I will hide it no longer; yes, he is American, and so am I; we are both enemies of the slave-holders, but not traitors come on board to betray the Dolphin into the hands of the Federalists.”
“What did you come to do, then?” asked the Captain, in a severe tone, examining the novice attentively. The latter hesitated a few seconds before replying, then he said, “Captain, I should like to speak to you in private.”
Whilst John Stiggs made this request, James Playfair did not cease to look carefully at him; the sweet young face of the novice, his peculiarly gentle voice, the delicacy and whiteness of his hands, hardly disguised by paint, the large eyes, the animation of which could not bide their tenderness — all this together gave rise to a certain suspicion in the Captain’s mind. When John Stiggs had made his request, Playfair glanced fixedly at Crockston, who shrugged his shoulders; then he fastened a questioning look on the novice, which the latter could not withstand, and said simply to him, “Come.”
John Stiggs followed the Captain on to the poop, and then James Playfair, opening the door of his cabin, said to the novice, whose cheeks were pale with emotion, “Be so kind as to walk in, miss.”
John, thus addressed, blushed violently, and two tears rolled involuntarily down his cheeks.
“Don’t be alarmed, miss,” said James Playfair, in a gentle voice, “but be so good as to tell me how I come to have the honour of having you on board?”
The young girl hesitated a moment, then, reassured by the Captain’s look, she made up her mind to speak.
“Sir,” said she, “I wanted to join my father at Charleston; the town is besieged by land and blockaded by sea. I knew not how to get there, when I heard that the Dolphin meant to force the blockade. I came on board your ship, and I beg you to forgive me if I acted without your consent, which you would have refused me.”
“Certainly,” said James Playfair.
“I did well, then, not to ask you,” resumed the young girl, with a firmer voice.
The Captain crossed his arms, walked round his cabin, and then came back.
“What is your name?” said he.
“Your father, if I remember rightly the address on the letters, is he not from Boston?”
“And a Northerner is thus in a southern town in the thickest of the war?”
“My father is a prisoner; he was at Charleston when the first shot of the Civil War was fired, and the troops of the Union driven from Fort Sumter by the Confederates. My father’s opinions exposed him to the hatred of the slavist part, and by the order of General Beauregard he was imprisoned. I was then in England, living with a relation who has just died, and left alone, with no help but that of Crockston, our faithful servant, I wished to go to my father and share his prison with him.”
“What was Mr. Halliburtt, then?” asked James Playfair.
“A loyal and brave journalist,” replied Jenny proudly, one of the noblest editors of the Tribune, and the one who was the boldest in defending the cause of the negroes.”
“An Abolitionist,” cried the Captain angrily; “one of those men who, under the vain pretence of abolishing slavery, have deluged their country with blood and ruin.”
“Sir!” replied Jenny Halliburtt, growing pale, “you are insulting my father; you must not forget that I stand alone to defend him.”
The young Captain blushed scarlet; anger mingled with shame struggled in his breast; perhaps he would have answered the young girl, but he succeeded in restraining himself, and, opening the door of the cabin, he called “Boatswain!”
The boatswain came to him directly.
“This cabin will henceforward belong to Miss Jenny Halliburtt. Have a cot made ready for me at the end of the poop; that’s all I want.”
The boatswain looked with a stupefied stare at the young novice addressed in a feminine name, but on a sign from James Playfair he went out.
“And now, miss, you are at home,” said the young Captain of the Dolphin. Then he retired.
It was not long before the whole crew knew Miss Halliburtt’s story, which Crockston was no longer hindered from telling.