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

   Chapter 8 UNDER WAY.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 13476

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The boatswain speedily returned with the "bracelets" which he had been sent to bring, and by that time some of the crew had untied his hands. They proved to be irons, one for his wrists and another for his feet. In less time than it takes to tell it the irons had been put on and now Caleb was a prisoner, sure enough.

"Now, then, take him down and put him in the brig,"[6] said the captain. "See to it that he does not get anything to eat or a drop of water to drink to pay him for insulting his Majesty's officer by throwing a bucket of yeast at him."

Captain Moore acted as if he were mad about something, and for fear of the "gag" with which he had been threatened Caleb was unable to say a word to him. The boatswain took him by the arm and hurried him forward. The prisoner was pushed rather than led down the gangway to the brig, which was ready to receive him. He saw that the grated door was open, and when he came opposite to it he was shoved headlong into the dark, not knowing where he was going to bring up. But the brig was not deep enough to permit him to fall. By putting his manacled hands in front of him he brought up against the bulkhead with stunning force, and for a moment he stood there not knowing where he was or what to do.

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He was shoved headlong into the dark.

* * *

"There, you rebel," said the boatswain, "I guess you will stay there."

The door was closed and locked behind him, and then Caleb turned about. There was a lantern outside which threw its beams into the brig, and by their aid Caleb was enabled to take a view of his prison. It was about six feet square, large enough to hold all the members of the schooner's company who were liable to be put there for various misdemeanors, and there was not a thing in the way of furniture in it-no stool to sit down on and no bed to sleep on. Caleb drew a contrast between that room and his plainly furnished little apartment at home and drew a long-drawn sigh.

"Yes, I guess I will stay here," said he, as he seated himself opposite the door so that he could see all that was going on on deck. "Am I a rebel because Zeke Lewis would not let that magistrate fine me? The magistrate did not care what James said, he wanted to know what I did; and if that is justice I don't want to see any more of it. And I must go to New York. And what is going to become of mother in the meantime? I tell you, I hope that the boys' attempt on this schooner to-morrow will be successful. How I can pass the night waiting for them I don't know."

The first thing that attracted Caleb's attention was that his irons were too tight. They pinched him in every way that he could place them, and he first tried to get them off; but his hands were too big. He did not think he could live that way until he got to New York, and he appealed to the first sailor that came along to take the irons off and replace them with some others; but the sailor smiled grimly and shook his head.

"You threw some yeast at the officer, did you not?" said he.

"He tried to take me while I was minding my own business," said Caleb. "You would have done the same thing if you had been in my place."

"Well, you had better let the irons alone. They don't pinch half as hard as the rope will when you get it around your neck."

Here the sailor turned his head on one side and made a motion with his right hand as if he were pulling something up with it.

"I will not be hanged for that, I tell you," said Caleb. "If the officer wanted me, why did he not come up to the house and arrest me?"

"You have insulted one of his Majesty's officers by throwing that stuff on him, and you don't get anything to eat for a day," said the sailor as he turned away. "You will be hungry before you get your next meal."

"Then I have nothing left for it but to go to sleep," said the prisoner to himself. "That is, if I can go to sleep. If I was master of a vessel I would not treat a captive in this way."

That was a long night to Caleb, but he picked out as comfortable a position as he could on the brig's floor and fell asleep while thinking of his mother and Enoch Crosby. He was as certain as he wanted to be that Enoch and Zeke would turn the village up side-down to find what had become of him, and when they had made up their minds that he was on board the schooner, they would not rest easy until they had rescued him. He was aroused by the changing of watches, and then he did not know anything more until the boatswain called all hands in the morning. He straightened up and took his position opposite the door where he could see the crew as they passed to and fro engaged in their duties of the ship. He knew when the decks were washed down, and when they went to breakfast. There was a mess chest standing on the deck right where he could see it, and the Tories took no little delight in biting off their hard-tack and eating their corned beef before him. But Caleb knew that there was no breakfast waiting for him, although he was as hungry as he ever had been.

After breakfast the decks were swept down, and then an order was passed which Caleb could not understand; but he soon became aware that the crew were getting ready to go ashore. It was Sunday, and of course the men dressed in white on that day. Pretty soon an officer passed, and he was got up with all the gold lace that the law allows, but he paid no attention to the prisoner. Presently a boat was called away, and then another, and Caleb could hear the men scrambling down the side in order to get into them, and he knew that the crew had left barely enough men on board to look out for the safety of the vessel. What a time that would be for the men on shore to capture her! While he was thinking about it a sailor came up alongside the grating which formed the door, and after looking all around to make sure that no one was watching him, he put his hand into his bosom and slipped a small package in to the prisoner.

"There you are," said he. "Eat your fill."

The sailor moved away as quickly as he had come, and Caleb was not long in taking care of the bundle. He took it back out of sight, so that if any one chanced to look in to see what the prisoner was doing, he would not have seen him eating the contents of the package. For there was a good breakfast in there, and how the man had managed to steal it was something that Caleb could not understand.

"I wish I had taken a good look at him," said Caleb, with his mouth full of hard-tack and meat. "I believe that when the attack is made, and it will not be long now, I can do him a favor. He is not a Tory. He belongs on our side easy enough."

Caleb did not want as much to eat as he thought he did, for he stopp

ed every few minutes to listen. But he did not hear any sound to indicate that an attack had been made on the schooner's crew, nor any cheer to tell him that all was ready. An hour passed-such an hour as that was, Caleb hoped he should never live over again-and then hoarse commands were heard on the deck and then a commotion arose which was greater, if possible, than when the boats were called away. The prisoner arose hastily to his feet and pressed his face close to the grating to see if he could discover anything that created such a hubbub; but he could not see anything. But the men were all on deck, and pretty soon he heard the dropping of hand-spikes and the dash of ropes above him as if the crew were getting ready to train a gun upon the town.

"Bussin' on it!" whispered Caleb, who was so excited by what he heard that he repeated Zeke's favorite expression before he knew what he was doing. "It has come. The boys have made the attack and I shall soon be free. There are two persons I want to remember; one is the boatswain who threw me into this brig, and the other is the man who gave me my breakfast. It is coming sure enough."

After the men had got their gun trained, for Caleb was certain that was what they were doing, there was silence for a few minutes, and then he heard the splash of oars in the water. He heard Captain Moore's voice pitched in a loud key, and then he was sure that all of the crew who had gone off in the boats came aboard. That was something for which he could not account. If the attack was made it had failed, and the crew were on the lookout.

"Now, it is mighty strange how those men came aboard," said Caleb, to himself. "And what was the reason they did not arrest them there in the church?"

If Caleb had been in the habit of using strong language he would have used it now, but he did nothing but stand there and wait. The men had taken the alarm, there could be no doubt about that, for presently he heard the vessel moving a little as if springs had been got out to her cables, and she was being moored broadside to the town.

"I wonder if they are going to fire on the village?" said Caleb in great alarm. "If she does, I wonder what will become of my mother? Why can I not escape?"

He seized the grating with both hands and exerted all his strength upon it, but, although he could make the gate rattle, the locks still held firmly in their place. Fifteen minutes passed in this way, and then he heard a roar over his head as if heaven and earth were coming together. Another followed it, and the prisoner, firmly believing that the schooner had opened on the town, for the purpose of setting it on fire, left the grating and seated himself once more in the further end of the brig. The firing continued-how long Caleb did not know; but he realized that he was shutting his ears to all sound of the guns.

"This thing has commenced war with me at any rate," said he, to himself, "and if I ever get free and have a gun in my hands that I can use, I will kill a person for every person in Machias that has been struck by their shells."

Finally the firing ceased, and a sound was heard like a man's steps coming down the companion ladder. When he came nearer Caleb saw that it was the man who had given him his breakfast.

"Say," said he, in a low tone. "How many of them did you kill?"

The man looked around to make sure that there was no one in sight and then replied-

"None of them. We just fired a shot or two over the town to show them that we are on guard. Have you got some relatives there?" he added, noticing that Caleb drew a long breath of relief.

"I should say so. My mother is out there."

The prisoner was about to ask him what was the reason the attack on the schooner had failed, but he happened to think that by so doing he would let out some things that Zeke had cautioned him particularly to guard against; and another thing was, the sailor passed on about his business. He did not have time to exchange another word with him.

"It is lucky that I did not have time to ask him about the attack on the schooner," said Caleb, once more returning to his seat. "He is not a Tory, but I don't know that he is friendly enough to us to keep still about it. Now I want to know what is the reason I did not hear that cheer."

Caleb did not have more than two minutes to turn this matter over in his mind, when some more sailors were heard coming down the ladder. They proved to be the watch who had been granted shore liberty that day, and their business was to change their holiday clothes for their working suits. They worked as if they were in a hurry, paying no attention at all to the prisoner, and as fast as they put on their working clothes they ran on deck. Some more hoarse orders greeted them, and this time they were followed by the creaking of halyards and the singing of men, which told Caleb that they were getting the ship under way. In a few minutes the rattling of the windlass joined in, and by listening intently Caleb heard a man ordered to the wheel. This was as much as he cared to know. He covered his face with his hands and for a moment groaned aloud. He was off for New York, he would be put in jail there for not paying his fine and there was no telling what treatment he would receive after he got there. And his mother too, who was wondering all this time what had become of him! He did not know what to think about her. Enoch and Zeke would have to look out for her, for the chances were that he would never come back. While he was thinking about it, a sailor passed by so close to the grating that Caleb put out his hand and stopped him.

"Are we going to New York now?" he asked.

At this moment an officer, who had stood a little back out of his sight, stepped into view. It was the boatswain-the very man of all others of whom he had learned to stand in fear.

"Look here, you rebel," said he, shaking his brawny fist so close to the grating that Caleb instinctively drew back. "If I hear another word out of you I will start you in a way that will make you open your eyes."

The prisoner released his hold on the door and retreated to the opposite end of his cell. He knew what the boatswain meant by saying that he would "start" him. If he had taken pains to cast his eye about the schooner's deck when he was brought below, he would have seen the dreaded "cat" suspended from the main-mast. Its thongs were all knotted to render the blows more severe, and they were covered with blood. The "cat" had evidently been used upon somebody's bare back, and Caleb did not want to bring it into further use. The only thing he could do was to keep still and let time show him what was coming.

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