The Tory Lover -- Contents
 
 

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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
Chapter XXVII
A PRISONER AND CAPTIVE

"Close at thy side I walk unseen,
And feel thy passion and thy prayer.
Wide separation doth but prove
The mystic might of human love."
 

     The poor lieutenant was soon turned over scornfully by a musket butt and the toe of a stout Whitehaven shoe. The blood was steadily running from his shoulder, and his coat was all sodden with a sticky wetness. He had struck his head as he fell, and was at this moment happily unconscious of all his woes.

     "Let him lie, the devil!" growled a second man who came along, - a citizen armed with a long cutlass, but stupid with fear, and resenting the loss of his morning sleep and all his peace of mind. They could see the light of the burning vessel on the roofs above. "Let's get away a bit further from the shore," said he; "there may be their whole ship's company landed and ranging the town."

     "This damned fellow'll do nobody any mischief," agreed the soldier, and away they ran. But presently his companion stole back to find if there were anything for an honest man and a wronged one in this harmless officer's pockets. There were some letters in women's writing that could be of no use to any one, and some tobacco. "'T is the best American sort," said the old citizen, who had once been a sailor in the Virginia trade. He saw the knife sticking fast, and pulled it out; but finding it was a cheap thing enough, and disagreeable just now to have in hand, he tossed it carelessly aside. He found a purse of money in one pocket, and a handsome watch with a seal like some great gentleman's; but this was strangely hooked and ringed to the fob buttons, and the chain so strong that though a man pulled hard enough to break it, and even set his foot on the stranger's thigh to get a good purchase, the links would not give way. The citizen looked for the convenient knife again, but missed it under the shadow of the wall. There were people coming. He pocketed what he had got, and looked behind him anxiously; then he got up and ran away, only half content with the purse and good tobacco.

     An old woman, and a girl with her, were peeping through the dirty panes of a poor, narrow house close by; and now, seeing that there was such a pretty gentleman in distress, and that the citizen, whom they knew and treasured a grudge against, had been frightened away, they came out to drag him into shelter. Just as they stepped forth together on the street, however, a squad of soldiers, coming up at double-quick, captured this easy prisoner, whose heart was beating yet. One of them put the hanging watch into his own pocket, unseen, - oddly enough, it came easily into his hand; and after some consideration of so grave a matter of military necessity, two of them lifted Wallingford, and finding him both long and heavy called a third to help, and turned back to carry him to the guard-house. By the time they reached the door a good quarter part of the townsfolk seemed to be following in procession, with angry shouts, and tearful voices of women begging to know if their husbands or lovers had been seen in danger; and there were loud threats, too, meant for the shaming of the silent figure carried by stout yeomen of the guard.

     After some hours Wallingford waked, wretched with the smart of his wounds, and dazed by the first sight of his strange lodging in the town jail. There were no friends to succor him; he had not even the resource of being mistaken for a Tory and a friend of the Crown. There were at least three strutting heroes showing themselves in different quarters of the town, that evening, who claimed the honor of giving such a dangerous pirate his deathblow.

     Some days passed before the officer in charge of this frightened seaport (stricken with sincere dismay, and apprehensive of still greater disaster from such stealthy neighbors on the sea) could receive the answer to his report sent to headquarters. Wallingford felt more and more the despair of his situation. The orders came at last that, as soon as he could be moved, he should be sent to join his fellow rebels in the old Mill Prison at Plymouth. The Whitehaven citizens should not risk or invite any attempt at his rescue by his stay. But, far from regretting his presence, there were even those who lamented his departure; who would have willingly bought new ribbons to their bonnets to go and see such a rogue hanged, wounded shoulder and all, on a convenient hill and proper gallows outside the town.
 

     None of the heavy-laden barley ships or colliers dared to come or go. The fishing boats that ventured out to their business came home in a flutter at the sight of a strange sail; and presently Whitehaven was aghast at the news of the robbery of all my Lady Selkirk's plate, and the astonishing capture of his Majesty's guardship Drake out of Carrickfergus, and six merchantmen taken beside in the Irish Sea, - three of them sunk, and three of them sent down as prizes to French ports. The quicker such a prisoner left this part of the realm, the better for Whitehaven. The sheriff and a strong guard waited next morning at the door of the jail, and Wallingford, taken from his hard bed, was set on a steady horse to begin the long southward journey, and be handed on from jail to jail. The fresh air of the spring morning, after the close odors of his prison, at first revived him. Even the pain of his wound was forgotten, and he took the change gladly, not knowing whither he went or what the journey was meant to bring him.

     At first they climbed long hills in sight of the sea. Notwithstanding all his impatience of the sordid jealousies and discomforts of life on board the Ranger, Roger Wallingford turned his weak and painful body more than once, trying to catch a last glimpse of the tall masts of the brave, fleet little ship. A remembrance of the good-fellowship of his friends aboard seemed to make a man forget everything else, and to put warmth in his heart, though the chill wind on the fells blew through his very bones. For the first time he had been treated as a man among men on board the Ranger. In early youth the heir of a rich man could not but be exposed to the flatteries of those who sought his father's favors, and of late his property and influence counted [to] the Loyalists far more than any of that counsel out of his own heart for which some of them had begged obsequiously. Now he had come face to face with life as plain men knew it, and his sentiment of sympathy had grown and doubled in the hard process. He winced at the remembrance of that self-confidence he had so cherished in earlier years. He had come near to falling an easy prey to those who called him Sir Roger, and were but serving their own selfish ends; who cared little for either Old England or New, and still less for their King. There was no such thing as a neutral, either; a man was one thing or the other. And now his head grew light and dizzy, while one of those sudden visions of Mary Hamilton's face, the brave sweetness of her living eyes as if they were close to his own, made him forget the confused thoughts of the moment before.

     The quick bracing of the morning air was too much for the prisoner; he felt more and more as if he were dreaming. There was a strange longing in his heart to be back in the shelter and quiet of the jail itself; there began to be a dull roaring in his ears. Like a sharp pain there came to him the thought of home, of his mother's looks and her smile as she stood watching at the window when he came riding home. He was not riding home now: the thought of it choked his throat. He remembered his mother as he had proudly seen her once in her satin gown and her laces and diamonds, at the great feast for Governor Hutchinson's birthday, in the Province House, - by far the first, to his young eyes, of the fine distinguished ladies who were there. How frail and slender she stood among them! But now a wretched weakness mastered him; he was afraid to think where he might be going. They could not know how ill and helpless he was, these stout men of his guard, who sometimes watched him angrily, and then fell to talking together in low voices. The chill of the mountain cloud they were riding into seemed to have got to his heart. Again his brain failed him, and then grew frightfully clear again; then he began to fall asleep in the saddle, and to know that he slept, jolting and swaying as they began to ride faster. The horse was a steady, plodding creature, whose old sides felt warm and comfortable to the dreaming rider. He wished, ever so dimly, that if he fell they would leave him there by the road and let him sleep. He lost a stirrup now, and it struck his ankle sharply to remind him, but there was no use to try to get it again; then everything turned black.

     One of the soldiers caught the horse just as the prisoner's head began to drag along the frozen road.

     "His wound's a-bleeding bad. Look-a-here!" he shouted to the others, who were riding on, their horses pressing each other close, and their cloaks held over their faces in the cold mountain wind. "Here, ahoy! our man's dead, lads! The blood's trailed out o' him all along the road!"

     "He's cheated justice, then, curse him!" said the officer smartly, looking down from his horse; but the old corporal, who had fought at Quebec with Wolfe, and knew soldiering by heart, though he was low on the ladder of promotion by reason of an unconquerable love of brandy, - the old corporal dropped on his knees, and felt Wallingford's heart beating small and quick inside the wet, stained coat, and then took off his own ragged riding cloak to wrap him from the cold.

     "Poor lad!" he said compassionately. "I think he's fell among thieves, somehow, by t' looks of him; 't is an honest face of a young gentleman 's iver I see. There's nowt for 't now but a litter, an' t' get some grog down his starved throat. I misdoubt he's dead as t' stones in road ere we get to Kendal!"

     "Get him a-horse again!" jeered another man. "If we had some alegar now, we mought fetch him to! Say, whaar er ye boun', ye are sae dond out in reed wescut an' lace?" and he pushed Wallingford's limp, heavy body with an impatient foot; but the prisoner made no answer.


Notes

"Close at thy side I walk unseen,
And feel thy passion and thy prayer.
Wide separation doth but prove
The mystic might of human love.": This quotation has not been identified. Assistance is welcome.
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Lady Selkirk's plate ... capture of Drake: These events took place in April of 1778, immediately after the attack on Whitehaven. See Morison and other texts on John Paul Jones.
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Governor Hutchinson's birthday, in the Province House: Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780) was the last civilian Royal Governor of the provinces of Maine and Sagadahock (1769-1774). The Province House would be the governor's mansion in Portsmouth.
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Quebec with Wolfe: General James Wolfe (1727-1759) let British forces in the captures of French fortresses at Louisberg, Nova Scotia (1758) and Québec, where he was killed "on the plains of Abraham" in 1759.
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fell among thieves:  See the story of the good samaritan, Luke 10:30.
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alegar: Alegar is vinegar made from ale instead of wine; also beeregar. (Research: Gabe Heller)
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sae dond out in reed wescut: so well-dressed in a red waistcoat.
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The Tory Lover -- Contents