|The Tory Lover -- Contents
.The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
THAT TIME OF YEAR
"Come, Sorrow! put thy sweet arms round my neck,
For none are left to do this, only thou."
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 manner rather than manners; 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.
"Come in, Mary," said Madam Wallingford, with a wan look of gentleness and patience. "'Here I and Sorrow sit!'"
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. 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.
"You may leave us now, Susan," said Madam Wallingford; and with many an anxious glance the old serving woman went away.
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.
"What can I say? Oh, what can I say?" she cried again. "It will break my heart if you love me no more!"
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.
"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.
"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 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."
"My son has been taught to honor and to serve his King," said Madam Wallingford coldly.
"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.
"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" -
"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."
"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 until 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?'
"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.
"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!"
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.
"You must answer me!" the old mother cried again, shaken with passion and despair.
"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.
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.
"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!"
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.
"Forgive me, then," said Madam Wallingford, looking at her, and into her heart there crept unwonted shame.
"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 frightened 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 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."
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 knowledge of new 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."
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.
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 dull 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 characters, 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."
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.
Mary could 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.
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 candlelight in the upper chamber on the hill looked dim, as if there were illness in the house.
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.
"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."
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.
"'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 to them from the door 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!"
"Maybe 't is morning there, and the sun out, madam."
"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."
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.
THAT TIME OF YEAR: These are the opening words of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 73.
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Come, Sorrow! put thy sweet arms round my neck: These lines are from Annie Fields's "The Traveler," which appears in The Singing Shepherd (1895).
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Here I and sorrow sit: In Shakespeare's King John, Constance says early in Act 3 (Pelican Shakespeare):
My grief's so great
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up. Here I and sorrows sit.
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the mob was ready to come and ruin you, and to drag him out to answer them, as they did the Loyalists in Boston: In the Spring of 1776, American forces under George Washington forced the British army and Loyalists to evacuate Boston. In Our Country: A Household History for All Readers (1877), Benson J. Lossing explains that in the spring of 1776, most of the Loyalists left Boston with British troops after General Washington gained command of the hills around the city and trained cannon on the harbor (V. 2, Ch. 19). He gives particular attention to confiscations and destruction caused by the Tories before they departed and their fear of reprisals from rebels if they remained, but says nothing about how suspected loyalists who remained were treated. In The Loyalists in the American Revolution (1902), Claude H. Van Tyne describes the activities of American Committees of Safety or Correspondence and parallel Loyalist committees to control local residents of the opposing persuasion. In a war for hearts and minds, it was important that opposing elements be prevented from "aiding the enemy," and it appears neither side behaved especially well. Sons of Liberty and Committees of Safety were allowed virtually absolute power to identify, intimidate and punish suspected Tories in what must have appeared to Tories as "mob" actions, and though these rarely led to death, the typical punishment of tar and feathers could be quite dangerous (See Chapter 3). Van Tyne says:
"In Massachusetts, if a member of the Council or House, or a selectman, a military or civil officer, or a member of a committee of correspondence suspected any citizen, he reported the 'suspect' to the justice of the peace. The latter summoned the proscribed man, gave him two hours to decide whether he would sign or not, and then, upon refusal, cast him into jail. All the fees and cost of maintenance in jail came out of the estate of the delinquent" (135-6).
For mob action closer to South Berwick, see Portsmouth in Places and Cross-Grained and Wily Waters, pp. 46-9.
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the hasty Declaration: The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. The term "hasty" appeared in Loyalist writing of the time. See Catharine S. Crary, The Price of Loyalty: Tory Writings from the Revolutionary Era (1973), e.g., pp. 155-8.
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double-gown: Though clearly an item of clothing, it has not been determined what Mrs. Wallingford means when she says this, whether she speaks of a dressing gown, or a dress with two layers of fabric, or an extra heavy dress or dressing gown, or something else entirely. Assistance is welcome.
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'my noble mistress' ... the great Garrick: See William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act III scene 1; This phrase also is quoted in Ch. 6. David Garrick (1717-1779) was an English actor, producer, dramatist, poet, and co-manager of the Drury Lane Theatre. (Research: Travis Feltman)
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the Cradle Hymn: From a poem by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) "A Cradle Hymn" in Divine and Moral Songs (1719): It begins:
HUSH! my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently falling on thy head.
Twas to save thee, child, from dying,
Save my dear from burning flame,
Bitter groans and endless crying,
That thy blest Redeemer came.
May'st thou live to know and fear Him,
Trust and love Him all thy days;
Then go dwell for ever near Him,
See His face, and sing His praise!
Apparently, it was sung to the melody of "Greenville," from the opera Le Devin du Village (The Village Soothsayer, 1752), by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which was performed before Louis XVI at Versailles in 1745. The Cyberhymnal gives this melody as one Americans will recognize from the popular children's song, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody." (Research: Gabe Heller and Travis Feltman)
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