LATE that night Mary Hamilton sat by the window in her sleeping closet, a quaint little room that led from the stately chamber of Madam Wallingford. Past midnight, it was still warm out of doors, and the air strangely lifeless. It had been late before the maid went away and their dear charge had fallen asleep; so weak and querulous and full of despair had she been all the long day.
The night taper was flickering in its cup of oil, but the street outside was brighter than the great room. The waning moon was just rising, and the watcher leaned back wearily against the shutter, and saw the opposite roofs slowly growing less dim. There were tall trees near by in the garden, and a breeze, that Mary could not feel where she sat, was rustling among the poplar leaves and mulberries. She heard footsteps coming up the street, and the sound startled her as if she had been sitting at her window at home, where footsteps at that time of night might mean a messenger to the house.
The great town of Bristol lay fast asleep ; it was only the watchman’s tread that had startled the listener, and for a moment changed her weary thoughts. The old man went by with his clumsy lantern, but gave no cry nor told the hour until he was well into the distance.
There was much to think about at the end of this day, which had brought an unexpected addition to her heart’s regret. The remembrance of Paul Jones, his insistence upon Wallingford’s treachery, a sad mystery which now might never be solved, even the abruptness of the captain’s own declaration of love, and a sense of unreality that came from her own miserable weakness, — all these things were new burdens for the mind. She could not but recognize the hero in this man of great distinction, as he had stood before her, and yet his melancholy exit, with the very poverty of his dress, had somehow added to the misery of the moment. It seemed to her now as if they had met each other, that morning, with no thoughts of victory, but in the very moment of defeat. Their hopes had been so high when last they talked together. Again there came to her mind the anxiety of that bright night when she had stood pleading with Roger Wallingford on the river shore, and had thrown down her challenge at his feet. How easy and even how happy it all seemed beside these dreadful days! How little she had known then ! How little she had loved then ! Life had been hardly more than a play beside this ; it was more dramatic than real. She had felt a remote insincerity, in those old days, in even the passionate words of the two men, and a strange barrier, like a thin wall of glass, was always between her heart and theirs. Now, indeed, she was face to face with life, she was in the middle of the great battle; now she loved Roger Wallingford, and her whole heart was forever his, whether he was somewhere in the world alive, or whether he lay starved and dead among the furze and heather on the Devon moors. She saw his white face there, as if she came upon it in the shadows of her thoughts, and gave a quick cry, such was the intensity of her grief and passion ; and the frail figure stirred under its coverlet in the great room beyond, with a pitiful low moan like the faint echo of her own despair.
The sad hour went by, and still this tired girl sat by the window, like a watcher who did not dare to forget herself in sleep. Her past life had never been so clearly spread before her, and all the pleasant old days were but a background for one straight figure : the manly, fastgrowing boy whom she played with and rebuffed on equal terms; the eagerfaced and boyish man whom she had begun to fear a little, and then to tease, lest she should admire too much. She remembered all his beautiful reticence and growing seriousness, the piety with which he served his widowed mother; the pleading voice, that last night of all, when she had been so slow to answer to his love. It was she herself now who could plead, and who must have patience ! How hard she had been sometimes, how deaf and blind, how resistant and dull of heart! ’T was a girl’s strange instinct to fly, to hide, to so defeat at first the dear pursuer of her heart’s love !
Again there was a footstop in the street. It was not the old watchman coming, for presently she heard a man’s voice singing a country tune that she had known at home. He came within sight and crossed the street, and stood over the way waiting in shadow; now he went on softly with the song. It was an old Portsmouth ballad that all the river knew; the very sound of it was like a message : —
The mermaids they o’er my sailor’s grave,
The mermaids they at the bottom of the sea
Are weeping their salt tears for me.
’T was daybreak over the eastern hill ” —
He began the song once again, but still more softly, and then stopped.
Mary kept silence ; her heart began to beat very fast. She put her hand on the broad window sill where the moonlight lay, and the singer came out into the street. She saw the Spanish sailor again. What had brought the captain to find her at this time of night ?
She leaned out quickly. “ I am here. Can I help you ? Is there any news ? ” she whispered, as he stood close under the window, looking up. “ You are putting yourself in danger,” she warned him anxiously. " I heard the people saying that you have been seen in Bristol, this morning as I came home ! ”
“ God be thanked that I have found you awake ! ” he answered eagerly, and the moon shone full upon his face, so that she could see it plain. “ I feared that I should have to wait till daylight to see you. I knew no one to trust with my message, and I must run for open sea. I have learned something of our mystery at last. Go you to the inn at Old Passage to-morrow night, — do you hear me ? — to the inn at Old Passage, and wait there till I come. Go at nightfall, and let yourself be unknown in the house, if you can. I think — I think we may have news from Wallingford.”
She gave a little cry, and leaned far out of the window, speaking quickly in her excitement, and begging to hear more; but the captain had vanished to the shadows whence he came. Her heart was beating so fast and hard now that she could not hear his light footsteps as he hurried away, running back to the water side down the echoing, paved street.
The Roscoff fishing smack lay in the Severn, above Avon mouth, and it was broad day when Captain Paul Jones came aboard again, having been rowed down the river by some young Breton sailors whom he had found asleep in the bottom of their boat. There would be natural suspicion of a humble French craft like theirs ; but when they had been overhauled in those waters, a day or two before, the owner of the little vessel, a sedate person by the name of Dickson, professed himself to be an Englishman from the Island of Guernsey, with proper sailing papers and due reverence for King George the Third. His crew, being foreigners, could answer no decent Bristol questions, and they were allowed to top their boom for the fishing grounds unmolested, having only put into harbor for supplies.
The Roscoff lads looked at their true captain with mingled sleepiness and admiration as he took the steersman’s place. He presently opened a large knotted bundle handkerchief, and gave them a share of the rich treat of tobacco and early apples within ; then, seeing that they kept their right course, he made a pillow of his arm, and fell sound asleep.
As they came under the vessel’s side the barking of a little dog on board waked him again with a start. He looked weary enough as he stood to give his orders and watch his opportunity to leap from the boat, as they bobbed about in the choppy sea. All was quiet on deck in the bright sunlight; only the little French dog kept an anxious lookout. The captain gave orders to break out their anchor and be off down channel, and then turned toward the cabin, just as Dickson made his appearance, yawning, in the low companion way.
Dickson had found such life as this on the fisherman very dull, besides having a solid resentment of its enforced privations. None of the crew could speak English save Cooper and Hanscom, who had come to hate him, and would not speak to him at all except in the exercise of duty. He knew nothing of the Breton talk, and was a man very fond of idle and argumentative conversation. The captain had been ashore now for thirty-six long hours, and his offended colleague stood back, with a look of surly discontent and no words of welcome, to let the tyrant pass. The captain took a letter out of his pocket and gave it to him, with a quick but not unfriendly glance, as if half amused by Dickson’s OAVU expression of alarm as he turned the folded paper and looked at its unbroken seal. He mumbled something about a tailor’s bill, and then insisted that the letter could not be meant for him. He did not seem to know what it would be safe to say.
“ Come below; I wish to speak with you.” The captain spoke impatiently, as usual, and had the air of a king - bird which dealt with a helpless crow. “We are in no danger of being overheard. I must speak with you before you read your letter. I have chanced upon some important information; I have a new plan on foot.”
“ Certainly, sir,” replied Dickson, looking very sour-tempered, but putting a most complaisant alacrity into his voice.
“ The news was given me by a man who succeeded in making his escape from the Mill Prison some months since, and who came to Bristol, where he had old acquaintances ; he is now at work in a coppersmith’s shop,” explained the captain. “ He has been able to help some of his shipmates since then, and, under the assumed character of an American Loyalist, has enjoyed the confidence of both parties. ’T will be a dangerous fellow to tamper with ; I have heard something of him before. I doubt if he is very honest, but he turns many a good sound penny for himself. Lee believes that all his spies are as trusty as Ford and Thornton, but I can tell you that they are not.” The captain’s temper appeared to be rising, and Dickson winced a little. “ I know of some things that go on unbeknownst to him, and so perhaps do you, Mr. Dickson; this man has advised me of some matters in Bristol this very night, about which I own myself to be curious. He says that there are two men out of the Mill Prison who may be expected in, and are hoping to get safe away to sea. It would be a pretty thing to add a pair of good American sailors to our number without the trouble of formal exchange. So I must again delay our sailing for France, and must leave you here tonight, while I go to inspect the fugitives. There are special reasons, too, why I wish to get news from the prison.”
The captain seemed excited, and spoke with unusual frankness and civility. Though Dickson had begun to listen with uneasiness, he now expressed approval of such a plan, but ventured at the same time to give an officious warning that there might be danger of a plot among the Bristol Loyalists. They would make themselves very happy by securing such an enemy as John Paul Jones. But this proof of sagacity and unselfishness on Dickson’s part the captain did not deign to notice.
“ I shall pass the day in fishing, and toward night take another anchorage farther up the channel,” he continued. “ There are reasons why prudence forbids my going into the Avon again by boat, or being seen by day about the Bristol quays. I shall run farther up the Severn and land there, and ride across by Westbury, and over the downs by Redlands into Bristol, and so return by daybreak. I have bespoken a horse to wait for me, and you will see that a boat is ready to take me off in the morning.”
Dickson received these instructions with apparent interest and an unconscious sigh of relief. He understood that the captain’s mind was deeply concerned in so innocent a matter; there was probably no reason for apprehension on his own part. The next moment his spirits fell, and his face took on that evil color which was the one sign of emotion and animosity that he was unable to conceal. There was likely to be direct news now from the Mill Prison ; and the grievous nightmare that haunted Dickson’s thoughts was the possible reappearance of Roger Wallingford.
Once or twice he swallowed hard, and tried to gather courage to speak, but the words would not come. The captain passed him with a scowl, and threw himself into the wretched bunk of the cabin to get some sleep.
“ Captain Jones,” and Dickson boldly followed him, “ I have something important which I must say ” —
“ Will not you read your letter first ? ” inquired the captain, with unaccustomed politeness. “ I am very much fatigued, as you might see. I want a little sleep, after these two nights.”
“We are alone now, sir, and there is something that has lain very heavy on my mind.” The man was fluent enough, once his voice had found utterance.
The captain, with neither an oath nor a growl, sat up in his berth, and listened with some successful mockery of respect, looking him straight in the face.
“ That night, — you remember, sir, at Whitehaven ? I have come to be troubled about tlmt night. You may not recall the fact that so unimportant a person as I stood in any real danger on such an occasion of glory to you, but I was set upon by the town guard, and only escaped with my life. I returned to the Ranger in a suffering condition. You were a little overset by your disappointment, and by Mr. Wallingford’s disappearance and your suspicions of his course. But in my encounter, — you know that it was not yet day ? — and in the excitement of escaping from an armed guard, I fear that I fought hand to hand with Wallingford himself, taking him for a constable. He was the last of them to attack me, when I was unable to discriminate,—or he, either,” added Dickson slyly, but with a look of great concern. “ The thought has struck me that he might not have been disloyal to our cause, and was perhaps escaping to the boat, as I was, when we fell into such desperate combat in that dark lane. It would put me into an awful position, you can see, sir. ... I may be possessed of too great a share of human frailty, but I have had more than my share of ill fortune. I have suffered from unjust suspicions, too, but this dreadful accident would place me ” —
“ You thought to save your life from an unknown enemy ? ” the captain interrupted him. “ You struck one of your own party, by mischance, in the dark ? ” he suggested, without any apparent reproach in his voice.
“ Exactly so, sir,” said Dickson, taking heart, but looking very mournful.
“ Yet you told us that Mr. Wallingford alarmed the guard ? ”
“ I could suspect nothing else, sir, at the time ; you heard my reasons when I returned.”
“ Never mind your return,” urged Paul Jones, still without any tone of accusation. “ ’T was long after the gray of the morning, ’t was almost broad day, when I left the shore myself at Whitehaven, and a man might easily know one of his shipmates. ’T was a dark lane, you told me, however,” and his eyes twinkled with the very least new brightness. “ If we should ever see poor Wallingford again, you could settle all that between you. I can well understand your present concern. Do you think that you did the lieutenant any serious damage before you escaped? I recall the fact that you were badly mauled about the countenance.”
“ I fear that I struck him worst in the shoulder, sir,” and Dickson shifted his position uneasily, and put one hand to the deck timber above to hold himself steady, now that they were rolling badly with the anchor off ground. “ I know that I had my knife in my hand. He is a very strong fellow, and a terrible man to wrestle with, — I mean the man whom I struck, who may have been Wallingford. I thought he would kill me first.”
“ I wish you had bethought yourself to speak sooner,” said the captain patiently. " ’T is a thing for us to reflect upon deeply, but I can hear no more now. I must sleep, as you see, before I am fit for anything. Do not let the men disturb me ; they may get down channel to their fishing. If they succeed as well as yesterday, we shall soon make the cost of this little adventure.”
He spoke drowsily, and drew the rough blanket over his head to keep the light away.
Dickson mounted to the deck. If he had known how easy it would be to make things straight with the captain, how much suffering he might have spared himself! You must take him in the right mood, too. But the captain had an eye like a gimlet, that twisted into a man’s head.
“ Wallingford may never turn up, after all. I wish I had killed him while I was about it,” said Dickson to himself uneasily. “ It may be all a lie that he was sent to Plymouth ; ’t would be such a distance ! ” There was something the matter with this world. To have an eye like Paul Jones’s fixed upon you while you were trying to make a straight story was anything but an assistance or a pleasure.
The captain was shaking with laughter in the cabin as Dickson disappeared. “ What a face he put on, the smoothspoken hypocrite ! His race is run ; he told me more than he needed,” and Paul Jones’s face grew stern, as he lay there looking at the planks above his head. “ He’s at the bottom of the hill now, if he only knew it. When a man’s character is gone, his reputation is sure enough to follow; ” and with this sage reflection the captain covered his head again carefully, and went to sleep.
Unaware of this final verdict, Dickson was comfortably reading his letter on the deck, and feeling certain that fortune had turned his way. His mind had been made up some days before to leave the Ranger as soon as he got back to France, even if he must feign illness to gain his discharge, or desert the ship, as others had done. He had already a good sum of money that had been paid him for information useful to the British government, and, to avoid future trouble, proposed to hide himself in the far South or in one of the West Indian Islands. “ My poor wife would gain by the change of climate,” said the scoundrel, pitying himself now for the loss of friendship and respect from which he felt himself begin to suffer, and for those very conditions which he had so carefully evolved.
He started as he read the brief page before him ; the news of the letter was amazingly welcome. It was written by some one who knew his most intimate affairs. The chance had come to give up the last and best of those papers which he had stolen from the captain’s desk. For this treasure he had asked a great price, — so great that Thornton would not pay it at Brest, and Ford’s messenger had laughed him in the face. Now there was the promise of the money, the whole noble sum. Word of his being with Paul Jones had somehow reached Bristol. The crafty captain had been unwise, for once, in speaking with this make-believe coppersmith, and the play was up ! The writer of the letter said that a safe agent would meet Mr. Dickson any night that week at seven o’ clock, at the inn by Old Passage, to pay him his own price for certain papers or information. There was added a handsome offer for the body of Paul Jones, alive or dead, in case he should not be in custody before that time. The letter was sealed as other letters had been, with a device known among Thornton’s errand runners.
“ Old Passage ! ” repeated the happy Dickson. “ I must now find where that place is ; but they evidently know my present situation, and the inn is no doubt near.”
He stepped softly to the cabin hatchway, and looked down. The captain’s face was turned aside, and he breathed heavily. The chart of that coast was within easy reach ; Dickson took it from the chest where it lay, since it was an innocent thing to have in hand. There was all the shore of the Severn and the Bristol Channel, with the spot already marked nearest Westbury church where the captain was likely to land; and here beyond, at no great distance, was Old Passage, where a ferry crossed the Severn. He should have more than time enough for his own errand and a good evening ashore, while Paul Joner was riding into Bristol, perhaps to stay there against his will. For the slight trouble of ripping a few stitches in his waistcoat seams and taking out a slip of paper Dickson would be richer at that day’s end by one hundred pounds.
“ Yes, I ’ll go to the southward when I reach America, and start anew,” he reflected. “ I’ve had it very hard, but now I can take my ease. This, with the rest of my savings, will make me snug.”
He heard the captain move, and the planks of the berth creak in the stuffy cabin. They were running free before the east wind, and were almost at the fishing grounds.
Just before nightfall, that same day, two travel-worn men came riding along a country road toward Old Passage, the ancient ferrying place where travelers from the south and west of England might cross over into Wales. From an immemorial stream of travel and the wear of weather, the road bed was worn, like a swift stream’s channel, deep below the level of the country. One of the riders kept glancing timidly at the bushy banks above his head, as if he feared to see a soldier in the thicket peering down; his companion sat straight in his saddle, and took no notice of anything but his horse and the slippery road. It had been showery all the afternoon, and they were both spattered with mud from cap to stirrup.
As they came northward, side by side, to the top of a little hill, the anxious rider gave a sigh of relief, and his horse, which limped badly and bore the marks of having been on his knees, whinnied as if in sympathy. The wide gray waters of the Severn were spread to east and west; the headland before them fell off like a cliff. Below, to the westward, the land was edged by a long line of dike which walled the sea floods away from some low meadows that stretched far along the coast. Over the water were drifting low clouds of fog and rain, but there was a dull gleam of red on the western sky like a winter sunset, and the wind was blowing. At the road’s end, just before them, was a group of gray stone buildings perched on the high headland above the Severn, like a monastery or place of military defense.
As the travelers rode up to the Passage Inn, the inn yard, with all its stables and outhouses, looked deserted ; the sunset gust struck a last whip of rain at the tired men. The taller of the two called impatiently for a hostler before he got stiffly to the ground, and stamped his feet as he stood by his horse.. ’T was a poor tired country nag, with a kind eye, that began to seek some fondling from her rider, as if in spite of hardships she harbored no ill will. The young man patted and stroked the poor creature, which presently dropped her head low, and steamed, as if it were winter weather, high into the cool air.
The small kitchen windows were dimly lighted ; there was a fire burning within, but the whole place looked unfriendly, with its dark stone walls and heavily slated roof. The waters below were almost empty of shipping, as if there were a storm coming, but as the rider looked he saw a small craft creeping up close by the shore ; she was like a French fishing boat, and had her sweeps out. The wind was dead against her out of the east, and her evident effort added to the desolateness of the whole scene. The impatient traveler shouted again, with a strong, honest voice that prevailed against both wind and weather, so that one of the stable doors was flung open and a man came out; far inside the dark place glowed an early lantern, and the horses turned their heads that way, eager for supper and warm bedding. There seemed to be plenty of room within ; there was no sound of stamping hoofs, or a squeal of crowded horses that nipped their fellows to get more comfort for themselves. Business was evidently at a low ebb.
“ Rub them down as if they were the best racers in England ; give them the best feed you dare as soon as they cool, — full oats and scant hay and a handful of corn: they have served us well,” said Wallingford, with great earnestness. “I shall look to them myself in an hour or two, and you shall have your own pay. The roan’s knees need to he tight-bandaged. Come, Hammet, will you not alight ? ” he urged his comrade, who, through weariness or uncertainty, still sat, with drooping head and shoulders, on his poor horse. “ Shake the mud off you. Here, I ’ll help you, then, if your wound hurts again,” as the man gave a groan in trying to dismount. “ After the first wrench ’t is easy enough. Come, you ’ll be none the worse for your cropper into soft clay! ” He laughed cheerfully as they crossed the yard toward a door to which the hostler pointed them.
The mistress of the inn, a sharp-looking, almost pretty woman, suddenly flung her door open, and came out on the step to bid them good-evening in a civil tone, and in the same breath, as she recognized their forlorn appearance, to bid them begone. Her house was like to be full, that night, of gentlefolk and others who had already bespoken lodging, and she had ceased to take in common wayfarers since trade was so meagre in these hard times, and she had been set upon by soldiers and fined for harboring a pack of rascals who had landed their run goods from France and housed them unbeknownst in her hay barn. They could see for themselves that she had taken down the tavern sign, and was no more bound to entertain them than any other decent widow woman would be along the road.
She railed away, uncontradicted ; but there was a pleasant smile on Wallingford’s handsome face that seemed to increase rather than diminish at her flow of words, until at last she smiled in return, though half against her will. The poor fellow looked pale and tired : he was some gentleman in distress; she had seen his like before.
“ We must need trouble you for supper and a fire,” he said to the landlady. “ I want some brandy for my comrade, and while you get supper we can take some sleep. We have been riding all day. There will be a gentleman to meet me here by and by out of Bristol,” and he took advantage of her stepping aside a little to bow politely to her and make her precede him into the kitchen. There was a quiet authority in his behavior which could not but be admired ; the good woman took notice that the face of her guest was white with fatigue, and even a little tremulous in spite of his calmness.
“If he’s a hunted man, I ’ll hide him safe,” she now said to herself. It was not the habit of Old Passage Inn to ask curious questions of its guests, or why they sometimes came at evening, and kept watch for boats that ran in from mid-channel and took them off by night. This looked like a gentleman, indeed, who would be as likely to leave two gold pieces on the table as one.
“ I have supper to get for a couple o’ thieves (by t’ looks of ’em) that was here last night waiting for some one who did n’t come, — a noisy lot, too ; to-night they ’ll get warning to go elsewhere,” she said, in a loud tone. “ I shall serve them first, and bid them begone. And I expect some gentlefolk, too. There’s a fire lit for ’em now in my best room ; it was damp there, and they’d ill mix with t’ rest. ’T is old Mr. Alderman Davis a-comin’ out o’ Bristol, one o’ their great merchants, and like to be their next lord mayor, so folks says. He’s not been this way before these three years,” she said, with importance.
“ Let me know when he comes ! ” cried Wallingford eagerly, as he stood by the fireplace. There was a flush of color in his cheeks now, and he turned to his companion, who had sunk into a corner of the settle. “ Thank God, Hammet,” he exclaimed, “ we ’re safe ! The end of all our troubles has come at last! ”
The innkeeper saw that he was much moved ; something about him had quickly touched her sympathy. She could not have told why she shared his evident gratitude, or why the inn should be his place of refuge, but if he were waiting for Mr. Davis there was no fault to find.
“ You ’ll sleep a good pair of hours without knowing it, the two of you,” she grumbled good-naturedly. “ Throw off your muddy gear there, and be off out o’ my way, now, an’ I ’ll do the best I can. Take the left-hand chamber at the stairhead ; there’s a couple o’ beds. 1 ’ve two suppers to get before the tide turns to the ebb. The packet folks’ll soon be coming; an’ those fellows that wait for their mate that’s on a fishing smack, — I may want help with ’em, if they ’re’s bad’s they look. Yes, I ’ll call ye, sir, if Mr. Davis comes; but he may be kept, the weather is so bad.”
Hammet had drunk the brandy thirstily, and was already cowering as if with an ague over the fire. Wallingford spoke to him twice before he moved. The landlady watched them curiously from the stairfoot, as they went up, to see that they found the right room.
“ ’T is one o’ the nights when every strayaway in England is like to come clacking at my door,” she said, not without satisfaction, as she made a desperate onset at her long evening’s work.
“A pair o’ runaways ! ” she muttered again; “but the tall lad can’t help princing it in his drover’s clothes. I ’ll tell the stable to deny they ’re here, if any troopers come. I ’ll help ’em safe off the land or into Bristol, whether Mr. Alderman Davis risks his old bones by night or not. A little more mercy in this world ain’t goin’ to hurt it! ”
Early in the morning of that day, when Mr. John Davis had been returning from a brief visit to his counting room, he was surprised at being run against by a disreputable-looking fellow, who dashed out of a dirty alley, and disappeared again as quickly, after putting a letter into his hand. The alderman turned, irate, to look after this lawless person, and then marched on with offended dignity up the hill. When he had turned a safe corner he stopped, and, holding his stout cane under his arm, proceeded to unfold the paper. He had received threats before in this fashion, like all magistrates or town officials ; some loose fellow warned off, or a smuggler heavily fined, would now and then make threats against the authorities.
The letter in his hand proved to be of another sort. It might be dingy without, but within the handwriting was that of a gentleman.
“ Dear Sir,” he read slowly, “ my father’s old friend and mine, — I ask your kind assistance in a time of great danger, and even distress. I shall not venture to Bristol before I have your permission. I am late from prison, where I was taken from an American frigate. At last I have found a chance to get to Chippenham market as a drover, and I hope to reach Old Passage Inn (where I was once in your company) early in the night on Friday. Could you come or send to meet me there, if it is safe ? I know or guess your own principles, but for the sake of the past I think you will give what aid he needs to Roger W—d, of Piscataqua, in New England. Your dear lady, my kinswoman, will not forget the boy to whom she was ever kind, nor will you, dear sir, I believe. I can tell you everything, if we may meet. What I most desire is to get to France, where I may join my ship. This goes by a safe hand.”
The reader struck his cane to the sidewalk, and laughed aloud.
“ What will little missy say to this ? ” he said, as he marched off. “ I ’ll hurry on to carry her the news ! ”
Miss Hamilton ran out to meet the smiling old man, as she saw him coming toward the house, and was full of pretty friendliness before he could speak.
“ You were away before I was awake,” she said, “ and I have been watching for you this half hour past, sir. First, you must know that dear Madam Wallingford is better than for many days, and has been asking for you to visit her, if it please you. And I have a new plan for us. Some one has sent me word that there may be news out of the Mill Prison, if we can be at the inn at Passage to-night. I hope you will not say it is too far to ride,” she pleaded ; “ you have often shown me the place when we rode beyond Clifton ” —
Mr. Davis’s news was old already; his face fell with disappointment.
“ It was a poor sailor who brought me word,” she continued, speaking more slowly, and watching him with anxiety. “ Perhaps we shall hear that Roger is alive. He may have been retaken, and some one brings us word from him, who has luckily escaped.”
The old merchant looked at Mary shrewdly. “ You had no message from Wallingford himself?” he asked.
“ Oh no,” said the girl wistfully ; “ that were to put a happy end to everything. But I do think that we may have word from him. If you had not come, I should have gone to find you, I was so impatient.”
Mr. Davis seated himself in his chair, and took on the air of a magistrate, now that they were in the house. After all, Roger Wallingford could know nothing of his mother or Miss Hamilton, or of their being in England; there was no hint of them in the note.
“ I suppose that we can make shift to ride to Passage,” he said soberly. “ It is not so far as many a day’s ride that you and I have taken this year; but I think we may have rain again, from the look of the clouds, and I am always in danger of my gout in this late summer weather. Perhaps it will be only another wild-goose chase,” he added gruffly, but with a twinkle in his eyes.
“ If I could tell you who brought the news ! ” said Mary impulsively. “ No, I must not risk his name, even with you, dear friend. But indeed I have great hope, and Madam is strangely better ; somehow, my heart is very light! ”
The old man looked up with a smile, as Mary stood before him. He had grown very fond of the child, and loved to see that the drawn look of pain and patience was gone now from her face.
“ I wish that it were night already. When can we start ? ” she asked.
“ Friday is no lucky day,” insisted Mr. John Davis, “ but we must do what we can. So Madam’s heart is light, too ? Well, all this may mean something,” he said indulgently. “ I must first see some of our town council who are coming to discuss important matters with me at a stated hour this afternoon, and then we can ride away. We have searched many an inn together, and every village knows us this west side of Dorset, but I believe we have never tried Old Passage before. Put on your thick riding gown with the little capes; I look for both rain and chill.”
The weather looked dark and showery in the east; the clouds were gathering fast there and in the north, though the sun still fell on the long stretch of Dundry. It had been a bright day for Bristol, but now a dark, wet night was coming on. The towers of the abbey church and St. Mary Redcliffe stood like gray rocks in a lake of fog, and if he had been on any other errand, the alderman would have turned their horses on the height of Clifton, and gone back to his comfortable home. The pretty chimes in the old church at Westbury called after them the news that it was five o’clock, as they cantered and trotted on almost to the borders of the Severn itself, only to be stopped and driven to shelter by a heavy fall of rain. They were already belated, and Mr. Davis displeased himself with the thought that they were in for a night’s absence, and in no very luxurious quarters. He had counted upon the waning moon to get them back, however late, to Bristol; but the roads were more and more heavy as they rode on. At last they found themselves close to the water side, and made their two horses scramble up the high dike that bordered it, and so got a shorter way to Passage and a drier one than the highway they had left.
The great dike was like one of the dikes of Holland, with rich meadow farms behind it, which the high tides and spring floods had often drowned and spoiled in ancient days. The Severn looked gray and sullen, as they rode along beside it; there were but two or three poor fishing craft running in from sea, and a very dim gray outline of the Welsh hills beyond. There was no comfortable little haven anywhere in view in this great landscape and sea border ; no sign of a town or even a fishing hamlet near the shore ; only the long, curving line of the dike itself, and miles away, like a forsaken citadel, the Passage Inn stood high and lonely. The wind grew colder as they rode, and they rode in silence, each lamenting the other’s discomfort, but clinging to the warm, unquenchable hope of happiness that comforted their hearts. There were two or three cottages of the dikekeepers wedged against the inner side of the embankment, each with one little gable window that looked seaward. One might lay his hand upon the low roofs in passing, and a stout bench against the wall offered a resting place to those travelers who had trodden a smooth footpath on the top of the dike.
Now and then the horses must be made to leap a little bridge, and the darkness was fast gathering. Down at the cottage sides there were wallflowers on the window sills, and in the last that they passed a candle was already lighted, and bright firelight twinkled cheerfully through the lattice. They met no one all the way, but once they were confronted by a quarrelsome, pushing herd of young cattle returning from the salt sea - pasturage outside. There was a last unexpected glow of red from the west, a dull gleam that lit the lowdrifting clouds above the water, and shone back for a moment on the high windows of the inn itself, and brightened the cold gray walls. Then the night settled down, as if a great cloud covered the whole country with its wings.
Half an hour later Mr. John Davis dismounted with some difficulty, as other guests now in the inn had done before him, and said aloud that he was too old a man for such adventures, and one who ought to be at home before his own good fire. They were met at the door by the mistress of the inn, who had not looked for them quite so early, though she had had notice by the carrier out of Bristol of their coming. There was a loud buzz of voices in the inn kitchen ; the place was no longer lonely, and an unexpected, second troop of noisy Welsh packmen and drovers were waiting outside for their suppers, before they took the evening packet at the turn of tide. The landlady had everything to do at once ; one of her usual helpers was absent; she looked resentful and disturbed.
“I’d ought to be ready, sir, but I’m swamped with folks this night,” she declared. “ I fear there ’ll be no packet leave, either; the wind’s down, and the last gust’s blown. If the packet don’t get in, she can’t get out, tide or no tide to help her. I’ve got your fire alight in the best room, but you ’ll wait long for your suppers, I fear, sir. My kitchen ’s no place for a lady.”
“ Tut, tut, my good lass! ” said the alderman. " We ’ll wait an’ welcome. I know your best room, — ’t is a snug enough place; and we ’ll wait there till you ’re free. Give me a mug of your good ale now, and some bread and cheese, and think no more of us. I expect to find a young man here, later on, to speak with me. There’s no one yet asking for me, I dare say ? We are before our time.”
The busy woman shook her head and hurried away, banging the door behind her ; and presently, as she crossed the kitchen, she remembered the young gentleman in the rough clothes upstairs, and then only thanked Heaven to know that he was sound asleep, and not clamoring for his supper on the instant, like all the rest.
“ I ’ll not wake him yet for a bit,” she told herself; “ then they can all sup together pleasant, him and the young lady.”
Mr. Davis, after having warmed himself before the bright fire of coals, and looked carefully at the portrait of his Majesty King George the Third on the parlor wall, soon began to despair of the ale, and went out into the kitchen to take a look at things. There was nobody there to interest him much, and the air was stifling. Young Wallingford might possibly have been among this very company in some rough disguise, but he certainly was not; and presently the alderman returned, followed by a young maid, who carried a tray with his desired refreshments.
“ There’s a yellow-faced villain out there ; a gallows bird, if ever I saw one! ” he said, as he seated himself again by the fire.
Mary Hamilton stood by the window, to watch if the captain might be coming. It was already so dark that she could hardly see what might happen out of doors. She envied her companion the ease with which he had gone out to take a look at the men in the great kitchen ; but Paul Jones would be sure to look for her when he came ; there was nothing to do but to wait for him, if one could only find proper patience. The bleak inn parlor, scene of smugglers’ feasts and runaway weddings, was brightened by the good fire. The alderman was soon comforted in both mind and body, and Mary, concealing her impatience as best she could, shared his preliminary evening meal, as she had done many a night, in many an inn, before. She had a persistent fear that Paul Jones or his messenger might come and go away again, and she grew very anxious as she sat thinking about him ; but as she looked up and began to speak, she saw that the tired old man could not answer ; he was sound asleep in his chair. The good ale had warmed and soothed him so that she had not the heart to wake him. She resigned herself to silence, but listened for footsteps, and to the ceaseless clink of glasses and loud clatter of voices in the room beyond. The outer door had a loud and painful creak, and for a long time she heard nobody open it, until some one came to give a loud shout for passengers who were intending to take the packet. Then there was a new racket of departure, and the sound of the landlady angrily pursuing some delinquent guest into the yard to claim her pay; but still Mr. Davis slept soundly. The poor woman would be getting her kitchen to rights now ; presently it would be no harm to wake her companion, and see if their business might not be furthered. It was not late ; they really had not been there much above an hour yet, only the time was very slow in passing; and as Mary watched Mr. John Davis asleep in his chair, his kind old face had a tired look that went to her affectionate heart. At last she heard a new footstep coming down the narrow stairway into the passage. She could not tell why, but there was a sudden thrill at her heart. There was a tumult in her breast, a sense of some great happiness that was very near to her; it was like some magnet that worked upon her very heart itself, and set her whole frame to quivering.
After the packet went there were three men left in the kitchen, who sat by themselves at a small table. The low-storied, shadowy room was ill lighted by a sullen, slow-burning fire, much obscured by pots and kettles, and some tallow candles scattered on out-of-the-way shelves. The mistress of the place scolded over her heap of clattering crockery and heavy pewter in a far corner. The men at the table had finished their supper, and having called for more drink, were now arguing over it. Two of them wore coats that were well spattered with mud ; the third was a man better dressed, who seemed above his company, but wore a plausible, persistent look on his sallow countenance. This was Dickson, who had been set ashore in a fishing boat, and was now industriously plying his new acquaintances with brandy, beside drinking with eagerness himself at every round of the bottle. He forced his hospitality upon the better looking of his two companions, who could not be made to charge his glass to any depth, or to empty it so quickly as his mate. Now and then they put their heads together to hear a tale which Dickson was telling, and once burst into a roar of incredulous laughter which made the landlady command them to keep silence.
She was busy now with trying to bring out of the confusion an orderly supper for her patient guests of the parlor, and sent disapproving glances toward the three men near the fire, as if she were ready to speed their going. They had drunk hard, but the sallow-faced man called for another bottle, and joked with the poor slatternly girl who went and came serving their table. They were so busy with their own affairs that they did not notice a man who slipped into the kitchen behind them, as the Welshmen went out. As the three drank a toast together he crossed to the fireside, and seated himself in the corner of the great settle, where the high^back easily concealed his slight figure from their sight. Both the women saw him there, but he made them a warning gesture. He was not a yard away from Dickson.
The talk was freer than ever; the giver of the feast, in an unwonted outburst of generosity, flung a shilling on the flagged floor, and bade the poor maid scramble for it and keep it for herself. Then Dickson let his tongue run away with all his discretion. He began to brag to these business acquaintances of the clever ways in which he had gained his own ends on board the Ranger, and outwitted those who had too much confidence in themselves. He even bragged that Captain John Paul Jones was in his power, after a bold fashion that made his admiring audience open their heavy eyes.
“We’re safe enough herefrom that mistaken ferret,” he insisted, after briefly describing the ease with which he had carried out their evening plans. “ You might have been cooling your heels here waiting for me the whole week long, and I waiting for my money, too, but for such a turn of luck ! If I did n’t want to get to France, and get my discharge, and go back to America as quick as possible without suspicion, I’d tell you just where he landed, and put him into your hands like a cat in a bag, to be easy drowned ! ”
“ He’s in Bristol to-night, if you must know,” Dickson went on, after again refreshing himself with the brandy ; “ we set him ashore to ride there over Clifton Downs. Yes, I might have missed ye. He’s a bold devil, but to-night the three of us here could bag him easy. I 've put many a spoke in his wheel. There was a young fellow’ aboard us, too, that had done me a wrong at home that I never forgave ; and that night at Whitehaven I 've already told ye of, when I fixed the candles, after I got these papers that you 've come for, I dropped some pieces of ’em, and things that was with ’em, in my pretty gentleman’s locker. So good friends were parted after that, and the whole Whitehaven matter laid to his door. I could tell ye the whole story. His name’s Wallingford, curse him, and they say he’s got a taste o’ your Mill Prison by this time that’s paid off all our old scores. I hope he’s dead and damned! ”
“Who’s your man Wallingford? I’ve heard the name myself. There’s a reward out for him ; or did I hear he was pardoned ? ” asked one of the men.
“ ’T was a scurvy sort o’ way to make him pay his debts. I’d rather ended it man fashion, if I had such a grudge,” said the other listener, the man who had been drinking least.
Dickson’s wits were now overcome by the brandy, hard - headed as he might boast himself. “ If you knew all I had suffered at his hands ! ” he protested. “ He robbed me of a good living at home, and made me fail in my plans. I was like to be a laughingstock ! ”
The two men shrugged their shoulders when he next pushed the bottle toward them, and said that they had had enough. “ Come, now,” said one of them, “ let’s finish our business ! You have this paper o’ one Yankee privateersman called Paul Jones that our principal’s bound for to get. You’ve set your own thieves’ price on it, and we ’re sent here to pay it. I ’in to see it first, to be sure there’s no cheat, and then make a finish.”
“ The paper’s worth more than’t was a month ago,” said Dickson shrewdly. His face was paler than ever, and in strange contrast to the red faces of his companions. “ The time is come pretty near for carrying out the North Sea scheme. He may have varied from this paper when he found the writing gone, but I know for a fact he has the cruise still in mind, and’t would be a hard blow to England.”
“ ’T is all rot you should ask for more money,” answered the first speaker doggedly. “ We have no more money with us ; ’t is enough, too ; the weight of it has gallded me with every jolt of the horse. Say, will you take it or leave it ? Let me but have a look at the paper ! I’ve a sample of their cipher here to gauge it by. Come, work smart, I tell ye ! You ’ll be too drunk to deal with soon, and we must quick begone.”
Dickson, swearing roundly at them, got some papers out of his pocket, and held one of them in his hand.
“ Give me the money first! ” he growled.
“ Give us the paper,” said the other ; “’t is our honest right.”
There was a heavy tramping in the room above, as if some one had risen from sleep, and there was a grumble of voices ; a door was opened and shut, and steady footsteps came down the creaking stair and through the dark entry ; a moment more, and the tall figure of a young man stood within the room.
“ Well, then, and is my supper ready ? ” asked Wallingford, looking about him cheerfully, but a little dazed by the light.
There was a smothered outcry ; the table was overset, and one of the three men sprang to his feet as if to make his escape.
“ Stand where you are till I have done with you ! ” cried the lieutenant instantly, facing him. “ You have a reckoning to pay ! By Heaven, I shall kill you if you move ! ” and he set his back against the door by which he had just entered. “ Tell me first, for Heaven’s sake, you murderer, is the Ranger within our reach ? ”
“ She is lying in the port of Brest,” answered the gentleman adventurer, with much effort. He was looking about him to see if there were any way to get out of the kitchen, and his face was like a handful of dirty wool. Outside the nearest window there were two honest faces from the Roscoff boat’s crew pressed close against the glass, and looking in delightedly at the play. Dickson saw them, and his heart sank ; he had been sure they were waiting for Paul Jones, half a dozen miles down shore.
“ Who are these men with you, and what is your errand here ? ” demanded Wallingford, who saw no one but the two strangers and his enemy.
“ None of your damned business ! ” yelled Dickson, who was like a man suddenly crazed; his eyes were starting from his head. The landlady came scolding across the kitchen to bid him pay for what he had had and begone, with his company, and Dickson turned to Wallingford with a sneer.
“ You ’ll excuse us, then, at this lady’s request,” he said, grinning. The brandy had come to his aid again, now the first shock of their meeting was past, and made him overbold. “ I ’ll bid you goodnight, my hero, ’less you ’ll come with us. There’s five pounds bounty on his head, sirs ! ” he told the messengers, who stood by the table.
They looked at each other and at Dickson ; ’t was a pretty encounter, but they were not themselves; they were both small - sized men, moreover, and Wallingford was a strapping great fellow to tackle in a fight. There he stood, with his back against the door, an easy mark for a bullet, and Dickson’s hand went in desperation a second time to his empty pocket. The woman, seeing this, cried that there should be no shooting, and stepping forward stood close before Wallingford ; she had parted men in a quarrel many a time before, and the newcomer was a fine upstanding young gentleman, of a different sort from the rest.
You have no proof against me, anyway ! " railed Dickson. He could not bear Wallingford’s eyes upon him. His Dutch courage began to ebb, and the other men took no part with him; it was nothing they saw fit to meddle with, so far as the game had gone. He still held the paper in his hand.
“ You have n’t a chance against us ! ” he now bellowed, in despair. “ We are three to your one here. Take him, my boys, and tie him down ! He’s worth five pounds to you, and you may have it all between ye ! ”
At this moment there was a little stir behind the settle, and some one else stepped out before them, as if he were amused by such bungling play.
“ I have got proof enough myself now,” said Captain Paul Jones, standing there like the master of them all, “ and if hanging’s enough proof for you, Dickson, I must say you’ve a fair chance of itWhen you’ve got such business on hand as this, let brandy alone till you’ve got it done. The lieutenant was pardoned weeks ago; the papers wait for him in Bristol. He is safer than we are in England.”
Wallingford leaped toward his friend with a cry of joy ; they were in each other’s arms like a pair of Frenchmen. As for Dickson, he sank to the floor like a melted candle ; his legs would not hold him up; he gathered strength enough to crawl toward Wallingford and clutch him by the knees.
“ Oh, have pity on my sick wife and my little family! ” he wailed aloud there, and blubbered for mercy, till the lieutenant shook him off, and he lay, still groaning, on the flagstones.
The captain had beckoned to his men, and they were within the room.
“ Give me my papers, Dickson, and begone,” he said ; “ and you two fellows may get you gone, too, with your money. Stay, let me see it first! ” he said.
They glanced at each other in dismay. They had no choice ; they had left their pistols in their holsters ; the business had seemed easy, and the house so decent. They could not tell what made them so afraid of this stern commander. The whole thing was swift and irresistible; they meekly did his bidding and gave the money up. It was in a leather bag, and the captain held it with both hands and looked gravely down at Dickson. The other men stared at him, and wondered what he was going to do; but he only set the bag on the table, and poured out some of the yellow gold into his hand.
“ Look there, my lads! ” he said. “ There must be some infernal magic in the stuff that makes a man sell his soul for it. Look at it, Dickson, if you can ! Mr. Wallingford, you have suffered too much, I fear, through this man’s infamy.
I have doubted you myself by reason of his deviltries, and I am heartily ashamed of it. Foi’give me, if you can, but I shall never forgive myself.
“ Put this man out ! ” said the captain loudly, calling to his sailors, and they stepped forward with amusing willingness. “ Take him down to the boat, and put off. I shall join you directly. If he jumps overboard, don’t try to save him ; ’t were the best thing he could do.”
Dickson, wretched and defeated, was at last made to stand, and then took his poor revenge : he sent the crumpled paper that was in his hand flying into the fire, and Paul Jones only laughed as he saw it blaze. The game was up. Dickson had lost it, and missed all the fancied peace and prosperity of the future by less than a brief half hour. The sailors pushed him before them out of the door ; it was not a noble exit for a man of some natural gifts, who had undervalued the worth of character.
The captain took up the bag of gold and gave it back to the men. “ This is in my power, but it is spies’ money, and I don’t want such ! ” he said scornfully. “ You may take it to your masters, and say that Captain John Paul Jones, of the United States frigate Ranger, sent it back.”
They gave each other an astonished look as they departed from the room. “ There’s a man for my money,” said one of the men to the other, when they were outside. " I’d ship with him tonight, and I’d sail with him round the world and back again ! So that’s Paul Jones, the pirate. Well, I say here’s his health and good luck to him, Englishman though I be ! ” They stood amazed in the dark outside with their bag of money, before they stole away. There was nothing they could do, even if they had wished him harm, and to - morrow they could brag that they had seen a hero.
The mistress of the inn had betaken herself to the parlor to lay the table for supper. Mr. Alderman Davis had just waked, hearing a fresh noise in the house, and the lady was bidding him go and look if the captain were not already come. But he first stopped to give some orders to the landlady.
The two officers of the Ranger were now alone in the kitchen; they stood looking at each other. Poor Wallingford’s face was aged and worn by his distresses, and the captain read it like an open book.
“ I thank God I have it in my power to make you some amends ! ” he exclaimed. “ I believe that I can make you as happy as you have been miserable. God bless you, Wallingford! Wait here for me one moment, my dear fellow,” he said, with affection, and disappeared.
Wallingford, still possessed by his astonishment, sat down on the great settle by the fire. This whole scene had been like a play; all the dreary weeks and days that had seemed so endless and hopeless had come to this sudden end with as easy a conclusion as when the sun comes out and shines quietly after a long storm that has wrecked the growing fields. He thought of the past weeks when he had been but a hunted creature in the moors with his hurt comrade, and the tread of their pursuers had more than once jarred the earth where their heads were lying. He remembered the dull happiness of succeeding peace and safety, when he had come to be wagoner in the harvest time for a good old farmer by Taunton, and earned the little money and the unquestioned liberty that had brought him on his way to Chippenham market and this happy freedom. He was free again, and with his captain ; he was a free, unchallenged man. Please God, he should some day see home again and those he loved.
There was a light footstep without, and the cheerful voice of an elderly man across the passage. The kitchen door opened, and shut again, and there was a flutter of a woman’s dress in the room. The lieutenant was gazing at the fire ; he was thinking of his mother and of Mary. What was the captain about so long in the other room ?
There was a cry that made his heart stand still, that made him catch his breath as he sprang to his feet; a man tall and masterful, but worn with hardships and robbed of all his youth. There was some one in the room with him, some one looking at him in tenderness and pity, with the light of heaven on her lovely face ; grown older, too, and struck motionless with the sudden fright of his presence. There stood the woman he loved. There stood Mary Hamilton herself, come to his arms — Heaven alone knew how — from the other side of the world.
No modern inventions of signals of any sort, or fleet couriers, could rival in swiftness the old natural methods of spreading a piece of welcome news through a New England countryside. Men called to each other from field to field, and shouted to strangers outward bound on the road; women ran smiling from house to house among the Berwick farms. It was known by mid-morning of a day late in October that Madam Wallingford’s brig, the Golden Dolphin, had got into Portsmouth lower harbor the night before. Madam Wallingford herself was on board and well, with her son and Miss Mary Hamilton. They were all coming up the river early that very evening, with the flood tide.
The story flew through the old Piscataqua plantations, on both sides of the river, that Major Langdon himself had taken boat at once and gone down to Newcastle to meet the brig, accompanied by many friends who were eager to welcome the home - comers. There were tales told of a great wedding at Hamilton’s within a month’s time, though word went with these tales of the lieutenant’s forced leave of absence ; some said his discharge, by reason of his wound and broken health.
Roger Wallingford was bringing dispatches to Congress from the Commissioners in France. It was all a mistake that he had tried to betray his ship, and now there could be no one found who had ever really believed such a story, or even thought well of others who were so foolish as to repeat it. They all knew that it was Dickson who was openly disgraced, instead, and had now escaped from justice, and those who had once inclined to excuse him and to admire his shrewdness consented willingly to applaud such a long-expected downfall.
The evening shadows had begun to gather at the day’s end, when they saw the boat come past the high pines into the river bay below Hamilton’s. The great house was ready and waiting; the light of the western sky shone upon its walls, and a cheerful warmth and brightness shone everywhere within. There was a feast made ready that might befit the wedding itself, and eager hands were waiting to serve it. On the flagstones by the southern door stood Colonel Hamilton, who was now at home from the army, and had ridden in haste from Portsmouth that day, at noon, to see that everything was ready for his sister’s coming. There were others with him, watching for the boat: the minister all in silver and black, Major Haggens with his red cloak and joyful countenance, the good old judge, and Master Sullivan with his stately white head.
Within the house were many ladies, old and young. Miss Nancy Haggens had braved the evening air for friendship’s sake, and sat at a riverward window with other turbaned heads of the Berwick houses, to wait for Madam Wallingford. There was a pretty flock of Mary Hamilton’s friends : little Miss Betsey Wyat and the Lords of the Upper Landing, Lymans and Say wards of old York, and even the pretty Blunts from Newcastle, who were guests at the parsonage near by. It was many a month since there had been anything so gay and happy as this night of Mary’s coming home.
Major Langdon’s great pleasure boat, with its six oarsmen, was moving steadily on the flood, and yet both current and tide seemed hindering to such impatient hearts. All the way from Portsmouth there had been people standing on the shores to wave at them and welcome them as they passed ; the light was fast fading in the sky ; the evening chill and thin autumn fog began to fall on the river. At last Roger and Mary could see the great house standing high and safe in its place, and point it out to Madam Wallingford, whose face wore a touching look of gratitude and peace ; at last they could see a crowd of people on the lower shore.
The rowers did their best; the boat sped through the water. It was only half dark, but some impatient hand had lit the bonfires ; the company of gentlemen were coming down already through the terraced garden to the water side.
“ Oh, Mary, Mary,” Roger Wallingford was whispering, “ I have done nothing that I hoped to do! ” But she hushed him, and her hand stole into his. “We did not think, that night when we parted, vre should be coming home together. Thank Heaven, we did not know what lay before us,” he said, with sorrow. “No, dear, I have done nothing; but, thank God, I am alive to love you, and to serve my country to my life’s end.”
Mary could not speak ; she was too happy and too thankful. All her own great love and perfect happiness were shining in her face.
“ I am thinking of the captain,” she said gently, after a little silence. “You know how he left us when we were so happy, and slipped away alone into the dark without a word. . . .
“ Oh, look, Madam ! ” she cried then. “ Our friends are all there ; they are all waiting for us! I can see dear Peggy with her white apron, and your good Rodney ! Oh, Roger, the dear old master is there, God bless him! They are all well and alive. Thank God, we are at home! ”
They rose and stood together in the boat, hand in hand. In another moment the boat was at the landing place, and they had stepped ashore.
Sarah Orne Jewett.