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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
Chapter XXXVIII

FULL OF STRAYING STREETS

"Nous ne souffrons que dans la mesure où nous co-opérons à nos souffrances."

"His age saw visions, though his youth dream'd dreams."
 

     The town of Bristol was crowded with Loyalist refugees: some who had fled the colonies for honest love of their King, and some who believed that when the King's troops had put down the rebellion they should be well rewarded for holding to his cause. They were most of them cut off from what estates they may have had, and were begging for pensions from a government that seemed cruelly indifferent. Their sad faces fairly shadowed the Bristol streets, while many of them idled the day through, discussing their prospects with one another, and killing time that might have been lived to some profit. The disappointment of their hope was unexpected, and an England that showed them neither sympathy nor honor when they landed on her shores, glowing with self-sacrifice, was but a sad astonishment. England, their own mother country, seemed fallen into a querulous dotage, with her King's ministers so pompous in their stupid ignorance and self-consequence, and her best statesmen fighting hard to be heard. It was an age of gamester heroes and of reckless living; a poor page of English history was unfolded before their wistful eyes. These honest Loyalists were made to know the mortified feelings of country gentlefolk come unheralded to a city house that was busy with its splendors on a feast day, and impatient of what was inopportune. Worse than this, though Judge Curwen and other loyal Americans of his company were still hopeful of consideration, and of being warmly received by England as her own true children, they were oftener held guilty of the vexing behavior of their brothers, those rebels against English authority whom they had left behind. Something to Mary's wonder, Madam Wallingford would have few of them to friend. She was too great a person at home to consent even now to any social familiarity on the score of political sympathies. She was known to have brought much money, and it was made easy for her to share this with one and another distressed acquaintance or friend's friend; but while this was done with generosity, she showed herself more and more impatient of their arguments, even of those plaints which were always ready, and the story of such grievances as had led them into exile.

     "I am too ill and sad to listen to these things," she said often, even to her friends the Pepperrells, who came from London to visit her. "I only know my country's troubles through my own sorrow." She begged them at last to find poor Roger's grave, so she might go there to pray for him; 't was all that she could do. "Oh no," she would say mournfully to those who looked for her assent to their own views of the great situation, "do not expect me to understand you. I am only a mother, and all my life is done!"
 

     The Bristol streets were busy as Miss Hamilton came walking through the town, and the bells were ringing for a holiday. She was deep in anxious thought, and kept steadily on her way toward the abbey church, without even a glance at a tradesman's window or a look at the people she met. Life was filled with new anxieties. Since the day when they had left Plymouth they could find no trace of Roger Wallingford, beyond the certainty that he had made his escape with some fellow prisoners through a tunnel which they had been for many days digging under the prison wall. There had been a light near the opening in the field outside, and a guard set, but six men had gone out of the narrow hole and crawled away. It was a windy night, and the lantern light and shadows wavered on the ground and hid them. Two were shot and killed, but two were captured and brought back at once, while another was shot and got away, stumbling and falling often, and bleeding like a slaughtered creature, as the watch could see next morning by daylight. This poor fellow had escaped to the moors; there was a pool of blood in a place where he must have hidden for some hours among the furze bushes. There was so large a bounty paid for any escaped traitors and felons like these, who might be brought back alive to the Mill Prison, that the poor moorland folk back of Plymouth were ever on the quest. Roger Wallingford might have been that bleeding man. They would not dare to keep together; his companion might have left him dying or dead somewhere in the lonely waste country that stretched miles away above the prison. His fate was sure if he should be captured; he was not a man to yield his life too easily. There were some carefully worded notices posted, - broadsides which might easily reach the eyes of such fugitives if they ventured into any of the Devon towns near by; but they might well have starved to death by this time in the deserts of Dartmoor. One sailor beside the lieutenant had succeeded in making his escape.
 

     Mary Hamilton had left her lady pale and in tears that morning, and all her affectionate solicitude had been in vain.

     There was some relief in finding herself afoot in the fresh air. For the first time she wondered if they must yield all their hopes and think of going home. It must be so if they should come to know that Roger was really dead, and her heart stopped as if with a sudden shock. Alas, next moment she remembered that for poor Madam Wallingford there was no safe return; her son was not yet disproven of Tory crimes. If there were any chance of sailing, the poor lady was far too ill and feeble in these last days. The summer, the little that was left of it, looked long and dreary; the days were already growing short. There had not come a word from home since they sailed.

     There was no longer much use in riding abroad on futile quests, and in these last days most persons had ceased to ask if there were any news of the lieutenant. Week after week had gone by, and his mother's proud courage was gone, while her bodily strength was fast failing. Lord Newburgh and Mr. Fairfax, even Lord Mount Edgecumbe himself, had shown very great kindness in so difficult a matter, and Mary never let them go away unthanked for any favors which it could only be a happiness for any man to bestow. The gift and spell of beauty were always hers, and a heart that was always ready to show both gratitude and affection. She might not speak these things, but she was instant in giving the sweetest recognition to the smallest service that she might discover.

     The abbey church of St. Augustine was cool and dim as Mary Hamilton went in, with a drooping head and a heavy heart. Her courage had never before seemed so utterly to fail. She had passed two forlorn Royalists at the gatehouse who were talking of their pensions, and heard one of them say, "If I were safe home again I'd never leave it, principles or no principles!" and the words rang dull and heavy in her ears. She sat down on an old stone bench in the side aisle; the light came sifting down to the worn stone pavement, but she was in shadow, behind a great pillar that stood like a monstrous tree to hold the lofty roof. There was no one in sight. The lonely girl looked up at a familiar old Jacobean monument on the wall, with the primly ruffed father and mother kneeling side by side with clasped hands, and their children kneeling in a row behind them down to the very least, in a pious little succession. They were all together there in comfortable safety, and many ancient tablets covered the walls about them with the names and virtues of soldiers and sailors, priests and noblemen, and gallant gentlemen of Old England with their children and their good wives.

     "They have all won through," whispered Mary to herself. "They have all fought the long battle and have carried care like me, and they have all won through. I shall not be a coward, either," and her young heart rose; but still the tears kept coming, and she sat bowed in the shadow and could not lift her head, which until lately had faced the sun like a flower. She sat there, at last, not thinking of her present troubles, but of home: of old Peggy and the young maids who often sang at their pleasant work; the great river at full tide, with its wooded shores and all its points and bays; the fishing weirs in the distance; the slow, swaying flight of the eagles and the straight course of the herons overhead. She thought of the large, quiet house facing southward, and its rows of elms, and the slender poplars going down the garden terraces; she even heard the drone of the river falls; she saw the house standing empty, all the wide doors shut to their old hospitality. A sense of awful distance fell upon her heart. The responsibility and hopelessness of her errand were too heavy on her young heart. She covered her face and bent still lower, but she could not stop her tears.

     There came the sound of footsteps up the nave: it might be the old verger in his rusty gown, or some sightseer stopping here and there to read an inscription. Poor Mary's tears would have their way: to one of her deep nature weeping was sad enough in itself; to cry for sorrow's sake was no common sorrow. She was safe in her dim corner, and thought little of being seen; she was only a poor girl in sore trouble, with her head sunk in her hands, who could not in any way concern a stranger. The wandering footsteps stopped near by, instead of going on and entering the choir. She noticed, then, in a dull way, the light echo of their sound among the arches overhead.

     "My God!" said a man's voice, as if in great dismay.

     The speaker stepped quickly to Mary's side, and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. She looked up into the face of Captain Paul Jones of the Ranger.


Notes

FULL OF STRAYING STREETS: From William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Act 1, Scene 5:
 This world's a city full of straying streets,
 And death's the market-place where each one meets.
(Research: Gabe Heller)

"Nous ne souffrons que dans la mesure où nous co-opérons à nos souffrances.": "We suffer only insofar as we cooperate with our sufferings."  This quotation has not been identified.  Assistance is welcome.

"His age saw visions, though his youth dream'd dreams.": See Acts 2:17.  (Research: Gabe Heller)
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Jacobean monument:  For a description of the church and the monument, see Bristol in "Places in the Novel."
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