“Ah! that’s you,” cried James Playfair, scanning the American from head to foot.
“It is me, Captain,” replied the American, undisturbed. “I have come to see how these brave Federals fire; not badly, in truth, not badly.”
The Captain was going to answer Crockston sharply, but at this moment a second shot struck the sea on the starboard side.
“Good!” cried James Playfair, “we have already gained two cables on this Iroquois. Your friends sail like a buoy; do you hear, Master Crockston?”
“I will not say they don’t,” replied the American, “and for the first time in my life it does not fail to please me.”
A third shot fell still farther astern, and in less than ten minutes the Dolphin was out of range of the corvette’s guns.
“So much for patent-logs, Mr. Mathew,” said James Playfair; “thanks to those shot we know how to rate our speed. Now have the fires lowered; it is not worth while to waste our coal uselessly.”
“It is a good ship that you command,” said Miss Halliburtt to the young Captain.
“Yes, Miss Jenny, my good Dolphin makes her seventeen knots, and before the day is over we shall have lost sight of that corvette.”
James Playfair did not exaggerate the sailing qualities of his ship, and the sun had not set before the masts of the American ship had disappeared below the horizon.
This incident allowed the Captain to see Miss Halliburtt’s character in a new light; besides, the ice was broken, henceforward, during the whole of the voyage; the interviews between the Captain and his passenger were frequent and prolonged; be found her to be a young girl, calm, strong, thoughtful, and intelligent, speaking with great ease, having her own ideas about everything, and expressing her thoughts with a conviction which unconsciously penetrated James Playfair’s heart.
She loved her country, she was zealous in the great cause of the Union, and expressed herself on the civil war in the United States with an enthusiasm of which no other woman would have been capable. Thus it happened, more than once, that James Playfair found it difficult to answer her, even when questions purely mercantile arose in connection with the war: Miss Jenny attacked them none the less vigorously, and would come to no other terms whatever. At first James argued a great deal, and tried to uphold the Confederates against the Federals, to prove that the Secessionists were in the right, and that if the people were united voluntarily they might separate in the same manner. But the young girl would not yield on this point; she demonstrated that the question of slavery was predominant in the struggle between the North and South Americans, that it was far more a war in the cause of morals and humanity than politics, and James could make no answer. Besides, during these discussions, which he listened to attentively, it is difficult to say whether he was more touched by Miss Halliburtt’s arguments or the charming manner in which she spoke; but at last he was obliged to acknowledge, among other things, that slavery was the principal feature in the war, that it must be put an end to decisively, and the last horrors of barbarous times abolished.
It has been said that the political opinions of the Captain did not trouble him much. He would have sacrificed his most serious opinion before such enticing arguments and under like circumstances; he made a good bargain of his ideas for the same reason, but at last he was attacked in his tenderest point; this was the question of the traffic in which the Dolphin was being employed, and, consequently, the ammunition which was being carried to the Confederates.
“Yes, Mr. James,” said Miss Halliburtt, “gratitude does not hinder me from speaking with perfect frankness; on the contrary, you are a brave seaman, a clever merchant, the house of Playfair is noted for its respectability; but in this case it fails in its principles, and follows a trade unworthy of it.”
“How!” cried James, “the house of Playfair ought not to attempt such a commercial enterprise?”
“No! it is taking ammunition to the unhappy creatures in revolt against the government of their country, and it is lending arms to a bad cause.”
“Upon my honour, Miss Jenny, I will not discuss the right of the Confederates with you; I will only answer you with one word: I am a merchant, and as such I only occupy myself with the interests of my house; I look for gain wherever there is an opportunity of getting it.”
“That is precisely what is to be blamed, Mr.