Johnny Tremain: Chapter 5
Chapter V. The Boston Observer
The party dines at the Afric Queen restaurant, where Johnny had his own fancy meal earlier. While they eat, many Whigs come up to congratulate both Johnny and Quincy for making a fool of Merchant Lyte. Quincy warns Johnny to stay away from Lyte from now on, as he has made an enemy of Lyte. Rab tells Johnny how he was able to get Cilla to the courtroom by presenting a letter signed by the Governor to Mrs. Lapham, who couldn’t read, and claiming that the letter demanded Cilla’s presence in court. Rab also tells how he prepared Isannah for a courtroom appearance, should he not be able to get Cilla to the court.
Instead of returning to either the Lapham house or the Observer, Johnny decides to spend the next few nights in the Afric Queen’s stable. Johnny finds a captain who is willing to take him on as a cabin boy if he can procure his own seaman’s clothes and supplies. Johnny decides that the only way he can do so is by selling his cup—and the most likely person to purchase the cup for a fair price is Merchant Lyte.
Johnny enters Lyte’s business and slips into Lyte’s office. When he tells Lyte that he would like to sell the cup to him for 20 pounds, Lyte becomes enraged. Lyte snatches the cup from Johnny, blocks Johnny’s exit, and calls in two of his employees. Lyte informs his employees that, out of guilt, Johnny has confessed that he stole the cup and has decided to return it. Lyte tells one of the employees to see if Captain Bull is still outside and suggests that Johnny might have better luck if he were sent off to Guadalupe on Bull’s ship. A moment later Bull, a large man, enters the office. As Bull bows to address Lyte, Johnny bolts past him and out into the street.
Johnny doesn’t stop running until he arrives at the Boston Observer. He locates Mr. Lorne and asks if Lorne still needs a horse boy. Lorne asks Rab if Johnny would suit the job, and when Rab says yes, Johnny is hired. Rab also agrees to let Johnny sleep with him in the attic above the Observer’s office. Thus, Johnny begins a new chapter of his life.
In order to deliver his copies of the Observer, Johnny learns to ride Goblin, a skittish but loyal horse owned by Mr. Lorne. As Johnny masters the horse and his delivery route, he comes to know a good deal about Whig and Tory politics. He also becomes an ardent supporter of the Whigs. Johnny wonders why the attic where they sleep contains many chairs and eventually learns this is because the attic serves as a meeting place for another of Boston’s secret societies: The Boston Observers.
Johnny enjoys life with the Lorne family, especially the time he gets to spend with the child of Rab’s aunt, whom he calls Rabbit. Johnny begins learning how to write with his left hand and spends many hours reading various books from Mr. Lorne’s large library.
Johnny encounters Cilla and Isannah, as Cilla gathers water from the town pump. He learns that Mr. Tweedie has been making life very difficult for them. Johnny realizes that he misses Cilla and promises to meet her at the pump every few days.
Johnny begins to be influenced by Rab. For example, he listens as Rab tells him that he needs to treat other people with more respect. On one of his outings a servant of Samuel Adams accidentally throws dishwater on him. Normally, Johnny would have berated her for the action, but since he has learned to be calmer he holds his tongue. The servant invites Johnny into the house while she dries his clothes. While in the home Johnny is noticed by Adams. Johnny returns to Adams’ home several times and eventually Adams begins to use him as a courier.
Johnny learns that there is a different side to Rab than he has suspected. He sees a great passion and zeal in the normally reserved Rab when Rab dances fervently at a relative’s barn dance. At the dance Johnny realizes that the other women aren’t bothered by his hand. When he discusses the issue with Rab, Rab informs him that it was Johnny’s own attitude toward his hand that made the Laphams think it was so disgusting. Johnny sees yet another side of Rab when they both become involved in a fight to defend the Lorne family honor, after a local butcher’s son plays a cruel joke on the Webb twins. Johnny realizes that Rab is a born fighter but that he possesses great restraint.
This chapter begins a new era in Johnny’s life. In a real sense Johnny gains a new family. He is exposed to a different side of life in Boston, he becomes more involved with the Whigs, and he begins to mature. The clearest evidence that Johnny is become more adult is his treatment of Sam Adams’ servant. While in the past he would have readily lashed out at the woman for dumping dishwater on him, even though it was an accident, he now has more restraint.
Johnny’s ability to master Goblin, and his public praise for doing so, helps to renew his sense of self-worth. Of course, Johnny’s greatest influence is Rab. Rab’s observation that Johnny’s own reaction to his hand determines how others will respond to him is very astute and plants the seed for Johnny to develop a new way of looking at himself. Through Rab, Johnny also learns that that having restraint doesn’t mean that one is weak or must always be passive. Rab’s willingness to stand up for the Webb twins teaches Johnny that there is an appropriate time to respond with aggression.