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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
THEY COME TO BRISTOL
"The wise will remember through sevenfold births the love of those who wiped away their falling tears."
Miss Mary Hamilton and the captain of the Golden Dolphin walked together from the busy boat landing up into the town of Bristol. The tide was far down, and the captain, being a stout man, was still wheezing from his steep climb on the long landing-stairs. It was good to feel the comfort of solid ground underfoot, and to hear so loud and cheerful a noise of English voices, after their four long weeks at sea, and the ring and clank of coppersmiths' hammers were not unpleasant to the ear even in a narrow street. The captain was in a jovial temper of mind; he had some considerable interest in his cargo, and they had been in constant danger off the coast. Now that he was safe ashore, and the brig was safe at anchor, he stepped quickly and carried his head high, and asked their shortest way to Mr. Davis's house, to leave Mary there, while he made plans for coming up to one of that well-known merchant's wharves.
"Here we are at last!" exclaimed the master mariner. "I can find my way across the sea straight to King's Road and Bristol quay, but I'm easy lost in the crooked ways of a town. I've seen the port of Bristol, too, a score o' times since I was first a sailor, but I saw it never so dull as now. There it is, the large house beyond, to the port-hand side. He lives like a nobleman, does old Sir Davis. I'll leave ye here now, and go my ways; they've sarvents a plenty to see ye back to the strand."
The shy and much occupied captain now made haste toward the merchant's counting-room, and Mary hurried on toward the house, anxious to know if Madam Wallingford's hopes were to be assured, and if they should find Mistress Davis not only alive and well, but ready to welcome them. As she came nearer, her heart beat fast at the sight of a lady's trim head, white-capped, and not without distinction of look, behind the panes of a bowed window. It was as plain that this was a familiar sight, that it might every day be seen framed in its place within the little panes, as if Mary had known the face since childhood, and watched for a daily greeting as she walked a Portsmouth street at home. She even hesitated for a moment, looking eagerly, ere she went to lift the bright knocker of the street door.
In a minute more she was in the room.
"I am Mary Hamilton, of Berwick," said the guest, with pretty eagerness, "and I bring you love and greeting from Madam Wallingford, your old friend."
"From Madam Wallingford?" exclaimed the hostess, who had thought to see a neighbor's daughter enter from the street, and now beheld a stranger, a beautiful young creature, with a beseeching look in her half familiar face. "Come you indeed from old Barvick, my dear? You are just off the sea by your fresh looks. I was thinking of cousin Wallingford within this very hour; I grieved to think that now we are both so old I can never see her face again. So you bring me news of her? Sit you down; I can say that you are most welcome." Her eyes were like a younger woman's, and they never left Mary's face.
"She is here; she is in the harbor, on board the Golden Dolphin, one of her own ships. I have not only brought news to you; I have brought her very self," said the girl joyfully.
There was a quick shadow upon the hostess's face. "Alas, then, poor soul, I fear she has been driven from her home by trouble; she would be one of the Loyalists! I'll send for her at once. Come nearer me; sit here in the window seat!" begged Mistress Davis affectionately. "You are little Mary Hamilton, of the fine house I have heard of and never seen, the pride of my dear old Barvick. But your brother would not change sides. You are both of the new party, - I have heard all that months ago; how happens it that the Golden Dolphin brought you hither, too?"
Mary seated herself in the deep window, while Mistress Davis gazed at her wonderingly. She had a tender heart; she could read the signs of great effort and of loneliness in the bright girlish face. She did not speak, but her long, discerning look and the touch of her hand gave such motherly comfort that the girl might easily have fallen to weeping. It was not that Mary thought of any mean pity for herself, or even remembered that her dear charge had sometimes shown the unconscious selfishness of weakness and grief; but brave and self-forgetful hearts always know the true value of sympathy. They were friends and lovers at first sight, the young girl and the elderly woman who was also Berwick-born.
"I have had your house filled to its least garrets with Royalists out of my own country, and here comes still another of them, with a young friend who is of the other party," Mistress Davis said gayly; and the guest looked up to see a handsome old man who had entered from another room, and who frowned doubtfully as he received this information. Mary's head was dark against the window, and he took small notice of her at first, though some young men outside in the street had observed so much of her beauty as was visible, and were walking to and fro on the pavement, hoping for a still brighter vision.
"This is Miss Mary Hamilton, of Barvick," announced the mistress, "and your old friend Madam Wallingford is in harbor, on one of her ships." She knew that she need say no more.
Mr. John Davis, alderman of Bristol and senior warden of his parish church, now came forward with some gallantry of manner.
"I do not like to lay a new charge upon you," said his wife, pleading prettily, "but these are not as our other fugitives, poor souls!" and she smiled as if with some confidence.
"Why, no, these be both of them your own kinsfolk, if I mistake not," the merchant agreed handsomely; "and the better part of our living has come, in times past, from my dealings with the husband of one and the good brother of the other. I should think it a pity if, for whatever reason they may have crossed the sea, we did not open wide our door; you must bid your maids make ready for their comfortable housing. I shall go at once to find the captain, since he has come safe to land in these days of piracy, and give so noble a gentlewoman as his owner my best welcome and service on the ship. Perhaps Miss Hamilton will walk with me, and give her own orders about her affairs?"
Mary stepped forward willingly from the window, in answer to so kind a greeting; and when she was within close range of the old man's short-sighted eyes, she was inspected with such rapid approval and happy surprise that Mr. Alderman Davis bent his stately head and saluted so fair a brow without further consideration. She was for following him at once on his kind errand, but she first ran back and kissed the dear mistress of the house. "I shall have much to tell you of home," she whispered; "you must spare me much time, though you will first be so eager for your own friend."
"We shall find each other changed, I know, - we have both seen years and trouble enough; but you must tell Mrs. Wallingford I have had no such happiness in many a year as the sight of her face will bring me. And dear Nancy Haggens?" she asked, holding Mary back, while the merchant grew impatient at the delay of their whispering. "She is yet alive?" And Mary smiled.
"I shall tell you many things, not only of her, but of the gay major," she replied aloud. "Yes, I am coming, sir; but it is like home here, and I am so happy already in your kind house." Then they walked away together, he with a clinking cane and majestic air, and kindly showing Miss Hamilton all the sights of Bristol that they passed.
"So you sailed on the Golden Dolphin?" he asked, as they reached the water side. "She is a small, old vessel, but she wears well; she has made this port many a time before," said John Davis. "And lumber-laden, you say? Well, that is good for me, and you are lucky to escape the thieving privateers out of your own harbors. So Madam Wallingford has borne her voyage handsomely, you think? What becomes of her young son?"
The wise will remember through sevenfold births the love of those who wiped away their falling tears: A Hindu proverb from The Sacred Anthology; a book of ethnical Scriptures (1874), collected and edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (1832-1907). See section CCCXCIII: Gratitude. (Research: Gabe Heller).
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four long weeks at sea: In Chapter 35, the journey is said to have been six weeks. In the Atlantic serialization, the text reads "six long weeks" but was apparently changed to "four long weeks" for this printing.
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