This is the fifth chapter of a nine-chapter serial story to be published weekly in NeXt. The story is about life in America leading up to and during the War of 1812. Place names in this story are given and spelled as they were in 1813.
Our story so far: Caleb has run away from home with the soldiers of Forsyth's Rifles. His stepbrother, Alex, has unexpectedly come along for the adventure.
>Chapter 5: The Surveyor
Caleb put his pencil down on his sketchbook for a moment and blew on his fingers to warm them up, then picked up the pencil and continued drawing the frozen harbor that lay at the bottom of the slope where he was sitting, just below Sacket's house.
Only the few wisps of yellow-brown long grass that poked through the snow and the dark green of the evergreens made the landscape of black, leafless trees, white snow, gray ice and whitewashed buildings before him any more colorful than the penciled landscape that was growing on the page.
As he squinted out at the ice, looking at the patterns of blown snow that lay swirled across it, he suddenly became aware of someone standing over him, and hunched his shoulders to defend against what would come next.
There was silence for a moment and then a deep voice asked, "How long have you spent on this?"
"Not long," he said quickly. Caleb looked up at the man behind him. He was not in uniform, but he looked like a man who expected to be obeyed. "I have all my chores done, honest. I haven't been out here but a little while."
The man hunkered down and peered at the landscape in the sketchbook, then up at the real view, then down again. "That's very good, especially for fast work," he said, and Caleb realized he wasn't in trouble.
"May I?" the man asked, reaching for the sketchbook. Caleb handed it up to him and he began to leaf through the pages, pausing at one or another for a closer look. "This chickadee nearly flies off the page!" he exclaimed, turning the book slightly to show Caleb which picture he meant.
He looked at it for another moment, then turned back to the landscape and handed it back. "Do you have a good sense of where you are?" he asked.
"Sackets Harbor?" Caleb asked, and the man laughed.
"No, I mean, do you think you could draw me a map of this area just from memory?"The man reached down and turned to the next, blank page of the sketchbook.
Caleb looked around for a moment, then quickly sketched some lines on the paper. "Well, here's the harbor," he said, drawing the cove and the natural breakwater of land that sheltered it. "And then it goes down a way, and turns just a bit along those cliffs, and down to Horse Island," he went on sketching as he spoke. He drew the diamond-shaped island and the thin ford that connected it to the mainland.
"I don't know what's down beyond that," he said, "nor up the other way at all. I've only been here four days."
"Four days? You're with Forsyth's men?"
Caleb wasn't sure what to answer, especially to a stranger. "Not with them, but --" he paused. "My brother and I kind of do work for them. Chores and such. We stay with them."
The man nodded. "Well, you keep up that drawing. You know, I used to be a surveyor. You know what that is?"
"Like a mapmaker," Caleb nodded.
"Like a mapmaker," he agreed. "There's going to be a lot of call for mapmakers when this war is over. Roads to be built, canals to be dug, land to be bought and sold. That talent you've got, you can get a lot of pleasure from it, but it might also make you a good living. What's your name, son?"
"Well, are you any good with numbers, Caleb MacCrimmons?" the man asked.
Caleb nodded. "My ma did most of my schooling. She was a storekeeper's wife, so figuring mattered to her."
"Well, that's what you'll need," the man said, as he turned to walk away. "That and your drawing ability, and you'll do all right, son. You've got a future."
He went back toward the house and Caleb closed up his book and started down toward the barracks. Corporal Daley was just coming up the road.
"What were you two jawing about?" he asked.
"He wanted to see my drawings," Caleb said. "He said he used to be a surveyor. He said I could be a good mapmaker if I wanted."
The corporal nodded. "He used to be a surveyor all right. A schoolteacher, too, I heard. You know what he is now?" Caleb shook his head and Daley laughed. "A general. That was Jacob Brown, boy. Militia general, not regular army."
"He didn't seem like a general," Caleb said, and Daley laughed harder.
"You wouldn't know a general from a jeweler," he said, and Caleb smiled sheepishly in agreement. "Anyway, he's not much like a general, until the battle," Daley went on. "Then, by George, he's the best there is. 'Til then? He's a farmer, with a spread a dozen miles down the road from here."
"Farmer, surveyor, schoolteacher, general --" Caleb listed Brown's jobs.
"He's all that and more," Daley nodded. "Right now, he's come down from his farm to find out how we managed to lose Ogdensburgh, which he managed to defend from the British just a few months ago."
"Is Major Forsyth in trouble?" Caleb asked.
"Not hardly," Daley shook his head. "That town's so full of Tories and Federalists that they've decided there's no point in even trying to keep the British out. No, there's something else brewing. There's a ton of bigwigs in town, planning something. Jacob Brown is just one of them."
Next week: A new job for Caleb.
Made available through the support of the New York Newspapers Foundation and funding from New York State United Teachers. Text copyright 2012, Mike Peterson. Illustrations copyright 2012, Christopher Baldwin.
The author has created a companion blog for readers to offer comments or ask questions. It can be found at http://www.weeklystorybook.com/freehand.