But as soon as the firing ceased a signal number went up to the fore-peak. Bangs was the signal officer, and he had his book open as soon as he saw that it was needed.
“What is it, Bangs?” asked the commander at the window of the pilot-house.
“‘Stop; I have something to communicate,’” replied the quartermaster.
“All right; give her one bell,” added the commander.
Bangs gave the proper signal for the affirmative, after he had struck the gong. The letting off of the steam was enough to inform the captain of the Blanche that his request was complied with, and it was seen that he had a boat all ready to drop into the water. The screw of the ship ceased to revolve; and then, to save time, the commander of the Guardian-Mother ordered the quartermaster to ring to back her, and the Blanche followed her example. As soon as the headway was nearly killed, the quarter-boat went into the water, with an officer in uniform in the stern-sheets. The cutter pulled to the American’s side, and a ladder was dropped.
The officer was a very trim-looking man of forty, and was promptly conducted to the commander on the promenade deck. He was as polite as a French dancing-master.
“I have not the honor to be acquainted with Captain Ringgold, but I beg to introduce myself as Mr. Bland, first officer of the Blanche,” said the visitor, with all necessary nourishes.
“I am glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bland. My friend Captain Sharp appears to be engaged in a frolic this afternoon,” replied the commander, shaking hands with the officer.
“This is General Noury’s birthday, sir, and Captain Sharp is taking proper notice of it,” replied Mr. Bland, as he took from his pocket a note, and delivered it to Captain Ringgold.
“The general’s birthday!” exclaimed the commander. “I wish him many happy returns of it;” and he opened the note.
It took him but a minute to read it, and then he looked extremely good-natured, as though he was more than ordinarily pleased; for he knew that its contents would afford a great deal of satisfaction to his passengers.
“By particular request of General Noury, in whose honor the guns were fired and the Blanche is dressed as you see her, Captain Sharp invites all the cabin party of the Guardian-Mother, including the guests, to dine on board of the Blanche on this happy occasion. Shall the invitation be accepted? Those in favor of accepting it will please raise the right hand, and keep it up till counted,” continued the commander, who was in a merry mood for him. “Our honored guests are expected and requested to vote; for we could not think of leaving them alone on board of the ship. That would be neither decent nor hospitable, and the invitation specially includes them. Please to vote, all.”
The hands all went up; and the party seemed to be greatly amused at the operation of voting. The presiding officer declared that it was a unanimous vote, and the invitation was accepted.