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   Chapter 11 THE BANNER ON THE WALL.

Marcy the Blockade Runner By Harry Castlemon Characters: 27624

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"You seem to be very much surprised at a very simple proposition," said

Jack, at length.

"And you seem to have a deal more cheek than you did the first time I made your acquaintance," replied Marcy.

Jack laughed heartily.

"Why, what is there to hinder you from taking me down to the fleet?" he demanded. "Haven't I often heard you boast of the Fairy Belle's sea-going qualities? If she can cross the Atlantic, as you have more than once declared, she can surely ride out any blow we are likely to meet off the Cape."

"Oh, she can get there easy enough," answered Marcy. "I was not thinking about that. But suppose I take you down to the fleet and the Yankees won't let me come back? Then what?"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Jack. "They'll let you come back. They are not obliged to force men into the service against their will. They've got more than they want."

"But there's another thing," continued Marcy. "There are two forts at the Inlet; and suppose some of the rebels in those forts should see a little schooner communicating with one of the blockading fleet. Wouldn't they take pains to find out where the schooner belonged, and who her owner was? And then what would they do to me?"

"They would put you in jail, of course," replied Jack, with refreshing candor. "But I take it for granted that you are sharp enough to go and come without being seen by anybody. If you magnify the dangers of the undertaking by holding back or raising objections to the programme I have laid out, I am afraid you will frighten mother into saying that I can't go."

"I'll neither hold back nor object," said Marcy resolutely. "When you are ready to go say the word, and I will do the best I can for you."

"I knew you would. Now let's lie down for a while. I have tramped it all the way from Boydtown since daylight, and am pretty well tuckered out."

"If you had telegraphed to Nashville, I would have met you with a carriage," said Marcy.

"Of course. But I thought I would rather have a talk with you and mother before I let any one know I was in the country. And now that I have got here and had the talk-what would you do if you were in my place? Keep out of sight?"

"No, I wouldn't. What good would it do as long as the servants know you are here? Make it a point to say 'hallo' to all the neighbors, talk politics with them, and tell them how you ran that schooner into Newbern through Oregon Inlet. By the way, what was done with the cargo that was intended for that house in Havana?"

"It wasn't intended for Havana. It was sold in Newbern, as the owners meant it should be, and when I left, the West Wind was loading up with cotton for Nassau. Well, suppose I play that I am as good a Confederate as any of the people hereabouts; what then? When I leave for the blockading fleet they will want to know where I have gone, won't they? And what will you say to them? We must think about that and cook up some sort of a story on purpose for them."

The boys tumbled into bed while they were talking, but it was a long time before Marcy could go to sleep. He shuddered every time he thought of what the consequences would be if by any misfortune it became known in the settlement, that Jack Gray, whom everybody took to be a good Confederate, and who had been permitted, while at home, to go and come as he pleased, had seized the first opportunity to go down to Hatteras and ship on board a Union gunboat.

"This house would be in ashes in less than twenty-four hours after the news got noised about in the neighborhood," said Marcy, to himself, wishing that the sound sleep that so promptly came to his weary brother might come to him, also! "Then I should learn by experience how it seems to live in a negro cabin. But there's one consolation. They couldn't burn the cellar walls, so mother's money would be safe."

The clock struck nine before the boys got up that morning, but there was a hot breakfast waiting for them. A family council was held while they were seated at the table, during which it was decided that the only course for Jack to pursue while at home was to do as he always had done-go about the settlement as though he had a perfect right to be there (as indeed he had), and act and talk as though such a thing as war had never been heard of. If political questions were forced upon him, he could tell of his voyage on the West Wind, and show Captain Frazier's letter; but he must be careful not to say anything about his short captivity in the hands of the Sumter's men. Accordingly, when Marcy's filly was brought to the door after breakfast, there was another horse brought with her for Jack's use. The coachman, who had been so soundly rated the day before, came also, for the two-fold purpose of making his peace with Marcy and welcoming the returned sailor.

"Sarvent, Marse Marcy. Sarvent, Marse Jack," said he, dropping his hat upon the ground and extending a hand to each of the boys. "So glad to have you back, Marse Jack, and so proud to know that you wasn't took prisoner by that pirate Semmes. We saw by the papers that he run out on the high seas las' month, and I was mighty jubus that you might run onto him. Glad to see you among us again, safe and sound, sar."

"And Morris, I am very glad to see myself here," replied Jack, giving the black man's hand a hearty shake. "So you take the papers, do you?"

"Well, no sar; I don't take 'em, but the Missus does, and she tells me what's into 'em, sar."

"I don't know that it makes any difference how you get the news so long as you get it. But I am rather surprised to see you on the plantation. I thought that of course you had run away and joined the Yankees before this time. You had better dig out, for you are an Abolitionist, and they hang Abolitionists in this country."

"Now, Marse Jack, I don't like for to have you talk to me that a way" said the coachman in a tone of reproach. "All the other niggers may go if they want to, but Morris stays right here on the place. He does for a fac'. Who going to drive the carriage if Morris runs away."

"Well, that's so," replied Jack, gathering up the reins and placing his foot in the stirrup. "I didn't think of that. Help Marcy into his saddle and then tell me what I shall bring you when I come from town-a plug of store tobacco for yourself, and a big red handkerchief for Aunt Mandy?"

"Thank you kindly, Marse Jack," said the coachman, with a pleased laugh.

"You always thinking of we black ones."

"Yes; I have thought of them a good many times during the two years and better that I have been knocking around the world," said Jack, as he and his brother rode out of the yard. "Especially did I think of home when the brig was dismasted by a tornado in the South Atlantic. We came as near going to the bottom that time as we could without going, and I promised myself that if I ever again got a foothold on solid ground, I would keep it; but here I am thinking of going to sea once more, as soon as I have had a visit with you and mother."

"I can't bear to think of it," said Marcy.

"I'd like to stay at home, but these fanatics who are trying to break up the government won't let me," answered the sailor. "Now that you have had a chance to sleep on it, what do you think of the proposition I made you last night?"

"About taking you down to the blockading fleet at the Cape?" inquired Marcy. "Well, if you are bound to go, I don't see that there is anything else you can do. Of course I shall do all I can to help you, and if there was some trustworthy person to look out for mother, I would go too; but I should go into the army."

"Of course. Your training at Barrington has fitted you for that, and you would be out of place on board ship. What color is the hull of the Fairy Belle?"

"It's black," replied Marcy, catching at the idea. "But it wouldn't take you and me long to make it some other color. That is what Beardsley did when he turned his privateer into a blockade-runner."

"And that is what we will do with your little schooner-we will disguise her," said Jack, "and by the time we get through with her, her best friends won't recognize her. More than that, if we have to run within spyglass reach of the forts at the Inlet, we'll hoist the rebel flag with the Stars and Stripes above it, to make the Confederates think that she has been captured by the Yankees."

"But we haven't any rebel flag," said Marcy.

"What's the reason we haven't? When the Sumter's boarding officer told our captain that we were a prize to the Confederate steamer, he hauled our colors down, and ran his own up in their place; and they were there when we took the vessel out of the hands of the prize-crew. I jerked it down myself, said nothing to nobody, and brought it home as a trophy. It's in my valise now. When we return from town I intend to stick it up in the sitting-room where every one can see it."

"You do?" exclaimed Marcy. "Mother won't let you."

"Oh, I think she will," said Jack, with a laugh. "She will know why it is put on the wall, and so will you. Every time you two look at it, you will think of the part I played in turning the tables on Semmes and his prize-crew; but the visitors who come to the house on purpose to wheedle mother into saying something for the Union and against the Confederacy, will think they are barking up the wrong tree, and that the Gray family are secesh sure enough."

"I hope they will, but I don't believe it," answered Marcy. "When you join the blockading fleet and the neighbors ask me where you are, what shall I tell them?"

"That's a question I will answer after I have been here long enough to get my bearings," said Jack. "Did you remark that you would have to stop at Beardsley's? Well, here we are."

The rapidity with which news of all sorts traveled from one plantation to another, before and during the war, was surprising. Among the letters that Marcy Gray had been commissioned to deliver was one addressed to Captain Beardsley's grown-up daughter, and the girl was waiting for them when they rode into the yard and drew rein at the foot of the steps.

"Morning, gentle_men_," was the way in which she greeted the two boys. "I was dreadful frightened when I heard that the Yankees had run onto you, and that you had got your arm broke, Mister Marcy. But it seems paw was into the same boat. Was he much hurted? Hope your venture in quinine paid you well, Mister Jack. You done yourself proud by running that schooner into Newbern with all them supplies aboard, but you oughter stayed with her and helped her through the blockade."

"Oh, the skipper will find plenty of pilots in Newbern," replied Jack, who was not a little astonished to learn that the news of his return had already got abroad in the settlement. "If I can't ship on something better than a blockade-runner, I will stay ashore."

"But they do say there's a power of money in it," said the girl. "Is that a fact, Marcy? Paw must have got safe out and back from Nassau, or else you wouldn't be here now. Did he make much, do you reckon?"

"I believe he calculated on clearing about twenty-five thousand dollars," answered Marcy, who was looking over the package of letters he had taken from his pocket.

"I say!" exclaimed the girl, fairly dancing with delight. "If paw made that much he must get me the new dress I want, and that's a word with a bark onto it. That letter for me? Sarvent, sar. Good-bye."

"I don't see why Beardsley went to the trouble of writing to her," said Jack, as the two turned about and rode away. "She can't read a word of it."

"And I am very glad she can't," answered Marcy. "She will take it to old Mrs. Brown, most likely, and if she does, she might as well stick it up in the post-office. Mrs. Brown is a regular built gossip, and if there is anything in the letter about me, as I think there is, I shall be sure to hear of it. But don't it beat you how things get around? Just see how much that girl knows; and I haven't been out of the house since I came home yesterday afternoon. I tell you there are spies all about us. Don't trust any one you may meet in town. Tell just the story you want published, and nothing else. And don't forget that before you sleep to-night I want you to bury seventeen hundred dollars for me. You've got two good hands."

"Marcy, I am almost afraid to do it," replied Jack. "Suppose some one should watch us and dig it up as soon as we went away?"

"We'll take Bose with us for a sentry, and slip out of the house after everybody else has gone to bed. We'll take all the precautions we can think of and trust to luck. There's Nashville; now be as big a rebel as you please. I know they'll not believe a word of it, but that won't be your fault."

As Marcy expected, the first one to rush out of the post-office and greet them, as they were hitching their horses, was young Allison. He gave the sailor's hand a hearty shake, and then he turned to Marcy.

"Really, I am surprised to see you here, and in citizen's clothes, too," said the latter. "I should have thought that your zeal for the Confederacy would have taken you into the army long ago. Man alive, you're missing heaps of fun. Look at my arm. I've suffered for the cause and you haven't." ["And what's more to the point, you don't mean to, added Marcy to himself.]

"It's fun to have a broken arm, is it?" exclaimed Allison. "I can't see it in that light. The reason I haven't enlisted is because I thought that perhaps you would bring me a favorable word from Captain Beardsley. Did you speak to him about taking me as one of his crew?"

"I did, before I had been aboard the schooner half an hour."

"And what did he say?"

"His reply was that he couldn't accept you. The crew is full; you know nothing abo

ut a vessel; he wants nothing but sailor-men aboard of him, and if you want to do something for the South, the best thing you can do is to go into the army."

"Well, I'd thank him to hold fast to his advice until he is asked to give it," said Allison spitefully. "I'll not carry a musket; I can tell him that much. I have seen some fellows who were in the fight at Bull Run, and they say that the privates in our army are treated worse than dogs. If I could get a commission the case would be different."

"That's the idea," said Jack. "Why don't you pitch in and get one? Begin at the top of the ladder and not at the foot. Crawl in at the cabin windows and don't bother about the hawsehole. I mean-you see," added the sailor, seeing by the blank look on his face that Allison did not understand his nautical language, "aboard ship we take rank in this way: First the captain, then the mates, then the captain's dog, and lastly the foremast-hands. And I suppose it must be the same in the army."

"You don't mean it!" exclaimed Allison, opening his eyes.

"I do mean every word of it. Ask any seafaring man and he will tell you the same. Whatever you do, don't go before the mast-I mean don't go into the ranks. Get a commission and be a man among men." ["You'd look pretty with straps on your shoulders, you would," said Jack mentally. "I'd like to gaze upon the man who would be foolish enough to put himself under your orders."]

"Don't go into the office yet," said Allison, when the boys turned about as if to move away. "There's a crowd in there, and I want you to stay and talk to me. Tell me how you got wounded, Marcy."

"Let Jack tell you how he piloted that Yankee schooner into the port of Newbern with a cargo of supplies for the Confederacy," replied Marcy. He said this with an object in view; and that object was to find out how much Allison knew about Jack's movements and his own. Consequently, after his interview with Captain Beardsley's daughter, he was not greatly surprised to hear Allison say:

"Jack hasn't much to tell, has he? As I heard the story he had no trouble at all in bringing the schooner through-he didn't even see the smoke of a blockader. But there's one thing about it," he added, in a lower tone, "you boys have shut up the mouths of some talkative people around here who have been trying hard to injure you, especially Marcy."

"Why should anybody want to injure me?" exclaimed Marcy, looking astonished. "I don't remember that I ever misused any one in the settlement."

"I never heard of it," continued Allison. "But they say that you are for the Union, and that the only reason you shipped on Beardsley's schooner was because you had to."

"Some people around here say that I am for the Union?" repeated Marcy, as though he had never heard of such a thing before. "And that I shipped because I had to?"

"That's what they say, sure's you're born; but your broken arm gives the lie to all such tales as that. And as for Jack-did he know that the West Wind was a smuggler when he joined her in Boston?"

"Of course he knew it," answered Marcy. "He brought out a venture and cleared twelve hundred dollars by it."

"Whew!" whistled Allison. "I wish I could make as much money as that; but somehow such chances never come my way. But what is a venture, anyway?"

"It is a speculation that sailors sometimes go into on their own hook," replied Marcy. "For example. Captain Beardsley wanted me to invest my wages and prize-money in cotton, sell it in Nassau for more than double what I gave for it, put the proceeds into medicine and gun-caps, and so double my money again when we returned to Newbern. If I had taken his advice, I might have been four or five thousand dollars ahead of the hounds at this minute."

"You don't mean to say that you didn't act upon his advice?" exclaimed

Allison.

"Yes; that's just what I mean to say. You see, we stood a fine chance of being captured by the Yankees, and Beardsley was so very much afraid of it that he wouldn't load his vessel himself, but took out a cargo he obtained through a commission merchant.-I see Jack is going into the post-office, and we might as well go, too. If you hear anybody saying things behind my back that they don't want to say to my face, tell them to ride up to our house and look at the Confederate flag in our sitting-room, and then go somewhere and get shot before they take it upon themselves to talk about one who has risked his life while they were stopping safe at home."

"I'll do it," said Allison, and Marcy was almost ready to believe that he meant what he said. "But are you really flying the Confederate colors? Every one says that your mother--"

"Yes, I know they do," said Marcy, when Allison paused and looked frightened. "They think she is for the Union, and have set some mean sneaks at work to get evidence against her; but you ride out to-morrow or the next day and take a look at that flag. How do you do?" he added, turning about to shake hands with Colonel Shelby and Mr. Dillon, who came up at that moment and greeted him with the greatest cordiality.

"We were very sorry to hear of your misfortune," said the latter, "but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have suffered in a righteous cause. Did Captain Beardsley send any word to either of us?"

"No, sir; but he sent a letter to each of you," answered the boy, thrusting his hand into his pocket. "And there they are. This other one is for the postmaster, and perhaps I had better go in and give it to him."

The Colonel and his friend were so very anxious to learn what Captain Beardsley had to say to them that they did not ask the wounded blockade-runner any questions, but drew off on one side to read their letters; and this action on their part went far toward confirming Marcy's suspicions that these two men were the ones Beardsley had left ashore "to do his dirty work" while he was at sea. He was as certain as he could be, without positive proof, that those letters told of the unsuccessful attempts the captain had made at different times to find out whether or not there was any money hidden in Mrs. Gray's house. That money had been a constant source of trouble to the boy, but now he felt like yelling every time he thought of it. If their "secret enemies" took the course that sailor Jack was afraid they might take-if they told the Confederate authorities that Mrs. Gray, after repudiating her debts to Northern merchants (debts that she never owed), had concealed the money instead of turning it into the Confederate treasury as the law provided, then there would be trouble indeed.

When Marcy and Allison went into the post-office they found Jack surrounded by an interested group of old-time friends, to whom he was giving a humorous account of Captain Beardsley's unsuccessful effort to capture the vessel to which he belonged.

"It happened right here on our own coast," said Jack. "She first tried to fool us by showing the figures that were painted on her sails; but that wouldn't go down with our old man. Then she hoisted the English colors, but that made us sheer still farther away from her; for what would a pilot-boat be doing in these waters with a foreign flag at her peak? Than she cut loose on us with her bow gun, and we yelled and shot back with sporting rifles. What do you think of a fellow who will try his best to bring trouble to his only brother by showing a friendly flag, and then shoot cannons at him when he finds he can't do it? That's the way Marcy served me and more than that, he had the face to tell me of it when I came home last night."

Of course this raised a laugh at Marcy's expense, but he didn't seem to mind it. He gave the postmaster Captain Beardsley's letter and asked for the mail in his mother's box.

"And of course when the brig escaped you yelled as loudly as any Yankee in the crew," observed one of his auditors. "I suppose you had to in order to keep out of trouble."

"But I don't reckon he'll do it again in a hurry," said another. "When he brought that Yankee schooner into Newbern he proved to my satisfaction that he is as good a Confederate as any man in the State. Why didn't you stay with her. Jack, and make yourself rich by running the blockade?"

"I had two reasons," answered the sailor. "In the first place I wanted to come home for awhile; and in the next, there is too much danger these times in cruising about on an unarmed vessel. The next time I ship it will be aboard of something that can fight."

"Did you hear any talk of an ironclad that is being built in the river a few miles above Newbern?" asked a third.

Jack winked first one eye and then the other, looked sharply into the face of each member of the group around him, and then turned about and softly rapped the counter with his riding-whip.

"You needn't be afraid to speak freely," said the postmaster, who knew what the sailor meant by this pantomime. "There isn't a traitor within the hearing of your voice. We are all true blue."

"One can't be too careful in times like these," replied Jack, turning around again and facing the crowd. "After I have been among you awhile, I shall know who my friends are. I did hear some talk of a heavy vessel that is to be added to the defensive force of the city, and which might some time go outside and scatter the blockading fleet, but I didn't go up to take a look at her. I couldn't spare the time. She'll need a crew when she is completed, and if I leave the settlement between two days-if I am here to-night and gone to-morrow morning-my friends needn't worry over me."

"We understand. You'll be on board an armed vessel fighting for your principles."

"You're right I will. Now, George," he added, turning to the clerk and slamming his saddle-bags upon the counter, "I want one of those pockets filled with plug tobacco, and the other stuffed with the gaudiest bandanas you've got in the store."

The clerk took the saddle-bags, and when they were passed back to their owner a few minutes later, they were so full that it was a matter of some difficulty to buckle the flaps. Then the boys said good-bye and left the store. They started off in a lope, but when they were a mile or so from the town and alone on the road, they drew their horses down to a walk, and Jack said:

"Do they take me for one of them or not?"

"They pretend to, but everybody is so sly and treacherous that you can't place reliance upon anything," answered his brother. "What you said about leaving home between two days was good. It will help me, for I can refer to it when you are gone. Now, Jack, you must put up that rebel flag the minute you get home. I told Allison about it, and if he should ride out some day and find the flag wasn't there, he would suspect that we are not just the sort of folks he has been led to believe."

"All right! And our next hard work must be to hide your money and paint that schooner of yours. We'll go about it openly and above board. We'll say she is scaling,-if she isn't she ought to be, for it is a long time since she saw a brush,-and that she needs another coat of paint to protect her from the weather."

This programme was duly carried out. Of course Mrs. Gray protested, mildly, when Jack brought down his rebel flag, and, after spreading it upon the floor so that his mother could have a good view of it, proceeded to hang it upon the sitting-room wall; but when the boys told her why they thought it best to place it there, she became silent and permitted them to do as they pleased. While they were putting the trophy in position, Jack found opportunity to whisper to his brother:

"Now, if any of our officious neighbors give the Confederate officers a hint that mother is keeping back money that she ought to turn into the treasury, and they come here to search the house, they'll take a look at this flag and go away without touching a thing. Mark what I tell you."

"But suppose the Yankees come here and take a look at it; then what?" whispered Marcy, in reply.

"Well, that will be a black horse of another color," said Jack. "They'll come here-don't you lose any sleep worrying about that; but when they come, you must see to it that this flag is out of sight. I'll say one thing for the rebels," he said aloud, turning his head on one side and gazing critically at his prize, "they've got good taste. I've seen the colors of all civilized nations, and that flag right there on the wall is the handsomest in the world, save one."

"But think of the principles it represents," exclaimed Mrs. Gray.

"Disunion and slavery."

"Of course," replied Jack. "But when these fanatics have been soundly thrashed, there will be no such things as disunion and slavery. They will be buried out of sight. I was speaking of the rebel flag, which, next to our own, is the prettiest I ever saw. Their naval uniforms are handsome, too."

Of course it soon became known among the servants that there was a Confederate banner displayed upon the walls of the "great house," and those who came into the room turned the whites of their eyes at it and then looked at Marcy and Jack in utter astonishment. But the boys did not appear to notice them nor did they volunteer any explanation-not even when old Morris came in to satisfy himself that the astounding news he had heard was really true. The sight of the emblem, which he knew was upheld by men who were fighting for the sole purpose of keeping him and his race in bondage, struck him dumb, and he left the room as silently as he had entered it. In less than half an hour the news reached Hanson's ears, and that worthy, astonished and perplexed, waited impatiently for night to come so that he could ride into town and tell Colonel Shelby about it.

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