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

   Chapter 13 THE CHEER.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12538

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


When Enoch reached home it was pretty near night. He found his mother there, engaged in her usual occupation of reading the book, and without saying a word she put it down and got up and embraced her boy as though she had not seen him for long months.

"Why, mother, you must have thought I was in some danger," said Enoch.

"You failed, did you not?" asked his mother in reply.

"We failed from not surrounding the church as we ought to have done," said Enoch, in a discouraged tone. "They went straight through the house, hoisted the windows behind the preacher and so got away; and we never saw them at all until they were so far away that we could not catch them. There were seven of them there."

"I wanted to go out when they were firing at you but I did not dare. They must have hit some of you, of course?"

"They did not try to hit us. They just fired over our heads, and then got the schooner under way and dropped three miles down the bay. I wanted that the fellows should capture one of the sloops and go out there and take her, but they would not agree to it. Caleb is on that boat and he is in irons, too."

"How do you know that?"

"James Howard told me so, and it was all I could do to keep my hands to myself. If those men are not any braver to-morrow than they were to-day, we will not capture the schooner."

Enoch said this with a despairing air, as if he did not much care whether or not the schooner were captured, and then asked his mother if she had anything to eat. He had not had a mouthful since early that morning and he felt the need of something nourishing. His mother replied by serving up the dinner which she had kept warm for him, and Enoch sat down to it with an appetite which not even the discouragements of the day could wholly interfere with. He told his mother everything that had happened to him since he took leave of her in the morning, including his conversation with James Howard, and by the time he got through Mrs. Crosby was as disgusted as he was.

"It seems to me that by the time that schooner got under way to drop down the bay would have been a good season to have followed her up," said she, picking up the book again. "I am afraid that some of you are going to get hurt to-morrow."

"Do you believe that they will make an attack on her?" exclaimed Enoch.

"Of course I do. Such men as Zeke and O'Brien will not let this thing go by default."

"I hope to goodness you're right. The first thing I do when I find myself aboard that schooner will be to keep my eyes and ears open for Caleb Young. I tell you I will be glad to see him."

His mother's words put a little encouragement into his heart, but still Enoch did not feel inclined to talk. He kept thinking of Caleb all the while, but bedtime came at length, and he kissed his mother good night and went off to his room. He slept, too, for you will remember that he didn't get any slumber on the previous night. He did not know anything more until his mother opened his door and called him to breakfast.

"I declare, mother, I do not often let you get up and build a fire," said Enoch, as he opened the door and walked out on the porch to wash his hands and face. "You see-what's that?"

Enoch paused with his hands full of soap, which he had been on the point of rubbing on his face, and straightened up. Faint and far off, but still distinct, came the sound for which he had been so long waiting. Clear and loud above all came the voice of Zeke, so penetrating that there was not another voice in the company of men that he had gathered that could imitate him.

"Mother, mother!" exclaimed Enoch, drying his face upon the towel. "The cheer has come. I must be off at once."

"You will not have time to eat any breakfast, so I will fix up a snack for you to eat as you go along," said his mother, walking briskly to the table. "There is a gun, my boy, that never misses its mark," she continued, as Enoch mounted into a chair and took the old flint-lock down from its place. "Don't you get it into any bad habits. May heaven send you back to me safe and sound."

There were no tears shed on either side. Enoch was going to do his duty as any Union-loving boy might, his mother was encouraging him in it, and both of them hoped for the best. Enoch slung on his powder-horn and bullet-pouch, seized the bite which his mother had put up for him, and rushed out to the gate; but he had not made many steps when he saw Mrs. Young coming toward him. Her face was pale, but she did not act as though she had been crying.

"The next time you see me you will see Caleb," said Enoch, never once slackening his pace. "He is aboard that boat and I know it. Good-by."

"Oh, Enoch, be sure and release Caleb for me," said Mrs. Young. "Remember he is all I have."

"When you see me you will see Caleb, too. I shall not return without him."

Enoch ran along, not going half as fast as he might, for he had his breakfast to eat on the way, and when he arrived opposite Mr. Howard's house he saw all of the family out on the porch listening to the cheer which every few minutes came as long and as loud as ever. Enoch was going by without speaking to them, but hearing the sound of his footsteps James came out to the gate and stopped him.

"What is your hurry?" said he. "Where are you going?"

"I have business on hand, and I can't stop to talk you," was the reply.

"That cheer must amount to something, or you would not be in such haste to answer it," said James. "Does it mean that all you rebels are to go down there? There goes another," he added, pointing to a man who just then came out of a house and started toward the wharf, carrying a pitchfork in his hand. "You men are going to get into trouble."

"Well, we are not the only ones who will be there," said Enoch, shouting the words over his shoulder.

"You think you are going to get that schooner, don't you?" yelled James, for the rapid pace at which Enoch was traveling took him almost out of the reach of his (James') voice. "Wait until you come back. The last one of you will be in irons."

We do not know whether these words reached Enoch, but if they did they had no effect upon him. Having crowded all his breakfast into his mouth, he carried his gun

at "arms port" and ran with all speed toward the wharf. When he came within sight of it he found that the good work was already going on. There were thirty men there at work at one of the sloops throwing her deck-load overboard, and on the shore were the crew, standing motionless with their arms folded as if they were prisoners. The first man to discover Enoch was O'Brien, who, with his coat and hat off, was busily engaged with the others in unloading the sloop.

"Here you are," said he. "Go up there and take the place of one of those men as guards of the prisoners, while the man you relieve comes here and helps throw off this lumber. You have got a gun. Is it loaded?"

"No, sir; but I can very soon put a load in," replied Enoch. "I will wager that it will stop any Tory inside of two hundred yards," he added, stepping up alongside of a man who stood there with a club in his hand. "How long has this thing been going on?"

"We have but just commenced," said the man. "When I came down here they were just bringing these men off as prisoners."

"Are we going to take the sloop and go out and capture that schooner?"

"That is the intention."

"Well, Mr. O'Brien told me to take your place here now, and you go and help unload that lumber. I have got a gun, and there's a bullet that will hit anything that tries to get away from me."

He held up the bullet so that all the sailors could see it, and then pushed it home. Then he took up his powder-horn and proceeded to "cap" his piece, which he did by pouring a lot of powder into the chamber. Then he brought down the slide, pushed his hat back and was ready for some prisoner to try to escape.

"You fellows are going to get licked as sure as the world," said one of the captives. "You can't take that schooner."

"What makes you think we are going to try?" asked Enoch.

"That is where you are going with that sloop. There will be some troops up here directly, and then you will all go in jail."

"Well, you won't have to go with us to keep us company," said Enoch, with a laugh.

"You are mighty right I won't," said the man, with something that savored of a threat in his tones. "I am on the side of England every day in the week. She will brush you rebels off on one side--"

"Hold on!" exclaimed Enoch, bringing his gun to a "ready." "You must not talk that way while I am about. When we come back we will be on board that schooner."

The man muttered something under his breath and then relapsed into silence; while Enoch turned his eyes toward the sloop to see how far they had progressed toward unloading her. The lumber was tumbled off any way, some going overboard into the bay and the rest being piled up helter-skelter on the wharf, and finally Zeke raised his voice and shouted-

"All you men who are going off with us to capture that schooner come on board here."

"Does that mean me?" asked Enoch.

"Yes, everybody. Come on."

"What shall we do with the prisoners?"

"Let them go where they please," answered Mr. O'Brien. "They can't hinder us."

"Now mark my words, sonny," said the man who had been talking to him a few moments before. "I haven't got anything against you, but I really wish you would not go off with that sloop. You are going to be killed, the last one of you."

"We will not be the first men who have fallen before British bullets," said Enoch, shouldering his gun and starting for the sloop. "Look at the ones the redcoats killed at Lexington. We are going to have revenge for that."

When Enoch got aboard the sloop he found O'Brien at the wheel and Zeke was ordering the lines hauled in. After that the mainsail and jib were hoisted-that was the only two sails she had-a shove was given at the bow while the stern-line held on, and as soon as the wind took the canvas she moved silently away from the wharf. She seemed to know that she was going on a dangerous mission, for not even her blocks creaked as the sailors pulled at the ropes.

"Well, Enoch, you are here, are you not?" exclaimed a voice at his elbow. "You have got your gun all handy, too."

"Yes, but where is yours, Zeke?" said the boy. "You haven't got anything."

"Yes, I have," said the man, pulling out his club from behind him. "If ever this falls on a Tory's head it is my opinion that he will see stars."

By this time the sloop was squared around with her bow pointed toward the sea and, contrary to the expectation of her company, she took a bone in her teeth and settled down to an exhibition of speed that surprised everybody. They were sure of one thing: The schooner must go faster than they had ever seen her go before in order to escape.

"But perhaps she won't depend on her speed," said Enoch, when somebody made use of this remark close at his elbow. "Perhaps she will stay and fight it out."

"I hope she will," was the reply; and the man showed a pitchfork which he had brought to assist in whipping the schooner's company. "If one of them gets a prod with this he will know what hurt him."

"Now I want all you men to gather here amidships where I can see you. I have something to say to you."

He spoke in a loud voice, and when Enoch turned to see who it was, he found Wheaton standing near the main-mast with his hat off. None of the men knew what there was pending, and one of them inquired, as he moved over to Wheaton's side-

"What's up?"

"I will tell you right away," said he. "Thus far in this business we have got along without a leader. We have agreed to everything that anybody had to propose, because we thought his proposition the best; but now we are coming to a point where we need a single mind to direct us. There is one man I have in mind who has done more to assist us in a quiet way than anybody else, and if you don't care I will propose him for our captain from this time on. I will nominate Mr. O'Brien. Those in favor of it will manifest it by saying 'Aye!'"

"Aye!" burst from a score of throats.

There was no need of calling for the nays on this question. As soon as Zeke heard the vote, he elbowed his way through the crowd and took off his hat and made a very low bow to his newly appointed commander. Then he laid his hand on the wheel, which O'Brien readily gave up to him.

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