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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

The Spartane is fairly handy


admiral rose from the table and took down a thick volume from the book-case. At the back were the words, "Records of Service." It was partly printed, a wide space being left under each name for further records to be written in.

"Glover, Nathaniel. Is that your Christian name, Captain Glover?"

Nat bowed.

"An exceptionally good record. 'Distinguished himself greatly in the attack by the frigate _Orpheus_ on three piratical craft protected by strong batteries. Passed as lieutenant shortly afterwards. Appointed to the command of the schooner _Arrow_, four guns, charged to rescue white inhabitants off Hayti, and if possible to enter into communications with negro leaders and learn their views. In the course of the performance of this duty he landed with all his crew of twenty men, took off a French planter and family and eight other whites in the hands of a force estimated at three hundred and fifty blacks, and fought his way on board his ship again. Later on engaged a pirate brigantine, the _Agile_, of ten guns, which had just captured a Spanish merchantman. After a sharp fight, took possession of the prize, and with the aid of her crew capture the _Agile_.' And now with the _Agile_ you have taken the _Spartane_, a thirty-six gun frigate, to say nothing of recapturing two valuable West Indiamen, prizes of hers. And I suppose, Commander Glover, if we confirm you in your rank and

command, you will go forth and appear next time with a French three-decker in tow. From a tiny schooner to a frigate is a greater distance than from a frigate to a line-of-battle ship."

"Yes, sir," Nat said with a smile; "but the advantage of quick manoeuvring that one gets in a small craft, and which gives one a chance against a larger adversary, becomes lost when it is a frigate against a line-of-battle ship. The _Spartane_ is fairly handy, but she could not hope to gain much advantage that way over a bigger vessel."

"I wonder the admiral had men enough to spare to send her home."

"He could hardly have done so, sir, but fifty of the merchant sailors belonging to the recaptured prizes volunteered for the voyage, and were furnished by the admiral with discharges on arrival at Portsmouth."

"A very good plan, for it is hard work to get men now that we are fitting out every ship at all the naval ports. Now, Commander Glover, I will detain you no longer. I shall carefully read through these despatches this evening, and shall discuss them with my colleagues to-morrow. I shall be glad if you will dine with me to-morrow evening at half-past six; here is my card and address."

"I beg your pardon, sir, but I am altogether ignorant of such matters--should I come in uniform or plain clothes?"

"Whichever would suit you best," the admiral replied with a smile. "As you have only just arrived to-day from the West Indies, and doubtless have had little time for preparations before you sailed, it is more than likely that you may not have had time to provide yourself with a full-dress uniform."

"I have not, sir; and indeed, had I had time I should not have thought of buying one of my acting rank, which would naturally terminate as soon as the object for which it was granted was attained."

"Very well, then, come in plain dress. I may tell you for your information, that when invited by an admiral to his official residence you would be expected to appear in uniform, but when asked to dine at his private residence it would not be considered as a naval function, and although I do not at all say that it would be wrong to appear in uniform, there would be no necessity for doing so."

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