|The Tory Lover - Atlantic Contents|
THE TORY LOVER
The Atlantic Monthly Serialization
Chapters 10 - 12
January 1901 -- 87: 90-104
Paragraphs are not numbered in the Atlantic text.
1 Late the next afternoon Mary Hamilton appeared at the north door of the house, and went quickly down the steep garden side toward the water. In the shallow slip between two large wharves lay some idle rowboats, which belonged to workmen who came every morning from up and down the river. The day's short hurry was nearly over; there was still a noise of heavy adzes hewing at a solid piece of oak timber, but a group of men had begun to cluster about a storehouse door to talk over the day's news.
2 The tide was going out, and a birch canoe which the young mistress had bespoken was already left high on the shore. She gave no anxious glance for her boatman, but got into a stranded skiff, and, reaching with a strong hand, caught the canoe and dragged it down along the slippery mud until she had it well afloat; then, stepping lightly aboard, took up her carved paddle, and looked before her to mark her course across the swift current. Wind and current and tide were all going seaward together with a determined rush.
3 There was a heavy gundelow floating down the stream toward the lower warehouse, to be loaded with potatoes for the Portsmouth market, and this was coming across the slip. The men on board gave a warning cry as they caught sight of a slender figure in the fragile craft; but Mary only laughed, and, with sufficient strength to court the emergency, struck her paddle deep into the water and shot out into the channel right across their bow. The current served well to keep her out of reach; the men had been holding back their clumsy great boat lest it should pass the wharf. One of them ran forward anxiously with his long sweep, as if he expected to see the canoe in distress like a drowning fly; but Mary, without looking back, was pushing on across the river to gain the eddy on the farther side.
4 "She might ha' held back a minute; she was liable to be catched an' ploughed right under! A gal's just young enough to do that; men that's met danger don't see no sport in them tricks," grumbled the boatman.
5 "Some fools would ha' tried to run astarn," said old Mr. Philpot, his companion, "an' the suck o' the water would ha' catched 'em side up ag'in' us; no, she knowed what she was about. Kind of scairt me, though. Look at her set her paddle, strong as a man! Lord, she's a beauty, an' 's good 's they make 'em!"
6 "Folks all thinks, down our way, she's took it master hard the way young Wallin'ford went off, 'thout note or warnin'. They've b'en a-hoverin' round all ready to fall to love-makin', till this objection got roused 'bout his favorin' the Tories. There'd b'en trouble a'ready if he'd stayed to home. I misdoubt they'd smoked him out within half a week's time. Some o' them fellows that hangs about Dover Landin' and Christian Shore was bent on it, an' they'd had some better men 'long of 'em."
7 "Then 't would have been as black a wrong as ever was done on this river!" exclaimed the elder man indignantly, looking back over his shoulder toward the long house of the Wallingfords, that stood peaceful in the autumn sunshine high above the river. "They've been good folks in all their ginerations. The lad was young, an' hadn't formed his mind. As for Madam, -- why, women folks is natural Tories; they hold by the past, same as men are fain to reach out and want change. She's feeble and fearful since the judge was taken away, an' can't grope out to nothin' new. I heared tell that one o' her own brothers is different from the rest as all holds by the King, an' has given as much as any man in Boston to carry on this war. There ain't no Loyalist inside my skin, but I despise to see a low lot o' fools think smart o' theirselves for bein' sassy to their betters."
8 The other man looked a little crestfallen. "There's those as has it that the cap'n o' the Ranger wouldn't let nobody look at young miss whilst he was by," he hastened to say. "Folks say they're good as promised an' have changed rings. I al'ays heared he was a gre't man for the ladies; loves 'em an' leaves 'em. I knowed men that had sailed with him in times past, an' they said he kept the highest company in every port. But if all tales is true" --
9 "Mostly they ain't," retorted old Mr. Philpot scornfully.
10 "I don't know nothin' 't all about it; that's what folks say," answered his mate. "He's got the look of a bold commander, anyway, and a voice an' eye that would wile a bird from a bush." But at this moment the gundelow bumped heavily against the wharf, and there was no more time for general conversation.
11 Mary Hamilton paddled steadily up river in the smooth water of the eddy, now and then working hard to get round some rocky point that bit into the hurrying stream. The wind had driven the ebbing tide before it, so that the water had fallen quickly, and sometimes the still dripping boughs of overhanging alders and oaks swept the canoe from end to end, and spattered the kneeling girl with a cold shower by way of greeting. Sometimes a musquash splashed into the water or scuttled into his chilly hole under the bank, clattering an untidy heap of empty mussel shells as he went. All the shy little beasts, weasels and minks and squirrels, made haste to disappear before this harmless voyager, and came back again as she passed. The great fishhawks and crows sailed high overhead, secure but curious, and harder for civilization to dispossess of their rights than wild creatures that lived aground.
12 The air was dry and sweet, as if snow were coming, and all the falling leaves were down. Here and there might linger a tuft of latest frost flowers in a sheltered place, and the witch-hazel in the thickets was still sprinkled with bright bloom. Mary stopped once under the shore where a bough of this strange, spring-in-autumn flower grew over the water, and broke some twigs to lay gently before her in the canoe. The old Indian, last descendant of the chief Passaconaway, who had made the light craft and taught her to guide it, had taught her many other things of his wild and wise inheritance. This flower of mystery brought up deep associations with that gentle-hearted old friend, the child of savagery and a shadowy past.
13 The river broadened now at Madam's Cove. There was a great roaring in the main channel beyond, where the river was vexed by rocky falls; inside the cove there was little water left except in the straight channel that led to the landing place and quaint heavy-timbered boat-house. From the shore a grassy avenue went winding up to the house above. Against the northwestern sky the old home of the Wallingfords looked sad and lonely; its windows were like anxious eyes that followed the river's course toward a dark sea where its master had gone adventuring.
14 Mary stood on land, looking back the way she had come; her heart was beating fast, but it was not from any effort of fighting against wind or tide. She did not know why she began to remember with strange vividness the solemn pageant of Judge Wallingford's funeral, which had followed the water highway from Portsmouth, one summer evening, on the flood tide. It was only six years before, when she was already the young and anxious mistress of her brother's house, careful and troubled about many things like Martha, in spite of her gentler name. She had looked out of an upper window to see the black procession of boats with slow-moving oars come curving and winding across the bay; the muffled black of mourning trailed from the sides; there were soldiers of the judge's regiment, sitting straight in their bright uniforms, for pallbearers, and they sounded a solemn tap of drum as they came.
15 They drew nearer: the large coffin with its tasseled pall, the long train of boats which followed filled with sorrowing friends, -- the President and many of the chief men of the Province, -- had all passed slowly by.
16 The tears rushed to Mary's eyes, that day, when she saw her brother's serious young head among the elder gentlemen, and close beside him was the fair tear-reddened face and blond uncovered hair of the fatherless son. Roger Wallingford was but a boy then; his father had been the kind friend and generous founder of all her brother's fortunes. She remembered how she had thanked him from a grateful heart, and meant to be unsparing in her service and unfailing in duty toward the good man's widow and son. They had read prayers for him in old St. John's at Portsmouth; they were but bringing him to his own plot of ground in Somersworth, at eventide, and Mary Hamilton had prayed for him out of a full heart as his funeral went by. The color came in her young cheeks at the remembrance. What had she dared to do, what responsibility had she not taken upon her now? She was but an ignorant girl, and driven by the whip of Fate. A strange enthusiasm, for which she could not in this dark moment defend herself, had led her on. It was like the moment of helpless agony that comes with a bad dream.
17 She turned again and faced the house; and the house, like a great conscious creature on the hillside, seemed to wait for her quietly and with patience. She was standing on Wallingford's ground, and bent upon a most difficult errand. There was neither any wish for escape, in her heart, nor any thought of it, and yet for one moment she trembled as if the wind shook her as it shook the naked trees. Then she went her way, young and strong-footed, up the long slope. It was one of the strange symbolic correspondences of life that her path led steadily up the hill.
18 The great door of the house opened wide before her, as if the whole future must have room to enter; old Rodney, the house servant, stood within, as if he had been watching for succor. In the spacious hall the portraits looked proud and serene, as if they were still capable of all hospitalities save that of speech.
19 "Will you say that Miss Hamilton waits upon Madam Wallingford?" said Mary; and the white-headed old man bowed with much ceremony, and went up the broad stairway, still nodding, and pausing once, with his hand on the high banister, to look back at so spirited and beautiful a guest. A faithful heart ached within him to see her look so young, so fresh-blooming, so untouched by sorrow, and to think of his stricken mistress. Yet she had come into the chilly house like a brave, warm reassurance, and all Rodney's resentment was swift to fade. The quick instincts of his race were confronted by something that had power to master them; he comprehended the truth because it was a simple truth and his was a simple heart.
20 He disappeared at the turn of the staircase into the upper hall, and Mary took a few impatient steps to and fro. On the great moose antlers was flung some of the young master's riding gear; there was his rack of whips below, and a pair of leather gloves with his own firm grasp still showing in the rounded fingers. There were his rods and guns; even his old dog leash and the silver whistle. She knew them all as well as he, with their significance of past activities and the joys of life and combat. They made their owner seem so close at hand, and the pleasures of his youth all snatched away. Oh, what a sharp longing for the old lively companionship was in her heart! It was like knowing that poor Roger was dead instead of gone away to sea. He would come no more in the winter evenings to tell his hunter's tales of what had happened at the lakes, or to plan a snowshoe journey up the country. Mary stamped her foot impatiently; was she going to fall into helpless weakness now, when she had most need to be quiet and to keep her steadiness? Old Rodney was stepping carefully down the stairs again, she wore a paler look than when they had parted. Somehow, she felt like a stranger in the familiar house.
20A Once Rodney would have been a mere reflection of his mistress's ready welcome, but now he came close to Miss Hamilton's side and spoke in an anxious whisper.
21 "You'll be monst'ous gentle with her dis day, young mistis?" he asked pleadingly. "Oh yis, mistis; her heart's done broke!"
22 Then he shuffled away to the dining room to move the tankards on the great sideboard. One could feel everything, but an old black man, born in the jungle and stolen by a slaver's crew, knew when he had said enough.
1 The low afternoon sun slanted its rays into the stately chamber, and brightened the dull East Indian red of some old pictured cottons that made the tasseled hangings. There were glowing coals in the deep fireplace, and Madam Wallingford sat at the left, in one of those great easy-chairs that seem to offer refuge to both illness and sorrow. She had turned away so that she could not see the river, and even the wistful sunshine was all behind her. There was a slender light-stand with some white knitting work at her side, but her hands were lying idle in her lap. She had never been called beautiful; she had no great learning, though on a shelf near by she had gathered a little treasury of good books. She had manners rather than manner; she was plainly enough that unmistakable and easily recognized person, a great lady. They are but few in every generation, but the simplicity and royalty of their lovely succession have never disappeared from an admiring world.
2 "Come in, Mary," said Madam Wallingford, with a wan look of gentleness and patience. "'Here I and Sorrow sit!'"
3 She motioned toward a chair which her attendant, an ancient countrywoman, was placing near. Mary crossed the room quickly, and took her appointed place; then she clasped her hands tight together, and her head drooped. At that moment patriotism and all its high resolves may have seemed too high; she forgot everything except that she was in the presence of a lonely woman, sad and old and bereft. She saw the woeful change that grief had made in this Tory mother of a Patriot son. She could but sit in silence with maidenly self-effacement, and a wistful affectionateness that was like the timidest caress, -- this young creature of high spirit, who had so lately thrown down her bold challenge of a man's loyalty. She sat there before the fire, afraid of nothing but her own insistent tears; she could not conquer a sudden dumbness that had forgotten speech. She could not bear to look again at the piteous beloved face of Madam Wallingford.
3A The march of events had withered the elder woman and trampled her underfoot, like a flower in the road that every wheel went over; she had grown old in two short days, while the girl who sat before her had only changed into brighter bloom.
4 "You may leave us now, Susan," said Madam Wallingford; and with many an anxious glance the old serving woman went away.
5 Still there fell silence between the two. The wind was droning its perpetual complaining note in the chimney; a belated song sparrow lifted its happy little tune outside the southern windows, and they both listened to the very end. Then their eyes turned to each other's faces; the bird had spoken first in the wintry air. Then Mary Hamilton, with a quick cry, took a hurried step, and fell upon her knees at the mother's side, and took her in her arms, hiding her own face from sight.
6 "What can I say? Oh, what can I say?" she cried again. "It will break my heart if you love me no more!"
7 The elder woman shrank for a moment; there was a quick flash in her eyes; then she drew Mary still nearer and held her fast. The comfort of a warm young life so close to her shivering loneliness, the sense of her own weakness and that Mary was the stronger, kept her from breaking now into the stern speech of which her heart was full. She said nothing for a long time, but sat waiting; and now and then she laid her hand on the girl's soft hair, until Mary's fit of weeping had passed.
8 "Bring the little footstool here and sit by me; we must talk of many things together," she gave command at last; and Mary, doing the errand like a child, lingered by the window, and then returned with calmness to her old friend's side. The childish sense of distance between them had strangely returned, and yet she was conscious that she must take a new charge upon herself, and keep nearer than ever to this sad heart.
9 "I did not know his plans until that very night," she said to Madam Wallingford, looking bravely and sweetly now into the mother's face. "I could not understand at first why there was such excitement in the very air. Then I found out that the mob was ready to come and ruin you, and to drag him out to answer them, as they did the Loyalists in Boston. And there were many strangers on our side of the river. I heard a horrid humming in the crowd that gathered when the captain came; they kept together after he was in the house, and I feared that they were bent upon a worse errand. I was thankful to know that Roger was in Portsmouth, so that nothing could be done that night. When he came to me suddenly a little later," -- the girl's voice began to falter, -- "I was angry with him at first; I thought only of you. I see now that I was cruel."
10 "My son has been taught to honor and to serve his King," said Madam Wallingford coldly.
11 "He has put his country above his King, now," answered Mary Hamilton, who had steadied herself and could go on; yet something hindered her from saying more, and the wind kept up its steady plaint in the chimney, but in this difficult moment the little bird was still.
12 "To us, our King and country have been but one. I own that the colonies have suffered hardship, and not alone through willfulness; but to give the reins of government to unfit men, to put high matters into the hands of rioters and lawbreakers, can only bring ruin. I could not find it in my heart to blame him, even after the hasty Declaration, when he would not join with English troops to fight the colonies; but to join the rebels to fight England should shame a house like this. Our government is held a high profession among the wise of England; these foolish people will bring us all upon the quicksands. If my son had sailed with officers and gentlemen, such" --
13 "He has sailed with a hero," said Mary hotly, "and in company with good men of our own neighborhood, in whom he can put his trust."
14 "Let us not quarrel," answered the lady more gently. She leaned her head against the chair side, and looked strangely pale and old. "'T is true I sent for you to accuse you, and now you are here I only long for comfort. I am the mother of an only son; I am a widow, -- little you know what that can mean, -- and my prop has gone. Yet I would have sent him proudly to the wars, like a mother of ancient days, did I but think the quarrel just. I could but bless him when he wakened me and knelt beside my bed, and looked so noble, telling his eager story. I did not think his own heart altogether fixed upon this change till he said his country would have need of him. 'All your country, boy!' I begged him then, 'not alone this willful portion of our heritage. Can you forget that you are English born?'
15 "Then he rose up and stood upon his feet, and I saw that I had looked my last upon his boyish days. 'No, dear mother,' he told me, 'I am beginning to remember it!' and he stooped and kissed me, and stood between the curtains looking down at me, till I myself could see his face no more, I was so blind with tears. Then he kissed me yet again, and went quick away, and I could hear him sobbing in the hall. I would not have him break his word though my own heart should break instead, and I rose then and put on my double-gown, and I called to Susan, who wept aloud, -- I even chid her at last for that, and her foolish questions; and all through the dead of night we gathered the poor child's hasty plenishings. Now I can only weep for things forgotten. 'T was still dark when he rode away; when the tide turned, the river cried all along its banks, as it did that long night when his father lay dead in the house. I prayed; I even lingered, hoping that he might be too late, and the ship gone to sea. When he unpacks the chest, he will not see the tears that fell there. I cannot think of our parting, it hurts my heart so. . . . He bade me give his love to you; he said that God could not be so cruel as to forbid his return.
16 "Mary Hamilton!" and suddenly, as she spoke, all the plaintive bewailing of her voice, all the regretful memories, were left behind. "Oh, Mary Hamilton, tell me why you have done this! All my children are in their graves save this one youngest son. Since I was widowed I have gathered age even beyond my years, and a heavy burden of care belongs to this masterless house. I am a woman full of fears and weak in body. My own forefathers and my husband's house alike have never refused their loyal service to church and state. Who can stand in my son's place now? He was early and late at his business; the poor boy's one ambition was to make his father less missed by those who look to us for help. What is a little soldiering, a trading vessel sunk or an English town affrighted, to the service he could give at home? Had you only thought of this, had you only listened to those who are wiser than we, had you remembered that these troubles must be, in the end, put down, you could not have been unjust. I never dreamed that the worst blow that could fall upon me, except my dear son had died, could be struck me by your hand. Had you no pity, that you urged my boy to go? Tell me why you were willing. Tell me, I command you, why you have done this!"
17 Mary was standing, white as a flower now, before her dear accuser. The quick scarlet flickered for one moment in her cheeks; her frightened eyes never for one moment left Madam Wallingford's face.
18 "You must answer me!" the old mother cried again, shaken with passion and despair.
19 "Because I loved you," said the girl then, and a flash of light was on her face that matched the thrill in her voice. "God forgive me, I had no other reason," she answered, as if she were a prisoner at the bar, and her very life hung upon the words.
20 Madam Wallingford had spent all the life that was in her. Sleepless nights had robbed her of her strength; she was withered by her grief into something like the very looks of death. All the long nights, all the long hours since she had lost her son, she had said these things over to herself, that she might say them clear to those who ought to listen. They had now been said, and her poor brain that had shot its force of anger and misery to another heart was cold like the firelock that has sped its ball. She sank back into the chair, faint with weakness; she put out her hands as if she groped for help. "Oh, Mary, Mary!" she entreated now; and again Mary, forgetting all, was ready with fond heart to comfort her.
21 "It is of no use!" exclaimed Madam Wallingford, rousing herself at last, and speaking more coldly than before. "I can only keep to one thought, -- that my son has gone. 'T is Love brings all our pain; this is what it means to have a child; my joy and my sorrow are one, and the light of my life casts its shadow! And I have always loved you; I have wished many a time, in the old days, that you were my own little girl. And now I am told that this adventurer has won your heart, -- this man who speaks much of Glory, lest Glory should forget to speak of him; that you have even made my son a sacrifice to pride and ambition!"
22 Mary's cheeks flamed, her eyes grew dark and angry; she tried to speak, but she looked in her accuser's face, and first a natural rage, and then a sudden pity and the old love, held her dumb.
23 "Forgive me, then," said Madam Wallingford, looking at her, and into her heart there crept unwonted shame.
24 "You do me wrong; you would wrong both your son and me!" and Mary had sprung away next moment from her side. "I have told only the truth. I was harsh to Roger when I had never known him false, and I almost hated him because he seemed unsettled in his course. I even thought that the rising against the Loyalists had frighted him, and I hated him when I thought he was seeking shelter. He came that very night to tell me that he was for the Patriots, and was doing all a brave man could, and standing for Liberty [liberty] with the rest of us. Then I knew better than he how far the distrust of him had gone, and I took it upon myself to plead with the captain of the Ranger. I knew too well that if, already prejudiced by envious tales, he turned the commission down, the mob would quick take the signal. 'T was for love of my friends I acted; something drove me past myself, that night. If Roger should die, if indeed I have robbed you of your son, this was the part I took. I would not have done otherwise. He has taken a man's part for Liberty, and I thank God. Now I have told you all."
25 They were facing each other again. Mary's voice was broken; she could say no more. Then, with a quick change of look and with a splendid gesture, Madam Wallingford rose from her place like a queen. Her face shone with sudden happiness; she held out her arms, -- no queen and no accuser, but only a bereft woman, a loving heart that had been beggared of all comfort. "Come, my darling," she whispered; "you must forgive me everything, and love me the more for my poor weakness; you will help me to have patience all these weary months."
26 The sun broke out again from behind a thick, low-hanging cloud, and flooded all the dark chamber. Again the Indian stuffs looked warm and bright; the fire sprang on the hearth as if upon an altar: it was as if Heaven's own light had smiled into the room. Poor Mary's young pride was sore hurt and distressed, but her old friend's wonted look of kindness was strangely coming back; she showed all her familiar affectionateness as if she had passed a great crisis. As for the lad whom they had wept and quarreled over, and for whose sake they had come back again to each other's hearts, he was far out upon the gray and tumbling sea; every hour took him farther and farther from home.
27 And now Madam Wallingford must talk of him with Mary, and tell her everything; how he had chosen but two books, -- his Bible and an old volume of French essays that Master Sullivan had given him when he went to college. "'T was his copy of Shakespeare's plays," said she, "that he wanted most; but in all our hurry, and with dullest candlelight, we could find it nowhere, and yesterday I saw it lying here on my chest of drawers. 'T is not so many days since he read me a pretty piece of The Tempest, as we sat together. I can hear his voice now as he read: 't was like a lover, the way he said 'my noble mistress!' and I could but smile to hear him. He saw the great Garrick in his best plays, when he was in London. Roger was ever a pretty reader when he was a boy. 'T is a gift the dullest child might learn from Master Sullivan."
28 The mother spoke fondly between smiles and tears; the old book lay open on her knee, and something dropped to the floor, -- a twig of faded witch-hazel blossoms that her son had held in his fingers as he read, and left between the leaves for a marker; a twig of witch-hazel, perhaps from the same bough that Mary had broken as she came. It were easy to count it for a message where some one else might think of but a pretty accident. Mary stooped and picked the withered twig of blossoms from the floor, and played with it, smiling as Madam Wallingford talked on, and they sat together late into the autumn twilight. The poor lady was like one who, by force of habit, takes up the life of every day again when death has been in the house. The familiar presence of her young neighbor had cured her for the moment of the pain of loneliness, but the sharp words she had spoken in her distress would ache for many a day in Mary's heart.
29 Mary did not understand that strange moment when she had been forgiven. Yet the hardest soul might have compassion for a poor woman so overwrought and defeated; she was still staggering from a heavy blow.
30 It was dark when they parted, and Madam Wallingford showed a strange solicitude after her earlier reproaches, and forbade Mary when she would have crossed the river alone. She took a new air of rightful command, and Rodney must send two of the men with their own boat, and put by the canoe until morning. The stars were bright and quick as diamonds overhead, and it was light enough on the water, as they crossed. The candle-light in the upper chamber on the hill looked dim, as if there were illness in the house.
31 Indeed, Madam Wallingford was trembling with cold since her young guest had gone. Susan wrapped her in an old cloak of soft fur, as she sat beside the fire, and turned often to look at her anxiously, as she piled the fagots and logs on the hearth until their flame towered high.
32 "Dear child, dear child," the poor lady said over and over in her heart. "I think she does not know it yet, but I believe she loves my son."
33 That night old Susan hovered about her mistress, altering the droop of the bed curtains and untwisting the balls of their fringe with a businesslike air; then she put some heavy knots of wood on the fire for the night, and built it solidly together, until the leaping lights and shadows played fast about the room. She glanced as often as she dared at the tired face on the pillow.
34 "'T is a wild night, Susan," said Madam Wallingford. "I thought the wind was going down with the sun. How often I have watched for my dear man such nights as this, when he was kept late in Portsmouth! 'T was well we lived in town those latest winters. You remember that Rodney always kept the fire bright in the dining parlor ('t is a cosy place in winter), and put a tankard of mulled wine inside the fender; 't would bring back the color to his face all chilled with winter rain, and the light into his eyes. And Roger would come in with him, holding his father's hand; he would ever run out bareheaded in the wet, while I called from the door to them to come in and let the horse go to the stable, and they laughed at me for my fears. Where is Roger to-night, I wonder, Susan? They cannot be in port for a long time yet. I hate to think of him on the sea!"
35 "Maybe 't is morning there, and the sun out, madam."
36 "Susan," said Madam Wallingford, "you used to sing to him when he was a baby; sit near the fire awhile, -- there is no more for you to do. Sing one of your old hymns, so that I may go to sleep; perhaps it will quiet his heart, too, if we are quiet and try to be at peace."
37 The very shadows grew stiller, as if to listen as the patient old handmaiden came and sat beside the bed and began to sing, moving her foot as if she still held the restless baby who had grown to be a man. There were quavering notes in her voice, but when she had sung all her pious verses of the Cradle Hymn to their very end Madam Wallingford was fast asleep.
1 The Ranger was under full sail, and ran like a hound; she had cleared the Banks, with all their snow squalls and thick nights, without let or hindrance. The captain's boast that he would land his dispatches and spread the news of Burgoyne's surrender in France in thirty days seemed likely to come true. The men were already beginning to show effects of constant vigilance and overwork; but whatever discomforts might arrive, the splendid seamanship of Paul Jones could only be admired by such thorough-going sailors as made up the greater portion of his crew. The younger members of the ship's company were full of gayety if the wind and work eased ever so little, and at any time, by night or day, some hearty voice might be heard practicing the strains of a stirring song new made by one of the midshipmen: -
2 "That is why we Brave the Blast
To carry the news to Lon-don."
3 There were plenty of rival factions and jealousies. The river men were against all strangers; and even the river men had their own divisions, their warm friendships and cold aversions, so that now and then some smouldering fire came perilously near an outbreak. The tremendous pressure of work alow and aloft, the driving wind, the heavy tumbling seas, the constant exposure and strain in such trying duty and incessant service of the sails, put upon every man all that he could well bear, and sent him to his berth as tired as a dog.
4 It takes but little while for a good shipmaster to discover who are the difficult men in his crew, the sea lawyers and breeders of dissatisfaction. The captain of the Ranger was a man of astonishing readiness both to blame and praise; nobody could resist his inspiriting enthusiasm and dominating presence, but in absence he was often proved wrong, and roundly cursed, as captains are, with solid satisfaction of resentment. Everybody cheered when he boldly declared against flogging, and even tossed that horrid sea-going implement, the cat, lightly over the ship's side. Even in that surprising moment, one of the old seamen had growled that when you saw a man too good, 't was the time to look out for him.
5 "I dasen't say but it's about time to get a fuss going," said one of these mariners to a friend, later on. "Ginerally takes about ten days to start a row atween decks, 'less you're extra eased off with good weather."
6 "This bad weather's all along o' Dickson," ventured his comrade; "if they'd known what they was about, he'd been the fust man they'd hasted to set ashore. I know him; I've knowed him ever since he was a boy. I seen him get a black stripe o' rage acrost his face when he see Mr. Wallin'ford come aboard, that mornin'. Wallin'ford's folks cotched him thievin' when he had his fat chance o' surveyor up country, after the old judge died. He cut their growth on his own account and done a sight o' tricks, and Madam dismissed him, and would ha' jailed him but for pity o' his folks. I always wished she'd done it; 't would ha' stamped him plain, if he'd seen the inside o' old York jail for a couple o' years. As 't was, he had his own story to tell, and made out how he was the injured one; so there was some o' them fools that likes to be on the off side that went an' upheld him. Oh, Dickson's smart, and some calls him pious, but I wish you'd seen him the day Madam Wallin'ford sent for him to speak her mind! That mornin' we was sailin' out o' Porchmouth, I see him watch the young man as if he was layin' for him like a tiger! There he is now, comin' out o' the cabin. I guess the cap'n's been rakin' him fore an' aft. He hates him; an' Simpson hates him, too, but not so bad. Simpson don't jibe with the cap'n hisself, so he demeans himself to hark to Dickson more 'n he otherwise would. Lord, what a cur'ous world this is!"
7 "What's that n'ise risin' out o' the fo'c's'le now, Cooper? Le' 's go see!" and the two old comrades made haste to go below.
8 Paul Jones gave a hearty sigh, as he sat alone in his cabin, and struck his fist into the empty air. He also could hear the sound of a loud quarrel from the gun deck, and for a moment indulged a fierce hope that somebody might be well punished, or even killed, just to lessen the number of citizens in this wrangling village with which he had put to sea. They had brought aboard all the unsettled rivalries and jealousies of a most independent neighborhood.
9 He looked about him as he sat; then rose and impatiently closed one of his lockers where there was an untidy fold of crumpled cloth hanging out. What miserable surroundings and conditions for a man of inborn fastidiousness and refinement of nature!
10 Yet this new ship, so fast growing toward the disgusting squalor of an old one; these men, with their cheap suspicions and narrow ambitions, were the strong tools ready to his hand. 'T was a manly crew as crews go, and like-minded in respect to their country's wrongs.
11 "I feel it in my breast that I shall some day be master in a great sea fight!" said the little captain as he sat alone, while the Ranger labored against the waves, and the light of heroic endurance came back to his eyes as he saw again the splendid vision that had ever led him on.
12 "Curse that scoundrel Dickson!" and his look darkened. "Patience, patience! If I were a better sleeper, I could face everything that can come in a man's day; I could face the devil himself. The wind's in the right quarter now, and the sea's going down. I'll go on deck and give all hands some grog, -- I'll give it them myself; the poor fellows are cold and wet, and they serve me like men. We're getting past the worst," and again Paul Jones fell to studying his charts as if they were love letters writ by his lady's hand.
13 Cooper and Hanscom had come below to join the rest of their watch, and still sat side by side, being old shipmates and friends. There was an easy sort of comfort in being together. Just now they spoke again in low voices of young Mr. Wallingford.
14 "Young master looks wamble-cropped to me," said Hanscom. "Don't fancy privateerin' so well as ridin' a blood horse on Porchmouth Parade [parade], and bein' courted by the Tory big-bugs. Looks wintry in the face to me."
15 "Lord bless us, when he's old 's we are, he'll l'arn that spring al'ays gets round again long 's a creatur' 's alive," answered Cooper, who instinctively gave a general turn to the discussion. "Ary thing that's livin' knows its four seasons, an' I've long maintained that after the wust o' winter, spring usu'lly doos come follerin' right on."
16 "I don't know but it's so," agreed his mate politely. Cooper would have these fanciful notions, while Hanscom was a plain-spoken man.
17 "What I'd like to know," said he, "yes, what I'd like to ascertain, is what young Squire Wallin'ford ever come for; 't ain't in his blood to fight on our side, an' he's too straight-minded to play the sneak. Also, he never come from cowardice. No, I can't make it out noway. Sometimes folks mistakes their duty, and risks their all. Bain't spyin' round to do no hurt, is he? -- or is he?"
18 There was a sharp suggestion in the way this question was put, and Cooper turned fiercely upon his companion.
19 "Hunscom, I be ashamed of you!" he said scornfully, and said no more. There was a dull warmth of color in his hard, sea-smitten face; he was an elderly, quiet man, with a round, pleasant countenance, unaltered in the worst of weather, and a look of kindly tolerance.
20 "There's b'en some consid'able changin' o' sides in our neighborhood, as you know," he said, a few moments later, in his usual tone. "Young Wallin'ford went to school to Master Sullivan, and the old master l'arnt everybody he could l'arn to be honest an' square, to hold by their word, an' be afeared o' nothin'."
21 "Pity 't was that Dickson couldn't ha' got a term o' such schoolin'," said Hanscom, as they beheld that shipmate's unwelcome face peering down the companion.
22 "Sometimes I wish I was to home again," announced Cooper, in an unexpected fit of despondency. "I don' know why; 't aint usual with me to have such feelin's in the outset of a v'y'ge. I grow sicker every day o' this flat, strivin' sea. I was raised on a good hill. I don' know how I ever come to foller the sea, anyway!"
23 The forecastle was a forlorn abiding place at best, and crowded at any hour almost past endurance. The one hint of homeliness and decency was in the well-made sea chests, which had not been out of place against a steadier wall in the farmhouses whence most of them had come. They were of plain wood, with a touch of art in their rude carving; many of them were painted dull green or blue. There were others with really handsome escutcheons of wrought iron, and all were graced with fine turk's-heads to their rope handles, and every ingenuity of sailors' fancywork.
24 There was a grumbling company of able seamen, their owners, who had no better place to sit than the chest tops, or to stretch at idle length with these treasuries to lean against. The cold sea was nearer to a man than when he was on deck and could reassure himself of freedom by a look at the sky. The hammocks were here and there sagging with the rounded bulk of a sleeping owner, and all jerked uneasily as the vessel pitched and rolled by turns. The air was close and heavy with dampness and tobacco smoke.
25 At this moment the great sea boots of Simon Staples were seen descending from the deck above, and stumbling dangerously on the slippery straight ladder.
26 "Handsomely, handsomely," urged a spectator, with deep solicitude.
27 "She's goin' large now, ain't she? How's she headin' now?" asked a man named Grant.
28 "She's full an' by, an' headin' east by south half east, -- same 's we struck out past the Isles o' Shoals," was the mirthful answer. "She can't keep to nothin', an' the cap'n's got to make another night on 't. But she's full an' by, just now, all you lazy larbowlines," he repeated cheerfully, at last getting his head down under decks as his foot found the last step. "She's been on a good leadin' wind this half hour back, an' he's got the stu'n'sails set again; 't is all luff an' touch her, this v'y'ge."
29 There was a loud groan from the listeners. The captain insisted upon spreading every rag the ship could stagger under, and while they admired his persistent daring, it was sometimes too much for flesh and blood.
30 Staples was looking ruefully at his yarn mittens. They were far beyond the possibility of repair, and he took off first one and then the other of these cherished reminders of much logging experience, and, sitting on his sea chest, began to ravel what broken gray yarn was left and to wind it into a ball.
31 "Goin' to knit you another pair?" inquired Hanscom. "That's clever; empl'y your idle moments."
32 "Mend up his stockin's, you fool!" explained Grant, who was evidently gifted with some sympathetic imagination.
33 "I wish they was thumbs up on the stakes o' my old wood-sled," said Staples. "There, when I'm to sea I wish 's how I was lumberin', an' when I'm in the woods I'm plottin' how to git to sea again; ain't no suitin' of me neither way. I al'ays wanted to be aboard a fast sailer, an' here I be thrashin' along, an' lamentin' 'cause my mittins is wore out the fust fortnight."
34 "My! I wish old Master Hackett that built her could see how she runs!" he exclaimed next moment, as if a warm admiration still had power to cheer him. "I marked her lines for a beauty the day I see her launched: 't was what drove me here. There was plenty a-watchin' her on Langdon's Island that hoped she'd stick in the stays, but she took the water like a young duck."
35 "He'd best not carry so much sail when she's clawin' to wind'ard close-hauled," growled James Chase, an old Nantucket seaman, with a warning shake of the head. "'T won't take much to lay her down, I can tell him! I never see a ship drove so, in my time. Lord help every soul aboard if she wa'n't so weatherly!"
36 Fernald and Sherburne, old Portsmouth sailors, wagged their sage heads in solemn agreement; but William Young, a Dover man, with a responsible look, was waiting with some impatience for Chase to stand out of the poor supply of light that came down the narrow hatchway. Young was reading an old copy of the New Hampshire Gazette that had already been the solace of every reading man aboard.
37 "What in time's been the matter amongst ye?" Staples now inquired, with interest. "I heard as how there was a fuss goin' down below; ain't ary bully-raggin' as I can see; dull as meetin'!" Hanscom and Cooper looked up eagerly; some of the other men only laughed for answer; but Chase signified that the trouble lay with their messmate Starbuck, who appeared surly, and sat with his back to the company. He now turned and displayed a much-disfigured countenance, but said nothing.
38 "What's the cap'n about now?" Chase hastened to inquire pointedly.
39 "He's up there a-cunnin' the ship," answered Staples. "He's workin' the life out o' Grosvenor at the wheel. I just come from the maintop; my arms aches as if they'd been broke with a crowbar. I lost my holt o' the life line whilst we was settin' the stu'n's'l there on the maintops'l yard, an' I give me a dreadful wrench. He hadn't ought to send them green boys to such places, neither; pore little Johnny Downes was makin' out to do his stent like a man, but the halyards got fouled in the jewel blocks, an' for all he's so willin'-hearted the tears was a-runnin' down his cheeks when he come back. I was skeert the wind'd blow him off like a whirligig off a stick, an' I spoke sharp to him so 's to brace him, an' give him a good boxed ear when I got him in reach. He was about beat, an' half froze anyway; his fingers looked like the p'ints o' parsnips. When he got back he laid right over acrost the cap. I left him up there a-clingin' on."
40 "He worked as handsome a pair o' man-rope knots as I ever see, settin' here this mornin'," said Cooper compassionately. "He'll make a good smart sailor, but he needs to grow; he's dreadful small to send aloft in a spell o' weather. The cap'n don't save himself, this v'y'ge, nor nobody else."
41 "Come, you'd as good 's hear what Starbuck's b'en saying," said Chase, with a wink. He had been waiting impatiently for this digression to end.
42 "That spry-tempered admiral o' yourn don't know how to treat a crew!" Starbuck burst forth, at this convenient opportunity. "Some on us gits a whack ivery time he parades the deck. He's re'lly too outdacious for decent folks. This arternoon I was a-loungin' on the gratin's an' got sort o' drowsin' off, an' I niver heared him comin' nor knowed he was there. Along he come like some upstropelous poppet an' give me a cuff side o' my head. I dodged the next one, an' spoke up smart 'fore I knowed what I was doin'. 'Damn ye, le' me be!' says I, an' he fetched me another on my nose here; most stunded me.
43 "'I'll l'arn ye to make yourself sca'ce! Keep to the port-hand side where ye belong! Remember you're aboard a man-o'-war!' says he, hollerin' [hollerin] like a crowin' pullet. ''T ain't no fishin' smack! Go forrard! Out o' the way with ye!' says he, same 's I was a stray dog. I run to the side, my nose was a-bleedin' so, an' I fumbled arter somethin' to serve me for a hankicher.
44 "'Here's mine,' says he, 'but you've got to understand there's discipline on this frigate,' says he. Joseph Fernald knows where I was," continued the sufferer; "you see me, Joseph, when you come past. 'Twa'n't larboard nor starboard; 't was right 'midships, 'less I may have rolled one way or t'other. I could ha' squinched him so all the friends he'd ever needed 'd be clargy an' saxon, an' then to pass me his linning hankicher 's if I was a young lady! I dove into my pockets an' come upon this old piece o' callamink I'd wropped up some 'baccy in. I never give a look at him; I d' know but he gallded me more when he was pleasant 'n when he fetched me the clip. I ketched up a lingum-vitæ marlinspike I see by me an' took arter him. I should ha' hit him good, but he niver turned to look arter me, an' I come to reason. If I'd had time, I'd ha' hit him, if I'd made the rest o' this v'y'ge in irons."
45 "Lord sakes! don't you bluster no more!" advised old Mr. Cooper soothingly, with a disapproving glance at the pleased audience. "Shipmasters like him ain't goin' to ask ye every mornin' how seafarin' agrees with ye. He ain't goin' to treat hisself nor none on us like passengers. He ain't had three hours' sleep a night sence this v'y'ge begun. He's been studyin' his charts this day, with his head set to 'em on the cabin table 's if they showed the path to heaven. They was English charts, too, 'long by Bristol an' up there in the Irish Sea. I see 'em through the skylight."
46 "I'll bate he's figurin' to lay outside some o' them very ports an' cut out some han'some prizes," said Falls, one of the gunners, looking down out of his hammock. Falls was a young man full of enthusiasm, who played the fiddle.
47 "You'll find 't will be all glory for him, an' no prizes for you, my young musicianer!" answered Starbuck, who was a discouraged person by nature. Now that he had a real grievance his spirits seemed to rise. "Up hammocks all! Show a leg!" he gayly ordered the gunner.
48 "Wall, I seldom seen so good a navigator as the cap'n in my time," insisted Staples. "He knows every man's duty well 's his own, an' that he knows to a maracle."
49 "I'll bate any man in this fo'c's'le that he's a gre't fighter; you wait an' see the little wasp when he's gittin' into action!" exclaimed Chase, who had been with Paul Jones on the Alfred. "He knows no fear an' he sticks at nothin'! You hold on till we're safe in Channel, an' sight one o' them fat-bellied old West Injymen lo'ded deep an' headed up for London. Then you'll see Gre't Works in a way you niver expected."
50 This local allusion was not lost upon most members of the larboard watch, and Starbuck's wrongs, with the increasing size of his once useful nose, were quite disregarded in the hopeful laughter which followed.
51 "Hand me the keerds," said one of the men lazily. "Falls, there, knows a couple o' rale queer tricks."
52 "You keep 'em dowsed; if he thinks we ain't sleepin' or eatin', so 's to git our courage up," said Staples, "he'll have every soul on us aloft. Le' 's set here where 't 's warm an' put some kecklin' on Starbuck; the cap'n 's 'n all places to once, with eyes like gimblets, an' the wind 's a-blowin' up there round the lubber holes like the mouth o' hell!"
53 Chase, the Nantucket sailor, looked at him, with a laugh.
54 "What a farmer you be!" he exclaimed. "Makes me think of a countryman, shipmate o' mine on the brig Polly Dunn. We was whaling in the South Seas, an' it come on to blow like fury; we was rollin' rails under, an' I was well skeert myself; feared I couldn't keep my holt; him an' me was on the fore yard together. He looked dreadful easy an' pleasant. I thought he'd be skeert too, if he knowed enough, an' I kind o' swore at the fool an' axed him what he was a-thinkin' of. 'Why, 't is the 20th o' May,' says he; 'all the caows goes to pastur' to-day, to home in Eppin'!'"
55 There was a cheerful chuckle from the audience. Grant alone looked much perplexed.
56 "Why, 't is the day, ain't it?" he protested. "What be you all a-laughin' at?"
57 At this moment there was a strange lull; the wind fell, and the Ranger stopped rolling, and then staggered as if she balked at some unexpected danger. One of the elder seamen gave an odd warning cry. A monstrous hammer seemed to strike the side, and a great wave swept over as if to bury them forever in the sea. The water came pouring down and flooded the forecastle knee-deep. There was an outcry on deck, and an instant later three loud knocks on the scuttle.
58 "All the larboard watch ahoy!" bawled John Dougall. "Hear the news, can't ye? All hands up! All hands on deck!"
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