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 Christy finished the reading of the orders, folded up the document, and put it in his pocket. But he immediately took it out and unfolded it again, as though a new thought had struck him. Flint watched him with the utmost attention, and he realized that the bearing of the commander was quite different from his usual manner; but he attributed it to the very unexpected nature of the orders he had just read. He was distinctly directed to attempt no operations on the passage, and to proceed to the destination indicated with all reasonable despatch.  
The wording of the order was rather peculiar, and somewhat clumsy, Flint thought; but then he had been a schoolmaster, and perhaps he was inclined to be over-critical. But the meaning of the first clause could not be mistaken, however, though the word "operations" seemed to indicate 126 something on a grander scale and more prolonged than an encounter with a blockade-runner, or a Confederate man-of-war; something in the nature of a campaign on shore, or a thorough scouring of the ocean in search of the vessels of the enemy.
But any such interpretation of the order was rendered impossible by what followed. The commander was distinctly forbidden to engage the enemy if such an encounter could be avoided "with honor." The first lieutenant knew that a combat could be easily avoided simply by not following up any suspicious craft, unless a fully manned and armed Confederate cruiser presented herself, and then it might be honorable to run away from her. There was no mistaking the meaning of the orders, and there was no chance to strain a point, and fall upon one or both of the expected steamers.
The captain was strictly enjoined from meddling with them, even if they came in his way. If they chased the Bronx, she would be justified in defending herself under the orders; and that was the most she could do. Flint was terribly disappointed, and he regarded the commander with the deepest interest to learn what interpretation he 127 would give to the orders, though there seemed to him to be no room even to take advantage of any fortunate circumstance.
The appearance of the commander did not throw any new light upon the contents of the document. After he had finished the reading of the paper, Christy sat in his chair, apparently still looking it over, as though he did not fully comprehend its meaning. But he made no sign and indulged in no remark of any kind, and in a few moments folded the order and put it back into his pocket. Undoubtedly he was thinking very energetically of something, but he did not reveal the nature of his reflections.
Flint concluded that he was utterly dissatisfied with his orders, and even regarded them as a slight upon himself as the commander of the steamer for the time being. It was not customary to direct captains to avoid the enemy under all circumstances that were likely to be presented. The first lieutenant began to realize the disadvantage of sailing with a captain so young, for it looked to him as though the strange order had been issued on account of the youth of the commander.
When Christy had restored the paper to his 128 pocket, he rose from his seat, and thus indicated that there was to be no consultation with the officers in regard to the unusual instructions. The two officers rose at the same time, and closely observed the face of the commander; but this time Flint could find nothing there as serious as he had observed before; in fact, there was a twinkle in his eye that looked promising.
"Gentlemen, it is dinner time in the ward room, and I will not detain you any longer," said Christy, as politely as he usually spoke to his officers, though the opera of "Pinafore" had not been written at that time.
Flint bowed to his captain, and left the cabin; and his example was followed by Baskirk. Christy certainly did not look as though he were embarrassed by his orders, or as if he were disappointed at the restrictions they imposed upon him. He left the cabin so that Dave could prepare his table for dinner as he had the time to do so. He left the cabin; but in the passage he called the steward to him, and whispered a brief sentence to him.
He then ascended to the deck, and proceeded to take a "constitutional" on the windward side of the quarter deck. The gale had moderated very 129 sensibly, though the wind was still from the southward. The sea was still quite rough, though it was likely to subside very soon. After the captain had walked as long as he cared to do, he mounted the bridge.
"What do you think of the weather, Mr. Lillyworth?" he asked of the officer of the deck, after he had politely returned his salute.
"I don't believe we shall have any more wind today," replied the second lieutenant, as he looked wisely at the weather indications the sky presented. "But it don't look much like fairing off, and I shall look for fog as long as the wind holds where it is."
"I have been expecting to be buried in fog," added the captain, as he took a survey of the deck beneath him. "I see by the log slate that we are making fifteen knots an hour, and we certainly are not driving her."
"There can be no doubt that this is a very fast vessel," said Mr. Lillyworth. "Well, she ought to be, for I understand that she was built for a nobleman's yacht, and such men want speed, and are willing to pay for it."
"By tomorrow, we shall be in the latitude of 130 the Bermudas, and most of the blockade runners put in there, or some more southern port, to get the news, and obtain a pilot, if they don't happen to have one on board."
"That seems to be the way they do it."
"This fog is favorable to blockade runners if they have a skilful pilot on board; and they all contrive to have such a one," added the captain, as he moved towards the steps to the deck.
"I suppose you have opened your sealed orders, Captain Passford," said the second lieutenant, who seemed to be interested in this subject. "We have crossed the thirty-eighth parallel."
"Yes; I have opened the enve............
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