Study Guide

Johnny Tremain Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

The Fiddler's Bill

  • Skip ahead six months. It's now June 1774, and the fiddler's bill has arrived in the form of British forces occupying Boston. The port of Boston has been closed, with the intent of starving Boston into submission—and into paying for the tea. The economic consequences of closing the port are having a ripple effect on the economy of the entire town—all food must now be brought from other colonies by land, which makes it scarcer and more expensive.
  • The punishment has brought many political moderates over to the Whig side, even though the occupying forces are generally not so bad.
  • Subscriptions to the Boston Observer have dropped due to the economy, so Rab and Johnny have a lot more free time, some of which they spend watching the British soldiers in their camps.
  • Rab touches a musket, and a Lieutenant Bragg brains him without even thinking about it. A British medical officer checks Rab out and warns the boys not to go touching British stuff.
  • He also sees Johnny's spurs and asks him to deliver a letter to his cousin out in Cambridge. Johnny is paid well, discovers that the cousin is secretly a Tory, and gets his start delivering personal mail for British officers, which is a pretty good job if you want to find out what they're up to.
  • Because of inflation and shortages, Johnny gives everything he earns to Aunt Jenifer to buy food for the family, of which everyone now sees him as a member.
  • Overall, General Gage, who is in charge of the occupation, is pretty lenient. He doesn't hang any rebels or stop any seditious speeches or printing.
  • At the end of July, Johnny realizes he hasn't seen Cilla for a few weeks. He excuses himself by telling himself he has a crazy schedule and he needs to go watch the militia drilling out in Lexington on Sundays.
  • Now Johnny has a new problem: he can't join the militia because his injured hand makes it impossible for him to pull a trigger. He handles it the way he handles anything he can't do: by acting like it's not worth doing.
  • One day, Johnny returns to the Boston Observer office to find Cilla there with Rab. She's drawing political cartoons, and she and Rab are clearly having a great time together. This makes Johnny unaccountably annoyed, and he realizes that Cilla is, in fact, very pretty. She doesn't have Isannah with her, and he wonders if Isannah was the one who really annoyed him.
  • Cilla gives him news of the Laphams: Dorcas has eloped, and Cilla and Isannah are now living with the Lytes. Lavinia Lyte has taken Isannnah in as a protégé and has brought Cilla along to be a sort of lady's maid.
  • Johnny and Cilla have an awkward conversation in which she tells him she's not going to be waiting around for him anymore. He insists that he'll stop by the Lytes's house on Thursdays when he delivers the newspaper, and she just kind of shrugs in response.
  • And then… Rab walks her home and doesn't come back for nearly two hours, which drives Johnny crazy, and Rab thinks it's hilarious.
  • Johnny really does turn over a new leaf where Cilla is concerned. He goes to see her every Thursday—though he's also okay with getting a glimpse of the beautiful Lavinia Lyte while he's there.
  • Johnny also devotes a lot of time to caring for Goblin, who is now the only non-British horse stabled at the Afric Queen.
  • Guess who's the British colonel's new horse boy? Our old friend Dove, turning up once more. Johnny tries to hate him, but Dove is just too pathetic to hate. He latches on to Johnny and Rab, which is annoying for them, but they keep him around because a colonel's horse boy could eventually reveal some important information.
  • Lieutenant Stranger—a British officer Johnny likes—thinks about commandeering Goblin, but when Stranger tries to ride the horse, Johnny and the washerwoman, Lydia, let some sheets fly, and Goblin throws Lieutenant Stranger.
  • Lieutenant Stranger, who reminds Johnny of Rab, thinks this is a pretty good joke on him, and lets Johnny keep Goblin.
  • Johnny realizes that it's been over a year since his accident, but it seems like much longer. Out of curiosity, he returns to the Laphams's, bringing a spur that needs to be mended. Now that he's a customer, Mr. Tweedie treats him with respect.
  • While he's waiting, he walks through the house, reflecting on how hard Mrs. Lapham always worked for everyone in the household and how he should have appreciated her more.
  • He walks into the birth and death room, where he stayed after his accident, and reflects that part of him died there.
  • He goes into the backyard and finds Madge in the lap of a British officer named Sergeant Gale. They swear they are in love and will marry no matter what; Johnny finds this a little amusing.
  • Johnny leaves with positive feelings toward the Laphams, but he realizes that part of his life is really over, and he will not return.
  • During his Thursday visits with Cilla, Johnny has made friends with Mrs. Bessie, the Lytes's housekeeper. When he goes one day, she tells him Cilla is busy with a bunch of British soldiers who are there preparing for a costume ball. They're all going as a pack of cards, and Isannah will be a two-spot and hold Miss Lavinia's train.
  • Cilla runs into the kitchen hoping to find Johnny there because she told Miss Lavinia he could make a tin scepter for her costume.
  • She leads Johnny into the drawing room, where they find Isannah in her undershift—this is like a long shirt that comes down to mid-thigh. In short, Isannah is almost completely naked in a room full of men.
  • This is not okay, and Johnny gives her a good slap on behalf of Grandpa Lapham, who died in the spring.
  • Everyone is overcome with laughter. Miss Lavinia calls for her smelling salts, and when Cilla gets them too close to her nose, she screams at her.
  • Johnny is really angry about the way Miss Lavinia treats Cilla, and tells Cilla to quit. Johnny and Miss Lavinia get in a really good argument, and Miss Lavinia orders Cilla to go lie down and rest and orders Johnny out of the room.
  • Johnny goes back to the kitchen, where he talks to Mrs. Bessie about how Cilla is treated. Mrs. Bessie tells him that Cilla's okay, but she knows Isannah's loyalty belongs to Miss Lavinia now. Cilla is over crying about it.
  • Mrs. Bessie also reveals that she's been helping Sam Adams for years and that the Sons of Liberty plan to attack the Lytes at their country house in Milton when they go out there in late summer.
  • Johnny is worried about Cilla (and even Isannah), but Mrs. Bessie assures him she will take care of them.

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