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

   Chapter 16 AFTER THE BATTLE.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12434

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"There, sir," said Captain O'Brien, drawing a long breath of relief and patting with his hand the British flag which Wheaton carried under his arm, "the Yankees have done the work. But there will be mourning when we get back to Machias. Who would have thought that those Britishers would have fought so desperately."

"Captain, they had guns, you know, and we had nothing heavier than flint-locks. Who would have thought that our men would have fought so desperately to accomplish an object? I tell you that each man deserves three hearty cheers to pay him for what he has done."

The fight was over, but now the dead and wounded had to be taken care of. After a short consultation with Wheaton and Zeke the captain decided that all the wounded men should be taken on board the schooner where there was a doctor and his assistant to take care of them, and all the prisoners were to go on board the sloop.

"You will have to stay aboard here with me and let the doctor look after your wound, Zeke," said the captain. "It is bleeding fearfully."

"Bussin' on it, I won't do it," said Zeke, earnestly. "As soon as I get some water to wash this blood off I will be all right. I stood at the helm of that sloop when she overhauled the schooner, and I am going to stand at her wheel when she goes into the harbor. That's a word with a bark on it."

Zeke turned away to hunt up a bucket to aid him in washing out his wound. Zeb Short was there with a club in his hand, and it was covered with blood, too. He had been listening to the words that passed between the captain and Zeke, and was evidently waiting for a chance to put in a word for himself.

"Were you hit?" asked Wheaton.

"Nary time," said Zeb, and his words and actions showed that it would take a better man than was to be found in the schooner's company to lay him up with a wound. "I don't believe in fighting, and for saying them words Zeke came pretty near punching me; but when you are in for it, why, you have got to do the best you can. How many men will you want to guard the sloop on the way in?"

"Let all the men who have flint-locks go aboard of her," answered the captain, "and let them stay around the wheel with Zeke. But first you must put all the unwounded prisoners in irons. Do you know where to find them?"

Zeb knew and dove down the hatchway out of sight. When he came back he had but six pairs of irons in his hand-"not enough to go all the way round," as he said. The prisoners who were still in a group on the forecastle, were ordered aft, and obediently held out their hands for the irons. Enoch and Caleb were close by watching the operation, and when the latter came to run his eye over the men he found that there was one of whom he had promised himself that he would say a good word if chance ever threw it in his way. It was the man who had given him the only bite to eat while he was in the brig.

"There is one fellow that must not be put in irons if I can help it," said he, making his way toward the captain. "He belongs on our side of the house and I know it."

Captain O'Brien listened with an amused expression on his face while Caleb told his story, and presently beckoned to the man to come over to where he was.

"What business have you got to serve under the British flag?" said Captain O'Brien.

"I haven't got any business at all, sir," said the sailor. "I shipped on board of that schooner because I wanted something to do. I belong on the Hudson River a little ways from New York."

"You are sure your sympathies are not with her?"

"No, sir. When I saw that flag come down it was all I could do to keep from cheering."

"Well, you don't want any irons on you. Stand up here beside me and you will be safe."

Caleb and Enoch were overjoyed to hear this decision on the part of their captain. When the sailor drew up a little behind O'Brien the boys tipped him a wink to let him know that he was among friends. Giving Caleb that mouthful of food was the best thing he ever did.

When the prisoners had been ironed they were ordered aboard the sloop and into the captain's cabin, where it was known they would be safe. To make assurance doubly sure Enoch was stationed at the head of the companion-way with his flint-lock for company, and Caleb stayed with him. The wounded were then transferred on board the schooner, and her new crew, without waiting orders to that effect, seized buckets and brooms and went to work to clear the deck of the battle-stains. Of course Caleb was anxious to know what had passed in the village during his absence, and his friend took this opportunity to enlighten him.

"I knew in a minute as soon as I found that tin bucket of yours all jammed in, that you had been captured and taken aboard the schooner," said Enoch. "Zeke knew it too, for I went and got him as soon as I missed you."

"Did you know that I was going off to New York?" asked Caleb.

"Well, we suspected as much, but we was not sure of it until James Howard told me of it. I wonder if there is not some way by which we can get even with that fellow."

"We will keep an eye on him when we get back," said Caleb, who somehow grew angry every time James' name was mentioned in his hearing. "If he conducts himself as any other boy would, we can't do anything with him. They will think right away that we are down on him and anxious to be revenged; but if he goes to cutting up those shines of his, why, then, it will put a different look on the case."

"Are you all ready, Zeke?" shouted Captain O'Brien, as he cast off the rope with which the vessels were lashed together.

"All ready, Cap," replied Zeke, hurrying aft and placing his hand upon the wheel.

"Then fill away in my wake. Zeb, go to the wheel. I am going as straight into Machias as I can go."

"I won't be far behind you. Fill away as soon as you please."

The two little vessels were pushed apart, the wind gradually filled their sails and they got under way for the harbor. Things looked different to Enoch from what they did when he came out. Six of his men, whom he had shaken by the hand every day, were dead, and nine were so badly hurt that he did not know whether or not he was ever going to

see them again. He always thought that war was terrible, but now he was sure of it. But there was one thing about it: He had helped save his friend and if he had got hurt himself he would not have said a word. Every once in a while he let go of his gun with one hand and placed his arm around Caleb's neck as if he never meant to let him go again.

"Say, Caleb, you don't seem to have much to do but just to stay here and keep Enoch company," said Wheaton, who had been appointed commander of the sloop. "I wish you would take a small rope with you and go up and see if there is a block in that topmast. I am going to hoist this flag there, and then our friends on shore can see how we come out."

"Where's the rope?" said Caleb.

The rope was passed to him and Caleb made it fast to one of his arms. Then he settled his hat firmly on his head, went to the ratlines and in a few moments more was at the cross-trees. From this upward he had no ropes to assist him in climbing-nothing but twelve feet of a slippery topmast to which he had to cling in much the same manner that a boy would in climbing a tree. But this was no bar to Caleb; he had been sent on such expeditions before.

"On deck, there!" he shouted, when he had got up and placed his hand on the mast-head. "There is a block here but no rope."

"All right," shouted Wheaton in return. "Reeve that rope through that you have got with you and bring it down here."

To untie the rope from his arm, pass it through the block, twist it securely about his hand and go down to the deck with it was easily done. Then Wheaton began to fasten the flag to it, and presently it began to go aloft.

"I wish there was a union on it so that we could hoist it union down," said Wheaton. "But it is nothing but a union jack. Whichever way you hoist it, it is right side up."

"Some of the people have glasses ashore and they can soon see the flag, and they will notice that it is not on board the schooner but on board the sloop," said Enoch. "That will show them that the vessels have changed hands since we have been inside."

"But I cannot get over the sorrow that will be occasioned among some of the people when they come to hear how many men it took to make that change," said Wheaton, who acted very different from what he did when they went out. "I knew the Britishers would fight, but somehow I did not think they would fight so hard."

"I knew they would," said Caleb. "If you had been on board that schooner you would have fought till you dropped before you would have given up."

A loud cheer coming from the schooner's company interrupted their conversation, and the three turned to see what was the occasion of it. They were just entering the harbor. Captain O'Brien had taken his stand upon the windward rail so that he could have a fair view of the shore, and was waving his hat to the people on the wharf. The boys had no idea that there was so great a number of folks in Machias as they saw at that moment. They stood there, eager to find out which side had whipped, but they dared not make a demonstration for fear that they might be cheering the wrong persons. Even the schooner's flag at the mast-head of the sloop did not fully remove their suspicions. They had heard the firing, the sloop was badly cut up by the shells that had been rained upon her, and they thought they would let the vessels come a little nearer before they said anything.

"You need not tell me anything about it," said James Howard, who had come down there to hear all about the schooner's victory. "That sloop had no cannon, and how could she be supposed to go into a fight with an armed vessel? It is a great wonder to me that she did not sink the sloop when she was in pursuit of her."

"She may have run away from the sloop," said Emerson Miller. "The schooner did not want to fight, for she knows that war hasn't been declared yet. You let Captain Moore alone for keeping out of trouble."

"Say!" whispered James, as with a pale face he passed his glass over to his companion. "Just look at that man standing up there on the windward rail. If that was Captain Moore he would have his uniform on, would he not?"

Emerson took the glass, and as he looked the expectant expression went out of his face and it became as pale as death itself. The man standing up there was Captain O'Brien, and as he watched him he took off his hat and waved it over his head.

"James, we are whipped!" he whispered. "That man is not Captain Moore."

"That is just what I was afraid of. Let us go home."

Emerson did not need any urging, but when James left the wharf he kept him close company. They had made but a few steps when a cheer came from the schooner, and James, glancing toward the boat, saw that that man was still standing there and swinging his hat violently around his head. Not satisfied with this, a cheer arose from the sloop, and there was a man standing on her windward rail who, at that distance, looked exactly like Wheaton.

"We are whipped," repeated Emerson. "Now who in the world can account for that?" James did not say anything, for he was so nearly overwhelmed that he could not get his wits together. He hardly knew when he opened the gate and ascended the stairs to the porch.

Meanwhile the little vessels came gaily on. The people now were satisfied while heretofore they had been lost in doubt, and the cheers that went up were long and loud. The vessels were handled by sailormen,-Zeke took command of the sloop when she approached the wharf-and they rounded to and came up with a force that would not have broken an egg-shell. Parties on shore caught the lines for them, and shortly the gang-planks were pushed out so that the people could come on board. And such a rush as there was! Caleb and Enoch wanted to get ashore to see their mothers, but for a time there was no chance for them. Zeke came up in the meantime, smiling and good-natured as usual, and the boys were about to tell him to go ahead and they would follow in his wake, when they saw him reach out his arm and stop a man who was just coming aboard. It was the storekeeper who had acted so mean about giving Enoch his powder a few nights ago.

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