The Tory Lover -- Contents
 
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
.Chapter XXXIX

MERCY AND MANLY COURAGE

     "Look on his honour!
That bears no stamp of time, no wrinkles on it;
No sad demolishment nor death can reach it."

"O my dear better Angel and my star,
My earthly sight needs yours, your heavenly, mine!"
 

     The captain's eyes were full of tears; it was no sign that he lacked manliness. To find Miss Hamilton in England, to find her alone and in piteous despair, was the opportunity of his own heart. He could not but be startled into wondering silence; the event was too astonishing even for one so equal to emergencies; but he stood ready, with beating heart and sure sense of a man's abundant strength, to shelter her and to fight against the thing that troubled her, whatever it might be. Presently he seated himself by Mary's side, and took her hand in his and held it fast, still without speaking. She was the better for such friendliness, and yet wept the more for his very sympathy.

     The captain waited until her passion of tears had spent itself. It was a pity she could not watch his compassionate face; all that was best and kindest in the man was there to see, with a grave look born of conflict and many grievous disappointments. To see Paul Jones now, one could not but believe him capable of the sternest self-command; he had at least the unassuming and quiet pride of a man who knows no master save himself. His eyes were full of womanly tenderness as he looked down at the pathetic bowed head beside him. Next moment they had a keen brightness as he caught sight of a tablet on the abbey wall to some Bristol hero long dead, - the gallant servant, through many perils by sea and land, of Anne his Queen: it was a record that the captain's heart could perfectly understand.

     "Calm yourself now, my dearest girl," he said at last, with gentle authority. "I must not stay long beside you; I am always in danger here. I was not unknown in Bristol as a younger man."

     Mary lifted her head; for a moment the sight of his face helped to put her own miseries quite out of mind. Her ready sympathy was quickly enough roused when she saw how Paul Jones had changed. He had grown much older; years might have passed instead of months since that last evening he had spent in America, when she had seen him go away with his men by moonlight down the river. Now more than ever he might easily win the admiration of a woman's heart! She had half forgotten the charm of his voice, the simple directness of his eyes and their strange light, with something in his behavior that men called arrogance and willful rivalry, and women recognized as a natural royalty and irresistible, compelling power. To men he was too imperious, to women all gentleness and courtesy.

     "You are in disguise!" she exclaimed, amazed at his courage. "How do you dare, even you, to be here in Bristol in broad day?" and she found herself smiling, in spite of her unchecked tears. The captain held a rough woolen cap in his hand; he was dressed in that poor garb of the hungry Spanish sailor of Quiberon, which had so often done him good service.

     "Tell me what has brought you here," he answered. "That is by far the greatest wonder. I am no fit figure to sit beside you, but 't is the hand of God that has brought us here together. Heaven forbid that you should ever shed such bitter tears again!" he said devoutly, and sat gazing at her like a man in a day dream.

     "Sometimes God wills that we shall be sorry-hearted; but when He sends the comfort of a friend, God himself can do no more," answered the girl, and there fell a silence between them. There was a sparrow flying to and fro among the pillars, and chirping gayly under the high roof, - a tiny far-fallen note, and full of busy cheer. The late summer sunshine lay along the floor of that ancient house of God where Mary and the captain sat alone together, and there seemed to be no other soul in the place.

     Her face was shining brighter and brighter; at last, at last she could know the truth, and hear what had happened at Whitehaven, and ask for help where help could be surely given.

     "But why are you here? You must indeed be bold, my lord captain!" she ventured again, in something very like the old gay manner that he knew; yet she still looked very white, except for her tear-stained eyes. "There were new tales of your seafaring told in the town only yesterday. I believe they are expecting you in every corner of England at once, and every flock of their shipping is dreading a sight of the Sea Wolf."

     "I do my own errands, - that is all," replied the captain soberly. "My poor Ranger is lying now in the port of Brest. I am much hampered by enemies, but I shall presently break their nets. . . . I was for a look at their shipping here, and how well they can defend it. There is a well-manned, able fish-boat out of Roscoff, on the Breton coast, which serves me well on these expeditions. I have a plan, later, for doing great mischief to their Baltic fleet. I had to bring the worst of my ship's company with me; 't is my only discomfort," said Paul Jones, with bitterness. "I have suffered far too much," and he sighed heavily and changed his tone. "I believe now that God's providence has brought me to your side; such happiness as this makes up for everything. You remember that I have been a sailor all my life," he continued, as if he could not trust himself to speak with true feeling. "I have been acquainted since childhood with these English ports."

     "You did not know that I had come to Bristol?" said Mary. "Oh yes, we have been here these many weeks now," and she also sighed.

    "How should I know?" asked Paul Jones impatiently. "I am overwhelmed by such an amazing discovery. I could burst into tears; I am near to being unmanned, though you do not suspect it. Think, dear, think what it is to me! I have no discretion, either, when I babble my most secret affairs aloud, and hardly know what I am saying. I must leave you in a few short moments. What has brought you here? Tell me the truth, and how I may safely manage to see you once again. If you were only in France, with my dear ladies there, they would love and cherish you with all their kind hearts! 'T is the Duchess of Chartres who has been my good angel since I came to France, and another most exquisite being whom I first met at her house, - a royal princess, too. Oh, I have much to tell you! Their generous friendship and perfect sympathy alone have kept me from sinking down. I have suffered unbelievable torture from the jealousy and ignorance of men who should have known their business better, and given me every aid."

     "I am thankful you have such friends as these ladies," said Mary, with great sweetness. "I am sure that you have been a good friend to them. Some knowledge of your difficulties had reached us before we left home; but, as you know, intercourse is now much interrupted, and we were often uncertain of what had passed at such a distance. We hear nothing from home, either," she added mournfully. "We are in great distress of mind; you could see that I was not very cheerful. . . . I fear in my heart that poor Madam Wallingford will die."

     "Madam Wallingford!" repeated the captain. "You cannot mean that she is here!" he exclaimed, with blank astonishment. His tone was full of reproach, and even resentment. "Poor lady! I own that I have had her in my thoughts, and could not but pity her natural distress," he added, with some restraint, and then burst forth into excited speech: "There is no need that they should make a tool of you, - you who are a Patriot and Hamilton's own sister! This is arrant foolishness!"

     He sprang to his feet, and stood before Miss Hamilton, with his eyes fixed angrily upon her face. "If I could tell you everything! Oh, I am outdone with this!" he cried, with a gesture of contempt.

     "Captain Paul Jones," she said, rising quickly to confront him, "I beg you to tell me everything. I cannot believe that Roger Wallingford is a traitor, and I love his mother almost as if she were my own. I came to England with her of my own wish and free will, and because it was my right to come. Will you tell me plainly what has happened, and why you do not take his part?"

     The captain's quick change from such deep sympathy as he had shown for her tears to a complete scorn of their cause could only give a sad shock to Mary Hamilton's heart. He was no helper, after all. There came a dizzy bewilderment like a veil over her mind; it seemed as if she felt the final blow of Fate. She had not known how far she had spent her strength, or how her very homesickness had weakened her that day.

     "I fear it is true enough that he betrayed us at Whitehaven," said Paul Jones slowly, and not unmindful of her piteous look. "I could not bring myself to doubt him at first; indeed, I was all for him. I believe that I trusted him above every man on board. I was his champion until I found he had been meddling with my papers, - my most secret dispatches, too; yes, I have proof of this! And since then some of the stolen pages have found their way into our enemies' hands. He has not only betrayed me, but his country too; and worst of all in men's eyes, he has sinned against the code of honor. Yet there is one thing I will and must remember: 't is never the meanest men who serve their chosen cause as spies. The pity is that where success may be illustrious, the business asks completest sacrifice, and failure is the blackest disgrace. 'T is Wallingford's reward. I loved him once, and now I could stand at the gallows and see him hanged! Perhaps he would say that he acted from high motives, - 't is ever a spy's excuse; but I trusted him, and he would have ruined me."

     "I do not believe that he is guilty," declared Mary Hamilton, with perfect calmness, though she had drawn back in horror as she heard the last words and saw such blazing anger in Paul Jones's eyes. "You must look elsewhere for your enemy," she insisted, - "for some other man whose character would not forbid such acts as these. If Roger Wallingford has broken his oath of allegiance, my faith in character is done; I have known him all my life, and I can answer for him. Believe me, there is some mistake." Her eyes did not fall; as the captain held them straight and answerable with his own she met the challenge of his look, and there came a beautiful glow of pity and gentleness upon her face.

     The captain gave a long sigh.

     "I am sure that you are mistaken," she said again, quietly, since he did not speak. "We are now in great trouble, and even despair, about Mr. Wallingford, and have been able to get no word from him. We have his pardon in hand; it would make you wonder if I told you how it came to us. Your lieutenant was left most cruelly wounded on the shore at Whitehaven, and was like to die on the long journey to Plymouth jail where they sent him. How he has lived through all his sufferings I do not know. I have seen the Mill Prison, myself; they would not even let us speak with those who knew him among our poor captives. The night before we reached the prison he had escaped; there were some men shot down who were of his party. We can get no trace of him at all. Whether he is dead on the great moors, or still alive and wandering in distress, no one can tell. This does not look as if he were a spy for England; it were easy to give himself up, and to prove such a simple thing, if only to be spared such misery. I am afraid that his mother will soon fade out of life, now that, after all these weeks, she believes him dead. She thought he would return with us, when she saw us ride away to Plymouth, and the disappointment was more than she could bear."

     The bitter memory of that morning at the Mill Prison was like a sword in Mary's heart, and she stopped; she had spoken quickly, and was now trembling from head to foot. "I thought, when I saw your face, that you would know how to help us find him," she said sorrowfully, under her breath.

     "If I have been wrong," exclaimed the captain, "if I have been wrong, I should give my life to make amends! But all the proofs were there. I even found a bit of one of my own papers among his effects, - 't was in a book he had been reading. But I hid the matter from every one on board; I could not bear they should know it. Dickson's word was their mainstay at first; but that counted worse than nothing to me, till there were other matters which fully upheld his account."

     "Dickson has always been a man mistrusted and reproached," protested Miss Hamilton, with indignation. "There is a man for you whose character would not forbid such treachery! You must know, too, that he has a deep hatred for the Wallingfords, and would spare no pains to revenge himself."

     The captain stood doubtful and dismayed. "I have gone over this sad matter by day and by night," he said; "I do not see where I could be mistaken. I went to the bottom of my evidence without regard to Dickson, and I found proof enough. I hate that man, and distrust him, yet I can find little fault with his service on the ship; and when I have been surest of catching him in a lie, he always proves to have told the exact truth, and wears a martyr's air, and is full of his cursed cant and talk of piety. Alas, I know not what can be done at this late day."

     "Did you never think that Dickson could put many a proof like your bit of paper where your eyes alone could fall upon it?" asked Mary. "I remember well that he has tried more than once to cast blame upon others when he himself was the sinner. He has plenty of ability; 't is his bad use of it that one may always fear."

     The captain moved restlessly, as if conscious of her accusation. "Many believed Wallingford to be a Tory on the ship," he answered. "They were jealous and suspicious of his presence; but Dickson, who has warped Simpson's honest mind against me, may also have set his energies to this. If we could only find Wallingford! If we could only hear his own story of that night! In all this time he should have sent some word to me, if he were innocent. If I were free, I'd soon know what they learned from him in the prison; he must have spoken openly with some of the Portsmouth men who are there. What can we do?" the speaker ended, in a different tone altogether, making a direct appeal to Mary. "If I have fallen a dupe to such a man as Dickson in this matter, I shall never recover from the shame. You would never forgive me. Alas, how can I ask the question that my heart prompts! You are most unhappy," said Paul Jones, with exquisite compassion. "Is it because of Wallingford alone? Oh, Mary, is there no hope for me? You have had my letters? You cannot but remember how we parted!"

     She looked at him imploringly.

     "Tell me," said the captain. "I must ask a question that is very hard for me. I believe that you love this unfortunate officer, and desire his safety beyond everything else. Is it not true?"

     Mary waited only a moment before she spoke.

     "Yes, it is true," she said then. "I know now that we have always belonged to each other."

     "Alas for my own happiness!" said the captain, looking at her. "I thought when we parted that last night" - He groaned, his words faltering. "Oh, that I had only spoken! Glory has been a jealous mistress to me, and I dared not speak; I feared 't would cost me all her favor, if my thoughts were all for you. It seems a lifetime ago. I could throw my hope of glory down at your feet now, if it were any use. I can do nothing without love. Oh, Mary, must you tell me that it is too late?"

     The captain's voice made poignant outcry to the listener's heart. The air seemed to quiver in strange waves, and the walls of the abbey seemed to sway unsteadily. The strong, determined soul before her was pleading for an impossible happiness. Even better than he could know, she knew that he lacked a woman's constant love and upholding, and that, with all his noble powers, his life tended toward ruin and disappointment. She stood there, white and wistful; her compassionate heart was shaken with pity for his loneliness.

     There was a change on the man's dark face; he took one step toward her, and then was conscious of a strange separation between them. Mary did not move, she did not speak; she stood there as a ghost might stand by night to pity the troubles of men. She knew, with a woman's foresight, the difference it would make if she could only stand with love and patience by his side.

     "There must be some one to love you as it is in your heart to love," she told him then. "God bless you and give you such a happiness! You are sure to find each other in this sad world. I know you will! I know you will!"

     One of the great bells began to ring in the tower, and its vibrations jarred her strangely; she could hardly hinder herself now from a new outburst of tears, and could not think clearly any more, and was trembling with weakness.

     "I must go home if I can," she whispered, but her voice was very low. "I cannot get home alone - No, no, I must not let you be so kind!"

     He placed her gently on the stone bench, and she leaned back heavily with his arm about her, thankful for some protecting affection in her brief bewilderment. She could not but hear his pitying, endearing words as her faintness passed; the poor girl was so breathless and weak that she could only throw herself upon his mercy. There was even an unexpected comfort in his presence, - she had been so much alone with strangers; she forgot everything save that he was a friend of her happier days. And as for the captain, he had held her in his arms, she had turned to him with touching readiness in her distress; nothing could ever rob his heart of the remembrance.

     He watched her with solicitude as her color came back, and lingered until he saw that she was herself again. They must part quickly, for he could not venture to be seen with her in the open streets.

     "You have convinced me that I may have been wrong about Wallingford," he said impulsively. "I shall now do my best to aid you and to search the matter out. I shall see you again. Your happiness will always be very dear to me. I can but thank Heaven for our being here together, though I have only added something to your pain. Perhaps these troubles may not be far from their solution, and I shall see you soon in happier hours."

     He kissed her hand and let it go; his old hope went with it; there must be a quick ending now. A man must always resent pity for himself, but his heart was full of most tender pity for this overburdened girl. There had been few moments of any sort of weakness in all the course of her long bravery, - he was sure enough of that, - and only loved her the more. She had been the first to show him some higher things: it was not alone her charm, but her character, her great power of affection, her perfect friendship, that would make him a nobler lover to his life's end.

     She watched him as he went away down the nave toward the open door; the poverty of such disguise and the poor sailor's threadbare dress could not hide a familiar figure, but he was alert no more, and even drooped a little as he stood for one moment in the doorway. He did not once look back; there were people in the church now, and his eyes were bent upon the ground. Then he lifted his head with all the spirit that belonged to him, stepped out boldly from the shadow into the bright daylight beyond, and was gone.

     The old verger crossed over to speak with Mary; he had learned to know her by sight, for she came often to the abbey church, and guessed that she might be one of the exiles from America.

     "'T was some poor sailor begging, I misdoubt. There's a sight o' beggars stranded in the town. I hope he would not make bold to vex you, my lady?" asked the dim-eyed old man, fumbling his snuffbox with trembling hands. "I fell asleep in the chapter room."

     "'T was some one I had known at home," Miss Hamilton answered. "He is a good man." And she smiled a little as she spoke. It would be so easy to cause a consternation in the town. Her head was steady now, but she still sat where the captain left her.

     "'T is a beautiful monyment, - that one," said the verger, pointing up to the kneeling figures in their prim ruffs. "'T is as beautiful a monyment as any here. I've made bold to notice how you often sits here to view it. Some o' your Ameriky folks was obsarvin' as their forbears was all buried in this abbey in ancient times; 't would be sure to make the owd place a bit homely."

     The bells were still chiming, and there were worshipers coming in. Mary Hamilton slipped away, lest she should meet some acquaintance; she felt herself shaken as if by a tempest. Paul Jones had gone into fresh danger when he left her side; his life was spent among risks and chances. She might have been gentler to him, and sent him away better comforted.

     She walked slowly, and stood still once in the street, startled by the remembrance of her frank confession of love; the warm color rushed to her pale face. To have told the captain, when she had never told Roger himself, or his mother, or any but her own heart! Yet all her sorrows were lightened by these unconsidered words: the whole world might hear them now; they were no secret any more.

     There were busy groups of people about the taverns and tobacco shops, as if some new excitement were in the air; it might be that there was news from America. As Mary passed, she heard one man shout to another that John Paul Jones, the pirate, had been seen the day before in Bristol itself. An old sailor, just landed from a long voyage at sea, had known him as he passed. There was word, too, that the Ranger had lately been sighted again off Plymouth, and had taken two prizes in the very teeth of the King's fleet.


Notes

MERCY AND MANLY COURAGE:  From William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Act 5, Scene 3.
     Emilia.  Arcite is gently visagd; yet his eye
 Is like an Engyn bent,or a sharpe weapon
 In a soft sheath; mercy, and manly courage
 Are bedfellowes in his visage.
    (Research: Gabe Heller)

     "Look on his honour!
That bears no stamp of time, no wrinkles on it;
No sad demolishment nor death can reach it."
 This quotation has not been identified.  Assistance is welcome.

"O my dear better Angel and my star,
My earthly sight needs yours, your heavenly, mine!":
 This quotation has not been identified.  Assistance is welcome.
    [ Back ]

Roscoff ... mischief to their Baltic fleet: Roscoff is a fishing port on the north Breton coast.  Morison confirms that Jones advanced a plan for disrupting British Baltic trade after he had completed his work with the Ranger (176), and to a limited extent, this was a purpose of his 1779 voyage in the Bon Homme Richard.
    [ Back ]

 
The Tory Lover -- Contents