The Tory Lover -- Contents
 
 

The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
Chapter XXVI
THEY HAVE MADE PREY OF HIM

"Implacable hate, patient cunning, and a sleepless refinement of device to inflict the extremest anguish on an enemy, these things are evil."
 

     While Wallingford insisted that he must carry out the captain's plain instructions to the letter, the moment their boat touched the landing steps Dickson leaped over the side and ran up the pier. He had said, carelessly, that it was no use to risk several lives where one might serve; it was possible that they had been seen approaching, and he would go and play the scout, and select their buildings for firing. Both the lieutenants, Wallingford and Hall, took this breach of discipline angrily; there seemed to be an aggravating desire in Dickson's heart to put himself first now when it would count to his own gain. Their orders had been to leave the boat in his charge while the landing party was away; and in the next few moments, when he had disappeared into the narrow street that led up from the small pier, Wallingford grew uneasy, and went ashore himself. He climbed to the top of the pier, and then heard Dickson's voice calling at no great distance as if for help. As he started to run that way, he shouted to the men below to follow him.

     His voice was lost in the noise of waves lapping and splashing about them against the pier; they heard his cry, but could not tell what it meant, or whether they should stay or go. The captain's orders had been strict that all three of the elder officers should not leave the boat at once. Young Hill, the midshipman, a fine brave fellow, now landed; but in the dim light he could see nobody, and returned. The discovery was then made that they had all their kindlings and tar in readiness, but there were no candles left in the two lanterns, and the bag of spare candles and tinder box which the midshipman had in charge was no longer to be found in the boat. It had been laid next the thwart, and in crossing some rough water might have fallen overboard, though nobody could understand the accident.

     They could only wait now, in mortification and distress, for Wallingford's return, and some minutes passed in a grievous uncertainty.

     The lieutenant had much resented Dickson's show of authority, and feared the ill success of his errand; although he had no liking for the man, it was no time to consider personalities; they were all on duty, and must report to their commander. It was certainly dangerous for a man to venture ashore alone, and the first distant outcry set him running at the top of his speed, expecting the landing party to follow.

     Wallingford was light-footed, and as he ran he plainly heard Dickson's voice once more, and then all was silent. He hurried along, keeping close to the walls of warehouses, and came next into a street of common, poor dwellings of the seafaring folk. Then he stopped and listened, and whistled a call familiar enough to Dickson or any man of the Somersworth and Berwick neighborhoods, as if they had strayed from each other hunting in the old York woods. There was no answer, and he turned to go back; he must rejoin his men and attend to duty, and Dickson must take care of himself. There were dark alleys that led from this narrow thoroughfare to the water side; he heard footfalls, and again stood listening in the shelter of a deep doorway, when a group of half-dressed men burst out of a side lane, armed, and with a soldier or two among them. They ran down the street toward the shore, and took a short way round a corner. Wallingford heard a word or two which made him sure they had been given warning; it flashed through his brain that this was Dickson's business and plan for revenge. If their own men were still in the boat or near it , - which seemed likely, since they had not followed him, - they would be safe enough, but danger threatened them all. There was a sound of gathering voices and frightened outcries and slamming doors beyond in the town, as if the whole place were astir, and the morning light was growing fast in the sky, and making a new day in the dark little street. There was nothing for Wallingford to do but to hurry back to the boat as best he might. In some of the neighboring houses they had heard the guard go by, and sleepy heads were appearing to learn the news. The lieutenant made haste. Just as he passed the side passage whence the men had come, Dickson himself appeared through an archway just beyond, and stopped to call, "Watch! Watch! The Yankees are in the town to set it burning! Watch! Watch!" he was crying at the top of this lungs, instead of that faint "Help! Help!" which had seemed to cry for mercy in Wallingford's ears, and had enticed him into peril of his life.

     With one bound Wallingford leaped upon the scoundrel and caught him in a mighty clutch. There was the look of a fiend in Dickson's face, in the dim light, as he turned and saw the man he hated most, and the two clinched in a fury. Then Dickson remembered the straight knife in his belt, and as they fought he twisted himself free enough to get it in his hand and strike; next moment Wallingford was flat on the cobblestones, heavily fallen with a deep cut in his shoulder.

     There were men running their way, and Dickson fled before them. He had been badly mauled before the trick of stabbing could set him free; the breath was sobbing out of his lungs from the struggle, but he ran unhindered to the pier end, past the gaping townsfolk, and threw himself into the water, striking out for the boat, which had drawn well away from shore. There was a loud shout at his escape, but he was a good swimmer. They were watching from the boat, and when they saw that Dickson lagged, they drew nearer and dragged him in. It was all in a moment; there was firing at them now from the shore. Hall and the midshipman were at the very worst of their disappointment; they had failed in their errand; the whole thing was a fiasco, and worse.

     Then Dickson, though sick and heavy from such an intake of salt water, managed to speak and tell them that Wallingford had waked the town; he must have found the guardhouse at once, for the watch was out, and had even set upon himself as he returned. He had reconnoitred carefully and found all safe, when he heard a man behind him, and had to fight for his life. Then he heard Wallingford calling and beating upon the doors. They might know whether they had shipped a Tory, now! Dickson could speak no more, and sank down, as if he were spent indeed, into the bottom of the boat. He could tell already where every blow had struck him, and a faintness weakened his not too sturdy frame.

     Now they could see the shipping all afire across the harbor as they drew out; the other boat's party had done their work, and it was near to broad day. Now the people were running and crying confusion, and boats were putting out along the shore, and an alarm bell kept up an incessant ringing in the town. The Ranger's men rowed with all their might. Dickson did not even care because the captain would give the boat a rating; he had paid back old scores to the lofty young squire, his enemy and scorner; the fault of their failure would be Wallingford's. His heart was light enough; he had done his work well. If Wallingford was not already dead or bleeding to death like a pig, back there in the street, the Whitehaven folk were like to make a pretty hanging of him before sunset. There was one pity, - he had left his knife sticking in the Tory's shoulder, and this caused a moment of sharp regret; but it was a plain sailor's knife which he had lately got by chance at Brest, and there were no witnesses to the encounter; his word was as good as Wallingford's to most men on their ship. He began to long for the moment when the captain should hear their news. "He's none so great a hero yet," thought Dickson, and groaned with pain as the boat lurched and shifted him where he lay like ballast among the unused kindlings. Wallingford had given him a fine lasting legacy of blows.


NOTES

THEY HAVE MADE PREY OF HIM: This sentence is from William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsman, Act 3, Scene 2.

      I have heard
Strange howles this live-long night, why may't not be
They have made prey of him? he has no weapons,
He cannot run, the Iengling of his Gives
Might call fell things to listen, who have in them
A sence to know a man unarmd, and can
Smell where resistance is. Ile set it downe
He's torne to peeces, they howld many together
And then they feed on him: So much for that,
Be bold to ring the Bell; how stand I then?
     (Research: Gabe Heller).
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"Implacable hate, patient cunning, and a sleepless refinement of device to inflict the extremest anguish on an enemy, these things are evil.": from Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), "A Defence of Poetry" (1821, 1840), where he speaks of the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost: "Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character as expressed in Paradise Lost. It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever have been intended for the popular personification of evil. Implacable hate, patient cunning, and a sleepless refinement of device to inflict the extremest anguish on an enemy, these things are evil; and although venial in a slave are not to be forgiven in a tyrant; although redeemed by much that ennobles his defeat in one subdued, are marked by all that dishonours his conquest in the victor." (Research: Gabe Heller).
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The Tory Lover -- Contents