Woven with the Ship: A Novel of 1865

Brady Cyrus Townsend
Woven with the Ship: A Novel of 1865

With Great Guns and Small

 
"A thousand glorious actions that might claim
Triumphant laurels, and immortal fame,
Confus'd in crowds of glorious actions lie,
And troops of heroes undistinguished die."
 
Addison
 
"Who cries that the days of daring are those that are faded far,
That never a light burns planet bright to be hailed as the hero's star?
Let the deeds of the dead be laurelled, the brave of the elder years,
But a song we say, for the men of to-day, who have proved themselves their peers."
 
Clinton Scollard

THE FINAL PROPOSITIONS
A DRAMA OF THE CIVIL WAR

 
"Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"
 
Shakespeare
I. – AT THE TOP OF THE HILL

There wasn't a harder body of fighters in the army of the United States than "Kirke's Lambs." The only resemblance between this modern regiment and the famous body of horse which divided dishonors with Jeffreys after Sedgemoor, nearly two hundred years before, was in the name of their commander, for they were held under too iron a rule to degenerate into brutal and ferocious excesses. Besides, Kirke and the generals he served under always gave that body of hard riders plenty to do, so that they found an easy vent for their superfluous energies in legitimate fighting, – if any can be so called.

Kirke had grown up with the regiment from a subaltern to the colonel. Drafts had restored its depleted members from time to time, but in the spring of 1865 the Civil War was about over, and it was not considered necessary to complete its quota by an infusion of new blood then. There was but a handful of them left, therefore. The others – well, they said the bodies of "Kirke's Lambs" blazed a pathway from the Mississippi to the sea.

Kirke was an iron man everywhere and in everything, – in his business, in his regiment, and in his family, which now consisted of one solitary woman. The single child who had blessed the union had died before the war. The woman had been left alone for over four years. Kirke had never left the front and what he conceived to be his duty. He was a reticent, self-contained, undemonstrative man, whose affection made no show on the surface, though the current of it ran very still and deep. He actually idolized the woman who bore his name and had borne his son. On the death of that son he had made no great display of grief, though it cut him to the heart; and in general he gave little outward evidence of any strong affection to the poor, weak wife left so much alone and pining, like every woman in a like case.

She was a nervous, high-strung little body, utterly unable to see beneath the outward show; not strong enough to fathom Kirke's depths, – her heart was too light a plummet, – and it was a wonder to Jack Broadhead, who was Kirke's dearest friend and the second in command of the "Lambs," how she ever inspired the devotion that he, with better insight, divined that Kirke cherished for her.

Well, what was left of the regiment was out scouting. It had been ordered to clear up the remains of a Carolina brigade of Confederates which had been making things pleasant for the left flank of Sherman's army all the way to the sea and afterwards. One morning in February a party of some two hundred and fifty troopers, all that was left of the "Lambs," galloped over a rough road up a narrow valley toward the base of a buttress-like, tree-clad hill, upon the top of which lay ensconced the remains of that brigade.

They called it a brigade in the Confederate army, but it was really no more of a brigade than were some of Washington's during the Revolution: it was a handful of perhaps one hundred and fifty desperate, half-starved, ragged men, whose rifles and the bronzed, tense look of the hunted veteran at bay alone proclaimed them soldiers. They lay snug behind a hastily improvised breastwork on the crest of the hill. And they had retreated just as far as they intended to go. This was the limit.

Above them from an impromptu tree-trunk staff flapped and fluttered a ragged and tattered Confederate flag, – their last. They might have retreated farther, but to have gone northward would have thrown them into the arms of a division ranging the country, which would mean their annihilation or, if they scattered, their disintegration. Kirke had been pursuing them for a day or two. They knew his detachment, and in a spirit of reckless pugnacity they determined to have one good, square, stand-up fight before they quit the game, which everybody now knew was a losing one from the Confederate stand-point, with the inevitable end in plain sight. They had fought together during four years; they would fight together once more, let the end be what it would. A dangerous crowd to tackle.

With a skill which should have been manipulating an army, Hoyle, the brigadier-general in command of the remains, had disposed his men so that there was only one practicable way to attack them, and that was straight up the mountain. Their flanks were protected by ravines, and their rear could not be come at save by a détour of many miles over the mountains.

Kirke, halting his men at the foot of the hill, realized the situation as soon as he saw it. Could they take the hill by a direct front attack in the face of such a body of men, desperate old soldiers, who could shoot as straight and as fast as the remnants of that brigade could? Yet what else was there to do? He could not retire; he had been directed to put that brigade out of action, capture, or destroy it. He could not besiege it and starve it out. It was a problem.

While he was hesitating, Jack Broadhead, who had been left behind at head-quarters for a day, came galloping up with a few troopers as his escort. His quick, soldierly eye took in the desperate situation. After the necessary salutes had been exchanged a little conversation took place.

"That is a strong position, Bob."

"It is that, Jack."

"That fellow is a soldier, every inch of him."

"We knew that before."

"Yes. Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"I hardly know. Think we can take it?"

"Well, I don't know. Looks dubious. But we've got a crowd here that will storm hell itself, if somebody leads, you know."

"I'll lead, but this is worse than hell."

"Oh, by the way," Broadhead burst out, as a flash of recollection came to him, "I have a letter for you. It came just as I was leaving head-quarters."

He fumbled in the breast of his jacket, and as Kirke stretched out his hand indifferently he gave him the letter. The man's face changed slightly. A look of softness mitigated the iron aspect of his visage.

"Ah," he said, in a rarely communicative moment, "from my wife."

He tore it open. A glance put him in possession of its contents. Again his face changed. It was hard and grim at best, but never, thought Broadhead, as he watched him, had he exhibited a grimmer and harder look than at this moment. And there was a gleam almost of agony in the man's eyes. His lips trembled, – and for Kirke's lips to tremble was a thing unheard of! Broadhead saw him clench his teeth together and by a mighty effort regain his self-control. During the struggle he had crushed the letter in his hand.

After a minute he unclosed his fingers, smoothed out the paper, took out his pencil, and wrote a brief endorsement upon the bottom of it, signed his name, folded it up, and thrust it in the pocket of his coat.

"If anything happens to me, Broadhead," – and there was a harsher ring than usual in his voice, – "this letter is to go back – to – to my – the writer."

"Very good," said Broadhead, who knew his superior too well to question him as to what had occurred. "I take it that you have decided to attack?"

"Yes. Men," said Kirke, wheeling his horse and facing the iron veterans who had come to love him as few soldiers were ever loved by their men, "there is that rebel brigade on the top of that hill, – what's left of them. You know what they are. We have tested their mettle in a dozen fights. Now we have to wipe them out. It is probable that a large part of us will be wiped out in the process, but that's no matter. Dismount and tie the horses. We want every man in action. Leave your sabres. We'll depend upon carbines and revolvers. We'll go up and pull that flag off that hill. The trees will cover us till we get near the crest. Halt there, form up, and make a rush for it. Save your fire until you get to the top."

The cheer that came in response was more like the growl of an angry animal. The men instantly followed the example of their leader and dismounted. Their horses were tied to the trees and saplings in the valley, and the men, circling the hill in a long line with Kirke in the centre and well in the lead, followed by Broadhead a short distance after, began to move up the slope through the trees.

It was still as death at the top. There was no sign of life there save the flag which rippled and fluttered gayly in the breeze. It was a bright, sunny morning. The cool touch of spring in the air made life sweet to all that possessed it. In the grim silence the men clambered up the steep slope and slowly neared the crest. Suddenly there was a puff of white smoke from the little log breastwork on the top. A moment later the crack of a rifle rolled down the hill, and the man nearest Kirke fell on the slope, rolled against a tree, and lay still. He had rashly exposed himself, and he was gone. They were good shots, those Johnnies.

 

The men as they advanced sought instinctively such cover as they could, skipping from tree to tree. Every once in a while, however, one of them would expose himself in the open, and the exposure was always followed by a shot which more than once caught its mark. The crest was bare of trees, and the command arrived at the edge of the clearing with some loss, and cautiously concentrated, hesitating a moment before breaking out into the open and rushing the hill.

"Now, men," said Kirke, "you see what we have to do. The quicker we do it the better for us. Give me that flag," he added, turning to the color-bearer. "Gibson," – to his bugler, – "stand by to sound the charge when I give the signal."

There was nothing dramatic about Kirke, it was all a matter of pure business with him; but the men thought they had never seen so splendid a figure as he when he tore off his cap, jerked his revolver from his belt, seized the flag with his left hand, and stepped out in the open.

He nodded his head to the alert Gibson, and the shrill notes of the charge echoed through the hills. Ere it had died away the men heard their colonel say, "Come on!"

It was always Kirke's way to say "Come" rather than "Go."

With a mighty roar they sprang from the shelter of the trees and dashed for the ridge. A terrific volley greeted them. With a crash like thunder, which echoed and re-echoed through the hills, the Confederate fire was poured upon them. Had it not been that most of the men, firing down the hill, overshot the mark, the "Lambs" would have been blown into eternity. As it was, many of them fell, but the rest plunged dauntlessly into the smoke through which the red of the flag could dimly be discerned waving in the advance.

Again the rifles of the brigade cracked out, and this time sent their messengers of death crashing full into the face of Kirke's men. This time the carnage was terrible; there were many dead, but the blood of the living was up: they would have charged a moving express train. They tore recklessly through the smoke toward the top, following the flag.

Before the rifles could be reloaded the "Lambs" were at the breastwork, Kirke still in the lead. To leap the log walls was the work of a moment. The brigade was ready for them. The carbines cracked again and again; there was a grim, ghastly, awful struggle on the top of that hill around the foot of the Confederate flag-staff – then silence.

When the fighting stopped the few "Lambs" who were left leaned panting on their carbines, blood dripping from the gunstocks, surveying the tangled mass of dead and dying. The brigade had been annihilated.

Broadhead sprang to the staff to haul down the flag. He was nonplussed to find that there were no halliards, and that some one had evidently climbed a tree, which had been denuded of its limbs for the purpose, and nailed the flag there. He turned to look for Kirke, when, in the smoke that yet covered the field, he distinctly saw the man lift his revolver, pull its trigger, and blow out his brains.

In the confusion after the little battle, fortunately, no one noticed the action but himself. He was utterly at a loss to fathom the meaning of the suicide, but he quickly resolved that no one should know of it.

They buried the brigade with the dead "Lambs" around the foot of the staff, and Broadhead left the flag flying above them. He might have chopped down the tree and taken it, but it seemed fitting that the men who had defended it should have that last honor. The wind would whip it out in a day or two at best. Taking their wounded, they retraced their steps as they could, thinking that Kirke had been killed in the action, an opinion which Broadhead's report sedulously fostered. Broadhead carefully preserved Kirke's revolver, which he took from his dead hand, the letter, which he found in his breast pocket, his watch and sword, and a lock of his black curly hair.

II. – IN THE ROOM IN THE NIGHT

When the war was over, and they were mustered out soon afterwards, Broadhead hastened to Philadelphia and drove immediately to Kirke's house. It was empty. There was no sign of life about it. As he stopped on the doorstep in the late afternoon, wondering vaguely what had happened and what he should do next, the door of the adjoining house opened and a woman came out, of whom he made inquiry for Mrs. Kirke.

"Mrs. Kirke!" said the woman, in surprise. "And who may you be, may I ask?"

"I am – I was – Colonel Kirke's dearest friend."

"Is Colonel Kirke dead?"

"Yes."

"And a good thing, too," said the woman.

"Madam," cried Broadhead, indignantly, "do you realize what you say?"

"Certainly I do. Don't you know about Mrs. Kirke?"

"No. Is she dead?"

"It would be better if she were," she answered. "She ran away two months ago with a man named Allen, and after she left she sent me a letter enclosing the key of her house and requesting that I give it to Colonel Kirke when he returned from the war. So long as he is gone, I guess you might as well have it. Wait; I'll fetch it."

The woman turned back into the house as she spoke. This, thought Broadhead, sadly, was the explanation of it all. That letter. He had never examined it. He had held it sacred, but now he felt that he must open it. It might give him some clew as to the whereabouts of the woman. Yet he hesitated.

When the woman gave him the key he entered the lonely house. He went upstairs and sat down in Kirke's study, and there, overcoming his hesitation, he read the letter. It was the letter of a weak, hysterical woman, reproaching her husband for his lack of love, his seeming neglect, for her loneliness, and ended by saying that she had gone off with a man who loved her, and that he should never see her again. Kirke's endorsement was brief and as terse as the man's character.

"I have been to blame," he had written. "I did love you. I do. God only knows how much. I hope you may be happy. We are about to attack a strong position. I feel sure that after it is over I shall trouble you no more. You can marry the man – damn him! – and be happy."

How characteristic that was, thought Jack Broadhead, as he read, – that last touch! He cursed the man yet spared the woman. For a long time Broadhead sat there in that house, thinking, thinking, thinking. He wondered if he were the only mourner for poor Kirke. The twilight and then the darkness came stealing over the town, and still he sat there. By and by he heard a step – a hesitant, faltering step – in the hallway. He remembered now that he had left the street door open. He sat still and listened. The step mounted the stairs. It came along the short hall and stopped at the entrance of the library. He sat by the open window. The wandering figure was that of a woman. She saw the soldier silhouetted in the darkness against the light from the street lamp outside.

"Robert! Robert!" she cried. "You have come back! Thank God!"

Broadhead rose to his feet.

"No," he said, quietly, "it is not Colonel Kirke."

"Mr. Broadhead!" exclaimed the woman.

"Yes, Mrs. – Mrs. – er – Allen, is it not?"

"No, no!" she shrieked, shrinking back. "My – my husband?"

"Do you mean Colonel Kirke?"

"Yes. I have no other."

"And Allen?"

"He has cast me off, turned me away."

"Haven't you heard?"

"I have heard nothing. I have been blind – in hell – since – "

"Yes, I know."

"But Robert?"

"He is dead."

The woman sank into a chair, shuddering.

"When? How? Did he get my letter?"

"Yes. He was killed at the capture of a little hill in North Carolina on the day he received your letter. Here it is."

"Did he say anything before – "

"There is a message written in it."

"Give it me."

Striking a light at the gas-bracket, Broadhead handed her the letter. She read it through dry-eyed while he watched her. She had been a pretty, sweet, dainty, attractive-looking little woman, now she was a haggard, broken wreck.

"And he was killed by the enemy?" she asked at last.

"Madam," said Broadhead, sternly, "you shall hear the truth. He shot himself on the top of the hill the day of the battle with this revolver," laying the weapon on the table. "Here is his sword and his watch and a lock of his hair. I suppose you don't care for them."

"I care for everything that belonged to him more than Heaven itself."

"You are free now," said Broadhead; "you can marry your – your – friend."

"Never! He has driven me away, cast me off, and I hate him! I hated him from the very moment – I shall be free, anyway. He said nothing before he died?"

"Nothing."

"And this is all you can tell me?"

"All."

"Will you leave me now?"

"What? Alone in this empty house?"

"It's my house, isn't it? I am still Mrs. Kirke, am I not?"

"Yes, of course, but – I – "

"Will you go, please? You have discharged your errand. You have told me the dreadful truth. For God's sake, leave me!"

"May I not do something – "

"Nothing, – nothing. You may come back to-morrow morning and advise what to do. I am alone now, you see."

Broadhead stood uncertainly before her.

"Go, go!" she pleaded. "Don't you see that I wish to be alone for a little? You have been very good to me. I thank you."

She hesitatingly put out her hand to him.

"Won't you shake hands with me?" she pleaded. "I did very wrong. I fell very low. But I am very sorry."

Upon an impulse for which he rejoiced ever after, Broadhead clasped the thin, tiny hand in his own, held it a moment, bent low over it, and, with old-fashioned gallantry, kissed it, – that soiled, wasted hand!

"I forgive you," he said, and the voice of the dead seemed to speak to the woman through his lips.

He turned and left her alone, – alone in the darkness, alone with her memories, alone with her sorrow, alone with her repentance, alone with the weapon.

She lifted the heavy revolver with trembling hand. There was a single cartridge left in the chamber.

The next morning, in great anxiety, Broadhead came back to the house. He found the woman sitting quite white and still where he had left her, and the revolver was empty!

THE CAPTAIN OF H. B. M. SHIP DIAMOND ROCK
THE TALE OF A STRANGE SHIP OFF MARTINIQUE

 
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."
 
Scott
I. – THE CONDITION

"I am a passed midshipman now, Dorothy dear, and I'm certain to get my swab – "

"Swab, Mr. Maurice?" interrupted the young lady, archly.

"Yes, my epaulet – a lieutenant's commission – this year; you know what I mean, Miss Venour. And, oh, I do love you so! With my pay and what father will allow me and what your grandfather will allow you we can get along, – that is, if you love me well enough to try it."

There was a long pause. The young lady looked down at her feet, while the arm of the young man stole around her waist. Tired at last of waiting, though the position was a charming one, the young officer recalled her to herself by a slight squeeze, which was answered by a delightful little shriek from the girl.

"What was it you were saying?" she asked, hurriedly drawing away.

"I was telling you that I loved you," he answered with dignity, releasing her, "and asking you to marry me when I got to be a lieutenant, if you love me. You do, don't you, Dorothy?" abandoning his stateliness and bending toward her entreatingly.

"Ye – es, I – I – I think so, Mr. Maurice – James, then," she continued, in compliance with a deprecatory wave of his hand, "or Jim – or – " she hesitated a moment and added the word "dear."

His face brightened. He sprang toward her in boyish delight; but she checked his rush with a pretty little motion, and continued, calmly, —

"You are a very nice boy indeed, but you are so young, you know – "

"Young!" he replied; "I am nineteen, and you are only seventeen yourself! You are scarcely old enough to be married."

"I am," she said, promptly; "I am old enough for anything."

"Old enough for me, Dot? Say, 'Yes!' You know I'm sure to come out a lieutenant from this cruise, and then you will be a year older, too, you know, and – oh, Dot, do take me! You'd better take me now, you know; you might not have a chance next year. I've been wounded once, and something tells me – "

He paused gloomily.

 

"Oh, Jim," she cried, "don't speak of it! But grandfather will never consent. You know perfectly well a lieutenant's pay does not amount to anything, and – "

"You are right there, Dot," broke in a deep voice, as a stout, red-faced old man in the uniform of a captain in the navy came strolling out upon the beach from behind a clump of rocks.

"Captain Venour!" exclaimed the young officer, starting back in dismay.

"Oh, grandfather, you have been listening! How shocking!" cried Dorothy.

"Listening!" snorted the old man, contemptuously, with a nice mixture of metaphors; "why, this young calf here has been roaring out his love like the bulls of Bashan."

"Sir – sir!" exclaimed Maurice, flushing painfully, "I love your granddaughter – "

"Stale news, lad. Everybody within half a mile of this knows it now," said the old man. "Why, the smack of your – "

"Grandfather!" interrupted Dorothy, promptly, emulating her lover's blush.

"And I want to marry her, sir, with your permission."

"Marry her!" shouted Captain Venour. "On the pay of a midshipman! You young – "

"I'm a passed midshipman now, sir," interrupted Maurice, "and I'm sure to be a lieutenant when I come back from this cruise to the West Indies, – and she says she loves me and that she will wait; didn't you, Dot?"

"Miss Venour, sir!" roared the old man, "in my presence! Did you make any foolish promises to this young man, Dorothy?"

"I – ye – es, sir; I said I – I'd – I'd wait," answered Dorothy, reluctantly.

"Yes? Well, you will; you'll wait until he gets to be a captain. A man isn't fit to be married until he has had command of a ship and three or four hundred men; he doesn't know how to manage a wife. Look at me! I married when I was a midshipman and – and – I know."

"But, sir, it will be fifteen years before I am a captain! Why, you weren't a captain yourself until you were forty, and I can never hope to equal your record."

"No more you won't," said the old man, somewhat mollified by the adroit compliment.

"Oh, grandfather, not forty years! We couldn't wait until then! Why, I'm only seventeen now, sir, and James – Mr. Maurice – is only nineteen. Please, sir – "

Dorothy dropped on her knees on the sand before him, and at a motion of her hand Maurice did likewise.

"Get up, get up, you young fools!" said the old man; "suppose some one should see us!"

"No, sir," said Dorothy, grasping the skirts of his coat tightly; "not until you modify your terms. You know he loves me, and – and – and I am so sorry for him," she added, ingenuously.

"Well," said the captain, to whom Dorothy was as the apple of his eye, "I'll knock off a little. He can marry you when he has command of a ship. If he is lucky, he might be made a lieutenant-commandant in five years. Now, up with you!"

The young people struggled to their feet and looked sadly at each other.

"Five years!" ejaculated the midshipman, mournfully.

"It's better than twenty, Jim," said Dorothy, cheerfully. "Can't you wait?"

"Wait! I will wait forever, Dot, I love you so – "

"Waugh!" roared the old captain, "are you going on with these proceedings before my very eyes, at my age? It's indecent! There," he added, turning his back to them and walking away a few steps, at the same time pulling an old silver watch from his pocket, "I'll give you just five minutes; and take my advice, youngster, when you cut out a prize under convoy of a ship-of-the-line, don't make so much noise about it."

"I'll get a command inside of a year, Dot darling, or die in trying," whispered the young man.

"I would rather have you alive without a command than dead with one, Jim," remarked Dorothy through her tears as the old captain came back toward them.

"Now, I take it, you have just about time to make the harbor around yonder point where your ship is waiting for you," he said. "You've said your good-bys, and you've got your answer, so you'd better up anchor and make a run for it. I'll take care Dot keeps her word, and mind you keep yours! Good-by and good luck to you. If you are half as impudent in the face of the enemy as you have been to me here, you will get the ship in a week."

The young midshipman clasped the proffered hand of the retired old sea-captain, wrung it warmly, looked longingly at Dorothy dissolved in tears on her grandfather's shoulder, and then turned and made his way slowly down the beach toward the town and the harbor.

II. – THE UNDERTAKING

H. B. M.'s ship-of-the-line Centaur, 74, Captain Murray Maxwell, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Samuel Hood, was cruising to and fro off the island of Martinique, in front of Fort Royal Bay, to blockade the port and capture in- and out-bound vessels. One afternoon in the month of January, 1804, the commodore and the captain were standing at the break of the poop discussing a problem. They had just been in chase of a fast-sailing French frigate, which had escaped them by boldly running under the lee of Diamond Rock, whither, through ignorance of the channel and want of pilots, they dared not follow. The thing had happened half a dozen times in the past month, and the commodore naturally was exasperated.

The rock itself was a huge mass of naked stone, about a mile in circumference at the base, and towering out of the water to a height of some six hundred feet, in shape resembling a rounded haystack. On the southward side the rock, sloping precipitously down to the water's edge, was absolutely unscalable. The east and southwestern sides were so broken as to be equally inaccessible, and the breakers, smashing with tremendous force on the western end, made landing difficult or impossible. The officer of the watch that afternoon, who happened to be our quondam midshipman, James Wilkes Maurice, who had, by a series of fortunate accidents and some gallantry as well, been appointed a lieutenant a month since, could not help overhearing the conversation.

"It's too bad!" said the commodore. "The scoundrels get under the lee of that rock every time and make a harbor, and I don't see how we can prevent it unless we get a battery of heavy guns up on the rock; but there appears to be no way up."

"If you please, sir," said Maurice, turning about and saluting in great trepidation, for the junior lieutenant was a very small man indeed beside the commodore, "there is a way up, sir. When I was a reefer on the Cerberus she was cruising around here, and one calm day a party of us received permission to go ashore on that pile of stone, and we managed to reach the top."

"Oho!" exclaimed the commodore, his eyes brightening. "And could you take a gun up?"

"Not the way we went, sir."

"Well, then, I am afraid your experience will not be of service."

"But, sir, if I might make so bold, sir – " continued the junior lieutenant, hesitatingly.

"Heave ahead! Out with it!" said the commodore.

"In calm weather, sir, there is no surf on that point, and it would be quite possible, I should think, to take the Centaur in close to the shore, and then with a hawser and a traveller from the main-topmast head we might make shift to land some guns."

"Capital!" exclaimed the commodore. "What do you think of it, Maxwell?"

"It is for you to say, sir," replied the cautious captain. "The weather is fine enough to-day, and we might try it. It will be risking His Majesty's ship, though, sir," he remarked, gravely.

"Fetch me a glass," said Sir Samuel, turning to the midshipman of the watch. When it was brought to him he took a long look at the base of the cliff, observing a little stretch of sandy beach, upon which the breakers usually tumbled with tremendous fury. This morning, fortunately, it seemed calm.

"I will answer, sir, that there is deep water under the cliff," ventured Maurice at this moment.

"Will you answer for the flag-ship, too, sir?" asked the commodore, keenly.

"No, sir, I – "

"I shall have to answer for that myself," he continued. "We'll try it, Captain Maxwell; the wind's off shore, the sea smooth as a mill-pond. We'll anchor the Centaur close under the lee of the rock off the west side there. Call away a boat. Let Mr. Maurice go in charge, and I myself will accompany him. We'll examine into the situation."

The investigation under the commodore proved the practicability of the bold scheme proposed by the young lieutenant. The Centaur was anchored close under the lee of the cliff, and with incredible labor five of her big guns – three long twenty-four-pounders and two eighteen-pounders – were landed on the rock. One end of a heavy cable was fastened to the main-topmast and the other was secured to the top of the cliff. Up this by means of a traveller the heavy guns were dragged. One of the twenty-four-pounders had been fitted upon a circular carriage commanding the landing-place, another was mounted on the northeast side, and the third upon a platform about midway up the rock. The two eighteen-pounders were planted on the very summit and commanded an immense distance. When the commodore had decided to undertake the manning of the rock, Maurice had sought an interview with him and explained his reason for aspiring to the command of the landing party, which would, in the natural course of events, be given to a much older man.

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