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Weeks and his companions divided up as they had been ordered to do in coming to the fort, and departed in different directions. The lieutenant pointed out to them the locality of the bivouac where he had passed so much of the evening, so that they might avoid it. It was about one o'clock in the morning when they left, and Christy calculated that they would reach the ship in an hour and a half, which would give the commander ample time to get up steam from the banked fires, and move down four or five miles to the southward of his present position.
The chief of the expedition had sent no message to the captain of the Bellevite in regard to his own movements, but simply that he would report to him later. He had already grasped an idea, though he had had no time to work it up in detail. It looked practicable to him, and he had jumped to a conclusion as soon as he was in possession 71 of the facts covering the situation in the vicinity of Fort Morgan.
With only a plan not yet matured in his mind, perhaps he had been more rash than usual in sending away the whaleboat before he had provided for his own retreat from the enemy's territory; but he had considered this difficulty, and had come to the conclusion that the Trafalgar must be captured if possible, even if he and his associates were sent to a Confederate prison.
But he did not anticipate any such result. He had three pairs of the seamen left; and the party still consisted of eight men, all well armed. If the plan he had considered should fail, he had force enough to carry a light boat from Pilot Town, or any other point on the inner shore, in which they could make their escape to the Bellevite or some other blockader. He did not feel, therefore, that he had "burned his bridges," and left open no means of retreat in case of disaster.
Christy and Graines were left alone in the darkness and the fog, a bank of which was just then sweeping over the point; but they could hear the violent talk of Captain Sullendine in the distance, as he declaimed against the perfidy of his mate and 72 the three seamen just at the point where he needed them most. Evidently he could not reconcile himself to the idea of being left behind by the Trafalgar, which seemed to be inevitable under present circumstances.
"The skipper of the West Wind seems to be in an ocean of trouble, and he is apparently resolved not to submit to the misfortune which has overtaken him," said Christy, as he led the way towards the knot of men who were the auditors of the rebellious captain.
"He may jaw as much as he pleases, if it makes him feel any better, but I don't see how he can help himself," replied Graines. "The schooner looked like a rather large one when I got a sight of her just before I came back to you, which I did as soon as I saw the four men leave you."
"I sent Weeks as a messenger to Captain Breaker, to inform him that the Trafalgar would sail at three in the morning," added Christy.
"I concluded that was the mission upon which you sent him," replied the engineer; and, whatever doubts the lieutenant's action might have raised in his mind, he asked no questions.
Every man on board of the Bellevite was well 73 acquainted with the record and reputation of the executive officer; and he concluded at once that Christy had already arranged his method of operations. It was not "in good form" to ask his superior any questions in regard to his intentions.
"Did you go down to the shore, Charley?" asked Christy, as they walked in that direction.
"I did not, but I went far enough to hear what the captain of the West Wind was talking about. I had no orders, and as soon as I saw the four men leave you, I thought I had better rejoin you," answered Graines.
"Quite right," said the lieutenant as he halted; for they were as near the group on the shore as it was prudent to go, for the fog was lifting. "What did the captain say?"
"He offered ten dollars apiece for the recovery of the men who had deserted, if they were brought back within two hours," replied Graines. "He did an immense amount of heavy swearing; and it was plain that he was mad all the way through, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot."
"Was any one inclined to accept his offer, and go in search of the runaways?"
74 "I can't say, but I saw no one leave on that or any other mission. I was there but a few minutes, and the fog dropped down on the party so that I could not see them at all."
"We must join that assemblage, and we may be able to help Captain Sullendine out of his dilemma," said Christy.
"Help him out of it!" exclaimed Graines.
"Not a word more, Charley. I have an idea or two left, but it is not prudent to say a word about it here," replied the lieutenant cautiously. "You know the cut of my jib in my present rig, and I want you to keep an eye on me, for we must separate now. When you see me take off this old soft hat with my left hand, and scratch my head with my right, moving off a minute later, you will follow me. By that time I shall know what we are to do."
"All right, Christy; I will follow the direction to the letter," added Graines.
"While you go off to the left of that pile of rubbish yonder, I will go to the right of it. If you speak to any of our men, do so with the utmost caution."
"They have been down there some time, and 75 they have full information in regard to what is going on in this locality," suggested Graines.
"Use your own judgment, Charley, only be careful not to give us away," replied the lieutenant, as he moved towards the pile of rubbish.
A walk of a few minutes brought him to the group on the shore, which consisted of not more than a dozen persons, and half of them belonged to the Bellevite. Christy halted before he reached the assemblage, in order to listen to the eloquence of the captain of the West Wind. He talked very glibly; and it did not take his outside auditor long to perceive that he had been drinking somewhat freely, though he was not what non-temperance men would have called intoxicated.
"I use my men well, and give 'em enough to eat and drink, and what's good enough," the nautical orator declaimed with a double-handed gesture. "Why, my friends, I gave each of the villains that deserted the schooner a bottle of apple-jack. I don't drink it myself, but it is good enough for niggers and sailors; in fact, my men liked it better'n whiskey, because it's stronger. They served me a mighty mean trick, and I'll give ten dollars apiece to have 'em fetched back to me. 76 That's a good chance for some on you to make some money tonight."
His audience listened to him as they would have done to a preacher with whom they had no sympathy, and no one was tempted by the reward to go in search of the deserters. Christy moved up nearer to the speaker. In his disguise, with his face smooched with some of the color he had received as a present from Mr. Gilfleur, the French detective, with whom he had been associated on his cruise some months before, he did not appear at all different from most of those who listened to Captain Sullendine. He had laid aside his gentlemanly gait and bearing, and acted as though he had lately joined the "awkward squad."
"How d'e?" called the orator to him, as he saw him join the group of listeners. "I see you come from the other side of the p'int."
"Well, is that agin the laws o' war?" demanded Christy.
"Not a bit on't," replied the captain pleasantly, as though his potations of whiskey were still in full effect upon him. "If you come from that way, have you seen anything of my four men that deserted the schooner?"
77 "I wasn't lookin' for 'em; didn't know ye'd lost some men," replied Christy, staring with his mouth half open at the orator. "Was one on 'em the mate?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the captain eagerly.
"Well, I hain't seen nothin' on em," added Christy in a mumbling tone.
"I'll bet you have!" protested the skipper of the West Wind. "How'd you know one on 'em was the mate if you didn't see 'em?"
"I didn't know one on 'em was the mate; I only axed yer so's ter know."
"I reckon you know sunthin about my men," persisted the captain; and by this time the attention of all the party had been directed to him.
"I don't know nothin' about yer men, and I hain't been interduced to 'em. If you want to ship a new crew, I'm ready to jine with yer."
"One man ain't enough," added the skipper.
"Some o' these men'll jine too, I reckon," suggested Christy, who had proceeded in this manner in order to attract the attention of the disconsolate master of the West Wind.
"I don't reckon they can ship, 'cause most on 'em belongs to the Tallahatchie, and they can't leave."
78 "That's so," shouted several of the group, including some of the crew of the Bellevite.
"What's the Talla-what-you-call-her?" demanded Christy.
"She's the steamer you can see when the fog lifts," answered Captain Sullendine. "The Tallahatchie is her name. Are you a sailor, my lively lad?"
"I reckon I know the bobstay from the mainmast."
"You know sumthin about my mate and men, my jolly tar, and I'll give you five dollars apiece for any news on 'em that will help me to ketch 'em; and I'll ship you into the bargain, for I want more hands," the captain proceeded in a more business-like manner, though at the expense of his oratory.
Just at this moment three short and sharp whistles sounded from off the shore, and about half of the skipper's audience turned upon their heels and walked down to the water, where they embarked in a boat. They were evidently members of the ship's company of the Tallahatchie, on shore on leave, and the whistles were the signal for their return. The remainder of the group, with two or 79 three exceptions, were the seamen of the blockader.
"Where'd you come from, my hearty?" demanded the captain of the schooner, turning to Christy again.
"I was tooken in a blockader, eight on us. We done stole a whaleboat and comed ashore," replied Christy, enlarging upon the story he had told the bivouackers.
"Eight on you!" exclaimed the master of the schooner. "Where's the rest on ye?"
"They're all about here somewhar, and I reckon I kin find em. They're lookin for sunthin t'eat. They all want to ship, and the mate of the Rattler's one on 'em," continued Christy, guiding himself by the circumstances as they were developed to him.
"What's your name, my man?"
"My name's Jerry Sandman; and I ain't ashamed on't."
"Are your men all sailors, Jerry?"
"Every one on 'em."
"I want eight good men, Jerry, the mate bein' one on 'em."
"Then we kin fix you like a 'possum in a hole."
80 "I've got two boats on the shore; the deserters stole one on 'em, and I come ashore in t'other arter 'em. I reckon I'll get a steamer in Nassau, and I want all the good men I can find to man her. I'll ship the whole on you. Find your men, Jerry, and fetch 'em down to the boats. I'll give 'em all sumthin t'eat. Now be lively about it," said Captain Sullendine, as he walked away towards the shore.
"I'll find 'em in no time," replied Christy, as he removed his soft hat with his left hand, and scratched his head with the other.
The rest of the party scattered, and Graines joined the lieutenant.

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