|The Tory Lover -- Contents
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
PEGGY TAKES THE AIR
"And now that an over-faint quietnes
Should seem to strew the house, - "
That evening, in Hamilton House, Mary felt like a creature caged against its will; she was full of fears for others and reproaches for herself, and went restlessly from window to window and from room to room. There was no doubt that a great crisis had come. The May sun set among heavy clouds, and the large rooms grew dim and chilly. The house was silent, but on the river shores there were groups of men and boys gathering, and now and then strange figures appeared, as if the news had brought them hastily from a distance. Peggy had gone early across the river, and now returned late from her friendly errand, dressed in a prim bonnet and cloak that were made for Sunday wear, and gave her the look of a dignitary in humble disguise, so used to command was she, and so equipped by nature for the rule of others.
Peggy found her young mistress white and wan in the northwest parlor, and knew that she had been anxiously watching Madam Wallingford's house. She turned as the old housekeeper came in, and listened with patience as, with rare tact, this good creature avoided the immediate subject of their thoughts, and at first proceeded to blame the maids for running out and leaving the doors flying, when she had bidden them mind the house.
"The twilight lasts very late to-night; you have been long away," said Mary, when she had finished.
"'T is a new-moon night, and all the sky is lit," exclaimed Peggy seriously. "It will soon be dark enough." Then she came close to Mary, and began to whisper what she really had to say.
"'T is the only thing to do, as you told me before I went. Cæsar abased himself to row me over, and took time enough about it, I vowed him. I thought once he'd fotched himself to the door of an apoplexy, he puffed an' blowed so hard; but I quick found out what was in his piecemeal mind, before I heared folks talking on t' other bank. The great fightin' folks that stayed at home from the war is all ablaze against Mr. Roger; they say they won't have no such a Tory hive in the neighborhood no longer! 'Poor Madam! poor Madam!' says I in my mind, and I wrung my hands a-hearin' of it. Cæsar felt bad when he was tellin' of me, the tears was a-runnin' down his foolish ol' black face. He's got proper feelings, if he is so consequential. Likes to strut better 'n to work, I tell 'em, but he's got his proper feelin's; I shan't never doubt that no more," asserted Peggy, with emphatic approval.
"Yes," assented Mary impatiently, "Cæsar is a good man, but he is only one. What shall we do now?" Her voice was full of quivering appeal; she had been long alone with her distressful thoughts.
Peggy's cheeks looked pink as a girl's in her deep bonnet, and her old eyes glittered with excitement.
"You must go straight away and fetch Madam here," she said. "I'd brought her back with me if it had been seemly; but when I so advised, Susan'd hear none o' me, 'count o' fearin' to alarm her lady. 'Keep her safe an' mistaken for one hour, will ye, so 's to scare her life out later on!' says I; but Susan was never one to see things their proper size at first. If they know Madam's fled, 't will be all the better. I want to feel she's safe here, myself; they won't damage the colonel's house, for his sake or your'n neither; they'd know better than to come botherin' round my doors. I'd put on my big caldron and get some water het, and treat 'em same fashion 's they did in old Indian times!" cried Peggy, in a fury. "I did hear some men say they believed she'd gone to Porchmouth a'ready; and when they axed me if 't was true, I nodded my head and let 'em think so."
Mary listened silently; this excited talk made her know the truth of some fast-gathering danger. She herself had a part to play now.
"I shall go at once," she insisted. "Will you bespeak the boat?"
"Everything's all ready, darlin'," said the good soul affectionately, as if she wished to further some girlish pleasure. "Yes, I've done all I could out o' door. The best boat's out an' layin' aside the gre't warehouse. Cæsar's stopped down there to mind it, though he begun to fuss about his supper; and there's our own watermen ready to row ye over. I told 'em you was promised to the Miss Lords at the Upper Landing for a card party; I've let on to no uneasiness. You'll consider well your part; for me there's enough to do, - the best chamber warmed aright for Madam, for one thing; an' Phebe's up there now, gettin' over a good smart scoldin' I give her. I'll make a nice gruel with raisins an' a taste o' brandy, or a can o' mulled port, an' have 'em ready; 't will keep poor Madam from a chill. You'll both need comfort ere you sleep," she muttered to herself.
"I wonder if she will consent to come? She is a very brave woman," said Mary doubtfully.
"Darlin', listen to me; she must come," replied Peggy, "an' you must tell her so. You do your part, an' I'll be waitin' here till you get back."
The large boat which was Hamilton's river coach and four in peaceful times lay waiting in the shadow of the warehouse to do its errand. The pairs of rowers were in their places: Peggy may have had a sage desire to keep them out of mischief. They were not a vigorous crew, by reason of age; else they would have been, like other good men, with the army. With her usual sense of propriety and effect, Peggy had ordered out the best red cushions and tasseled draperies for the seats. In summer, the best boat spread a fine red and green canopy when it carried the master and mistress down to Portsmouth on the ebb tide. The old boatmen had mounted their liveries, such was Peggy's insistence and unaccountable desire for display, but a plainer craft, rowed by a single pair of oars, was enough for any errand at nightfall, and the old fellows grumbled and shivered ostentatiously in the spring dampness.
Old Cæsar handed Miss Hamilton to her seat with all the more deference. She was wrapped in a cloak of crimson damask, with a hood to it, which her brother loved to see her wear in their gayer days. She took her place silently in the stern, and sat erect there; the men stole a glance at her now and then, and tugged willingly enough at their oars. There were many persons watching them as they went up the stream.
"'T will be a hard pinch to land ye proper at the upper wharves," said the head boatman. "The tide's far out, miss."
"I go to Madam Wallingford's," said Mary; and in the dusk she saw them cast sidewise glances at each other, while their oars lost stroke and fouled. They had thought it lucky that there should be a card party, and their young mistress out of sight and hearing, if the threats meant anything and there should be trouble that night alongshore. Miss Hamilton said nothing further, - she was usually most friendly in her speech with these old servants; but she thanked them in a gentle tone as she landed, and bade them be ready at any moment for her return. They looked at her with wonder, and swore under their breath for mere astonishment, as she disappeared from their sight with hurrying steps, along the winding way that led up to the large house on the hill. As Mary passed the old boathouse, and again as she came near the storehouses just beyond, she could see shadowy moving figures like ghosts, that were gone again in an instant out of sight, crouching to the ground or dodging behind the buildings as they saw her pass. Once she heard a voice close under the bank below the road; but it ceased suddenly, as if some one had given warning. Every dark corner was a hiding place, but the girl felt no fear now there was something to be done. There was no light in the lower story of the great house, but in Madam Wallingford's chamber the firelight was shining, and by turns it darkened and brightened the windows. For the first time Mary felt weak at heart, but there was that within her which could drive out all fear or sense of danger. As she stood on the broad doorsteps, waiting and looking riverward, she smiled to see that Peggy had lighted their own house as if for some high festival. It had a look of cheerfulness and security there beyond the elms; she gave a sigh of relief that was like a first acknowledgment of fear. She did not remember that one person might have come safely from the boat, where two could not go back.
Again she struck the heavy knocker, and this time heard Rodney's anxious voice within, whispering to ask whether she were friend or foe before he timidly unbarred the door.
"They tell me there is some danger of a mob, my child." Madam Wallingford spoke calmly, as if this were some ordinary news. Mary had found her sitting by the fire, and kissed her cheek without speaking. The room was so quiet, and its lady looked so frail and patient, unconscious that danger already hemmed them in on every side.
"I fear that this house may be burnt and robbed, like the Salem houses," she said. "Poor Rodney and the women are afraid, too. I saw that they were in a great fright, and forced the truth from them. I think my troubles have robbed me of all my strength. I do not know what I must do. I feel very old, Mary, and my strength fails me," she faltered. "I need my son - oh, I have had dreadful news" -
"I have come to take you home with me to-night, dear," answered Mary. "Come, I shall wrap you in my warm red cloak; the night is chilly. These are Peggy's orders, and we must follow them. She would not have you frighted ever so little, if there is any danger. She is making you some hot drink this very minute, and I have brought our steady boat with the four old rowers. They are waiting for us below."
"Good Peggy!" exclaimed Madam Wallingford, who saw the bright smile that lighted Mary's face, and was now rallying all her forces. "She was here herself this afternoon; I wish that I had seen her. We shall not obey her this once; you see that I cannot go. If there is an attack, I must be here to meet it, - the men may hear to reason; if there is no real danger, I am safe to stay," and she cast a fond look about the room.
Mary saw it with compassion; at the same moment she heard cries outside, as if some fresh recruits were welcomed to the gathering fray.
"My safety and the safety of our house lies in my staying here," said the lady, sitting straight in her great chair. "I am not easily made afraid; it is only that my strength failed me at the first. If God sends ruin and death this night, I can but meet it. I shall not go away. You were a dear child to come; you must make my kind excuses to Peggy. Go, now, my dear, and Rodney shall put you in your boat." There was a proud look on Madam Wallingford's face as she spoke.
"I shall stay with you," answered Mary. "Alas, I think it is too late for either of us to go," she added, as her quick ears were aware of strange noises without the house. There was a sharp rapping sound of stones striking the walls, and a pane of glass fell shattering into the room.
"In Salem they took an old man from his dying bed, and destroyed his habitation. He had been a judge and a good citizen. If these be our own neighbors who think me dangerous, I must follow their bidding; if they are strangers, we must be in danger. I wish that you had not come, Mary!"
Mary was already at the window; the shutters were pushed back, and the sweet night air blew through the broken pane upon her face. The heavy sliding shutter caught as she tried to stir it, and she saw that the moving crowd had come close about the house. At the sight of her they gave an angry roar; there were musket shots and a great racket of noise. "Come out, come out," they cried, "and take the oath!"
"So the mob has come already," said Madam Wallingford calmly, and rose from her seat. "Then I must go down. Is it a great company?"
"I could not have believed so many men were left," answered Mary bitterly. "They should be fighting other battles!" she protested, trembling with sudden rage. "Where go you, Madam?" for Madam Wallingford was hurrying from the room. As she threw open the door, all the frightened people of the household were huddled close outside; they fell upon their knees about her and burst into loud lamentations. They pressed as near their mistress as they could; it was old Rodney and Susan who had kept the others from bursting into the room.
"Silence among ye!" said Madam Wallingford. "I shall do what I can, my poor people. I am going down to speak to these foolish men."
"They have come to rob us and murder us!" wailed the women.
"Rodney, you will go before me and unbar the door!" commanded the mistress. "Susan shall stay here. Quiet this childishness! I would not have such people as these think that we lack courage."
She went down the wide staircase as if she were a queen, and Mary her maid of honor. Rodney was for hanging back from those who pounded to demand entrance, and needed an angry gesture before he took the great bar down and flung the door wide open. Then Madam Wallingford stepped forward as if to greet her guests with dignity, and Mary was only a step behind. There was a bonfire lit before the house, and all the portraits along the paneled hall seemed to come alive in the blazing light that shone in, and to stand behind the two women like a guard.
"What do you wish to say to me?" asked Madam Wallingford.
"The oath! the oath!" they cried, "or get you hence!" and there was a shaking of firebrands, and the heads pressed closer about the door.
"You are Sons of Liberty, and yet you forbid liberty to others," said the old gentlewoman, in her clear voice. "I have wronged none of you." For very sight of her age and bravery, and because she was so great a lady, they fell silent; and then a heavy stone, thrown from the edge of the crowd, struck the lintel of the door, beside her.
"Is there no man among you whom you will choose to speak fairly with me, to tell your errand and whence you come?"
"We are some of us from Christian Shore, and some are Dover men, and some of us are men of your own town," answered a pale, elderly man, with the face of a fanatic; he had been a preacher of wild doctrines in the countryside, and was ever a disturber of peace. "We want no Royalists among us, we want no abettors of George the Third; there's a bill now to proscribe ye and stop your luxury and pride. We want no traitors and spies, neither, to betray the cause of the oppressed. You and your son have played a deep game; he has betrayed our cause, and the penalty must fall."
There was a shout of approval; the mob was only too ready to pour into the house.
"My son has put his name to your oath, and you should know that he has not broken it, if some of you are indeed men of our own town," said the mother proudly, and they all heard her speak. "I can promise that this is true. Cannot you wait to hear the truth about him, or is it only to rob us and make a night of revel you have come? Do not pay sin with sin, if you must hold those to be sinners who are Loyalists like me!"
"Burn the old nest!" cried an impatient voice. "She may be hiding some King's men, - who knows? Stop her prating, and let's to business; we are done with their Royalties," and the crowd pushed hard. They forced the two women and old Rodney back into the hall; and at the sound of heavy trampling, all the women on the stair above fell to shrieking.
Mary put herself before Madam Wallingford for safety's sake, and held up her hand. "Stop, stop!" she begged them. "Let me first take my friend away. I am Mary Hamilton of the Patriots, and you all know my brother. I ask you in his name to let us go in peace."
Her sorrowful face and her beauty for one instant held some of them irresolute, but from the back of the crowd a great pressure urged the rest forward. There was a little hush, and one man cried, "Yes, let them go!" but the wild and lawless, who were for crowding in, would not have it so. It was a terrible moment, like the sight of coming Death. There was a crash; the women were overpowered and flung back against the wall.
Suddenly there was a new confusion, a heavier din, and some unexpected obstacle to this onset; all at once a loud, familiar voice went to Mary's heart. She was crouching with her arms close about her old friend, to shield her from bruises and rough handling as the men pushed by; in the same moment there were loud outcries of alarm without. What happened next in the hall seemed like the hand of Heaven upon their enemies. Old Major Tilly Haggens was there in the midst, with friends behind him, dealing stout blows among those who would sack the house. Outside on their horses were Judge Chadbourne and General Goodwin, who had ridden straight into the mob, and with them a little troop of such authorities as could be gathered, constables and tithing men; and old Elder Shackley in his scarlet cloak; Parson Pike and Mr. Rollins, his chief parishioner, were all there together. They rode among the brawling men as if they were but bushes, and turned their good horses before the house. The crowd quick lost its solid look; it now had to confront those who were not defenseless.
"We are Patriots and Sons of Liberty, all of us who are here!" shouted the minister, in a fine, clear voice. "We are none of us, old or young, for the King, but we will not see a Christian woman and kind neighbor made to suffer in such wise as this. Nor shall you do vengeance upon her son until there is final proof of his guilt."
"We can beat these old parsons!" shouted an angry voice. "To it, lads! We are three to their one!" But the elderly men on horseback held their own; most of them were taught in the old school of fighting, and had their ancient swords well in hand, ready for use with all manly courage. Major Tilly Haggens still fought as a foot soldier in the hall; his famous iron fist was doing work worthy of those younger days when he was called the best boxer and wrestler in the plantations. He came forth now, sweeping the most persistent before him out of the house.
"I'll learn ye to strike a poor lame old man like me! Ye are no honest Patriots, but a pack of thieves and blackguards! The worst pest of these colonies!" he cried, with sound blows to right and left for emphasis. He laid out one foe after another on the soft grass as on a bed, until there was no one left to vanquish, and his own scant breath had nearly left his body. The trampling horses had helped their riders' work, and were now for neighing and rearing and taking to their heels. The town constable was bawling his official threats, as he held one of the weaker assailants by the collar and pounded the poor repentant creature's back. It had suddenly turned to a scene of plain comedy, and the mob was nothing but a rabble of men and boys, all running for shelter, such as could still run, and disappearing down toward the river shore.
The old judge got stiffly from his tall Narragansett pacer, and came into the hall.
"Madam Wallingford's friends stop here to-night," he told the old servant, who appeared from some dark corner. Poor Rodney was changed to such an ashen color that he looked very strange, and as if he had rubbed phosphorus to his frightened eyes. ["]You may tell your mistress and Miss Hamilton that there is no more danger for the present," added the judge. "I shall set a watch about the house till daylight."
Major Haggens was panting for breath, and leaned his great weight heavily against the wainscoting. "I am near an apoplexy," he groaned faintly. "Rodney, I hope I killed some of those divils! You may fetch me a little water, and qualify it with some of Madam's French brandy of the paler sort. Stay; you can help me get to the dining parlor myself, and I'll consider the spirit-case. Too violent a portion would be my death; 't would make a poor angel of me, Rodney!"
Early in the morning, Judge Chadbourne and his neighbor Squire Hill, a wise and prudent man, went out to take the morning air before the house. They were presently summoned by Madam Wallingford, and spoke with her in her chamber. The broken glass of the window still glittered on the floor; even at sunrise the day was so mild that there was no chill, but the guests were struck by something desolate in the room, even before they caught sight of their lady's face.
"I must go away, my good friends," she declared quietly, after she had thanked them for their service. "I must not put my friends in peril," she said, "but I am sure of your kind advice in my sad situation.["]
"We wait upon you to say that it would be best, Madam," said the judge plainly. "I hear that New Hampshire as well as Massachusetts has in consideration an act of great severity against the presence or return of Loyalists, and I fear that you would run too much risk by staying here. If you should be proscribed and your estates confiscated, as I fear may be done in any case, you are putting your son's welfare in peril as well as your own. If he be still living now, though misfortunes have overtaken him, and he has kept faith, as we who know him must still believe, these estates which you hold for him in trust are not in danger; if the facts are otherwise" - and the old justice looked at her, but could not find it in his heart to go on.
Madam Wallingford sat pondering the matter with her eyes fixed upon his face, and was for some time lost in the gravest thoughts.
"What is this oath?" she asked at last, and her cheeks whitened as she put the question.
The judge turned to Mr. Hill, and, without speaking, that gentleman took a folded paper from among some documents which he wore in his pocket, and rose to hand it to the lady.
"Will you read it to me?" she asked again; and he read the familiar oath of allegiance in a steady voice, and not without approval in his tone: -
"I do acknowledge the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to be free, independent; and sovereign states, and declare that the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to GEORGE THE THIRD, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN; and I renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to him; and I do swear that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend the said UNITED STATES against the said KING GEORGE THE THIRD, his heirs and successors, and his or their abettors, assistants, and adherents, and will serve the said United States in the office . . . which I now hold, with fidelity, according to the best of my skill and understanding."
As he finished he looked at the listener for assent, as was his habit, and Judge Chadbourne half rose in his eagerness; everything was so simple and so easy if she would take the oath. She was but a woman, - the oath was made for men; but she was a great land-holder, and all the country looked to her. She was the almoner of her own wealth and her husband's, and it were better if she stood here in her lot and place.
"I cannot sign this," she said abruptly. "Is this the oath that Roger, my son, has taken?"
"The same, Madam," answered Mr. Hill, with a disappointed look upon his face, and there was silence in the room.
"I must make me ready to go," said Madam Wallingford at last, and the tears stood deep in her eyes. "But if my son gave his word, he will keep his word. I shall leave my trust and all our fortunes in your hands, and you may choose some worthy gentleman from this side of the river to stand with you. The papers must be drawn in Portsmouth. I shall send a rider down at once with a message, and by night I shall be ready to go myself to town. I must ask if you and your colleagues will meet me there at my house. . . . You must both carry my kind farewells to my Barvick friends. As for me," - and her voice broke for the first time, - "I am but a poor remainder of the past that cannot stand against a mighty current of change. I knew last night that it would come to this. I am an old woman to be turned out of my home, and yet I tell you the truth, that I go gladly, since the only thing I can hope for now is to find my son. You see I am grown frail and old, but there is something in my heart that makes me hope. . . . I have no trace of my son, but he was left near to death, and must now be among enemies by reason of having been upon the ship. No, no, I shall not sign your oath; take it away with you, good friends!" she cried bitterly. Then she put out her weak hands to them, and a pathetic, broken look came upon her face.
"'T was most brotherly, what you did for me last night. You must thank the other good men who were with you. I ask your affectionate remembrance in the sad days that come; you shall never fail of my prayers."
And so they left her standing in the early sunshine of her chamber, and went away sorrowful.
An hour later Mary Hamilton came in, bright and young. She was dressed and ready to go home, and came to stand by her old friend, who was already at her business, with many papers spread about.
"Mary, my child," said Madam Wallingford, taking her hand and trembling a little, "I am going away. There is new trouble, and I have no choice. You must stay with me this last day and help me; I have no one to look to but you."
"But you can look to me, dear lady." Mary spoke cheerfully, not understanding to the full, yet being sure that she should fail in no service. There was a noble pride of courage in her heart, a gratitude because they were both safe and well, and the spring sun shining, after such a night. God gives nothing better than the power to serve those whom we love; the bitterest pain is to be useless, to know that we fail to carry to their lives what their dear presence brings to our own. Mary laid her hand on her friend's shoulder. "Can I write for you just now?" she asked.
"I am going to England," explained Madam Wallingford quietly. "Judge Chadbourne and Mr. Hill have both told me that I must go away. I shall speak only of Halifax to my household, but my heart is full of the thought of England, where I must find my poor son. I should die of even a month's waiting and uncertainty here; it seems a lifetime since the news came yesterday. I must go to find Roger!"
All the bright, determined eagerness forsook Mary Hamilton's face. It was not that the thought of exile was new or strange, but this poor wistful figure before her, with its frayed thread of vitality and thin shoulders bent down as if with a weight of sorrow, seemed to forbid even the hard risks of seafaring. The girl gave a cry of protest, as if she felt the sharp pain of a sudden blow.
"I have always been well enough on the sea. I do not dread the voyage so much. I am a good sailor," insisted Madam Wallingford, with a smile, as if she must comfort a weaker heart than her own. "My plans are easily made, as it happens; one of my own vessels was about to sail for West Indian ports. It was thought a useless venture by many, but the captain is an impatient soul, and an excellent seaman. He shall take us to Halifax, Susan and me. I thought at first to go alone; but Susan has been long with me, and can be of great use when we are once ashore. She is in sad estate on the ocean, poor creature, and when we went last to Virginia I thought never to distress her so much again."
There was a shining light on the girl's face as she listened.
"I shall go with you, not Susan," she said. "Even with her it would be like letting you go alone. I am strong, and a good sailor too. We must leave her here to take care of your house, as I shall leave Peggy."
Madam Wallingford looked at Mary Hamilton with deep love, but she lifted her hand forbiddingly.
"No, no, dear child," she whispered. "I shall not think of it."
"There may be better news," said Mary hopefully.
"There will be no news, and I grudge every hour that is wasted," said the mother, with strange fretfulness. "I have friends in England, as you know. If I once reach an English port, the way will be easy. When prison doors shut they do not open of themselves, in these days, but I have some friends in mind who would have power to help me. I shall take passage from Halifax for Bristol, if I can; if no better vessel offers, I shall push on in the Golden Dolphin rather than court delay."
Mary stood smiling into her face.
"No, no, my dear," said Madam Wallingford again, and drew the girl closer. "I cannot let you think of such a thing. Your young heart speaks now, and not your wise reflection. For your brother's sake I could not let you go, still less for your own; it would make you seem a traitor to your cause. You must stand in your own place."
"My brother is away with his troop. He begged me to leave everything here, and go farther up the country. The burning of Falmouth made him uneasy, and ever since he does not like my staying alone in our house," insisted Mary.
"There is knowledge enough of the riches of this river, among seamen of the English ports," acknowledged Madam Wallingford. "In Portsmouth there are many friends of England who will not be molested, though all our leaders are gone. Still I know that an attack upon our region has long been feared," she ended wistfully.
"I told my brother that I should not leave home until there was really such danger; we should always have warning if the enemy came on the coast. If they burnt our house or plundered it, then I should go farther up the country. I told Jack," continued Mary, with flushing cheeks, "that I did not mean to leave you; and he knew I meant it, but he was impatient, too. 'I have well-grown timber that will build a hundred houses,' he answered me, and was rough-spoken as to the house, much as he loves it, - 'but I shall not have one moment's peace while I think you are here alone. Yet, you must always look to Madam Wallingford,' he said more than once."
"Go now, my dear child; send me Susan, who is no doubt dallying in the kitchen!" commanded the mistress abruptly. "I must not lose a minute of this day. You must do as your brother bade you; but as for doing the thing which would vex him above everything else, - I cannot listen to more words. I see that you are for going home this morning; can you soon return to me, when you have ordered your affairs? You can help me in many small matters, and we shall be together to the last. I could not take you with me, darling," she said affectionately. "'T was my love for you - no, I ought to say 't was my own poor selfishness - that tempted my heart for the moment. Now we must think of it no more, either of us. You have no fellowship with those to whom I go; you are no Loyalist," and she even smiled as she spoke. "God bless you for such dear kindness, Mary. I think I love you far too much to let you go with me."
Mary's face was turned away, and she made no answer; then she left her friend's side, wondering at the firm decision and strong authority which had returned in this time of sorrow and danger. It frightened her, this flaring up of what had seemed such a failing light of life. It was perhaps wasting to no purpose the little strength that remained.
She stood at the window to look down the river, and saw the trampled ground below; it seemed as if the last night's peril were but the peril of a dream. The fruit-trees were coming into bloom: a young cherry-tree, not far away, was white like a little bride, and the pear-trees were ready to follow; their buds were big, and the white petals showing. It was high water; the tide had just turned toward the ebb, and there were boats going down the river to Portsmouth, in the usual fashion, to return with the flood. There was a large gundalow among them, with its tall lateen sail curved to the morning breeze. Of late the river had sometimes looked forsaken, so many men were gone to war, and this year the fields would again be half tilled at best, by boys and women. To country eyes, there was a piteous lack of the pleasant hopefulness of new-ploughed land on the river farms.
"There are many boats going down to-day," reported Mary, in her usual tone; "they will be for telling the news of last night at the wharves in Portsmouth. There will be a fine, busy crowd on the Parade."
Then she sighed heavily; she was in the valley of decision; she felt as if she were near to tearing herself from this dear landscape and from home, - that she was on the brink of a great change. She could not but shrink from such a change and loss.
She returned from her outlook to Madam Wallingford's side.
"I must not interrupt your business. I will not press you, either, against your will. I shall soon come back, and then you will let me help you and stay with you, as you said. When will your brig be ready?"
"She is ready to sail now, and only waits her clearance papers; the captain was here yesterday morning. She is the Golden Dolphin, as I have already told you, and has often lain here at our river wharves; a very good, clean vessel, with two lodgings for passengers. I have sent word that I shall come on board to-morrow; she waits in the stream by Badger's Island."
"And you must go from here" -
"To-night. I have already ordered my provision for the voyage. Rodney went down on the gundalow before you were awake, and he will know very well what to do; this afternoon I shall send many other things by boat."
"I was awake," said Mary softly, "but I hoped that you were resting" -
"If the seas are calm, as may happen, I shall not go to Halifax," confessed the other; "I shall push on for Bristol. Our cousin Davis is there, and the Russells, and many other friends. The brig is timber-laden; if we should be captured" -
"By which side?" laughed Mary, and a sad gleam of answering humor flitted over Madam Wallingford's face.
"Oh, we forget that my poor child may be dead already!" she cried, with sharp agony, next moment. "I think and think of his hurting wounds. No pity will be shown a man whom they take to be a spy!" and she was shaken by a most piteous outburst of tears.
Then Mary, as if the heart in her own young breast were made of love alone, tried to comfort Madam Wallingford. It was neither the first time nor the last.
And now that an over-faint quietness: From Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86), "A Defence of Poesie": "For heretofore, Poets haue in England also flourished: and which is to be noted, euen in those times when the Trumpet of Mars did sonnd lowdest. And now that an ouer faint quietnesse should seeme to strowe the house for Poets. They are almost in as good reputation, as the Mountebanckes at Venice." (Research: Gabe Heller)
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promised to the Miss Lords: See People and Places for the Miss Lords. As will appear later in this chapter, the tide is out as Mary begins her trip to Madam Wallingford's, which is just across the Salmon Falls River from Hamilton House. At low tide, it would be nearly impossible for any boat to travel from the Lower Landing to the Upper Landing because of shoals between the two points. (Research: Wendy Pirsig)
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like the Salem houses: Several examples of persecuting Salem loyalists appear in this chapter. It has not been determined whether Jewett has specific instances in mind. Assistance is welcome.
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Sons of Liberty: The Encarta Encyclopedia says that the Sons of Liberty were a "secret patriotic society organized in the American colonies in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act. After the act was repealed in 1766, the society, which consisted of numerous local chapters, formed Committees of Correspondence to foster resistance to oppressive British economic and political actions. The Sons of Liberty also helped enforce the policy of nonimportation, by which American merchants refused to import goods carried in British ships, and in 1774 it took part in convoking the Continental Congress. Its leaders included Samuel Adams and Paul Revere." Jeremy Belknap, in The History of New-Hampshire (1812), attributes the phrase "sons of liberty" to a Parliamentary speech against the Stamp Act by a Colonel Barre (329).
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Narragansett pacer: The first successful American breed of horse. (Research: Gabe Heller)
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I do acknowledge ... best of my skill and understanding: This is the oath military officers in the Revolutionary Army were made to swear, which makes it somewhat odd that Mrs. Wallingford would be asked to swear it. However, there were other similar "test" oaths for both military and civilian use, developed by individual states as well as the Continental Congress. When the British captured territory, they also required the residents to swear their loyalty to the Crown (Research: Gabe Heller; see Van Tyne, Loyalists in the American Revolution, Chapters 5-6.)
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valley of decision: See Joel 3:14.
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