Imágenes de páginas

miral, was able to hold his hands locked together and jump over them backward and forward without an effort. And he was as active in mind as he was in body. He grasped a situation instantly, and he acted with the vigor of a steel spring. At Mobile, when the leading ship, "Brooklyn," stopped for torpedoes, he ordered instantly: "Damn the torpedoes; go ahead."

In 1824, when Commodore Porter sailed away to punish the West Indian pirates, he took his son David with him. David was very much of a boy, and he loved pirate hunting. The Commodore taught him seacraft, and when he had been bruised through the midshipmen's mess he was put in command of a captured pirate ship with a crew of twenty men. He was only eleven years old, but large for his age, and possessed of all the relentless determination of the old Commodore. The crew appeared to David to be amused that he should command them. So he flogged a man after breakfast for disobeying orders; after dinner he flogged another for mutinous talk; and the next morning, after he had fully subdued the crew, he was gravely ordered by the Commodore back to the flagship.

In 1826 Commodore Porter sailed for Vera Cruz in the Mexican brig "Guerrero," to take command of the Mexican navy, Mexico being then at war with Spain. The boy David became the navigator of the swiftsailing schooner "Esmeralda," with orders to prey on the enemy's commerce. The crew was made up of the off-scourings of many lands-bold, half-piratical fellows, ready at a moment's notice for bloodshed. The midshipman heard strange mutterings among the men, and he reported the fact to his captain. The captain coolly brought out two cutlasses and a number of pistols, and directed Porter to stand ready with them at the cabin door. Then he went on deck. Barrett, the carpenter, stood forward with an ax in his hand. He was surrounded by the swarthy-faced Mexicans of the crew. He talked excitedly, and pointed toward the quarter-deck.

"Barrett, come here, you mutinous rascal," roared the captain.

"I'm no more a rascal than you are," retorted Barrett. Then he shouted to the Mexicans: "Now's our time; follow me!" They rushed upon the captain, Barrett in advance with an ax uplifted.

"Ready, sir?" sang out the boy Porter in the gangway. And he passed up the captain's pistols and stood close behind with up

lifted cutlass. The captain fired both charges, and the midshipman cut the carpenter down the middle. The Mexicans wavered, and then ran back like a flock of sheep. They were ordered aft, and lined up with their toes to a crack. David and the captain, each with a loaded pistol in hand, searched the mutineers and placed them in irons. Then these two, with the quartermaster, sailed the "Esmeralda" into port.

Midshipman Porter was soon transferred to the "Guerrero," then cruising south of Cuba. From the tops, one bright May morning, he discovered a large sail on the horizon. Instantly the decks swarmed with men preparing for action. As the new sail loomed larger the ship was seen to be the Spanish fighter "Libertad," sixty-four guns. The "Guerrero" had only twenty-two guns, but the captain hesitated not a moment. Brave in battle the Spanish might be, but he knew they lacked discipline, were poor gunners, and in the heat of battle often lost their heads. The "Guerrero" came up saucily, and fired a terrific broadside. For over an hour the ships ran side by side, belching fire and shot. Masts were riddled, the sails were torn into rags, and the decks ran with blood. The "Guerrero" was fearfully over-matched, and yet she closed in nearer and nearer until the grimy gunners swore at one another across the water. Every shot told, for the guns of the "Guerrero" were manned by Americans, and gradually the Spanish frigate began to slack away and her guns spoke less often. And then, on the eve of victory, a calm fell suddenly. The "Libertad" edged off and took position just out of reach of the "Guerrero's" short guns, and then pounded her deliberately to pieces. The "Guerrero " became unmanageable; the hull was a wreck, most of the crew were killed, and she finally struck her colors. The "Libertad" swept alongside, and while the flag of surrender was still flying bored her defenceless antagonist through and through with solid shot. The captain was cut in two as Midshipman Porter stood by him, and scores of seamen were killed. It was not war, it was murder. Presently the victors boarded the Mexican brig, killed many more of the men in cold blood, and robbed all of the officersand yet these were the men of the Royal Spanish Navy. Young Porter objected to this treatment so violently that he was cast into Morro Castle at Havana, where he was kept four months. After untold sufferings and indignities he was released, and to his dying hour it was his dearest wish to com



MALVERN" AFTER THE VICTORY AT FORT FISHER, JANUARY 15, 1865. ADMIRAL PORTER'S AGE AT THIS TIME WAS 51 YEARS. From a photograph by A. Gardner, loaned by R. B. Porter.

mand the fleet which should wipe Morro Castle and Spanish rule from this quarter of the earth.

As Farragut was noted for his agility, Porter was known for his enormous strength. One day when the "Constellation" was sta

tioned in the Mediterranean Porter heard two sailors speak disrespectfully to the officer of the deck. He stepped up, seized each of them by the middle of the back, held them aloft, and bumped them together into obedience. With the greatest ease he lifted

a 30-pound shot by clasping it on top with one hand. And yet neither Farragut nor Porter was a large man. Farragut was not over five feet, six inches in height, and Porter was only five feet, eight and one-half inches. Both, however, were rugged and muscular.

The two admirals were more than fosterbrothers; they were friends. Each was endowed with the same dash, determination, and personal fearlessness. Farragut was lashed in the rigging at Mobile; at Fort Fisher, Porter stood on the paddle-box of the little paper-clad "Malvern" while the fleet ran under the guns. At New Orleans, Farragut, not being satisfied with the man

ner in which a ship's boat was trying to clear the channel, flashed the order: "Make headway and do your duty." In the midst of a hurricane of shells at Fort Fisher the captain of one of the bombarding vessels shouted through his speaking-trumpet: "My shots don't reach the fort, sir."

"Why in hell don't you go in closer?" thundered Porter.

Republics are not always ungrateful. Besides elevating Farragut and Porter to the highest rank known to the navy, Congress gave Farragut two votes of thanks by name, one for New Orleans and the other for Mobile. Porter received three votes of thanks for Arkansas Post, Vicksburg, and Fort Fisher.



Author of The Mystery of Choice," "The Red Republic," etc.

"I will grow round him in his place,
Grow, live, die looking on his face,
Die, dying clasp'd in his embrace."



N winter the Porte is closed, mica quarry. The quarrymen follow in the population migrates, the batches; the willow-tassels see them all Collector of the Porte sails there; the wind-flowers witness the defile southward. There is nothing of the first shift through the pines. left but black rocks sheathed in ice where icy seas clash and splinter and white squalls howl across the headland. When the wind slackens and the inlet freezes, spotted seals swim up and down the ragged edges of the ice, sleek restless heads raised, mild eyes fixed on the turbid shallows. In January, blizzard-driven snowy owls whirl into the pines and sit all day in the demi-twilight, the white ptarmigan covers the softer snow with winding tracks, and the white hare, huddled in his whiter "form," plays hide and seek with his own shadow.

In February the Porte-of-Waves is still untenanted. A few marauders appear, now and then a steel-gray panther from the north frisking over the snow after the white hares, now and then a stub-tailed lynx, mean-faced, famished, snarling up at the white owls who look down and snap their beaks and hiss.

The first bud on the Indian-willow brings the first inhabitant back to the Porte-ofWaves, Francis Lee, Superintendent of the

On the last day of May the company's flag was hoisted on the tool-house, the FrenchCanadians came down to repair the rusty narrow-gauge railroad, and Lee, pipe lighted, sea-jacket buttoned to the throat, tramped up and down the track with the lumber detail, chalking and condemning sleepers, blazing spruce and pine, sounding fish-plate and rail, and shouting at intervals until the washouts were shored up, windfalls hacked through, and landslide and boulder no longer biocked the progress of the company's sole locomotive.

The first of June brought sunshine and black flies, but not the Collector of the Porte. The Canadians went back to Sainte Isole across the line, the white-throated sparrow's long, dreary melody broke out in the clearing's edge, but the Collector of the Porte did not return.

That evening, Lee, smoking his pipe on the headland, looked out across the sunsettinted ocean and saw the white gulls settling on the shoals and the fish-hawks soaring overhead with the broad red sun-glint on their wings. The smoke of a moss smudge

the lumber detail, chalking and condemning sleepers.

kept the flies away, his own tobacco smoke drove away care. Incidentally both drove Williams away-a mere lad in baggy bluejeans, smooth-faced, clear-eyed, with seatan on wrist and cheek.

"How did you cut your hand?" asked Lee, turning his head as Williams moved away. "Mica," replied Williams, briefly. After a moment Williams started on again.

"Come back," said Lee; "that wasn't what I had to tell you."

He sat down on the headland, opened a jack-knife, and scraped the ashes out of his pipe. Williams came slowly up and stood a few paces behind his shoulder.

"Sit down," said Lee.

Williams did not stir. Lee waited a moment, head slightly turned, but not far enough for him to see the figure motionless behind his shoulder.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

"I don't know what to do," said Lee, after a silence; it is not forbidden for women to work in the quarry as far as I am aware. If you need work and prefer that sort, and if you perform your work properly, I shall not interfere with you. And I'll see that the men do not."

Williams stood motionless; the smoke from the smudge shifted west, then south.

"But," continued Lee, "I must enter you properly on the pay-roll; I cannot approve of this masquerade. Finn will see you in the morning; it is unnecessary for me to repeat that you will not be disturbed."

There was no answer. After a silence Lee turned, then rose to his feet. Williams was

[blocks in formation]

"I pay you to follow my directions."

torn hands, too. She unconsciously placed one aching finger in her mouth and looked out to sea.

"The dreen's bust by the second windfall," said Dyce, with a jerk of his stunted thumb toward the forest. "If them sluice props caves in, the timber's wasted."

Finn proposed new sluice gates; Lee objected, and swore roundly that if the damage was not repaired by next evening he'd hold Finn responsible. He told them he was there to save the company's money, not to experiment with it; he spoke sharply to Finn of last year's extravagance, and warned him not to trifle with orders.

"I pay you to follow my directions," he said; "do so, and I'll be responsible to the

company; disobey, and I'll hold you to the chalk-mark every time."

Finn sullenly shifted his quid and nodded; Dyce looked rebellious.

"You might as well know," continued Lee," that I mean what I say. You'll find it out. Do your work, and we'll get on without trouble. You'll find I'm just.'

When Dyce and Finn had shuffled away toward the coast, Lee looked at the figure outlined on the cliffs against the sunset sky a desolate, lonely little figure in truth.

"Come," said Lee; "if you must have work, I will give you enough to keep you busy; not in the quarry, either do you want to cripple yourself in that pit? It's no place for children, anyway. Can you write properly?" The girl nodded, back turned toward him.

"Then you can keep the rolls, duplicates and all. You'll have a room to yourself in my shanty. I'll pay quarry wages."

He did not add that those wages must come out of his own pocket. The company allowed him no secretary, and he was too sensitive to suggest one.

"I don't ask you where you come from or why you are here," he said, a little roughly. "If there is gossip, I cannot help it." He walked to the smudge and stood in the smoke, for the wind had died out and the black flies were active. "Perhaps," he hazarded, "you would like to go back to-to where you came from? I'll send you back."

She shook her head.

"There may be gossip in camp."

The slightest movement of her shoulders indicated her indifference. Lee relighted his pipe, poked the smudge and piled damp moss on it.

"All right," he said, "don't be unhappy; I'll do what I can to make you comfortable. You had better come into the smudge, to begin with."

She came, touching her eyes with her hands, awkward, hesitating. He looked gravely at her clumsy boots, at the loose toil-stained overalls.

"What is your name?" he said without embarrassment.

"My name is Helen Pine." She looked

« AnteriorContinuar »