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The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12480

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Enoch might have gone further and said that the Tories not only refused to believe the evidence of their ears, but that they went to a greater distance and declined to believe the evidence of their eyes when they stood on the wharf and saw the dead and wounded taken off the two vessels and laid carefully away, the former with sheets spread over them. These were promptly taken care of by their friends, and in a short time there was no one around the wharf except the provincials and a few Tories who wanted to hear more about the fight.

"They did not pull down their flag, did they?" said one who made this inquiry of Zeke.

"No, sir. We pulled it down for them. The only man who had the power to strike it has just been carried away in that wagon," said Zeke. "There is the man who pulled it down," he added, pointing to Wheaton. "We are going to get a flag of our own to take its place when we haul the Cross of England down."

"Some of you will go up by the neck before that happens," said the man, turning away and whispering the words to a Tory who stood at his side. "And I will wager that Zeke will go up for one."

"I just wish I knew something about history," continued Zeke, who, of course, did not hear this whispered conversation on the part of the Tories. "They say that that flag has never been hauled down by any nation; but a 'flock of Yankees' was too much for them. Now, captain, what are we going to do with these vessels? We don't want to leave them alongside the wharf all night."

Captain O'Brien had been thinking about this, and had already made up his mind what to do. Of course the "rebels" had captured three boats-the schooner and the two sloops that were engaged in taking lumber on board for the New York market. He did not want to leave them alongside the wharf for the simple reason that, if the Tories got up courage enough, it would be easy work for them to come down there with a party of men after it became dark, and recapture them. It would not be so easy a matter if they were moored a little way from shore. Of course Enoch and Caleb were there waiting to see what further work there was to be done, and this time Caleb had his flint-lock on his shoulder. They had remained at home until they had eaten a late dinner, and had then come down to their prize to do whatever else there was to be done. Enoch had kept a good lookout for James, but when he saw him coming he went into the house. He did not want to hear another story of that victory.

"Enoch," said the captain, after thinking a moment, "have you had anything to eat?"

"Yes, sir, and Caleb and I are out here for all night, if our services are needed that long," replied Enoch.

"All right. I will detail you two as guard to that schooner. You have your flint-locks with you, and, Enoch, I know that you can shoot tolerably straight," said the captain, patting the boy on the shoulder. "Don't you let anybody, even if they are 'rebels,' come aboard that boat. After the rest of us have had supper, I will appoint a commander for her, and then you can take some of these small boats and tow her out to her anchorage."

The boys waited for Captain O'Brien to go on and tell them what else he had to say, but he had evidently gotten through and turned on his heel; whereupon the newly-appointed guards went on board the schooner and took their place by the side of the gangplank which led up to it. They leaned their guns against the rail, rested their elbows on the bulkhead before them and proceeded to watch what was going on on the wharf as well as to wait until some Tory took it into his head that he would like to come aboard the boat. But no one came near them, and Caleb finally fell to examining the bullet holes made by the rifles during the fight. While he was walking about the vessel he happened to cast his eyes toward the shore and saw two persons whom he had wished to see for a long time. Enoch discovered them at the same moment, and when Caleb, after pushing back his sleeves and settling his hat firmly on his head, was about to step upon the gangplank, he found Enoch in his way.

"What's to do here?" demanded Enoch.

"Don't you see James Howard over there?" asked Caleb, in reply. "I have a fine chance to punish him now. I will give him two black eyes, but they will not make him suffer as I did while being shut up in that brig waiting to be carried to New York. Stand out of the way here."

"You have not been relieved yet," said Enoch. "You must get somebody to take your place before you go ashore."

"Well, I can easily do that. Oh, Captain!" he shouted to O'Brien, who was but a little distance off. "I want to go ashore for just about two minutes."

"Go on," said the captain. "I don't know as I am hindering you."

"Captain," said Enoch, pointing up the wharf toward the two persons who were coming along, entirely ignorant of what was transpiring on board the schooner. "He has not been relieved yet. I do not want to stay here alone."

The captain looked, and when he saw James coming toward the schooner he knew why Enoch was standing in the way of Caleb. He knew that those two boys must be kept apart or else there would be a fight; so he added hastily:

"That's so. You have not been relieved yet. You stay there until I can send some one to take your place."

"Yes; and that will never be," said Enoch, to himself.

"Enoch, I didn't think this of you," said Caleb, leaving the gangplank and settling back against the rail. "You are a friend of James Howard."

"No, I am not, and nobody knows it better than you," said Enoch. "Why do you not let him go until a proper time comes?"

"A proper time!" repeated Caleb. "The proper time is whenever I can catch him."

"I don't believe you could catch him any way," said Enoch, pointing to James and Emerson, who had stopped suddenly on discovering the boys, and did not seem inclined to come any closer. "They are going back again."

Once more Caleb rested his arms upon the rail and watched the two Tories, who had stopped and were regarding them with eyes of apprehension. They waited there for some minutes and not seeing any move on Caleb's part they mustered up courage enough to come a little closer,

until they were talking with some of the provincials who were in the fight.

"Enoch, will you let me go ashore?" said Caleb. "I will never have a chance like this to get even with him."

"The captain has not sent anybody to relieve you yet," said Enoch.

"Don't I know that? He isn't looking for anybody. There they come," he added, when the two resumed their walk and came up to the shore end of the gangplank. "Well, what do you think of it? We sent the bullets around her pretty lively, did we not?"

The two boys did not say anything. They had probably come down there to use their eyes and not their tongues, and in that way escaped getting into argument with Enoch and Caleb which they were sure would end in something else. They looked all around the schooner and up at her sails, and finally having seen enough turned to go away; but Caleb who was watching them told them to wait a minute.

"James, I want you to remember that you put me in trouble through that tongue of yours, and that I shall bear it in mind," said he. "The only thing that saves you now is my being on guard on board this vessel."

James waited until he thought Caleb was through, and then hurried away without making any reply, and they blessed their lucky stars that they had got off so easily; but there was a threat contained under Caleb's last words which rankled uneasily in James's mind.

"I guess my father's way is the best," said the latter. "Will you come, too?"

"I hope so," replied Emerson. "It is a beautiful thing to give up to the rebels, that place of ours, but it won't be forever. They will soon be whipped and then we can come back."

The boys waited a long time for the rest of their friends to get through with their supper and come back to the wharf, and then they saw that Captain O'Brien had something on his mind, for he was going first to one man and then to another and having a talk with each. They were all in favor of it, too, for each one shook the captain's hand and patted him on the back as if they wanted to go at it right away. Zeke appeared at last, and he was wild over what the captain said to him. He pulled off his hat-he had been home and got another one by this time-and swung it around his head, but he did not hurrah until he was red in the face as he usually did. He seemed to take his enthusiasm out in the violence of his motions. Then he put his hat on his head and walked briskly toward the schooner.

"Now, boys," said he as he came up the gangplank.

"Say, Zeke, what was it that the captain had to say to you?" asked Caleb. "It must have been something patriotic, for you swung your hat and never hurrahed at all."

"Enoch, you jump down there and cast off the bow and stern lines," said Zeke, looking all around as if to see what else ought to be done. "Caleb, you go round on the wharf and find a small boat that you think will do to pull the boat out to her moorings. I will go to the wheel, and when all that is done I will tell you what the captain said to me."

Zeke never said a thing like this without meaning to be obeyed, and the boys knew that it was useless to argue the point with him. The sooner the work he had set for them to do was done, the sooner would they find out the captain's secret; so without hesitation they placed their guns where they would not be in anybody's way and went about their duties in earnest. Enoch speedily cast off the lines, Zeke staying on board to haul them in, Caleb made his appearance sculling a boat that was to pull the little vessel out to her anchorage, and a line was passed down to him.

"Now, Enoch, tumble in there and pull for all you are worth," said Zeke. "You see the schooner's buoy over there? Well, when you come up with it make this line fast to it and come aboard."

Of course these orders were quickly delivered, but it took longer to carry them out. The schooner moved but slowly in the water. The boys had to turn her around and pull her against the tide, which was coming in at about five miles an hour; but after a long siege they got the line fast and pulled back to the schooner pretty nearly exhausted.

"That's all right," said Zeke. "The next time the captain wants such work done he will have to send more men to do it."

"Go on now, and tell us what the captain had to say," said Caleb, backing up against the rail and using his hat as a fan. "It did not amount to much, any way."

"Didn't, hey? Then I guess you don't want to ship aboard this vessel."

"What is she going to do?" asked Enoch.

"We lucky fellows will be coming ashore every month or so, and when you see us spending more money than you ever heard of--"

"Where are you going to get it?" interrupted Caleb.

"Prizes, my boy; prizes," replied Zeke, poking Caleb in the ribs with his long finger. "We are not going to let the Cross of St. George float out there alone, are we?"

"No; but when we take the prizes what will we do with them?"

"Sell them to the highest bidder. You see the captain was thinking about this thing while he was eating his supper, and he came to the conclusion that since we have a fine vessel with guns and small arms for a crew of thirty men, we ought to use them. There are plenty of ships going by that are loaded up with stores for the King, and what is there to hinder our going out and capturing some of them?"

"Whoop!" yelled Enoch.

"That is what I thought, although I did not say it out quite so loud," said Zeke, laughing all over. "We want to keep it as still as we can, for there are a good many Tories around, and we want to keep them in ignorance of it. Now you boys stay here and talk it over and I will go ashore and bring off the rest of our guard."

"Do you think your mother will let you go on this vessel?" said Caleb, as he and Enoch leaned upon the rail and watched Zeke as he sculled the boat ashore.

"Let me go to fight against tyranny? Of course she will."

"You will be a pirate if you do."

"No more than I am now."

"And if they catch you--"

Here Caleb drew his head on one side and straightened his left arm above his head as if he were pulling on a rope.

"It is a good plan to catch your rabbit before you cook him," said Enoch.

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