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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

They had captured the brigantine


"I

was, sir, but the circumstances were peculiar."

"I never knew a midshipman or a young lieutenant, Mr. Glover, who did not find the circumstances peculiar when he wanted to disobey orders. However," he added with a smile, "let me hear the peculiar circumstances, then I shall be able to judge how far you were justified. Give them in full. Have you a written report?"

"Yes, sir, I have brought it with me," Nat said, producing the document.

"Well, lay it down on the table. I don't suppose it is very full, and I am somewhat curious to hear how you brought in a pirate brigantine and a recaptured merchantman--so I understood your flags."

Nat related how he had heard the sound of guns on rounding a headland, and had seen the brigantine lying by the side of the barque she had evidently just captured; how he drew her off in pursuit of the schooner, partially crippled her, returned and retook the _Thames_, released her crew, placed Mr. Turnbull in command, and how, between them, they had captured the brigantine.

"A very smart action," the admiral said cordially when he had brought the narrative to a conclusion. "It does you very great credit, and fully justifies my appointing you to an independent command. What metal does the brigantine carry?"

"Five guns each side, all twelve-pounders

like my own."

"And you have only four?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very good indeed, very good! By the way, do you know any of the passengers on board the _Thames_ personally? I observed three ladies on the deck as you came in. I should have thought that they would have had very much better accommodation on the trader than on board your little craft."

"Yes, sir; but they were on board the _Arrow_ before our fight with the brigantine, and although the first mate of the _Thames_ offered them a state cabin they preferred to stay on board, as it was such a short run here."

"Who are they, then?"

"They are refugees, sir. I got them out of the hands of the negroes--three ladies, the husband of the elder one, and seven other white men."

"Is there any story attached to it, Mr. Glover? Let me see, what do you say about it in your report?" and he opened it and read aloud:

_I have the honour, sir, to report that, learning there was a white family in the hands of the negroes, I landed with a party and brought them off. They consisted of Monsieur and Madame Pickard and their two daughters, and seven of their white employees. Casualties--eight seamen wounded, none of them seriously._

"Then comes the account of the other affair. Now, please give me the details of this rescue business as minutely as possible."

This Nat did.

"A very risky business, Mr. Glover, though I don't see how you could have acted in any other way. No British officer, I hope, could have been deaf to such an appeal; but if those boats had found the schooner when you all were away, your position would have been well-nigh desperate."


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