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Marcy the Blockade Runner By Harry Castlemon Characters: 30792

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


As soon as the schooner was straightened on her course so that Marcy could manage her with one hand, he came aft and took the wheel.

"Go below and hide that Union flag," said he. "These rebels may not be as easily satisfied this time as they were when we went down, and if they send a boat aboard of us I don't want them to find anything. I don't care to know where you put the flag. All you have to do is to hide it where we can find it again when we want it."

Julius was gone not more than five minutes, and when he returned to take the wheel Marcy walked forward, carrying in his hand one of the Newbern papers which he had folded and twisted, newsboy fashion, so that it could be thrown a considerable distance.

The first thing that attracted his attention, after the Fairy Belle passed the foot of the island, was a steamer, whose crew were busy adding to the obstructions that had already been placed in Croatan Sound. But there was a wide clear space close under the guns of Fort Bartow, and into this Julius held his way, passing so near the steamer that Marcy was able to throw his paper among the crew.

"Newbern," he shouted to the Confederate officer, who flicked up the paper and waved his thanks. "It isn't a very late one, but it was the best I could do."

That blockade had been run in safety, but when they reached the head of the island Marcy found himself menaced by another danger which he was afraid could not be so easily passed. One of Commodore Lynch's gunboats was lying there, and when she saw the schooner approaching, she sent one of her boats off to intercept her. Marcy's hair began to stand on end.

"What have you done with that Union flag, Julius?" he asked.

"Now, jes' listen at you," replied the boy. "What for you want dat flag now? It hang you, suah."

"I only wished to be assured that you had it safe," said Marcy, as he ran into the cabin to bring up another paper; and when he returned with it, he shook it at the men in the boat and beckoned them to come alongside, Just as if he didn't know that that was what they intended to do. As the small boat came nearer and began to swing broadside to the schooner, Marcy raised his hand and Julius spilled the sails.

"You needn't stop," said the young master's mate, who sat in the stern-sheets. "Throw us a line and we'll tow alongside. Our old man had a little curiosity to know who you are, where you have been, and where you belong. Thanks for the paper. What's the news?"

"I didn't get any," replied Marcy. "I saw one Yankee cruiser riding at anchor off the coast, and also saw one blockade-runner come in. What sort of a cargo she brought I don't know, for I didn't exchange a word with any of her crew."

"What's the matter with your hand?" inquired the master's mate.

"De Yankees done guv him dat hand, sar," said Julius promptly. "Dey done knock him 'mos dead wid a shell."

"The Yankees!" exclaimed the young rebel. "Are you in the service?"

"I was running the blockade when I was hurt," answered Marcy. "But I wasn't hit by a shell. I was knocked down by a heavy splinter."

"Pass us down your other flipper," said the officer, standing up in his boat and extending his hand. "I am glad to meet you. When you get the use of your arm again come aboard of us. We need men, and I know the captain will be glad to take you."

"He got one brother in de navy now," added Julius, who thought that Marcy wasn't trying half hard enough to make the boat's crew believe that he was loyal to the flag that waved above him.

"Is that so? Then if he comes in himself that will make two, won't it? Well, I will detain you no longer. Come aboard of us if you can, for we think we are going to see fun here in the course of a few weeks. Good-by till I see you again. Shove off, for'ard."

"Julius, I am afraid you talk too much," said Marcy, when the boat was left out of hearing. "If you don't keep still you may get me into trouble."

"Look a yere, Marse Marcy," said Julius, "Marse Jack done tol' me it plum time for me to stan' by to tell what's de troof, an' I ain't done nuffin else sence he tol' me dat. De Yankees did guv you dat hand, you done got one brother in de navy, an' dat's all I tol' dat rebel. I didn't say you a rebel you'self, kase dat would be a plum lie; an' all de black ones knows it."

At the end of two hours a bend in the shore hid the island and Commodore Lynch's gunboat from view, and as night was drawing on apace, Marcy began looking around for a suitable spot in which to tie up for the night. He knew better than to try to pass Plymouth after dark. The countersign would be out, and not only would he be obliged to go ashore to get it, but he would also be compelled to land to give it to every sentry on the bank. That would be a good deal of trouble and might prove to be dangerous as well. It would give the soldiers off duty a chance to board the schooner, and that was something Marcy did not want them to do. They would go all over her, peeping into every locker and corner, steal everything they could get into their pockets or put under their coats, and one of them might accidentally find that Union flag. For these reasons Marcy thought it best to lie by for the night.

"It will bring us home in broad daylight, Julius, and some of the servants will be sure to see you when you leave the schooner to take me ashore," said he. "So the story you made up to tell them about running away to the swamp, will have to be changed to something else. It would have to be changed any way, for of course Captain Beardsley saw you when he ran by us at the mouth of the inlet."

"I been thinkin' 'bout dat," answered Julius, "an' I going to tell nuffin but de troof. Dat's de bes'. I was stowed away on de schooner, an' you nevah knowed it till you come off in de mawnin' an' cotch me."

Marcy said nothing more, for he did not believe that either of them could tell a story that would save them from the trouble that Captain Beardsley would surely try to bring upon himself and his mother. He would take Jack's advice and lose no time in seeking an interview with Aleck Webster.

Marcy easily found a hiding-place for the night, and bright and early the next morning set out to run the last of the blockade-the garrison at Plymouth. This was accomplished without any trouble at all, the depth of the water permitting Julius to hold so close in that Marcy could throw his last Newbern paper ashore. The soldiers scrambled for it as if it had been a piece of gold, and shouted for him to send off some more; but Marcy could truthfully say that he had no more, the garrison at Roanoke Island having got the others. The Northern papers were too precious to be given to rebels. Those were to be saved for his mother.

In due time the Fairy Belle reached the mouth of Seven Mile Creek, the sails were hauled down, and Julius, with such slim aid as Marcy could give him with one hand, began the work of towing her to her moorings. It took them two hours to do this. When Marcy had seen her made fast to her buoy he did not get out of the skiff, but sent Julius aboard the schooner with instructions to put both the flags and the Northern papers into his valise and hand it over the side. To his great surprise there was not even a pickaninny on the bank to say, "Howdy, Marse Marcy?" and he usually found them out in full force whenever he returned from his sailing trips. Presently Julius got into the skiff to row him ashore, and followed him to the house carrying the valise in his hand; but even when they passed through the gate they did not see a person about the premises, nor a dog, neither. Bose seemed to have "holed up" the same as the rest. The doors and windows were wide open, but where were the house servants that they were not singing at their work? Marcy did not know what to make of it, and Julius gave it as his opinion that something done been going wrong on the plantation.

"I believe you and Jack, between you, have frightened everybody off the place," declared Marcy, little dreaming how near he came to the truth when he said it. "But we'll soon know all about it, for here's mother."

He ran lightly up the steps to greet her as she appeared at the door, but stopped short when he reached the gallery, for he saw that his mother was as solemn as her surroundings. She tried to call a cheerful smile to her face, but the effort was a sad failure.

"What in the world is the matter here?" demanded Marcy, as soon as he could speak. "Have the hands all run away? Where is everybody? Why is the place so quiet?"

"Oh, Marcy!" exclaimed Mrs. Gray, motioning to Julius to take the valise into the house, "such a strange thing has happened since you went away. Hanson has disappeared as completely as though he had never been on the place at all."

"Good enough," cried Marcy, giving his mother a bear-like hug with his one strong arm. "Now we shall be free from his-eh? You don't mean to say you are sorry he has gone, do you?"

"I don't know whether I am or not," was the astounding reply. "If he had left of his own free will I should be glad, I assure you; but the manner of his going frightens me."

"The manner?" repeated Marcy, who was all in the dark.

"Yes. The night after you went away, some of the field hands were awakened by an unusual noise and went to the door of their cabins to see a party of fifteen or twenty masked men making off, with Hanson bound and gagged in the midst of them. They were so badly frightened that-Marcy," exclaimed Mrs. Gray, holding the boy off at arm's length and looking searchingly into his face, "do you know anything about it? Is Jack at the bottom of this strange affair?"

These last words were called forth by the exclamation of surprise and delight that Marcy uttered when the truth of the whole matter flashed suddenly upon him. The absent Jack had told him that the morning was coming when his mother would not hear the field hands called to work because there would be no one to call them, and his prediction had been verified. Aleck Webster was true blue, the Union men who held secret meetings in the swamp could be depended on to hold their rebel neighbors in check, and Marcy Gray could hardly refrain from dancing with delight at the thought of it.

"Come in and I will tell you all I know about it," said he, throwing his arm about his mother's waist and leading her into the hall. "You needn't worry. Every one of the men who came here that night were your friends and mine, and they--"

"But who were they?" asked Mrs. Gray.

"It is probable that one of them sailed with Jack when he was on the West Wind; but who the others were I don't know, and it isn't at all likely that I shall ever find out," replied Marcy. "Not in the dining-room, please, because there's a stove-pipe hole in the ceiling that leads into a room upstairs. Oh, it's a fact," he added with a laugh, when his mother stopped and looked at him. "A certain person, whose name I shall presently give you, listened at that pipe-hole time and again, and took messages straight to Hanson. But you'll not blame him when you hear my story. Let's go into the back parlor. By the way, did you find your breastpin?"

His mother said in reply, that she had neither seen nor heard of it since the day it was stolen.

"Well I've got it safe and sound," continued Marcy; and then he settled back in his chair and repeated, almost word for word, the story sailor Jack had told him the night before he left for the blockading fleet. He told how Julius had taken the pin in the first place, how the overseer had worked upon his fears to compel him to give it up, and how he had used the power which the possession of the stolen pin enabled him to exercise over the timid black boy. Then he described how sailor Jack and his "Enchanted Goblet" appeared upon the scene; and from that he glided into the history of Jack's acquaintance with Aleck Webster, and the interviews he had held with him at the post-office. But there were two things he did not touch upon-the meeting with Captain Beardsley at Crooked Inlet, and sailor Jack's fears that the Confederate authorities might interest themselves in the matter if they learned, through any of her "secret enemies," that Mrs. Gray kept money concealed in the house. His mother was profoundly astonished, and when Marcy finished his story she did not know whether to be glad or frightened. The boy thought, from the expression of her countenance, that he had added to her fears.

"You don't act as if you were pleased a bit," said he dolefully. "Are you not glad to know that I can stay at home now? Beardsley has got to quit business, and of course he can't make any more excuses to take me away from you. He never did need a pilot, the old rascal. When he reads the warning letter that is waiting for him in Newbern, he'll fill away for home without the loss of a moment."

"Of course I am glad that you will not be obliged to go to sea any more," said Mrs. Gray. "But I don't want those Union men to destroy Captain Beardsley's property. When you see this man Webster I hope you will say as much to him."

"If it's all the same to you, mother, I'll wait and see how Beardsley conducts himself," answered Marcy, who did not like the idea of trying to protect a man who had done all he could to annoy his mother. "If he lets us alone, we'll let him alone; but if he bothers us, he had better look out. When he finds out what those Union men did to Hanson, I think he will haul in his horns. I wonder if Shelby and Dillon know it?"

"That's another strange thing that happened while you were absent, and I did not know what to make of it," replied Mrs. Gray. "Of course the story of the overseer's abduction spread like wild-fire, and I know it must have reached the village, for the very next afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Shelby rode out to visit me; and that is something they have not done before since these troubles began."

"Aha!" said Marcy, in a significant tone. "They began to see that you were not so helpless as they thought you were, and that it might be to their interest to make friends with you."

"That is what I think now that I have heard your story," replied his mother, "but I did not know what to think at the time they made their visit. I am sorry that I was not more courteous to them, but they were so very cordial and friendly themselves that it made me suspicious of them."

"That was perfectly right," said Marcy approvingly. "You did well to stand on the defensive. Don't let them fool you with any of their specious talk. They're treacherous as Indians, and would burn your house over your head to-morrow, if they were not afraid."

"Oh, I hope they are not as bad as that. What do you think these Union men did with the overseer? They didn't-didn't--"

"Kill him as they ought to have done?" exclaimed Marcy, when his mother hesitated. "No, I don't think they did; and neither can I guess what they did with him. But Jack said, in effect, that after he was taken away he would not bother us again for a long while. Did Shelby ask after Jack and me?"

"He did; and I told him that you had gone off in the Fairy Belle. Mrs. Shelby hinted that Jack might be on his way to Newbern to join the navy, and I did not think it worth while to deny it. It seems Jack told young Allison that

if you rode into Nashville alone some fine morning, Allison might know that Jack was aboard a gunboat. Of course Mrs. Shelby thought he meant a rebel gunboat."

"Don't you believe it," said Marcy earnestly. "She knew better than that and so did Allison. Did the hands seem to be very badly frightened over Hanson's disappearance?"

"There never was such a commotion on this plantation before," answered Mrs. Gray. "According to the coachman's story, Jack predicted that 'white things' would some night appear in the quarter and carry Hanson away with them; and although the abductors were not dressed in white, the fact that they came and did just what Jack said they would do was terrifying to the minds of the superstitious blacks. I wish Jack would not tell them such ridiculous tales."

"He'll not be likely to tell them any more for some days to come," replied Marcy. "But there was nothing ridiculous about his last story. It was business, and I think that villain Hanson found it so. Now, if you will come up to my room and stitch my Union flag into the quilt where it belongs, I will hand over your breastpin."

When this had been done, Marcy strolled out to the barn to tell Morris to saddle his horse, and to see what the old fellow thought of the situation. Just as he stepped off the gallery he heard a piercing shriek, and hastened around the corner of the house to find the boy Julius struggling in the grasp of the coachman, who flourished the carriage whip over his head.

"What are you about, there?" demanded Marcy.

"He going whop me kase I say Marse Jack in de navy," yelled Julius.

"Turn me loose, you fool niggah."

"No, I ain't going whop him for dat, but for lying," said Morris, releasing his captive with the greatest reluctance, and with difficulty restraining his desire to give him a cut around the legs as he ran away. "He say Marse Jack gone on a rebel boat, an' I know in reason dat ain't so."

"You won't get nuffin mo' outen Julius if you whop him till he plum dead," shouted the black boy, who had taken refuge behind Marcy and was holding fast to him with both hands. "I reckon I know whar Marse Jack gone, kase I was dar."

"Go into the house, Julius. You will be safe there; and, besides, your mistress wants to see you. Put the saddle on Fanny, Morris, and I will ride to Nashville. Where's the overseer?"

"Oh, Marse Marcy, we black ones so glad you done come back," exclaimed the coachman, throwing his whip and hat on the ground, and shaking the boy's hand with both his Own. "We safe now. Nobody won't come to de quarter and tote folks away to de swamp when you around."

"Who did it?" asked Marcy.

Morris laughed as he had not laughed before since Marcy went away. "Now listen at you," said he. "How you reckon a pore niggah know who done it? Everybody afraid of de niggahs now-days; everybody 'cepting de Union folks. Going get 'nother oberseer, Marse Marcy?"

"Yes. I think I shall take the place myself."

"Dar now," said Morris, with a delighted grin. "Dem niggahs wuk demselves to death for you. Now you go in de house an' tell your maw whar you going, an' I bring de hoss an' holp you in de saddle."

Marcy good-naturedly complied, and hearing voices coming from the dining-room he went in there, and found Julius listening to a lecture from Mrs. Gray on the sinfulness of stealing. But Julius defended himself with spirit, and declared that for once his habit of picking up any little articles he found lying around loose had been productive of good to every member of the family.

"When I put dat pin in my pocket, missus, I know I ain't goin' to steal it," he protested, with so much earnestness and with such an appearance of sincerity that almost anybody except Mrs. Gray would have believed him. "I don't do no stealin'. I jes' want to look at de pin, an' I goin' put it back when I get done lookin' at it. But de oberseer he done took it away from me, an' dat's de way you find out what sort of a man he is. No, missus; I don't steal. I always tell de troof."

Marcy Gray did not ride to Nashville with any hope of meeting Aleck Webster that day, and consequently he was most agreeably surprised when he saw him standing on the steps of the post-office. He did not look or act like a man who had been engaged in any underhand business, and neither did Colonel Shelby, who hastened down the steps and came across the road to the hitching-rack to help Marcy off his horse.

"So glad to see you safe back," was the way in which he greeted the boy. "Your brother said that if you came down here without him some day we might know he was in the navy; so I suppose that is where he is. He didn't waste much time in going, did he? What's the news from Newbern?"

Marcy cut his replies as short as he could without being rude, and went into the office to look at his mother's box, which had been emptied by the coachman half a dozen hours before. He exchanged a very slight nod and a wink with Aleck Webster as he passed him, and the latter, who seemed to know just what he meant by the pantomime, mounted his horse when no one but Marcy was watching him and went down the road toward Mrs. Gray's plantation. There were plenty of loungers in the office, young Allison, of course, being one of the most talkative ones among them, and although they seemed to know where Jack was, they could not imagine what had become of Hanson.

"I tell you honestly, Marcy, that if it hadn't been for that Confederate flag in your mother's dining-room, we should have laid his abduction at your door," said Allison. "But the flag proves that you are all right; and, besides, you couldn't have had a hand in it, for you were on your way to Newbern when it happened. It opened our eyes to the fact that there are traitors among us, and that we must be careful who we talk to."

"Traitors," repeated Marcy. "I don't know what you are trying to get at. Hanson told me with his own lips that he was a Union man. Kelsey told me the same, and brought word to the house that Colonel Shelby and Mr. Dillon wanted Hanson discharged; but I sent back word that if they wanted the overseer run off the place they could come up and do the work themselves, for I would have no hand in it. I don't want to get my neighbors down on me if I can help it. If Hanson was a Union man, as he professed to be (and I don't know whether he was or not, for I would not talk politics with him), it was Confederates living right around here who came to the quarter and took him away."

Marcy saw by the astonished look that came to Allison's face that all this was news to him, and this made it plain that he was not in Colonel Shelby's "ring." He backed up against one of the counters and glanced around at his companions, but had not another word to say. The time came when he was admitted into the "ring," and showed himself to be one of the most active and aggressive ones in it. To keep up appearances Marcy bought a paper, took another look at his mother's box and left the office; and as no one went with him to help him on his horse, he led her alongside the fence and mounted without assistance. A mile and a half from Nashville the road followed the windings of a little creek whose banks were thickly wooded. As he drew near this point he dropped the reins upon his horse's neck and pulled his paper from his pocket-not with any intention of reading it, but to be in readiness to answer Aleck Webster's hail when he heard it. It came before he had ridden twenty yards farther. The man had hidden his horse in the bushes, and now stood in the edge of them within easy speaking distance, but out of sight of any one who might be watching Marcy Gray.

"You are Mr. Jack's brother, ain't you?" said he, as Marcy stopped his horse and fastened his eyes upon the paper he held in his hand. "I thought so; and I want to know if you are satisfied, by what we did while you were gone, that we will do to trust."

"We are more than satisfied," replied Marcy. "We'll never forget you for it. What did you do with him?"

"Turned him loose with orders never to show his face in the settlement again. We wanted to take him off to the fleet; but of course we couldn't, for he wasn't in the rebel service. Shelby was sort of civil to you, wasn't he? Well, he got a letter, same as Beardsley did, or will when he gets to Newbern--"

"He's in Newbern now," interrupted Marcy, still keeping his gaze fastened upon the paper. "We passed him at Crooked Inlet just as we were going out. That frightened Jack, and he told me to lose no time in telling you of it."

"That's all right; but Beardsley will not trouble you. We've written letters to him and Shelby and all the rest telling them that if they don't stop persecuting Union folks we'll burn everything they've got; and if that don't quieten them, we'll hang the last one of them to the plates of their own galleries. Go home and sleep soundly. We'll take care of you. Where did you leave Mr. Jack?"

Marcy gave a brief history of his run to the blockading fleet and back, told how very badly frightened his mother's servants were when they saw the overseer carried away by armed men, and how the circumstance had affected some of the "secret enemies" of whom they stood so much in fear; hinted very plainly that if at any time Aleck or any of his friends found themselves in need of bacon, meal, or money, they could have their wants supplied at his mother's house, and wound up by urging him to keep a sharp eye on Captain Beardsley.

"I don't think he will ever trouble you," was Aleck's reply. "At any rate, he will never make you go to sea again against your will. But if anything does happen to you after the warning we have given him, we'll blame him for it, whether he is guilty or not, and some night you will see his buildings going up in smoke. Is there any one on the road who will be likely to see me if I come out? Well, then, good-bye."

Marcy put his paper into his pocket and rode away with a light heart, little dreaming how soon the time would come when another of sailor Jack's predictions would be partly fulfilled, and he, the well-fed Marcy Gray, standing sorely in need of some of the bacon and meal he had promised Aleck and his friends, would steal up to his mother's house like a thief in the night to get them, starting at every sound, and keeping clear of every shadow he saw in his path for fear that it might be an armed man lying in wait to capture him. But that time came. It is true that Captain Beardsley and his friends did not do anything against him openly (they were afraid to do that), but they worked against him in secret and to such purpose that Marcy Gray, forced to become a fugitive from his home, was glad to take up his abode for a while with the Union men who lived in the swamp. How this unfortunate state of affairs was brought about, what young Allison did after he became a member of the "ring," and how Captain Beardsley, Colonel Shelby, and the rest paid the penalty of their double dealing, shall be told in the next volume of this series of books, which will be entitled, "MARCY, THE REFUGEE."

THE END.

The

Famous

Castlemon

Books.

BY

Harry Castlemon.

[Illustration: Specimen Cover of the Gunboat Series.]

No author of the present day has become a greater favorite with boys than "Harry Castlemon;" every book by him is sure to meet with hearty reception by young readers generally. His naturalness and vivacity lead his readers from page to page with breathless interest, and when one volume is finished the fascinated reader, like Oliver Twist, asks "for more."

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True to his Colors 1 25

Rodney, the Partisan 1 25

Marcy, the Blockade Runner 1 25

OUR FELLOWS; or, Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons. By Harry Castlemon. 16mo. Fully illustrated. Cloth, extra, printed in colors. In box $1 25

Alger's

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[Illustration: Specimen Cover of the Ragged Dick Series.]

Horatio Alger, Jr., has attained distinction as one of the most popular writers of books for boys, and the following list comprises all of his best books.

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