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The seamen of the Bellevite had listened with intense interest to the conversation between the commander of the West Wind and the lieutenant; and there was not a single one of them who did not comprehend the purpose of the chief of the expedition. They were greatly amused at the manner in which Christy conducted himself, and especially at the mongrel dialect he had used. It was a little difficult for them to realize that the awkward fellow who was in conversation with the skipper of the schooner was the gentlemanly, well-spoken officer they had been accustomed to see on the quarter-deck of the Bellevite.
They separated as they had been instructed to do; but they were careful not to go to any great distance from the spot, for they understood that they should be wanted in a few minutes. Graines had not spoken a word on this occasion, though he had done most of the talking at the bivouac. He 82 was ready to do his part; but the skipper had addressed his companion first, introducing the subject, and he had no opportunity to get in a single word.
"I suppose you understand it all, Charley," said Christy as soon as they were alone.
"I could not very well have helped doing so if I had tried. The only thing that bothered me was when you appeared to be betraying yourself by alluding to the mate," replied Graines.
"I did not do that by accident; but I desired to get the whole attention of the captain, and I got it. The rest all followed in due course. Now tell all the men to go down to the shore, and wait a little distance from the two boats till you and I join them. Tell them all to be hungry. Your name is Mr. Balker, the mate of the Rattler, the blockade-runner from which we escaped in a whaleboat. My name is Jerry Sandman, the second mate, for the want of a better. Tell them not to forget any of these names," continued Christy.
"They heard the whole story, and they were deeply interested in it, for they could not help seeing what was coming," added the engineer, as he went to carry out the order he had just received.
83 The seamen still kept together in pairs, and Graines instructed them by twos, impressing them with the necessity of remembering the names they had heard in the lieutenant's story, which was a "story" in the double sense of the word. As each couple received their lesson, they sauntered in the direction of the shore.
"What's going to be done, Mr. Graines?" asked French, who was one of the second pair the engineer instructed.
"That is none of your business, French. You are to remember the names I have given you, and then obey orders," replied Graines rather sharply, for it was a very unusual thing for a seaman, or even an officer, to ask such a question of his superior; and the discipline of the Bellevite was as exacting as it was kind and fatherly.
"Excuse me, Mr. Graines; I only wanted to be ready for whatever was coming," pleaded French.
"Excused; but don't ask such questions. You listened to the conversation between your officer and the captain of the schooner; and if you cannot comprehend the meaning of it, ask Lines, and he will explain it," added the engineer, "Where are Londall and Vogel?"
84 "Right by that pile of rubbish, sir," replied French, as he led the way to the shore.
The last pair were instructed and sent with the others, and they asked no questions. Graines joined the lieutenant, who had seated himself on a log, and reported that all was going on right.
"As I said before, Charley, you will be the mate of the Rattler, and will no doubt be engaged for the same position on board of the West Wind. I will ship as second mate, if one of the two men now on board of the vessel is not shipped as such, for I wish to be among the men," said Christy, after looking about him to see that no one was within hearing distance of them.
"I take it I shall not make a long voyage as mate," replied Graines.
"Probably not, though I cannot tell how long you will have to serve in that capacity. I purpose to have the Tallahatchie tow the schooner as far down as practicable; but we shall doubtless have business on our hands before it is time to cut the towline. Now we will wait upon the captain."
They found him walking up and down the shore, apparently somewhat excited; and doubtless he had not entire confidence in the promises of "Jerry 85 Sandman." The six seamen had not joined Captain Sullendine on the shore, but had placed themselves behind a coal shanty quite near the water.
"I've brought the mate down, Cap'n Sull'dine," Christy began, as he and the engineer halted in front of the master of the schooner. "Here he is, an' I reckon there ain't no better sailor in the great Confed'racy. This yere is Mr. Balker."
"How are ye, Mr. Balker? You are just the man I want more'n I want my supper. Now tell me something about yourself."
Graines invented a story suited to the occasion. Then the conversation was about wages; and the candidate haggled for form's sake, but finally accepted the lay the captain offered.
"By the way, Captain Sullendine, do you happen to have a second mate?" asked the engineer when the terms were arranged.
"I had one; but he run away with Bird Riley. He wa'n't good for nothin', and I'm glad he's gone," replied the skipper.
"The man you talked with is Jerry Sandman, and he was the other mate of the Rattler. He isn't a showy fellow, but he was a first-class second mate," continued Graines.
86 "Then I ship him as second mate;" and they arranged the wages without much difficulty.
The six seamen were promptly shipped. The whole party then embarked in the two boats, Captain Sullendine dividing them into two parties for the purpose. The fog had settled down very densely upon the shore; but the West Wind was easily found, and they went on board, where one boat was hoisted up to the ............
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