|The Tory Lover -- Contents
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
MADAM GOES TO SEA
"The paths to a true friend lie direct, though he be far away."
The bright day had clouded over, and come to a wet and windy spring night. It was past eight o'clock; the darkness had early fallen. There was a sense of comfort in a dry roof and warm shelter, as if it were winter weather, and Master Sullivan and old Margery had drawn close to their warm fireplace. The master was in a gay mood and talkative, and his wife was at her usual business of spinning, stepping to and fro at a large whirring wheel. To spin soft wool was a better trade for evening than the clacking insistence of the little wheel with its more demanding flax. Margery was in her best mood, and made a most receptive and admiring audience.
"Well, may God keep us!" she exclaimed, at the end of the story. "'T was as big a row as when the galleries fell in Smock Alley theatre. I often heard of that from my poor father."
Master Sullivan was pleased with his success; Margery was not always so easy to amuse, but he was in no mind for a conflict. Something had made his heart ache that day, and now her love and approval easily rescued him from his own thought; so he went on, as if his fortunes depended upon Margery's favor and frankly expressed amusement.
"One night there was a long-legged apprentice boy to a French upholsterer; this was in London, and I a lad myself stolen over there from Paris with a message for Charles Radcliffe. He had great leanings toward the stage, this poor boy, and for the pride of his heart got the chance to play the ghost of Hamlet at Covent Garden. Well, it was then indeed you might see him at the heighth of life and parading in his pasteboard armor. 'Mark me!' says he, with a voice as if you'd thump the sides of a cask. 'I'll mark you!' cries his master from the pit, and he le'pt on the stage and was after the boy to kill him; and all the lads were there le'pt after him to take his part; and they held off the master, and set the ghost in his place again, the poor fellow; and they said he did his part fine, and creeped every skin that was there. He'd a great night; never mind the beating that fell to him afterward!"
The delighted listener shook with silent laughter.
"'T was like the time poor Denny Delane was in Dublin. I was there but the one winter myself," continued the master. "He came of a fine family, but got stage-struck, and left Trinity College behind him like a last year's bird's nest. Every woman in Dublin, old and young, was crazy after him. There were plays bespoke, and the fashion there every night, all sparked with diamonds, and every officer in his fine uniform. There was great dressing with the men as you'd never see them now: my Lord Howth got a fancy he'd dress like a coachman, wig and all; and Lord Trimlestown was always in scarlet when he went abroad, and my Lord Gormanstown in blue. Oh, but they were the pictures coming in their coaches! You wouldn't see any officer out of his uniform or a doctor wanting his lace ruffles! 'T was my foolish young self borrowed all the lace from my poor mother that she'd lend me, and I but a boy; and then I'd go help myself out of her boxes, when she'd gone to mass. She'd a great deal of beautiful lace, and knew every thread of it by heart. I've a little piece yet that was sewed under a waistcoat. Go get it now, and we'll look at it; 't is laid safe in that second book from the end of the shelf. You may give it to the little lady, when I'm gone, for a remembrance; 't is the only - ah, well; I've nothing else in the world but my own poor self that ever belonged to my dear mother!"
The old master's voice grew very sad, and all his gayety was gone.
"'Deed, then, Miss Mary Hamilton'll get none of it, and you having a daughter of your own!" scolded Margery, instantly grown as fierce as he was sad. Sometimes the only way to cure the master of his dark sorrows was to make him soothe her own anger. But this night he did not laugh at her, though she quarreled with fine determination.
"Oh me!" groaned the master. "Oh me, the fool I was!" and he struck his knee with a hopeless hand, as he sat before the fire.
"God be good to us!" mourned old Margery, "and I a lone child sent to a strange country without a friend to look to me, and yourself taking notice of me on the ship; 't was the King I thought you were, and you'd rob me now of all that. Well, I was no fit wife for a great gentleman; I always said it, too. I loved you as I don't know how to love my God, but I must ask for nothing!"
The evening's pleasure was broken; the master could bear anything better than her poor whimpering voice.
"You look at a poor man as if he were the front of a cathedral," he chided her, again trying to be merry. But at this moment they were both startled into silence; they both heard the heavy tread of horses before the house.
"Come in, come in, whoever you are!" shouted Master Sullivan, as he threw open the outer door. "Are ye lost on the road, that ye seek light and lodging here?"
The horses would not stand; the night was dark as a dungeon; the heavy rain blew in the old man's face. His heart beat fast at the sound of a woman's voice.
"By great Jupiter, and all the gods! what has brought you here, Mary Hamilton, my dear child?" he cried. "Is there some attack upon the coast? 'T is the hand of war or death has struck you!"
The firelight shone upon Mary's face as she entered, but the wind and rain had left no color there; it was a wan face, that masked some high resolve, and forbade either comment or contradiction. She took the chair to which the master led her, and drew a long breath, as if to assure herself of some steadiness of speech.
A moment later, her faithful friend, Mr. John Lord, opened the door softly, and came in also. His eyes looked troubled, but he said nothing as he stood a little way behind the others in the low room; the rain dropped heavily from his long coat to the floor. The Sullivans stood at either side the fireplace watching the pale lady who was their guest. John Sullivan himself it was who unclasped her wet riding cloak and threw it back upon the chair; within she wore a pretty gown of soft crimson silk with a golden thread in it, that had come home in one of her brother's ships from Holland. The rain had stained the breast of it where the riding cloak had blown apart; the strange living dyes of the East were brightened by the wet. The two old people started back, they believed that she had sought them because she was hurt to death. She lifted her hand forbiddingly; her face grew like a child's that was striving against tears.
"Dear friends, it is not so bad as you think; it is because I am so full of hope that I have come to you," she said to the anxious, kind old faces. There was such a sweetness in the girl's voice, and her beautiful dress was so familiar, so belonging to the old quiet times and happy hospitalities, that the two men felt a sharp pain of pity, and because there was nothing else to do they came nearer to her side. Master Sullivan looked questioningly at young Mr. Lord, but old Margery found instinctive relief in a low, droning sort of moan, which sometimes lifted into that Irish keening which is the voice of fear and sorrow. She was piling all her evening fagots at once upon the fire.
"Speak now!" said the master. "If my old heart knows the worst, it can begin to hope the best. What is it that could not wait for the morning of such a night as this?"
"There is bad news," replied Mary; "there are letters come from the Ranger. They have attacked a large seaport town on the coast of England, and spread great alarm, though their chief projects were balked. They have fought with an English frigate in the Irish Sea, and taken her captive with some rich prizes. Roger Wallingford was left ashore in Whitehaven. They believe on the ship that he tried to betray his companions and warned the town; but he was badly wounded ashore, and thrown into prison. There is a great rising of the Patriots against Madam Wallingford, who is warned to leave the country. They threatened her very life last night." Mary was standing now, and the quick firelight, sprung afresh, made her look like a bright flame. The master made a strange outcry, like a call for hidden help, and looked hastily at the walls of the room about him, as if he sought some old familiar weapons.
"I am going away with her for a time," said Mary, speaking now without any strain or quiver in her voice. "My brother does not need me, since he is with the army, and Mr. Lord knows our business here, if any be left. Peggy can stand bravely for me in the house. Dear master!" and she came close to the old man's side; her young slender body was almost as tall as his; she put her arm about his neck and drew down his head so that he must look into her upturned face. "Dear Master," she said, in a low voice, "you told me once that you still had friends in England, if the worst should come to Roger, and I think now that the worst has come."
"You may bring the horses at once," said the master, turning quickly to Mr. Lord. "Stay, Margery; you must light your old lantern and give it him; and I would wrap you well and hold it for him to rub them off with a wisp of thatch, and let them have a mouthful of corn to satisfy their minds."
Mary felt for that one moment as if Hope were like an old frail friend with eyes of living fire; she had known no other father than the master, when all was said. He put her hand gently away from its unconscious clinging hold of his shoulder, and, with a woman's care, took the wet cloak, as he placed her again in his own chair, and spread its dry inner folds to the fire, so that they might warm a little.
Then, without speaking, he went to the shelf of books, and took from one of them a thin packet of papers.
"I am an old man," he said gently. "I have been fearful of all this, and I made ready these things, since it might some day please God to let me die. I have heard of the fray last night, but you will find letters here that will be of service. Come, warm you now by the fire, and put them in the bosom of your gown. I think you will find them something worth; but if you keep their words in your heart or near it, 't will be far the best. And burn them quick if there is need; but you shall read them first, and send their messages by word of mouth, if need be. Listen to me now; there are a few things left for me to say."
The girl's face was full of a sweet relief; she did not thank him, save with one long look, and put the packet where he had bidden her. She looked into the fire as she listened to his counsels, and suddenly was afraid of tears, the errand being safely done.
"Forgive me, sir, for this new trouble!"
She spoke with a different impulse and recognition from any she had known before, and looked brave as a young soldier. This was a friend who knew indeed the world whither she was going.
"Why should you not come to me?" asked the master. "'Men were born for the aid and succor of men,'" he added with a smile. "You do not know your Rabelais, my little lady."
The horses had come up; they trod the ground outside impatiently. She knelt before the old man humbly, and he blessed her, and when she rose she kissed him like a child, and looked long in his face, and he in hers; then she put on her heavy cloak again, and went out into the rainy night.
Next day, in Portsmouth, Madam Wallingford, pale and stately, and Susan, resolute enough, but strangely apathetic, put off into the harbor from Langdon's wharf. They were accompanied to the shore by many friends, whose hearts were moved at so piteous a sight. When the mistress and maid were safe on the deck of the Golden Dolphin, Mary Hamilton stood there before them; the beauty of her young face was like some heavenly creature's.
"I know that you said last night, when I was for bidding you farewell, that you should see me again. I have been thinking all this morning that you had been prevented," whispered Madam Wallingford tenderly. They were long in each other's arms. "I have a few things left to say; it is impossible to remember all proper messages, at such short warning. Let them keep the boat for Miss Hamilton, until the last moment before we sail," she said to the captain.
"They are heaving up the anchor now," the captain answered. "I must not lose this fair wind to get us out of the river."
Mary was impatient to speak; she cast a smiling glance at Susan, who wore a timid look, not being used to plots, or to taking instructions from any but her mistress.
"Dear friend," cried Mary then, "you must let me have my way! I could not let you go alone. I tried to think as you bade me, but I could not. I am going with you wherever you may go: I think it is my right. You have short time now to give Susan your last charges, as I have given mine to Peggy. I stay with you and Phebe with me, and Susan goes ashore. Please God, some short weeks or months may see us sailing home again up the river, with our errand well done!"
"I could not stand against them, Madam," and Susan looked more apprehensive than triumphant, though she was grateful to Heaven to be spared a voyage at sea. Her mistress was not one to have her own plans set aside. "I listened well, Madam, to all you said to Rodney and the maids. They are good girls, but they need a head over them. And I could do nothing against Miss Mary; for Peggy, that has a love for great ploys to be going on, and the world turned upside down, has backed her from the first."
The paths to a true friend: From The Poetic Edda, Havamal, Stanza 34. It appears Jewett is using the Benjamin Thorpe translation.
"Long is and indirect the way
to a bad friend's,
though by the road he dwell;
but to a good friend's
the paths lie direct,
though he be far away."
(Research: Gabe Heller).
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the galleries fell in Smock Alley theatre: According to Encarta Encyclopedia, the first theater in Covent Garden was built in 1732, nine years after Sullivan left England and sixteen years after Charles Radcliffe escaped from Newgate Prison.
Of the Smock Alley theatre in Dublin, Samuel Fitzpatrick, in Dublin: A Historical and Topographical Account of the City (1907), says:
"In 1661 John Ogilby, who had become a London publisher, returned to Dublin, and started in Orange Street the celebrated Smock Alley Theatre at the rear of the Blind Quay between Essex Street and Fishamble Street, on a site 63 feet wide and 139 feet deep, obtained from Sir Francis Brewster, where formerly had stood Preston's Inns. This theatre, opened in 1662 and rebuilt in 1735, was finally closed in 1788. As originally constructed Smock Alley Theatre had two galleries, a pit, upper boxes, and a music loft. The stage was lighted by tallow candles stuck in tin circles: on special occasions wax candles were used.
"Here, in the early part of the 18th century, were trained under Elrington's management such actors as Wilkes, Norris, Doggett , Booth, and Quin, who were afterwards ornaments of the London stage. The first of these was born at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, in 1670, and made his first appearance as 'Othello' in an amateur performance given gratis in Smock Alley Theatre in December 1691, in which Joseph Ashbury was the only professional actor.
"During a performance of Bartholomew Fair, 26th December 1671, the upper gallery fell into the pit, by which accident-three persons were killed and numbers severely injured. On the death of Ogilby in 1672 his patent was conferred on Ashbury. He was the first to introduce George Farquhar, the dramatist, to public notice. The latter, born in Derry in 1678, entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1694, and the following year acted Othello in Smock Alley; but being unsuccessful as an actor he turned playwright, in which capacity he attained much higher reputation (Chapter 8)."
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message for Charles Radcliffe: See notes for Chapter 36 and People and Places on Charles Radcliffe.
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ghost of Hamlet: The ghost of Hamlet's father, also named Hamlet, in William Shakespeare's play.
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thrown into prison: It is not clear how Mary knows that Wallingford was badly wounded and thrown into prison.
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known no other father than the master: It has not been confirmed that the historical Jonathan Hamilton lost his father as a child.
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"'Men were born for the aid and succor of men,'" he added with a smile. "You do not know your Rabelais": This quotation has not been located. Assistance is welcome.
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wherever you may go: Possible allusion to the biblical story of Ruth; see Ruth 1:16.
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the world turned upside down: This is the title of a ballad that originated in 1646, after Oliver Cromwell's victory at the battle of Naseby in 1645. It has been revised numerous times, including during the American Revolution, to reflect satirically upon rebels against England. (Research: Gabe Heller)
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