THE BLUE AND THE GRAY—AFLOAT
Two colors cloth Emblematic Dies Illustrated Price per volume $1.50
TAKEN BY THE ENEMY WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES ON THE BLOCKADE STAND BY THE UNION FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT A VICTORIOUS UNION
THE BLUE AND THE GRAY—ON LAND
Two colors cloth Emblematic Dies Illustrated Price per volume $1.50
BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER IN THE SADDLE (In Press) A LIEUTENANT AT EIGHTEEN (In Press) (Other volumes in preparation)
Any Volume Sold Separately. Lee and Shepard Publishers Boston
BLUE AND THE GRAY
By Oliver Optic
A VICTORIOUS UNION
The Blue and the Gray Series
A VICTORIOUS UNION
by OLIVER OPTIC
Author of "The Army And Navy Series" "Young America Abroad, First And Second Series" "The Great Western Series" "The Woodville Stories" "The Starry Flag Series" "The Boat-Club Stories" "The Onward and Upward Series" "The Yacht-Club Series" "The Lake Shore Series" "The Riverdale Stories" "The Boat-Builder Series" "Taken by the Enemy" "Within the Enemy's Lines" "On the Blockade" "Stand By the Union" "Fighting for the Right" "A Missing Million" "A Millionaire at Sixteen" "A Young Knight-Errant" "Strange Sights Abroad" etc.
LEE AND SHEPARD Publishers 10 Milk Street
Copyright, 1893, by Lee and Shepard All Rights Reserved
A Victorious Union
Type-Setting and Electrotyping by C. J. Peters & Son, Boston S. J. Parkhill & Co., Printers, Boston
To My Friend
FRANK L. HARRIS
Who came from the cold of the Arctic regions, where he was a member of the Hayes expedition, and went into the heat of the War of the Rebellion, serving as a Naval officer until the end of the strife,
To whom I am greatly indebted for much valuable information relating to his profession,
Is Gratefully Dedicated.
"A VICTORIOUS UNION" is the sixth and last of "The Blue and the Gray Series." While the volume is not intended to be a connected historical narrative of the particular period of the War of the Rebellion in which its scenes are laid, the incidents accurately conform to the facts, and especially to the spirit, of the eventful years in which they are placed, as recorded in the chronicles of the great struggle, and as they exist in the memory of the writer. It is more than thirty years since the war began, and thousands upon thousands of the active participants in the strife as soldiers and sailors, including nearly all the great commanders, have passed on to their eternal reward. Thousands upon thousands of men and women have been born and reached their maturity since the most tremendous war of modern times ended in A Victorious Union. The knowledge of the stirring events of those four years of conflict, and of the patriotic spirit which inspired and underlaid them, has come, or will come, to at least one-half the population of this vast nation of sixty-five millions from the printed page or through the listening ear. The other moiety, more or less, either as children or adults, lived in the period of action, saw the gathering battalions, and heard or read the daily reports from the ensanguined battle-fields.
In some of the States that remained loyal to the Union throughout the long struggle, a military parade had been regarded by many as something very much in the nature of a circus display, as "fuss and feathers," such as tickled the vanity of both officer and private. Military organizations, except in our small regular army, were disparaged and ridiculed. When the war came, the Northern people were unprepared for it to a very great degree. The change of public opinion was as sudden as the mighty event was precipitate. Then the soldier became the most prominent and honored member of the community, and existing military bodies became the nucleus of the armies that were to fight the battles of the Republic.
During the last thirty years the military spirit has been kept alive as a constituent element of patriotism itself. The love of country has been diligently fostered and nurtured in the young, and public opinion has been voiced and energized in the statutes of many States, and in the educational machinery of many municipalities. Over vast numbers of schoolhouses in our land floats the American flag, the symbol of the Union and the principles that underlie it.
The flag, the banner now of a reunited nation, means something more than the sentiment of loyalty to the Union as the home of freedom; for it implies the duty of defending the honor of that flag, the representative idea of all we hold dear in Fatherland. In the East and the West a considerable proportion of the high schools make military tactics a part of their educational course. Companies, battalions, and regiments of young men in their teens parade the streets of some of our cities, showing in what manner the military spirit is kept alive, and, at the same time, how the flag floating over our educational institutions, which means so much more than ever before to our people, is to be defended and perpetuated in the future.
The author of the six volumes of "The Blue and the Gray Series," as well as of "The Army and Navy Series," the latter begun in the heat of the war thirty years ago, earnestly believes in keeping active in the minds of the young the spirit of patriotism. In the present volume, as in those which have preceded it, he has endeavored to present to his readers, not only a hero who is brave, skilful, and ready to give his life for his country, but one who is unselfishly patriotic; one who is not fighting for promotion and prize-money, but to save the Union in whose integrity and necessity he believes as the safeguard and substance of American liberty.
Peace has reigned in our land for nearly thirty years, and the asperities of a relentless war have been supplanted by better and more brotherly relations between the North and the South. The writer would not print a word that would disturb these improving conditions; and if he has erred at all in picturing the intercourse between Americans as enemies, he has made sure to do so in the interests of justice and magnanimity on both sides.
In the series of which this volume is the last, the author has confined his narrative of adventures to the navy. It has been suggested to him that another series, relating exclusively to incidents in the army, should follow. After forty years of labor in this particular field, and having already exhausted the threescore and ten of human life, he cannot be assured that he will live long enough to complete such a series, though still in excellent health; but he intends to make a beginning of the work as soon as other engagements will permit.
William T. Adams.
Dorchester, March 16, 1893.
Page CHAPTER I. The Mission to Mobile Point 15
CHAPTER II. The Departure of the Expedition 26
CHAPTER III. A Bivouac near Fort Morgan 37
CHAPTER IV. The Revelations of the Revellers 48
CHAPTER V. In the Vicinity of the Confederate Fort 59
CHAPTER VI. Captain Sullendine of the West Wind 70
CHAPTER VII. A Powerful Ally of the Belleviters 81
CHAPTER VIII. On Board of the Cotton Schooner 92
CHAPTER IX. The Departure of the Tallahatchie 103
CHAPTER X. The Casting off of the Towline 114
CHAPTER XI. A Happy Return to the Bellevite 125
CHAPTER XII. A Lively Chase to the South-West 136
CHAPTER XIII. The First Shot of Blumenhoff 147
CHAPTER XIV. The Progress of the Action 158
CHAPTER XV. A Flank Movement Undertaken 169
CHAPTER XVI. The Lieutenant's Daring Exploit 180
CHAPTER XVII. A Magnanimous Enemy 191
CHAPTER XVIII. The Reign of Christianity 202
CHAPTER XIX. Colonel Homer Passford of Glenfield 213
CHAPTER XX. A Very Melancholy Confederate 224
CHAPTER XXI. Captain Sullendine Becomes Violent 225
CHAPTER XXII. The Disposition of the Two Prizes 246
CHAPTER XXIII. The Welcome Home at Bonnydale 257
CHAPTER XXIV. Lieutenant-Commander Christopher Passford 268
CHAPTER XXV. The Principal Officers of the St. Regis 279
CHAPTER XXVI. The St. Regis in Commission 290
CHAPTER XXVII. Captain Passford Alone in his Glory 301
CHAPTER XXVIII. Off the Coast of North Carolina 312
CHAPTER XXIX. The First Prize of the St. Regis 323
CHAPTER XXX. Another Sailing Contest Inaugurated 334
CHAPTER XXXI. A Victorious Union 345
A VICTORIOUS UNION
THE MISSION TO MOBILE POINT
"I almost wish you were the second or the third lieutenant of the Bellevite, instead of the executive officer, Christy," said Captain Breaker, the commander of the steamer, as they were seated together one day on the quarter-deck.
"Do I fail in the discharge of my duty in my present position, Captain?" asked Christy, very much astonished, not to say startled, at the remark of the commander.
"Not in the slightest degree, my dear boy!" returned Captain Breaker with very decided emphasis. "You have served in your present capacity for four months; and if you were fifty years old, and had twenty years of naval experience behind you, it would be hardly possible for you to be more correct and dignified in the performance of the details of your office."
"I thank you, Captain, for the partial view you take of what I have done," added Christy, taking off his cap and bowing to his superior.
"Well, you ought to be a good officer in any situation, my dear fellow," continued the commander. "I doubt if there is another officer in the navy who has enjoyed the advantages you have had in preparing himself for the duties of his profession. You were brought up, so to say, on board of the Bellevite. You were a good scholar in the first place. Without including myself, you have had excellent teachers in every department of science and philosophy, among whom your father was one of the wisest. Poor Dashington was one of the best seamen that ever trod a deck; and he took especial delight in showing you how to make every knot and splice, as well as in instructing you in the higher details of practical seamanship. Blowitt and myself assisted him, and old Boxie, who gave his life to his country, was more than a grandfather to you."
"I have certainly been very grateful to you and to them for all they did for me," replied Christy with a sad expression on his handsome face as the commander recalled the three shipmates of both of them who slept in heroes' graves.
"Perhaps the brilliant genius of our engine-room did quite as much for you as any other person, though not many years your senior."
"Paul Vapoor is my friend and crony; and if he had been my professor in a college he could have done no more for me. I assure you, Captain, that I keep alive my gratitude to all my instructors, including some you have not mentioned."
"I was only explaining why you are what you ought to be, for you have had very exceptional opportunities, better by far than any other officer in the service. But it is altogether to your credit that you have used those opportunities wisely and well."
"I should have been a blockhead if I had not."
"That is very true; but the mournful wrecks of wasted opportunities strew the tracks of many, many young men. I think you can look back upon as few of them as any one within my knowledge," said the commander, bestowing a look of genuine affection upon his chief officer. "More than once, even before we entered upon this terrible war, I have told your father how happy he ought to be in having such a son as you are."
"Come, come, Captain Breaker, you are praising me!" exclaimed Christy impatiently.
"I am speaking only the simple truth, and I have very rarely said as much as I say now. It was when you asked me if you had failed in the discharge of the duties of your present position that I was led into this line of remark; and I am sure you will not be spoiled by honest and just praise," replied the captain.
"Then, to go back to the point where you began, why do you almost wish that I were second or third lieutenant, instead of executive officer, of the Bellevite, Captain?" continued Christy, rising from his seat, and fixing an earnest gaze upon the face of the commander, for he was very sensitive, and he could not help feeling that he had been lacking in something that would make him a better executive officer than he was.
"Mr. Ballard, the second lieutenant, and Mr. Walbrook, the third, are gentlemen of the highest grade, and excellent officers; but they are both somewhat wanting in dash and cool impetuosity."
"'Cool impetuosity' is very good, Captain," added Christy with a laugh.
"But that is precisely what I mean, my boy, and no two words could express the idea any better. You cannot carry an enemy by boarding with the same precision you man the yards on a ceremonious occasion, or as a regiment of soldiers go on dress parade. It requires vim, dash, spirit. The officers named have this quality in a very considerable degree, yet not enough of it. But what they lack more is ingenuity, fertility in expedients, and the expansive view which enables them to take advantage promptly of circumstances. You never lose your head, Christy."
"I never knew the gentlemen named to lose their heads, and I have always regarded them as model officers," replied the first lieutenant.
"And so they are: you are quite right, my dear boy; but it is possible for them to be all you say, and yet, like the young man of great possessions in the Scripture, to lack one thing. I should not dare to exchange my second and third lieutenants for any others if I had the opportunity."
"I confess that I do not understand you yet, Captain."
The commander rose from his seat, stretched himself, and then looked about the deck. Taking his camp-stool in his hand he carried it over to the port side of the quarter-deck, and planted it close to the bulwarks. The second lieutenant was the officer of the deck, and was pacing the planks on the starboard side, while the lookouts in the foretop and on the top-gallant forecastle were attending closely to their duty, doubtless with a vision of more prize money floating through their brains.
The Bellevite, with the fires banked in the furnaces, was at anchor off the entrance to Mobile Bay, about two miles east of Sand Island Lighthouse, and the same distance south of the narrow neck of land on the western extremity of which Fort Morgan is located. Her commander had chosen this position for a purpose; for several weeks before, while the Bellevite was absent on a special mission, a remarkably fast steamer called the Trafalgar had run the blockade inward.
Captain Passford, Senior, through his agents in England, had some information in regard to this vessel, which he had sent to Captain Breaker. Unlike most of the blockade-runners built for this particular service, she had been constructed in the most substantial manner for an English millionaire, who had insisted that she should be built as strong as the best of steel could make her, for he intended to make a voyage around the world in her.
Unfortunately for the owner of the Trafalgar, who was a lineal descendant of a titled commander in that great naval battle, he fell from his horse in a fox chase, and was killed before the steamer was fully completed. His heir had no taste for the sea, and the steamer was sold at a price far beyond her cost; and the purchaser had succeeded in getting her into Mobile Bay with a valuable cargo. She was of about eight hundred tons burden, and it was said that she could steam twenty knots an hour. She was believed to be the equal of the Alabama and the Shenandoah. The Bellevite had been especially notified not to allow the Trafalgar to escape. She had recently had her bottom cleaned, and her engine put in perfect order for the service expected of her, for she was the fastest vessel on the blockade.
When Captain Breaker had assured himself that he was out of hearing of the officer of the deck, he invited Christy to take a seat at his side. He spoke in a low tone, and was especially careful that no officer should hear him.
"Perhaps I meddle with what does not concern me, Christy; but I cannot help having ideas of my own," said the commander, when he was satisfied that no one but the executive officer could hear him. "There is Fort Morgan, with Fort Gaines three miles from it on the other side of the channel. Mobile Point, as it is called at this end of the neck, extends many miles to the eastward. It is less than two miles wide where it is broadest, and not over a quarter of a mile near Pilot Town."
"I have studied the lay of the land very carefully, for I have had some ideas of my own," added Christy, as the commander paused.
"If Fort Morgan had been Fort Sumter, with bad memories clinging to it, an effort would have been made to capture it, either by bombardment by the navy, or by regular approaches on the part of the army," continued Captain Breaker. "They are still pounding away at Fort Sumter, because there would be a moral in its capture and the reduction of Charleston, for the war began there. Such an event would send a wave of rejoicing through the North, though it would be of less real consequence than the opening of Mobile Bay and the cleaning out of the city of Mobile. Except Wilmington, it is the most pestilent resort for blockade-runners on the entire coast."
"Then you think Fort Morgan can be reduced from the land side?" asked Christy, deeply interested in the conversation.
"I have little doubt of it; and while I believe Farragut will resort to his favorite plan of running by the forts here, as he has done by those of the Mississippi, the army will be planted in the rear of both these forts. As we have lain here for months, I have studied the situation, and I want to know something more about the land on the east of Mobile Point."
"I should say that it would be easy enough to obtain all the information you desire in regard to it," suggested Christy.
"There is an unwritten tradition that the commander must not leave his ship to engage in any duty of an active character, and I cannot explore the vicinity of the fort myself."
"But you have plenty of officers for such duty."
"I have no doubt there are pickets, and perhaps a camp beyond the rising ground, and the exploration would be difficult and dangerous. The two officers I have mentioned before lack the dash and ingenuity such an enterprise requires; and a blunder might involve me in difficulty, for I have no orders to obtain the information I desire."
"The officers named are prudent men within reasonable limits."
"They are; but I would give up my idea rather than trust either of them with this duty," replied Captain Breaker very decidedly. "But I have a further and nearer object in this exploration; in fact, examining the ground would be only secondary."
"What is the real object, Captain?" asked the first lieutenant, his curiosity fully awakened.
"I feel that it will be necessary to use extraordinary efforts to capture the Trafalgar, for no steamer of her alleged speed has ever run into or out of Mobile Bay. After I informed the flag-officer in regard to her, which your father's information enabled me to do, the Bellevite was especially charged with the duty of capturing her, if she had to chase her all over the world."
"I have not much doubt that you will do it, Captain."
"I mean to do so if possible. Now these blockade-runners usually anchor near the lower fleet, or under the guns of the fort in five fathoms of water. Sometimes they remain there two or three days, waiting for a favorable opportunity to run out. Perhaps the Trafalgar is there now. I wish to know about it."
"I infer that you consider me fitted for this duty, Captain Breaker," said Christy earnestly.
"For that reason only I almost wished you were second or third lieutenant, rather than first," replied the commander with some earnestness in his manner.
There was no unwritten tradition that the first lieutenant should not be sent on any duty.
THE DEPARTURE OF THE EXPEDITION
The conversation between the captain and the executive officer of the Bellevite was continued till they were called to supper; but a decision had been reached. On important occasions, as when several boats were ordered upon an expedition, it was not unusual to send the first lieutenant in command. Though only a single whaleboat would be required for the enterprise in which the commander was so deeply interested, its importance appeared to justify the selection of the executive officer to conduct it; and Christy was directed to suit himself.
Of course the expedition was to be sent out at night, for the cover of the darkness was necessary to render it effectual. In the afternoon the wind had come around to the south-west, and already a slight fog had obscured the Sand Island Lighthouse. It promised to be such a night as a blockade-runner would select for getting to sea.
Christy was especially warned that the principal business of his expedition was to obtain information in regard to the Trafalgar, though it was probable that a new name had been given to her for the service in which she was to be engaged. The examination of the surroundings of the fort, the captain strongly impressed upon his mind, was entirely subsidiary to the discovery of the intending blockade-runner. In fact, the commander seemed to have serious doubts as to whether it was proper for him even to reconnoitre without special orders for the use of the army.
It was several months that Christy had been on board of the Bellevite in his present capacity, and he had become very well acquainted with all the petty officers and seamen of the ship's company, now composed of one hundred and twenty men. After he had finished his supper he walked about the spar-deck to refresh his memory by a sight at all of the men, and selected those who were to take part in his enterprise.
One of the first persons he encountered in his promenade was the third assistant engineer, Charles Graines, whom he had known as a boy, before the war. He was not only a machinist, but a sailor, having served in both capacities, though now only twenty-five years of age. Through his father Christy had procured his appointment as an engineer, and his assignment to the Bellevite. The young man was exceedingly grateful to him for this service, and entirely devoted to him.
Paul Vapoor, the chief engineer, spoke of Graines in the highest terms, not only in his official capacity, but as a high-toned, patriotic, and thoroughly reliable man. The moment the executive officer put his eye on the assistant engineer, he decided that Graines should be his right-hand man. As a matter of precaution the proposed expedition was to be a profound secret, for there were white men and negroes about the deck who had been picked up in various ways, and were retained till they could be disposed of. They could not be trusted, and doubtless some of them were Confederates at heart, if not engaged in secret missions.
Christy invited Graines to the ward room for a conference. There were several officers there, and they retired to the stateroom of the first lieutenant, which is the forward one on the starboard side. The plan, as it had been matured in the mind of the one appointed to carry it out, was fully explained, and the engineer was delighted to be chosen to take part in its execution. The selection of the seamen to compose the expedition was not an easy matter, though every sailor on board would have volunteered for such duty if the opportunity had been presented to him.
Graines was not so familiar with the merits of the seamen as he was with those of the men in the engineer department. It became necessary for the executive officer to take another walk on the spar-deck, in order to revive his recollection of the men; and he soon returned to the stateroom with a complete list of those he had selected. The engineer suggested an oiler by the name of Weeks as a most excellent man; and Christy accepted him, completing the number from those of his own choice. Seated at his desk, he wrote out the names of the ten men chosen.
"Of course if we should be caught on shore in our ordinary uniforms it would be all night with us," said Christy, as he completed the writing out of the list. "I believe you have never seen the inside of a Confederate prison, Mr. Graines."
"Never; though I came pretty near it once while I was an oiler on board of the Hatteras," replied the engineer.
"You have been fortunate, and I hope you will come out of this excursion as well. I spent a short time in a Confederate lock-up; but I did not like the arrangements, and I took leave of it one night. It was in Mobile, and I don't care to be sent up there again. Therefore we must clothe ourselves in the worst garments we can find; and I carry a suit for just this purpose, though I have not had occasion to use it lately."
"I have to wear old clothes when at work on the machinery, and I have a plentiful supply on hand," added Graines. "Perhaps I could help out some of the others."
"All the seamen have old clothes, and they will need no assistance in arranging their wardrobes. Now, Mr. Graines, it will excite remark if I instruct the ten men we have selected, and I must leave that part of the work to you," continued Christy. "But all the instruction you need give them is in regard to their dress, and require them to be at the main chains on the starboard side at ten o'clock to-night precisely."
"As I have plenty of time I will take the men, one at a time, to my room in the steerage, and instruct them," replied the engineer.
"You can tell each one to send in the next one wanted. Above all, make them promise not to speak to any person whatever in regard to the expedition," said the executive officer as his companion retired.
Mr. Graines lost no time in discharging the important duty assigned to him. Christy reported to the commander, as soon as he found an opportunity to speak to him privately, what progress he had made in carrying out the duty assigned to him. Captain Breaker looked over the list of the men selected, and gave it his hearty approbation. He was a man of elevated moral and religious character; he had always exercised a sort of fatherly supervision over his ship's company, and he was better acquainted with those under his command than most commanders.
"It looks as though it was going to be a good night for blockade-runners, Mr. Passford," said Captain Breaker, as he looked over to windward and saw the banks of fog, not yet very dense, rolling up from the open gulf.
"It is not known, I suppose, whether or not the Trafalgar has come down from Mobile?" inquired Christy.
"I have been unable to obtain any definite information; but a negro who came off from the shore yesterday assured me there was a black steamer at anchor between the Middle Ground and Mobile Point. That is all the information I have been able to obtain, though I have examined all who came on board during the last week. It is certainly time for the Trafalgar to come out, as the Confederates are in great haste to re-enforce the Alabama, the Shenandoah, and other cruisers; for these vessels have made a tremendous impression upon our mercantile marine. She has been in port long enough to rebuild her already, and I am confident she must be ready for service."
"If I don't find her ready to come out to-night, would it not be well to repeat my visit to the shore until we learn something about her?" asked Christy.
"That is my purpose," replied the commander.
"I should like to have the scope of my powers as the officer of this expedition a little more definitely defined, Captain Breaker," continued the first lieutenant.
"I thought I had fully instructed you, Christy," answered the commander with a smile.
"Am I to confine myself solely to the two points assigned to me?"
"I don't understand what you have in your mind, my boy."
"I have nothing in my mind, Captain. I have not laid out any plan of operations outside of the instructions you have given me, sir; and I do not purpose to do so. If I had the intention to do anything but the duty assigned to me, I should assuredly inform you of it, and obtain your orders."
"I know you would, my dear boy."
"But if I see an opportunity to do anything for the benefit of my country"—
"Such as the capture of a sloop of war," interposed the commander with a suggestive laugh. "When you were sent to look out for a small steamer, simply to obtain information in regard to her, in Pensacola Bay, you went on your mission, and brought out the Teaser, which afterwards became the Bronx, and rendered very valuable service to the country under your command."
"I could not very well help doing so when I saw my opportunity," replied Christy, in an apologetic tone, as though he had been reproved for exceeding his instructions.
"You did precisely right, Christy; and that act did more to make the deservedly high reputation you have won than almost anything else you have done, unless it was your achievements at Cedar Keys," added Captain Breaker heartily.
"I am glad you have brought up the Teaser matter, Captain, for it just illustrates what I have in my mind. If I see an opportunity to do such a thing as that on the present occasion, I simply wish to know whether or not I am to confine my operations to the strict letter of my instructions. Of course, if so instructed, I shall obey my orders to the letter."
"'The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life,' my boy. Your mission always and everywhere is to serve your country, and you are to do this on the present occasion. What I said about ingenuity in speaking of my officers is covered in this case. If you can capture and send out the Trafalgar, do it by all means, for that is the object in view in sending off this expedition. Your head is level, Christy; and that is the reason why I desired you to command this enterprise rather than either of the other officers. I can trust you, and you have full powers to act on your own judgment."
"I thank you for your abundant confidence, Captain; and I shall endeavor not to abuse it," replied Christy. "But it is not even remotely possible that I shall capture the Trafalgar; yet sometimes unexpected opportunities are presented, and the letter of my orders might prevent me from embracing them. I am very glad to know where I stand."
The night came on, and with it more fog; but it was of that flitting kind which settles down and then blows away. It seemed to come in banks that were continually in motion. The men who were to go to the shore had all been instructed, and at precisely ten o'clock they were seated in the whaleboat, with Mr. Graines in the stern sheets. They were all armed with two revolvers apiece, and there was a cutlass for each in the boat. The men had not only changed their dress, but they had disguised themselves, smooching their faces with coal dust, and tearing their garments till they were in tatters.
Christy had dressed himself in his old garments, but added to them a gray coat he had obtained on board of a prize. The watch on deck had been ordered to the forecastle, so that they need not too closely observe the crew of the whaleboat. The chief of the expedition had quietly descended to the platform of the after gangway, and when the boat dropped astern, he stepped into it, selecting his place by the side of the engineer, who had taken the tiller lines. The boat pulled away at once, with four hands at the oars, and Mr. Graines headed it to the north-east by the compass, the side lights of which were covered so that they should not betray the approach of the boat to the shore, if any one was there.
On the way Christy gave the men full instructions in regard to their conduct; and in less than an hour the party landed.
A BIVOUAC NEAR FORT MORGAN
The expedition landed about two miles east of Fort Morgan. The sea was not heavy, as it sometimes is on these sand islands, and the debarkation was effected without any difficulty. At this distance from the defences of the bay not a person was to be seen. The fog banks still swept over the waters of the gulf as during the latter part of the afternoon, and if any number of persons had been near the shore, they could hardly have been seen.
"We are all right so far, Mr. Graines," said Christy, as the bowmen hauled up the boat on the beach.
"It is as quiet as a tomb in this vicinity," replied the engineer, as he led the way to the shore.
"Now, my men, haul the boat out of the water. I think we need not use any of our small force as boat-keepers, for we can hardly spare them for this purpose, Mr. Graines," Christy proceeded very promptly.
"It does not look as though the boat, or anything else, would ever be molested in this lonely locality," replied Graines, as the men lifted it from the water.
"Now carry it back about half a cable from the shore," continued the principal of the party. "If one or two strollers should happen this way, they would not be able to put it into the water, though four men can carry it very easily."
The whaleboat was borne to a spot indicated by the lieutenant, and left as it had been taken from the surf. Everything in it was arranged in order, so that it could be hastily put into the water if circumstance demanded a hurried retreat from the scene of operations. Near the spot was a post set up in the sand, which might have been one of the corners of a shanty, or have been used years before by fishermen drying their nets or other gear.
"Do you see that post, my men?" asked Christy, as he pointed to it, not twenty feet from the spot where the boat had been deposited.
"Ay, ay, sir!" the seamen responded, in low tones, for they had been warned not to speak out loud.
"That will be your guide in finding the boat if we should get scattered," added the officer. "Now, do you see the two stars about half way between the horizon and the zenith?"
"Ay, ay, sir!" answered Weeks, the oiler. "The Band of Orion."
"Quite right, Weeks," added Christy. "Fort Morgan lies about west of us; and a course from there in the direction of the two stars will bring you to the coast and the boat. Every man must act for himself to some extent, and you are expected to be prudent, and use your own judgment. It will not be safe for us to keep together, for a dozen men seen all at once would be likely to awaken suspicion."
"If there is not a crowd of men over by the fort, we can hardly expect to avoid coming together," suggested Weeks, who proved to be a very intelligent man, with excellent judgment.
"I cannot tell whether or not we shall find any gathering of men in the vicinity of the fort," replied Christy. "We shall be obliged to govern ourselves according to circumstances. If you find any number of people over there, you can mingle with them. Some of you are very good scholars; but if any of you are disposed to indulge in fine talk, don't do it. Make your speech correspond with your dress, and let it be rough and rude, for that is the fashion among the laboring class in this region."
"I suppose sea-slang will not be out of order," said Weeks.
"Not at all. Simply consider that you are sailors and laborers, and do not forget it," answered Christy; and he was confident that he had selected only those who were competent to conduct themselves as the occasion might require. "Now, Mr. Graines, tell off five men—any five."
The engineer called off five of the seamen, whose names he had learned from the list given him by his superior officer.
"Now these five men will each choose his partner, who is to be his companion while we are on shore, and who is to act with him," continued Christy. "I do not know yet any better than you do what you are to do; but if you are called upon to do any difficult or dangerous work, remember that you are American seamen, and do your best for your country. If you are required to do any fighting, as I do not expect you will, our success depends upon your strong arms and your ready wills. You will do your whole duty, whatever it may be, and do it like true American sailors."
"Ay, ay, sir!" came in a unanimous voice from the knot of men, though in subdued tones.
"Call the first name again, Mr. Graines," added Christy.
"Weeks," replied the engineer.
"Select your man, Weeks."
"Bingham," said the oiler.
The names of the other four men who had been selected were called in turn, and each of them selected his partner, each one of course choosing his best friend, if he had not already been appropriated.
"Now, my men, Weeks and Bingham, the first couple, to be called simply 'One' when wanted, and they will answer to this designation, will start first. The next couple, to be called 'Two,' will follow them; and so on, the other pairs coming in order," continued Christy, designating each by name and number. "Two will start in ten or fifteen minutes after One, as nearly as you can guess at the time, for it is too dark to see watches if you have them."
"Are we to choose our own courses?" asked Weeks.
"No; I was coming to that next. Each couple will stroll due north us nearly as he can make it out, till they come to the waters of Mobile Bay. If you see any houses or tents, avoid them, and keep clear of any collection of people before you reach the vicinity of the fort. The bay is the first point you are to reach; then follow the shore to the fort. If you meet any person, talk to him in a friendly way, if necessary, and be as good Confederates as any in this region, even inside of Fort Morgan."
Weeks and Bingham took up the line of march in the direction indicated, and soon disappeared beyond the rising ground in the middle of the neck of land, which was here about three-eighths of a mile wide. A quarter of an hour later Lane and McGrady followed them. While they were waiting, each of the pairs gave a specimen of the dialect they intended to use. McGrady was an Irishman, educated in the public schools of the North, and his language was as good as that of any ordinary American; but now he used a very rich brogue.
Every man followed his own fancy. Lane had lived in the South, and "mought" and "fotch" came readily to his aid. The Crackers of Florida, the backwoodsmen of North Carolina, the swaggering Kentuckian, the wild Texan, were all represented; and Christy could easily have believed he had a company of comedians under his command, instead of a band of loyal Northerners.
The executive officer and the engineer had decided before this time to keep together; and, as soon as they had seen the second couple depart, they set out on their wandering march to the fort in a direction different from that of the others of the party. They walked directly towards the fort, for Christy intended to make his examination of the ground to the eastward of the fortification, on his way to some spot where he could ascertain what vessels were at anchor between the point and the Middle Ground. He discharged this duty very faithfully; and before he reached his objective point he was confident he could draw a map of the region, with what information he had obtained before, which would meet the requirements of Captain Breaker.
"What's that?" demanded Graines, suddenly placing his hand on the arm of his companion, and stopping short, as they were approaching the crown of the elevation.
A fire was burning on the ground in a depression of the surface, which doubtless concealed its light from persons in the vicinity of the fort, if there were any there. Around it could be seen four men, as the two officers looked over the crest of the hill, who appeared to be engaged in eating and drinking; and they were doing more of the latter than of the former, for the bottle passed very frequently from one to another.
"It looks like a bivouac on the part of those fellows," said Christy in a low tone.
"But who and what are they?" asked Graines.
"They may be deserters from Fort Morgan, though if they were they would hardly bivouac so near it," replied Christy, who did not seem to his companion to be at all disturbed by the discovery of the men. "They are more likely to be sailors from some intending blockade-runner at anchor off the point, who have come on shore to make a night of it; and they appear to have made considerable progress in the debauch."
"They are not soldiers, for you can see by the light of the fire that they are not dressed in uniform," added the engineer.
"This is the third year of the war, and uniforms for the soldiers are not particularly abundant in the Confederacy."
"We can't see the waters of the bay till we reach the top of the knoll yonder, and we don't know whether there are any vessels at anchor there or not. But we can easily avoid these fellows by keeping behind the ridge till we get where they cannot see us."
"I don't know that we want to avoid them, for I should like very much to know who and what they are. They must be tipsy to a greater or less degree by this time, for they do twice as much drinking as eating," answered Christy, as he advanced a little way farther up the hill. "They have a basket of food, and I do not believe they are mere tramps. They are more likely to be engaged in some occupation which brought them to this point, and I think we had better fraternize with them. They may be able to give us some valuable information; and it looks as though they were drunk enough to tell all they know without making any difficulty about it."
"Do you think it is quite prudent, Mr. Passford, to approach them?" asked the engineer.
"When we come on an excursion of this kind we have to take some risk. If I were alone I should not hesitate to join them, and take my chances, for they must know something about affairs in this vicinity," replied Christy in a quiet tone, so that his answer might not be interpreted as a boast or a reproach to his companion.
"I am ready to follow you, Mr. Passford, wherever you go, and to depend upon your judgment for guidance," said Graines very promptly. "If it comes to a fight with those fellows, I beg you to understand that I will do my full share of it, and obey your orders to the letter."
"Of course I have no doubt whatever in regard to your courage and your readiness to do your whole duty, Mr. Graines," added Christy, as he led the way to the summit of the elevation. "Now lay aside your grammar and rhetoric, and we must be as good fellows as those bivouackers are making themselves. We are simply sailors who have just escaped from a captured blockade-runner."
"I don't see anything around the fire that looks like muskets," said the engineer, as they descended from the elevation.
"I see nothing at all except the provision-basket and the bottles," replied Christy.
"But they may be armed for all that."
"We must take our chances. They are so busy eating and drinking that they have not seen us yet. Perhaps we had better be a little hilarious," continued the lieutenant, as he began to sing, "We won't go home till morning," in which he was joined by his companion as vigorously as the circumstances would permit.
Singing as they went, and with a rolling gait, they approached the revellers.
THE REVELATIONS OF THE REVELLERS
"'We won't go home till morning,'" sang the two counterfeit revellers, as they approached the fire of the bivouackers.
The four carousel's sprang to their feet when the first strain reached their ears. They were not as intoxicated as they might have been, for they were able to stand with considerable firmness on their feet, after the frequency with which the bottle had been passed among them. They did not do what soldiers would naturally have done at such an interruption, grasp their muskets, and it was probable they had no muskets to grasp.
"'We won't go home till morning, till daylight doth appear,'" continued the two officers, without halting in their march towards the revellers.
No weapons of any kind were exhibited; but the tipplers stood as though transfixed with astonishment or alarm where they had risen, but were rather limp in their attitude. They evidently did not know what to make of the interruption, and they appeared to be waiting for further developments on the part of the intruders.
"It isn't mornin' yit, but we just emptied our bottle," said Christy, with a swaggering and slightly reeling movement, and suiting his speech to the occasion. "How are ye, shipmates?"
"Up to G, jolly tars," replied one of the men, with a broad grin on his face. "We done got two full bottles left, at your sarvice."
"Much obleeged," returned the lieutenant, as he took the bottle the reveller passed to him. "Here's success to us all in a heap, and success to our side in the battle that's go'n' on."
"I'm with you up to the armpits," added Graines, as another of the four handed him a bottle.
One sniff at the neck of the bottle was enough to satisfy Christy, who was a practical temperance man of the very strictest kind, and he had never drank a glass of anything intoxicating in all his life. The bottle contained "apple-jack," or apple-brandy, the vilest fluid that ever passed a tippler's gullet. He felt obliged to keep up his character, taken for the occasion, and he retained the mouth of the bottle at his lips long enough to answer the requirement of the moment; but he did not open them, or permit a drop of the nauseous and fiery liquor to pollute his tongue. It was necessary for him to consider that he was struggling for the salvation of his beloved country to enable him even to go through the form of "taking a drink."
Graines was less scrupulous on the question of temperance, and he took a swallow of the apple-jack; but that was enough for him, for he had never tasted anything outside of the medicine-chest which was half as noxious. If he had been compelled to keep up the drinking, he would have realized that his punishment was more than he could bear. Fortunately the tipplers had no tumblers, so that the guests were not compelled to pour out the fluid and drink it off. All drank directly from the bottles, so that the two officers could easily conceal in the semi-darkness the extent of their indulgence.
"Who be you, strangers?" asked the man who had acted thus far as spokesman of the party.
"My name is Tom Bulger, born and brought up in the island of Great Abaco, and this feller is my friend and shipmate, Sam Riley," replied Christy, twisting and torturing his speech as much as was necessary. "Now who be you fellers?"
"Born and fetched up in Mobile: my name is Bird Riley; and I reckon t'other feller is a first cousin of mine, for he's got the same name, and he's almost as handsome as I am. Where was you born, Sam?"
"About ten miles up the Alabama, where my father was the overseer on a plantation before the war," replied Graines as promptly as though he had been telling the truth.
"Then you must be one of my cousins, for I done got about two hundred and fifty on 'em in the State of Alabammy. Give us your fin, Sam."
Bird Riley and Sam shook hands in due and proper form, and the relationship appeared to be fully established. The names of the three other revellers were given, but the spokesman was disposed to do all the talking, though he occasionally appealed to his companions to approve of what he said. It was evident that he was the leading spirit of the party, and that he controlled them. He was rather a bright fellow, while the others were somewhat heavy and stupid in their understanding. The bottles were again handed to the guests, both of whom went through the form of drinking without taking a drop of the vile stuff.
"What be you uns doin' here?" asked Bird Riley, after the ceremony with the bottle had been finished.
"We was both tooken in a schooner that was gwine to run the blockade," answered Christy. "We was comin' out'n Pass Christian, and was picked up off Chand'leer [Chandeleur] Island, and fotched over hyer. We didn't feel too much to hum after we lost our wages, and we done took a whaleboat and came ashore here, with only one bottle of whiskey atween us. That's all there is on't. Now, how comes you uns hyer?"
"I'm the mate of the topsail schooner West Wind, and t'others is the crew; all but two we done left on board with the cap'n," replied Bird, apparently with abundant confidence in his newly found friends.
"You left her?" asked Christy.
"That's just what we done do."
"Where is the West Wind now?" inquired Christy, deeply interested in the subject at this point.
"She done come down from Mobile three days ago, and done waited for a chance to run the blockade. Her hole is full o' cotton, and she done got a deck-load too," answered Bird Riley without any hesitation.
"Where does the West Wind keep herself now, Bird?"
"Just inside the p'int, astern of the Trafladagar."
"The Trafladagar?" repeated Christy.
"That's her name, or sunthin like it. I never see it writ out."
"She's a schooner, I reckon," continued Christy, concealing what knowledge he possessed in regard to the vessel.
"She ain't no schooner, you bet; she's jest the finist steamer that ever runned inter Mobile, and they've turned her into a cruiser," Bird Riley explained.
"How big is she?"
"I heerd some un say she was about eight hun'ed tons: an' I'll bet she'll pick up every Yankee craft that she gits a sight on."
"And you say the Trafladagar is at anchor off the p'int?" added Christy, not daring to call the steamer by her true name.
"That's jest where she is; and the West Wind is hitched to her, like a tandem team," replied Bird Riley. "Look yere, Tom Bulger, you don't make love to that bottle as though you meant business. Take another drink, and show you done got some manhood in yer."
The bottle went the rounds again, and the guests apparently took long pulls; but really they did not taste a drop of the infernal liquid.
"That's good pizen, Bird Riley; but it is not jest the stingo that I like best," said Christy, as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve in proper form, for he did not like the smell of the fluid lightning that clung to his lips.
"Whiskey suits me most; but they waste the corn makin' bread on't, and there ain't much on't left to make the staff of life. Howsomever, we don't choke to death on apple-jack, when we can get enough on't," argued Bird Riley.
"Jest now you got a tandem team hitched up out on the Trafladagar and the West Wind," continued Christy cautiously, and with apparent indifference, drawing the mate of the schooner back to the matter in which he was the most deeply interested. "What's this team hitched up that way for? Is the steamer go'n' to tow the schooner up to Mobile?"
"I reckon you're a little more'n half drunk, Tom Bulger," replied Bird Riley, with a vigorous horse laugh. "Tow the schooner up to Mobile! Didn't I tell yer the Trafladagar's been waiting here three days for a good chance to run out?"
"You said that as true as you was born," added Graines, who thought it necessary to say something, for he had been nearly silent from the beginning.
"Sam Riley ain't quite so drunk as you be, Tom Bulger; an' he knows what's what; and thar he shows the Riley blood in his carcass," chuckled the mate.
"And you said the West Wind was loaded with cotton, in the hole and on deck," added Graines, hoping to hurry the conference along a little more rapidly.
"That's jest what I said. I reckon you ain't much used to apple-jack, fur it fusticates your intelleck, and makes yer forget how old y'are. Come, take another, jest to set your head up right," said Bird, passing the bottle to Christy, who was doing his best to keep up the illusion by talking very thick, and swaying his body about like a drunken man.
Both the guests went through the ceremony of imbibing, which was only a ceremony to them. The fire had exhausted its supply of fuel, and it was fortunate that the darkness prevented the revellers from measuring the quantity left in the bottles as they were returned to the owners, or they might have seen that the strangers were not doing their share in consuming the poison.
"Sam Riley does honor to the blood as runs in his body, for he ain't no more drunk'n I am; an' he knows what we been talkin' about," said the mate, who seemed to be greatly amused at the supposed effect of the liquor upon Christy. "You won't know nothin' about the Trafladagar or the West Wind in half an hour from now, Tom Bulger. I reckon it don't make no difference to you about the tandem team, and to-morrer mornin' you won't know how the team's hitched up."
"I don't think I will," replied Christy boozily, as he rolled over on the sand, and then struggled for some time to resume his upright position, to the great amusement of Bird Riley and his companions. "But Sam Riley's got blood in him, the best blood in Alabammy, and he kin tell you all about it if yer want ter know. He kin stan' up agin a whole bottle o' apple-jack."
"I say, Cousin Bird, what's this tandem team hitched up fer?" asked Graines, permitting his superior officer to carry out the illusion upon which he had entered, in order more effectually to blind the mate, and induce him to talk with entire freedom.
"I reckon you ain't too drunk to un'erstan' what I say, Sam, as t'other feller is."
"I'm jest drunk enough to un'erstan' yer, Cousin Bird; but I cal'late I won't know much about it by to-morrer mornin'," added Graines.
"Let's take another round, Sam; but I reckon Tom Bulger's got more'n he can kerry now," continued the mate.
Bird took a long draught from the bottle, and then passed it to his guest. Three of the four revellers had already toppled over at full length on the ground; and Christy thought he could hurry matters by doing the same thing, and he tumbled over all in a heap. Graines drank nothing himself, though he contrived to spill a quantity of the fluid on the ground, so that it might not seem too light to his only remaining wakeful companion. The last dram of Bird had been a very heavy one, and the engineer realized that he could not hold out much longer.
"What's that tandem team fer?" asked Graines, in the thickest of tones, while he swayed back and forth as Bird was doing by this time.
"The Trafladagar's gwine to tow the West Wind out; and both on 'em's sure to be tooken," stammered the mate. "We uns don't bleeve in't, and so we runned away, and left Captain Sullendine to paddle his own punt. They get off at three in the morn in'."
Bird Riley took another drink, and then he toppled over.
IN THE VICINITY OF THE CONFEDERATE FORT
It was a favorable night for running the blockade, for the fog had settled down more densely upon the region in the vicinity of the ship channel, though it occasionally lifted, and permitted those on board of the Bellevite to see the tall tower of the Sand Island Lighthouse, which had not been illuminated for three years. The mists were generally thicker and remained longer towards daylight than at any other time, and this was the evident reason why three o'clock in the morning had been fixed upon for the departure of the Trafalgar and the West Wind in tow.
The engineer's head was as clear as it had ever been, notwithstanding the tipsy swaying and doubling-up of his body which he simulated, and he realized that his companion and himself had obtained very important revelations from the revellers. The hour at which the steamer was to leave, evidently by arrangement with the officers of the fort, was valuable knowledge, and he hoped they would be able to carry or send seasonable warning of the time to the Bellevite, for she was the only ship on the blockade that could be counted upon to overhaul the Trafalgar, if the reports of her great speed had been correctly given.
Both Christy and Graines had listened attentively to the revelations of Bird Riley; but neither of them could understand why the four men, including the mate, had deserted the West Wind only a few hours before she was to depart on her voyage to Nassau, where she was believed to be bound. The reason assigned by the tipsy mate was that she was going out in tow of the steamer, and was sure to be taken by the blockaders. Both of the listeners thought this fact improved her chances of getting clear of any possible pursuers.
Bird Riley had fallen back on the ground; but he still continued to talk, though his speech was very nearly incoherent. Graines was very anxious to know what time it was, for the most important part of the enterprise was to give the Bellevite timely notice of the coming of the Trafalgar. He struck a match and lighted a cigar, offering one to the mate, which he took and lighted. It was half-past twelve by his watch, as he informed Bird, though he did so more for the information of the lieutenant than of the mate.
"I reckon we are all about full enough to go to sleep, and we might as well turn in," said Graines. "But I suppose you uns mean to sleep on board of the West Wind."
"I don't reckon we'll do nothin' o' that sort," hiccoughed the mate. "We done got a p'int to kerry, and I reckon we're gwine to kerry it."
"All right," gobbled the engineer, who overdid his part, if anything. "What's the p'int, shipmate?"
"Cap'n Sull'dine's sho't handed," replied the mate, his speech turning somersets as he labored to utter the words, for he still had a portion of his senses left.
"I see," added Graines, tumbling over, but regaining his perpendicularity with a trying effort. "Only six men left after you four done runned away."
"Six!" exclaimed Bird, raising himself up with a desperate struggle, like a wounded hawk. "No six in it; only two left. He don't, can't no how, go to sea with only two men. I'll pilot the schooner out by the Belican Channel an' Mis'sip' Sound. Cap'n Sull'dine 'n' I fit over it, an' I left, with most of the crew. Hah, ha, ha! He done got 'nuff on't! Let's take a swigger, and then we gwine to go to sleep, like the rest on 'em."
With no little difficulty Bird Riley got the bottle to his lips, wasting no little of the liquor in the operation. He was entirely "full" then. He handed the bottle to the engineer, and dropped over on his back, overcome by his frequent potions. Graines did not find it necessary to go through the form of putting the bottle to his lips again, and after waiting a few minutes he was satisfied that the mate was in a deep slumber, from which he was not likely to wake for several hours.
But all the information he appeared to be capable of giving had been imparted, and Graines rose to his feet as steady as he ever was in his life, having taken hardly a swallow of the repulsive poison. He walked away from the sleeping group on the ground, halting about twenty feet from them. Christy saw him, for his eyes were open all the time, and he had listened with intense interest to the conversation between the engineer and the mate of the West Wind.
The lieutenant straightened himself up and looked about him. The fire was entirely extinguished; the four men lay with their feet to the embers, and not one of them showed any signs of life. Carefully raising himself to his feet, so as not to disturb the sleeper nearest to him, he crept away to the spot where his associate awaited him. Christy led the way in the direction of the fort, but both of them were silent till they reached the summit of the knoll which concealed the inner bay from their vision, or would have done so if the fog had not effectually veiled it from their sight.
"I suppose you heard all that was said, Mr. Passford, after you ceased to lead the conversation," said Graines, as he glanced back at the foot of the hollow where the revel had taken place.
"Every word of it; and I could insert a good deal of what might have been read between the lines if the talk had been written out," replied the lieutenant. "As you were the cousin of the mate, he seemed to be more communicative to you than to me, and I thought it best to leave you to conduct the conversation. You did it extremely well, Charley, and there was no occasion for me to interfere. I find that you have no little skill as a detective, as well as a sailor and an engineer, and I shall make a good report of you to Captain Breaker. I could almost believe that we were boys together again as we were carrying on the farce this evening."
"Thank you, Christy—Mr. Passford," added Graines.
"You need not stand on ship formalities while we are alone, Charley. But we must put together the threads we have gathered this evening, and, if I mistake not, we shall make a net of them, into which the Trafalgar, or whatever her new name may be, will tumble at no very distant time. It appears that she is not to tow out the West Wind, for Captain Sullendine cannot go to sea with only two men before the mast, and no mate."
"Bird Riley played his cards very well to accomplish the purpose he had in view, which was to keep the West Wind from going to sea in tow of the steamer," replied Graines, keeping up with the lieutenant, who had taken a very rapid pace.
"I should say that the schooner would have a much better chance to get through the blockaders in tow of the Trafalgar than in going on her own hook. Bird is a big fellow in his own estimation; but it struck me that Captain Sullendine had an ignorant and self-willed fellow for a mate, and probably he took the best one he could find; for I think good seamen, outside of the Confederate navy, must be very scarce in the South."
"The fellow had a notion in his head that he could take the schooner out by Pelican Channel, and he quarrelled with the captain on this point. It occurred to me that he deserted his vessel on account of the quarrel rather than for any other reason."
"We need not bother our heads with that question, for it does not concern us; and we will leave the captain and his mate to fight it out when they meet to-morrow, for it is plain enough that the West Wind cannot go to sea with no mate and only two hands before the mast," returned Christy, who was hastening forward to discharge what he considered his first duty thus far developed by the events of the night. "What time is it now, Charley? I have a watch, but no matches."
The engineer's cigar had gone out when he lighted it before, and he had put it in a pocket of his sack coat. Putting it in his mouth, he struck a match, and consulted his watch.
"Quarter of one, Christy; and we have plenty of time," he replied as he lighted his cigar; for he thought it would help him to maintain his indifference in whatever event might be next in order.
"But we have no time to spare," added the lieutenant, as he increased the rapidity of his pace. "Our five pairs of men must have readied the vicinity of the fort before this time, for we have had a long conference with those spreeists."
"About an hour and a half; and the information we have obtained will fully pay for the time used."
"No doubt of it; and we must hurry up in order to make a good use of it," said Christy. "The fog is lifting just now, as it has been doing all the evening, and we can see the fort. There are very few people about; for it cannot be an uncommon event to see a blockade-runner get under way."
It was not probable that any of the persons in sight were soldiers, for they had abundant opportunity to see all there was to be seen within the solid walls that sheltered them. The rapid pace at which the lieutenant led his companion soon brought them to the group of people near the shore of the channel leading to Pilot Town. The five pairs of seamen were well scattered about, as they had been instructed to be, and they did not appear to have attracted the attention of the others in the vicinity.
Pair No. Three were the first of the party the officers encountered, and no others appeared to be near them. One of them was smoking his pipe, and both of them were taking it very easily. Not far from them was a knot of men who seemed to be disturbed by some kind of an excitement. As the couple encountered manifested no interest in the affair, Christy concluded that they must know something about it, unless they were extremely scrupulous in adhering to the orders given them.
"What is the row there, French?" asked Christy in a low and guarded tone, though there was no stranger very near him.
"The man in the middle is the captain of that schooner you see off the shore, sir. His mate and three of his crew have deserted the vessel, and he can't go to sea without them," replied French.
"They say the steamer ahead is to tow the schooner out; but the captain cannot go because he has only two men left," added Lines, the other man of the pair.
"Do you know where to find Nos. One and Two?" continued the leader of the expedition.
"I do not, sir; for we keep clear of each other, as we were ordered," answered French, as he looked about him for the men designated.
"You two will separate, and find One and Two. Send them to me, and I will wait here for them," added Christy; and the men departed on the errand. "While I am waiting for them, Mr. Graines, you may go down to that group, and pick up what information you can."
The engineer sauntered down the declivity, smoking his cigar, and making himself as much at home on the enemy's territory as though he had been the commander of the Confederate fort. Christy was not kept long in waiting, and the first pair that reported to him were Weeks and Bingham. No. One. The former was the oiler who had been selected on account of his ingenuity and good judgment by Graines.
"Are you a sailor as well as a machinist, Weeks?" asked Christy.
"I am not much of a sailor, sir, though I have handled a schooner. I have been a boatman more or less of the time all my life," replied the oiler modestly.
By this time No. Two, Lane and McGrady, reported, but French and Lines kept their distance, in conformity with the spirit of their orders.
"Nos. One and Two will return to the whaleboat, and Weeks will be in command of the party," continued Christy. "The rest of you will obey him as your officer. Is this understood?"
"Ay, ay, sir," responded the three men.
"Weeks, you will carry the boat to the water, and return to the ship with all possible haste. Inform Captain Breaker that the Trafalgar will sail at three o'clock in the morning. I will report to him later."
The four men started off as though they meant to obey this order to the letter.
CAPTAIN SULLENDINE OF THE WEST WIND
Weeks and his companions divided up as they had been ordered to do in coming to the fort, and departed in different directions. The lieutenant pointed out to them the locality of the bivouac where he had passed so much of the evening, so that they might avoid it. It was about one o'clock in the morning when they left, and Christy calculated that they would reach the ship in an hour and a half, which would give the commander ample time to get up steam from the banked fires, and move down four or five miles to the southward of his present position.
The chief of the expedition had sent no message to the captain of the Bellevite in regard to his own movements, but simply that he would report to him later. He had already grasped an idea, though he had had no time to work it up in detail. It looked practicable to him, and he had jumped to a conclusion as soon as he was in possession of the facts covering the situation in the vicinity of Fort Morgan.
With only a plan not yet matured in his mind, perhaps he had been more rash than usual in sending away the whaleboat before he had provided for his own retreat from the enemy's territory; but he had considered this difficulty, and had come to the conclusion that the Trafalgar must be captured if possible, even if he and his associates were sent to a Confederate prison.
But he did not anticipate any such result. He had three pairs of the seamen left; and the party still consisted of eight men, all well armed. If the plan he had considered should fail, he had force enough to carry a light boat from Pilot Town, or any other point on the inner shore, in which they could make their escape to the Bellevite or some other blockader. He did not feel, therefore, that he had "burned his bridges," and left open no means of retreat in case of disaster.
Christy and Graines were left alone in the darkness and the fog, a bank of which was just then sweeping over the point; but they could hear the violent talk of Captain Sullendine in the distance, as he declaimed against the perfidy of his mate and the three seamen just at the point where he needed them most. Evidently he could not reconcile himself to the idea of being left behind by the Trafalgar, which seemed to be inevitable under present circumstances.
"The skipper of the West Wind seems to be in an ocean of trouble, and he is apparently resolved not to submit to the misfortune which has overtaken him," said Christy, as he led the way towards the knot of men who were the auditors of the rebellious captain.
"He may jaw as much as he pleases, if it makes him feel any better, but I don't see how he can help himself," replied Graines. "The schooner looked like a rather large one when I got a sight of her just before I came back to you, which I did as soon as I saw the four men leave you."
"I sent Weeks as a messenger to Captain Breaker, to inform him that the Trafalgar would sail at three in the morning," added Christy.
"I concluded that was the mission upon which you sent him," replied the engineer; and, whatever doubts the lieutenant's action might have raised in his mind, he asked no questions.
Every man on board of the Bellevite was well acquainted with the record and reputation of the executive officer; and he concluded at once that Christy had already arranged his method of operations. It was not "in good form" to ask his superior any questions in regard to his intentions.
"Did you go down to the shore, Charley?" asked Christy, as they walked in that direction.
"I did not, but I went far enough to hear what the captain of the West Wind was talking about. I had no orders, and as soon as I saw the four men leave you, I thought I had better rejoin you," answered Graines.
"Quite right," said the lieutenant as he halted; for they were as near the group on the shore as it was prudent to go, for the fog was lifting. "What did the captain say?"
"He offered ten dollars apiece for the recovery of the men who had deserted, if they were brought back within two hours," replied Graines. "He did an immense amount of heavy swearing; and it was plain that he was mad all the way through, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot."
"Was any one inclined to accept his offer, and go in search of the runaways?"
"I can't say, but I saw no one leave on that or any other mission. I was there but a few minutes, and the fog dropped down on the party so that I could not see them at all."
"We must join that assemblage, and we may be able to help Captain Sullendine out of his dilemma," said Christy.
"Help him out of it!" exclaimed Graines.
"Not a word more, Charley. I have an idea or two left, but it is not prudent to say a word about it here," replied the lieutenant cautiously. "You know the cut of my jib in my present rig, and I want you to keep an eye on me, for we must separate now. When you see me take off this old soft hat with my left hand, and scratch my head with my right, moving off a minute later, you will follow me. By that time I shall know what we are to do."
"All right, Christy; I will follow the direction to the letter," added Graines.
"While you go off to the left of that pile of rubbish yonder, I will go to the right of it. If you speak to any of our men, do so with the utmost caution."
"They have been down there some time, and they have full information in regard to what is going on in this locality," suggested Graines.
"Use your own judgment, Charley, only be careful not to give us away," replied the lieutenant, as he moved towards the pile of rubbish.
A walk of a few minutes brought him to the group on the shore, which consisted of not more than a dozen persons, and half of them belonged to the Bellevite. Christy halted before he reached the assemblage, in order to listen to the eloquence of the captain of the West Wind. He talked very glibly; and it did not take his outside auditor long to perceive that he had been drinking somewhat freely, though he was not what non-temperance men would have called intoxicated.
"I use my men well, and give 'em enough to eat and drink, and what's good enough," the nautical orator declaimed with a double-handed gesture. "Why, my friends, I gave each of the villains that deserted the schooner a bottle of apple-jack. I don't drink it myself, but it is good enough for niggers and sailors; in fact, my men liked it better'n whiskey, because it's stronger. They served me a mighty mean trick, and I'll give ten dollars apiece to have 'em fetched back to me. That's a good chance for some on you to make some money tonight."
His audience listened to him as they would have done to a preacher with whom they had no sympathy, and no one was tempted by the reward to go in search of the deserters. Christy moved up nearer to the speaker. In his disguise, with his face smooched with some of the color he had received as a present from Mr. Gilfleur, the French detective, with whom he had been associated on his cruise some months before, he did not appear at all different from most of those who listened to Captain Sullendine. He had laid aside his gentlemanly gait and bearing, and acted as though he had lately joined the "awkward squad."
"How d'e?" called the orator to him, as he saw him join the group of listeners. "I see you come from the other side of the p'int."
"Well, is that agin the laws o' war?" demanded Christy.
"Not a bit on't," replied the captain pleasantly, as though his potations of whiskey were still in full effect upon him. "If you come from that way, have you seen anything of my four men that deserted the schooner?"
"I wasn't lookin' for 'em; didn't know ye'd lost some men," replied Christy, staring with his mouth half open at the orator. "Was one on 'em the mate?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the captain eagerly.
"Well, I hain't seen nothin' on em," added Christy in a mumbling tone.
"I'll bet you have!" protested the skipper of the West Wind. "How'd you know one on 'em was the mate if you didn't see 'em?"
"I didn't know one on 'em was the mate; I only axed yer so's ter know."
"I reckon you know sunthin about my men," persisted the captain; and by this time the attention of all the party had been directed to him.
"I don't know nothin' about yer men, and I hain't been interduced to 'em. If you want to ship a new crew, I'm ready to jine with yer."
"One man ain't enough," added the skipper.
"Some o' these men'll jine too, I reckon," suggested Christy, who had proceeded in this manner in order to attract the attention of the disconsolate master of the West Wind.
"I don't reckon they can ship, 'cause most on 'em belongs to the Tallahatchie, and they can't leave."
"That's so," shouted several of the group, including some of the crew of the Bellevite.
"What's the Talla-what-you-call-her?" demanded Christy.
"She's the steamer you can see when the fog lifts," answered Captain Sullendine. "The Tallahatchie is her name. Are you a sailor, my lively lad?"
"I reckon I know the bobstay from the mainmast."
"You know sumthin about my mate and men, my jolly tar, and I'll give you five dollars apiece for any news on 'em that will help me to ketch 'em; and I'll ship you into the bargain, for I want more hands," the captain proceeded in a more business-like manner, though at the expense of his oratory.
Just at this moment three short and sharp whistles sounded from off the shore, and about half of the skipper's audience turned upon their heels and walked down to the water, where they embarked in a boat. They were evidently members of the ship's company of the Tallahatchie, on shore on leave, and the whistles were the signal for their return. The remainder of the group, with two or three exceptions, were the seamen of the blockader.
"Where'd you come from, my hearty?" demanded the captain of the schooner, turning to Christy again.
"I was tooken in a blockader, eight on us. We done stole a whaleboat and comed ashore," replied Christy, enlarging upon the story he had told the bivouackers.
"Eight on you!" exclaimed the master of the schooner. "Where's the rest on ye?"
"They're all about here somewhar, and I reckon I kin find em. They're lookin for sunthin t'eat. They all want to ship, and the mate of the Rattler's one on 'em," continued Christy, guiding himself by the circumstances as they were developed to him.
"What's your name, my man?"
"My name's Jerry Sandman; and I ain't ashamed on't."
"Are your men all sailors, Jerry?"
"Every one on 'em."
"I want eight good men, Jerry, the mate bein' one on 'em."
"Then we kin fix you like a 'possum in a hole."
"I've got two boats on the shore; the deserters stole one on 'em, and I come ashore in t'other arter 'em. I reckon I'll get a steamer in Nassau, and I want all the good men I can find to man her. I'll ship the whole on you. Find your men, Jerry, and fetch 'em down to the boats. I'll give 'em all sumthin t'eat. Now be lively about it," said Captain Sullendine, as he walked away towards the shore.
"I'll find 'em in no time," replied Christy, as he removed his soft hat with his left hand, and scratched his head with the other.
The rest of the party scattered, and Graines joined the lieutenant.
A POWERFUL ALLY OF THE BELLEVITERS
The seamen of the Bellevite had listened with intense interest to the conversation between the commander of the West Wind and the lieutenant; and there was not a single one of them who did not comprehend the purpose of the chief of the expedition. They were greatly amused at the manner in which Christy conducted himself, and especially at the mongrel dialect he had used. It was a little difficult for them to realize that the awkward fellow who was in conversation with the skipper of the schooner was the gentlemanly, well-spoken officer they had been accustomed to see on the quarter-deck of the Bellevite.
They separated as they had been instructed to do; but they were careful not to go to any great distance from the spot, for they understood that they should be wanted in a few minutes. Graines had not spoken a word on this occasion, though he had done most of the talking at the bivouac. He was ready to do his part; but the skipper had addressed his companion first, introducing the subject, and he had no opportunity to get in a single word.
"I suppose you understand it all, Charley," said Christy as soon as they were alone.
"I could not very well have helped doing so if I had tried. The only thing that bothered me was when you appeared to be betraying yourself by alluding to the mate," replied Graines.
"I did not do that by accident; but I desired to get the whole attention of the captain, and I got it. The rest all followed in due course. Now tell all the men to go down to the shore, and wait a little distance from the two boats till you and I join them. Tell them all to be hungry. Your name is Mr. Balker, the mate of the Rattler, the blockade-runner from which we escaped in a whaleboat. My name is Jerry Sandman, the second mate, for the want of a better. Tell them not to forget any of these names," continued Christy.
"They heard the whole story, and they were deeply interested in it, for they could not help seeing what was coming," added the engineer, as he went to carry out the order he had just received.
The seamen still kept together in pairs, and Graines instructed them by twos, impressing them with the necessity of remembering the names they had heard in the lieutenant's story, which was a "story" in the double sense of the word. As each couple received their lesson, they sauntered in the direction of the shore.
"What's going to be done, Mr. Graines?" asked French, who was one of the second pair the engineer instructed.
"That is none of your business, French. You are to remember the names I have given you, and then obey orders," replied Graines rather sharply, for it was a very unusual thing for a seaman, or even an officer, to ask such a question of his superior; and the discipline of the Bellevite was as exacting as it was kind and fatherly.
"Excuse me, Mr. Graines; I only wanted to be ready for whatever was coming," pleaded French.
"Excused; but don't ask such questions. You listened to the conversation between your officer and the captain of the schooner; and if you cannot comprehend the meaning of it, ask Lines, and he will explain it," added the engineer, "Where are Londall and Vogel?"
"Right by that pile of rubbish, sir," replied French, as he led the way to the shore.
The last pair were instructed and sent with the others, and they asked no questions. Graines joined the lieutenant, who had seated himself on a log, and reported that all was going on right.
"As I said before, Charley, you will be the mate of the Rattler, and will no doubt be engaged for the same position on board of the West Wind. I will ship as second mate, if one of the two men now on board of the vessel is not shipped as such, for I wish to be among the men," said Christy, after looking about him to see that no one was within hearing distance of them.
"I take it I shall not make a long voyage as mate," replied Graines.
"Probably not, though I cannot tell how long you will have to serve in that capacity. I purpose to have the Tallahatchie tow the schooner as far down as practicable; but we shall doubtless have business on our hands before it is time to cut the towline. Now we will wait upon the captain."
They found him walking up and down the shore, apparently somewhat excited; and doubtless he had not entire confidence in the promises of "Jerry Sandman." The six seamen had not joined Captain Sullendine on the shore, but had placed themselves behind a coal shanty quite near the water.
"I've brought the mate down, Cap'n Sull'dine," Christy began, as he and the engineer halted in front of the master of the schooner. "Here he is, an' I reckon there ain't no better sailor in the great Confed'racy. This yere is Mr. Balker."
"How are ye, Mr. Balker? You are just the man I want more'n I want my supper. Now tell me something about yourself."
Graines invented a story suited to the occasion. Then the conversation was about wages; and the candidate haggled for form's sake, but finally accepted the lay the captain offered.
"By the way, Captain Sullendine, do you happen to have a second mate?" asked the engineer when the terms were arranged.
"I had one; but he run away with Bird Riley. He wa'n't good for nothin', and I'm glad he's gone," replied the skipper.
"The man you talked with is Jerry Sandman, and he was the other mate of the Rattler. He isn't a showy fellow, but he was a first-class second mate," continued Graines.
"Then I ship him as second mate;" and they arranged the wages without much difficulty.
The six seamen were promptly shipped. The whole party then embarked in the two boats, Captain Sullendine dividing them into two parties for the purpose. The fog had settled down very densely upon the shore; but the West Wind was easily found, and they went on board, where one boat was hoisted up to the stern davits, and the other on the port quarter.
"Here you be, Mr. Balker," said Captain Sullendine when the party reached the quarter-deck; and he was so lively in his movements, and so glib in his speech, as to provoke the suspicion that he had imbibed again at the conclusion of his oration on shore. "Here, you, Sopsy!" he continued in a loud voice.
A lantern was burning on the companion, which enabled the party to see that the waist of the vessel was compactly packed with bales of cotton. The schooner seemed to be of considerable size, and Christy thought she must be loaded with a very large cargo of the precious merchandise. In answer to the captain's call, Sopsy, who proved to be the negro cook of the vessel, presented himself.
"All these people want something to eat, Sopsy. Let the crew eat in the deck-house for'ad, and bring a lunch into the cabin right off," continued Captain Sullendine.
"Yis, sar," replied the cook with emphasis. "Git 'em quicker'n a man kin swaller his own head. Libes dar a man wid soul so dead"—
"Never mind the varse, Sopsy," interposed the captain.
"—As never to hisself have said"—
"Hurry up, Sopsy!"
"He don't say dat, Massa Cap'n," added the cook, as he shuffled off over the bales of cotton.
"Hullo there, Bokes! Where are you, Bokes?" called the captain again.
"On deck, Cap'n," replied a white man, crawling out from a small opening in the bales.
"Wake up, Bokes! You ain't dead yet."
"No, sir; wide awake's a coon in a hencoop," added the man, who appeared to be one of the two left on board by the deserters, the cook being the other.
"Be alive, Bokes! Here, wait a minute!" and the captain ran down the companion ladder to the cabin, from which he presently appeared with a bottle in each hand. "Do you see them men on the cotton, Bokes?" he asked, pointing with one of them at the six Belleviters, who stood where they had taken their stations after hoisting up the quarter-boat.
"I see sunthin over thar," replied the seaman, who seemed to be hardly awake yet.
"Them's the new crew I shipped to-night—six on 'em, or seven with the second mate," added the captain. "Show 'em over to the deck-house, and let 'em pick out their bunks."
"Seven on 'em; the cook and me makes nine, and they ain't but eight berths in the deck-house, Cap'n," replied Bokes, who seemed to be afraid of losing his own sleeping quarters.
"You can sleep on the deck, then. These are all good men, and they must have good berths," added the captain. "You can sleep as well in the scuppers as anywhere else, Bokes; and you ain't more'n half awake any time."