The Tory Lover
THERE was one man, at least, on board the Ranger who was a lover of peace : this was the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Ezra Green. With a strong and hearty crew, and the voyage just beginning, his professional duties had naturally been but light; he had no more concern with the working of the ship than if he were sitting in his office at home in Dover, and eagerly assented to the captain’s proposal that he should act as the Ranger’s purser.
The surgeon’s tiny cabin was stuffed with books; this was a good chance to go on with his studies, and, being a good sailor and a cheerful man, the whole ship’s company took pleasure in his presence. There was an amiable seriousness about his every-day demeanor that calmed even the activities of the captain’s temper; he seemed to be surgeon and purser and chaplain all in one, and to be fit, as one of his calling should be, to minister to both souls and bodies. It was known on board that he was unusually liberal in his views of religion, and was provided with some works upon theology as well as medicine, and could argue well for the Arminian doctrines against Dickson, who, like many men of his type, was pretentious of great religious zeal, and declared himself a Calvinist of the severest order. Dickson was pleased to consider the surgeon very lax and heretical ; as if that would make the world think himself a good man, and the surgeon a bad one, which was, for evident proof and reason, quite impossible.
On this dark night, after the terrible sea of the afternoon had gone down, and poor Solomon Hutchings, the first victim of the voyage, had been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances of a badly broken leg, the surgeon was sitting alone, with a pleasant sense of having been useful. He gave a sigh at the sound of Dickson’s voice outside. Dickson would be ready as usual for an altercation, and was one of those men who always come into a room as if they expect to be kicked out of it.
Dr. Green was writing, — he kept a careful journal of the voyage, —and now looked over his shoulder impatiently, as if he did not wish to be interrupted.
Dickson wore a look of patient persistence.
The surgeon pointed to a seat with his long quill, and finished the writing of a sentence. He could not honestly welcome a man whom he liked so little, and usually treated him as if he were a patient who had come to seek advice.
“ I only dropped in for a chat,” explained the visitor reprovingly, as his host looked up again. “ Have you heard how the captain blew at young Wallingford, just before dark? Well, sir, they are at supper together now. Wallingford must be a tame kitten. I suppose he crept down to the table as if he wanted to be stroked.”
“ He is a good fellow and a gentleman,” said Ezra Green slowly. “ The captain has hardly left the deck since yesterday noon, when this gale began.” The surgeon was a young man, but he had a grave, middle-aged manner which Dickson’s sneering smoothness seemed always to insult.
“You always take Jones’s part,” ventured the guest.
“ We are not living in a tavern ashore,” retorted the surgeon. “ The officer you speak of is our captain, and commands an American man-of-war. That must be understood. I cannot discuss these matters again.”
“Some of the best sailors vow they will desert him in the first French port,” said Dickson.
“ Then they make themselves liable to be shot for desertion whenever they are caught,” replied Green coolly, “ and you must take every opportunity to tell them so. Those who are here simply to make a little dirty money had better have stayed ashore and traded their country produce with the British ships. They say there was a fine-paying business on foot, out at the Isles of Shoals.”
This advice struck home, as the speaker desired. Dickson swallowed hard once or twice, and then looked meek and stubborn ; he watched the surgeon slyly before he spoke again.
“ Yes, it is a very difficult crew to command,” he agreed: “ we have plenty of good loyal men aboard, but they want revenge for their country’s wrongs, as you and I do, I hope ! ”
“ War is one thing, and has law and order to dignify it; common piracy and thievery are of another breed. Some of our men need education in these matters, not to say all the discipline they can get. The captain is much wronged and insulted by the spirit that has begun to spread between decks. I believe that he has the right view of his duty ; his methods are sometimes his own.”
“As in the case of Mr. Wallingford,” blandly suggested Dickson, swift to seize his opportunity. “ Even you would have thought the captain outrageous in his choice of words.”
“ The captain is a man easily provoked, and has suffered certain provocations such as no man of spirit could brook. I believe he was very wrong to vent his spite on Mr. Wallingford, who has proved as respectful of others and forgetful of himself as any man on board. I say this without knowing the present circumstances, but Wallingford has made a nobler sacrifice than any of us.”
“ He would have been chased to his own kind among the Tories in another week,” sneered the other. “ You know it as well as I. Wallingford hesitated just as long as he dared, and there’s the truth! He’s a good mate to Ben Thompson, — both of ’em courtiers of the Wentworths ; and both of ’em had to hurry at the last, one way or the other, whichever served.”
“ Plenty of our best citizens clung to the hope that delay would bring some proper arbitration and concession. No good citizen went to war lightly and without a pang. A man who has seen carnage must always dread it; such glory as we win must reckon upon groans and weeping behind the loudest cheers. But war once declared, men of clear conscience and decent character may accept their lot, and in the end serve their country best,” said the doctor.
“ You are sentimental to-night,” scoffed Dickson.
“ I have been thinking much of home,” said the surgeon, with deep feeling. “ I may never see my home again, nor may you. We are near shore now; in a few days this ship may be smeared with blood, and these poor fellows who snarl and bargain, and discuss the captain’s orders and the chance of prize money, may come under my hands, bleeding and torn and suffering their last agony. We must face these things as best we may ; we do not know what war means yet; the captain will spare none of us. He is like a creature in a cage now, fretted by his bounds and all their petty conditions; but when the moment of freedom comes he will seek action. He is fit by nature to leap to the greatest opportunities, and to do what the best of us could never dream of. No, not you, sir, nor Simpson either, though he aims to supplant him ! ” grumbled the surgeon, under his voice.
“ Perhaps his gift is too great for so small a command as this,” Dickson returned, with an evil smile. “ It is understood that he must be transferred to a more sufficient frigate, if France sees fit,” he added, in a pious tone. “ I shall strive to do my own duty in either case.” At which Dr. Green looked up and smiled.
Dickson laughed back ; he was quick to feel the change of mood in his companion. For a moment they were like two schoolboys, but there was a flicker of malice in Dickson’s eyes ; no one likes being laughed at.
“ Shall we take a hand at cards, sir ? ” he asked hastily. “ All these great things will soon be settled when we get to France.”
The surgeon did not offer to get the cards, which lay on the nearest shelf. He was clasping his hands across his broad breast, and leaning back in a comfortable, tolerant sort of way in his corner seat. They both knew perfectly well that they were in for a long evening together, and might as well make the best of it. It was too much trouble to fight with a cur. Somehow, the current of their general interest did not set as usual toward theological opinions.
“ I was called to a patient down on Sligo Point, beyond the Gulf Road, just before we sailed,” said Green presently, in a more friendly tone. “ ’T was an old woman of unsteady brain, but of no commonplace fancy, who was under one of her wildest spells, and had mounted the house roof to sell all her neighbors at auction. She was amusing enough, — ’t is a pretty wit when she is sane ; but I heard roars of laughter as I rode up the lane, and saw a flock of listeners at the orchard edge. She had knocked off the minister and both deacons, the lot for ninepence, and was running her lame neighbor Paul to seventy thousand pounds.”
“ I heard that they called the minister to pray with her when her fit was coming on, and she chased him down the lane, and would have driven him into the river, if there had not been some men at fall ploughing in a field near by.
She was a fixed Calvinist in her prime, and always thought him lax,” said Dickson, with relish, continuing the tale. “ They had told the good man to come dressed in his gown and bands, thinking it would impress her mind.”
“ Which it certainly seemed to do,” agreed the doctor. “ At any rate, she knocked him down for ninepence. ’T was a good sample of the valuation most of us put upon our neighbors. She likes to hear her neighbor Paul play the fiddle ; sometimes he can make her forget all her poor distresses, and fall asleep like a baby. The minister had somehow vexed her. Our standards are just as personal here aboard ship. The Great Day will sum up men at their true value, — we shall never do it before ; ’t would ask too much of poor human nature.”
Dickson drummed on the bulkhead before he spoke. “ Some men are taken at less than their true value.”
“ And some at more, especially by themselves. Don’t let things go too far with Simpson. He’s a good man, but can easily be led into making trouble,” said the surgeon ; and Dickson half rose, and then sat down again, with his face showing an angry red.
“We must be patient,” added the surgeon a moment later, without having looked again at his companion. “ ’T is just like a cage of beasts here : fierce and harmless are shut in together. Tame creatures are sometimes forced to show their teeth. We must not fret about petty things, either; ’t is a great errand we have come out upon, and the honest doing of it is all the business we have in common.”
“ True, sir,” said Dickson, with a touch of insolent flattery. “ Shall we take a hand at cards ? ”
Captain Paul Jones was waiting, a most affable and dignified host, to greet his guest. Wallingford stood before him, with a faint flush of anger brightening his cheeks.
“ You commanded me, sir,” he said shortly.
“ Oh, come, Wallingford ! ” exclaimed the captain, never so friendly before, and keeping that pleasant voice and manner which at once claimed comradeship from men and admiring affection from women. “ I ’ll drop the commander when we ’re by ourselves, if you ’ll consent, and we ’ll say what we like. I wanted you to sup with me. I’ve got a bottle of good wine for us, — some of Hamilton’s Madeira.”
Wallingford hesitated ; after all, what did it matter ? The captain was the captain ; there was a vigorous sort of refreshment in this life on shipboard ; a man could not judge his associates by the one final test of their being gentlemen, but only expect of each that he should follow after his kind. Outside society there lies humanity.
The lieutenant seated himself under the swinging lamp, and took the glass that was held out to him. They drank together to the flag they carried, and to their lucky landfall on the morrow.
“ To France! ” said the captain gallantly. It was plainly expected that all personal misunderstandings should be drowned in the good wine. Wallingford knew the flavor well enough, and even from which cask in Hamilton’s cellar it had been drawn. Then the captain was quickly on his feet again, and took the four steps to and fro which were all his cabin permitted. He did not even appear to be impatient, though supper was slow in coming. His hands were clasped behind him, and he smiled once or twice, but did not speak, and seemed to be lost in thought. As for the guest, his thoughts were with Mary Hamilton. The flavor of wine, like the fragrance of a flower, can be a quick spur to memory. He saw her bright face and sweet, expectant eyes, as if they were sitting together at Hamilton’s own table.
The process of this evening meal at sea was not a long one; and when the two men had dispatched their food with businesslike haste, the steward was dismissed, and they were left alone with Hamilton’s Madeira at better than half tide in the bottle between them, a plate of biscuit and some raisins, and the usual pack of cards. Paul Jones covered these with a forbidding hand, and presently pushed them aside altogether, and added a handful of cigars to the provisioning of the plain dessert. He wished to speak of serious things, and could not make too long an evening away from his papers. It seemed incredible that the voyage was so near its end. He refilled his own glass and Mr. Wallingford’s.
“ I foresee much annoyance now, on board this ship. I must at once post to Paris, and here they will have time to finish their machinations at their leisure, without me to drive them up to duty. Have you long known this man Dickson ? ” asked the captain, lowering his voice and fixing his eyes upon the lieutenant.
“ I have always known him. He was once in our own employ and much trusted, but was afterward dismissed, and for the worst of reasons,” said Wallingford.
“ What reputation has he borne in the neighborhood ? ”
“ He is called a sharp man of business, quick to see his own advantage, and generous in buying the good will of those who can serve his purpose. He is a stirring, money-getting fellow, very close-fisted ; but he has been unlucky in his larger ventures, as if fortune did not much incline to favor him.”
“ I despised the fellow from the first,” said the captain, with engaging frankness, “ but I have no fear that I cannot master him ; he is much cleverer than many a better man, yet ’t is not well to forget that a cripple in the right road can beat a racer in the wrong. He has been sure these last days that he possesses my confidence, but I have made him serve some good turns. Now he is making trouble as fast as he can between Simpson and me. Simpson knows little of human nature ; he would as soon have Dickson’s praise as yours or mine. He cannot wait to supplant me in this command, and he frets to gather prizes off these rich seas. There’s no harm in prizes; but I sometimes think that no soul on board has any real comprehension of the larger duties of our voyage, and the ends it may serve in furthering an alliance with France. They all begin, well instructed by Dickson, to look upon me as hardly more than a passenger. ’T is true that I look for a French frigate very soon, as Dickson tells them ; but he adds that ’t is to Simpson they must look for success, while if he could rid himself of Simpson he would do it. I must have a fleet if I can, and as soon as I can, and be master of it, too. I have my plans all well laid ! Dickson is full of plots of his own, but to tell such a man the truth about himself is to give him the blackest of insults.”
Wallingford made a gesture of impatience. The captain’s face relaxed, and he laughed as he leaned across the table.
“ Dickson took his commission for the sake of prize money,” he said. “ A pirate, a pirate, that’s what he is, but oh, how pious in his speech !
Or e’en a dying brother’s groans ! ’
There’s a hymn for him! ” exclaimed the captain, with bitter emphasis. “ No, he has no gleam of true patriotism in his cold heart; he is full of deliberate insincerities ; 'a mitten for any hand,’ as they say in Portsmouth. I believe he would risk a mutiny, if he had time enough; and having gained his own ends of putting better men to shame, he would pose as the queller of it. A low-lived, self-seeking man ; you can see it for yourself, Mr. Wallingford ? ”
“ True, sir. I did not need to come to sea to learn that man’s character,” and Wallingford finished his glass and set it down, but still held it with one hand stretched out upon the table, while he leaned back comfortably against the bulkhead.
“ If our enterprise has any value in the sight of the nations, or any true power against our oppressors, it lies in our noble cause and in our own unselfishness,” said Paul Jones, his eyes kindling. “ This man and his fellows would have us sneak about the shores of Great Britain, picking up an old man and a lad and a squalling woman from some coastwise trading smack, and plundering what weak craft we can find to stuff our pockets with ha’pennies. We have a small ship, it is true; but it is war we follow, not thievery. I hear there’s grumbling between decks about ourselves getting nothing by this voyage. ’T is our country we have put to sea for, not ourselves. No man has it in his heart more than I to confront the enemy; but Dickson would like to creep along the coast forever after small game, and count up by night what he has taken by day, like a petty shopkeeper. I look for larger things, or we might have stopped at home. I have my plans, sir; the Marine Committee have promised me my proper ship. One thing that I cannot brook is a man’s perfidy. I have good men aboard, but Dickson is not among them. I feel sometimes as if I trod on caltrops. I am outdone, Mr. Wallingford. I have hardly slept these three nights. You have my apology, sir.”
The lieutenant bowed with respectful courtesy, but said nothing. The captain opened his eyes a little wider, and looked amused ; then he quickly grew grave and observed his guest with fresh attention. There was a fine unassailable dignity in Wallingford’s bearing at this moment.
“ Since you are aware that there is some disaffection, sir,” he said deliberately, “ I can only answer that it seems to me there is but one course to follow, and you must not overrate the opposition. They will always sit in judgment upon your orders, and discuss your measures, and express their minds freely. I have long since seen that our natural independence of spirit in New England makes individual opinion appear of too great consequence, — ’t is the way they fall upon the parson’s sermon ashore, every Monday morning. As for Lieutenant Simpson, I think him a very honest-hearted man, though capable of being influenced. He has the reputation in Portsmouth of an excellent seaman, but high-tempered. Among the men here, he has the advantage of great powers of self-command.”
Wallingford paused, as if to make his words more emphatic, and then repeated them : “ He has the mastery of his temper, sir, and the men fear him; he can stop to think even when he is angry. His gifts are perhaps not great, but they have that real advantage.”
Paul Jones blazed with sudden fury, and he sprang to his feet, and stood light and steady there beyond the table, in spite of the swaying ship.
“ Forgive me, sir,” said Roger Wallingford, “ but you bade us speak together like friends to-night. I think you a far greater man and master than when we left Portsmouth ; I am not so smallminded as to forget to honor my superiors. I see plainly that you are too much vexed with these men, — I respect and admire you enough to say so; you must not expect from them what you demand from yourself. In the worst weather you could not have had a better crew: you have confessed to that. I believe you must have patience with the small affairs which have so deeply vexed you. The men are right at heart; you ought to be able to hold them better than Dickson! ”
The captain’s rage had burnt out like a straw fire, and he was himself again.
“ Speak on, Mr. Lieutenant; you mean kindly,” he said, and took his seat. The sweat stood on his forehead, and his hands twitched.
“ I think we have it in our power to intimidate the enemy, poorly fitted out as we are,” he said, with calmness, “ but we must act like one man. At least we all pity our countrymen, who are starving in filthy prisons. Since Parliament, now two years agone, authorized the King to treat all Americans taken under arms at sea as pirates and felons, they have been stuffing their dungeons with the innocent and guilty together. What man seeing his enemy approach does not arm himself in defense ? We have made no retaliation such as I shall make now. I have my plans, but I cannot risk losing a man here and a man there, out of a crew like this, before I adventure a hearty blow ; this cuts me off from prize-hunting. And the commander of an American man-of-war cannot hobnob with his sailors, like the leader of a gang of pirates. I am no Captain Kidd, nor am I another Tench or Blackbeard. I can easily be blocked in carrying out my purposes. Dickson will not consent to serve his country unless he can fill his pockets. Simpson cannot see the justice of obeying my orders, and lets his inferiors see that he resents them. I wish Dickson were in the blackest pit of Plymouth jail. If I were the pirate he would like to have me, I’d yard - arm him quick enough! ”
“ We may be overheard, sir,” pleaded Wallingford. “ We each have our ambitions,” he continued bravely, while his father’s noble looks came to his face. “ Mine are certainly not Dickson’s, nor do I look forward to a life at sea, like yourself, sir. This may be the last time we can speak together on the terms you commanded we should speak to-night. I look for no promotion; I am humble enough about my fitness to serve; the navy is but an accident, as you know, in my career. I beg you to command my hearty service, such as it is ; you have a right to it, and you shall not find me wanting. I know that you have been very hard placed.”
And now the captain bowed courteously in his turn, and received the pledge with gratitude, but he kept his eyes upon the young man with growing curiosity. Wallingford had turned pale, and spoke with much effort.
“ My heart leaps within me when I think that I shall soon stand upon the shore of France,” Paul Jones went on, for his guest kept silence. “ Within a few days I shall see the Duke de Chartres, if he be within reach. No man ever took such hold of my affections at first acquaintance as that French prince. We knew each other first at Hampton Roads, where he was with Kersaint, the French commodore. My only thought in boarding him was to serve our own young navy and get information for our shipbuilding, but I was rewarded by a noble gift of friendship. 'T is now two years since we have met, but I cannot believe that I shall find him changed ; I can feel my hand in his already. He will give our enterprise what help he can. He met me on his deck that day like a brother ; we were friends from the first. I told him my errand, and he showed me everything about his new ship, and even had copies made for me of her plans. ’T was before France and England had come to open trouble, and he was dealing with a rebel, but he helped me all he could. I loaded my sloop with the best I had on my plantation ;’t was May, and the gardens very forward. I knew their vessels had been long at sea, and could ship a whole salad garden. I would not go to ask for favors then without trying to make some pleasure in return, but we were friends from the first. He is a very noble gentleman; you shall see him soon, I hope, and judge for yourself.”
Wallingford listened, but the captain was still puzzled by a look on the young man’s face.
“I must make my confession,” said the lieutenant. “ When I hear you speak of such a friend, I know that I have done wrong in keeping silence, sir. I put myself into your hands. When I took my commission, I openly took the side of our colonies against the Crown. I am at heart among the Neutrals:’t is ever an ignominious part to take. I never could bring myself to take the King’s side against the country that bore me.
I should rather curse those who insisted, on either side, upon this unnatural and unnecessary war. Now I am here; I put myself very low; I am at your mercy, Captain Paul Jones. I cannot explain to you my immediate reasons, but I have gone against my own principles for the sake of one I love and honor. You may put irons on me, or set me ashore without mercy, or believe that I still mean to keep the oath I took. Since I came on this ship I have begun to see that the colonies are in the right; my heart is with my oath as it was not in the beginning.”
“ By Heaven ! ” exclaimed the captain, staring. “Wallingford, do you mean this ? ” The captain sprang to his feet again. “ By Heaven ! I could not have believed this from another, but I know you can speak the truth ! Give me your hand, sir ! Give me your hand, I say, Wallingford! I have known men enough who would fight for their principles, and fight well, but you are the first I ever saw who would fight against them for love and honor’s sake. This is what I shall do,” he went on rapidly. “ I shall not iron you or set you ashore; I shall hold you to your oath. I have no fear that you will ever fail to carry out my orders as an officer of this ship. Now we have indeed spoken together like friends! ”
They seated themselves once more, face to face.
There was a heavy trampling overhead. Wallingford had a sudden fear lest this best hour of the voyage might be at an end, and some unexpected event summon them to the deck, but it was only some usual duty of the sailors. His heart was full of admiration for the great traits of the captain. He had come to know Paul Jones at last; their former disastrous attempts at fellowship were all forgotten. A man might well keep difficult promises to such a chief; the responsibilities of his life were in a strong and by no means unjust hand. The confession was made; the confessor had proved to be a man of noble charity.
There was a strange look of gentleness and compassion on the captain’s face ; his thought was always leading him away from the past moment, the narrow lodging and poor comfort of the ship.
“We have great dangers before us,” he reflected, “ and only our poor human nature to count upon; ’t is the shame and failures of past years that make us wince at such a time as this. We can but offer ourselves upon the altar of duty, and hope to be accepted. I have kept a promise, too, since I came to sea. I was mighty near to breaking it this very day,” he added simply.
The lieutenant had but a dim sense of these words ; something urged him to make a still greater confidence. He was ready to speak with utter frankness now, to such a listener, of the reasons why he had come to sea, of the one he loved best, and of all his manly hopes; to tell the captain everything.
At this moment, the captain himself, deeply moved by his own thoughts, reached a cordial hand across the table. Wallingford was quick to grasp it and to pledge his friendship as he never had done before.
Suddenly he drew back, startled, and caught his hand away. There was a ring shining on Paul Jones’s hand, and the ring was Mary Hamilton’s.
Next day, in the Channel, every heart was rejoiced by the easy taking of two prizes, rich fruit-laden vessels from Madeira and Malaga. With these in either hand the Ranger came in sight of land, after a quick passage and little in debt to time, when the rough seas and the many difficulties of handling a new ship were fairly considered.
The coast lay like a low and heavy cloud to the east and north ; there were plenty of small craft to be seen, and the Ranger ran within short distance of a three-decker frigate that looked like an Englishman. She was standing by to go about, and looked majestic, and a worthy defender of the British Isles. Every man on board was in a fury to fight and sink this enemy; but she was far too powerful, and much nobler in size than the Ranger. They crowded to the rail. There was plenty of grumbling alow and aloft lest Captain Paul Jones should not dare to try his chances. A moment later he was himself in a passion because the great Invincible had passed easily out of reach, as if with insolent unconsciousness of having been in any danger.
Dickson, who stood on deck, maintained his usual expression of aggravating amiability, and only ventured to smile a little more openly as the captain railed in greater desperation. Dickson had a new grievance to store away in his rich remembrance, because he had been overlooked in the choice of prize masters to bring the two merchantmen into port.
“ Do not let us stand in your way, sir,” he said affably. “ Some illustrious sea fights have been won before this by the smaller craft against the greater.”
“ There was the Revenge, and the great San Philip with her Spanish fleet behind her, in the well-known fight at Flores,” answered Paul Jones, on the instant. “ That story will go down to the end of time ; but you know the little Revenge sank to the bottom of the sea, with all her men who were left alive. Their glory could not sink, but I did not know you ever shipped for glory’s sake, Mr. Dickson.” And Dickson turned a leaden color under his sallow skin, but said nothing.
“ At least, our first duty now is to be prudent,” continued the captain. “ I must only fight to win; my first duty is to make my way to port, before we venture upon too much bravery. There ’ll be fighting soon enough, and I hope glory enough for all of us this day four weeks. I own it grieves me to see that frigate leave us. She’s almost hull down already ! ” he exclaimed regretfully, with a seaward glance, as he went to his cabin.
Presently he appeared again, as if he thought no more of the three-decker, with a favorite worn copy of Thomson’s poems in hand, and began to walk the deck to and fro as he read. On this fair winter morning the ship drove busily along; the wind was out of the west; they were running along the Breton coast, and there was more and more pleasure and relief at finding the hard voyage so near its end. The men were all on deck or clustered thick in the rigging ; they made a good strong-looking ship’s company. The captain on his quarterdeck was pacing off his exercise with great spirit, and repeating some lines of poetry aloud : —
For many a day and many a dreadful night;
Incessant lab’ring round the stormy Cape
By bold ambition led ” —
“ The wide enlivening air is full of fate.”
Then he paused a moment, still waving the book at arm’s length, as if he were following the metre silently in his own mind.
The look of Sorrow, lovely still she bore ” —
“ He’s gettin’ ready to meet the ladies ! ” said Cooper, who was within listening distance, polishing a piece of brass on one of the guns. “ I can’t say as we’ve had much po’try at sea this v’y’ge, sir,” he continued to Lieutenant Wallingford, who crossed the deck toward him, as the captain disappeared above on his forward stretch. Cooper and Wallingford were old friends ashore, with many memories in common.
The lieutenant was pale and severe ; the ready smile that made him seem more boyish than his years was strangely absent; he had suddenly taken on the looks of a much-displeased man.
“ Ain’t you feelin’ well, sir?” asked Cooper, with solicitude. “ Things is all doin’ well, though there’s those aboard that won’t have us think so, if they can help it. When I was on watch, I see you writin’ very late these nights past. You will excuse my boldness, but we all want the little sleep we get; ’t is a strain on a man unused to life at sea.”
“ I shall write no more this voyage,” said Wallingford, touched by the kindness of old Cooper’s feeling, but impatient at the boyish relation with an older man, and dreading a word about home affairs. He was an officer now, and must resent such things. Then the color rushed to his face ; he was afraid that tears would shame him. With a sudden impulse he drew from his pocket a package of letters, tied together ready for sending home, and flung them overboard with an angry toss. It was as if his heart went after them. It was a poor return for Cooper’s innocent kindness ; the good man had known him since he had been in the world. Old Susan, his elder sister, was chief among the household at home. This was a most distressing moment, and the lieutenantturned aside, and leaned his elbow on the gun, bending a little as if to see under the sail whether the three-decker were still in sight.
The little package of letters was on its slow way down through the pale green water; the fishes were dodging as it sank to the dim depths where it must lie and drown, and tiny shells would fasten upon the slow-wasting substance of its folds. The words that he had written would but darken a little salt water with their useless ink; he had written them as he could never write again, in those long lonely hours at sea, under the dim lamp in his close cabin, — those hours made warm and shining with the thought and promise of love that also hoped and waited. All a young man’s dream was there ; there were tiny sketches of the Ranger’s decks and the men in the rigging done into the close text. Alas, there was his mother’s letter, too; he had written them both the letters they would be looking and longing for, and sent them to the bottom of the sea. If he had them back, Mary Hamilton’s should go to her, to show her what she had done. And in this unexpected moment he felt her wondering eyes upon him, and covered his face with his hands. It was all he could do to keep from sobbing over the gun. He had seen the ring !
“ ’T is a shore headache coming on with this sun-blink over the water,” said Cooper, still watching him. “ I’d go and lie in the dark a bit.” It was not like Mr. Wallingford, but there had been plenty of drinking the night before, and gaming too, — the boy might have got into trouble.
To love of useful Glory roused mankind.”
They both heard the captain at his loud orations; but he stopped for a moment and looked down at the lieutenant as if about to speak, and then turned on his heel and paced away again.
The shore seemed to move a long step nearer with every hour. The old seafarers among the crew gave knowing glances at the coast, and were full of wisest information in regard to the harbor of Nantes, toward which they were making all possible speed. Dickson, who was in command, came now to reprimand Cooper for his idleness, and set him to his duty sharply, being a great lover of authority.
Wallingford left his place by the trunnion, and disappeared below.
“ On the sick list ? ” inquired Dickson of the captain, who reappeared, and again glanced down; but the captain shrugged his shoulders and made no reply. He was sincerely sorry to have somehow put a bar between himself and his young officer just at this moment. Wallingford was a noble-looking fellow, and as good a gentleman as the Duke de Chartres himself. The sight of such a second would lend credit to their enterprise among the Frenchmen. Simpson was bringing in one of the prizes ; and as for Dickson, he was a common, trading sort of sneak.
The dispatches from Congress to announce the surrender of Burgoyne lay ready to the captain’s hand : for the bringing of such welcome news to the American commissioners, and to France herself, he should certainly have a place among good French seamen and officers. He stamped his foot impatiently; the moment he was on shore he must post to Paris to lay the dispatches in Mr. Franklin’s hand. They were directed to Glory herself in sympathetic ink, on the part of the captain of the Ranger; but this could not be read by common eyes, above the titles of the Philadelphia envoy at his lodgings in Passy.
After reflecting upon these things, Paul Jones, again in a tender mood, took a paper out of his pocketbook, and reread a song of Allan Ramsay’s, —
which a young Virginia girl had copied for him in a neat, painful little hand.
“ Poor maid! ” he said, with gentle affectionateness, as he folded the paper again carefully. “ Poor maid ! I shall not forget to do her some great kindness, if my hopes come true and my life continues. Now I must send for Wallingford and speak with him.”
Every-day life at Colonel Hamilton’s house went on with as steady current as the great river that passed its walls. The raising of men and money for a distressed army, with what survived of his duties toward a great shipping business, kept Hamilton himself ceaselessly busy. Often there came an anxious company of citizens riding down the lane to consult upon public affairs; there was an increasing number of guests of humbler condition who sought a rich man’s house to plead their poverty. The winter looked long and resourceless to these troubled souls. There were old mothers, who had been left on lonely farms when their sons had gone to war. There was a continued asking of unanswerable questions about the soldiers’ return. And younger women came, pale and desperate, with little troops of children pulling at their skirts. When one appealing group left the door, another might be seen coming to take its place. The improvident suffered first and made loudest complaint ; later there were discoveries of want that had been too uncomplainingly borne. The well-to-do families of Berwick were sometimes brought to straits themselves, in their effort to succor their poorer neighbors.
Mary Hamilton looked graver and older. All the bright elation of her heart had gone, as if a long arctic night were setting in instead of a plain New England winter, with its lengthening days and bright January sun at no great distance. She could not put Madam Wallingford’s sorrow out of mind; she was thankful to be so busy in the great house, like a new Dorcas with her gifts of garments, but the shadow of war seemed more and more to give these days a deeper darkness.
There was no snow on the ground, so late in the sad year; there was still a touch of faded greenness on the fields. One afternoon Mary came across the flagstoned court toward the stables, tempted by the milder air to take a holiday, though the vane still held by the northwest. That great wind was not dead, but only drowsy in the early afternoon, and now and then a breath of it swept down the country.
Old Peggy had followed her young mistress to the door, and still stood there watching with affectionate eyes.
“ My poor darlin’! ” said the good soul to herself, and Mary turned to look back at her with a smile. She thought Peggy was at her usual grumbling.
“ Bless ye, we’ve all got to have patience ! ” said the old housekeeper, again looking wistfully at the girl, whose tired face had touched her very heart. As if this quick wave of unwonted feeling were spread to all the air about, Mary’s own eyes filled with tears; she tried to go on, and then turned and ran back. She put her arms round Peggy, there in the doorway.
“I am only going for a ride. Kiss me, Peggy, — kiss me just as you did when I was a little girl; things do worry me so. Oh, Peggy dear, you don’t know; I can’t tell anybody ! ”
“There, there, darlin’, somebody ’ll see you ! Don’t you go to huggin’ this dry old thrashin’ o’ straw ; no, don’t you care nothin’ ’bout an old withered corn shuck like me ! ” she protested, but her face shone with tenderness. “ Go have your ride, an’ I’m goin’ to make ye a pretty cake; ’t will be all nice and crusty; I was goin’ to make you one, anyway. I tell ye things is all comin’ right in the end. There, le’ me button your little cape ! ” And so they parted.
Peggy marched back into the great kitchen without her accustomed looks of disapproval at the maids, and dropped into the corner of the settle next the fire. She put out her lame foot in its shuffling shoe, and looked at it as if there were no other object of commiseration in the world.
“ ’T is a shame to be wearin’ out, so fine made as I was. The Lord give me a good smart body, but ’t is beginnin’ to fail an’ go,” said the old woman impatiently. “ Once’t would ha’ took twice yisterday’s work to tire foot or back o’ me.”
“I ’m dreadful spent myself, bein’ up ’arly an’ late. We car’ied an upstropelous sight o’ dishes to an’ fro. Don’t see no vally in feedin’ a whole neighborhood, when best part on ’em’s only too lazy to provide theirselves,” murmured one of the younger handmaidens, who was languidly scouring a great pewter platter. Whereat Peggy rose in her wrath, and set the complainer a stint of afternoon work sufficient to cast a heavy shadow over the freshest spirit of industry.
The mistress of these had gone her way to the long stables, where a saddle was being put on her favorite horse, and stood in the wide doorway looking down the river. The tide was out; the last brown leaves of the poplars were flying off some close lower branches ; there was a touch of north in the wind, but the sun was clear and bright for the time of year. Mary was dressed in a warm habit of green cloth, with a close hood like a child’s tied under her chin; the long skirt was full of sharp creases where it had lain all summer in one of the brass-nailed East Indian chests, and a fragrance of camphor and Eastern spices blew out as the heavy folds came to the air. The old coachman was busy with the last girth, and soothed the young horse as he circled about the floor; then, with a last fond stroke of a shining shoulder, he gave Mary his hand, and mounted her light as a feather to the saddle.
“ He’s terrible fresh ! ” said the old master of horse, as he drew the riding skirt in place with a careful touch.
“ Have a care, missy ! ”
Mary thanked the old man with a gentle smile, and took heed that the horse walked quietly away. When she turned the corner beyond the shipyard she dropped the curb rein, and the strong young creature flew straight away like an arrow from the bowstring. “ Mind your first wind, now. ’T is a good thing to keep! ” said the rider gayly, and leaned forward, as they slackened pace for a moment on the pitch of the hill, to pat the horse’s neck and toss a handful of flying mane back to its place. Until the first pleasure and impulse of speed were past there was no time to think, or even to remember any trouble of mind. For the first time in many days all the motive power of life did not seem to come from herself.
The fields of Berwick were already beginning to wear that look of handshaped smoothness which belongs only to long-tilled lands in an old country. The first colonists and pilgrims of a hundred and fifty years before might now return to find their dreams had borne fair fruit in this likeness to England, that had come upon a landscape hard wrung from the wilderness. The long slopes, the gently rounded knolls that seemed to gather and to hold the wintry sunshine, the bushy field corners and hedgerows of wild cherry that crossed the shoulders of the higher hills, would be pleasant to those homesick English eyes in the new country they had toiled so hard to win. The river that made its way by shelter and covert of the hilly country of field and pasture, — the river must for many a year have been looked at wistfully, because it was the only road home. Portsmouth might have been all for this world, while Plymouth was all for the next; but the Berwick farms were made by home-makers, neither easy to transplant in the first place, nor easy now to uproot again.
The northern mountains were as blue as if it were a day in spring. They looked as if the warm mist of April hung over them ; as if they were the outposts of another world, whose climate and cares were of another and gentler sort, and there was no more fretting or losing, and no more war either by land or sea.
The road was up and down all the way over the hills, winding and turning among the upper farms that lay along the riverside above the Salmon Fall. Now and then a wood road or footpath shortened the way, dark under the black hemlocks, and sunshiny again past the old garrison houses. Goodwins, Plaisteds, Keays, and Wentworths had all sent their captives through the winter snows to Canada, in the old French and Indian wars, and had stood in their lot and place for many a generation to suffer attacks by savage stealth at their quiet ploughing, or confront an army’s strength and fury, of firebrand and organized assault.
There was the ford to cross at Wooster’s River, — that noisy stream which can never be silent, as if the horror of a great battle fought upon its bank could never be told. Here there was always a good modern moment of excitement: the young horse must whirl about and rear, and show horror in his turn, as if the ghosts of Hertel and his French and Indians stood upon the historic spot of their victory over the poor settlers ; finally the Duke stepped trembling into the bright shallow water, and then stopped midway with perfect composure, for a drink. Then they journeyed up the steep battleground, and presently caught the sound of roaring water at the Great Falls, heavy with the latter rains.
On the crest of the hill Mary overtook a woman, who was wearily carrying a child that looked large enough to walk alone ; but his cheeks were streaked with tears, and there were no shoes on his little feet to tread the frozen road ; only some worn rags wrapped them clumsily about. Mary held back her horse, and reached down for the poor little thing to take him before her on the saddle. The child twisted determinedly in her arms to get a look at her face, and then cuddled against his new friend with great content. He took fast hold of the right arm which held him, and looked proudly down at his mother, who, relieved of her extra burden, stepped briskly alongside.
“ Goin’ up country to stay with my folks,” she answered Mary’s question of her journey. “ Ain’t nothin’ else I can do ; my man’s with the army at Valley Forge. ‘ God forbid you ’re any poorer than I be ! ’ he sent me word. ‘ I’ve got no pay and no clothes to speak of, an’ here’s winter comin’ right on.’ This mornin’ I looked round the house an’ see how bare it was, an’ I locked the door an’ left it. The baby cried good after his cat, but I could n’t lug ’em both. She’s a pretty creatur’ an’ smart. I don’t know but she ’ll make out; there’s plenty o’ squirrels. Cats is better off than women folks.”
“ I ’ll ride there some day and get her, if I can, and keep her until you come home,” offered Mary kindly.
“Rich folks like you can do everything,” said the woman bitterly, with a look at the beautiful horse which easily outstepped her.
“ Alas, we can’t do everything ! ” said Mary sadly ; and there was something in her voice which touched the complainer’s heart.
“I guess you would if you could,” she answered simply; and then Mary’s own heart was warmed again.
The road still led northward along the high uplands above the river; all the northern hills and the mountains of Ossipee looked dark now, in a solemn row. Mary turned her horse into a narrow track off the highroad, and leaned over to give the comforted child into his mother’s arms. He slipped to the ground of his own accord, and trotted gayly along.
“ Look at them pore little feet! I wisht he had some shoes; he can’t git fur afore he ’ll be cryin’ again for me to take an’ car’ him,” said the mother ruefully. “ You see them furthest peaks ? I’ve got to git there somehow ’nother, with this lo’d on my back an’ that pore baby. But I know folks on the road ; pore’s they be, they ’ll take me in, if I can hold out to do the travelin’. War’s hard on pore folks. We’ve got a good little farm, an’ my man did n’t want to leave it. He held out ’count o’ me till the bounty tempted him. We could n’t be no poorer than we be, now I tell ye ! ”
“ Go to the store on the hill and get some shoes for the baby,” said Mary eagerly, as if to try to cheer her fellow traveler. “ Get some warm little shoes, and tell the storekeeper ’t was I who bade you come.” And so they parted; but Mary’s head drooped sorrowfully as she rode among the gray birches, on her shorter way to the high slopes of Pine Hill.
This piece of country had, years before, furnished some of the noblest masts that were ever landed on English shores. The ruined stump of that great pine which was the wonder of the King’s dockyards, and had loaded one of the old mastships with its tons of timber, could still be seen, though shrunken and soft with moss. A fox, large in his new winter fur, went sneaking across the way; and the young horse pranced gayly at the sight of him, while Mary noticed his track and the way it led, for her brother’s sake, and turned aside across the half-wooded pasture, until she had a sportsman’s satisfaction in seeing the fox make toward a rough ledgy bit of ground, and warm thicket of underbrush at a spring head. This would be good news for poor old Jack, who might take no time for hunting, but could dream of it any night after supper, like a happy dog before his own fire.
On the heights of the great ridge some of the elder generation of trees were still standing, left because they were crooked and unfit for the mastships’ cargoes. They were masters of the whole landscape, and waved their long boughs in the wintry wind. Mary Hamilton had known them in her earliest childhood, and looked toward them now with happy recognition, as if within their hard seasoned shapes their hearts were conscious of other existences, and affection like her own. She stopped the fleet horse on the top of the hill, and laid her hand upon the bark of a huge pine; then she looked off at the lower country. The sight of it was a challenge to adventure ; a great horizon sets the boundaries of the inner life of man wider to match itself, and something that had bound the girl’s heart too closely seemed to slip easily away.
She smiled and took a long breath, and, turning, rode down the rough pasture again, and along the field toward the river. Her heavy riding dress filled and flew with the cold northwest wind, and a bright color came back to her cheeks. To stand on the bleak height had freed her spirit, and sent her back to the lower countries of life happier than she came: it was said long ago that one may not sweep away a fog, but one may climb the hills of life and look over it altogether.
She leaped the horse lightly over some bars that gave a surly sort of entrance to a poor-looking farm, and rode toward the low house. Suddenly from behind a thorn bush there appeared a strange figure, short-skirted and bent almost double under a stack of dry bean stalks. The bearer seemed to have uprooted her clumsy burden in a fury. She tramped along, while the horse took to shying at the sight, and had to be pacified with much firmness and patience.
The bean stack at last ceased its angry progress, and stood still.
“ What’s all that thromping ? Kape away wit’ yourself, then, whoiver ye are ! I can only see the ground by me two feet. Ye ’ll not ride over me; kape back now till I’m gone ! ” screamed the shrill voice of an old woman.
“ It is I, — Mary Hamilton,” said the girl, laughing. “ You’ve frightened the Duke almost to death, Mrs. Sullivan ! I can hold him, but do let me get by before you bob at him again.”
There was a scornful laugh out of the moving ambush.
“ Get out of me way, then, the two of ye ! ” and the bean stack moved angrily away, its transfixing pole piercing the air like a disguised unicorn. The two small feet below were well shod and sturdy like a boy’s ; the whole figure was so short that the dry frost-bitten vines trailed on the ground more and more, until it appeared as if the tangled mass were rolling uphill by its own volition.
Mary went on with the trembling horse. A moment later she walked quickly up the slope to the gray wooden house. There was the handsome head of a very old man, reading, close to the window, as she passed ; but he did not look up until she had shut the door behind her and stood within the little room.
Then Master Sullivan, the exile, closed his book and sprang to his feet, a tall and ancient figure with the manners of a prince. He bent to kiss the hand of his guest, and looked at her silently before he spoke, with an unconscious eagerness of affection equal to her own.
“ A thousand welcomes ! ” he said at last. “ I should have seen you coming ; you have had no one to serve you. I was on the Sabine farm with Horace ; ’t is far enough away ! ” he added, with a smile.
“I like to fasten my horse myself,” answered Mary. “ ’T is best I should ; he makes it a point of honor then to stand still and wait for me, and resents a stranger’s hand, being young and impatient.”
Mary looked bright and smiling ; she threw back her close green hood, and her face bloomed out of it like a flower, as she stood before the gallant, frail old man. “ There was a terrible little bean stack that came up the hill beside us,” she went on, as if to amuse him, “ and I heard a voice out of it, and saw two steady feet that I knew to be Mrs. Sullivan’s ; but my black Duke was pleased to be frightened out of his wits, and so we have all parted on bad terms, this dark day.”
“ She will shine upon you like a May morning when she comes in, then! ” said Master Sullivan. “ She’s in a huge toil the day, with sure news of a great storm that’s coming. ‘ Stay a while,’ I begged her, ‘ stay a while, my dear; the wind is in a fury, and to-morrow ’ ” —
“ An’ to-morrow indeed! ” cried Mrs. Sullivan, bursting in at the door, half a wild brownie, and half a tame enough, grandmotherly old soul. “ An’ to-morrow ! I’ve heard nothing but to-morrow from ye all my life long, an’ here’s the hand of winter upon us again, an’ thank God all me poor little crops is under cover, an’ no praise to yourself.”
The old man held out his slender hand; she did not take it, but her face began to shine with affection.
“ Thank God, ’t is yourself, Miss Mary Hamilton, my dear! ” she exclaimed, dropping a curtsy. “ My old gentleman here has been sorrowing for a sight of your fair face these many days. ’T is in December like this we do be sighing after the May. I don’t know have ye brought any news yet from the ship ? ” “Oh no, not yet,” said Mary. “ No, there is no news yet from the Ranger.”
“ I have had good dreams of her, then,” announced the old creature with triumph. “ Listen : there’s quarrels amongst ’em, but they ’ll come safe to shore, with gold in everybody’s two hands.”
She crossed the room, and drew her lesser wheel close to her knee and began to spin busily.
Sarah Orne Jewett.
(To be continued.)
- Copyright, 1901, by SARAH ORNE JEWETT.↩