on the horses, and follow us," suggested Christy, who, in spite of the audacity with 261 which he had been mildly charged, was not inclined to run into any trap from which he could not readily withdraw his force.
"We shall have the short line, and if they pursue us with the guns, we can retire by the way of the channel, which they will leave uncovered."
"We are getting quite near the shore," continued Christy. "How is the water under us?"
"The bottom is sandy, and we shall take the ground before we reach the shore if we don't manage properly. But we can tell something by the mangroves that fringe the land," replied the pilot; "and I will go into the bow of the cutter and look out for them."
Mr. Amblen made his way to the fore sheets, and asked Boxie, who was there, for the boathook, with which he proceeded to sound. When he had done so, he raised both his hands to a level with his shoulders, which was the signal to go ahead, and the men pulled a very slow stroke. He continued to sound, after he had selected the point for landing.
When the first cutter was within three lengths of the shore, he elevated both his hands above his head, which was the signal to cease rowing, though 262 the two bow oarsmen kept their oars in the water instead of boating them as the others did. Mr. Amblen continued to feel the way, and in a few minutes more, aided by the shoving of the two bow oarsmen, he brought the boat to the shore.
Then he gave his attention to the second cutter, bringing it to the land alongside of the first. Stepping out on the sand himself, he was followed by all the crew, with cutlass in hand, and revolvers in readiness for use. The men were placed in order for an advance, and then required to lie down............
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