Agnes Surriage (North American Folk Tale)

When, in 1742, 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.

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