The Project Gutenberg EBook of Fitz the Filibuster, by George Manville Fenn This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: Fitz the Filibuster Author: George Manville Fenn Illustrator: Harold Piffard Release Date: May 4, 2007 [EBook #21309] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FITZ THE FILIBUSTER *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England George Manville Fenn "Fitz the Filibuster" Chapter One. Aboard a gunboat. “Well, Mr Burnett, what is it?” “Beg pardon, sir.” “Now, my good boy, have I not told you always to speak out in a sharp, business-like way? How in the world do you expect to get on in your profession and become a smart officer, one who can give orders promptly to his men, if you begin in that stammering, hesitating style? Here, I’m busy; what do you want?” “I beg pardon, sir, I—” “Will—you—speak—out!” “Yes, sir; Mr Storks is going off to-night with an armed boat’s crew—” “Thank you, Mr Burnett, I am much obliged; but allow me to tell you that your news is very stale, for I was perfectly aware of that fact, and gave the orders to Mr Storks myself.” “Yes, sir; of course, sir; but—” “My good boy, what do you want?” “To go with them, sir.” “Oh! Then why didn’t you say so at first?” “I didn’t know how you’d take it, sir.” “Then you know now: very badly. No; the boat’s going on important business, and I don’t want her packed full of useless boys. What good do you expect you could do there?” “Learn my profession, sir.” “Oh! Ah! H’m! Well—that’s smart. Yes, I like that, Mr Burnett, much better. Well, I don’t know what to say. There’s no danger. Perhaps you will be away all the night and get no sleep.” “Shouldn’t mind that, sir. Mr Storks said that he wouldn’t mind.” “Doesn’t matter whether Mr Storks minds or not. Well—yes; you may go. There, there, no thanks; and—er—and—er—don’t take any notice, Mr Burnett; I am a little irritable this evening—maddening toothache, and that sort of thing. Don’t get into mischief. That’ll do.” Commander Glossop, R.N., generally known as Captain of H.M. Gunboat Tonans, on special duty from the Channel Squadron, went below to his cabin, and Fitzgerald Burnett—Fitz for short—midshipman, seemed suddenly to have grown an inch taller, and comparatively stouter, as he seemed to swell out with satisfaction, while his keen grey eyes literally sparkled as he looked all a boy. “Thought he was going to snap my head off,” he mattered, as he began to walk up and down, noticing sundry little preparations that were in progress in connection with one of the quarter-boats, in which, as she swung from the davits, a couple of the smart, barefooted sailors, whose toes looked very pink in the chill air, were overhauling and re-arranging oars, and the little mast, yard and sail, none of which needed touching, for everything was already in naval apple-pie order. Fitz Burnett ended his walk by stopping and looking on. “Going along with us, sir?” said one of the sailors. “Yes,” said the lad shortly, and sharply enough to have satisfied his superior if he had overheard. “That’s right, sir,” said the man, so earnestly that the boy looked pleased. “Know where we are going, sir?” the other man ventured to ask. “Is it likely?” was the reply; “and if I did know do you suppose that I would tell you?” “No, sir, of course not. But it’s going to be something desperate, sir, because we have got to take all our tools.” “Ah, you’ll see soon enough,” said the boy, and full of the importance of being one in some expedition that was to break the monotony of the everyday routine, as well as to avoid further questioning, and any approach to familiarity on the part of the men, Fitz continued his walk, to come in contact directly after with another superior officer in the shape of the lieutenant. “Hullo, Mr Burnett! So you are to go with us to-night, I hear.” “Yes, sir,” cried the boy eagerly. “Would you mind telling me what we are going to do?” “Then you don’t know?” “No, sir.” “Then why did you ask the captain to let you go?” “I wanted to be there, sir. Armed boat’s crew going off! It sounded so exciting.” “I don’t think that you will find much excitement, Mr Burnett; but wait and see. If you want more information I must refer you to the captain.” This last was accompanied by a nod and a good-humoured smile, as the officer moved away to look at the boat, but turned his head to add— “Better put on a warm jacket; I dare say we shall have a cold night’s work.” “I don’t care,” said the boy to himself. “Anything for a change. I do get so tired of this humdrum steaming here and steaming there, and going into port to fill up the coal-bunkers. Being at sea isn’t half so jolly as I used to think it was, and it is so cold. Wish we could get orders to sail to one of those beautiful countries in the East Indies, or to South America—anywhere away from these fogs and rains. Why, we haven’t seen the sun for a week.” He went forward, to rest his arms on the bulwark and look out to sea. The sight was not tempting. The mouth of the Mersey is not attractive on a misty day, and the nearest land aft showed like a low-down dirty cloud. Away on the horizon there was a long thick trail of smoke being left behind by some outward-bound steamer, and running his eyes along the horizon he caught sight of another being emitted from one of two huge funnels which were all that was visible of some great Atlantic steamer making for the busy port. Nearer in there were two more vessels, one that he made out to be a brig, and that was all. “Ugh!” ejaculated the boy. “I wish—I wish—What’s the use of wishing? One never gets what one wants. Whatever are we going to do to-night? It must mean smuggling. Well, there will be something in that. Going aboard some small boat and looking at the skipper’s papers, and if they are not right putting somebody on board and bringing her into port. But there