|The Tory Lover -- Contents
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
A STRANGER AT HOME
"Would that she had told us of the trials of that time, and why it was that her heart rose against the new world and the new manners to which she had come!"
The next morning Miss Hamilton came down dressed in her riding gear, to find her host already in the saddle and armed with a stout hunting crop, which he flourished emphatically as he gave some directions to his groom. The day was fine and clear after a rainy night, with a hearty fragrance of the showery summer fields blowing through the Bristol streets.
They were quick outside the town on the road to Bath. Mary found herself well mounted, though a little too safely for her liking. Her horse was heavy of build, being used to the burden of a somewhat ponderous master; but the lighter weight and easy prompting hand of a young girl soon made him like a brave colt again. The old merchant looked on with approval at such pretty skill and acquaintance with horsemanship as his companion showed at the outset of their journey; and presently, when both the good horses had finished their discreet frolic and settled to sober travel, he fell into easy discourse, and showed the fair rider all the varied interests of the way. It was a busy thoroughfare, and this honored citizen was smiled at and handsomely saluted by many acquaintances, noble and humble. Mr. Davis was stingy of holidays, even in these dull times, but all the gallantry he had ever possessed was glowing in his heart as he rode soberly along in such pleasant company.
The dreary suspense and anxiety of six long weeks at sea were like a half-forgotten dream in the girl's own mind; at last she could set forth about her business. The sorrows of seafaring were now at an end; she was in England at last, and the very heart of the mother country seemed to welcome her; yet a young heart like Mary Hamilton's must needs feel a twinge of pain at the height of her morning's happiness. The fields and hedges, the bright foxglove and green ivy, the larks and blackbirds and quiet robins, the soft air against her cheeks, - each called up some far-inherited memory, some instinct of old relationship. All her elders in Berwick still called England home, and her thrilled heart had come to know the reason.
Roger Wallingford had lived in England. She suddenly understood against her will why he could find it so hard to go to sea in the Ranger to attack these shores, and why he had always protested against taking part in the war. England was no longer an angry, contemptuous enemy, tyrannous and exacting, and determined to withhold the right of liberty from her own growing colonies. All those sad, familiar prejudices faded away, and Mary could only see white clouds in a soft sky above the hazy distance, and hear the English birds singing, and meet the honest English faces, like old friends, as she rode along the road. There was some witchery that bewildered her; it was like some angry quarrel sprung up between mother and child while they were at a distance from each other, that must be quick forgotten when they came face to face. There was indeed some magic touch upon her: the girl's heart was beating fast; she was half afraid that she had misunderstood everything in blaming old England so much, and even stole a quick glance at her companion to see if he could have guessed her strange thoughts.
"'T is a pretty morning," said Mr. Davis kindly, seeing that she looked his way. "We shall reach Bath in proper season," and he let his horse come to a slow walk.
Whether it was the fresh air of the summer day, very strengthening to one who had been long at sea, or whether it was the justice of their errand itself, the weakness of this happy moment quickly passed, and Miss Hamilton's hand eagerly sought for a packet in the bosom of her gown, to see if it were safe. The reason for being on this side the sea was the hope that an anxious errand could be well done. She thought now of Master Sullivan on his bleak New England hillside; of the far blue mountains of the north country, and the outlook that was clearer and wider than this hazy landscape along the Avon; she looked down at the tame English river, and only remembered the wide stream at home that ran from the mountains straight to sea, - how it roared and droned over the great rocky fall near the master's own house, and sounded like the calling sea itself in his ears.
"You may see Bath now, there in the valley," said Mr. Davis, pointing with his big hand and the hunting crop. "'T is as fine a ride from Bristol to Bath as any you may have in England." They stopped their horses, a little short of breath, and looked down the rich wooded country to the bright town below.
"'T is a fine ride indeed," said Mary, patting her horse's neck, and thinking, with uncontrollable wistfulness, of the slenderer and less discreet young Duke at home, and of the old coachman and his black helpers as they always stood by the stable, eager to watch her, with loud cautions, as she rode away. It was a sharp touch of homesickness, and she turned her head so that she could hide her face from sight.
"I'll change with you, my dear, as we ride toward home; I see you are so competent a rider," offered Mr. Davis heartily. "Lightfoot is a steady beast, though I must own you found him otherwise this morning; this chestnut is younger and freer-gaited." He had a strange sense, as he spoke, that Mary was no longer in good spirits. Perhaps the heavy horse had tired her strength, though Lightfoot was as good a creature as any in Bristol, and much admired for his noble appearance.
Mary eagerly protested, and patted the old horse with still greater friendliness and approval as they went riding on toward the town. The alderman sighed at the very sight of her youth and freshness; it would be pleasant to have such a daughter for his own. A man likes young company as he grows older; though the alderman might be growing clumsy on his own legs, the good horse under him made him feel like a lad of twenty. This was a fine day to ride out from Bristol, and the weather of the best. Mr. Davis began to mind him of an errand of business to Westbury on Trym, beyond the Clifton Downs, where, on the morrow, he could show Miss Hamilton still finer prospects than these.
They stopped at last before a handsome lodging in the middle of the town of Bath. Mr. George Fairfax was a Virginian, of old Lord Bryan Fairfax's near kindred, a man of great wealth, and a hearty Loyalist; his mother, a Cary of Hampton, had been well known to Madam Wallingford in their early years. He was at home this day, and came out at once to receive his guests with fine hospitality, being on excellent terms of friendship with the old merchant. They greeted each other with great respect before Miss Hamilton's presence was explained; and then Mr. Fairfax's smiling face was at once clouded. He had been the hope and stay of so many distressed persons, in these anxious days of war, that he could only sigh as he listened. It was evident enough that, however charming this new sufferer and applicant might be, their host could but regret her errand. Yet one might well take pleasure in her lovely face, even if she must be disappointed, as most ladies were, in the hope of receiving an instant and ample pension from the Ministers of His Majesty George the Third.
Mr. Fairfax, with great courtesy, began to say something of his regrets and fears.
"But we do not ask for these kind favors," Mary interrupted him, with gentle dignity. "You mistake our present errand, sir. Madam Wallingford is in no need of such assistance. We are provided with what money we are like to need, as our good friend here must already know. The people at home" - and she faltered for one moment before she could go on. "It was indeed thought best that Madam Wallingford should be absent for a time; but she was glad to come hither for her son's sake, who is in prison. We have come but to find him and to set him free, and we ask for your advice and help. Here is her letter," and Miss Hamilton hesitated and blushed with what seemed to both the gentlemen a most pretty confusion. "I ought to tell you, Mr. Fairfax - I think you should know, sir, that I am of the Patriots. My brother was with General Washington, with his own regiment, when I left home."
Mr. George Fairfax bowed ceremoniously, but his eyes twinkled a little, and he took instant refuge in reading the letter. This was evidently an interesting case, but not without its difficulties.
"The young gentleman in question also appears to be a Patriot," he said seriously, as he looked up at Mr. Davis. "In Miss Hamilton's presence I must drop our usual term of 'rebel.' Madam Wallingford professes herself unshaken in her hereditary allegiance to the Crown; but as for this young officer, her son, I am astonished to find that he has been on board the Ranger with that Paul Jones who is the terror of all our ports now, and the chief pest and scourge of our commerce here in England. 'T is a distressed parent, indeed!"
"You have the right of it," said the old British merchant, with great eagerness and reproach. Mr. Davis was not a man who found it easy to take the humorous point of view. "It seems that he was left ashore, that night of the attack upon Whitehaven, in the north, which you will well remember. He was caught by the town guard. You know that we captured one of the Ranger's men? 'T was this same young officer, and, though badly wounded, he was ordered to the Mill Prison, and is said to have arrived in a dying state. For his mother's sake (and her face would distress any man's heart), I try to believe that he is yet alive and lies there in the jail; but 't is a sorry house of correction that he has come to through his own foolishness. They say he is like to have been hanged already."
"Good God! what a melancholy story, and all England thinking that he deserves his fate!" exclaimed Fairfax. "I cannot see how anything can be done."
"There is but one gleam of hope," said Mr. Davis, who had not sat among the Bristol magistrates in vain. He spoke pompously, but with some kindness for Miss Hamilton, who was listening sadly enough, the eager bravery of her face all gone; their last words had been very hard to bear. "There is one thing to add. The story reached America, before these good friends left, that young Mr. Wallingford was suspected by many persons on board the Ranger of still holding to his early Loyalist principles. They openly accused him of an effort to betray the ship into our hands. If this is true" -
"It is not true!" interrupted Miss Hamilton, and both the gentlemen looked a little startled. "No, it is not true," she repeated more calmly. "It is not a proper plea to make, if he should never be set free."
"We must think of his mother; we are only reviewing the situation in our own fashion," said the elder man, frowning a stern rebuke at her. But she would have her way.
"Mr. Davis has been very kind in the matter," she continued. "When we were speaking together, last night, he told me that Lord Mount Edgecumbe was now in Bath, and would have great influence about the American prisoners."
"That is true," said Mr. Fairfax politely; "but I do not possess the honor of his lordship's acquaintance, and I fear that I have no means of reaching him. He is in bad health, and but lately arrived in Bath to take the waters."
"Miss Hamilton has brought letters" -
"I have some letters, given me by an old friend at home," acknowledged Mary. "The writer was very sure that they would be of use to us. Do you happen to know anything of Lord Newburgh, sir, and where he may be found?"
"Lord Newburgh?" repeated the Virginian eagerly, with a quick shake of his head and a sudden frown, though there was again a twinkle of merriment in his eyes. Mary's best hopes suddenly fell to the ground. She was aware as she had not been before upon how slight a foundation these best hopes might have been built. She had always looked up to Master Sullivan with veneration; the mystery of his presence was like an enchantment to those who knew him best. But he had been a long lifetime in America; he might have written his letters to dead men only; they might be worth no more than those withered oak leaves of last year that were fluttering on the hedges, pierced by a new growth.
There was a pause. Mr. Fairfax's face seemed full of pity. Miss Hamilton began to resent his open show of sympathy.
"I am strangely inhospitable!" he exclaimed. "We were so quick at our business that I forgot to offer you anything, sir, and you, Miss Hamilton, after your morning's ride! No, no, it is no trouble. You will excuse me for a moment? I am like to forget my good bringing up in Virginia, and my lady is just now absent from home."
Mr. Fairfax quickly left the room. The alderman sat there speechless, but looking satisfied and complacent. It certainly did make a man thirsty to ride abroad on a sunshiny morning, and his ears were sharp-set for the comfortable clink of glasses. The heavy tray presently arrived, and was put near him on a card table, and the old butler, with his pleasant Virginian speech, was eager in the discharge of hospitality; Mr. Fairfax being still absent, and Mary quite at the end of her courage. She could not take the cool draught which old Peter offered her with respectful entreaties, as if he were Cæsar, their own old slave; she tried to look at the hunting pictures on the wall, but they blurred strangely, - there was something the matter with her eyes.
"What noble Jamaica spirits!" said Mr. John Davis, looking at the ceiling with affected indifference as his glass was being replenished. "Did your master grow these lemons on his own plantations in Virginia? They are of a wondrous freshness," he added politely, to repeat his approval of such an entertainment. "Miss Hamilton, my dear, you forget we must take the long ride back again to Bristol. I fear you make a great mistake to refuse any refreshment at good Peter's hands."
The door was thrown open and Mr. Fairfax made a handsome, middle-aged gentleman precede him into the room.
"I was afraid that I should miss this noble friend," he said gayly; "he might have been taking advantage of so fine a morning, like yourselves. Here is my Lord Newburgh, Miss Hamilton; this is Lord Newburgh himself for you! You must have heard of the Honorable Mr. Davis, of Bristol, my lord? - one of their great merchants. I have told you already that Miss Hamilton brings you a letter, and that she hopes for your interest with my Lord Mount Edgecumbe. My dear Miss Hamilton, this gives me great pleasure! When you said that you had brought such a letter, I was sure at last that there was one thing I could do for you."
Lord Newburgh gravely saluted these new acquaintances, taking quick notice of the lady's charm, and smiling over his shoulder at Mr. Fairfax's excited manner. He waved his hand in kind protest to check Peter's officious approach with the tray of glasses.
"So you have a letter for me, from America, Miss Hamilton?" he asked bluntly; and she put it into his hand.
Lord Newburgh gave a curious look at the carefully written address, and turned the folded sheet to see the seal. Then he flushed like a man in anger and bit his lip as he looked at the seal again, and started back as he stood close by the window, so that they all saw him. Then he tore open Master Sullivan's letter.
"It is dated this very last month!" he cried. "My God! do you mean to tell me that this man is still alive?"
"Would that she had told us of the trials of that time, and why it was that her heart rose against the new world and the new manners to which she had come!": This passage appears in Charles Eliot Norton's 1897 introduction to The Poems of Anne Bradstreet (p. xxv).
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sharp-set: Usually refers to a keen appetite. Perhaps derived from a metaphor for the setting of teeth on a saw blade.
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Jamaica spirits: Rum.
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