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Christy Passford was astounded and confounded when he read the commission. He modestly believed that he had already been promoted beyond his deserving, though no one else, not even his father, thought so. He had not sought promotion at any time, and he had been hurried through four grades in something over three years. He was the heir of millions, and he had given all his pay to wounded sailors and the families of those who had fallen in naval actions.
His share of the prize money resulting from the captures in which he had taken part as commander or in some subordinate position had made him a rich man; and with his mother's assistance, he was disbursing no small portion of his wealth among those who had been deprived of their support by the casualties of the war. He had not expected or even hoped for any further promotion, though 280 the newspaper had extolled to the skies his brilliant exploit in the Gulf.
"What does this mean, father?" asked Christy, dropping into a chair as if overwhelmed by the contents of the envelope.
"It means just what it says, my son," replied Captain Passford. "But I know that it is necessary now for me to explain that this promotion is none of my doing; for I have not asked it, I have not urged it, I have not made the remotest suggestion that you should be made a lieutenant-commander, as I have not done on any former occasion."
"That is enough, father; your plea of not guilty would have been enough to satisfy me," added Christy.
"I prevented your appointment to the command of the Chateaugay, and procured your position as second lieutenant of the Bellevite; and these two instances are absolutely all the requests I have ever made to the department in relation to you," protested the captain.
"That helps the matter very much," answered Christy. "I have been the victim of supposed partiality, 'a friend at court' and all that sort of thing, till I am disgusted with it."
281 "And all that has been in consequence of your over-sensitiveness rather than anything that ever was said about you."
"Perhaps it was. But as a lieutenant-commander I might still remain as executive officer of the Bellevite, for Captain Breaker has been a commander for over two years," suggested Christy.
"The department has made another disposition of you, and without any hint or suggestion from me, my son," said Captain Passford, as he took another envelope from his pocket, and presented it to his son. "This came to me by this morning's mail; and I have withheld the commission till I received it."
"And what may this be, father?" asked Christy, looking from the missive to the captain's face, which was glowing with smiles, for he was as proud of his only son as he ought to have been.
"Christy, you remind me of some old ladies I have met, who, when they receive a letter, wonder for five or ten minutes whom it is from before they break the envelope, when a sight of the contents would inform them instantly," added the captain, laughing.
"But I am afraid the contents of this envelope 282 will be like the explosion of a mine to me, and therefore I am not just like the old ladies you have met," returned the lieutenant-commander. "One mine a day let off in my face is about all I can stand."
"Open the envelope!" urged his father rather impatiently.
"It never rains but it pours!" exclaimed Christy, when he had looked over the paper it enclosed. "I am appointed to the command of the St. Regis! I think some one who gives names to our new vessels must have spent a summer with Paul Smith at his hotel by the river and lake of that name; and the same man probably selected the name of Chateaugay. I suppose it is some little snapping gunboat like the Bronx; but I don't object to her on that account."
"She is nothing like the Bronx, for she is more than twice as large; and you have already seen some service on her deck."
"Some steamer that has had her name changed. But I have served regularly only on board of the Bellevite and the Bronx, and it cannot be either of them," said Christy, with a puzzled expression.
283 "She is neither the one nor the other. She has had three names: the first was the Trafalgar, the second the Tallahatchie, and the third the St. Regis," continued the captain.
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Christy, relapsing into silent thoughtfulness, for he could hardly believe the paper from which he had read his appointment; and officers far his senior in years would have rejoiced to receive the command of such a ship.
"Not only possible, but an accomplished fact; and the only sad thing about it is that you must sail in the St. Regis day after to-morrow."
"I am informed that my orders will come by to-morrow," added the lieutenant-commander.
"The ship is all ready for sea. An eight-inch Parrot has been substituted for the Armstrong gun, the same as the midship gun of the Bellevite," the captain explained. "Perhaps you would like to know something about your fellow-officers, Christy."
"I certainly should, father, for whatever success I may have will depend largely upon them," replied the embryo commander of the St. Regis.
"Your executive officer will be Lieutenant 284 George Baskirk," continued Captain Passford, reading from a paper he took from his pocket.
"Good! He was the second lieutenant of the Bronx when I was in command of her; and a better or braver officer never planked a deck."
"He was available, and I suggested him. Your second lieutenant is Joel Makepeace, just promoted from the rank of master. He is fifty-two years old, but as active as ever he was. He is a regular old sea ............
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