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The kindly expressions of feeling which passed between the hosts and their guests were far from being mere compliments, for the Confederate commander and surgeon had made themselves very agreeable. Quite a number of pleasant parties had been given in compliment to them and Christy. But the family felt that they owed a debt of gratitude to their guests which they could not repay; and enemies though they were, the most eminent personages on the Federal side could not have been better treated.
"I am sorry you are going, though I congratulate you on the prospect now before you of returning to your friends," said Captain Passford, after the conversation had continued for half an hour. "But I did not come in to receive your adieus; only to introduce to you, and to Mrs. Passford and Florry, a new character, who has just stepped upon the stage of action."
291 "Draw it mild, papa," interposed Christy, shrugging his shoulders.
"I have the pleasure of presenting to you Lieutenant-Commander Christopher Passford."
Captain Rombold and Dr. Davidson set to clapping their hands as though they had suddenly gone crazy. When the former had nearly blistered his own, he rushed to the newly-promoted, and grasped his hands with a pressure which made the recipient of his warm greeting squirm with pain.
"I congratulate you with all my heart and mind, Commander Passford," he added, with exceeding warmth. "I know that you deserved this promotion, and I was sure you would get it from the moment I saw you in the mizzen rigging of the Bellevite, and within the same minute leaping over the rail of the Tallahatchie, closely followed by thirty or forty of your seamen. I lost all hope of taking your ship then, for almost at the same instant came the discharge of the thirty-pounder I had prepared to lay low half your boarders. I told you this would come, but you seemed to be doubtful of it; and I repeat what I have said before, that God makes some fully-developed men before they are twenty-one."
292 The surgeon followed the example of his fellow-prisoner; and then Christy's mother and sister hugged and kissed him, and he heartily returned their affectionate embraces.
"I have only to add that my son has been appointed to the command of the St. Regis, a steamer of over eight hundred tons, and reputed to have a speed of twenty knots an hour, though I have some doubts in regard to the last item," said Captain Passford.
"I cannot wish him success in his new command, for that would be treason; but I have no doubt he will damage our cause even more than he has in the past; and so far as he is personally concerned, I can wish him success with all my heart," added Captain Rombold. "I have kept a list of the names of the vessels in the Federal navy so far as I could obtain them; but it does not include the St.— What you call her? I never heard the name before."
"The St. Regis, after a river in the Adirondacks," said Captain Passford, laughing. "But I can assure you, Captain, that you know her better than any of the rest of us, for I never even saw her."
293 "The St. Regis?" interrogated the commander, puzzled by the assertion.
"Just now this steamer is something like a newly-married widow, for she is entering upon her third name," continued the host, very lightly. "Formerly she was the Trafalgar, a highly honored name in British history; but more recently she received the name of Tallahatchie; and now she becomes the St. Regis."
"I see," replied the Confederate commander, evidently trying to hide his intense chagrin that the magnificent steamer, purchased by Colonel Homer Passford for him, had so soon become a ship belonging to the Federal navy. "You expressed a doubt in regard to her speed, my dear Captain."
"I simply doubted if she could make twenty knots an hour, for the Bellevite overhauled her without difficulty."
"That was because our coal was very bad. The Trafalgar made twenty knots an hour several times when she was under my command."
"So much the better, Captain; if the speed is in her, her new engineer will get it out of her," replied the host. "But I must take the next 294 train for New York, and I am going over to see the St. Regis, for she has been put in the best of repair. Perhaps you would like to go with me, Christy."
"I should, father; I was expecting Charley Graines over this morning, and he would like to see his future home on the deep," replied the lieutenant-commander.
"He is in the reception-room now, waiting to see you," said Florry.
"I have his appointment in my pocket, and you may give it to him, my son," added the captain.
The guests were not to leave at once, and the trio hastened to the train. As soon as they were seated, Christy gave his friend the envelope containing his appointment, and Charley Graines was quite as happy as the future commander of the St. Regis. On the way the latter gave the other all the news that had come out that morning.
"I suppose Paul Vapoor will not come on board till we get to the Gulf, father," said Christy.
"You will receive your orders to-morrow, as you have been advised; and though I cannot properly inform you where you will be bound, I can tell you where you are not bound; you are not going 295 to the Gulf of Mexico," answered Captain Passford.
"Not to the Gulf? All my service so far in blockaders has been in the Gulf, and this will be a tremendous change for me. But where shall we pick up our chief engineer?"
"About all the business growing out of the capture of the Tallahatchie, including the promotions, was done very nearly four weeks ago. I was in Washington when Captain Breaker's very full report came, and the officers were promoted then. The appointments were also made then; b............
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