CHAPTER FOURTEEN. LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
"THE WAYSIDE INN"
Saturday morning, September 7, at eleven o'clock, we left the Touraine for Auburndale, where we lunched, then to Waltham, and from there due north by what is known as Waltham Street to Lexington, striking Massachusetts Avenue just opposite the town hall.
Along this historic highway rode Paul Revere; at his heels followed the regulars of King George. Tablets, stones, and monuments mark every known point of interest from East Lexington to Concord.
In Boston, at the head of Hull Street, Christ Church, the oldest church in the city, still stands, and bears a tablet claiming for its steeple the credit of the signals for Paul Revere; but the Old North Church in North Square, near which Revere lived and where he attended service, and from the belfry of which the lanterns were really hung, disappeared in the conflict it initiated. In the winter of the siege of Boston the old meeting-house was pulled down by the British soldiers and used for firewood. Fit ending of the ancient edifice which had stood for almost exactly one hundred years, and in which the three Mathers, Increase, Cotton, and Samuel, - father, son, and grandson, - had preached the unctuous doctrine of hell-fire and damnation; teaching so incendiary was bound sooner or later to consume its own habitation.
Revere was not the only messenger of warning. For days the patriots had been anxious concerning the stores of arms and ammunition at Concord, and three days before the night of the 18th Revere himself had warned Hancock and Adams at the Clarke home in Lexington that plans were on foot in the enemies' camp to destroy the stores, whereupon a portion was removed to Sudbury and Groton. Before Revere started on his ride, other messengers had been despatched to alarm the country, but at ten o'clock on the memorable night of the 18th he was sent for and bidden to get ready. He got his riding-boots and surtout from his house in North Square, was ferried across the river, landing on the Charlestown side about eleven o'clock, where he was told the signal-lights had already been displayed in the belfry. The moon was rising as he put spurs to his horse and started for Lexington.
The troops were ahead of him by an hour.
He rode up what is now Main Street as far as the "Neck," then took the old Cambridge road for Somerville.
To escape two British officers who barred his way, he dashed across lots to the main road again and took what is now Broadway. On he went over the hill to Medford, where he aroused the Medford minute-men. Then through West Medford and over the Mystic Bridge to Menotomy, - now Arlington, - where he struck the highway, - now Massachusetts Avenue, - to Lexington. Galloping up to the old Clarke house where Hancock and Adams were sleeping, the patriot on guard cautioned him not to make so much noise.
"Noise! you'll have enough of it here before long. The Regulars are coming."
Awakened by the voice, Hancock put his head out of the window and said, -
"Come in, Revere; we're not afraid of you."
Soon the old house was alight. Revere entered the "living room" by the side door and delivered his message to the startled occupants. Soon they were joined by Dawes, another messenger by another road. After refreshing themselves, Revere and Dawes set off for Concord. On the road Samuel Prescott joined them. When about half-way, four British officers, mounted and fully armed, stopped them. Prescott jumped over the low stone wall, made his escape and alarmed Concord. Dawes was chased by two of the officers until, with rare shrewdness, he dashed up in front of a deserted farm-house and shouted, "Hello, boys! I've got two of them," frightening off his pursuers.
Revere was captured. Without fear or humiliation he told his name and his mission. Frightened by the sound of firing at Lexington, the officers released their prisoner, and he made his way back to Hancock and Adams and accompanied them to what is now the town of Burlington. Hastening back to Lexington for a trunk containing valuable papers, he was present at the battle, - the fulfillment of his warning, the red afterglow of the lights from the belfry of Old North Church.
He lived for forty-odd years to tell the story of his midnight ride, and now he sleeps with Hancock and Adams, the parents of Franklin, Peter Faneuil, and a host of worthy men in the "Granary."
The good people of Massachusetts have done what they could to commemorate the events and obliterate the localities of those great days; they have erected monuments and put up tablets in great numbers; but while marking the spots where events occurred, they have changed the old names of roads and places until contemporary accounts require a glossary for interpretation.
Who would recognize classic Menotomy in the tinsel ring of Arlington? The good old Indian name, the very speaking of which is a pleasure, has given place to the first-class apartments, - steam-heated, electric-lights, hot and cold water, all improvements - in appellations of Arlington and Arlington Heights. A tablet marks the spot where on April 19 "the old men of Menotomy" captured a convoy of British soldiers. Poor old men, once the boast and glory of the place that knew you; but now the passing traveller curiously reads the inscription and wonders "Why were they called the old men 'of Menotomy'?" for there is now no such place.
Massachusetts Avenue - Massachusetts Avenue! there's a name, a great, big, luscious name, a name that savors of brown stone fronts and plush rockers: a name which goes well with the commercial prosperity of Boston. Massachusetts Avenue extends from Dorchester in Boston to Lexington Green; it has absorbed the old Cambridge and the old Lexington roads; the old Long Bridge lives in history, but, rechristened Brighton Bridge, the reader fails to identify it.