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 Mr. Flint was really amused at the plan of the commander of the Bronx, as indicated in the letter he had just read, and he was not laughing out of mere compliment to his superior officer, as some subordinates feel obliged to do even when they feel more like weeping. Perhaps no one knew Christy Passford so well as his executive officer, not even his own father, for Flint had been with him in the most difficult and trying ordeals of his life. He had been the young leader's second in command in the capture of the Teaser, whose cabin they now occupied, and they had been prisoners together. He had been amazed at his young companion's audacity, but he had always justified his action in the end. They had become excellent friends as well as associates in the navy, and there was a hearty sympathy between them.  
Christy laughed almost in spite of himself, for 104 he had been giving very serious attention to the situation on board of the Bronx. In the ship's company were at least two officers on the other side of the great question of the day, both of them doubtless men of great experience in their profession, more mature in years than their opponent on this chess-board of fate, and they had come on board of the steamer to accomplish some important purpose. The game at which they were engaged had already become quite exciting, especially as it looked as if the final result was to be determined by strategy rather than hard fighting, for Pawcett and Hungerford could hardly expect to capture the Bronx with only a force of eight men.
"Mulgrum is to copy this letter," said Flint, suppressing his laughter.
"I have written the letter in order to have something for him to copy, and at the same time to give him and his confederate something to think about," replied Christy; and he could hardly help chuckling when he thought of the effect the contents of the letter would produce in the minds of those for whom the missive was really intended.
105 "Do you think they will swallow this fiction, Captain Passford?" asked the first lieutenant.
"Why shouldn't they swallow it, hook, bait, and sinker? They are Confederate agents beyond the possibility of a doubt; and they are looking for a ship in which they intend to ravage the commerce of the United States," replied Christy; and the question had done something to stimulate his reasoning powers. "They want a vessel, and the Bronx would suit them very well."
"But they will not attempt to capture her under present circumstances, I am very confident. They know that we have about twenty seamen extra on board."
"They know that certainly; but possibly they know some things in this connection that we do not know," added Christy, as he put his hand on his forehead, and leaned over the table, as though his mind were strongly exercised by some serious question he was unable to answer satisfactorily to himself.
"What can they know that we don't know in regard to this vessel?" demanded Flint, looking quite as serious as the commander.
106 "Whether our extra men are loyal or not," answered Christy, dropping his hand, and looking his companion full in the face.
"Do you think there is any doubt in regard to them?"
"I confess that I have not had a doubt till this moment," said the captain, wiping the perspiration from his brow, for the terrible possibility that any considerable portion of the extra men were in the employ of the two Confederates had almost overcome him.
For a few moments he was silent as he thought of this tremendous idea. It was appalling to think of going into action with the Scotian or the Arran, or both of them, and have a part of his own force turn against him on his own deck. This was possible, but he could hardly believe it was probable. Dave had reported very faithfully to him all the details of the conversation between the Confederates, and they had claimed only six men. If they had any hold on the extra men on board, they would have been likely to say so, or at least to speak more indefinitely than they had of their expectations.
"Have you any friends on board, Mr. Flint, 107 among the crew?" asked Christy suddenly, as though a solution of the difficult question of the loyalty of the men had suggested itself to him.
"I have at least half a dozen whom I worked hard to have drafted into the Bronx, for I know that they are good and true men, though they may not be able to pass the technical examination of the naval officers," replied the first lieutenant promptly. "I can trust every one of them as far as I could trust myself. One of them was the mate of my vessel at the time I sold her, and he has since been in command of her."
"Who is he?"
"His name is Baskirk; and he is a quartermaster now. I wrote to him, and promised to do the best I could to advance him. He is not a graduate of a college, but he is a well-informed man, well read, sober, honest, and a man of good common-sense."
"The others?"
"McSpindle was a classmate of mine in college, and he is a capital fellow. Unfortunately, he got into the habit of drinking more than was good for him, and spoiled his immediate future. He has made two foreign voyages, and he is a good seaman. 108 He came home second mate of an Indiaman, promoted on his merit. He is also a quartermaster," said Flint, who was evidently very deeply interested in the persons he described.
"Any more?"
"Luffard is a quartermaster, for I selected the best men I had for these positions. He is a young fellow, and the son of a rich man in Portland. He is a regular water bird, though he is not over eighteen years old."
"His age is no objection,"............
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