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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

She will be recommissioned immediately


Nat

returned to Portsmouth the following morning, and spent some hours in signing papers and going through other formalities.

"The _Spartane_ will be paid off to-morrow, Captain Glover," the port admiral said; "she will be recommissioned immediately. I hope you will be able to get some of the men to re-enter, for there is a good deal of difficulty about crews. So great a number of ships have been fitted out during the past four or five months that we have pretty well exhausted the seafaring population here, and even the press-gangs fail to bring many in."

Going on board, Nat sent for the boatswain and gunners, and informed them that as he was to recommission the _Spartane_ he was anxious to get as many of the hands to reship as possible.

"I have no doubt that some of them will join, sir," the quarter-master said. "I heard them talking among themselves, and saying that she has been as pleasant a ship as they had ever sailed in, and if you was to hoist your pennant a good many of them would sign on."

"I would not mind giving a couple of pounds a head."

"I don't think that it would be of any use, sir. If the men will join they will join, if they won't they won't. Besides, they have all got some pay, and most of them some prize-money coming to them, and it would be only so much more to chuck away if they had it.

And another thing, sir, I think when men like an officer they like to show him that it is so, and they would rather reship without any bounty, to show that they liked him, than have it supposed that it was for the sake of the money."

After the men had been paid off the next morning, he told them in a short speech that he had been appointed to recommission the _Spartane_, and said that he would be glad to have a good many of them with him again. He was much gratified when fully two-thirds of the men, including the greater part of the merchantmen, stepped forward and entered their names.

"That speaks well indeed for our young commander," the port admiral, who had been present, said to his flag-captain. "It is seldom indeed that you find anything like so large a proportion of men ready to reship at once. It proves that they have confidence in his skill as well as in his courage, and that they feel that the ship will be a comfortable one."

It was expected that the _Spartane_ would be at least a month in the hands of the shipwrights, and the men on signing were given leave of absence for that time. As soon as all this was arranged, Nat took a post-chaise and drove to Southampton. There he found the Duchesnes at an hotel. Their ship had gone into the port two days previously, but all their belongings were not yet out of the hold, and indeed it had been arranged that they would not go up to town till they saw him. They were delighted to hear that his appointment had been confirmed, and that he was to have the command of the _Spartane_.

"Now, I suppose you will be running down to see your people at once?" Myra said with a little pout.

"I think that is only fair," he said, "considering that I have not seen them for six years. I don't think that even you could grudge me a few days."


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