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The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12500

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Bussin' on it, they are gone!" exclaimed Zeke, with a disconsolate air. "Now some one of you is a traitor. He told him what we were up to, and he went in to get his other officers and got out of one of the windows. Now which one of you is it?"

If there had been a traitor in that little company who had come out to capture the officers of the schooner's crew, Zeke did not take the proper way to find him. He was about as angry as he could well get. He took off his hat, slammed it down upon the ground, and glared from one to the other of his band as if he were just aching for one of them to declare that he was to blame for it.

"Never mind, Zeke," said O'Brien, who was as much cut up as anybody to find that the officers had escaped them. "There is another day coming. Remember that we have not given that cheer yet."

"I know that," said Zeke, picking up his hat. "But we don't want a traitor among us when we go off to capture that schooner. No doubt he will go to the captain and tip him the wink, and the first thing we know she will be out at sea."

"Let us go down and see what they are going to do," said O'Brien, walking toward the wharf. "Perhaps they are going to stay right there."

"I will bet you a shilling that that isn't what you would do if you was commander of the vessel," said Zeke, falling in by the side of O'Brien and moving along with him. "You would let the sloops go."

"No, I would not. If I were sent here to protect them I would stay with them until we were all captured. If the captain pulls up his anchor and drops down the bay, he will stay there until the sloops are loaded and ready to start."

Zeke made no reply; he was too indignant to talk. He walked along by the side of O'Brien, and when they came within sight of the Margaretta they found that there was something of a commotion on board. The men were running everywhere about the vessel in obedience to the harsh orders which came faintly to their ears, and presently the sound of dropping hand-spikes was heard, and a group of sailors were seen gathering about a gun which was pointed over the town.

"They are going to shoot at us!" shouted three or four of the men in Zeke's company.

"Let them shoot!" replied Zeb Short. "If we don't leave men enough behind us to make them pay for every drop of our blood that they will spill here to-day, we ought to be killed."

Not a man was seen who showed a disposition to run and find a safe place from the ball in the cannon which they knew would come flying toward them in a minute more. They all stood up, and although there were some pale faces among them, they waited with a dogged determination to see if the captain was going to shoot them down. Another minute passed, and then there was a roar aboard the schooner and something passed above their heads so close that they felt the wind of it. Another and another followed it, and during all this time Zeke and his men stood there on the wharf in plain sight, resolved that they would not go until the schooner got through firing. But not one of the balls entered the village. They all went over it and were intended, as the sailor had informed Caleb Young, to let the citizens of Machias see that the crew of the Margaretta were on the alert. Finally the guns ceased firing and the crew proceeded to secure them; and when this was done they turned their attention to something else. The schooner was too far off for them to hear the orders that were issued, but they saw the motions, and knew that the vessel was getting under way. She was not going to wait for the sloops after all.

"Bussin' on it!" exclaimed Zeke, taking off his hat and throwing it on the ground beside him. It seemed as if Zeke's hat was the first thing to stand his exhibition of fury whenever he got that way. He plucked it off and threw it as far from him as he could, and then was ready to go on with his grievance.

"Are they going to get under way sure enough?" stammered Enoch.

"You have been to sea often enough to know what 'stand by the capstan' means," retorted Zeke. "Of course she is going to get under way and let these sloops take care of themselves. You have seen Caleb Young for the last time."

"Don't put too much faith in what Zeke says," said Mr. O'Brien. "That schooner is going to get under way, but she is only going to drop down a few miles where she can have more sea-room. Do you know that Caleb is on board that schooner?"

"No, sir; but he is not in jail, and I don't know where else he could be. I believe Mr. Howard had him taken on board, too."

"Let us go with her and see where she is going to bring up," said Zeb Short, who felt very uneasy every time he looked at Zeke. "Perhaps we can make her surrender."

"Yes, you will make her surrender," said Zeke, in accents of disgust; but all the same he arose, as the others did, and walked along toward the point which was about three miles off. The schooner fairly beat them in the race because she had her mainsail up by this time, and was going ahead as fast as a four-knot breeze could send her. The men kept her in sight until she rounded to under the point and cast anchor about a quarter of a mile from shore.

"Do you see that, Zeke?" said Mr. O'Brien, cheerfully. "She is going to wait for the sloops. When they come down all ready to sail she will go on with them to New York."

"I am in favor of going up and getting one of the sloops and attacking her," said Enoch, whose eyes brightened wonderfully when he saw the Margaretta come to anchor. "We can't get her in any other way."

"I believe the boy is right there," said Wheaton. "If we are going to take that schooner at all, we must go out to her in some way."

A long discussion followed on this point, some were decidedly in favor of Wheaton's proposition and some were not. Every man had something to say, but without coming to the point, and before long the sun began to sink out of sight behind the hills.

"Well," said O'Brien, jumping up and turning his face toward home, "you have settled the matter for one day at least; but when to-morrow morning comes you will surely hear that cheer. We will take a sloop and come down here and capture that schooner."

"Hear! Hear!" shout

ed one of the men.

"All of you who are in favor of going with us we shall expect to see down here," continued O'Brien. "Those of you who don't favor it, stay at home."

"Of course if you are going to fight the schooner, we shall go too," said another, who could not see the beauty of taking a sloop to go out where the schooner was and be licked. "When you give that cheer you will find us all ready."

"I wish you had been as ready to-day as you say you will be to-morrow for we would have had that schooner in an hour from now," said O'Brien. "I hope you will come prepared to do your duty."

Zeke and his friends walked home, but they did not say much during their journey. He and Enoch were very much disappointed, and they began to think that the enthusiasm that some of their party had displayed was all put on for the occasion. They had the best of reasons for believing that Caleb was a prisoner on board that vessel, and that a few more hours would find him safe in New York and that they would never see him again. They were more anxious to fight now than they had ever been before; and when Enoch parted from him at his gate, Zeke said:

"That's what comes of postponing a dangerous thing like this. Those fellows yesterday were all eager to fight, and you saw how some of them backed out down there at the point."

"You are going to take that schooner, are you not?" asked Enoch.

"To be sure we are," said Zeke, striking his palms together. "If there is one man left of our party, he is going to sail that boat into the harbor."

"I am glad to hear you say that," said Enoch, smiling and rubbing his hands together. "The only brother I have is aboard that boat, and I am bound to get him out if I can."

"You keep your ears open and you will surely hear the sign," said Zeke, impressively. "Then you come a running."

Enoch replied that he would be there as soon as any of them, and continued on his way toward home. On the way he was obliged to pass Mr. Howard's house, and he saw somebody sitting on the porch whom he hoped he might never see again. It was the boy whose father had placed Caleb a prisoner aboard the schooner. He was sitting on the porch with his wounded eye done up, and when he saw Enoch approaching he got up and came down to the gate; but Enoch noticed that he did not come within reach of it. He stopped just outside of the touch of Enoch's arm.

"Well, Enoch, you did not get them, did you?" said he.

"Get what?" said Enoch in reply.

"Oh, I don't suppose you know that there was fifteen or twenty men who went down to the church this morning to arrest the officers of the schooner," said James, with a laugh. "I know all about it. You did not guard the windows as well as the door, and so they slipped out. You will have to be sharper than that if you hope to gobble Britishers."

Enoch thought he had got all he wanted to know out of James, and turned to go on again, but before he had made many steps James called after him.

"I have got something more that I want to tell you," said he. "How many of you did they kill when they opened fire on you?"

"They did not kill any of us. They shot over our heads just to let us know that they were on the watch."

"Yes; and they could have wiped you all out if they had had a mind to. You want to go easy around that schooner, for they have got one of you boys there in irons."

"You know that, do you?" said Enoch. He drew cautiously up to the gate, but James was on the watch and he stepped back a pace or two.

"Yes, sir, I know it. The captain said he would arrest him, and he was not with you fellows down to the church; so he must be on board the schooner. He is going to New York, and he will find men there who are strong enough to make him pay his fine."

"If you will just step outside that gate for one minute I will put your other eye in mourning, and then you will have two eyes just alike," said Enoch, who was almost beside himself with fury.

"No, I thank you," said James, with a laugh. "My other eye suits me exactly. You will get yourself arrested, too, if you don't look out. Caleb will pay his fine at the rate of a shilling a day, and that will take him thirty days to square it all up. Thirty days shut up away from home and friends and surrounded with men who don't like you, will teach him a lesson."

"Well, I will tell you one thing," said Enoch, whose pale face showed how angry he was. "Don't let me catch you outside this gate again. And when Caleb gets back-he will be out before the thirty days are up--"

"He will, eh? How is he going to get out?"

"He will get out; don't you forget it. And when he comes back, you had better stay in the house unless you want your other eye tied up too."

James did not say any more, for something Enoch had said had started a serious train of reflections in his mind. He looked sharply at Enoch for a second or two, and then turned and walked into the house, while Enoch kept on toward home.

"If Caleb won't lick him I will lick him myself," soliloquized the boy, who was so excited that he could scarcely keep from going back and assaulting James in his own dooryard. "I don't know now how I kept my hands off him."

"Well, what did that young rebel have to say to you?" said Mr. Howard, as James entered the sitting-room where his father was. "Did you tell him about Caleb?"

"I did, and he was as saucy about it as you please," said James. "He says that Caleb won't stay in prison for thirty days, and when he comes out he will fix my other eye to be tied up, too."

"He won't stay there for thirty days!" said his father. "What does he mean by that? They can't capture the schooner, for if she sees a boat coming out with a lot of men on board, she will slip her anchor and put out to sea. I guess he will stay there thirty days."

"I guess I had better stay in the house altogether," said James, with an air of disgust. "I have made Enoch mad at me, and he will beat me if he sees me on the streets."

"Why don't you let him punch you?" said Mr. Howard. "Then we will have him shut up too."

James did not see fit to answer this question. He looked at his father with surprise and then walked out on the porch again.

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