Ok, this is a short one-piece about what happens when a younger boy gets on Rab's bad side. I don't own Johnny, Rab, or anything else that Esther Forbes made up. As far as I know, nobody owns Boston.
There's an empty lot near the butcher shop where all the apprentices hang out and talk and stuff. Rab and Johnny were frequent visitors, as was Seth Gordon, the carpenter's boy. He tended to stay by himself a lot, not really talking to anyone, and nobody talked to him. His family was Tories, while most of the other ones were Whigs. He liked being by himself, but today he was surrounded by a gaggle of boys, all taunting and laughing at him.
Rab saw them as he walked up with Johnny, and headed over to see what was going on. The crowd of boys parted to let him through, and soon he was face to face with Seth Gordon.
"Rab, you're not going to like this," one boy said.
"Ask him what he said," urged another.
Seth's face was red, and he didn't meet Rab's eyes, staring at the ground instead. Billy Romper poked him in the side, but he didn't move. Johnny was a step behind Rab as Rab reached out and touched Seth's face. The other boys instantly quieted. Seth didn't raise his head. Rab's spell held as he asked quietly, "What did you say?"
Seth reluctantly mumbled something, but nobody could hear. Rab evidently could, though, because his fist was out and cocked as he said, "Say it again. Louder."
Seth repeated, "The Yankees are going to lose. Britain will rule forever."
The boys erupted into chatter, laughter, and a few outraged declarations. Rab raised his hand, and they quieted. Billy shoved Seth again, and Tom Sango punched him in the shoulder, but Seth raised his eyes and looked at Rab, ignoring the others and seeming to know that his judgment rested with the older boy alone.
"Did you hear that from your parents?" Rab asked, still in the same soft tone of voice. Seth gave an almost imperceptible, scared little nod. "Do you believe it?" Rab continued. Another terrified nod. Rab nodded curtly, and then pulled back and slammed his fist into the younger boy's stomach. Whoops and jeers rang out as Seth doubled over, then fell. Those in the crowd who had reason to have been on the receiving end of his punches knew that he had a fist of lead and a wrist of steel, and that Seth was hurting bad right now. They would have jumped on him like dogs on carrion. But Rab didn't let them beat on the boy, just drew the crowd away and started a game of stickball.
On their way back from the lot, Johnny asked Rab, "Why didn't you beat some sense into him?"
Rab answered, "He didn't decide to support the British – in fact, I don't think he does. All he knows is what he overhears from his parents, and they're no good either. His mother's a whore and he knows it. His father is a no-good drunk who beats him half to death every day. If he were to get away from them, he'd be a Child for sure."
The Children of Liberty were just that – a group of people too young to be Sons that wanted to act against England. They wore wooden medallions instead of metal ones, but they looked the same. Rab was in charge of them. If he said that Seth would be a Child, he would be. Johnny shrugged and went back to his corn bread.
Rab didn't talk to Seth for three weeks, but he let him know that he wasn't happy. He would poke him sometimes, in passing, or slap him when he wasn't looking. The other boys, following Rab's example, made Seth's life miserable for those weeks, but he endured it in silence. The smallest of the apprentices, he couldn't do anything to defend himself. He spent more time indoors, carving at his bench, but even that was limited, and he still showed up at the lot from time to time.
Rab and Johnny, of course, were at the lot almost every day. They were there three weeks after Rab had punched Seth, when Seth came running into the lot, disregarding all of the unwritten rules, and ran to Rab. He stopped himself a few feet ahead of the older boy, and suddenly, impulsively, knelt.
"I'm sorry, Rab," he said. He was sobbing. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Rab's strong hand grasped his shoulder, and he lifted the smaller boy to his feet. "I forgive you," he said gently. "What happened?"
But Seth was too upset to speak clearly. It took a while to get him calmed down, but once they had, it became apparent that both of his parents were dead, killed at the hands of the British. "They killed her, Rab," he sobbed. "She was giving it to them, just like," he stopped, "just like she always did, and he didn't like it, and he killed her. And me dad came in to stop them, he was drunk, and he'd followed her, and they shot him too. Just shot him dead, Rab."
Rab met Johnny's eyes over the top of Seth's head as he put an arm around the smaller boy's shoulders. "Go get a Child medal," he mouthed. Johnny ran off.
Rab led Seth to the bench in the corner of the lot and sat down. Seth leaned against him, crying. "I hate those Brits. I want to kill them, Rab. I hate them."
Rab ran his hand through Seth's dark, sweaty hair and let him cry. The kid was scared and shaking. How would he survive? He lived at the carpenter's, so that wasn't a problem, but would he really be okay by himself? Rab thought about it for a while and finally decided that the kid would be okay. Johnny came running back with the wooden Liberty medal on a string, and Rab called, "Witness."
"Witness," repeated Johnny.
"Witness," said Dick Green, who was also standing nearby.
Seth looked up, fear on his face. "Witness what?" he asked timidly.
"You remember what you said about the British before?" Rab questioned.
Seth nodded, his eyes growing bigger. "Do you still think that?" Rab asked.
Seth shook his head. "No!" he said vehemently. "I didn't even think that then, I just heard my dad say it…" his voice trailed off in sobs.
"Are you willing to take action against the British?"
"Yes! I want to kill them!" Seth declared.
"Do you swear allegiance to the Sons of Liberty, their cause, and their leaders?"
Rab hung the wooden medallion around Seth's neck. "You are a child of Liberty. Fight for your life, fight for your rights, fight for the memories of those that were lost," he intoned.