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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

They reached the ground on which Nat had decided to cruise


"At

any rate we are likely to take some prizes," Lippincott said, "for the instant we get the news we can pounce upon any French merchantman."

"Yes; those homeward-bound could hardly hear the news as soon as we do, while of those coming out many slow sailers will have left before war is declared, and may not be here for weeks after we hear of it. The great thing will be for us to put ourselves on the main line of traffic. As we have received no special orders we can cruise where we like. I should say that coming from France, they would be likely to keep down the coast of Spain and on to Madeira before they strike across, as in that way they would be altogether out of the line of the Gulf Stream. Then, if they were making for Hayti, they would probably be coming along west on or about the 20th parallel north; while, if making for Guadeloupe or Martinique, they would be some three or four degrees farther south. Probably privateers would follow the same lines, as before commencing operations they would want to take in provisions and water, to learn where our cruisers are likely to be, to pick up pilots, and so on. So I should say that we can cruise about these waters for another fortnight safely, and then go through the Caribbean Islands and cruise some seventy or eighty miles beyond them, carefully avoiding putting into any of our own islands as we pass."

"Why should you do that?" Turnbull asked.

justify;">"Because the chances are that we should find, either at Barbados or St. Lucia or Dominica--or, in fact, at any of the other islands, one of our frigates, or at any rate, some officer senior to me; and in that case, as we have no fixed orders from the admiral, we might be detained or sent off in some direction that might not suit us at all."

"Good!" Doyle said. "It is always a safe rule to keep out of the way of a bigger man than yourself. I have always observed that a captain of a man-of-war or of a frigate is sure to be down on small craft, if he gets a chance. It is like a big boy at school fagging a little one; he could do quite as well without him, but it is just a matter of devilment and to show his authority. Heaven protect us against falling in with a frigate. If she were a Frenchman she would sink us; if she were a Britisher she would bully us."

They reached the ground on which Nat had decided to cruise. Three days later the look-out at the mast-head shouted "Sail ho!" the words acting like an electric shock to those on deck.

"How does it bear?"

"About east by north, sir. There are three vessels; I can only see their topsails at present. Two of them are a bit bigger than the third. They look to me to be merchantmen. I should say the other, by the cut of his sails, is a Frenchman."


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