THE SOLDIER BOY
TOM SOMERS IN THE ARMY
A Story of the Great Rebellion
AUTHOR OF "RICH AND HUMBLE," "ALL ABOARD," "LITTLE BY LITTLE," ETC., ETC.
NEW YORK HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
William Lee, Esq.
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
BY HIS FRIEND
WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
This volume is not altogether a military romance, though it contains the adventures of one of those noble-hearted and patriotic young men who went forth from homes of plenty and happiness to fight the battles of our imperilled country. The incidents of the story may be stirring and exciting; yet they are not only within the bounds of probability, but have been more than paralleled in the experience of hundreds of the gallant soldiers of the loyal army.
The work is not intended to approach the dignity of a history, though the writer has carefully consulted the "authorities," both loyal and rebel, and has taken down the living words of enthusiastic participants in the stirring scenes described in this volume. He has not attempted to give a full picture of any battle, or other army operation, but simply of those movements in which the hero took a part. The book is a narrative of personal adventure, delineating the birth and growth of a pure patriotism in the soul of the hero, and describing the perils and privations, the battles and marches which he shared with thousands of brave men in the army of the Potomac.
The author has endeavored to paint a picture of the true soldier, one who loves his country, and fights for her because he loves her; but, at the same time, one who is true to himself and his God, while he is faithful to his patriotic impulses.
The work has been a pleasure to me in its preparation, and I hope it will not disappoint the reasonable expectation of those partial friends whose smile is my joy, whose frown is my grief. But, more than all, I trust this humble volume will have some small influence in kindling and cherishing that genuine patriotism which must ever be the salvation of our land, the foundation of our national prosperity and happiness.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
DORCHESTER, Feb. 22, 1864.
I. The Battle of Pinchbrook II. The Somers Family III. Taming a Traitor IV. The Committee come out, and Tom goes in V. The Attic Chamber VI. The Way is Prepared VII. A Midnight Adventure VIII. Signing the Papers IX. The Departure X. Company K XI. In Washington XII. On to Richmond XIII. The Battle of Bull Run XIV. After the Battle XV. Tom a Prisoner XVI. A Perplexing Question XVII. Dinner and Danger XVIII. The Rebel Soldier XIX. Through the Gap XX. Down the Shenandoah XXI. The Problem of Rations XXII. The Picket Guard XXIII. The End of the Voyage XXIV. Budd's Ferry XXV. In the Hospital XXVI. Tom is Sentimental XXVII. The Confederate Deserter XXVIII. On the Peninsula XXIX. The Battle of Williamsburg XXX. More of the Battle XXXI. Glory and Victory XXXII. "Honorable Mention" XXXIII. Lieutenant Somers and Others
THE SOLDIER BOY;
TOM SOMERS IN THE ARMY.
THE BATTLE OF PINCHBROOK.
"Fort Sumter has surrendered, mother!" shouted Thomas Somers, as he rushed into the room where his mother was quietly reading her Bible.
It was Sunday, and the exciting news had been circulated about the usually quiet village of Pinchbrook Harbor. Men's lips were compressed, and their teeth shut tight together. They were indignant, for traitors had fired upon the flag of the United States. Men, women, and children were roused by the indignity offered to the national emblem. The cannon balls that struck the walls of Sumter seemed at the same time to strike the souls of the whole population of the North, and never was there such a great awakening since the Pilgrim Fathers first planted their feet upon the rock of Plymouth.
"Fort Sumter has surrendered!" shouted the indignant young patriot again, as his mother looked up from the blessed volume.
"You don't say so!" exclaimed Mrs. Somers, as she closed the Bible, and removed her spectacles.
"Yes, mother. The infernal rebels hammered away at the fort for two days, and at last we had to give in."
"There'll be terrible times afore long," replied the old lady, shaking her head with prophetic earnestness.
"The President has called for seventy-five thousand volunteers, and I tell you there'll be music before long!" continued the youth, so excited that he paced the room with rapid strides.
"What's the matter, Thomas?" asked a feeble old gentleman, entering the room at this moment.
"Fort Sumter has surrendered, gran'ther," repeated Thomas, at the top of his lungs, for the aged man was quite deaf; "and the President has called for seventy-five thousand men to go down and fight the traitors."
"Sho!" exclaimed the old man, halting, and gazing with earnestness into the face of the boy.
"It's a fact, gran'ther."
"Well, I'm too old to go," muttered gran'ther Greene; "but I wa'n't older'n you are when I shouldered my firelock in 1812. I'm too old and stiff to go now."
"How old were you, gran'ther, when you went to the war?" asked Thomas, with more moderation than he had exhibited before.
"Only sixteen, Thomas; but I was as tall as I am now," replied the patriarch, dropping slowly and cautiously into the old-fashioned high-back chair, by the side of the cooking stove.
"Well, I'm sixteen, and I mean to go."
"You, Thomas! You are crazy! You shan't do any thing of the kind," interposed Mrs. Somers. "There's men enough to go to the war, without such boys as you are."
"You ain't quite stout enough to make a soldier, Thomas. You ain't so big as I was, when I went off to York state," added gran'ther Greene.
"I should like to go any how," said Thomas, as he seated himself in a corner of the room, and began to think thoughts big enough for a full-grown man.
"Fort Sumter has surrendered," shouted John Somers, rushing into the house as much excited as his brother had been.
"We've heard all about it, John," replied his mother.
"The President has called for seventy-five thousand men, and in my opinion the rebels will get an awful licking before they are a fortnight older. I should like to go and help do it."
The exciting news was discussed among the members of the Somers family, as it was in thousands of other families, on that eventful Sunday. Thomas and John could think of nothing, speak of nothing, but Fort Sumter, and the terrible castigation which the rebels would receive from the insulted and outraged North. They were loyal even to enthusiasm; and when they retired to their chamber at night, they ventured to express to each other their desire to join the great army which was to avenge the insult offered to the flag of the Union.
They were twin brothers, sixteen years of age; but they both thought they were old enough and strong enough to be soldiers. Their mother, however, had promptly disapproved of such suggestions, and they had not deemed it prudent to discuss the idea in her presence.
On Monday, the excitement instead of subsiding, was fanned to a fever heat; Pinchbrook Harbor was in a glow of patriotism. Men neglected their usual occupations, and talked of the affairs of the nation. Every person who could procure a flag hung it out at his window, or hoisted it in his yard, or on his house. The governor had called out a portion of the state militia, and already the tramp of armed men was heard in the neighboring city of Boston.
Thomas Somers was employed in a store in the village, and during the forenoon he mechanically performed the duties of his position; but he could think of nothing but the exciting topic of the day. His blood was boiling with indignation against those who had trailed our hallowed flag in the dust. He wanted to do something to redeem the honor of his country—something to wipe out the traitors who had dared to conspire against her peace. On his way home to dinner, he met Fred Pemberton, who lived only a short distance from his own house.
"What do you think now, Fred?" said Thomas.
"What do I think? I think just as I always did—the North is wrong, and the South is right," replied Fred.
"Who fired upon Fort Sumter? That's the question," said Thomas, his eyes flashing with indignation.
"Why didn't they give up the fort, then?"
"Give up the fort! Shall the United States cave in before the little State of South Carolina. Not by a two chalks!"
"I think the North has been teasing and vexing the South till the Southerns can't stand it any longer. There'll be war now."
"I hope there will! By gracious, I hope so!"
"I hope the South will beat!"
"Do you? Do you, Fred Pemberton?" demanded Tom, so excited he could not stand still.
"Yes, I do. The South has the rights of it. If we had let their niggers alone, there wouldn't have been any trouble."
"You are as blind as a bat, Fred. Don't you see this isn't a quarrel between the North and the South, but between the government and the rebels?"
"I don't see it. If the North had let the South alone, there wouldn't have been any fuss. I hope the North will get whipped, and I know she will."
"Fred, you are a traitor to your country!"
"No, I'm not!"
"Yes, you are; and if I had my way, I'd ride you on a rail out of town."
"No, you wouldn't."
"Yes, I would. I always thought you were a decent fellow; but you are a dirty, low-lived traitor."
"Better be careful what you say, Tom Somers!" retorted the young secessionist, angrily.
"A fellow that won't stand by his country ain't fit to live. You are an out-and-out traitor."
"Don't call me that again, Tom Somers," replied Fred, doubling up his fist.
"I say you are a traitor."
"Take that, then."
Tom did take it, and it was a pretty hard blow on the side of his head. Perhaps it was fortunate for our young patriot that an opportunity was thus afforded him to evaporate some of his enthusiasm in the cause of his country, for there is no knowing what might have been the consequence if it had remained longer pent up in his soul. Of course, he struck back; and a contest, on a small scale, between the loyalty of the North and the treason of the South commenced. How long it might have continued, or what might have been the result, cannot now be considered; for the approach of a chaise interrupted the battle, and the forces of secession were reenforced by a full-grown man.
The gentleman stepped out of his chaise with his whip in his hand, and proceeded to lay it about the legs and body of the representative of the Union side. This was more than Tom Somers could stand, and he retreated in good order from the spot, till he had placed himself out of the reach of the whip.
"What do you mean, you young scoundrel?" demanded the gentleman who had interfered.
Tom looked at him, and discovered that it was Squire Pemberton, the father of his late opponent.
"He hit me first," said Tom.
"He called me a traitor," added Fred. "I won't be called a traitor by him, or any other fellow."
"What do you mean by calling my son a traitor, you villain?"
"I meant just what I said. He is a traitor. He said he hoped the South would beat."
"Suppose he did. I hope so too," added Squire Pemberton.
The squire thought, evidently, that this ought to settle the question. If he hoped so, that was enough.
"Then you are a traitor, too. That's all I've got to say," replied Tom, boldly.
"You scoundrel! How dare you use such a word to me!" roared the squire, as he moved towards the blunt-spoken little patriot.
For strategic reasons, Tom deemed it prudent to fall back; but as he did so, he picked up a couple of good-sized stones.
"I said you were a traitor, and I say so again," said Tom.
"Two can play at that game," added Fred, as he picked up a stone and threw it at Tom.
The Union force returned the fire with the most determined energy, until one of the missiles struck the horse attached to the chaise. The animal, evidently having no sympathy with either party in this miniature contest, and without considering how much damage he might do the rebel cause, started off at a furious pace when the stone struck him. He dashed down the hill at a fearful rate, and bounded away over the plain that led to the Harbor.
Squire Pemberton and his son had more interest in the fate of the runaway horse than they had in the issue of the contest, and both started at the top of their speed in pursuit. But they might as well have chased a flash of lightning, or a locomotive going at the rate of fifty miles an hour.
Tom Somers came down from the bank which he had ascended to secure a good position. He had done rather more than he intended to do; but on the whole he did not much regret it. He watched the course of the spirited animal, as he dashed madly on to destruction. The career of the horse was short; for in the act of turning a corner, half a mile from the spot where Tom stood, he upset the chaise, and was himself thrown down, and, being entangled in the harness, was unable to rise before a stout man had him by the head.
"I wish that chaise had been the southern confederacy," said Tom to himself, philosophically, when he saw the catastrophe in the distance. "Well, it served you right, old Secesh; and I'll bet there ain't many folks in Pinchbrook Harbor that will be willing to comfort the mourners."
With this consoling assurance, Tom continued on his way home. At dinner, he gave the family a faithful account of the transaction.
"You didn't do right, Thomas," said his mother.
"He hit me first."
"You called him a traitor."
"He is a traitor, and so is his father."
"I declare, the boys are as full of fight as an egg is of meat," added gran'ther Greene.
"You haven't seen the last of it yet, Thomas," said the prudent mother.
"No matter, Tom; I'll stand by you," added John.
After dinner, the two boys walked down to the Harbor together.
THE SOMERS FAMILY.
The town of Pinchbrook is not a great distance from Boston, with which it is connected by railroad. If any of our young readers are of a geographical turn of mind, and are disposed to ascertain the exact locality of the place, we will save them any unnecessary trouble, for it is not laid down on any map with which we are familiar. We live in times of war, and probably our young friends have already learned the meaning of "military necessity." Our story is essentially a military story, and there are certain military secrets connected with it which might be traced out if we should inform our inquisitive readers exactly where Pinchbrook is situated.
Squire Pemberton, we doubt not, is very anxious to find out certain persons connected with some irregular proceedings in and around his house on the evening of Monday, April 16th. Fidelity to the truth of history compels us to narrate these proceedings in our humble volume; but we should exceedingly regret thereby to get any of our friends into a scrape by informing the squire that they were active participants in the scenes of that eventful night, or to say any thing which would enable him, a lawyer, to trace out the authors of the mischief through these pages. Therefore we cannot say where Pinchbrook is, or even give a hint which would enable our readers to fix definitely its locality.
Pinchbrook is a town of about three thousand inhabitants, engaged, as the school books would say, in agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and the fisheries, which, rendered into still plainer English, means that some of the people are farmers; that wooden pails, mackerel kegs, boots and shoes, are made; that the inhabitants buy groceries, and sell fish, kegs, pails, and similar wares; and that there are about twenty vessels owned in the place, the principal part of which are fishermen.
We have not the agricultural and commercial statistics of the place at hand; but the larger territorial part of the town was devoted to the farming interest, and was rather sparsely populated, while the principal village, called Pinchbrook Harbor, was more densely peopled, contained two stores, four churches, one wharf, a blacksmith shop, and several shoe and bucket manufactories.
We are willing to acknowledge that Pinchbrook is rather a singular name. The antiquarians have not yet had an opportunity to determine its origin; but our private opinion is that the word is a corruption of Punch-brook. Perhaps, at some remote period in the history of the town, before the Sons of Temperance obtained a foothold in the place, a villainous mixture, known to topers under the general appellation of "punch," may have been largely consumed by the Pinchbrookers. Though not a very aged person ourself, we have heard allusions to festive occasions where, metaphorically, the punch was said to "flow in streams." Possibly, from "streams" came "brooks,"—hence, "Punchbrook,"—which, under the strange mutations of time, has become "Pinchbrook." But we are not learned in these matters, and we hope that nothing we have said will bias the minds of antiquarians, and prevent them from devoting that attention to the origin of the word which its importance demands.
The Somers family, which we have already partially introduced, occupied a small cottage not quite a mile from Pinchbrook Harbor. Captain Somers, the head of the family, had been, and was still, for aught his wife and children knew, master of the schooner Gazelle. To purchase this vessel, he had heavily mortgaged his house and lands in Pinchbrook to Squire Pemberton. But his voyages had not been uniformly successful, though the captain believed that his earthly possessions, after discharging all his liabilities, would amount to about five thousand dollars.
The mortgage note would become due in June, and Captain Somers had been making a strong effort to realize upon his property, so as to enable him to pay off the obligation at maturity. Captain Somers had a brother who was familiarly known in the family as uncle Wyman. He had spent his life, from the age of eighteen, in the South, and at the time of which we write, he was a merchant in Norfolk.
Captain Somers and his brother had been interested together in certain mercantile transactions, and uncle Wyman being the business man, had the proceeds of these ventures in his own hands.
On the 10th of April, only two days before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Captain Somers had sailed in the Gazelle, with an assorted cargo, for Norfolk. Before leaving home he had assured his wife that he should not return without effecting a settlement with Wyman, who had postponed it so many times, that the honest sailor began to fear his brother did not mean to deal justly with him. Nothing had been heard of the Gazelle since her departure from Boston.
Uncle Wyman was known to be a northern man with southern principles, while his brother, though not in the habit of saying much about politics, was fully committed on the side of the government, and was willing to sustain the President in the use of all the coercion that might be necessary to enforce obedience to the laws. The threatening aspect of affairs at the South had made Captain Somers more than ever anxious to have his accounts adjusted, as all his earthly possessions, except the schooner, were in the hands of his brother; and the fact that uncle Wyman was so strong an advocate of Southern rights, had caused him to make the declaration that he would not return without a settlement.
The financial affairs of the Somers family, therefore, were not in a very prosperous condition, and the solvency of the house depended entirely upon the adjustment with uncle Wyman. The mortgage note which Squire Pemberton held would be due in June, and as the creditor was not an indulgent man, there was a prospect that even the little cottage and the little farm might be wrested from them.
The family at home consisted of Mrs. Somers and three children. The two oldest daughters were married to two honest, hard-working fishermen at the Harbor. Thomas and John were twins, sixteen years of age. The former had a place in one of the stores at the village, and the latter occasionally went a fishing trip with his brothers-in-law. Both of the boys had been brought up to work, and there was need enough now that they should contribute what they could to the support of the family. The youngest child, Jane, was but eleven years of age, and went to school. Mrs. Somers's brother, a feeble old man, a soldier in the war of 1812, and a pensioner of the government, had been a member of the family for twenty years; and was familiarly known in town as "Gran'ther Green."
Having thus made our readers acquainted with Pinchbrook and the Somers family, we are prepared to continue our story.
Thomas and John walked down to the Harbor together after dinner. The latter had listened with interest and approbation to his brother's account of the "Battle of Pinchbrook," as he facetiously called it; and perhaps he thought Thomas might need his assistance before he reached the store, for Fred and his father would not probably be willing to let the matter rest where they had left it.
We are sorry not to be able to approve all the acts of the hero of this volume; but John, without asking our opinion, fully indorsed the action of his brother.
"Fred is a traitor, and so is his father," said he, as they passed out at the front gate of the little cottage.
"That's so, Jack; and it made my blood boil to hear them talk," replied Thomas. "And I couldn't help calling things by their right names."
"Bully for you, Tom!" added John, as he turned round, and glanced at the house to assure himself they were out of the hearing of their mother. "Between you and me, Tom, there will be music in Pinchbrook to-night."
He lowered his voice, and spoke in tones big with mystery and heavy with importance.
"What do you mean?" asked Thomas, his interest excited by the words and manner of his brother.
"There is fun ahead."
"Tell me what it's all about."
"You won't say a word—will you?"
"Of course I won't."
"Not to mother, I mean, most of all."
"Squire Pemberton has been talking too loud for his own good."
"I know that; he was in the store this forenoon, and Jeff Davis himself is no bigger traitor than he is."
"Some of the people are going to make him a call to-night."
"What do you suppose? Can't you see through a millstone, Tom, when there is a hole in it?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"You can come with us if you like, and then you will know all about it," added John, mysteriously.
"But what are you going to do?"
"We are going to make him hoist the American flag on his house, or hang it out of his window."
"Well, suppose he won't."
"Then we'll hang him where the flag ought to be. We'll pull the house down over his head."
"I'm with you, Jack," replied Thomas, with enthusiasm.
"We won't have a traitor in Pinchbrook. If we can't cure him, we'll ride him on a rail out of the town."
"I don't know as you and I ought to get into this scrape," added Thomas, thoughtfully.
"You know the squire has a mortgage on our house, and he may get ugly."
"Let him, if he likes. I'm not going to tolerate a traitor because he has a mortgage on my father's house. Besides, that is a fair business transaction; the squire gets his interest."
"Mother is afraid of him, as she is of the evil spirit."
"Women are always timid," said John, sagely.
"By George! there comes the very man himself!" exclaimed Thomas, as he discovered a horse and chaise slowly approaching.
"So it is; that old chaise looks rather the worse for the wear. It looks as though it had been through the wars."
The vehicle did bear very evident marks of hard usage. One of the shafts was broken, the dasher wrenched off, and the top stove in. The horse was covered with mud, and limped badly from the effects of his fall. The broken shaft and the harness were now plentifully adorned with ropes and old straps. In fact, the catastrophe had utterly ruined all claim which the chaise ever might have had to be considered a "hahnsome kerridge."
"There'll be fun nearer home, I reckon," said John, as he obtained his first view of the sour visage of the squire.
"Can't help it," added Thomas.
"Keep a stiff upper lip, Tom."
"I intend to do so."
"Don't say a word about to-night, Tom."
"Of course not."
When the chaise had approached near enough to enable the squire to recognize the author of his misfortunes, he stopped the horse, and got out of the vehicle, with the whip in his hand.
"Now, you young scoundrel, I will teach you to insult me and my son, and destroy my property. Stay in the chaise, Fred, and hold the horse," he added to his son.
But there was not much need of holding the horse now, for he was too lame to run fast or far. Thomas and John came to a halt; and if the squire had been a prudent man, he might have seen by the flash of their eyes, that he was about to engage in an unsafe operation.
"I am going to horsewhip you within an inch of your life, you villain, you!" roared the squire, brandishing the whip.
"No, you are not," replied Thomas, coolly.
"If you drop the weight of that lash on my brother, I'll smash your head," added John.
The squire paused, and glanced at the wiry form of the young sailor. Better thoughts, or at least wiser ones, came to his aid.
"I can bring you to your senses in another way," said he, dropping his whip, and getting into the chaise again. "You will hear from me before the week is out."
"Let him go; don't say a word, Tom," added John.
"He will prosecute me, I suppose he means by that."
"Let him prosecute and be hanged! I'll bet by to-morrow morning he will think better of it. At any rate, he will find out what the people of Pinchbrook think of him."
The boys resumed their walk, and soon reached the store, where they found the group of idlers, that always frequent shops in the country, busily engaged in discussing the affair in which Thomas had been the principal actor. As the boys entered, the hero of the Pinchbrook Battle was saluted with a volley of applause, and his conduct fully approved and commended, for a copperhead in that day was an abomination to the people.
TAMING A TRAITOR.
With the exception of Squire Pemberton, Pinchbrook was a thoroughly loyal town; and the people felt that it was a scandal and a disgrace to have even a single traitor within its border. The squire took no pains to conceal his treasonable sentiments, though the whole town was in a blaze of patriotic excitement. On the contrary, he had gone out of his way, and taken a great deal of pains, to condemn the government and the people of the North.
Squire Pemberton was a wealthy man, and he had always been a person of great influence in the place. He had occupied all the principal official positions in town and county. He had come to regard himself, as his townsmen were for the most part willing to regard him, as the social and political oracle of the place. What he thought in town meeting was generally the sense of his fellow-citizens, and when he expressed himself in words, his word was law.
When, on Sunday morning, with Fort Sumter in ruins, with the national flag trodden under the feet of traitors, with the government insulted and threatened, Squire Pemberton ventured to speak in tones of condemnation of the free North, the people of Pinchbrook listened coldly, at first, to the sayings of their oracle; and when he began to abuse the loyal spirit of the North, some ventured to dissent from him. The oracle was not in the habit of having men dissent, and it made him angry. His treason became more treasonable, his condemnation more bitter. Plain, honest men, to whatever party they might have belonged, were disgusted with the great man of Pinchbrook; and some of them ventured to express their disapprobation of his course in very decided terms. Some were disposed to be indulgent because the Squire had a sister in Georgia who had married a planter. But there was not found a single person, outside of his own family, who was mean enough to uphold him in his treacherous denunciation of the government.
The squire was too self-sufficient and opinionated to be influenced by the advice of friends or the warning of those who had suddenly become his enemies. He had so often carried the town to his own views, that, perhaps, he expected to manufacture a public sentiment in Pinchbrook that would place the town on the side of the rebels. All day Sunday, and all day Monday, he rode about the Harbor preaching treason. He tried to convince the people that the South had all the right, and the North all the wrong; but he had never found them so obstinate and incredulous before.
Towards night one of the ministers ventured to suggest to him that he was sowing the wind, and would reap the whirlwind. The good man even hinted that he had roused a storm of indignation in the town which he might find it difficult to allay.
The squire laughed at the minister, and told him he was not afraid of any thing. He intended to speak his honest sentiments, as every citizen had a right to do; and he would like to see any man, or any body of men, who would dare to meddle with him.
"I am afraid you will see them, Squire Pemberton," added the minister.
"Let them come where they please and when they please."
"What will you do? What is your single arm against scores of strong men?"
"Nothing, perhaps, but I don't fear them. I am true to my convictions; why need I fear?"
"I think your convictions, as you call them, are deluding you. Do you think Benedict Arnold's convictions, if he had any, would have saved his neck from the halter?"
"Do you mean to compare me to Benedict Arnold, sir?"
"I came to you, as a friend, to warn you of impending danger; and, as your friend, I am compelled to say that I don't see much difference between your position and that of Benedict Arnold."
"Do you mean to insult me?"
"Not at all, sir. I was only expressing my honest conviction. Instead of placing yourself on the side of your government, on the side of law and order, you are going about Pinchbrook Harbor denouncing the legitimate government of your country, and pleading the cause of rebels and traitors."
"Am I not at liberty to say what I please of the government?"
"In ordinary times, you are. Just now, the country is in a state of war, and he who is not for the flag is against it. You may criticize the government as its friend, but not as its foe. When armed men conspire against the peace of the land, he who pleads their cause is a traitor—nay, sir, don't be angry; these are my convictions."
"Political parsons have been the ruin of the country," sneered the squire. "That is my conviction."
"Squire Pemberton, I beg you not to be rash. If you must cherish these pernicious views, I entreat you, keep them to yourself. You may think what you please, but the utterance of treason makes a traitor."
"I shall proclaim my views from the housetop," replied the squire, angrily, as he abruptly turned away from the minister.
The squire continued obdurate to the last. Neither the persuasions of his friends nor the threats of his enemies had any effect in silencing his tongue; and as late as sundown on that day of the Great Awakening he was pouring treachery and treason into the ears of a neighbor who happened to pass his house. Half an hour later in the day, there was a great gathering of men and boys at the bridge on the outskirts of the village. They were singing Hail Columbia and the Star-spangled Banner. Thomas and John Somers were there.
Presently the assemblage began to move up the road which led to Squire Pemberton's house, singing patriotic songs as they marched. It was a multitude of persons for Pinchbrook; and no doubt the obnoxious oracle thought so when he saw the sea of heads that surrounded his dwelling. If this was a mob, it was certainly a very orderly mob, for the crowd thus far had done nothing worse than to sing the national airs.
The arrangements had all been made before the multitude started from the place of rendezvous. Three gentlemen, the principal of whom was Captain Barney, had been appointed a committee to wait upon the squire, and politely request him to display the American flag on his premises.
In the road, in front of the house, a large fire had been kindled, which threw a broad, bright glare on the house and the surrounding grounds. It was as light as day in the vicinity when the committee walked up to the front door of the house and rang the bell. The squire answered the summons himself.
"Squire Pemberton," said Captain Barney, "your fellow-citizens, about two hundred in number, have called upon you with a simple and reasonable request."
"What is it?" demanded the squire.
"That you hoist the Stars and Stripes on your house."
"I won't do it!" roared the victim, as he slammed the door in the faces of the committee.
"That is insolence," said Captain Barney, quietly. "We will go in."
The captain led the way; but the door had been locked upon them. The shoulders of three stout men pressed against it, and the bolt yielded.
"What do you mean, you villains?" thundered the squire, as he confronted the committee in the entry.
"You were so impolite as to close the door in our faces before we had finished our story," replied the immovable old sea captain.
"How dare you break in my door?" growled the squire.
"We shall do worse than that, squire, if you don't treat us respectfully."
"A man's house is his castle," added the squire, a little more moderately.
"That's very good law, but there isn't a house in Pinchbrook that is big enough or strong enough to shield a traitor from the indignation of his fellow-citizens. We do not purpose to harm you or your property, if you behave like a reasonable man."
"You shall suffer for this outrage," gasped the squire, whose rage was increased by the cool and civil manner of Captain Barney.
"When you closed the door in my face, I had intimated that your fellow-citizens wish you to display the national flag."
"I refuse to do it, sir."
"Consider, squire, what you say. The people have made up their minds not to tolerate a traitor within the corporate limits of the town of Pinchbrook."
"I am no traitor."
"That is precisely what we wish you to demonstrate to your fellow-citizens assembled outside to witness an exhibition of your patriotism."
"I will not do it on compulsion."
"Then, sir, we shall be obliged to resort to disagreeable measures."
"What do you mean by that, sir?" asked the squire, who was evidently alarmed by the threat. "Do you mean to proceed to violence?"
"We do, Squire Pemberton," answered Captain Barney, decidedly.
"O my country!" sighed the victim, "has it come to this? The laws will no longer protect her citizens."
"That's very fine, sir. Do you expect the laws to protect you while you are aiding and abetting those who are trying to destroy them? Is there any law to protect a traitor in his treason? But we waste time, Squire Pemberton. Will you display the American flag?"
"Suppose I refuse?"
"We will pull your house down over your head. We will give you a coat of tar and feathers, and remove you beyond the limits of the town. If you ever come back, we will hang you to the nearest tree."
"Good Heaven! Is it possible that my fellow-citizens are assassins—incendiaries!"
"Your answer, squire."
"For mercy's sake, husband, do what they ask," interposed his wife, who had been an anxious listener in the adjoining room.
"I must do it," groaned the squire, speaking the truth almost for the first time in forty-eight hours. "Alas! where is our boasted liberty of speech!"
"Fudge! squire," replied Captain Barney, contemptuously. "If your friend Jeff Davis should come to Massachusetts to-morrow, to preach a crusade against the North, and to raise an army to destroy the free institutions of the country, I suppose you think it would be an outrage upon free speech to put him down. We don't think so. Up with the flag, squire."
"Fred, you may hang the flag out at the front window up stairs," said the squire to his son.
"All right, squire. Now a few words more, and we bid you good night. You may think what you please, but if you utter another word of treason in Pinchbrook during the term of your natural life, the party outside will carry out the rest of the programme."
By this time Fred Pemberton had fastened the flag to one of his mother's clothes poles, and suspended it out of the window over the porch. It was hailed with three tremendous cheers by the multitude who were in waiting to discipline the squire, and exorcise the evil spirit of treason and secession.
The work of the evening was finished, not wholly to the satisfaction, perhaps, of a portion of the younger members of the assemblage, who would gladly have joined in the work of pillage and destruction, but much to the gratification of the older and steadier portion of the crowd, who were averse to violent proceedings.
THE COMMITTEE COME OUT, AND TOM GOES IN.
While the committee which the loyal citizens of Pinchbrook had appointed to conduct their case with Squire Pemberton were in the house, engaged in bringing the traitor to terms, the younger members of the assemblage were very impatient to know how matters were progressing. Thomas Somers was particularly anxious to have the affair brought to a crisis. In vain he and a few other of the young loyalists attempted to obtain a view of the interior of the house, where the exciting interview was in progress.
Captain Barney, on shore as well as at sea, was a thorough disciplinarian. Of course, he was aware that his proceedings were technically illegal; that in forcing himself into the house of the squire he was breaking the law of the land; but it seemed to him to be one of those cases where prompt action was necessary, and the law was too tardy to be of any service. He was, however, determined that the business should be done with as little violence as possible, and he had instructed the citizens at the bridge to do no needless injury to the property or the feelings of the squire or his family.
When he entered the house, he had stationed three men at the door to prevent any of the people from following him. He had also directed them not to enter the yard or grounds of the house until he gave the signal. These directions proved a great hardship to the boys in the crowd, and they were completely disgusted when they saw the flag thrown loose from the front window.
The mansion of Squire Pemberton was an old-fashioned dwelling, about a hundred feet from the road. In front of it was a green lawn, adorned with several large buttonwood trees. There was no fence to enclose what was called the front yard. The crowd was assembled on this lawn, and agreeably to the directions of the leader, or chairman of the committee, none of them passed into the yard in the rear and at the end of the house, which was separated from the lawn by a picket fence.
Boys are instinctively curious to know what is going on, and the "living room" of the squire, in which the exciting conversation was taking place, was in the rear of the house. The windows on the front were dark and uncommunicative. The boys were restless and impatient; if there was to be any fun, they wanted to see it. Thomas was as impatient as his fellows, and being more enterprising than the others, he determined, while obeying the instructions of Captain Barney in the spirit, to disobey them in the letter.
He had been a sufferer to the extent of two great wales on the calves of his legs by the treason of the squire, and no doubt he thought he ought to be regarded as an exception to those who were called on to observe the instructions of the chairman of the committee. Leaving the group of inquiring minds near the front door of the house, he walked down the driveway till he came to a rail fence, through which he crawled, and entered the field adjoining the garden of the squire. His fellow-citizens, men and boys, were too intently watching the house to heed him, and no one noticed his enterprising movement.
From the field, he entered the garden, and made his way to the rear of the house. But even here, he was doomed to disappointment, for Mrs. Pemberton had drawn her curtains. Our hero was not, however, to be utterly defeated, and as the curtains had not been fitted by an accomplished upholsterer, there were openings on either side, through which he might command a full view of the interior of the room.
Thomas proceeded slowly and cautiously to obtain a position which would enable him to gratify his curiosity, and witness the humiliation of the haughty squire. Beneath the window which, he had chosen to look through, there was a cellar door, from which a pile of seaweed, placed upon it to keep the frost out of the cellar, had just been removed. The adventurous inquirer crept up the slippery boards, and gained the coveted position. He could not only see the committee and the squire, but he could hear all they said. He was perfectly delighted with the manner in which the captain put the question to the squire; and when the latter ordered Fred to hang out the flag, he was a little disposed to imitate the masculine occupants of the hen-house, a short distance from his perch; but Tom, as we have before intimated, had a very tolerable idea of the principles of strategy, and had the self-possession to hold his tongue, and permit the triumphant scene within to pass without a crow or a cheer.
The battle had been fought and the victory won; and though Tom felt that he was one of the victors, he deemed it prudent, for strategical reasons, to commence a retreat. The cellar doors, as we have before hinted, were very slippery, having been thoroughly soaked with moisture while covered with the seaweed. When the hero of this unauthorized reconnoissance wheeled about to commence his retreat, his feet incontinently slipped up upon the inclined surface of the doors, and he came down heavily upon the rotten boards. This, in itself, would have been but an inconsiderable disaster, and he might still have withdrawn from the inconvenient locality, if circumstances had not conspired against him, as circumstances sometimes will, when they ought to be conciliatory and accommodating. The force with which Tom fell upon the decayed boards was too much for them, and the unlucky adventurer became another victim to the treachery of rotten wood, which has hurled so many thousands from time into eternity.
But Tom was not hurled so far as that on the present occasion, though for all practical purposes, for the succeeding half hour, he might as well have been a hundred fathoms under water, or beneath the wreck of a twenty-ton locomotive at the bottom of the river. That cellar door was a bad place to fall through, which may be accounted for on the supposition that it was not made to fall through. In his downward progress, Tom had unluckily struck his head against the side of the house; and when he landed at the bottom of the stairs, he was utterly oblivious to all distinctions between treason and loyalty. Tom was not killed, I need not inform the ingenious reader, or this would otherwise have been the last chapter of the story; but the poor fellow did not know whether he was dead or alive.
In fact, he had not sense enough left to consider the question at all; for there he lay, in the gloom of the traitor's dark cellar, silent and motionless—a solemn warning to all our young readers of the folly and wickedness of indulging an illegal and sinful curiosity. It may seem cruel and inhuman in us to forsake poor Tom in this sad plight; but we must, nevertheless, go up stairs, in order that the sufferer may be duly and properly relieved in due and proper season.
When the committee of three, appointed by the indignant loyalists of Pinchbrook, had completed their mission in the house of the squire, like sensible men they proposed to leave; and they so expressed themselves, through their spokesman, to the unwilling host. They put their hats on, and moved into the front entry, whither they were followed by the discomfited traitor. They had scarcely left the room before a tremendous crash greeted the ears of that portion of the family which remained in the apartment. This was the precise moment at which poor Tom Somers found himself on the bottom of the cellar; or, to be entirely accurate, when he lost himself on the bottom of the cellar.
Mrs. Pemberton heard the crash, and she very naturally concluded that the hour of retribution had actually come; that the terrible mob had commenced the work of destruction. To her "fear-amazed" mind it seemed as though the whole side of the house had fallen in, and, for a moment, she confidently expected the chimneys would presently go by the board, and the roof come thundering down upon the devoted heads of her outraged family. Perhaps, at that terrible moment, she wished her husband had been like other women's husbands, a true and loyal man, cheering the old flag, and hurling harmless anathemas at the graceless rebels.
But the chimney did not go by the board, nor the roof come thundering down upon her head. There was not even a sound of destruction to be heard, and the sides of the house seemed to be firm and decided in their intention to maintain their perpendicular position. A few minutes later, when the committee announced to the multitude the success of their undertaking, and Fred had displayed the flag from the window, peal upon peal of stunning huzzas saluted her ears, and the awful peril of the preceding moments appeared to be averted. The squire, having closed and barricaded the broken door as well as he could, returned to the room, with curses deep and bitter upon his lips. He was not in the habit of swearing, but the magnitude of the occasion seemed to justify the innovation, and he swore hugely, roundly, awfully. He paced the room, ground his teeth, and stamped upon the floor.
"Father, did you hear that terrible racket just now?" asked Mrs. Pemberton. "I thought the side of the house had fallen in."
"What racket?" demanded the squire, pausing in his excited walk.
"I am sure they have broken something."
"It sounded as though it was down cellar," added Susan, the daughter.
"What was it?" asked the father.
"I don't know. It sounded like breaking boards. Do go down cellar, and find out what it was."
"The scoundrels!" roared the squire, as he rushed up and down the room again with the fury of a madman. "I'll teach them to break into my house!"
"Be calm, father," interposed Mrs. Pemberton, who, like most New England mothers, called her husband by the title which belonged exclusively to the children.
"Calm? How can I be calm? Don't you hear the ruffians shout and yell?"
"They are only cheering the flag."
The squire muttered a malediction upon the flag, which would probably have procured for him a coat of tar and feathers, if the mob had heard it. Mrs. Pemberton was silent, for she had never seen her husband so moved before. She permitted him to pace the room in his frenzy till his anger had, in some measure, subsided.
"I wish you would go down cellar and find out what that noise was," said Mrs. Pemberton, as soon as she dared to speak again. "Perhaps some of them are down there now. Who knows but they will set the house afire."
Squire Pemberton was startled by this suggestion, and, seizing the lamp, he rushed down cellar to prevent so dire a calamity.
THE ATTIC CHAMBER.
Squire Pemberton rushed down cellar. He was very much excited, and forgot that he had been troubled with the rheumatism during the preceding winter. When he opened the cellar door, he was considerably relieved to find that no brilliant light saluted his expectant gaze. It was as cold and dark in the cellar as it had been when he sorted over the last of his Warren Russets, a few days before.
It was certain, therefore, that the house was not on fire; and, invigorated by this thought, he descended the stairs. A strong current of fresh, cold air extinguished the light he carried. As this was contrary to his usual experience when he went down cellar in the evening after an apple or a mug of cider, it assured him that there was a screw loose somewhere. Returning to the room above, he procured a lantern, and proceeded to the cellar again to renew his investigations.
The squire felt the cold blast of the April air, and immediately made his way to the cellar door, holding the lantern up as high as his head, to ascertain the nature of the mischief which the fanatical abolitionists had perpetrated. He saw that the cellar door was broken through. The rotten boards lay upon the steps, and with another malediction upon the mob, he placed the lantern upon a barrel, and proceeded to repair the damage. As he stepped forward, he stumbled against the body of the enterprising hero of this volume, who lay as calm and still as a sleeping child.
The squire started back, not a little alarmed at the sight of the motionless body. He felt as though a terrible retribution had fallen upon somebody, who had been killed in the act of attempting to destroy his property. Seizing his lantern, he retreated to the cellar stairs by which he had descended, and stood there for a moment, his tongue paralyzed, and his knees smiting each other, in the agony of terror.
We do not know what he was afraid of, but we suppose that instinctive dread which some people manifest in the presence of death, had completely overcome him. Certainly there was nothing to be afraid of, for a dead man is not half so likely to do a person an injury as a living one. But in a few minutes Squire Pemberton in some measure recovered his self-possession.
"There is a dead man down here!" he called up the staircase, in quaking tones.
"Mercy on us!" exclaimed Mrs. Pemberton. "Who is he?"
"I don't know," replied the squire.
"Look and see who it is, father," added Mrs. Pemberton. "Perhaps he isn't dead."
"Stone dead," persisted the squire. "He fell into the cellar and broke his neck."
"Go and see who it is—will you?"
"Well, you come down and hold the light," said the squire, who was not quite willing to say that he was scared out of his wits.
Mrs. Pemberton descended the stairs, followed by Susan and Fred, who had just returned from the front window, where he had exhibited the flag, which the crowd outside were still cheering.
"Who can it be?" continued the old lady, as she slowly and cautiously walked forward to the scene of the catastrophe.
"I don't know," replied the squire, in whom the presence of his family had spurred up a semblance of courage; for if a man ever is brave, it is in the presence of his wife and children. "If it is one of the ruffians who came here to destroy my house, I am glad he has lost his life in the attempt. It is a righteous retribution upon him for his wickedness."
Mrs. Pemberton took the lantern, and the squire, still excited and terrified, bent over the prostrate form of the young marauder. The victim lay upon his face, and the squire had to turn him over to obtain a view of his countenance.
"I declare it is one of the Somers boys!" exclaimed Mrs. Pemberton, as her husband brought the face of Thomas to her view.
"The young villain!" ejaculated the squire. "It is lucky he was killed, or the house would have been in flames before this time. He is a desperate young scoundrel."
"But he isn't dead, father!" said Mrs. Pemberton, as she knelt upon the cold ground, and felt the pulse of the insensible boy. "He is only stunned."
"I am sorry for it. If it had killed him, it would have served him right," added the squire, who had suddenly become as bold as a lion—as bold as two lions.
"Come, father, let's carry him up stairs, and put him to bed."
"Do you think I am going to do anything for this young scoundrel!" exclaimed the squire, indignantly. "Why, he stoned Fred and me to-day, and stoned the horse, and made him run away and break the chaise all to pieces."
"But we mustn't leave him here in this situation. He may die."
"Let him die."
"But what will folks say?"
The more humane wife evidently understood the weak point of the squire, for nothing but slavery and the Southern Confederacy could have induced him to set at defiance the public sentiment of Pinchbrook.
"Well, carry him up stairs then; but he never will get out of my house till he has been severely punished for his crimes."
The squire and Fred took hold of the senseless form of poor Tom, and carried it up stairs, where it was placed upon the sofa in the sitting room. Mrs. Pemberton had the reputation of being "an excellent hand in sickness," and she immediately applied herself to the duty of restoring the sufferer to consciousness.
"Don't you think you had better go after the doctor, father?" asked the good woman. "Some of his bones may be broken, or he may be injured inwardly."
"I shall not go for any doctor," snarled the squire. "Do you think I will trust myself out doors while that howling mob is hanging round the house?"
"Fred can go," suggested Susan.
"He can, but he shall not," growled the squire, throwing himself into his arm chair in the corner, with an appearance of indifference and unconcern, which were far from representing the actual state of his mind.
Mrs. Pemberton said no more, but she and Susan went to work upon the sufferer with camphor and hartshorn in good earnest, and in a short time they had the satisfaction of seeing him open his eyes. They continued the treatment for some time longer, with the most satisfactory result, till Tom astonished them by jumping off the sofa, and standing up in the middle of the room. He rubbed his forehead, hunched up his left shoulder, and felt of his shins.
"Are you hurt, Thomas?" asked Mrs. Pemberton, with more of tenderness in her tones than the squire deemed proper for the occasion.
"No, marm, I guess not," replied Tom. "My shoulder feels a little stiff, and I think I barked one of my shins; but I shall be as good as new by to-morrow."
But there was an ugly bump on the side of his head, which he had not yet discovered, but which Susan pointed out to him. He acknowledged the bump, but declared it was only a little sore and would be all right by the next day.
"I feel pretty well," continued Tom, "and I guess I'll go home now."
"I think you won't, young man," interposed Squire Pemberton.
Tom looked at him, and for the first time since he had come to himself, he remembered in what manner he had received his injuries. He immediately came to the conclusion that he had got into a bad scrape. He was in the house of, and in the presence of, his great enemy. The events of the day passed in rapid succession through his mind, and he could not help thinking that he was destined to be the first victim in Pinchbrook to the war spirit which had just been awakened all over the country.
The squire thought he would not go home, which was as much as to say he would not let him go home. Tom's wits were a little confused, after the hard knock he had received upon the head, and all he could do was to stand and look at the oracle of Pinchbrook, and wait for further developments.
"Young man," said the squire, sternly, and in tones that were intended to make a deep impression upon the mind of the young man, "your time has come."
The squire paused, and looked at the culprit to ascertain the effect of the startling announcement; but Tom seemed to be perfectly cool, and was not annihilated by the suggestive remark of the great man of Pinchbrook.
"You have become a midnight marauder," added the squire, poetically.
"It isn't seven o'clock yet," said Tom pointing to the great wooden clock in the corner of the room.
"You joined a mob to pillage and destroy the property of a peaceable citizen. You broke in—"
"No, sir; the cellar door broke in," interposed the culprit.
"You broke into my house to set it afire!" continued the squire, in a rage.
"No, sir, I did not. I only went round there to see the fun," replied Tom, pointing to the rear of the house; "and the cellar door broke down and let me in. I did not mean to do you or your house any harm; and I didn't do any, except breaking the cellar door, and I will have that mended."
"Don't tell me, you young villain! You meant to burn my house."
"No, I didn't mean any thing of the kind," replied Tom, stoutly. "I was going off when the door broke down. The boards were rotten, and I should think a man like you ought to have better cellar doors than those are."
The squire didn't relish this criticism, especially from the source whence it came. There was a want of humility on the part of the culprit which the magnate of Pinchbrook thought would be exceedingly becoming in a young man in his situation. The absence of it made him more angry than before. He stormed and hurled denunciations at the offender; he rehearsed the mischief he had done during the day, and alluded in strong terms to that which he intended to perpetrate in the "dead watches of the night"—which was the poetical rendering of half-past six in the evening; for the squire was fond of effective phrases.
Tom ventured to hint that a man who would not stand by his country when her flag was insulted and "trailed in the dust"—Tom had read the daily papers—ought to be brought to his senses by such expedients as his fellow-citizens might suggest. Of course this remark only increased the squire's wrath, and he proceeded to pronounce sentence upon the unlucky youth, which was that he should be taken to the finished room in the attic, and confined there under bolts and bars till the inquisitor should further declare and execute his intentions.
Mrs. Pemberton and Susan remonstrated against this sentence, prudently suggesting the consequences which might result from detaining the boy. But the squire declared he should not go till he had at least horsewhipped him; and if there was any justice left in the land, he would send him to the county jail in the morning.
Tom wanted to resist the execution of his sentence, but he was still weak from the effects of his fall, and he could not expect to vanquish both the squire and his son; so, with an earnest protest, he permitted himself to be led to the attic chamber. The squire thrust him into the room, and after carefully securing the door, left our hero to meditate upon the reverse of fortune which had overtaken him.
THE WAY IS PREPARED.
"Where do you suppose Thomas is?" said Mrs. Somers, as she glanced at the clock, which indicated half-past nine.
"I don't know," replied John. "He can't be a great ways off. I saw him in front of the squire's house when the committee went in."
"The boy's gone down to the Harbor again with the rest of the folks, talking about the war," added gran'ther Greene, as he rose from his chair, and hobbled into his chamber adjoining the kitchen.
At ten o'clock, the mother began to be a little uneasy; and at eleven, even John had some fears that all was not well with his brother. Neither of them was able to suggest anything that could possibly have happened to the absentee. There had been no battle fought, and so nobody could have been killed. There had been no violence used in the transactions of the evening further than breaking in the front door of Squire Pemberton, so that it was not easy to believe that any accident had happened to him.
John had given a glowing account of the proceedings at the house of the squire and the family had been much interested and excited by the stirring narrative. His mother was perfectly satisfied, as no one had been injured, and hoped the great man of Pinchbrook would be brought to his senses. All these topics had been fully discussed during the evening. John had informed his mother that Captain Benson, who had formerly commanded the Pinchbrook Riflemen, intended to raise a company for the war. He mentioned the names of half a dozen young men who had expressed their desire to join. The family had suggested that this and that man would go, and thus the long evening passed away.
"I don't see what has become of Thomas," said Mrs. Somers, when the clock struck eleven, as she rose from her chair and looked out of the window.
"Well, I don't see, either," replied John. "I don't believe there is anything going on at this time of night."
"I hope nothing has happened to him," continued the anxious mother, as she went to the door and looked out, hoping, perhaps, to discover him in the gloom of the night, or to hear his familiar step.
"What could have happened to him?" asked John, who did not believe his brother was fool enough to fall overboard, or permit any serious accident to happen to him.
"I don't know. I can't see what has got the boy. He always comes home before nine o'clock. Have you heard him say anything that will give you an idea where he is?"
"He hasn't said anything to me."
"Try, and see if you can't think of something," persisted the anxious mother.
"He hasn't talked of anything but the war since yesterday morning."
"What did he say?"
"I don't know, now," answered John, musing. "He said he should like to join the army, and go down and fight the rebels."
Mrs. Somers had heard as much from him, but she had given no particular attention to his remarks on this subject, for they seemed wild and visionary. John's words, under the present circumstances, appeared to be full of importance; and taking her stocking, she seated herself before the stove, and resumed her knitting. She was silent now, for her heart was heavy with the premonitions of impending trouble.
"I will take a walk down to the Harbor, mother, and see if I can find anything of him. There may be something going on there that I don't know about. He may be at the store, talking about the war with Captain Barney and the rest of the folks."
Mrs. Somers offered no objection to this plan, and John put on his cap, and left the house. The poor mother brooded upon her trouble for another hour, and with every new moment, the trouble seemed more real. The clock struck twelve before John returned; and more than once during his absence, as she plied her needles, she had wiped away a tear that hung among the furrows of her care-worn cheek. She had been thinking of her husband, as well as of her son. He was, or soon would be, in the midst of the traitors, and she trembled for him. Uncle Wyman was a secessionist; and, beyond this, she had not much confidence in his integrity, and if Captain Somers came home at all, his property would all be swept away, and he would be a beggar.
The events of that day were not calculated to conciliate Squire Pemberton towards them, and the farm and the cottage would pass away from them. All these things had been considered and reconsidered by the devoted mother. Poverty and want seemed to stare her in the face; and to add to all these troubles, Thomas did not come home, and, as fond mothers will, she anticipated the worst.
John entered the kitchen, and carelessly flung his cap upon the table. Mrs. Somers looked at him, and waited patiently to hear any intelligence he might bring. But John threw himself into a chair, looking more gloomy than before he left the house. He did not speak, and therefore he had no good news to tell.
"You didn't see anything of him—did you?" asked Mrs. Somers; but it was a useless question, for she had already interpreted the meaning of his downcast looks.
"No, mother; there isn't a man, woman, or child stirring in the village; and I didn't see a light in a single house."
"What do you suppose can have become of him?"
"I'm sure I don't know. Tom is old enough and smart enough to take care of himself."
"It's very strange."
"So it is. I haven't any idea what has become of him."
"Did you look around Squire Pemberton's house, where he was seen last?"
"I looked about on both sides of the road, going and coming from the Harbor. I whistled all the way, and if he had been any where round, he would have whistled back, as he always does."
"What do you suppose has become of him?" demanded the poor mother, worried beyond expression at the mysterious disappearance of her son.
"I can't tell, mother."
"Don't you think we had better call up the neighbors, and have something done about it?"
"I don't know," replied John, hardly less anxious than his mother.
"I don't suppose they would be able to find him if we did," added Mrs. Somers, wiping away the tears from her face.
"I can't think anything has happened to him, mother. If he had been on the water, or anything of that kind, I should feel worse about it."
"If I only knew where he was, I shouldn't feel so bad about it," said she; and her position, certainly, was a reasonable one.
"What's the matter, sister?" called gran'ther Greene, from his chamber. "Hasn't that boy got home yet?"
"No, he hasn't come yet, and I am worried to death about him," replied Mrs. Somers, opening the door of her brother's room.
"What o'clock is it?"
"After twelve. Thomas never stayed out so late in his life before. What do you suppose has become of him?"
"Law sake! I haven't the leastest idea," answered the old man. "Thomas is a smart boy, and knows enough to keep out of trouble."
"That's what I say," added John, who had unlimited confidence in his brother's ability to take care of himself.
"I'll tell you what I think, John," said Mrs. Somers, throwing herself into her chair with an air of desperation.
But she did not tell John what she thought: on the contrary, she sat rocking herself in silence, as though her thought was too big and too momentous for utterance.
"Well, what do you think, mother?" asked John, when he had waited a reasonable time for her to express her opinion on the exciting topic.
Mrs. Somers rocked herself more violently than before, and made no reply.
"What were you going to say?"
"I think the boy has gone off to Boston, and gone into the army," replied she, desperately, as though she had fully made up her mind to commit herself to this belief.
"Do you think so, mother?"
"I feel almost sure of it."
"I don't think so, mother. Tom wouldn't have gone off without saying something to me about it."
"If he wouldn't say it to me, he wouldn't be likely to say it to you, John. It don't look a bit like Thomas to go off and leave his mother in this way," moaned the poor woman, wiping away a deluge of tears that now poured from her eyes.
"I don't believe he has done any such thing, mother," protested John.
"I feel almost certain about it, now. If the boy wanted to go, and couldn't stay at home, he ought to have told me so."
"He did say he wanted to go."
"I didn't think he really meant it. I want my boys to love their country, and be ready to fight for it. Much as I should hate to part with them, if they are needed, they may go; but I don't like to have them run away and leave me in this mean way. I shouldn't feel half so bad if I knew Thomas was in the army now, as I do to think he ran away from home, just as though he had done some mean thing. I am willing he should go, and he wouldn't be a son of mine if he wasn't ready to go and fight for his country, and die for her too, if there was any need of it. I didn't think Thomas would serve me in this way."
"I don't believe he has."
"I know he's gone. I like his spunk, but if he had only come to me and said he must go, I wouldn't have said a word; but to go off without bidding us good by—it's too bad, and I didn't think Thomas would do such a thing."
Mrs. Somers rose from her chair, and paced the room in the highest state of agitation and excitement. The rockers were not adequate to the duty required of them, and nothing less than the whole floor of the kitchen was sufficient for the proper venting of her emotion.
"Do you mean to say, mother, that you would have given him leave to go, even if he had teased you for a month?" asked John.
"Certainly I should," replied his mother, stopping short in the middle of the floor. "I'm ready and willing to have my boys fight for their country, but I don't want them to sneak off as though they had been robbing a hen-roost, and without even saying good by to me."
"If Tom were here, do you mean to say you would let him go?" demanded John, earnestly.
"Certainly I do; I mean so. But I don't think there is any need of boys like him going, when there are men enough to do the fighting."
"You told Tom he shouldn't go."
"Well, I didn't think he really meant it. If he had—What's that, John?" asked she, suddenly, as a noise at the window attracted her attention.
"Only the cat, mother."
"If Thomas or you had asked me in earnest, and there was need of your going, I wouldn't have kept either of you at home. I would go to the poorhouse first. My father and my brother both fought for their country, and my sons shall when their country wants them."
"Then you are willing Tom should go?"
"I am, but not to have him sneak off like a sheep-stealer."
"Three cheers for you, mother!" shouted Thomas, as he threw up the window at which he had been standing for some ten minutes listening to this interesting conversation.
"Where have you been, Thomas?" exclaimed the delighted mother.
"Open the door, Jack, and let me in, and I will tell you all about it," replied the absentee.
"Come in; the door isn't locked," said John.
He came in; and what he had to tell will interest the reader as well as his mother and his brother.
A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE.
Tom Somers was an enterprising young man, as our readers have already discovered; and when the door of the finished room in the attic of Squire Pemberton's house was fastened upon him, he was not at all disposed to submit to the fate which appeared to be in store for him. The idea of becoming a victim to the squire's malice was not to be entertained, and he threw himself upon the bed to devise some means by which he might make his escape.
The prospect was not encouraging, for there was only one window in the chamber, and the distance to the ground was suggestive of broken limbs, if not of a broken neck. Tom had read the Life of Baron Trenck, and of Stephen Burroughs, but the experience of neither of these worthies seemed to be available on the present occasion.
As the family had not yet retired, it would not be safe to commence operations for some hours. The stale, commonplace method of tying the sheets and blankets together, and thus forming a rope by which he could descend to the ground, occurred to him; but he had not much confidence in the project. He lay quietly on the bed till he heard the clocks on the churches at the Harbor strike twelve. It was time then, if ever, for the family to be asleep, and he decided to attempt an escape by another means which had been suggested to him. If it failed, he could then resort to the old-fashioned way of going down on the rope made of sheets and blankets.
The apartment in which Tom was confined was not what people in the country call an "upright chamber." The sides of the room were about four feet in height; and a section of the apartment would have formed one half of an irregular octagon. In each side of the chamber there was a small door, opening into the space near the eaves of the house, which was used to store old trunks, old boxes, the disused spinning-wheel, and other lumber of this description. Tom had been in the attic before, and he remembered these doors, through one of which he now proposed to make his escape.
When the clock struck twelve, he cautiously rose from the bed, and pulled off his boots, which a proper respect for his host or the bed had not prompted him to do before. The house was old, and the floors had a tendency to creak beneath his tread. With the utmost care, he crawled on his hands and knees to one of the doors of the lumber hole, which he succeeded in opening without much noise.
Making his way in among the old boxes, trunks, and spinning-wheels, he was fully embarked in his difficult venture. The dust which he stirred up in his progress produced an almost irresistible desire to sneeze, which Lord Dundreary might have been happy to indulge, but which might have been fatal to the execution of Tom Somers's purpose. He rubbed his nose, and held his handkerchief over the intractable member, and succeeded in overcoming its dangerous tendency. His movements were necessarily very slow, for he was in constant dread lest some antiquated relic of the past should tumble over, and thus disturb the slumbers of the family who occupied the chambers below.
But in spite of the perils and difficulties that environed his path, there was something exciting and exhilarating in the undertaking. It was a real adventure, and, as such, Tom enjoyed it. As he worked his way through the labyrinth of antiquities, he could not but picture to himself the surprise and chagrin of Squire Pemberton, when he should come up to the attic chamber to wreak his vengeance upon him. He could see the magnate of Pinchbrook start, compress his lips and clinch his fists, when he found the bird had flown.
"Better not crow till I get out of the woods," said he to himself, while his imagination was still busy upon the agreeable picture.
After a series of trials and difficulties which our space does not permit us to describe in full, Tom emerged from the repository of antiquities, and stood in the open space in front of the finished chamber. With one boot in each hand, he felt his way to the stairs, and descended to the entry over the front door. All obstacles now seemed to be overcome, for he had nothing to do but go down stairs and walk out.
It often happens, amid the uncertainties of this unstable world, that we encounter the greatest trials and difficulties precisely where we expect to find none. As Tom walked along the entry, with one hand on the rail that protected the staircase to guide him, he struck his foot against the pole upon which Fred Pemberton had suspended the flag out of the window. It was very careless of the squire, when he took the flag in, to leave the stick in that unsafe position, for one of his own family might have stumbled against it, and broken a leg or an arm, or possibly a neck; and if it might have been a "cause of offence" to one of the Pembertons, it certainly laid a grievous burden upon the shoulders of poor Tom Somers.
When the pole fell, it made a tremendous racket, as all poles will when they fall just at the moment when they ought to stand up, and be decent and orderly. This catastrophe had the effect to quicken the steps of the young man. He reached the stairs, and had commenced a rapid descent, when the door of the squire's room, which was on the lower floor, opened, and Tom found himself flanked in that direction.
"Who's there? What's that?" demanded the squire, in hurried, nervous tones.
Tom was so impolite as to make no reply to these pressing interrogatories, but quickly retreated in the direction from which he had come.
"Wife, light the lamp, quick," said the squire, in the hall below.
Just then a door opened on the other side of the entry where Tom stood, and he caught a faint glimpse of a figure robed in white. Though it was the solemn hour of midnight, and Tom, I am sorry to say, had read the Three Spaniards, and Mysteries of Udolpho, he rejected the suggestion that the "sheeted form" might be a ghost.
"Who's there?" called the squire again.
A romantic little scream from the figure in white assured Tom that Miss Susan was the enemy immediately on his front. Then he caught the glimmer of the light below, which Mrs. Pemberton had procured, and the race seemed to be up. Concealment was no longer practicable, and he seized upon the happy suggestion that the window opening upon the portico over the front door was available as a means of egress.
Springing to the window, he raised it with a prompt and vigorous hand, and before the squire could ascend the stairs, he was upon the roof of the portico. Throwing his boots down, he grasped the gutter, and "hung off." He was now on terra firma, and all his trials appeared to have reached a happy termination; but here again he was doomed to disappointment.
"Bow, wow, wow-er, woo, row!" barked and growled the squire's big bull dog, when he came to realize that some unusual occurrences were transpiring.
The animal was a savage brute, and was kept chained in the barn during the day, and turned loose when the squire made his last visit to the cattle about nine in the evening. Tom was thoroughly alarmed when this new enemy confronted him; but fortunately he had the self-possession to stand his ground, and not attempt to run away, otherwise the dog would probably have torn him in pieces.
"Come here, Tige! Poor fellow! Come here! He's a good fellow! Don't you know me, Tige?" said Tom, whose only hope seemed to be in conciliation and compromise.
If Tige knew him, he appeared to be very unwilling to acknowledge the acquaintance under the present suspicious circumstances, and at this unseemly hour. The brute barked, snarled, howled, and growled, and manifested as strong an indisposition to compromise as a South Carolina fire-eater. He placed himself in front of the hero of the night's adventure, as resolute and as intractable as though he had known all the facts in the case, and intended to carry out to the letter the wishes of his master.
Tom slowly retreated towards the garden fence, the dog still following him up. He had tried coaxing and conciliation, and they had failed. As he cautiously backed from the house, his feet struck against a heavy cart stake, which seemed to suggest his next resort. He was well aware that any quick movement on his part would cause the dog to spring upon him. Placing his toe under the stake, he raised it with his foot, till he could reach it with his hand, keeping his gaze fixed upon the eyes of the dog, which glared like fiery orbs in the gloom of the hour.
Tige saw the stick, and he appeared to have a wholesome respect for it—a sentiment inspired by sundry beatings, intended to cure a love of mutton on the hoof, or beef on the shelf. The brute retreated a few paces; but at this moment Squire Pemberton appeared at the front door, with a lantern in his hand. He understood the "situation" at a glance.
"Take him, Tige! Stu' boy!" shouted the squire.
The dog snarled an encouraging reply to this suggestion, and moved up towards the fugitive. Tom's courage was equal to the occasion, and he levelled a blow at the head of the bull dog, which, if it had hit him fairly, must have smashed in his skull. As it was, the blow was a heavy one, and Tige retreated; but the shouts of the squire rallied him, and he rushed forward to the onslaught again.
Tom, as we have before had occasion to suggest, was a master of strategy, and instead of another stroke at the head of his savage foe, with only one chance in ten of hitting the mark he commenced swinging it vigorously to the right and left, as a mower does his scythe. His object was to hit the legs of the dog—a plan which was not entirely original with him, for he had seen it adopted with signal success by a fisherman at the Harbor. The consequence of this change of tactics was soon apparent, for Tige got a rap on the fore leg, which caused him to yelp with pain, and retire from the field. While the dog moved off in good order in one direction, Tom effected an equally admirable retreat in the other direction.
On reaching the road, he pulled on his boots, which he had picked up after the discomfiture of his canine antagonist. Squire Pemberton still stood at the door trying to bring Tige to a sense of his duty in the trying emergency; but the brute had more regard for his own shins than he had for the mandate of his master, and the victor was permitted to bear away his laurels without further opposition.
When he reached his father's house, supposing the front door was locked, he went to the kitchen window, where he had heard the patriotic remarks of his mother. Tom told his story in substance as we have related it.
"Do you mean what you have said, mother?" inquired he, when he had finished his narrative.
Mrs. Somers bit her lip in silence for a moment.
"Certainly I do, Thomas," said she, desperately.
It was half-past one when the boys retired, but it was another hour before Tom's excited brain would permit him to sleep. His head was full of a big thought.
SIGNING THE PAPERS.
Thomas went to sleep at last, and, worn out by the fatigue and excitement of the day, he slept long and soundly. His mother did not call him till eight o'clock, and it was nine before he reached the store of his employer, where the recital of the adventure of the preceding night proved to be a sufficient excuse for his non-appearance at the usual hour.
In the course of the week Captain Benson had procured the necessary authority to raise a company for three years or for the war. When he exhibited his papers, he found twenty persons ready to put down their names. A recruiting office was opened at the store, and every day added to the list of brave and self-denying men who were ready to go forward and fight the battles of liberty and union. The excitement in Pinchbrook was fanned by the news which each day brought of the zeal and madness of the traitors.
Thomas had made up his mind, even before his mother had been surprised into giving her consent, that he should go to the war. At the first opportunity, therefore, he wrote his name upon the paper, very much to the astonishment of Captain Benson and his employer.
"How old are you, Tom?" asked the captain.
"I'm in my seventeenth year," replied the soldier boy.
"You are not old enough."
"I'm three months older than Sam Thompson; and you didn't even ask him how old he was."
"He is larger and heavier than you are!"
"I can't help that. I'm older than he is, and I think I can do as much in the way of fighting as he can."
"I don't doubt that," added the captain, laughing. "Your affair with Squire Pemberton shows that you have pluck enough for anything. I should be very glad to have you go; but what does your father say?"
"He hasn't said anything. He isn't at home. He went away before Sumter was fired upon by the rebels."
"True—I remember. What does your mother say?"
"O, she is willing."
"Are you sure, Tom?"
"Of course, I am. Suppose you write something by which she can give her consent, and she will sign it."
Captain Benson drew up the document, and when Tom went home to dinner, he presented it to his mother for her signature.
"I hope you won't back out, mother," said he, as she put on her spectacles, and proceeded to ascertain the contents of the document.
"Back out of what, Thomas?"
"I've signed the muster roll, and I belong to Captain Benson's company now."
"You!" exclaimed Mrs. Somers, lowering the paper, and gazing earnestly into the face of the young man, to discover whether he was in earnest.
"Yes, mother; you said you were willing, and I have signed the papers; but Captain Benson wants your consent in writing, so that there shall be no mistake about it."
The mother read the paper in silence and sadness, for the thought of having her noble boy exposed to the perils of the camp and the march, the skirmish and the battle, was terrible, and nothing but the most exalted patriotism could induce a mother to give a son to his country.
"I don't want to sign this paper, Thomas," said she, when she had finished reading it.
"Have you forgot what you said the other night, mother?"
"No, I haven't forgot it, and I feel now just as I did then. If there is any real need of your going, I am willing you should go."
"Need? Of course there is need of soldiers. The President wasn't joking when he called for seventy-five thousand men."
"But there are enough to go without you."
"That's just what everybody might say, and then there wouldn't be anybody to go."
"But you are young, and not very strong."
"I'm old enough, and strong enough. When I can get a day to myself, I don't think it's any great hardship to carry father's heavy fowling-piece from sunrise to sunset; and I guess I can stand it to carry a musket as long as any of them."
"You are only a boy."
"I shall be a man soon enough."
"When you have gone, John will want to go too."
"No, mother, I don't want to go into the army," said John, with a sly wink at his brother. "I shall never be a soldier if I can help it."
"What am I going to do, if you all go off and leave me?" added Mrs. Somers, trying hard to keep down a tear which was struggling for birth in her fountain of sorrows.
"I don't think you will want for anything, mother. I'm sure I wouldn't leave you, if I thought you would. I don't get but two dollars and a half a week in the store, and I shall have eleven dollars a month in the army, and it won't cost me any thing for board or clothes. I will send every dollar I get home to you."
"You are a good boy, Thomas," replied Mrs. Somers, unable any longer to restrain the tear.
"I know you and John both will do every thing you can for me. If your father was only at home, I should feel different about it."
"He would believe in my fighting for my country, if he were here."
"I know he would," said Mrs. Somers, as she took the pen which Thomas handed her, and seated herself at the table. "If you are determined to go, I suppose you will go, whether I am willing or not."
"No, mother, I will not," added Thomas, decidedly. "I shouldn't have signed the muster roll if you hadn't said you were willing. And if you say now that you won't consent, I will take my name off the paper."
"But you want to go—don't you?"
"I do; there's no mistake about that: but I won't go if you are not willing."
Mrs. Somers wrote her name upon the paper. It was a slow and difficult operation to her, and during the time she was thus occupied, the rest of the family watched her in silent anxiety. Perhaps, if she had not committed herself on the eventful night when she fully believed that Thomas had run away and joined the army, she might have offered more and stronger objections than she now urged. But there was a vein of patriotism in her nature, which she had inherited from her father, who had fought at Bunker Hill, Brandywine, and Germantown, and which had been exemplified in the life of her brother; and this, more than any other consideration, induced her to sign the paper.
Thousands of loving and devoted mothers have given their sons to their country in the same holy enthusiasm that inspired her. She was not a solitary instance of this noble sacrifice, and if both her sons had been men, instead of boys, she would not have interposed a single objection to their departure upon a mission so glorious as that to which Thomas had now devoted himself.
"There's my name, Thomas," said his mother, as she took off her spectacles. "I've done it, and you have my free consent. You've always been a good boy, and I hope you will always be a good soldier."
"I shall always try to do my duty, mother; and if ever I turn my back to a rebel, I hope you'll disown me."
"Good, Tom!" exclaimed John, who had been deeply interested in the event of the hour.
"Well, Thomas, I'd rather face two rebels than that bull dog you fit with t'other night," added gran'ther Greene. "You are as bold as a lion, Thomas."
"Do you think I can stand it, gran'ther?" added Tom, with a smile.
"Stand it? Well, Thomas, it's a hard life to be a soldier, and I know something about it. When we marched from—"
"Dinner's ready," interposed Mrs. Somers, for gran'ther Greene had marched that march so many times that every member of the family knew it by heart.
"There's one good thing about it, Tom," said John: "you have got a first-rate captain."
"I'm thankful you are going with Captain Benson, for if there ever was a Christian in Pinchbrook, he is the man," added Mrs. Somers.
"And all the company will be your own friends and neighbors," said gran'ther Greene; "and that's something, I can tell you. I know something about this business. When we marched from—"
"Have some more beans, brother?" asked Mrs. Somers. "You will be among your friends, Thomas, as gran'ther says."
"That's a great thing, I can tell you," added the veteran. "Soldiers should stick together like brothers, and feel that they are fighting for each other, as well as for the country. Then, when you're sick, you want friends. When we marched from Sackett's Harbor, there was a young feller—"
"Have some more tea, brother?"
"Part of a cup, Nancy," replied the old man, who never took offence even when the choicest stories of his military experience were nipped in the bud.
After dinner, Thomas hastened back to the store. That day seemed to him like an epoch in his existence, as indeed it was. He felt that he belonged to his country now, and that the honor of that old flag, which had been insulted by traitors, was committed to his keeping. He was taking up the work where his grandfather had left it. He was going forth to fight for his country, and the thought inspired him with a noble and generous enthusiasm, before which all the aspirations of his youth vanished.
As he passed the house of Squire Pemberton, he bestowed a pitying reflection upon the old traitor; but his mind was so full of the great event which was dawning upon him, that he did not even think of the exciting incidents which had occurred there. He had neither seen nor heard any thing of the squire since he had escaped from the attic chamber.
Just beyond the squire's house he met Captain Barney, who was riding up to the town hall.
"What's this I hear of you, Tom?" demanded the captain, as he reined in his horse. "They say you have joined the company."
"Yes, sir. I have."
"Bravo! my boy. Good on your head! You ought to go out as a brigadier general. What does your mother say?"
"I have her written consent in my pocket."
"All right. God bless you, my boy!" said the old salt, as he started his horse.
"Thank you, sir. There's only one thing that troubles me."
"Eh? What's that, my boy?" demanded Captain Barney as he reined up the horse again.
"I suppose you have heard of my scrape at Squire Pemberton's the other night."
"Yes; and shiver my timbers if I didn't want to keelhaul the old traitor when I heard of it."
"I don't care anything about the scrape, sir; only I'm afraid the squire will bother my mother when I'm gone," said Thomas, with some diffidence.
"If he does, he'll settle the matter with Jack Barney," replied the captain, decidedly.
"My father may never come back, you know, and if he does he will be a beggar. He owes the squire a note, which will be due in June."
"I'll pay it myself!" roared Captain Barney. "Go and fight for your country, Tom, like a man. I'll call and see your mother once a week, or every day in the week, if you say so. She shall not want for any thing as long as I have a shot in the locker."
"Thank you, Captain Barney; thank you, sir."
"I'll take care of your mother, my lad, and I'll take care of the squire. He shall not foreclose that mortgage, Tom. Don't bother your head about any of those things. You're a good boy, Tom, and I'll keep every thing all right at home."
"Thank you, sir," repeated the soldier boy, as Captain Barney started his horse again.
The captain was a retired shipmaster, of ample means, and Tom knew that he was not only able, but willing, to do all he had promised. His heart was lighter; a load had been removed from his mind.
At the time of which we write, recruiting officers were not very particular in regard to the age of those whom they received into the volunteer army. If the young man seemed to have the requisite physical qualifications, it was of little consequence what his age was; and Tom Somers was tall enough and stout enough to make a very good soldier.
Captain Benson examined the certificate brought to him by the young recruit, not, however, because it was deemed a necessary legal form, but because he was acquainted with his father and mother, and would not willingly have done any thing to displease them. The matter, therefore, was disposed of to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned, and Tom actually commenced his career as a soldier boy. He immediately resigned his situation in the store, for the company now numbered forty men, not half a dozen of whom had any knowledge whatever of military drill.
As the volunteers of the Pinchbrook company could ill afford to lose the time devoted to drill before they should be mustered into the service of the United States, the town voted to pay each man fifteen dollars a month for three months. This generous and patriotic action of the town rejoiced the heart of Tom Somers, for his mother actually needed the pittance he had earned at the store. Mrs. Somers had heard nothing from her husband; but the destruction of the Gosport Navy Yard, and the seizure of several northern vessels in the harbor of Norfolk, left her little to hope for in that direction. Suddenly an impregnable wall seemed to rise up between the North and the South, and she not only feared that Captain Somers had lost all his worldly possessions, but that he would hardly be able to escape himself from the fiery furnace of secession and treason.