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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
WITH THE FLOOD TIDE
"Swift are the currents setting all one way."**
No modern inventions of signals of any kind, or fleet couriers, could rival in swiftness the old natural methods of spreading a piece of welcome news through a New England countryside. Men called to each other from field to field, and shouted to strangers outward bound on the road; women ran smiling from house to house among the Berwick farms. It was known by mid-morning of a day late in October that Madam Wallingford's brig, the Golden Dolphin, had got into Portsmouth lower harbor the night before. Madam Wallingford herself was on board and well, with her son and Miss Mary Hamilton. They were all coming up the river early that very evening, with the flood tide.
The story flew through the old Piscataqua plantations, on both sides of the river, that Major Langdon himself had taken boat at once and gone down to Newcastle to meet the brig, accompanied by many friends who were eager to welcome the home-comers. There were tales told of a great wedding at Hamilton's within a month's time, though word went with these tales, of the lieutenant's forced leave of absence, some said his discharge, by reason of his wounds and broken health.
Roger Wallingford was bringing dispatches to Congress from the Commissioners in France. It was all a mistake that he had tried to betray his ship, and now there could be no one found who had ever really believed such a story, or even thought well of others who were so foolish as to repeat it. They all knew that it was Dickson who was openly disgraced, instead, and had now escaped from justice, and those who had once inclined to excuse him and to admire his shrewdness willingly consented to applaud such a long-expected downfall.
The evening shadows had begun to gather at the day's end, when they saw the boat come past the high pines into the river bay below Hamilton's. The great house was ready and waiting; the light of the western sky shone upon its walls, and a cheerful warmth and brightness shone everywhere within. There was a feast made ready that might befit the wedding itself, and eager hands were waiting to serve it. On the terrace by the southern door stood Colonel Hamilton, who was now at home from the army, and had ridden in haste from Portsmouth that day, at noon, to see that everything was ready for his sister's coming. There were others with him, watching for the boat: the minister all in silver and black, Major Haggens, with his red cloak and joyful countenance, the good old judge, and Master Sullivan, with his stately white head.
Within the house were many ladies, old and young. Miss Nancy Haggens had braved the evening air for friendship's sake, and sat at a riverward window with other turbaned heads of the Berwick houses, to wait for Madam Wallingford. There was a pretty flock of Mary Hamilton's friends: Miss Betsy Wyat and the Lords of the Upper Landing, Lymans and Saywards of old York, and even the pretty Blunts from Newcastle, who were guests at the parsonage near by. It was many a month since there had been anything so gay and happy as this night of Mary's coming home.
Major Langdon's great pleasure boat, with its six oarsmen, was moving steadily on the flood, and yet both current and tide seemed hindering to such impatient hearts. All the way from Portsmouth there had been people standing on the shores to wave at them and welcome them as they passed; the light was fast fading in the sky; the evening chill and thin autumn fog began to fall on the river. At last Roger and Mary could see the great house standing high and safe in its place, and point it out to Madam Wallingford, whose face wore a touching look of gratitude and peace; at last they could see a crowd of people on the lower shore.
The rowers did their best; the boat sped through the water. It was only half dark, but some impatient hand had lit the bonfires; the company of gentlemen were coming down already through the terraced garden to the water-side.
"Oh, Mary, Mary," Roger Wallingford was whispering, "I have done nothing that I hoped to do!" But she hushed him, and her hand stole into his. "We did not think, that night when we parted, we should be coming home together; we did not know what lay before us," he said with sorrow. "No, dear, I have done nothing; but, thank God, I am alive to love you, and to serve my country to my life's end."
Mary could not speak; she was too happy and too thankful. All her own great love and perfect happiness were shining in her face.
"I am thinking of the captain," she said gently, after a little silence. "You know how he left us when we were so happy, and slipped away alone into the dark without a word. . . .
"Oh, look, Madam!" she cried then. "Our friends are all there; they are all waiting for us! I can see dear Peggy with her white apron, and your good Rodney!["] Oh, Roger, the dear old master is there, God bless him! They are all well and alive. Thank God, we are at home!"
They rose and stood together in the boat, hand in hand. In another moment the boat was at the landing place, and they had stepped ashore.
Swift are the currents setting all one way: From Alice Meynell (1847-1922), "After a Parting." (Research: Gabe Heller).
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|The Tory Lover -- Contents