"No, Charley," said Grandfather, "I am not like other historians. Battles shall not hold a prominent place in the history of our quiet and comfortable old chair. But to-morrow evening, Laurence, Clara, and yourself, and dear little Alice too, shall visit the Diorama of Bunker Hill. There you shall see the whole business, the burning of Charlestown and all, with your own eyes, and hear the cannon and musketry with your own ears."
THE next evening but one, when the children had given Grandfather a full account of the Diorama of Bunker Hill, they entreated him not to keep them any longer in suspense about the fate of his chair. The reader will recollect that, at the last accounts, it had trotted away upon its poor old legs nobody knew whither. But, before gratifying their curiosity, Grandfather found it necessary to say something about public events.
The Continental Congress, which was assembled at Philadelphia, was composed of delegates from all the colonies. They had now appointed George Washington, of Virginia, to be commander-in-chief of all the American armies. He was, at that time, a member of Congress; but immediately left Philadelphia, and began his journey to Massachusetts. On the 3d of July, 1775, he arrived at Cambridge, and took command of the troops which were besieging General Gage.
"O Grandfather," exclaimed Laurence, "it makes my heart throb to think what is coming now. We are to see General Washington himself."
The children crowded around Grandfather and looked earnestly into his face. Even little Alice opened her sweet blue eyes, with her lips apart, and almost held her breath to listen; so instinctive is the reverence of childhood for the father of his country.
Grandfather paused a moment; for he felt as if it might be irreverent to introduce the hallowed shade of Washington into a history where an ancient elbow-chair occupied the most prominent place. However, he determined to proceed with his narrative, and speak of the hero when it was needful, but with an unambitious simplicity.
So Grandfather told his auditors, that, on General Washington's arrival at Cambridge, his first care was to reconnoitre the British troops with his spy-glass, and to examine the condition of his own army. He found that the American troops amounted to about fourteen thousand men. They were extended all round the peninsula of Boston, a space of twelve miles, from the high grounds of Roxbury on the right to Mystic River on the left. Some were living in tents of sailcloth, some in shanties rudely constructed of boards, some in huts of stone or turf with curious windows and doors of basket-work.
In order to be near the centre and oversee the whole of this wide- stretched army, the commander-in-chief made his headquarters at Cambridge, about half a mile from the colleges. A mansion-house, which perhaps had been the country seat of some Tory gentle man, was provided for his residence.