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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
THE SEA WOLF
"By all you love most, war and this sweet lady."
The last day of October in 1777, Colonel Jonathan Hamilton came out of his high house on the river bank with a handsome, impatient company of guests, all Berwick gentlemen. They stood on the flagstones, watching a coming boat that was just within sight under the shadow of the pines of the farther shore, and eagerly passed from hand to hand a spyglass covered with worn red morocco leather. The sun had just gone down; the quick-gathering dusk of the short day was already veiling the sky before they could see the steady lift and dip of long oars, and make sure of the boat's company. While it was still a long distance away, the gentlemen turned westward and went slowly down through the terraced garden, to wait again with much formality by the gate at the garden foot.
Beside the master of the house was Judge Chadbourne, an old man of singular dignity and kindliness of look, and near them stood General Goodwin, owner of the next estate, and Major Tilly Haggens of the Indian wars, a tall, heavily made person, clumsily built, but not without a certain elegance like an old bottle of Burgundy. There was a small group behind these foremost men, - a red cloak here and a touch of dark velvet on a shoulder beyond, with plenty of well-plaited ruffles to grace the wearers. Hamilton's young associate, John Lord, merchant and gentleman, stood alone, trim-wigged and serious, with a look of discretion almost too great for his natural boyish grace. Quite the most impressive figure among them was the minister, a man of high ecclesiastical lineage, very well dressed in a three-cornered beaver hat, a large single-breasted coat sweeping down with ample curves over a long waistcoat with huge pockets and lappets, and a great white stock that held his chin high in air. This was fastened behind with a silver buckle to match the buckles on his tight knee breeches, and other buckles large and flat on his square-toed shoes; somehow he looked as like a serious book with clasps as a man could look, with an outward completeness that mated with his inner equipment of fixed Arminian opinions.
As for Colonel Hamilton, the host, a strong-looking, bright-colored man in the middle thirties, the softness of a suit of brown, and his own hair well dressed and powdered, did not lessen a certain hardness in his face, a grave determination, and maturity of appearance far beyond the due of his years. Hamilton had easily enough won the place of chief shipping merchant and prince of money-makers in that respectable group, and until these dark days of war almost every venture by land or sea had added to his fortunes. The noble house that he had built was still new enough to be the chief show and glory of a rich provincial neighborhood. With all his power of money-making, - and there were those who counted him a second Sir William Pepperrell, - Hamilton was no easy friend-maker like that great citizen of the District of Maine, nor even like his own beautiful younger sister, the house's mistress. Some strain of good blood, which they had inherited, seemed to have been saved through generations to nourish this one lovely existence, and make her seem like the single flower upon their family tree. They had come from but a meagre childhood to live here in state and luxury beside the river.
The broad green fields of Hamilton's estate climbed a long hill behind the house, hedged in by stately rows of elms and tufted by young orchards; at the western side a strong mountain stream came down its deep channel over noisy falls and rapids to meet the salt tide in the bay below. This broad sea inlet and inland harborage was too well filled in an anxious year with freightless vessels both small and great: heavy seagoing craft and lateen-sailed gundalows for the river traffic; idle enough now, and careened on the mud at half tide in picturesque confusion.
The opposite shore was high, with farmhouses above the fields. There were many persons to be seen coming down toward the water, and when Colonel Hamilton and his guests appeared on the garden terraces, a loud cry went alongshore, and instantly the noise of mallets ceased in the shipyard beyond, where some carpenters were late at work. There was an eager, buzzing crowd growing fast about the boat landing and the wharf and warehouses which the gentlemen at the high-urned gateway looked down upon. The boat was coming up steadily, but in the middle distance it seemed to lag; the long stretch of water was greater than could be measured by the eye. Two West Indian fellows in the crowd fell to scuffling, having trodden upon each other's rights, and the on-lookers, quickly diverted from their first interest, cheered them on, and wedged themselves closer together to see the fun. Old Cæsar, the majestic negro who had attended Hamilton at respectful distance, made it his welcome duty to approach the quarrel with loud rebukes; usually the authority of this great person in matters pertaining to the estate was only second to his master's, but in such a moment of high festival and gladiatorial combat all commands fell upon deaf ears. Major Tilly Haggens burst into a hearty laugh, glad of a chance to break the tiresome formalities of his associates, and being a great admirer of a skillful fight. On any serious occasion the major always seemed a little uneasy, as if restless with unspoken jokes.
In the meantime the boat had taken its shoreward curve, and was now so near that even through the dusk the figures of the oarsmen, and of an officer, sitting alone at the stern in full uniform, could be plainly seen. The next moment the wrestling Tobago men sprang to their feet, forgetting their affront, and ran to the landing-place with the rest.
The new flag of the Congress with its unfamiliar stripes was trailing at the boat's stern; the officer bore himself with dignity, and made his salutations with much politeness. All the gentlemen on the terrace came down together to the water's edge, without haste, but with exact deference and timeliness; the officer rose quickly in the boat, and stepped ashore with ready foot and no undignified loss of balance. He wore the pleased look of a willing guest, and was gayly dressed in a bright new uniform of blue coat and breeches, with red lapels and a red waistcoat trimmed with lace. There was a noisy cheering, and the spectators fell back on either hand and made way for this very elegant company to turn again and go their ways up the river shore.
Captain Paul Jones of the Ranger bowed as a well-practiced sovereign might as he walked along, a little stiffly at first, being often vexed by boat-cramp, as he now explained cheerfully to his host. There was an eager restless look in his clear-cut sailor's face, with quick eyes that seemed not to observe things that were near by, but to look often and hopefully toward the horizon. He was a small man, but already bent in the shoulders from living between decks; his sword was long for his height and touched the ground as he walked, dragging along a gathered handful of fallen poplar leaves with its scabbard tip.
It was growing dark as they went up the long garden; a thin white mist was gathering on the river, and blurred the fields where there were marshy spots or springs. The two brigs at the moorings had strung up their dull oil lanterns to the rigging, where they twinkled like setting stars, and made faint reflections below in the rippling current. The huge elms that stood along the river shore were full of shadows, while above, the large house was growing bright with candlelight, and taking on a cheerful air of invitation. As the master and his friends went up to the wide south door, there stepped out to meet them the lovely figure of a girl, tall and charming, and ready with a gay welcome to chide the captain for his delay. She spoke affectionately to each of the others, though she avoided young Mr. Lord's beseeching eyes. The elder men had hardly time for a second look to reassure themselves of her bright beauty, before she had vanished along the lighted hall. By the time their cocked hats and plainer head gear were safely deposited, old Cæsar with a great flourish of invitation had thrown open the door of the dining parlor.
Tory: In the American Revolution, Tories remained loyal to Great Britain. For a glimpse that was available to Jewett of the complexity of Tory points of view, see Journal and Letters of the Late Samuel Curwen (1842) edited by George A. Ward.
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the Sea Wolf: See Chapter 2, where we are told that John Paul Jones has been called the Sea Wolf.
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"By all you love most, war and this sweet lady": See William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Act 3, Scene 6.
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morocco leather: Leather made from goatskins tanned with sumac, originally produced in Morocco (and other Barbary states) and afterwards in the Levant, Turkey, and now in Europe from skins imported from Asia and Africa; it is used particularly for bookbinding and upholstery. (Source: OED; Research: Travis Feltman)
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Indian wars: The French and Indian War of the 1754-1763 was the most recent, though hostilities and wars between New England settlers and Native Americans, with various European states allying with various tribes, occur often between 1620 and the American Revolution. For details known to Jewett about these wars in Maine see William D. Williamson, The History of the State of Maine (1832).
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lappets ... great white stock: A lappet is a small, lap, flap, or loosely hanging part of a garment or headdress. A stock is a collar or neck cloth fitting like a band about the neck. (Research: Travis Feltman)
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Arminian opinions: "A doctrine in Christianity, formulated in the 17th century, which declares that human free will can exist without limiting God's power or contradicting the Bible. Named for the Dutch Calvinist Jacobus Arminius, the doctrine gradually became a liberal alternative to the more rigid belief in predestination held by High Calvinists in Holland and elsewhere." (Source: Encarta Encyclopedia).
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gundalows: "Gundalow" is a localization of "gondola," referring in American usage to a flat-bottomed boat used for freight. For a more detailed description of a gundalow, see Jewett's "The Old Town of Berwick," part 4. See also "River Driftwood" in Jewett's Country By-Ways. See photograph below.
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Tobago men: Tobago, along with Trinidad and other islands, now is a small southern Caribbean republic off the coast of Venezuela. At the time of the American Revolution, Tobago was a French colony.
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new flag of the Congress: The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1775 and became the government of the rebel colonies during the American Revolution. According to the Encarta Encyclopedia, "On June 14, 1777, Congress made the following resolution: 'The flag of the United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white on a blue field ...' Official announcement of the new flag was not made until September 3, 1777. When it was first flown has not been determined. Historical research has failed to establish a factual foundation for the traditional story that the flagmaker Betsy Ross made the first American flag."
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The final style of the gundalow, fully decked over, and with a leeboard and cuddy. The sail could be lowered to pass under bridges.
Gundalow replica docked at Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth.
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