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It had not occurred to Christy Passford before Captain Rombold mentioned it that his daring exploit had in any especial manner assisted in the final and glorious result of the action. He was confident that, if he had not unmasked the plan of the Confederate commander, Captain Breaker would have discovered it, and perhaps had already done so when, without any order, he had impetuously leaped over the rail, followed by a portion of the second division, urged forward by lieutenant Walbrook, to capture the gun before it could be discharged.
He realized, as the thought flashed through his brain like a bolt of lightning, that the Confederate commander's scheme must be counteracted on the instant, or Captain Breaker might give the command to board, for which the impatient seamen on his deck were waiting. He had accomplished his purpose in a few seconds; and the enemy's force, 192 huddled together on the starboard side, were suddenly piled up in a heap on the planks, weltering in their gore, and a large proportion of them killed.
Captain Rombold was standing abreast of the stump of his mizzen mast observing the whole affair, and he had a better opportunity to observe it than any other person on the deck of either ship. He had ordered up his men to receive the boarders on the quarter-deck when the gun was discharged, and before he believed it could be done. Christy had only to reverse the direction of the carriage, hastily sight the piece, and pull the lanyard. The missiles with which the thirty-pounder was loaded cut down the advancing column, rushing to obey their commander's order, and then carried death and destruction into the crowd of seamen in their rear.
"Good Heavens, Mr. Passford!" exclaimed the Confederate commander, rising with difficulty from his seat. "You are badly wounded!"
"Not badly, Captain Rombold," replied the young officer, gathering up his remaining strength, and resting his right arm upon the planks.
"But my dear fellow, you are bleeding to death, and the blood is running in a stream from the ends 193 of the fingers on your left hand!" continued the Confederate commander, apparently as full of sympathy and kindness as though the sufferer had been one of his own officers. "Gill!" he called to his steward, who was assisting in the removal of the injured seamen. "My compliments to Dr. Davidson, and ask him to come on deck instantly."
Christy had hardly noticed the ball which passed through the fleshy part of his arm above the elbow at the time it struck him. While he kept the wounded member raised the blood was absorbed by his clothing. It had been painful from the first; but the degree of fortitude with which a wounded person in battle endures suffering amounting to agony is almost incredible. So many had been killed, and so many had lost legs and arms on both sides, that it seemed weak and pusillanimous to complain, or even mention what he regarded as only a slight wound.
"This is the executive officer of the Bellevite, Dr. Davidson," said Captain Rombold when the surgeon appeared, not three minutes after he had been sent for. "But he is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and the bravest of the brave. 194 It was he who defeated my scheme; but I admire and respect him. Attend to him at once, doctor."
"If he saved the day for the Yankees, it is a pity that his wound had not killed him," added the surgeon, with a pleasant smile on his handsome face. "But that is taking the patriotic rather than the humane view of his case."
"It would have been better for us, and especially for me, if he had been killed; but I am sincerely glad that he was not," added the commander.
"Thank you, Captain Rombold," said Christy. "You are the most magnanimous of enemies, and it is a pleasure to fight such men as you are."
"Good-morning, Mr. Passford," continued Dr. Davidson, as he took the right hand of the patient. "I like to serve a brave man, on whichever side he fights, when the action is finished."
"You are very kind, doctor," added Christy faintly.
With the assistance of Gill, the surgeon removed the coat of the lieutenant, and tore off the shirt from the wounded arm.
"Not a bad wound at all, Mr. Passford," said Dr. Davidson, after he had examined it. "But it has been too long neglected, and it would not have 195 given you half the trouble if you had taken it to your surgeon as soon as the action was decided. You have lost some blood, and that makes you faint. You will have to lie in your berth a few days, which might have been spared to you if you had had it attended to sooner."
The doctor sent for needed articles; and as soon as Gill brought them he dressed the wound, after giving the patient a restorative which made him feel much better. While the surgeon was still at work on his arm, Captain Breaker rushed in desperate haste to the scene of operations, for some one had informed him that the surgeon of the Tallahatchie was dressing a wound on his executive officer.
"Merciful Heaven, Mr. Passford!" exclaimed the loyal commander. "Are you wounded?"
"Nothing but a scratch in the arm, Captain. Don't bother about me," replied Christy, whose spirits had been built up by the medicine Dr. Davidson had given him; but he did not know that it was half brandy, the odor of which was disguised by the mixture of some other ingredient.
"I did not know that you were wounded, my dear boy," said his commander tenderly; so tenderly 196 that the patient could hardly restrain the tears which were struggling for an outflow.
"Mr. Watts," called Captain Breaker to the chief steward of the Bellevite, who happened to be the first person he saw on the deck of his own ship.
"On deck, Captain," replied the steward, touching his cap to the commander.
"My compliments to Dr. Linscott, and ask him to come to the deck of the prize without any delay," added the captain.
Such a message implied an emergency; and the surgeon of the Bellevite, w............
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