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 (Other volumes in preparation)
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BLUE AND THE GRAY
By Oliver Optic
TAKEN by the ENEMY
The Blue and the Gray Series
TAKEN BY THE ENEMY
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 Stories" "The Onward and Upward Series" "The Yacht-Club Series" "The Lake-Shore Series" "The Riverdale Series" "The Boat-Builder Series" etc.
LEE AND SHEPARD Publishers
Copyright, 1888, by Lee and Shepard All rights reserved.
Taken by the Enemy.
HERBERT W. ADAMS,
is Affectionately Dedicated.
"TAKEN BY THE ENEMY" is the first of a new series of six volumes which are to be associated under the general title of "The Blue and the Gray Series," which sufficiently indicates the character of the books. At the conclusion of the war of the Rebellion, and before the writer had completed "The Army and Navy Series," over twenty years ago, some of his friends advised him to make all possible haste to bring his war stories to a conclusion, declaring that there could be no demand for such works when the war had come to an end. But the volumes of the series mentioned are as much in demand to-day as any of his other stories, though from their nature the field of their circulation is more limited. Surprising as this may appear, it is still the fact; and certainly the author has received more commendatory letters from young people in regard to the books of this series than concerning those of any other.
Among these letters there has occasionally been one, though rarely, in which the writer objected to this series for the reason that he was "on the other side" of the great issue which shook the nation to the centre of its being for four years. Doubtless the writers of these letters, and many who wrote no letters, will be surprised and grieved at the announcement of another series by the author on war topics. The writer had little inclination to undertake this task; for he has believed for twenty years that the war is over, and he has not been disposed to keep alive old issues which had better remain buried. He has spent some time in the South, and has always found himself among friends there. He became personally acquainted with those who fought on the Confederate side, from generals to privates, and he still values their friendship. He certainly is not disposed to write any thing that would cause him to forfeit his title to the kind feeling that was extended to him.
It is not, therefore, with the desire or intention to rekindle the fires of sectional animosity, now happily subdued, that the writer begins another series relating to the war. The call upon him to use the topics of the war has been so urgent, and its ample field of stirring events has been so inviting, that he could not resist; but, while his own opinions in regard to the great question of five-and-twenty years ago remain unchanged, he hopes to do more ample justice than perhaps was done before to those "who fought on the other side."
The present volume introduces those which are to follow it, and presents many of the characters that are to figure in them. Though written from the Union standpoint, the author hopes that it will not be found unfair or unjust to those who looked from the opposite point of view.
Dorchester, June 12, 1888.
Page CHAPTER I. Astounding News from the Shore 13
CHAPTER II. The Brother at the South 24
CHAPTER III. Dangerous and Somewhat Irregular 35
CHAPTER IV. The First Mission of the Bellevite 47
CHAPTER V. The Bellevite and those on Board of her 58
CHAPTER VI. Mr. Percy Pierson introduces himself 69
CHAPTER VII. A Complication at Glenfield 80
CHAPTER VIII. A Disconsolate Purchaser of Vessels 91
CHAPTER IX. Christy matures a Promising Scheme 102
CHAPTER X. The Attempt to pass into Mobile Bay 113
CHAPTER XI. The Major in Command of Fort Gaines 124
CHAPTER XII. How the Bellevite passed Fort Morgan 135
CHAPTER XIII. A Decided Difference of Opinion 146
CHAPTER XIV. The Blue and the Gray 157
CHAPTER XV. Brother at War with Brother 168
CHAPTER XVI. Christy finds himself a Prisoner 179
CHAPTER XVII. Major Pierson is puzzled 190
CHAPTER XVIII. The Morning Trip of the Leopard 201
CHAPTER XIX. The Report of the Scout from the Shore 212
CHAPTER XX. A Rebellion in the Pilot-House 223
CHAPTER XXI. The Sick Captain of the Leopard 234
CHAPTER XXII. The Proceedings on the Lower Deck 245
CHAPTER XXIII. The Expedition from the Leopard 256
CHAPTER XXIV. The Engineer goes into the Forecastle 267
CHAPTER XXV. The First Lesson for a Sailor 278
CHAPTER XXVI. The Post of Duty and of Danger 289
CHAPTER XXVII. A Cannon-Ball through the Leopard 300
CHAPTER XXVIII. The American Flag at the Fore 311
CHAPTER XXIX. On Board of the Bellevite 322
CHAPTER XXX. Running the Gantlet 333
TAKEN BY THE ENEMY
ASTOUNDING NEWS FROM THE SHORE
"This is most astounding news!" exclaimed Captain Horatio Passford.
It was on the deck of the magnificent steam-yacht Bellevite, of which he was the owner; and with the newspaper, in which he had read only a few of the many head-lines, still in his hand, he rushed furiously across the deck, in a state of the most intense agitation.
It would take more than one figure to indicate the number of millions by which his vast wealth was measured, in the estimation of those who knew most about his affairs; and he was just returning from a winter cruise in his yacht.
His wife and son were on board; but his daughter had spent the winter at the South with her uncle, preferring this to a voyage at sea, being in rather delicate health, and the doctors thought a quiet residence in a genial climate was better for her.
The Bellevite had been among the islands of the Atlantic, visiting the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and was now coming from Bermuda. She had just taken a pilot fifty miles from Sandy Hook, and was bound to New York, for the captain's beautiful estate, Bonnydale, was located on the Hudson.
As usual, the pilot had brought on board with him the latest New-York papers, and one of them contained the startling news which appeared to have thrown the owner of the Bellevite entirely off his balance; and it was quite astounding enough to produce this effect upon any American.
"What is it, sir?" demanded Christopher Passford, his son, a remarkably bright-looking young fellow of sixteen, as he followed his father across the deck.
"What is it, Horatio?" inquired Mrs. Passford, who had been seated with a book on the deck, as she also followed her husband.
The captain was usually very cool and self-possessed, and neither the wife nor the son had ever before seen him so shaken by agitation. He seemed to be unable to speak a word for the time, and took no notice whatever of his wife and son when they addressed him.
For several minutes he continued to rush back and forth across the deck of the steamer, like a vessel which had suddenly caught a heavy flaw of wind, and had not yet come to her bearings.
"What is the matter, Horatio?" asked Mrs. Passford, when he came near her. "What in the world has happened to overcome you in this manner, for I never saw you so moved before?"
But her husband did not reply even to this earnest interrogatory, but again darted across the deck, and his lips moved as though he were muttering something to himself. He did not look at the paper in his hands again; and whatever the startling intelligence it contained, he seemed to have taken it all in at a glance.
Christy, as the remarkably good-looking young man was called by all in the family and on board of the Bellevite, appeared to be even more astonished than his mother at the singular conduct of his father; but he saw how intense was his agitation, and he did not follow him in his impulsive flights across the deck.
Though his father had always treated him with great consideration, and seldom if ever had occasion to exercise any of his paternal authority over him, the young man never took advantage of the familiarity existing between them. His father was certainly in a most extraordinary mood for him, and he could not venture to speak a word to him.
He stood near the companion way, not far from his mother, and he observed the movements of his father with the utmost interest, not unmingled with anxiety; and Mrs. Passford fully shared with him the solicitude of the moment.
The steamer was going at full speed in the direction of Sandy Hook. Captain Passford gave no heed to the movement of the vessel, but for several minutes planked the deck as though he were unable to realize the truth or the force of the news he had hastily gathered from the head-lines of the newspaper.
At last he halted in the waist, at some distance from the other members of his family, raised his paper, and fixed his gaze upon the staring announcement at the head of one of its columns. No one ventured to approach him; for he was the magnate of the vessel, and, whatever his humor, he was entitled to the full benefit of it.
He only glanced at the head-lines as he had done before, and then dropped the paper, as though the announcement he had read was all he desired to know.
"Beeks," said he, as a quartermaster passed near him.
The man addressed promptly halted, raised his hand to his cap, and waited the pleasure of the owner of the steamer.
"Tell Captain Breaker that I wish to see him, if you please," added Captain Passford.
The man repeated the name of the person he was to call, and hastened away to obey the order. The owner resumed his march across the deck, though it was evident to the anxious observers that he had in a great measure recovered his self-possession, for his movements were less nervous, and the usual placid calm was restored to his face.
In another minute, Captain Breaker, who was the actual commander of the vessel, appeared in the waist, and walked up to his owner. Though not more than forty-five years old, his hair and full beard were heavily tinted with gray; and an artist who wished for an ideal shipmaster, who was both a gentleman and a sailor, could not have found a better representative of this type in the merchant or naval service, or on the deck of the finest steam-yacht in the world.
"You sent for me, Captain Passford," said the commander, in respectful but not subservient tones.
"You will take the steamer to some point off Fire Island, and come to anchor there," replied the owner, as, without any explanation, he walked away from the spot.
"Off Fire Island," added Captain Breaker, simply repeating the name of the locality to which his order related, but not in a tone that required an exclamation-point to express his surprise.
Whatever the captain of the Bellevite thought or felt, it was an extraordinary order which he received. It was in the month of April, and the vessel had been absent about five months on her winter pleasure cruise.
In a few hours more the yacht could easily be at her moorings off Bonnydale on the Hudson; but when almost in sight of New York, the captain had been ordered to anchor, as though the owner had no intention of returning to his elegant home.
If he was surprised, as doubtless he was, he did not manifest it in the slightest degree; for he was a sailor, and it was a part of his gospel to obey the orders of his owner without asking any questions.
No doubt he thought of his wife and children as he walked forward to the pilot-house to execute his order, for he had been away from them for a long time. The three papers brought on board by the pilot had all been given to the owner, and he had no hint of the startling news they contained.
The course of the Bellevite was promptly changed more to the northward; and if the pilot wished to be informed in regard to this strange alteration in the immediate destination of the vessel, Captain Breaker was unable to give him any explanation.
Captain Passford was evidently himself again; and he did not rush across the deck as he had done before, but seated himself in an armchair he had occupied before the pilot came on board, and proceeded to read something more than the headlines in the paper.
He hardly moved or looked up for half an hour, so intensely was he absorbed in the narrative before him. Mrs. Passford and Christy, though even more excited by the singular conduct of the owner, and the change in the course of the steamer, did not venture to interrupt him.
The owner took the other two papers from his pocket, and had soon possessed himself of all the details of the astounding news; and it was plain enough to those who so eagerly observed his expression as he read, that he was impressed as he had never been before in his life.
Before the owner had finished the reading of the papers, the Bellevite had reached the anchorage chosen by the pilot, and the vessel was soon fast to the bottom in a quiet sea.
"The tide is just right for going up to the city," said the pilot, who had left his place in the pilot-house, and addressed himself to the owner in the waist.
"But we shall not go up to the city," replied Captain Passford, in a very decided tone. "But that shall make no difference in your pilot's fees.—Captain Breaker."
The captain of the steamer, who had also come out of the pilot-house, had stationed himself within call of the owner to receive the next order, which might throw some light on the reason for anchoring the steamer so near her destination on a full sea. He presented himself before the magnate of the yacht, and indicated that he was ready to take his further orders.
"You will see that the pilot is paid his full fee for taking the vessel to a wharf," continued Captain Passford.
The captain bowed, and started towards the companionway; but the owner called him back.
"I see what looks like a tug to the westward of us. You will set the signal to bring her alongside," the magnate proceeded.
This order was even more strange than that under which the vessel had come to anchor so near home after her long cruise; but the captain asked no questions, and made no sign. Calling Beeks, he went aft with the pilot, and paid him his fees.
When the American flag was displayed in the fore-rigging for the tug, Captain Passford, with his gaze fixed on the planks of the deck, walked slowly to the place where his wife was seated, and halted in front of her without speaking a word. But there was a quivering of the lip which assured the lady and her son that he was still struggling to suppress his agitation.
"What is the matter, Horatio?" asked the wife, in the tenderest of tones, while her expression assured those who saw her face that the anxiety of the husband had been communicated to the wife.
"I need hardly tell you, Julia, that I am disturbed as I never was before in all my life," replied he, maintaining his calmness only with a struggle.
"I can see that something momentous has happened in our country," she added, hardly able to contain herself, for she felt that she was in the presence of an unexplained calamity.
"Something has happened, my dear; something terrible,—something that I did not expect, though many others were sure that it would come," he continued, seating himself at the side of his wife.
"But you do not tell me what it is," said the lady, with a look which indicated that her worst fears were confirmed. "Is Florry worse? Is she"—
"So far as I know, Florry is as well as usual," interposed the husband. "But a state of war exists at the present moment between the North and the South."
THE BROTHER AT THE SOUTH
Even five months before, when the Bellevite had sailed on her cruise, the rumble of coming events had been heard in the United States; and it had been an open question whether or not war would grow out of the complications between the North and the South.
Only a few letters, and fewer newspapers, had reached the owner of the yacht; and he and his family on board had been very indifferently informed in regard to the progress of political events at home. Captain Passford was one of those who confidently believed that no very serious difficulty would result from the entanglements into which the country had been plunged by the secession of the most of the Southern States.
He would not admit even to himself that war was possible; and before his departure he had scouted the idea of a conflict with arms between the brothers of the North and the brothers of the South, as he styled them.
Captain Passford had been the master of a ship in former times, though he had accumulated his vast fortune after he abandoned the sea. His father was an Englishman, who had come to the United States as a young man, had married, raised his two sons, and died in the city of New York.
These two sons, Horatio and Homer, were respectively forty-five and forty years of age. Both of them were married, and each of them had only a son and a daughter. While Horatio had been remarkably successful in his pursuit of wealth in the metropolis, he had kept himself clean and honest, like so many of the wealthy men of the great city. When he retired from active business, he settled at Bonnydale on the Hudson.
His brother had been less successful as a business-man, and soon after his marriage to a Northern lady he had purchased a plantation in Alabama, where both of his children had been born, and where he was a man of high standing, with wealth enough to maintain his position in luxury, though his fortune was insignificant compared with that of his brother.
Between the two brothers and their families the most kindly relations had always existed; and each made occasional visits to the other, though the distance which separated them was too great to permit of very frequent exchanges personally of brotherly love and kindness.
Possibly the fraternal feeling which subsisted between the two brothers had some influence upon the opinions of Horatio, for to him hostilities meant making war upon his only brother, whom he cherished as warmly as if they had not been separated by a distance of over a thousand miles.
He measured the feelings of others by his own; and if all had felt as he felt, war would have been an impossibility, however critical and momentous the relations between the two sections.
Though his father had been born and bred in England, Horatio was more intensely American than thousands who came out of Plymouth Rock stock; and he believed in the union of the States, unable to believe that any true citizen could tolerate the idea of a separation of any kind.
The first paper which Captain Passford read on the deck of the Bellevite contained the details of the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter; and the others, a record of the events which had transpired in the few succeeding days after the news of actual war reached the North.
This terrible intelligence was unexpected to the owner of the yacht, believing, as he had, in the impossibility of war; and it seemed to him just as though he and his cherished brother were already arrayed against each other on the battle-field.
The commotion between the two sections had begun before his departure from home on the yacht cruise, but his brother, perhaps because he was fully instructed in regard to the Union sentiment of Horatio, was strangely reticent, and expressed no opinions of his own.
But Captain Passford, measuring his brother according to his own standard, was fully persuaded that Homer was as sound on the great question as he was himself, though the excitement and violence around him might have caused him to maintain a neutral position.
Certainly if the Northern brother had anticipated that a terrible war was impending, he would not have permitted his daughter Florence, a beautiful young lady of seventeen, to reside during the winter in a hot-bed of secession and disunion. The papers informed him what had been done at the North and at the South to initiate the war; and the thought that Florry was now in the midst of the enemies of her country was agonizing to him.
Though he felt that his country demanded his best energies, and though he was ready and willing to give himself and his son to her in her hour of need, he felt that his first duty was to his own family, within reasonable limits; and his earliest thoughts were directed to the safety of his daughter, and then to the welfare of his brother and his family.
"War!" exclaimed Mrs. Passford, when her husband had announced so briefly the situation which had caused such intense agitation in his soul. "What do you mean by war, Horatio?"
"I mean all that terrible word can convey of destruction and death, and, worse yet, of hate and revenge between brothers of the same household!" replied the husband impressively. "Both the North and the South are sounding the notes of preparation. Men are gathering by thousands on both sides, soon to meet on fields which must be drenched in the gore of brothers."
"But don't you think the trouble will be settled in some way, Horatio?" asked the anxious wife and mother; and her thoughts, like those of her husband, reverted to the loving daughter then in the enemy's camp.
"I do not think so; that is impossible now. I did not believe that war was possible: now I do not believe it will be over till one side or the other shall be exhausted," replied Captain Passford, wiping from his brow the perspiration which the intensity of his emotion produced. "A civil war is the most bitter and terrible of all wars."
"I cannot understand it," added the lady.
"Is it really war, sir?" asked Christy, who had been an interested listener to all that had been said.
"It is really war, my son," replied the father earnestly. "It will be a war which cannot be carried to a conclusion by hirelings; but father, son, and brother must take part in it, against father, son, and brother."
"It is terrible to think of," added Mrs. Passford with something like a shudder, though she was a strong-minded woman in the highest sense of the words.
Captain Passford then proceeded to inform his wife and son in regard to all the events which had transpired since he had received his latest papers at Bermuda. They listened with the most intense interest, and the trio were as solemn as though they had met to consider the dangerous illness of the absent member of the family.
The owner did not look upon the impending war as a sort of frolic, as did many of the people at the North and the South, and he could not regard it as a trivial conflict which would be ended in a few weeks or a few months. To him it was the most terrible reality which his imagination could picture; and more clearly than many eminent statesmen, he foresaw that it would be a long and fierce encounter.
"From what you say, Horatio, I judge that the South is already arming for the conflict," said Mrs. Passford, after she had heard her husband's account of what had occurred on shore.
"The South has been preparing for war for months, and the North began to make serious preparation for coming events as soon as Fort Sumter fell. Doubtless the South is better prepared for the event to-day than the North, though the greater population and vast resources of the latter will soon make up for lost time," replied the captain.
"And Florry is right in the midst of the gathering armies of the South," added the fond mother, wiping a tear from her eyes.
"She is; and, unless something is done at once to restore her to her home, she may have to remain in the enemy's country for months, if not for years," answered the father, with a slight trembling of the lips.
"But what can be done?" asked the mother anxiously.
"The answer to that question has agitated me more than any thing else which has come to my mind for years, for I cannot endure the thought of leaving her even a single month at any point which is as likely as any other to become a battle-field in a few days or a few weeks," continued Captain Passford, with some return of the agitation which had before shaken him so terribly.
"Of course your brother Homer will take care of her," said the terrified mother, as she gazed earnestly into the expressive face of the stout-hearted man before her.
"Certainly he will do all for Florry that he would do for his own children, but he may not long be able to save his own family from the horrors of war."
"Do you think she will be in any actual danger, Horatio?"
"I have no doubt she will be as safe at Glenfield, if the conflict were raging there, as she would be at Bonnydale under the same circumstances. From the nature of the case, the burden of the fighting, the havoc and desolation, will be within the Southern States, and few, if any, of the battle-fields will be on Northern soil, or at least as far north as our home."
"From what I have seen of the people near the residence of your brother, they are neither brutes nor savages," added the lady.
"No more than the people of the North; but war rouses the brute nature of most men, and there will be brutes and savages on both sides, from the very nature of the case."
"In his recent letters, I mean those that came before we sailed from home, Homer did not seem to take part with either side in the political conflict; and in those which came to us at the Azores and Bermuda, he did not say a single word to indicate whether he is a secessionist, or in favor of the Union. Do you know how he stands, Horatio?"
"My means of knowing are the same as yours, and I can be no wiser than you are on this point, though I have my opinion," replied Captain Passford.
"What is your opinion?"
"That he is as truly a Union man as I am."
"I am glad that he is."
"I do not say that he is a Union man; but judging from his silence, and what I know of him, I think he is. And it is as much a part of my desire and intention to bring him and his family out of the enemy's country as it is to recover Florry."
"Then we shall have them all at Bonnydale this summer?" suggested Mrs. Passford. "Nothing could suit me better."
"Though I am fully persuaded in my own mind that Homer will be true to his country in this emergency, I may be mistaken. He has lived for many years at the South, and has been identified with the institutions of that locality, as I have been with those of the North. Though we both love the land of our fathers on the other side of the ocean, we have both been strongly American. As he always believed in the whole country as a unit, I shall expect him to be more than willing to stand by his country as it was, and as it should be."
"I hope you will find him so, but I am grievously sorry that Florry is not with us."
"Tug-boat alongside, Captain Passford," said the commander.
The owner of the Bellevite wished the tug to wait his orders.
DANGEROUS AND SOMEWHAT IRREGULAR
In various parts of the deck of the Bellevite, the officers, seamen, engineers, and coal-passers of the steamer were gathered in knots, evidently discussing the situation; for the news brought on board by the pilot had been spread through the ship.
Captain Passford hardly noticed the announcement made to him by the commander, that the tug was alongside, for he was not yet ready to make use of it. Even the wife and the son of the owner wondered what the mission of the little vessel was to be; but the husband and father had not yet disclosed his purpose in coming to anchor almost in sight of his own mansion.
"Why have you come to anchor here, Horatio?" asked Mrs. Passford, taking advantage of the momentary pause in the interesting, and even exciting, conversation, to put this leading question.
"I was about to tell you. I have already adopted my plan to recover Florry, and bring my brother and his family out of the enemy's country," replied the owner, looking with some solicitude into the face of his wife, as though he anticipated some objection to his plan.
"You have adopted it so quick?" inquired the lady. "You have not had much time to think of it."
"I have had all the time I need to enable me to reach the decision to rescue my child from peril, and save my brother and his family from privation and trouble in the enemy's country. But I have only decided what to do, and I have yet to mature the details of the scheme."
"I hope you are not going into any danger," added the wife anxiously.
"Danger!" exclaimed Captain Passford, straightening up his manly form. "War with all its perils and hardships is before us. Am I a villain, a poltroon, who will desert his country in the hour of her greatest need? I do not so understand myself."
"Of course I meant any needless exposure," added Mrs. Passford, impressed by the patriotic bearing of her husband.
"You may be assured, Julia, that I will incur no needless peril, and I think I am even more careful than the average of men. But, when I have a duty to perform, I feel that I ought to do it without regard to the danger which may surround it."
"I know you well enough to understand that, Horatio," said the lady.
"I believe there will be danger in my undertaking, though to what extent I am unable to say."
"But you do not tell me how you intend to recover Florry."
"I intend to go for her and my brother's family in the Bellevite."
"In the Bellevite!" exclaimed the lady.
"Of course; there is no other possible way to reach Glenfield," which was the name that Homer Passford had given to his plantation.
"But Fort Morgan, at the entrance of Mobile Bay, is in the hands of the Confederates, and has been for three or four months," said Christy, who had kept himself as thoroughly posted in regard to events at home as the sources of information would permit.
"I am well aware of it; and I have no doubt, that, by this time, the fort is strongly garrisoned, to say nothing of other forts which have probably been built in the vicinity," replied Captain Passford.
"It says in this paper that the ports of the South have been blockaded," said Christy, glancing at the journal in his hand.
"The President has issued a proclamation to this effect, but there has hardly been time to enforce it to any great extent yet. But of these matters I have nothing to say yet. The important point now is that I shall go in the Bellevite to Mobile Bay, and by force or strategy I shall bring off my daughter and the family of my brother."
"Then I suppose Christy and I are to be sent on shore in the tug alongside," suggested Mrs. Passford.
"That is precisely what I wanted the tug for," added the husband.
"I should be willing to go with you, and share whatever dangers you may incur," said the lady, who had by this time come to a full realization of what war meant.
"I should be a heathen to allow you to do so. A woman would be more of a burden than a help to us. You had better return to Bonnydale, Julia, where I am sure you can render more service to your country than you could on board of the steamer. All that I am, all that I have, shall be at the service of the Union; and I wish you to act for me according to your own good judgment."
"I shall do whatever you wish me to do, Horatio," added the lady.
"My mission will be a dangerous one at best, and the deck of the steamer will be no place for you, Julia."
"Very well; Christy and I will take the tug as soon as you are ready to have us leave you."
"Am I to go on shore, father?" demanded Christy, with a look of chagrin on his handsome face, browned by exposure to the sun on the ocean. "I want to go with you; and I am sure I can do my share of the duty, whatever it may be."
"You are rather young to engage in such an enterprise as that before me, Christy," added his father, as he gazed with pride at the face and form of his son, who had thrown back his head as though he felt the inspiration of all the manliness in his being.
"If there is to be a war for the Union, I am a Union man, or boy, as you like; and it would be as mean and cowardly for me to turn my back to the enemy as it would be for you to do so, sir," replied Christy, his chest heaving with patriotic emotion.
"I am willing you should go with me," added Captain Passford, turning from the young man to his mother.
There was a tear in the eyes of the lady as she looked upon her son. It was hard enough to have her husband leave her on such a mission: it was doubly so to have Christy go with him.
"Christy might be of great service to me," said his father. "I look upon this war as a very solemn event; and when a man's country calls upon him to render his time, his comfort, even his life, he has no moral right to put himself, his father, his brother, or his son in a safe place, and leave mere hirelings, the thoughtless, reckless adventurers, to fight his battle for him."
"I am ready to go, sir," added Christy.
"He may go with you, if you think it best," said the mother with a quivering lip. "I shall miss him, but I am sure you would miss him more."
"My first mission is hardly in the service of my country; at least, it is not directly so, though I hope to be of some use to her during my absence. As I said before, I think my first duty—a duty committed to me by the Almighty, which takes precedence over all other duties—is, within reasonable limits, to my own family. I will not spare myself or my son, but I must save Florry and my brother's family."
"I think you are right, Horatio."
"On my return I shall present the Bellevite to the Government, which is in sore need of suitable vessels at the present time, and offer my services in any capacity in which I can be useful," continued Captain Passford. "Captain Breaker," he called to the commander.
"Pipe the entire ship's company on the forecastle, and see that no one from the tug is near enough to hear what is said there."
Captain Breaker had formerly been a lieutenant in the navy, and the forms and discipline of a man-of-war prevailed on board of the steam-yacht. In a minute more the pipe of the boatswain rang through the vessel, and all hands were mustered on the forecastle. The tug was made fast on the quarter of the steamer, and no one from her had come on board.
Captain Passford and Christy walked forward, leaving the lady with her own thoughts. She was a daughter of a distinguished officer in the navy, and she had been fully schooled in the lesson of patriotism for such an emergency as the present. She was sad, and many a tear dropped from her still handsome face; but she was brave enough to feel proud that she had a husband and a son whom she was willing to give to her country.
The ship's company gathered on the forecastle; and every one of them seemed to be deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, for not a light word was spoken, not a laugh played on any face. They had just learned that the country was in a state of war; and the present occasion indicated that the owner had some serious question in his mind, which was now to be presented to them.
The Bellevite was heavily manned for a yacht; but every person had been selected for his position, from the highest to the lowest, with the utmost care by Captain Breaker, assisted by the owner. Every one of them had been attached to the steamer for at least a year, and some of them for a longer period. All of them were personally known to the owner and the members of the family, who had taken the greatest pleasure in improving and assisting them and their families, if they had any.
They were all devoted to the owner and the members of his family, who had taken such a strong personal interest in them and theirs. Many instances of the kindness of the lady in times of sickness and death, as well as in the brighter days of prosperity and happiness, could be related; and in return for all this generous and considerate treatment, there was not a man on board who would not have laid down his life for the family.
It was certainly a model ship's company; and if there had ever been another owner and captain like those of the Bellevite, there might also have been such another collection of officers and seamen. But every one of them had been selected for his moral character, not less than for his nautical skill and knowledge. In fact, the personal history of any one of them would have been interesting to the general reader.
These men composed the audience of Captain Passford when he took his place at the bowsprit bitts; and, if the occasion had been less solemn, they would have cheered him, as they were in the habit of doing on every suitable opportunity, and even when it was not suitable.
The owner prefaced his remarks with a statement of the events which had occurred in the country since the last dates they had received, and then proceeded to describe his mission as indicated to his wife and son. He fully stated the perils of the enterprise, with the fact that his operations would be somewhat irregular; though he intended to make an immediate tender of the vessel to the Government, with his own services in any capacity in which he might be needed.
In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, the men broke out into cheers, and not a few of the sailors shouted out their readiness to go with him wherever he might go, without regard to danger or hardship. One old sheet-anchor man declared that he was ready to die for Miss Florry; and he was so lustily cheered that it was evident this was the sentiment of all.
"I have called the tug at the quarter alongside to convey Mrs. Passford to the shore, though Christy will go with me," added the owner.
At this point he was interrupted by a volley of cheers, for Christy was a universal favorite on board, as Florry had always been; and the ship's company regarded her as a sort of mundane divinity, upon whom they could look only with the most profound reverence.
"In view of the danger and the irregularity of the enterprise, I shall not persuade or urge any person on board to accompany me; and the tug will take on shore all who prefer to leave the vessel, with my best wishes for their future. Those who prefer to go on shore will go aft to the mainmast," continued Captain Passford.
Officers and seamen looked from one to the other; but not one of them took a step from his place on the forecastle, to which all seemed to be nailed.
THE FIRST MISSION OF THE BELLEVITE
Captain Passford looked over his audience with no little interest, and perhaps with considerable anxiety; for he felt that the success of his enterprise must depend, in a great measure, upon the fidelity and skill of the individual members of the ship's company.
"My remarks are addressed to every person in the ship's company, from Captain Breaker to the stewards and coal-passers; and any one has a perfect right to decline to go with me, without prejudice to his present or future interests," continued the owner.
More earnestly than before the officers and men gazed at each other; and it looked as though not one of them dared to move a single inch, lest a step should be interpreted as an impeachment of his fidelity to one who had been a Christian and a trusty friend in all his relations with him.
"I know that some of you have families, mothers, brothers, and sisters on shore; and I assure you that I shall not regard it as a disgrace or a stigma upon any man who does his duty as he understands it, without regard to me or mine," the owner proceeded.
Still not a man moved, and all seemed to be more averse than before to change their positions a particle; and possibly any one who was tempted to do so expected to be hooted by his shipmates, if he took the treacherous step.
"I sincerely hope that every man of you will be guided by his own sense of duty, without regard to what others may think of his action. I will not allow any man to suffer from any reproach or indignity on account of what he does in this matter, if by any means I can prevent it," continued Captain Passford, looking over his audience again, to discover, if he could, any evidence of faltering on the part of a single one.
Still officers and men were as immovable as a group of statuary; and not a face betrayed an expression indicating a desire to leave the vessel, or to falter in what all regarded as the allegiance they owed to the owner and his family.
"We will all go with you to the end of the world, or the end of the war!" shouted the old sheet-anchor man, who was the spokesman of the crew when they had any thing to say. "If any man offers to leave"—
"He shall go with my best wishes," interposed Captain Passford. "None of that, Boxie; you have heard what I said, and I mean every word of it. There shall be no persuasion or intimidation."
"Beg pardon, Captain Passford; but there isn't a man here that would go to the mainmast if he knew that the forecastle would drop out from under him, and let him down into Davy Jones's locker the next minute if he staid here," responded Boxie, with a complaisant grin on his face, as if he was entirely conscious that he knew what he was talking about.
"Every man must act on his own free will," added the owner.
"That's just what we are all doing, your honor; and every one of us would rather go than have his wages doubled. If any dumper here has a free will to go to the mainmast, he'd better put his head in soak, and"—
"Avast heaving, Boxie!" interposed the owner, smiling in spite of himself at the earnestness of the old sailor.
"I hain't got a word more to say, your honor; only"—
"Only nothing, Boxie! I see that not one of you is inclined to leave the vessel, and I appreciate in the highest degree this devotion on your part to me and my family. I have some writing to do now; and, while I am engaged upon it, Mr. Watts shall take the name and residence of every man on board. I shall give this list to my wife, and charge her to see that those dependent upon you need nothing in your absence. She will visit the friends of every one of you, if she has to go five hundred miles to do so. I have nothing more to say at present."
The men cheered lustily for the owner, and then separated, as the captain went aft to draw up his papers to send on shore by Mrs. Passford. He was followed by Captain Breaker, while little groups formed in various parts of the deck to discuss the situation.
"I intended to have some talk with you, Breaker, before I said any thing to the ship's company; but, you know, it is very seldom that I ever say any thing directly to them," said Captain Passford, as the commander came up with him.
"This was an extraordinary occasion; and I am very glad that you did the business directly, instead of committing it to me," replied Captain Breaker; "and I have not the slightest objection to make. But I have a word to say in regard to myself personally. As you are aware, I was formerly an officer of the navy, with the rank of lieutenant. I wish to apply to the department to be restored to my former rank, or to any rank which will enable me to serve my country the most acceptably. I hope my purpose will not interfere with your enterprise."
"Not at all, I think, except in the matter of some delay. I shall tender the Bellevite as a free gift to the Government in a letter I shall send on shore by my wife," replied Captain Passford. "But I shall offer to do this only on my return from a trip I feel obliged to make in her. I shall also offer my own services in any capacity in which I can be useful; though, as I am not a naval officer like yourself, I cannot expect a prominent position."
"Your ability fits you for almost any position; and, after a little study of merely routine matters, you will be competent for almost any command," added Captain Breaker.
"I do not expect that, and I am willing to do my duty in a humble position," said the owner. "All that I am and all that I have shall be for my country's use."
"I knew very well where we should find you if the troubles ended in a war."
"My present enterprise will be rather irregular, as I have already said; but the delay it would cause alone prevents me from giving the vessel to the Government at once."
"As a man-of-war, the Bellevite could not be used for the purpose you have in mind. The plan you have chosen is the only practicable one."
"Very well, Breaker. You had better pass the word through the ship's company that the Bellevite will sail in an hour or two,—as soon as I can finish my business; and if officer or seaman wishes to leave the vessel, let him do so," added the owner, as he moved towards the companionway.
"Not one of them will leave her under any circumstances," replied the commander, as he went forward.
The word was passed, as suggested by the owner, and the result was to set the greater part of the officers and men to writing letters for their friends, to be sent on shore by the tug; but the captain warned them not to say a word in regard to the destination of the steamer.
In another hour Captain Passford had completed his letters and papers, including letters to the Secretary of the Navy, a power of attorney to his wife which placed his entire fortune at her command, and other documents which the hurried movements of the writer rendered necessary.
The owner and his son bade adieu to the wife and mother in the cabin; and it is not necessary to penetrate the sacred privacy of such an occasion, for it was a tender, sad, and trying ordeal to all of them.
All the letters were gathered together and committed to the care of the lady as she went over the side to leave the floating home in which she had lived for several months, for the family did not often desert their palatial cabin for the poorer accommodations of a hotel on shore.
The pilot departed in the tug, and he was no wiser than when he came on board in regard to the intentions of the owner of the steam-yacht. There was an abundant supply of coal and provisions on board, for the vessel was hardly three days from Bermuda when she came up with Sandy Hook; and the commander gave the order to weigh anchor as soon as the tug cast off her fasts.
"I suppose we are bound somewhere, Captain Passford," said Captain Breaker, as soon as the vessel was fully under way. "But you have not yet indicated to me our destination."
"Bermuda. The fact is that I have been so absorbed in the tremendous news that came to us with the pilot, that I have not yet come to my bearings," replied the owner with a smile. "My first duty now will be to discuss our future movements with you; and when you have given out the course, we will attend to that matter."
Captain Breaker called Mr. Joel Dashington, the first officer, to him, and gave him the course of the ship, as indicated by the owner. He was six feet and one inch in height, and as thin as a rail; but he was a very wiry man, and it was said that he could stand more hunger, thirst, exposure, and hardship than any other living man. He was a gentleman in his manners, and had formerly been in command of a ship in the employ of Captain Passford. He was not quite fifty years old, and he had seen service in all parts of the world, and in his younger days had been a master's mate in the navy.
The second officer was superintending the crew as they put things to rights for the voyage. His person was in striking contrast with his superior officer; for he weighed over two hundred pounds, and looked as though he were better fitted for the occupancy of an alderman's chair than for a position on the deck of a sea-going vessel. He was under forty years of age, but he had also been in command of a bark in the employ of his present owner.
"Of course we cannot undertake the difficult enterprise before us, Breaker, without an armament of some sort," said Captain Passford, as they halted at the companionway.
"I should say not, and I was wondering how you intended to manage in this matter," replied the commander.
"I will tell you, for our first mission renders it necessary to give some further orders before we go below," continued the owner. "We have not a day or an hour to waste."
"The sooner we get at the main object of the expedition, the better will be our chances of success."
"You remember that English brig which was wrecked on Mills Breaker, while we were at Hamilton?"
"Very well indeed; and she was said to be loaded with a cargo of improved guns, with the ammunition for them, which some enterprising Britisher had brought over on speculation, for the use of the Confederate army and navy,—if they ever have any navy," added Captain Breaker.
"That is precisely the cargo to which I allude. The brig had a hole in her bottom, but only a part of her was under water. The officers of the vessel were confident that the entire cargo would be saved, with not much of it in a damaged condition," added the owner.
"There has been no violent storm since we left St. George, hardly three days ago," said the commander.
"I wish to obtain as much of this cargo as will be necessary to arm the Bellevite properly for the expedition; and I have a double object in obtaining it, even if I have to throw half of it into the Atlantic Ocean."
"The fact that we need the guns and ammunition is reason enough for trying to obtain the cargo."
"But I have the additional inducement of keeping it out of the hands of the enemy, so that the guns shall be turned against the foes of the Union instead of its friends. We must make a quick passage, so that, if we lose this opportunity, it will not be our fault."
"I understand. Pass the word for Mr. Vapoor," added the commander to a quartermaster who was taking in the ensign at the peak.
Mr. Vapoor was the chief engineer; though he was the youngest officer on board, and really looked younger than Christy Passford.
THE BELLEVITE AND THOSE ON BOARD OF HER
Paul Vapoor was a genius, and that accounted for his position as chief engineer at the age of twenty-two. He was born a machinist, and his taste in that direction had made him a very hard student. His days and a large portion of his nights, while in his teens, had been spent in studying physics, chemistry, and, in fact, all the sciences which had any bearing upon the life-work which nature rather than choice had given him to do.
His father had been in easy circumstances formerly, so that there had been nothing to interfere with his studies before he was of age. Up to this period, he had spent much of his time in a large machine-shop, working for nothing as though his daily bread depended upon his exertions; and he was better qualified to run an engine than most men who had served for years at the business, for he was a natural scientist.
There was scarcely a part of an engine at which he had not worked with his own hands as a volunteer, and he was as skilful with his hands as he was deep with his head. Paul's father was an intimate friend of Captain Passford; and when a sudden reverse of fortune swept away all the former had, the latter gave the prodigy a place as assistant engineer on board of his steam-yacht, from which, at the death of the former incumbent of the position, he had been promoted to the head of the department. While his talent and ability were of the highest order, of course his rapid promotion was due to the favor of the owner of the Bellevite.
Captain Breaker, who had rather reluctantly assented to the placing in charge of the engineer department a young man of only twenty-one, had no occasion to regret that he had yielded his opinion to that of his owner. Paul Vapoor had been found equal to all the requirements of the situation, for the judgment of the young chief was almost as marvellous as his genius.
Paul was gentle in his manners, and possessed a very lovable disposition; in fact, he was almost a woman in all the tender susceptibilities of his nature; and those who knew him best knew not which to admire most, his genius or his magnetic character. Mr. Leon Bolter, the first assistant engineer, was thirty-six years old; and Mr. Fred Faggs, the second, was twenty-six. But there was neither envy, jealousy, nor other ill-feeling in the soul of either in respect to his superior; and they recognized the God-given genius of the chief more fully than others could, for their education enabled them to understand it better.
Paul Vapoor and Christy Passford were fast friends almost from the first time they met; and they had been students together in the same institution, though they were widely apart in their studies. They were cronies in the strongest sense of the word, and the chief engineer would have given up his very life for the son of his present employer. The owner favored this intimacy, for he felt that he could not find in all the world a better moral and intellectual model for his son.
Mr. Vapoor, as he was always called when on duty, even by the members of the owner's family in spite of the fact that he seemed to be only a boy, appeared on the quarter-deck of the steamer in answer to the summons of the commander. He was neatly dressed in a suit of blue, with brass buttons, though some of the oil and grime of the engine defaced his uniform. He bowed, and touched his cap to the commander, in the most respectful manner as he presented himself before him.
"For reasons which you will understand better, Mr. Vapoor, at a later period, Captain Passford is in a great hurry to reach Bermuda, where we are bound, at the earliest possible moment," the captain began. "Our ordinary rate of speed is fourteen knots when we don't hurry her."
"That is what I make her do when not otherwise instructed," replied the chief engineer.
"You assisted as a volunteer in building the engine of the Bellevite, and you were in the engine-room during the whole of the trial trip, three years ago," continued Captain Breaker with a smile on his face; and a smile seemed to be a necessity in the presence of the young man.
"That is all very true, captain; and I was more interested in this engine than I have ever been in any other, and it has fully realized my strongest hopes."
"What speed did you get out of her on the trial trip?"
"Eighteen knots; but her machinery was new then. The order of Captain Passford included the requirement that the engine of the vessel should give her the greatest speed ever produced in a sea-going steamer, and the Bellevite was built strong enough to bear such an engine. I believe the company that built it fully met the requirement."
"What do you believe to be her best speed, Mr. Vapoor?"
"I have never had the opportunity to test it, but I believe that she can make more than twenty knots, possibly twenty-two. You remember that Captain Passford was in a desperate hurry to get from Messina to Marseilles a year ago this month, and the Bellevite logged twenty knots during nearly the whole of the trip," replied the engineer, with a gentle smile of triumph on his handsome face, for he looked upon the feat of the engine as he would upon a noble deed of his father.
"You made her shake on that trip, Mr. Vapoor."
"Not very much, sir. All the owner's family, including Miss Florry, were on board then, and, if any thing had happened, I should have charged myself with murder. I do not know what the Bellevite could do if the occasion warranted me in taking any risk."
"I do not wish you to be reckless on the present emergency; but it is of the utmost importance to save every hour we can, and the success or failure of the expedition may depend upon a single hour. I will say no more, though an accident to the engine would be a disaster to the enterprise. I leave the matter with you, Mr. Vapoor," added the commander, as he moved off.
"I understand you perfectly, Captain Breaker, and there shall be no failure in the engine department to meet your wishes," replied the chief, as he touched his cap and retired to the engine-room.
"I am waiting for you, Breaker," said Captain Passford, who was standing near the companionway with Christy.
"Excuse me for a few minutes more, for there seems to be a strong breeze coming up from the north-east, and I want to take a look at the situation," replied the commander, and he hastened forward.
It had been bright sunshine when the pilot came on board: but suddenly the wind had veered to an ugly quarter, and had just begun to pipe up into something like half a gale. Captain Breaker went to the pilot-house, looked at the barometer, and then directed Mr. Dashington to crowd on all sail, for he intended to drive the vessel to her utmost capacity.
The Bellevite was rigged as a barkantine; that is, she was square-rigged on her foremast, like a ship, while her main and mizzen masts carried only fore-and-aft sails, including gaff-topsails. The shrill pipe of the boatswain immediately sounded through the vessel, and twenty-four able seamen dashed to their stations. In a few minutes, every rag of canvas which the steamer could carry was set. But the commander did not wait for this to be done, but hastened to join the owner.
"I suppose you don't want me, sir," said Christy, as his father led the way into the cabin.
"On the contrary, I do want you, Christy," replied Captain Passford, as he halted, and the commander passed him on his way to the cabin. "I wish you to understand as well as I do myself what we are going to do."
"I shall be very glad to know more about it," added Christy, pleased with the confidence his father reposed in him in connection with the serious undertaking before him.
"In the work I have to do, you stand nearer to me than any other person on board," continued Captain Passford. "I know what you are, and you are older than your sixteen years make you. It was at your age that Charles XII. took command of the armies of Sweden, and he was more than a figure-head in his forces."
"Sometimes I feel older than I am," suggested the boy.
"I believe in keeping a boy young as long as possible, and I have never hurried you by putting you in an important place, though at one time I thought of having a third officer, and assigning you to the position, for the practice it would give you in real life; but I concluded that you had better not be driven forward."
"I think I know something about handling a steamer, father."
"I know you do; though I have never told you so, for I did not care to have you think too much of yourself. Now, in common with all the rest of us, you are hurled into the presence of mighty events; and in a single day from a boy you must become a man. You are my nearest representative on board; and if any thing should happen to me, in the midst of the perils of this expedition, a responsibility would fall upon you which you cannot understand now. I wish to prepare you for it," said Captain Passford, as he went down into the cabin.
The commander was already seated at the table, waiting for the owner; and Captain Passford and Christy took places near him. The cabin was as elegant and luxurious as money and taste could make it. In the large state-room of the owner there was every thing to make a sea-voyage comfortable and pleasant to one who had a liking for the ocean.
Leading from the main cabin were the state-rooms of Florence and Christy. One of the four others was occupied by Dr. Linscott, the surgeon of the ship, who had had abundant experience in his profession, who had been an army surgeon in the Mexican war, though his health did not permit him to practise on shore.
Another was occupied by the chief steward, who was a person of no little consequence on board; while the others were appropriated to guests when there were any, as was often the case when the Bellevite made short voyages.
The trio at the table began the discussion of the subject before them without delay; but it is not necessary to enter into its details, since, whatever plans were made, they must still be subject to whatever contingencies were presented when the time for action came.
Forward of the main cabin was what is called in naval parlance the ward-room, and it was called by this name on board of the Bellevite. In this apartment the officers next in rank below the commander took their meals; and from it opened the state-rooms of the first and second officers on the starboard-side, with one for the chief engineer on the port-side, and another for his two assistants next abaft it.
The commander was an old friend of the owner, and messed with him in the main cabin, though his state-room was a large apartment between the cabin and the ward-room; the space on the opposite side of the ship being used for the pantries and the bath-room.
Before the conference in the cabin had proceeded far, the motion of the steamer, and the creaking of the timbers within her, indicated that Mr. Vapoor was doing all that could be required of him in the matter of speed, though the pressure of canvas steadied the vessel in the heavy sea which the increasing breeze had suddenly produced. Before night, the wind was blowing a full gale, and some reduction of sail became necessary.
The Bellevite had the wind fair, and the most that was possible was made of this accessory to her speed. At one time she actually logged the twenty-two knots which the chief engineer had suggested as her limit, and inside of two days she reached her destination. Christy had suddenly become the active agent of his father, and he was the first to be sent on shore to obtain information in regard to the guns and ammunition, for it was thought that he would excite less suspicion than any other on board.
MR. PERCY PIERSON INTRODUCES HIMSELF
Christy procured the desired information on shore; and being but a boy, he obtained no credit for the head he carried on his shoulders, so that no attention was given to him when he made his investigation. At the proper time Captain Passford appeared; but, as the guns and other war material were intended for the other side in the conflict, he was obliged to resort to a little strategy to obtain them.
But they were obtained, and the Bellevite was as fully armed and prepared for an emergency as though she had been in the employ of the Government, as it was intended that she should be when her present mission was accomplished. During her stay at St. George, such changes as were necessary to adapt the vessel to her enterprise—such as the fitting up of a magazine—were completed, and the steamer sailed.
After a quick passage, the Bellevite arrived at New Providence, Nassau, where she put in to obtain some needed supplies, as it was directly on her course. Already there was not a little activity at the principal foreign ports nearest to the Southern States, created by the hurried operations of speculators anxious to profit by the war that was to come; and later these harbors were the refuge of the blockade-runners.
The arrival of the Bellevite at New Providence created not a little excitement among the Confederate sympathizers who had hastened there to take advantage of the maritime situation, and to procure vessels for the use of the South in the struggle. The steamer was painted black, and, as she had been built after plans suggested by her owner, she was peculiar in her construction to some extent, and her appearance baffled the curiosity of the active Confederate patriots and speculators alike; for both classes were represented there, though not yet in large numbers.
Captain Passford had instructed the commander to conceal all the facts in regard to her, and no flag or any thing else which could betray her nationality or character was allowed to be seen. The business of obtaining the needed stores required many of the officers and men to go on shore, but all of them were instructed to answer no questions. No one was allowed to come on board.
"Good-morning, my friend," said a young man to Christy, as he landed on the day after the arrival.
"Good-morning," replied the owner's son, civilly enough, as he looked over the person addressing him, who appeared to be a young man not more than eighteen years old.
"What steamer is that?" continued the stranger, pointing to the steam-yacht.
Christy looked at his interlocutor, who was a pleasant-looking young man, though there was something which did not appear to be quite natural in his expression; and he suspected that he had been placed at the landing to interrogate him or some other person from the steamer, in regard to her character and nationality. Possibly he derived this idea from the fact that he had himself been employed on a similar duty at St. George.
"Do you mean that schooner?" asked Christy carelessly, as he pointed at a vessel much nearer the shore than the Bellevite.
"No, not at all," replied the stranger. "I mean that steamer, off to the north-east," replied the young man, pointing out into the bay.
"North-east?" added the owner's son. "That is this way;" and he turned about, and directed his finger towards the interior of the island. "That would put the craft you mean on the shore, wouldn't it?"
"Not a bit of it! I don't mean that way. Don't you know the points of the compass?"
"I learned them when I was young, but I forget them now."
"Pray how old are you, my friend?" asked the stranger, who thought his companion was stupid enough to answer any question he might put to him.
"I was forty-two yesterday; and in a year from yesterday, I shall be forty-three, if I don't die of old age before that time," replied Christy, looking the other full in the face, and with as serious an expression as he could command.
"Forty-two! You are chaffing me. Didn't you come from that steamer over there?" demanded the young man, pointing at the Bellevite again.
"No, sir. I came from China, from a place they call Shensibangerwhang. Were you ever there?"
"I never was there, and I question if you were ever there."
"Do you mean to question my veracity?" demanded Christy, knitting his brow.
"Oh, no, not at all!"
"Very well; and when you go to Shensibangerwhang, I shall be glad to see you; and then I will endeavor to answer all the questions you desire to ask."
"I thought you came from that steamer over there."
"Thought made a world, but it wasn't your thought that did it."
"Of course you know the name of that steamer."
"Oh, now I think of her name! That is the Chicherwitherwing, and she belongs to the Chinese navy. She is sent out on a voyage of discovery to find the north pole, which she expects to reach here in the West Indies. When she finds it, I will let you know by mail, if you will give me your address," rattled Christy with abundant self-possession.
"No, no, now! You are chaffing me."
"Do you know, brother mortal of mine, that I suspect you are a Yankee; for they say they live on baked beans, and earn the money to buy the pork for them by asking questions."
"I am not a Yankee; I am a long way from that."
"Then perhaps you sympathize with the meridonial section of the nation on the other side of the Gulf Stream."
"Which section?" asked the stranger, looking a little puzzled.
"The meridonial section."
"Which is that? I don't know which meridian you mean."
"I mean no meridian. Perhaps the word is a little irregular; I studied French when I was in the Bangerwhangerlang College in China, and I am sometimes apt to get that language mixed up with some other. Let me see, we were speaking just now, were we not?"
"Sometimes I can't speak any English, and I had forgotten about it. If you prefer to carry on this conversation in Hebrew or Hindostanee, I shall not object," added Christy gravely.
"I think I can do better with English."
"Have your own way about it; but 'meridonial' in French means 'southern,' if you will excuse me for making the suggestion."
"Then I am meridonial," replied the stranger, and he seemed to make the admission under the influence of a sudden impulse.
"Your hand on that!" promptly added Christy, extending his own.
"All right!" exclaimed the other. "My name is Percy Pierson. What is yours?"
"Percy Pierson!" exclaimed Christy, starting back with astonishment, as though his companion had fired a pistol in his face.
"What is the matter now?" demanded Percy Pierson, surprised at the demonstration of the other.
"What did you say your name was? Did I understand you aright?"
"I said my name was Percy Pierson. Is there any thing surprising about that?" asked Percy, puzzled at the demeanor of Christy.
"See here, my jolly high-flyer, who told you my name?" demanded the son of the owner of the Bellevite, with a certain amount of indignation in his manner.
"You did not, to be sure, though I asked you what it was."
"What sort of a game are you trying to play off on me? I am an innocent young fellow of sixteen, and I don't like to have others playing tricks on me. Who told you my name, if you please?"
"No one told me your name; and I don't know yet what it is, though I have asked it of you."
"Oh, get away with you! You are playing off something on me which I don't understand, and I think I had better bid you good-morning," added Christy, as he started to move off.
"Then you won't tell me your name. Stay a minute."
"You know my name as well as I do, and you are up to some trick with me," protested Christy, halting.
"'Pon my honor as a Southern gentleman, I don't know your name."
"If you are a Southern gentleman, I must believe you, for I did not come from as far north as I might have come. My name is Percy Pierson," added Christy seriously; for he felt that this was actually war, and that the strategy that does not always or often speak the truth was justifiable.
"Percy Pierson!" exclaimed the real owner of the name. "Didn't I just tell you that was my name?"
"Undoubtedly you did, and that is the reason why I thought you were making game of me."
"But how can that be when my name is Percy Pierson?"
"Give it up; but I suggest that in London, where I came from, there are acres of King Streets, almost as many Queens; and, though you may not be aware of the fact, there are seven thousand two hundred and twenty-seven native and foreign born citizens of the name of John Smith. Possibly you and I are the only two Percy Piersons in the country, or in the world."
"Now you say you are from London, and a little while ago you said you were from farther north than I am. Which is it?"
"Isn't London farther north than any Southern State?"
"Enough of this," continued Percy impatiently.
"Quite enough of it," assented Christy.
"Will you tell me what steamer that is, where she is bound, and what she is here for?"
"My dear Mr. Pierson, it would take me forty-eight hours to tell you all that," replied the representative of the Bellevite, taking out his watch. "If you will meet me here to-morrow night at sundown, I will make a beginning of the yarn, and I think I can finish it in two days. But really you must excuse me now; for I have to dine with the Chinese admiral at noon, and I must go at once."
"I can put the owner of that craft in the way of making a fortune for himself, if he is willing to part with her," added Percy, as his companion began to move off.
"That is just what the owner of that steamer wants to do: he desires to part with her, and he is determined to get rid of her. I have the means of knowing that he will let her go just as soon as he can possibly get rid of her."
"Then he is the man my father wants to see; that is, if the vessel is what she appears to be, for no one is allowed to go on board of her."
"I am sorry to tear myself away from you, but positively I must go now; for the Chinese admiral will get very impatient if I am not on time, and I have some important business with him before dinner," said Christy, as he increased his pace and got away from Mr. Percy Pierson, though he was afraid he would follow him.
But he did not; instead of doing so, he began to talk with a boatman who had some kind of a craft at the landing. Christy was not in so much of a hurry as he had appeared to be, and he waited in the vicinity till he saw his Southern friend embark in a boat which headed for the Bellevite. He concluded that his communicative friend meant to go on board of her, thinking the vessel was for sale.
A COMPLICATION AT GLENFIELD
The boat in which Christy had come on shore carried off to the steamer the last load of supplies, and she sailed in the middle of the afternoon. Captain Passford and Christy were standing on the quarter deck together; and, as the latter had not had time to tell his father his adventure before, he was now relating it.
The captain was amused with the story, and told his son that he had been approached by a gentleman who said his name was Pierson, and he was probably the father of the enterprising young man who had been so zealous to assist in the purchase of a suitable vessel for the service of the Confederates.
"Let me alone! Take you hands off of me!" shouted a voice that sounded rather familiar to Christy, as he and his father were still talking on the deck. "Let me alone! I am a Southern gentleman!"
"I know you are," replied Mr. Dashington, as he appeared on deck, coming up from the companionway that led to the cabin and ward-room, holding by the collar a young man who was struggling to escape from his strong grasp. "Don't make a fuss, my hearty: I want to introduce you to the captain."
"What have you got there, Mr. Dashington?" asked Captain Breaker, who was standing near the owner.
"I have got a young cub who says he is a Southern gentleman; and I suppose he is," replied the first officer. "But he is a stowaway, and was hid away under my berth in the ward-room.—Here you are, my jolly frisker: and that gentleman is the captain of the steamer."
As he spoke, the officer set his victim down rather heavily on the deck, and he sprawled out at full length on the planks. But he was sputtering with rage at the treatment he had received; and he sprang to his feet, rushing towards Mr. Dashington as though he intended to annihilate him. But, before he reached his intended victim, he stopped short, and eyed the tall and wiry first officer from head to foot.
He concluded not to execute his purpose upon him, for he could hardly have reached his chin if he resorted to violence. But he turned his back to the captain, so that the owner and his son did not get a look at his face. Captain Breaker walked up to him and began to question him.
"If you are a Southern gentleman, as I heard you say you were, don't you think it is a little irregular to be hid in the ward-room of this vessel?" was the first question the commander asked.
"I am what I said I was, and I am proud to say it; and I don't allow any man to put his hands on me," blustered the prisoner.
"But I think you did allow Mr. Dashington to put his hands on you," replied the captain.
"Of course I did not know that he was a Southern gentleman when I snaked him out from under the berth," added the first officer.
"I accept your apology," said the prisoner, coming down from his high horse with sudden energy; possibly because he felt that he had a mission on board of the steamer.
All present laughed heartily at the apology of the giant mate, and Christy changed his position so that he could see the front of the stowaway.
"Why, that is the gentleman I met on shore,—Mr. Percy Pierson!" exclaimed the owner's son, as soon as he saw the face of his late companion at the landing.
"I am glad to see you again, Mr. Percy Pierson," said the original of that name, as he extended his hand to Christy.
"I did not expect to meet you again so soon, and under such circumstances," replied he, taking the offered hand; for his father had proclaimed his own principle on board, that, though the war was not to be conducted on peace principles, it was to be carried on in an enlightened, and even gentlemanly manner, so far as he was concerned.
"I am right glad to see you, Mr. Percy Pierson, for I think you can assist me in the object I have in view," said the first officer's victim, looking now as though he was entirely satisfied with himself.
"What do you mean by calling each other by the same name?" inquired Captain Breaker, somewhat astonished at this phase of the conversation.
"That is the most astonishing thing in the world, that my friend here should have the same name I have; and he even thought I was playing a game upon him when I told him what my name was," replied Percy, laughing, and apparently somewhat inflated to find a friend on board.
"Precisely so," interposed Captain Passford, before the commander had time to say any thing more about the name. "But, as you both have the same name, it will be necessary to distinguish you in some manner, or it may make confusion while you remain on board."
"I see the point, sir, though I do not expect to remain on board for any great length of time; or possibly you may not," answered Percy.
"Then, I suggest that you be called simply Percy, for that is a noble name; and the other young man shall be addressed as Pierson. By doing this we shall not sacrifice either of you," continued the owner, who did not understand what his son had been doing.
"I have not the slightest objection. My friend Pierson gave me some information in regard to this steamer which made me very desirous to get on board of her. That must explain why I was found here under circumstances somewhat irregular, though a true gentleman can sacrifice himself to the needs of his suffering country."
"To what country do you allude, Mr. Percy?" asked Captain Passford.
"To our country," replied Percy with strong and significant emphasis, as though he were sure that this would cause him to be fully understood.
"Exactly so," added the owner.
"But I see that you are sailing away from Nassau as fast as you can, and I think I had better explain my business as soon as possible," continued Percy, who seemed to be as confident as though he had already accomplished his purpose as hinted at in his conversation with Christy.
"I shall have to ask you to excuse me for a few minutes, for I have a little business with the captain of the steamer and this young man," said Captain Passford. "The tall gentleman who so gracefully apologized for his seeming rudeness to you will entertain you while I am absent."
The owner presented the tall first officer by name to his late victim, and at the same time gave him a look which Mr. Dashington understood to the effect that he was to keep the young man where he was. With a signal to his son and to the captain, he went below.
"I do not understand this masquerade, Christy," said he, as he seated himself at the cabin table. "What have you been telling this young fellow?"
Christy had only informed his father that he had been approached by Percy, and that he had, as well as he could, evaded his questions, and he had fooled the young man. He then gave the substance of the conversation at the landing, which amused both the owner and the commander very much; though he could not recall the Chinese names, invented on the spot, which he had used.
"All right, Christy. This young man is evidently the son of the gentleman by the name of Pierson who approached me for the purpose of purchasing the Bellevite. I went so far as to tell him that the vessel was for service in Southern waters. At any rate, he inferred that she was intended for the navy of the Confederate States, and I did not think it necessary to undeceive him. With this belief, he sought no further to buy the vessel, and I had no difficulty in shaking him off. It seems that the same mission absorbs the attention of the son, and that he has come on board to purchase the steamer."
"I told him that you wanted to get rid of her, and that you would do so soon, by which, of course, I meant that she was to go into the service of the Government," added Christy.
"I should not have taken this young man on board; but, as he is here, he may be of use to us. But it is necessary to conceal from him the real character of the Bellevite, and we will keep up the farce as long as we please. So far as he is concerned, Christy, you may be my nephew instead of my son."
Captain Passford led the way back to the deck, where they found the first officer evidently on the best of terms with his prisoner. But Mr. Dashington had been as discreet as a man could be, and Percy had not obtained a particle of information from him.
"Now, Mr. Percy, I am at your service," said the owner, when he reached the deck. "I think you said you had some business with me."
"I have not the pleasure of knowing who or what you are, sir; and Mr. Dashington and my friend Mr. Pierson are all I know on board by name," added Percy.
"Then you must be made better acquainted before any thing can be done," replied the owner, pointing to the captain of the steamer. "Mr. Percy, this is Captain Breaker, the commander of the steamer."
"And this," added Captain Breaker, pointing at the owner, "is Captain Passford, who is the fortunate owner of this vessel, though she is soon to pass into other hands."
"Captain Passford!" exclaimed Percy, bowing to both gentlemen as he was presented to them. "That is a familiar name to me; and upon my word, I thought it was Colonel Passford of Glenfield when I first looked at him."
"He is my brother; but I never heard him called 'colonel' before," added the owner, laughing at the odd-sounding title, as it was to him.
"Colonel Homer Passford is the name by which he is often called near his residence," Percy explained. "He is the nearest neighbor of my father, Colonel Richard Pierson."
"Indeed! then you probably know my brother," said Captain Passford, interested in spite of himself.
"As well as I know any gentleman in the State of Alabama," replied Percy. "By the great palmetto! you are Colonel Passford's brother; and I think you must know Miss Florence Passford, who has been staying all winter with her uncle."
"She is my daughter," replied the owner with some emotion, which he could not wholly conceal when he thought of his mission in the South.
"I have met her several times, though not often, for I have been away from home at school. But my brother, Major Lindley Pierson, I learn from my letters, is a frequent visitor at your brother's house: and they even say"—
But Percy did not repeat what they said, though he had gone far enough to give the father of Florry something like a shock.
"What were you about to say, Mr. Percy?" he asked.
"I think I had better not say it, for it may have been a mere idle rumor," answered Percy, who was now beginning to disclose some of his better traits of character.
"Does it relate to my daughter, sir?" asked the captain rather sternly; for, in the present condition of the country, he was more than ordinarily anxious about his daughter.
"I ought not to have said any thing, sir; but what I was about to say, but did not say, does relate to Miss Florence," replied Percy, not a little embarrassed by the situation. "But I assure you, sir, that it was nothing that reflects in the slightest degree upon her. As I have said so much, I may as well say the rest of it, or you will think more than was intended was meant."
"That is the proper view to take of it, Mr. Percy."
"It was simply said that my brother Lindley was strongly attracted to your brother's house by the presence of your daughter. That is all."
But the fond father was very anxious. Of course the major was a Confederate.
A DISCONSOLATE PURCHASER OF VESSELS
The information in regard to Florry was very meagre and very indefinite. She was a very beautiful young lady of eighteen; and it was not at all strange that a young Confederate officer should be attracted to her, though the thought of it was exceedingly disagreeable to her father, under present circumstances.
Percy evidently was not satisfied with the situation; and after he had given the information which had so disturbed the owner of the steamer, he desired to change the subject of the conversation, to which Captain Passford only assented after he realized that nothing could be ascertained from him in regard to his daughter.
"I don't think I quite understand the situation on board of this steamer," said Percy, when he had told all he knew about the visits of his brother at Glenfield.
"What further do you desire to know in regard to her?" asked Captain Passford; for the commander, when he saw that there was a family matter involved in the conversation, was disposed to be very reticent.
"I did not come on board of this vessel in the manner I did—I do not even know her name yet," continued Percy; and when he found that he was talking to a brother of Colonel Passford, he dropped all his rather magnificent airs, and became quite sensible.
"The steamer is called the Bellevite," replied the owner.
"The Bellevite. It is an odd name, but I think I can remember it. I was about to say that I did not come on board of her, as I did, without an object; for I assure you that I am high-toned enough not to do any thing in an irregular manner unless for the most weighty reasons," said Percy, with an anxious look directed towards the island, which was now almost out of sight.
"I do not ask your reasons; but, if you wish to give them, I will hear all you have to say, Mr. Percy," replied the owner.
"I talked with Mr. Pierson on shore; and though he was disposed at first to chaff me, and avoid giving me any information in regard to this steamer, he afterwards informed me that the gentleman who owned her intended to get rid of her as soon as he could."
"And you came on board for the purpose of buying her?" suggested Captain Passford.
"I did not expect to buy her myself, of course; but my father is exceedingly anxious to obtain a steamer like this one, and he asked me to do what I could to obtain any information in regard to her. That was the object which brought me on board of her in a clandestine manner."
"You were very zealous in meeting the wishes of your father."
"More than that, I was at work in a good cause; and I think I have patriotism enough to do my duty to my country in the hour of her need," added the young man, with a swell of the chest.
"After his family, a man's first duty is to his country," said the owner.
"I wanted to go into the army, for I am eighteen years old; but my father insisted that I could be of more service to the Confederacy as his assistant in obtaining vessels for its use."
"I understand your motives."
"From what I learned from Mr. Pierson,—though I do not yet know who or what he is," said Percy, bestowing a smiling glance upon Christy.
"You may look upon him as my nephew," added Captain Passford, glancing at his son, who gave a slight bow for the benefit of the guest on board.
"From what I could learn from your nephew, sir, I concluded that this steamer could be bought, if I could only obtain an interview with the owner," continued Percy, with an inquiring glance at all who were present "I understand you are the owner of the vessel, Captain Passford."
"You are quite right: she has been my yacht since she was built, and a stronger and more able vessel was never put into the water."
"Mr. Pierson gave me to understand that he was in sympathy with the Confederacy; and since I came on board, and learned that you were a brother of our nearest neighbor, I have no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that you are a devoted friend of the Southern cause."
"What I am, for the present, I do not feel at liberty to say," replied Captain Passford, who was certainly reluctant to play a double part before the young man, though he felt that the necessities of the occasion required him to do so.
"Quite right, sir; one cannot be too cautious in these times. But it is time for me to say that I did not intend to take passage in the Bellevite, and I am sure my father will be very anxious in my absence."
"May I ask how you did intend to proceed?"
"I can hardly tell myself, sir; but my object was to see the owner as soon as I could discover who he was. But I have found you now, Captain Passford, and I am glad to find in you a friend of our holy cause."
The owner only bowed; and it was as true as it could be that the representative of the intended purchaser of vessels jumped at nearly all of his conclusions, giving the captain but little occasion to say any thing that was not literally true; though the deception was just as real as though it had been carried on with actual falsehood.
"May I ask you for a few minutes in private, Captain Passford?" continued Percy.
"Certainly;" and the owner retired with him to the weather-rail.
"I have seen this vessel, and I have heard what you say of her. Now I am better informed in regard to her than my father is. I am not authorized to name a price, but I am very sure that he will buy her."
"So he said to me himself, Mr. Percy," added the owner with a smile.
"He said so to you, sir!" exclaimed the young man, starting back; for he believed that he had accomplished all that had been done towards buying the vessel.
"I had an interview with him, and stated most explicitly that the Bellevite could not be purchased by any person at any price; and when I hinted very guardedly to him, as I do to you, in the strictest confidence, that I am hound for Mobile Bay, he did not urge the matter. He was satisfied that the steamer was to be used in a good cause; and I can give you the same assurance, Mr. Percy."
The young man looked positively humble after he had listened to the remark of the owner, for he felt that his father had "taken all the wind out of his sails." He looked in the direction of the receding island of Nassau, and realized that he had been wasting his time, to say nothing of the wasted strategy he had bestowed on his enterprise.
"You have stated that you are bound for Mobile Bay, sir," said he. "That is a long distance from New Providence, as I have learned from experience."
"But this trip will give you the satisfaction of being restored to your own home in a very short time, for there is no faster vessel afloat than the Bellevite," added Captain Passford.
"It will put me into the army," said Mr. Percy; but he felt at once that he had made a slip of the tongue, and he hastened to correct the effect of his involuntary speech. "Of course, I wanted to go into the army of my country, as every patriotic fellow in the South does; but my father objects simply because I can be of more service to the good cause in another field of action, and I had to yield the point."
The owner thought he had not been guilty of a very savage yielding of his own inclination, but he said nothing. He was evidently the youngest child of the family, and doubtless the pet of his parents; and it was hard for them to put him in a position to be shot, or to endure the hardships of the camp.
"I see now that my mission is a failure, though with no detriment to the good cause. I wish I was in New Providence again," continued Mr. Percy, looking very much discontented with himself.
"I am sorry you did not speak to me on shore as your father did, and that would have saved you from all annoyance."
"But I must beg you to do me the favor to put me ashore again, for my father will suffer untold agonies when he misses me to-night."
"Put you on shore!" exclaimed Captain Passford. "You are a sensible and reasonable young gentleman, and you will readily see that this is quite impossible."
"We have not been out above two hours, sir," suggested Percy.
"But we have made thirty-six miles, at least, in that time; and to return would delay me about four or five hours,—long enough, perhaps, to defeat the object of my voyage. I assure you that it is wholly impossible for us to return."
"Do you think so, sir?" asked the enterprising purchaser of vessels, looking very disconsolate indeed.
"I not only think so, but I am perfectly sure on this point. You can see for yourself that I cannot sacrifice the object of my voyage—for the vessel has a special mission at her destination—by a delay of some hours. I am not responsible for your being on board, and I am sorry that I cannot do any thing for you."
"But you can put me ashore at Key West, and I may find some vessel bound to Nassau," suggested Percy, becoming more and more disconsolate, as he realized the difficulties of his situation, for he was plainly very much averse to returning to his home.
"But, my dear Mr. Percy, the Bellevite will not go within fifty miles of Key West; and if she did, I should not dare to put in there, for the port is a naval station of the United States, and my vessel might be taken from me in the absence of any regular papers to explain her character."
"I suppose you are right," added Percy gloomily.
Captain Passford was really more afraid of falling in with any naval vessel of the nation than of meeting any of the Confederate tugs or other vessels which had been hurriedly fitted out, even at this early period of the war; for he knew that his mission, however justifiable under the circumstances, was quite irregular. He had decided to keep at least fifty miles from Key West, and the usual course of vessels bound into the Gulf of Mexico.
"We may meet some vessel, and you could put me on board of her," the disconsolate young man proposed.
"My mission compels me to give every vessel a wide berth, and I can incur no risks. But it cannot be a great hardship for you to be conveyed back to your own home."
"But my father needs me with him, and he will suffer terrible anxiety when he fails to find me. He will even think I am dead."
"I know he must be anxious, but I think some way will be found to send a letter to him."
"But I shall be compelled to go into the army, and my father is utterly opposed to that."
"But you have a brother who is a major in the army, and I should say that he will be able to save you."
"My brother is the one who insists that I shall go into one of the regiments forming in the State. He called me a coward because I yielded to my father and mother."
"All that is your own family affair, and I am sorry that I can do nothing for you, Mr, Percy.—Mr. Watts," he called to the chief steward, who was planking the lee-side of the deck.
"Here, sir," replied the official.
"Give Mr. Percy the best stateroom available, and see that he is made as comfortable and happy as possible," added the owner.
The involuntary guest on board was conducted to the cabin.
CHRISTY MATURES A PROMISING SCHEME
However interesting the voyage of the Bellevite might prove to be, the purpose of this story does not admit of its details. Mr. Vapoor was instructed to the effect that a quick run was desirable, and he governed himself accordingly. At daylight on a bright May morning, the lofty light tower of Sand Island, off the entrance to Mobile Bay, was reported by the lookout, and the captain was called.
On the passage from Nassau, the guns of the steamer had been mounted; for, as a measure of prudence, they had been put in the hold. Though the owner hoped to avoid any close scrutiny of his outfit, and had succeeded in doing so, he was not inclined to tempt fate by any carelessness. But when the first watch was called, the night before her arrival off the bay, every thing was in condition for active service.
Captain Passford had not a particle of the foam generated by the excitement of the times, and he sincerely hoped he should have no occasion to use the guns which it had cost him so much trouble to procure. Fort Morgan was on one side of the entrance to the bay, and Fort Games on the other side.
He had seen a paragraph in one of his papers, to the effect that one or both of these works had been garrisoned by Confederate troops, and it was not likely to be an easy matter to get into the bay. As it looked to the owner and the commander, the only way to accomplish this feat was by running the gauntlet of both forts, which were just three nautical miles apart.
A shot from either of them might go through the boiler or engine of the Bellevite, which would render her utterly helpless, and subject all on board to the fate of prisoners-of-war. It looked like a terrible alternative to the owner, so overburdened with anxiety for the safety of his daughter; but he was prepared to run even this risk for her sake.
The method of getting into the bay had been fully considered by the owner and the captain; and as soon as the latter came on deck, he ordered the course of the vessel to be changed to the westward, as they had decided to enter the bay by the Middle Channel. For the danger from Fort Gaines was believed to be less than that from Fort Morgan, though either of them doubtless had the means of sinking the steamer with a single shot.
The water was shoal in the Middle Channel, and it was not prudent to attempt to go into the bay at any other time than high tide; though Captain Breaker was thoroughly acquainted with the channel, having once been engaged in a survey of the shifting shoals in this locality, and he had once before taken the Bellevite by this passage on a trip to New Orleans.
As he could not foresee the time of the steamer's arrival off the bay, he was obliged to consult his almanac, and make his calculations in regard to the tide, which rises and falls less than three feet at this point. It would not be safe to attempt the passage before nine o'clock in the forenoon, and he headed the vessel away from the land.
Percy had tried to make the best of his situation, annoying as it was; and Christy amused him with more Chinese reminiscences. Both of them came on deck at an unusually early hour on the morning that the Sand Island light was made out; for there was more commotion than usual on board, and even in the cabin, where the owner and commander discussed the situation.