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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
THE FLOWERING OF WHOSE FACE
"Dear love, for nothing less than thee
Would I have broke this happy dream,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Therefore thou wak'dst me wisely; yet
My dream thou breakest not, but continuest it."
While the guests went in to supper, Mary Hamilton, safe in the shelter of friendly shadows, went hurrying along the upper hall of the house to her own chamber. The coming moon was already brightening the eastern sky, so that when she opened the door the large room with its white hangings was all dimly lighted from without, and she could see the figure of a girl standing at one of the windows.
"Oh, you are here!" she cried, with sharp anxiety, and then they leaned out together, with their arms about each other's shoulders, looking down at the dark cove and at the height beyond where the tops of tall pines were silvered like a cloud. They could hear the men's voices, as if they were all talking together, in the room below.
Mary looked at her friend's face in the dim light. There were some who counted Miss Elizabeth Wyat as great a beauty as Miss Hamilton.
"Oh, Betsey dear, I can hardly bear to ask, but tell me quick now what you have heard! I must go down to Peggy; she has attempted everything for this last feast, and I promised her to trim the game pie for its proud appearing, and the great plum cake. One of her maids is ill, and she is in such a flurry!"
"'T was our own maids talking," answered Betsey Wyat slowly. "They were on the bleaching-green with their linen this morning, the sun was so hot, and I was near by among the barberry bushes in the garden. Thankful Grant was sobbing, in great distress. She said that her young man had put himself in danger; he was under a vow to come out with the mob from Dover any night now that the signal called them, to attack Madam Wallingford's house and make Mr. Roger declare his principles. They were sure he was a Tory fast enough, and they meant to knock the old nest to pieces; they are bidden to be ready with their tools; their axes, she said, and something for a torch. Thankful begged him to feign illness, but he said he did not dare, and would go with the rest at any rate. She said she fronted him with the remembrance how madam had paid his wages all last summer when he was laid by, though the hurt he got was not done in her service, but in breaking his own colt on a Sunday. Yet nothing changed him; he said he was all for Liberty, and would not play the sneak now."
"Oh, how cruel! when nobody has been so kind and generous as Madam Wallingford, so full of kind thought for the poor!" exclaimed Mary. "And Roger" -
"He would like it better if you thought first of him, not of his mother," said Betsey Wyat reproachfully.
"What can be done? It may be this very night," said Mary, in a voice of despair.
"The only thing left is to declare his principles. Things have gone so far now, they will never give him any peace. Many have come to the belief that he is in close league with our enemies."
"That he has never been!" said Mary hotly.
"He must prove it to the doubting Patriots, then; so my father says."
"But not to a mob of rascals, who will be disappointed if they cannot vex their betters, and ruin an innocent woman's home, and spoil her peace only to show their power. Oh, Betsey, what in the world shall we do? There is no place left for those who will take neither side. Oh, help me to think what we shall do; the mob may be there this very night! There was a strange crowd about the Landing just now, when the captain came. I dare not send any one across the river with such a message but old Cæsar or Peggy, and they are not to be spared from the house. I trust none of the younger people, black or white, when it comes to this."
"But he was safe in Portsmouth to-day; they will watch for his being at home; it will not be to-night, then," said Betsey Wyat hopefully. "I think that he should have spoken long ago, if only to protect his mother."
"Get ready now, dear Betty, and make yourself very fine," said Mary at last. "The people will all be coming for the dance long before supper is done. My brother was angry when I told him I should not sit at the table, but I could not. There is nobody to make it gay afterward with our beaux all gone to the army; but Captain Paul Jones begged hard for some dancing, and all the girls are coming, - the Hills and Hights, and the Lords from Somersworth. I must manage to tell my brother of this danger, but to openly protect Madam Wallingford would be openly taking the wrong side, and who will follow him in such a step?"
"I could not pass the great window on the stairs without looking out in fear that Madam's house would be all ablaze," whispered Betsey Wyat, shuddering. "There have been such dreadful things done against the Tories in Salem and Boston!"
"My heart is stone cold with fear," said Mary Hamilton; "yet if it only does not come to-night, there may be something done."
There was a silence between the friends; they clung to each other; it was not the first time that youth and beauty knew the harsh blows of war. The loud noise of the river falls came beating into the room, echoing back from the high pines across the water.
"We must make us fine, dear, and get ready for the dancing; I have no heart for it now, I am so frightened," said Mary sadly. "But get you ready; we must do the best we can."
"You are the only one who can do anything," said little Betsey Wyat, holding her back a moment from the door. They were both silent again as a great peal of laughter sounded from below. Just then the moon came up, clear of the eastern hill, and flooded all the room.
The flowering of whose face: Though this is a common metaphor, it is possible Jewett alludes to Michael Field -- pseudonym for Katherine Bradley (1848-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913) -- "A Girl":
Her soul a deep-wave pearl
Dim, lucent of all lovely mysteries;
A face flowered for heart's ease,
A brow's grace soft as seas
Seen through faint forest-trees:
A mouth, the lips apart,
Like aspen-leaflets trembling in the breeze
From her tempestuous heart.
Such: and our souls so knit,
I leave a page half-writ --
The work begun
Will be to heaven's conception done,
If she come to it.
(Research: Gabe Heller).
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Dear love, for nothing less than thee: These lines are from John Donne (1572-1631), "The Dream" (c. 1590-1601). (Research: Gabe Heller).
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bleaching-green: a meadow where cloth may be exposed to the sun for bleaching.
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barberry bush: "A shrub (Berberis vulgaris) found native in Europe and N. America, with spiny shoots, and pendulous racemes of small yellow flowers, succeeded by oblong, red, sharply acid berries; the bark yields a bright yellow dye." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).
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