The Tory Lover -- Contents
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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
Chapter XVIII
OH HAD I WIST! -----
"You need not go into a desert and fast, a crowd is often more lonely than a wilderness and small things harder to do than great."
 

     The ship had run between Belle Isle and the low curving shores of Quiberon. The land was in sight all along by St. Nazaire, where they could see the gray-green of winter fields, and the dotted fruit trees about the farmhouses, and bits of bushy woodland. Out of the waste of waters the swift way-wise little Ranger came heading safely in at the mouth of the Loire. She ran among all the shoals and sand banks by Paimbœuf, and past the shipyards of the river shores, until she came to harbor and let her anchor go.

     There was something homelike about being in a river. At first sight the Loire wore a look of recent settlement, rather than of the approach to a city already famous in old Roman times; the shifting sand dunes and the empty flats, the poor scattered handfuls of houses and the works of shipbuilding, all wore a temporary look. These shiftless, primitive contrivances of men sparsely strewed a not too solid-looking shore, and the newcomers could see little of the inland country behind it. It was a strange contrast to their own river below Portsmouth, where gray ledges ribbed the earth and bolted it down into an unchangeable permanence of outline. The heights and hollows of the seaward points of Newcastle and the Kittery shore stood plain before his mind's eye as Wallingford came on deck, and these strange banks of the Loire seemed only to mask reality and confuse his vision. Farther up the stream they could see the gray walls of Nantes itself, high over the water, with the huge towered cathedral, and the lesser bulk of the castle topping all the roofs. It was a mild day, with little air moving.

     Dickson came along the deck, looking much displeased. That morning he had received the attention of being kicked down the companion way by the captain, and nothing could soften such an event, not even the suggestion from his conscience that he had well deserved the insult. It seemed more and more, to those who were nearest him, as if Dickson were at heart the general enemy of mankind, - jealous and bitter toward those who stood above him, and scornful of his inferiors. He loved to defeat the hopes of other people, to throw discredit upon sincerity; like some swift-creeping thing that brings needless discomfort everywhere, and dismay, and an impartial sting. He was not clever enough to be a maker of large schemes, but rather destructive, crafty, and evil-minded, - a disturber of the plans of others. All this was in his face; a fixed habit of smiling only added to his mean appearance. What was worst of all, being a great maker of promises, he was not without influence, and had his following.

     The fresh air from the land, the frosty smell of the fields, made Wallingford feel the more despondent. The certainty had now come to his mind that Paul Jones would never have consented to his gaining the commission of lieutenant, would never have brought him, so untried and untrained, to sea, but for jealousy, and to hinder his being at Mary Hamilton's side. This was the keenest hurt to his pride; the thought had stabbed him like a knife. Again he made a desperate plunge into the sea of his disasters, and was unconscious even of the man who was near by, watching him. He was for the moment blind and deaf to all reality, as he stood looking along the water toward the Breton town.

     "All ready to go ashore, sir?" asked Dickson, behind him, in an ingratiating tone; but Wallingford gave an impatient shrug of his shoulders.

     "'T is not so wintry here as the shore must look at home," continued Dickson. "Damn that coxcomb on the quarter-deck! he's more than the devil himself could stand for company!"

     Wallingford, instead of agreeing in his present disaffection, turned about, and stood fronting the speaker. He looked Dickson straight in the eye, as if daring him to speak again, whereat Dickson remained silent. The lieutenant stood like a prince.

     "I see that I intrude," said the other, rallying his self-consequence. "You have even less obligation to Captain Paul Jones than you may think," he continued, dropping his voice and playing his last trump. "I overheard, by accident, some talk of his on the terrace with a certain young lady whom your high loftiness might not allow me to mention. He called you a cursed young spy and a Tory, and she implored him to protect you. She said you was her old playmate, and that she wanted you got out o' the way o' trouble. He had his arm round her, and he said he might be ruined by you; he cursed you up hill and down, while she was a-pleadin'. 'T was all for her sake, and your mother's bein' brought into distress" -

     Dickson spoke rapidly, and edged a step or two away; but his shoulder was clutched as if a panther's teeth had it instead of a man's hand.

     "I'll kill you if you give me another word!" said Roger Wallingford. "If I knew you told the whole truth, I should be just as ready to drop you overboard."

     "I have told the truth," said Dickson.

     "I know you aren't above eavesdropping," answered Wallingford, with contempt. "If you desire to know what I think of your sneaking on the outside of a man's house where you have been denied entrance, I am willing to tell you. I heard you were there that night."

     "You were outside yourself, to keep me company, and I'm as good a gentleman as Jack Hamilton," protested Dickson. "He went the rounds of the farms with a shoemaker's kit, in the start of his high fortunes."

     "Mr. Hamilton would mend a shoe as honestly in his young poverty as he would sit in council now. So he has come to be a rich merchant and a trusted man." There was something in Wallingford's calm manner that had power to fire even Dickson's cold and sluggish blood.

     "I take no insults from you, Mr. Lieutenant!" he exclaimed, in a black rage, and passed along the deck to escape further conversation.

     There had been men of the crew within hearing. Dickson had said what he wished to say, and a moment later he was thinking no less highly of himself than ever. He would yet compass the downfall of the two men whom he hated. He had already set them well on their way to compass the downfall of each other. It made a man chuckle with savage joy to think of looking on at the game.

     Wallingford went below again, and set himself to some work in his own cabin. Character and the habit of self-possession could carry a man through many trying instances, but life now seemed in a worse confusion than before. This was impossible to bear; he brushed his papers to the floor with a sweep of his arm. His heart was as heavy as lead within him. Alas, he had seen the ring! "Perhaps - perhaps" - he said next moment to himself - "she might do even that, if she loved a man; she could think of nothing then but that I must be got away to sea!"

     "Poor little girl! O God, how I love her!" and he bent his head sorrowfully, while an agony of grief and dismay mastered him. He had never yet been put to such awful misery of mind.

     "'T is my great trial that has come upon me," he said humbly. "I'll stick to my duty, - 't is all that I can do, - and Heaven help me to bear the rest. Thank God, I have my duty to the ship!"

 

Notes

OH HAD I WIST: This is from "Waly Waly," an anonymous 17th-century Scots ballad:

     But had I wist, before I kist,
     That love had been sae ill to win,
     I had lock'd my heart in a case o' gowd,
     And pinn'd it wi' a siller pin.
(Research: Gabe Heller)
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"You need not go into a desert and fast, a crowd is often more lonely than a wilderness and small things harder to do than great":
    This quotation from Johannes Eckhart (1260?-1328?), German mystic and Christian theologian, appears in Christian Mysticism The Bampton Lectures Considered in Eight Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford (1899) by William Ralph Inge, D. D. Dean of S. Paul's.  The whole passage sheds light on Jewett's religious interests.

Thus Eckhart is not content with the knowledge of God which is
mediated by Christ, but aspires to penetrate into the "Divine
darkness" which underlies the manifestation of the Trinity. In fact,
when he speaks of the imitation of Christ, he distinguishes between
"the way of the manhood," which has to be followed by all, and "the
way of the Godhead," which is for the mystic only. In this overbold
aspiration to rise "from the Three to the One," he falls into the
error which we have already noticed, and several passages in his
writings advocate the quietistic self-simplification which belongs to
this scheme of perfection. There are sentences in which he exhorts us
to strip off all that comes to us from the senses, and to throw
ourselves upon the heart of God, there to rest for ever, "hidden from
all creatures." But there are many other passages of an opposite
tendency. He tells us that "the way of the manhood," which, of course,
includes imitation of the active life of Christ, must be trodden first
by all; he insists that in the state of union the faculties of the
soul will act in a new and higher way, so that the personality is
restored, not destroyed; and, lastly, he teaches that contemplation is
only the means to a higher activity, and that this is, in fact, its
object; "what a man has taken in by contemplation, that he pours out
in love." There is no contradiction in the desire for rest combined
with the desire for active service; for rest can only be defined as
unimpeded activity; but in Eckhart there is, I think, a real
inconsistency. The traditions of his philosophy pointed towards
withdrawal from the world and from outward occupations--towards the
monkish ideal, in a word; but the modern spirit was already astir
within him. He preached in German to the general public, and his
favourite themes are the present living operation of the Spirit, and
the consecration of life in the world. There is, he shows, no
contradiction between the active and the contemplative life; the
former belongs to the faculties of the soul, the latter to its
essence. In commenting on the story of Martha and Mary, those
favourite types of activity and contemplation, he surprises us by
putting Martha first. "Mary hath chosen the good part; that is," he
says, "she is striving to be as holy as her sister. Mary is still at
school: Martha has learnt her lesson. It is better to feed the hungry
than to see even such visions as St. Paul saw." "Besser ein
Lebemeister als tausend Lesemeister." He discourages monkish
religiosity and external badges of saintliness -- "avoid everything
peculiar," he says, "in dress, food, and language." "You need not go
into a desert and fast; a crowd is often more lonely than a
wilderness, and small things harder to do than great." "What is the
good of the dead bones of saints?" he asks, in the spirit of a
sixteenth century reformer; "the dead can neither give nor take."
This double aspect of Eckhart's teaching makes him particularly
interesting; he seems to stand on the dividing-line between mediæval
and modern Christianity.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14596/14596-8.txt
    (Research: Patricia Rattray)
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the general enemy of mankind: This general enemy would be understood to be the Devil or Satan. In a biographical essay on Jones, Molly Elliot Seawell's quotes "tradition" as saying that Jones had at least once kicked an insolent officer down a hatchway.  See "Paul Jones," (Century 49:6, p. 879.)
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The Tory Lover -- Contents