The Tory Lover -- Contents
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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett

Chapter XLIV

THE ROAD'S END

"In sum, such a man as any enemy could not wish him worse than to be himself."
 

     "I found him in a lonely place:
      Long nights he ruled my soul in sleep:
      Long days I thought upon his face."
 

     After the packet went there were three men left in the kitchen, who sat by themselves at a small table. The low-storied, shadowy room was ill lighted by a sullen, slow-burning fire, much obscured by pots and kettles, and some tallow candles scattered on out-of-the-way shelves. The mistress of the place scolded over her heap of clattering crockery and heavy pewter in a far corner. The men at the table had finished their supper, and having called for more drink, were now arguing over it. Two of them wore coats that were well spattered with mud; the third was a man better dressed, who seemed above his company, but wore a plausible, persistent look on his sallow countenance. This was Dickson, who had been set ashore in a fishing boat, and was now industriously plying his new acquaintances with brandy, beside drinking with eagerness himself at every round of the bottle. He forced his hospitality upon the better looking of his two companions, who could not be made to charge his glass to any depth, or to empty it so quickly as his mate. Now and then they put their heads together to hear a tale which Dickson was telling, and once burst into a roar of incredulous laughter which made the landlady command them to keep silence.

     She was busy now with trying to bring out of the confusion an orderly supper for her patient guests of the parlor, and sent disapproving glances toward the three men near the fire, as if she were ready to speed their going. They had drunk hard, but the sallow-faced man called for another bottle, and joked with the poor slatternly girl who went and came serving their table. They were so busy with their own affairs that they did not notice a man who slipped into the kitchen behind them, as the Welshmen went out. As the three drank a toast together he crossed to the fireside, and seated himself in the corner of the great settle, where the high back easily concealed his slight figure from their sight. Both the women saw him there, but he made them a warning gesture. He was not a yard away from Dickson.

     The talk was freer than ever; the giver of the feast, in an unwonted outburst of generosity, flung a shilling on the flagged floor, and bade the poor maid scramble for it and keep it for herself. Then Dickson let his tongue run away with all his discretion. He began to brag to these business acquaintances of the clever ways in which he had gained his own ends on board the Ranger, and outwitted those who had too much confidence in themselves. He even bragged that Captain John Paul Jones was in his power, after a bold fashion that made his admiring audience open their heavy eyes.

     "We're safe enough here from that mistaken ferret," he insisted, after briefly describing the ease with which he had carried out their evening plans. "You might have been cooling your heels here waiting for me the whole week long, and I waiting for my money, too, but for such a turn of luck! If I didn't want to get to France, and get my discharge, and go back to America as quick as possible without suspicion, I'd tell you just where he landed, and put him into your hands like a cat in a bag, to be easy drowned!"

     "He's in Bristol to-night, if you must know," Dickson went on, after again refreshing himself with the brandy; "we set him ashore to ride there over Clifton Downs. Yes, I might have missed ye. He's a bold devil, but to-night the three of us here could bag him easy. I've put many a spoke in his wheel. There was a young fellow aboard us, too, that had done me a wrong at home that I never forgave; and that night at Whitehaven I've already told ye of, when I fixed the candles, after I got these papers that you've come for, I dropped some pieces of 'em, and things that was with 'em, in my pretty gentleman's locker. So good friends were parted after that, and the whole Whitehaven matter laid to his door. I could tell ye the whole story. His name's Wallingford, curse him, and they say he's got a taste o' your Mill Prison by this time that's paid off all our old scores. I hope he's dead and damned!"

     "Who's your man Wallingford? I've heard the name myself. There's a reward out for him; or did I hear he was pardoned?" asked one of the men.

     "'T was a scurvy sort o' way to make him pay his debts. I'd rather ended it man fashion, if I had such a grudge," said the other listener, the man who had been drinking least.

     Dickson's wits were now overcome by the brandy, hard-headed as he might boast himself. "If you knew all I had suffered at his hands!" he protested. "He robbed me of a good living at home, and made me fail in my plans. I was like to be a laughingstock!"

     The two men shrugged their shoulders when he next pushed the bottle toward them, and said that they had had enough. "Come, now," said one of them, "let's finish our business! You have this document o' one Yankee privateersman called Paul Jones that our principal's bound for to get. You've set your own thieves' price on it, and we're sent here to pay it. I'm to see it first, to be sure there's no cheat, and then make a finish."

     "The paper's worth more than 't was a month ago," said Dickson shrewdly. His face was paler than ever, and in strange contrast to the red faces of his companions. "The time is come pretty near for carrying out the North Sea scheme. He may have varied from this paper when he found the writing gone, but I know for a fact he has the cruise still in mind, and 't would be a hard blow to England."

     "'T is all rot you should ask for more money," answered the first speaker doggedly. "We have no more money with us; 't is enough, too; the weight of it has gallded me with every jolt of the horse. Say, will you take it or leave it? Let me but have a look at the paper! I've a sample of their cipher here to guage it by. Come, work smart, I tell ye! You'll be too drunk to deal with soon, and we must quick begone."

     Dickson, swearing roundly at them, got some papers out of his pocket, and held one of them in his hand.

     "Give me the money first!" he growled.

     "Give us the paper," said the other; "'t is our honest right."

     There was a heavy tramping in the room above, as if some one had risen from sleep, and there was a grumble of voices; a door was opened and shut, and steady footsteps came down the creaking stair and through the dark entry; a moment more, and the tall figure of a young man stood within the room.

     "Well, then, and is my supper ready?" asked Wallingford, looking about him cheerfully, but a little dazed by the light.

     There was a smothered outcry; the table was overset, and one of the three men sprang to his feet as if to make his escape.

     "Stand where you are till I have done with you!" cried the lieutenant instantly, facing him. "You have a reckoning to pay! By Heaven, I shall kill you if you move!" and he set his back against the door by which he had just entered. "Tell me first, for Heaven's sake, you murderer, is the Ranger within our reach?"

     "She is lying in the port of Brest," answered the trapped adventurer, with much effort. He was looking about him to see if there were any way to get out of the kitchen, and his face was like a handful of dirty wool. Outside the nearest window there were two honest faces from the Roscoff boat's crew pressed close against the glass, and looking in delightedly at the play. Dickson saw them, and his heart sank; he had been sure they were waiting for Paul Jones, half a dozen miles down shore.

     "Who are these men with you, and what is your errand here?" demanded Wallingford, who saw no one but the two strangers and his enemy.

     "None of your damned business!" yelled Dickson, like a man suddenly crazed; his eyes were starting from his head. The landlady came scolding across the kitchen to bid him pay and begone, with his company, and Dickson turned again to Wallingford with a sneer.

     "You'll excuse us, then, at this lady's request," he said, grinning. The brandy had come to his aid again, now the first shock of their meeting was past, and made him overbold. "I'll bid you good-night, my hero, 'less you'll come with us. There's five pounds bounty on his head, sirs!" he told the messengers, who stood by the table.

     They looked at each other and at Dickson; it was a pretty encounter, but they were not themselves; they were both small-sized men, moreover, and Wallingford was a strapping great fellow to tackle in a fight. There he stood, with his back against the door, an easy mark for a bullet, and Dickson's hand went in desperation a second time to his empty pocket. The woman, seeing this, cried that there should be no shooting, and stepping forward stood close before Wallingford; she had parted men in a quarrel many a time before, and the newcomer was a fine upstanding young gentleman, of a different sort from the rest.

     "You have no proof against me, anyway!" railed Dickson. He could not bear Wallingford's eyes upon him. His Dutch courage began to ebb, and the other men took no part with him; it was nothing they saw fit to meddle with, so far as the game had gone. He still held the paper in his hand.

     "You haven't a chance against us!" he now bellowed, in despair. "We are three to your one here. Take him, my boys, and tie him down! He's worth five pounds to you, and you may have it all between ye!"

     At this moment there was a little stir behind the settle, and some one else stepped out before them, as if he were amused by such bungling play.

     "I have got proof enough myself now," said Captain Paul Jones quietly, standing there like the master of them all, "and if hanging's enough proof for you, Dickson, I must say you've a fair chance of it. When you've got such business on hand as this, let brandy alone till you've got it done. The lieutenant was pardoned weeks ago; the papers wait for him in Bristol. He is safer than we are in England."

     Wallingford leaped toward his friend with a cry of joy; they were in each other's arms like a pair of Frenchmen. As for Dickson, he sank to the floor like a melted candle; his legs would not hold him up; he gathered strength enough to crawl toward Wallingford and clutch him by the knees.

     "Oh, have pity on my sick wife and little family!" he wailed aloud there, and blubbered for mercy, till the lieutenant shook him off, and he lay, still groaning, on the flagstones.

     The captain had beckoned to his men, and they were within the room.

     "Give me my papers, Dickson, and begone," he said; "and you two fellows may get you gone, too, with your money. Stay, let me see it first!" he said.

     They glanced at each other in dismay. They had no choice; they had left their pistols in their holsters; the business had seemed easy, and the house so decent. They could not tell what made them so afraid of this stern commander. The whole thing was swift and irresistible; they meekly did his bidding and gave the money up. It was in a leather bag, and the captain held it with both hands and looked gravely down at Dickson. The other men stared at him, and wondered what he was going to do; but he only set the bag on the table, and poured some of the yellow gold into his hand.

     "Look there, my lads!" he said. "There must be some infernal magic in the stuff that makes a man sell his soul for it. Look at it, Dickson, if you can! Mr. Wallingford, you have suffered too much, I fear, through this man's infamy. I have doubted you myself by reason of his deviltries, and I am heartily ashamed of it. Forgive me if you can, but I shall never forgive myself.

     "Put this man out!" said the captain loudly, turning to his sailors, and they stepped forward with amusing willingness. "Take him down to the boat and put off. I shall join you directly. If he jumps overboard, don't try to save him; 't were the best thing he could do."

     Dickson, wretched and defeated, was at last made to stand, and then took his poor revenge; he sent the crumpled paper that was in his hand flying into the fire, and Paul Jones only laughed as he saw it blaze. The game was up. Dickson had lost it, and missed all the fancied peace and prosperity of the future by less than a brief half hour. The sailors kicked him before them out of the door; it was not a noble exit for a man of some natural gifts, who had undervalued the worth of character.

     The captain took up the bag of gold and gave it back to the men. "This is in my power, but it is spies' money, and I don't want such!" he said scornfully. "You may take it to your masters, and say that Captain John Paul Jones, of the United States frigate Ranger, sent it back."

     They gave each other an astonished look as they departed from the room. "There's a man for my money," said one of the men to the other, when they were outside. "I'd ship with him to-night, and I'd sail with him round the world and back again! So that's Paul Jones, the pirate. Well, I say here's his health and good luck to him, Englishman though I be!" They stood amazed in the dark outside with their bag of money, before they stole away. There was nothing they could do, even if they had wished him harm, and to-morrow they could brag that they had seen a hero.
 

     The mistress of the inn had betaken herself to the parlor to lay the table for supper. Mr. Alderman Davis had just waked, hearing a fresh noise in the house, and the lady was bidding him to go and look if the captain were not already come. But he first stopped to give some orders to the landlady.

     The two officers of the Ranger were now alone in the kitchen; they stood looking at each other. Poor Wallingford's face was aged and worn by his distresses, and the captain read it like an open book.

     "I thank God I have it in my power to make you some amends!" he exclaimed. "I believe that I can make you as happy as you have been miserable. God bless you, Wallingford! Wait here for me one moment, my dear fellow," he said, with affection, and disappeared.

     Wallingford, still possessed by his astonishment, sat down on the great settle by the fire. This whole scene had been like a play; all the dreary weeks and days that had seemed so endless and hopeless had come to this sudden end with as easy a conclusion as when the sun comes out and shines quietly after a long storm that has wrecked the growing fields. He thought of the past weeks when he had been but a hunted creature on the moors with his hurt comrade, and the tread of their pursuers had more than once jarred the earth where their heads were lying. He remembered the dull happiness of succeeding peace and safety, when he had come to be wagoner in the harvest time for a good old farmer by Taunton, and earned the little money and the unquestioned liberty that had brought him on his way to Chippenham market and this happy freedom. He was free again, and with his captain; he was a free unchallenged man. Please God, he should some day see home again and those he loved.

     There was a light footstep without, and the cheerful voice of an elderly man across the passage. The kitchen door opened, and shut again, and there was a flutter of a woman's dress in the room. The lieutenant was gazing at the fire; he was thinking of his mother and of Mary. What was the captain about so long in the other room?

     There was a cry that made his heart stand still, that made him catch his breath as he sprang to his feet; a man tall and masterful, but worn with hardships and robbed of all his youth. There was some one in the room with him, some one looking at him in tenderness and pity, with the light of heaven on her lovely face; grown older, too, and struck motionless with the sudden fright of his presence. There stood the woman he loved. There stood Mary Hamilton herself, come to his arms - Heaven alone knew how - from the other side of the world.


Notes

"In sum, such a man as any enemy could not wish him worse than to be himself.":  This quotation has not been identified.  Assistance is welcome.
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     I found him in a lonely place:
      Long nights he ruled my soul in sleep:
      Long days I thought upon his face:
From John Addington Symonds (1840-1926), "Clifton and a Lad's Love" (1862, reworked 1885).  The poem begins:

 He was all beautiful: as fair
 As summer in the silent trees;
 As bright as sunshine on the leas;
 As gentle as the evening air.

 His voice was swifter than the lark;
 Softer than thistle-down his cheek;
 His eyes were stars that shyly break
 At sundown ere the skies are dark.

 I found him in a lowly place:
 He sang clear songs that made me weep:
 Long nights he ruled my soul in sleep:
 Long days I thought upon his face.

The exchange of "lonely" for "lowly" has not been explained.
(Research: Gabe Heller)
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The Tory Lover -- Contents