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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 130

Sir Henry Frankland, collector of the port of Boston, went to Marblehead to inquire into the smuggling that was pretty boldly carried on, he put up at the Fountain Inn. As he entered that hostelry a barefooted girl, of sixteen, who was scrubbing the floor, looked at him. The young man was handsome, well dressed, gallant in bearing, while Agnes Surriage, maid of all work, was of good figure, beautiful face, and modest demeanor. Sir Henry tossed out a coin, bidding her to buy shoes with it, and passed to his room. But the image of Agnes rose constantly before him. He sought her company, found her of ready intelligence for one unschooled, and shortly after this visit he obtained the consent of her parents—humble folk—to take this wild flower to the city and cultivate it.

He gave her such an education as the time and place afforded, dressed her well, and behaved with kindness toward her, while she repaid this care with the frank bestowal of her heart. The result was not foreseen—not intended—but they became as man and wife without having wedded. Colonial society was scandalized, yet the baronet loved the girl sincerely and could not be persuaded to part from her. Having occasion to visit England he took Agnes with him and introduced her as Lady Frankland, but the nature of their alliance had been made known to his relatives and they refused to receive her. The thought of a permanent union with the girl had not yet presented itself to the young man. An aristocrat could not marry a commoner. A nobleman might destroy the honor of a girl for amusement, but it was beneath his dignity to make reparation for the act.

Sir Henry was called to Portugal in 1755, and Agnes went with him. They arrived inopportunely in one respect, though the sequel showed a blessing in the accident; for while they were sojourning in Lisbon the earthquake occurred that laid the city in ruins and killed sixty thousand people. Sir Henry was in his carriage at the time and was buried beneath a falling wall, but Agnes, who had hurried from her lodging at the first alarm, sped through the rocking streets in search of her lover. She found him at last, and, instead of crying or fainting, she set to work to drag away the stones and timbers that were piled upon him. Had she been a delicate creature, her lover's equal in birth, such as Frankland was used to dance with at the state balls, she could not have done this, but her days of service at the inn had given her a strength that received fresh accessions from hope and love. In an hour she had liberated him, and, carrying him to a place of safety, she cherished the spark of life until health returned. The nobleman had received sufficient proof of Agnes's love and courage. He realized, at last, the superiority of worth to birth. He gave his name, as he had already given his heart, to her, and their married life was happy.





SKIPPER IRESON'S RIDE

Flood, Fluid, or Floyd Ireson (in some chronicles his name is Benjamin) was making for Marblehead in a furious gale, in the autumn of 1808, in the schooner Betsy. Off Cape Cod he fell in with the schooner Active, of Beverly, in distress, for she had been disabled in the heavy sea and was on her beam ends, at the mercy of the tempest. The master of the Active hailed Ireson and asked to be taken off, for his vessel could not last much longer, but the Betsy, after a parley, laid her course again homeward, leaving the exhausted and despairing crew of the sinking vessel to shift as best they might. The Betsy had not been many hours in port before it was known that men were in peril in the bay, and two crews of volunteers set off instantly to the rescue. But it was too late. The Active was at the bottom of the sea. The captain and three of his men were saved, however, and their grave accusation against the Betsy's skipper was common talk in Marblehead ere many days.

On a moonlight night Flood Ireson was roused by knocking at his door. On opening it he was seized by a band of his townsmen, silently hustled to a deserted spot, stripped, bound, and coated with tar and feathers. At break of day he was pitched into an old dory and dragged along the roads until the bottom of the boat dropped out, when he was mounted in a cart and the procession continued until Salem was reached. The selectmen of that town turned back the company, and for a part of the way home the cart was drawn by a jeering crowd of fishwives. Ireson was released only when nature had been taxed to the limit of endurance. As his bonds were cut he said, quietly, "I thank you for my ride, gentlemen, but you will live to regret it."


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