Johnny Tremain Chapter 1, Up and About
The town of Boston awakes. In a little house within Hancock's Wharf on Fish Street, Mrs. Lapham, the stout, busy-bodied mistress of the household, yells at her father-in-law's three apprentice boys to get out of bed. Up in the attic where the three boys live, Johnny gets up. Although two years younger than sixteen year old Dove, Johnny is the top apprentice and the boss of the attic. Fat and unskilled, Dove hates Johnny for being better than him. As Johnny heads for the ladder, Dove trips him, acting like it is an accident. Johnny knows better and threatens to beat Dove up if he does it again. Eleven year old Dusty watches as Johnny chastises Dove. Dusty idolizes Johnny, but he does not like being bossed around either. Johnny orders the two boys around because he is too valuable to do menial labor. The old silversmith and master, Mr. Lapham, is always telling Johnny to watch his pride. Johnny's charm and abilities, however, make him well liked by everyone, except Dove.
Mr. Lapham seldom works in the mornings anymore because he spends the time in his bedroom reading from the bible. His daughter-in-law, the practical Mrs. Lapham, is given the task of managing the day-to-day affairs of the household. She shares the only other bedroom in the house with her four "fatherless" daughters--Madge, Dorcas, Cilla, and Isannah.
Madge and Dorcas, the two elder daughters, are already in the kitchen helping their mother. Madge is eighteen, with a merry personality and a portly build like her mother. Dorcas, sixteen, is similar in size, less outgoing, and more into being fashionable and elegant. Cilla is in the bedroom brushing Isannah's hair. Johnny stands at the door, waiting for the usual playful insults from the two younger girls. They tease Johnny about how "wonderful" he is, moreover, how "wonderful" he thinks he is. He listens to their insults and gives them a knowing grin.
Johnny has been an apprentice under Mr. Lapham for two years already--by law, seven years of service is required. It has been determined that when Johnny gets older, he will marry Cilla (who is the same age) and inherit the family's silver business. Johnny does not mind; it is often the arrangement for a top apprentice to marry into the master's family. Although Johnny thinks Madge and Dorcas would make better wives, since they are too old, he accepts the fact that one day he will marry Cilla. Isannah is a pretty, young girl of eight, but her sickliness makes Mrs. Lapham regard her as an unwanted burden. It bothers Cilla that her mother would talk that way about Isannah because she adores her younger sister.
Johnny is a natural silversmith. Mr. Lapham is always reminding Johnny to be humble about his God-given artisan skills. Yet, Johnny hardly listens. This morning, he orders Dove to refashion a spoon that the latter has made poorly. Dove tries to weasel out of it, but it is obvious that Johnny is right. Dove obeys reluctantly. At breakfast, Mr. Lapham sits at the head of the table. He is a pious, kind man--a deacon at his church. After the meal, Mr. Lapham asks Johnny to read from the bible. Aside from Mr. Lapham, Johhny is the only one in the house who can read well (he was taught by his deceased mother). The other boys, along with Mrs. Lapham and the girls, are not fully literate, although Cilla longs to learn. Mr. Lapham tells Johnny to read several passages in the bible, all addressing the issue of pride. Then Mr. Lapham asks Johnny to explain the lesson. Johnny concludes that God does not like pride. Mr. Lapham asks Johnny to raise his right hand and repeat this phrase, "I, Johnny Tremain, swear from this day onward to walk more humbly and modestly before God and man" (p. 10). After breakfast, Johnny is left alone with Cilla and Isannah. The two girls tease Johnny about the morning's bible lesson. Johnny gets mad, his red ears a tell tale sign of his anger.
Johnny tries to be humble, but he has to be on top of everything in order for the silver shop to function at all. Although Mr. Lapham is a good silversmith, at his age he does not put a priority on doing his work meticulously. Johnny, therefore, has to write down all the orders and tell Dove and Dusty what to do. Johnny takes to imagining how he would run the silver shop if he were the master craftsman. He would certainly hand pick the best apprentices. Johnny is suddenly awoken out of his daydream by the girls who alert him that Mr. John Hancock is at the shop requesting an order. Johnny hurries so he can write down it down, less Mr. Lapham forgets.
Mr. Hancock is the richest man in New England. He orders a silver sugar basin to be made for the following week. He has brought a creamer as a sample. Johnny marvels at its intricate design and is surprised to find out Mr. Lapham had made the whole set for Mr. Hancock's uncle forty years ago. Wary of his diminished skills, Mr. Lapham hesitates in agreeing to such a difficult order. The women, hidden from Mr. Hancock's view, wildly mouth to Johnny to say yes. Johnny blurts out that the work will be done Monday of next week. After Mr. Hancock leaves, Jehu, Mr. Hancock's horse boy of African descent, walks in with coins for the apprentice boys, courtesy of his master. Mr. Lapham says that political figures like John Hancock and Sam Adams are not being humble before God because they stir up trouble between the colonies and their British rulers.
After working the whole morning on molding the handle for the sugar basin, Johnny gets his dinner (modern day lunch) from Cilla. She is drawing a mark for Johnny to use as a stamp when he grows to be his own master silversmith. Johnny boasts that when he grows up, he is going to use all three of his initials: J, L, and T. Cilla does not believe a poor boy like Johnny has three names, a mark usually reserved for rich, distinguished families.
Working by lamplight, Johnny finishes the mold, though he is not fully satisfied with it. Later that night, Cilla wakes Johnny up and tells him that Isannah is feeling sick. He grudgingly carries Isannah to the wharf for some fresh air. As they are sitting by the edge of the wharf, Isannah asks Johnny to tell her a story. Cilla asks Johnny to tell them the story of his middle name. Johnny reveals that his given name is Jonathan Lyte Tremain. Cilla wonders if he is related to the rich merchant, Jonathan Lyte. Johnny admits he has wondered the same and tells the girls fantastic stories about the Lytes and their riches. Cilla asks Johnny about his mother. He tells Cilla that his mother's name was Lavinia Lyte, just like the handsome daughter of Merchant Lyte. Cilla asks why his mother never presented herself before her rich family. Johnny confesses that before his mother died, she told him to go to Merchant Lyte only if he had no other choice. Johnny tells Cilla about a secret silver cup he has locked up, which proves his relation to the Lyte family. Johnny makes Cilla promise that if he shows it to her, she would never tell anyone about it.
When they get back from the wharf, as promised, Johnny shows Cilla the cup. Engraved is the Lyte family crest, an image of an eye rising from the sea, with the words, 'Let there be Lyte.' As Cilla is mouthing the motto, the sun rises and Johnny whispers:
"Just like the sun coming up yonder out of the sea, pushing rays of light ahead of it." Chapter 1, pg. 24
Cilla asks sarcastically if it can be a setting eye instead of a rising one. Johnny affirms that it is indeed a rising eye.