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The surgeon reported the condition of the first lieutenant to the commander at once, and a long conversation between them followed. Devoted as Captain Breaker was to his executive officer, and filled with admiration as he was for the gallant exploit of that day, he was not willing to do anything that could be fairly interpreted as favoritism towards the son of Captain Passford. The summer weather of the South was coming on, and the heat was already oppressive, even on board of the ships of war at anchor so much of the time on the blockade, and this was the strong point of the doctor in caring for his patient.
Dr. Linscott was very earnest in insisting upon his point; and the commander yielded, for he could hardly do otherwise in the face of the surgeon's recommendation, for the latter was the responsible person. The next morning, after the wounded officer had passed a feverish night, Captain Breaker 247 visited him in his stateroom, and announced the decision. Christy began to fight against it.
"I am not so badly off as many officers who have been treated in the hospital down here; and if I am sent home it will be regarded as favoritism to the son of my father," protested the lieutenant.
"You are too sensitive, my dear boy, as you have always been; and you are entirely mistaken. You have earned a furlough if you choose to ask for it, and every officer and seaman who has served with you would say so," argued the captain. "I shall insert in my report, with other matter concerning you, Christy, that you were sent home on the certificate of the surgeon; and even an unreasonable person cannot call it favoritism."
"I don't know," added Christy, shaking his head.
"I know, my boy. Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Captain Breaker. "You did enough yesterday to entitle you to any favor it is possible for the department to extend to you. You saved the lives of a quarter or a third of the ship's company. But it was not simply a brave and daring exploit, my boy, though even that would entitle you to the fullest commendation; but it included sound judgment on the instant, lightning invention, and consummately 248 skilful action;" and the commander became positively eloquent as he proceeded.
"Come, come, Captain Breaker! You are piling it on altogether too thick," cried Christy, overwhelmed by the torrent of praise. "I only did what I could not help doing."
"No matter if you did; it was the right thing to do, and it was done at precisely the right instant. A moment's delay would have brought the whole force of the enemy down upon you. It was absolutely wonderful how you got that gun off in such a short space of time. I report Captain Rombold's words to you."
"He is a magnanimous gentleman," said Christy.
"He says, too, that a dozen muskets and revolvers were discharged at you, and it is a miracle that only one bullet struck you."
"I found a bullet-hole in my cap, and two more in the skirt of my coat," added the patient with a smile, as he pointed to his coat and cap.
"But we are off the subject; and I was only trying to show that you are entitled to a furlough," said the commander; but the discussion was continued for some time longer, though Christy consented to be sent home in the end.
249 The thought of going to Bonnydale was exceedingly pleasant to him, and he allowed his mind to dwell upon each member of the family, and to picture in his imagination the greeting they would all give him. Not to the members of his family alone did he confine his thoughts; for they included the beautiful Bertha Pembroke, whom, with her father, he had taken from the cabin of a cotton steamer he had captured. He concluded that the surgeon's certificate would shield him from adverse criticism, after he had fully considered the matter.
The flag-officer of the Eastern Gulf Squadron was not off Mobile Point; and Captain Breaker, as the senior officer present, was obliged to dispose of his prizes himself. Some necessary repairs had to be made upon both ships before anything could be done; and the carpenter and his gang, with all the other seamen who could handle an axe or an adze, were hurrying forward the work. The prize had lost her mizzen mast, her steering gear had been knocked to pieces both forward and aft, she had been riddled in a dozen places, and shot-holes in the hull had been hastily plugged during the action.
Her Armstrong gun amidships had been disabled 250 by Blumenhoff at his first fire. Christy had not found the opportunity to examine this piece, as he desired; but Mr. Graines had done so for him; and it was found that the gun carriage had been knocked into a shapeless mass so that it could not be put in condition for use. The machinists from the engine room of both vessels, for those of the Tallahatchie had no feeling on the subject, were restoring the steering apparatus, and were likely to have the work completed the next day.
Captain Breaker was in great doubt as to what he ought to do with Colonel Passford. He was certainly a non-combatant; and it could not be shown that he had any mission to Nassau or elsewhere in the service of the Confederacy, though it would have been otherwise if the steamer and the West Wind had not been captures, for he was to sell the cotton in England, and purchase a steamer with the proceeds; but his mission ended with the loss of the vessels. He finally decided to send him to Fort Morgan under a flag of truce.
Before he left he called upon his nephew. He was still in a state of despondency over his own losses, and his failures to benefit the Confederacy, whose loss he counted as greater than his own. 251 He stated that the commander had announced his intention to send him on shore. Christy had seen him but for a moment, for his uncle had not desired to meet him again.
"We will not talk about the war, Uncle Homer," said Christy. "How are Aunt Lydia, Corny, and Gerty? I hope they are all very well."
"Your aunt is not very well, for the hardships of the war have worn upon her. Ex............
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