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 The two twelve-pounders in each boat were believed to weigh about six hundred pounds each, while the ordinary bronze boat gun of the same calibre weighs seven hundred and sixty pounds. The four guns, therefore, were rather too heavy a burden for the size of the cutters. But Christy was unwilling to throw the two without carriages overboard, for the water in this locality was so clear that they could have been seen at a depth of two or three fathoms. They were useless for the duty in which the expedition was engaged, and the commander of the expedition decided to land them on the Seahorse Key till he had completed his operations in the bay, when they could be taken off and transported to the Bronx as trophies, if for nothing better.  
Mr. Flint was disposed to object to this plan, on account of the time it would require; but he 269 yielded the point when Christy informed him that it was only half past two, as he learned from the repeater he carried for its usefulness on just such duty as the present expedition.
The guns and all that belonged to them were landed on the Key, and the boats shoved off, the lieutenants happy in the thought that they were no longer embarrassed by their weight, while they could not be brought to bear upon them.
The boats had hardly left the little island behind them when the noise of paddle wheels ahead was reported by one of the trio in the bow of the first cutter. Christy listened with all his ears, and immediately heard the peculiar sounds caused by the slapping of the paddle wheels of a steamer upon the water.
"We are in for something," said he to the pilot, as he listened to the sounds. "What might that be?"
"It is a steamer without any doubt coming around the point, and she will be in sight in a moment or two," replied Mr. Amblen. "It may be a river steamer that has brought a load of cotton down the Suwanee, and is going out on this tide."
270 "Then we may need those guns we have left on the key," suggested Christy.
"If she is a river steamer, there is not much of a force on board of her," replied the pilot.
"We might return to the island, and use the two guns with carriages there."
"If she is a river steamer, we shall not need great guns to capture her."
Christy had ordered the men to cease rowing, and the two cutters lay motionless on the full sea, for the tide was at its height by this time. Even in the darkness they could make out whether the approaching vessel was a river or a sea steamer as soon as she could be seen.
"Whatever she is, we must capture her," said Christy, very decidedly.
"If she is a river steamer, she will be of no use to the government," added Mr. Amblen.
"Of none at all." replied Christy. "In that case I shall burn her, for it would not be safe to send good men in such a craft to a port where she could be condemned. The next question is, shall we take her here, or nearer to the shore."
"The farther from the shore the better, I should say, Mr. Passford. After she passes the 271 Seahorse Key, she will be in deep water for a vessel coming out of that port; and until she gets to the Key, she will move very slowly, and we can board her better than when she is going at full speed," said Mr. Amblen.
"You are doubtless quite right, Mr. Amblen, and I shall adopt your suggestion," replied Christy. "There she comes, and she is no river steamer."
She had not the two tall funnels carried by river steamers, and that point was enough to settle her character. There could be no doubt she would have been a blockade runner, if there had been any blockade to run at the entrance to the port. Christy decided to board the steamer between the two keys, the channel passing between Snake and Seahorse. The first cutter fell back so that Christy could communicate with Mr. Flint, and he instructed him to take a position off the Snake Key, where his boat could not be discovered too soon, and board the steamer on the port side, though he did not expect any resistance. Each cutter took its position and awaited in silence the approach of the blockade runner. The only thing Christy feared was that she would 272 come about and run back to the port, though this could only delay her capture.
The steamer, as well as the officers could judge her in the distance, was hardly larger than the Bronx. They concluded that she must be loaded with cotton, and at this time it was about as valuable a cargo as could be put on board of her. She would be a rich prize, and the masts of the schooners were still to be seen over the tops of the buildings. She must have chosen this hour of the night to go out, not only on account of the tide, but because the darkness would enable her to get off the coast where a blockader occasionally wandered before the blockade was fully established. Her paddle wheels indicated that she had not been built very recently, for very nearly all sea steamers, including those of the United States, were propelled by the screw.
As Mr. Amblen had predicted the steamer moved very slowly, and it was all of a quarter of an hour before she came to the Seahorse Key. At the right time Christy gave the word to the crew to "Give way lively!" and the first cutter shot out from the concealment of the little island, while Flint did the same on the other side of the 273 channel. Almost in the twinkling of an eye the two boats had made fast to her, and seven men from each boat leaped on the deck of the steamer, cutlass in hand. No guns were to be seen, and the watch of not more than half a dozen men were on the forecastle; and perhaps this was the entire force of the sailing department.
"What does all this mean?" demanded a man coming from the after part of the vessel, in a voice which Christy recognized as soon as he had ............
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