THEY sat in silence, — it was pleasure enough to be together, — and Mary knew that she must wait until Master Sullivan himself made opportunity for speaking of the things which filled her heart.
“ Have I ever told you that my father was a friend, in his young days, of Christopher Milton, brother to the great poet, but opposite in politics ? ” he asked, as if this were the one important fact to be made clear. “ A Stuart partisan, a vio-
lent Churchman, and a most hot-headed Tory,” and the old master laughed with sincere amusement, as Mary looked up, eager to hear more.
“ Voltaire, too, had just such a contradiction of a brother, credulous and full of superstitions, — a perfect Jansenist of those days. Yes, I was reading Horace when you came, but for very homesickness; he can make a man forget all his own affairs, such are his polite hospitalities of the mind! These dark autumn days mind me every year of Paris, when they come, as April weather makes me weep for childhood and the tears and smiles of Ireland.”
“ The old days in your Collége Louisle-Grand,” Mary prompted him, in the moment’s silence. “ Those are your Paris days I love the best.”
“ Oh, the men I have known ! ” he answered. “ I can sit here in my chair and watch them all go by again down the narrow streets. I have seen the Abbé de Châteauneuf pass, with his inseparable copy of Racine sticking out of his pocket, on his way to hear music with Madame de L’Enclos, once mistress to the great Cardinal. I hid from him, too, in the shadow of an archway, with a young boy, his pupil and my own schoolfellow, who had run away from his tasks. He was four years younger than I. Le petit Arouet we called him then, who proves now to be the very great Voltaire ! Ah, ’t was an idle flock of us that ranged the old cloisters in cap and gown ; ’t was the best blood in France ! I have seen the illustrious Duke de Boufflers handsomely flogged for shooting peas at dull old Lejay, the professor. (We were the same age, Monsieur de Boufflers and I; we were great friends, and often flogged in company for our deviltries.) He was a colonel of the French army in that moment, and bore the title of Governor of Flanders ; but on the day of the pea-shooting they flogged him so that I cried out at the sight, and turned to the wall, sick at heart. As for him, he sobbed all night afterward, and caught his breath in misery next morning while we read our Epictetus from the same book. We knelt together before the high altar and vowed to kill Lejay by dagger or poison before the month’s end. ’T was a good vow, but well broken.”
The old man laughed again, and made a gay French gesture. Mary laughed with him, and they had a fine moment together.
“ You were not always like that, — you must have learned your lessons : it was not all idleness,” Mary protested, to lead him on.
“ The old fathers taught us with all their power to gain some skill in the use of words,” reflected the master soberly. “ Yes, and I learned to fence, too, at the collége. A student of Louis-le-Grand could always speak like a gentleman, but we had to play with our words ; ’t was the most important of all our science.
‘ Les sottises, toujours les sottises,’ ” grumbled the old man. “ Yes, they made a high profession then of talking nonsense, though France was whipped at Blenheim and lost the great fight at Malplaquet. They could laugh at the ruined convent of Port Royal and the distresses of saintly souls, but they taught us to talk nonsense, and to dress with elegance, and to be agreeable to ladies. The end is not yet; the throne of France will shake, some day, until heads fall in the dust like fruit that nobody stoops to gather.”
The master fell a-whispering to himself, as if he had forgotten that he had a listener.
“ I saw some signs of it, too. I knew there, when I was a lad, Le Tellier, the King’s confessor, who was the true ruler of France. I rode to St. Denis myself, the day of the old King’s funeral, and it was like a fair : people were singing and drinking in the booths, and no one all along the way but had his gibe at Le Tellier, whose day was over, thank God ! Ah, but I was a gay lad then ; I knew no country but France, and I cannot but love her yet; I was only a Frenchman of my gay and reckless time. There was saving grace for me, and I passed it by ; for I knew the great Fénelon, and God forgive my sins, but I have been his poor parishioner from those days to these. I knew his nephew, the Abbé de Beaumont, and I rode with him in the holidays to Cambrai, — a tiresome journey ; but we were young, and we stayed in the good archbishop’s house, and heard him preach and say mass. He was the best of Christians: I might have been a worse man but for that noble saint. Yes, I have seen the face of the great Fénelon,” and Master Sullivan bent his head and blessed himself. The unconscious habit of his youth served best to express the reverence which lay deep in his aged heart.
“ I think now, as I look back on those far days, that my good archbishop was the greatest prince and saint of them all, my dear child,” said the old teacher, looking up gently from his reverie into Mary Hamilton’s face.
“ You belong to another world, mon maître,” said the girl affectionately. “ How much you could teach us, if we were but fit to learn ! ”
The old man gave an impatient fling of his hand.
“ I am past eighty years old, my darling,” he answered. “ God knows I have not been fit to learn of the best of men, else I might now be one of the wisest of mankind. I have lived in the great days of France, but I tell you plain, I have lived in none that are fuller of the seeds of greatness than these. I live now in my sons, and our Irish veins are full of soldier’s blood. ’T is Tir-nan-Og here, — the country of the young. My boys have their mother’s energy, thank God ! As for me, my little school is more alive than I. There is always a bright child in every flock, for whose furthering a man may well spend himself. ’T is a long look back; the light of life shone bright with me in its beginning, but the oil in the old lamp is burning low. My forbears were all short-lived, but the rest of their brief days are added to the length of mine.”
“ ’T is not every man has made so many others fit to take their part in life,” said Mary. “ Think of your own sons, master! ”
“ Ay, my sons,” said the old man, pleased to the heart, “ and they have their mother’s beauty and energy to couple with their sad old father’s gift of dreams. The princes of Beare and Bantry are cousins to the Banshee, and she whispers me many things. I sometimes fear that my son John, the general, has too much prudence. The Whisperer and Prudence are not of kin.”
There was a new silence then ; and when Master Sullivan spoke again, it was with a sharp, questioning look in his eyes.
“ What said your little admiral at parting ? I heard that he was fretted with the poor outfitting of his ship, and sailed away with scant thanks to the authorities. Prudence cannot deal with such a man as that. What of our boy Roger ? How fares the poor mother since she lost him out of her sight ? ’T was anxious news they brought me of his going ; when my first pride had blazed down, you might have seen an old man’s tears.”
Mary looked up ; she flushed and made as if she would speak, but remained silent.
“ You ’ll never make soldier or sailor of him, boy or man ; the Lord meant him for a country gentleman,” said the master warningly; and at this moment all Mary’s hopes of reassurance fell to the ground.
“ My son John is a soldier born,” he continued coldly; “ he could tell you where the troops were placed in every battle, from old Troy down to the siege of Louisburg.”
Mary began to speak, and again something ailed her throat. She turned and looked toward the fireside, where the old housemother was knitting now, and humming a strange old Irish tune to herself ; she had left them to themselves as much as if she were miles away.
“ Incipit vita nova,” said the master under his breath, and went on as if he were unobservant of Mary’s startled look.
“ Captain Paul Jones is a man of the world, and Wallingford is a country gentleman of the best sort,” he continued ; “ they may not understand each other at these close quarters. I mind me of pushing adventurers in my old days who came from the back corner of nowhere, and yet knew the worst and the best of Paris. How they would wink at their fellows when some noble boy came to see the world, from one of the poor and proud châteaux of Brittany or the far south! ”
“ Roger is college-bred, and you have called him your own best scholar of these later days,” insisted Mary, with a touch of indignation. “ With such kindred in Boston, and the company of his father’s friends from childhood, he is not so new to the world.”
“ Ecce Deus fortior me qui veniens dominabitur mihi,” the old man repeated softly, as if he were saying a short prayer ; then glanced again at the girl’s beautiful young face and pleading eyes. “ Well, the gallant lads have sailed ! ” he exclaimed, with delighted eagerness, and no apparent concern for his listener’s opinion. “ They ’ll be in good season, too, in spite of all delays. What say the loud Patriots now, who are so full of fighting, and yet find good excuse for staying at home ? They are an evil-minded chorus ! but the young man Wallingford will serve them for a text no more. His father was a man of parts, of the same type as Washington himself, an I mistake not that great leader, though never put to the proof by so high a summonsing of opportunity. But Roger is born out of his father’s clear brain rather than his fiery heart. I see in him the growing scholarliness and quiet authority of the judge’s best days upon the bench, not the strong soldier of the Indian wars. And there is something in the boy that holds by the past; he may be a persuaded Patriot, but a Tory ghost of a conscience plucks him by the sleeve. He does not lack greatness of soul, but I doubt if he does any great things except to stand honestly in his place, a scholar and a gentleman ; and that is enough.”
Mary listened, with her eyes fixed upon Master Sullivan’s face.
“ God bless the poor lads, every one ! We must send our prayers after them. Wallingford will fall upon evil days; ’twill try him in blood and bone when they suspect him, as they surely will. God help an old ruin like me ! If I were there, and but a younger man ! ” and the master clenched the arms of his chair, while something Mary never had seen before flashed in his eyes.
“ I have seen much fighting in my time,” he said the next moment to Mary, falling to a gentler mood. “ My mind is often with those lads on the ship.” And the startled girl smiled back at him expectantly.
“ I am glad when I think that our Roger will see France again, as a grown man. He will remember many things I have told him. I wish that I might have seen him ere he went away so suddenly. Wherever he is, he has good thoughts in his head; he always loved his Latin, and can also stumble through the orchard ground, and smell the trodden thyme with old Theocritus. I wish I had been there at your parting feast. ’T was a glory to the house’s mistress, and that merchant prince, the good master of the river.”
“ Peggy has another opinion of me. ‘ Go you an’ deck the tables, an it please you, child,’ she says, ‘ an’ leave me to give my orders ; ’ but we hold some grave consultations for all that,” insisted Mary modestly. “ She is very stern on feast days with us all, is Peggy.”
“ Lenient in the main,” urged Master Sullivan, smiling. “ She found convoy for a basket of her best wares only yesterday, with a message that she had cooked too much for Portsmouth gentlemen, guests who failed in their visit. Margery and I feasted in high hall together. There was a grand bottle of claret.”
“ My brother chose it himself from the cellar,” said Mary, much pleased, but still there was a look of trouble in her eyes.
“ You will give him my thanks, and say that it made a young French gallant of me for a pleasant hour. The only fault I found was that I had not its giver to drink share and share with me. Margery, my wife, heard tales from me which had not vexed the air these fifty years, and, being as warm as a lady abbess with such good cheer, she fell asleep in the middle of the best tale, over her worsted knitting! ‘ Sure,’ she waked to tell me, ‘ if these be true, ’t was time you were snatched out of France like a brand from the burning, and got the likes o’ poor me to straighten ye ! ’ ” and the old man looked at Mary, with a twinkle in his eyes.
“ They said you danced all night with the little captain, and that he spoke his love on the terrace in the sight of more than one of the company,” said the master gayly. “ ’T is another heart you’ve broke, I suppose, and sent him sad away. Or was it his uniform that won ye ? ” And they both laughed, but Mary blushed, and wished she were away herself.
“ I have no right to ask what passed between ye,” he said then, with grave sweetness that won her back to him. “ I find him a man of great power. He has the thoughts and manners of a gentleman, and now he goes to face his opportunity,” added the old Irish rebel, who had seen with his own eyes the great Duke de Sully, Marshal of France.
“ ’T is said everywhere that your great captain is an earl’s son,” said Margery unexpectedly, from the fireside. But Master Sullivan slowly shook his head. The old wife was impatient of contradiction at the best of times, and now launched forth into an argument. He treated her, in these late days, as if she were a princess; but’t was a trying moment to him now, and luckily the old volume of Horace fell heavily from his lap to the floor.
Mary picked it up quickly, and old Margery’s withered cheeks flushed crimson at this reminder of the sad day when she had thrown one of his few dear books to the flames, in furious revenge for what she thought his willful idleness and indifference to their poverty, and her children’s needs. “ Himself cried,” she always mourned in passionate remorse, when anything reminded her of that black day. She fancied even yet, when she saw the master stand before his little bookshelf, that he was missing the lost volume. “ Himself cried,” she muttered now, and was silent; and the old man saw her lips moving, and gave her one of those looks of touching affection that had kept her for fifty years his happy slave.
“ He is a bold adventurer, your little captain,” he went on, “ but a man of very marked qualities.”
“ I believe that he will prove a great captain,” said Mary.
“ Yes, he is all that; I have seen much of men,” and the master turned to look out of the window, far down the winter fields.
“ His heart is set upon the future of our country,” said Mary, with eagerness. “ He speaks with eloquence of our wrongs. He agrees ’t is the hindering of our own natural development, and the forbidding of our industries in the past, that has brought all these troubles; not any present tyranny or special taxes, as some insist. He speaks like a New Englander, one of ourselves. And he has new ideas. I heard him say that every village should govern itself, and our government be solely for those necessities common to all, and this would do away with tyranny. He was very angry when Major Haggens laughed and pounded the table, and said that our villages must keep to the same laws, and not vex one another.”
“ Your captain has been reading that new writer, Monsieur Rousseau,” said the master sagaciously, and with much interest. “ Rousseau is something of a genius. My son James brought me his book from Boston, and I sat up all night to read it. Yes, he is a genius at his best, but at his worst no greater fool ever sneaked or flaunted along a French road. ’T is like the old donkey in Skibbereen, that was a lion by night with his bold braying, and when the sun shone hung his head and cried to everybody, ‘ Don’t beat me ! ’ I pray God that no pupil of mine makes the mistake of these people, who can see no difference between the church of their own day and Christianity itself. My old Voltaire has been his master, this Rousseau. There have been few greater men in the world than le petit Arouet, but ’t was a bit of a rascal, too ! My son James and I have threshed these subjects lately, until the flails came too near our own heads. I have seen more of the world than he, but my son James always held the opinions of a gentleman.”
“ These subjects are far too large for me,” Mary acknowledged humbly.
“’T is only that our opinions are too small for the subjects, — even mine and those of my son James,” said Master Sullivan, smiling; “ yet every man who puts his whole heart into them helps to bring the light a little nearer. Your captain is a good French scholar ; we had some good talk together, and I learned to honor the man. I hope he will be friendly to our lad at sea, and be largehearted in such a case. I have much pity for the Loyalists, now I am an old man that was a hot enough rebel in my youth. They have many true reasons on their side for not breaking with England, and they cling to sentiment, the best of them, without which life is but a strange machine. Yet they have taken the wrong side ; they will find it out to their sorrow. You had much to do with Roger’s going, my child ; ’t was a brave thing to start him in the right road, but I could wish he and his mother had been a sorrowing pair of that eleven hundred who went out of Boston with the English troops. They would have been among their fellows then, and those who were like-minded. God help me for this faint-heartedness ! ”
To this moment had the long talk come ; to this clear-spoken anxiety had Mary Hamilton herself led the way. She could not part from so wise a friend until he spoke his mind, and now she stood piteous and dismayed before his searching look. It was not that the old man did not know how hard his words had been.
“ I could not bear that he should be disloyal to the country that gave him birth, and every low soul be given the right to sneer at him. And the mob was ready to burn his mother’s house; the terror and danger would have been her death,” said Mary. “ All this you know.”
“ The boy has talked much with me this summer,” answered the schoolmaster, “ and he put me questions which I, a rebel, and the son of rebels against England, could not answer him. I am an exile here, with my birthright gone, my place among men left empty, because I did not think as he thinks now when I was young, and yet I could not answer him. ‘ I could as soon forsake my mother in her gathering age as forsake England now,’ he told me, one day in the summer. He stood on this floor before me, where you stand now, and looked every inch a man. Now he has changed his mind; now he puts to sea in an American man-of-war, with those to whom the gentle arts of piracy are not unknown, and he must fain be of their company who go to make England suffer. He has done this only that he may win your heart.”
The master’s blue eyes were black and blazing with excitement, and Mary fronted him.
“ You cannot think him a rascal! ” she cried. “ You must believe that his very nature has changed. It has changed, and he may fight with a heavy heart, but he has come to think our quarrel just. I should break my own heart did I not think this true. Has he not sworn his oath ? Then you must not blame him ; you must blame me if all this course was wrong. I did push him forward to the step. God help me, master, I could not bear we should be ashamed of him. You do not mean’t were better he had fled with the Loyalists, and thrown his duty down ? ”
She fell to her knees beside the old man’s chair, and her hot forehead was touching his thin hand. He laid his right hand on her head then as if in blessing, but he did not speak.
At last he made her rise, and they stood side by side in the room.
“ We must not share this anxious hour with Margery,” he told her gently. “ Go away, dear child, while she still sleeps. I did not know the sword of war had struck your heart so deep. You must wait for much time to pass now ; you must have patience and must hear bad news. They will call Roger Wallingford a spy, and he may even flinch when the moment of trial comes. I do not think he will flinch; ’t is the woe of his own soul that I sorrow for ; there is that in him which forbids the traitor’s act. Yet either way life looks to him but treacherous. The thought of his love shines like a single star above the two roads, and that alone can succor him. Forgive the hardness of my thoughts, yes, and keep you close to his poor mother with all patience. If the boy gets into trouble, I have still some ancient friendships that will serve him, for my sake, in England. God grant me now to live until the ship comes back! I trust the man he sails with, but he has his own ends to serve. I fear he is of the Brevipennes, the short-winged ; they can run better for what wings they have, but they cannot win to fly clear of the earth.”
“ I could tell you many a tale now that I have shut close in my heart from every one for more than sixty years,” said Master Sullivan slowly, with an impulse of love and pity that he could not forbid. “ I was a poor scholar in some things, in my young days, but I made sure of one lesson that was learnt through pain. The best friends of a human soul are Courage and her sister Patience! ”
The old man’s beautiful voice had a strange thrill in it. He looked as if he were a king, to the girl who watched him; all the mystery of his early days, the unexplained self-denial and indifference to luxury, seemed at this moment more incomprehensible than ever. The dark little room, the unequal companionship with the wife who slept by the fire, the friendship of his heart with a few imperial books, and the traditions of a high ancestry made evident in the noble careers and present standing of his sons, were enough to touch any imagination. And Mary Hamilton, from her early childhood, had found him the best and wisest man she knew. He had set the humblest Berwick children their copies, and taught them to read and spell, and shared his St. Augustine and Homer and Horace with those few who could claim the right. She stood beside him now in her day of trouble ; she turned, with a look of deep love on her face, and kissed him on the brow. Whatever the cause had been, he had taken upon himself the harsh penalty of exile.
“ Dear friend, I must be gone,” said Mary, with beautiful womanliness and dignity. “ You have helped me again who have never failed me; do not forget me in these days, and let us pray for Roger Wallingford, that he may be steadfast. Good-by, dear master.”
Then, a minute later, the old man heard the horse’s quick feet go away down the hill.
It was twilight in the room. “ I believe she will love the boy,” whispered the old schoolmaster to himself. “ I thought the captain might wake her heart with all his gallantry. The springs of love are living in her heart, but’t is winter still, — ’t is winter still! Love frights at first more than it can delight; ’t will fright my little lady ere it comes ! ”
The heavy book slipped unheeded to the floor again. The tired old woman slept on by the dying fire, and Master Sullivan was lost in his lonely thoughts, until Hope came again to his side, bright shining in a dream.
The ship had run between Belle Isle and the low curving shores of Quiberon. The land was in sight all along by St. Nazaire, where they could see the graygreen of winter fields, and the dotted fruit trees about the farmhouses, and bits of bushy woodland. Out of the waste of waters the swift way-wise little Ranger came heading safely in at the mouth of the Loire. She ran among all the shoals and sand banks by Paimbœuf, and past the shipyards of the river shores, until she came to harbor and let her anchor go.
There was something homelike about being in a river. At first sight the Loire wore a look of recent settlement, rather than of the approach to a city already famous in old Roman times ; the shifting sand dunes and the empty flats, the poor scattered handfuls of houses and the works of shipbuilding, all wore a temporary look. These shiftless, primitive contrivances of men sparsely strewed a not too solid - looking shore, and the newcomers could see little of the inland country behind it. It was a strange contrast to their own river below Portsmouth, where gray ledges ribbed the earth and bolted it down into an unchangeable permanence of outline. The heights and hollows of the seaward points of Newcastle and the Kittery shore stood plain before his mind’s eye as Wallingford came on deck, and these strange banks of the Loire seemed only to mask reality and confuse his vision. Farther up the stream they could see the gray walls of Nantes itself, high over the water, with the huge towered cathedral, and the lesser bulk of the castle topping all the roofs. It was a mild day, with little air moving.
Dickson came along the deck, looking much displeased. That morning he had received the attention of being kicked down the companion way by the captain, and nothing could soften such an event, not even the suggestion from his conscience that he had well deserved the insult. It seemed more and more, to those who were nearest him, as if Dickson were at heart the general enemy of mankind, — jealous and bitter toward those who stood above him, and scornful of his inferiors. He loved to defeat the hopes of other people, to throw discredit upon sincerity ; like some swift-creeping thing that brings needless discomfort everywhere, and dismay, and an impartial sting. He was not clever enough to be a maker of large schemes, but rather destructive, crafty and evil-minded, — a disturber of the plans of others. All this was in his face ; a fixed habit of smiling only added to his mean appearance. What was worst of all, being a great maker of promises, he was not without influence, and had his following.
The fresh air from the land, the frosty smell of the fields, made Wallingford feel the more despondent. The certainty had now come to his mind that Paul Jones would never have consented to his gaining the commission of lieutenant, would never have brought him, so untried and untrained, to sea, but for jealousy, and to hinder his being at Mary Hamilton’s side. This was the keenest hurt to his pride ; the thought had stabbed him like a knife. Again he made a desperate plunge into the sea of his disasters, and was unconscious even of the man who was near by, watching him. He was for the moment blind and deaf to all reality, as he stood looking along the water toward the Breton town.
“ All ready to go ashore, sir ? ” asked Dickson, behind him, in an ingratiating tone; but Wallingford gave an impatient shrug of his shoulders.
“ ’T is not so wintry here as the shore must look at home,” continued Dickson. “ Damn that coxcomb on the quarterdeck ! he ’s more than the devil himself could stand for company ! ”
Wallingford, instead of agreeing in his present disaffection, turned about, and stood fronting the speaker. He looked Dickson straight in the eye, as if daring him to speak again, whereat Dickson remained silent. The lieutenant stood like a prince.
“ I see that I intrude,” said the other, rallying his self - consequence. “ You have even less obligation to Captain Paul Jones than you may think,” he continued, dropping his voice and playing his last trump. “ I overheard, by accident, some talk of his on the terrace with a certain young lady whom your high loftiness might not allow me to mention. He called you a cursed young spy and a Tory, and she implored him to protect you. She said you was her old playmate, and that she wanted you got out o’ the way o’ trouble. He had his arm round her, and he said he might be ruined by you; he cursed you up hill and down, while she was a-pleadin’. ’T was all for her sake, and your mother’s bein’ brought into distress ” —
Dickson spoke rapidly, and edged a step or two away ; but his shoulder was clutched as if a panther’s teeth had it instead of a man’s hand.
“ I ’ll kill you if you give me another word ! ” said Roger Wallingford. “ If I knew you told the whole truth, I should be just as ready to drop you overboard.”
“ I have told the truth,” said Dickson.
“ I know you are n’t above eavesdropping,” answered Wallingford, with contempt. “ If you desire to know what I think of your sneaking on the outside of a man’s house where you have been denied entrance, I am willing to tell you. I heard you were there that night.”
“ You were outside yourself, to keep me company, and I ’m as good a gentleman as Jack Hamilton,” protested Dickson. “ He went the rounds of the farms with a shoemaker’s kit, in the start of his high fortunes.”
“ Mr. Hamilton would mend a shoe as honestly in his young poverty as he would sit in council now. So he has come to be a rich merchant and a trusted man.” There was something in Wallingford’s calm manner that had power to fire even Dickson’s cold and sluggish blood.
“ I take no insults from you, Mr. Lieutenant! ” he exclaimed, in a black rage, and passed along the deck to escape further conversation.
There had been men of the crew within hearing. Dickson had said what he wished to say, and a moment later he was thinking no less highly of himself than ever. He would yet compass the downfall of the two men whom he hated. He had now set them well on their way to compass the downfall of each other. It made a man chuckle with savage joy to think of looking on at the game.
Wallingford went below again, and set himself to some work in his own cabin. Character and the habit of selfpossession could carry a man through many trying instances, but life now seemed in a worse confusion than before. This was impossible to bear ; he brushed his papers to the floor with a sweep of his arm. His heart was as heavy as lead within him. Alas, he had seen the ring! “ Perhaps — perhaps ” — he said
next moment to himself — “ she might do even that, if she loved a man ; she could think of nothing then but that I must be got away to sea! ”
“ Poor little girl! My God, how I love her ! ” and he bent his head sorrowfully, while an agony of grief and dismay mastered him. He had never yet been put to such awful misery of mind.
“ ’T is my great trial that has come upon me,” he said humbly. “ I ’ll stick to my duty, — ’t is all that I can do, — and Heaven help me to bear the rest. Thank God, I have my duty to the ship ! ”
As soon as the Ranger was at Nantes, and the formalities of the port could be left in the hands of his officers, Captain Paul Jones set forth in haste toward Paris to deliver his dispatches. He was only sixty hours upon the road, passing over the country as if he saw it from a balloon, and at last had the supreme disappointment of finding that his proud errand was forestalled. He had driven himself and his ship for nothing; the news of Burgoyne’s surrender had been carried by a messenger from Boston, on a fast-sailing French vessel, and placed in the hands of the Commissioners a few hours before his own arrival.
It was understood some time before, between the Marine Committee of the colonies and Captain Paul Jones, that he was to take command of the fine frigate L’Indien, which was then building in Amsterdam ; but he received no felicitations now for his rapid voyage, and found no delightful accumulations of important work, and was by no means acknowledged as the chief and captain of a great enterprise. As the Ranger had come into harbor like any ordinary vessel from the high seas, unheralded and without greeting, so Paul Jones now found himself of no public consequence or interest in Paris. What was to be done must all be done by himself. The Commissioners had their hands full of other affairs, and the captain stood in the position of a man who brought news to deaf ears. They listened to his eager talk and well-matured plans with some wonder, and even a forced attention, as if he were but an interruption, and not a leader for any enterprise they had in hand. To him, it had almost seemed as if his great projects were already accomplished.
It was in every way a most difficult situation. The ownership of the Indien frigate had been carefully concealed. Paul Jones himself had furnished the plans for her, and the Commissioners in France had made contracts under other signatures for her building in the neutral port of Amsterdam. It was indispensable that the secret of her destiny should be kept from England ; but at the moment when she was ready to be put into commission, and Paul Jones was on the sea, with the full expectation of finding his ship ready when he came to France, some one in the secret had betrayed it, and the British officials at Amsterdam spoke openly to the government of the Netherlands, and demanded that the frigate should be detained for breach of neutrality, she being destined for an American ship of war.
There was nothing to be done. The Commissioners had made some efforts to hold the frigate, but in the end France had come forward and stood their friend by buying her, and at a good price. This had happened only a few days before, so Captain Paul Jones must hear the sorry tale when he came to Paris and saw the three American Commissioners.
He stood before them, a sea-tanned and weary little hero, with his eyes flashing fire. One of the three Commissioners, Arthur Lee, could not meet his aggrieved and angry looks. To be sure, the money was in hand again, and they could buy another ship ; but the Indien, the Indien was irrecoverable.
“ If I had been there, gentlemen,” cried Paul Jones, with a mighty oath, “ nothing would have held me long in port! I’d have sailed her across dry ground, but I ’d have got her safe to sea ! She was ours in the sight of Heaven, and all the nations in the world could not prevent me ! ”
Mr. Franklin looked on with approval at so noble and forgivable a rage; the others wore a wearied and disgusted look, and Mr. Arthur Lee set himself to the careful mending of a pen. It was a sorry hour for good men ; and without getting any definite promise, and having bestowed many unavailing reproaches, at last Paul Jones could only fling himself out of Paris again, and in black despair post back to the Ranger at Nantes. He had the solitary comfort, before he left, of a friendly and compassionate interview granted by Mr. Franklin, who, overburdened though he was, and much vexed by a younger man’s accusations, had yet the largeness of mind to see things from the captain’s side. There was nothing for it but patience, until affairs should take a turn, as the Commissioner most patiently explained.
All the captain’s high hopes and ceaseless industry in regard to his own plans were scattered like straws in the wind. He must set his mind now to the present possibilities. Worst of all, he had made an enemy in his quick mistrust and scorn of Mr. Arthur Lee, a man who would block many another plan, and hinder him in the end as a great sea captain and hero had never been worse hindered since the world began.
Dickson stood on the deck of the Ranger, by the gangway, when the captain came aboard, fatigued and disappointed ; it might be that some creature of Lee’s sending had already spoken with Dickson and prepared him for what was to come. He made a most handsome salutation, however, and Lieutenant Simpson, hoping for news of his own promotion, stepped forward with an honest welcome.
“ Gentlemen, I have much to tell you, and of an unwelcome sort,” said the captain, with unusual dignity of bearing. “ There is one blessing : our defeat of Burgoyne has brought us France for an ally. I hoped for good news as regards ourselves, but we have been betrayed by an enemy; we have lost the frigate which I have had a hand in building, and of whose command I was altogether certain for more than a year past. We must now wait for further orders here, and refit the Ranger, and presently get to sea with her instead. I own ’t is a great disappointment for us all.”
Dickson wore no look of surprise; he was too full of triumph. Lieutenant Simpson was crestfallen. The other officers and men who were near enough to hear looked angry and disturbed. They had been persuaded that they must be rid of the captain before they could follow their own purposes. ’T was a strange and piteous condition of things aboard the Ranger, and an example of what the poison of lies and a narrow-minded jealousy can do to set honest minds awry. And Paul Jones had himself to thank for much ill will: he had a quick temper, and a savage way of speaking to his fellows. The one thing he could not bear was perfidy, and a bland and double disposition in a man seemed at once to deserve the tread of his angry heel.
The captain was hardly to be seen for a day or two after his return, except in occasional forays of fault-finding. Wallingford was successful in keeping out of his way ; the great fact that all his own best hopes had been destroyed dulled him even to feelings of resentment. While suffering his great dismay he could almost forget the cause whence it came, and even pitied, for other reasons, the man who had worn the ring. The first stroke of a bullet only benumbs; the fierceness of pain comes later. Again and again he stood before Mary Hamilton, and lived over the night when he had stood at the window and dared to meet her beautiful angry eyes; again and again he reviewed those gentler moments by the river, when her eyes were full of their old affection, though her words were stern. He had won her plain promise that some day, having served their country, he might return to her side, and clung to that promise like a last hope.
It already seemed a year since the night when Wallingford and the captain had dined together. The steward had interrupted them just as the lieutenant sprung to his feet.
“ Must we say good-night, then ? ” said Paul Jones, protesting. “ As for me, I ought to be at my papers. Send me William Earl to write for me,” he told the steward. “ Thank you for your good company, Mr. Wallingford. I hope we may have many such evenings together.”
Yet he had looked after his guest with a sense that something had gone wrong at this last moment, though the steward had found them hand in hand.
The sight of the ring among his possessions, that day when he made ready for the journey to Paris, had given him a moment of deep happiness ; he had placed it on his finger, with a certain affectionate vanity. Yet it was a token of confidence, and in some sense a reward. He had been unjust in the beginning to the young lieutenant; he had now come to like and to trust him more than any other man on board the ship. In the exciting days that had followed, rings, and lieutenants, and even so lovely a friend and lady as Miss Mary Hamilton had been forgotten.
Yet at most unexpected moments Paul Jones did remember her, and his heart longed for the moment when they should meet once more, and he might plead his cause. “ L’absence diminue les petits amours et augmente les grandes, comme le vent qui éteint les bougies et rallume la feu.”
The captain at once began to hasten the work of refitting the Ranger for sea. He gave no explanations; he was more surly in temper, and strangely uncompanionable. Now that they could no longer admire his seamanship in a quick voyage, the sailors rated him for the ship’s idleness and their long detention in port. This was not what they had signed for. Dickson now and then let fall a word which showed that he had means of information that were altogether his own ; he was often on shore, and seemed free with his money. Lieutenant Wallingford and the surgeon, with some of the other officers, became familiar with the amusements of Nantes; but the lieutenant was observed by every one to be downhearted and inclined to solitary walks, and by night he kept his cabin alone, with no inclination toward company. He had been friendly with every one in the early part of the voyage, like a man who has no fear of risking a kind word. The surgeon, after making unwonted efforts to gain his old neighbor’s confidence, ignored him with the rest, until he should come to himself again.
This added to the constraint and discomfort on board the Ranger. She was crowded with men eager enough for action, and yet kept in idleness under a needlessly strict discipline. Simpson, the senior lieutenant, willingly received the complaints of officers and crew, and Dickson’s ceaseless insistence that Simpson was their rightful leader began to have its desired effect.
Some dreary days, and even weeks, passed by, and one evening Wallingford passed the captain’s cabin on his way to his own. It had lately been rough, windy weather in the harbor, but that night the Ranger was on an even keel, and as steady as if she were a well-built house on shore.
The door was open. “ Is that you, Mr. Wallingford ? Come in, will you ? ” The captain gave his invitation the air of a command.
Wallingford obeyed, but stood reluctant before his superior.
“ I thought afterward that you had gone off in something of a flurry, that night we dined together, and you have avoided any conversation with me since my return from Paris. I don’t like your looks now. Has anything come between us ? Do you repent your confidence ? ”
“ No, I do not repent it,” said the lieutenant slowly.
“ Something has touched your happiness. Come, out with it! We were like brothers then. The steward caught us hand in hand ; ’t is long since I have had so happy an evening. I am grateful for such friendship as you showed me, when we were together that night. God knows I have felt the lack of friendship these many days past. Come, sir, what’s your grievance with me ? ”
“ It is nothing that I should tell you. You must excuse me, sir.”
The captain looked at him steadily. “ Had I some part in it ? Then you are unjust not to speak.”
There was great kindness, and even solicitude, in Paul Jones’s tone. Wallingford was moved. It was easier to find fault with the captain when his eyes were not upon one ; they had great power over a man.
“ Come, my dear fellow,” he said again, “ speak to me with frankness ; you have no sincerer friend than I.”
“ It was the sight of the ring on your finger, then. I do not think you meant to taunt me, but to see it was enough to rob me of my hope, sir : that was all.”
The captain colored and looked distressed ; then he covered his eyes, with an impatient gesture. He had not a guilty air, or even an air of provocation; it struck Wallingford at the moment that he wore no look, either, of triumphant happiness, such as befitted the accepted lover of Mary Hamilton.
“ You knew the ring?” asked the captain, looking up, after some moments of perplexing silence.
“ I have always known it,” answered Roger Wallingford : “ we were very old friends. Of late I had been gathering hope, and now, sir, it seems that I must wish another man the joy I lived but to gain.”
“Sit ye down,” said the captain. “ I thought once that I might gather hope, too. No man could wish for greater happiness on earth than the love of such a lady : we are agreed to that.”
Then he was silent again. The beauty of Mary Hamilton seemed once more before his eyes, as if the dim-lighted cabin and the close-set timbers of the ship were all away, and he stood again on the terrace above the river with the pleading girl. She had promised that she would set a star in the sky for him ; he should go back, one day, and lay his victories at her feet. How could a man tell if she really loved this young Wallingford ? In the natural jealousy of that last moment when they were together, he had felt a fierce delight in bringing Wallingford away ; she was far too good for him, — or for any man, when one came to that! Yet he had come himself to love the boy. If, through much suffering, the captain had not stood, that day, at the very height of his own character, with the endeavor to summon all his powers for a new effort, the scale at this moment would have turned.
“ My dear lad, she is not mine,” he said frankly. “ God knows I wish it might be otherwise ! You forget I am a sailor.” He laughed a little, and then grew serious. “ ’T is her ring, indeed, and she gave it me, but ’t was a gift of friendship. See, I can kiss it on my finger with you looking on, and pray God aloud to bless the lovely giver. ’T will hold me to my best, and all the saints know how I stand in need of such a talisman ! ”
“ You do not mean it, sir ? ” faltered Roger. “ Can you mean that ” —
“ Now are we friends again ? Yes, I mean it! Let us be friends, Wallingford. No, no, there need be nothing said. I own that I have had my hopes, but Miss Hamilton gave me no promise. If you go home before me, or without me, as well may happen, you shall carry back the ring. Ah no, for ’t is my charm against despair ! ” he said. “ I am sore vexed ; I am too often the prey of my vulgar temper, but God knows I am sore vexed. Let us be friends. I must have some honest man believe in me, among these tricksters.” The captain now bent to his writing, as if he could trust himself to say no more, and waved the lieutenant to be gone. “ God help me, and I ’ll win her yet! ” he cried next moment, when he was alone again, and lifted his face as if Heaven must listen to the vow. “ Women like her are blessed with wondrous deep affections rather than quick passion,” he said again softly. “ ’T is heaven itself within a heart like that, but Love is yet asleep.”
The lights of Nantes and the lanterns of the shipping were all mirrored in the Loire, that night; there was a soft noise of the river current about the ship. The stars shone thick in the sky; they were not looking down on so happy a lover the world over as Roger Wallingford. He stood by the mainmast in the cold night air, the sudden turn of things bewildering his brain, his strong young heart beating but unsteadily. Alas, it was weeks ago that a single, stiffly phrased letter had gone home to his mother, and Mary’s own letter was at the bottom of the sea. There was a swift homeward-bound brig just weighing anchor that had ventured to sea in spite of foes, and taken all the letters from the Ranger, and now it might be weeks before he could write again. Oh, distance, distance ! how cruel are the long miles of sea that separate those who love, and long to be together!
Later that night, before they turned in, the officers and crew beheld Captain Paul Jones and his lately estranged lieutenant pacing the deck. They were looked upon with pleasure by some who honored them both, but next day a new whispering was set forward ; there was need of suspicion, since this new alliance might mean concerted betrayal, and Paul Jones himself was not above being won over to the Tories, being but an adventurer on his own account. Dickson was as busy as the devil in a gale of wind. His own plots had so far come to naught: he had not set these officers to hate each other, or forced them to compass each other’s downfall. On the contrary, they had never really been fast friends until now.
The only thing was to rouse public opinion against them both. ’T were easy enough: he had promised to meet again the man whom he had met in the tavern the day before, — that messenger of Thornton, who had given hints of great reward if any one would give certain information which was already in Dickson’s keeping. That night he shook his fist at the two figures that paced the quarter-deck.
“ One of you came out of pride and ambition,” he muttered, “ and the other to please his lady! We men are here for our own rights, and to show that the colonies mean business ! ”
The captain was dressed in his best uniform, fresh from the tailor’s wrappings, with all his bright lace and gilt buttons none the worse for sea damp. With manners gay enough to match, he bade good-morning to whoever appeared, and paced his twelve steps forward and back on the quarter-deck like the lucky prince in a fairy story. Something had happened to make a new pleasure; at any rate, Mr. Paul Jones was high above any sense of displeasure, and well content with the warm satisfaction of his own thoughts.
Presently this cheerful captain sent a ship’s boy to command the presence of Mr. Wallingford, and Mr. Wallingford came promptly in answer to the summons. There was so evident a beginning of some high official function that the lieutenant, not unfamiliar with such affairs, became certain that the mayor and corporation of Nantes must be expected to breakfast, and lent himself not unwillingly to the play.
“ You will attend me to Paris, sir,” announced the commander. “ I shall wait the delays of our Commissioners no longer. ‘ If you want a good servant, go yourself,’ as our wise adviser, Poor Richard, has well counseled us. I mean to take him at his word. Can you be ready within the hour, Mr. Wallingford ? ’T is short notice for you, but I have plenty left of my good Virginia money to serve us on our way. The boat awaits us.”
Wallingford made his salute, and hastened below; his heart beat fast with pleasure, being a young heart, and the immediate world of France much to its liking. The world of the Ranger appeared to grow smaller day by day, and freedom is ever a welcome gift.
When the lieutenant reached his berth the captain’s arrangements had preceded him : there was a sailor already waiting with the leather portmanteau which Wallingford had brought to sea. The old judge, his father, had carried it on many an errand of peace and justice, and to the son it brought a quick reminder of home and college journeys, and a young man’s happy anticipations. The sight of it seemed to change everything, stained though this old enchanter’s wallet might be with sea water, and its brasses green with verdigris. The owner beheld it with complete delight; as for the sailor, he misunderstood a sudden gesture, and thought he was being blamed.
“ Cap’n ordered it up, sir; never demeaned hisself to say what for,” apologized Cooper.
“ Take hold now and stow these things I give you,” said the excited lieutenant. “ Trouble is, every man on board this ship tries to be captain. Don’t wrap those boots in my clean shirts ! ”
“ I ain’t no proper servant; takes too much l’arnin’,” protested Cooper goodnaturedly, seeing that the young squire was in a happy frame. “ Our folks was all content to be good farmers an’ live warm on their own land, till I took up with follerin’ the sea. Lord give me help to get safe home this time, an’ I won’t take the chances no more. A ship’s no place for a Christian.”
Wallingford’s mind was stretched to the task of making sudden provision for what might not be a short absence ; he could hear the captain’s impatient tramp on the deck overhead.
“ I expect old Madam, your lady mother, and my sister Susan, was the last to pack your clothes for ye ? ” ventured this friend of many years, in a careful voice, and Wallingford gave him a pat on the shoulder for answer.
“ We ’ll speed matters by this journey to Paris, if all goes well,” he replied kindly. “ Keep the men patient ; there are stirrers-up of trouble aboard that can do the crew more harm than the captain, if they get their way. You ’ll soon understand everything. France cannot yet act freely, and we must take long views.”
“Wish’t I was to home now,” mourned Cooper gloomily.
“ Don’t fear ! ” cried Wallingford gayly, though’t was but a pair of days since he himself had feared everything, and carried a glum face for all the crew to see. “ Good-day, Cooper. If anything happens to me, you must carry back word ! ” he added, with boyish bravado.
“ Lord bless you ! ” said Cooper. “ I figur’ me darin’ to go nigh the gre’t house with any bad tidin’s o’ you ! Marm Susan’d take an’ scalp me, ’s if I’d been the fust to blame.” At which they laughed together, and hurried to the deck.
“ ’T is high time ! ” blustered the captain ; but once in the boat, he became light-hearted and companionable. It was as if they had both left all their troubles behind them.
“ There’s Simpson and Sargent and that yellow-faced Dickson leaning over the side to look after us and think how well they can spare us both,” grumbled Paul Jones. “ I can see them there, whether I turn my head or not. I’ve set them stints enough for a fortnight, and named this day week for our return. Lay out! lay out! ” cried the captain. “ Give way, my lads ! ” and settled himself in the boat.
The wind was fresh; the waves splashed into the gig as they toiled steadily up the river. The walls of the old castle looked grim and high, as they came under the city. In the cathedral abode the one thing that was dear to Wallingford’s heart in this strange place, — the stately figure of Anne of Brittany, standing at her mother’s feet in the great Renaissance tomb. She wore a look like Mary Hamilton when she was most serious, so calm and sweet across the brow. The young officer had discovered this lovely queen, and her still lovelier likeness, on a dark and downcast day, and had often been grateful since for the pleasure of beholding her ; he now sent a quick thought into the cathedral from the depths of his fond heart.
The two travelers, in their bright uniforms, hurried up through the busy town to a large inn, where the captain had ordered his post horses to be ready. Bretons and Frenchmen both cheered them as they passed the market place: the errand of the Ranger was well known, and much spending money had made most of her ship’s company plenty of friends ashore. They took their seats in the post chaise, not without disappointment on Wallingford’s part, who had counted upon riding a good French horse to Paris instead of jolting upon stiff springs. There was more than one day, however; the morning was fresh and bright, and there were too many mercies beside to let a man groan over anything.
The thought now struck Wallingford, as if he were by far the elder man, that they might well have worn their everyday clothes upon the journey, but he had not the heart to speak. The captain wore such an innocent look of enjoyment, and of frankly accepting the part of a proven hero and unprotested great man.
“ I must order a couple of suits of new uniform from one of their best tailors,” said Mr. Paul Jones, only half conscious of his listener. One moment the hardened man of affairs and rough sea bully, at the next one saw him thus : frank, compassionate of others, and amused by small pleasures, — the sentimental philosopher who scattered largess of alms like a royal prince all along the white French roads.
“ I go north by Rennes and Vitré, and to Paris by Alençon. I am told the roads are good, and the worst inns passable, while the best are the best,” said the little captain, dropping the last of his lofty manner of the quarter-deck, and turning to his companion with a most frank air of good-fellowship. “ We can return by the Loire. I hear that we can come by barge from Orléans to Nantes in four days, lying in the river inns by night. I have no love for the road I was so sorry on last month, or the inns that stood beside it.”
The young men sat straight-backed and a little pompous in the post chaise, with their best cocked hats bobbing and turning quickly toward each other in the pleasures of conversation. Was this the same Paul Jones who so vexed his ship with bawling voice and harsh behavior, this quiet, gay-hearted man of the world, who seemed to play the princely traveler even more easily than he crowded sail on the Ranger all across the stormy seas, — the flail of whose speech left nobody untouched ? He was so delightful at that moment, so full of charming sympathy and keenest observation, that all private grievances must have been dissolved into the sweet French air and the blue heaven over their heads.
“ There were others of my officers who might well go to Paris, but I wanted the right gentleman with me now,” explained the captain, with frankness. “ ’T is above all a gentleman’s place when court matters are in hand. You have some acquaintance with their language, too, which is vastly important. I blessed Heaven last time for every word I knew ; ’t was most of it hard learnt in my early days, when I was a sailor before the mast, and had but a single poor book to help me. No man can go much in the world over here without his French. And you know Paris, too, Mr. Wallingford, while I am almost a stranger in the streets. I cared not where I was, in my late distresses, and I had longed to see the sights of Paris all my life ! My whole heart is in the journey now, tiresome though we may find many a day’s long leagues.”
“ ’T is some years since I lived there for a while,” said Wallingford modestly ; but a vision of all the pleasure and splendor of the great city rose to his mind’s eye.
“ I have suffered unbelievable torture on that petty ship ! ” exclaimed Paul Jones suddenly, waving his hand toward the harbor they were fast leaving out of sight. “ Now for the green fields of France, and for the High Commissioners at Paris! I wish to God my old auntie Jean Mac Duff, that was fain to be prood o’ me, could see me with my two postilions on the road, this day.” And such was the gayety of the moment, and the boyish pride of the little sailor, that his companion fairly loved him for the wish, and began to think tenderly of his own dear love, and of his mother waiting and watching by the riverside at home.
“ ‘ Vitré, ” he repeated presently, with fresh expectation, — “ ’t is a name I know well, but I cannot call to mind the associations ; of the town of Rennes I do not remember to have heard.”
“ I wish that I could have fallen in with their great admiral, Bailli Suffren,” said the captain, leaning back in the post chaise, and heaving a sigh of perfect content. “ We know not where he sails the seas ; but if it chanced that he were now on his way to the fleet at Brest, or going up to Paris from the sea, like ourselves, and we chanced to meet at an inn, how I should beg the honor of his acquaintance ! The King ought to put a sailor like that beside him on his throne ; as for Bailli Suffren himself, he has served France as well as any man who ever lived. Look, there are two poor sailors of another sort, fresh from their vessel, too! See how wide they tread, from balancing on the decks ; they have been long at sea, poor devils ! ” he grumbled, as the post chaise overtook a forlorn pair of seamen, each carrying a loose bundle on his back. They were still young men, but their faces looked disappointed and sad. Seeing that the captain fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, Wallingford did the same, and two bright louis d’or flew through the morning air and dropped at the sailors’ feet. They gave a shout of joy, and the two young lords in the post chaise passed gayly on.
“ They ’ll sit long at the next inn,” said Captain Paul Jones. “ They were thin as those salt fish we shipped for the voyage, at Newcastle.”
“ A prime dun fish is a dainty not to be despised,” urged Wallingford, true to his local traditions.
“ ’T is either a dainty, or a cedar shingle well preserved in brine, which is eatable by no man,” pronounced the captain, speaking with the authority of an epicure. “ We must deal with their best French dishes while we stay in Paris. Mr. Franklin will no doubt advise us in regard to their best inns. I was careless of the matter in my first visit.”
“ ’T was Poor Richard himself said, ‘ A fat kitchen makes a lean will,’ ” laughed Wallingford, “ but he is a great man for the proprieties.”
Sarah Orne Jewett,
(To be continued.)
- Copyright, 1901, by SARAH ORNE JEWETT.↩