The "President," a Yankee frigate under Commodore Rogers, sailing into the Irish Channel, took up its position just where it could worry the British vessels going in and out and prey upon the British commerce.
"This must be stopped," said the British authorities. "That one little frigate is doing more harm and making more trouble than a whole squadron. We will send a squadron out to meet this vessel. It is weak, foolish, absurd for the English government to allow the vessel to cruise about our channels in this manner. Has the English navy no power, no authority, no dignity?"
And a squadron was sent out to meet this vessel. But no sooner did it set forth than Commodore Rogers, who someway seemed never to be caught napping, heard of its approach and put out to sea.
"We will go home," said Commodore Rogers, cheerily, "I think the British will remember us even if we do stay no longer in their waters."
It was a brisk September morning—so clear and bright. Gaily the little frigate sped before the breeze, her white canvas gleaming, her cordage creaking merrily, her prow cutting the dancing waves.
All was well. But towards evening a sail was seen. "It is a British vessel," said Rogers, scanning it closely. "I think they are following us—yes—I am sure they are."
"Quick, quick, my men," said Rogers. "Up with our British banners—on with your British uniforms, and remember now we are the British 'Sea Horse!' "
"Aye, aye, sir," answered the crew, ready enough to deceive the pursuing vessel—for 'all things,' you know they say, 'are fair in love and war.' "
On came the British vessel, nearer and nearer, till at last its banner could be seen. "Welcome the 'High flyer,' be ready, my men," shouted Rogers, "H. M. S.—the Highflyer."
Nearer and nearer came the vessel—now she is alongside. "Now, my good British lieutenant," said Rogers to one of his men, "you will go on board the 'Highflyer' with this message from the commodore of this, the English 'Sea Horse' to the commodore of the English 'Highflyer.' "
With great dignity and mock gravity, the lieutenant received his orders and went on board the "Highflyer."
"I am," said he to the "Highflyer," "the bearer of this message from the commodore of the British vessel, the 'Sea Horse,' it is requested that the ship books of the 'Highflyer' be sent on board the 'Sea Horse' for comparison and, if need be, for revision.
The commodore of the "Highflyer" received the lieutenant and his message with that courtesy always observed between officers either in the army or in the navy, and on his return to his own vessel accompanied him.
"Ah, this is a fine vessel," said the commodore of the "Highflyer" as he examined the "Sea Horse." "Indeed, you do not find such a ship as this in any outside the English navy. Ah, England is the mistress of the sea! Now those little American crafts—I boarded one once—paugh! such a vessel! And by the way, have you seen anything of that little frigate, the 'President!' We are to overtake her—she's made trouble enough for one frigate so we think. They say she put out to sea this morning. Probably knew we were after her, so ran away, coward that she is." And the commodore laughed loudly at what he considered a huge joke.
It was a joke, no doubt; for the commodore and the officers of the "Sea Horse" laughed—yes, roared with laughter; and the commodore of the "Highflyer" strutted and puffed up and down the deck, filled with pride and satisfaction at his own wit.
"By-the-by, what sort of a fish is that Rogers, the commodore of the 'President,' " asked Rogers, a twinkle in his eye.
"A mighty odd fish, I am told," answered the commodore of the "Highflyer." "At any rate he proves a hard fish to catch. But he shall be my prisoner yet," growled the commodore—and little mercy will he get from me. No sir! Americans—the miserable, cowardly——"
"Hold sir! do you know on whose vessel you stand—do you know to whom you speak?" interrupted Rogers, his eyes flashing fire at the word cowardly, as applied to his nation. "You are this minute on board the 'President,' I am Commodore Rogers and you are my prisoner.
"Hoist the American flag—down with the British banner!" called Rogers to his crew.
The commodore of the "Highflyer" stared, turned pale, actually gasped. But there was nothing to be said—nothing to be done. The "Highflyer" was surrendered, and away sailed Rogers, a harder fish to catch than ever—at least so thought the "Highflyer" and its bragging, busting commodore.