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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Who do you suppose is going to command the Spartane


"I

am immensely obliged, sir," Nat said hesitatingly, "but I have never for a moment thought of this, and it does seem a tremendous responsibility. Besides, I shall be over two officers both many years senior to myself."

"I have spoken to both of them," the admiral said, "and pointed out to them that, after you had captured the frigate with the little brigantine you commanded, I considered it almost your right to take her home. I put it frankly to them that, if they had any objection to serving under one so much their junior, I should by no means press the point, but that at the same time I should naturally prefer having two experienced officers with you instead of officering her entirely with young lieutenants junior to yourself. I am glad to say that both of them agreed heartily, and admitted the very great claim that you have to the command. Mr. Winton is anxious to get home, and knows that he might have to wait some time before a ship of war was going. Mr. Plumber is equally anxious for a short run home, for, as he frankly stated to me, he has for three years past been engaged to be married, and he has some ground for hope that he may get appointed to a ship on the home station. So as these gentlemen are perfectly willing to serve under you there need be no difficulty on your part in the matter. We will therefore consider it as settled.

"I have made out your appointment as acting commander. I sincerely hope

that you will be confirmed in the rank. At any rate, it will count for you a good deal that you should have acted in that capacity. Here are your instructions. You will be short-handed; I cannot spare enough men from the ships on this station to make up a full complement. A hundred and fifty are all that I can possibly let you have, but I have told the masters of these two Indiamen that they will have to furnish a contingent. I have been on board both the ships to-day. I addressed the crews, and said that you were going to take home the _Spartane_ and were short of hands. I said that I did not wish to press any men against their will, but that I hoped that five-and-twenty from each ship would come forward voluntarily; that number had aided to bring the _Spartane_ in here; they knew you, and might be sure that the ship would be a comfortable one; and I told them that I would give them passes, saying that they had voluntarily shipped for the voyage home on my guaranteeing that they should, if they chose, be discharged from the service on their arrival. More than the number required volunteered at once, but I asked the captain to pick out for me the men who had before been on board the _Spartane_, and of whose conduct you had spoken highly. Three merchantmen will sail under your convoy."

Nat went ashore after leaving the admiral, and naturally went straight to the Duchesnes.

"Who do you suppose is going to command the _Spartane_?" he asked as he went in.


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