By the middle of the afternoon Grandma Elsie, Grace, and the little ones were all weary enough to be glad to return to the Dolphin for a rest.
After a refreshing nap Grace and the children gathered about Mrs. Travilla and begged for the fulfilment of her promise to tell the story of “Long Tom,” and she kindly complied.
“The General Armstrong was a privateer, and the fight I am now going to tell about was one of the most famous of the war of 1812-14,” she said. “The vessel was commanded by Captain Samuel C. Reid, a native of Connecticut. He went to sea when only eleven years old and was a midshipman with Commodore Truxton. He was still a young man—only thirty—when the event of which we are talking occurred. That was on the 26th of September, 1814, in the harbor of Fayal, one of the Azores islands belonging to Portugal.
“While lying there at anchor the Armstrong was attacked by a large British squadron. That was in flagrant violation of the laws of neutrality. Commodore Lloyd was the commander of the squadron. At eight o’clock in the evening he sent four large well-armed launches, each manned by about forty men, to attack the American vessel.
“The moon shone brightly, and Captain Reid, who had noticed the movements of the British and suspecting that their design was to attack him, was getting his vessel under the guns of the castle. Those guns and his own opened fire at almost the same instant and drove off the launches with heavy loss.”
“That means a great many men killed, grandma?” queried little Elsie.
“Yes, dear, a great many of the British; on our side there was one man killed, and a lieutenant was wounded. But that was not the end of the affair. At midnight another attack was made with fourteen launches and about five hundred men.
“A terrible fight ensued, but at length the British were driven off with a hundred and twenty killed and one hundred and eighty wounded.”
“That was a great many,” commented the little girl. “Did they give it up then, grandma?”
“No; at daybreak one of the British vessels, the Carnation, made another attempt. She began with a heavy fire, but the gunners of the Armstrong fired shots at her so rapidly and so well directed that she was soon so badly cut up that she hastened to get out of their range.
“In all this fighting the British had lost over three hundred in killed and wounded, while only two Americans were killed and seven wounded. But the Armstrong was a good deal damaged and Captain Reid saw that he could not stand another fight such as she had just gone through, so he directed her to be scuttled to prevent her from falling into the hands of the enemy.”
“Scuttled? What’s that, grandma?” asked little Ned.
“Making holes in the bottom or sides of a vessel, so that the water can get in and sink her, is called scuttling. It was done to prevent the British from taking possession of her. After our men had left her, however, they boarded, and set her on fire.”