We fondly expected to pass the Messina Straits by daylight, and to cast another glance upon old Etna, Scylla and Charybdis, the Liparis and Stromboli. And all looked well, as about noon we were abreast of Cape Spartivento, the 'Split-wind' which divides the mild northers and southers of the Straits from the raw Boras and rotting Sciroccos of the Adriatic.
I took a small piece of paper and wrote the following in English: "Van Buren, I am coming with rebels to destroy Sumbay bridge. Hurry up troops. Buchan." After writing, I read aloud in Spanish: "Procure from Senor Southers, the station master, two quarts of engine oil for the Arequipena." I handed it to Manuel who understood my meaning. He took the engine cans and walked to the office.
My heart beat rapidly. I fairly held my breath. Would he be able to see Southers before I took water? Would Southers understand my meaning and get the message off before we arrived at the platform and find the office destroyed? I delayed taking water as long as possible, then pulled slowly down the track to the platform.
The moment we stopped, the officers rushed in the telegraph office and disconnected the instruments from the wires. Don Rodrigo and his three soldiers never left me for a moment, which made me suspect that my every movement would be closely watched. The fireman came down the platform, both engine oil cans in his hands. I asked him if he had seen Southers.
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