|The Tory Lover -- Contents|
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
"The only happiness a man ought to ask for is happiness enough to get his work done."
Early in April the Ranger was still waiting to put to sea. She had been made ready and trained for action like a single gun, in her long weeks at Brest. The captain had gone away on a mysterious errand, afterward reported to be a visit to Amsterdam directed by Mr. Franklin, who wished for information regarding the affairs of the Commissioners and the loss of their frigate. Paul Jones carried with him the poor dress of that Spanish seaman who had boarded him at Quiberon, and made good use of the Basque cap and his own sufficient knowledge of the Spanish language. To Wallingford only he gave any news of the journey, and it was only Wallingford whom he made his constant companion in frequent visits to the Duke of Chartres and his duchess, at their country house near the city.
The Sailor Prince had welcomed this American captain and friend with all the affection with which he had said farewell in Virginia, and hastened to present him to his wife, who was not only one of the most charming of French ladies, and a great-granddaughter of Louis Quatorze, but granddaughter of the great Count of Toulouse, that sailor son of the King, who had won the famous sea fight off Malaga against the Dutch and English fleets, seventy years before. The beautiful duchess was quick to recognize a hero. She was most proud of her seafaring ancestor, and listened with delight to Paul Jones as he spoke with some French officers of the Malaga victory, and showed his perfect acquaintance with its strategy. She found him handsome, spirited, and full of great qualities, and at once gave her warmest friendship to him and to his cause.
All the degrading side of a sailor's life and hardships, all the distresses that Paul Jones and Roger Wallingford had known on board the Ranger, faded away like bad dreams when they stood in her presence. They were both true gentlemen at heart; they were also servants of their own country in France; and now every door flew open before their wishes; the future seemed but one long triumph and delight. Paul Jones, the poor Scottish lad who had steadily followed his splendid vision, had come at last very near to its reality, and to the true joys of an unfailing friendship.
The Ranger sailed out of Brest on the 10th of April. There had been an attempt at mutiny on board, but the captain had quelled that, and mastered the deep-laid plot behind it. Once at sea, everything seemed to be at rights again, since the ship was heading toward the English coast. The captain was silent now, as if always brooding upon great affairs, and appeared to have fallen into a calm state of self-possession; his eyes looked unconscious of whatever minor objects were reflected in their quick mirrors. All his irascibility was for the moment gone; his face was thoughtful and even melancholy, with a look as if at last he possessed some secret happiness and assurance. Glory herself had become strangely identified with a beautiful French princess, and he had made a vow to high Heaven that he would some day lay an English frigate at her feet, and show himself worthy of her confidence and most inspiriting sympathy. The captain had spoken to her of all his hard and hopeful life as he had never spoken to any one; she even knew the story of Wallingford, and their relations to Mary Hamilton and to each other. The Duchess of Chartres had listened eagerly, and next day said a word to the lieutenant that made his young heart fairly quiver at such exquisite understanding; to the captain she had spoken only of Glory as they both understood it, and of a hero's task and sacrifice.
The Ranger headed past the Channel and into the Irish Sea. At last she stood over from the Isle of Man until the shores of England were close at hand, behind a shifting veil of fog, and even those among the Ranger's crew whose best dreams were of prizes were not unsatisfied with their prospects. When the gusty wind beat back the fog, they could see the mountains of Cumberland; and the shapes of those solid heights looked well to the eye, after the low lines of the French coast they had left behind. They passed St. Bees Head, keeping well at sea; and the captain did some petty trading with poor fisherman, to learn how things stood now at Whitehaven, and whether there might be frigates in those waters, or any foe too great for so bold a venturer. They were beating against the easterly winds, and steadily nearing the shore. They could see no large-looking ships when the fog lifted, though it was a region where much shipping went and came. There was possible danger of alarm, and that their sailing from Brest had been heralded by treachery. The captain was alive in every nerve, and held himself steady, like a tiger in the night, whose best weapons must be speed and silence.
Wallingford stood long on deck in the late afternoon, leaning against the gun in his wonted place, and troubled by the persistent reluctance of his heart. These were the shores of England, and he was bound to do them harm. He was not the first man who found it hard to fight against the old familiar flag which a few months earlier had been his own. He had once spent a few months in the old country, after his college course had ended, - a boy of eighteen, who looked on at life admiringly, as if it were a play. He had been happy enough in London then, and in some country houses, where old family friends of both his father and his mother had shown him much kindness, and the days had gone by not so unlike the fashion of life at home. The merchants and gentlefolk of New England had long been rich enough to live at ease, and Boston and Portsmouth, with Salem and the harbor towns between, were themselves but tiny Londons in those happier days before the war. Each had a few men of learning and women of the world, and were small satellites that borrowed their lesser light from a central sun. Wallingford knew enough of the solid force and dignity of England to wince at the ignorant talk of the crew about so formidable an enemy, and again his heart grew heavy with regret that this mother and child among the nations had been so rashly drawn into the cruelties of war. The King and those who flattered him were wrong enough, God forgive them! But the great Earl of Chatham, and Mr. Fox, and many another man of authority and power had stood for the colonies. For a moment this heavy young heart grew even heavier with the thought of being the accomplice of France in such a short-sighted business, but next moment Wallingford angrily shook himself free from such fears as these. They were the thoughts that had been born in him, not his own determination: he had come to fight for the colonies, and would trample down both his fears and his opinions once for all on the Ranger's deck. The lieutenant looked down at the solid deck planks where he stood, - they had grown out of the honest ground of his own neighborhood; he had come to love his duty, after all, and even to love his ship. Up went his head again, and his heart was once more hot within him; the only question now was, what did the captain mean to do?
The light began to fade, and evening to fall. The men were heaving the lead, and the captain watched them, listening anxiously as they told their soundings with the practiced drawl and quaint phrases that old seamen use. They could now and then catch a glimpse of small houses on the shore. The ship was evidently in shoal water, and the fog lifted and parted and thickened again, as if a skyful of clouds had dropped upon the sea.
Presently the word was passed to let go the anchor; and the storm of oaths and exclamations which this involved, owing to some unexpected hindrance, grew so tiresome to the lieutenant that he left the place where he had been standing, to go below again.
"Look, look, mon ami!" urged the captain eagerly; and Wallingford turned to see that the fog had driven away, while Paul Jones pointed toward a large town, and a forest of vessels lying in the bay before it, - a huge flock of shipping for such a port. The Irish Sea had emptied itself into Whitehaven, and the wind had gone down; not a sloop or a snow, and not a little brig in a hurry, could put to sea again that April night.
"'T is old Whitehaven," said Paul Jones. "Now I'll show them that they have made an enemy! Now they'll know we are to be feared, not laughed at! I'll put an end to all their burnings in America. I'll harry their own coasts now, and frighten them back into their hills before I'm done. I'll sweep them off their own seas! My chance is in my hand!"
Dickson presented himself at this moment. The captain would not have had him listening, and turned upon him angrily to hear what he had to say.
"Thick as coasters in Portsmouth lower harbor in a northeast blow," commented the unwelcome officer, "but that's no such handsome town as ours."
"'T is a town of three hundred ships, mostly in the coal trade, and ranks close to Newcastle in Northumberland; 't is a town large enough to be charged with six hundred men for his Majesty's navy," and the captain scowled. "We need not take it for a poor fishing village till we have seen it better. A more uncertain coast, from the shifting sands, I do not remember to have known; but I can keep the main channels well enough through long acquaintance," he added, in a lower voice. "Now we are out of this dungeon of fog, thank God, and I shall creep in still and steady as a snail when I get ready."
They could see the gleam of white cliffs now, as the fog rolled up the hills.
"'T is full of poor miners there, burrowing like moles in the dark earth," said the captain pityingly, - "a wretched life for a Christian!" Then he went to his cabin, and called his officers about him, and gave orders for the night's work.
"I loved Britain as a man may only love his mother country; but I was misjudged, and treated with such bitter harshness and contempt in my younger days that I renounced my very birthright!" said Paul Jones, turning to Wallingford with a strange impulse of sadness when the other men had gone. "I cannot help it now; I have made the break, and have given my whole allegiance to our new Republic, and all the strength of me shall count for something in the building of her noble future. Therefore I fight her battles, at whatever cost and on whatever soil. Being a sailor, I fight as a sailor, and I am here close to the soil that bore me. 'T is against a man's own heart, but I am bent upon my duty, though it cost me dear."
Wallingford did not speak, - his own reluctance was but hardly overcome; he could not take his eyes off the captain, who had grown unconscious of his presence. It was a manly face and bold look, but when at rest there was something of sad patience in the eyes and boyish mouth, - something that told of bafflings and disappointments and bitter hardness in a life that had so breathlessly climbed the steep ladder of ambition. The flashing fire of his roused spirit, the look of eager bravery, were both absent now, leaving in their places something of great distinction, but a wistfulness too, a look hungry for sympathy, - that pathetic look of simple bewilderment which sometimes belongs to dreamers and enthusiasts who do not know whither they are being led.
The wind was down, so that there was no hope, as at first, of the Ranger's running in closer to the harbor, with all her fighting force and good armament of guns. There was still light enough to see that no man-of-war was standing guard over so many merchantmen. The Ranger herself looked innocent enough from shore, on her far anchorage; but when darkness fell they hove up the anchor and crept in a little way, till the tide turned to go out and it was too dangerous among the shoals. They anchored once more, yet at too great a distance. Hours of delay ran by, and when the boats were lowered at last there was hindrance still. Some preparations that the captain had ordered were much belated, to his great dismay; discipline was of no avail; they were behindhand in starting; the sky was clear of clouds now, and the night would be all the shorter.
The officers were silent, wrapped in their heavy boat cloaks, and the men rowed with all the force that was in them. The captain had the surgeon with him in one boat, and some midshipmen, and the other boat was in charge of Lieutenant Wallingford, with Dickson and Hall.
There were thirty picked seamen, more or less, in the party; the boats were crowded and loaded to the gunwale, and they parted company like thieves in the night to work their daring purposes. The old town of Whitehaven lay quiet; there was already a faint light of coming dawn above the Cumberland Hills when they came to the outer pier; there was a dim gleam of snow on the heights under the bright stars, and the air was bitter cold. An old sea was running high after the late storms, and the boats dragged slowly on their errand. The captain grew fierce and restless, and cursed the rowers for their slowness; and the old town of Whitehaven and all her shipping lay sound asleep.
The captain's boat came in first; he gave his orders with sure acquaintance, and looked about him eagerly, smiling at some ancient-looking vessels as if they were old friends, and calling them by name. What with the stormy weather of the past week, and an alarm about some Yankee pirates that might be coming on the coast, they had all flocked in like sheep, and lay stranded now as the tide left them. There was a loud barking of dogs from deck to deck, but it soon ceased. Both the boats had brought what freight they could stow of pitch and kindlings, and they followed their orders; the captain's boat going to the south side, and Wallingford's to the north, to set fires among the shipping. There was not a moment to be lost.
On the south side of the harbor, where the captain went, were the larger ships, many of them merchantmen of three or four hundred tons burthen; on the north side were smaller craft of every sort, Dutch doggers and the humble coast-wise crafts that made the living of a family, - each poor fish boat furnishing the tool for a hard and meagre existence. On few of these was there any riding light or watch; there was mutual protection in such a company, and the harbor was like a gateless poultry-yard, into which the captain of the Ranger came boldly like a fox.
He ran his boat ashore below the fort, and sent most of her crew to set fires among the vessels, while he mounted the walls with a few followers, and found the sentinels nothing to be feared: they were all asleep in the guardhouse, such was the peace and prosperity of their lives. It was easy enough to stop them from giving alarm, and leave them fast-bound and gagged, to find the last half of the night longer than the first of it. A few ancient cannon were easily spiked, and the captain ran like a boy at Saturday-afternoon bird-nesting to the fort beyond to put some other guns out of commission; they might make mischief for him, should the town awake.
"Come after me!" he called. "I am at home here!" And the men at his heels marveled at him more than ever, now that they were hand to hand with such an instant piece of business. It took a man that was half devil to do what the captain was doing, and they followed as if they loved him. He stopped now in a frenzy of sudden rage. "They have had time enough already to start the burning; what keeps them? There should be a dozen fires lit now!" he cried, as he ran back to the waterside. The rest of the boat's crew were standing where he had left them, and met his reproaches with scared faces: they had their pitch and tar with them, and had boarded a vessel, but the candles in their dark lanterns, which were to start the blaze, had flickered and gone out. Somebody had cut them short: it was a dirty trick, and was done on purpose. They told in loud, indignant whispers that they had chosen an old deserted ship that would have kindled everything near her, but they had no light left. And the sky was fast brightening.
The captain's face was awful to look at, as he stood aghast. There was no sight of fire across the harbor, either, and no quick snake of flame could be seen running up the masts. He stood for one terrible moment in silence and despair. "And no flint and steel among us, on such an errand!" he gasped. "Come with me, Green!" he commanded, and set forth again, running like a deer back into the town.
It took but a minute to pass, by a narrow way, among some poor stone houses and out across a bit of open ground, to a cottage poorer and lower than any, and here Paul Jones lifted the clumsy latch. It was a cottage of a single room, and his companion followed hastily, and stood waiting close behind on the threshold.
"Nancy, Nancy, my dear!" said the captain, in a gentle voice, but thrusting back a warning hand to keep the surgeon out. "Nancy, ye'll not be frightened; 't is no thief, but your poor laddie, John Paul, that you wintered long ago with a hurt leg, an' he having none other that would friend him. I've come now but to friend you and to beg a light."
There was a cry of joy and a sound of some one rising in the bed, and the surgeon heard the captain's hasty steps as he crossed the room in the dark and kissed the old creature, who began to chatter in her feeble voice.
"Yes, here's your old tinder box in its place on the chimney," said the captain hastily. "I'm only distressed for a light, Mother Nancy, and my boat just landing. Here's for ye till I get ashore again from my ship," and there was a sound of a heavy handful of money falling on the bed.
"Tak' the best candle, child," she cried, "an' promise me ye'll be ashore again the morn's morn an' let me see your bonny eyes by day! I said ye'd come, - I always said ye'd come!" But the two men were past hearing any more, as they ran away with their treasure.
"Why in God's name did you leave the door wide open?" said the surgeon. "She'll die of a pleurisy, and your gold will only serve to bury her!"
There was no time for dallying. The heap of combustibles on one old vessel's deck was quick set afire now and flung down the hatches, and a barrel of tar was poured into the thick-mounting flames; this old brig was well careened against another, and their yards were fouled. There was no time to do more; the two would easily scatter fire to all their neighborhood when the morning wind sprung up to help them, and the captain and his men must put off to sea. There were still no signs of life on the shore or the fort above.
They all gathered to the boat; the oarsmen were getting their places, when all at once there was a cry among the lanes close by, and a crowd of men were upon them. The alarm had been given, and the Ranger's men were pressed hard in a desperate, close fight. The captain stood on the end of the little pier with his pistol, and held back some of the attacking party for one terrible minute, till all his men were in. "Lay out, lay out, my boys!" he cried then from his own place in the stern. There were bullets raining about them, but they were quick out of harm's way on the water. There was not a man of that boat's company could forget the captain's calmness and daring, as they saw him stand against the angry crowd.
The flames were leaping up the rigging of the burning ship; the shore was alive with men; there were crowds of people swarming away up among the hills beyond the houses. There had been a cannon overlooked, or some old ship's gun lay upon the beach, which presently spoke with futile bravado, bellowing its hasty charge when the captain's boat was well out upon the bay. The hills were black with frightened folk, as if Whitehaven were a ruined ant-hill; the poor town was in a terror. On the other side of the harbor there was no blaze even yet, and the captain stood in his boat, swaying to its quick movement, with anxious eyes set to looking for the other men. There were people running along the harbor side, and excited shapes on the decks of the merchantmen; suddenly, to his relief of mind, he saw the other boat coming out from behind a Dutch brig.
Lieutenant Hall was in command of her now, and he stood up and saluted when he came near enough to speak.
"Our lights failed us, sir," he said, looking very grave; "somebody had tampered with all our candles before we left the ship. An alarm was given almost at once, and our landing party was attacked. Mr. Dickson was set upon and injured, but escaped. Mr. Wallingford is left ashore."
"The alarm was given just after we separated," said Dickson, lifting himself from the bottom of the boat. "I heard loud cries for the guard, and a man set upon me, so that I am near murdered. They could not have watched us coming. You see there has been treachery; our fine lieutenant has stayed ashore from choice."
"That will do, sir!" blazed the captain. "I must hear what you have done with Wallingford. Let us get back to our ship!" And the two boats sped away with what swiftness they could across the great stretch of rough water. Some of the men were regretful, but some wore a hard and surly look as they bent to their heavy oars.
The only happiness a man ought to ask for is happiness enough to get his work done: Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) expresses this general idea in several of his works, including "Characteristics" (1831) and Sartor Resartus (1833). The passage to which Jewett refers is most likely Past and Present (1843) III, iv.
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Basque cap: Augustus Buell claims, without foundation, that Captain Jones used the disguise of a Spanish officer for a spying mission to Amsterdam (See Buell text, from Ch. V). Jewett follows Buell, but, instead, has Jones disguise himself as a Spanish sailor (see Chapter 39, where Jones uses this disguise in England as well). According to Evan Thomas's John Paul Jones (2003), Jones made no such trip to Amsterdam.
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The Sailor Prince: See the Duke of Chartres in People and Places.
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Battle of Malaga: A naval battle in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) between an alliance of England, Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria against France, Spain and some other principalities. This battle took place in 1704. See the Duke of Chartres in People and Placees for more information.
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snow: a small, tri-sailed ship.
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renounced my very birthright: I have seen no evidence that John Paul Jones felt that he had been treated harshly by his homeland. Jewett may be referring, therefore, to the account of the destruction by the British of the imaginary Virginia plantation Augustus Buell gives to Jones. Or perhaps, Jewett is referring to the acknowledged fictional representation of Jones renouncing his homeland in Winston Churchill's novel, Richard Carvel (1899), Chapter 20.
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thieves in the night: See 1 Thessalonias 5:2-4.
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doggers: a two-masted boat with a broad beam used by fishermen in the North Sea.
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cannon ... spiked: a cannon is made inoperable when a large nail is driven into the touch hole, so flame cannot be applied to the powder.
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