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Title: Quarterdeck and Fok'sle - Stories of the Sea
Author: Seawell, Molly Elliot
Language: English
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                        QUARTERDECK AND FOK’SLE
                           STORIES OF THE SEA


                                   BY
                          MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL
 _Author of Young Heroes of Our Navy, Children of Destiny, Maid Marian,
                          Throckmorton, etc._

                              ILLUSTRATED

                    [Illustration: Publisher crest]

                           BOSTON AND CHICAGO
                          W. A. WILDE COMPANY

                            Copyright, 1895.
                          By W. A. WILDE & CO.
                         _All rights reserved._



                               CONTENTS.


                          A QUARTERDECK STORY.
  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. The Capture of the Fort                                           9
  II. Young Brydell’s Chums                                           21
  III. Brydell’s First Failure                                        33
  IV. Brydell’s Second Failure                                        45
  V. Striking Out for Himself                                         57
  VI. A New Life                                                      71
  VII. The Summer Cruise                                              87
  VIII. A Question of Honor                                          100
  IX. Grubb’s Honorable Discharge                                    112
  X. In Command of the Squadron                                      120
  XI. A Safe Return                                                  135
  XII. Brydell Redeems His Promise                                   139


                            A FOK’SLE STORY.
  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. On Board the Diomede                                            151
  II. A Gallant Rescue                                               163
  III. Dicky’s Patriotism                                            175
  IV. An Important Errand                                            185
  V. An Adventure with the Redcoats                                  194
  VI. Jack Bell’s Secret                                             205
  VII. General Prescott’s Capture                                    214
  VIII. Dicky’s New Song                                             223
  IX. Dicky Enlists                                                  236
  X. An Unexpected Encounter                                         245
  XI. The Enemy Outwitted                                            258


  ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                    PAGE
  “I was just trying to scare Grubb” (Frontispiece)                   14
  “Brydell, with Atkins, a very Smart Sailor, was at the Wheel”       95
  “Brydell got the thumbed Bible and read to him”                    117
  “‘Look out, you Young Rebel,’ called out the Sergeant”             197
  “The Yankees they have come and stolen Prescott from his Bed”      232



                          A QUARTERDECK STORY.



                               CHAPTER I.
                        THE CAPTURE OF THE FORT.


The friendship between Young Brydell and Grubb the marine came about in
this way.

One morning in May, just after Admiral Beaumont had finished the
beautiful toilet he made at precisely eight o’clock every morning, he
threw wide his bedroom shutters to see if the toilet of the navy yard
grounds had been made too. For the admiral was possessed by a demon of
neatness and order that is apt to develop in a naval officer long used
to the perfect cleanliness and discipline of a man-of-war.

The admiral was the tenderest-hearted old fellow in the world, but the
strictest sort of martial law prevailed in the matter of tidiness in
every part of the navy yard over which he exercised or could claim
jurisdiction.

A perpetual warfare raged between him and the nursemaids at the yard.
The nursemaids _would_ let the babies roll over on the admiral’s dearly
loved grass, and the sight of white dimity sunbonnets, dropped on the
gravel paths, was not wholly unknown.

The admiral was a bachelor of long standing and had a wholesome awe of
babies and their mammas, although he ordered the babies’ papas about
without any awe of them whatever. In vain he tried to negotiate with the
officers’ wives, offering as a basis that the babies be permitted a
promenade around the main walks between two and four every day, the
walks to be immediately rolled afterward. The officers’ wives simply
laughed at him, and the babies continued to kick up the gravel, and the
admiral retired completely discomfited.

As for the small boys at the yard, they harrowed the admiral’s kind soul
to that degree that he gloomily declared he would have the flag
half-masted and make the band play a dirge before the very next house in
which a boy baby was born. Nevertheless he had been known more than once
to have begged small boys off from the avenging birch switch.

To this general antagonism to small boys one exception was made—Young
Brydell. He was called Young Brydell because, young as his father, the
ensign, was, the boy was actually twenty years younger—being nine, and a
beautiful, terrible, lovable imp. Perhaps it was because Young Brydell
had no mother that the admiral and everybody else, except Aunt Emeline,
winked at the mischief in which he reveled. When Young Brydell drew his
first breath his mother had drawn her last—and so from the beginning a
tender atmosphere of love and pity seemed to surround him.

However, the escapade in which young Brydell figured that May morning
had so many elements of atrocity that the admiral at first determined to
punish him just as he would any other malefactor. Grubb was the
admiral’s orderly, and on this particular morning he had just knocked at
the bedroom door with the letter bag, when he heard something between a
roar and a shriek that caused him to dash the door open expecting to
find the admiral rolling on the carpet in an epileptic fit.

“Orderly!” shouted the admiral, turning as red as a turkey cock with
rage, “direct the pick and shovel squad at once to level that
construction, and bring that young gentleman here to me,” pointing out
the window to Young Brydell. Grubb then saw what was up.

In the middle of the great lawn, just in front of the admiral’s house,
was a dirt fort, constructed with no inconsiderable skill. The turf for
about twenty feet square had been ruthlessly torn up to make the glacis,
and over it floated a small American flag about as big as a pocket
handkerchief.

On top of the glacis stood Young Brydell with a miniature rifle pointed
straight at the admiral’s window. Around him lay the bodies of:—

I. Reginald Cunliffe, the captain’s only child and a mother’s darling,
who had been repeatedly told not to play with Young Brydell for fear he
would get hurt. At that moment the mother’s darling was representing a
wounded man and, rolling over in a new jacket was asking in feeble tones
for water.

II. Jack Sawyer, the doctor’s son, who personated a dead man with
intermittent returns to life to see how the thing was going.

III, IV, V. Dick, Rob, and Steve, young gentlemen belonging to the yard
who obeyed Young Brydell implicitly, although at least two years older
than he, and who submitted to pose as Indians slain by his victorious
hand.

VI. Micky O’Toole, the washerwoman’s boy, who, although directed to fall
dead at the first fire, had failed to do so and was crawling forward on
all fours, with a knife between his teeth and a tomahawk in his hand to
assassinate Young Brydell.

Grubb double-quicked it downstairs, but not so fast that the admiral was
not right on his heels. The pick and shovel squad were just passing as
Grubb called out to them:—

“The admiral says as how that there construction is to be leveled at
once”—

“And that young gentleman sent immediately to me!” bawled the admiral
from the doorway.

The squad started toward the middle of the lawn, where the turf had been
slaughtered to make Young Brydell a holiday. The admiral, swelling with
righteous wrath, remained on the steps, and Grubb, laughing in his
sleeve, made a bee line for Young Brydell. Grubb walked as elegantly as
any officer and was a fine, tall, handsome fellow to boot.

As the pick and shovel squad approached, Young Brydell, raising his
miniature rifle, pointed it straight toward them and shrieked out an
expression he had read in a book. “Up, men, and at ’em!”

But the men didn’t “up and at ’em.” They were too much engaged in
watching the coming conflict between Grubb’s brawny arm and Young
Brydell.

The rifle wasn’t much of an affair, but it had been known to kill a cat
twenty feet away. Young Brydell, who had the face of a cherub and the
alertness of a monkey, quickly brought the rifle to his shoulder and
aimed it straight at the approaching Grubb.

“The admiral says,” shouted Grubb in his big baritone, “as how I’m to
bring you immediately to him, and the Lord have mercy on your soul!”

Grubb, in saying this, reached forward to the rickety little flagstaff,
meaning to save the flag. But Young Brydell construed it differently and
thought Grubb meant to insult the national ensign.

“If you touch that flag, you’re a dead man!” shrieked he in his baby
treble; and at the same moment, the toy rifle being at his shoulder, he
called out to his demoralized command:—

“Ready—right—oblique—FIRE!”

And bang went the rifle in Grubb’s face!

Grubb put his hand to his ear, and when he brought it away, blood was
plentiful on it. A queer look came into his eye. “By the jumping Moses,
the monkey’s shot me,” said Grubb, reflectively and scarcely knowing
what he was saying.

The admiral, standing on the porch, gave a sort of gasp when the shot
rang out—and every man in the pick and shovel squad stood stock still
for a moment. The boys, except Micky O’Toole, all ran away immediately.

Grubb was the first to recover himself. Young Brydell had never lost his
composure and was now holding the rifle at parade rest, and the rifle
was exactly as high as he was.

“You come along!” suddenly cried Grubb, seizing the boy and the rifle
too, and forgetting to drop the flag. It hurt Young Brydell’s dignity to
be hauled off so summarily in the presence of the public, and it also
hurt his shoulder, but he said not a word until he stood before Admiral
Beaumont. The admiral was small and lithe and had a pair of light blue
eyes that could look through a man and nail him to the wall—and these
eyes were fixed upon Young Brydell in a way that would have made him
flinch to the marrow of his bones, had he been a man instead of a little
lad.

“BOY!” said the admiral, “I sent for you in order to reprove you for
your outrageous behavior in tearing up the turf and making ruin and
destruction of the government’s lawn. I find you, instead, guilty of a
most terrible act—a thing much more serious than any destruction you
might do to government property. But for God’s Providence you might be
this moment a murderer, boy as you are—for I saw you take deliberate aim
at the orderly and fire in his face!”

“Oh, no, sir!” chirped Young Brydell quite cheerfully; “I didn’t mean to
shoot, you know; I was just trying to scare Grubb!”

At that, Grubb, who had been standing very rigid, with his handkerchief
to his bleeding ear, suddenly smiled broadly and whispered involuntarily
under his breath:—

“Skeer Grubb!”

“You see, sir,” continued Young Brydell in a tone of animated argument,
“it was like this. We got up early this morning and built the fort—there
were seven of us, and it didn’t take half an hour.”

“There were others responsible, then?” asked the admiral, for like
everybody else he had taken it for granted that Young Brydell was bound
to be the ringleader, if not the sole culprit.

Young Brydell thrust his hands into the pockets of his sailor suit,
planted his feet wide apart, and reflected.

“Well, sir,” he said, “there were the others—but I started it. Cunliffe
was afraid; he said he knew his mother would punish him, but I told him
I’d do something worser for him than his mother would if he didn’t obey
orders—because I’m captain of the company; it’s C company, sir, you
know, and orders must be obeyed.”

“Go on, sir!” said the admiral sternly.

“Cunliffe was afraid, and so he did as I told him. The other fellows,
except Micky O’Toole, said they were afraid of _you_—they say you are a
regular Tartar about the grass.”

“They do—do they? Continue, I beg,” replied the admiral with a snort.

“But I told ’em,” cried Young Brydell in a triumphant voice, “that _I’d_
fix _you_. I said: ‘We’ll plant the United States flag on that fort, and
won’t anybody, not even the admiral himself, dare to pull it down!’”

The admiral at this coughed and began to twist his gray mustache.

“When I saw Grubb coming, sir, as I tell you, I just wanted to frighten
him, but before I knew it, just by accident, sir, the rifle went off,
and the first thing I knew the ball had hit Grubb’s ear. But I’m sorry
for it, and when I get my ’lowance next week, I’ll give it to him. I get
a silver half-dollar every Saturday, sir, from papa, but I think, sir,—I
think Grubb deserved what he got for hauling down the flag, and if I’d
have thought of it, I’d have peppered his legs for him, sure enough.”

There was a pause after this. The admiral’s keen old eyes looked into
Young Brydell’s brown ones, and the man’s eyes had a kind of simplicity
in them like a child’s, while the child’s had a determination like a
man’s. Grubb still stood with a broad smile on his face, and the blood
dripped upon the handkerchief he held to his ear.

“Now,” said the admiral, “will you tell me what you think I ought to do
with you and your companions in mischief?”

“I think—I think you oughtn’t to do anything with the other fellows
except me and Micky O’Toole, ’cause we led ’em on. Micky didn’t think
about the fort first, but as soon as it was started, Micky helped me on
and said he didn’t care if he did get a licking.”

“I am not concerned about Micky O’Toole,” said the admiral. “Micky, as I
understand, occupies a subordinate position in your company.”

“He’s first sergeant, sir.”

“Micky, I take it, is merely your tool. Very well, sir, I shall report
this whole thing to your father, and you must take the consequences.
Orderly, make my compliments to Mr. Brydell, and ask him to do me the
favor to come here. But stop—your ear.”

“’Tis no matter, sir,” answered Grubb, touching his cap. “I’ll call by
the dispensary after I’ve done my message.”

The admiral stepped through the open hall door for his cap, and putting
it on as he came out, said to Young Brydell with awful sternness:
“Remain where you are until I return.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Young Brydell very respectfully.



                              CHAPTER II.
                         YOUNG BRYDELL’S CHUMS.


The pick and shovel squad were hard at work, leveling the fort, and the
sight of his beloved turf so maltreated made the admiral’s heart ache.
But he began to examine the fort. It was very cleverly done, and the
admiral’s gray mustache worked in a half-smile as he stood and looked at
it. Presently up came Young Brydell’s father, the handsomest, trimmest,
young ensign imaginable, but, as Grubb expressed it, “You see trouble in
his face.”

“Good morning, Mr. Brydell!” cried the admiral quite jovially. “Have you
heard of the doings of your young one?”

“I have, sir,” answered Young Brydell’s young father, looking unhappy,
“from the orderly here, whom I asked. Believe me, admiral, the little
fellow has not a bad heart; he is only mischievous, and he has no
mother”—

“He’s the finest little chap I ever saw,” cried the admiral. “He wasn’t
going to shoot, really; the thing went off by accident; he wants to give
the orderly all his pocket money and takes the whole blame of this
performance on himself. Look at this construction—tolerably ingenious
this for a youngster.” The admiral groaned slightly as he said this.

The picks and shovels were fast leveling the fort, but the lines
remained still. Young Brydell’s father could not forbear laughing.

“And you’ll give him a hauling over the coals,” said the admiral, “but I
positively forbid any other punishment. The little lad has no mother,
and we mustn’t forget that.”

“I never forget it,” answered Young Brydell’s father. “I do my best by
the child—I keep him with me all I can—but as you say—he has no mother”—
The ensign stopped.

“I know all about it,” said the admiral briskly, “so come along and
we’ll try and frighten the youngster.”

Mr. Brydell smiled. “I’m afraid we can’t do that, sir,” he said, “but we
can promise to take the rifle away, if he isn’t more careful.” This is
about what the lecture amounted to after all.

When it was over, and Young Brydell was marching off holding on to his
father’s hand, he called out to the orderly who was coming toward them
from the dispensary:—

“I say, Grubb, how funny that piece of court plaster looks on your ear.”

Grubb touched his cap in response to the ensign’s salute and answered
gravely:—

“It feels a deal funnier than it looks, sir.”

“Now make an apology to the orderly,” said the ensign sternly.

“I’m sorry, Grubb, I’m awful sorry the rifle went off—’cause I’ve got a
big scolding from papa and the admiral, too. But you hadn’t any business
touching the flag; you know you hadn’t. Come around next Saturday
morning and I’ll give you my half-dollar.”

“Thanky, sir,” answered the orderly, “but my feelin’s is too much hurt
for to take money from you.”

“Well, then,” said Young Brydell promptly, “I’ll ask you to my birthday
party instead. I’m going to have a birthday next week. I’ll be nine
years old; and I’m to ask anybody I like, and I’ll ask you and Capps,
the watchman, and some other fellows. Will that help your feelin’s?”

“Course it will, sir,” answered Grubb again; “and sailors and marines is
so fond o’ one another.” Capps was a retired boatswain who was a
watchman at the yard, and as Grubb said this he slightly closed his left
eye.

On that understanding they parted. It was Young Brydell’s proud
privilege on his birthday to ask his own guests, and he had before
included Capps, who was until the advent of Grubb his most intimate
friend.

On this Saturday, therefore, there was a table set on the broad back
piazza of the ensign’s quarters. Aunt Emeline disapproved of the whole
thing, but Cunliffe’s mother, who was a kindly woman, saw that the cake
was there with nine candles in it, and Young Brydell sat at the head of
the table. All the members of Company C, including Micky O’Toole, first
sergeant, were present, and Capps, a bronzed old seaman, and Grubb, who
was almost as handsome as the ensign, Young Brydell’s father. His ear
still had a red scar, but over a bowl of lemonade Grubb and Young
Brydell swore eternal friendship, and the friendship lasted until the
end came.

The ensign’s quarters were just back of the admiral’s great roomy house,
where he dwelt in solitary magnificence; and Admiral Beaumont, sometimes
finding the house lonely and silent,—as houses are where there are no
women and children,—would look from his back piazza and often see a
lonely little boy, too, in the ensign’s quarters. For Young Brydell was
never made to go to school as regularly as the other boys, and was,
unluckily, allowed his own way entirely too much—all because he had no
mother.

The admiral, feeling sorry for the child and finding a kind of odd and
pleasant companionship with him, would send Grubb over with the request
that Master Dick be allowed to come over to luncheon, and even Aunt
Emeline could not ignore that request. So Young Brydell would go off
quite joyfully with Grubb and soon be seated opposite the admiral at the
round table in the big dining-room. The two would then exchange
reminiscences—Young Brydell pumping the admiral industriously about
“When you were on the old _Potomac_, sir,” or “That time you were in the
siege of Vera Cruz.”

Behind the admiral’s chair stood Billy Bowline, once captain of the
maintop but retired because of deafness. This was a sore point to Billy,
who always protested: “I kin hear everything I wants to, and I never
missed a call from the day I j’ined the sarvice, and I kin hear the
admiral a sight better ’n Grubb, the jirene.”[1] The admiral, though,
always roared at Billy so loud that everybody in the yard could hear him
bawling.

It was of course agreed that but one career was possible for Young
Brydell, and that was the navy. The ensign thought so, and so did the
admiral and Grubb and Billy Bowline and Capps, the watchman, who was a
chum of Billy’s as well as of Young Brydell’s.

One day, though, a strange thing happened about Capps. Young Brydell,
coming along from school, whistling the bugle call, saw Capps sitting in
his usual place on the bench in the shade by the ordnance building.
Young Brydell called out as usual:—

“Hello, Capps!”

But Capps did not move. His eyes were closed, and Young Brydell, after
playfully prodding him with a slate pencil, went his way. Presently he
met Cunliffe, who also saw the old sailor sitting so still upon the
bench.

“Let’s have some fun with old Capps,” cried Cunliffe.

“No, you sha’n’t,” answered Young Brydell stoutly. “Capps is a friend of
mine and I won’t have him teased.”

Words followed this, and it ended by Young Brydell giving his young
friend a kick on the shin, by way of testifying his loyalty to his old
friend. Just then Grubb came along and asked the cause of the
difficulty. Young Brydell pointed to Capps. Grubb went up to him,
touched him, and then came back to the two boys, looking rather strange.

“You young gentlemen go along now; I know the admiral’ll want you to go
along, and I’ll tell you all about it after a while,” he said hurriedly.

The boys walked away, but from the window in Young Brydell’s room they
saw Grubb and another marine take Capps up, who appeared to be quite
limp, and carry him off to the dispensary, and an hour or two afterward
they met Lucy, the apple-cheeked maid at the admiral’s house, with her
apron to her eyes; she, too, had been a friend of the ex-boatswain.

“Mr. Capps is dead!” cried Lucy with a fresh burst of tears, “and ain’t
it too dreadful?—oh, dear, oh, dear!”

The two boys each turned a little pale. This was their first knowledge
of that unknown thing called Death. Next day Capps was buried. Ensign
Brydell and one or two other officers walked in the old boatswain’s
funeral procession. He had always said he wanted “a rale lively funeral,
like as a sailor man is got a right to,” and he was gratified. The plain
coffin rested on a caisson, and a squad of sailors and marines marched
behind it with the band playing.

As the little procession moved slowly out of the navy yard gate in the
hot sunshine, a company of seven small boys fell into line behind the
last squad. It was C company, with Young Brydell at its head. The boy’s
sunburned face was blistered with tears, but he was too much of a
soldier to wipe them away, while marching—for he had been fond of old
Capps and had felt lonely ever since Capps had died.

Nobody attempted to stop C company. They marched along in good order,
their small legs being equal to the slow pace of the funeral procession.
It was a long way to the sailors’ cemetery and the day was hot, but C
company stood up to the work like men. Whether by design or not they
were cut off from a good view of the grave when poor old Capps was let
down into it, and the next moment the band struck up “Garryowen,” and to
its rattling music the sailors and marines stepped out at a lively rate.

So did C company. But after ten minutes the pace was too much for it.
First Cunliffe lagged behind, then one by one, even to Young Brydell,
they gave out, and it was a good twenty minutes after the sailors and
marines had turned in the great gate to the navy yard that C company,
consisting of seven very hot and tired small boys, straggled through.
But as soon as they appeared, the corporal of the guard sang out “Turn
out the guard!” and the next minute the marine guard stood at “present
arms” as the boys marched through.

“For it’s the honor you did poor old Capps,” said Grubb to Young
Brydell.

The boy had the usual habit of asking questions, after the manner of his
kind, and one day when he and Grubb had got to be very good friends, he
suddenly asked:—

“Grubb, are you married?”

“I’m a widower,” said Grubb.

“So is papa,” answered Young Brydell. “The other fellows tease me and
say papa will give me a stepmother some day, but I don’t believe it.”

“A stepmother’s a deal better’n no mother at all,” announced Grubb.

“And have you any children?” continued Young Brydell.

“A boy about your size, but he ain’t here.”

Young Brydell felt so surprised and also so hurt at Grubb’s want of
confidence in keeping these important facts to himself that he could
only stare at him. Grubb laughed rather grimly.

“You see, my wife belonged to better folks than I. Her folks said she
oughtn’t to marry a jirene, as they called me. Her father was a master
mechanic, and when she died, poor thing! they took the boy, saying they
could do a better part by him than I could; a marine don’t git much pay,
you know; and, like a fool, I give him up. Now, in some way, the boy
don’t seem like my child. He’s got schooling, more ’n I ever had, and he
goes to school with fellers whose fathers I waits on, and he’s ashamed
o’ this here uniform I wear. So when I seen how it was, a year or two
back, I kinder let the thing go. I send him half my pay every month, and
it don’t pay for the clothes he wears, they dress him so fine, and it
seems to me I oughtn’t to bring him here, just to associate with Micky
O’Toole and the rest o’ the men’s children.”

“But I ’sociate with Micky O’Toole,” put in Young Brydell.

“That’s different. Micky knows how you are goin’ to be an officer and as
how if ever he gits in the navy, ’twill be as a ’prentice boy, and Micky
ain’t no sort o’ a aspiring fellow. He don’t want to be no gentleman.
But my boy does. And my boy’s too good for me, that’s a fact.”

“He oughtn’t to be,” said Young Brydell stoutly. “You’re a good fellow;
everybody says so, and you’re a handsome fellow, and papa says he never
saw a better set-up fellow, and you’ll be promoted.”

“No, sir,” answered Grubb, shaking his head, “I ain’t eddicated. I know
my business, but it takes book learnin’ to make a sergeant or even a
corporal. I can read and write and cipher some, but my boy could beat me
at it before he was eight years old. It seems to me like the boy was
mine and yet he ain’t mine; but yonder’s the admiral comin’ and I ain’t
been to the postoffice yet.” So Grubb strode off, leaving Young Brydell
considerably mystified about the marine’s boy.



                              CHAPTER III.
                        BRYDELL’S FIRST FAILURE.


Just six years after the May day that Young Brydell had nearly shot
Grubb’s ear off, on a day as bright, he sat with a number of other young
fellows about his own age around a long table, answering the questions
of three professors who were examining them. Each had a great stake in
this examination, as it was for an appointment to the naval academy at
Annapolis.

Young Brydell had ceased to be Young Brydell then, being quite fifteen
years old. He has experienced a good many changes in those six years.
Much of the time his father, now a lieutenant, had been at sea, but
unluckily, whether his father were at sea or on shore, Brydell was still
allowed to have his own way, and a good deal more of the lieutenant’s
pay than was good for a boy.

The old tenderness and sympathy still encompassed him—he had no mother.
Therefore whenever Brydell found himself dissatisfied at school a
complaining letter to his father would result in his going somewhere
else. When his teachers represented that Brydell, although an extremely
bright fellow and fond of reading, yet neglected his recitations for
athletics, Brydell would write a most convincing letter to his father
explaining how impossible it was for him to do more at his books when
his duties as captain of the football eleven were taken into
consideration, and his letters were so bright and well written that his
father, as foolishly fond in his way as poor Grubb, would persuade
himself that the boy would come out all right.

He had even been sent to Switzerland to school, but like the other
schools this one did not suit Brydell, and six months after he was home
again. Fortunately Brydell possessed certain strong traits of character
that are difficult to spoil. He was perfectly truthful, brave, and had
naturally a good address.

Nothing could have been prettier than the devotion between him and the
lieutenant. As Brydell said: “Dear dad, fatherly respect is out of the
question. When you got married at twenty, you took the chances of having
a boy in the field before you were ready to quit it yourself. I’ll agree
to treat you as an elder brother, but we’ve been chums too long for you
to come the stern father over me.” And this would be said with such an
affectionate hug that the lieutenant could only make believe to growl.

And so Brydell grew up without any of the wholesome restraints and
self-denial of more fortunate boys. He was not a conceited boy, but he
realized that whenever he had failed it was because he had not really
exerted himself, and he had a naturally optimistic way of looking at
life, which so far had not been rudely contradicted.

The determination to go into the navy had grown with his growth and
strengthened with his strength, and no other plan of life had ever
occurred to him. He knew the difficulties of getting an appointment, but
like most happy young fellows of his age and inexperience, he thought
all difficulties existed for other people; his own way would be easy
enough.

His father had carefully retained a legal residence in his native town,
expressly for Brydell’s sake, so he could be eligible for appointment
from that district. But Brydell, having concluded to try private tutors
for a while,—which were changed as often as the schools were,—had lived
for nearly a year and a half with his Aunt Emeline in a town outside of
his own congressional district.

One morning, picking up a paper, he had read that a competitive
examination would be held for an appointment to Annapolis, open to all
boys who had lived twelve months in the district.

“That suits me to a dot,” cried Brydell, and from then until the day of
the examination he really worked hard, never doubting for a moment his
ultimate success.

Aunt Emeline, it is true, croaked like a raven, but Aunt Emeline always
croaked. Brydell had already in his own mind composed the letter
announcing his success to his father and another one to the admiral, who
had continued to be his fast friend, and another one to Grubb, his old
chum, the marine. On the morning of the examination he therefore
presented himself and was duly accepted in the competition.

Next him at the table sat a handsome young fellow about his own age.
Something in the boy’s fresh, regular features and lithe young figure
reminded Brydell of Grubb. Of all his early friends Brydell loved the
kindly marine, with his manliness and truth and bad grammar, better than
any of them. Although Grubb had done his share of sea duty, he and
Brydell had met many times in all those years, and always Brydell felt
as if he were a little lad again.

Once, Brydell remembered, Grubb, being about going to sea again, had
paid the expenses of a long journey out of his small pay to see him, and
Brydell suspected that Grubb’s ticket had taken about all his spare
cash, and that he had lived on hard tack and a can of smoked beef most
of the way, which was hard on a big fellow like the marine.

It suddenly flashed upon Brydell that this handsome fellow might be
Grubb’s son; he was about the right age. Brydell at this pricked up his
ears, but in a few minutes one of the professors, happening to address
the young man, called him “Mr. Esdaile.” Then he was not Grubb’s boy,
and Brydell lost all interest in him, except that he wished he could
write the answers off as quickly as Esdaile could. For Esdaile never
paused a moment, but with the ease and rapidity of one perfectly
accustomed to his subject he answered every question put him.

Not so Brydell. He was well up in history and geography, for he was a
great reader. But in mathematics he stumbled woefully and made something
very like a fiasco.

When at last it was over and the young fellows each took his way home,
Brydell felt a sickening sense of failure. He had really worked hard in
preparing for the examination, but he forgot that he had never worked in
his life before. His three weeks’ spurt had seemed to him a tremendous
effort that must win success, but it had not. And then came a terrible
apprehension; if he had failed at this examination, and he felt
perfectly sure he had, he might fail at another. He might even fail in
getting the appointment from his own district, for the congressman might
well hesitate to give it to a boy who could not hold his own in a
preliminary examination.

This thought staggered him and almost broke his heart, for he had dwelt
so long on the navy that he could not think what to do with his life if
his ambition in that way should be balked. He was only kept in suspense
a week or two and then the blow fell. Esdaile had got the appointment,
and Brydell was at the foot of the list.

Only a proud, sensitive, and inexperienced soul could imagine the pain
that Brydell suffered. It was not alone the mortification of failure; he
had allowed his passion for the navy to take such possession of him,
body and mind, that any serious setback to this cherished hope seemed to
him an appalling misfortune.

In his tempest of disappointment he turned for the first time in his
life, even in his own mind, against his father.

“It is not my fault,” he thought in sullen fury. “I am bright enough,
only I never was made to work. And yet everybody talks about my
advantages. Was it any advantage that I should never stay at any school
more than a year, and hardly ever more than six months? Was it any
advantage to me to be sent to Europe where I picked up a smattering of
French and came home to find myself behind every fellow of my age I
knew, except in that one thing? Was it any advantage to me to have more
money than almost any boy I knew, to squander on athletics and all sorts
of rubbish?”

This last reflection brought Brydell suddenly to himself. He remembered
poor Grubb’s giving his boy half his pay. “And my poor old dad—poor
young dad, rather—gave me, I believe, a good deal more than half his
pay.”

Brydell had learned something about how money went, and he stopped,
startled at the idea of how much skimping and saving his father must
have done to give him the money. He fell into a passion of remorse.

“Poor dad—poor dad!” was all he could think, and “dad” was so
young—barely thirty-six, and did not look a day over thirty. “I dare
say,” thought poor Brydell, with the ghost of a smile, “that’s why it
was he never married again. I was squandering his pay.”

Brydell was too generous a fellow to reproach his father, except to
himself in his first angry mood, and knowing the lieutenant would hear
about the examination anyway, he sat down and wrote his father frankly
and fully, admitting his failure, and his determination, if he could get
another chance, to do better. But the lieutenant was far away in the
Pacific and it would be months before he could get the letter, and
perhaps other long months before Brydell could get an answer.

Then he wrote the admiral in the same strain. The admiral, who happened
to have shore duty then, got the letter. He was sitting on the piazza,
facing the salt sea, and when he had finished reading it he brought his
fist down with a thump on the arm of his chair and shouted:—

“By!”

The admiral always held that expletives were vulgar; but when much
wrought up he took refuge in “By,” which might mean any and every thing.

“Just like the dog when he was about as big as a cockchafer, and took
the whole blame of cutting up my turf, when there were six older boys
aiding and abetting him. Bowline! here, sir!” and in a few minutes Billy
Bowline came trotting along the hall.

“Bring me my portfolio and the ink,” said the admiral. “That little
scamp of a Brydell has failed in a competitive examination for an
appointment to the naval academy, and how his father could expect
anything else, I can’t see, taking him to Europe, putting him at school
one day and taking him away the next, and giving the boy no chance at
all, simply because he was too soft-hearted to say no! And now the young
fellow behaves like a man and shoulders it all. I say, Bowline, we can’t
afford not to have that young fellow in the service.”

“No, sir, we can’t!” said Billy very seriously. “We’re ’bleeged to have
him, sir, in the sarvice.”

“And how is it to be done, you old lunkhead?” bawled the admiral.

“Beg your parding, sir, it’s easy enough,” answered Billy stoutly.
“There ain’t nothin’ in the reg’lations as prevents a admiral from axin’
the member o’ Congress from Mr. Brydell’s districk, if he’s got a
’pintment to give away; and if he rightly understands his duty to a
rear-admiral on the active list, he dasn’t say no, sir.”

“William Bowline,” said the admiral solemnly, “if you weren’t the
biggest ass I ever saw, I’d say you were a genius. Bring me the navy
register quick.”

The admiral glanced at the register and saw there would be a vacancy in
that year in Brydell’s district. He then wrote fourteen pages to the
member of Congress, and sealed it with his big red seal.

“That’ll fetch it,” thought Billy proudly. “It looks like it comes from
the sekertary of the navy.”

As Billy was starting off to the postoffice with the important letter,
the admiral picked up Brydell’s letter and read it over, half-aloud.
“Esdaile, Esdaile; that has a familiar sound,” he said.

“In course, sir,” answered Billy with a sniff. “That’s the son o’ Grubb,
the jirene. You know, sir, Grubb married a woman whose folks was ashamed
o’ him; and Grubb, like a great big ass, give the boy to his wife’s
people arter she died, and they stuffed that young ’un up with false
pride until he got ashamed to speak to Grubb; and Grubb, he was
a-sendin’ the boy half his pay straight along. So then the boy’s
grandfather died and left him a small fortin’ on condition that he
changes his name to his mother’s, Esdaile; and the brat were willin’
enough, for he thought hisself too good to be named Grubb, and now he’s
goin’ to be a officer.”

Here Billy rumpled his hair up violently to show his contempt for
Grubb’s boy, and the admiral again cried:—

“By!”

There was a great running to and fro between the admiral’s house and the
postoffice in those days, and the admiral and Billy both began to feel
anxious about Brydell’s appointment. The day was fast approaching when
the candidates must present themselves for examination at Annapolis, and
at last, three days before the time, just long enough for the admiral to
write to Brydell and for Brydell to get to Annapolis, the appointment
came from the member of Congress.

Admiral Beaumont was so happy when he got the letter that he gave a kind
of snort of pleasure, and Billy, who was standing by, eagerly watching
the opening of the letters, had to go out in the backyard to chuckle.
The admiral sent a dispatch and a letter to Brydell, and Billy stumped
off gleefully with them, and three days afterward Brydell had presented
himself at Annapolis.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                       BRYDELL’S SECOND FAILURE.


Far back in his babyhood, almost, Brydell remembered the academic
buildings, the green lawns, and bright river at Annapolis, and when on a
lovely May evening he walked in the great gates and passed the marine on
guard, he felt so happy he could have danced and sung.

The weeks since his failure had been spent in a dull and hopeless mental
lethargy. Aunt Emeline had been grimly consolatory and had tried to
impress on him that he had made a lucky miss in not getting into the
navy, and named at least a thousand professions and business ventures in
which he could make more money. The good woman did not see in the least
how it was with the boy—that he was simply born to be a sailor, and that
nothing on earth could charm him then from his wish.

After that one outburst of generosity in writing to his father and the
admiral, he had settled down to a sullen submission. It would be months
before he could hear from his father, and until then nothing could be
done. Suddenly, like the lifting of a mist by the glorious sun, came the
admiral’s letter and the appointment, and within twenty-four hours
Brydell was on his way to Annapolis to be examined for admission to the
academy.

He had had no time to prepare for the examination, even if he could. But
a boy of Brydell’s temperament does not learn prudence and caution in a
day or a month, and he was as perfectly sanguine of success in the
coming examinations as if he had not failed before. He could have hugged
the admiral for his goodness, and had sat up half the night, when he got
the treasured letter, writing his thanks to him and the member of
Congress.

On this lovely May afternoon he walked with a springy step along the
brick walks of the academy grounds under the giant trees, fresh in their
spring livery, and as he looked at the velvet turf he smiled and thought
of the admiral and the dirt fort and Grubb and that early time. It was
not necessary for him to report until next morning, so he strolled
along, the very happiest fifteen-year-old fellow in the world.

Presently sauntering along the sea wall and watching the reflection in
the water of a steam launch filled with ladies and officers, he suddenly
came directly upon his old friend Grubb, standing and talking with
Esdaile, the handsome young fellow who had so far outstripped all the
other candidates, himself included. Esdaile started, and then blushing a
fiery red, nodded his head to Grubb and walked off.

As for Brydell, all the kindness he had ever received as a little boy
from the handsome marine rushed to his mind. Grubb, as handsome as ever,
although a good deal older, smiled delightedly as Brydell dashed
forward, but seeing how tall the young fellow had grown, Grubb drew
himself up and saluted as he said: “How d’ you do, Mr. Brydell?”

“Oh, hang the salute, Grubb! shake hands,” cried Brydell, delighted.
“I’m not a cadet yet, so we needn’t stand on ceremony.” At which Grubb
and he sawed the air for five minutes.

“And are you come down here for to be examined, sir?” asked Grubb,
smiling broadly.

“Yes,” said Brydell, adding shamefacedly, “I had a chance in a
competitive examination, but that fellow you were talking
with—Esdaile—got ahead of me.”

At this it was Grubb’s turn to color. He shifted his feet and said
hesitatingly:—

“Mr. Brydell, please don’t go for to tell it, sir, but Mr. Esdaile—Mr.
Esdaile is my son. His grandfather’s left him some money, if he’d take
the same name—Esdaile; and as the boy didn’t like the name o’ Grubb,
nohow, he got his name changed by law—and I’d ruther—I’d ruther, sir,
the folks here didn’t know it, bein’ as I ain’t nothin’ but a marine.”

Brydell was so taken aback for a moment that he did not know what to
say, and Grubb with unwonted fluency continued:—

“I’ve sent in my application for a transfer, sir, ’cause the boy don’t
want—I mean _I_ don’t want—to be stationed here, a-doin’ guard duty
while my boy is in the academy. I’ve talked it over with one o’ the
officers as I’ve knowed, and who has been a good friend to me, and he
says maybe it will be best all around. And I hope nobody will know that
Cadet William Esdaile is the son o’ Grubb the marine.”

“You may be right in getting transferred somewhere else,” answered
Brydell after a moment, “and if the officer advised you, I wouldn’t
venture to say a word; but I don’t see why your boy should not want to
recognize”— Here he stopped, not knowing how to keep on.

“Didn’t I tell you, sir, long years ago as how the boy was gittin’ above
his father?” burst out poor Grubb, his eyes filling with tears. “He’s
ashamed o’ me; he’s ashamed to be seen a-talkin’ with me, and I can give
him half my pay, and I’d give him all o’ it if he needed it, but I can’t
stand bein’ looked down upon by him.”

“Why, if you were my father, I shouldn’t be in the least ashamed of
you,” cried Brydell hotly. “You haven’t had the advantage we other
fellows have had, but you’re one of the most honest and respectable men
in the world; so says my father and Admiral Beaumont, too, and it’s a
great deal better to come out and be honest and above board about these
things than to be skulking and hiding them.”

“That’s true for you, Mr. Brydell,” replied Grubb, who had natural good
sense and much more experience than Brydell. “That’s your natur’. But it
ain’t everybody’s natur’. It ain’t my boy’s natur’; I wish it was. It’s
the easiest way and the best way o’ gittin’ through life, but it takes
all sorts o’ people to make up a world, and there’s lots o’ people that
could no more be aboveboard than a pig can fly.”

Brydell had not lived long enough to appreciate this truth, and he
parted from Grubb with a mixture of respect and contempt for him, but
with unabated affection, and a most genuine disgust for Esdaile. Perhaps
it was helped a little by Esdaile’s triumph over him, but Brydell had
always hated a sneak, and he had very good ground for thinking the
accomplished Mr. Esdaile was constitutionally a sneak.

Next day he reported and the examination began, and then came a time
that in torture far exceeded the sharp disappointment and sullen despair
of the last few weeks. For, after days of struggle and nights of furious
though ill-directed study, again did Brydell fail, and this time he
thought it was forever.

When he knew it he had but one desire on earth—to get away from the
place anywhere—anywhere. But where was he to go and what was he to do
that people would not find him out? He hated to go back to that dreary
house with Aunt Emeline; his father was completely out of his
reach,—that too kind father,—and Brydell felt sick at the idea of
meeting the admiral again.

Filled with the despair of the very young,—who can see nothing beyond
the narrow horizon of the present,—Brydell, sitting in his room at the
hotel, dropped his head upon his arms, and wished himself dead. He did
not know how long he had lain thus, only that the sun was shining
brightly in the afternoon when he heard the dreadful news, and it was
quite dusk when he had a strange feeling that some one was present, and
there stood over him Grubb’s tall figure.

“It’s mortal bad, Mr. Brydell,” said Grubb. Brydell answered not a word,
and in the silence of the twilight the only sound was the melancholy
call of a night bird heard through the open window.

“Whatever are you goin’ to do now, Mr. Brydell?” asked Grubb after a
while.

“I don’t know,” said Brydell in a voice that he hardly recognized as his
own.

“You’d better ask the admiral, sir,” presently Grubb continued.

Brydell made no reply. Then, after a longer pause than usual, Grubb kept
on:—

“You ain’t had no rale preparation, I reckon.”

“No!” cried Brydell bitterly; “sent from one school to another, as often
as I wanted; allowed twice as much pocket money as any other boy in
school, while my father was pinching and skimping himself to give it to
me; with no home, no mother, to encourage me and nobody to govern me; of
course I failed. I’ll always fail.”

“Don’t you go for to say that, Mr. Brydell, and it seems like I ain’t
the only foolish father in the world. There’s others as had eddication
and all sorts o’ things that don’t act no wiser nor poor old Grubb the
marine.”

“Don’t say a word against my father!” cried Brydell, lifting his pale
face for the first time.

“I’d be the last person in the world to say a word against the
leftenant, sir, but I say as how ’twas always said of you when you was a
little shaver: ‘Don’t be hard on him, he ain’t got no mother.’ Well, now
it seems to me they’ve been monstrous hard on you when they thought they
was bein’ easy.”

Brydell said nothing more. He knew Grubb was telling the truth.

“Well, now, sir, let me tell you something. I knows all about these
app’intments. You set down and write the admiral and ask him if he’ll
ask that there congressman to give you a year to prepare yourself. Tell
him as how you ain’t had half a chance, and give him your word as a
gentleman you’ll pass next year if they’ll let you keep the
app’intment.”

“I’m ashamed to.”

“Good night, Mr. Brydell,” said Grubb. “Them as is ashamed to ask for
another trial when they ain’t had a good chance, seems to me, ain’t got
much sand. It looks like you warn’t willin’ to work.”

“Sit down, Grubb,” answered Brydell, beginning to consider this sound
advice, and before Grubb left the room the letter was written to the
admiral.

“It won’t do any good; I know it won’t,” said poor Brydell despairingly.
Nevertheless he agreed to remain at Annapolis long enough to get an
answer.

It would take about three days to get an answer, supposing the admiral
to be able to see the congressman at once. Those days Brydell remained
shut up in his room. It was a turning point with him. He retained only a
dim and chaotic memory of what he felt and suffered in those three days;
but at the beginning he was a boy, and when he came out of the struggle
he was a man.

In the afternoon of the third day a dispatch came:—

  Congressman will let this year’s appointment lapse and will hold
  vacancy open for you another year, upon my solemn word of honor that
  you will qualify yourself and pass. I rely upon you to make my promise
  good.

                                                        GEORGE BEAUMONT.

The day was dark and rainy, but no June morning ever seemed brighter to
Brydell when he read that dispatch. The transition seemed to him like
passing from death to life.

He knew he had never had a chance at preparation, and he knew he had a
good mind, capable of learning what other fellows did. But, above all,
he felt suddenly develop within himself a determination, a strength of
purpose, a power of will that could do great things if he tried.

This new force was always a part of his character, although quickly
developed by a strange succession of fierce disappointments. But
impetuosity was also a part of his character, and with this new sense of
manliness and responsibility came a rash determination that he would
prove his sincerity by working for his living while preparing himself
for that other chance a year hence.

Hot with this thought, Brydell wrote his father a brief but eager
letter:—

  And as I have known all the disadvantages of having too much money to
  spend, all taken, almost stolen from your pay, dear old man, while you
  are doing without everything for me, and I am determined never to cost
  you another dollar. I can find work easy enough,

(sanguine Brydell)

  and work won’t interfere with my studying half as much as play will,
  and I want to do something—anything—everything—to earn the admiral’s
  respect and my own too. So make yourself easy, dad, about me. I’ll be
  at work when you get this, and you know whatever faults I’ve had I
  never was a milksop; and I’m going to behave myself; don’t you worry
  about that. So wait until next year and you won’t be ashamed of your
  affectionate son and chum,

                                                    RICHARD BRYDELL, Jr.

Brydell ran and posted this letter before he had time to change his mind
about sending it. When it was gone he had a sudden feeling of shock,
like a man just under a shower bath. But his word was passed. He had
naturally the strength of mind to stick to what he said, and one of the
things that had not been neglected with him was a most faithful regard
for his own word. Rash his resolve might be, but not to be shirked on
that account.

When Brydell realized to what he had committed himself he seemed to grow
ten years older in half an hour. He felt a little afraid, but all these
things were working together to make a man of him.



                               CHAPTER V.
                       STRIKING OUT FOR HIMSELF.


Next morning, bright and early, Brydell was up and dressed. He had no
one to say farewell to except Grubb, but he wanted to see his humble
friend and avail himself of Grubb’s excellent common sense about his
future plans. For the marine had seen a good deal of the world and knew
something of it from a working-man’s point of view. Grubb happened to be
off duty that day, and early in the morning presented himself in
Brydell’s room. Brydell told him the glorious news, and Grubb, taking
off his cap and waving it three times, said in a half-whisper: “Hooray!
hooray! hooray!”

“And now,” said Brydell, “I’ve got to go to work. I have about
twenty-five dollars left after paying my hotel bill, and I can’t go very
far on that. Besides, I’d rather stay near Annapolis. I can keep in
touch with it better in some ways. I have my books, you know, and
although I have only acquired a smattering from them, yet they are
familiar enough to me to study by myself. And I’ve got an idea about
employment.”

“What is it, sir?” asked Grubb.

“Well, you see, I’ve been great on outdoor life—riding and walking and
swimming; and I believe I could stand an outdoor life better than I
could being shut up in a dingy office. I hear that the farmers about
here find great difficulty in getting hands, even at high wages and
particularly at this season of the year. If I could get work on a farm,
I could get my living too, which I couldn’t get in a city.”

“Lord, bless the boy!” cried Grubb in great disgust. “The leftenant’s
son, a-talkin’ about bein’ a hired man! Did ever anybody hear the likes
o’ that for a gentleman?”

“I know I am a gentleman, Grubb, and that’s why it is I’m not afraid of
work,” answered Brydell, who could not help laughing at Grubb’s look.

After Brydell had talked with him half an hour, though, the marine’s
ideas changed. Brydell, who had been thinking hard on the subject all
night, reminded him of how many young fellows walked the streets of
towns, asking for employment, while in the country employment was
waiting for twice as many men as could be found. “And besides,” said
Brydell with a slight blush, “in the city I might be all the time
running up against people I know, and if they were civil to me I’d
probably lose the time with them I would have in the evenings for study,
and if they didn’t notice me it would make me feel pretty bad; while in
the country I wouldn’t be likely to meet a soul I ever knew. It always
seemed to me, too, as if a country life was healthier for a young
fellow.”

“It is a sight healthier in every way,” remarked Grubb with energy.

“And then I can get work right away in the country, and who knows when I
could get it in town?”

“Mr. Brydell,” said Grubb, “the admiral allers said, when you were a
little shaver, as you’d turn right side up, and I do believe he know’d
what he was talking about.”

“The admiral’s the best friend I have in the world except you,” cried
Brydell; “I believe if you were an admiral, you’d do just as much for me
as Admiral Beaumont.”

“Right you are, Mr. Brydell. I ain’t nothin’ but a poor marine, without
any book learnin’, but whenever I sees that motto of the corps, ‘_Semper
fidelis_’ which means ‘Ever faithful,’ I think to myself, Grubb, my man,
that means you ain’t never goin’ back on another feller; and, come to
think of it, it do seem ridicklous that the leftenant’s son should be
a-workin’ like a hired hand. But I’ve noticed, sir, as how you’ll put
two horses to haulin’ bricks. If one o’ ’em is a scrub, and t’ other one
has a strain o’ good blood in him, you’ll find the scrub all petered out
by the time his work is done. But the horse with the good blood’ll haul
all day, and be as frisky as a kitten when you take him out; for blood
do tell, Mr. Brydell.”

Grubb said this with a sigh, and Brydell thought the poor fellow had his
own son in mind.

Brydell did not care to say good-by to the few people he knew at
Annapolis, so he started out on a round, leaving his cards marked
“P.P.C.” at each acquaintance’s house and not waiting to see if they
were at home. He could not help laughing as he did this. He imagined he
saw himself at work in the fields in his shirt sleeves, and thought it
would be a good while before he needed any more visiting cards.

A natural tinge of boyish adventure made him feel as if he would like to
start out on foot to seek his fortune, so next morning, having packed up
his belongings and left them in Grubb’s care, Brydell set out with his
stick and a small bundle and twenty-five dollars in his pocket.

It was a lovely day, cool for the season, and as Brydell stepped out at
a lively pace, the world did not by any means look black to him. When he
looked back six months it seemed to him six years. In that time he had
had one of those plunges into real life which turns a boy into a man in
an inconceivably short time. He had had a pretty complete experience of
what life meant, and he had set himself to work out his own salvation in
earnest.

He thought he would walk about twelve miles before stopping, wishing to
be at least that far from Annapolis. But the beauty of the day, the
greenness and freshness of the country, led him on and on until it was
nearly fifteen miles.

Then the weather suddenly changed. The sky became overcast, the wind
sprung up, and the first thing Brydell knew he was caught in a drenching
rain. He had a rain coat with him and he put it on, meanwhile keeping
his bundle well protected. He was still following the main road and he
determined to stop and ask for shelter at the first house he saw. And
how that spring shower changed his views of life!

He realized he was wet and hungry, that he was alone, and far from all
his friends, and all at once he began to feel very young. He pushed on
rapidly, and in a little while saw across the rolling country a large
and comfortable farmhouse. He made straight for it and in a little while
he knocked at the open door.

A little girl in a white dimity sunbonnet came to the door. She was
about ten years old and remarkably pretty. She did not show the least
bit of shyness and asked Brydell in hospitably. Before he had time to
answer, her father and mother appeared—handsome country people, looking,
as they were, thoroughly prosperous.

Brydell, whose manners were naturally graceful and polished, introduced
himself and asked the privilege of remaining until the shower was over,
and with a secret determination to ask for work later on. The farmer’s
address was not nearly so elegant as the young fellow’s who cherished
the ambition of becoming his hired man. He said:—

“My name’s Laurison. Come in and sit down. If you’ve got any dry clothes
in that bundle, my wife’ll show you a room where you can change ’em.”

Brydell looked at Mrs. Laurison and his heart went out to her instantly.
She was not like the officers’ wives he had known, educated and traveled
women; but she had a quiet dignity and a self-possession that was
equally good in its way. And she had the softest, kindest eyes in the
world, and her voice was so gentle when she invited Brydell upstairs to
change his clothes that he almost loved her from the start. In a little
while Brydell appeared with dry shoes and stockings and another pair of
trowsers.

The farmer, being compelled to stay indoors, was not indisposed to talk
with the young stranger, and Brydell had quite a gift of making himself
agreeable. They sat talking in a large, airy, old-fashioned hall, with a
dry rubbed floor; and the little girl Minna was so pleased with her new
acquaintance that she came and perched herself on the arm of his chair
and gazed fearlessly into his eyes with the grave scrutiny of an
innocent girl.

Brydell knew much about country life, and talked so knowingly about cows
and pigs and horses that even Mr. Laurison grew fluent, and Brydell
imagined it would be easy enough to get work there, and he quickly
determined to ask for it.

“Do you have any trouble getting farm labor?” he asked.

“Heaps of trouble,” answered Mr. Laurison with emphasis. “The negroes
all go off about this time of the year for berry-picking, just when
harvest is coming on and the corn needs weeding the worst you ever saw.
I’ve got two men I can count on that stay with me the year round, but I
ought to have four on a farm of this size.”

Here was Brydell’s chance.

“I’m looking for work,” he said diffidently—“Farm work, I mean.”

“You!” shouted Mr. Laurison. “Why, you never did any work in your life.
Look at them hands!”

“Pretty brown, I think they are,” answered Brydell complacently,
examining his own hands.

“Yes,” said Mr. Laurison; “but they’re brown with the playin’ of tennis
and football and such. Any fool can see by your hands you ain’t done any
work.”

“But I want to do some work.”

“For what?”

“For money, for a living.”

“Ain’t you got any friends or family?”

“I have a father. He’s in the navy and away off in the Pacific. I
haven’t any friend that can help me.”

“And has your father thrown you off?”

“Oh, no; but I want to earn my living, and it’s easier to get work in
the country than in town, and besides I know more about the country.”

Mr. Laurison’s manner underwent an instant change. He paused a little
while and then said:—

“I ain’t got any work for you;” and after another pause: “I think it’s
clearin’ up.”

Brydell rose at once. He felt that in a moment the attitude of his host
was one of suspicion; but Mrs. Laurison’s kind gaze never changed in the
least, and little Minna came closer to him and caught his hand.

“Are you going away?” she asked.

“I must,” said Brydell gently, but feeling as if he would choke. Mr.
Laurison got up very promptly.

“I’ll show you a short cut to the main road,” he said.

The sun was now down and the purple twilight was upon them. The trees
and grass were wet and a faint gray haze rose from the meadows at the
back of the house. It had never dawned upon Brydell that he would be
invited to take the road at such an hour, and he felt a strange sinking
of the heart.

He thanked Mrs. Laurison for her kindness to him. She said no word to
detain him, but Brydell felt she was sorry to see him go. He then turned
to shake hands with little Minna. The child suddenly tiptoed and threw
her arms around his neck, saying,—

“Won’t you come back to-morrow?”

“Some day, perhaps,” answered Brydell hurriedly, and feeling a sob
rising in his throat at the childish words. The woman and the little
girl had confidence in him. He said good-by to them both, thanked Mrs.
Laurison again, and followed her husband out, and along a path bordered
with alders, to the main road half a mile off.

Neither spoke a word. When they reached a stile, beyond which the white
line of the sandy road glimmered faintly in the half-light, the farmer
turned to him:—

“Young man,” he said, “if you’ve done anything wrong,—and I can’t help
suspecting you have,—’tain’t too late for you to mend. You’re young yet,
and you’ve got a whole lifetime to make up for it in.”

Brydell had realized that the farmer suspected him, but hearing it put
into words was a shock that altogether unnerved him.

“Why do you suspect me?” he asked in a voice he hardly recognized as his
own.

“Because I can’t help suspecting an educated young feller with his
father in the navy, who tramps about, asking for work on a farm.”

In all of his grief and anxiety and despair about his failing in his
examinations, and when he thought the desire of his heart was thwarted,
Brydell had never shed a tear. But when this new horror came upon him,
he did what he had not done since he was a little boy—he broke into a
passion of sobbing and crying. The farmer looked at him compassionately.

“You’re sorry for what you’ve done,” he said, “and that’s a good sign.”

“I’m not sorry, for I haven’t done anything,” burst out Brydell. “I am
as honest as you are and as respectable. How do you think you’d feel if
anybody accused you of being crooked? I’ve told you the truth. I got an
appointment at the Naval Academy and I failed, and the congressman who
gave it to me said he would hold it over for a year if I would work hard
and promise to pass, and I wrote my father I meant to work for that and
for my living, too, and I’m going to do it. That’s all.”

Mr. Laurison hesitated for a moment. He had the wisdom of guileless
people, which is sometimes better than that of worldly people, and he
saw that Brydell was telling the truth, and he said so.

“And you can come back to the house with me and spend the night, and
we’ll talk about work to-morrow,” he said.

“No,” said Brydell stoutly, “I won’t spend the night in the house of a
man that takes me for a crook.”

“I like your pluck, but you’re a fool all the same,” was Mr. Laurison’s
answer, accompanied by a friendly shove, “so come along back with me.”

Brydell had meant to show great spirit, but he was not proof against
kindness, and he turned and walked rather sullenly back to the house.
Mrs. Laurison and Minna were still standing on the porch. The lamps were
lighted in the hall and dining-room, and the house had a hospitable and
inviting look. The two figures appeared out of the dusk.

“Wife,” said Mr. Laurison, “I’ve brought this young feller back. He’s
all right. He just failed in his examination to get into the Naval
Academy, and like a wrong-headed boy he wrote his father he’d work for
his own living until he could get in the academy,—he’ll have another
chance next year,—and then, like a man, he determined to live up to what
he said. So we’ll just keep him to-night, and maybe we can find
something for him to do to-morrow.”

Mrs. Laurison said only three words—“I am glad”—but Brydell knew they
came straight from her tender heart. Little Minna began to jump about,
singing, “I’m so glad! I’m so glad!”

“You’ll find I can work,” said Brydell with rather a wan smile. “I’ve
worked in the hot sun a good many hours at cricket and football and
tennis and polo, and I daresay I can drive a plow or weed corn or hoe
potatoes just about as well.”

“It ain’t half such hard work,” replied the farmer with a smile.

The evening passed quickly. There was a wheezy piano in the parlor, and
Brydell, who played a little and could sing some college songs, pleased
his hosts very much with a performance that would not have been so
highly appreciated elsewhere.

At nine o’clock he was shown to a comfortable room, not the best
bedroom, as he found out, and turning in fell asleep in five minutes,
well pleased with his first day’s battle with the world.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                              A NEW LIFE.


Next morning, by sunrise, Brydell was up and dressed and outdoors. The
two negro men on the place were feeding the stock under Mr. Laurison’s
directions, while a negro woman milked the cows.

Brydell looked about and saw that the vegetable garden was well weeded,
but there was a long straight walk down the garden, with flower beds on
each side of it, that were full of weeds. There were clumps of lilac,
both white and purple, great masses of the syringa, making the morning
air heavy with its sweet perfume, and snowball bushes blooming
profusely. Some early roses were out and a few gaudy peonies still
lingered.

Both beds and walk were choked with grass and all manner of vagrant
growth.

“If I had a garden hoe and rake, I could weed those flower beds,” said
Brydell to Mr. Laurison as they met in the backyard.

“I wish to goodness you would,” answered Mr. Laurison. “My wife has
nearly broken her heart over those flower beds. I’ve had to keep the
hands to work so steady that I actually haven’t had a chance to get at
the flowers; and she ain’t strong enough to do it herself, and it’s just
been a trial to her.”

Brydell had been taught to weed flowers under that stern martinet, Aunt
Emeline, and when an hour afterward Mrs. Laurison and Minna appeared,
one whole square was as neatly weeded as possible, the refuse piled up
in a wheelbarrow, and the garden looked like a different place.

Mrs. Laurison was delighted.

“You couldn’t have done anything that pleased me better, and a young
fellow that’s kind and considerate to women and children is apt to be a
good one. If Mr. Laurison keeps you, I’ve made up my mind to let you
have the little bedroom you slept in last night, instead of staying with
the hired men in the barn, because I see you are a gentleman’s son, and
your mother”—

“I haven’t any mother,” said Brydell, his eyes filling with tears at
Mrs. Laurison’s kind tones.

“Then there’s the more reason for being good to you,” she said.

Little Minna immediately dragged him off to see her garden, which was
the disorderly patch which usually satisfied children, and then they all
went in to breakfast.

After breakfast Mr. Laurison and Brydell had a business talk. Mr.
Laurison agreed to keep him a month on trial and to pay him ten dollars
besides his board. If he was satisfactory, he could keep the place
indefinitely.

Brydell never was so thankful and so relieved in his life, except when
he got that dispatch from Admiral Beaumont.

How much better was this wholesome country life than that dreary search
for employment in a city! And he had a good room to sleep in, instead of
a box on the top floor in a city boarding-house, and country milk and
butter and vegetables to eat—Brydell had an astonishing appetite—and his
work, although hard, was nothing like as hard as being perched upon an
office stool ten hours a day.

He had to buy himself some working clothes, but, as one result of his
training as a gentleman, Brydell never appeared at the table without
being neatly dressed. This worked a much-needed reform in Mr. Laurison,
who before Brydell came had no scruples about appearing at the dinner
table in his shirt sleeves. But he could not afford to be less well
dressed than his young hired hand and he began to take more pains with
his daily toilet.

This pleased Mrs. Laurison very much, who like most women attached
importance to the refinements of life, and who felt hurt to think that
though her husband put on his coat when they had guests to dinner, he
left it off when they were alone.

At the end of the month Mr. Laurison said nothing about Brydell’s
leaving and was secretly rather afraid that Brydell had got tired of his
job. But not so; Brydell had a great fund of sound sense, after all the
nonsense had been knocked out of him, and he knew he was in good luck to
have such a means of livelihood.

As soon as he felt any certainty about his position, he wrote a number
of letters—to his father, to Admiral Beaumont, to his Aunt Emeline, and
to Grubb the marine, who had got transferred to Portsmouth, New
Hampshire.

He got very prompt answers from the three of his correspondents who
could communicate with him. His Aunt Emeline wrote, saying if he
wouldn’t come back, she couldn’t help it—but there was nothing urgent in
her invitation. Brydell smiled rather bitterly as he laid the letter
down.

The admiral’s letter was overflowing. He could not give Brydell too much
encouragement, considered him bound to pass No. 1 next year, and
conveyed a long message from Billy Bowline to the effect that “Mr.
Brydell, he is bound to be a sailor man, ’cause he’s built that away.”

And Grubb’s letter, which was recklessly spelled and not fully up to the
standard of classic English, bade him “go in and Win. You have got Sand,
Mr. Brydell, and Sand is what makes a man. Some fellows as learns a lott
out of books ain’t got no natural manly carackter and disapp’ints their
friends. But you are not the sort to disapp’int.” Grubb then went on to
lament that he was stationed at Portsmouth. “For the cadets cruze will
most likely be here, Mr. Brydell, and there’s one of them, for reasons
which is known to you, as I would ruther not see in present
serkumstances.”

Brydell knew that the poor fellow meant Esdaile.

Meanwhile Brydell was working like a Trojan at his books.

Every evening after supper he would be claimed for half an hour by
little Minna, to play on the piano for her, to tell her stories, or to
amuse her in some way. Then he would take a lamp and go to his room and
study hard.

Often he was very tired, but it was a healthful fatigue. He did not feel
any sense of nervous exhaustion, but, if he found himself falling asleep
over his books, he would go to bed and get up at daylight next morning
feeling perfectly refreshed.

The outdoor life agreed with him wonderfully, and his boyish figure
began to fill out and lose some of its angles. And he had the
consciousness of making headway with his studies. He was forced to adopt
the old-fashioned plan of relying upon himself, instead of the
new-fashioned one of having a tutor to study with him and to take most
of the trouble off him.

Besides making steady progress in studies and character and physique, he
actually found himself happy. He had no associates of his own age, it is
true; the neighborhood was sparsely populated and he did not find any
very congenial acquaintances among boys of his own age, but he comforted
himself by thinking, “Never mind, I’ll have lots of fellows for company
next year.” He came to like Mr. Laurison; and Mrs. Laurison’s kindness
was unvarying. Little Minna became the apple of his eye.

In the summer she had a slight illness, and Brydell did not realize
until then how fond he was of the little girl. He was always on hand to
do anything for her, and the child would take her medicine more readily
from him than from anybody else.

This still more won Mrs. Laurison’s heart, and there was keen sympathy
between her and the boy who had never known a mother’s love. He often
thought: “If Aunt Emeline had been like this!” Minna got well quickly,
but from that day on Brydell’s affection for the mother and child became
intense. Mrs. Laurison knew that Brydell was preparing for his
examination another year, but as she said to him sometimes:

“The farm won’t be the same for any of us after you go away. I never had
any boys of my own; I always wanted them and it seems to me now I feel
the want of them more than ever, because I see how nice a nice boy
really is.”

“I never was accused of being a nice boy by my best friends,” cried
Brydell, laughing but pleased. “Ask Aunt Emeline what she thinks of me.”

As for Minna, every mention of Brydell’s leaving was met by her throwing
her arms around his neck and pleading, “You won’t go away and leave me?”
Brydell partially gained her consent to go, on promising that he would
send her chests full of magnificent things and a dolly as big as
herself.

Toward the last of the summer he got a letter from his father. It was
very kind and affectionate, and almost humble in tone.

“I feel that I have erred through my tenderness for you,” he wrote; “but
I hope that you have experienced the worst you will have to undergo of
the effects of my fondness. I do not know what you are doing now, and
shall wait eagerly to hear, but I rely upon your manliness and
uprightness to carry you through.”

Brydell’s reply to this letter was a very cheerful one.

One day in the autumn, as Brydell in his blue overalls was driving an
ox-wagon loaded with fodder down the lane, he suddenly caught sight of a
trim military old figure standing at the gate, with another rather
slouchy one, and the next minute he recognized Admiral Beaumont’s hearty
laugh.

The admiral was highly amused at the spectacle his young friend
presented, mounted on a load of hay, while Billy Bowline grinned
appreciatively at the sight. Brydell was delighted to see his old friend
and, noticing that his employment as teamster seemed to afford the
admiral great diversion, he cried out:—

“Delighted to see you, admiral! Just let me get my team through this
gate and I’ll jump down and shake hands with you. Gee, buck!”

“Ha, ha!” roared the admiral. “You haven’t sea room enough, my young
friend, in which to manœuvre that craft. You’ll foul that gatepost as
sure as a gun.”

“No, I won’t; whoa!” shouted Brydell in reply. The oxen made a sudden
turn that really did threaten to foul the gatepost.

“Keep your luff,” called out the admiral, waving his stick excitedly,
“and keep your head to the wind.”

“Can’t,” replied Brydell, who was not an expert ox-driver by any means;
“you see she yaws about so there’s no keeping her head to the wind.”

At last, after the expenditure of much lung power, both by Brydell and
the admiral, the wagon got through, and Brydell, jumping down, shook
hands heartily with his old friends.

“Bless my soul!” cried the admiral, “I never saw a fellow grow like you.
Why, you are about a foot taller and two feet broader than you were last
year—eh, Bowline?”

“He do grow amazin’ fast,” said Billy solemnly, “and I reckon as how
he’ll be the finest-lookin’ feller in the sarvice when he gits there.
But, Mr. Brydell, beg your parding, sir, you ought not to risk your
life, sir, in no sich a craft as that. Horses is bad enough, but oxen is
the most dangersome thing alive. Like as not they run away with you or
kick your head off, sir. Now, sir, aboard ship you ain’t never in no
danger. That’s the beauty of the sarvice, sir, ain’t no horses for to
kick you, nor no oxen for to run away with you; jist nothin’ to hurt
you; and when the wind blows, all you’ve got to do, sir, is to make
everything snug and git to sea, and there you is, sir, safe and sound.”

“The old dunderhead is right,” chuckled the admiral highly pleased,
while Brydell in his heart really thought a ship was the safest thing
under heaven, particularly a United States ship.

Brydell took his two old friends up to the house, where Mrs. Laurison
received them, as she did everybody, kindly and graciously. The admiral,
struck by her gentle and refined manner, bowed over the hand of the
farmer’s wife as if she were the greatest lady in the land, while Billy
Bowline stood just outside the door, twiddling his cap, and could not be
induced to sit down even in the hall.

“For ’tain’t for the likes o’ me to be sittin’ down afore ladies,” said
Billy. “But I’d like mightily to have a word with that little ’un as
looks like a angel.”

Minna, after having made friends with the admiral, was quite willing to
make friends with the old sailor. Presently they saw her put her chubby
hand in his and lead him out under a tree, where they both sat down on
the grass, and through the window floated in scraps of a thrilling
narrative that Billy was telling her: “The prin-_cess_, she then give
orders, ‘Bring up my palankeen,’ and she climbed over the side and then
she trimmed the palankeen, and it’s a mighty onhandy thing to trim, my
dear”—

Mrs. Laurison invited the admiral to stay to dinner, and he accepted
frankly. Brydell slipped upstairs and washed and changed his clothes;
then the admiral went upstairs, too, and had a long talk with him. He
took Brydell’s books and gave him a pretty sharp examination, which
Brydell stood remarkably well; he had not wasted his time.

When dinner was ready they found Mr. Laurison dressed in his best
clothes, and Mrs. Laurison had put on a pretty gown for the admiral. The
dinner was very jolly, and Brydell was glad that the admiral saw what
excellent quarters he had fallen into.

After dinner, when it was time for the train, Mr. Laurison wanted to
send the admiral to the station in the old carriage that was used on
great occasions, but the admiral preferred to walk. He and Brydell
started off, therefore, in the autumn evening to walk, with Billy
Bowline rolling along after them.

“I have waited to write to your father until I should see you,” said the
admiral; “but now I can write with a cheerful heart. Zounds, sir, you
are in luck; a year of hard study, hard work, and independence will make
a man of you. I thought your failure in your examination the worst thing
that could befall you. But don’t you see, youngster, that what seems to
be the worst may sometimes be wrested to make the very best?”

Brydell was not quite prepared to admit that his two mortifying failures
were the best things that could have happened to him; but he rightly
considered himself a fortunate fellow in the way his resolve to earn his
living had turned out. He told the admiral of the letter he had received
from his father, and what he had replied. And then he spoke of Grubb and
Esdaile.

“I have heard of that Esdaile fellow, and mark my words, he’s a scamp.
It’s well enough to elevate himself; poor Grubb is an honest, sensible
fellow, though uneducated; but I hear that his boy would have nothing to
do with him, except on the sly, and actually has been heard to deny that
Grubb is his father. I say that fellow is a pernicious, unqualified, and
unmitigated scamp and scalawag; and I don’t care if he passes No. 1 in
his class, I’d fire him out of the navy in short order, if I had my
way.”

Presently out of the darkness came the roar and thunder of the train,
the admiral wrung Brydell’s hand as did Billy Bowline, Billy saying,
“Good-by, Mr. Brydell, I hopes as how you’ll git through and be a
ornament to the sarvice, sir, afore I trips my anchor and sets out for
the other coast.”

Brydell went back wonderfully encouraged. The admiral believed in him,
and that belief of others in us does wonders. Even Billy Bowline’s
appreciation was not lost on Brydell.

The autumn and winter passed rapidly. Lieutenant Brydell’s ship was
still cruising in the Pacific, stopping occasionally for letters that
were months in reaching their destination. Brydell received several
letters from his father, all encouraging in tone, especially after
Admiral Beaumont’s letter.

The spring came on apace, and at last one day in May, exactly a year
from the time Brydell had gone to Annapolis before, he was notified to
present himself before the examining board.

Brydell felt reasonably confident. Not only had he worked hard, but,
forced to depend upon himself and to solve his own difficulties, he felt
that he stood a better chance of making a four years’ course than if he
had been crammed by a tutor to get through his examinations and then
make a flat failure afterward.

It was hard on him to say good-by to the Laurisons, and Minna was so
distressed at the idea of parting from him that Mrs. Laurison and he
agreed that it would be better for him to slip off early in the morning
before sunrise, so that the child would be spared the pain of parting.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Laurison were up to give him his breakfast and see him
off. Mrs. Laurison said to him:—

“If ever your Aunt Emeline said you were a disagreeable boy, I think she
must have been a very disagreeable woman, for in the year you have lived
with us I don’t think I could have found fault with you if I had tried.”

“Dear Mrs. Laurison, it was because you were all so good to me,”
answered Brydell with tears in his eyes.

The farewells were said, and Brydell struck off in the path that led
through the field to the little roadside station. Just as he shut the
gate that led from the path to the farm enclosures a childish figure,
topped by a ruffled dimity sunbonnet, rose from beside the gate.

“I heard you get up,” said Minna, “and I knew you were going to-day, so
I slipped out of bed and dressed myself, for I heard mamma say something
to you about not telling me good-by because I would cry so; and I’m not
a cry-baby, and I want to say good-by too.”

Brydell kissed her and promised to write to her, and although she
evidently wanted to cry she did not shed a tear. Brydell started her
back to the house and Minna trotted off obediently, but he saw her stop
once or twice and put her apron to her eyes.

In a few hours he was at Annapolis and in a few days he had passed a
splendid examination and was formally notified that he was a naval cadet
at last.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                           THE SUMMER CRUISE.


Esdaile was a third-class man, of course, and he was almost the first
person that Brydell ran across. Bearing in mind what the admiral had
said about Esdaile being ashamed of his father, it was not without a
wish to make Esdaile ashamed of himself that Brydell, the first time
they met alone, said carelessly:—

“By the way, Esdaile, I believe you are the son of one of the best
friends I have in the world—Private Grubb, of the marines. I nearly
killed him once, when I was a kid, and after that we came to be
tremendously fond of one another.”

Esdaile’s face turned crimson.

“I’d—I’d rather you wouldn’t mention about my father,” answered Esdaile.
“You know my mother’s people, the Esdailes, were altogether different
from my father’s. My grandfather Esdaile was an ambitious man—the
Esdailes are a good family—and left me some money on condition I changed
my name, and it would be awkward for me when I’m an officer to have it
known that my father is a private of marines.”

“Very awkward for Grubb,” said Brydell coolly; “I should think your
father would be awfully ashamed of you. Grubb, you know, is a fine man;
every officer he ever served under thinks highly of him; and you are
evidently a cad of the most pronounced description. No, I won’t mention
the relationship, for Grubb’s sake.”

Now this was highly insubordinate talk from a plebe to a third-class
man. Esdaile straightened himself up.

“Do you know that you are speaking to your superior, sir?”

“Oh, come off!” answered Brydell carelessly. “This isn’t any class
question; it’s a mere private matter between us two. I say your father,
if he _is_ an uneducated man, is twice as much of a gentleman at heart
as you are, for all your education and your money and your fine name,
because Grubb respects himself, and that’s the first thing about a
gentleman, so I’ve been told.”

Esdaile walked off in silent fury. He did not care to undertake to
discipline Brydell on such a matter, as it would only be proclaiming
what he earnestly desired to conceal, so he swallowed his chagrin and
determined to get even with Brydell some other way.

Although hazing is strictly prohibited by act of Congress, the milder
form of it, known as “running,” is not wholly unpractised, and Brydell
had his experience of singing the clothes list to the tune of “Hail
Columbia,” chewing soap, standing on his head, for the amusement of the
Third Class, and various other of the boyish tricks that seem to afford
such intense satisfaction to the third-class men. Brydell, being a very
good-tempered fellow, took it all in good part.

Esdaile had no share in it, but avoided Brydell as much as possible.
Brydell soon found out that Esdaile’s reputation for straightforwardness
was none of the best. The code of truth-telling is absolutely rigid at
the Naval Academy, and a fellow caught in a lie would undoubtedly be
forced to leave, whether the wrongdoing came to the ear of the
authorities or not.

Now, Esdaile had not actually been caught in a falsehood by any of his
classmates, but there was a general sinister impression that he would
just as soon lie as tell the truth, provided he was not caught. His
recitations had been admirable, and he had very few demerits and stood
well with the instructors, but he did not stand so well with his own
class. Apparently no one knew of his relationship to the marine, and
Brydell was quite above the meanness of telling it.

Early in June the graduating exercises were held, and Lieutenant
Brydell’s ship having got to San Francisco a few weeks before, Brydell
was delighted one day to get a dispatch from his father, saying he would
be at Annapolis before the cadets sailed on their summer cruise.

Oh, the happiness that Brydell felt one June day when he once more
hugged his “dear old dad”! Brydell himself had grown and improved so
much, and the brief “setting up” process he had gone through with had
made him look so much more mature, that he and his father looked more
like two brothers than ever.

The lieutenant felt perfectly happy in his boy. He had all along been
conscious of the weak points in the boy’s training, and when young
Brydell had of his own accord cast aside all indulgence and worked
manfully in the face of heart-breaking disappointments, his father’s joy
in him knew no bounds. Brydell showed his hands, which were rough and
sunburned, to his father, with pride.

“Just look at ’em, dad!” he cried with a natural boyish conceit; “got
that by holding the plow and tossing hay and feeding the cattle and
chopping wood. You ought to have heard the admiral laugh when he saw me
trying to drive the ox-team through the gate. I’m not exactly a
first-class farm hand,—I wasn’t worth more than ten dollars a month,—but
I didn’t shirk, I can tell you. And you don’t know how much better it
was working in the fresh air, with a plenty of wholesome country food to
eat, than drudging in an office; and the horses and cows were excellent
company. I pity the poor fellows that have to work in city offices. Give
me the country every time.”

The lieutenant gazed at him while a mist gathered in his eyes. He could
only say: “My brave boy! My brave boy!”

Brydell told his father that he must go out to see the Laurisons, and
the lieutenant, nothing loth, went and spent the day. He came home
delighted with the kind people, for whom he felt sincere gratitude, and
he brought back a large nosegay from little Minna and a childish letter
written in a big, round hand to young Brydell.

Before the Constellation sailed, Brydell sent her a cap ribbon with “U.
S. S. Constellation” on it in gold letters and a set of cadet buttons
for her jacket. Of course every cadet had his “best girl” and perhaps
half a dozen other “girls,” generally young ladies older than
themselves. But Brydell maintained a mysterious silence about his “best
girl,” only admitting that her name was Minna and she had long light
hair.

One lovely morning in June the Constellation, that had been lying at
anchor in Annapolis Roads for several days, set her white sails and with
a fair wind took her majestic way to the open sea. She has never had
steam in her, and, except for being frequently repaired and even
rebuilt, she is very much the same as in the times when she was one of
the crack frigates of the nation and when she made her glorious record
as a fighting ship. From the days when she had come off victorious in
two fights against ships that were her superiors, and had remained
uncaptured, although blockaded by a great fleet for years, in 1812-15,
she had been always classed as a lucky ship, and lucky she proved.

To Brydell every moment at sea was happiness. He took to seamanship and
navigation as a duck takes to water, much to Admiral Beaumont’s delight,
who was not wholly reconciled to the new-fashioned ships, where, as he
disgustedly declared, “The chief engineer is captain, and the ship is no
better than an iron kettle with an engine inside of her.”

They made their way along the coast leisurely. Every morning the cadets
were made to go aloft and over all the rigging for exercise, and they
did it like cats. Brydell excelled at this from the first with the
utmost smartness. Esdaile, on the contrary, although his class rank was
high, did not do at all well in the practical exercises of seamanship.
He was growing more unpopular every day with his class, and among the
sailors he was hated.

The blue jackets who worked side by side with the cadets on the summer’s
cruise were generally fine seamen and honest fellows, and a pleasant
feeling existed between them and the cadets, although the distance
between an embryo officer and a sailor was necessarily strictly
preserved. Brydell enjoyed nothing more than his turn at the wheel,
when, with a foremast man, he had his watch.

All sailors can tell plenty of interesting things, and as they all liked
Brydell they made the watch pass quickly enough. Not so was it with
Esdaile. He treated the sailors with a superciliousness and selfish
indifference that made them hate him, and they sometimes took a sly
revenge on him by letting things go wrong, for which he was responsible,
without telling him.

When he was sharply called to account by the officer of the deck or the
executive, there was a universal grin in the fok’sle. With the other
cadets the sailors were only anxious to shield them, if anything did go
awry. Brydell and Esdaile were upon the most distant terms, and neither
showed any disposition to change them.

After a leisurely cruise along the coast they reached Portsmouth, New
Hampshire. It was a soft July evening, and the wind was fair for them to
enter the difficult harbor. Brydell, with Atkins, a very smart sailor,
was at the wheel when they were weathering the Point.

It requires skilful seamanship for a sailing vessel to weather this
dangerous point, where the slightest mistake in the moment to put the
helm up or down will place a ship on the rocks. The captain trusted
nobody but himself to bring the frigate in. The ship, with all her light
canvas set, floated lightly on almost like a phantom ship.

The Piscataqua is one of the most beautiful rivers on the Atlantic
coast, and in the pale sunset glow the water shimmered like a sea of
opal. The white-winged Constellation came on and on, without tacking,
and seemed literally rushing upon her doom as the rocky point reared
itself menacingly in her way. But when so near that her bowsprit almost
touched the rock, the captain, who stood at the steersman’s side, gave
the word, and the ship, answering her helm beautifully, came about like
magic and rounded the dangerous point.

In a little while she reached her anchorage, and came to anchor in true
man-of-war style, her sails being furled and her anchors dropped in an
inconceivably short time.

Brydell was at that happy age when every change seems delightful, and he
was just as glad to get ashore at Portsmouth as if he had not enjoyed
every moment when he was actually cruising.

He looked forward with the greatest pleasure to seeing his old friend
Grubb, and only regretted the forms which must be observed between an
officer and a private. Grubb was such a sensible, self-respecting fellow
that he was not at all likely to let Brydell’s natural generosity lead
him beyond the right point with a subordinate.

Brydell made up his mind that Grubb would keep off the ship if possible,
and determined the first time he got leave to go ashore to hunt up his
humble friend. But the very next morning, happening to go on deck, he
ran across Grubb delivering a message to the officer of the deck.

Grubb touched his cap respectfully to Brydell, but his pleasure was
evident in his handsome sunburned face. The officer was just handing him
a note. Brydell could not help shaking hands with the marine, saying to
the officer, “Private Grubb and I are old friends. I have known him ever
since I was a little lad. He got me the very worst wigging I ever had,
for almost killing him with my parlor rifle.”

The officer smiled and said:—

“Private Grubb must be a good man to have remained in the service so
long.”

“I dunno about that, sir,” answered Grubb, blushing. “I’ve been in the
sarvice twenty-four years, now going on twenty-five. I ain’t never asked
for promotion, because I ain’t a eddicated man, and I’m very well
satisfied with my increased pay, but I reckon I’ll stay Private Grubb as
long as the government’ll let me.”

Just then Esdaile appeared, strolling along the deck. The instant Grubb
caught sight of him the marine’s face changed and hardened. The officer
detained him a moment to add something to the note he had written, and
Brydell stood talking with the marine. Esdaile’s face did not show the
slightest recognition.

No one on the ship except Brydell knew of the relationship, and as he
had not thought fit to mention it, Esdaile in his selfish soul hoped
that it would not be suspected. Certainly it would not be from the
manner of either father or son.

The officer had come back then, and giving his note to Grubb, and
civilly returning his salute, the marine went over the side and was soon
being pulled away in the boat.

Brydell remained talking with the officer, who was very friendly to him,
and telling the story of the parlor rifle which came so near being a
tragedy instead of a comedy.

“And my father and Admiral Beaumont both say that Grubb is one of the
most deserving men they ever knew, and he could have had promotion lots
of times, except that he is a timid sort of an old fellow about some
things, although as brave as a lion in others.”

“Those men are very valuable,” answered the officer, “and you youngsters
ought to treat them with the highest consideration.”

“Indeed, Grubb and I have always been the greatest chums in the world,”
said Brydell, showing his boyish dimples in a smile. “The only thing I
regret in being a cadet is that I can’t go and spend the day with Grubb
at his quarters as I used to when I was ten years old, and eat salt pork
and boiled onions; how good it tasted then.”

Brydell had despised Esdaile before, but after that utter ignoring of
his father, Esdaile became even more contemptible than ever in his eyes.
Nor did he ever see the slightest recognition afterward between the two.
They constantly met on shore, but never exchanged a word or a sign,
except the conventional salute.

Brydell indeed could not go to Grubb’s quarters as he had done as a
little boy, but when he had leave, he would sometimes get a boat and he
and Grubb would go fishing as in the old days, and be very happy
together. Everybody on the ship knew of the old association between
them, and the fondness of the smart young cadet for the grizzled marine
was perfectly understood.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                          A QUESTION OF HONOR.


Esdaile avoided Brydell more than ever at Portsmouth, and as they were
in different classes it was easy for them to see but little of each
other. One night, though, Brydell having come on board, after a day’s
leave spent fishing with Grubb, was met by a third-class man as soon as
he had got on board and reported. This was his old acquaintance
Cunliffe, who had turned out a remarkably quiet and level-headed young
fellow and belonged to the section in every class which keeps up the
tone and discipline of the class.

“Brydell,” said he, “will you come into the steerage with me? Something
very important is on hand, and we want your testimony.”

Brydell went, quite ignorant of what was up, except the surmise that
some infringement of the code of cadet ethics was under discussion, and
he knew from Cunliffe’s manner it was something serious. For among these
cadets there is a rigid code of ethics which is carried out with a stern
impartiality that would do honor to much older men.

Uncontaminated by the influences of self-interest, which are learned
later in life, these young fellows insist upon certain points of honor
so tenaciously that they can practically drive any cadet out of the
academy who does not live up to them. And the greatest of these is
truthfulness.

Any failure to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, is regarded as unfitting a cadet for any association with his
fellows, and so well understood is this that there are few offences
against truth. Two things, lying and tale-bearing, are treated as
crimes, and a cadet convicted of them is not only put in Coventry, but
every other cadet makes it his business to load the offender down with
demerits, so that the class may be relieved of his presence. It is
stern, but the effect is indescribably good.

Brydell followed Cunliffe to the steerage and sitting around the table
were about a dozen of the oldest and steadiest members of the third
class, while others were grouped about as listeners. Esdaile, looking
deadly pale, sat in a chair a little way off.

“Mr. Brydell,” said the oldest of them, Maxwell,—known as “Old McSwell,”
because of his elegant appearance, but who was one of the most reliable
young fellows in the class,—“we want your testimony in regard to a
question affecting Mr. Esdaile’s honor. It has been whispered about the
ship that Mr. Esdaile is the son of Private Grubb of the marines, whom
you say you have known nearly all your life. The difference in their
names is explained by Mr. Esdaile taking another name. Some days ago Mr.
Esdaile went to call on the captain’s wife at the hotel, and in the
course of conversation complained that this report, which he considered
injurious to him, was going about. He denied flatly that Private Grubb
was his father, and said he was the son of Thomas Esdaile. The captain’s
wife thereupon denied it and has been very much embarrassed by hearing
from the very best authority that Private Grubb really is Mr. Esdaile’s
father. Can you give us any facts in the case?”

The first idea that occurred to Brydell as he looked at the culprit was,
“What a fool!” Esdaile had stood near the top of his class; still he
lacked the good sense that almost invariably goes with good morals and
had told a lie which, like all lies, must in the end be detected.
Brydell could feel no sympathy for Esdaile, but the idea of poor Grubb’s
distress shook him. He hesitated a moment or two before he spoke.

“I know all the facts, I think,” he said in a low voice. “Private Grubb
is Mr. Esdaile’s father. I have known it ever since I knew Private
Grubb, seven or eight years ago. Mr. Esdaile’s grandfather gave him some
money on condition that he should take the name of his mother’s family,
Esdaile. I want to say right here that Private Grubb is one of the best
men in the world. Admiral Beaumont and my father have both said so a
hundred times in my presence, and although he is a plain, uneducated
man, not one of us here need be ashamed to own him.”

At this there was a long and painful pause. Esdaile’s face, that had
been pale, turned a greenish hue; he had still enough sense left to feel
the accumulated scorn of his classmates. It was a solemn moment for
those young judges. Esdaile had not been popular among them, but they
fully realized that they were branding him in a way he would probably
retain as long as he lived.

“Have you anything to say, Mr. Esdaile?” asked Maxwell.

Esdaile’s lips formed the word “Nothing,” but no sound was heard.

“It is the opinion of your class,” continued Maxwell after a pause,
“that it would be best for you to resign at once. If you think
differently, you may depend upon it that the class will take every means
of making the academy too hot to hold you. Some liars and tale-bearers
have been found who tried to stick it out, but there is no instance
recorded of any one of them succeeding. You may go now.”

In a few minutes they had all scattered. Most of them went on deck,
where in little groups they discussed the matter gravely and with heavy
hearts, for the presence of meanness and dishonor is among the most
painful things in the world.

The officers said no word to the cadets about it, nor did the cadets
speak of it to the officers. It was within their own province to
maintain the standard of probity in their class, and they had a stern
and effective way of doing it. Therefore when for the next few days no
cadet spoke to Esdaile except when absolutely required in the
performance of duty, the officers saw plainly enough what was in the
wind.

Within another week Esdaile received an imposing document from the navy
department, and everybody knew that his resignation had been accepted.
He formally announced it to the captain, who asked no questions. The
officers bade him a distant good-by, and in two hours from the time
Esdaile received the notification he was off the ship and, as his
classmates supposed, forever out of the navy.

Brydell had been almost broken-hearted over the effect of Esdaile’s
disgrace upon poor Grubb. He wanted to go to see the marine at once, but
could not get leave for a day or two. Then he was suddenly taken down
with a violent cold and fever. He managed to write a few agitated lines
to Grubb, but got no answer. It was nearly ten days before he was well
enough to leave the ship and go in search of his friend.

It was about dusk of the midsummer evening when Brydell, rather pale
from his recent illness, was going toward Grubb’s quarters. Halfway
there he met the surgeon, Dr. Wayne, a kindly, elderly man, who Brydell
knew had known the marine for many years.

“Can you tell me, sir, anything about Private Grubb of the marines?”
asked Brydell without mentioning Esdaile at all.

“I don’t know whether he can be called Private Grubb of the marines any
longer,” answered the doctor with solemn eyes. “His time was up the very
day he heard of his son’s disgrace. He was on his way to the office
ready to reënlist when he heard it. He walked straight to the
office,—you know what a fine, erect fellow he was,—asked for his
discharge without a word of explanation, except to know when he could
get his papers, and turned away. He had not got a block before he fell.
People ran and picked him up,—he had on his uniform,—and they were going
to carry him to the hospital, but he wouldn’t let them. He said he was
out of the service, and he had no right to go, and no wish to go, nor
could they make him go. I happened to be near by and went to him. I
said: ‘You must go to the hospital.’ You see, he was such a sort of
institution that I couldn’t quite take in why he shouldn’t obey orders.
He tried to touch his cap and managed to say: ‘I’ve worn this uniform
twenty-four years and I have never disobeyed an officer, but I can’t go
to the hospital.’ He became so excited over it that for fear it would
kill him I let them take him into a little tavern at hand, a respectable
sort of a place patronized by workingmen. I saw he had had a stroke, and
that it was a mortal one. He asked to be left alone with me, and then
that poor fellow begged and pleaded with me not to send him to the
hospital, where everybody would know him and know of his son’s
disgrace—he told me all about it. I couldn’t have forced him to go after
that, if it had cost me my commission. He’s going to die, and as he is a
good and faithful man he shall die in as much peace as I can give him.”

Brydell grew a little faint at the words, and in an instant he was
carried back to that day so long ago when old Capps the boatswain had
been carried out of the navy yard gate on a caisson. He had not been
brought face to face with majestic Death since.

“But mightn’t he get well?” Brydell began and halted.

“No—he can’t get well,” answered the doctor quietly. “Poor honest Grubb
is dying of grief and shame over his son’s disgrace. I and the other
surgeons here have worked over him faithfully; if he had been the
ranking officer in the marine corps, we couldn’t have done any more. But
when a man is sick of life it is an incurable disease.”

“I’d like to see him,” said Brydell with pale lips.

“Go to see him, by all means. If you can rouse him, you will do him more
good than all the doctors in the world can.”

Brydell walked rapidly through the fast-closing evening to the little
tavern in a back street. The proprietor, in his shirt sleeves, answered
his inquiries civilly enough.

“We’re doin’ all we can for poor Grubb,” he said, “but I never see a man
so hopeless.”

Brydell stumbled up the narrow stairs to the little back room where, in
response to his knock, Grubb’s voice weakly answered: “Come in.” Brydell
entered.

On the narrow bed Grubb’s gaunt figure, only a little while ago so trim
and soldierly, was stretched out. His skin had lost its ruddy glow and
was quite grayish, and his eyes had sunk back into his head until they
seemed cavernous. Brydell advanced to the bed and took his hand. He was
not prepared for the change in poor Grubb, and his boyish face wore a
startled look.

“I knowed you would come as soon as you could,” the marine began. “I
asked for you right after—right after—it happened. They told me you was
sick. I got that note you wrote me. It’s a mighty comfort to me to know
there’s one honest boy in the world.”

Brydell could not say a word. He sat down in a chair by the bed, and in
spite of every effort to control himself tears started from his eyes and
fell on Grubb’s thin hands.

“Now, Mr. Brydell, what are you a-cryin’ for? You don’t want me to live
in this here world where things is so hard. And you see I’m to blame
some about that boy. I give him all I had, and I didn’t require nothin’
o’ him in return. When he first began to be ashamed of me, instead of
makin’ him see as how I was to be treated with respect, because I was
his father and a respectable man to boot, I let it go and sneaked out of
his way. But I think he must ’a’ been born a liar, ’cause your father
the leftenant indulged you just as much as I did my boy, but you allers
was a up and down truthful boy.”

“Have you heard anything of—of Esdaile?”

“No, sir, and I don’t count on hearin’, neither. He’s got some money,
and as long as that holds out it’s all he cares for. And besides, I
ain’t got no pay now. You see I just felt it like a flash, the minute I
heard o’ that boy’s disgrace, as if I didn’t want to wear this here
uniform unless I could walk down the main street lookin’ folks square in
the eye. I had worn that uniform twenty-four years and there wasn’t no
commissioned officer as kep’ himself straighter nor cleaner nor prouder
than Grubb the marine.”

“That’s true, Grubb.”

“Well, Mr. Brydell, I couldn’t look anybody in the face after that, so I
asked for my discharge papers instead of reënlistin’, and then I dropped
down in the street and it give me sort o’ relief to know that I couldn’t
git over it, because them doctors,—they’re mighty kind and attentive,
and they sets where you’re settin’ and tries to skeer me into gittin’
well,—and I know I can’t git well, and I don’t want to git well.”

Brydell could not say a word. There was something imposing in the
fierce, simple honor of the man who preferred dying to living because he
“couldn’t look anybody in the face again.” Presently Grubb spoke again
feebly: “I hope you’ll give my respectful compliments to the leftenant
and Admiral Beaumont, and tell ’em as how I hope I’ve did my duty to
their satisfaction.”

“I will,” said Brydell.

He sat there and talked a long time with Grubb—talked with him until he
had barely time to catch the ship’s boat, and had to run every step of
the way to the dock.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                      GRUBB’S HONORABLE DISCHARGE.


All the night and the next day Brydell’s heart was heavy for his old
friend. The next evening at the same time he got leave. The officers
knew of Brydell’s affection for Grubb, and he had no difficulty in
getting off when they knew where he wished to go.

Walking rapidly along the street from the wharf, whom should Brydell
almost run over but Admiral Beaumont with Billy Bowline as always
rolling along behind him.

“I was just thinking about you, boy!” shouted the admiral. “Where are
you going in such a hurry?”

“Going to see poor Grubb, sir,” answered Brydell, shaking hands with the
admiral and nodding pleasantly to Billy Bowline. And then with the
admiral’s hand upon his shoulder, standing in the narrow, fast-darkening
street, Brydell told of Esdaile’s disgrace and of the terrible blow it
was to poor Grubb.

His story was punctuated with explosions of wrath from the admiral, such
as “Infamous cad, the boy! Shoot me, but I’d like to get that young
villain on a ship of mine! Why didn’t you lick him, sir? Why didn’t you
lick him when you found the rascal out? Poor old Grubb—one of the best
men I ever knew; ten good men like him will keep a whole ship’s company
in order.”

Billy Bowline’s indignation was expressed by sundry snorts, sniffs, and
angry hitchings up of his trowsers, but was not the less emphatic
because not expressed in the admiral’s vigorous language.

“Come along, sir,” cried the admiral when Brydell had finished his brief
account. “I’m going to see Grubb with you.”

The admiral mounted the rickety stairs with his quick step, as alert as
Brydell’s. Billy Bowline remained below because, as he whispered to
Brydell:—

“There ain’t no love lost between sailors and jirenes, and Grubb, he
were the best jirene I ever see; but I don’t reckon as how he keers
about seein’ sailor men when he is in trouble.”

After knocking at the door the admiral and Brydell entered Grubb’s
little room. By the light of the small lamp they could see him
distinctly, and he looked more gaunt, more ashy, and nearer death than
the evening before. But he was feebly delighted to see them.

“How’s this, Grubb?” began the admiral in his “quarterdeck voice.” “You
must get up. You must get well. You were the best orderly I ever had,
and it never occurred to me that you intended getting out of the service
like this.”

“Thankee, sir, for your good opinions,” answered Grubb, a light
appearing in his sunken eyes, “but I can’t git well.”

“Nonsense, nonsense. You’ve had trouble with your boy; but you must bear
up—bear up, sir.”

“Ah, sir, askin’ your pardon, you don’t know what it is to have trouble
with your own flesh and blood! I couldn’t abear to be p’inted out as
Grubb, the feller whose son was drove out of his class for lyin’. I’m a
plain man, sir, and maybe that’s why I hold on to be respectable so
hard—I ain’t got nothin’ else. I didn’t think, though, ’twould go so
hard with me. I made up my mind in a minute to git out o’ the corps and
take off this uniform as I respects and loves. But I didn’t think to
fall down in the street, and I know I’ve got a shock as I’ll never get
over.”

The admiral could not but believe him. For three or four days Brydell
and the admiral went to see Grubb regularly, and so did Dr. Wayne, and
it was plain to the most inexperienced eye that the marine was traveling
fast out of this world. At last one evening about the usual hour of
dusk, when Brydell went in the room he saw that Grubb had started on the
great journey. His face was slightly flushed and his eyes bright, and
occasionally his mind would wander.

“I’ve been a-waitin’ for you, Mr. Brydell,” he cried in a weak voice.
“There’s two things as I want done. One is, I want you to git that
little Bible out o’ my haversack hanging up yonder and read them
promises about them as believes in Jesus Christ shall live though they
die. And the other is, to put my best uniform on me. You see, sir,
something’s goin’ to happen; it’s a inspection, seems to me, but my head
ain’t clear—yes, it’s a inspection sure. And Private Grubb ain’t never
been reported at inspection in twenty-four, goin’ on twenty-five years,
as long as I’ve been in the service.”

“Don’t you think you’d better wait until the doctor comes, Grubb?” asked
Brydell soothingly.

“Lord, no, sir! I’ve got to be on time—there’s the bugle now, sir”—and
indeed a faint echo of the bugle came through the open windows from the
Constellation lying out in the harbor, half a mile away. He was so
insistent that Brydell went to the closet and took out a new private’s
uniform that hung there. He brought it to the bed and laid it down.
Grubb began to finger it, and his face changed and his manner calmed.

“I know what ’tis, sir,” he said. “It ain’t no inspection here on earth
I’m in for; it’s a inspection by the Great Captain as to how we’ve did
our duty. But all the same, Mr. Brydell, I want this here uniform
on—because I always said I wanted to die in it. Howsomever, do you think
it’s right, as I might get my discharge papers any day, for me to be
wearin’ it and bein’ buried in it?”

    [Illustration: “BRYDELL GOT THE THUMBED BIBLE AND READ TO HIM.”]

“I don’t believe anybody in the world would call it wrong, Grubb.”

“Well, sir, I’m glad to hear you say that. It does seem hard if, after
I’ve served twenty-four, goin’ on twenty-five years, I’m to die and be
buried like a plain cit.[2] And I’d like you to ask the admiral as how
if I couldn’t have the right sort of a funeral; you know we give it to
old Capps. I ain’t set on the band particklar, but I want the flag on my
coffin, and I want to be carried by my messmates. Now will you ask the
admiral all about this?”

“Yes,” said Brydell in a trembling voice. Then holding Grubb up by main
force he managed to get the uniform on him, the poor fellow helping
feverishly and showing unexpected strength. When at last it was done
Brydell got the thumbed Bible and read to him those promises of comfort
to the dying.

“That’s it, that’s it, Mr. Brydell. Life’s a sort o’ puzzle to me. I
don’t know where my boy got his bad ways from,—and I’m afraid he won’t
get over ’em,—but if ever you have a chance, I want you to befriend him
for the sake of poor old Grubb. Ha! ha! What a funny little shaver you
were! I can see you now, sir, the day I grabbed you for tearing up the
turf at the navy yard and the way you banged away at me with that little
rifle.”

He was getting excited and beginning to toss about on his narrow bed.

“Don’t you think you had better keep quiet and try to go to sleep? The
doctor will be here presently,” said Brydell, trying to restrain his
tears.

“Well, yes, sir; good-night,” answered Grubb in a pleasant, natural
voice.

In a little while the door opened softly and the doctor walked in. He
went up to the bed. “He’s asleep, sir,” said Brydell in a whisper. The
doctor bent over him and listened for his breathing.

“Yes, he is asleep,” he said after a while. “He will wake no more.”

                            * * * * * * * *

Brydell told the admiral about Grubb’s last wish.

“It shall be done, by George!” cried the admiral with tears in his eyes.

So poor Grubb, after having served twenty-four, going on twenty-five
years, was buried in his uniform and taken covered with the flag to his
last resting-place, and nobody asked a word about his discharge papers;
the admiral arranged all that.

Behind the coffin of his humble friend walked Brydell, in full uniform;
and as he kept the slow step of the funeral march solemnly played by the
band, he thought to himself: “This man was a poor uneducated private,
but I hope I shall be able to have as good a report to give the Great
Captain.”



                               CHAPTER X.
                      IN COMMAND OF THE SQUADRON.


One night about seven years after this, the handsome fifty-four gun
frigate, the Naiad, flagship of Admiral Beaumont’s squadron, and the
sloops-of-war Vixen and Spitfire lay at anchor off a town on the South
American coast.

The night was clear, although there was no moon, and the harbor lights
shone steadily. The town itself was full of life and light, the
governor’s castle blazed, and across the dark water floated the
inspiring music of several military bands. A grand official reception in
honor of the admiral and his officers was in progress.

Walking the deck of the Naiad was Brydell, now a handsome young ensign.
He wore a look of sublime resignation. He had a wholesome appetite for
receptions, but it being his watch that night he was obliged to remain
on board. In vain had he made all sorts of advantageous offers of
exchanging duty with the other young watch officers, of whom Maxwell,
his old acquaintance of the Constellation, was one, and Cunliffe was
another. Brydell had pleaded, cajoled, and stormed; the other fellows
only laughed at him and went off to enjoy themselves.

“Just look over there at the Spitfire,” growled Brydell to himself—the
Spitfire was commanded by Brydell’s father. “Dad hates these affairs and
has let all the fellows go and stays at home and keeps ship himself. I
wish our captain was an unsocial widower like dad.”

And as if to exasperate him further came a burst of music from the
shore, borne fitfully over the water. Brydell glanced cynically up at
the frigate’s lights which indicated by their arrangement that both
admiral and captain were on shore, while the Spitfire, a short distance
off, although looming up indistinctly, yet showed by the lanterns on her
shadowy spars that her captain was aboard.

“However,” thought Brydell, slamming his cap fiercely on his head,
“Admiral Beaumont is nearer right than my father, for he gets all the
solid fun there is out of life. That’s the sort of admiral I mean to
be.”

Brydell had enjoyed every moment of his cruise on the flagship. It was
Admiral Beaumont’s last sea service before his retirement. They expected
to sail for home within a few days, and when the admiral hauled down his
flag it would be for good. He had been known as a great martinet, but
for the last few weeks he had become rather more indulgent, especially
in the matter of shore leave; and now, for the first time on the cruise,
the ship had on her only one lieutenant, Verdery; one ensign, Brydell;
two young naval cadets, and one assistant engineer.

As Brydell walked the deck some strange thoughts crossed his mind. They
had that day taken on board from the Vixen a number of men whose time
was up, and who were to be conveyed back to the United States, while the
Vixen remained on the South Atlantic station.

And among them was a sailor rated on the ship’s books as “William Black,
able seaman,” whom Brydell instantly recognized, in spite of a heavy
full beard, as Esdaile. He had heard nothing of Grubb’s disgraced son in
all those seven years, and had thought that an American man-of-war was
the last place on earth to look for him. But he concluded that Esdaile
had no doubt spent his little patrimony and had probably enlisted for a
living, failing in other things.

Esdaile or Black had given no sign of recognition, and probably hoped
that his altered name, his beard, and the changes of seven years would
keep his identity unknown. The meeting had given Brydell a shock. He had
never forgotten his promise to poor Grubb to befriend his son if
possible, but he had had no means of doing so.

Then his thoughts turned to pleasanter things. He had received a letter
from Minna Laurison that day, enclosing her photograph in her white
commencement gown. She was a pretty girl of seventeen then, and eager to
enter college, which she would do the next year.

Brydell had been back to the Laurison place several times since he had
spent his year of farm work there, and Minna and he had continued fast
friends. Minna, in her enthusiasm for the higher education, was loftily
indifferent to receptions, never having been to one; and Brydell made
her very indignant and amused himself very much by promising her that
her head would no doubt be completely turned by the first she should go
to.

“Never mind,” thought Brydell to himself as he walked up and down the
deserted quarterdeck. “Some time or other I’ll go to a more gorgeous
reception than this, and I’ll have a sweeter girl to take than any
here—it will be Minna Laurison.”

The sea had been rough when the boats put off, and it grew rougher as
the wind suddenly began to rise. Lieutenant Verdery, one of the oldest
lieutenants, who was left in command of the ship, had gone forward for a
few moments and presently came back. The wind began then to blow in
earnest, and the big frigate was rocking like a cockle shell. The sky,
too, became black and lowering in an inconceivably short time.

“I shouldn’t be surprised if we were in for a norther,” said Verdery.
“We have had most uncommon good weather for this coast, and it’s about
time for it to change. I shouldn’t be surprised if the admiral got wet
coming off to-night.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get off at all,” answered
Brydell, pointing to the northwest.

A great mass of black clouds had collected as if by magic, and at that
instant it was torn by a flash of forked green light that seemed to rend
the heavens. Nothing could have been more sudden. Verdery dashed below
to look at the glass and to see the engineer, for if the storm struck
them, the safety of the ship and of the four hundred men she carried
would depend upon the power of the engines to keep her off the giant
rocks that fringed the shore.

Almost instantly the distant roar of the advancing tempest was heard,
and in another moment the cabin orderly came running up excitedly to
Brydell.

“If you please, sir,” he said, “Mr. Verdery was just going in the cabin
to look at the glass when, one of the ports being loose, the wind blew
it in and it struck Mr. Verdery right full in the forehead and knocked
him insensible. The cabin steward run to him to do everything he could,
but Mr. Verdery can’t give no orders, and the steward, as was a hospital
steward once, says as how it was a pretty bad blow, and when Mr. Verdery
comes to, he can’t give no orders ’cause both his eyes is bleeding and
he can’t see.”

For one moment Brydell’s heart stood still. He was the next officer in
rank to Verdery on board, the only others besides the assistant engineer
being Manning and Buxton, both his juniors, and upon him would rest the
command of the flagship and her company in a gale which promised to be a
hurricane. In another moment, though, his courage rose.

“I can only do my best,” he thought, “and all my life and training has
been steadily toward making me fit for such an emergency; and all I can
do is to keep off shore and trust in God.”

At that very moment the advance guard of the storm struck them. As they
were at anchor their canvas was secure, but their steam was low, and the
wind was driving them straight on to destruction. The Naiad’s head had
been pointed seaward, but as the tempest struck her it knocked the great
frigate around as if it had been a paper ship, and her heavy anchors
began to drag.

“Call the boatswain!” was Brydell’s first quick order, given calmly
enough although his heart was thumping like a steam engine, and his next
was, “Call the signal man!”

In another moment the sharp call of the whistle was heard to get up the
anchor, and above the darkness the night signal went up to the other
ships, “Up anchors and go to sea!”

Their only safety lay in seeking the open ocean. Manning and Buxton were
on deck immediately, cool and composed. Crawford, the young engineer,
was at his post working hard to get up steam, and in a few minutes the
throb of the engines, slow but steady, was heard.

Brydell was at the wheel with Atkins, his old acquaintance of his cadet
days, who was now a quartermaster and remarkably cool-headed and
reliable. The helm was put hard aport, and in the teeth of the gale the
ship was brought about by slow degrees.

A black and blinding rain had come along with thunder, lightning, and
wind, and it was only during the flashes of lightning that the Vixen and
the Spitfire could be seen. Both sloops-of-war had more powerful engines
for their size and worked better than the Naiad. As soon as the signal
was sent up, Brydell saw that both ships had come about and were heading
seaward for safety. They made but slow progress, but still they were
moving steadily and passed close to the Naiad on the port quarter. The
Naiad was struggling with the fury of the storm and, although her head
had been brought partly around, she lay in the trough of the sea, her
laboring engines seemingly unable to move her against the force of the
hurricane.

All her company were on deck except the force down in the engine rooms,
and the men had begun to make silent preparation for the fight for their
lives. Most of them had kicked off their shoes and stripped off their
jackets, expecting every moment to be engulfed in the boiling sea.

Suddenly a flash of lightning that lasted nearly a minute and played
over the whole heavens showed them the Spitfire, passing them easily
though slowly, followed by the Vixen. Captain Brydell was standing on
the bridge of the Spitfire, and saw at a glance that Brydell was in
command. He at once surmised that Lieutenant Verdery was disabled.

As he forged ahead of the flagship, Captain Brydell took off his cap and
waved it; and Brydell, knowing the spirit of fortitude that his father
expected of him, waved his cap back in that one moment of ghastly light.
Then, as the darkness descended, a cheer rang out above the howling of
the wind; it was the men on the Naiad cheering their more fortunate
comrades, while they themselves seemed doomed to destruction.

But at that moment the frigate, as if gathering herself for a mighty
effort, moved forward a little, then stopped and staggered, and again
she was moving ahead, although but slowly and unsteadily. Brydell
managed to keep her head to the wind, and by degrees as the steam got up
she made a little more headway.

In the blinding flashes of light they could see the two sloops-of-war
for a while ahead of them, but when they had got a mile or two from
shore not even the lightning gleam could pierce the whole of the awful
darkness.

Brydell’s sensations as he stood by the wheel, occasionally leaving it
to mount the bridge for a minute or two, could not be described. He was
simply doing what any other officer could do or would have done, but no
young officer in the world, having for his first command the safety of a
flagship in a furious gale and the lives of four hundred souls, could
feel anything but awed and solemn.

The quickness with which he had seized the situation and had signaled
the course to pursue had inspired the men with confidence, and he was
well supported by the coolness and steadiness of the young midshipmen.
Presently, while walking forward to see how things were going, he was
met by the cabin orderly, who in attempting to salute lost his cap in
the shrieking wind.

“Mr. Verdery, sir, has come to,” he yelled in Brydell’s ear above the
roaring of wind and water, “and the cabin steward is helpin’ him on
deck; but he can’t see ’cause both his eyes were hurt by that ’ere port
blowin’ out.”

In the half-darkness that the ship’s lights could only pierce like star
points Brydell saw Verdery, with his eyes bandaged, being helped up the
companionway. Brydell hurried to him.

“You have done admirably, Mr. Brydell,” was Verdery’s generous greeting,
“and it shall be known to your credit. My first dread when I recovered
my senses was that you had not grasped the situation, but when I asked I
found out that you had put to sea as promptly as any officer could.”

“And I immediately signaled the other ships to go to sea also,” replied
Brydell.

At that a sudden change came over Verdery’s pale and anxious face which
was visible below the bandages. In the midst of the horrors and dangers
of the hour he suddenly burst out laughing.

“Quite right you were,” said he, “but your father was in command of the
Spitfire. I wonder how he would have felt if he had known it was you who
ordered him to go outside?”

“He did know it, sir,” answered Brydell, smiling faintly. “They passed
quite close to us, and a great flash of light came, and I saw my father
as plainly as I see you now, and of course he saw I was in command. He
waved his cap to me, and I waved mine back at him.”

Verdery, in spite of his dangerous hurt and helpless condition, remained
on deck, but he gave no orders, nor did he find it necessary to make any
suggestions, and his presence was only from the feeling that he wished
to be found at his post, even if he could not do duty.

The fury of the storm continued, but the Naiad, with her engines
revolving quickly, was better able to withstand it. They had now worked
their way well out to sea and were in fairly good condition to weather
the gale.

Brydell, although absorbed in trying to save the ship, had yet noticed
Black, the seaman whom he knew to be Esdaile. There was little for the
men to do, so they gathered forward on the fok’sle ready for any
emergency.

Not so Black, who stood as far aft as discipline would allow, and apart
from his mates. Just then the fury of the gale blew a part of the main
staysail out of the bolt ropes, and the men sprang aloft to reef the
ragged sail.

It was Black’s duty to go and he went, but Brydell, watching him in the
half-light, saw that he shirked his work. He was the last man aloft, and
he was so careless in what he was doing that the captain of the maintop,
pushing him aside, secured the sail himself. Black dropped to the deck
unconcernedly, close by Brydell.

“My man,” said Brydell sharply, “you must be smarter at your duty than
that.”

Without a word Black rushed at Brydell and with one blow felled him to
the deck; then, as if maddened, he jumped on him and began kicking him
furiously. In an instant a dozen brawny arms had seized the
insubordinate sailor and he was dragged below, fighting and resisting
violently.

Neither the blow nor the kicks had seriously hurt Brydell. He was dazed
by the suddenness of it, but in half a minute he was on his feet, none
the worse but for a few bruises. The men, seeing his escape and knowing
how much the safety of all on board depended on the young ensign, with
one accord gave him three thundering cheers that echoed above the
roaring of the storm.

All night the tempest raved, and when a ghastly dawn followed, the ship
was still fighting for her life. Brydell did not once leave the deck,
but toward noon the wind calmed, and although the sea still ran high the
fury of the storm was over.

About two o’clock in the day the Spitfire was sighted. Brydell, knowing
her superior speed, signaled: “Report us all right and we will be in
some time to-day.”

The Spitfire signaled back: “Congratulations. Who commands?” The answer
came: “Ensign Brydell. Verdery hurt, but not seriously.”

With this good report the Spitfire steamed away for the anchorage.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                             A SAFE RETURN.


Just at sunset that night the anxious group of officers on the dock
caught sight of the smoke from the Naiad’s funnels, and in a little
while the great frigate came in sight. As she neared her anchorage in
the sunset glow they could see the scarcity of officers on her decks;
there were only Brydell, Manning, and Buxton; for, although Verdery was
on deck, he was seated in a chair with his eyes bound up.

“Gentlemen,” said Admiral Beaumont to his officers as the ship was hove
to and anchored in seamanlike style, “yonder shows what can be done by a
lot of schoolboys who know their duty and can do it. The eldest of those
young officers, young Brydell, is scarcely more than a boy, yet he acted
with all the boldness and decision of a man, and has done as well as you
or I or any of us could.”

And then a cheer went up from the crowds on the dock, the admiral
leading and waving his cap enthusiastically. As soon as a boat could be
set off Admiral Beaumont, the captain, and the officers went aboard.

When Brydell met them at the gangway he was far from being the trim and
fresh-looking young fellow he had been twenty-four hours before. His
eyes were heavy from want of sleep, and his face evidently needed
washing. His uniform had got wet and dried on him without improving his
appearance in the least. But Admiral Beaumont saw none of this; he only
wrung Brydell’s hand without speaking. Brydell, with a flush rising in
his wan face, said, smiling:—

“No accidents, admiral, except Mr. Verdery’s with his eyes, and the
surgeon says that will not be serious, and one staysail torn, but I
think it can be mended.”

Verdery, holding on to the surgeon’s arm, rose to shake hands with the
admiral. “And I wish to tell you, sir,” he said loudly so everybody
could hear him, “that I was disabled at the very beginning of the storm
and never gave an order, and the safety of the ship and her company is
due entirely to the coolness, ability, and courage of Mr. Brydell, who
commanded through it all, and that of the other officers acting under
his orders.”

Brydell turned crimson; he had only done his duty, and he felt ashamed
to be made a hero of in that way.

“Any other officer, I am sure, would have done as well,” he managed to
stammer. “Mr. Crawford, Mr. Manning, Mr. Buxton—all did equally well.”

“Very true,” said the admiral, smiling. “It is presumed that all
officers do their duty intelligently in an emergency, but it is very
great good fortune for a young officer to have a chance for distinction,
and to be equal to the occasion, and I desire to express my very great
satisfaction at your conduct.”

The other two young midshipmen and the engineer were also highly
praised, nor was Verdery’s admirable example in remaining on deck
forgotten, and the Naiad was indeed a happy ship. And in a little while
a boat was seen pulling from the Spitfire, and in a few minutes Captain
Brydell stepped aboard the Naiad.

Brydell was so worn out with fatigue and excitement that as soon as the
captain resumed command he would have gone below at once except for the
expectation of seeing his father, but he waited for that. Captain
Brydell had meant to shake hands with him formally in the presence of so
many officers and men, but before they knew it, almost, father and son
were in each other’s arms. The admiral took Brydell by the shoulder.

“Young man,” said he, “do you go below and go to sleep. Captain Brydell
and I want to hear all about the affair from someone who observed your
gallant conduct, and will do it justice much more than you would—so go.”

Brydell needed no second order. He went below, and throwing himself, all
dressed as he was, upon his bunk, in five minutes was sleeping like a
log.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                      BRYDELL REDEEMS HIS PROMISE.


When Brydell waked it was near daylight next morning. His first thoughts
were confused and then the recollection of Black’s blow and the terrible
consequences to a sailor of striking an officer rushed to his mind. And
he remembered poor Grubb, his early friend, and thought to himself: “If
I can do anything for Esdaile, I will for Grubb’s sake.”

He was so troubled that he could sleep no more, and dressed and went on
deck very early. As soon as the regular routine was gone through, the
admiral sent for him into the cabin, where he asked an exact account of
everything, especially in regard to Black’s attack on him.

Brydell at once told him that he felt convinced Black was Esdaile. This
troubled Admiral Beaumont as it had troubled Brydell. He had sincerely
respected poor Grubb, and the spectacle of his boy’s downfall was a
painful one.

“I have issued an order this morning for a court-martial, and you will
probably be the first witness called,” said he.

“Admiral,” said Brydell after a moment, “I would like your permission to
see Black; I don’t care anything for him, but I promised my poor old
friend to do what I could for his son, and I’d like to tell him that I
haven’t any animosity toward him.”

The admiral gave his permission and Brydell went below to the dark place
where Black was in irons. He was sitting up with a scowl on his face,
and even in the dim light of the gruesome place Brydell saw that it was
Esdaile.

“I’m sorry to see you here,” said he when the marine on guard had turned
his back. “The more so that I believe your father was a man I loved very
much.”

“I’m Esdaile, if that is what you mean,” answered the supposed Black
coolly. “Of course I’ve gone to the dogs, driven to it by being driven
out of my class. My money went a long time ago, and as I knew no way of
making a living but by shipping before the mast, here I am.”

Brydell said not a word, but the thought of poor Grubb, his simple
honesty, his mistaken indulgence to his boy, his enduring poverty, and
privation all his life for this boy almost overcame him. Esdaile,
watching Brydell’s face, saw he was deeply moved, and so touching is the
sight of magnanimity and sympathy that few hearts can withstand it.
Esdaile’s could not.

After a few moments he broke the painful pause, saying hesitatingly and
with something like a sob between his words, “And when I saw you
standing there last night, an officer, and with such a chance for
distinction, I couldn’t help hating you; and when you spoke to me
sharply about my duty, I went crazy, I believe, and struck you. Now I
suppose I’ll have five or ten years in prison and after that I’ll take
my choice between the workhouse and the jail.”

Brydell, like most courageous and upright men, had a tender heart, and
the words of the man before him, scarcely a year older than himself,
gave him a powerful shock.

“I’m sorry to hear you talk in that way,” he said after a moment; “but I
want to tell you this—that although I shall have to tell exactly what
happened before the court-martial, I can’t find in my heart the least
feeling of revenge against poor old Grubb’s son, and when you are let
out of prison, if you’ll come to me, I’ll do what I can for you, because
I promised him when he was dying”—Brydell paused, and a slight change
came over Esdaile’s face at this, but he said nothing and Brydell turned
away.

The next day but one the court met, and it made short work with Esdaile.
The testimony was complete, and the offence of striking an officer,
under the circumstances, was almost as grave as if it were in time of
war.

When Brydell was called upon for his evidence he gave it in a plain and
straightforward way, and his examination brought out the fact that the
alleged Black was the son of Grubb the marine, who had been known to one
or two of the older officers in the court. Brydell could not but make
the best showing he could for Esdaile, and something in Esdaile’s face
seemed to indicate that a humanizing process was going on within him. It
was indeed the turning point in his life. Before that he had not fully
realized the wrongdoing of his whole life, but finding himself on trial
for a charge that must send him to prison, gave him some awful moments
of reflection.

Only a day or two were consumed in the trial. Every time that Brydell
saw Esdaile led forward to his place to be tried for what was in
military morals and discipline a terrible offence, it gave him a feeling
of agony. He thought of his kind old friend, and the tears would come
into his eyes in spite of himself. Esdaile was singularly cool and
behaved civilly and respectfully to the court.

At last the verdict was given out—five years in prison. Everybody was
surprised at its leniency. Esdaile when called up for sentence was asked
if he had anything to say.

“Only this, if you please, gentlemen,” he answered calmly, in the tone
and manner of an educated man. “The time was when Mr. Brydell and I were
not so unequal in our standing. I made a mistake, committed a fault, if
you will, in my early youth, that has made me what I am. I had not seen
Mr. Brydell since; we had both of us been youths together. On the night
of the storm I stood apart from my mates, watching him and envying him.
Here, thought I, is he—an officer, suddenly finding himself in the
position to reap the greatest credit, with the admiral, the captain, and
all the officers in the squadron to witness it, while I, a sailor before
the mast, forced to conceal my real name, poor and friendless, might
have been where he is. And when I went aloft I scarcely knew what I was
doing. When I came down on deck he spoke to me; I believe he
acknowledged that he spoke impatiently, and some devil seemed to rise up
in me, and I would have killed him if I could. But that has all passed.
I have been tried fairly and impartially, and all I can ask is the mercy
of the court.”

In the midst of a deep and breathless silence the verdict was read—five
years in prison. Esdaile, still wearing his impassive look, neither
groaned nor fell as men sometimes do in his awful circumstances; he only
said after a painful pause of a few minutes:—

“I thank the court for its very moderate punishment, and I should like
the favor of seeing Mr. Brydell.”

Brydell was hastily sent for. He had purposely kept out of the way; the
sight of Esdaile’s misery was terrible to him. He was found though, and
at once came in response to the summons.

“Mr. Brydell,” said Esdaile in the same composed and reasonable voice,
“I have received my sentence and nothing I may say or do now can
mitigate it. You will therefore think me sincere when I ask your pardon
for my conduct, and tell you that if I live to get out of prison I will
lead a different life. Won’t you shake hands with me, sir?”

Brydell, choking with emotion, held out his hand and, for the first time
in the lives of the two young men, they met in mutual goodwill.

It was now time for the Naiad to sail for home, and Esdaile had to be
taken back in her before he was consigned to prison. He was kept in
solitary confinement and treated rigorously but not unkindly.

Brydell asked permission of the admiral to go to Esdaile’s cell every
day for a few minutes. They would talk together, and Brydell began to
see that Esdaile was indeed a changed man. These visits became the one
bright spot in Esdaile’s hard life, and when at last the ship reached
New York he felt that he had at least one friend in the world.

                            * * * * * * * *

One night some years after that Brydell, now one of the brightest
lieutenants in the navy, sat in his pleasant quarters writing. His wife
sat near him under a softly shaded lamp, reading. After a long silence,
broken only by the scratching of Brydell’s pen, he turned to her and
handed her a paper.

“Read that, Minna,” he said. “Esdaile, I believe, is a reformed man.
These people will give him a place as bookkeeper, but as he told them
frankly his past history, they write me that if I will go on Esdaile’s
bond for five thousand dollars they will take him. I don’t believe there
is the slightest danger; his fault, you know, was not connected with
money; but I don’t think it right for any man to assume this sort of
responsibility without his wife’s consent. So it rests with you whether
I shall guarantee Esdaile or not.”

Minna took the letter and read it carefully. Then handing it back said
softly: “Of course you must sign it. Didn’t you promise the poor marine
when he was dying that you would befriend his boy?”

“It is you who are befriending him now,” answered Brydell. “Whenever a
man is saved there is always a good woman who has a share in it. Between
us we will redeem my promise to dear old Grubb. Here goes!” And Brydell
signed the letter.



                            A FOK’SLE STORY.


                    [Illustration: A FOK’SLE STORY.]



                               CHAPTER I.
                         ON BOARD THE DIOMEDE.


At sunset, on a wild January afternoon in 1776, the Diomede frigate
passed Beaver-Tail light and entered the harbor of Newport. At that time
the town was held by a large British fleet and land force.

The Diomede was a crack frigate and evidently had a crack crew from the
beautiful precision with which she made a flying moor. It seemed as if
in one minute her yards were squared, her sails furled, and her cable
rushed out of the hawse hole in a blaze of sparks.

All this was done under the orders of the Diomede’s commander, Captain
Forrester, who, being one of the best seamen in the British navy, liked
to show his skill in anchoring before the assembled fleet. As soon as
everything was made snug the captain went below and, seating himself at
the cabin table, began to examine some papers by the light of the
swinging lamp. He had a kindly, frank face, which was an index to a
kindly, frank nature.

After reading and writing for a while he called to the orderly who stood
at the cabin door.

“Direct the master-at-arms to bring me the man and the boy taken
prisoners on the brig Betsey,” he said.

The orderly disappeared and a few minutes later the master-at-arms
marched in with a remarkably handsome old sailor of about sixty and a
boy of ten or twelve.

As soon as the old sailor saw the captain, he touched his glazed hat
with prompt civility and in a way very suggestive of a naval man,
although he wore the rough pea jacket of a merchant sailor.

Captain Forrester motioned to the master-at-arms to leave him alone with
the two prisoners. As soon as the master-at-arms’ back was turned, the
captain said to the old sailor: “Shut the door, Bell.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” answered Bell in a tone and manner of deference clearly
never learned in the merchant service.

“You see I know your name,” continued Captain Forrester, looking at him
keenly.

“Yes, sir,” replied the old sailor slyly, with something suspiciously
near a smile; “Bell ain’t a uncommon name, and I once knowed a
midshipman named Forrester, sir; a mighty smart little reefer he was,
too, sir.”

This time it was the captain’s turn to smile when he spoke.

“The man Bell that I knew was an American, but he had spent most of his
life in His Majesty’s service—Jack Bell he was—captain of the mizzentop
when I was midshipman on the Indomptable, and captain of the maintop
when I was sailing master on the old Colossus.”

Jack Bell’s eyes gleamed as the captain spoke, and there was an
answering gleam in the captain’s eyes. The tie that unites good
shipmates is a strong one, no matter how great the difference in rank;
and the old sailor’s delight at being recognized, although it might mean
trouble for him, was evident.

The captain remembered that in his reefer days, when as a mere lad he
was ordered to command a boat’s crew, that Jack Bell had always been
orderly, respectful, and sober, and had helped him out of not a few
scrapes, and had occasionally got him into some.

“The first time I ever went aloft,” said the captain, smiling
involuntarily, “Jack Bell was in the mizzentop, and I recollect my
feelings when I was ready to go down, and Jack held on to me, insisting
I should pay my footing.”

“Ten shillings it were, sir,” chimed in Jack with a broad grin. “That’s
what was axed reg’lar of the reefers on the old Indomptable, and many’s
the shilling you’ve give me besides—I—I mean—you give that ’ere Jack
Bell.”

Jack stopped, wholly confused.

“And that Jack Bell was a famous singer. Many a night when the ship was
going along under easy sail with a fair wind, I have sat for hours
listening to Jack’s sea songs, like ‘Tom Bowline,’ ‘When the Wind at
Night Whistles o’er the Deep,’ and all those fine old catches. I never
heard anybody sing them so well as he.”

“His voice is badly cracked now, sir,” said Jack solemnly, “but this
’ere little brat Dicky Stubbs can sing all them old songs—Jack Bell
l’arned ’em to him. But, Jack, he remembers that ’ere little midshipman
Forrester—and a gallant officer, sir, he turned out to be
arterwards—when he was sailin’ master on the Colossus. Did you ever see,
sir, such a ornhandy ship for tackin’ as the old Colossus? If Mr.
Forrester hadn’t been a rale sailor, he’d ’a’ got hisself in trouble all
the time with that old three-decker.”

Captain Forrester knew this was honest praise from an honest man, and it
pleased him more than many fine words from fine people. After a moment
Jack continued:—

“Axin’ your parding, sir, there’s a midshipman on this ’ere ship as is
named Mr. Forrester. I never see a young gentleman so like that other
midshipman Forrester as I knowed more ’n twenty-five year ago.”

“That’s my son—my only child—and a smart fellow, if I do say it myself.
But I want to hear something about Jack Bell. The man I knew was a
devoted American. I wonder what he did when the colonies rebelled
against His Majesty?”

Jack twiddled his cap awkwardly for a moment, glanced around and saw the
door was shut, and then began to speak. His manner was respectful and
not without a rude and simple eloquence of his own.

“Cap’n Forrester, that man Jack Bell wanted for to do his duty. He had
tooken the oath to King George when he ’listed in the navy and had
served him stiddy for more ’n forty year. But that man, Cap’n Forrester,
sir, was a American, and when that there Congress at Philadelphy said
Ameriky was free and independent, Jack Bell, he were in a peck o’
trouble. There was his oath o’ allegiance to King George starin’ him in
the face, and there were the heart and soul o’ him tellin’ him he were a
villain to fight ag’in his own country. Well, sir, Bell, not bein’ a
eddicated man, couldn’t think out easy what was right for him to
do—’cause that man, sir, wanted for to do his duty. But he knowed if he
had suspicioned King George was a-goin’ to declare war ag’in Ameriky,
Bell, he’d ’a’ never tooken that oath; so at last he thought it was his
duty to desert.”

The old sailor paused slightly at this word, and the officer and the
former captain of the maintop looked each other squarely in the eye. The
boy Dicky Stubbs, who had a bright glance, gazed first at one and then
at the other, wondering what it all was about. After a little pause Jack
Bell continued:—

“Well, sir, that man Bell had a considerable sum o’ prize money due him,
but he thought as how he’d ruther not take it, as he was goin’ to take
French leave; so he give that up willin’ and cheerful. And he knowed,
too, if he were caught, he’d be strung up at the yardarm in spite of his
havin’ served King George for more ’n forty years faithful; but he
thought he couldn’t die but oncet for his country, and it didn’t matter
much which way he went, if only he was a-doin’ of his duty. So one night
at Gibralty, Jack Bell disappeared from his ship—’twas a ship o’ the
line. Maybe the Don Spaniards garroted him; maybe he was tooken by
pirates; maybe he got on a American merchant vessel that was took
arterwards by the British, who thought she was a privateer. Anyhow Jack
Bell did what he thought was right, and if he’s got to be hanged for it,
well, that’s a easy, comfortable way o’ gittin’ out o’ the world, and
Jack Bell ain’t got no apologies to make, excep’”—and here the old
sailor’s voice deepened—“excep’ for not desertin’ sooner.”

All this time the officer and the sailor had looked steadily at each
other. Captain Forrester knew perfectly well that the man before him was
Jack Bell, and, if openly recognized, there would be but a short step
for him from the fok’sle of the Diomede to the whip[3] at the yardarm.
But Captain Forrester also believed Jack had acted from his conscience,
and he did not believe in hanging a man for that. After a pause the
captain spoke:—

“Sometimes it is as hard for an educated man as for an uneducated one to
know on which side his duty lies; but it is safer to be on the side of
mercy. If I should meet Bell, I should not feel obliged to know him.”

At this Jack stood upright at “attention” and saluted the captain. Each
knew what that meant. It was Jack’s way of thanking the captain, who
knew him perfectly well, for not betraying him.

“There is one thing, though, my conscience would require me to do if I
should meet Bell,” continued Captain Forrester. “It is to land him here
where he can be watched, that he can’t get away to enlist in the rebel
navy, army, or marine corps. If King George can’t have his services, the
rebels sha’n’t.”

Jack’s face was a study in its intense disappointment, but in a little
while he seemed to submit to the inevitable.

“Well, sir,” he said, “Jack’s pretty old now—goin’ on to sixty—and he
ain’t wuth his salt, excep’ as a foremast man on a man-o’-war. So
neither King George nor Ameriky ain’t losin’ much. He’d ’a’ liked to
jine the navy, but as for the marines, poor Jack Bell wouldn’t trust
hisself with them murderin’ marines.”

“The Jack Bell I know always hated the marines,” said Captain Forrester
with a smile.

“I reckon he do still,” calmly remarked Jack. “And as for fightin’ on
dry land—why, sir, he’d git so tired runnin’ about he never could do no
fightin’. Landsmen instid o’ fightin’ at close quarters fights over
forty or fifty acres and does more walkin’ than fightin’, I’m thinkin’.”

“Well, then,” said Captain Forrester, “to leave Jack Bell and come to
your own affairs. When I land you to-morrow morning I shall ask the
authorities to give you the run of the town of Newport, but not to let
you go outside. I think I can contrive it through the admiral, who is my
friend. And how about this youngster here?”

“That brat, axin’ your parding, sir, is the son o’ the Widow Stubbs at
Newport—a excellent woman, and a good hand at book-larnin’, as well as
at the spinnin’ wheel. Her husband was killed in one o’ the fust
scrimmages o’ the war, and this ’ere brat, he run away to jine the
’Merican navy and was took on the Betsey along with me. I knowed his
mother well, and I’ve kinder kep’ my eye on the young one. He is a right
handy sort o’ boy, and he can sing a lot o’ chunes I’ve larned him. He
can sing all the old songs and two or three ‘Tid re I’s’ I’ve set him.”

“Pipe up, youngster,” said the captain; “I’d like to hear one of the old
songs again. Give me ‘When the Wind at Night Whistles o’er the Deep.’”

Little Dicky Stubbs looked scared to death. His mouth came open, but no
sound issued. Jack Bell, giving him a nudge that nearly broke his ribs,
whispered:—

“Didn’t you hear the cap’n tell you to pipe up, you mutinous brat?”

Thus adjured, Dicky began in a deliciously sweet but rather uncertain
voice:[4]

  When the wind at night whistles o’er the deep
    And sings to landsmen dreary,
  The sailor, fearless, goes to sleep
    Or takes his watch most cheery.
          Snoozing here,
          Tossing there,
          Steadily, readily,
          Cheerily, merrily,
  Still from care and thinking free,
  Is a sailor’s life at sea.

Before he reached the third line Dicky’s courage, and his voice too,
returned and he sang like some sweet-throated bird the next verse:—

  When the ship, d’ye see, becomes a wreck,
    And landsmen hoist the boat, sir,
  The sailor scorns to quit the deck
    While there’s a single plank afloat, sir.

Captain Forrester, leaning his head on his hand, listened to the song
that carried him back to his midshipman days, and watched the boy whose
young fresh voice echoed through the low-pitched cabin. Dicky was
unmistakably a child of the people, but his honest face, his bright,
intelligent eyes, and his clean though ragged attire made him a
prepossessing little fellow.

“You may go now,” said Captain Forrester to Jack Bell, and meanwhile
giving Dicky a bright shilling, “but do not forget what I have told you,
and also that you have got off very well. As for that lad, take him to
his mother and tell her to keep him at home until he has cut his wisdom
teeth.”

“Thank ye kindly, sir,” answered Jack. “I’ll not forget your orders,
sir, and as long as I live I’ll not forget your kindness, sir.” And,
with a parting salute, Jack returned to the custody of the waiting
master-at-arms.



                              CHAPTER II.
                           A GALLANT RESCUE.


The next morning ushered in a blustering day, and the wind blew so hard
as to make it decidedly uncomfortable for small boats in the harbor.

In the forenoon a boat was lowered from the Diomede to take Jack Bell
and Dicky Stubbs ashore. Captain Forrester had seen the admiral, and had
got permission to let Jack Bell remain at Newport in a merely nominal
imprisonment, upon the ground of the old sailor’s age; and with many
thanks Jack bade the captain good-by and got in the boat, with Dicky
after him.

The boat was commanded by young Forrester, the captain’s son, and so
like his father that Jack felt as if he had turned back many pages of
his life, and it was the Midshipman Forrester of twenty-five years ago
before him.

The captain’s gig had put off from the ship with the captain, bound
ashore, and was far behind the midshipman’s boat. The young midshipman
steered straight for the landing-place, but he knew nothing of the tides
and currents of the harbor. The fierce wind was against them, and he
suddenly found the boat too close to the shore, and fast nearing a ledge
of sunken rocks, around which the waves were boiling. As he half-rose
from his seat the boat lurched violently and he suddenly lost his
balance; in another moment he was jerked overboard and disappeared. A
cry went up from every man in the boat except Jack Bell. It was not a
mere everyday fall overboard, but a fall amid sharp-pointed rocks and
dangerous eddies. Before the echo of that cry had died over the water,
Jack Bell had kicked off his shoes, peeled off his jacket, and had
plunged into the icy water after the young midshipman.

Every movement was plain to Captain Forrester in his gig, only a short
distance away; and his crew, in a moment, pulled furiously toward the
other boat.

Jack Bell had dived exactly over the spot where young Forrester had
disappeared. In a minute or two he came up, but alone. At this the
agonized father covered his face and groaned. But after a few long
breaths Jack dived again. This time when he rose a great shout went
up—he had young Forrester in his arms.

In another minute he was in the boat, which headed for the nearest
shore, closely followed by the captain’s gig. Just above where they
landed was a lonely little cottage, and as soon as the keel touched the
sand two powerful sailors seized the unconscious young midshipman and,
led by Jack Bell and followed by Dicky Stubbs, rushed up the steep
incline toward the cottage.

Captain Forrester was not far behind, but when he reached the cottage
the little midshipman’s clothes had been stripped from him, Jack Bell
was vigorously rolling, rubbing, and pounding him, while Dicky Stubbs
and his mother—for it was the Widow Stubbs’ plain cottage—were wringing
out hot cloths to put on young Forrester. Just as Captain Forrester
entered, the young midshipman gave a loud gasp and opened his eyes, only
to close them again.

“He’s all right, sir,” cheerily called out Jack Bell, not stopping in
his rubbing. “He’s wuth all the dead reefers betwixt Newport and Chiny.
He got a whack on his head from some o’ them jagged rocks, and he just
fainted like—but he’s a-comin’ to fast, sir.”

“He would not have been here to come to at all if it had not been for
you, my friend,” said the captain in a choking voice.

Jack Bell said nothing,—he was too busy,—and the captain, seeing the
color return to his boy’s face, and that he was breathing better at
every moment, sat and watched with longing eyes his return to life. The
Widow Stubbs was as useful in her way as Jack Bell, while Dicky seemed
to have six hands and four legs, he was so helpful.

In half an hour the young fellow was laid in the widow’s plain though
clean bed, and, except a little weakness, was as well as ever he was in
his life, and was carried on board the Diomede that very afternoon. The
story of Jack Bell’s plunge into the surf for him was known on board,
and from that hour Jack was safe from being denounced as a deserter.

The fact that he was born in America had already deprived his offence of
the moral guilt that would have attached to it. It was common enough for
British sailors to be pressed into the service of Spanish and French
ships when captured on merchant vessels, but there was an unwritten law
that they should desert the first chance they had. This rule applied
perfectly to Jack Bell, and his plucky dive after a young British
officer secured for him that his past should be universally winked at
among the officers and sailors at Newport who might recognize him.

That same night Captain Forrester came ashore and went straight to the
Widow Stubbs’ cottage, where he felt certain he would meet the three
persons he most desired to see there.

Sure enough, on opening the door he found the widow, Jack Bell, and the
boy Dicky sitting before a blazing hickory fire in the humble
living-room. The widow sat at her spinning wheel in one corner, and the
wheel hummed merrily. They were so poor they could not afford even a
tallow dip, but the fire made the tidy little place quite bright and
cheery. Jack Bell sat on the wooden settle, and curled up by him was
Dicky Stubbs.

Dicky had just been displaying his new accomplishments in the singing
line, and the Widow Stubbs had swelled with pride at the display of
Dicky’s talents. It was happiness enough to get him back alive and well,
but to find him so grown, so much improved from the ragged urchin who
had run away, and with such a wonderful new gift of singing, made the
Widow Stubbs an uncommonly happy woman.

They all rose as Captain Forrester entered, and the widow gave him her
only armchair.

“I have come to thank you all for my son’s life,” said Captain Forrester
as soon as he was seated, “but especially Jack Bell, here, who risked
his own life in jumping overboard among the rocks for my son. Of course
I never can pay you for it—but here is something that at least may give
you some comforts;” and the captain took from his breast a small package
made up of golden sovereigns banded together and held it toward Jack
Bell.

Jack, however, shook his head and folded his arms.

“I thank ’ee, sir, most respectful for ’em, and I don’t mean to hurt
your feelin’s by refusin’; but I can’t take money for savin’ anybody’s
life—and leastways from you, Cap’n Forrester—as was”— Jack Bell paused,
smiled knowingly, and then continued: “This ’ere boy sings a song called
‘Old Shipmates.’”

“Yes, I know,” answered the captain, smiling back and knowing that Jack
meant that he and the captain had been shipmates; “but think of the
pleasure you would give me to know that this little present would make
your old age comfortable.”

“True, sir,” answered Jack; “but I ain’t used to livin’ on my money, and
I’d be a sight happier if I had sumpin’ to do, like bein’ a night
watchman or some sich thing. You see, sir, I has had a watch now for
more ’n forty year, and it seems so ornnateral for me to git into a
standin’ bed place and know I ain’t got to hear the boatswain’s call
when it’s time to turn out, that I can’t sleep a wink. Now it seems to
me, sir, as if I had a watch on shore I could walk up and down this ’ere
town callin’ out the hours, and it would seem like I was standin’ my
reg’lar watch.”

“But couldn’t you stand watch on shore, as you call it, just as well if
you knew you had a little money put away?”

“Not for savin’ a life, sir,” answered Jack as politely as ever; but the
captain knew then there was no hope of his taking the money. “If you’d
be so kind, sir, as to git me the place as watchman, I wouldn’t ax no
better.”

“You shall certainly have a watchman’s place,” said the captain, who
mentally added, “if I have to pay your wages out of my own pocket.”

“It would seem mightily like the lookout,” continued Jack evidently
tickled with his new scheme. “I dessay I’d forgit and call out: ‘Eight
bells! Bright light, weather cathead!’ instid o’ ‘Twelve o’clock, and
all’s well!’”

The captain laughed at this and then turned to the Widow Stubbs:—

“And you, madam, and your son—will you not permit me to give you some
little token of gratitude for your help in restoring my son?”

The Widow Stubbs blushed at this, but, like Jack Bell, she had scruples
about taking any recompense for the saving of life, especially as she
was a woman of some education and stood a little higher in the world
than Jack Bell.

“No, sir, I thank you; but I could not accept money from anyone. What I
did was very little, and what my boy did was still less. I am glad,
though, we were able to do that little.”

The captain felt disappointed when he put his money back in his breast
pocket, but he was too much the gentleman to insist on these humble
people receiving what they felt themselves above taking.

“At all events,” he said, looking toward Dicky’s round, bright face, “I
might be able to do something for your boy.”

“I am afraid not,” answered the widow with a faint smile. “We are
patriots—my boy and I; my husband was killed only six months ago in the
Continental Army, and there is nothing that a British officer could do
for him, no matter how kindly meant.”

“What do you mean to do with him at present?” asked Captain Forrester.

The widow shook her head.

“I have just got him back after he ran away. I have not had time to
think; but there is always work hereabouts for a good strong boy like
Dicky.”

“Provided he does not run away again,” said Captain Forrester.

Dicky turned a rosy red at finding himself the subject of conversation
and astonished his mother by stuttering out,—

“P-p-please, sir, don’t the British ever give folks their parole? I—I
mean, let ’em—go—if they promise they won’t do so any more?”

The Widow Stubbs heard this with surprise and indignation. She had been
much distressed when Dicky had run away to join the Continental navy,
although he never got farther than the merchant ship Betsey; but his
apparent eagerness to promise he would not do so any more struck her as
a want of spirit in the boy that mortified her keenly.

“Why, Dicky Stubbs!” she exclaimed, and said no more for very shame of
him.

“Yes; we take paroles,” said Captain Forrester, supposing Dicky knew it
referred only to officers.

“Then, sir,” cried Dicky, whose ideas of a parole were very hazy, “all
I’ve got to say is that I don’t want no parole,—I wouldn’t take it if
you was to offer it to me,—and I ain’t going to give no promise about
not running away again. Just as soon as I am big enough to carry my
father’s musket I’m a-going to enlist in the ’Merican army under General
Washington, and it won’t be long before I do it, neither!”

This sudden outbreak was followed by the Widow Stubbs clasping Dicky in
her arms and crying,“That’s my own boy!” while Jack Bell said “Hooray!”
under his breath.

But Captain Forrester, instead of sternly calling upon Dicky to recant,
as Dicky hoped, who meant to hurl defiance at him, only laughed. Dicky
could have cried with rage and disappointment when the captain got up,
still laughing, and said:—

“General Washington will gain a valuable recruit, and King George a
dangerous enemy.”

“I hope you’ll excuse him,” said the widow, smiling, but a little
ashamed of Dicky’s forwardness; “he doesn’t mean to be impudent.”

“I know it,” said the captain. “He is a lad of spirit, and I like that
kind. I will now bid you good evening with a thousand thanks for your
kindness to my son; and if you get in any trouble with that youngster of
yours, write to General Prescott and mention my name; and as for you,
Bell, the less we say about the days on the Indomptable and the old
Colossus, the better, eh?”

Jack Bell grinned broadly at that and answered:—

“I knowed, sir, you wouldn’t blow the gaff on a old shipmate.”

“Good-by, then,” said Captain Forrester. “You shall be made a watchman;
and remember, if you get in any trouble you must manage to communicate
with me; but I hope that prosperity may attend all of you, whom I can
never forget and must always feel grateful to.”

The Widow Stubbs made a low bow, Jack Bell saluted, and Dicky, getting a
lantern, lighted the captain to his boat, which lay at the foot of the
cliff.



                              CHAPTER III.
                          DICKY’S PATRIOTISM.


Jack Bell very promptly got his appointment as a watchman, and soon
every night he paraded the streets of Newport with a stick and a
lantern, calling out the hours as the night slipped away. He never could
bring himself, though, to calling as the other watchmen did,—the hour,
and then, “All’s well!”—but sung out every half-hour the time according
to the ship’s bells, always adding what the weather was, and where the
wind lay, such as, “Six bells! Wind sou’-sou’-east!”

The townspeople soon got used to the old sailor’s way and he was not
molested in his peculiar ideas of the time. At all events, evil
characters who prowled by night had great respect for him after having
once felt the force of his stick, because in spite of his age Jack’s arm
was still stalwart, and he was not given to arguing with offenders.

At that time there was a large British fleet under Admiral Wallace lying
off Newport, besides a large land force under General Prescott. It was
impossible for Jack not to have a great many more acquaintances than he
desired among the sailors of the fleet. But although his true story was
more than suspected, it was perfectly well known that he had a powerful
protector in Captain Forrester. Jack’s bold dive into the icy water had
turned out a good thing for him. So Jack walked his beat all night, and
went back at daylight to the Widow Stubbs’ cottage where he slept in the
loft until midday, and was as little unhappy as he could be on shore.

The Widow Stubbs had spoken quite confidently to Captain Forrester of
Dicky’s capacity to make a living, but it turned out not so easy as she
fancied in spite of the fact that Dicky was strong and bright and
willing to work. But he was only a twelve-year-old boy, and the war
times made business of all sorts dull. Dicky worked around the wharves,
but there were scarcely any merchant vessels plying, and the waterfront
was almost deserted except by the British warships and crews.

The Americans held the opposite shore of Narragansett Bay, and Dicky
imagined that on fine days he could see the American flag flying there,
and the sight always made him feel very well disposed to run away again,
but he never did.

Dicky, however, discovered very unexpectedly that he possessed a means
of livelihood in his beautiful young voice, and in the songs that Jack
Bell had taught him. But the treasure of Dicky’s life was a little
dog’s-eared, ill-printed book of patriotic songs, all predicting the
speedy overthrow of John Bull, and the certainty that the patriots would
soon drive every British soldier and sailor off American soil. The book
had been smuggled over from the Narragansett side, and was rather a
dangerous possession. But as Dicky soon learned the songs all by heart,
it would not have mattered if it had been found and destroyed.

It was the dream of Dicky’s life though, as well as of Jack Bell’s, to
compose a song themselves. They had no scruples about adapting somebody
else’s music, but they burned with ambition to create a new set of words
which rhymed. Many a night before it was time for Jack’s watch to begin,
would he and Dicky struggle over a slate on which they had marked lines,
something like this:—

  ____sea
  ____be
  ____shore
  ____gore
  ____sail
  ____hail

But they never got any farther.

“Seems to me, young ’un,” said Jack, scratching his head, “we’re
beginnin’ at the wrong end. It’s stern foremost, d’ye see?”

“Yes, sir,” Dicky would reply, “but in poetry I believe you are obliged
to begin stern foremost—because if you begin at the beginning you never
get any poetry—just as if it was makin’ a song like this:—

“The ’Mericans are gallant lads; they’re bound to whip Johnny Bull. It
don’t make no matter if Johnny Bull has got more ships and soldiers.
We’re goin’ to whip him. Now that ain’t poetry, because I begun at the
beginning.”

“That’s so,” Jack would reluctantly admit; “but if it ain’t poetry, it’s
mighty good sense, and I hope it’ll all come true.”

In those days tavern kitchens were very respectable resorts of the
humbler classes of people and Jack Bell was very fond of the kitchen of
the Eagle Tavern. The proprietor, Jacob Dyer, was a patriot at heart;
but his house was so much the resort of British sailors and soldiers
that he dared not avow the full extent of his sympathies.

In the kitchen Dicky made most of his pennies—and he made so many that
they soon grew into shillings. It might have been rather a dangerous
place to trust a weak or a vicious boy; but Dicky was neither weak nor
vicious. He went to the tavern to sing his songs, and when he got
through he scampered off home to his mother with his money and was very
glad to get there. Besides, at the time when he usually turned up at the
tavern to sing, Jack Bell was comfortably established in the
chimney-corner and he kept a sharp eye on Dicky and promptly reported
any bad manners or other small offences to the Widow Stubbs, who upon
the few occasions that Dicky had transgressed always came down on him
with the heavy hand of justice armed with a good birch switch.

One afternoon Dicky turned up at the tavern, as usual, and found the
kitchen full of sailors from several cruisers of Lord Howe’s fleet that
had rendezvoused at Newport.

“Here you are, you young rapscallion!” called out one jolly
man-o’-war’s-man. “Come here and give us ‘Black-eyed Susan’ or I’ll give
you the cat.”

This being the usual form in which those requests were made, Dicky
nodded his head, grinned, and perched himself on the kitchen dresser to
be heard the better. Having trolled out “Black-eyed Susan,” “Strike
Eight Bells,” and other nautical ditties in his sweet boyish treble,
Dicky got down and began to hand his homespun hat around for pennies.
The sailors were liberal and Dicky was beginning to think how his mother
would smile as he upset the hat in her lap, when one of the sailors, a
fellow with a great voice, seized him and, holding up a glass of rum,
called out: “Here, you lubber! come and drink the king’s health.”

“Much obliged, sir,” answered Dicky readily; “but my mother don’t on no
account let me touch rum, and I’ve promised her I won’t.”

How glad was Dicky at that moment that he had made the promise! His
mother had asked him and he had done it without giving it any particular
thought; but when it came to saving him from drinking the king’s health,
Dicky’s patriotic soul rejoiced that he had so good an excuse.

The man, rough as he was, could not ask the boy to break his word, but
he was determined to get some British sentiment out of Dicky.

“Then you pipe up ‘God Save the King’ as loud as you can,” he cried.

“I c-c-can’t,” said Dicky, looking around at Jack Bell in the corner.
Jack gave him an almost imperceptible wink and nod, which meant: “You’re
right; stick to it.”

“But you shall!” roared the sailor.

“But I won’t!” shouted Dicky boldly, and making a dash for the
rolling-pin on the dresser, which he seized and flourished stoutly.

The sailor made a dash for Dicky, who, as alert as a monkey, pushed a
chair in front of him, over which the sailor fell sprawling. The next
minute Dicky gave the window a terrific whack that smashed sash and all,
and, scrambling through, took to his heels and was almost home by the
time the sailor had got through rubbing his bruised shins.

The Widow Stubbs was scrupulously honest, and her first comment after
she had praised Dicky for keeping his word about the rum and refusing to
sing “God Save the King” was:—

“But, son, we must pay for the window.”

“Yes, mammy,” said Dicky ruefully; “and I lost three shillings and my
hat too.”

That night when Jack Bell came in for his usual chat on the settle, he
told Dicky: “You’re right, boy, and if it’s too hard a pull for you and
your mammy to pay for the winder, why, Jack Bell has got some of the
rhino and you’re welcome to it, for I see how you stuck up to your
promise and to your country.”

Just at that minute a knock came at the door, and when Dicky opened it
Jacob Dyer walked in. Both the widow and Dicky thought he had come for
his money for the window, and the Widow Stubbs began: “Don’t you have
any fear, sir, that I won’t pay for what my boy did to-day, and pay it
cheerful, to know I’ve got a boy who can keep his word to me, and can’t
be frightened into singing ‘God Save the King.’”

“Widder,” said Jacob, “your boy is welcome to smash that winder. Maybe
he’s got more courage than Jacob Dyer; for although I can’t sing ‘God
Save the King,’ chiefly because I don’t know how to sing anything, I
feel sometimes as if I ought to be more outspoken than I am for my
country. But I have a wife and eight children to support, and if I got
the redcoats down on me, they’d close my tavern and then I’d be on the
town. But sometimes my blood biles when I hear ’em talk about lickin’
General Washington. I kem to-night to tell you that if I look cross at
your boy the next time he comes to the tavern he needn’t mind. You
sha’n’t pay a cent for the winder, and I’d be a good deal more of a
’Merican if my livin’ didn’t depend on the redcoats.”

The very next day Dicky showed up in the tavern kitchen. As usual,
redcoats were plenty. Jacob Dyer, in a huge white apron, was
superintending the turning of the spit. As soon as he caught sight of
Dicky he began to grumble.

“Here comes that Stubbs boy as cost me five shilling for a glazier’s
bill. If it warn’t that his mother’s a widder, I’d be after him, I can
tell you. But look out, you young scamp, if ever you get to wreckin’ my
premises again, I’ll get after you as sure as shootin’. Do you mind
that?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Dicky very meekly and not in the least alarmed.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                          AN IMPORTANT ERRAND.


Visitors were few at the widow’s cottage, but the very night after Jacob
Dyer had been there another knock at the door ushered in a very
different visitor. The widow had just trimmed the fire, swept the
hearth, and drawn up the settle, and was waiting for Jack and Dicky to
come in and get their supper of milk and porridge and potatoes, when a
thundering rat-tat-tat came at the door. When she opened it, there stood
an elderly gentleman in a cocked hat and handsome knee buckles and a
gold-headed cane. The widow knew him in a moment. He was Squire Stavers,
one of the richest citizens of Newport and a staunch patriot. The widow
was rather flustered by the importance of her caller, but invited him in
politely.

“I understand, madam,” began Squire Stavers, “that you have an
uncommonly reliable boy—a little fellow who goes about singing for his
living.”

“Yes, sir,” answered the widow, all in a flutter. “It mayn’t seem such a
steady business for a boy, but the times are so hard I can’t find
anything else for him to do, and he makes a very good living and brings
all his money to me.”

“His employment will answer very well for the present,” replied the
squire, “and when times become more settled no doubt you can find
honorable work for him. What I came to see you about to-night was in
connection with him. Is there any danger of being overheard?”

For answer the widow rose and bolted the door of the cottage and—rare
luxury!—lighted two tallow candles. Then the squire continued:

“I know, madam, that you are the widow of a Continental soldier and may
be depended upon to help your country.”

“Yes, sir,” answered the widow quite promptly.

“This, then, is what I wish to say. The patriots of Newport desire to
communicate with the Continental forces at Providence Plantations, and
if they can get a trusty messenger as far as Tiverton, there will be no
difficulty the rest of the way. We dare not employ a man on this service
as we are closely watched. But a boy would never be suspected, and our
communication would be in the form of a letter that would reveal nothing
in case it was found. Mr. James Barton, who has a gallant son in the
Continental Army, and myself are old friends, and we are supposed to be
corresponding for pleasure and profit. Mr. Barton, for example, has
beeves to sell, and writes me asking the price in the market. His
younger son has lately visited my house, and in my letter I speak of
him. Yet there is a hidden meaning in all this, and it would be of
substantial help to the cause if we could carry information in that
manner.”

“If you will wait a few moments, sir, I will ask Mr. Bell’s opinion.
He’s a steady, sensible man, and although I’m perfectly willing to let
my boy do all he can, I’d rather consult Mr. Bell.”

At that moment they both heard Dicky and Jack Bell fumbling at the
latch. The widow rose and let them in, then bolted the door again.

Jack Bell knew well enough who Squire Stavers was, and when Dicky heard
that he, Dicky Stubbs, was actually wanted for an important service, he
could scarcely forbear hurrahing and cutting the pigeon wing in his
delight.

“Now let me read you the letter I wish the lad to carry,” said the
Squire, putting on his great gold spectacles, and taking a letter from
his pocket. “Suppose your boy is stopped. Let him at once produce this
letter, and if the British can find out anything from it, they are
cleverer than I take it.”

  _My dear Sir_,—

  Your letter, enquiring what price beeves will fetch, is received, and
  I made a note of the contents. No one can understand who has not been
  here lately, the extremely low price that animal produce has fallen
  to. But let me know in regard to the beeves, stating whether you wish
  to sell them on the hoof or not, which is important. The lad who takes
  this can bring a verbal message straight enough, but it would be
  safest to write, as boys are but heedless creatures, and of their own
  memory, they are overconfident. However, the bearer of this, may be
  your son, as I am expecting him to return this way, and I may keep it
  for him. The town is closely patrolled, and although the force here is
  large, it is remarkably well disciplined. Your son was very popular
  among the young ladies, who seemed determined to surround and capture
  him. The place is not what it was in times of peace, as it is very
  dull, the military being obliged to see an extremely strict watch
  kept, and it would not be difficult in consideration of the unsettled
  state of affairs to believe that we are in a state of siege, which is
  a serious matter. There is but an indifferent interest taken in
  welfare of the town, except by General Prescott commanding the land
  forces. He is an able officer, and his loss would be very great should
  he be transferred. I am thinking of taking up my residence at the
  Eagle Tavern, or at the Overing House, on the outskirts of the town.

  I should let my house to a staff officer of my acquaintance who wants
  it for six months. General Prescott has taken up his quarters as if he
  meant to stay, and it leads me to think that no change of commanders
  is impending.

  I am,
                     Your Friend and Obedient Servant,
                                                      WENTWORTH STAVERS.

Jack Bell listened with great solemnity to the reading of this letter,
and when the Squire finished reading and lay back in the chair with a
triumphant smile, Jack remarked with emphasis:—

“There ain’t nothin’ to hurt a babby in that ’ere letter. It’s all plain
sailin’, as fur as I can see.”

The Widow Stubbs agreed with him, and Dicky thought privately it was one
of the stupidest letters he had ever read.

“Well, now,” cried the Squire with a victorious air, “suppose you read
every third line, beginning at the third from the bottom. Here you are.

“General Prescott has taken up his quarters at the Overing House on the
outskirts of the town. He is an able officer and his loss would be a
serious matter. There is but an indifferent watch kept, and it would not
be difficult to surround and capture him. The place is not closely
patrolled, and, although the force here is large, they are
overconfident. The bearer of this can bring a verbal message straight
enough. But let me know in regard to the beeves; the contents no one can
understand.

“Now, what do you say to that?” inquired the Squire as he finished the
interpretation of the letter.

Jack Bell’s jaw dropped and Dicky almost rolled on the floor in his
surprise, while his mother took the letter and, counting the lines, saw
how the information conveyed in it was so different from what appeared
on the surface. Presently Jack Bell recovered himself enough to bring
his hand down on the table with a thwack that made the candles jump and
everybody in the room jump, too.

The Squire enjoyed the sensation he had given his simple audience and
looked around with an air of much satisfaction.

“Now,” said he, “I want this letter taken to Tiverton, ten miles up. If
the boy takes it, I will lend him a horse,”—here Dicky could not forbear
thrusting his tongue into his cheek and wagging his head with
rapture,—“and if he is stopped on the way, let him hand out the letter.
They will probably read it and pass him on. And one thing may be of use
to you—I will give you two shillings if you bring me an answer back; so,
if you are stopped, tell your captors that and they will probably let
you go.”

The Squire then rose to leave and, standing with his hand on his
gold-headed cane, spoke impressively:—

“I have confided in all of you to-night, and if one word from any of you
gives rise to suspicion, there will be deep and serious trouble for all
of us.”

“I can answer for me and my boy,” said the widow, while Jack Bell made
reply:—

“I can answer, sir, for Jack Bell, as who is a uneddicated man, but
ain’t a fool, nor yet a rascal.”

“I believe you, and good-by to all of you. The boy must be at my house
at sunrise to-morrow morning. He ought to be back by the early
afternoon, and if he is not, I myself will go and look for him.”

The Squire then went out and the widow and Jack Bell and Dicky sat and
looked at each other, the widow unmindful of the extravagance of burning
two candles when there was no distinguished company.

“Well,” said she after a pause, “the boy can’t come to harm just riding
between here and Tiverton—do you think so, Mr. Bell?”

Instead of the hearty assurance that the widow expected, Jack looked
quite solemn and seemed to avoid an answer. But the widow’s pleading
eyes forced a reply out of him.

“’Tain’t the distance, ma’am—that’s neither here nor there—and the boy
could leg it easy enough. But horses is ornnateral sort o’ beasts and
they’ve got a special spite ag’in sailor men and sailor boys too. I
never see a sailor man git on a horse that I didn’t see the four-legged
scoundrel kinder look around with a devilish grin, as much as to say:
‘Aha, I’ve got you now! You ain’t a-ridin’ the spanker boom, nor yet the
topsail yard, and I’ll bounce you off or bust’—and they most in gin’ally
don’t bust. I can’t help feelin’ oneasy about trustin’ him a horseback,
ma’am.”

The widow laughed at this and Dicky cried out indignantly:—

“Why, Mr. Bell, I’d just as lief ride anything from an elephant to a
goat. ’Tain’t any harder to stick on a horse than it is to hold on to
the topsail yard.”

“Yes, it is, boy,” answered Jack with much severity, “and a sight more
dangersome. Horses, I tell you, has a spite ag’in sailor men—and they’re
mighty cunnin’ in carryin’ out their ill-will. I wish you was goin’ to
leg it. That’s all.”



                               CHAPTER V.
                    AN ADVENTURE WITH THE REDCOATS.


Dicky was sent to bed early that night, so he could have a good sleep
before his journey. But he was so excited over the prospect of his
coming adventures that he scarcely closed his eyes. He was up and
dressed by daybreak, and his mother had hard work holding him until
sunrise before starting off.

As it was, he arrived at the Squire’s fine house in the town, before the
Squire was up. When the horse was led out for him to mount, Dicky made a
rush at him and scrambled up, beaming with delight. It was quite a sober
old cart horse, named Blackberry—but had he been the finest thoroughbred
in the world he could not have given Dicky more pleasure.

The Squire gave him the letter before several of the servants, without
any extraordinary charges of carefulness, merely telling him to deliver
it with his own hands to Mr. Josiah Barton, of Tiverton, and to return
as soon as possible, when he would receive two shillings—and not to ride
Blackberry too hard.

Dicky listened very respectfully, put the letter in the bosom of his
jacket and pinned it, and started off. He rode very slowly as long as he
was in sight of the Squire’s house, but it must be admitted that as soon
as he turned the first corner he gave old Blackberry a cut that started
him on a sharp trot. Blackberry, however, like the Squire himself, was
well fed, his load was light, the day was pleasant, and he was quite
willing to play the colt for a while, so he and Dicky got on
beautifully.

The morning was deliciously fresh, and Dicky, who had never been ten
miles from Newport in his life, except when he had run away on the
Betsey, was as happy as a bird and felt himself quite as much of a man
as Jack Bell. He was so happy that when he had gone two or three miles
he could not forbear breaking into song—and as galloping and singing are
somewhat incongruous he brought Blackberry down to a leisurely walk.
Then with his knee crossed on the saddle he began to sing some of his
favorite songs.

Unluckily though, he chose one of his rebel songs as they were called,
and he was trolling it out in his sweetest voice when presently looking
up, he found himself almost riding over a squad of redcoats marching
along the road with a sergeant at their head.

“Look out, you young rebel!” called out the sergeant, catching
Blackberry’s bridle; “what are you up to?”

“Nothing wrong,” answered Dicky boldly although he felt a slight tremor
at heart—but he knew the necessity of keeping a cool exterior. “I am on
my way to Tiverton on an errand for Squire Stavers.”

“And do you know this is the King’s highway, and you were singing a song
about,

  ‘At Bunker Hill, that glorious day,
  The time the redcoats ran away.’”

Dicky remained prudently silent and wished he had not sung his Bunker
Hill song.

The sergeant, who was a powerful fellow with a good-natured face in
spite of his bluff words, reached up, and lifting Dicky off the horse as
if he were a baby, set him down on the ground and proceeded to search
him. The first thing he ran across was the letter. “Come now,” said the
sergeant, “the lieutenant must see this. From Squire Stavers to Josiah
Barton of Tiverton. Both of them out-and-out rebels. Young man, will you
please to ’bout face and march along, while I’ll ride your battle
horse?”

[Illustration: “‘LOOK OUT, YOU YOUNG REBEL,’ CALLED OUT THE SERGEANT.”]

This was an unkind slur on Blackberry, who was unmistakably a horse who
had spent his life in civil pursuits. The sergeant mounted him, and the
old horse, out of whom Dicky had taken most of the spirit, struck into a
slow and dejected trot.

Dicky went along silently, and appeared to be neither frightened or
discomposed. Indeed after a while he rather relished his adventure, and
anticipated the telling of it with the keenest pleasure, in which he
meant to do full justice to his own calmness under trying circumstances.
The whole party walked down the road about half a mile, when they came
to a deserted farmhouse. The sergeant, then dismounting, took Dicky by
the shoulder and shoved him into a room where a young officer sat at a
table writing. “If you please, sir,” said the sergeant, touching his
cap, “I found this boy riding along the road, singing rebel songs. I
thought I’d examine him to see if there was anything suspicious about
him, and I found this letter directed to Josiah Barton of Tiverton,—a
rank rebel,—and the boy says it is from Squire Stavers of Newport, who
is another rank rebel. So I thought it would be safer to bring him and
the letter to you.”

“Quite right,” said the young officer, and taking the letter he coolly
broke the seal. Both he and the sergeant were keeping half an eye on
Dicky, who was perfectly quiet and composed, and gave no indications of
fear.

“Do you know what is in this letter?” asked the lieutenant of Dicky
after glancing at it.

“Sir!” answered Dicky, suddenly recalled from a contemplation of old
Blackberry through the window.

“Do you know what is in this letter?” repeated the lieutenant sharply.

“Something about beef cattle, I believe, sir,” answered Dicky, returning
to the contemplation of his steed.

It was an ordinary letter enough, but still the lieutenant did not seem
able to persuade himself that it was exactly what it appeared to be. He
could scarcely imagine, though, that a compromising letter would be sent
by a boy, and, moreover, a boy who loitered by the road-side singing
songs. It occurred to him that he could find out something of the value
of the letter by the price that was paid Dicky for taking it.

“Look here, my lad,” he said suddenly; “how much are you to get if you
deliver this letter and bring a reply?”

“Two shillings, sir,” promptly replied Dicky; “but if I don’t deliver
it, I ain’t to get anything.”

“That settles it,” said the young officer more to himself than to Dicky.
“A two-shilling messenger is not likely to be charged with serious
undertakings. You may go, youngster.”

“Thank you, sir.”

And the next minute Dicky had darted out of the door and, seizing old
Blackberry, was off at a smarter trot than Blackberry had known for a
good many years.

Dicky arrived at Tiverton about nine o’clock and easily found the solid,
substantial Barton mansion.

Mr. Barton was standing on the broad brick porch when Dicky swung
himself off Blackberry and, holding his shabby cap in his hand,
presented the letter.

“The seal, sir, was broken by a redcoat officer a little way out from
Newport; but he didn’t understand the letter,” Dicky added
significantly.

“It is easily understood,” said Mr. Barton, looking up after he got to
the end.

Boylike, Dicky was charmed at being able to show the extent of his
knowledge and responsibilities. Coming up close to Mr. Barton, he
pointed out the third line from the bottom. Mr. Barton’s eyes followed
Dicky’s finger as it traveled upward over the page, and he grasped the
meaning immediately.

“Boy,” said he after a pause, “there are some things I want to ask you.
Come in the house with me and do exactly what I tell you.”

Dicky followed him in a small, dark room on the first floor, fitted up
as a library. Mr. Barton directed him to take a chair and then
disappeared behind him for a few moments. When he came back he said:—

“Now answer freely and to the best of your ability all the questions I
shall ask you, but remember not to turn your head to look on either side
or behind you.”

Dicky thought this strange, but he obeyed implicitly. Mr. Barton, then
taking out a quill pen and paper, began to ask him a series of questions
respecting the Overing House—its distance from the shore, the lay of the
land, and many other things of information. Dicky, not being one of
those boys who can spend a lifetime in a place without knowing anything
about it, was able to give a pretty accurate description of things in
and around Newport. Especially did he know where the British ships were
moored, the hours for the boats, and many other particulars about them.

While looking in front of him, as Mr. Barton carefully wrote down what
he said, Dicky observed a round mirror, and what he saw in it almost
made him drop off his chair in surprise. For there was a door behind him
slightly ajar, and every now and then he caught a glimpse of a young man
wearing a Continental uniform and listening intently to what was said.

Dicky felt an intense curiosity to know who it was, and, while
describing as well as he could a tortuous path that he knew leading from
the shore to a clump of woods behind the Overing House, he happened to
glance up at the mirror. The soldier behind him had become so interested
that he had poked his head completely outside the door.

One glance in the mirror showed Dicky that the young man was the son of
Mr. Barton, and he surmised shrewdly that it was the young Captain
Barton of the Continental Army who was his unseen listener. He was
plainly in hiding, and Dicky understood very well why the elder Barton
imposed cautions upon him.

Mr. Barton was very well pleased with Dicky’s sensible and
well-considered answers, and when he had got through he folded up the
memorandum he had made, wrote a few lines to Squire Stavers about the
beeves, and then handed Dicky two new shillings.

“Money is a scarce commodity about here,” he said, smiling, “but I think
you have earned this.”

Mr. Barton then asked him to stay until dinner was ready, but this Dicky
declined to do. He was very proud of the success of his errand so far
and wanted to return promptly, so that in a little while he was on his
way back to Newport.

Squire Stavers was not without his doubts concerning the time Dicky
would return. A boy trusted with a horse is extremely liable to overstay
his time; but before twelve o’clock Dicky turned up. The Squire looked
sharply at Blackberry, but, although the old horse had had a pretty good
morning’s work, he seemed to realize that he was bent upon a patriotic
errand and was as lively as a colt.

Dicky did not fail to do ample justice to his own coolness and composure
when nabbed by the redcoats, and his prompt surrendering of the letter.
The Squire chuckled when Dicky described how the young lieutenant
puzzled over it and handed Dicky out two shillings with great readiness,
saying,—

“And as you are such a good hand in the transaction of business, I will
employ you again.”

Dicky ran home as fast as his legs could carry him with his four
shillings clutched in his hands, and, throwing three of them in his
mother’s lap, held up the fourth, bawling,—

“I’m going to give Mr. Bell and me a treat with this, mammy, because I’m
a very bright boy, I am,—the Squire said so,—and a reliable one, too.
There’s a show in town of dancing bears and monkeys, and Mr. Bell and me
are going sure.”

When Jack came in that night Dicky recounted all of his adventures, even
to the seeing the officer behind him in the glass, which he had not
mentioned to Squire Stavers. The widow was immensely proud of Dicky’s
shrewdness and courage, and Jack Bell was perfectly delighted,
especially that Dicky had proved a match for old Blackberry.

“You’re doin’ a sight better sarvice for your country than if you was a
powder boy ’board ship,” he remarked; “and it’s a deal more riskier to
handle a horse than it is to handle gunpowder, and I’m a-thinkin’
sumpin’ will happen soon;” with which sententious remark Bell retired to
the loft to sleep, while Dicky tumbled into his flock bed—a very tired
but a very happy boy—and dreamed all night about dancing bears.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                          JACK BELL’S SECRET.


Three more trips did Dicky make to Tiverton, and each time, under the
cover of a transaction in beef cattle, carried important news. He was
rather puzzled, though, to know what the news was, as Squire Stavers did
not tell him the contents of any letters but the first. Neither the
Squire nor Mr. Barton ever mentioned General Prescott’s name before him.
Dicky rashly concluded that the scheme to capture the British general
had been abandoned.

He had never seen General Prescott to know him in his life. There were
crowds of British officers dashing about the town with orderlies
trotting after them; but which was the general he did not know. In fact,
after a while Dicky begun to suspect that his trips were for the sole
purpose of conveying news about the cattle after all, and felt a
distinct decrease in his own importance.

Jack Bell, too, seeing that everything appeared quiet and that the
British had lately had successes, especially in having captured
Major-General Henry Lee,—“Light Horse Harry,”—began to be very much
depressed. He and Dicky discussed affairs very often, and both of them
came to the melancholy conclusion that Newport would remain in the hands
of the British until the end of the war and that nothing would be
attempted in the way of a capture.

The Americans were anxious to make an exchange for General Lee, but had
no officer of rank high enough to offer for him. This was a mortifying
fact, and Jack Bell, commenting on it, wondered why the plan to kidnap
General Prescott had fallen through.

One night, though, Squire Stavers sent for him, and Jack came away from
the Squire’s house wearing a look of delighted expectancy.

About a week after that, one morning as soon as he wakened—which was
late, as he was out all night—he called Dicky, and the two strolled
together toward a lonely point of rocks some distance from any house and
where they were not likely to be disturbed by anyone.

The sun shone brightly, while a sharp wind ruffled the waters of
Narragansett Bay and gave a kick to the sterns of several vessels that
were rounding Point Judith.

It fluttered the pennants of a great British fleet that lay off Block
Island and dashed the steel blue water fiercely against the rocky shores
upon which the town of Newport is perched. So blue was the sky and so
blue was the sea that they came together invisibly on the far horizon,
and a fine English frigate which was sailing in under a huge spread of
canvas seemed to be suspended between the sky and the sea.

Among the fleet there was the usual activity and business of the
morning. A great line-of-battle ship, with the red pennant flying at her
fore, indicating that she was taking on powder, lay out in the
foreground. An admiral’s barge at the gangway of a handsome black
frigate showed that she had distinguished company on board, and the
sound of the band playing on the quarterdeck and the noise made by the
parading of the marine guard was distinctly borne ashore by the wind. On
every ship something was going on in the way of the orderly bustle of a
man-of-war.

On shore, too, the morning drill was taking place, and the regiments of
redcoats made a brilliant splash of color in the sombre tones of the
ancient town. The scene was charming in itself, but to Jack Bell and
Dicky Stubbs nothing was more disheartening than the evidences of the
might of England.

Presently the advancing frigate, which was trotting along briskly, came
near enough for Jack Bell to recognize her.

“That’s the Diomede, sonny,” said Jack dolefully, as if the arrival of
another British ship filled his cup of woe to overflowing. “That’s Cap’n
Forrester on the bridge—a mighty fine man he is, if he is a Britisher.”

Dicky agreed with this as with everything else that Jack Bell advanced.

As the frigate rounded to, in her usual grand style, Jack’s eyes kindled
although he sighed. “It do a sailor man’s heart good for to see a ship
anchored that way. I’ve knowed the Diomede ever since she slid off the
stocks, and she never was counted on bein’ no great sailer—but the
sailin’ qualities of a ship depends on the cap’n—d’ ye mind that,
youngster; and Cap’n Forrester, he knows how to handle a ship, d’ ye
see, boy? But I’m a-wishin’ she warn’t flying that ’ere flag at her
peak. If ’twas only the American flag now!”

“Yonder ’tis,” said Dicky, pointing across to Narragansett Bay, where he
fancied he could see it flying in the blue air.

“Maybe you can see it,” answered Jack reflectively as he gazed over the
blue water.

“How I wish I were fighting under it!” cried Dicky, whose patriotic
ardor increased rather than abated by living under British rule.

“I dessay,” remarked Jack slyly, who was much given to “pulling a leg”
at Dicky’s expense, “if our people over yonder knowed about you, they’d
be most as distrested as they are about Gineral Lee bein’ held by the
British—’twould take a major-gineral to exchange for Gineral Lee, but
maybe they could git you for a major or a colonel, p’r’aps. What a pity
they ain’t never heard on you!”

Dicky at this turned very red, and giving a vicious kick to a stone sent
it skimming across the water.

“Anyway,” said Dicky presently in a low voice, looking around to be sure
they were completely alone on the rocks, “I did the best I could. I took
three letters to Tiverton and back—and I knew what they was meant for
too.”

“True for you, boy,” said Jack, slapping him on the back; “and now tell
me, what do you think I fetched you down on these rocks for?”

“Dunno.”

“Well, then,” said Jack very softly, “sumpin’ ’s up to-night. I’ve
knowed it for more ’n a week, and I tell you because we want your
valuable sarvices.” Jack could not refrain from giving Dicky this little
dig. “And I’ve pledged my word, as you are a safe boy and ain’t a-goin’
to blow the gaff.”

“You’re right there, Mr. Bell,” answered Dicky proudly. “I ain’t the
sort to blow the gaff.”

“Well, then, listen to me and come close, so I can speak easy. There’s a
plot on hand to-night to bag Gineral Prescott. He’s a long-headed old
feller, although he is mighty proud, treatin’ quarterdeck folks like
they was foremast people. But he knows more ’n most of ’em what to do,
so that’s w’y the patriots is hankerin’ arter him. At nine o’clock
to-night a boat is goin’ to be pulled acrost the bay, and Cap’n Barton
with twenty men’s goin’ to sneak up to the Overing House, where the
Gin’ral is stayin’, while they’re fixin’ reg’lar headquarters for him.
They’re goin’ to take the house by boardin’—I dunno what the soldiers’
word is for ketchin’ him with a rush—and they’re goin’ to put him in the
boat and take him back to Providence Plantations. Now the redcoats is
monstrous keerless about standin’ watch round the Overing House—they’ve
got a sentry or two that marches up and down and then goes and stands in
the corner o’ the house by the chimney—but Cap’n Barton wants some one
to give him the word about twelve o’clock to-night when the coast is
clear.”

“And I’m to give the word,” cried Dicky, jumping with delight.

“Not if you act that a-way,” answered Jack severely. “When sailor men
has got work in hand they don’t go bawlin’ out and jumpin’ like a lizard
over it. They says ‘Aye, Aye, sir,’ and then they goes and does it.”

Dicky, quite crestfallen, awaited Jack’s next words.

“I’d give the word myself, for I ain’t under no promise to Cap’n
Forrester. He just told me the redcoats would see that I didn’t git
away—and they do watch me pretty sharp—so most likely I’d be the very
one they’d suspect. So I says to Squire Stavers: ‘There’s that little
tow-headed Dicky Stubbs that I knows has got a head on his shoulders and
a pair of eyes as is worth sumpin’—and he kin hang round the house and
won’t nobody think it’s nothin’ but stayin’ out ag’in his mother’s
orders’—and you’re that chap,” said Jack Bell, giving Dicky a friendly
thwack that nearly sent him head foremost into the sea.

Dick’s face was a picture—it was fairly beaming with delight.

“To-night!” he whispered excitedly; “twelve o’clock; to keep a bright
lookout round the Overing House!”

“Purcisely,” answered Jack Bell; “the boat will be down at the cove, and
when you see a man comin’ along the ravine through the woods from the
cove, with one hand raised up this way—you’ll slip up and let him know
if the coast is clear; and if the gineral is in bed—as they wants him to
be—you kin tell by the blowin’ out of his candle in the room in the
nor’west corner where he sleeps. So now, go along with you, and don’t
come a-nigh me to-day, ’cause folks might be wonderin’ what we was
a-talkin’ about. And I’ll tell your mother some time to-day, as you will
be out p’r’aps all night—but you won’t be doin’ any harm. And if they
catch you, mind you, set up a mighty howl, like a great baby, and tell
’em you’re afraid your mother’ll give you the cat—so they’ll think
you’re too young to know anythin’—and now be off with you.”

Dicky, with a beaming face, ran off. The first thing that occurred to
him was: “If they do nab the British general, what a fine song it will
make!” for he had by no means given up his ambition to write a song, and
a rebel song at that.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                      GENERAL PRESCOTT’S CAPTURE.


Dicky sang very industriously that day, and was lucky, having nearly
four shillings to take home to his mother. Jack Bell did not come to the
kitchen that evening as usual, but he had been there during the day.
After Dicky got his supper he lay down on the settle before the fire and
said knowingly to his mother:—

“Please, ma’am, wake me up at ten o’clock.”

“I will,” said Mrs. Stubbs quietly to this uncommon request. She knew
well enough what was meant.

Dicky fully intended taking merely a cat nap, but when ten o’clock came
his mother had to shake him and pound him and drag him nearly all over
the floor to wake him up. However, once waked up he knew in an instant
what was required of him, and he put on his shabby greatcoat and hat
quickly enough.

“Good night, mother,” he said. “Don’t fret about me—I’ll be home by
daylight.”

“Good night, my boy,” said the Widow Stubbs in her calm way. “Be sure
you act like a boy of sense.”

“I will,” answered Dicky sturdily as he made for the door.

The night was murky, and as Dick glanced out upon the dark bosom of the
bay he could only tell the position of the British ships by the lights
twinkling dimly at their mastheads, while the huge bulk of their black
hulls made only a deeper shadow in the half-darkness. Dicky trudged
along the straggling streets of the town and presently he found himself
in a country lane that led toward the Overing House, a comfortable old
tavern convenient to the cantonments of the troops, and where General
Prescott had established himself temporarily.

The house was not fully alight, as people went to bed earlier in those
days and ten o’clock was considered quite late. The kitchen where the
host and his humble friends gathered was perfectly dark, but in the
northwest corner of the house a light still burned. This was in General
Prescott’s room.

Dicky crept close to the fence that surrounded the house. Everything was
perfectly quiet—even the housedog slept peacefully on the kitchen steps.
After looking about very carefully, he saw a path leading into the
underbrush toward the ravine.

He slipped across the yard and into this path, and after what seemed to
him a long, long wait, he saw advancing noiselessly through the gloom a
man with one hand held up, as Jack Bell had described. Dicky went up and
whispered:—

“Everything is quiet. The dog is asleep on the back steps, and General
Prescott’s room is directly at the front door.”

In a minute more twenty men had silently appeared, as if out of the
ground, and among them was a burly negro known as Sam Ink, from his
jetty blackness.

They crept through the fence and noiselessly surrounded three sides of
the house, the dog meanwhile sleeping peacefully, as they were careful
not to go near enough to rouse him. Almost as soon as their preparations
were completed the light in the northwest room was put out. Dicky
wondered what means they would take to open the front door, which
according to the custom of the time was no doubt barred as well as
locked. He was quickly enlightened, though, for as soon as the
preparations were complete Sam Ink backed off about twenty yards, and
then, starting on a run, he lowered his head and made straight for the
door, and the next minute the crash of splintered wood was heard and
Sam’s head had gone through the panel of the door.

It was only the work of a second then to undo the lock and take down the
bar, and as the sound of shuffling feet in various parts of the house
was heard General Prescott himself opened the door of his room to see
what was the matter. He had no time to strike a flint, but one of the
Americans, who had a dark lantern, suddenly flashed it on the group and
then twenty stalwart arms seized the British officer and dragged him out
of the door and made a rush for the path through the woods.

Dicky had watched it all, having crept up on the porch, and seeing in
the one flash of the lantern that General Prescott had on only his
nightclothes, Dicky darted in the room, grabbed a pile of clothes that
lay upon a chair, and flew after the party in the boat.

They had already made much headway, and as it was some minutes before
the people in the house had been able to get a light from the slow
process of the tinder box or raking over the kitchen fire, the Americans
had a good start. They changed their direction soon after entering the
ravine, and half an hour’s rapid walking, and carrying the British
officer, brought them to their boats.

Dicky had expected to hear a loud protest from General Prescott, but
when he had followed the party to their boats he saw the reason of the
general’s silence. A long horse pistol had been held to his head every
step of the way. General Prescott broke silence for the first time as he
was being hustled into the boat.

“I have no breeches on,” he said.

“Here they be,” cried Dicky in an excited but subdued voice, and he
threw a bundle of clothes into the boat.

Desperate as their circumstances still were, the Americans could not
help laughing at this; the more so when Sam Ink, his head uninjured by
being used as a battering ram, said politely:

“Lem me be your vally, suh. I’se used to bein’ great men’s vally, suh.”

“Thank you, my good man,” coolly replied General Prescott as Sam with
more haste than elegance hustled the general’s clothes on.

The boats then put out for the other side of the bay, and Dick quickly
turned and ran toward home. A general alarm had been given by that time,
but everybody supposed that the kidnappers were somewhere in the woods
near by, or possibly in some deserted quarter of the town. Soldiers were
running about, the drum was beating, skyrockets had been sent up, and
the alarm had been conveyed to the guardship in the harbor, which sent a
boat ashore to find out the cause of the commotion.

Dicky got on all right until just as he reached his mother’s door in the
narrow street where they lived, when he ran full tilt into the arms of a
sergeant with a searching party. Remembering that he had to play the
part of a small and frightened boy, Dicky, who was not frightened in the
least, screwed his face up and broke out into a frightful howl as the
sergeant caught him by the collar of his jacket.

“Oh! O-o-o-ooh!” yelled Dicky. “Let me go—let me go! Please, sir, let me
go! I know my mother will give me a whipping for bein’ out so late!”

“See here,” cried the sergeant gruffly, “have you seen anything of the
gang that has carried off General Prescott?”

The door opened just then and the Widow Stubbs appeared with a candle in
her hand.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “Oh, it’s you, Dicky. Very well, very
well. A pretty time of night it is for you to be out. Just hand him over
to me, sir,” said the artful Mrs. Stubbs to the sergeant, “and I’ll
promise you he won’t be going around the streets at this disreputable
hour of the night for a good while.”

Dicky, at this, who could hardly keep from roaring out laughing, opened
his mouth and wailed louder than ever, until the sergeant nearly shook
the breath out of him.

“Shut that potato trap of yours,” cried the sergeant, “and listen to me.
Have you seen a gang of men carrying an officer off into the woods? for
that is what has just happened.”

A bright idea struck Dicky.

“A tall, fine looking man, as I’ve seen going in and out of the Overing
House?” he whimpered.

At this Mrs. Stubbs turned pale, thinking Dicky meant to turn traitor;
but the sergeant answered him eagerly:—

“Yes, yes.”

“Well, sir,” said Dicky, stammering and hesitating, “I see a crowd o’
men carryin’ somebody off, and they was on horseback—gallopin’ along.
The officer was tied to the saddle”—Dicky here remembered about the
pistol. “They had a pistol to his head, and they took the main road
through Tiverton, sir. The officer was on a white horse, sir. I seen
that, though it was so dark.”

It was impossible not to believe this circumstantial account. The
sergeant and his men doublequicked it back to the barracks to send
mounted scouts out on the Tiverton road. And meanwhile the Americans had
rowed with muffled oars across the bay and had landed their prisoner on
the opposite shore.

Dicky went into the house, and his mother securely locked and barred the
door and put out the light; and when safe in darkness and silence she
caught Dicky in her arms and cried:—

“My brave lad! My sensible boy!”

Dicky never felt in all his life so proud and happy before. And at that
moment, they heard Jack Bell, marching up and down the streets, and
roaring out, at the top of his lungs,—

“Two bells, and Gineral Prescott is tooken!”



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                           DICKY’S NEW SONG.


The sensation in Newport for a day or two was tremendous. It was not
lessened when a flag of truce from the American commander announced that
General Prescott was in his hands, and he would be pleased to exchange
the British officer upon parole for an American officer of equal rank,
suggesting Major-General Henry Lee, of the Light Horse Brigade. In a
short time the exchange was effected, and General Prescott returned to
Newport as a paroled prisoner.

The British officers were deeply chagrined at the boldness and success
of the attack. Much sympathy was felt for General Prescott. He was a
brave and capable officer, although a stern martinet, and the ridiculous
circumstances of the affair leaked out and were much laughed at on the
sly.

No two souls were more delighted at the outcome than old Jack Bell and
Dicky Stubbs. Dicky’s ambition to have a song about it did not seem
likely to be gratified, so he and the old sailor conceived the daring
design of composing the song themselves. This was done in the long
winter evenings sitting before the kitchen fire and by the light of a
single tallow dip.

Jack Bell’s accomplishments in the reading and writing line consisted of
the ability to spell out the paragraphs of “The Newport News Letter” and
to write with much time and trouble, in a large round hand, “Jno. Bell.”
Dicky, however, was quite expert with the pen, although his poetic
faculty was not nearly so well developed. After a month’s hard work, and
with infinite pains and labor, the song was composed. An air was found
for it, and Dicky found himself possessed of the most popular song in
Newport.

He dared not sing it where there was a chance of redcoats being around,
but at tavern gatherings, with the doors and windows securely fastened,
“The Capture of Prescott” was sure to be called for, and when trolled
forth the boy’s sweet and thrilling treble always brought down a roaring
chorus of laughter and cheers and more shillings than pennies. It was
not of a very high order of poetic merit. Dicky was no embryo Milton or
Shakespeare, but it touched the pride of the Americans, and that was
enough.

Whenever this ditty was being sung Jack Bell’s face was a study. He
leaned forward in his chair, his hands on his knees, and his deep,
cavernous eyes glowing with delight, and at intervals his great
hobnailed boots would come down on the floor with a loud thwack of
approval. Dicky, perched upon a table and swinging his legs, as he
cocked his chin in the air, would trill it out with all the pleasure in
his life, and was naturally enormously proud of his literary as well as
his artistic success.

One night about three months after the capture and exchange, and while
General Prescott was on board the Diomede frigate waiting for a fair
wind to set sail for England, a farewell dinner was given on board to
the officers of the army and navy then at Newport.

Now, what poor Dicky Stubbs, the widow’s son, had to do with this dinner
Dicky himself would have been puzzled to tell, and he was a much
astonished and slightly frightened boy when about dusk a corporal of
marines knocked at his mother’s door and demanded Dicky’s presence. Jack
Bell was sitting in the kitchen, as he usually was at that hour, and
both he and the Widow Stubbs were certain that the authorities had heard
of the boy’s rebel songs and had come to arrest him.

As for Dicky, although a very courageous boy in the main, he thought it
prudent to retire under the bed in the next room. The corporal, though,
having seen him rush in and disappear, all except a pair of tell-tale
heels, caught him by the leg and dragged him out.

“Come out o’ here!” cried the corporal gruffly but not unkindly.

Dicky, finding himself in the hands of the enemy, recovered his
self-possession and stood up quite coolly and unconcernedly.

“Are you the little feller that goes about and sings?”

“Oh, my poor boy!” cried the Widow Stubbs, for once losing her courage.

“Y-y-yes, sir, I am,” stammered Dicky, expecting the next moment to be
put in double irons and carried to headquarters.

“Then,” said the corporal, “you’re to come aboard the Diomede frigate
with me to sing for the officers at a big jollification they’re havin’
to-night, and you wash your face and comb your hair and put on your best
jacket.”

This sounded reassuring, and Dicky proceeded to make his toilet with his
mother’s help. The marine meanwhile entered into conversation with Jack
Bell in the kitchen.

“Seems to me,” said the corporal, “I’ve seen you at Gibralty on the old
Colossus ’long about ’70.”

“Gibralty? Gibralty?” meditatively replied Jack Bell. “Now where in the
world is Gibralty?”

“Come,” said the marine, laughing, “we knows all about you—and it was a
deuced lucky thing for you that you saved that officer’s life. Men has
been shot for deserters afore this.”

“Now you’re jokin’!” exclaimed Jack earnestly; “you marines is allust
pullin’ a leg with we poor sailor men, and we never knows when you’re
jokin’ and when you ain’t. Gibralty—ain’t that somewheres nigh to the
Arches of Pelago, close by Villy Franky?”

“You’ve got it uncommon mixed up, but I reckon you know more ’n you’d
let on,” answered the marine, still laughing. And Dicky’s toilet being
completed by that time, the marine rose to go.

“Don’t you worrit about this ’ere youngster, ma’am,” he said politely to
the Widow Stubbs. “He’s just a-goin’ to sing to the officers after
dinner, and I’ll fetch him home before ten o’clock.” With which the
marine walked out, with Dicky trudging after him. They soon made the
boat and were pulled to the Diomede.

The marine took him to the fok’sle, Dicky staring with all his might at
everything he saw. In a few minutes an orderly appeared from the ward
room, and Dicky followed him aft.

When they reached the cabin door and Dicky got his first peep inside, it
literally took his breath away. Such lights, such gorgeous uniforms,
such splendor his simple eyes had never beheld.

Around a long table glittering with glass and plate and wax candles sat
thirty or forty officers all in uniform. Most of them wore the dark blue
and gold of the navy, but there were many in blazing scarlet. Dicky
recognized Captain Forrester, and his eyes fell upon one directly facing
the door—a tall, handsome, stern-looking man of middle age, in a
brilliant uniform of scarlet, a gold-hilted sword, and with his breast
covered with medals. The other officers addressed him as “General.” All
were in a jovial humor and a rollicking chorus was dying away as Dicky
and the orderly appeared at the door.

“Oh!” cried Captain Forrester at the head of the table, “this is our
sweet-throated thrush from the town of which we have heard so much. This
lad, gentlemen, is said to be the very finest singer hereabouts, and we
have sent for him to add to our jollity this evening.”

Dicky blushed at this compliment to his powers and shuffled from one
foot to another in his embarrassment.

“Now,” continued Captain Forrester to him, “pipe up, sir; do your best,
and give us a new song. Something that we have never heard before.”

Dicky reflected for a moment or two and then, coloring and stammering,
said:—

“If you please, sir—if you please, the only new song I’ve got is a
patriot song, what you calls a rebel song, sir—and—and”—

“Very well, very well,” cried the officers, laughing. “Give us a rebel
song, then. Come, my little man, pipe up.”

Dicky still hesitated between fear and bashfulness, when the “General”
in scarlet spoke up:—

“Give us that song, you young rebel, or I’ll see that you get the cat,
sure!”

Thus admonished, while much merriment prevailed among the officers at
the notion of the rebel song being sung, Dicky cleared his throat and in
the midst of a dead silence began to sing in his clear, sweet, boyish
voice:—

  ’Twas on a dark and stormy night,
    The wind and waves did roar;
  Bold Barton then, with twenty men,
    Went down upon the shore.

  And in a whaleboat they set off
    To Rhode Island fair,
  To catch a redcoat general,
    Who then resided there.[5]

As soon as Dicky began the song he had noticed that it seemed to create
great amusement, and many sly looks were directed toward the general.
When Barton’s name was mentioned the fun became contagious, and at the
last line of the second stanza it became uncontrollable. Shouts and
roars of laughter resounded, in which the general joined heartily, and
it was some minutes before Dicky could proceed.

All this time he looked, as he was, perfectly innocent, and could not
for the life of him imagine what the laughter was about. Dicky’s
seriousness seemed to increase the hilarity, which grew steadily as he
kept on.

  Through British fleets and guard boats strong
    They held their dangerous way,
  Till they arrived unto their port,
    And then did not delay.

  A tawny son of Afric’s race
    Then through the ravine led,
  And entering then the Overing House,
    Found the general in his bed.

  But to get in they had no means,
    Except poor Cuffee’s head,
  Who beat the door down, then rushed in
    And seized him in his bed.

  “Stop, let me put my breeches on,”
    The general then did pray.
  “Your breeches, massa, I will take,
    For dress we cannot stay.”

  Then through the stubble him they led,
    With shoes and breeches none,
  And placed him in their boat quite snug,
    And from the shore were gone.

  Soon the alarm was sounded loud,
    “The Yankees they have come
  And stolen Prescott from his bed,
    And him they’ve carried home.”

At the mention of General Prescott’s name a perfect hullabaloo of
laughter, stamping, shouts, and cheers broke forth, none joining in more
heartily than the general, and it suddenly dawned upon Dicky that it was
General Prescott himself who was present.

At the bare idea of this the boy grew ashy pale and looked as if he
would drop to the floor, but this only increased the rapture of their
amusement. And in the midst of the terrific noise General Prescott’s
voice was heard shouting,—

“Go on, you little rascal—tell the whole story.”

[Illustration: “THE YANKEES, THEY HAVE COME AND STOLEN PRESCOTT FROM HIS
                                 BED.”]

Thus admonished, Dicky managed to continue his song in a quavering
voice, every moment interrupted by shrieks of laughter from his
delighted audience.

  The drums were beat, skyrockets flew,
    The soldiers shouldered arms,
  And marched around the ground they knew,
    Filled with most dire alarms.

  But through the fleet with muffled oar,
    They held their devious way,
  Landed on Narragansett shore,
    Where Briton had no sway.

  When unto the land they came,
    Where rescue there was none,
  “A right bold push,” the general cried,
    “Of prisoners I am one.”

Never was there such a scene witnessed on board a ship as at the
conclusion of this song. So wild was the noise of the stamping on the
floor and pounding on the table that the people below thought the deck
would come through. Yells of laughter and enthusiastic cheering mutually
tried to drown out the other. Officers threw themselves on the table,
convulsed with laughter, while tears streamed down their cheeks.

Others leaned their shaking sides up against the wall and yelled with
laughter. In the midst of it General Prescott, who had laughed until he
was almost in hysterics, threw Dicky a bright gold guinea, crying,
“There, you young dog, is a guinea for you!”

Dicky caught the guinea as it spun toward him and, pulling his forelock
as he ducked his head, exclaimed: “Thanky, sir!” and then turning made a
bee-line for the fok’sle.

A boat was just leaving—he scrambled into it, and in a few minutes he
was trotting up the narrow street toward his home, a very happy but
somewhat frightened boy. He dashed into the kitchen where the Widow
Stubbs sat peacefully knitting, while Jack Bell occupied his usual seat.

“That’s for you, mammy!” shouted Dicky, throwing a gold guinea in his
mother’s lap.

“Land sakes!” cried the widow, “where did you get it from?”

“From General Prescott,” answered Dicky with twinkling eyes; and then he
told the story of the song. The Widow Stubbs laughed until she cried,
and Jack Bell roared like a bull with merriment.

“W’y,” he chuckled, “that beats the speckled Jews!”

“It does indeed,” answered Dicky as he thrust his tongue knowingly into
his cheek; “but I’ll say hooray for one British officer—hooray for
General Prescott!—and I’m glad I give him his breeches!”



                              CHAPTER IX.
                             DICKY ENLISTS.


A time came, though, when Newport was evacuated by the British—and on
that glorious day there were no happier souls than Dicky Stubbs and Jack
Bell. Among the great events was the sailing in to Newport of the small
squadron which made the beginning of the American navy. To Jack Bell’s
patriotic eyes they were the handsomest ships he had ever seen in his
life.

Jack and Dicky stood on the highest point of the rocky shores of Newport
and watched with rapture the coming of the little squadron of five
vessels which, though small and lightly armed, were yet to give a noble
account of themselves.

“Boy!” shouted Jack Bell as he gripped Dicky by the collar, “d’ye see
them ships? They ain’t big, and they ain’t got nothin’ in ’em heavier ’n
a twelve pounder—but they’ve got hearts of oak—and let me tell you, boy,
it’s the kind of heart you’ve got, as mostly settles whether you’re
goin’ to take a lickin’ or give one, in a fight.”

Dicky showed his appreciation of this sentiment by bawling out “Hooray!”
as loud as he could—but as he had been “hooraying” pretty steadily for
forty-eight hours past, his voice was somewhat cracked. Dicky, however,
was still capable of making a good deal of patriotic noise.

The shores were black with shouting crowds, and the American sailors and
soldiers received a greeting that made them sure of their welcome. Dicky
ran about all day long, sang all his rebel songs to listening crowds,
and refused to accept a penny for his singing. At night when he reached
home, tired, hungry, sleepy, and hoarse, but perfectly happy, he said to
his mother as he marched in: “Mammy, I ain’t got any money for you—I
couldn’t take it on a day like this—and I’ve sung the Bunker Hill song
and the General Prescott song and all the patriotic songs I know—and I
never had such a good time in my life!”

“I know it, my boy,” said the Widow Stubbs, “and I’m glad you didn’t
take any money for singing on this glorious day.”

The very next morning the inevitable occurred. Dicky announced that he
meant to enlist as a seaman apprentice in the American navy. His mother
turned a little pale but said no word. She was a brave woman and a
sensible one, too; and she saw that Dicky’s taste for a sea life was so
strong that, if balked of it, he would probably never be of much account
in any other calling. Jack Bell gave him one of those friendly thwacks
that almost knocked him down.

“Right, youngster,” said he. “The navy’s the place for a lad as wants to
make his forting. I don’t mean a forting in money—there’s fortings and
fortings; I means in carackter, and bein’ stiddy and faithful, and in
havin’ lashin’s o’ fun when your cruise is up.”

“But I thought,” said the Widow Stubbs timidly, “there were some hard
characters in the navy, Mr. Bell?”

“Mighty few—mighty few,” answered Jack, shaking his head gravely. “When
a landsman and a sailor man gits to fightin’, it’s allus the landsman’s
fault. And if it warn’t for them meddlesome marines, the sailor men
never would git into no trouble. But all the wuthless rapscallions in
creation is arter sailor men—and if they warn’t jest as stiddy and
k’rect as they can be, ’taint no tellin’ the mischief they’d git into.
There ain’t no peaceabler folks in the world nor sailor men, if they is
jest let alone and ain’t balked of their will.”

The Widow Stubbs thought this was true of some other people besides
sailor men.

Among the small American squadron, the Raleigh, a smart little frigate
armed with twelve pounders, was easily the best; and Jack Bell, having
examined her all over, determined that Dicky should enlist on her. No
bright, capable boy was likely to be refused, and Captain Thompson, her
commander, would have been glad to get Jack Bell, too, of whom he had
heard something. The day that Jack took Dicky aboard, to enlist him,
Captain Thompson asked to have the old sailor sent down in the cabin.
Jack went down and found a very dashing young continental officer, proud
of his ship and anxious to do something for his country.

“Well, my man,” said he to Jack; “I have had the lad you brought aboard
put on the ship’s books, and I would like very much to have you, too. I
know all about you, and such a man is valuable among the foremast
people.”

“And I’d like mightily to come, sir,” answered Jack respectfully, “but I
was give my choice, by Cap’n Forrester of the Diomede frigate, of
promisin’ I wouldn’t enlist or of bein’ h’isted up at the yardarm. You
see, sir,” continued Jack, coming a little nearer and putting on a
knowing look which Captain Thompson understood perfectly well. “Cap’n
Forrester had got it into his head that I were one Jack Bell who sarved
forty year in the British navy. But when the war broke out, that there
Jack Bell thought as how he’d be a villian to fight ag’in his own
country, so he up and deserted. Now, sir, supposin’ Cap’n Forrester had
said I were that man? Why, sir, ’twouldn’t ha’ taken a court martial two
hours to string me up at the yardarm. So Cap’n Forrester said as how he
wouldn’t mention his suspicions to nobody, if I’d promise him I wouldn’t
enlist in the American army, navy, or marine corps—and as you see, sir,
not bein’ a officer, the only thing for me to do was to promise—so
that’s how it lays.”

“I understand,” answered Captain Thompson. “Nothing else could be
expected of you; but I am sorry. You can assist me though by bringing me
recruits,—men that you know are steady and reliable,—and in that way you
may be of almost as much use to me as if you were on the ship.”

“Thankee, sir; I’ll do it,” responded Jack with alacrity. Meanwhile
Dicky had been inducted into the fok’sle as drummer boy and helper to
the Jack o’ the dust. He found plenty of work to do, and a boatswain’s
mate after him to see it well done; and the fare was hard and the pay
small. But Dicky was like everybody who has found his real place in
life, perfectly satisfied. Every day Jack Bell came on board to see him,
and every day Dicky saw that the old sailor became more and more
despondent because he, too, could not serve his country. One day after
Jack had very dolefully left the ship, Jenkins, the boatswain’s mate on
board, said:—

“If this was England now, we could send out a press gang and get that
man.”

Now, Dicky knew very well what a press gang was—a body of sailors who
went ashore at night with an officer and authority to seize and press
men into the naval service. This set Dicky to thinking, and he began to
wonder if Jack would not be very well pleased if he were seized and
forcibly taken on board the Raleigh and made to work and fight. The very
next night Dicky got his first liberty on shore, and going to his
mother’s cottage found Jack there, as usual, smoking his pipe.

The Widow Stubbs was delighted to see her boy, and he looked so clean
and smart and bright in his sailor’s rig that she could not but see that
he had improved in the little while that he had been aboard ship. Jack
showed his usual interest in everything that happened on the Raleigh,
but Dicky saw that the old sailor was much depressed.

“Mr. Bell,” said Dicky after a while, “Mr. Jenkins, the boatswain’s
mate, says, as if there was a press gang ’lowed in the American navy, we
could get some mighty good men; we’d like to have—you, sir, for one.”

Jack shook his head forlornly.

“There ain’t no press gang, more’s the pity. If there was, and they
knowed there was a able-bodied sailor man like me ’round about, I’d ha’
been nabbed long ago; and Cap’n Forrester couldn’t say as how I’d broke
my word when I was took by force aboard a American ship and made to
jine.”

“Well,” persisted Dicky, “would you be glad or sorry if there was a
press gang and you was took?”

“Boy,” said Jack sorrowfully, “you’re axin’ me a mighty foolish
question. In course I’d be glad. I’d run the risk of bein’ swung up if
we was captured and I was found out—but there ain’t no chance at all.
I’ve give my word to Cap’n Forrester, an’ I can’t break it; and it ain’t
likely that I’ll be lucky enough to be took by force.”

Dicky said no more, but an idea had evidently taken possession of his
mind. His eyes began to sparkle, he whispered to himself as he sat in
the chimney corner, and his mother saw that something was up. Jack Bell
saw nothing, but sat and smoked gloomily. The widow gave Dicky a good
supper, and a basket of apples to take on board with him; and about
eight o’clock he started to leave. He motioned to his mother to come
outside with him when he left.

“Mammy,” said he, “don’t you be scared if a gang from the Raleigh busts
in on you some night. I won’t tell you what it’s for, but you needn’t
think I’ve been in any harm; so just don’t you be scared about me;” and
without another word Dicky dashed down the rocky path to where he was to
meet the boat.

Next day, after the men had had their morning exercise, Dicky went and
stood by the mast as he had seen men do who wished to speak to the
officer of the deck. The officer, Lieutenant Dobell, advanced to speak
with him. Dicky had rehearsed exactly what he meant to say to the
lieutenant, but when he was actually to say it, his tongue clove to the
roof of his mouth. At last, though with much stammering and stuttering,
he managed to get out that “Mr. Bell could be took.” At first Mr. Dobell
could not make head or tail of Dicky’s meaning, but in a little while it
was cleared up. Mr. Dobell, too, had heard of Jack Bell, and the idea of
having such a steady, reliable man-o’-war’s-man on board was very
agreeable to him. He merely told Dicky, though, to say nothing of what
he had told, and he would think over the matter.



                               CHAPTER X.
                        AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER.


About a week after this Dicky was told by his friend Jenkins, the
boatswain’s mate, that he would be needed that night to pilot the way to
his mother’s cottage. Dicky grinned with delight and could hardly wait
until night came. At last, after the longest day he ever spent, eight
o’clock arrived. Jenkins called him and, in company with eight sailors
and Mr. Dobell, they dropped into one of the ship’s boats alongside;
and, pulling with a steady man-’o-war’s stroke, soon reached a lonely
spot on the shore near the Widow Stubbs’ cottage and silently took their
march up the rocky path, Dicky leading to show them the way.

Arrived at the cottage they peered through the window and saw Jack Bell
sitting alone and dismally before the fire, smoking as usual. The Widow
Stubbs was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Dobell, noticing Jack’s brawny figure
and hale and hearty countenance, was more than ever in favor of having
him among the Raleigh’s crew. He directed Dicky to knock at the door,
and Jack opened it, whereupon Mr. Dobell and Dicky walked in, leaving
the eight sailors to watch outside.

Jack Bell recognized Dicky at once by the light of the spluttering pine
logs, and after a moment of hesitation rose and saluted Mr. Dobell.

The officer returned the salute and then said in a jovial voice:—

“Do you want to know what we came for? Well, I’ll tell you. We know that
you are a first-class sailor and a good man, and we want just such brave
fellows on the Raleigh; and, as I hear you promised Captain Forrester
not to enlist in the American navy, we concluded we’d get you by other
means. So come along quietly with me, or I’ll call in eight men I have
outside and take you.”

For a minute Jack Bell’s face was a study. He saw the whole scheme, and
the struggle between his delight and his sense of duty to his promise
was plain. After a moment he spoke, saluting again as he did so.

“Sir,” said he, “I’m a uneddicated man, and maybe that’s why it is I
don’t always know what my duty is—but I want to do it if I can find it
out. Now, I don’t go for to say as I don’t want to be took—God knows I
do—but I hadn’t oughter give in without a fight—and if you’ll jist let
me square off and make a fight agin them eight chaps ’twould make me
easy in my mind.”

“You won’t stand much of a show, my man,” replied Mr. Dobell, laughing
at Jack’s simplicity but respecting it, “so you might as well give in.”

“One moment, sir,” asked Jack. “I don’t like to have no fightin’ in a
respectable widder woman’s house like this ’ere”—

“Can’t help that,” said Mr. Dobell, still laughing; and stepping to the
door he motioned to the men outside and eight stalwart sailors marched
in.

“Boys,” said Jack, “I ain’t sayin’ you won’t git me, but I think it’s my
duty to give you all the trouble I can, so I’ll just take this poker”—

Jack reached forward and was about to seize the poker, when Dicky, as
active as a cat, whisked it out of the way. The next weapon at hand was
a stool, but before Jack could get hold of it Mr. Dobell gave it a kick
which sent it flying. The sailors closed in with a rush, but Jack, with
his stout arms swinging around like a Dutch windmill, laid more than one
of them low before he was overpowered. The struggle was short and sharp,
and in a minute or two Jack’s arms were pinioned by a couple of grinning
sailors, while two that he had floored were scrambling to their feet.

“Sir,” said Jack to Mr. Dobell, “I calls you to witness that I made a
fight for my promise, and I axes you to give me your word in writin’ as
how I was took by force.”

“I will,” answered Mr. Dobell, “and I think you have barked the shins
and blacked the eyes of two of my men, so come along. You, boy, remain
here until your mother comes to explain affairs to her.”

Jack was carried on board the Raleigh and in due course of time was
offered his choice by Captain Thompson of enlisting or being put in
irons.

“If you please, sir,” said Jack respectfully, “now as you’ve took me
I’ve got to sarve, but I’d ruther not be on the ship’s books.”

“Of course,” answered Captain Thompson, “I would enlist you under
another name.”

“’Tain’t that, sir,” said Jack. “I’m willin’ to sarve for my vittles and
does, but I don’t want no pay and no prize money, because I want to let
Cap’n Forrester know some day as I didn’t break my word and I didn’t
make nothin’ out of bein’ took, and I ax you to make a note in writin’
and give it to me.”

This the captain agreed to do, and Jack, with his testimony from Mr.
Dobell and that from the captain stored away in his ditty box, took his
place among the ship’s crew with a goodwill and the happiest heart in
the world. Captain Thompson, moreover, to ease Jack’s mind still
further, gave orders that he was to be watched and on no account to be
given liberty to go ashore, so that even had he wished to run away he
would have found it impossible; and within a week the Raleigh had
tripped her anchor and was off for a cruise along the southern coast.
Never were there two happier human beings than Jack Bell and Dicky
Stubbs. Dicky, it is true, occasionally felt down-hearted when he
thought how lonely his mother must be, but he chose rather to think of
the joy of meeting her again, and determined to try meanwhile and lead
the life his mother would wish him to lead. Jack kept a sharp eye on him
and if he showed any slight inclination to do what was not perfectly
correct, or to shirk his work, Jack would bring him up with a round
turn. So, what with a naturally good disposition and a wholesome
restraint and discipline Dicky was both a good and a useful boy. His
singing made him universally popular on board, and he was often sent for
in the long evenings to sing to the officers in the ward room and even
to the captain in the cabin. As for the fok’sle, Dicky could easily have
got all of his work done in exchange for his singing, which was a great
diversion, particularly when one of the petty officers taught him to
scrape a little on the violin. But Jack Bell was always at hand to make
him do his full share and more of all there was to do—in which Jack
proved himself to be Dicky’s best friend. The story of the song about
General Prescott had got abroad in the ship and Dicky was incessantly
chaffed about it.

Jack had been a signal man for many years in the British navy and amused
his leisure time while cruising by making a tolerably complete set of
signal flags to use in an emergency. Dicky, who would much rather have
been singing and fiddling than sewing, was nevertheless made to help
Jack, and the two passed many hours sitting together on the gun deck
stitching away industriously.

“I wonder what mammy’ll say when she finds I can play the fiddle,” Dicky
would ask with boyish conceit.

“Dunno,” Jack would answer, slyly chaffing Dicky, “but I reckon she’ll
be mightily pleased when she finds you can sew up a pair o’ breeches as
good as any tailor man as ever set cross-legged.”

“But I ain’t a-goin’ to do no sewin’ when I’m ashore,” cried Dicky, his
dignity much wounded. “I only do it now because I’m obliged to, and
mammy won’t ask or expect me to sew up my own breeches at home.”

“P’raps not,” Jack would answer diplomatically.

They had cruised now for some weeks and had captured several small
merchant ships, but Captain Thompson was looking for a warship to
engage. On a bright September evening they sighted a large fleet of
merchantmen which they hoped might be convoyed by a ship of war.

There was a good breeze, and the Raleigh being an excellent sailer both
on and off the wind laid her head for the fleet. To divert suspicion and
to appear like a merchantman, Captain Thompson hoisted the British
ensign, lowered his ports, and had his guns on deck covered with
tarpaulins. He sent the men below with instructions at the first tap of
the drum to go to quarters, and Dicky as drummer boy was ordered to
bring his drum on deck, where he hid it behind a gun and covered it with
his jacket.

It was late in the afternoon before the ships had been seen and it was
near sunset when the Raleigh, flying British colors, sailed boldly in
among the fleet. There were sixteen or seventeen vessels, somewhat
widely separated, and one large ship, considerably to windward, whose
squareness of rig and generally fine appearance induced Captain Thompson
to think she might be a heavy British frigate. But if so her commander
had disguised her so effectually that her real character could not be
known until the Raleigh got considerably closer than she was then.

When the Raleigh got within signaling distance of the fleet, Captain
Thompson sent for Jack Bell, who, with Dicky Stubbs to help him, spread
out his signal flags. All of the officers were on deck except Mr.
Dobell, the first lieutenant, who was ill in his berth, just recovering
from a sharp attack of rheumatism. The second lieutenant, therefore, was
to superintend the signaling. The large ship was plainly visible on the
horizon when the sun was sinking in a blaze of glory. As soon as Jack
Bell caught sight of her he said to the lieutenant very respectfully:—

“Axin’ your parding, sir, but that ’ere ship is a seventy-four. I sarved
forty year in the British navy, and I can tell one o’ them ships as fur
as I can see ’em.”

“I think you are mistaken, Bell,” answered the young officer, who did
not know as much about the run and rig of a seventy-four as Jack Bell.
“No doubt there is a warship somewhere about convoying the fleet, but it
is not that large ship off the quarter; but I will speak to the
captain.”

Captain Thompson agreed with his second lieutenant that the ship was not
a seventy-four. Jack said no more, and the twilight coming on, the ship,
although she grew larger as they approached her, also grew less distinct
in her character and outlines.

Captain Thompson then sailed boldly into the fleet of merchantmen and
signaled, “Where is your convoy?”

The signal was evidently understood, as the nearest vessel promptly hung
out several signal flags in reply. But in the dusky evening, it was
impossible to read them. However, the American captain thought it
prudent to act as if he had read them, and signaled back, “We have
orders to find your convoy.”

The impudence of this tickled the Americans, and the officers with
difficulty suppressed a cheer from the men. Dicky Stubbs laughed so loud
that Jack Bell gave him a whack in good earnest, which caused Dicky to
be perfectly quiet afterward.

Meanwhile the big ship was evidently edging off, which made the sanguine
Americans certain that she was a merchant ship.

“Maybe she is—and maybe she’s waitin’ until we gits under her
broadside,” mumbled Jack Bell to himself.

“She’s shy, my men,” cried Captain Thompson, who was young and brave and
rash, pointing to the ship, which continued to edge off. “We will signal
her and see what account she will give of herself,” continued the
captain.

The little Raleigh had now lessened the distance nearly one half between
herself and the big ship, which showed not a single porthole and seemed
to be keeping off most determinedly. Accordingly the Raleigh signaled,
“Where is your convoy?”

A faint moon showed its shimmering disk over the horizon, and those on
the Raleigh could plainly read the stranger’s answer:—

“We have none.”

The Raleigh then made this bold assertion:

“We have your superior officer aboard.”

By that time the Raleigh had gained on the big ship, which still showed
a disposition to get away. Nevertheless it signaled back: “We think you
are mistaken.”

By that time both ships were running free on the same tack, under a good
working breeze. Suddenly the stranger luffed short around; her whole
starboard side seemed to fly open; a double row of heavy guns were run
out, as if by magic, and the whole broadside of a seventy-four roared
out and raked the American from stem to stern. Fortunately the men had
been kept below, in the effort to disguise the Raleigh, and by extreme
good fortune, although several of the few officers and men on deck were
wounded and all were thrown to the deck, none were killed. But the
destruction on the ship was frightful. Many of her guns were dismounted,
her masts and spars were so wounded that she became for the time
unmanageable, and it was plain that she could not survive another such
broadside.

Captain Thompson, with blood streaming down his face, soon regained his
feet—but one glance showed him the state of affairs. The Raleigh had
lost her leeway and swung around with her head to the wind, perfectly
helpless under the guns of her huge antagonist. The seventy-four
meanwhile, shortening sail with the utmost quickness and precision, was
in a few minutes ready to repeat her performance.

“We will give her one round for the honor of the flag, if we go to the
bottom for it,” cried Captain Thompson. “Sound your drum, boy, as loud
as you can!”

Dicky at this began a tremendous tattoo, at the first sound of which the
men rushed from below, and running to their quarters every gun on the
Raleigh’s port side, which lay toward the seventy-four, thundered
out—and, immediately after, the American ensign was hauled down, as
resistance was useless. In another moment a boat was lowered from the
seventy-four and pulled toward the Raleigh. The officers, with Captain
Thompson at their head, stood at the port gangway to receive the
boarding officer.

It had passed so quickly that Dicky was stunned by it all. He saw as in
a dream the British officer come aboard, Captain Thompson offer his
sword, which was courteously declined—and he, with the other officers,
taken off to the British ship, which turned out to be the Ajax, one of
the finest seventy-fours in the British navy. Not a murmur was heard
against Captain Thompson, whose rashness had brought the Raleigh’s
company to that evil pass. He had made a frightful mistake, but it was
the mistake of a brave man, duped by a skilful enemy.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                          THE ENEMY OUTWITTED.


A prize crew was immediately thrown on board the Raleigh, but with the
contempt for the American navy which the British naturally felt at the
time, it was thought enough to send a young lieutenant, a midshipman,
and twenty men to take charge of the American ship. The crew were all on
deck, about to be mustered by their captors, when Jack Bell, finding
Dicky Stubbs, pale and awed, standing next him, whispered very softly:—

“Has you seen Mr. Dobell anywheres about?”

“No,” answered Dicky just as softly, “he ain’t able to move hardly yet.”

“You slip below, then,” Jack continued hurriedly but impressively, “and
tell him there ain’t but twenty men and two officers aboard—and they
thinks they has got all the officers—and if he kin manage to git into
the men’s quarters and git a suit of sailor’s clo’es on him, they won’t
never suspect we has a officer among us; but if we has an officer, we
can git the ship back before they knows it. Now, can you remember that,
boy?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Dicky—and in the confusion he easily managed to get
below. With his heart in his mouth he ran to Mr. Dobell’s room. The
lieutenant, much disabled by rheumatism, had yet managed to crawl as far
as his door. He surmised only too well the state of affairs above, and
when Dicky in an agitated whisper gave Jack Bell’s message, Dobell saw
at once what was meant. Only twenty men and two young officers! He
balanced rapidly in his own mind the chances he took, not forgetting the
parole that he might expect as an officer, and the imprisonment he might
suffer if he assumed the character of an ordinary seaman—but he saw the
opportunity opening before him, and he also knew how level-headed and
experienced Jack Bell was in spite of his humble position and want of
school education. Nor did Mr. Dobell forget that although in the
excitement of the moment he might have been overlooked for a little
while, that very soon he would be inquired after and searched for—but a
plan instantly suggested itself to him on that point. Picking up his cap
he hobbled, with Dicky’s assistance, down to the men’s quarters. Nearly
all the lights had been put out by the shock of the Ajax’s broadside,
but by Mr. Dobell’s instructions Dicky put out every one in their wake
that remained. He then told the boy as they passed the carpenters’
quarters to look around for a grindstone that he could lift. Dicky got
hold of one that he could lift very handily, as he was a strong boy.

“Now,” said Mr. Dobell hurriedly, “get some sailor togs on me; then put
my officer’s clothes up in a bundle and hide them until I can get a
chance to throw them overboard; and next throw the grindstone overboard,
with my cap after it, and rush up shouting, ‘Man overboard!’ and they
will think it is I—but tell Bell privately that I am here.”

By that time they were in the sickbay, where there were two or three men
ill, and in a minute or two Mr. Dobell was in a hammock, looking as ill
as any of them. Dicky ran back and by almost superhuman efforts managed
to get the heavy grindstone overboard and threw Mr. Dobell’s cap after
it. A loud splash was heard, and Dicky rushed up on deck shouting, “Man
overboard!”

This added to the commotion prevailing on deck. The boarding boat was at
the gangway, and the young midshipman jumping in, the boat’s crew pulled
toward the bow of the boat, where the splash had been heard. They saw an
officer’s cap floating near by and it was picked up, and for half an
hour they pulled back and forth over the place where the grindstone had
gone down, upon the chance of saving the supposed unfortunate officer.

On deck Jack Bell, by some occult means, had passed the word around
among the Americans that something was up and they must be on their
guard. When the boat returned with the officer’s cap, it was at once
identified as Mr. Dobell’s by the initials in it, and on looking into
his room it was found empty. The British lieutenant thought he had
conclusive proof that the first lieutenant had either fallen or jumped
overboard; and Jack Bell propounded a plausible theory that Mr. Dobell,
being unable to get on deck, had managed to lean out of the cabin window
so far, in his effort to see what was happening above, that he lost his
balance and fell overboard. “And he were a good officer, were Mr.
Dobell,” said Jack with much feeling; “and he must ha’ felt awful bad
when he knowed he couldn’t lift his hand to help the poor Raleigh.”

Jack’s theory was shared by the British officers, and when they found
two or three sailors in the sickbay it did not occur to them that the
one who appeared the most ill was the first lieutenant of the ship.

In a little while the ship was completely under the control of her
captors and nearly a hundred American prisoners were sent below the
hatches, while the damages to the ship were repaired as far as possible.
This was not finished until morning, when the Ajax and her prize parted
company, the Raleigh being directed to report at Philadelphia, which had
then fallen in the power of the British.

The melancholy news of Mr. Dobell’s supposed loss had been conveyed to
his old shipmates on the Ajax, and added to the distress they suffered.
The American prisoners on the Raleigh, although closely guarded, were
perfectly free to communicate with each other. A plan was formed to
seize the ship as soon as Mr. Dobell was able to move about, which would
be shortly, as he was mending fast. A sentry, fully armed, always stood
at the hatchway, but if once he could be disarmed or thrown off his
guard, the Americans rushing up could get possession of the deck, and
the rest would be easy. Mr. Dobell had the management of the whole
scheme, and it was desired to carry it into effect before they reached
Northern waters which swarmed with British cruisers. Jack Bell was Mr.
Dobell’s righthand man; and after two or three days, when the lieutenant
was able to get about his cramped quarters fairly well, Jack took Dicky
aside and whispered to him: “When the officer comes down to inspect
to-morrow morning, do you be singing the prettiest song you have, and
fiddling, too, and maybe he’ll notice you; and then I’ll tell you what
to do.”

Next morning, therefore, when the officer came below, Dicky was singing
away like a thrush “When the Wind at Night Whistles Over the Deep,” and
playing his accompaniment on the violin. He stopped, as if caught by the
officer; but apparently the young British lieutenant had no ear for
music and passed on without noticing him. The British sailors, though,
had heard him, and as music was highly prized on board ship to break the
monotony, Dicky was soon asked for, to sing and play to the men in the
fok’sle during their leisure hours. Thus, he was often allowed on deck
for an hour at a time, and never failed to use his eyes very sharply and
to carry down the news to Mr. Dobell, whose character as an officer was
not in the least suspected by his captors. They had experienced contrary
winds, and although ten days had passed since the Raleigh’s capture,
they had not yet passed the capes of North Carolina.

On a certain day though, when Mr. Dobell was able to walk about with
comfort, Dicky had got his instructions, and with a beating heart but an
undaunted courage he went above, when he was called for. It was Sunday,
and the few sailors that could be spared were sitting around the fok’sle
smoking and spinning yarns. Dinner had been served to them and directly
afterward the hatches would be opened to send the prisoners’ dinner down
to them. Dicky was permitted to go as far as the main hatchway. It had
just been opened and two cooks descended, followed by two sailors armed
with pistols and cutlasses. As they disappeared below a slight noise, as
of scuffling bare feet, was heard. The sentry, with his piece at his
shoulder, advanced, and at the same moment Dicky, rushing at him from
behind, pulled his legs from under him and he fell sprawling down the
hatchway. In another minute the Americans came rushing up on deck headed
by Mr. Dobell who, although unable to take any active part, yet
commanded with skill and coolness. They had the pistols and cutlasses of
the two sailors they had disarmed below, and they had seized the musket
and pistols of the sentry. In another moment the sailors sitting around
the fok’sle were overpowered before they had a chance to make any
resistance, and Mr. Dobell, directing pistols to be leveled at the heads
of the lookouts, they came down with alacrity. All this was done with
surprisingly little noise, as the Americans had been ordered to act as
quietly as possible and had left their shoes below.

Fifteen out of the twenty men had been captured, and it was now
determined to bag the two officers. Mr. Dobell, who had become
wonderfully active under the influence of excitement and success,
quickly and noiselessly descended the cabin hatchway. The cabin door was
open, and the lieutenant, with his back to it, sat at the table calmly
enjoying his dinner; while the young midshipman, leaning on the transom,
craned his neck far out of a porthole to see what caused the faint but
strange noises on deck.

Mr. Dobell signaled to two brawny young Americans who walked abreast
with him, and the next instant a stout arm encircled the lieutenant’s
head, across his eyes, and a pair of equally stout arms pinioned him
behind. The lieutenant uttered a loud yell, but the midshipman with his
head out of the port did not hear it. He felt, though, someone dragging
him backward, and the next thing he knew he was gracefully seated on the
floor and the cabin was full of Americans. By that time the five
remaining British sailors had been overpowered and the ship was in the
hands of the Americans.

The lieutenant struggled violently for an instant, when Mr. Dobell
spoke:—

“Remove your arm from his eyes.”

The sailor who had covered the officer’s eyes took his arm away. The
young lieutenant gave one quick glance around and became perfectly
quiet.

“Sir,” said Mr. Dobell, “this ship is in possession of the Americans,
and to show you that it is, you shall be freed from personal restraint.”

The sailor who held him let go, and the lieutenant rose and looked about
him.

“At all events,” he said coolly, “there is no commissioned officer among
you, and it is not likely that any of you foremast people can navigate a
ship.”

“I beg your pardon,” answered Mr. Dobell politely, “but I am Lieutenant
Dobell of the Continental navy, and I feel altogether capable of taking
this ship anywhere I wish. It was not I, but a grindstone, that fell
overboard the night of the capture. I felt that with an officer to
direct them our men could get the ship back, and for that reason I chose
to spend my time below the hatches. Now, however, I promise myself the
pleasure of your company in the cabin.”

The lieutenant, not to be outdone in politeness, answered with admirable
self-possession: “When you have made your dispositions on the ship I
should be pleased to have your company at dinner, for I conceive myself
the host at this one meal at least.”

“Thank you,” responded Mr. Dobell. “I will not keep you longer than I
can possibly help, for I acknowledge that the fare and table service
under the hatches has not been altogether to my liking.”

Mr. Dobell then went on deck, and directing the prisoners to be
mustered, they were marched below and occupied the late quarters of the
Americans. No bad blood was shown on either side, but a philosophic
acceptance of a change of conditions. Mr. Dobell had his plans so well
made and easily carried out that within half an hour he rejoined the
lieutenant in the cabin and ate the first good meal he had enjoyed for
ten days; while the Raleigh, once more an American ship, bounded along
under a freshening breeze to the music of three thundering cheers, given
by the Americans as soon as they had leisure to celebrate their
adventure.

Dicky Stubbs was the happiest little soul imaginable. He had been the
only one among all the Americans allowed on deck, and the news he had
carried below, and his achievements in pulling the sentry’s legs from
under him, made Dicky a considerable hero in his own eyes. But Mr.
Dobell, after seeing the boy every day in the time of their
imprisonment, had concluded that he was a remarkably brave, sensible,
and reliable boy, and had determined to interest himself in Dicky’s
future welfare.

Mr. Dobell decided to make for Newport. They had favoring breezes all
the way and passed many British cruisers, to all of which the Raleigh
showed British colors and signaled that she had been taken from the
Americans. But whenever a disposition was shown to speak her, she always
made off with a swiftness that caused many an angry captain to promise
himself the pleasure of reporting her to the admiral as wanting in the
first principle of that courtesy which should prevail upon the seas.

The melancholy news that the Raleigh had been captured by the Ajax was
brought to Newport one day by a trader from New York; and there was no
sadder heart in Newport than that of the Widow Stubbs. She spent no
time, however, in useless lamenting, for she had given her boy to her
country cheerfully and knew what the sacrifice meant. And she consoled
herself by thinking that it was after all but a temporal misfortune, not
comparable to what might have been had Dicky been caught lying,
stealing, or playing the rascal in any way. But she could not refrain
from crying a little when, about sunset on the day the bad news came,
she looked out of the window of her little house and thought that was
the time that Dicky had been wont to come home jingling his pennies in
his pockets with a vast air of importance before throwing them into her
lap, and then demanding his supper as if he owned the earth. But—strange
sight!—there lay a handsome little frigate at anchor in the harbor that
looked astonishingly like the Raleigh; and—oh, happy miracle!—there was
Dicky himself rushing up the path, followed by Jack Bell on a dog trot;
and then the door burst open and Dicky, grown about a foot taller and
broader, jumped into his mother’s arms, and Jack Bell marched in and
began sawing her arm up and down. The Widow Stubbs was so amazed,
astounded, and delighted that she was quite beside herself; and Dicky
poured out a rigmarole, his tongue going like a millwheel, all about
knocking the sentry down, and playing the fiddle, and what Mr. Dobell
was going to do for him.

“What does he mean, Mr. Bell?” asked the Widow Stubbs helplessly, after
having hugged and kissed Dicky twenty times over.

“The brat means, ma’am,” responded Jack as he solemnly cut a large quid
of tobacco and placed it in his cheek, “as how he’s did his duty—no more
and no less—but, like all brats, he’s makin’ a big hullabaloo over jest
a-doin’ of his duty, like ’twas sumpin’ extryordinary. I don’t go for to
say as he ain’t a smart chap—but he’s had adwantages, bein’ took young
into the navy, where most of the smart men is found, ma’am—and I think
he’ll live to be a credit and a comfort to you, ma’am.”

“He will, if he only does his duty just as it lies before him,” said the
widow softly, and kissing Dicky’s freckled nose.

“I’ll try to, mammy,” answered Dicky sturdily.

And he kept his promise very faithfully. The day came, when the war was
over and America was free, that his mother saw him captain of a fine
ship and able to give her a better house to live in than she had ever
known in all her life. Jack Bell took possession of the little cottage,
where he spent many happy years, and always pointed to the brave,
bright, and successful Captain Richard Stubbs as a monument of what
“bein’ ketched young and put into the navy” would do for a man.



                               FOOTNOTES


[1]The sailors’ name for a marine.

[2]Citizen.

[3]The appliance for hanging men at the yardarm.

[4]The songs in this book are not original.

[5]This song is not original, but is taken from an old naval song book,
   very popular in the last century. The incidents concerning this song
   and General Prescott’s words on the occasion are historically
   accurate.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--_Two_ illustrations listed in the Table are missing from the book.

--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.





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