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: 12601

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," soliloquized the jailer, as he stood in his door and saw Enoch and Zeke cross the way and place his horse pistols close against the fence. "I kinder reckoned on seeing Caleb here to-night, but I am glad he didn't come. That magistrate has arrested him for not paying his fine, but where is he? Go your way," he added, shaking his fist at Zeke, who was hurrying down the street engaged in an earnest conversation with his young friend. "It won't be long before I will have you here, too."

"Now, Enoch, where is he?" said Zeke, after he had placed the horse pistols where their owner could easily find them. "He is not in jail; we know that for a fact."

"No, but he is shut up all the same," replied Enoch. "If we don't find him to-morrow the next thing we shall hear of him he will be safe in New York."

"Bussin' on it, what do you mean?" inquired Zeke, profoundly astonished. "Who is going to take him to New York?"

"The Margaretta."

"Whoop!" yelled Zeke. "I can't make head nor tail of what you are saying."

"The magistrate and Mr. Howard have gone to work and had him arrested," said Enoch, confidently. "They know he would be rescued if he was put in jail, and so they have taken him aboard that schooner."

Zeke stopped in his walk and held the lantern up and looked searchingly into Enoch's face. He saw nothing there but an expression of pain, and he knew that Enoch was in earnest in all that he said.

"And when they get him to New York are they going to put him in jail until that fine is paid?" asked Zeke.

"I believe that is what they mean to do. I wonder why they don't take him to Boston; but then I suppose the schooner is not going that way."

Zeke lowered his lantern and resumed his walk with his eyes fastened on the ground. Enoch did not interrupt him, for he knew that he was meditating on something.

"Well, then, there is not anything more that we can do to-night," said he. "I believe you have hit the truth on the head. Now you go home and let your mother see that you did not run into any traps while you were gone. I'll go and see Mrs. Young, and tell her that her boy will be all right to-morrow. You will be on hand when you hear that cheer?"

"Yes, and I will be on hand no matter whether I hear it or not. If Caleb goes to New York I am going to go, too. I will be around when you take those men out of their seats in church."

Zeke did not say anything in reply. He was thinking too busily. He raised and lowered his lantern three times in succession, just as a man-of-war does when she meets one of our vessels at sea, and hurried off. Enoch watched him until he saw him go into Mrs. Young's gate, and then turned toward his home.

"It come onto me all of a sudden and so I spoke it out," said he, to himself. "It is the neatest thing I ever heard of. If he had been in jail we would have had him sure, for I never saw Zeke so mad as he was when he held that club over that jailer's head. I wish I could get just one word to Caleb. He would know that folks were suffering here on account of his long absence."

It did not take long for Enoch to explain the situation to his mother when he got home. Mrs. Young had gone away before he came, for she kept thinking that Caleb would get away somehow and that he would come home and find her gone.

"She need not have worried on that score," said Enoch, when his mother explained this to him. "He is in the brig on board that schooner, and he will stay there until we capture the officers to-morrow. Good night, mother, I guess I will go to bed."

This was all an excuse on Enoch's part. He went to bed, but not to sleep. He felt as many an old soldier feels on the night preceding a heavy battle. He knew that he had to take chances of coming out uninjured, and the thought of what those dear to him might say and feel if he should fall, effectually banished sleep from his eyes. Not once did he close his eyes in slumber, but he was up at the first peep of day and engaged in building a fire. It might be the last fire that he would ever set to cook his own breakfast with, but his mother did not see any traces of misgiving on his part. He greeted her with his regular morning kiss, and went about his duties as he always did; but his ears were sharply tuned to catch that cheer which he knew would be sounded before night.

"Now, mother," said Enoch, when nine o'clock was drawing near and the dishes had all been washed and put away, "I guess I will go down to the wharf and see what is going on there. If Caleb is aboard that boat he has got to come off. What would I do if that fellow was in a New York jail? The magistrate fined him that much on purpose. It is more money than Caleb ever saw."

"Be careful, my son, that you don't get into trouble yourself," said his mother.

This was all the parting that took place between them. Enoch went without his gun, for he did not want to attract attention, as he would have done if he had had the piece on his shoulder. More than that, Zeke had not told him to bring anything with him, and he concluded that there would be enough men on hand to arrest all the officers who came ashore to church. Before he had left his home fairly out of sight he found Zeke loafing about on a corner. It was not often that Zeke spent his time in that way. He was generally going ahead as if he had some business to attend to.

"Good morning," said Enoch, as soon as he came within speaking distance. "You see I have not brought my gun with me."

"That's all right," said Zeke. "Are you going to help take those fellows out of the church? All right again. Now I am here, and O'Brien and Wheaton are on the other corners, to stop everybody that is on our side and tell them not to show themselves about the church until after the officers get safely in. Then when you see us three moving up, you can come too."

"Have you heard anything about Caleb?"

"No, sir, not a thing. You hit it right last night the first time trying. He is aboard that boat."

"Now, Zeke, you must capture that boat the first thing you do," said Enoch, earnestly. "I did not go near his house this morning because I did not want to see his mother."

"I have been up there, and she had her book open and was reading it. She

seems to find a great deal of comfort in that book. Now you slip around behind some of these houses, but be sure that you keep me in sight. I will tell you when the proper time comes."

"And when that time does come remember that you don't stop for anything. My friend is on board that boat."

Zeke smiled but said nothing. He did not have his club in his hand, but he felt as confident as though he had it. Enoch obeyed orders and sauntered out on a street which led him away from all sight of the church and the Margaretta; but he took care to keep Zeke's figure in sight. He found some other men there, too, who were there with the same object that he was, and one and all knew that Caleb was a prisoner on board the Margaretta. They were highly indignant over it, too, and Enoch told himself that if they acted that way when they made the attack on the vessel, Caleb would not remain a prisoner much longer.

It seemed hard that, after taking so much pains to have their plans work correctly, they should turn out a failure at last. It all happened through the enthusiasm of that man, Zeb Short, who had been taken to task for saying that he did not believe in fighting the schooner's company. Zeb was true blue; there was no doubt about that. But he did not obey the orders he had received and keep out of sight of the church. He sauntered around through the back streets, but he came back to the church as soon as possible, and loafed around there, watching all the people who went in. Nobody had ever seen him go near a church before, and consequently their curiosity was excited. But Zeb paid no attention to that. He was going to capture those officers if it lay within his power to do it, and if it came to a fight, why, he would be there to lend a hand in it.

At last the captain was seen, with his white knee-breeches, velvet coat all covered with gold lace and his queue neatly done up behind. The captain saw Zeb there, and for a moment stopped as if he wanted to speak to him, but he thought better of it and passed on into the church. He was gone but a minute and then looked cautiously out again. Where was Zeb Short? He was some distance up the road going with all the speed he could command toward the place where he had left O'Brien a few minutes before. At the same time three or four other men, whom the captain knew to be provincials, came toward the church from in front, and they were walking as though they had business on hand.

"It has come, and much sooner than I had expected," said the captain. "We have got to get out of here now."

Captain Moore stepped back into the church and closed the door behind him. He looked in vain for the key, but it was not there, so he was obliged to let it go unlocked. He went into the body of the church with a quick step, and bending down he whispered some words to each officer he came to. In an instant the officers arose and followed him. The captain spoke to every man who belonged to his schooner, and when they had all gotten upon their feet, he moved down the aisle toward the preacher's desk. The latter had just gotten up to read a hymn, but he stopped when he saw all those men coming toward him. The captain knew his man, and forthwith stepped up and said some words to him, while an officer who belonged to the schooner kept on ahead and hoisted one of the windows. Then he stepped out lively, and hanging by his hands dropped to the ground. The other members of the schooner's company followed close behind him, the captain coming last, and the minister closed the window after them.

"Here we are, O'Brien," panted Zeb Short, breathing hard after his rapid run. "They are all in. I saw the captain go in just now. Hurry up."

"Where were you?" asked O'Brien.

"I was down there in front of the church," said Zeb. "I wanted to be sure that they all went in and that they did not leave anybody outside to keep watch."

"Were you not ordered to keep out of the way of that church?" asked O'Brien hotly.

"Course I was. Zeke told me to go around the back way, but I did not stay there. We have got seven men to capture, and since Zeke told me that there is fifteen in our party, I conclude that we are going to take them very easily."

"Well, you have raised a fight by your heedlessness," said O'Brien, starting for the church. "Those men are armed, and of course they will not give way to us. You have got to fight now whether you want to or not."

"I am there," said Zeb, drawing himself up to his full height. "It might as well be on shore as on the deck of the vessel."

"There is Zeke now, and he has got Wheaton with him," said O'Brien. "Do not say anything to him about what you have seen, for if you do, you will have a fight on your hands before you bargained for it."

"For doing my duty?" exclaimed Zeb.

"You did not do your duty. It was your place to keep out of the way of that church, and you ought to have done it. Here comes Zeke now, and he has got most of the fellows with him."

"Are you all ready?" asked Zeke, as he came up.

"All ready. We had better get into that church as soon as we can. There are seven of them."

Zeke raised his hand as if to intimate that that was his idea exactly, and he started off with the full expectation that in less than five minutes' time he and his party would have the most of the officers of the schooner's company at their mercy. When he got within hearing of the church he would not allow a single man to speak to him, but raised his hand to enforce silence upon every one of them. He cast his eyes around to see that they were all present, then with noiseless footfalls ascended the steps and opened the door. Or, rather, he laid his hand upon the latch and was about to turn and give his whispered instructions: "Don't say a word to anybody but go about it quick and still," when one of his followers happened to glance over his shoulder and saw a sight that filled him with amazement and alarm.

"Here, here, what's this?" he almost shouted.

Zeke turned and about two hundred yards away he saw the officers of the schooner, running close together so as to protect each other and going their level best to reach the wharf. They were going at a rapid rate, too. Zeke saw at a glance that pursuit was useless.

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