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   Chapter 2 ENOCH'S HOME.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12199

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Enoch," said his mother, rising from her chair after a moment's pause and leading the way toward the kitchen, "breakfast is ready and waiting. While you are eating it I shall be pleased to hear something more about this fight. It looks to me now as though we had got to do battle with the King."

"That is the way it looks to me, too," said the boy.

The Crosby house would have been an object worth seeing if it had stood in this century. It was a double house built of logs, the places where they met being chinked with clay and the roof was thatched with long grass or rye straw. The windows consisted of small lead frames set with diamond plates of glass hung so that they opened inward instead of outward. As the building stood facing the south the "sun shone squarely in at noon," and gave warning that the dinner hour was approaching.

There were two rooms in which Mrs. Crosby took delight-her "best room" and her kitchen. The best room was used only on state occasions, that is, when the minister came to see them or some old-time friends dropped in for an hour or two. The andirons were of brass and shone so brightly that one could see his face in them, and in summer time the fireplace was always kept garnished with asparagus and hollyhocks. On the rude mantelpiece stood the high candlesticks made of the same material, and close beside them lay the tray and the snuffers. Here also was the library, small, it is true, for reading in those days was undertaken for improvement and not for pleasure. Books were scarce and cost money; but among them could be found the family Bible, Watts' Poems, Young's Night Thoughts, and Milton's Paradise Lost.

The best room for the family was in the kitchen, and that was where Enoch always liked to be. Sometimes in winter when he did not have to go to sea he read one of the well-thumbed volumes by the aid of a tallow dip. The blaze in the fireplace was always piled high, but even this was but little if any shelter from the cold. The places where the chinking did not fit were numerous, and the way the cold wind poured into the room made the words of an old writer perfectly apparent: "While one side of the inmate was toasting the other was freezing." To make matters still worse "the smoke escaping into the room by no means favored study or any other employment requiring the use of the eyes."

When Enoch followed his mother into the kitchen he saw there a well-filled table which had often made him hungry when he did not want anything to eat; but it had little effect upon him now. There was hot salt pork, vegetables, and bannocks,[3] which were all their simple tastes required. In the place of tea they had milk; for those one hundred and forty men had long ago thrown the tea overboard in Boston harbor, and all that Mrs. Crosby had left was some tied up in a paper and stowed away in one of her bureau drawers. Before they seated themselves at the table they took their stand behind their chairs with bowed and reverent heads, while his mother offered up thanks to the Giver of all good for the provisions set before them. This was a plan always followed in Enoch's home. When his mother was away, at a quilting bee or sitting up with a sick person, Enoch never forgot the custom, but offered up prayers himself.

"Now, boy, I should like to hear something about that fight," said Mrs. Crosby, seating herself in her chair. "Have we got to fight the King, sure enough?"

"The things indicate that fact," said Enoch, helping his mother to a piece of the pork and to a potato which had been baked in the ashes on the hearth. "King George has not acted right with us anyway. When young Snyder was killed in Boston because he happened to be near a mob who were throwing stones at Richardson, the King went and pardoned out Richardson, who had been put into prison for it, after he had been there for two years. That does not look as though he felt very kindly toward us, does it?"

"And then the tea," said his mother, who came as near being angry as she could whenever she thought of that. Like all old ladies she loved the "cup which cheers but does not inebriate," and she could not bear to have it taken away from her. "The King ought not to have taxed us for that."

"He might if he would allow us to be represented in Parliament," said Enoch, "but he would not do it. If we have got to be taxed to help carry on the government of Great Britain, we want some men of our own over there to see about it."

"Now tell me about the fight. You said we killed almost three hundred of them."

"Why, mother, you say 'we' as though you were there and helped shoot at those redcoats," said Enoch.

"Of course I do, my son. If your father were here now, he would have taken that old flint-lock down and had it put in running order before this time," said his mother, pointing to the weapon which occupied its usual position over the fireplace. "We are Americans, and whenever we are shot at, we must shoot in return."

Enoch was delighted to hear his mother talk in this way. It showed that she was not loyal enough to King George to fight against her own countrymen at any rate. The boy began and told the history of the fight as he had heard it from the messenger, and, as he talked and told how the minute-men had concealed themselves behind every rock and tree that they came to, his mother's eyes sparkled, and she said that she almost wished that she had been a man and lived in Lexington so that she could have been there too.

"I really wish I had been there," said Enoch, glancing affectionately at the old flint-lock as he said this. "Of course I could not shoot with those who hunt squirrels every day, but I could have made a noise. And to talk about those British soldiers being invulnerable! I tell you they could not stand before the minute-men."

"And to think that we should be called 'rebels,'" said his mother, who could scarcely restrain herself.

"But I say we are not rebels," said Enoch emphatically. "The people in Boston told the King just what they wanted to do, and he turned around

and made them do something else. There was not any more loyal paper gotten up than they sent to him."

A long talk on such matters as these occupied them while they were at breakfast, and just as Enoch arose there came a sound like the rattling of a stick between the pickets of the front fence. The boys had not learned to whistle in those days to let a comrade know that there was some one outside waiting for him. Whistling is easier, but the boys made each other known in spite of it.

"That is Caleb Young," said Enoch. "I know him by the way he rattles his stick. I hope we shall hear something more about that fight."

Enoch put on his hat and went out, and there he saw Caleb, dressed after the fashion of a seafaring man as he was himself, leaning on the gate and whistling softly to himself.

"Have you got anything more to tell about it?" said Enoch, coming up to him.

"No more than what the courier has already told," said Caleb. "But say! there is something in the wind."

"I gained an idea from something Zeke said that he was thinking of something else," said Enoch, sinking his voice to a whisper because Caleb did the same. "He would not tell us what it was because there were too many Tories near."

"No, but he was thinking and talking about it since, and he has made up his mind that we are going to do something to equal that battle of Lexington in some way," said Caleb. "He has been talking to that Joseph Wheaton, and he has been advising Zeke what to do. He says it is not right for those Boston people to take all the hard knocks while we get none of them."

"That is what I say. If we are going to hang, we will all hang together."

"But we are not going to hang-none of us," said Caleb, striking the nearest picket with his closed hand. "There are three vessels in the harbor--"

"Yes; and I am going to keep away from them," said Enoch, pushing himself away from the fence. "You don't make a pirate out of me. I have made my living honestly and I intend to keep on doing it."

"That is me," said Caleb. "I have worked for every cent I have and I am not ashamed to let everybody know it; but if we can capture that vessel we will show the Boston people that they are not alone in this business."

"What vessel do you mean?"

"I mean the Margaretta. She is here as convoy for those two sloops that are loading with lumber, and she is in the service of the crown. If we can get her we will have the sloops easy enough."

"Why, Caleb, that would be piracy," said Enoch, fairly aghast at the proposition. "The Margaretta has not done anything to us."

"Of course she has not, but she is in the service of the King. Those men who went out to destroy those stores were in the service of the King, too; but they got neatly whipped for their pains. Zeke and Joseph Wheaton would not have proposed that plan if they did not think we would make something by it. You ought to have heard mother talk to me while we were at breakfast. She said that if father was alive now he would have taken his old flint-lock down and shot every Tory he could find."

"I guess I know about what your mother said, for mine talked to me in the same way," said Enoch, with a laugh. "Are you one of those who are going to capture that schooner?"

"I am! I am one of the fifteen men and boys who have agreed to be on hand when they hear a cheer sounded. That is going to be our rallying cry, and we must all go to where we hear it. What are you going to do? You are not a Tory."

"Don't you call me that," said Enoch, opening the gate and coming out to meet his friend. "When that cheer is sounded you will see me on hand. When do you propose to take the schooner?"

"Why as to that we have not had a chance to talk it over," said Caleb. "Zeke only spoke of it just a little while ago to see how many men we could raise; and to-night-here come two of those Tories now," continued Caleb, pushing his hat on the back of his head and shoving up his sleeves. "Now let us see what they have got to say about that fight at Lexington. I do not wish them any harm, but I would like to know that they had been there and I kneeling a little way off with my father's flint-lock in my hand."

"Then you would not have heard anything about that fight," said Enoch, with a laugh. Caleb was noted for his sharp shooting, and if he had got a bead on one of those fellows it would have been all over with him. "I will bet you I would have shot pretty close to him," Caleb added.

"Now don't you go to picking a fuss with them," said Enoch in a lower tone, "because I will not have it."

"Oh, I will pick no fuss with them at all," said Caleb, turning his back to the approaching boys and resting his elbow on the fence. "But they must not say anything against the minute-men. If they do somebody will get licked."

The two boys came nearer, and presently drew up beside the fence beside which Enoch and Caleb stood. They did not expect any greeting, for that happened long ago to have gone out of style between the Tories and the Provincials. Whenever they met on the street they looked straight ahead as if there was nobody there. They did not want to speak to each other for the chances were that there would be a game of fisticuffs before they got through with it.

These boys were evidently better off in the world than Enoch and his friend. They wore cocked hats, neat velvet coats, knee-breeches, silk stockings, and low shoes with huge silver buckles. But their queues were what they prided themselves upon. They were neatly combed and hung down upon their coat collars. The arms of their coats were "slashed" in several places to show the fine quality of their underwear. If they had been boys in our day we should have been obliged to introduce them with cigarettes in their hands.

These sprucely dressed young fellows were Tories of the worst description, but they followed in the footsteps of their fathers. One was a "passive" Tory and the other was an "aggressive" Tory. How these two men differed in opinion and actions shall be told further on.

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