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 Captain Passford had carried out the programme agreed upon with Captain Flint, and the latter had been working to the southward since the Bronx came into the action, and as soon as the order to get ready to board was given, the Ocklockonee went ahead at full speed, headed in that direction. She had reached a position dead ahead of the Arran, so that she no longer suffered from the shots of the latter's broadside guns, and the Bronx was getting the entire benefit of them.  
Both vessels had kept up a full head of steam, and the coal passers were kept very busy at just this time. The Arran's midship gun had been disabled so that she could not make any very telling shots, but her crew had succeeded in righting her funnel, which had not gone entirely over, but had been held by the stays. Yet it could be seen that there was a big opening near the deck, for the smoke did not all pass through the smokestack.
214 The broadside guns of the Arran were well served, and they were doing considerable mischief on board of the Bronx. Christy was obliged to hold back until her consort was in position to board the Arran on the port hand, and he manœuvred the steamer so as to receive as little damage as possible from her guns. He was to board on the starboard hand of the enemy, and he was working nearer to her all the time. Mr. Ambleton the gunner had greatly improved his practice, and the commander was obliged to check his enthusiasm, or there would have been nothing left of the Arran in half an hour more. Christy considered the final result as fully assured, for he did not believe the present enemy was any more heavily manned than her consort had been, and he could throw double her force upon her deck as soon as the two steamers were in position to do so.
"Are you doing all you can in the engine room, Mr. Sampson?" asked Christy, pausing at the engine hatch.
"Everything, Captain Passford, and I think we must be making sixteen knots," replied the chief engineer.
"Is Mr. Bockburn on duty?"
215 "He is, sir; and if he were a Connecticut Yankee he could not do any better, or appear to be any more interested."
"He seems to be entirely impartial; all he wants is his pay, and he is as willing to be on one side as the other if he only gets it," said Christy. "Has any damage been done to the engine?"
"None at all, sir; a shot from one of those broadside guns went through the side, and passed just over the top of one of the boilers," replied the engineer. "Bockburn plugged the shot hole very skilfully, and said it would not be possible for a shot to come in low enough to hit the boilers. He knows all about the other two vessels, and has served as an engineer on board of the Arran on the other side of the Atlantic."
Just at that moment a shot from the Arran struck the bridge and a splinter from the structure knocked two men over. One of them picked himself up, but said he was not much hurt, and refused to be sent below. The other man was Veering; he seemed to be unable to get up, and was carried down by order of the boatswain. This man was one of the adherents of Hungerford and Pawcett, though so far he had been of no service to them.
216 Christy hastened forward to ascertain the extent of the damage done to the bridge. It was completely wrecked, and was no longer in condition to be occupied by an officer. But the pilot house was still in serviceable repair, and the quartermaster had not been disturbed. By this time, the Ocklockonee had obtained a position on the port bow of the Arran, and the commander directed the quartermaster at the wheel to run directly for the other side of the enemy.
The time for decisive and final action had come. Mr. Baskirk placed the boarders in position to be thrown on board of the Arran. He was to command the first division himself, and Mr. Amblen the second. The Ocklockonee was rushing at all the speed she could command to the work before her.
illustration of quoted scene
The captain of the Arran.
For some reason not apparent the Arran had stopped her screw, though she had kept in motion till now, doing her best to secure the most favorable position for action. Possibly her commander believed a collision between the vessels at a high rate of speed would be more fatal to him than anything that could result from being boarded. It was soon discovered that she was backing, and 217 it was evident then that her captain had some manœuvre of his own in mind, though it was possible that he was only doing something to counteract the effect of a collision. Doubtless he thought the two vessels approaching him at such a rapid rate intended to crush the Arran between them, and that they desired only to sink him.
He was not allowed many minutes more to carry out his policy, whatever it was, for the Ocklockonee came up alongside of the Arran, the grapnels were thrown out, and the whole boarding force of the steamer was hurled upon her decks. But the commander was a plucky man, however he regarded the chances for or against him, and his crew proceeded vigorously to repel boarders. Christy had timed the movements of the Bronx very carefully, and the Ocklockonee had hardly fastened to the Arran on one side before he had his steamer grappled on the other.
"Boarders, away!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, and flourishing his sword over his head, not however with the intention of going into the fight himself, but as a demonstration to inspire the men.
Baskirk and Amblen rushed forward with cutlasses in their hands, leaping upon the deck of the 218 enemy. The crew was found to equal in numbers about the force that the Ocklockonee had brought to bear upon them. The boarders from the Bronx attacked them in the rear while they were fully occupied with the boarders in front of them. The officers of the enemy behaved with distinguished gallantry, and urged their men forward with the most desperate enthusiasm. They struck hard blows, and several of the boarders belonging to the consor............
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