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   Chapter 7 THE MATE'S LUCKY SHOT.

Marcy the Blockade Runner By Harry Castlemon Characters: 24811

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Just look what them Yankees is a doing now," repeated Captain Beardsley; and when Marcy turned his eyes from the warning buoy to the launch, he saw that the latter was scuttling rapidly out of harm's way; that her bow was swinging around so that she would pass by within less than a hundred feet of the schooner; that the oars had been dropped overboard, and were dragging alongside by the lanyards that were fastened to them; that some of the crew had arisen to their feet and stood facing the Hattie; and that the rest were busy with the howitzer in the bow.

"Heave to, or we'll cut you all to pieces!" shouted the officer in command; and Marcy could see him plainly now, for he stood erect in the stern-sheets with a boat-cloak around him. "We'll send canister and rifle balls into you next time, and they'll come so thick that they won't leave so much as a ratline of you. Heave to, I say!"

At this juncture a rifle or pistol shot, Marcy could not tell which it was, sounded from the schooner's quarter-deck, and the plucky officer was seen to throw his hands above his head, grasp wildly at the empty air for a moment, and then disappear over the side of the launch. In an instant all was confusion among the blue-jackets. The coxswain, who of course was left in command, shouted to the engineer to shut off steam, to the crew to drop their muskets and pick up their oars, and to the captain of the howitzer to cut loose with his load of canister.

"Lay down, everybody," cried Beardsley, who plainly heard all these orders; and suiting the action to the word, he quickly stretched himself upon the deck. Marcy had barely time to follow his example before the howitzer roared again, and the canister rattled through the rigging like hail, tearing holes in the canvas, splintering a mast here and a boom there, but never cutting a stay or halliard. If a topmast had gone by the board, or a sail come down by the run, the schooner would have been quite at the mercy of the launch; for the latter could have carried her by boarding, or taken a position astern and peppered the Hattie with shrapnel until Captain Beardsley would have been glad to surrender. The captain did not see how his vessel could escape being crippled, and he would have surrendered then and there if any one in the launch had called upon him to do so; but when he got upon his feet and saw that every rope held, and that the schooner was just on the point of entering her haven of refuge, he took heart again.

"Marcy, go aft and tell Morgan that that buoy ahead is a black one," said he, as soon as he had taken time to recover his wits. "Lay for'ard some of us and cut away this useless canvas. The Hattie ain't catched yet, doggone it all. I tell you, lads, it takes somebody besides a plodding, dollar-loving Yankee to get to windward of Lon Beardsley."

"The captain desired me to remind you that that buoy is a black one, and you want to leave it to port," said Marcy, taking his stand beside the man at the wheel. "Who fired that shot? It came from this end of the vessel."

"The second mate fired it," replied Morgan, "and he done it just in the nick of time. The killing of that officer was all that saved our bacon."

"Oh, I hope he wasn't killed!" exclaimed Marcy.

"You do, hey? Well, I don't. I'd like to see the last blockader on this coast tumbled into the drink in the same way. What did the old man say about it?"

"Not a word. I think he was too surprised to say anything."

"Was anybody hurt by that shell?" continued Morgan. "I seen the jib flying in the wind and the rail ripped up, and you and the old man was standing right there."

"Something or other knocked both of us flatter than pancakes," answered Marcy. "The captain must have been hit all over; but I was struck only on the arm, and I don't seem to have much use of it any more."

"You can go forward and lookout for the buoys, can't you? All right. Sing out when ever you see one, and I will stay here and take her through while the cap'n gets that headsail out of the way."

Before obeying this order Marcy stopped long enough to level the glass toward the place where he supposed the launch to be. Having worked the water out of the cylinders the engineer had shut off the stop-cocks so that she could not be heard, and as there was no flame shooting out of her smoke-stack, she could not be seen; but she was still on top of the water, and eager to do mischief. While Marcy was moving his glass around trying to locate her, the howitzer spoke again; but as the schooner took the wind free after rounding the first buoy, her course was changed, so that the shell passed behind her, and exploded far ahead and to the right.

"You've got your wish," said Morgan. "That shot means that they have picked up their cap'n, and that he's as full of fight as ever. Well, let him bang away, if he wants to. He can't hurt the sand-hills, and this channel is so crooked that he won't hit us except by accident."

"But he will follow in our wake, won't he?"

"Who cares if he does so long as he don't sight us? We'll dodge him easy enough after we get into the Sound. Now toddle for'ard and look out for me."

["It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," thought the boy, as he leaned his uninjured arm upon the splintered rail and brought the glass to his eye. "This night's work will put an end to the Hattie's blockade-running. If that fellow astern don't catch us, he will surely find and pull up the buoys, and then we can't follow the channel except by sending a boat on ahead with a lead-line. That might do when we were going out, but it wouldn't work running in if there was an enemy close behind us. Another thing, this Inlet will be watched in future. Now you mark my words."] "Red buoy on the starboard bow," he called out to the man at the wheel.

Morgan repeated the words to show that he understood them, and just then Beardsley came up, having seen the useless jib brought on deck and stowed away.

"Be careful and make no mistake, Marcy," said he. "It's a matter of life and death with us now-and money."

"I can call off the color of every buoy between here and the Sound," replied the pilot confidently. "I took particular pains to remember the order in which they were put out. Where are you hurt, Captain?" he added, seeing that the man had let go of his shoulder and was now holding fast to both elbows.

"I'm hurt in every place; that's where I am hurt," said Beardsley, looking savagely at Marcy, as if the latter was to blame for it. "Something hit me ker-whallop on this side, and the deck took me ker-chunk on the other; and I'll bet there ain't a spot on ary side as big as an inch where I ain't black and blue. You wasn't touched, was you? But I thought I seen you come down when I did."

"I went down fast enough," answered Marcy. "I bumped my head pretty heavily on the deck, but the worst hurt I got was right here. And I declare, there's a bunch that don't belong to me. Is it a fracture of the humerus, I wonder?"

"A which?" exclaimed the puzzled captain.

"I really believe the bone of my upper arm is broken," replied Marcy, feeling of the bunch to which he had referred. "It doesn't hurt much except when I touch it. It only feels numb."

Just then the howitzer spoke again, and another shrapnel flew wide of the schooner and burst among the sand dunes. Another and another followed at short intervals, and then the firing ceased. The launch had given it up as a bad job; the pursuit was over and Marcy and the captain were the only ones injured.

"She has either run hard and fast aground, or else she is amusing herself with them buoys of our'n," said Beardsley, when he became satisfied that the launch was no longer following in the schooner's wake. "Now, where's that good-looking son of mine who fired the lucky shot that tumbled that Yankee officer overboard? Whoever he is, I'll double his wages. He ought to have it, for he saved the vessel and her cargo. Let him show up."

The second mate obeyed the order, exhibiting the revolver that had fired the shot, and the captain complimented him in no measured terms. Marcy could not help acknowledging to himself that their escape was owing entirely to the prompt action the mate had taken without waiting for orders; but all the same he was sorry for that Federal officer.

Less than an hour's run sufficed to take the schooner out of the Inlet and into the Sound, and when Beardsley had given out the course and seen the sails trimmed to suit it, he went into his cabin, from which he presently issued to pass the word for Marcy Gray. When the boy descended the ladder he found the first mate and two foremast hands there besides the captain; and on the table he saw two pieces of thin board, and several strips of cloth that had evidently been torn up for bandages. He noticed, too, that the atmosphere was filled with the odor of liniment.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, in some alarm.

"We're going to set that-that-what-do-you-call-it of your'n," replied the captain cheerfully. The name that Marcy had given to the bone of his upper arm was too much for him. He could not remember it.

The boy knew that all sea captains have more or less knowledge of medicine and surgery. It is necessary that they should have, for sailors are often seized with illness, or meet with serious accidents when their ship is at sea, and so far from a doctor that without immediate aid from some source they would surely lose their lives. Marcy had read of a whaling captain, one of whose men was jerked overboard from his boat by a wounded whale, dragged for six hundred feet or more through the water with frightful speed, and who was finally released by his leg giving way to the strain. The captain saw that that leg must be attended to or the man would die. His crew were too badly frightened to help him, so he amputated the injured member himself; and all the surgical instruments his ship afforded were a carving-knife, a carpenter's saw, and a fish-hook. But he saved the man's life. Marcy thought of this and shuddered at the thought of submitting himself to Beardsley's rude surgery.

"I believe I would rather wait until we get to Newbern," said he doubtfully.

"Why, man alive, we may not see port for a week," answered the captain. "How do we know but what there are a dozen or more steam launches, like the one we've just left astern, loafing about in the Sound waiting for us? If there are, we'll have to get shet of 'em somehow, and that will take time. If we don't 'tend to your arm now, it may be so bad when the doctor sees it that he can't do nothing with it without half killing of you. Take off his coat and vest, men; and Morgan, you roll up his sleeve. There is folks around home who think you are for the Union, and that you ain't secesh, even if you do belong to my vessel. If you run foul of one of 'em while you are gone on your furlong, just point to your arm and tell him to hold his yawp."

"Are you going to give me a leave of absence?" asked Marcy, who was so delighted at the thought that he could scarcely keep from showing it.

"I reckon I'll have to. I ain't got no use for a one-handed man; but I'll keep your place open for you, never fear. Just see that, now. Ain't that a pretty looking arm for a white boy to carry around with him? It makes me hate them Yankees wusser'n I did before."

The wounded arm was already becoming inflamed, and it was painful, too; and although Beardsley's assistants were as careful as they could be, Marcy winced while they were helping him off with his coat and vest and rolling up his sleeve. When this had been done one of the men, in obedience to a slight nod from the captain, seized Marcy around the chest under his arms, the mate by a movement equally quick grasped his left wrist, and both began pulling in opposite directions with all their strength, while Beardsley passed his huge rough hands up and down over the "bunch" until he was satisfied that the protruding bone had been pulled back to its place. The operation was a painful one, and the only thing that kept Marcy from crying out was the remembrance of Beardsley's words "I ain't got no use for a one-handed man." That broken arm would bring him a furlough.

"There, now; that'll do. 'Vast heaving," said the captain, at length. "Put some of the stuff i

n that bottle on one of them bandages and hand it over here. Pretty rough way of getting to go home, but better than none at all, and I reckon your maw will be just as glad to see you as she would if you had two good arms. Don't you reckon she will?"

After his arm had been bandaged and placed in a sling, Marcy was quite willing to go into the forecastle and lie down in his bunk; and there he stayed until the schooner entered the Neuse River and a tug came alongside to tow her up to the city. This time there were plenty of cheers to welcome her, the first coming from the working parties who were building the fortifications, and the next from the soldiers and loafers who were assembled upon the wharf to which she was made fast, and who howled themselves hoarse when they caught sight of the holes in her sails, her broken bowsprit, and her splintered rail.

"I see that blockade running has its dangers as well as privateering," said Beardsley's agent, as he sprang over the rail and seized the captain's hand. "The Hattie is cut up pretty badly, but the Osprey was never touched. Been in a fight?"

"Well, no, not much of a fight, because we uns didn't have nothing to fight with. But the schooner ran through a pretty tol'able heavy fire, I tell you."

It was all over now, and Beardsley could afford to treat the matter with indifference; but Marcy remembered that when that splinter knocked him down, the captain was the worst frightened man in the crew. However, Beardsley was not as badly hurt as he thought he was. When he came to make an examination of his injuries, all he could find was a black and blue spot on one of his shoulders that was about half as large as his hand; but he made more fuss over that than Marcy Gray did over his broken arm.

"Anybody shot?" continued the agent.

"Well, yes; two of us got touched a little, but not enough to growl over. You see it was this-a-way--"

"I suppose I may go ashore now and hunt up a surgeon, may I not?" Marcy interposed.

He thought from the way Beardsley settled himself against the rail that he was preparing for a long talk with the agent, and that it would be a good plan to have his own affairs settled before the captain became too deeply interested in his narrative to listen to him. There was little to detain him in Newbern. On the way up the river Beardsley had given him a written leave of absence for ninety days, and a check on the bank for his money; and all he had to do besides presenting that check was to have his arm examined by a surgeon.

"Of course you can go," replied Beardsley. "And if I don't see you when you come back for your dunnage, don't forget them little messages I give you for the folks at home, nor them letters; and bear in mind that I want you back as soon as ever you can get well."

Marcy promised to remember it all, and the captain went on to say:

"He's the bravest lad that ever stepped in shoe leather. When them Yankees sent that shell into us and knocked him and me down and smashed his arm all to flinders, he stood in the bow and piloted us through Crooked Inlet as slick as falling off a log; and there was his arm broken all the while, and hanging by his side as limp as a piece of wet rope. Oh, he's a good one, and I don't for the life of me see how I am going to get on without him. I've said as much in them letters I wrote to the folks to home."

Under almost any other circumstances Marcy Gray would have been disgusted; but as it was, he was quite willing that Beardsley should talk about him in this strain as often as he felt like it.

"Perhaps it will help me with those secret enemies at home," he said to himself, as he stepped upon the wharf and forced his way slowly through the crowd, not, however, without being compelled to shake hands with a dozen or more who wanted to know when and where he got hurt and who did it, and all about it. "I should really like to see the inside of the letters the captain gave me to hand to Shelby and the rest. I wonder if he thinks I am foolish enough to open and read them? He'll not trap me that way; but I wouldn't trust any letters to him that I didn't want him to read, I bet you."

Arriving at a drug store which bore the name of a medical man upon one of its doorposts, Marcy entered and asked where he could find somebody to tell him whether or not his broken arm had been properly set and cared for.

"Step right this way, and I will tell you in less than five minutes," said the man who stood behind the counter. "How did you break it?"

"I was knocked down," replied Marcy.

"Who knocked you down?"

"A Yankee!"

"Heyday! Bull Run?"

"No, sir; Crooked Inlet."

"Well, I thought you looked like a seafaring man. What vessel do you belong to?"

"The blockade-runner Hattie. She used to be the privateer Osprey."

"Were you one of the brave fellows who captured the Mary Hollins?" exclaimed the surgeon, giving Marcy a look of admiration. "It was a gallant deed."

"I was there when she was taken," answered the boy, while the doctor was helping him off with his coat. "Do you know what become of her crew?"

"They were paroled and sent North long ago. We didn't want such folks among us."

"But they are not prisoners of war."

"That doesn't matter. They had to promise that they would not take up arms against us until they were regularly exchanged; and if they do, and we find it out, they will stand a fine chance of being strung up. You've got a pretty good surgeon aboard your ship, and he has made a good job of this. I wonder if I know him. Is he a Newbern man?"

"No, sir; he hails from up toward Plymouth. And he isn't a doctor, either. He's the captain."

"Oh, ah!" said the surgeon, who was very much surprised to hear it. "I see, now that I come to look at it closely, that it is not quite as straight as I thought it was. It sticks out a little on this side, and your arm will always be more or less crooked. It is unfortunate that you did not have a surgeon aboard; but we will have to let it go."

"Of course I can't do duty with one hand," said Marcy, "and so the captain has given me leave to go home for awhile. I can travel on the cars, I suppose?"

"There's nothing in the world to hinder it," replied the medical man, who seemed on a sudden to have lost all interest in Marcy and his injured arm. "I will do it up again and give you a little medicine, and you will get along all right. It's a mere trifle."

When Marcy asked what his bill was, he told himself that he made a mistake when he said it was the captain and not a doctor who set his arm, for the surgeon charged him a good round price for his trouble, as well as for the little bottle of tonic he wrapped up for him; and when he went to the telegraph office, the operator who sent off a dispatch to his mother made no distinction between him and a citizen. The dispatch ran as follows:

Arrived from Nassau this morning with a valuable cargo after a running fight with the Yankees. Had two men slightly injured. Will leave for Boydtown by first train.

"After mother reads that she will not be so very much shocked when she sees me with my arm in a sling," was what he told himself as he passed the dispatch over to the operator.

"Did you have a fight with one of the blockaders?" asked the latter carelessly. He had become accustomed to the sight of wounded men since the battle of Bull Run was fought, and did not take a second look at Marcy.

"It wasn't much of a fight, seeing that there was but one shot fired on our side," answered the pilot. "But that one shot was what brought us through. It wasn't a blockader, either, but a launch; and if you want to see what she did to us, step down to the wharf and take a look at the Hattie. One more round of canister would have made a wreck of us."

"And you happened to be one of the two who were wounded, I reckon," said the operator. "Fifty cents, please."

"The last time I sent off a dispatch from here you did not tax me a cent for it," Marcy reminded him. "Is your patriotism on the wane?"

"Not much; but you couldn't expect us to keep up that thank-ye business forever, could you? How would we run the line if we did? We think as much of the brave boys who are standing between us and Lincoln's Abolitionists as we ever did; but it takes the hard cash to pay operators and buy poles and wires."

Marcy had no trouble in getting his check cashed, and when he went back to the schooner after his valise and bundles, he had twenty-one hundred dollars in his pocket. But there were seventeen hundred dollars of it that did not belong to him. He was only keeping it until he could have opportunity to return it to the master of the Mary Hollins. He found that Captain Beardsley had gone ashore with his agent, and as Marcy had already said good-bye to him, it was not necessary that he should waste any valuable time in hunting him up. He took a hasty leave of his shipmates, hired a darkey to carry his luggage to the depot, and was in time to purchase his ticket for a train that was on the point of leaving for Goldsborough. He had hardly settled himself in his seat before he became aware that nearly all the passengers in the car were looking at him, and finally one of them came and seated himself by his side.

"You are not in uniform," said the passenger, "but all the same I take it for granted that it was the Yankees who put your arm in a sling."

"Yes, sir; they did it," answered Marcy.

"Well, now, I want to know if it's a fact that the Yankees outnumbered us two to one in that fight," continued the man.

"You refer to the battle of Bull Run, I suppose. I don't know. I wasn't there, and I don't hesitate to say that I am glad of it. One howitzer is as much as I care to face. I got this hurt while coming into Crooked Inlet on the schooner Hattie. She's a blockade-runner."

"Oh! well, if there's going to be a war, as some people seem to think, you blockade-runners will be of quite as much use to the Confederacy as the soldiers. We shall be dependent upon foreign governments for many things that we used to get from the North, and men like you will have to supply us. Was it much of a fight?"

Marcy briefly related the story, and when it was finished the man went back to his old seat; but during the journey the young pilot was obliged to tell more than a score of people that he was not present at the battle of Bull Run, and consequently could not have got his injury there. He kept his ears open all the way, and was gratified to learn that the Confederates had not followed up their victory, that they were not in Washington, and that there was no reason to suppose that they had any intention of going there immediately; and he thought he knew the reason why, when he heard one of the passengers say that a few more victories like Bull Run would ruin the Confederacy.

At an early hour the next morning Marcy stepped off the train at Boyd town and found Morris waiting for him. That faithful servitor's eyes grew to twice their usual dimensions when he saw his young master with his arm in a sling, and without waiting to learn the extent of his injuries, he broke out into loud lamentations, and railed at the Yankees in such a way that the by-standers were led to believe that old Morris was the best kind of a rebel.

"The Missus done tole me two men shot on the Hattie and las' night I dreamed you one of 'em," said he.

"Silence!" whispered Marcy angrily; "can't you see that you are drawing the attention of all the people on the platform by your loud talking? I wasn't shot, either. Come to the carriage and I will tell you all about it."

Even after Morris had been assured that the young pilot had merely been knocked down by a splinter, Marcy didn't tell him that that "splinter" weighed between fifteen and twenty pounds, for he knew it would get to his mother's ears if he did; and that his injuries were by no means serious; the old slave was not satisfied, but continued to scold and fume at such a rate that Marcy was glad when the carriage whirled through the gate and drew up at the steps, at the top of which his mother stood waiting to receive him.

"Da' he is, Missus; but the Yankees done kill him," exclaimed Morris, opening and shutting the carriage door with a bang, as if he hoped in that way to work off some of his excitement.

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