The Rebels; or, Boston before the Revolution/Chapter VIII

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Such as I am, all true lovers are;
Unstaid and skittish in all motions else,
Save in the constant image of the creature
That is beloved.

Twelfth Night

The proposed sail was unavoidably deferred until the 9th of September, during which time our young friends were almost constantly together. The night chosen for the expedition was rich in autumnal beauty. It was one of those calm, delightful evenings, when the soul bathes itself in stillness, and thoughts pure as an infant's dreams come crowding on the heart. Nature, like an oriental beauty, seemed to repose on her magnificent couch, amid the sparkling and bubbling of fountains, the perfume of flowers, and the varied witchery of music. At such seasons the chords of feeling are lightly touched, as if fanned by the wings of some passing seraph, and they vibrate only to what is calm and holy. Selfishness, prejudice, and passion, have no entrance there; and man is, for a while, what God designed him, a rich-toned instrument thrilled by the slightest influence of heaven. This capacity for refined pleasure exists, more or less, in every mind,---not like the Apollos and Dianas, which Aristotle supposed to be concealed in the unhewn marble, waiting for art to fashion them; but like the music of the winds, waked by the faintest breath into an existence as delicious as it is fleeting. But though all may worship at the shrine of nature, it is not given to every one to enter the holy of holies and withdraw the veil. Such souls as Lucretia's alone can feel the full force of its softening and mysterious power. Her mind, vigorous as an eagle's wing, and rapid as the streams of Chili, had been early left to her own guidance. Under such circumstances, imagination had become her favourite region; but the glowing climate that brought the weeds to rank luxuriance, did not scorch the beauty of the flowers. She was wont to examine every thing in the illusive kaleidoscope of fancy, which forms broken glass and tinselled fragments into as beautiful and regular combinations as polished diamonds and pearls bedded in gold. Had nature only been seen under this bright delusion, it would have been well. It was no harm that the mighty cavalcade of worlds, wheeling through the desert realms of space; the hills in their broad and mellow sunshine; the rivers laughing and leaping in their joyous course; and the western sky warmly blushing at the bright glance of her departing lover, should speak to her a language deeper than poetry; but at that susceptible age, when the affections are fully developed while the judgment remains in embryo, more dangerous objects are often invested with the rainbow-robe of romance. In our maturer years we laugh at the eager hopes and intense fears of youthful love; but ridicule cannot disarm the mischievous power, and intellect frequently struggles in chains which it cannot burst. To search out all the involutions of a woman's heart,---to describe all its fluctuations from embarrassed consciousness, to friendship apparently careless, or tenderness poorly disguised, would be more difficult than to trace the intrigues of statesmen, or the rise and fall of empires; and were the task well performed, it would make a very silly appearance in print. Suffice it, therefore, to say, that the burthen was sufficiently heavy to the foolish heart which carried it; and that Lucretia joined the evening party with no small portion of sadness. Grace, likewise, came with wounded delicacy and conflicting feelings. Not that her better disciplined mind yielded to the infatuation which held such undivided sway over her impetuous friend; but her shrinking modesty was alarmed lest others should suppose it so.

Somerville had read the "Rape of the Lock" to her and Lucretia, and had afterwards presented her with the elegant little volume. All the passages he admired were marked with a pencil, his observations written in the margin, and the book carefully placed in a small ebony writing desk, to which her brother alone had access. Henry had most unfortunately left the drawer open when his friend came to make arrangements for their aquatic excursion. He discovered all, before Grace entered,---and the liquid radiance for which his eye was remarkable, expressed unrestrained tenderness and exultation.

Pride, delicacy, feelings as yet without a name, in short, every thing that could create a tempest in woman's heart, was at once active. Face, neck, and hands were covered with blushes,---but her reception was formal even to coldness; and in a few moments she retired to her own room. There she succeeded in believing that respect for Somerville's talents had alone influenced her conduct; and her only fear was, that he would not be quite so sure of it as herself. The novice reasoned well, and resolved well;---nevertheless the blind guest had gained admittance, unbidden and unknown, with a wedding-garment stainless as the drifted snow.

To convince Somerville that she really valued him only as her brother's friend, Grace resolved to treat him with marked indifference. Accordingly, when the boat was drawn up to the wharf, she passed him, and gave her hand to Doctor Willard. For an instant a deep frown settled on the brow of the young Englishman, but it immediately passed away; and giving his hand to Lucretia, he sprang into the boat, and seated himself by her side. Henry Osborne, ever mindful of those ladies whose claims were the least, offered his services to Miss Sandford; and Doctor Byles came after, saying aloud,

"The king himself hath followed her,--- When she has walked before."

There was an abundance of mirth, whether heartfelt or not. Miss Sandford was in good humour with herself and all the world (Doctor Byles always excepted); and having a good stock of sense, and a talent at repartee, she by no means diminished the pleasure of the party: as for Doctor Byles, the fountain of his wit was never known to be dry, though sage advice and dignified admonition were frequently mingled with its playful brilliancy or pungent sarcasm: Henry Osborne preserved his usual calm, unostentatious, but perfectly delightful manner: Doctor Willard, enthusiastic, and easily excited, made no attempt to conceal the happiness which Miss Osborne's unwonted kindness inspired: Somerville talked with unusual volubility, and surpassed even his own accustomed gallantry: Grace with difficulty forced back her tears, yet she appeared uncommonly cheerful;---while the flushed cheek, the sparkling eye, and the unconscious deference of all Lucretia's looks and actions, betrayed the subtle power that produced them. The helms-man completed the group; and to have judged by his antiquated dress, his grey hairs, his closely fitted cap, his sonorous voice, and his coarse but strongly marked features, one would have supposed that Brewster or Standish was guiding his rude skiff in the unfrequented bay of Plymouth.

As they passed "the gay young group of grassy islands," which decorate our beautiful harbour, Lucretia observed, "How very lovely these little spots appear, where the moon gleams through the dense shade, and tinges the water with its brightness."

"It is like a smile on the face when the heart is cold and breaking," said Grace.

"A metaphor from the lips of Grace Osborne, as I live," exclaimed Lucretia.

"You know what is the boon inspirer of poetry," rejoined Somerville, looking very archly at Miss Osborne.

He was thinking of Doctor Willard when he spoke; but Grace, with a readiness that consciousness could alone have produced, saw nothing but vanity and rudeness in the insinuation.

An angry suffusion passed over her pale brow, and she hastily turned to talk with the young physician. In the evening light her confusion passed unnoticed by Lucretia, who continued all exhilaration and romance. She pointed out the tangled constellation of Berenice, the brilliant beauty of Altair, and the royal circle of the Corona Borealis. Then she talked of the graceful gayety of Chaucer, the melodious versification of Pope, and the witching simplicity of Goldsmith.

Her want of beauty was forgotten in her unaffected eloquence; and Somerville looked at her with unfeigned admiration, as he said, "What a pity you had not lived in the days of chivalry, Miss Fitzherbert. How many lances would have been lowered before the majesty of---mind."

"I think Miss Fitzherbert will prefer what she will be sure to receive at the present day," said Henry Osborne. "I mean the homage due to a rational being,---that homage which mind exacts from the intellectual, and genuine goodness of heart from those who know how to value it."

"A very wise lecture, and very well delivered, Mr. Osborne," replied Somerville, bowing towards him with a very comic expression; "but, after all, I only wish I were a constellation, that I might be described with such delightful enthusiasm."

"You always are, when in the presence of ladies," rejoined Doctor Willard.

"Then he must be the Lyre," said Doctor Byles.

"Captain Somerville," said the aged steersman, "I trust you will have grace given you---"

"If I guess aright, you could not have wished a thing more to his mind," interrupted the witty clergyman.

Miss Osborne blushed deeply, and the smile on Lucretia's face was stiff and unnatural.

The pilot continued, "I trust you will have grace enough, before you die, to relish the savoury discourses of wisdom rather than the light conversation that appertaineth to this world."

"An excellent, though heretical writer hath told us," observed Doctor Byles, "that piety is like certain lamps of old, which maintained their light for ages under ground, but as soon as they took air expired. It is a doctrine that the New Lights forget, my friend, though it seems the old lights acted it out, generation after generation."

"If we are to keep our religion locked up from others, what do you make of the command, `Let your light so shine before men?' " asked the pilot.

"If I read Scripture aright, that is the light of good works," was the reply.

"Very true," rejoined the old man; "and therefore we should strive to attain to perfect holiness."

"Perfect holiness!" exclaimed the clergyman. "You might as well talk of such a coin as a pound sterling, or a French livre."

"I don't understand what you mean touching the comparison," answered the steersman; "but I will never sell my reason to any man, because he happens to be more larnt than I am."

"If you should set it up at auction, it would be a poor pennyworth to him that bought it," observed the reverend doctor. "However you are made for your place, and I for mine. Some must think, and some must labour; some must rule, and some must be ruled. For instance, young men, Governors Bernard and Hutchinson are born to command, and you are born to obey."

"Then I shall fail in answering the end for which I was made," rejoined Doctor Willard. "What difference is between the duke and I? No more than between two bricks, all made of one clay; only it may be one is placed on the top of a turret, the other in the bottom of a well, by mere chance. If I were placed as high as the duke, I should stick as fast, make as fair a show, and bear out weather equally."

"Oh dear," exclaimed Doctor Byles, "I am in a sad predicament, between new lights and new fires. One nailing heresy with a text, and the other sanctioning treason with the odd ends of a play."

"I tell you what, Doctor Byles," said the pilot, "some folks do say you are a good man; and them who know you, tell that you have more religion than you seem to have. If so be this be true, you can't in earnest deny that the New Lights and the Quakers are the only people that have `put off the old man.' "

"I don't know how far they have put off the old man," rejoined the minister; "but of one thing I am certain,---they keep his deeds. Since New Lights are so numerous, it is desirable we should have more new livers; and as for the Quakers, `they come to the gospel not as law, but as a market, cheapen what they like best, and leave the rest for other customers.' "

"The book where you found that, likewise tells you, that `some people think their zeal lukewarm unless it reduce their charity to ashes,' " retorted Miss Sandford.

"One man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found,' complains Solomon; and he complains with reason," said Doctor Byles. "What have you to do with subjects above your understanding, Madam Sandford?"

"Above my understanding!" echoed the offended maiden; "I can tell you I began the controversy with zeal, and stuck to it with perseverance."

"Aye, no doubt you stuck like a fly in a glue-pot," retorted the Doctor. "Forward you could not stir, by reason of weakness; and the subject matter was too thick for you to dive into."

"Heard ever any body the like of that?" said Miss Sandford. "There is no use in talking with you, Doctor Byles; but tell me in earnest, what can you prove against the Quakers?"

"I know the secret of your taking up in their defence," answered the Doctor. "There was a friend Isaac, or a friend Jacob, that once spoke soft words to thee, and told thee that thy voice was more pleasant to him than the sound of rivulets,---yea, than the voice of spring; and you never could be grateful enough to him for the unexampled favour." "True, there was---"

"Well, I don't want to hear the story. Tell it to those who believe in love and ghosts. What do I know of the Quakers! Haven't I attended their meetings? I once heard a wise thing there. After having sat a long time and said nothing, one was moved to speak from Scripture; and he rose up, and said, `Oh ye fools! when will you be wise?' and down he sat again; and sat it was in Latin, as well as English. At another meeting, I heard nine women speak; and all the sense could have been packed in a robbin's egg. One of their wise ones took for his text, `Art thou better than populous No.' Every body knows that No means Egyptian Alexandria; but his inward light taught him that No was the eighth preacher of righteousness, and he was called populous, because the whole world was in his ark. Another said he was sent on a long journey by the spirit, and when he returned, he told that the man was not at home. `Thou fool,' said his wife, `dost thou suppose the Lord would send thee to a man who was not at home?' Another came to me, and would fain inquire for Mr. Churchman; but the name being profane in his eyes, he asked for Mr. Steeplehouseman."

"You seem to be fighting shadows," said Somerville, since there are no Quakers here."

"Only the ghost of Miss Sanford's only lover," answered the Doctor.

"I could set you right in that particular, if I had a mind," said Miss Sandford.

"Nobody ever supposed you had a mind," retorted Doctor Byles. "However, I never knew an old woman that was not beautiful when she was young; I never knew a woman that could not have been married if she wished it; and I certainly never knew one but that wished it, if she could."

"But, concerning the Quakers," observed Henry Osborne,---"since there is so little of the genuine spirit of religion in the world, is it worth while to throw any away, because we find it diluted?"

"No man would be more unwilling to wound a really tender conscience, than myself," returned the clergyman; "but when I see these foolish and blind guides pretending to lead mankind, I lose all patience. But come, my friend," said he, turning to the boatman, "I am willing to join in a psalm with you, though I did hear one of your New Light preachers read: `He rode into Jerusalem on the soal of an ass;' from which he no doubt drew the certain conclusion that he had a soul. But come let us sing a few verses; it will sound well on the water."

"You are a master hand for a minister," observed the pilot; "but folks do say you are better than you seem." Then, taking a psalm book from his pocket, he began, "Let us sing a psalm of David."

"No, no," said the Doctor, displaying a piece of writing,---"Let us sing a song of---Mather Byles"

The piece was well written, and those who knew his character, did not doubt that the warm devotion it expressed was perfectly sincere; still, the scene was irresistibly ludicrous, even to the sober-minded Henry Osborne. A smile went round when he first announced his own production; and it could not but increase as he proceeded,---for, at the end of every verse, he patiently waited for his companion, who, with prolonged cadence and nasal twang, brought up the demisemiquavers that lingered most lamentably in the rear. The gayety of the young people would have met with severe rebuke, but just as the hymn was finished, Fort William, with the red cross flag streaming from its summit, was seen reflected in the unbroken surface of the water; and scarcely had the oar ruffled its undisturbed beauty, when a group on shore arrested their attention.

"The stamped paper has arrived," exclaimed Henry Osborne.

"And the infernal cargo is to be lodged at the castle," said Doctor Willard, springing on his feet.

"I know that the paper has not yet arrived," replied Somerville.

"And I will add my testimony to the same effect, if the word of a tory can be believed," said Doctor Byles.

"No one doubts Doctor Byles, when he condescends to speak in earnest," answered Henry Osborne; "but I acknowledge I have great curiosity to know what those people are collected for."

"Let us go on shore," said Somerville. "If the ladies have any fear, I can order the guard out, in the name of my uncle."

The ladies would not acknowledge any fear, and the proposal was readily accepted. Henry Osborne turned to give his hand to Lucretia,---but Somerville had already offered his services. Grace, too, unconsciously glanced that way, before she took the proffered arm of Doctor Willard, but suddenly retreated, when she met the penetrating dark eye of the young officer. At a convenient distance they paused, and watched the motions of the party they wished to reconnoitre. Six men, with bibles fastened on their necks by silken cords, stood around a large hole, from which four others were trying to raise something, by means of large iron levers. In the midst of them stood Mr. Townsend, with his cap pushed far back, and his spectacles on, examining the rising treasure with intense earnestness.

"There is money in the case," whispered Doctor Byles; "else he of the clenched fist would not be here."

Something seemed to sink instantly; and the crow-bars fell heavily upon the sand.

"Confound the voice that spoke," exclaimed the miser. "A week's labour is lost, and twenty thousand crowns, and twelve ingots of gold."

"How do you know the value of treasure you never examined?" asked Somerville.

"That would be easier to tell, than why you come here at midnight, to meddle with a poor old man, trying to gain an honest penny to buy his bread," said he; and he looked at the sand which covered the lost chest, till he sobbed with all the impotence of childish dotage.

"Step a little nearer, if it pleases you, Miss Fitzherbert," said Somerville.

The old man turned pale. "Is there a Fitzherbert here," muttered he; "no wonder that ---"

"Strike the bar down, and ascertain its depth," interrupted Somerville, without regarding what he said.

"Young man," said Mr. Townsend, "your services an't asked. If there is money, it is of my finding."

"It belongs to the crown, of course," said the Englishman, "if no owner is proved."

Before the old man could reply, the bar was thrust forcibly into the sand; but no metal echoed to the blow.

"There never was a chest here," said one.

"We have been prying up a good-for-nothing rock," observed another.

"But where, in the devil's name, is the rock?" asked a third.

As he spoke, a struggling was seen in the sand, and a deep, low groan was heard. The ladies uttered a cry of horror; the miser clasped his skeleton hands; and the eyes of all present seemed starting from their sockets. Again the mournful sound was heard, as if from the very centre of the earth; and no longer attempting to conceal their fear, the ring suddenly broke up, and every individual departed. There was indeed something terrific in the scene. The loneliness of the hour, the gaunt figure of the miser, the mysterious silence, that dismal and inexplicable groan, and that unaccountble struggle in the sand, all conspired to produce a dreadful effect upon their highly excited minds. However fear and wonder gradually subsided. Doctor Byles and the pilot joined in expressing their abhorrence of such profane use of the Bible, Miss Sandford dwelt long on her favourite theme of modern degeneracy, and the conversation at length became as general and as lively as before. Lucretia sought her pillow with a head full of cheerful visions; Miss Sandford related the adventure to Governor Hutchinson, and when she retired to rest, she drew the coverlet over her face, quick as thought, lest the growling spirit should appear at her bed-side; and as Grace extinguished her light, she gently wiped away a tear, after vainly attempting to account for the capriciousness of Somerville