MoboReader > Literature > The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England


The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12645

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Say," whispered Caleb, as soon as they were out of hearing of the store, "that Ledyard Barrow is a Tory."

"That is just what I have been thinking myself," replied Enoch, who was so surprised that he hardly knew what he said. "We have got to be awful careful about this thing or it will get out on us in spite of all we can do. I did not say anything wrong while I was talking to him, did I?"

"No, indeed, you did not. The first thing you know we will have Tories all around us, and the next thing will be for that vessel to trip her anchor and go farther off down the bay. Say, Enoch, I shall have to borrow a little of that powder of you until I can have-"

"You may have it," interrupted Enoch. "There is more here than I want. But to think that we have unearthed another Tory. That is what gets to me."

"It looks to me as though every neighbor was going to have to fight the man who lives next to him," said Caleb, taking off his hat and scratching his head furiously.

"Well, I would rather they would make themselves known so that we may know just what we have to expect. I wish Zeke would happen along here just now. I would like to know what he thinks about it."

But Zeke had business to attend to where he was, and the boys did not get a chance to speak to him that night. When they came to Caleb's house, Enoch turned in with him to give him what he thought he should want of the powder, and found Caleb's mother engaged in knitting with her Bible open on her knee before her. The boys looked for success in the size of their crowd to enable them to overcome the schooner's crew, while Mrs. Young, like Enoch's mother, looked for it to a source from which it was sure to come if she asked for it in the right spirit. Enoch hastily took off his hat when he entered the house. The presence of that open Book upon her lap called for all the reverence he was capable of.

"Well, Enoch, are you one of the few who have agreed to take the Margaretta?" said Mrs. Young, greeting him with a smile. "I hope you have got your gun cleaned up, for Caleb thinks there is bound to be a fight."

"I don't think so mother," answered Caleb. "I know so. Machias is all right now, that is, there is not any mourning here, but you will see some when we get that schooner."

"When it does come we shall have the satisfying knowledge that we tried to do our duty," said Enoch.

"You forget that there is a penalty for piracy," said Mrs. Young.

"No, I don't," said Enoch, promptly. "They will have to capture every provincial in town before they can begin hanging us. When they try that, you will see a fuss here in Machias."

"That is right, my boy," said the mother, reaching up with the endeavor to pat Enoch on the head. "If you undertake this thing, I hope you will come out safely."

Caleb had by this time produced his powder-horn, and Enoch proceeded to give him half the quantity he had purchased. When he had filled it half full Caleb put in the stopper and slapped the horn into his open palm, giving Enoch a mysterious wink as he did so. Enoch had no trouble at all in interpreting that wink. By it Caleb said that when he was face to face with the schooner's crew he would get at least one shot, if he did not get any more; and Enoch knew what he meant by that. He was almost sure of the redcoat he pulled on, and there would be one less for them to encounter when the order was given to board her and clear her deck.

"But, Caleb, we don't know who our captain is," said Enoch, giving utterance to the thought that had been uppermost in his mind ever since the capture of the schooner was proposed.

"I don't care for that," said Caleb. "When we get to work everybody will be captain. We all want the schooner, and the one that does the most is the best man."

Enoch was obliged to be satisfied with this, and as there was nothing further to detain him he made his best bow and went out. The boys now had nothing to do but various little jobs around the house until the sun rose the next morning. Enoch did carpenter work, fitting some chinking into the walls where the winter's cold came in during severe weather, and Caleb cut some wood and brought it into the house for fear that to-morrow night he might not be there to attend to it.

"There is nobody except me that knows we are going to have a fight before we can claim that schooner," said he, as he paused with his ax raised in the air and glanced toward the place where the Margaretta was lying at her anchorage. "Because we have always been friendly with those boys it is no reason why they will not fight us when they see us coming. I know what I should do if I was there."

With this thought Caleb drove the ax into the log with all his force as if he felt that there was some enemy in there and he wanted to get rid of him, and then his mother called him to supper. He looked up and saw that it was getting dark. He put his ax away in the woodshed and went into the house, and when he was through with his meal his mother said to him-

"Caleb, I wish you would take that little tin bucket from the third nail behind the door in the buttery and go over to Mrs. Crosby's, and ask her if she can spare me some yeast for to-night. I want to bake some bread early on Monday morning, and I should thank her for a little."

Caleb at once put on his hat, took the bucket from the third nail in the pantry, bid his mother good-by, and went out. What a difference there was between him and the boys who flourish in our time! Boys in our day would say "yes, ma'am," and loaf around and wait until they got a good ready to start; but to Caleb, his mother's command had to be obeyed right away. He struck up a whistle when he went out, one of those old-fashioned songs that boys do not know in our day, telling himself in the meantime that it was about as dark as he ever saw it. But Caleb knew the way, and he went on his road without a misstep. He arrived at Mrs. Crosby's house, made known his errand and came away again, not forgetting to exchange ideas with his friend Enoch about the cheer that was to sound on the morrow.

"I have not heard anything like a cheer since I have been out of the house," said Caleb. "If I had heard it, you would not have seen me here. The fun will begin to-morrow when we follow them int

o the church. I hope we shall not do anything wrong by arresting them in their seats."

"Mother has not said a word about it, so I guess it is all right," said Enoch. "It will show them that we are in earnest."

Caleb struck up another whistle and went on his way, and he had almost reached his home when something startling occurred to him. A man suddenly appeared before him and barred his way. Caleb stopped and waited for him to make known his object, but seeing that the man did not speak, he turned out to go by him when the man suddenly reached out his arm and brought him to another standstill.

"Don't be in too big a hurry, my lad," said he, and it shot through Caleb's mind on the instant that he must be a seafaring man, for the tone of his voice indicated it.

"You don't know where Caleb Young lives about here, do you?"

"Well, if I do, that is my own business," replied Caleb, once more making an effort to leave the man behind. "Why don't you go to some house and inquire?"

"Because I think you are the man we want to see," was the reply. "Come on, boys. Keep still now, or it will be worse for you."

In an instant three other men appeared as if they had risen from the ground, and Caleb became aware that he was in the hands of the Tories. It was too dark to see whether or not the men were armed, but something that stuck out by their sides made him think that each of them had a cutlass strapped to him.

"Look here," said he, backing off a pace or two. "Do you mean to arrest me?"

"We will tell you about that when we get you aboard the vessel," said the man who stood in front of him. "You rebels-Head him off, lads. Knock him down."

The words "rebels" seemed to quicken Caleb's ideas. He saw it all now. He was to be arrested and taken on board the Margaretta and be taken off somewhere so that the magistrate could collect the fine he had imposed upon him. To think with him was to go to work. As quick as thought he ducked his head, not forgetting to throw his bucket loaded with yeast full into the face of the officer, for such Caleb took him to be, and dodging the grasp the man made at him he ran furiously toward his own gate. But he had to deal with men who were as cunning as he was. A fourth man, who stood a little distance behind the officer, clasped him in his strong arms before he had made a dozen steps and threw him to the ground.

"Help!" shouted Caleb, with all the power of his lungs.

"Stop that noise; quick!" exclaimed the officer. "Choke him down."

Caleb did not have time to say all he meant to say when he lifted up his voice in shouting for help, for at that moment the man who had thrown him down changed his grasp from his arms to his throat, and the boy was rendered powerless. It was but the work of a few seconds to tie his hands, and scarcely more to jerk him to his feet and start him down the road toward the harbor. Caleb went because he could not help himself. Two Tories followed close behind him. Each one had hold of his collar, which was drawn so tight that he could not utter a sound. A boat that was drawn up on the beach was ready waiting for them, and Caleb was thrown into it and dragged aft until he was brought up by the stern-sheets. The man whom he took to be an officer turned out to be one sure enough, for he took his seat beside Caleb and went on brushing his coat with his handkerchief to wipe off the yeast.

"I will get even with you, my lad, before we get to New York to pay you for throwing that stuff at me," said he, with something that sounded like an oath. "What was it, you rebel?"

"It is something that won't hurt you any," replied the prisoner, striving to get his throat in order so that he could speak plainly.

"What was it, I ask you!" said the officer, kicking Caleb with his foot. "Do you hear?"

"It is nothing but yeast," said Caleb. "I hope it will raise you up so that it will put a little sense into your head."

It was evident that the rough treatment to which he had been subjected had not taken all the pluck out of Caleb Young. The officer was astonished and gave him three or four kicks in the ribs to show that he did not admire such talk; but the position in which he lay, together with the narrow limits of the boat, rendered the kicks comparatively harmless.

"Shove off," commanded the officer. "Give-away strong and let us get rid of this rebel as soon as we can."

In a few minutes the boat was alongside the schooner, where they found Captain Moore and the other officers waiting for them. A lantern held over the side showed them that the officer had not come back empty-handed.

"You got him, did you?" said the captain, and his voice sounded very unlike the polite tones in which he was accustomed to greet the villagers who came there to see him. He did not live in Machias, but he had been there so often that he was pretty well known to all the towns-people.

"Yes, sir, I have got him," said the officer, touching his hat. "And the rebel threw a bucket of yeast on me when I took him."

"Well, you will pay him for that when we get him to New York," said the captain. "Hoist him up here."

This was the worst part of the treatment to which Caleb had thus far been subjected since his capture. Two of the boat's crew seized him, one at the head and the other at the feet, trying to take him by the clothes but not being particular if they caught up flesh with them, and raised him over their heads, from which position he was received by two more aboard the schooner, who hauled him over the rail and deposited him on the deck as if he had been a log of wood.

"You have got his hands tied, have you not?" said the captain. "Well, release them, and bo'son bring up a set of bracelets and put them on him."

"Do you treat all your prisoners this way, captain?" asked Caleb.

"We treat all rebels this way," was the answer. "The next time you do anything to bring you a fine, be sure you can pay it."

"But, captain-" began Caleb.

"That's enough," said the captain, fiercely. "I know what you have done and so do you. If you talk any more to me I will put a gag in your mouth."

Caleb did not know what a "gag" was, but he came to the conclusion that it was something to add to his punishment, and so he did not say anything more.

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