Friday, April 4, 2014

Scenes about Paul Revere

     The dark shape of Christ Church dwarfed him. He moved quickly across the street into its shadow. A young man, twenty-three, he was the church sexton. His older brother was the organist. Times were hard; Newman did not like his job; too bad. When Paul Revere had explained to him what he had wanted, Newman had been eager to participate. Afterward, he had reckoned the peril.
     Hearing footsteps on the cobblestones, he stepped behind the church’s corner. John Pulling emerged from the darkness. “Sssst! Over here!” Newman whispered.
     Pulling was a church vestryman. Revere had recruited him to be Newman’s lookout.
     “Not here yet?” Pulling asked.
     “He didn't say when. Any time, I suspect.” He was right. Soon they heard aggressive footsteps. Paul Revere’s broad figure approached.
     “Nervous?” Revere asked, joining them at the church’s darkest corner.
     Newman nodded.
     “You become accustomed to it.” For perhaps ten seconds Revere gazed at the deserted street.
     Newman was taken by the silversmith’s air of confidence.
     “The British soldiers are in the boats,” Revere informed. “Go easy. Take your time. But do your work to its completion. If I’m arrested, our fortune may rest entirely upon what you accomplish.” He patted Newman’s left shoulder. “I must prepare to leave. God be with you.”
     Newman listened to Revere’s footfalls and then, too soon, but the night sounds.
    It was too late to renege.
    “All right,” he said, raising angrily his hands. He pulled out of his side coat pocket a ring of keys. He inserted a long key into the lock of the side entrance door. He turned the key and pushed open the door. Pulling nodded. Newman closed the door, locked it, and in darkness felt his way to a closet. Leaving it, carrying two lanterns, he moved to the stairway that led to the belfry.
     Past the bell loft he climbed, the eight great bells within somnolent. He reached the highest window. To the north he saw in the moonlight the shoulder of Copp's Hill. Beyond lay the mouth of the Charles River and the glimmering lights of the Somerset, a moving, ethereal flicker.
     He reached downward, lit the lanterns, and raised them chest high. Somewhere amid the lights of Charlestown, beyond the Somerset, Sons of Liberty were watching. They would now know that Gage’s soldiers were crossing the Back Bay.
     Softly, softly, the muffled oars dipped into the water. The boat was marking a broad semi-circle about the Somerset, turning ever so slightly against its cable.
     The boat’s occupants did not speak. Joshua Bentley and Thomas Richardson were laboring to bring the boat closer to the mouth of the river. Neither man glanced at the Somerset’s dark hull. Paul Revere, motionless as stone, regarded little else.
     Up current, longboats were ferrying soldiers to Lechmere’s Point. If he and they in the boat reached the Charlestown landing, he would have little time to act following his conversation with Colonel Conant.
     He glanced at the North Boston skyline, confident that the lanterns had been lit and the Colonel and those assisting him had witnessed them. How long would they wait for his arrival before deciding that he had been taken? Because of their hesitancy, how late would be his replacement’s departure?
     These questions did not require answers. Having left the Somerset behind, the little boat now approached the Old Battery. He and they at the oars had won. Joy replaced trepidation. Impulsively, Revere lifted Richardson’s feet. The muscular rower let loose a robust oath.
     Laughing yet, Revere saw over Richardson’s left shoulder one of Colonel Conant’s militiamen, gesturing at the edge of the Battery dock. Waving his arms, Revere shouted.