The Tory Lover -- Contents
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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
Chapter XIX
THE BEST-LAID PLANS

"Artists have come to study from these marbles . . . Boys have flung stones against the sculptured and unmindful devils."
 

     As soon as the Ranger was at Nantes, and the formalities of the port could be left in the hands of his officers, Captain Paul Jones set forth in haste toward Paris to deliver his despatches. He was only sixty hours upon the road, passing over the country as if he saw it from a balloon, and at last had the supreme disappointment of finding that his proud errand was forestalled. He had driven himself and his ship for nothing; the news of Burgoyne's surrender had been carried by a messenger from Boston, on a fast-sailing French vessel, and placed in the hands of the Commissioners a few hours before his own arrival. It was understood some time before, between the Marine Committee of the colonies and Captain Paul Jones, that he was to take command of the fine frigate L'Indien, which was then building in Amsterdam; but he received no felicitations now for his rapid voyage, and found no delightful accumulations of important work, and was by no means acknowledged as the chief and captain of a great enterprise. As the Ranger had come into harbor like any ordinary vessel from the high seas, unheralded and without greeting, so Paul Jones now found himself of no public consequence or interest in Paris. What was to be done must all be done by himself. The Commissioners had their hands full of other affairs, and the captain stood in the position of a man who brought news to deaf ears. They listened to his eager talk and well-matured plans with some wonder, and even a forced attention, as if he were but an interruption, and not a leader for any enterprise they had in hand. To him, it had almost seemed as if his great projects were already accomplished.

     It was in every way a most difficult situation. The ownership of the Indien frigate had been carefully concealed. Paul Jones himself had furnished the plans for her, and the Commissioners in France had made contracts under other signatures for her building in the neutral port of Amsterdam. It was indispensable that the secret of her destiny should be kept from England; but at the moment when she was ready to be put into commission, and Paul Jones was on the sea, with the full expectation of finding his ship ready when he came to France, some one in the secret had betrayed it, and the British officials at Amsterdam spoke openly to the government of the Netherlands, and demanded that the frigate should be detained for breach of neutrality, she being destined for an American ship of war. There was nothing to be done. The Commissioners had made some efforts to hold the frigate, but in the end France had come forward and stood their friend by buying her, and at a good price. This had happened only a few days before, so Captain Paul Jones must hear the sorry tale when he came to Paris and saw the three American Commissioners.

     He stood before them, a sea-tanned and weary little hero, with his eyes flashing fire. One of the three Commissioners, Arthur Lee, could not meet his aggrieved and angry looks. To be sure, the money was in hand again, and they could buy another ship; but the Indien, the Indien was irrecoverable.

     "If I had been there, gentlemen," cried Paul Jones, with a mighty oath, "nothing would have held me long in port! I'd have sailed her across dry ground, but I'd have got her safe to sea! She was ours in the sight of Heaven, and all the nations in the world could not prevent me!"

     Mr. Franklin looked on with approval at so noble and forgivable a rage; the others wore a wearied and disgusted look, and Mr. Arthur Lee set himself to the careful mending of a pen. It was a sorry hour for good men; and without getting any definite promise, and having bestowed many unavailing reproaches, at last Paul Jones could only fling himself out of Paris again, and in black despair post back to the Ranger at Nantes. He had the solitary comfort, before he left, of a friendly and compassionate interview granted by Mr. Franklin, who, over-burdened though he was, and much vexed by a younger man's accusations, had yet the largeness of mind to see things from the captain's side. There was nothing for it but patience, until affairs should take a turn, as the Commissioner most patiently explained.

     All the captain's high hopes and ceaseless industry in regard to his own plans were scattered like straws in the wind. He must set his mind now to the present possibilities. Worst of all, he had made an enemy in his quick mistrust and scorn of Mr. Arthur Lee, a man who would block many another plan, and hinder him in the end as a great sea captain and hero had never been worse hindered since the world began.

     Dickson stood on the deck of the Ranger, by the gangway, when the captain came aboard, fatigued and disappointed; it might be that some creature of Lee's sending had already spoken with Dickson and prepared him for what was to come. He made a most handsome salutation, however, and Lieutenant Simpson, hoping for news of his own promotion, stepped forward with an honest welcome.

     "Gentlemen, I have much to tell you, and of an unwelcome sort," said the captain, with unusual dignity of bearing. "There is one blessing: our defeat of Burgoyne has brought us France for an ally. I hoped for good news as regards ourselves, but we have been betrayed by an enemy; we have lost the frigate which I have had a hand in building, and of whose command I was altogether certain for more than a year past. We must now wait for further orders here, and refit the Ranger, and presently get to sea with her instead. I own that it is a great disappointment to us all."

     Dickson wore no look of surprise; he was too full of triumph. Lieutenant Simpson was crestfallen. The other officers and men who were near enough to hear looked angry and disturbed. They had been persuaded that they must be rid of the captain before they could follow their own purposes. 'T was a strange and piteous condition of things aboard the Ranger, and an example of what the poison of lies and a narrow-minded jealously can do to set honest minds awry. And Paul Jones had himself to thank for much ill will: he had a quick temper, and a savage way of speaking to his fellows. The one thing he could not bear was perfidy, and a bland and double disposition in a man seemed at once to deserve the tread of his angry heel.

     The captain was hardly to be seen for a day or two after his return, except in occasional forays of fault-finding. Wallingford was successful in keeping out of his way; the great fact that all his own best hopes had been destroyed dulled him even to feelings of resentment. While suffering his great dismay he could almost forget the cause whence it came, and even pitied, for other reasons, the man who had worn the ring. The first stroke of a bullet only benumbs; the fierceness of pain comes later. Again and again he stood before Mary Hamilton, and lived over the night when he had stood at the window and dared to meet her beautiful angry eyes; again and again he reviewed those gentler moments by the river, when her eyes were full of their old affection, though her words were stern. He had won her plain promise that some day, having served their country, he might return to her side, and clung to that promise like a last hope.

     It already seemed a year since the night when Wallingford and the captain had dined together. The steward had interrupted them just as the lieutenant sprung to his feet.

     "Must we say good-night, then?" said Paul Jones, protesting. "As for me, I ought to be at my papers. Send me William Earl to write for me," he told the steward. "Thank you for your good company, Mr. Wallingford. I hope we may have many such evenings together."

     Yet he had looked after his guest with a sense that something had gone wrong at this last moment, though the steward had found them hand in hand.

     The sight of the ring among his possessions, that day when he made ready for the journey to Paris, had given him a moment of deep happiness; he had placed it on his finger, with a certain affectionate vanity. Yet it was a token of confidence, and in some sense a reward. He had been unjust in the beginning to the young lieutenant; he had now come to like and to trust him more than any other man on board the ship. In the exciting days that had followed, rings, and lieutenants, and even so lovely a friend and lady as Miss Mary Hamilton had been forgotten.

     Yet at most unexpected moments Paul Jones did remember her, and his heart longed for the moment when they should meet once more, and he might plead his cause. "L'absence diminue les petits amours et augmente les grandes, comme le vent qui éteint les bougies et rallume la feu."
 

     The captain at once began to hasten the work of refitting the Ranger for sea. He gave no explanations; he was more surly in temper, and strangely uncompanionable. Now that they could no longer admire his seamanship in a quick voyage, the sailors rated him for the ship's idleness and their long detention in port. This was not what they had signed for. Dickson now and then let fall a word which showed that he had means of information that were altogether his own; he was often on shore, and seemed free with his money. Lieutenant Wallingford and the surgeon, with some of the other officers, became familiar with the amusements of Nantes; but the lieutenant was observed by every one to be downhearted and inclined to solitary walks, and by night he kept his cabin alone, with no inclination toward company. He had been friendly with every one in the early part of the voyage, like a man who has no fear of risking a kind word. The surgeon, after making unwonted efforts to gain his old neighbor's confidence, ignored him with the rest, until he should come to himself again.

     This added to the constraint and discomfort on board the Ranger. She was crowded with men eager enough for action, and yet kept in idleness under a needlessly strict discipline. Simpson, the senior lieutenant, willingly received the complaints of officers and crew, and Dickson's ceaseless insistence that Simpson was their rightful leader began to have its desired effect.


Notes

THE BEST-LAID PLANS: This is from Robert Burns (1759-1796) "To A Mouse, on turning up her nest with the plough, November 1785":
     But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
     In proving foresight may be vain:
     The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
     Gang aft agley,
     An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
     For promis'd joy!
(Research: Gabe Heller)
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"Artists have come to study from these marbles . . . Boys have flung stones against the sculptured and unmindful devils": This quotation has not been identified. Assistance is welcome.
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the fine frigate L'Indien: When Jones arrived in France, the Indien was nearly ready to launch. However, financial and diplomatic problems prevented the American commissioners (Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and Silas Deane) from taking possession.
     This chapter provides an especially interesting opportunity to study to the complicated relationship between Jewett's own fictionalizing of historical events, her drawing from a biographer who later proved as much a fiction writer as she (Augustus Buell), and what we believe we know of historical fact. For example, Jewett follows Buell's account of Jones immediately (in early December) carrying the American dispatches to Paris in an astonishingly short time (See Buell Ch. 4). Other accounts do not mention this incident, but indicate that Jones first exchanged several messages with the American commissioners, before actually traveling to Paris to meet with them in late December. Jewett also follows Buell's assertion that Jones provided the plans for L'Indien, but this is not true, since the famous meeting with Kersaint, when he supposedly obtained those plans, never took place. Among the other points to notice in this chapter is Jewett's acceptance of Buell's view that John Thornton was the master British spy on the commissioners' staff and that he was influencing events on the Ranger.
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"L'absence diminue . . . rallume la feu.": Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) says in Reflections (1665), "Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and fans fire." (Source: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.)
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