|The Tory Lover -- Contents
.The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett Chapter XIII
THE MIND OF THE DOCTOR
"Or rather no arte, but a divine and heavenly instinct, not to be gotten by labour and learning, but adorned by both."
There was one man, at least, on board the Ranger who was a lover of peace: this was the ship's surgeon, Dr. Ezra Green. With a strong and hearty crew, and the voyage just beginning, his professional duties had naturally been but light; he had no more concern with the working of the ship than if he were sitting in his office at home in Dover, and eagerly assented to the captain's proposal that he should act as the Ranger's purser.
The surgeon's tiny cabin was stuffed with books; this was a good chance to go on with his studies, and, being a good sailor and a cheerful man, the whole ship's company took pleasure in his presence. There was an amiable seriousness about his every-day demeanor that calmed even the activities of the captain's temper; he seemed to be surgeon and purser and chaplain all in one, and to be fit, as one of his calling should be, to minister to both souls and bodies. It was known on board that he was unusually liberal in his views of religion, and was provided with some works upon theology as well as medicine, and could argue well for the Arminian doctrines against Dickson, who, like many men of his type, was pretentious of great religious zeal, and declared himself a Calvinist of the severest order. Dickson was pleased to consider the surgeon very lax and heretical; as if that would make the world think himself a good man, and the surgeon a bad one, which was, for evident proof and reason, quite impossible.
On this dark night, after the terrible sea of the afternoon had gone down, and poor Solomon Hutchings, the first victim of the voyage, had been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances of a badly broken leg, the surgeon was sitting alone, with a pleasant sense of having been useful. He gave a sigh at the sound of Dickson's voice outside. Dickson would be ready, as usual, for an altercation, and was one of those men who always come into a room as if they expect to be kicked out of it.
Green was writing, - he kept a careful journal of the voyage, - and now looked over his shoulder impatiently, as if he did not wish to be interrupted.
Dickson wore a look of patient persistence.
The surgeon pointed to a seat with his long quill, and finished the writing of a sentence. He could not honestly welcome a man whom he liked so little, and usually treated him as if he were a patient who had come to seek advice.
"I only dropped in for a chat," explained the visitor reprovingly, as his host looked up again. "Have you heard how the captain blew at young Wallingford, just before dark? Well, sir, they are at supper together now. Wallingford must be a tame kitten. I suppose he crept down to the table as if he wanted to be stroked."
"He is a good fellow and a gentleman," said Ezra Green slowly. "The captain has hardly left the deck since yesterday noon, when this gale began." The surgeon was a young man, but he had a grave, middle-aged manner which Dickson's sneering smoothness seemed always to insult.
"You always takes Jones's part," ventured the guest.
"We are not living in a tavern ashore," retorted the surgeon. "The officer you speak of is our captain, and commands an American man-of-war. That must be understood. I cannot discuss these matters again."
"Some of the best sailors vow they will desert him in the first French port," said Dickson.
"Then they make themselves liable to be shot for desertion whenever they are caught," replied Green coolly, "and you must take every opportunity to tell them so. Those who are here simply to make a little dirty money had better have stayed ashore and traded their country produce with the British ships. They say there was a fine-paying business on foot, out at the Isles of Shoals."
This advice struck home, as the speaker desired. Dickson swallowed hard once or twice, and then looked meek and stubborn; he watched the surgeon slyly before he spoke again.
"Yes, it is a very difficult crew to command," he agreed; "we have plenty of good loyal men aboard, but they want revenge for their country's wrongs, as you and I do, I hope!"
"War is one thing, and has law and order to dignify it; common piracy and thievery are of another breed. Some of our men need education in these matters, not to say all the discipline they can get. The captain is much wronged and insulted by the spirit that has begun to spread between decks. I believe that he has the right view of his duty; his methods are sometimes his own."
"As in the case of Mr. Wallingford," blandly suggested Dickson, swift to seize his opportunity. "Even you would have thought the captain outrageous in his choice of words."
"The captain is a man easily provoked, and has suffered certain provocations such as no man of spirit could brook. I believe he was very wrong to vent his spite on Mr. Wallingford, who has proved as respectful of others and forgetful of himself as any man on board. I say this without knowing the present circumstances, but Wallingford has made a nobler sacrifice than any of us."
"He would have been chased to his own kind among the Tories in another week," sneered the other. "You know it as well as I. Wallingford hesitated just as long as he dared, and there's the truth! He's a good mate to Ben Thompson, - both of 'em courtiers of the Wentworths; and both of 'em had to hurry at the last, one way or the other, whichever served."
"Plenty of our best citizens clung to the hope that delay would bring some proper arbitration and concession. No good citizen went to war lightly and without a pang. A man who has seen carnage must always dread it; such glory as we win must reckon upon groans and weeping behind the loudest cheers. But war once declared, men of clear conscience and decent character may accept their lot, and in the end serve their country best," said the doctor.
"You are sentimental to-night," scoffed Dickson.
"I have been thinking much of home," said the surgeon, with deep feeling. "I may never see my home again, nor may you. We are near shore now; in a few days this ship may be smeared with blood, and these poor fellows who snarl and bargain, and discuss the captain's orders and the chance of prize money, may come under my hands, bleeding and torn and suffering their last agony. We must face these things as best we may; we do not know what war means yet; the captain will spare none of us. He is like a creature in a cage now, fretted by his bounds and all their petty conditions; but when the moment of freedom comes he will seek action. He is fit by nature to leap to the greatest opportunities, and to do what the best of us could never dream of. No, not you, sir, nor Simpson either, though he aims to supplant him!" grumbled the surgeon, under his voice.
"Perhaps his gift is too great for so small a command as this," Dickson returned, with an evil smile. "It is understood that he must be transferred to a more sufficient frigate, if France sees fit," he added, in a pious tone. "I shall strive to do my own duty in either case." At which Dr. Green looked up and smiled.
Dickson laughed back; he was quick to feel the change of mood in his companion. For a moment they were like two schoolboys, but there was a flicker of malice in Dickson's eyes; no one likes being laughed at.
"Shall we take a hand at cards, sir?" he asked hastily. "All these great things will soon be settled when we get to France."
The surgeon did not offer to get the cards, which lay on the nearest shelf. He was clasping his hands across his broad breast, and leaning back in a comfortable, tolerant sort of way in his corner seat. They both knew perfectly well that they were in for a long evening together, and might as well make the best of it. It was too much trouble to fight with a cur. Somehow, the current of general interest did not set as usual toward theological opinions.
"I was called to a patient down on Sligo Point beyond the Gulf Road, just before we sailed," said Green presently, in a more friendly tone. "'T was an old woman of unsteady brain, but of no common-place fancy, who was under one of her wildest spells, and had mounted the house roof to sell all her neighbors at auction. She was amusing enough, - 't is a pretty wit when she is sane; but I heard roars of laughter as I rode up the lane, and saw a flock of listeners at the orchard edge. She had knocked off the minister and both deacons, the lot for ninepence, and was running her lame neighbor Paul to seventy thousand pounds."
"I heard that they called the minister to pray with her when her fit was coming on, and she chased him down the lane, and would have driven him into the river, if there had not been some men at fall ploughing in a field near by. She was a fixed Calvinist in her prime, and always thought him lax," said Dickson, with relish, continuing the tale. "They had told the good man to come dressed in his gown and bands, thinking it would impress her mind."
"Which it certainly seemed to do," agreed the doctor. "At any rate, she knocked him down for ninepence. 'T was a good sample of the valuation most of us put upon our neighbors. She likes to hear her neighbor Paul play the fiddle; sometimes he can make her forget all her poor distresses, and fall asleep like a baby. The minister had somehow vexed her. Our standards are just as personal here aboard ship. The Great Day will sum up men at their true value, - we shall never do it before; 't would ask too much of poor human nature."
Dickson drummed on the bulkhead before he spoke. "Some men are taken at less than their true value."
"And some at more, especially by themselves. Don't let things go too far with Simpson. He's a good man, but can easily be led into making trouble," said the surgeon; and Dickson half rose, and then sat down again, with his face showing an angry red.
"We must be patient," added the surgeon a moment later, without having looked again at his companion. "'T is just like a cage of beasts here: fierce and harmless are shut in together. Tame creatures are sometimes forced to show their teeth. We must not fret about petty things, either; 't is a great errand we have come out upon, and the honest doing of it is all the business we have in common."
"True, sir," said Dickson, with a touch of insolent flattery. "Shall we take a hand at cards?"
Or rather no arte, but a divine and heavenly instinct, not to be gotten by labour and learning, but adorned by both: This quotation has not been identified. Assistance is welcome.
[ Back ]
Arminian ... Calvinist: See notes to Chapter 1.
[ Back ]
a careful journal: Ezra Green's journal was published in 1875. See supplemental materials.
[ Back ]
country produce ... Isles of Shoals. Richard Whittaker in Land of Lost Content (1993) says, "It was common knowledge throughout Portsmouth that the independent Shoalers were still trading with the British, even though on 11 March 1775 the British flag had been lowered there for the last time. Rebel leaders expressed concern that if the islanders were left alone, the British would use their harbor and islands, posing direct threat to Portsmouth's safety. On 5 January 1776, the order came from the New Hampshire assembly to evacuate the Shoals. The evacuation began eleven days later.
"The exodus was slow, but complete enough to warrant the removal of the ministry to York, Maine. During this period many island houses were actually moved intact by barge, or dismantled and reassembled along the coastal region" (74-5). See also on this, Lyman V. Rutledge, The Isles of the Shoals in Lore and Legend (1965).
[ Back ]
courtiers of the Wentworths: See People and Places for details about Ben Thompson. The Wentworth family was powerful in Portsmouth, Benning Wentworth being Royal Governor of New Hampshire (1741-1767). See Portsmouth in People and Places.
[ Back ]
driven him into the river: An allusion, perhaps, to Christ driving out demons in Mark 5.
[ Back ]
the Great Day: see Revelation 20:11-14 for "the last judgment."
[ Back ]
|The Tory Lover -- Contents