The smoke and spiteful crackle of the pickets' fusilade had risen to one unbroken crash, solidly accented by the report of field guns. Ambulances were everywhere driving to the rear at a gallop past the centre and left sections of McDunn's Battery, which, unlimbered, was standing in a cotton field, the guns pointed southward across the smoke rising below. Claymore's staff, dismounted, stood near.
"A pretty set of scoundrels!" was Lord Claymore's remark. "That cunning priest, too, depend on it, has a finger in the pie. A curious coincidence there is, too, in your own history, and in that of the story you have just told me. You want to find out to what family you belong, and here is a title, estates, and fortune, waiting to be filled by the rightful heir, if he can be found."
The midshipmen who had been rescued from the fishing-boat were allowed, after their fatigues, to remain below without doing duty for some days. Ronald could not sleep. This was very un-midshipmanlike; he knew that it was Claymore's watch on deck, and he thought he would take a turn with him.
A major of Claymore's staff galloped with orders to the Zouaves; but, as he opened his mouth to speak a shell burst behind him, and he pitched forward on his face, his shattered arm doubling under him. "Drag me behind that tree. Colonel Craig!" he said coolly. "I'll finish my orders in a moment." Major Lent and Colonel Craig got him behind the tree; and the officer's superb will never faltered.
Her people were not keeping so good a look-out as were Lord Claymore's crew; when they did, all sail was crowded in flight. Away she went before the wind. A stern chase is proverbially a long one; a tub can sail with the wind aft. Many hours of the day had passed: evening was approaching: should the night prove a dark one, she after all might escape.
Claymore's mixed brigade, still holding together, closed the rear of Porter's powder-scorched corps d'armee.
'Twas different when I was young and in my vigour," he went on eagerly, undisturbed by the fact that nobody paid the slightest attention to what he was saying, "for sech was the power and logic of Parson Claymore's sermons that he could convict you of the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost even when you hadn't committed it.
Was that what the army thought of them? But they had little time for nursing their mortification that morning; the firing along the river was breaking out in patches with a viciousness and volume heretofore unheard; and a six-gun Confederate field battery had joined in, arousing the entire camp of Claymore's brigade.
By dawn the next morning the "Carolina," in charge of her new masters, with Glover as commander, was on her way to Plymouth. Lord Claymore's satisfaction was not small when he discovered that the "Carolina" formed one of a large convoy, and that it was believed the other ships were astern. Sharper than ever was the look-out kept for a strange sail.
"General Claymore's staff has filled eve'y room in the house except yours and mine," she said in her gentle, bewildered way. "There's a regiment Curt's Zouaves encamped befo' the west quarters, and a battery across the drive, and all the garden is full of their horses and caissons."