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Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain

by Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain Chapter 6 Summary

Salt-Water Tea

  • This chapter is mainly concerned with the Boston Tea Party.
  • On a Sunday morning in November, Sam Adams shows up at the Observer office super excited. He needs placards printed and posted secretly that night because the Dartmouth, the first of the ships bearing tea subject to the new tax, is entering the harbor.
  • Adams and Mr. Lorne agree that the Boston Observers must meet that night, and Johnny is tasked with carrying a secret message about the meeting time.
  • After church, Johnny makes the rounds of the Boston Observers.
  • He starts with Reverend Samuel Cooper, whom he meets on the church steps, then he contacts the other members at the church and heads for Beacon Hill.
  • Mr. Hancock's old slave says he's sick and won't let Johnny see him, but she allows him to write a note and send it up. When he places the note on the tray, he sees the sugar basin—a sugar basin made by another silversmith after his accident. He's pleased to see that the silversmith made the same mistake he would have made before he took his drawing to Mr. Revere.
  • Johnny passes through the Lytes's backyard and observes Lavinia Lyte riding into the yard—clearly Sabbath breaking by riding for pleasure. Because there are no grooms about, she commands him to help her down, pretending not to recognize him. Johnny has a huge crush on Lavinia Lyte and handles it by pretending to hate her.
  • Johnny stops by William Molineaux's house.
  • Next, Johnny goes to Josiah Quincy's house, where he finds Quincy with John Adams. Yes, that John Adams. James Otis is there too, and it's clear that James Otis is not altogether with it, as he is shaking his head back and forth and drawing people on paper. Fifth and sixth Founding Father alerts.
  • Quincy and Adams signal Johnny not to say anything to Otis. He's a member of the Boston Observers, but his mental stability is not exactly consistent.
  • Doctor Church is next on Johnny's list. Johnny doesn't like him, and he knows Paul Revere and Doctor Joseph Warren (Eighth Founding Father alert) aren't big Church fans, either.
  • Doctor Warren is out, but his wife tells Johnny to come back at five.
  • Johnny heads over to North Square to see Paul Revere. He knows Cilla and Isannah will be at the pump, but he remembers he hasn't met them for the past few weeks. He doesn't see them at first, so he goes to Revere's house, but Revere has already heard about the meeting.
  • When he leaves Revere's house, he finds Cilla and Isannah by the pump. He feels kind of bad, but he thinks, eh, he's got new friends now, and they're doing exciting things, and bros before girls who have stood by you through some of the worst experiences of your life, you know?
  • Johnny feels guilty, so he's angry at Cilla, and she's pretty cool with him. He also thinks that if he's crushing on anybody, it's Lavinia Lyte, and certainly not Cilla. Isannah starts getting on his nerves, and he leaves for Doctor Warren's.
  • He meets Doctor Warren in his surgery. When Johnny stretches his hands toward the fire, the doctor notes the injury and asks if he can take a look.
  • Johnny says no way.
  • Doctor Warren asks if it was God's will for Johnny's hand to be like that. He's asking if Johnny was born with the deformity, but Johnny reflects that he injured it while Sabbath breaking and says yes.
  • That night, Johnny and Rab prepare the punch for the Boston Observers, who are meeting in their attic. They aren't old enough to be Observers themselves, but they are trusted with a lot.
  • Johnny hears violence in the street, where the Sons of Liberty have caught a Tory foolish enough to chase them down a back alley. He's not really okay with this.
  • After the meeting, Johnny and Rab take the punch upstairs, and everyone toasts December 16, the date by which the tea must be returned to England.
  • Doctor Warren smiles at Johnny, and Johnny feels that Doctor Warren might be the only person who can help him with his hand situation and also feels bad for being rude to him before.
  • Sam Adams swears Johnny and Rab to secrecy, and they all discuss the plan for destroying the tea if it isn't allowed to return to England. Adams asks Rab to get together a group of about fifteen to twenty boys to participate.
  • After Johnny and Rab go to bed, Johnny can't sleep and asks Rab how he can chop open tea chests with his injured hand. Rab tells him there's lots of wood that needs to be chopped around, so he can practice chopping left handed.
  • Johnny's conscience is also troubling him over the way he treated Cilla earlier, but eventually he falls asleep.
  • Over the next few weeks, Johnny chops all the wood at the Observer and then starts chopping for free for the Afric Queen.
  • Public meetings over the tea go on, with Sam Adams keeping everyone riled up.
  • The Eleanor and the Dartmouth remain at anchor while men from the town guard the ships, ensuring that not one leaf of tea goes ashore.
  • On December 15, the Beaver docks.
  • At nightfall on December 16, the boys Rab recruited arrive at the Observer office and begin disguising themselves as Indians.
  • Johnny starts to put on his costume, which he worked really hard on, but Rab stops him and sends him to Old South Church to hear Sam Adams give the signal, in code, for everyone to go home quietly or to go through with the tea party. He gives Johnny a whistle to blow if it's a go.
  • Johnny works his way through the crowd, hears Adams give the signal, and runs back toward the Observer office, blowing his whistle all the way.
  • The "Indians" come out from every direction, running for the tea ships.
  • Johnny is afraid Rab deliberately sent him to do a job he was better suited for and has left him behind, but he finds Rab waiting for him.
  • They dress up and run for the ships. Thousands of Bostonians have gathered to watch it go down, but they're a very quiet mob.
  • Johnny and Rab board the Dartmouth with Paul Revere and start dumping tea.
  • And who shows up now but our old friend Dove—he wasn't invited, but joined that evening just like many others. And Dove is stealing tea. Johnny stops him, tells Rab that Dove can swim just fine, and Rab throws Dove overboard.
  • They clean up the Dartmouth and call the captain to confirm that nothing was damaged except the tea.
  • With the silent mob still watching, the boarding parties come off the ships and march by fours off the wharf.
  • As they come off the wharf, a window opens and British Admiral Montague warns them that they'll have to pay the fiddler—a figure of speech that means you have to pay for your fun.
  • The next day, Paul Revere rides with news of the tea party for New York and Philadelphia.
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