The Blue and the Gray Series
TAKEN BY THE ENEMY WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES ON THE BLOCKADE In Press
Lee and Shepard Publishers Boston
BLUE AND THE GRAY
By Oliver Optic
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES
The Blue and the Gray Series
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES
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," "Taken by the Enemy," etc.
BOSTON 1890 Lee and Shepard Publishers 10 Milk Street Next "The Old South Meeting House"
NEW YORK Chas. T. Dillingham 718 and 720 Broadway
Copyright, 1889, by Lee and Shepard All rights reserved.
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES.
A MON JEUNE AMI, (que je n'ai jamais vu, et que je ne connais pas,)
Monsieur Lucien Bing, de Paris, France,
En Reconnaissance de la Bonte de son Pere, Cette Historiette de la Guerre Civile en Amerique Est affectueusement Dedie.
"WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES" is the second volume of "The Blue and the Gray Series." Like its predecessor, of course, its scenes are connected with the war of the Rebellion; and perhaps the writer ought to be thankful that he is not required in such a work to rise to the dignity of history, but he believes that all his events were possible, and that every one of them has had its parallel in the actual occurrences of the historic period of which he writes. In fact, some of the experiences of the actors in the terrible drama of a quarter of a century ago would pass more readily for fiction than for reality, and detailed on the pages of a story would be deemed impossible by the conservative reader.
The nation has passed out of its ordeal of fire, and an excellent spirit on the part of both parties to the great strife is still growing and strengthening, in spite of an occasional exhibition of folly on both sides on the part of those who have not outlived the bitterness of the past, and who probably will not outlive it. The time will certainly come when the memories of the conflict, the repetition of the stories of the war, and even the partisan praise bestowed upon the heroes of both sides, will excite no more ill feeling than does an allusion to the War of the Roses in England.
In this country the advocate of either side will tell his story, relate his history, and jingle his verse in his own way, and from his own standpoint. Those upon the other side will be magnanimous enough to tolerate him, at least in silence. Histories, romances, poems, and plays relating to the war, are produced in greater numbers as the gap between the days of battle and the days of peace widens; but the old fires are not rekindled, the old bitterness still slumbers, and the Great United Nation still lives on in perfect peace.
The author hopes he has done nothing on these pages to impair the growing harmony between the two sections which have happily become one, or to impregnate the minds of those who have been born since the strife ended with any of its bitterness. He has endeavored to make as high-toned men on the one side as the other, with the same moral sentiment in the one party as the other, and to exhibit their only difference in the one great question of Union or Disunion.
Dorchester, May 2, 1889.
Page CHAPTER I. An Unexpected Visitor 15
CHAPTER II. A Difference of Opinion 27
CHAPTER III. The dignified Naval Officer 37
CHAPTER IV. Corny Passford plays Another Part 48
CHAPTER V. Captain Carboneer and his Party 59
CHAPTER VI. The Cabin of the Florence 70
CHAPTER VII. Midshipman Christy Passford 81
CHAPTER VIII. Arranging the Signals 92
CHAPTER IX. The Approach of the Vampire 103
CHAPTER X. A Shot from the Long Gun 114
CHAPTER XI. The Battle alongside the Bellevite 125
CHAPTER XII. The Prisoner of War 136
CHAPTER XIII. After the Battle 146
CHAPTER XIV. The Beginning of a Chase 157
CHAPTER XV. A Chase off the Bermudas 168
CHAPTER XVI. The Confederate Steamer Yazoo 179
CHAPTER XVII. A Satisfactory Order 190
CHAPTER XVIII. Lieutenant Passford in Command 201
CHAPTER XIX. Some Trouble on Board the Teaser 212
CHAPTER XX. Coming to the Point 223
CHAPTER XXI. On a Dark and Foggy Night 234
CHAPTER XXII. A Variety of Night Signals 245
CHAPTER XXIII. Another Night Expedition 256
CHAPTER XXIV. Lieutenant Passford on a Mission 206
CHAPTER XXV. Christy becomes a Victim 278
CHAPTER XXVI. The Action on the Deck of the Teaser 289
CHAPTER XXVII. A Visit from Colonel Homer Passford 300
CHAPTER XXVIII. An Enterprise for a Dark Night 311
CHAPTER XXIX. The New Mate of the Cotton Schooner 322
CHAPTER XXX. The Prize-Master of the Judith 333
WITHIN THE ENEMY'S LINES
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
"Cornelius!" exclaimed Captain Passford, as a young man of nineteen was shown into the library of the magnificent dwelling of the millionnaire at Bonnydale, on the Hudson.
"Cornelius Passford, Uncle Horatio," replied the young man, as the captain rushed to him and extended his hand.
"I think there can be no mistake about it; and I should have been no more surprised if Mr. Jefferson Davis had been ushered into my library at this moment," continued Captain Passford, still retaining the hand of his nephew. "I understood that you were a soldier in the Confederate army."
"I was a soldier; but I am not one just now," replied the visitor, with some embarrassment in his manner, though the circumstances were strange enough to account for it.
"How are your father and mother and Miss Gerty, Corny?" asked the uncle of the visitor, giving the young man the name by which he was generally called both at home and in the family of his uncle.
"They were all very well when I left them," replied Corny, looking on the floor, as though he was not altogether satisfied with himself.
"Of course, you brought letters from your father and Gerty?"
"No, sir; I brought no letters," replied Corny, and, more than before, he looked as though he was not enjoying his present visit.
"No letters!" exclaimed Captain Passford, evidently surprised beyond measure at the apparent want of kindly feeling on the part of members of his brother's family in the South.
"Not a letter, Uncle Horatio," answered Corny, bracing himself up, as though he realized that he was not presenting a demeanor such as he thought the occasion required of him.
"This is very strange," added Captain Passford, with a cloud playing on his fine features.
"It is war between the North and the South, Uncle Horatio, and I suppose my father did not feel like writing any letters. Gerty never writes any letters if she can help it," Corny explained.
"But Gerty used to write to Florry about once a week."
"Did she? I didn't know it. She never would write to me when I was away from home," said Corny, who seemed to be very anxious not to say anything that was not consistent with the present situation, whatever it was.
"When I parted with my brother on board of the Bellevite, both of us shed tears as we realized that war made enemies of us; but each of us promised to do all he could for the other in case of need. I am very sure that there was not the slightest unkind feeling between us. Of course, I did not expect him to write me the war news, but I think he could have written a few lines without any allusion to the war," said Captain Passford, pained at this want of filial affection on the part of his brother.
At that moment the bell for tea rang, and the captain invited his nephew to the table with him. The host was saddened by the absence of news from his brother, of any kindly expression from one who was of the same blood as himself. He was not quite satisfied with Corny's manner, or with the little he seemed to be willing to say about the rest of the family. It was certainly very strange that the young man should be there at all, and his awkwardness and confusion made the visit seem still more singular.
It was possible that the young man had just arrived and was fatigued by the trials and perils of his trip, for he must have come by some roundabout way; and very likely he felt nervous and uneasy in the midst of people who were loyal to the government and the Union. Captain Passford decided to say nothing more to his nephew at present as to the occasion and the manner of his visit to Bonnydale, and during the evening meal he avoided all allusion to the war, so far as it was possible to do so. Mrs. Passford and Florry received him very kindly, but following the example of the head of the family, they spoke only of domestic affairs, and of the relations of the two families as they had been before the war.
Between the brothers Homer and Horatio Passford, even from their early boyhood, a remarkably strong fraternal affection had subsisted. Both of them were high-toned men, and both of them had always been faithful in the discharge of every duty to God and man. Each of them had a wife, a son and a daughter, and two happier families could not have been found on the face of the earth. They were not only devoted to each other, each within its own circle, but the two families were as nearly one as it was possible to be.
Captain Horatio had formerly been a shipmaster, and had accumulated an immense fortune. Homer was less fortunate in this respect, and his tastes were somewhat different from those of his brother. He wanted to be a planter, and with the financial assistance of his brother, he went into the business of raising cotton near Mobile, in Alabama. But years before the war, he had paid off every dollar of his indebtedness to Horatio, and had made a comfortable fortune besides. The two families had visited each other as much an possible, and the captain, with his little family, had been almost to the plantation in the Bellevite, the magnificent steam-yacht of the Northerner.
During the preceding winter, Captain Passford, his wife and son, had visited most of the islands of the Atlantic; but the health of Miss Florry was considerably impaired, and the doctors would not permit her to make this sea-voyage, but recommended her to keep quiet in some southern locality. She had therefore passed the winter at Glenfield, which was the name of Homer Passford's plantation. On his return from this long cruise, the owner of the Bellevite obtained his first news that war existed between the North and the South from the pilot. The three members of the family on board of the steamer were greatly distressed over the fact that Florry was still at the home of her uncle in Alabama, within the enemy's lines.
Without going on shore, Captain Passford decided to arm his yacht, which was large enough for a man-of-war, and hasten to Mobile Bay to bring back his daughter. He was in doubt with regard to the political feeling of Homer, but believed that he would still adhere to the government and the Union. It was a part of his mission to bring his brother and his family to his own home at Bonnydale. Mrs. Passford was sent on shore in a tug, and Christy, the son, was to go with her; but the young man, just entering his seventeenth year, protested against being left at home, and as the captain believed that a patriotic citizen ought to be willing to give his all, even his sons, to his country, the young man went with his father. The mother was as devoted to her country as the father, and terrible as was the ordeal, she consented to part with him for such a duty.
By an event fortunate for him, Captain Passford succeeded in obtaining an armament for his vessel, as well as an abundant supply of ammunition; and the vessel was refitted for the perilous service in which she was to be engaged. At Nassau, Christy made the acquaintance of a young man who proved to be of great service to the expedition, and the Bellevite reached her destination in safety, though not without some rather exciting incidents.
Captain Passford found that his brother was sincerely and devotedly attached to the Southern cause. They discussed the great question for hours upon hours, each striving to convert the other to his own views, but with no success on the part of either. Homer Passford was a religious man, conscientious in the discharge of every duty, and nothing less could be said of his Northern brother. In a short time the owner of the Bellevite found that he had fallen into a "hornet's nest," for the planter did not believe that he ought to allow the steam-yacht to be taken to New York to become a part of the navy of the Union. He declared his convictions to his brother, who was compelled to regard the planter as an enemy in spite of the relations subsisting between them. Both of them placed their duty to their own country above every other consideration.
Captain Passford was obliged to get his daughter out of his brother's house by stealth, and to make his escape with the Bellevite as best he could.
Major Lindley Pierson, in command of Fort Gaines, at the entrance to Mobile Bay, had permitted the steamer to pass, having been deceived by his younger brother. He had been a frequent visitor at the mansion of Homer Passford, attracted there, it appeared, by the lovely daughter of the planter's brother, remaining there for the winter. Perhaps on her account, perhaps with the fear that the Bellevite was not what she had appeared to be, he had gone to the vicinity of Glenfield to inquire into the mission of the steamer.
Homer Passford, acting upon his convictions, gave information which resulted in an attempt to capture the Bellevite. Christy, not informed in regard to the plans of his father to depart at once in the steamer, was "Taken by the Enemy," and had some very stirring adventures in the bay. But the steamer escaped from the numerous enemies that awaited her, and Christy got on board of her at the last minute. The Bellevite ran the gantlet of the forts in a dense fog, and brought Miss Florry in safety to her home at Bonnydale.
Corny Passford, whose unexpected arrival at Bonnydale had excited the astonishment of his uncle, was a year older than Christy, and had enlisted in the Confederate service at the instance of Major Pierson. Without knowing anything in particular about the matter, his uncle believed, at his visit to Glenfield, that Corny was as earnestly devoted to the Southern cause as his father, judging entirely from the fact that he had enlisted as a soldier.
Corny had a good appetite, and a good supper was set before him. He ate like a hungry boy, and the fact that he was within the enemy's lines did not seem to have any influence upon him. His aunt helped him till he seemed to be filled to repletion, for she thought he must have been accustomed of late only to the most indifferent fare. After supper, he followed his uncle back to the library; but he seemed less embarrassed than before.
"Where is Christy, Uncle Horatio?" asked Corny, as he seated himself in the library. "I have not seen him yet; and as I was away at the fort when you went to Glenfield, I did not see him then."
"I don't know where he is just now, though he is in or about the house most of the time," replied the captain. "Are you still in the army, Corny?"
"No, sir, I am here. I did not like the service very well, and I thought I should like the navy better. The reason why I did not like it as well as at first was because I was no longer in Major Pierson's battalion," replied Corny, looking at his uncle as though he expected a question from him.
"Then Major Pierson is no longer in the army?" added the captain.
"Oh, yes, he is; but I think he was the maddest man in the army soon after you left."
"Indeed! Why was he so mad?"
"Because he was removed from command of Fort Gaines for letting you pass it in your steamer."
"Then he is still in the service?" asked Captain Passford.
"Yes, sir; he is a good officer, and he will make his way, if he was guilty of a blunder in letting the Bellevite pass the fort."
"Then you intend to be a sailor, Corny?"
"Yes, sir; in fact, I am a sailor now. I had been in your yacht so much that I knew something about the ropes, and I had no difficulty in getting transferred, as sailors were wanted more than soldiers," replied Corny, who seemed to be studying the figures in the carpet.
"But if you went into the navy, how do you happen to be in New York?" asked Captain Passford.
"I suppose you remember the Dauphine, which was fitting out when you were in Mobile Bay?" continued Corny.
"I heard the name, and was told that she was one of the vessels that tried to prevent the escape of the Bellevite."
"I was sent on board of her; but, in coming out of the bay, she was captured by a Federal vessel, and sent to New York. I hid myself when the crew were taken off, and came in her here," replied Corny, still studying the carpet.
Captain Passford had not heard of the capture of the Dauphine. He was not quite satisfied with the story of his nephew. But he was obliged to go to the city, and he handed the guest over to his wife and daughter. Corny wanted to see Christy, and Mrs. Passford had begun to be uneasy that he did not return at dark. Corny went out to find him.
A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
The Bellevite lay in the river, off the estate of Captain Passford, though at a little distance below the mansion, from the windows of which she could not be seen. Corny walked down the avenue and over the hill, in the direction of the anchorage of the steamer. The boat-house was near the mansion, and to the float attached to it a variety of small craft were made fast. But the water was not deep enough there for the Bellevite. Corny had been to Bonnydale, and passed many weeks there, so that he was familiar with the localities.
As he passed the boat-house, he noticed that the Florence, which was Christy's favorite sailing craft, was not at her moorings, and he concluded that his cousin was away in her on some excursion. When he reached the boundary line of the estate, he discovered the sailboat with her bow on the beach, though her mainsail was still set. A gentle breeze was blowing, with which the Florence could make good headway; but there seemed to be no one on board of her. Corny watched her for some time, waiting for the appearance of Christy. It was not an easy matter to climb the high fence which bounded the estate, and the planter's son could hail the boat, and be taken on board of her as soon as she got under way again.
But Christy did not appear, and it was getting darker and darker every minute. Something must have attracted the attention of the skipper on shore, and he had doubtless landed. But while Corny was waiting for his cousin, he saw two men making their way through the grove on the other side of the fence towards the river. One of them he recognized, and gave a peculiar whistle, which drew the two men in the direction from which it came.
"Is that you, major?" asked Corny, in a low tone.
"Hush! You are a simpleton, Corny!" exclaimed one of the men, as he came up to the palisades of the fence. "Didn't I tell you not to call me by name?"
"I didn't call you by name," replied Corny, smartly.
"You called me major, and that is about the same thing," added the speaker on the other side of the fence.
"The woods are full of majors now, both in the North and the South, and no one knows you especially by that name. But I will remember in future, Mr. Mulgate," replied Corny.
"That sounds better, Neal. If we lose the game it will be by your blundering," continued the major, or Mulgate, as he preferred to be called on the present occasion.
"I suppose you have no talent for blundering, Mulgate; and that is the reason why you happen to be here at the present moment," retorted Corny, not at all pleased with the speech of the other.
"None of your impudence, Neal!" said Mulgate, sharply.
"If you lose the game, you say that it will be by my blundering, Mulgate," continued Corny. "That makes it seem as though I was to bear the responsibility of a failure; and I don't like the looks of things. If I am to be responsible for a failure, I ought to have something to say about the manner of conducting the enterprise."
"Shut up, Neal! We have no time to talk nonsense of that sort. I am to conduct the enterprise, and you are to obey my orders. That is the whole of it," replied Mulgate, impatient at the position taken by the young man. "You are still under my command, and you will obey me or take the consequences. Now to business: what have you learned?"
"Nothing at all," answered Corny, rather sullenly.
"What have you been about? Haven't you discovered anything?"
"Nothing at all; I have but just arrived here. I took supper with my uncle, and told him the fish story you invented for me."
"Did he believe it?"
"I don't know whether he did or not; but he and the rest of the family treated me very handsomely, which made me feel meaner than a dead catfish."
"Never mind your feelings; you are here to assist in a great enterprise, and you are expected to do your duty to your country without regard to your own notions. Report what you have done."
"I haven't done anything but introduce myself into the house, and explain how I happen to be here," replied Corny, as he proceeded to give the details of his meeting with his uncle.
"Is Miss Florry at home?" asked Mulgate, in a more gentle tone, as though he had a deeper interest in the direction he had indicated.
"She is at home, and was at the supper table with us."
"How does she seem to be?" asked the stranger.
"First rate; she is as jolly as though no one ever heard of such a thing as war," replied Corny, with enthusiasm.
"Did she say anything about her stay at Glenfield?" inquired Mulgate, whose interest seemed to mount to the pitch of anxiety.
"Not a word; she did not even hint at Glenfield, or anything connected with it," answered Corny; and, after the sharp tones of the other, he seemed to take pleasure in thorning him with negative answers.
"Did she say anything about me?"
"Not a word."
"Didn't she mention my name?"
"She did not."
"Didn't she ask about my health, or want to know where I was?"
"Florry did not allude to you in any manner. If she wanted to know where you were, she did not say a word about it to me," replied Corny, in the most decided tones.
It was still light enough to see that there was something like a frown on the brow of Mr. Mulgate. He had evidently believed that the daughter of the millionnaire of Bonnydale was interested in him, and his inquiries indicated that he expected her to ask about him; but she had not made the remotest allusion to him. Besides, she was as jolly as she had been at Glenfield, when war was a matter of the future, which few believed would ever be realized. She had not grown thin and pale during her absence from him, and she did not appear to be wasting her sweetness in pining for him.
"What in the world are you talking about, Mulgate?" suddenly demanded his companion on his side of the fence. "I thought we were here for business, and you are talking about some girl."
"She is the lady of whom I spoke to you; she spent the last winter with her uncle at the Glenfield Plantation. I am interested in her," replied Mulgate, as though he had given a sufficient excuse for the questions he had put to Corny.
"Are we to capture her and take her back to the State of Alabama?" demanded the other, who seemed to be a gentleman of forty at least.
"I don't know; that depends; but, Captain Carboneer, I hope you will be my friend in this little matter," added Mulgate.
"I don't know any thing about the little matter; but I am not willing to jeopardize the enterprise that brings us here to help you out with a love affair," replied the older gentleman. "There will be time enough for you to look for a wife after the war is over, and you have more time to attend to the affair."
"Mr. Mulgate, I should like to know something more about your intentions before we go any farther," interposed Corny, in a tone so decided that Mulgate had to listen to him, especially as he had obtained so little sympathy from the elderly gentleman.
"Speak quick then, for we have no time to spare," added Mulgate.
"Do I understand from what you have said that you intend to take Florry Passford back to the South with you?" asked Corny, with his teeth closely pressed together, so that it was rather difficult for him to speak intelligibly.
"I answer, as I did before, that I don't know what I shall do; that depends," replied Mulgate evasively.
"Depends upon what?"
"I have no time to discuss that matter now," added Mulgate, turning to his companion.
"But I have time to say that I will ruin the whole enterprise if you mean to commit an outrage such as you appear to have in your mind," replied Corny, as vigorously as though he had been the military equal of the one he had called "major" by accident.
"Do you mean to be a traitor to your country, Neal?" demanded Mulgate angrily.
"Neither to my country nor to my uncle."
"Your uncle is a Yankee, and is doing all he can to subjugate the free South. He has no rights which we are bound to respect," said Mulgate fiercely.
"This will never do," interposed Captain Carboneer; and this may or may not have been his real name. "We are getting into a disagreement at the very first step of our enterprise."
"I don't know you, Captain Carboneer, but I wish to be understood as meaning every word I have said; and I will wreck this enterprise, if I am shot for it, rather than allow my cousin to be carried off in connection with it," protested Corny stoutly. "I will do my duty faithfully; but I will not assist in robbing my uncle of his daughter."
"You are quite right, young man; and I would rather be sent to the fort as a prisoner of war than take part in such an enterprise," added Captain Carboneer, in mild but forcible tones.
"You astonish me, captain!" said Mulgate. "Why do you talk about an outrage? I claim to be a gentleman, and to be above any such villainy as you and Corny suggest. I do not propose to rob Captain Passford of his daughter. What I may do depends—depends upon the consent of the lady. If she is willing to go with me"—
"She is not willing to go with you; and she never will be willing to go with you," Corny interposed. "I don't know what you are thinking about, Mr. Mulgate; but Florry cares no more about you than she does about Uncle Pedro, my father's house-servant. She saw you both at Glenfield, and I can't tell which she likes best."
"We had better drop the subject," added Captain Carboneer.
"Drop it, then," replied Mulgate sullenly. "Get over the fence, Corny. Nobody is using that sailboat, and we may as well take it for a while."
THE DIGNIFIED NAVAL OFFICER
Corny climbed over the high palisade fence, with the assistance of Mulgate, and the party walked to the sailboat at the beach below. By this time it was dark, though the gloom was not very dense under a clear sky.
"Do you know anything about this boat, Corny?" asked Mulgate, as the trio approached the handsome craft, for such she was beyond a doubt.
The crusty tones of the speaker indicated that he had not yet recovered from the set-back he had plainly received in the late conversation, though he denied that he had any evil intentions in regard to Miss Florry.
"I do; I know all about her," replied Corny.
"Well, why don't you tell what you know?" demanded Mulgate.
"What do you wish to know about her?" inquired Corny, who was disposed to maintain his equality in spite of the military rank of his companion, which he had incautiously betrayed in the beginning.
"Whose boat is it?" asked Mulgate.
"She belongs to my cousin, Christy Passford."
"Where is he now?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Was he at the house when you were there?"
"He was not; and his mother had become rather anxious because he did not return to supper," replied Corny, becoming a little more pliable.
"This is a rather large boat, Captain Carboneer," added Mulgate, as he surveyed the trim sloop. "She is rather too large for our purpose."
"She will answer very well," replied the captain, as he applied his shoulder to the stem of the craft to ascertain how heavily she rested upon the beach. "Now, do you know whether there is any person on board of that steamer?"
"Of course, I don't know anything about it," said Mulgate.
"I am sure I don't," added Corny.
"I sent you up here to ascertain all about the Bellevite," continued Mulgate, rather sharply.
"I have not had time to find out anything," Corny explained, with some indignation in his tones.
"Corny has done as well as he could in the time he has had to do it in," interposed Captain Carboneer. "I think you are inclined to stir up bad blood with this young man, Mulgate. It appears now that you have a purpose of your own to accomplish, and that Corny will not allow you to carry it out."
"My first purpose is the same as your own," replied Mulgate.
"You admit that you have a second object; and I cannot tell when you will decide to make it your principal purpose," added Captain Carboneer. "I am not satisfied with the situation. I have done everything I can to accomplish our patriotic object. You endanger it by your crusty manner to this young man, who seems to be willing to do his duty; and he is in a position to be of great service to our enterprise."
"If you think it is necessary, I will take off my cap to this young man," said Mulgate, with a sneer in his tones.
"Be reasonable, Mulgate."
"What can I do more than I have done?" demanded the military gentleman, as his title indicated that he was.
"The first thing to do on your part is to renounce this idea of taking a lady passenger with you in the steamer," replied Captain Carboneer, in a very decided tone. "Women are not permitted on board of naval vessels, especially in time of war."
"I don't think I have any idea to renounce," muttered Mulgate.
"You certainly hinted that you desired to take a lady on board, and convey her to our destination," said the captain, rather earnestly.
"Not against her will, as you and Corny will have it," protested Mulgate.
"Do you renounce that plan or that idea, whatever it may be?"
"I do not renounce it. If the lady is willing to go with me, as I believe she will be, I know of no reason why she should not go as a passenger," argued Mulgate.
"I think we had better abandon the enterprise in the beginning, for I think we can be of more service to our country at liberty than within the walls of Fort Lafayette," added the captain, with not a little disgust mingled with his indignation.
Whatever his object in visiting this locality, he was clearly a high-toned gentleman, and the idea of prosecuting a love adventure in connection with what he regarded as a highly patriotic duty was repulsive to his nature. He found by trial that the Florence was not grounded very hard on the beach, for the tide was rising, and he drew the boat farther up from the water, as he turned to walk away from the spot.
"Am I to understand that you retire from this enterprise, Captain Carboneer?" asked Mulgate.
"Am I to understand that you renounce your scheme to carry off a woman as a part of the enterprise?" demanded the captain.
"I do not renounce it, though I have no intention to carry off a woman, as you put it. The most I have asked is that she be permitted to go as a passenger of her own free will," replied Mulgate.
"She never will go with him of her own free will," interposed Corny.
"I will not have a woman on board of the vessel, whether she goes willingly or otherwise. Do you renounce that scheme entirely?"
"I think you are driving me into a small corner, Captain Carboneer."
"After what you have said before, I think I am fully justified in what I require. With your private affairs, I have nothing to do. If you choose to marry this young lady, I have nothing to say about that; but no woman can be a passenger in a war vessel under my command. After I have landed you at Bermuda or Nassau, I shall not attempt to run the blockade, which is now enforced, in order to land you and the lady. Besides, we may be in action at any time after we get under way."
"Then if I do not yield the point, you intend to leave me to carry out this enterprise alone?" demanded Mulgate.
"In that case, I wish to go with you, Captain Carboneer," added Corny, with emphasis. "But I want it understood that I shall not leave Bonnydale without telling my uncle to look out for his daughter."
"Then you mean to be a traitor, Corny?" said Mulgate angrily.
"Call it what you like."
"All this is absurd, Mulgate," interposed Captain Carboneer. "Without my resources, you can do nothing at all, and it would be foolish for you to attempt the capture of the vessel. You are not a sailor or a navigator, and you could do nothing with the vessel if you succeeded in getting her to sea."
"I have no doubt I could find a hundred men in New York, including half a score of navigators, to assist me in this enterprise," replied Mulgate.
"I have another steamer in view, though the Bellevite is vastly superior to anything I know of in speed and general fitness. Do as you think best, Mulgate; and I shall be able to explain in a satisfactory manner my failure to obtain this vessel."
"The fault will be mine, I suppose," muttered Mulgate.
"The court-martial will decide that point," replied the captain.
Mulgate seemed to be buried in his own reflections, no doubt suggested by the last remark of the other. Possibly he considered that the failure of such an important enterprise because he had insisted upon bringing a lady into the affair would not sound well at home. Whatever he was thinking about, he was greatly agitated, and Captain Carboneer walked in the direction of the road, half a mile from the river. He had no time to consider the matter: he must yield at once, or abandon the scheme.
"I will do anything you ask, Captain Carboneer!" he shouted, forgetting, in his excitement, the demand for secrecy.
The naval officer, as his conversation indicated that he was, turned and retraced his steps to the beach. He did not seem to be at all excited because his associate had changed his mind, for in his judgment it would have been worse than madness for him to persist in his intentions.
"I have stated the case as I understand it, and I have nothing more to say, Mulgate," said he.
"I renounce my scheme, and I will not ask that the lady be a passenger even to Bermuda or Nassau," replied Mulgate, though not without a considerable display of emotion.
"Very well; that is enough. Nothing more need be said about your purpose, since you have renounced it. Now we will visit the Bellevite, and learn what we can in regard to her," said the naval officer, in his usual quiet manner, and whether he was a Confederate or a Unionist, one could hardly have failed to be impressed by his dignified deportment.
At the request of Captain Carboneer, Mulgate climbed to the forward deck of the Florence. She was twenty-eight feet long, and her deck covered more than half of her length. She had a very large cabin for a boat of her size, which was fitted up with berths, with a cook-room forward of it, for Christy Passford was often absent a week in her.
"I think Corny had better go back to the house, and keep an eye on Christy, so as to make sure that he does not disturb us," suggested Mulgate, as the planter's son was about to go on board of the yacht.
"I think we shall want him, and he had better be with us," replied the captain, as one would speak when he expected to be obeyed.
Corny climbed up the stem of the Florence. He had never seen the captain before, and had not even been informed who and what he was; but he appeared to be a more important person than Mulgate, and he did not wait for the latter to argue his point. He had sailed in the Florence very often, and he knew all about her. He took a boathook, and planted its point on the beach, in readiness to shove off.
"Not yet, Corny," said the naval officer, as he sprang lightly to the deck of the sailboat. "Let us see where we are before we do anything."
Captain Carboneer seated himself on one of the cushioned seats in the standing-room, and looked about him. A steamer towing a multitude of canal boats was approaching, and he waited for it to pass. Then no steamer or other craft was to be seen on the river.
"So far as I have been able to discover, there are only two men on board of the Bellevite, and I think we have not a moment to lose," said the naval officer, when he saw that the river was clear of everything that might interfere with his plans. "But we must go on board of her, and make sure of everything before we commit ourselves."
"As you said, Captain Carboneer, I am no sailor; and you don't think of taking the steamer out of the river alone?" added Mulgate.
"I have not come here on a fool's errand, Major Pierson," replied the captain. "We are alone now, and we may call things by their right names."
"But I don't care to have my name used in this vicinity," interposed this gentleman, when addressed by his own name.
"Your wish in this respect shall be respected, Mr. Mulgate. I was about to say that I had a ship's company all ready to take possession of this craft, to handle her at sea, and even to fight a battle if necessary."
"But where are your ship's company?" asked Mulgate, as he wished still to be called.
"I will produce them at the right time. Now you may shove her off, Corny," added the captain, as he took the wheel.
CORNY PASSFORD PLAYS ANOTHER PART
Captain Carboneer brought the Florence about, and headed her across the river. The Bellevite was moored a short distance from the estate down the stream.
"I have been up here before to-day," said the naval officer, as the boat moved away from the shore, assuring him that no one could be near enough to hear what he said.
"We only reached New York yesterday, and I don't see how you can have picked up a ship's company in that time," replied Mulgate.
"I sent the men before I came myself. I have stationed them in various places on the river, where I can get them when I want them; and I shall want them before the sun rises to-morrow morning," replied the captain.
"To-night!" exclaimed Mulgate, who seemed to be astounded at the revelation.
"Yes, to-night; in a few hours from now. I have obtained all the information I could in regard to the steamer, and what we do must be done at once. The Bellevite, as they call her now, has not yet been handed over to the government, though she has been accepted. They are waiting for something, though I don't know what, and she may be sent to the navy yard to-morrow; and then it will be too late for us to do anything."
"But to-night—that is rather hurried," added Mulgate, musing.
Very likely he was thinking of the beautiful Miss Florry in the elegant mansion a short distance up the river. Without a doubt he was Major Pierson, since the naval officer had addressed him by this name and title. He had often met the young lady at Glenfield Plantation, and possibly his sudden visit to the North had not been without some thought of her. However it may have been with her, he was at least very much interested in Miss Florry.
The fact that she was a "Yankee" did not make her less beautiful, and it did not make her any the less the daughter of a millionnaire. No one could say that he was mercenary, however, and no one could say why he was not as deeply interested in the daughter of the planter, for she was hardly less beautiful, though her father was not considered a millionnaire, to say nothing of a ten-millionnaire. Major Pierson did not tell what he was thinking about; but he was certainly astounded and badly set back when the naval officer intimated that the capture of the Bellevite might be undertaken that night.
"You can see for yourself that we must strike at once, or there may be nothing to strike at," replied Captain Carboneer.
"But we shall have no time to work up the case," suggested the major.
"The case is all worked up, and there is nothing more to work up," replied the captain, as he headed the boat for the steamer.
Major Pierson said no more, but he was as much dissatisfied with the promptness of the naval officer as though he had said it in so many words. It would be difficult to imagine how he expected to manage his case with Miss Florry, since he could not enter the house without betraying his identity. Perhaps he intended to lie in wait for her in the grounds of the estate, and trust that her interest in him would induce her to keep his secret.
"Is that you, Christy?" called a voice from the steamer, as the Florence approached the Bellevite.
"Answer him, Corny," said Captain Carboneer, in a low voice. "Say 'yes,' and ask who it is that speaks."
"Yes," repeated Corny. "Who are you?"
"Sampson," replied the man on board of the steamer.
"And who is with him," added the captain.
"Are you alone on board?" demanded Corny, varying his speech a little from his instructions.
"No; Warping is on board, but he has gone to sleep in the pilot-house. Do you want him?"
"No; but you wish to take a couple of friends on board to obtain the measure of a gun-carriage," continued Captain Carboneer.
"No; I don't want Warping; I only wanted to know if he was on board," repeated Corny. "I have a couple of friends here who want to measure a gun-carriage to-night, for they have to leave in the morning."
"Very well, young man; you understand yourself very well," said the captain, in tones of approval.
By this time Captain Carboneer had brought the boat alongside the accommodation steps, the lower part of which were hoisted up to prevent any water tramps from coming on board without permission. But when Corny had delivered the last message, the steps were lowered, and the Florence made fast to them. Corny was told to lead the way, and act as though he were Christy Passford, and owned the ship in his own right.
The planter's son went up the steps, and the other two followed him, though the naval officer had really ascertained all he wished to know. There were only two ship-keepers on board, and they would be no obstacle in the way of the ship's company to which the captain had alluded. But the leader of the enterprise had another object in view, though it was only secondary in its nature. He was afraid to overburden the mind of Corny, and he said nothing more.
"Is everything all right on board, Sampson?" asked Corny, as he stepped down upon the deck of the vessel.
"All right, Christy," replied the man.
"I am glad to hear it. Is there anything new?"
"Nothing at all, Christy. I have been overhauling the boilers a little to-day for the want of something to do, and they are in first-rate condition. As you told me to-day that we might expect the order to report at the navy yard at any minute, I thought I would have everything as nearly ready as it could be."
"You have done very well, Sampson," added Corny, approvingly. "We are to get under way early in the morning, and if father gets home he will start the steamer as soon as he comes. He went to the city this evening, and probably he will bring the order with him," continued Corny, making use of the information he had obtained in the house.
"Where is this long gun, my man?" asked Captain Carboneer, taking a measure from his pocket.
"Forward, sir," replied Sampson, as he led the way.
The captain kept some distance behind the ship-keeper, and took Corny by the arm to detain him.
"Tell him to get up steam at once," whispered the leader of the party, as he hastened forward to the long midship gun, where he proceeded to take his measurements as though he were in real earnest, though it was so dark that he could not possibly see the marks on his tape, even if he tried to do so.
"You say that everything is ready to start the fires, Sampson?" said Corny, as soon as he had a chance to speak to the ship-keeper.
"Everything is ready, Christy, and I have only to touch the match to the shavings to make a beginning," replied Sampson. "Is there any news about my appointment in the engine-room, Christy?"
"Not yet, Sampson; but the papers will soon come, and I am almost willing to guarantee your appointment."
"Mr. Vapoor has already spoken a good word for me."
"All right, Sampson; then you are sure of the position. I am very sure that we shall get the order before morning to move the steamer over to the navy yard, and I think you had better start the fires at once, Sampson," continued Corny, making himself as much at home on board of the steamer as though he had really been the person he was supposed to be.
"All right, Christy; and if the order don't come as soon as you expect it, we can bank the fires, and no harm will be done," replied the oiler, for such was his position on board, though he was evidently expecting something better.
By this time Captain Carboneer had finished taking the measure of the gun-carriage, though he had not been able to see anything. But he had been through all the forms, and that answered his purpose just as well. He declared that he had no further business on board, and the trio went to the accommodation ladder. Sampson had called his sleeping companion, and already the black smoke began to pour out of the smokestack.
"That was all very handsomely done," said Major Pierson, as they stepped on board of the Florence.
"Everything worked very well; but it was all owing to the fact that the ship-keeper thought that Corny was some other person," replied the captain.
"I know that he took him for Christy Passford, and I have had some experience with Christy," replied the major, recalling his attempts to prevent the Bellevite from escaping from Mobile Bay. "He is a smart fellow, as the Yankees would say, and it is fortunate that he is not here at the present time."
"He can't be very far off," suggested Corny. "He was expected back to supper, and I wanted to see him, for he is my cousin. He must be about here somewhere."
"Never mind whether he is or not; we have finished our business here, and the harvest is ripe for the sickle. We will leave this boat just where we found it, for I have a rowboat a little farther down the river," continued Captain Carboneer.
"I suppose I ought to return to my uncle's house," suggested Corny. "If they miss me they will be looking about here to ascertain what has become of me."
"I think you had better not try to relieve their anxiety to-night. If they are worried about you, they will get over it in the morning when they find the steamer is missing," said Captain Carboneer, with something like a chuckle in his tones when he pictured the surprise of the "Yankees" in making the discovery that the Bellevite had taken to herself wings, and sped on her way to the South.
"I don't think they will worry about me," added Corny, laughing. "I was afraid they might think I was here to capture the city of New York, or something of that sort."
"I think you had better not undeceive them to-night," replied the captain, as he ran the yacht upon the beach near where he had found her.
"Everything looks exceedingly well for our enterprise."
"If you get that steamer into Mobile Bay"—
"I don't intend to get her into the bay; that would be folly, and I shall run no risks among the blockaders, for a single shot might give her back to her present owners."
"No matter; if you only get her, and she is under the flag of the Confederacy, it will put me back where I was when she went into the bay by a Yankee trick," added Major Pierson.
"After the war, if you wish to see the young lady, you will have more time to attend to the affair, and I shall wish you every success then," said the captain lightly.
"How long do you think the war will last, Captain Carboneer?" asked the major, in this connection.
"Possibly it may last a year, though if we can break up that blockade, it will not last six months longer."
The trio landed on the beach, and the naval officer made sure that the Florence was securely fixed in the gravel. The party walked down stream, embarked in the boat of which the captain had spoken. It was pulled by two men, and after they had gone about a mile, the captain began to blow a boatswain's whistle which he took from his pocket.
But they had hardly jumped down on the beach before Christy Passford opened the cabin door of the yacht, and crept out with the utmost care.
CAPTAIN CARBONEER AND HIS PARTY
As Captain Carboneer blew his whistle, a mile below the moorings of the Bellevite, an occasional response came from the shore. Everything was remarkably quiet on the river, though at long intervals a steamer passed on its way up or down the stream. The signals made by the naval officer were not loud, and the replies, made without the aid of any instrument, were quite feeble. One might have taken them for some frolic on the part of the boys.
"I don't quite understand this business," said Major Pierson, after he had listened a while to the signals. "I suppose from the answers you get, that your men are all along the river, and the woods seem to be full of them."
"I have no doubt they are all here," replied Captain Carboneer. "I have been in this vicinity all day, and I have made good use of my time. I believe the Bellevite belongs to the Confederacy, and it shall be no fault of mine if the goods are not delivered in good order and condition."
"My father was confident that he should obtain her at Nassau, though he was mistaken," added the major.
"But when she went within our lines, we were all satisfied that she was ours. I have not yet been able to understand why she was permitted to escape."
"If you mean by that to cast any blame upon those who did their best to prevent her escape, Captain Carboneer, you wrong them grossly," said Major Pierson. "She came on a friendly visit to the plantation of Colonel Passford; but this gentleman, though the owner of the steamer was his own brother, promptly gave information of her presence in the creek, and did all he could to have her captured. No man could have sacrificed more to his patriotism than he did."
"I do not reflect on him or on any one; I only wonder how the Bellevite contrived to escape when several steamers were sent out to capture her," added the captain.
"The son of the owner of the Bellevite was a prisoner of mine, for when I had my brother arrested for desertion, this young man was with him. The only mistake I made was in not putting him in irons. The captain of my tug proved to be a traitor to the Confederacy, and this fellow, with Christy Passford, did the most of the mischief in preventing the capture of the steamer."
"I was told that he was a smart boy," added the naval officer.
"He is all of that; and I think it was very fortunate that he did not happen to be at home when we visited the Bellevite just now," said Major Pierson, who evidently had a proper respect for the abilities of the millionnaire's son.
"I do not see that his presence in his father's mansion, if he had been there, could have made any difference," added the captain, as he sounded his whistle again, and heard a faint response from the shore. "As long as he was not actually on board of the steamer, he was harmless."
"Perhaps he was, though I have the feeling that it would have been otherwise. There was a whistle from the shore."
"I heard it, and I understand it. Haslett has done his whole duty, I judge," replied Captain Carboneer.
"Who is Haslett?" asked the major curiously. "I never heard of him before."
"He is to be the first lieutenant of the Bellevite."
"You seem to have a full supply of officers and men, Captain Carboneer," added Major Pierson, apparently a little disconcerted. "I do not see that I am of the least use here, for you seem to have done everything without consulting me."
"In naval matters I have; but I give you full credit for the planning of the enterprise," replied the captain, in his softest tones.
"When I was removed from my command because I allowed the steamer to pass the forts, I felt that a great injustice had been done to me. I did all I could to effect the capture of the vessel, but the attempt was a failure," argued the major. "The shot hole through the bow of the Belle utterly wrecked her, and the force on board of her could do nothing, and Christy Passford had brought my own tug to bear against me. Why, the Bellevite actually saved the force on board of the Belle from drowning. A violent gale came up, and that did a great deal to nullify all our efforts. But I think I did my whole duty."
"I have no doubt of it, Major Pierson; and for that reason you were sent on this mission; and I am confident that the success of the enterprise will restore you to your former command, or give you another quite as good," said Captain Carboneer, as consolation to the military arm of the expedition.
"But I cannot see that I have been of any use to this enterprise, and I might as well have staid at home."
"You are too modest by half, major. You planned the expedition, and suggested that Corny should take part in it, as he would have the entree to the residence of Captain Passford. But, being a mere boy, he could not be sent alone, and your services were likely to be of the most important character. It is no fault of yours that we found everything made ready for us, as it were. It might have been quite different, and the burden of the action might have rested upon you. It is all right as it is."
"I am satisfied," added the major, "though I think it was no more than right that you should have consulted me in regard to your methods, of which I am still profoundly ignorant. In getting up the scheme, I based everything on the fact that Corny could go into his uncle's house and obtain all the information we needed."
"The scheme was well concocted; and I shall have the pleasure of reporting to the government that the military arm of the expedition conducted the enterprise to a perfect success, the naval force only doing the duty pointed out by the military."
"You are very kind, Captain Carboneer," said Major Pierson, who could not well help being entirely satisfied, and even greatly pleased, with this happy showing of the final result.
"By daylight in the morning we shall be outside of Sandy Hook, I expect. We have no time to waste, and you can see for yourself how the affair of the young lady would have complicated our operations."
"How do you intend to convey these men, who seem to be scattered all along the shores of the river, to the steamer?"
"They understand my signals, and they will all be ready within an hour to take a small steamer which will pick them up."
"But where is the steamer?"
"She is farther down the river. As you seem to be a little sensitive to the fact that I have not consulted you in regard to the naval operations of this enterprise, I can tell you in a few words all there is of them," continued Captain Carboneer. "As you are aware, as soon as our plan was matured by you, I left Mobile with Lieutenant Haslett, though you knew nothing about him, for Nassau. We had no difficulty in getting out of the bay, for the blockade was not then enforced. At Nassau I engaged a couple of English engineers, and a few other officers, with thirty seamen, mostly English, who were looking for prize-money. I had to take my force to Quebec, for no steamer offered for New York. I sent them all here in small parties, and Haslett posted them along the river when I told him they would be needed to-night."
"I did not leave Mobile till two weeks later with Corny," added the major. "But I got here sooner than you did."
"You were more fortunate in finding a steamer. I believe I have a capital crew, though I shall obtain more men at Bermuda, or some other port. There are plenty of good English sailors who are willing to fight on either side if there is a good showing for prize-money; and I have no doubt I shall capture a dozen vessels before we reach the Bermudas, which will fully satisfy them, especially as the government will pay the value of all vessels we are compelled to burn on the high seas."
"You will have the advantage over everything that floats, for I was told that the Bellevite made twenty knots an hour, and had done twenty-two," said Major Pierson. "At what time do you think you will get on board of the steamer?"
"By one or two in the morning, I hope; but it will depend upon the steamer Haslett engages, though he told me he had bargained for an old one with a walking-beam; but that will answer our purpose. I believe he had to buy her, though she was of no great value."
At a creek which appeared to be the rendezvous of the conspirators, the boat left the river; but there was no steamer, though quite a number of men had gathered there. Leaving the party in the boat to follow out the remaining details of their enterprise, which, by this time, in the absence of anything like an obstacle, they regarded as so many mere formalities, it becomes necessary to make another visit to the mansion of Captain Passford. This gentleman had gone to the city upon important business connected with the fitting out of the Bellevite, and he had not returned when the clock in the great hall struck ten, which was at about the time Captain Carboneer and his companions went into the creek five miles down the river.
"There is no knowing when your father will come home, Florry," said Mrs. Passford, as she suspended her work on a stocking she was knitting for the soldiers. "But I can't imagine what has become of Christy. He never stays out as late as this unless he tells us of it beforehand."
"I am really worried about him, mother," replied the beautiful daughter, looking up from the stocking on which she was employed. "He went away in the Florence, and something may have happened to him."
"I think not, Florry: there has been no storm, or heavy blow, and he thinks he is as safe in his boat as he is on shore," added Mrs. Passford, with an effort to control the fears of the daughter. "He may have gone down to the city. He is very indignant at the delay in giving the order to have the steamer sent to the navy yard, and wherever he is, I am confident he is doing something in connection with the steamer."
"I wish I knew whether the Florence was at the boathouse," continued Florry. "He said he was going out in the boat; but perhaps he did not. Perhaps he is with father."
"There is the front-door bell," added Mrs. Passford, with a start. "It cannot be your father or Christy, for both of them have latch-keys. Who could come here at this time in the evening?"
"Mr. Paul Vapoor," said the man-servant, who answered the bell.
The gentleman announced walked into the sitting-room without any ceremony, for he had long been a familiar visitor. He was dressed in the full uniform of a chief engineer of the navy. Removing his cap, he politely bowed to the two ladies; and any one who was looking might have seen that Miss Florry blushed a little when she saw him; and very likely if Major Pierson had witnessed the roses on her fair cheek, he might possibly have concluded that it would have been useless to postpone the capture of the Bellevite to enable him to fortify his position near her.
"I beg your pardon, ladies, for calling so late," said Mr. Vapoor, as he drew a long envelope from his pocket. "But I thought Christy might wish to see what is in this envelope before he retired."
"Why, what is in it?" asked Mrs. Passford.
"Christy's commission as a midshipman in the navy."
"But Christy is not at home, and we are somewhat anxious about him," added the mother, stating the facts in regard to her son.
Paul Vapoor volunteered to go in search of him, and left the house.
THE CABIN OF THE FLORENCE
If Captain Carboneer had felt any especial interest in the Florence as a sailing yacht, he might have desired to see the cabin of the craft, which had always been the delight of Christy Passford. He had expended a great deal of his pocket-money upon the arrangement and furnishing of the cabin of his yacht, not only because he spent a considerable portion of his vacation hours in it, but because it had been a perpetual study with him to enlarge and improve it.
It is very difficult to get three pints of liquid into a quart measure, and it was a conundrum of this sort that Christy was studying upon when he tried to make a parlor, bedroom, and dining-saloon of the very limited space in the forward part of the Florence. Though he could hardly get the three pints into the quart measure, he had done the best he could, and succeeded to a rather remarkable degree. But spite of the miracle which had been wrought in the cabin, Captain Carboneer did not even try the door of the apartment when he and his companions went on board of the yacht. He was so absorbed in the enterprise in which he was engaged, that his indifference to the miracle of the cabin may be excused.
Even the double doors of the cabin were of handsome wood, elaborately polished; and they were not secured with the usual appliance of a padlock, but were provided with an expensive mortise-lock, which could be operated upon either side. If Captain Carboneer had tried to open that door, he would have found that it was fastened; but perhaps he could not have discovered that it had been secured upon the inside. Unless, therefore, he had taken the trouble to break open the door, he could not have ascertained that Christy Passford was actually in the cabin.
Possibly, if he had opened the door by any means, he would not have discovered that the proprietor of the boat was in this dainty apartment, for the skipper had taken a great deal of pains to conceal himself so that he should not be seen, even if the intruders in the Florence had succeeded in opening the doors without the aid of the key in his pocket. Though he had two very nice berths in the cabin, miraculously arranged as to space, Christy did not occupy one on the present occasion, for in that case the unbidden visitors would have seen him if their curiosity had led them to force the doors.
When the cook of the Florence, usually the skipper of the craft, was engaged in the practice of the culinary art, he seated himself on what looked like a box in front of the stove. But the interior of this box was really a part of the cabin, for it contained the feet of any one occupying the berth on the starboard side. The cookroom had no end of bins, lockers and drawers to contain the variety of provisions and stores necessary to get up a dinner for the skipper and his guests, when he had any. And even all these places could not contain everything that was needed on board. Under the two berths were large, though not very deep, lockers, one of which contained the jib-topsail of the craft, and other spare sails, while the opposite one was the fuel locker of the sloop.
As the boat had not been used for a long time in cruising, the fuel receptacle was empty, though a spare gaff-topsail had been thrown into it. This locker was big enough to admit the body-corporate of the skipper. It was not a particularly clean place, for a portion of it had been economized for the stowage of the charcoal, which the skipper preferred to wood. But he did not rebel at the blackness of the retreat he had chosen, for he wore his boating dress, which was hardly stylish enough for a dude or a dandy.
But Skipper Passford did not crawl into this black hole for the fun of the thing. He had been spending his time in waiting for a movement to be made in regard to the Bellevite. He staid in the house all the forenoon, and, after lunch, he sailed down the river in the Florence, though with no object in doing so beyond passing the time. Not far from the beach where he had afterwards left the yacht, he discovered a boat rowed by two men with a third in the stern sheets.
The breeze was quite gentle, though the Florence would sail at a very tolerable speed when there was the least apology for a wind. She was doing so on the present occasion, and Christy had stretched himself out on the cushioned seat, with the spokes of the wheel where he could steer without any exertion, or next to none. The idleness of his days since his return from the eventful cruise of the Bellevite seemed to have infected him with an unnatural indolence.
He felt as though he was rather more than half asleep when he saw the boat with the two oarsmen. It was going up the river, while he was going down. He had to luff a little to keep clear of the oars, but he did not move from his half-recumbent posture. When the boat was alongside, he glanced idly and carelessly at the person in the stern sheets. Instantly he was wide awake, though he did not change his position. The person looked like a gentleman, and Christy was sure that he had seen him before. A couple of minutes of earnest cudgelling of his brain assured him that he had seen the stranger in Nassau; that he was one of the many who wanted to purchase the Bellevite, ostensibly for a merchant vessel, but really for the Confederate navy.
After he had run a short distance farther down the river, Christy came about, the boat being some distance from him, but the gentleman soon landed and walked up the river on the shore, or very near it. In a short time, he was joined by another person, whose form looked familiar to the skipper of the Florence. He could not identify him, for he was not near enough to him to see his face. A puff of air came from across the river, and the Florence darted ahead, and Christy was soon out of sight of the two strangers.
Near the boundary of his father's estate, he ran the yacht on the sandy beach, letting her strike the sand hard enough to stick where she was for half an hour, though she was not likely to get adrift, for the gentle breeze was blowing her farther on the shore as the tide rose.
Christy hauled down the jib of the sloop, and then seated himself, or rather reclined upon the cushions, though in such a position that he could see the shore, or any persons who came upon it. No one was in sight, and he had no one to watch. The swash of a great steamer passing in the channel made his boat roll heavily for a moment, with the forward part of the bottom resting on the sand. For the want of something better to think of, he began to put conundrums to himself in the absence of any other person to perplex with them. What was the gentleman that wanted to buy a steamer in Nassau doing up the Hudson? This was the principal one: he could not answer it. He gave it up; as the French have it, he had to "throw his tongue to the dogs," having no use for it in this connection.
But while he was dreaming of the possible mission of the stranger, he heard voices on the beach. Not deeming it wise to show himself, he rolled off the cushion upon the floor of the standing-room, and then fixed himself in a position where he could see and hear what passed between the speakers. He could see without being seen. It did not require a second look for him to decide that the second person on the beach was Major Pierson, though his companion called him Mulgate.
If Christy had been interested before, he was excited now. The two speakers were within earshot of the boat, and in the stillness of the scene he could hear every word that was said. In a few moments he was in full possession of the statements of the captain and the major in regard to their intentions; and it appeared that the gentleman he had seen in Nassau still desired to obtain a steamer.
Before it was dark, Christy was astonished to behold his cousin Corny on the other side of the fence; and he readily understood that he was to take part in the enterprise in hand. As yet the listener had obtained but little more than the information in regard to the intention of the visitors. When he found that they were disposed to take possession of the Florence, and make their visit to the Bellevite in her, the skipper retired from the standing-room of the boat to the cabin, where he locked the door, and put the key in his pocket. When he realized that they really meant to come on board, he crawled into the space under the starboard berth, and arranged the sail so that it would conceal him in case the intruders pushed their investigation into the cabin.
When he had completed his preparations, he was quite satisfied that he should not be discovered. The trio came on board, and Christy fixed himself so that he could hear every word that was said, for there was a small opening under the berth through which the superfluous length of a pair of oars could be thrust when not in use.
Christy, without the remotest suspicion on the part of the plotters that they could be heard by any living being, and especially not by so dangerous a character as Christy had proved himself to be to the peace and dignity of the Confederacy, heard all that was said, and he obtained a full idea of the intentions of the conspirators. When they went on board of the Bellevite, he was so excited that he could no longer remain in his prison, but came out, and crept up the accommodation ladder to the deck of the steamer. But he was careful not to show himself, and, having a key to the cabin, he went into it, locking the door after him. Then he had a chance to think.
What should he do? He had no force at hand to beat off such a party as Captain Carboneer mentioned. They might carry out their plot that very night, as they had talked of doing. Perhaps it would be executed at once, even while he was on board, and he would then be a prisoner. This idea was too galling to be considered, and he left the cabin to visit the wardroom. Going still farther forward, he was surprised to hear the roar of the flames in the furnaces below. It looked at that moment as though the Bellevite was doomed to sail under a Confederate flag. But if he could do nothing more, he could save himself, even if he had to jump into the river and swim to the shore.
Christy lost no time in making his way to the main deck of the vessel; but he was careful to avoid the visitors. He went back to the cabin, and went on deck from it. Then he discovered that the trio were in the act of descending the accommodation steps. Mounting the rail he saw them embark in the Florence, and sail down the river. Dismounting from the rail, he hastened to the engine-room, where he found Sampson getting the engine ready to be put in motion.
"Ah, Christy, I thought you had gone," said the oiler.
"Who were those two men who were on board?" asked Christy, not a little excited.
"They were two gentlemen you brought on board, Christy," replied Sampson, innocently enough.
"That I brought on board!" exclaimed the skipper of the Florence.
"Yes, sir: and I thought you had gone ashore with them," added the oiler.
"I brought no men on board, Sampson! What are you talking about?" demanded Christy impatiently.
"Didn't you bring two gentlemen on board, and didn't one of them want to measure the carriage of the big gun?"
"No! I did not! I have not seen you before now this evening," protested Christy.
"Then I have lost my senses. Didn't you tell me to get up steam, because the steamer would be moved to the navy yard before daylight in the morning?" demanded Sampson, bewildered by the denial of the young man.
"I see now," added Christy. "You mistook Corny for me."
Sampson gave him all the details of the visit of the strangers.
MIDSHIPMAN CHRISTY PASSFORD
"In a word, Sampson, an attempt will be made to-night to capture the Bellevite, and you have been getting up steam for the conspirators," said Christy, when the ship-keeper had finished his narrative of the visit of the trio to the ship.
"Is that so?" exclaimed Sampson, opening his mouth and his eyes very wide at the same time. "Why, I had no more doubt that the young man who was talking to me was Christy than I have that he is talking to me now."
"You had better look at me again, and be sure that you make no mistake," replied Christy, rather disgusted at the failure of the man to identify him.
"I never once thought that it was not you. When the sailboat came alongside, I knew it was the Florence, and I supposed you were in her," pleaded Sampson. "But I spoke to you, as I supposed, when the boat came alongside."
"Did you? What did you say?" asked Christy.
"I said 'Is that you, Christy?' And you said 'Yes.'"
"Of course I did! What else could I say after you had told the enemy just how to proceed. You could not have expected any other answer."
"I suppose I was very stupid; but I hope no harm has been done, for they have not got the steamer yet," added Sampson, very much disconcerted at the blunder he had made, though an older officer than Christy might have had more charity for the ship-keeper.
Seen in broad daylight, there was no striking resemblance between Corny and Christy, though they were of about the same size, and had some traits in common. As Corny and his companions came in the Florence, it was not very strange that Sampson should take it for granted that Christy was one of the evening visitors. The voices of the two cousins were not unlike, and the sound was all he had to guide his judgment. Then he was not in the enemy's country, and he could hardly have been on the lookout for an enemy several miles up the river.
"Certainly no harm has been done, Sampson; but it is yet to be decided whether or not the Bellevite is to go into the navy of the United States or the navy of the Confederate States," added Christy, leaving the engine-room.
"If we have snuffed the whole thing, I don't believe this steamer will ever wear anything but the Stars and Stripes," said Sampson stoutly; and there could be no doubt in regard to his loyalty, judging from his speech, though that is not always to be trusted in time of war.
"Bellevite, ahoy!" shouted some one at the foot of the accommodation steps.
"Have they come again so soon?" asked Sampson, as he rushed to the rail. "It is only a small canoe."
"Is Christy on board?" called the visitor alongside.
"That is Mr. Vapoor: tell him I am on board," added Christy.
"Christy is on board, sir," replied Sampson to the hail. "Will you come on board, sir?"
Paul Vapoor would and did come on board, and Christy gave him a hearty welcome, for he was more glad to see him than he had ever been before in his life.
"Where have you been all day and all the evening, Christy?" asked the engineer. "Your mother and sister are very much worried about you, for they have not seen you for a long time, and they fear that something has happened to you."
"Something is likely to happen to me and all the rest of us who expect to go to sea in this steamer," replied Christy, as he proceeded to inform his friend as briefly as he could of the great event of the evening.
"Well, if we are not in the enemy's country, the enemy are in ours," replied Paul. "What is to be done?"
"That is what I have been thinking of. I listened very attentively to all that passed between Major Pierson and Captain Carboneer, and I am satisfied that the latter has a considerable force somewhere on the river, and their headquarters are at the mouth of a creek five miles down the river."
"How many have they?" asked the engineer.
"I don't know; they did not mention the number in figures, but they have enough to work the ship, and even to fight her," replied Christy, very seriously.
"That means forty or fifty, at least," added Paul. "This looks like a heavy matter, and it is quite time that something was done about it."
"But what shall we do is the question," said Christy anxiously. "We have two men on board beside ourselves, and we can hardly expect to hold our own against fifty."
"Who is this Captain Carboneer?"
"I saw him at Nassau, and he looked like a man of decision and character. I don't know anything about him, but I have no doubt he is a naval officer, both from the circumstances and from what I heard. I should say that he knows what he is about. You said that my father has not yet returned from the city?"
"He had not come at ten o'clock, and if he comes at all, the late train does not arrive till after twelve."
"It may be too late to do anything at that time," said Christy. "But I don't mean to give up the ship."
"Good! I am with you on that point, Christy. I called at your house to inform you that you had been appointed a midshipman in the navy, and you are likely to have a chance to christen your commission to-night. This was all the rank they could give you, though you will really be a passed midshipman, and be a master very soon."
Christy was delighted with this news, though he had no time to make a demonstration of delight over it. He had narrowly escaped being the third officer of the Bellevite the year before, because his father did not believe in putting him forward as fast as his abilities would have warranted him in doing. Captain Breaker and Paul Vapoor had made the application for a position in the navy; for his father would not do it, for the reason that he did not wish to ask any favors for a member of his own family.
"I thank you and Captain Breaker for all you have done for me, Paul, and I hope I shall be able to give a good account of myself. But we have no time to talk about that now. Captain Carboneer was waiting for a steamer which his naval associate, Lieutenant Haslett, was to charter or buy for the use of the party," said Christy, as he led the way to the forward deck of the steamer.
He and the engineer mounted the top-gallant forecastle, and looked intently down the river. The tide was coming in, so that the vessel, in coming up to her cable, pointed in that direction. But they could see nothing, not a craft of any description. Then Christy led the way to the long gun mounted amidships. He sighted across the piece, and, in a moment more, his mind seemed to have settled on the policy to be pursued in the present dangerous emergency. Perhaps the capture of a steamer under such circumstances was a thing unheard of at that time, but doubtless it looked simple enough to those who were engaged in the enterprise.
"Do you think of engaging the enemy at long range, Christy?" asked Paul, with a smile on his fine face, as seen by the light of the lantern which Sampson had brought to the place.
"I think of beating them off in any way we can," replied the middy, as his friends all called him from that time. "I have the gun pointing to a certain object on the river, which Captain Carboneer's steamer must pass. He can't help putting his craft where the muzzle of this piece will cover it; and if we pull the lock-string at that instant, the shot will knock his steamer all to pieces, and spill the conspirators into the river."
"If you hit her," suggested Paul.
"You can't very well help hitting her. Just squint along that gun, and see where the shot will bring up."
Paul complied with this request, and took a long look over the great gun.
"I should say that it was pointed a little too high," said he.
"Perhaps it is; I have not fixed it just as I mean to have it. We will put in the charge before we do that," added Christy, who was now as self-possessed as though there was no excitement attending the operation he was arranging.
"Do you know what steamer Captain Carbine will have?" asked Paul.
"Not Carbine; Carboneer. No, I don't know what steamer he will have; only that she is an old one, and has a walking-beam," replied Christy.
"That is rather indefinite, midshipman," added Paul, with a smile. "You can't always tell what a steamer is by looking at her, especially in the night; and a walking-beam is not a novelty on a steamer upon this river. You may send that shot through the wrong vessel; and if you should happen to kill a dozen or two of loyal citizens of the State of New York, they might be mean enough to hang you, or send you to the State prison for life for it. It won't do to fire off a shotted gun like that baby without knowing pretty well what you are shooting at."
"That is a long argument, Paul; and I have not the remotest idea of doing any such thing as you describe. I am going to know what we are firing at before we pull the lock-string," replied Christy, rather impatiently. "But we have no time to dig up mare's nests. We will get up the ammunition and load this gun; then we will do the rest of the business."
As ship-keeper and a member of the engineer's department for the last year, Sampson knew where everything was to be found. With all the usual precautions, the magazine was opened, and ammunition enough for three charges was conveyed to the deck, Warping having been called in to assist in the work. The gun was carefully loaded under the direction of Christy, who had been fully instructed and drilled in the duty. It was pointed as nearly as practicable to the point in the channel which the hostile steamer must pass, though the aim was to be rectified at the last moment.
Paul went to his stateroom and took off his handsome uniform, replacing it with a suit of his working garments. Then he hastened to the engine, examined it, and satisfied himself that it was in good condition for the office which was soon to be required of it. He gave Sampson particular directions for his duty, and then went down the accommodation steps with the midshipman.
"What are you going to do next, Christy?" asked Paul, for the young naval officer had been too busy with his preparations to develop his plan in full.
"We will go ashore first, and I will take the Florence to the boat-house," replied Christy. "The next thing to be done is to make a reconnoissance down the river."
"Why not go down in the Florence?" suggested Paul.
"Because that would be too simple and innocent altogether," replied the middy; and perhaps he felt some of the dignity of his new rank. "I think we had better see without being seen, especially as Captain Carboneer has seen and sailed the sloop. I have no doubt he has a sharp, nautical eye, and that he will recognize her. He might be rash enough to capture her, and thus deprive the United States Navy of two young, but able and hopeful officers, to say nothing of bottling them up so that he could make short work of the Bellevite."