THE BLUE AND THE GRAY—AFLOAT
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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
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BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER IN THE SADDLE A LIEUTENANT AT EIGHTEEN ON THE STAFF (Other volumes in preparation)
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BLUE AND THE GRAY
By Oliver Optic
STAND by the UNION
The Blue and the Gray Series
STAND BY THE UNION
by OLIVER OPTIC
Author of "The Army and Navy Series" "Young America Abroad" "The Great Western Series" "The Woodville Stories" "The Starry Flag Series" "The Boat-Club Series" "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" etc.
BOSTON 1896 LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS 10 Milk Street Next "The Old South Meeting House."
Copyright, 1891, by Lee and Shepard All rights reserved.
Stand by the Union.
To My Two Young Friends,
MISS HELEN CAMPBELL SMITH and MISS ANNA ROCKWELL SMITH,
The Daughters Of My Friend Mr. George A. Smith Of Boston,
This Volume Is Affectionately Dedicated.
"STAND BY THE UNION" is the fourth of "The Blue and Gray Series." As in the preceding volumes of the series, the incidents of the story are located in the midst of the war of the Rebellion, now dating back nearly thirty years, or before any of my younger readers were born. To those who lived two days in one through that eventful and anxious period, sometimes trembling for the fate of the nation, but always sustained by the faith and the hope through which the final victory was won, it seems hardly possible that so many years have flowed into the vast ocean of the past since that terrible conflict was raging over so large a portion of our now united country.
Though it is said that the South "robbed the cradle and the grave" to recruit the armies of the Confederacy, it is as true that young and old in the North went forth in their zeal to "Stand by the Union," and that many and many a young soldier and sailor who had not yet seen twenty summers endured the hardships of the camp and the march, the broiling suns, and the wasting maladies of semi-tropical seas, fought bravely and nobly for the unity of the land they loved, and that thousands of them sleep their last sleep in unmarked graves on the sea and the land. The writer can remember whole companies, of which nearly half of the number could be classed as mere boys. These boys of eighteen to twenty, who survived the rain of bullets, shot, and shell, and the hardly less fatal assaults of disease, are the middle-aged men of to-day, and every one of them has a thrilling story to tell. The boys of to-day read with interest the narratives of the boys of thirty years ago, and listen with their blood deeply stirred to the recital of the veteran of forty-five years, or even younger, who brought back to his home only one arm or one leg.
In his youth the author used to listen to the stories of several aged Revolutionary pensioners, one of whom had slept in the snows of Valley Forge, another who had been confined on board of the Jersey prison-ship, and a third who had been with Washington at the surrender of Cornwallis. Not one lives to-day who fought in the battles of the Revolution; but a multitude of those who trod the battle-fields of the war that was finished twenty-seven years ago have taken their places, and have become as interesting to the present generation as the heroes of former wars were to the fathers and grandfathers of the boys and girls of to-day.
In the official record of a certain regiment recruited up to the full standard, we find that 47.5 per cent of the non-commissioned officers and privates were under twenty-one years of age. We find a few in the list who were only sixteen and seventeen years. In this regiment, we find two captains only twenty-one years of age, and three lieutenants who were only twenty. This regiment was exceptional in regard to age, though we find that over twenty-five per cent of several companies, taken at random, were under age. Even boys of fourteen and fifteen were enlisted as musicians, "drummer boys," and served out their full term. It can, therefore, be truthfully said, that those who were literally "boys" did their full and fair share in fighting for the Union. Perhaps even a larger proportion of minors served in the navy than in the army; and the record of some of them could be recited to prove that in those days boys became men prematurely, and distinguished themselves by brave and daring deeds.
The incidents of the story contained in this volume are suggested by actual occurrence during the Rebellion, though they are not absolutely historical details, but are as probable as many real events of the war. The enemy were busy in some of the Northern cities, and there were many daring operations undertaken by them which justify the story in its principal features. Most of the characters have been introduced in the preceding volumes of the series; and in the succeeding volume the hero will be presented in a somewhat different field of action, though in whatever sphere he moves he will continue to be engaged in "FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT."
Dorchester, Mass., April 23, 1891.
CHAPTER I. A Mysterious Visitation 15
CHAPTER II. The Absconding Man-servant 26
CHAPTER III. Christy Passford is utterly confounded 37
CHAPTER IV. The Sick Officer in the Stateroom 48
CHAPTER V. Lieutenant Passford and his Apparent Double 59
CHAPTER VI. The Conference in the Captain's Cabin 70
CHAPTER VII. The Announcement of the Decision 81
CHAPTER VIII. The Prisoner of War 92
CHAPTER IX. A Moral Philosopher 103
CHAPTER X. A Change of Quarters in the Confusion 114
CHAPTER XI. Laying out a Plan of Operations 125
CHAPTER XII. A Lesson in Ordinary Politeness 136
CHAPTER XIII. The Opening of the Secret Orders 147
CHAPTER XIV. The Affray on the Quarter-deck of the Bronx 158
CHAPTER XV. A Rebellious and Prejudiced Prisoner 169
CHAPTER XVI. The Disposal of the Prisoners 180
CHAPTER XVII. The Second and Third Lieutenants 191
CHAPTER XVIII. A Battle on a Small Scale 202
CHAPTER XIX. The Skipper of the Sloop Magnolia 213
CHAPTER XX. An Expedition to St. Andrew's Bay 224
CHAPTER XXI. A Non-combatant on Board the Bronx 235
CHAPTER XXII. The Stranger in the Captain's Cabin 246
CHAPTER XXIII. A Very Impudent Declaration 257
CHAPTER XXIV. A Critical Situation in the Cabin 268
CHAPTER XXV. The Destruction of a Prominent Facial Member 279
CHAPTER XXVI. The Meeting with the Bellevite at Night 290
CHAPTER XXVII. The Planning of an Expedition 301
CHAPTER XXVIII. The Negro Village on the Isle Grande Terre 312
CHAPTER XXIX. A Professional Visit to the Fort 323
CHAPTER XXX. The Attack upon the Fort 334
CHAPTER XXXI. A Wounded Commander 345
STAND BY THE UNION
A MYSTERIOUS VISITATION
"Who's there?" demanded Christy Passford, sitting up in his bed, in the middle of the night, in his room on the second floor of his father's palatial mansion on the Hudson, where the young lieutenant was waiting for a passage to the Gulf.
There was no answer to his inquiry.
"Who's there?" he repeated in a louder tone.
All was as still as it ought to be in the middle of the night, and no response came to his second inquiry. The brilliant young officer, who had just passed his eighteenth birthday, knew what it was even better than an older person to pass a whole night on difficult duty, without a wink of sleep, for he had been accustomed to spend a portion of every night in planking the deck on his watch; but at Bonnydale, his quiet home, far removed from the scenes of actual conflict, he was an industrious sleeper, giving his whole attention to his slumbers, as a proper preparation for the stirring scenes in which he was again about to engage.
He slept soundly; but he had dreamed that some one opened the door of his room, or some one had actually done so. He was not a believer in dreams, and when an impression had fastened itself upon his mind, he was inclined to investigate it. It seemed to him that he had been awakened from his sleep by the opening of the door of his chamber. Some member of the family might be sick, and he might be needed to go for the doctor, or for some other service.
He leaped from his bed when no answer came to his second demand, lighted his lamp, and put on his trousers. With the light in his hand, he opened the door; but there was no one there, and not a sound of any kind could be heard. He walked about the hall in his bare feet, and listened attentively at the doors of several of the chambers, especially at that of Mr. Pembroke, the invalid gentleman whom, with his daughter, he had brought home as a passenger in the captured Vixen.
Christy heard nothing, and he silently descended the stairs to the lower hall. All was as quiet there as upon the floor above, and he had begun to think that the impression he had received had been given him in a dream, though he could not remember that he had been dreaming. But when he came to the front door, he found it was ajar. It was usually secured by a spring lock, and those who were liable to be out in the evening were provided with night-keys.
At the present time his father was in Washington, and he could not have neglected to close the door. He had been to the railroad station to meet the last train, thinking it possible that his father might return, and he was confident that he had been the last to enter the house. He was very sure that he had not left the door unfastened, and this assurance made him confident that some person had entered the house. The noise at the door of his chamber was not an illusion or a dream: though it had been made by closing rather than by opening it, or he would have been likely to find the intruder in his room when he lighted his lamp.
It seemed to him to be a matter of course that the midnight visitor had come into the mansion for the purpose of plundering its occupants, or of securing the valuables it contained. Putting his lamp on the table, he went out upon the veranda, and looked all about him. The grounds were very extensive, and a broad avenue led to the street. It was very dark; but as he cast his eyes in the direction of the grand entrance to the estate, he discovered some dark object in motion; but he lost sight of it in a moment.
It was a living being, or it would not move, and he was certain that he had made a discovery. Then two regrets flashed through his mind as he stepped down from the veranda; the first, that he had not put on his shoes before he left his chamber, and the second, that he had not taken his pistols, for a bullet would travel a great deal faster than a barefooted officer, even of the United States Navy. But he ran with all his speed to the street, to the great detriment of his uncovered feet.
He reached the grand entrance in an exceedingly short space of time; but he might as well have been in his chamber, for no ruffian, robber, or Confederate spy could be seen. He had no means of knowing which way the intruder at the mansion had turned, to the right or the left, or whether, like the timid colored gentleman in a trying situation, he had taken to the woods. Christy walked up the street, and then down the street; but the underbrush had recently been cut in the grove, and he did not venture to explore it without any protection for his feet.
He peered into the gloom of the night with all his eyes, and listened with all his ears for over an hour; and then, watchful and careful officer as he was, there were five hundred chances against him to one in his favor, of finding the intruder, and he reluctantly returned to the mansion.
Like the other male occupants of the house, the lieutenant was provided with a night-key. For one who had only just developed a tolerably thriving mustache, Christy was a prudent and methodical young gentleman. As a part of his method, he had a great many small drawers in his rooms, and a dozen or more keys; but he had never lost them, for the reason that he carried them chained to his nether garment. But he had two sets of keys, one for the house, and one for the ship. He had taken the night-key from the former, and put it in his vest pocket; and when he reached the front door of the mansion, the key he wanted was in his chamber, and he had been careful to shut the door when he left the house.
He could not get in, and he walked around the building to find a window which had not been closed. His mother had a reasonable dread of robbers, and she always looked out for the windows before she retired. He did not wish to arouse the family by ringing the great gong bell, but it was too cold to spend the rest of the night out-doors in his half-clothed condition, for he was as liable to take a severe cold as any less brilliant individual, and he might have to spend a month in his chamber, instead of reporting to the flag-officer of the Eastern Gulf squadron, in command of the Bronx.
He rang the bell, and the sound from it reverberated through the entire mansion. It was some time before a servant came to open the door; but the man who let him in was astonished to see him partially dressed, and wondered if he had not been walking in his sleep. In the lower hall, he was satisfied that the whole house was astir, for the gong which had sounded was the "emergency bell," used only when the ordinary one at the front door was not likely to be heard.
"Walsh!" called Mrs. Passford from the head of the stairs.
"Yes, ma'am," replied the man who had admitted Christy, and who was still wondering what fit, freak, or fancy had beset the young officer.
"Who is it? What is the matter?" demanded the lady of the mansion, in tones which indicated anxiety if not alarm.
"It is Mr. Christy, ma'am; nothing is the matter," replied Walsh; but then he appeared to think that he had replied without proper consideration, and he revised his speech. "I don't know that anything's the matter, ma'am," and still he gazed at the young gentleman, as though he deemed it possible that he had suddenly gone crazy.
"Nothing is the matter, mother," called Christy. "I am all right."
"But why are you out at this time of night, my son? It is nearly two o'clock in the morning," said Mrs. Passford, as she descended the stairs. "You are not half dressed, Christy."
"But I am all right, mother, and there is not the least reason to worry about anything, for the ship is not going to the bottom just yet," replied Christy, indulging in a forced laugh to assist in quieting his mother's fears.
"But why are you out doors at this time of night?" Mrs. Passford insisted. "You will catch a cold that will lay you up, if you go out in that condition."
"I should not have rung that bell if I had not been afraid of taking cold," added the son.
"But, Christy, something has happened; and you must tell me about it, or I shall not sleep another wink to-night," persisted the lady, concluding that her son was trying to conceal something from her, as indeed he was, for he feared it would alarm her if he told her some one had come into the house.
"There is nothing to be frightened about, mother; and I will tell you all about it," added Christy, as he took his overcoat from the stand and put it on. "I waked an hour ago, or more, with the idea that some one had opened the door of my room," and he related the circumstances to his mother, including his search in the grounds and the road.
"Do you think any one came into the house?" asked Mrs. Passford, though with but little of the woman's terror that such a statement might have caused.
"That is my decided opinion. A noise at my chamber door woke me; I found the front door ajar, though I know I closed it when I came in last night, and I saw something moving down the avenue, which could only have been a man. Of course, I conclude that it was a burglar; but none of us have been killed or harmed."
Christy went to his room and completed his toilet. The house was warm, and he was soon comfortable enough after the out-door chill. By this time Miss Florry Passford had put in an appearance in the upper hall, with Bertha Pembroke. The alarm was again briefly explained, and the invalid gentleman was assured that nothing alarming had occurred. Then the young lieutenant and his mother proceeded to ascertain what the burglar had accomplished in the house.
On the lower floor nothing appeared to have been disturbed. In the parlor a gold watch, adorned with diamonds, had been left on the table by Florry, who had forgotten it; but it had not been taken. The burglar could not have helped seeing it if he had explored the house as such gentry do on such occasions. In the dining-room no attempt to open the steel safe set in the wall, which contained a vast amount of silver, jewelry, money, and other valuables, had been made. In a word, wherever they examined the rooms, no sign of any depredations could be discovered. The burglar did not appear to have lunched in the pantry where some choice viands had been placed. The robber had certainly been very considerate, and had done no mischief either for plunder or diversion. He had evidently, in the opinion of Mrs. Passford and her son, undertaken a profitless enterprise.
"But what could have been his object in coming into the house?" asked the bewildered lady.
"I shall have to give it up, mother."
"He might have taken Florry's watch, she was so careless as to leave on the table in the sitting-room," added she.
"But he did not."
"He could not have been disturbed until you spoke to him; and he might have ransacked the whole of the lower part of the house."
"But he did not."
They had given up the examination of the premises, and given up the conundrum, and Christy was leading the way up-stairs. He went into his room, followed by his mother.
"He must have come into your room, my son, or you would not have heard him at the door. Perhaps he has robbed you," suggested Mrs. Passford.
The young officer declared he had nothing there to steal. As he spoke, he took from his coat pocket on the bedpost an envelope containing his commission and other papers. It was safe; so were his purse and watch.
The mystery was not solved till Christy embarked for the Gulf.
THE ABSCONDING MAN-SERVANT
Lieutenant Christopher Passford, in his two years' experience in the navy, had been under the fire of the enemy too many times to be intimidated by a burglar, and he felt a certain contempt for the midnight marauder, who had entered the mansion and disturbed his restful slumbers. He returned to his bed, therefore, and slept like a marine till the call bell woke him in the morning.
As he dressed himself he could not help thinking of the mysterious visitation, and he asked himself a great many questions in regard to the object of the intruder, since it did not appear that he had entered the house for the purpose of robbing its occupants. He could not determine whether or not the fellow had actually come into his room; but his porte-monnaie, which contained a considerable sum of money, and his gold repeater, a very valuable watch, were just where he had left them the night before.
In the breast pocket of his uniform coat he found the envelope which contained his commission as a lieutenant, received only two days before his orders, and some other papers. As a precaution against inquisitive persons, if the package should happen to be mislaid in the house, he had applied some mucilage in the library, and resealed the envelope. It had not been tampered with so far as he could discover, and he returned it to the pocket.
The mysterious visitor at the mansion, whoever or whatever he was, could not be regarded as a burglar, or, if he was, he had strangely neglected his opportunities, for he had failed to appropriate at least five hundred dollars worth of watches and money, which he could hardly have helped seeing. His object was not plunder, and there was nothing to indicate the purpose of his visit. In retiring from the house the intruder had left the front door ajar: and Christy thought it would have been the most natural thing in the world to close it, in order to conceal the way by which he had left the mansion. But he might have done this to avoid the noise of shutting it, or had neglected it in his haste to escape.
When he had completed his toilet Christy looked at his watch, and was rather surprised to find that it was a full hour later than usual when the call bell had been rung. He went down-stairs, and found his mother and Florry very busy in the dining-room, setting the table. This was the man's work, and the young officer was astonished to see his mother and sister doing it.
"What has broken now, mother?" asked the lieutenant, glancing from one to the other of the busy couple.
"I don't know that anything has broken," replied Mrs. Passford, with a smile, after she had said good-morning to her son.
"You and Florry are not in the habit of setting the table, mother; and the first bell rang an hour later than usual," added Christy.
"We were all disturbed last night, and I did not wake till the cook knocked at my door. She told me she could not find Walsh, and breakfast had been ready half an hour. That is the reason why everything is late this morning," Mrs. Passford explained.
"But where is Walsh?" inquired Christy.
"I am sure I do not know. I called in the coachman, and he has been to his room and looked all over the place without finding him."
"That is very odd," mused the officer, wondering whether this sudden disappearance had anything to do with the principal event of the preceding night.
"Peach says he has taken his valise with him, which indicates that he has gone for good."
"Who is Peach?" asked Christy, who had been at home so little that he hardly knew the names of the servants.
"He is the coachman. I am not sorry that Walsh has gone, for he has saved me the trouble of discharging him. Wilder, who had been with us so many years, took it into his head to enlist in the army, and I was not willing to persuade him to shirk his duty. Walsh has not been here quite two weeks. He said he was born in the West Indies; but he was always prying into matters that did not concern him, and I have several times found him standing at the door when we were talking about family matters. I reproved him for it; but it did no good. Your father intended to discharge him as soon as he returned from Washington."
Christy went to the library, and busied himself in considering whether or not the sudden departure of Walsh had any connection with the mysterious midnight intruder. The two events had been near together in point of time; but he could establish no other relation between them. Then it flashed upon his mind that the man-servant had been the person who had opened or closed his door, and visited his room; but he was sure he had seen a man near the grand entrance of the estate. He had been all around the house, and Walsh could not have escaped his observation. He had answered the bell, and admitted him after his search. He concluded that the servant was not the person who had disturbed his slumbers.
The morning mail brought a letter from Captain Passford, informing the family that he was detained in Washington, and that he could not be at home to say good-by to his son, who was to leave that day in the store ship Vernon. He wrote a special letter to Christy, containing not only his adieux, but the good advice he would otherwise have given him in person.
The breakfast was rather a sad gathering on account of this parting, for Christy was to leave in another hour. Bertha Pembroke and her father were quite as sad as the mother and sister, and the young officer did his best to cheer up the family and the guests. He tried to make them laugh, but he found it was up-hill work.
"You will be in command of a steamer, Christy, when you reach the Gulf. I hope you will not be rash, and try to do too much," said Mrs. Passford, as they rose from the table.
"I don't think I am ever rash, mother; and if I have been exceedingly fortunate, it was more because the circumstances favored me than because I ran great risks," replied Christy very seriously, for he was sensitive on the point his mother had brought up. "Father has said a great deal to me on this subject, and I have always done my best to carry out his principles. It is not my fault that I have a friend at court, and have had opportunities that have not been offered to many others. But the tide may turn against me on my next cruise."
"I hope it will not, my son," added his mother very earnestly.
"No one knows what is going to happen, and I may spend the next year or two in a Confederate prison. I don't think my Uncle Homer would cry his eyes out if such should be my fate, for he has lost several vessels and cargoes of cotton on my account," returned Christy.
"But I am sure he has no ill-will against you."
"I don't think he has."
"By the way, Christy, have you heard anything from him or his family lately?" asked Mrs. Passford.
"Not a word, and I am not likely to hear from them. Corny Passford was exchanged, and sent back to the South a year ago or more; and I have no idea what has become of him since."
After breakfast Christy packed his valise, where he placed the new uniform in which he intended to present himself on the quarter-deck of the Bronx. The carriage was at the door to convey him to the railroad station. The parting was not less tender than it had been on former similar occasions, and Mrs. Passford preferred that it should be in the house rather than at the railroad station, in the presence of curious observers. Many tears were shed after the carriage drove off, for the patriotic young man might find a grave in southern soil, or beneath southern waters.
The young lieutenant choked down his emotions, and tried to think of the future; his case was not different from that of hundreds of thousands of others who had gone forth to fight the battles of their country, many thousands of whom slumber in hallowed graves far away from home and friends. As the train moved on towards the great city, he obtained the command of his emotions, and felt a new inspiration of patriotic ardor.
On his arrival in New York he hastened across the ferry to the navy-yard. As he approached the opposite shore, he discovered a steamer getting under way. He had not seen the vessel on board of which he was ordered to report as a passenger, but when he asked a deck hand what the steamer was, he was informed that it was the Vernon. The ferry-boat had just gone into the slip, and Christy was terribly startled to learn that he was late. He was still two hours ahead of the time indicated in his orders, and the Vernon was actually getting under way.
The young officer was more excited than he had ever been in the face of the enemy, for the present looked like a case in which his honor was at stake. He felt that it would be his ruin if the Vernon sailed without him. There had been some mistake in his orders, or in those of the commander of the store ship, and he was likely to be the sufferer for it. He rushed to the stern end of the ferry-boat in order to obtain a better view of the steamer; and at this moment he discovered a boat, pulled by one man, headed towards the navy-yard.
"Boat, ahoy!" shouted Christy, with almost frantic earnestness.
"On board the ferry-boat!" replied the man, resting on his oars.
"Five dollars if you will put me on board of that steamer before she gets off!" added the officer.
"I'm the one for your money," returned the oarsman, as he headed his boat into the slip.
Without much difficulty Christy dropped his valise into the boat, and then dropped himself in after it. The belated passenger cast an earnest look at the Vernon, which had just begun to move, though at a snail's pace, and he hoped he should be able to get on board of her.
"Naval officer, sir?" interrogated the boatman.
"Yes; but I have no time to spare, and you must not stop to talk," replied Christy rather sharply.
"Time enough, sir, if you are going on board of the Vernon, and I will give you one of my oars if I don't put you on her deck," said the boatman very positively. "I hope you are nimble with your feet and hands, sir."
"I will take care of that part of the matter if you will put me alongside the steamer," answered Christy. "No more talk, if you please, for you are wasting your wind."
"I have plenty of it for this job. You said five dollars, I believe, sir," added the man, looking earnestly at his passenger.
"Five dollars is just what I said," replied the lieutenant, as he took a bill of that denomination from his porte-monnaie, rolled it around the boat-hook, and fixed it so that it should not blow away.
"Thank you, sir," said the rower, as he pulled with more vigor even than before, and did not say another word till the boat was alongside the Vernon.
Christy found a rope hanging over the side, to which the boatman attached his valise, the young officer going up the line hand over hand as though he was used to that sort of thing. The oarsman secured his five-dollar bill, and Christy hauled up his valise. He felt that he had saved himself from the dishonor of failing to obey his orders, and he looked about him for some one who would be able to explain to him how the steamer happened to be sailing two hours before the time named in his orders. Three or four sailors were at work in the waist, where the lieutenant came on board; and Christy was not a little astonished to observe that Walsh, the absconding man-servant, was one of them.
CHRISTY PASSFORD IS UTTERLY CONFOUNDED
The appearance of Walsh, fully dressed in the garb of a seaman, was so great a surprise to Christy Passford, that he hardly noticed any other person on the deck of the Vernon. He had given no particular attention to the man when he saw him at his father's house, though he regarded him as a very good-looking and intelligent person for one in the situation in which he found him. The absconding man-servant had certainly made good use of his time since he left Bonnydale, for he appeared to have become a full-fledged sailor in the space of ten hours.
For the size of the steamer, she seemed to be manned by a very large crew; but the letter he had received from his father that morning informed him that the greater part of the crew of the Bronx had been transferred to other vessels upon more active service, and that a large number of seamen were to be sent immediately to reinforce the squadron. This was not pleasant intelligence, for he had become acquainted with all on board of the Bronx, and he would have preferred to begin his permanent service as commander with the former ship's company of the little steamer. However, the exigencies of the service required the change, and he could not complain.
It was probable that the greater part of his new crew would be made up from the men now on board of the Vernon; and this belief caused him to regard these men with more interest than he might otherwise have done. He had no fault to find after the glance he had bestowed upon them, for they presented a very trim appearance in their new uniform, and looked a great deal more tidy than they would after they had been on duty a few weeks.
Lieutenant Passford was on board of the Vernon, and he had no further solicitude in regard to a literal obedience to his orders. The commander of the steamer, whoever he was, did not appear to have noticed the new arrival, and no one gave any attention to Christy. He walked forward to take a better view of the crew, and the seamen touched their caps to the shoulder straps of a lieutenant with which he had been careful to ornament his coat.
The men at work in the waist finished their task as Christy was returning from his promenade, with the intention of presenting himself to the commander. Among those who saluted him in proper form was Walsh. He seemed to be a little diffident about encountering the son of his late employer, and turned his face away as he touched his cap. But the officer had fully identified him, and spoke to him, calling him by name. The sailor made no reply; but Christy had placed himself directly before him, and he could not escape without a breach of discipline.
"I spoke to you, Walsh," said the lieutenant, in the tone he had learned to use when he intended to enforce respect and obedience.
"I beg your pardon, sir; my name is not Walsh," replied the sailor, with all the deference the occasion required.
"Your name is not Walsh!" exclaimed Christy with a frown.
"No, sir; that is not my name, and I supposed that you spoke to some other man," pleaded the late man-servant of the mansion at Bonnydale.
The lieutenant gazed earnestly into the face of the sailor, for he was willing to admit to himself the possibility of a mistake. Walsh, or whatever his name might have been, was a man of robust form, not more than an inch or two short of six feet in height. He was clean-shaved, with the exception of his upper lip, whereon he sported a rather long dark brown mustache, of which a Broadway dandy might have been vain. As a servant, he had been rather obsequious, though Christy had observed that he used very good language for one in his menial position. As the officer examined his form and features, and especially regarded the expression in general, he was satisfied that he could not be mistaken.
"I did not speak to another man; I spoke to you," added Christy, as he intensified the gaze with which he confronted the man, resorting to the tactics of a sharp lawyer in the cross-examination of an obdurate witness.
"I ask your pardon, sir, but you called me Welch, or some such name," replied the late servant, as Christy was sure he was in spite of his denial.
"I called you Walsh; and that is the name to which you responded at two o'clock this morning," persisted the lieutenant.
"That is not my name, sir; and I refer you to the ship's papers to prove it. I am not the man to be ashamed of my name, which is not Welch or Walsh, sir, if you will excuse me for saying so."
"Will you deny that you were employed as a servant at the house of Captain Passford, at Bonnydale on the Hudson?" demanded Christy, with not a little energy in his tones and manner.
"Where, sir, if you please?" asked the sailor, with a sort of bewildered look.
"Boddyvale? I never heard of the place before in my life, sir," answered the runaway servant.
Possibly the man under examination was not wholly responsible for his distortion of the name of Captain Passford's estate, as Christy was beginning to reap the penalty of his imprudence the night before, in exposing himself barefooted and half-clothed to the chill midnight air, and was developing a cold in the head that already affected his enunciation.
"Bonnydale!" repeated the officer, after using his handkerchief, and thus improving his utterance of the word.
"I never heard of the place before, sir," persisted the seaman.
"Byron!" called a boatswain's mate from the forecastle.
"That's my name—Byron, sir, at your service," said the man, as he touched his cap to the lieutenant, and rushed forward in answer to the call of his superior, evidently glad to escape from the inquisition to which he had been subjected. "On deck!" he added, as he made his way to the forecastle.
Christy was a passenger on board of the Vernon, and he had nothing to do. The commanding officer appeared to be engaged in the details of his duty, though the steamer was in charge of a pilot. He could see from his shoulder straps that he was an ensign, and the officers in the waist and on the forecastle were of the same rank. If there were any other passengers on board of the vessel who were commissioned officers, they were not visible on the deck, though they might be in their staterooms, arranging their affairs for the voyage.
The young lieutenant leaned against the rail, and gave himself up to the consideration of what had occurred since he came on board. He had been bewildered by one mystery the night before, and he could not help asking himself if the conduct of Walsh had anything to do with the visit of the intruder at Bonnydale. He could not trace out any connection between the two events; but, on the other hand, he was unable to satisfy himself that the mysterious visit, the sudden disappearance of the man-servant, and the denial of his identity by the latter, were not in some manner related to each other.
He had no premises on which to base an argument for or against one thing or another. All was dark to him, and he could not get hold of anything. After he had raised up a variety of suppositions, and combated vigorously with them, the darkness seemed only to become more dense, and he was compelled to abandon the subject without arriving at any reasonable explanation. Under the instruction of his father, he had cultivated "a judicial mind," which compelled him to reject all mere speculation.
Christy was not disposed to believe that he was a brilliant officer, or to accept unchallenged the extravagant praise that had been bestowed upon him. He endeavored to follow the Gospel injunction "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." But while he tried to keep the flower of modesty in full bloom in his soul, he could not deny that he had given the enemies of his country a great deal of trouble, and subjected them to some heavy losses. Then he recalled the conspiracy on board of the Bronx while he was acting-commander of her; and though it was for the interest of the Confederacy to get rid of so active an officer, he believed it was the vessel and not himself that the conspirators desired to obtain.
Before the Vernon reached The Narrows, everything on her deck had been put in order by the large crew, and less activity prevailed on board. Christy thought it was time for him to report to the commander, and he moved aft for this purpose. He did not even know the name of this gentleman, and he saw no one to introduce him formally; but the ensign in command had doubtless received an order to take him as a passenger to the Gulf.
Before he reached the sacred limits of the quarter-deck, Christy met a quartermaster, of whom he inquired the name of the commander.
"He has a good name for the captain of a fighting ship," replied the petty officer, respectfully touching his cap to the shoulder straps of the inquirer. "The commander is Captain Battleton."
"Captain Battleton," repeated Christy, to assure himself that he had correctly understood the name.
"Captain Battleton," added the quartermaster. "I hope you are feeling better to-day, sir."
"I am feeling very well to-day, except that I have started a cold in the head," replied Christy, astonished at this display of interest in the state of his health.
"I am glad to hear it, sir, for you appeared to be quite sick last night when you came on board," added the quartermaster.
"Did I, indeed? I was not aware of it. I came on board last night? I was not aware of that fact," said Christy.
The petty officer did not hear his remarks, for he had been called by the second lieutenant in the waist, and, with a touch of his cap, hastened away. The lieutenant opened his eyes very wide, as he looked down at the seams in the deck, and wondered whether he were asleep or awake. He had been quite sick, and he had come on board the night before! It was very strange that he was not at all aware of either of these facts. He felt reasonably confident that he had slept in his own chamber at Bonnydale the night before, and at that time he was certainly in a very robust state of health, however it might be at the present moment. Even now, he could not complain of anything more severe than an embryo cold in the head, which the medicine his mother had given him would probably reduce to a state of subjection in a day or two.
At first, he was disposed to be amused at the answers the quartermaster had given him, for it was evident to him then that he had been mistaken for another person. It looked as though some officer had come on board, and reported under his name, for he had not yet learned anything in regard to the gentleman who had appeared to be quite sick when he reported himself. It had the elements of another mystery in it. But the petty officer could easily have made an honest mistake; and this was the solution he accepted, without bothering his bewildered brain any further about it.
The commander appeared to be less occupied at this moment than he had been before, and Christy stepped forward to the quarter-deck, and politely saluted him. Captain Battleton was not less punctilious in his etiquette. He was a young man, though he was apparently six or seven years older than Christy. He was an ensign, and looked like a gentleman who was likely to give a good account of himself when he was called to more active duty than that of commanding a store ship.
"Good-morning, Lieutenant Passford!" said Captain Battleton, as he extended his hand to his passenger. "I am glad to see that you are better."
Christy was utterly confounded at this salutation.
THE SICK OFFICER IN THE STATEROOM
Captain Battleton spoke to Christy as though he had met him before, and needed no introduction. He was glad to see that the young officer was better, which indicated that he had been sick. He was confounded by the situation, for he had not been sick an hour, and he had never seen the commander of the Vernon in his life. The petty officer had told him that he appeared to be quite sick when he came on board the night before.
What he had learned within the last few moments was even more perplexing than the mysterious visitation at Bonnydale. Then the appearance of Walsh on board, and his denial of his identity, were still in his mind, and he wondered whether or not all these strange circumstances had any connection. But he was standing in the presence of the commander of the steamer, and he had no time to reach a conclusion of any kind, satisfactory or otherwise.
Christy took the offered hand of Captain Battleton, and looked earnestly into his face to determine whether he had ever seen him before; but the face was entirely new to him. He was quite confident that he had never seen the commander before. There was something rather ludicrous in the situation, and he felt as though he was taking part in a farce; at any rate, there was nothing serious or compromising in it, and in spite of the confusion in his mind, he could not help smiling.
"I thank you, Captain Battleton, for your very kind interest in the state of my health, but with the exception of the first signs of a cold in the head, I never was better in my life," said Christy in reply to the salutation of the commander, still holding his hand.
"Then you have improved wonderfully since last evening," added Captain Battleton.
"I am glad to be informed of the fact, for I am not conscious of any such improvement as you describe. In fact, I am not in quite so good condition in a sanitary point of view as I was last evening, for I took my cold about midnight, or a little later, last night," added Christy, his smile becoming a little more pronounced.
It was now the turn of Captain Battleton to be puzzled, if not mystified, by the statement of his passenger, and he looked inquiringly into his face as if to ascertain if he was not the victim of a practical joke. But naval officers on duty are not given to pleasantries; and if he had any such suspicion, he banished it at once, for there was nothing in the appearance of the lieutenant to warrant it.
"Pardon me, Mr. Passford, but were you not sick when you came on board of the Vernon last evening?" asked the commander, with something like a frown upon his brow as the situation became more bewildering.
"If you will excuse me for making an indirect reply, captain, I did not come on board of the Vernon last evening," answered Christy, his smile becoming still more decided; and if he had not been on the quarter-deck of a vessel in service, he might have suspected that he was himself the victim of a practical joke.
"You did not come on board of the Vernon last evening!" exclaimed Captain Battleton, gazing very earnestly into the face of his passenger.
"I did not, captain," replied Christy quietly, though he was amused rather than disquieted by the earnestness of the commander.
"You did not?"
"Certainly not; and if my simple affirmation is not enough, I could prove that I slept in my father's house at Bonnydale last night, took my breakfast there this morning, and was in the city of New York at ten o'clock this forenoon," answered Christy, in the best of humor.
"This is very strange," said Captain Battleton, fixing his gaze upon the planks on which he stood, possibly considering whether he or his passenger was dreaming or out of his head.
"If I were still at Brooklyn doubtless I could find the boatman who put me on board of the Vernon not more than an hour ago," continued Christy, willing to convince his auditor that he was entirely in earnest in his statement.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Passford, but I did not intend to question the truth of your reply to my question," said the commander, fearing that he had overstated his doubts. "I am simply bewildered, confused, confounded by this interview."
"So am I, captain," added the lieutenant, laughing outright at the perplexity in which both of them were involved. "I have told you the simple truth in regard to my movements."
"And you did not come on board of the Vernon last evening?"
"Emphatically I did not."
"You were not sick last evening?"
"I was not; not even as sick as I am at this moment," replied Christy, using his handkerchief.
"I don't understand it," said Captain Battleton, shaking his head.
"Now, captain, will you permit me ask what you do not understand, for I assure you I am profoundly ignorant of the situation which perplexes you. I was ordered to be on board of the Vernon at one o'clock, and I found her under way at eleven. I happened to find a boatman before I left the ferry-boat, who put me on board, or I should have missed my passage. That is simply all I know about the matter."
"When I called upon you in your stateroom this morning, you told me that"—
"I beg your pardon, Captain Battleton, but I have not been in any stateroom, sick or well, on board of the Vernon, and I respectfully suggest that it was quite impossible for you to have called upon me this morning, or at any other time," Christy interposed, very pleasantly, though quite as perplexed as the commander.
"Of course I shall not raise an issue as to your veracity, Mr. Passford, but after the statement you have made to me, I must change the form of my phraseology," continued the commander, using a smile to cover any possible doubts or suspicions in his mind. "When I called at the stateroom of the officer who reported on board last evening as Lieutenant Christopher Passford, he told me that I was expected to get under way and proceed to my destination as soon as the officer and the seamen were on board."
"Did he bring you an order to this effect?" asked Christy more seriously.
"He did not, and perhaps I have made a mistake, though my superior officer told me at the yard that it would be safe for me to obey the verbal order," replied Captain Battleton, looking somewhat troubled.
"I have no intention to meddle with what does not concern me, captain. It appears that Lieutenant Passford has already reported to you," said Christy; and this was the astounding fact to him of the situation.
He was absolutely confident that he was himself Lieutenant Christopher Passford, and as absolutely confident that the other officer could not be that person, whoever else he might be. The commander appeared to be considering what Christy had suggested to him in regard to his orders, and the passenger had a minute or two to think of the situation in which he found himself placed. But what was the use to think of it? He was at the end of a blind alley, where there was no light from any direction except that by which he had entered it. He had no premises from which to reason, and it was useless to consider the matter.
"Mr. Passford, I find myself placed in a very unpleasant position," said the commander, after he had deliberated a few minutes. "I have stated the facts to you; and the deduction I have to draw from them is, that I have two persons by the name of Lieutenant Passford on board."
"That seems to me to be a correct deduction," added Christy.
"The brilliant officer who bears this name is too well known to hide his light under a bushel. I have not the honor to be personally acquainted with him, and therefore I am unable to decide which of the gentlemen who report to me under that name is the real one."
"You will pardon me if I add that I think one or the other of them must be an impostor," added Captain Battleton with some diffidence.
"That is a perfectly justifiable conclusion; and it rests with you to decide which is the genuine Lieutenant Passford, and which is the impostor," replied Christy frankly. "You will be perfectly justified in calling upon both for all the evidence they are able to present. I suggest that each of them must carry his commission about him, as well as his orders from the department; and it seems to me that these documents will enable you to decide without any delay;" and Christy involuntarily put his hand upon his breast pocket, where he carried these valuable papers.
He could feel the envelope that contained them, and he was satisfied of the triumph which awaited him when the evidence should be required of the two claimants of the name. At the same time he felt that he was moving in a cloud of mystery, which had begun to enfold him in the middle of the preceding night.
"I thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Passford, and I must say that you seem to be entirely fair," said the commander.
"If I am the impostor, I do not know myself; but I have no desire to forestall your decision. You saw the sick officer when he came on board last evening, and you have visited him in his stateroom to-day. Do I look enough like him to be taken for him?" asked Christy with a smile, as he placed himself in an attitude to be scrutinized by the commander.
"I am sure that you do, sir; and when I saw you on the quarter-deck for the first time, I had no doubt you were the officer who came on board sick last evening," replied Captain Battleton.
"That makes it all the more remarkable, for I was not aware that there was any officer in the navy who resembled me so closely," added Christy more bewildered than before, and beginning to scent a plot of some kind against him or his country.
"I must say that any man who will take upon himself the position and reputation of the real Lieutenant Passford is a bold man, and even, if he succeeds in taking his place, he will fail in playing the role."
"I should thank you, Captain Battleton, for the compliment, if I were not under suspicion of being some other person. May I ask when it will be convenient for you to settle the question, for it is not pleasant for me to feel that I am looked upon as even a possible impostor?"
"I shall not regard you as an impostor, Mr. Passford, for I mean to be entirely impartial, and I shall not brand you even in thought until the evidence warrants me in doing so," replied the commander, as he called the surgeon who was just coming on deck. "How do you find your patient, Dr. Connelly?"
"I find him—I thought I found him; but he appears to be on deck," replied the surgeon, as he fixed his gaze upon Christy, preluded by a start, dramatic enough to prove that he was astonished to find his patient was not in his room below. "I left him not five minutes ago, for I have not yet been able to discover what ails him. He complained of a severe headache and pains in his bones; but he has not a particle of fever, or any symptom of anything that I can discover. I am glad to see you on deck, Mr. Passford. How is your headache?"
"If I have had any headache, I have entirely recovered from it," replied Christy, laughing heartily. "I came on board only an hour ago, doctor, and I have had no headache, thank you."
"Looking at you more closely, I see that you are not my patient, and you will excuse me for giving you a headache. But you resemble my patient very closely," added the doctor.
"I did not answer your question, Mr. Passford," interposed Captain Battleton. "In an hour we will settle the question."
Christy seated himself and began to consider the strange situation.
LIEUTENANT PASSFORD AND HIS APPARENT DOUBLE
The Vernon continued on her course, and in another hour the pilot had been discharged. Christy had puzzled his brains over the events of the day and the night before without being able to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. He was extremely anxious to see the officer who had taken his name and assumed his character, as he was to obtain all the information within his reach. His reflections assured him that some one had chosen the role of an impostor for the purpose of accomplishing some treasonable object, and he was anxious to fathom the mystery for his country's sake rather than his own.
Captain Battleton would soon begin his investigation, and Christy was confident that the sick officer would be proved to be the impostor. He was not at all worried or even disturbed in regard to the result, for he felt that "truth is mighty and must prevail." His only solicitude was to unravel the plot. Bands of Confederates had been put on board of several steamers for the purpose of capturing them; and it was possible that this plan had been adopted to obtain possession of the Vernon, for she was a good vessel, and was fitted out as a man-of-war.
It was plain enough to Christy that the remarkable attempt of one or the other of the officers on board as passengers to personate the other had been explained to those on the quarter-deck, for he observed that they all regarded him with curiosity, and were interested in the matter. As the surgeon passed near him he spoke to him.
"Does your patient below seem to be improving, doctor?" he asked.
"He still complains that his head and his bones ache, so that I cannot say he is improving," replied Dr. Connelly.
"How old a man does he appear to be?"
"I should take him for a young man of twenty or twenty-one, but he says he is only eighteen. He is a very young officer to be put in charge of a steamer, for I understand that he is ordered to the command of the Bronx. But then he has made a reputation as the commander of that vessel, which doubtless justifies his appointment."
"Does he talk at all?"
"Oh, yes; he has told me about some of his exploits; and as he seems to forget his aches when he speaks of them, I have encouraged him to talk as much as possible."
"Is he really sick, doctor?" asked Christy, with a smile which meant something.
"He says he is, and I have to take his word for it," replied the surgeon, with a corresponding smile.
"I heard you tell the captain that you could not make out the nature of his malady."
"I cannot so far, though that does not prove that he is not sick; but I will venture to say he could not get his discharge from the navy on his present symptoms. He may have drunk too much wine or whiskey recently, though he certainly was not in liquor when he came on board."
"How is your patient, Dr. Connelly?" asked Captain Battleton, joining them at this moment.
"About the same the last time I saw him. He ate all the toast I sent to him, and seemed to enjoy it. I don't think he is in a dangerous condition," replied the surgeon.
"I am glad to hear it. Have you informed him that we have another lieutenant on board of the Vernon?" continued the commander.
"No, captain: I have not. That is not my affair, and I don't meddle with what does not concern me."
"An excellent rule. Is he aware of the fact that there is another Richmond in the field?"
"If he is, he has said nothing to me about the matter."
"Do you think he could go out into the cabin, doctor?" asked the captain. "I wish to see him on a matter of the utmost importance. Is he dressed?"
"He is; he dressed himself this morning, and sits up part of the time."
"Then you will oblige me by getting him into the cabin; I mean my cabin. I will be there in ten minutes."
The surgeon went below, leaving the commander and Christy together.
"Can you make anything of this affair yet, Mr. Passford?" asked Captain Battleton.
"I can come to no conclusion in regard to it, though I may be able to do so when I have seen my double," replied Christy, whose curiosity in regard to the sick officer was strongly excited. "It looks like a conspiracy of some kind, but I can go no farther in the direction of a solution."
The commander looked at his watch after they had conversed a little while longer, and then invited Christy to visit his cabin with him. The other Lieutenant Passford was seated in an arm-chair at the table. Christy looked at him with the deepest interest, but the back of the other was turned to him, and he did not get a full view of his face. The sick man was dressed in the naval uniform with the shoulder straps of a lieutenant.
"I wish to introduce a gentleman to you; Lieutenant Passford, let me make you acquainted with Lieutenant Passford," said the commander as he led the way into the captain's cabin.
"Thank you, Captain Battleton; I shall be very happy to make the acquaintance of Lieutenant Passford," said the occupant of the cabin, rising as he spoke, and approaching Christy. "Corny Passford!" exclaimed the sick officer. "I did not expect to see you here. This gentleman is my own cousin, Captain Battleton, though I am sorry to say that he is a rebel; but for all that he is one of the finest fellows in the known world, and you will appreciate everything about him except his politics, which I do not admire myself."
Christy was not stunned or overwhelmed by this impudent speech. He looked at the speaker, and promptly recognized his cousin Corny. He was astonished at the brazen assurance of the other, for he had always seemed to him to be a fairly modest young man. Corny extended his hand to Christy, and it was accepted.
"I am very glad to see you, Corny," said he of the South, "and not the less glad because the meeting is so unexpected."
"It is certainly very unexpected on my part, Corny," replied Christy, who began to comprehend the object of his cousin; but there was something so ludicrous in the situation that he was more disposed to laugh than to look upon it seriously.
"I am very glad to see you, Corny," continued he who bore that name in reality. "I did not expect to find you on board of the Vernon. How are uncle Homer, aunt Lydia, and Gerty?"
"I have not seen my uncle Homer for several months; but I had not the remotest idea that you had an uncle Homer," replied Christy, laughing heartily, for the situation seemed so amusing to him that the serious part of his cousin's obvious plan had so far hardly dawned upon him. "I should like to inquire of you, as one good turn deserves another, in regard to the health of your father and mother and Gerty."
"My father is quite well, but he left Bonnydale last Tuesday to go to Washington, and had not returned when I left home. My mother is quite well, and so is Florry," replied the sick officer, who did not appear to be suffering from a very severe headache just then, for he was quite cheerful and animated.
"This appears to be a family party," interposed Captain Battleton, who was very much amused to hear each of the young officers call the other by the same name, and both of them appeared to be Corny Passford.
"It is a family party, captain," replied the sick officer, smiling as cheerfully as though he had never had any practical knowledge of headache and pains in the bones, which was the description of his malady given to the surgeon. "As I have hinted before, my cousin Corny is a rebel of the first order; and you can imagine my astonishment at finding him in the uniform of a lieutenant on board a United States naval vessel."
"Good, Corny!" exclaimed Christy, dropping upon the divan of the cabin and laughing heartily.
"I can easily imagine your astonishment, Mr. Passford, for it seems to me to be a very remarkable state of things," added the captain, as he looked from one to the other of the claimants. "One thing seems to be admitted by both of you, that you are both Passfords, and that you are cousins."
"So far we do not disagree by the breadth of a hair. My cousin Corny was raised in the South, while I was raised in the North," continued the sick passenger.
"I don't like to contradict my cousin, but I was brought up in the North," said Christy, hoping Captain Battleton would notice the difference in the phraseology.
"Then you were both brought up in the North," suggested the captain.
"Not at all, for, as I said, my cousin Corny was brought up in the South, at Glenfield, near Mobile," protested the ailing officer, who was careful this time not to use the word "raised."
"Where were you yesterday, Corny?" asked Christy, suddenly suppressing his mirth.
"I was in New York, preparing to come on board of the Vernon."
"Then you were not at Bonnydale?" demanded Christy sharply.
"Of course I was there; but it was a pretty day, and I went to the city to attend to some affairs of mine," replied the sick man, with the first signs of embarrassment he had exhibited.
"In spite of the fact that it was a pretty day, I should think you would have spent your last day on shore with your mother and sister as I did," replied Christy.
"I was sick, and I wished to be as near the Vernon as possible. I felt better in the afternoon and attended to my affairs; but I got bad again in the afternoon, and I came on board in the evening, for I was afraid I should not be able to do so in the morning," answered the invalid, becoming as lively as before.
"Gentlemen, this seems to be a strange muddle," said the captain, who was not disposed to listen any longer to the sparring between the cousins. "At the suggestion of the lieutenant who came on board this forenoon, I have taken the earliest opportunity to settle the question as to which is the original and genuine Mr. Passford who was ordered on board of the Vernon as a passenger for the Gulf, and who, I am informed, is appointed to the command of the Bronx. I have not much time to spare, and if you do not object, I shall call in the first lieutenant and the surgeon to take part in this conference. I am perplexed, and I desire witnesses if not assistants in these proceedings."
"I have not the slightest objection to the presence of as many officers as you may choose to call in," added the invalid.
"I shall be equally reasonable," said Christy. "The more witnesses there are the better it will suit me."
Captain Battleton struck a bell on his table, and sent the steward who answered it to procure the attendance of the officers indicated, and they soon presented themselves.
"Gentlemen, Lieutenant Salisbury, the executive officer of the Vernon," said the captain. "Both of these gentlemen are Lieutenant Christopher Passford," he added, with a twinkle of the eye. "Dr. Connelly, you have both met."
"Are we to understand that one of these officers is the double of the other?" asked the first lieutenant, who seemed to be disposed to take in the situation as a pleasantry of the commander.
"Hardly; both of them claim to be the same officer, and I have invited you to assist me in deciding which is the real Mr. Passford."
The entire party then seated themselves at the table.
THE CONFERENCE IN THE CAPTAIN'S CABIN
Captain Horatio Passford lived at Bonnydale on the Hudson. He was rich in several millions of dollars, but he was richer in the possession of a noble character, one of the most prominent traits of which was his patriotism. He had presented his large and fast-sailing steam yacht to the government of the nation at the beginning of the struggle. His motto was, "Stand by the Union," and from the first he had done everything in his power to sustain his country against the assaults of dissolution.
He had a wife, a daughter, and a son, and his family were as patriotic as he was himself. At sixteen Christy, the son, had gone into the navy. He had learned to be a sailor and an engineer in his repeated cruises in the Bellevite, his father's large steam yacht, now a man-of-war in the navy. In two years the young man had worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant. He was very large for his age, and his nautical and mechanical education had prepared him for service to a degree which made him almost a prodigy, though his courage and skill had been fully equalled, if not surpassed, by other naval officers not older than himself.
Homer Passford, the only brother of his father, had early in life settled in Alabama, and become a planter, where he had made a respectable fortune, though he was a poor man compared with the northern brother. He had a wife, a son, and a daughter. At the beginning of the war of the Rebellion he had promptly espoused the cause of the South, and from his point of view, he was fully as patriotic as his brother on the other side. He was ready to give himself, his son, and his fortune to the independence of the South. His character was quite as noble as that of his brother, and he had done all he could in person and with his wealth to insure the success of the Southern cause.
His son Cornelius followed the lead of his father, and was faithful to the teachings given him in his southern home. He had enlisted as a soldier; but when it was found that he could be more serviceable to the Confederacy in certain irregular enterprizes, he was detached for this service. He had been engaged in an attempt to capture the Bellevite in connection with older and more skilful persons. The plan had failed, Corny had been severely wounded, and while on parole had lived at Bonnydale. From there he had been sent to a military prison, and had been exchanged. From that time, Christy knew nothing about him until he met him on board of the Vernon.
Corny was two years older than Christy; but the latter looked even more mature than the former. The resemblance between them had hardly been noticed by the two families, though Christy had spent several months at different times at the plantation of his uncle. But the resemblance was noted and often spoken of by persons outside of the families, the members of which, being in the habit of seeing them often together, did not notice the similarity of features and expression. Both of them resembled their fathers, who were often mistaken the one for the other in their early years.
After he found that the sick officer was his cousin Corny Passford, Christy began to apprehend the object of his southern relative in presenting himself as the bearer of his name and rank in the navy, though he had no time to consider the subject. Corny had given him no opportunity to look the matter over, for he had talked most of the time as opportunity was presented.
Captain Battleton seated himself in the armchair which Corny had abandoned, and placed a quire of paper before him as though he intended to take notes of the proceedings. Christy was not at all disturbed by the formal aspect the affair was assuming, for he felt entirely confident that poor Corny would be a prisoner of war at its conclusion. He had his commission and his orders in his pocket, and he was positive that they would vindicate him.
"I reported to the department that I had only a single vacant stateroom in the ward room of the Vernon, and I was ordered to receive Lieutenant Christopher Passford as a passenger, as I could not take another officer," said the captain. "It is not a serious question compared with others at issue, but the occupation of the single room, now in possession of the gentleman who came on board last evening, depends upon the result of our present inquiry."
"I should say there would be no difficulty in settling this question," said Mr. Salisbury.
"These gentlemen are cousins, and both of them bear the name of Passford," added the captain, as he raised his finger, pointing to Corny. "Will you give us your name in full, if you please?"
"Christopher Passford," replied the invalid officer, with the most unblushing effrontery.
"Your father's name?"
"Where does he live?"
"At Bonnydale, on the Hudson," replied Corny confidently.
"Excuse me, Captain Battleton; may I ask a question?" interposed the first lieutenant.
"Certainly, Mr. Salisbury. This is not a court-martial, but an informal investigation, and I shall be glad to have you and Dr. Connelly entirely free to ask any questions you please," replied the captain, who was anything but a martinet.
"Where did you say your father lived, Mr. Passford?" asked the executive officer.
"At Bonnydale, on the Hudson," answered Corny, as we may call him now that the reader knows who he is.
"Is Bonnydale the name of the town or city in which your father lives?"
"It is the name of my father's place," replied Corny; and Christy, who was observing him very closely, saw that he was a little disturbed.
"Bonnydale sounds like a fancy name, such as any gentleman might give to his estate, as Sunnyside was the home of Washington Irving. Is this the fact?" asked Mr. Salisbury.
"I suppose it is," answered Corny, with increasing confusion.
"Don't you know?"
"We always called it Bonnydale; and I know no other name for it."
"But Bonnydale is not an incorporated town. In what city or town is your father's place situated?"
"I know no name but Bonnydale," replied Corny; and the flush of fever or something else was on his cheeks now.
"Nothing more, captain," said the first lieutenant; and the stock of the other claimant mounted a little.
"Mr. Passford," continued the captain, indicating Christy with his finger, "your father's name, if you please."
"Horatio Passford," replied Christy with a smile.
"Where does he live?"
"At Bonnydale, on the Hudson."
"Permit me, Captain Battleton," interposed Mr. Salisbury; and the commander nodded his acquiescence. "Is Bonnydale the name of the town or city in which your father lives, Mr. Passford?"
"It is the name of my father's place," answered Christy, using the same words that Corny had.
"Bonnydale sounds like a fancy name, such as any gentleman might give to his estate," continued Mr. Salisbury, smiling, as he repeated the phrases he had used before. "Is this the fact?"
"It is; the name was given to the estate by my mother," replied Christy, unable to follow Corny any farther.
"In what town or city is your father's estate situated?"
"It is within the limits of the town of Montgomery."
"Nothing further, captain," said the executive officer; and the stock of this particular Lieutenant Passford mounted another trifle.
"Your cousin, who, according to your statement, was raised in the South, seems to be better informed in regard to the geography of Bonnydale than you do," added Captain Battleton.
"He is always inquiring into things that I don't care a straw about," replied Corny, vexed that he had been tripped up in a matter so simple.
The commander was disposed to carry the investigation a little farther in the same direction, and he sent Christy into the ward room, where he was instructed to remain until he was sent for. Captain Passford, senior, was well known to all the officers present by reputation, and he had assisted Dr. Connelly in procuring his appointment, so that the latter had had occasion to visit Bonnydale three times.
The captain asked Corny a hundred questions in regard to the estate, making memoranda of his answers. Once he suggested to the surgeon that he had better examine the pulse of his patient, for he did not wish to overtask him in the investigation. The subject of the inquiry declared that his headache had almost disappeared, and he needed no indulgence on account of his health.
After half an hour of questioning, Corny was sent to the ward room, and Christy was called to the captain's cabin. About the same questions were put to him as to his cousin; but both of them were prompt in their answers. In the last two years, Corny had been more at Bonnydale than Christy, and he was quite as much at home there, so that there was no reason why he should not be able to describe the mansion and its surroundings as accurately as the genuine Lieutenant Passford.
So far, Corny, with the single exception of his failure to give the geography of the estate, stood quite as well as his cousin. Then the first lieutenant questioned them both, as they were seated at the table, in a very general way. In their answers, Corny used the word "raised," while Christy was "brought up." Several phrases in more common use at the South than at the North were noted in his answers, which did not appear in the diction of Christy.
When the questioning was finished, the leaning of the trio of officers was in favor of Christy; but not one of them said anything in the presence of the two Passfords. The captain declared that he had already used up too much time in the inquiry, and he must close the conference very soon. Then he asked if either of the gentlemen had any papers they wished to present in support of his identity.
"I have my commission as a lieutenant, and my orders to take passage in the Vernon, and to take command of the Bronx on my arrival at the station of the Eastern Gulf squadron," said Corny, as he pulled a huge envelope from his breast pocket; and Christy could not but notice the perfect confidence with which he spoke.
"I have precisely the same papers," added Christy, with as much assurance as his cousin.
"I had nearly forgotten the most important evidence that can be presented in this matter," said the captain with a smile. "I dare say that each of the gentlemen will produce his commission, his orders, and his appointment to the command of the Bronx; and I don't know how we can decide between the papers. It looks as though the Bronx was likely to have two commanders."
"Here are my papers, captain," added Corny, as he passed his envelope across the table to the commander.
"This is not an official envelope," said the captain, as he took the package, and then fixed his gaze on the owner of the documents.
"No, sir; it is not. I had the misfortune to leave it on the table at Bonnydale, and Walsh, the man-servant, supposing it to be of no value, threw it into the fire," replied Corny promptly.
The commission and other papers were all right in every respect. Christy handed his envelope to the commander, and he broke it open. It contained nothing but a lot of blank paper.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION
When Captain Battleton took from the envelope the blank papers, no one seemed to be inquisitive as to the result, for, as the commander had suggested, they all expected to find the commission and other papers regularly and properly made out and signed. Several sheets were unfolded and spread out upon the table, and Christy was hardly more surprised than the others at the table.
"Your papers do not seem to be altogether regular, Mr. Passford," said the captain, as he held up one of them so that all could see it.
"I see they are not," answered Christy blankly.
"But they are enclosed in an official envelope," added the captain, as he held up the cover of the papers. "In this respect they have the advantage of those presented by the other gentleman. You appear to be as much surprised as any of the rest of us, Mr. Passford. Can you explain the fact that you present nothing but blank papers instead of your commission and orders?"
"At present I cannot; after I have had an opportunity for reflection I may be able to do so," replied Christy, from whom a more decided demonstration than he made was expected.
"It is evident from what we have heard, and from the documents submitted to me that one of these gentlemen is Lieutenant Christopher Passford," said Captain Battleton; "but we have no means of identifying the officer. In what vessels have you served, Mr. Passford?"
"My first service was in the Bellevite, and my last in the Bronx, of which I was acting commander on her voyage from New York to the Gulf," answered Christy, to whom the question was addressed.
"Is there any officer on board with whom you have served?"
"So far as I have seen, there is not."
"I have not noticed any seaman whose face was familiar to me."
"If I am correctly informed, you came home as prize master of the Vixen, convoying quite a fleet of steamers and schooners," continued Captain Battleton, looking about the cabin as though the inquiry had become wearisome to him.
"I did; you were correctly informed," answered Corny, as the wandering gaze of the commander rested upon him.
"Both of you were in command of the Vixen, I suppose," added the captain with a smile.
"I was, captain; but I cannot speak for my cousin Corny," replied the possessor of the commission.
"I can say with entire confidence that I was in command of the Vixen," added Christy.
"A considerable number of officers and seamen must have come with you in the Vixen and the other vessels," said the captain, raising his finger to indicate that the question was addressed to Christy.
"Yes, sir; the Vixen was fully armed and manned to protect the fleet of prize vessels she convoyed."
"Do you remember the names of the officers who served with you in the Vixen?" asked the captain.
"I could not very well forget them in so short a time," replied Corny, upon whom the gaze of the commander had again rested as he looked about him.
"Very well; perhaps you had better answer the question;" and the captain pointed at Corny. "Who was your first lieutenant?"
"Ensign Gordon Fillbrook," replied Corny promptly.
This was a correct answer, and Christy saw that his cousin had fully armed himself for his daring scheme, whatever it was.
"Your second lieutenant?"
"Ensign Frederick Jones," answered Corny, with some hesitation.
"Now will you inform me, Mr. Passford, who your officers were?" The commander pointed at Christy. "Your executive officer?"
"My cousin gave his name and rank correctly."
"And the second lieutenant?"
"Ensign Philip Bangs."
"Here you differ. Did you make a report of your voyage home, Lieutenant Passford?" continued the captain, pointing at Corny.
"I did, sir; for we captured a privateer on the voyage," answered Corny.
"Did you keep a copy of that report?"
"I did, captain; I keep copies of all my reports. I have them in my valise," answered he of the South in a matter-of-fact manner.
Christy laughed in spite of the importance of the investigation at the coolness and self-possession of his cousin; but he could not understand how Corny would be able to produce a copy of his report, which was in his valise with several such papers.
"I must trouble you to produce it, Lieutenant Passford," added the commander.
"Perhaps I ought to say in the beginning that it is not in my own handwriting, for after I had written it, Mr. Jones copied it for me," Corny explained, and, perhaps, thought he might be called upon to give a specimen of his chirography.
"That is immaterial," added Captain Battleton, as Corny left the cabin to procure the document. "Have you a copy of your report, Lieutenant Passford?" He pointed to Christy.
"I have, captain; and it is in my own handwriting," replied the officer addressed.
"Produce it, if you please."
He had placed his valise in the gangway, and he had not far to go to procure the report, his first draft of the document, which he had revised and copied at Bonnydale.
"I don't think we are getting ahead at all, Mr. Salisbury," said the captain, while the cousins were looking for their reports.
"I confess that I am as much in the dark as I was in the beginning," replied the executive officer.
"I can make nothing of it," added the surgeon. "It looks to me as though the commission alone would have to settle this matter."
"I don't see how I can go behind the official documents," replied the commander as Corny presented himself at the door.
A minute later Christy appeared with his report in his hand, and both of them were presented to the captain. The handwriting was as different as possible in the two papers. Corny's was in a large, coarse hand, but it was a fair copy, while Christy's contained several corrections and inter-lineations. No one could recognize the writing of either of the claimants, and the documents proved nothing at all. The captain was evidently weary of the investigation, and nothing but the commission seemed to throw any reliable light upon the claim of either one or the other.
"Any further questions, Mr. Salisbury?" asked the captain, bestowing a bored look upon the executive officer.
"Nothing more, Captain Battleton."
"Now, gentlemen, I will thank you to retire to the ward room, and I will send for you to hear my decision," continued the commander, and the cousins retired together, and both of them appeared to be as good-natured as though they were in perfect accord on the question in dispute.
"What is your opinion, Mr. Salisbury?" asked the captain, when the claimants had retired, careful not to indicate his own conclusion.
"While I acknowledge that I am somewhat prepossessed in favor of the Lieutenant Passford who came on board this morning, I do not think he has established his claim to be the true Lieutenant Christopher Passford. The other uses some peculiarly Southern phrases, as though he had been 'raised' in the South, and he is not perfect in the geography of Bonnydale. I think the commission is the only evidence upon which you can properly rely," replied the first lieutenant.
"Your views, if you please, Dr. Connelly."
"One of these officers is evidently a Confederate, and the other a loyal citizen. The commission, as Mr. Salisbury suggests, outweighs all the rest of the evidence. One or the other of the two men is an impostor, and without the commission, I should decide that my patient was the false Lieutenant Passford," answered the surgeon.
"We appear to agree, gentlemen, for you have expressed my own views as well as I could state them myself," added the captain. "But when I decide that the holder of the commission, which I am satisfied is a genuine document, is the loyal officer, and entitled to be received as the future commander of the Bronx, I must declare that the other is a Confederate; and not only that, but also that he is acting as a spy; that he is on board of the Vernon with mischievous intentions. It will be my duty to regard him as a prisoner of war, at least. What do you think of it, Mr. Salisbury?"
"I do not see how you can escape that conclusion," replied the first lieutenant.
"I am a sort of peace officer," added Dr. Connelly, when the captain glanced at him, "and I will express no opinion as to the status of the officer, though it appears to be as you describe it."
"This is an informal conference, doctor, and I hope you will express your views freely," said the captain.
"There is something in the situation which I cannot explain. I will only say that it is just possible there is a conspiracy at the bottom of the whole affair; and I should think it would be well to keep a close watch upon both of these officers. Why, on the voyage of the Bronx to the Gulf, Ensign Passford, as he was then, discovered two Confederate officers in his crew, and squarely defeated their efforts to capture his ship in the action with the Scotian, I believe it was."
"I have heard of it; and in quite a number of instances, Confederates have been put on board of steamers for the purpose of taking them from their officers," added the captain. "At the same time, I do not see that I can decide this question on any other evidence than that of the commission and other official documents."
Both of the other officers assented to this view, and the captain sent for the two claimants. Neither of them had spoken a word to the other during their stay in the ward room. Christy looked upon his cousin as a Confederate who was serving what he called his country, and he had not the slightest disposition to quarrel with him, and especially not to lead him to utter any unnecessary falsehoods. Possibly Corny was somewhat diffident about playing his assumed character before his cousin when they were alone, for they had always been the best of friends.
"Gentlemen, I have come to a decision in this matter," said the captain, when the two claimants had placed themselves before him in a standing position. "I cannot go behind the commission presented by the officer who came on board last evening, and I consider it my duty to regard him as the real Lieutenant Passford, recently promoted to his present rank. There is nothing more to be said."
"Of course I expected that would be your decision," replied Corny, as he took the papers which the captain returned to him, including his commission and report.
"You may retire now, if you please, Mr. Passford," added the commander.
Corny bowed politely to the officers at the table, and left the cabin. He did not even glance at Christy, and his face did not look like that of one who had just won a decided victory. Christy remained standing where he had placed himself; and he began to wonder what disposition would be made of him under present circumstances.
THE PRISONER OF WAR
After rendering his decision it was evident that Captain Battleton had something to say to Christy, for he waited in silence till Corny had closed the door behind him before he even looked at the officer standing before him. The lieutenant from the moment the envelopes were opened and their contents exposed to the view of all present, had fully expected the result just announced. Whatever he thought, suspected, or surmised when he saw the blank papers taken from his official envelope, he kept to himself.
"You have heard the decision I have just given, Mr. Passford, for I have no doubt that is your real name," said the captain, when the cabin door was closed.
"I have, captain," replied Christy, bowing respectfully.
"Have you anything to say in regard to it?"
"Nothing at all," replied Christy, bowing again, and bearing himself with the dignity of a veteran officer; and in the matter of demeanor, the Confederate Captain Carboneer had presented to him one of the best models he had seen, both in action and as a prisoner.
"You do not wish to make any explanation of the remarkable situation in which you find yourself placed at the present moment?"
"At present, I do not, captain."
"You certainly could not have been aware that your official envelope contained only blank paper. I cannot believe that one more simple-minded than I believe you to be would have had the effrontery to present such matter as evidence that he was an officer of the United States Navy," continued Captain Battleton, with a look of greater severity than he had before assumed, possibly because he realized that the real Lieutenant Passford was higher in rank than he was himself.
"I supposed the official envelope contained my commission and orders."
"You believe that your papers were taken from you, and the blanks substituted for them?"
"I cannot explain the matter at present, and you must excuse me from offering merely vague suspicions and conjectures."
"Do you realize your present situation, Mr. Passford?" asked the captain, apparently disappointed at the unwillingness of the young man to attempt an explanation.
"I think I do, captain, and I submit to your authority as the commander of the ship," answered Christy, with a dignified bow.
"As I said before, I have no doubt you are a Passford; and I have been compelled to decide that you are not the son of Captain Horatio Passford, the distinguished gentleman who has done so much for his country in the present war."
"With the evidence before you, I do not see how you could have decided otherwise."
"Whether the decision be just or not, I am obliged to regard you as son of the Homer Passford who supports the government of the Confederacy. You and the other Mr. Passford have recognized each other as cousins."
"We are cousins."
"Then it follows that one of the two must be a Confederate who is on board of a United States ship for some purpose not yet explained, but fairly supposed to be hostile."
"I admit the correctness of your conclusion."
"I have already recognized the Union officer, and therefore you must be the Confederate."
"Without reflecting upon your decision, I must deny that I am a Confederate, and proclaim that my motto is 'Stand by the Union!'"
"In spite of your denial and your motto, I shall have to regard you as a prisoner of war, and treat you as such," said the captain, rising from his chair, the others following his example.
"I submit to your authority, Captain Battleton," replied Christy, bowing to the commander.
"But I do not wish to subject you to any unnecessary restraint, and I shall be willing to accept your parole that you will engage in no hostile movement on board of the Vernon," continued the captain, in milder tones.
"I cannot accept a parole, captain, for that would be equivalent to an admission that I am a Confederate; and I claim to be a loyal officer."
"If you are, I am sorry that you are unable to prove your claim. I have only one officer on board as a passenger, for the reason that I had only one spare stateroom. There is no place for you in the ward room, and it does not appear that you are an officer."
"I shall find no fault with my accommodations, whatever they are," replied Christy.
"I must object to your wearing the shoulder straps of a lieutenant on board of the Vernon," added Captain Battleton.
"I have a plain frock in my valise which I wore when the Teaser was captured," added Christy with a smile. "I will remove my coat and wear that."
"Now I will see where I can find a place for you to berth," said the captain as he left the cabin.
"I am sorry you did not explain the blank paper in your envelope, Mr. Passford," said the surgeon, as they were leaving the cabin.
"I cannot explain it—how can I?" replied Christy. "Whoever took out my papers and put the blanks in their place, did not make me his confidant in the operation."
"But can you not recall some event or circumstance which will throw some light on the mystery?" persisted Dr. Connelly.
"I can; but I have not had time to consider any events or circumstances, and it would not be treating Captain Battleton with proper respect to submit a string of crude conjectures to him."
At this moment the captain appeared in the gangway, and interrupted the conversation. He informed the prisoner of war, as he chose to regard him, that he had directed the carpenter to put up a temporary berth for him. Christy opened his valise, and took from it his frock, which he put on after he had disposed of his coat. Then he looked like a common sailor. He was informed that his berth was just forward of the steerage, in that part of the steamer where the men slung their hammocks. The third lieutenant was directed to show him to the place indicated.
The carpenter and his assistants were still at work on the berth, and Christy, placing his valise near it, seated himself by it. For the first time since he came on board of the Vernon he had an opportunity to reflect upon the events of the day. Corny Passford was the present master of the situation. He had not been aware till he met him in the captain's cabin, that his cousin was even in the vicinity of New York. With an amount of assurance for which he had not given him credit, Corny had undertaken to personate his nautical relative, and was now actually on his way to the Gulf to take command of the Bronx.
The little gunboat had certainly done a great deal of mischief to the Confederate interests, for she had captured two valuable vessels intended for the southern navy, to say nothing of half a dozen others loaded with cotton, and ready to sail. From the Confederate point of view, it was exceedingly desirable that she should be prevented from doing any further injury to the maritime interests of the South. But it seemed almost incredible that Corny Passford should be employed to bring about her capture by stratagem. His cousin was not a sailor; at least, he had not been one the last time he had met him, and it was hardly possible that he had learned seamanship, navigation, and naval tactics in so short a time, and so far as Christy knew, with little practical experience.
He had seen the commission which Corny presented to the captain of the Vernon, and recognized it as his own. In spite of the statements his cousin had made, Christy saw that the handwriting of the report he submitted as a copy of the genuine document was in Corny's usual handwriting. Where had he obtained the commission, and where the original report? These were not hard questions, now that the preliminaries of the plot had been fully developed.
Walsh, the man-servant at Bonnydale, was now a seaman on board of the Vernon, under the real or assumed name of Byron. He denied his identity, as he would naturally do under the circumstances; but Christy had not a doubt that he was the man who had suddenly disappeared after the mysterious visitation of the night before. Doubtless, Corny had been the visitor at the mansion, and had procured the contents of the official envelope on this occasion.
He appeared to have been unwilling to trust Byron, as the seaman preferred to be called, and had attended to the business in person with the assistance of his confederate. The report was lying on the table in his chamber, and Byron could have borrowed it for any length of time to enable Corny to make a copy. Whoever had visited his chamber in the night, whether Corny or the man-servant, he must have taken the official envelope to the library, or some other part of the house, for it had been carefully opened, and restored to its former condition after the genuine documents in it had been replaced by the blank paper.
It was now all as clear to Christy as though he had observed the proceedings of the conspirators, and taken notes of all they had done. The purpose of all these operations was quite as obvious as the details of the scheme. Either the Vernon or the Bronx was to be captured, perhaps both, for of course Christy could not determine in what manner the mischief was to be accomplished. Prisoner of war as he was, he never felt burdened with a greater responsibility than when he realized the actual situation.
This responsibility was not of a personal nature. He did not have the feeling that he had been vanquished in the contest before the captain, and the fact that he was a prisoner hardly disturbed him. It was the prospective injury to the cause of his country which occasioned his solicitude. His object was to save the Vernon, the Bronx, or both, from being handed over to the enemy without a struggle to save them, one or both.
He had no fault to find with the captain for his decision against him, which seemed to be natural and warrantable. He had no ill-feeling against his cousin, for he was trying to serve the cause he had espoused. He was even willing to believe that he would have done the same thing himself under like circumstances.
After he had considered the subject for a couple of hours he went back to one of his first points, relating to the fitness and capacity of Corny to accomplish the task he had undertaken. It was evident enough on the face of it that his cousin, even if he had been a veteran naval officer, could not carry out the plan alone. He must have confederates, in the double sense, on board of the Vernon. In the early stages of the war, men who had served in the navy as officers were coming home from all parts of the world to take part on one side or the other in the struggle. Those even who were disloyal could obtain commissions in the loyal navy if their consciences would let them take the oath of allegiance with a mental reservation. Christy had encountered several of this kind.
Many of the seamen were foreigners who cared little on which side they served, and one or more of the four officers in the ward room might be at work for the Confederacy. Christy thought he was in an excellent position to investigate the matter, and he decided that this should be his first duty. Among the crew there must be some who were to take part in the plot of Corny, whatever it was.
Before the close of the conference the Atlantic had begun to be quite "sloppy," and the Vernon was now laboring in an ugly cross sea, which caused her to roll heavily.
A MORAL PHILOSOPHER.
The temporary berth was finished, the bedding put into it, and Christy took possession of it. For the present he had done all the thinking he cared to do, and he felt that his present duty was in action. He was a prisoner of war, and as such he was in disgrace in a loyal ship's company; at least, he felt that he was so under present circumstances. He was not disgusted at his failure to establish his identity, nor disheartened at the prospect before him. More than ever before in the two years of his experience as a naval officer, he realized that it was his duty to "Stand by the Union."
The watch below were all around him. Some of them were mending their clothes, others were reading newspapers they had brought with them, but the greater part of them were in squads engaged in talking about the events of the war. The nearest group to Christy were conversing about the two lieutenants who claimed to be the real officer ordered to the command of the Bronx. It seemed rather strange to the listener that they should know anything about the events which had happened in the secrecy of the captain's cabin, and this circumstance led him to believe that at least one of the officers of the ship must be a confederate of Corny.