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The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12752

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Three cheers for Zeke Lewis and Caleb Young!" shouted one of the provincials, when they came out of the door and appeared upon the street.

"No, no, lads," said Zeke, raising his hand as if to stop the demonstration. "We have got him out of being fined or going to jail, but remember that we are not done with it yet. It will not be long before we shall see some British regulars up here to ask us what we mean by it. We have got to fight, and we may as well make up our minds to it first as last."

"Hear, hear!" shouted three or four of those who stood around him. "If the regulars come at us, we'll serve them worse than they did at Lexington. Three cheers for them!"

The cheers were given in spite of what Zeke had said, and some of them persisted in shaking Caleb by the hand. They passed on, and in a few minutes were out of the crowd and started toward home. There were three of them who kept Caleb company to see that he reached the presence of his mother in safety, they were Mr. O'Brien, Joseph Wheaton and Enoch Crosby. They did not have much to say about what had happened in the court-room, but Caleb knew why they went with him. On their way to his house they passed within plain sight of the harbor, and the first thing that attracted their attention was the schooner Margaretta, riding proudly at her anchorage, and flying the flag of England from her peak. Zeke thought this a good time to exhibit his hostility to that flag, which he did by shaking his fist at it.

"If it had not been for Wheaton here, I would not have thought of taking that schooner," said he.

"I had an idea that somebody besides you thought of that," said O'Brien, turning around and shaking Wheaton by the hand. "It did not sound like you in the first place, but, when somebody else proposed it, you went in strong for it. What was the reason you did not propose it yourself, Wheaton?"

"You see I have not lived here long enough to become acquainted with everybody as Zeke has," replied Wheaton. "I lived in New York until a few months ago, and I thought the proposition had better come from an older inhabitant. They might think that I suggested it just to hear myself talk; but it would be different coming from Zeke."

"That is just what he told me," assented Zeke. "And I kept thinking what a fool I was not to think of it long ago. Wheaton, when we get that schooner, you must haul down that flag."

"I will attend to that," said the young man, with a laugh. "If the flag of England is going to wave over us as an emblem of tyranny, we want it pulled down. But the fact of the matter is, we have not got any other flag to be hoisted in the place of it."

"No matter for that," said Mr. O'Brien. "We will have that flag hauled down, and that is all we care for. Now, Caleb, go in and see your mother."

Caleb was not a boy who had been educated, but he knew enough to thank Zeke for what he had done; but Zeke patted him on the back and said that was all right, and pushed him through the gate that led into the yard.

"Remember now, that when you hear the cheer to-morrow you are to come down and help capture that schooner," said he. "And bring every friend you see. We may get her without a fight."

"No, we won't," replied Caleb. "I know the most of those men who belong to her, and I know that they will stand by their captain. We shall not have as many men when we get back as we have when we first go aboard that schooner."

"I know them, too," said Zeke, raising his left hand and slapping the other with it with a report like that of a pistol. "But I would stick a pitchfork into my own brother if he were there and should resist me. We are bound to have that schooner."

All were encouraged to hear Zeke talk in this way and Caleb said he "hoped so" and went in to see his mother; while Enoch, who had left the table bareheaded, started homeward on a rapid run. He did not find his mother as excited as she ought to have been. She was sitting in her easy-chair with her knitting before her, and looked at Enoch's flushed face when he came in as calmly as though he had been to the store for some groceries.

"Well," she said, and her voice was as steady as usual, "you have had an exciting scene there in the court-room."

"What do you know about it?" asked Enoch in surprise.

"I just judged by your face," replied his mother. "How did Caleb get the fine that the judge imposed upon him?"

"That old Tory did not get it," exclaimed the boy. "I tell you we have got up a rebellion now, and we may have some soldiers to settle with before we get through with it. It beats anything I ever heard of."

Enoch then went on and told his mother as nearly as he could what had happened there in the court-room. His mother's eyes flashed and she laid down her knitting. He even told her about the plans that had been laid for seizing the schooner, but did not neglect to caution her not to say a word about it where the Tories could overhear it.

"I have agreed to go too, mother," he added.

"Well," she replied, glancing up at the old flint-lock over the fireplace, "that rifle will have to be cleaned up. And you will need some bullets, too. Remember that when your father drew on an Indian after he came out of the service, he was always sure to bring him."

"And if I pull on a redcoat with that gun I don't believe he will do any more shooting at our side of the house," said Enoch, getting up in a chair and taking the musket down. "It is awful heavy, is it not?"

"Yes, and that's the kind it needs to bring an enemy down every time you get a sight at him. Clean it up bright for the least little speck of rust in it will throw your ball where you don't want it to go. I hope the Britishers will give up before you have a chance to shoot at them."

"But if they don't-then what?"

"You must shoot to hit. Bear in mind that you had an uncle in that fight at Lexington, and we don't know whether he was killed or not. He did not miss, either. Every time he pulled on a redcoat he could tell right where he hit him."

"Of course I can't shoot with him; but, as Caleb said, I can make a noise. I can handle the halyards of a sail better than I can handle this thing."

The cleaning of the gun occupied Enoch for the next hour, and finally he got it so that the water came through clean and bright without a particle of

rust in it. He had been outside the kitchen door engaged in his occupation, and when he came in to tell his mother what he had done, he found her in front of the fireplace running bullets.

"Mother, you have no business to do that," he exclaimed.

"I want to get all the balls solid, for if you run them in haste you will see little holes in them," she replied. "The bullets thus formed always go wild, and you cannot do good shooting with them. Now, Enoch, have you got some powder? That you have in the horn has been there for a long time, and I fear that it has lost its strength. You had better go down to the store and lay in a new supply."

Enoch thought that his mother would have felt a little happier if she had been a man, so that she could have taken part in seizing the schooner. He wished that that cheer would sound out now, so that he could go into danger with his comrades and see Wheaton haul that flag down; but he checked himself with the thought that that cheer was not to sound until to-morrow. He wanted to show something else that he had done, so he continued:

"I have picked the flint so that it will strike fire every time. Just see how it works."

He cocked the flint-lock several times and pulled the trigger, and each time little sparks of fire shot down into the chamber. The gun was all right. It only remained for him to hold it true so that the bullets would reach their mark.

"That is right, my lad," said his mother, approvingly. "Before we get through we will show the redcoats that they are making war upon their brothers. Send one shot, Enoch, to pay them for taxing that tea."

Enoch accepted some money to pay for the powder he was to buy at the store, and when he reached the street he saw Caleb coming along as if somebody had sent for him. His face, whenever he met Enoch, was always wrinkled up with smiles, and it proved on this occasion to be the news of what Enoch had already passed through-the getting ready for the assault upon the Margaretta.

"I went out to clean the gun and when I came back my mother was running bullets," said Caleb; and he rubbed his hands together as if he could hardly wait for the cheer to sound. "She thinks that some of us are going to get hurt."

"I guess I have been through the same thing," said Enoch. "I'll wager that if mother were in my place she would not sleep at all to-night. She told me to give them one shot and think of the tea they have taxed against her. Hallo! Here comes Zeke. He walks as though he was in a hurry."

"Bussin' on it!" exclaimed Zeke, when he came up. "I would like to know what the magistrate and Jeems Howard has been aboard that boat for. You see, we were watching that boat to find out whether or not she was going to stay at anchorage until to-morrow, and that's the way we happened to see them."

"Let them go," said Enoch. "They have probably been telling the captain about our rebellion there in the court-room."

"Well, he can't do anything," said Zeke. "If he turns his guns loose on the town--"

"He can't do that," said Caleb. "War has not been declared yet."

"There is no telling what these Britishers will do when once they get their dander up. But I was just saying, suppose he did turn them loose; we have got two four-pounders that we could bring to bear on the schooner, and make her drop down away from there. But I hope that he won't get away before morning. If he does, I shall be sorry that we did not attack her to-night."

"Where are you going in such a hurry, anyway?" asked Enoch.

"I am going down to see Wheaton about it. If you hear that cheer sounded to-night you will be on hand, won't you?"

The boys said emphatically that they would, and then Caleb went on to tell him what they had done to get ready for the assault, not forgetting to give all the praise to their mothers.

"That's right," said Zeke. "If all the boys were as plucky as their mothers we would have easy times of it. I haven't got any gun to take; but I have a pitchfork handy, and you will see some red dust on it before this thing is over."

"Oh, I hope they won't fight," said Enoch. "We will get a bigger crowd than they can show--"

"I don't care how big our crowd is, we are going to have a fight," interrupted Caleb. "I will wager that you will see some mourning in Machias before the sun gets where he is now."

Zeke walked off laughing as if that was a story rather hard to believe, and the boys kept on their way to the grocery store. They found Emerson Miller there, but he was not so talkative as he was a little while ago. The boys did not like the way the storekeeper acted. He was leaning over the counter talking to Emerson, but when the two entered he straightened up and moved back to the rear end of the store.

"I guess you have got some powder, haven't you?" said Enoch. "Well, if you have, I want a pound of it."

"I would like to know what all you fellows are getting powder for," said the man. "Do you expect the Britishers up here to-night?"

"I don't know about that," said Enoch. "But we intend to be all ready for them when they do come. We will serve them as badly as they were served at Lexington."

"You will, eh?" said the grocery keeper, turning fiercely upon the boys. "What would you do if the Margaretta should cut loose on us and burn the town?"

"We would whip her, that's all," replied Caleb. "She can't do it. She must wait until war is declared before she can do that."

"I don't know whether I will give you any powder or not," said the man. "You boys act almost too independent."

"Just as you please, sir," retorted Enoch, while Caleb was angry in an instant. "If you don't want to sell us any powder, you can say so."

"I will give you some this time, but if you come in here any more you don't want to be quite so bold in regard to what you would do and what you would not," replied the man; but Enoch rightly concluded that this was not his reason. If he refused to give him what he called for, how long would it be before all the provincials in the village would hear of it and come there to see him about it? And if Zeke came he was sure that he would not escape without a whipping. He went and got the powder, while the two boys stood looking at each other in amazement. When the article was done up Enoch paid for it and the two left the store.

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