|The Tory Lover -- Contents
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
GOOD ENGLISH HEARTS
"'T is all an old man can do, to say his prayers for his country."
Late that evening, while the two elder ladies kept close together, and spoke eagerly of old days and friends long gone out of sight, John Davis sat opposite his young guest at the fireplace, as he smoked his after-supper pipe.
The rich oak-paneled room was well lit by both firelight and candles, and held such peace and comfort as Mary never had cause to be grateful for before. The cold dampness of the brig, their close quarters, and all the dullness and impatience of the voyage were past now, and they were safe in this good English house, among old friends. It was the threshold of England, too, and Roger Wallingford was somewhere within; soon they might be sailing together for home. Even the worst remembrance of the sea was not unwelcome, with this thought at heart!
The voyagers had been listening to sad tales of the poverty and distress of nearly all the Loyalist refugees from America, the sorrows of Governor Hutchinson and his house, and many others. The Sewalls and Russells, the Faneuils, and the Boutineaus, who were still in Bristol, had already sent eager messages. Mistress Davis warned her guests that next day, when news was spread of their coming, the house would be full of comers and goers; all asking for news, and most of them for money, too. Some were now in really destitute circumstances who had been rich at home, and pensions and grants for these heartsick Loyalists were not only slow in coming, but pitiful in their meagreness. There was a poor gentleman from Salem, and his wife with him, living in the Davises' house; they had lodged upward of thirty strangers since the year came in; it was a heavy charge upon even a well-to-do man, for they must nearly all borrow money beside their food and shelter. Madam Wallingford was not likely to come empty-handed; the heavy box with brass scutcheons which the captain himself had escorted from the Golden Dolphin, late that afternoon, was not without comfortable reassurance, and the lady had asked to have a proper English waiting-maid chosen for her, as she did not wish to bring a weight upon the household. But there were other problems to be faced. This good merchant, Mr. Davis, was under obligations to so old a friend, and he was not likely to be a niggard, in any sense, when she did him the honor to seek his hospitality.
"I must go to my library, where I keep my business matters; 't is but a plain book room, a place for my less public affairs. We may have some private talk there, if you are willing," he said, in a low voice; and Mary rose at once and followed him. The ladies did not even glance their way, though the merchant carefully explained that he should show his guest a very great ledger which had been brought up from his counting-room since business had fallen so low. She might see her brother's name on many of the pages.
"Let us speak frankly now," he urged, as they seated themselves by as bright a fire of blazing coals as the one they had left. "You can trust me with all your troubles," said the fatherly old man. "I am distressed to find that Madam Wallingford's case is so desperate."
Mary looked up, startled from the peace of mind into which she had fallen.
"Do you know anything, sir?" she begged him earnestly. "Is it likely" - But there she stopped, and could go no further.
"I had not the heart to tell her," he answered, "but we have already some knowledge of that officer of the Ranger who was left ashore at Whitehaven: he has been reported as gravely wounded, and they would not keep him in any jail of that northern region, but sent him southward in a dying state, saying that he should by rights go to his own kind in the Mill Prison. You must be aware that such an unprovoked attack upon a British seaport has made a great stir among us," added the merchant, with bitterness.
Mary remembered the burning of Falmouth in her own province, and was silent. [,]
"If he had been a deserter, and treacherous at heart, as I find there was suspicion," he continued; "yes, even if his own proper feelings toward the King had mastered your lieutenant, I do not know that his situation would have been any better for the moment. They must lack spirit in Whitehaven; on our Bristol wharves the mob would have torn such a prisoner limb from limb. You must remember that I am an Englishman born and bred, and have no patience with your rebels. I see now 't was a calmer judgment ruled their course when they sent him south; but if he is yet in the Mill Prison, and alive, he could not be in a worse place. This war is costing the King a fortune every week that it goes on, and he cannot house such pirates and spies in his castle at Windsor."
Mary's eyes flashed; she was keeping a firm hold upon her patience. "I think, from what we are told of the Mill Prison, that the King has gone too far to the other extreme," she could not forbear saying, but with perfect quietness.
"Well, we are not here to talk politics," said the alderman uneasily. "I have a deep desire to serve so old and respected a friend as this young man's mother. I saw the boy once when he came to England; a promising lad, I must own, and respectful to his elders. I am ready to serve him, if I can, for his father's sake, and to put all talk of principles by, or any question of his deserts. We have been driven to the necessity of keeping watchers all along the sea-coast by night and day, to send alarm by beacons into our towns. They say Paul Jones is a born divil, and will stick at nothing. How came Colonel Wallingford's son to cast in his lot with such a gallows rogue?"
"If you had lived on our river instead of here in Bristol, you would soon know," Mary answered him. "Our honest industries have long been hindered and forbidden; we are English folk, and are robbed of our rights."
"Well, well, my dear, you seem very clear for a woman; but I am an old man, and hard to convince. Your brother should be clear-headed enough; he is a man of judgment; but how such men as he have come to be so mistaken and blind" -
"It is Parliament that has been blind all the time," insisted Mary. "If you had been with us on that side of the sea, you would be among the first to know things as they are. Let us say no more, sir; I cannot lend myself to argument. You are so kind and I am so very grateful for it, in my heart."
"Well, well," exclaimed the old man again, "let us speak, then, of this instant business that you have in hand! I take it you have a heart in the matter, too; I see that you cherish Madam Wallingford like her own child. We must find out if the lad is still alive, and whether it is possible to free him. I heard lately that they have had the worst sort of small-pox among them, and a jail fever that is worse than the plague itself. 'T is not the fault of the jail, I wager you, but some dirty sailor brought it from his foul ship," he added hastily. "They are all crowded in together; would they had kept at home where they belong!"
"You speak hard words," said the girl impatiently, and with plain reproach, but looking so beautiful in her quick anger that the old man was filled with wonder and delight before his conscience reminded him that he should be ashamed. He was not used to being so boldly fronted by his own women folk; though his wife always had her say, she feared and obeyed him afterward without question.
"I wish that this foolish tea had never been heard of; it has been a most detestable weed for England," grumbled the old merchant. "They say that even your Indians drink it now, or would have it if they could."
"Mr. Davis, you have seen something of our young country," said the girl, speaking in a quiet tone. "You have known how busy our men are at home, how steadily they go about their business. If you had seen, as I did, how they stood straight, and dropped whatever they had in hand, and were hot with rage when the news came from Boston and we knew that we were attacked at Lexington and Concord, you would have learned how we felt the bitter wrong. 'T was not the loss of our tea or any trumpery tax; we have never been wanting in generosity, or hung back when we should play our part. We remembered all the old wrongs: our own timber rotting in our woods that we might not cut; our own waterfalls running to waste by your English law, lest we cripple the home manufacturers. We were hurt to the heart, and were provoked to fight; we have turned now against such tyranny. All we New England women sat at home and grieved. The cannon sounded loud through our peaceful country. They shut our ports, and we could not stand another insult without boldly resenting it. We had patience at first, because our hearts were English hearts; then we turned and fought with all our might, because we were still Englishmen, and there is plenty of fight left in us yet."
"You are beset by the pride of being independent, and all for yourselves," Mr. Davis accused her.
"Our hearts are wounded to the quick, because we are the same New England folk who fought together with the King's troops at Louisburg, and you have oppressed us," said Mary quickly. "I heard that Mr. John Adams said lately - and he has been one of our leaders from the first - that there had not been a moment since the beginning of hostilities when he would not have given everything he possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the contest began, if we could only have security for its continuance. We did not wish to separate from England, and if the separation has come, it is only from our sad necessity. Cannot you see that, being English people, we must insist upon our rights? We are not another race because we are in another country."
"Tut, tut, my dear," said the old man uneasily. "What does a pretty girl like you know about rights? So that's the talk you've listened to? We may need to hear more of it; you sound to me as if Fox had all along been in the right, and knew the way to bring back our trade." He began to fidget in his elbow chair and to mend the fire. "I can't go into all this; I have had a wearying day," - he began to make faint excuse. "There's much you should hear on England's side; you only know your own; and this war is costing Parliament a terrible drain of money."
"Do you know anything of Lord Newburgh, and where he may be found?" asked Mary, with sudden directness.
"My Lord Newburgh?" repeated Mr. Davis wonderingly. "And what should you want with him? I know him but by name. He would be the son of that Radcliffe who was a Scotch rebel in '45, and lost his head by it, too; he was brother to the famous Lord Darwentwater. 'T was a wild family, an unfortunate house. What seek you at their hands?"
Mary sat looking into the fire, and did not answer.
"Perhaps you can send some one with me toward Plymouth to-morrow?" she asked presently, and trembled a little as she spoke. She had grown pale, though the bright firelight shone full in her face. "The captain learned when we first came ashore that Lord Mount Edgecumbe is likely to be commander of that prison where our men are; the Mill Prison they said it was, above Plymouth town. I did not say anything to Madam Wallingford, lest our hopes should fail; but if you could spare a proper person to go with me, I should like to go to Plymouth."
The old man gazed at her with wonder.
"You do not know what a wild goose chase means, then, my little lady!" he exclaimed, with considerable scorn. "Lord Mount Edgecumbe! You might as well go to Windsor expecting a morning talk and stroll in the park along with the King. 'T is evident enough one person is the same as another in your colonies! But if you wish to try, I happened to hear yesterday that the great earl is near by, in Bath, where he takes the waters for his gout. You can go first to Mr. George Fairfax, of Virginia, with whom Madam Wallingford is acquainted; she has told me that already. He is of a noble house, himself, Mr. Fairfax, and may know how to get speech with these gentlemen: why, yes, 't is a chance, indeed, and we might achieve something." Mr. Davis gave a satisfied look at the beautiful face before him, and nodded his sage head.
"I shall go with you, myself, if it is a fair day to-morrow," he assured her. "I am on good terms with Mr. Fairfax. I was long agent here for their tobacco ships, the old Lord Fairfaxes of Virginia; but all that rich trade is good as done," and he gave a heavy sigh. "We think of your sailors in the Mill Prison as if they were all divils. You won't find it easy to get one of them set free," he added boldly.
Mary gave a startled look, and drew back a little.
"I hear the King is glad to ship them on his men-of-war," she said, "and that the Mill Prison is so vile a place the poor fellows are thankful to escape from it, even if they must turn traitor to their own cause."
"Oh, sailors are sailors!" grumbled the old man. "I find Madam Wallingford most loyal to the King, however, so that there is a chance for her. And she is no beggar or would-be pensioner; far from it! If her foolish son had been on any other errand than this of the Ranger's, she might easier gain her ends, poor lady. 'What stands in the way?' you may ask. Why, only last week our own coast was in a panic of fear!" John Davis frowned at the fire, so that his great eyebrows looked as if they were an assaulting battery. He shrugged his shoulders angrily, and puffed hard at his pipe, but it had gone out altogether; then he smiled, and spoke in a gentler tone: -
"Yes, missy, we'll ride to Bath to-morrow, an the weather should be fair; the fresh air will hearten you after the sea, and we can talk with Mr. Fairfax, and see what may be done. I'm not afraid to venture, though they may know you for a little rebel, and set me up to wear a wooden ruff all day in the pillory for being seen with you!"
"I must speak ye some hard words," the old man added unexpectedly, leaning forward and whispering under his breath, as if the solid oak panels might let his forebodings reach a mother's ears in the room beyond. "The young man may be dead and gone long before this, if he was put into the Mill Prison while yet weak from his wounds. If he is there, and alive, I think the King himself would say he could not let him out. There's not much love lost in England now for Paul Jones or any of his crew."
"'T is all an old man can do, to say his prayers for his country": This quotation as not been located. Information is welcome.
[ Back ]
the burning of Falmouth: The historic town of Falmouth is now Portland, Maine. Falmouth was burned by a British naval bombardment on 16 October, 1775.
[ Back ]
Lexington and Concord: See Chapter 2 notes for the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
[ Back ]