The Revenge of the ADOLPHUS

Stephen Crane


   "Stand by!"

   Shackles had come down from the bridge of the Adolphus and flung this

command at three fellow-correspondents, who, in the galley, were busy with pencils trying to write something exciting and interesting from four days' quiet cruising. They looked up casually. "What for?" They did not intend toarouse for nothing. Ever since Shackles had heard the men of the navy directing each other to stand by for this thing and that thing, he had used the two words as his pet phrase and was continually telling his friends to stand by. Sometimes its portentous and emphatic reiteration became highly exasperating, and men were apt to retort sharply. "Well, I am standing by, ain't I?" On this occasion they detected that he was serious. "Well, what for?" they repeated. In his answer Shackles was reproachful as well as impressive. "Stand by? Stand by for a Spanish gunboat! -- a Spanish gunboat in chase! Stand by for two Spanish gunboats -- both of them in chase!"

   The others looked at him for a brief space, and were almost certain that

they saw truth written upon his countenance. Whereupon they tumbled out of the galley and galloped up to the bridge. The cook, with a mere inkling of tragedy, was now out on the lower deck bawling, "What's the matter? What's the matter? What's the matter?" Aft, the grimy head of a stoker was thrust suddenly up through the deck, so to speak. The eyes flashed in a quick look astern, and then the head vanished. The correspondents were scrambling on the bridge. "Where's my opry glasses? Here -- let me take a look. Are they Spaniards, Captain? Are you sure?"

   The skipper of the Adolphus was at the wheel. The pilot-house was so

arranged that he could not see astern without hanging forth from one of the side windows, but apparently he had made early investigation. He did not reply at once. At sea he never replied at once to questions. At the very

first Shackles had discovered the merits of this deliberate manner, and had taken delight in it. He invariably detailed his talk with the captain to the other correspondents. "Look here. I've just been to see the skipper. I said, 'I would like to put into Cape Haytien.' Then he took a little think.

Finally he said, 'All right.' Then I said, 'I suppose we'll need to take on

more coal there?' He took another little think. Finally he said, 'Yes.' I

said, 'Ever ran into that port before?' He took another little think.

Finally he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Have a cigar?' He took another little

think. See? There's where I fooled 'im."

   While the correspondents spun the hurried questions at him, the captain

of the Adolphus stood with his brown hands on the wheel and his cold glance aligned straight over the bow of his ship.

   "Are they Spanish gunboats, Captain? Are they, Captain?"

   After a profound pause, he said: "Yes." The four correspondents hastily

and in perfect time presented their backs to him and fastened their gaze on

the pursuing foe. They saw a dull, gray curve of sea going to the feet of

the high green and blue coast-line of northeastern Cuba, and on this sea

were two miniature ships, with clouds of iron-colored smoke pouring from

their funnels.

   One of the correspondents strode elaborately to the pilot-house. "Aw --

Captain," he drawled, "do you think they can catch us?"

   The captain's glance was still aligned over the bow of his ship.

Ultimately he answered, "I don't know."

   From the top of the little Adolphus's stack thick, dark smoke swept level

for a few yards, and then went rolling to leeward in great, hot, obscuring

clouds. From time to time the grimy head was thrust through the lower deck, the eyes took the quick look astern, and then the head vanished. The cook was trying to get somebody to listen to him. "Well, you know, my sons, it won't be no fun to be ketched by them Spaniards. By George, it won't. Look here, what do you think they'll do to us, hey? Say, I don't like this, you

know. I'm jiggered if I do." The sea, cut by the hurried bow of the

Adolphus, flung its waters astern in the formation of a wide angle, and the

lines of the angle ruffled and hissed as they fled, while the thumping screw

tormented the water at the stern. The frame of the steamer underwent regular convulsions as in the strenuous sobbing of a child.

   The mate was standing near the pilot-house. Without looking at him, the

captain spoke his name: "Ed!"

   "Yes, sir," cried the mate with alacrity.

   The captain reflected for a moment. Then he said, "Are they gainin' on


   The mate took another anxious survey of the race. "No -- o -- yes, I

think they are -- a little."

   After a pause the captain said: "Tell the chief to hook her up more."

   The mate, glad of an occupation in these tense minutes, flew down to the

engine-room door. "Skipper says hook 'er up more!" he bawled.

   The head of the chief engineer appeared -- a grizzly head, now wet with

oil and sweat. "What?" he shouted angrily. It was as if he had been

propelling the ship with his own arms. Now he was told that his best was not good enough. "What? Hook 'er up more? Why, she can't carry another pound, I tell you! Not another ounce! We -- " Suddenly he ran forward and climbed to the bridge. "Captain," he cried in the loud, harsh voice of one who lived usually amid the thunder of machinery, "she can't do it, sir! By Gawd, she can't! She's turning over now faster than she ever did in her life, and we'll all blow to hell -- "

   The low-toned, impassive voice of the captain suddenly checked the

chief's clamor. "I'll blow her up," he said, "but I won't get ketched if I

can help it." Even then the listening correspondents found a second in which to marvel that the captain had actually explained his point of view to

another human being.

   The engineer stood blank. Then suddenly he cried, "All right, sir!" He

threw a hurried look of despair at the correspondents, the deck of the

Adolphus, the pursuing enemy, Cuba, to the sky, and the sea; he vanished in the direction of his post.

   A correspondent was suddenly regifted with the power of prolonged speech. "Well, you see, the game is up, tight. See! We can't get out of it. The

skipper will blow up the whole bunch before he'll let his ship be taken, and

the Spaniards are gaining. Well, that's what comes from going to war in an

eight-knot tub." He bitterly accused himself, the others, and the dark,

sightless, indifferent world.

   This certainty of coming evil affected each one differently. One was made

garrulous; one kept absent-mindedly snapping his fingers and gazing at the sea; another stepped nervously to and fro, looking everywhere as if for

employment for his mind. As for Shackles, he was silent and smiling; but it

was a new smile that caused the lines about his mouth to

betray quivering weakness. And each man looked at the others to discover

their degree of fear, and did his best to conceal his own, holding his

crackling nerves with all his strength.

   As the Adolphus rushed on, the sun suddenly emerged from behind gray

clouds, and its rays dealt Titanic blows, so that in a few minutes the sea

was a glowing blue plain, with the golden shine dancing at the tips of the

waves. The coast of Cuba glowed with light. The pursuers displayed detail

after detail in the new atmosphere. The voice of the cook was heard in high

vexation. "Am I to git dinner as usual? How do I know? Nobody tells me what to do! Am I to git dinner as usual?"

   The mate answered ferociously: "Of course you are! What do you s'pose?

Ain't you the cook, you condemned ijit?"

   The cook retorted in a mutinous scream: "Well, how would I know? If this

ship is goin' to blow up -- "


   The captain called from the pilot-house: "Mr. Shackles! Oh, Mr.


   The correspondent moved hastily to a window.

   "What is it, captain?"

   The skipper of the Adolphus raised a battered finger and pointed over the

bows. "See 'er?" he asked, laconic but quietly jubilant. Another steamer was smoking at full speed over the sunlit seas. A great billow of pure white was on her bows.

   "Great Scott!" cried Shackles: "another Spaniard?"

   "No," said the captain; "that there is a United States cruiser."

   "What?" Shackles was dumbfounded into muscular paralysis. "No! Are you


   The captain nodded. "Sure. Take the glass. See her ensign? Two funnels;

two masts with fighting tops. She ought to be the Chancellorville."

   Shackles choked. "Well, I'm blowed!"

   "Ed!" said the captain.


   "Tell the chief there is no hurry."

   Shackles suddenly bethought him of his companions. He dashed to them and was full of quick scorn of their gloomy faces. "Hi, brace up there! Are you blind? Can't you see her?"

   "See what?"

   "Why, the Chancellorville, you blind mice!" roared Shackles. "See 'er?

See 'er? See 'er?"

   The others sprang up, saw, and collapsed. Shackles was a madman for the

purpose of distributing the news. "Cook!" he shrieked; "don't you see 'er,

cook? Great Scott, man, don't you see 'er?" He ran to the lower deck and

howled his information everywhere. Suddenly, the whole ship smiled. Men

clapped each other on the shoulder and joyously shouted. The captain thrust his head from the pilot-house to look back at the Spanish ships. Then he looked at the American cruiser. "Now, we'll see," he said, grimly and vindictively to the mate. "Guess somebody else will do some runnin'." The mate chuckled.

   The two gunboats were still headed hard for the Adolphus, and she kept on her way. The American cruiser was coming swiftly. "It's the

Chancellorville!" cried Shackles. "I know her. We'll see a fight at sea, my

boys! A fight at sea!" The enthusiastic correspondents pranced in Indian


   The Chancellorville -- 2000 tons, 18.6 knots, ten 5-inch guns -- came on

tempestuously, sheering the water high with her sharp bow. From her funnels the smoke raced away in driven sheets. She loomed with extraordinary rapidity, like a ship bulging and growing out of the sea. She swept by the Adolphus so close that one could have thrown a walnut on board. She was a glistening grey apparition, with a blood-red water-line, with brown gun-muzzles and white-clothed motionless Jack-tars; and in her rush she was silent, deadly silent. Probably there entered the mind of every man on board of the Adolphus a feeling of almost idolatry for this living thing, stern, but, to their thought, incomparably beautiful. They would have cheered but that each man seemed to feel that a cheer would be too puny a tribute.

   It was at first as if she did not see the Adolphus. She was going to pass

without heeding this little vagabond of the high seas. But suddenly a

megaphone gaped over the rail of her bridge, and a voice was heard

measuredly, calmly intoning: "Halloa -- there! Keep -- well -- to -- the --

north'ard -- and -- out of my -- way -- and I'll -- go -- in -- and -- see

-- what -- those -- people -- want." Then nothing was heard but the swirl of

water. In a moment the Adolphus was looking at a high gray stern. On the

quarter-deck sailors were poised about the breech of the after-pivot gun.

   The correspondents were revelling. "Captain," yelled Shackles, "we can't

miss this! We must see it!"

   But the skipper had already flung over the wheel. "Sure," he answered,

almost at once, "we can't miss it."

   The cook was arrogantly, grossly triumphant. His voice rang on the lower

deck. "There, now! How will the Spinachers like that? Now, it's our turn!

We've been doin' the runnin' away, but now we'll do the chasin'!" Apparently feeling some twinge of nerves from the former strain, he suddenly demanded: "Say, who's got any whiskey? I'm near dead for a drink."

   When the Adolphus came about, she laid her course for a position to the

northward of a coming battle, but the situation suddenly became complicated. When the Spanish ships discovered the identity of the ship that was steaming toward them they did not hesitate over their plan of action. With one accord they turned and ran for port. Laughter arose from the Adolphus. The captain broke his orders, and instead of keeping to the northward, he headed in the wake of the impetuous Chancellorville. The correspondents crowded on the bow.

   The Spaniards, when their broadsides became visible, were seen to be

ships of no importance -- mere little gun-boats for work in the shallows at

the back of the reefs; and it was certainly discreet to refuse encounter

with the 5-inch guns of the Chancellorville. But the joyful Adolphus took no

account of this discretion. The pursuit of the Spaniards had been so

ferocious that the quick change to heels-over-head flight filled that corner

of the mind which is devoted to the spirit of revenge. It was this that

moved Shackles to yell taunts futilely at the faraway ships. "Well, how do

you like it, eh? How do you like it?" The Adolphus was drinking compensation for her previous agony.

   The mountains of the shore now shadowed high into the sky, and the square white houses of a town could be seen near a vague cleft which seemed to mark the entrance to a port. The gunboats were now near to it.

   Suddenly white smoke streamed from the bow of the Chancellorville and

developed swiftly into a great bulb which drifted in fragments down the

wind. Presently the deep-throated boom of the gun came to the ears on board the Adolphus. The shot kicked up a high jet of water into the air astern of the last gunboat. The black smoke from the funnels of the cruiser made her look like a collier on fire, and in her desperation she tried many more long shots, but presently the Adolphus, murmuring disappointment, saw the Chancellorville sheer from the chase.

   In time they came up with her, and she was an indignant ship. Gloom and wrath was on the forecastle, and wrath and gloom was on the quarter-deck. A sad voice from the bridge said, "Just missed 'em." Shackles gained

permission to board the cruiser, and in the cabin he talked to

Lieutenant-Commander Surrey, tall, bald-headed and angry.

   "Shoals," said the captain of the Chancellorville, "I can't go any

nearer, and those gunboats could steam along a stone sidewalk if only it was wet." Then his bright eyes became brighter. "I tell you what! The Chicken, the Holy Moses, and the Mongolian are on station off Nuevitas. If you will do me a favor -- why, to-morrow I will give those people a game!"


   The Chancellorville lay all night watching off the port of the two

gunboats, and soon after daylight, the lookout descried three smokes to the

westward, and they were later made out to be the Chicken, the Holy Moses,

and the Adolphus, the latter tagging hurriedly after the United States


   The Chicken had been a harbor tug, but she was now the U.S.S. Chicken, by your leave. She carried a 6-pounder forward and a 6-pounder aft, and her main point was her conspicuous vulnerability. The Holy Moses had been the private yacht of a Philadelphia millionnaire. She carried six 6-pounders, and her main point was the chaste beauty of the officers' quarters.

   On the bridge of the Chancellorville, Lieutenant-Commander Surrey

surveyed his squadron with considerable satisfaction. Presently he signalled to the lieutenant who commanded the Holy Moses and to the boatswain who commanded the Chicken to come aboard the flagship. This was all very well for the captain of the yacht, but it was not so easy for the captain of the tugboat, who had two heavy lifeboats swung fifteen feet above the water. He had been accustomed to talking with senior officers from his own pilot-house through the intercession of the blessed megaphone. However, he got a lifeboat over-side and was pulled to the Chancellorville by three men -- which cut his crew almost into halves.

   In the cabin of the Chancellorville, Surrey disclosed to his two captains

his desires concerning the Spanish gunboats, and they were glad of being

ordered down from the Nuevitas station, where life was very dull. He also

announced that there was a shore battery, containing, he believed, four

field-guns -- three-decimal-twos. His draught -- he spoke of it as his

draught -- would enable him to go in close enough to engage the battery at

moderate range, but he pointed out that the main parts of the attempt to

destroy the Spanish gun-boats must be left to the Holy Moses and the

Chicken. His business, he thought, could only be to keep the air so singing

about the ears of the battery that the men at the guns would be unable to

take an interest in the dash of the smaller American craft into the bay.

   The officers spoke in their turns. The commander of the Chicken announced that he saw no difficulties. The squadron would follow the flagship in line, ahead the flagship would engage the batteries as soon as possible, she would turn to starboard when the depth of water forced her to do so, and the Holy Moses and the Chicken would run past her into the bay and fight the Spanish ships wherever they were to be found. The commander of the Holy Moses, after some moments of dignified thought, said that he had no suggestions to make that would better this plan.

   Surrey pressed an electric bell; a marine orderly appeared; he was sent

with a message. The message brought the navigating officer of the

Chancellorville to the cabin, and the four men nosed over a chart.

   In the end Surrey declared that he had made up his mind, and the juniors remained in expectant silence for three minutes while he stared at the bulkhead. Then he said that the plan of the Chicken's commander seemed to him correct in the main. He would make one change. It was that he shouldfirst steam in and engage the battery, and the other vessels should remain in their present positions until he signalled them to run into the bay. If the squadron steamed ahead in line, the battery could, if it chose, divide its fire between the flagship and the vessels constituting the more important attack. He had no doubt, he said, that he could soon silence the battery by tumbling the earthworks on to the guns and driving away the men, even if he did not succeed in hitting the pieces. Of course, he had no doubt of being able to silence the battery in twenty minutes. Then he would signal for the Holy Moses and the Chicken to make their rush, and of course he would support them with his fire as much as conditions enabled him. He arose then, indicating that the conference was at an end. In the few moments more that all four men remained in the cabin, the talk changed its character completely. It was now unofficial, and the sharp badinage concealed furtive affections, academy friendships, the feelings of old-time ship-mates, hiding everything under a veil of jokes. "Well, good luck to you, old boy! Don't get that valuable packet of yours sunk under you. Think how it would weaken the navy. Would you mind buying me three pairs of pajamas in the town yonder? If your engines get disabled, tote her under your arm. You can do it. Good-by, old man; don't forget to come out all right."

   When the commanders of the Holy Moses and the Chicken emerged from the cabin they strode the deck with a new step. They were proud men. The marine on duty above their boats looked at them curiously and with awe. He detected something which meant action, conflict. The boats' crews saw it also. As they pulled their steady stroke they studied fleetingly the face of the officer in the stern-sheets. In both cases they perceived a glad man, and yet a man filled with a profound consideration of the future.


   A bird-like whistle stirred the decks of the Chancellorville. It was

followed by the hoarse bellowings of the boatswain's mate. As the cruiser

turned her bow toward the shore, she happened to steam near the Adolphus. The usual calm voice hailed the despatch-boat. "Keep -- that -- gauze undershirt of yours -- well -- out of the -- line of fire."

   "Ay, ay, sir!"

   The cruiser then moved slowly toward the shore, watched by every eye in

the smaller American vessels. She was deliberate and steady, and this was

reasonable, even to the impatience of the other craft, because the wooded

shore was likely to suddenly develop new factors. Slowly she swung to

starboard, smoke belched over her, and the roar of a gun came along the


   The battery was indicated by a long, thin streak of yellow earth. The

first shot went high, ploughing the chaparral on the hillside. The

Chancellorville wore an air for a moment of being deep in meditation. She

flung another shell, which landed squarely on the earth-work, making a great dun cloud. Before the smoke had settled, there was a crimson flash from the battery. To the watchers at sea, it was smaller than a needle. The shot made a geyser of crystal water, four hundred yards from the Chancellorville.

   The cruiser, having made up her mind, suddenly went at the battery hammer and tongs. She moved to and fro casually, but the thunder of her guns was gruff and angry. Sometimes she was quite hidden in her own smoke, but with exceeding regularity the earth of the battery spurted into the air. The Spanish shells for the most part went high and wide of the cruiser, jetting the water far away.

   Once a Spanish gunner took a festive side-show chance at the waiting

group of the three ships. It went like a flash over the Adolphus, singing a

wistful, metallic note. Whereupon the Adolphus broke hurriedly for the open sea, and men on the Holy Moses and the Chicken laughed hoarsely and cruelly. The correspondents had been standing excitedly on top of the pilot-house, but at the passing of the shell they promptly eliminated themselves by dropping with a thud to the deck below. The cook again was giving tongue. "Oh, say, this won't do! Oh, this ain't no good! We ain't no armored cruiser, you know. If one of them shells hits us -- well, we finish right there. 'Tain't like as if it was our business, foolin' round within the

range of them guns. There's no sense in it. Them other fellows don't seem to mind it, but it's their business. If it's your business, you go ahead and do

it; but if it ain't, you -- look at that, would you?"

   The Chancellorville had set up a spread of flags, and the Holy Moses and

the Chicken were steaming in.


   They on the Chancellorville sometimes could see into the bay, and they

perceived the enemy's gunboats moving out as if to give battle. Surrey

feared that this impulse would not endure, or that it was some mere pretence for the edification of the townspeople and the garrison, so he hastily directed that signals be made ordering in the Holy Moses and the Chicken. Thankful for small favors, they came on like charging horsemen. The battery had ceased firing. As the two auxiliaries passed under the stern of the cruiser, the megaphone hailed them: "You -- will -- see -- the -- en -- e --my -- soon -- as -- you -- round -- the -- point. A -- fine -- chance. Good--luck."

   As a matter of fact, the Spanish gunboats had not been informed of the

presence of the Holy Moses and the Chicken off the bar, and they were just

blustering down the bay over the protective shoals to make it appear that

they scorned the Chancellorville. But suddenly from around the point there

burst into view a steam yacht, closely followed by a harbor tug. The

gunboats took one swift look at this horrible sight, and fled screaming.

   Lieutenant Reigate, commanding the Holy Moses, had under his feet a craft that was capable of some speed, although before a solemn tribunal one would have to admit that she conscientiously belied almost everything that the contractors had said of her originally. Boatswain Pent, commanding the Chicken, was in possession of an utterly different kind. The Holy Moses was an antelope; the Chicken was a man who could carry a piano on his back. In this race Pent had the mortification of seeing his vessel outstripped badly.

   The entrance of the two American craft had a curious effect upon the

shores of the bay. Apparently every one had slept in the assurance that the

Chancellorville could not cross the bar, and that the Chancellorville was

the only hostile ship. Consequently the appearance of the Holy Moses and the Chicken created a curious and complete emotion. Reigate on the bridge of the Holy Moses laughed when he heard the bugles shrilling, and saw through his glasses the wee figures of men running hither and thither on the shore. It was the panic of the china when the bull entered the shop. The whole bay was bright with sun. Every detail of the shore was plain. From a brown hut abeam of the Holy Moses some little men ran out waving their arms and turning their tiny faces to look at the enemy. Directly ahead, some four miles, appeared the scattered white houses of a town, with a wharf and some schooners in front of it. The gunboats were making for the town. There was a stone fort on the hill overshadowing, but Reigate conjectured that there was no artillery in it.

   There was a sense of something intimate and impudent in the minds of the Americans. It was like climbing over a wall and fighting a man in his own garden. It was not that they could be in any wise shaken in their resolve; it was simply that the overwhelmingly Spanish aspect of things made them feel like gruff intruders. Like many of the emotions of war-time, this emotion had nothing at all to do with war.

   Reigate's only commissioned subordinate called up from the bow gun, "May I open fire, sir? I think I can fetch that last one."


   Immediately the 6-pounder crashed, and in the air was the spinning wire

noise of the flying shot. It struck so close to the last gun-boat that it

appeared that the spray went aboard. The swift-handed men at the gun spoke of it: "Gave 'em a bath that time anyhow. First one they've ever had. Dry 'em off this time, Jim."

   The young ensign said: "Steady." And so the Holy Moses raced in, firing,

until the whole town, water-front and shipping was as plain as if it had

been done on paper by a mechanical draughts-man. The gunboats were trying to hide in the bosom of the town. One was frantically tying up to the wharf, and the other was anchoring within a hundred yards of the shore. The Spanish infantry, of course, had dug trenches along the beach, and suddenly the air over the Holy Moses sang with bullets. The shore-line thrummed with musketry; also some antique shells screamed.


   THE Chicken was doing her best. Pent's posture at the wheel seemed to

indicate that her best was about thirty-four knots. In his eagerness he was

braced as if he alone was taking in a 10,000-ton battleship through


   But the Chicken was not too far in the rear, and Pent could see clearly

that he was to have no minor part to play. Some of the antique shells had

struck the Holy Moses, and he could see the escaped steam shooting up from her. She lay close inshore, and was lashing out with four 6-pounders as if this was the last opportunity she would have to fire them. She had made the Spanish gunboats very sick. A solitary gun on the one moored to the wharf was from time to time firing wildly, otherwise the gunboats were silent. But the beach in front of the town was a line of fire. The Chicken headed for the Holy Moses, and, as soon as possible, the 6-pounder in her bow began to crack at the gunboat moored to the wharf.

   In the meantime the Chancellorville prowled off the bar, listening to the

firing, anxious, acutely anxious, and feeling her impotency in every inch of

her smart, steel frame. And in the meantime the Adolphus squatted on the

waves and brazenly waited for news. One could thoughtfully count the

seconds, and reckon that in this second and that second a man had died -- if one chose. But no one did it.

   Undoubtedly the spirit was that the flag should come away with honor,

honor complete, perfect leaving no loose unfinished end over which the

Spaniards could erect a monument of satisfaction, glorification. The distant

guns boomed to the ears of the silent blue-jackets at their stations on the


   The Chicken steamed up to the Holy Moses and took into her nostrils the

odor of steam, gunpowder and burned things. Rifle-bullets simply streamed

over them both. In the merest flash of time, Pent took into his remembrance

the body of a dead quartermaster on the bridge of his consort. The two

megaphones lifted together, but Pent's eager voice cried out first: "Are you

injured, sir?"

   "No, not completely. My engines can get me out after -- after we have

sunk those gunboats." The voice had been utterly conventional, but it

changed to sharpness: "Go in and sink that gunboat at anchor."

   As the Chicken rounded the Holy Moses and started inshore, a man called to him from the depths of finished disgust: "They're takin' to their boats, sir." Pent looked and saw the men of the anchored gunboat lower their boats and pull like mad for shore.

   The Chicken, assisted by the Holy Moses, began a methodical killing of

the anchored gunboat. The Spanish infantry on shore fired frenziedly at the Chicken. Pent, giving the wheel to a waiting sailor, stepped out to a point where he could see the men at the guns. One bullet spanged past him and into the pilot-house. He ducked his head into the window. "That hit you, Murry?" he inquired with interest.

   "No, sir," cheerfully responded the man at the wheel.

   Pent became very busy superintending the fire of his absurd battery. The

anchored gun-boat simply would not sink. It evinced that unnatural

stubbornness which is sometimes displayed by inanimate objects. The gunboat at the wharf had sunk as if she had been scuttled, but this riddled thing at anchor would not even take fire. Pent began to grow flurried -- privately. He could not stay there forever. Why didn't the pig-headed gunboat admit its destruction? Why --

   He was at the forward gun when one of his engineers came to him, and

after saluting, said serenely: "The men at the after-gun are all down, sir."

   It was one of those curious lifts which an enlisted man, without in any

way knowing it, can give his officer. The impudent tranquillity of the man

at once set Pent to rights, and the engineer departed admiring the

extraordinary coolness of his captain.

   The next few moments contained little but heat, an odor, applied

mechanics, and an expectation of death. Pent developed a fervid and amazed appreciation of the men, his men: men he knew very well, but strange men. What explained them? He was doing his best because he was captain of the Chicken, and he lived or died by the Chicken. But what could move these men to watch his eye in bright anticipation of his orders, and then obey them with enthusiastic rapidity? What caused them to speak of the action as some kind of joke -- particularly when they knew he could overhear them? What manner of men? And he anointed them secretly with his fullest affection.

   Perhaps Pent did not think all this during the battle. Perhaps he thought

it so soon after the battle that his full mind became confused as to the

time. At any rate, it stands as an expression of his feeling.

   The enemy had gotten a field-gun down to the shore, and with it, they

began to throw 3-inch shells at the Chicken. In this war it was usual that

the down-trodden Spaniards, in their ignorance, should use smokeless powder, while the Americans, by the power of the consistent, everlasting, three-ply, wire-woven, double-back-action imbecility of a hayseed government, used powder which on sea and on land cried their position to heaven; and accordingly, good men got killed without reason. At first, Pent could not locate the field-gun at all; but as soon as he found it, he ran aft with one man and brought the after 6-pounder again into action. He paid little heed to the old gun-crew. One was lying on his face apparently dead; another was prone, with a wound in the chest; while the third sat with his back to the deck-house holding a smitten arm. This last one called out huskily, "Give 'em hell, sir."

   The minutes of the battle were either days, years, or they were flashes

of a second. Once Pent, looking up, was astonished to see three shell holes

in the Chicken's funnel -- made surreptitiously, so to speak. "If we don't

silence that field-gun she'll sink us, boys." The eyes of the man sitting

with his back against the deck-house were looking from out his ghastly face at the new gun-crew. He spoke with the supreme laziness of a wounded man: "Give 'em hell." Pent felt a sudden twist of his shoulder. He was wounded-- slightly. The anchored gunboat was in flames.


   Pent took his little bloodstained towboat out to the Holy Moses. The

yacht was already under way for the bay entrance. As they

were passing out of range, the Spaniards heroically redoubled their fire --

which is their custom. Pent, moving busily about the decks, stopped suddenly at the door of the engine-room. His face was set and his eyes were steely. He spoke to one of the engineers. "During the action I saw you firing at the enemy with a rifle. I told you once to stop, and then I saw you at it again. Pegging away with a rifle is no part of your business. I want you to

understand that you are in trouble." The humbled man did not raise his eyes from the deck. Presently the Holy Moses displayed an anxiety for the

Chicken's health.

   "One killed and four wounded, sir."

   "Have you enough men left to work your ship?"

   After deliberation Pent answered, "No, sir."

   "Shall I send you assistance?"

   "No, sir. I can get to sea all right."

   As they neared the point they were edified by the sudden appearance of a

serio-comic ally. The Chancellorville at last had been unable to stand the

strain, and sent in her launch with an ensign, five seamen, and a number of

marksmen marines. She swept hotfoot around the point, bent on terrible

slaughter; the 1-pounder of her bow presented a formidable appearance. The Holy Moses and the Chicken laughed until they brought indignation to the brow of the young ensign. But he forgot it when with some of his men he boarded the Chicken to do what was possible for the wounded. The nearest surgeon was aboard the Chancellorville. There was absolute silence on board the cruiser as the Holy Moses steamed up to report. The blue-jackets listened with all their ears. The commander of the yacht spoke slowly into his megaphone: "We have -- destroyed -- the two -- gunboats -- sir."

   There was a burst of confused cheering on the forecastle of the

Chancellorville, but an officer's cry quelled it.

   "Very -- good. Will -- you -- come aboard?"

   Correspondents were already on the deck of the cruiser, and although for

a time they learned only that the navy can preserve a classic silence, they

in the end received the story which is here told. Before the last of the

wounded were hoisted aboard the cruiser the Adolphus was on her way to Key West. When she arrived at that port of desolation, Shackles fled to file the telegrams and the other correspondents fled to the hotel for clothes, good clothes, clean clothes; and food, good food, much food; and drink, much drink, any kind of drink.

   Days afterward, when the officers of the noble squadron received the

newspapers containing an account of their performance they looked at each other somewhat dejectedly: "Heroic assault -- grand daring of Boatswain Pent -- superb accuracy of the Holy Moses' fire -- gallant tars of the Chicken --

their names should be remembered as long as America stands -- terrible

losses of the enemy -- "

   When the Secretary of the Navy ultimately read the report of

Lieutenant-Commander Surrey he had to prick himself with a dagger in order to remember that anything at all out of the ordinary had occurred.