Within The Enemy's Lines Part 36

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In such a work as he had on his hands, he had the strength of two men.

Without any great difficulty, he dragged the body to the cabin, and then into one of the two staterooms he found, which was lighted. It was a more difficult task, for Lonley was a heavy man, but he placed the form in the berth. His first duty was to examine very carefully the pockets of the captain. He secured the file of papers first, and then drew a large naval revolver from each of his hip pockets. Then he took his papers from his pocket-book, but left his money, watch, and other valuables where he found them.

After a careful examination of the insensible form, he was satisfied that he was not dead, though he might yet die from the blow he had received. He locked the door of the room, and went on deck. He gave one of the revolvers to Christy, and retained the other, handing over to him also all the papers he had taken.

"This is the biggest venture we have undertaken yet," said Flint, as he seated himself by Christy.

"But everything has gone well so far," replied the lieutenant. "If you are not promoted for this and the Teaser affair, Flint, it shall not be for the want of any recommendation on my part."

"Thank you, Mr. Pa.s.sford; you are very kind. I hope your services will be recognized in the same manner," returned the master's mate.

"I don't care so much for myself, and I should not cry if I were never to become anything more than a midshipman."

"All I have done has been to obey your orders, and follow your lead; and if anybody is promoted for the two affairs in which we have been engaged, you are surely the one who is ent.i.tled to it."

"Well, we will do our duty, whether we are promoted or not," added Christy.

It was not more than nine o'clock in the evening when the Judith came out of the creek, and in about four hours she was approaching Fort Morgan. She was still within the enemy's lines, and her acting captain was disposed to do everything in a regular manner, especially as he had the means of doing so. He had not the same risk to run in getting through the blockading fleet that Captain Lonley would have had, and he promptly decided to take his chances without waiting for a dark and foggy night. A boat came off from the inner side of the fort, and Christy ordered Flint to bring her to.

The permit to pa.s.s the forts was in due form, and signed by the proper officials. The officer in the boat examined it carefully by the light of a lantern, and declared that he was satisfied with it. Then he asked some questions, which the acting commander of the Judith answered. The toughest inquiry he made was as to how he expected to get through the blockaders in a clear night like that. Christy a.s.sured him that he had a plan which he was confident would carry him through without difficulty.

The schooner filled away again, and pa.s.sed through the main channel; and in another hour she was in the midst of the Union fleet. There was a rattling of drums, a hissing of steam, and energetic commands heard as soon as the Judith was made out in the darkness, and doubtless a vision of prize-money flitted through the brains of officers and seamen. But Christy soon impaired the vividness of these fancies by ordering the foresail of the schooner to be taken in, and then the fore topmast staysail. The expectant ships' companies were not willing to believe that the vessel had come out for the purpose of surrendering.

"Schooner, ahoy!" shouted the officer of a boat sent off by the nearest blockader. "What vessel is that?"

"The Judith, prize to the United States steamer Bellevite," replied Christy, "Kindly inform me where the Bellevite lies."

In another half-hour, Christy had dropped his anchor a cable's length from the Bellevite. Instructing Flint to ascertain the condition of Lonley, the lieutenant went on board of her to make his report, using the boat they had captured at Mobile, pulled by two of the negroes.

"I have come on board, Captain Breaker," said Christy, as he met the commander, who had come on deck at the alarm.

"I see you have," replied the captain, grasping him by the hand. "I have been terribly worried about you, Christy."

"I am all right, sir; and so is Mr. Flint, who was with me. We have brought off a schooner of two hundred tons, loaded with cotton,"

continued Christy, as modestly as the circ.u.mstances would permit.

"I am very anxious to hear your report, Mr. Pa.s.sford," said the commander.

"Excuse me, sir, but the captain of that schooner is badly wounded, and needs Dr. Linscott as soon as possible."

The surgeon was sent on board of the Judith. As Paul Vapoor caught a sight of the returned third lieutenant, he hugged him as though he had been separated from him for years instead of a few days. His welcome was quite as cordial, though not as demonstrative, from the rest of the officers. Then he went to the cabin with the captain, where he reported all that had transpired since he had been separated from his companions on board of the Teaser. He was warmly commended for his bravery and skill, and Captain Breaker a.s.sured him that he should be remembered in the reports to the department.

Captain Lonley was conveyed on board of the Bellevite, where he was committed to the sick bay. He had recovered his senses, but it was likely, the surgeon said, that it would be a month before his health was restored. The Teaser had not yet been sent away; but the next day the third lieutenant was appointed prize-master of the steamer, and Flint of the schooner, for he had been the master of a coaster, and was competent for the position.

A considerable crew was put on board of the Teaser, and both vessels were sent to New York instead of Key West. The steamer was expected to tow the Judith when necessary, and defend her if she was attacked. But both arrived at their destination without any mishap, and both were condemned; the Teaser was purchased by the government, for she was likely to be a very useful vessel on account of her speed and light draught.

Christy had a brief leave of absence after he had served as a witness against the captured vessels. He had seen his father, mother, and sister on his arrival, and they were as proud of him as though he had been made a rear-admiral. Captain Breaker had written to his father of his disappearance on Santa Rosa Island, and had no doubt he had been made a prisoner within the enemy's lines. Christy brought the news of his escape himself, which made him even doubly welcome at Bonnydale.

Certainly the young lieutenant had never been so happy before in his life.

Captain Pa.s.sford was a man of great influence, though he held no position in authority. At the first opportunity he obtained to talk with him, Christy made a strong plea in favor of the promotion of Flint. The late owner of the Bellevite knew him well. The master's mate had been a schoolmaster, and was very well educated; but he had a taste for the sea. He had made several foreign voyages, and had bought a schooner then, of which he went as master. But he had sold his vessel to great advantage, and, having nothing to do, he shipped as third officer of the Bellevite.

Sampson, who had come home as chief engineer of the Teaser, was also remembered by Christy, who interceded for his promotion, or rather appointment. The government promptly obtained possession from the court of the prize-steamer, and the repairs and alterations upon her were begun at once. She had proved herself to be a fast sailer, and had logged sixteen knots, so that much was expected of her.

Captain Pa.s.sford, after his son had pleaded so earnestly for the promotion of the master's mate and the fireman, asked Christy what he expected in the way of promotion for himself. The young officer did not ask for any promotion, he was abundantly satisfied with his present rank, and he rather preferred to retain it. His father laughed, and declared that he was very glad of it, for he had some delicacy in asking favors for a member of his own family.

Corny still remained at the house of his uncle; and he was as thoroughbred a rebel as his father, though he said next to nothing about his "cause." At a later period both he and Major Pierson were duly exchanged; but the gallant officer had come to the conclusion that Miss Florry Pa.s.sford was very far from being infatuated with him.

As the Bronx, which was the name given to the Teaser at the suggestion of Captain Pa.s.sford, was to be ready about as soon as the legal proceedings would permit of the departure of the officers and seamen of the Bellevite, they were ordered to return to their ship in her. Flint's commission as a master, and Sampson's as an a.s.sistant engineer, were received. Christy's companion in the night expeditions had not expected to be anything more than a midshipman, and he was immeasurably delighted at his good fortune. Then it appeared that other influences than that of Captain Pa.s.sford had been employed, for Christy, almost in spite of himself, was promoted to the rank of master, his commission antedating that of Flint.

Mr. Blowitt was appointed to the command of the Bronx, with Master Pa.s.sford as first lieutenant, and Master Flint as second; and Christy was to take her to the Gulf. She was to be used at the discretion of the flag officer after she had delivered her pa.s.sengers on board of the Bellevite, and received her new commander.

The Bronx was soon ready for sea with her new ship's company, and sailed for her destination, where Christy was to make some further inquiries into operations ON THE BLOCKADE.

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Within The Enemy's Lines Part 36 summary

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