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   Chapter 4 ZEKE'S PROPOSITION.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 13746

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"But first I want to see if there are any Tories around here," said Zeke, stopping in his walk and coming back to gaze fixedly into the face of every man who was following him. "We don't want to talk too loud for fear that everything we say will go straight to the ears of that schooner's crew. If there is any man here who can't be trusted let him say so and go back where he belongs."

There were probably a dozen men and boys in the crowd, and every one of them wore a white face as he looked at it; but it was an expression of "defiance and not of fear." Every one of them believed in capturing the schooner, but every one, too, if we may except Zeke and O'Brien and perhaps Joseph Wheaton, who was the first man to conceive of the thing, could not help thinking what their fate would be if they failed. The act they were about to perform was piracy, and they could not make anything else out of it. To board and capture a schooner which had come into their harbor on a friendly mission was something the law did not bear them out in.

"I guess we are all true blue," said Zeke, as he pushed a man out of his way and planted himself fairly in the middle of the group, "and I guess we can talk here as well as anywhere else, if we talk low. We want to keep the Tories from knowing or suspecting anything about it."

"Do you want to seize the schooner?" asked Mr. O'Brien.

"Exactly," said Zeke.

"And you are going to take her out from under that flag whether the crew is willing or not?"

"Certainly. That cross of St. George does not stay above her after we get her into our hands."

"And what will we do if they resist us?"

"Then they just make up their minds that they are going to keep company with those fellows at Lexington."

"Hear, hear!" shouted one of the auditors.

"Silence!" whispered Zeke in a low tone. "Don't say anything to arouse the suspicions of the Tories. We want to get this thing done before they know a thing about it. We will send them to keep company with the three hundred and more who fought our fellows at Lexington," continued Zeke, turning to O'Brien, "and those of us who have guns will get them; and the rest will gather up clubs, pitchforks and anything else that we can make a good fight with. If we can once get a footing on her deck, she is ours."

"Some of the officers will be coming off to church to-morrow," said Mr. O'Brien.

"That is just what I was thinking of, but I had not time to get that far," said Zeke. "We can just go in after them and seize them in their seats, and then go back and finish those fellows left on the vessel."

"I don't believe in any killing," said one.

"You don't!" exclaimed Zeke turning fiercely upon him.

"No, sir, I don't. Piracy is bad enough, but when it comes to killing folks that were put there by the king to look out for their vessel, I say I don't believe in it."

"Then you have no business here in this crowd," said Zeke, taking off his hat and dashing it to the ground. A moment afterward he stepped forward and seized the man by both wrists. He did not attempt to throw him down, but he crossed his hands on his chest and held him there as if he had been in a vise. "And you don't want to hear what our plans are either. Get away from here."

"Hold on," said the man, who was but an infant in Zeke's grasp. "Let me get through with what I was going to say. I don't believe in killing folks that are standing up for their rights, but if we are too many for them, why, then they will give up."

"Well, that is a little more sensible," said Zeke, releasing his hold upon the man. "If they give up that is all we want. I did not mean to hurt you, Zeb, but you don't want to talk that way in this crowd. Old Zeke has got his dander riz now, and any one who does not want to do as I say in this matter can just get right out."

"But what will we do with the schooner after we get her?" said Mr. O'Brien, who wanted to know just how the thing was coming out before he went into it.

"We will make a man-of-war out of her," said Zeke. "We will capture those two sloops now loading up with lumber the first thing we do; then we will go to sea and capture every one who floats the cross of St. George at her peak."

"Hear, hear!" shouted that enthusiastic auditor again.

"I like your pluck, Jacob, because I know you will stand up to the rack when the time comes; but I would a little rather you would keep still now. All you fellows who want to go with me to capture that schooner step over this way."

Zeke walked away half a dozen paces, and when he turned about he found the entire group at his heels.

"I knew we were all true blue," said Zeke, striking his palms together.

"I do not believe in killing men who are standing up for their rights," said Zeb, who stepped over as promptly as the others did. "We must get up a crowd that is bigger than theirs, and then she will give up to us."

"I believe in that, too," assented Zeke. "Now, as we have not got any fife or drum to call us together, let every one who hears a cheer sounded to-morrow come a-running to the wharf where that schooner lies, and bring along everybody that you think will aid in capturing her; but mind you, don't say a word to any of the Tories. Bring with you everything that you can put your hands on that will do to knock a man down with. We will have some small boats there ready to take us aboard of her, and when the schooner is our own, we will see what we will do next. That is about all we want to decide on to-day."

"I declare, who would have thought there was so much in Zeke?" said one, as he stood looking after him as he moved down the road. O'Brien and Wheaton went with him, and they were talking earnestly about something.

"I tell you I thought there was a good deal in him when he grabbed me by the arms," said Zeb, who had not yet got through rubbing the place where Zeke's sinewy hands had clasped. "I felt as if I had let a forty-foot barn fall on me. If he deals with the schooner's crew as he dealt with me, they are ours, sure enough."

"And to think that that man would let his wife starve," said another. "He has got something in him. It may be that young fellow they call Wheaton is at the bottom of it."

Caleb Young was there during the talk, and he was satisfied that war was coming. He was well acquainted with most of the officers and crew composing the company of the schooner, and he knew that they would never surrender their vessel without making a desperate resistance. She was armed, she had small arms aboard, and her crew were sufficiently trained to stand by their captain.

As for the men who had talked so bravely about capturing her-they had no captain. Everything thus far was going along as Zeke had planned it; but when it come to a clash of arms, Caleb wanted somebody on hand who knew what he wa

s about to take command of him. He was bound to go for he had been one of the first to follow Zeke when he stepped off a few paces; but he really wished he knew who was going to order the thing when he stood before the schooner's company.

"If I am going into this thing Enoch Crosby has got to go too," said he as he bent his steps toward his friend's house. "He is a good boy, and I know he will fight if the worst comes. I want to know what he thinks about this piracy business."

When Caleb had almost reached Enoch's house he began looking around for a stick with which to attract the boy's attention by rattling between the pickets. After a short search he found one, and Enoch was prompt to answer the summons. They had but fairly got started on the subject of seizing the schooner when the two young Tories, which were the objects of especial hatred to them, came in sight. They would rather have seen almost any one else than James Howard and Emerson Miller. The sober look on the latter's face showed that they were not much elated, and the reason was because they did not like to believe that British regulars had been whipped by minute-men. Young Howard, who was always the first to speak wherever he might be, opened the conversation.

"Well, what do you fellows think of that fight?" said he.

"We came out on purpose to hear you express an opinion," said Enoch. "What do you think of it?"

"I can tell you that in short order," said James. "Every one of those men who had guns in their hands at Lexington are going to be hung."

"You will catch them first, will you not?"

"Oh, that is easy enough," said Emerson. "When the regulars get to running around with ropes in their hands and calling for the men who were engaged in that massacre, everybody will be willing to tell on his neighbor. If Caleb was in the fight you would say, 'Here's one of them.'"

"Don't you wish you were there?" asked James, with a grin.

"Yes, I do," said Caleb, promptly. "But I would have been on the side of the minute-men."

"That may be a Britisher's way of doing business, to tell on all those who were in the fight, but it is not our way," said Enoch, quietly. "This thing has gone too far to admit of hanging. You will need an army to take them."

"Well, have we not got one, I would like to know?" asked James. "There will be more men here in a little while, and then you fellows will want to keep dark. What were those fellows talking about that were gathered on the corner so long? We wanted to go over there but did not dare."

"It is just as well that you did not go over," said Caleb. "You would not have heard anything anyway."

"We heard somebody howling 'Hear, hear!' at the top of his voice," said Emerson. "I guess we would have heard something from him."

"No, we would not," said James. "Don't you know that they do not talk when Tories are around? They are afraid we will tell of them."

"And it is a mighty fine reputation for you to have," said Enoch, in disgust. "If I could not keep still in regard to what my neighbors do, I would go out and hang myself."

"Oh, you will hang easy enough," said James, with a laugh. "Don't you worry about that. I will be one of the first to grab the rope and pull you up."

Just how it happened Enoch could not have told to save his life. The place whereon James was standing became suddenly vacant and the spot where his face was occupied by his heels. He fell like a tree struck by a whirlwind, and his head came in violent contact with the ground. He lay there for a second or two as if he did not have his wits about him, and Caleb stood over him ready to receive him when he got up. Seeing no move on his part, he turned to face Emerson.

* * *

Caleb stood over him ready to receive him when he got up.

* * *

"Let us hear one word out of your head and I will put you down, too," said he.

"Go away," said Emerson, tremblingly. "I have not done anything to you, and I want you to let me alone. There is a magistrate in this town--"

"Go on," said Caleb. "You can get to the magistrate as soon as you please and tell him for me--"

By this time Enoch began to recover himself. He unlatched the gate, and seizing Caleb around the waist fairly lifted him from the ground and carried him inside. Then he shut the gate and looked over at Emerson.

"You had better go on your way," said he. "Pick up your comrade and go about your business."

"But I would like first to hear him say that he would like to haul Enoch up with a rope," said Caleb, trying hard to get on his feet. "I will knock him down as often as he can say it."

These words Caleb was obliged to shout over his shoulder, for Enoch, still retaining his hold upon him, was carrying him along the walk toward the entrance of the kitchen. He pushed him into the house, and then closed the door behind him.

Having seen his enemy disposed of Emerson bent over James Howard to see if he was still alive. To his joy the prostrate boy opened his eyes and stared about him in a vacant manner.

"That cowardly provincial is gone now," said Emerson. "Enoch took him into the house with him."

"I never will put up with such a blow from a boy who is down on the king," said James, sitting up on the ground. "The young rebel strikes an awful whack, does he not? We will go and see the magistrate about it at once. I am all dirt, I suppose?"

"No, but your queue is full of it," said Emerson, brushing it off as well as he could. "I wish we dared lick him."

"So do I, but we can't touch him now. Wait until those reinforcements come up here that father was talking about last night, and I will have revenge for all that boy's actions. Help me up. Now we will go and see father about it the first thing we do. These rebels are coming to a high pitch when they can strike a gentleman for something he has said."

The young Tories had started out for a walk but they did not take it. They turned about and went back the same way they came, and in a few minutes drew up at Mr. Howard's gate. The old gentleman was at home, sitting in his easy-chair, but he was not taking life pleasantly. There was a scowl on his forehead, for he was thinking about the battle of Lexington. There was one thing about it he said to his wife: Those rebels had got to be whipped into submission, or he and his family must go back to England. How he wished he possessed the power to wipe all those who were in rebellion from the face of the earth! Would not he make a scattering among them before the sun set? While he was thinking about it the boys came up to the gate. If such a thing were possible his son James' face presented a worse appearance than his own. In addition to the scowl which it wore, there was a lump under his eye which now began to grow black. Mr. Howard knew well enough what was the matter.

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