The Tory Lover -- Contents
 
 
 

The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
.Chapter XXV
A MAN'S CHARACTER

"Yet have they still such eyes to wait on them
As are too piercing; that they can behold
And penetrate the Inwards of the Heart."

     The men left on board the Ranger, with Lieutenant Simpson in command, who had been watching all these long hours, now saw clouds of smoke rising from among the shipping, but none from the other side of the town, where they knew the captain had ordered many fires to be set among the warehouses. The two boats were at last seen returning in company, and the Ranger, which had drifted seaward, made shift with the morning breeze to wear a little nearer and pick them up. There was a great smoke in the harbor, but the town itself stood safe.

     The captain looked back eagerly from the height of the deck after he came aboard; then his face fell. "I have been balked of my purpose!" he cried. "Curse such treachery among ye! Thank God, I've frightened them, and shown what a Yankee captain may dare to do! If I had been an hour earlier, and no sneaking cur had tampered with our lights" -

     He was pale with excitement, and stood there at first triumphant, and next instant cursing his hard luck. The smoke among the shipping was already less; the Ranger was running seaward, as if the mountains had waked all their sleepy winds and sent them out to hurry her.

     There was a crowd on deck about the men who had returned, and the sailors on the yards were calling down to their fellows to ask questions. The captain had so far taken no notice of any one, or even of this great confusion.

     "Who's your gentleman now?" Dickson's voice suddenly rang triumphant, like a cracked trumpet, above the sounds of bragging narrative that were punctuated by oaths to both heaven and the underworld. "Who's a traitor and a damned white-livered dog of a Tory now? Who dropped our spare candles overboard, and dirtied his pretty fingers to spoil the rest? Who gave alarm quick 's he got his boat ashore, and might have had us all strung up on their English gallows before sunset?"

     Dickson was standing with his back against the mast, with a close-shouldered audience about him, officious to give exact details of the expedition. Aloft, they stopped who were shaking out the sails, and tried to hear what he was saying. At this moment old Cooper lowered himself hand over hand, coming down on the run into the middle of the company before he could be stopped, and struck Dickson a mighty blow in the breast that knocked him breathless. Some of Dickson's followers set upon Cooper in return; but he twisted out of their clutch, being a man of great strength and size, and took himself off to a little distance, where he stood and looked up imploringly at the captain, and then dropped his big head into his hands and began to sob. The captain came to the edge of the quarter-deck and looked down at him without speaking. Just then Dickson was able to recover speech; he had nearly every man aboard for his audience. "You had ten minutes to the good afore Mr. Wallingford follered ye!" bellowed Hanscom, one of the Berwick men who had been in the same boat.

     "I saw nothing of the judge's noble son; he took good care of that!" answered Dickson boldly; and there was a cry of approval among those who had suspected Wallingford. They were now in the right; they at last had proof that Wallingford deserved the name of traitor, or any evil name they might be disposed to call him. Every man in the lieutenant's boat was eager to be heard and to tell his own story. Mr. Hall had disappeared; as for Wallingford, he was not there to plead for himself, and his accusers had it all their own way.

     "I tell ye I ain't afraid but he's all right! A man's character ought to count for something!" cried Hanscom. But there was a roar of contempt from those who had said from the first that a Tory was a Tory, and that Wallingford had no business to be playing at officer aboard the Ranger, and making shift to stand among proper seamen. He had gone ashore alone and stayed ashore, and there had been a sudden alarm in the town: the black truth stared everybody in the face.
 

     The captain's first rage had already quieted in these few minutes since they had come aboard, and his face had settled into a look of stolid disappointment and weariness. He had given Whitehaven a great fright, - that was something; the news of it would quickly travel along the coast. He went to his cabin now, and summoned Dickson and Hall to make their statements. Lieutenant Hall had no wish to be the speaker, but the fluent Dickson, battered and water-soaked, minutely described the experience of the boat's company. It certainly seemed true enough that Wallingford had deserted. Lieutenant Hall could contradict nothing that was said, though the captain directly appealed to him more than once.

     "After all, we have only your own word for what happened on shore," said the captain brutally, as if Dickson were but a witness in court before the opposing attorney.

     "You have only my word," said Dickson. "I suppose you think that you can doubt it. At least you can see that I have suffered. I feel the effects of the blows, and my clothes are dripping here on your cabin floor in a way that will cause you discomfort. I have already told you all I can."

     "I know not what to believe," answered Paul Jones, after a moment's reflection, but taking no notice of the man's really suffering condition. The captain stood mute, looking squarely into Dickson's face, as if he were still speaking. It was very uncomfortable. "Lieutenant Wallingford is a man of character. Some misfortune may have overtaken him; at the last moment" -

     "He made the most of the moments he had," sneered Dickson then. "The watch was upon us; I had hard work to escape. I tried to do my best."

     "Tried!" roared the captain. "What's trying? 'T is the excuse of a whiner to say he tried; a man either does the thing he ought, or he does it not. I gave your orders with care, sir; the treachery began here on board. There should have been fires set in those spots I commanded. 'T was the business of my officers to see that this was done, and to have their proper lights at hand. Curse such incompetence! Curse your self-seeking and your jealousy of me and one another!" he railed. "This is what you count for when my work is at the pinch! If only my good fellows of the Alfred had been with me, I might have laid three hundred ships in ashes, with half Whitehaven town."

     Dickson's face wore a fresh look of triumph; the captain's hopes were confessedly dashed to ground, and the listener was the better pleased. Hall, a decent man, looked sorry enough; but Dickson's expression of countenance lent fuel to the flames of wrath, and the captain saw his look.

     "I could sooner believe that last night's villain were yourself, sir!" he blazed out suddenly, and Dickson's smug face grew a horrid color. The attack was so furious that he was not without fear; a better man would have suffered shame.

     "I take that from nobody. You forget yourself, Captain Jones," he managed to say, with choking throat; and then the viper's instinct in his breast made him take revenge. "You should be more civil to your officers, sir; you have insulted too many of us. Remember that we are American citizens, and you have given even Mr. Wallingford good reason to hate you. He is of a slow sort, but he may have bided his time!"

     The bravery of the hypocrite counted for much. Paul Jones stared at him for a moment, wounded to the quick, and speechless. Then, "You sneaking thief!" he hissed between his teeth. "Am I to be baited by a coward like you? We'll see who's the better man!" But at this lamentable juncture Lieutenant Hall stepped between, and by dint of hard pushing urged the offending Dickson to the deck again. Such low quarrels were getting to be too common on the Ranger, but this time he was not unwilling to take the captain's part. Dickson was chilled to the bone, and his teeth were chattering; the bruises on his face were swelling fast. He looked like a man that had been foully dealt with, - first well pounded and then ducked, as Hall had once seen an offender treated by angry fishwives in the port of Leith.

     There was much heaviness among those Berwick men who stood bravely for Roger Wallingford; one of them, at least, refused to be comforted, and turned his face to the wall in sorrow when the lieutenant's fate was discussed. At first he had boldly insisted that they would soon find out the truth; but there were those who were ready to confute every argument, even that of experience, and now even poor Cooper went sad and silent about his work, and fought the young squire's enemies no more.


Note

"Yet have they still such eyes to wait on them
As are too piercing; that they can behold
And penetrate the Inwards of the Heart.": This quotation has not been identified. Assistance is welcome.
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The Tory Lover -- Contents