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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Turnbull and Lippincott were no less pleased


_News has just arrived that the French Assembly has cancelled the act placing the mulattoes on the same footing as the whites, and the former have in consequence risen and have joined the blacks. The situation must be most precarious for whites in the island. Get up sail at once and make for Cape Francois. Cruise between that port and the south-eastern limit of Hayti. Do what you can to aid fugitives._

"We are to be off at once," he said to Mr. Turnbull. "Please get up the anchor and make sail. There is fresh trouble in Hayti; the mulattoes have joined the blacks."

The quarter-master's whistle sounded, and the crew sprang into activity. The capstan was manned, and the men ran to loosen the sails, and in ten minutes the _Falcon_ was on her way.

"Matters were bad enough before," Nat said when, having seen that the sails were all set and everything in good order, his two officers came aft. "A few mulattoes, overseers and that class, rose with the negroes, but the great bulk of them, having got what they wanted, joined the whites or stood neutral; but now that they have thrown in their lot with the blacks the prospect seems almost desperate. However it turns out, there is no doubt that the island is ruined, and the whites who were lucky enough to escape with their lives will find that instead of being rich men they are penniless. It is a horrible business

altogether. I shall be glad when we get to Cape Francois and can get news of what is really going on."

Nat was delighted at the speed shown by the schooner. The breeze was light, and she felt the full advantage of her added spread of canvas. She was a very beamy craft of light draught, and scarcely showed a perceptible heel under the pressure of the wind, fully justifying his opinion as to the improvement to be effected by the substitution of iron ballast for that which she had before carried. Turnbull and Lippincott were no less pleased, and the whole crew felt proud of their little craft.

"She can go, sir, and no mistake!" Turnbull said, as they stood aft looking upwards at the sails and down into the water glancing past her sides. "It would take a fast craft indeed to overhaul her; her sails are splendidly cut!"

"Yes, I tipped the man who is at the head of the sail-making gang a five-pound note to take special pains with them, and the money would have been well laid out if it had been fifty times as much; for it will make the difference of a point at least when she is close-hauled, and that means getting away from a fellow too big for us, instead of being overhauled by him."

"Yes," Turnbull said with a smile, "and might enable us to keep out of reach of his bow-guns, while we hammered him with our stern-chaser."

"Yes, it might have that effect," Nat replied with an answering smile. "What is she going through the water now, quarter-master?"

"A good seven knots, sir."

"That is fast enough. The _Orpheus_ would not be making more than six in such a light breeze as this."

Towards sunset the wind fell until it scarcely seemed that there was a breath on the water, but the schooner still crept along at two and a half knots an hour, although her sails scarcely lifted. The crew had already been divided in watches. Turnbull took the starboard, and Lippincott the larboard watch.


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