dafabet net "Any seaman?" CHAPTER XXVII THE PLANNING OF AN EXPEDITION "I think you ought to know it by this time, Captain Passford," answered Dave; and the remark was enough to condemn the impostor in the opinion of the servant. "You lived in here when you were in command of the vessel." "We have damaged the enemy enough to make it pay, and the steamer and her cargo will put at least seventy-five thousand dollars into the pockets of our side in the conflict." But Job was very obliging, and he made a hissing sound, followed by an effort to sneeze which was a failure. Then he hissed some more, though the loss of his front teeth interfered with the effort. Then he said "fing." The third lieutenant was sent for, and his instructions were given to him. Mike would be his pilot, and could give him such information as he required in regard to the locality. He was to land in some convenient locality, cross the island on foot at the plantation, to Fort Lafitte, distant less than a mile, and ascertain if there were a steamer or other vessels in the bay. He was also instructed to use all means in his power to ascertain the strength of the fort. He was to make a landing about half a mile west of the plantation buildings.
"On board the sloop!" replied Mr. Pennant, standing up in the stern sheets. "What sloop is that?" Mr. Pennant had time now to look over the craft he had captured, and the men on board of 214 her. It was simply a large sailboat, and those on board of her wore plain clothes. They did not appear to be soldiers or sailors, though there was a number of bayonets scattered about the standing room. The seamen from the cutter had leaped on board of the sloop, with cutlasses in their belts; but there was not space enough to permit the use of the weapon, and they had seized each of the men by the collar and put a pistol to his head. dafabet net After half an hour of questioning, Corny was sent to the ward room, and Christy was called to 78 the captain's cabin. About the same questions were put to him as to his cousin; but both of them were prompt in their answers. In the last two years, Corny had been more at Bonnydale than Christy, and he was quite as much at home there, so that there was no reason why he should not be able to describe the mansion and its surroundings as accurately as the genuine Lieutenant Passford. "I hope it will not, my son," added his mother very earnestly. "By taking the bull by the horns in good season, I am confident we can prevent this mischief." "Thank you, sir," said the rower, as he pulled with more vigor even than before, and did not say another word till the boat was alongside the Vernon.
"Yes, sar; ober dar," he replied, pointing to the west. "The happiest moment I have had since I saw you last!" exclaimed the engineer, as he grasped the commander of the Bronx with his right hand, while he threw his left around the neck of his friend, and would have hugged him if Christy had not gently avoided such a "gush" in presence of the watch on deck. "I wish you were back in the Bellevite, Christy." "It is certainly very unexpected on my part, Corny," replied Christy, who began to comprehend the object of his cousin; but there was something so ludicrous in the situation that he was more disposed to laugh than to look upon it seriously. The men at work in the waist finished their task as Christy was returning from his promenade, with the intention of presenting himself to the commander. Among those who saluted him in proper form was Walsh. He seemed to be a little diffident about encountering the son of his late employer, and turned his face away as he touched his cap. But the officer had fully identified him, and spoke to him, calling him by name. The sailor made no reply; but Christy had placed himself directly before him, and he could not escape without a breach of discipline. "If he does that, so much the better, for we shall have more time to prepare for a decided stroke," replied Christy. "I have my plan all ready, though of course it may fail, and to-night we may all be prisoners of war." dafabet net
"Then you are not dangerously wounded," added Christy. "I was afraid it had gone through your head." "We have five prisoners on board; and we can take care of them well enough," replied Christy; "but the principal difficulty is that we have no officers." When he had completed his toilet Christy looked at his watch, and was rather surprised to find that it was a full hour later than usual when the call bell had been rung. He went down-stairs, and found his mother and Florry very busy in the dining-room, setting the table. This was the man's work, and the young officer was astonished to see his mother and sister doing it. 265 "Quite right, captain!" exclaimed the visitor. "I have an object in view, and both my inclination and my duty are urging me to carry it out. How your boat happened to capture the Magnolia is beyond my comprehension up to the present moment, though I think the principal reason was the lack of a sufficiently osseous vertebra on the part of your worthy uncle, Colonel Passford. Then the officer in charge of the cutter did not do what I expected him to do. Instead of falling back when he and one of his crew were wounded, as he ought to have done, and using the heavy revolvers with which his men were armed, he did not delay a moment, but smashed into the sloop, and jerked his men on board of her, cutlass in one hand and revolver in the other; and that brought me to the end of my rope. I could not do anything more." Christy planked the deck with Mr. Flint just 349 abaft the foremast. Both of them were as cool and self-possessed as though they had been sitting at the cabin-table; but neither of them felt that the battle had been won, for the officer in command of the fort was evidently a man of ability, who had not yet exhausted his resources. The first lieutenant had watched the works very closely with his glass, and he had informed the captain that something was in progress there, though he could not tell what it was. His son Cornelius followed the lead of his father, and was faithful to the teachings given him in his southern home. He had enlisted as a soldier; but when it was found that he could be more serviceable 72 to the Confederacy in certain irregular enterprizes, he was detached for this service. He had been engaged in an attempt to capture the Bellevite in connection with older and more skilful persons. The plan had failed, Corny had been severely wounded, and while on parole had lived at Bonnydale. From there he had been sent to a military prison, and had been exchanged. From that time, Christy knew nothing about him until he met him on board of the Vernon. xo89 "You have never seen my cousin Corny, I believe, Dave; but he looks like me. Now sit down, and I will tell you all about it." At the principal entrance of the fort they were challenged by the sentinel. Mr. Pennant was somewhat afraid his northern dialect would betray him, for he was not a highly educated man, though he was exceedingly well informed in all matters pertaining to the duties of a shipmaster. "Any orders, Captain Passford?" asked the first lieutenant, as he saw that Christy appeared to be master of the situation.
dafabet net "I hope you will not make a donkey of yourself before we have finished this business," added the executive officer for the time being. "Now have you looked at your orders?" "We have a nest of them in the cabin—the captain and two officers. What is to be done? We cannot allow the Bronx to be captured by any such trick as this, with forty-five loyal seamen on board of her, to say nothing of myself as a loyal officer." "Make the course about south, Vincent," said the officer, as soon as he discovered that the steamer was in motion. "Then there are cotton vessels at that port, are there?" asked Christy, pricking up his ears at this suggestion. "He did not look quite natural to me; but I could not make out what made the change in his looks," continued Mr. Flint. "You can see for yourself, that the plot would have been a success if you had not been on board of the Bronx to tell me what had happened. Whatever passed between the flag-officer and Captain Battleton, nothing at all was said among the officers about the decision the commander of the Vernon had been obliged to make when he accepted your cousin as the genuine Christopher Passford, ordered to the command of the Bronx. While I thought you were somewhat altered in appearance, and that your greeting to me was rather cold and formal when you came on board, I did not suspect that the officer who represented you was an impostor."
"Twenty-eight years." The head and hair of the old colored man were peculiar enough to enable the Russian to identify him if he had ever seen him even once before. His mouth was twisted to one side either naturally or by some injury, and his kinky hair made him look as though he carried a great bale of cotton on the top of his head. He opened his eyes when Mike shook him gently, and looked at the two men at the side of his bed with a wondering rather than an alarmed expression. dafabet net "You appear to be wounded, Captain Flanger?" said Christy, approaching the table. "I have a plain frock in my valise which I wore when the Teaser was captured," added Christy with a smile. "I will remove my coat and wear that." Christy felt that the time for action had come. Taking his valise in his hand he joined the file of men, and cleverly inserting himself between a couple of them, he went on the deck of the Bronx without being challenged as to his right to do so. Doubtless Captain Battleton had reported that he had a prisoner on board, though he had not had time to tell the whole story of the investigation, which had probably been postponed to a more convenient time. Mr. Flint went forward to receive the seamen as they came on deck, and he ordered them to pipe below and leave their bags there. "I did not, captain," replied Christy quietly, though he was amused rather than disquieted by the earnestness of the commander. "That sounds like a story for a novel," added the planter, smiling. 342 As soon as he reached the cabin, Christy brought from his stateroom twenty dollars in gold, which he presented to the old negro, who accepted the gift with many thanks.
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CHAPTER XV A REBELLIOUS AND PREJUDICED PRISONER