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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

There has been nothing to grumble at


With

only six hundred men Toussaint drove fifteen hundred French out of a strong post which they occupied in the Spanish town of Raphaelita, and afterwards took several other posts and villages. It was for these successes that he gained the name of L'Ouverture, or opener, and the Marquis D'Hermona gave him the rank of lieutenant-general. The three French commissioners had returned to France, and had been succeeded by two others, Santhonax and Poveren, the former a ruffian of the same type as those who were deluging the soil of France with its best blood, and who made themselves odious to both parties by their brutality and greed. At last, at the end of February, 1793, came the news of the execution of the king of France, and the certainty that war was imminent.

"Now we shall have more lively times," Turnbull said. "It has been dull enough of late."

"There has been nothing to grumble at," the surgeon said. "What would you have? Haven't we been sailing about like gentlemen, with nothing to do but to drink and sleep, and look at the islands, and take things easy altogether?"

"Don't you talk, Doyle," Turnbull said, laughing. "There is no one who has grumbled more than yourself."

"That is in the cause of science," the Irishman retorted. "How can I ever become a distinguished man, and show what is in me, and make all sorts of discoveries, if there is

never a chance that comes in my way? There are my instruments all ready for use, they might as well be at the bottom of the sea. I hone them once a week, and well-nigh shed tears because of the good work they ought to be doing. It is all very well for you, Turnbull, you won't forget how to kill a man when the time comes; but let me tell you that any fellow who doesn't know his A B C can kill a man, whereas it takes a man of science to cure him."

"There is a good deal in that, Doyle," Nat said, when the laugh had subsided, "though I don't know that I considered it in that light before; but that, perhaps, is because I have tried one and never tried the other."

"It's a fine thing," Doyle said, "to be a surgeon. There you see a man with his legs shot off. If it was not for you he would die. You take him in hand, you amputate a bit higher up, you make him tidy and comfortable, and there he is walking about almost as well as if he had two legs; and although he is not fit for ship service again, he would be as good a man in a fight with a cudgel as ever he was. Now I ask you fairly, what is there that you can do to compare with that?"

"Nothing in that way, I must admit," Nat laughed, "Well, you may be having an opportunity of showing your superiority before long. This is just the ground the French privateers are likely to choose. There are plenty of French ports for them to put into, hundreds of bays where they could lie hidden, and lots of shipping to plunder. No doubt they will be thick in the channel and down the straits, but our merchantmen will not think of going there unless in large fleets or under convoy of ships of war; while here, though they might be guarded on their way across the Atlantic, they would have to scatter as soon as they were among the islands. Well, we must look out that we are not caught napping. Of course, until we get news that war is declared we can't fire upon a Frenchman; while if one arrived with the news before we got it, he might sail up close by us and pour in a broadside."


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