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Title: The Duke of Stockbridge: A Romance of Shays' Rebellion
Author: Bellamy, Edward
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE DUKE OF STOCKBRIDGE

A ROMANCE OF SHAYS’ REBELLION

By Edward Bellamy



CHAPTER FIRST

THE MARCH OF THE MINUTE MEN


The first beams of the sun of August 17, 1777, were glancing down
the long valley, which opening to the East, lets in the early rays of
morning, upon the village of Stockbridge. Then, as now, the Housatonic
crept still and darkling around the beetling base of Fisher’s Nest, and
in the meadows laughed above its pebbly shoals, embracing the verdant
fields with many a loving curve. Then, as now, the mountains cradled the
valley in their eternal arms, all round, from the Hill of the Wolves,
on the north, to the peaks that guard the Ice Glen, away to the far
south-east. Then, as now, many a lake and pond gemmed the landscape, and
many a brook hung like a burnished silver chain upon the verdant slopes.
But save for this changeless frame of nature, there was very little, in
the village, which the modern dweller in Stockbridge would recognize.

The main settlement is along a street lying east and west, across the
plain which extends from the Housatonic, northerly some distance, to the
foot of a hill. The village green or “smooth” lies rather at the western
end of the village than at the center. At this point the main street
intersects with the county road, leading north and south, and with
divers other paths and lanes, leading in crooked, rambling lines to
several points of the compass; sometimes ending at a single dwelling,
sometimes at clusters of several buildings. On the hill, to the north,
somewhat separated from the settlement on the plain, are quite a number
of houses, erected there during the recent French and Indian wars, for
the sake of being near the fort, which is now used as a parsonage by
Reverend Stephen West, the young minister. The streets are all very wide
and grassy, wholly without shade trees, and bordered generally by rail
fences or stone walls. The houses, usually separated by wide intervals
of meadow, are rarely over a story and a half in height. When painted,
the color is usually red, brown, or yellow, the effect of which is a
certain picturesqueness wholly outside any design on the part of the
practical minded inhabitants.

Interspersed among the houses, and occurring more thickly in the south
and west parts of the village, are curious huts, as much like wigwams
as houses. These are the dwellings of the Christianized and civilized
Stockbridge Indians, the original possessors of the soil, who live
intermingled with the whites on terms of the most utter comity, fully
sharing the offices of church and town, and fighting the battles of the
Commonwealth side by side with the white militia.

Around the green stand the public buildings of the place. Here is the
tavern, a low two-story building, without porch or piazza, and entered
by a door in the middle of the longest side. Over the door swings a
sign, on which a former likeness of King George has, by a metamorphosis
common at this period, been transformed into a soldier of the
revolution, in Continental uniform of buff and blue. But just at this
time its contemplation does not afford the patriotic tipler as much
complacency as formerly, for Burgoyne is thundering at the passes of
the Hoosacs, only fifty miles away, and King George may get his red coat
back again, after all. The Tories in the village say that the landlord
keeps a pot of red paint behind the door, so that the Hessian dragoons
may not take him by surprise when they come galloping down the valley,
some afternoon. On the other side [of] the green is the meeting-house,
built some thirty years ago, by a grant from government at Boston,
and now considered rather old-fashioned and inconvenient. Hard by the
meeting-house is the graveyard, with the sandy knoll in its south-west
corner, set apart for the use of the Indians. The whipping-post, stocks,
and cage, for the summary correction of such offences as come within the
jurisdiction of Justice Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire, adorn the middle of
the village green, and on Saturday afternoon are generally the center of
a crowd assembled to be edified by the execution of sentences.

On the other side [of] the green from the meeting-house stands the
store, built five years before, by Timothy Edwards, Esquire, a structure
of a story and a half, with the unusual architectural adornment of a
porch or piazza in front, the only thing of the kind in the village. The
people of Stockbridge are scarcely prouder of the divinity of their
late shepherd, the famous Dr. Jonathan Edwards, than they are of his
son Timothy’s store. Indeed, what with Dr. Edwards, so lately in their
midst, Dr. Hopkins, down at Great Barrington, and Dr. Bellamy, just over
the State line in Bethlehem, Connecticut, the people of Berkshire are
decidedly more familiar with theologians than with storekeepers, for
when Mr. Edwards built his store in 1772, it was the only one in the
county.

At such a time it may be readily inferred that a commercial occupation
serves rather as a distinction than otherwise. Squire Edwards is
moreover chairman of the selectmen, and furthermore most of the
farmers are in his debt for supplies, while to these varied elements of
influence, his theological ancestry adds a certain odor of sanctity.
It is true that Squire Jahleel Woodbridge is even more brilliantly
descended, counting two colonial governors and numerous divines among
his ancestry, not to speak of a rumored kinship with the English noble
family of Northumberland. But instead of tending to a profitless
rivalry the respective claims of the Edwardses and the Woodbridges
to distinction have happily been merged by the marriage of Jahleel
Woodbridge and Lucy Edwards, the sister of Squire Timothy, so that in
all social and political matters, the two families are closely allied.

The back room of the store is, in a sense, the Council-chamber, where
the affairs of the village are debated and settled by these magnates,
whose decisions the common people never dream of anticipating or
questioning. It is also a convivial center, a sort of clubroom. There,
of an afternoon, may generally be seen Squires Woodbridge, Williams,
Elisha Brown, Deacon Nash, Squire Edwards, and perhaps a few others,
relaxing their gravity over generous bumpers of some choice old Jamaica,
which Edwards had luckily laid in, just before the war stopped all
imports.

In the west half of the store building, Squire Edwards lives with his
family, including, besides his wife and children, the remnants of his
father’s family and that of his sister, the widowed Mrs. President
Burr. Young Aaron Burr was there, for a while after his graduation at
Princeton, and during the intervals of his arduous theological studies
with Dr. Bellamy at Bethlehem. Perchance there are heart-sore maidens
in the village, who, to their sorrow, could give more particular
information of the exploits of the seductive Aaron at this period, than
I am able to.

Such are the mountains and rivers, the streets and the houses of
Stockbridge as the sun of this August morning in the year 1777,
discloses them to view. But where are the people? It is seven, yes,
nearly eight o’clock, and no human being is to be seen walking in the
streets, or travelling in the roads, or working in the fields. Such lazy
habits are certainly not what we have been wont to ascribe to our
sturdy forefathers. Has the village, peradventure, been deserted by the
population, through fear of the Hessian marauders, the threat of whose
coming has long hung like a portentous cloud, over the Berkshire valley?
Not at all. It is not the fear of man, but the fear of God, that has
laid a spell upon the place. It is the Sabbath, or what we moderns call
Sunday, and law and conscience have set their double seal on every door,
that neither man, woman nor child, may go forth till sunset, save at the
summons of the meeting-house bell. We may wander all the way from the
parsonage on the hill, to Captain Konkapot’s hut on the Barrington road,
without meeting a soul, though the windows will have a scandalized face
framed in each seven by nine pane of glass. And the distorted, uncouth
and variously colored face and figure, which the imperfections of
the glass give the passer-by, will doubtless appear to the horrified
spectators, but the fit typical representation of his inward depravity.
We shall, I say, meet no one, unless, as we pass his hut by Konkapot’s
brook, Jehoiachim Naunumpetox, the Indian tithing man, spy us, and that
will be to our exceeding discomfiture, for straightway laying implacable
hands upon us, he will deliver us to John Schebuck, the constable, who
will grievously correct our flesh with stripes, for Sabbath-breaking,
and cause us to sit in the stocks, for an ensample.

But if so mild an excursion involve so dire a risk, what must be the
desperation of this horseman who is coming at a thundering gallop along
the county road from Pittsfield? His horse is in a foaming sweat, the
strained nostrils are filled with blood and the congested eyes protrude
as if they would leap from their sockets to be at their goal.

It is Squire Woodbridge’s two story red house before which the horseman
pulls rein, and leaving his steed with hanging head and trembling knees
and laboring sides, drags his own stiffened limbs up the walk and enters
the house. Almost instantly Squire Woodbridge himself, issues from
the door, dressed for church in a fine black coat, waistcoat, and
knee-breeches, white silk stockings, a three-cornered black hat and
silver buckles on his shoes, but in his hand instead of a Bible, a
musket. As he steps out, the door of a house further east opens also,
and another man similarly dressed, with brown woolen stockings, steps
forth with a gun in his hand also. He seems to have interpreted the
meaning of the horseman’s message. This is Deacon Nash. Beckoning him to
follow, Squire Woodbridge steps out to the edge of the green, raises
his musket to his shoulder and discharges it into the air. Deacon Nash
coming up a moment later also raises and fires his gun, and e’er the
last echoes have reverberated from the mountains, Squire Edwards, musket
in hand, throws open his store door and stepping out on the porch, fires
the third gun.

A moment ago hundreds of faces were smiling, hundreds of eyes were
bright, hundreds of cheeks were flushed. Now there is not a single smile
or a trace of brightness, or a bit of color on a face in the valley.
Such is the woful change wrought in every household, as the successive
reports of the heavily-charged pieces sound through the village, and
penetrate to the farthest outlying farmhouse. The first shot may well
be an accident, the second may possibly be, but as the third inexorably
follows, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and sons,
look at each other with blanched faces, and instantly a hundred scenes
of quiet preparation for meeting, are transformed into the confusion
of a very different kind of preparation. Catechisms are dropped for
muskets, and Bibles fall unnoticed under foot, as men spring for their
haversacks and powder-horns. For those three guns summon the minute men
to be on the march for Bennington. All the afternoon before, the roar of
cannon has faintly sounded from the northward, and the people knew that
Stark was meeting Baum and his Hessians, on the Hoosac. One detachment
of Stockbridge men is already with him. Does this new summons mean
disaster? Has the dreaded foe made good his boasted invincibility? No
one knows, not even the exhausted messenger, for he was sent off
by Stark, while yet the issue of yesterday’s battle trembled in the
balance.

“It’s kinder suddin. I wuz in hopes the boys wouldn’ hev to go, bein as
they wuz a fightin yisdy,” quavered old Elnathan Hamlin, as he trotted
about, helplessly trying to help, and only hindering Mrs. Hamlin, as
with white face, but deft hands, and quick eyes, she was getting her two
boys ready, filling their haversacks, sewing a button here, tightening a
buckle there, and looking to everything.

“Ye must tak keer o’ Reub, Perez. He ain’t so rugged ‘zye be. By rights,
he orter ha stayed to hum.”

“Oh, I’m as stout as Perez. I can wrastle him. Don’t fret about me,”
 said Reuben, with attempted gayety, though his boyish lip quivered as he
looked at his mother’s face, noting how she did not meet his eye, lest
she should lose her self-control, and not be able to do anything more.

“I’ll look after the boy, never fear,” said Perez, slapping his brother
on the back. “I’ll fetch him back a General, as big a man as Squire
Woodbridge.”

“I dunno what ‘n time I shall dew ‘bout gittin in the crops,” whimpered
Elnathan. “I can’t dew it ‘lone, nohow. Seems though my rheumatiz wuz
wuss ‘n ever, this las’ spell o’ weather.”

“There goes Abner Rathbun, and George Fennell,” cried Perez. “Time we
were off. Good-bye mother. There! There! Don’t you cry, mother. We’ll be
back all right. Got your gun, Reub? Good-bye father. Come on,” and the
boys were off.

In seeming sympathy with the sudden grief that has fallen on the
village, the bright promise of the morning has given place in the last
hour to one of those sudden rain storms to which a mountainous region
is always liable, and a cold drizzle is now falling. But that does
not hinder every one who has friends among the departing soldiers, or
sympathy with the cause represented, from gathering on the green to
witness the muster and march of the men. All the leading men and the
officials of the town and parish are there, including the two Indian
selectmen, Johannes Metoxin and Joseph Sauquesquot. Squire Edwards,
Deacon Nash, Squire Williams and Captain Josiah Jones, brother-in-law of
Squire Woodbridge, are going about among the tearful groups, of one of
which each soldier is a centre, reassuring and encouraging both those
who go, and those who stay, the ones with the promise that their wives
and children and parents shall be looked after and cared for, the others
with confident talk of victory and speedy reunions.

Squire Edwards tells Elnathan, who with Mrs. Hamlin has come down to the
green, that he needn’t fret about the mortgage on his house, and Deacon
Nash tells him that he’ll see that his crops are saved, and George
Fennell, who, with his wife and daughter, stands by, is assured by the
Squire, that they shall have what they want from the store. There is
not a plough-boy among the minute men who is not honored today with a
cordial word or two, or at least a smile, from the magnates who never
before have recognized his existence.

And proud in her tears, to-day, is the girl who has a sweetheart among
the soldiers. Shy girls, who for fear of being laughed at, have kept a
secret of their inclinations, now grown suddenly bold, cry, as they talk
with their lovers, and refuse not the parting kiss. Desire Edwards, the
Squire’s daughter, as she moves among the groups, and sees these things,
is stirred with envy and thinks she would give anything if she, too,
had a sweetheart to bid good-bye to. But she is only fifteen, and Squire
Edwards’ daughter, moreover, to whom no rustic swain dares pretend. Then
she bethinks herself that one has timidly, enough, so pretended. She
knows that Elnathan Hamlin’s son, Perez, is dreadfully in love with
her. He is better bred than the other boys, but after all he is only a
farmer’s son, and while pleased with his conquest as a testimony to her
immature charms, she has looked down upon him as quite an inferior order
of being to herself. But just now he appears to her in the desirable
light of somebody to bid good-bye to, to the end that she may be on
a par with the other girls whom she so envies. So she looks about for
Perez.

And he, on his part, is looking about for her. That she, the Squire’s
daughter, as far above him as a star, would care whether he went or
stayed, or would come to say good-bye to him, he had scarcely dared to
think. And yet how deeply has that thought, which he has scarcely
dared own, tinged all his other thinking! The martial glory that has so
dazzled his young imagination, how much of its glitter was but reflected
from a girl’s eyes. As he looks about and not seeing her, says, “She
does not care, she will not come,” the sword loses all its sheen, and
the nodding plume its charm, and his dreams of self-devotion all their
exhilaration.

“I came to bid you good-bye, Perez,” says a voice behind him.

He wheels about, red, confused, blissful. Desire Edwards, dark and
sparkling as a gypsy, stands before him with her hand outstretched. He
takes it eagerly, timidly. The little white fingers press his big brown
ones. He does not feel them there; they seem to be clasping his heart.
He feels the ecstatic pressure there.

“Fall in,” shouts Captain Woodbridge, for the Squire himself is their
captain.

There is a tumult of embraces and kisses all around. Reuben kissed his
mother.

“Will you kiss me, Desire?” said Perez, huskily, carried beyond himself,
scarcely knowing what he said, for if he had realized he never would
have dared.

Desire looked about, and saw all the women kissing their men. The air
was electric.

“Yes,” she said, and gave him her red lips, and for a moment it seemed
as if the earth had gone from under his feet. The next thing he knew he
was standing in line, with Reub on one side, and George Fennell on the
other and Abner Rathbun’s six feet three towering at one end of the
line, while Parson West was standing on the piazza of the store, praying
for the blessing of God on the expedition.

“Amen,” the parson said, and Captain Woodbridge’s voice rang out again.
The lines faced to the right, filed off the green at quick step, turned
into the Pittsfield road, and left the women to their tears.



CHAPTER SECOND

NINE YEARS AFTER


Early one evening in the very last of August, 1786, only three years
after the close of the Revolutionary war, a dozen or twenty men and
boys, farmers and laborers, are gathered, according to custom, in the
big barroom of Stockbridge tavern. The great open fireplace of course
shows no cheery blaze of logs at this season, and the only light is the
dim and yellow illumination diffused by two or three homemade tallow
candles stuck about the bar, which runs along half of one side of the
apartment. The dim glimmer of some pewter mugs standing on a shelf
behind the bar is the only spot of reflected light in the room, whose
time-stained, unpainted woodwork, dingy plastering, and low ceiling,
thrown into shadows by the rude and massive crossbeams, seems capable
of swallowing up without a sign ten times the illumination actually
provided. The faces of four or five men, standing near the bar, or
lounging on it, are quite plainly visible, and the forms of half a dozen
more who are seated on a long settle placed against the opposite wall,
are more dimly to be seen, while in the back part of the room, leaning
against the posts or walls, or lounging in the open doorway, a dozen or
more figures loom indistinctly out of the darkness.

The tavern, it must be remembered, as a convivial resort, is the social
antipodes of the back room of Squire Edwards’ “store.” If you would
consort with silk-stockinged, wigged, and silver shoe-buckled gentlemen,
you must just step over there, for at the tavern are only to be found
the hewers of wood and drawers of water, mechanics, farm-laborers, and
farmers. Ezra Phelps and Israel Goodrich, the former the owner of the
new gristmill at “Mill Hollow,” a mile west of the village, the other
a substantial farmer, with their corduroy coats and knee-breeches, blue
woolen hose and steel shoe buckles, are the most socially considerable
and respectably attired persons present.

Perhaps about half the men and boys are barefooted, according to
the economical custom of a time when shoes in summer are regarded as
luxuries not necessities. The costume of most is limited to shirt and
trousers, the material for which their own hands or those of their
women-folk have sheared, spun, woven and dyed. Some of the better
dressed wear trousers of blue and white striped stuff, of the kind
now-a-days exclusively used for bed-ticking. The leathern breeches which
a few years before were universal are still worn by a few in spite of
their discomfort in summer.

Behind the bar sits Widow Bingham, the landlady, a buxom, middle-aged
woman, whose sharp black eyes have lost none of their snap, whether she
is entertaining a customer with a little pleasant gossip, or exploring
the murky recesses of the room about the door, where she well knows
sundry old customers are lurking, made cowards of by consciousness
of long unsettled scores upon her slate. And whenever she looks with
special fixity into the darkness there is soon a scuttling of somebody
out of doors.

She pays little or no attention to the conversation of the men around
the bar. Being largely political, it might be expected to have the less
interest for one of the domestic sex, and moreover it is the same old
story she has been obliged to hear over and over every evening, with
little variation, for a year or two past.

For in those days, throughout Massachusetts, at home, at the tavern, in
the field, on the road, in the street, as they rose up, and as they sat
down, men talked of nothing but the hard times, the limited markets, and
low prices for farm produce, the extortions and multiplying numbers of
the lawyers and sheriffs, the oppressions of creditors, the enormous,
grinding taxes, the last sheriff’s sale, and who would be sold out next,
the last batch of debtors taken to jail, and who would go next, the
utter dearth of money of any sort, the impossibility of getting work,
the gloomy and hopeless prospect for the coming winter, and in general
the wretched failure of the triumph and independence of the colonies to
bring about the public and private prosperity so confidently expected.

The air of the room is thick with smoke, for most of the men are smoking
clay or corncob pipes, but the smoke is scarcely recognizable as that of
tobacco, so largely is that expensive weed mixed with dried sweet-fern
and other herbs, for the sake of economy. Of the score or two persons
present, only two, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, are actually
drinking anything. Not certainly that they are the only ones disposed
to drink, as the thirsty looks that follow the mugs to their lips,
sufficiently testify, but because they alone have credit at the bar.
Ezra furnishes Mrs. Bingham with meal from his mill, and drinks against
the credit thus created, while Israel furnishes the landlady with
potatoes on the same understanding. There being practically almost
no money in circulation, most kinds of trade are dependent on such
arrangements of barter. Meshech Little, the carpenter, who lies
dead-drunk on the floor, his clothing covered with the sand, which it
has gathered up while he was being unceremoniously rolled out of the
way, is a victim of one of these arrangements, having just taken his pay
in rum for a little job of tinkering about the tavern.

“Meshech hain’t hed a steady job sence the new meetin-haouse wuz done
las’ year, an I s’pose the critter feels kinder diskerridged like,” said
Abner Rathbun, regarding the prostrate figure sympathetically. Abner has
grown an inch and broadened proportionally, since Squire Woodbridge made
him file leader of the minute men by virtue of his six feet three, and
as he stands with his back to the bar, resting his elbows on it, the
room would not be high enough for his head, but that he stands between
the cross-beams.

“I s’pose Meshech’s fam’ly ‘ll hev to go ontew the taown,” observed
Israel Goodrich. “They say ez the poorhouse be twicet ez full ez’t orter
be, naow.”

“It’ll hev more intew it fore ‘t hez less,” said Abner grimly.

“Got no work, Abner? I hearn ye wuz up Lenox way a lookin fer suthin
to dew,” inquired Peleg Bidwell, a lank, loose-jointed farmer, who was
leaning against a post in the middle of the room, just on the edge of
the circle of candlelight.

“A feller ez goes arter work goes on a fool’s errant,” responded Abner,
dejectedly. “There ain’ no work nowhar, an a feller might jess ez well
sit down to hum an wait till the sheriff comes arter him.”

“The only work as pays now-a-days is pickin the bones o’ the people. Why
don’t ye turn lawyer or depity sheriff, an take to that, Abner?” said
Paul Hubbard, an undersized man with a dark face, and thin, sneering
lips.

He had been a lieutenant in the Continental army, and used rather better
language than the country folk ordinarily, which, as well as a
cynical wit which agreed with the embittered popular temper, gave him
considerable influence. Since the war he had been foreman of Colonel
William’s iron-works at West Stockbridge. There was great distress among
the workmen on account of the stoppage of the works by reason of the
hard times, but Hubbard, as well as most of the men, still remained
in West Stockbridge, simply because there was no encouragement to go
elsewhere.

“Wat I can’t make aout is that the lawyers an sheriffs sh’d git so dern
fat a pickin our bones, seein ez ther’s sech a dern leatle meat ontew
us,” said Abner.

“There’s as much meat on squirrels as bears if you have enough of em,”
 replied Hubbard. “They pick clean, ye see, an take all we’ve got, an
every little helps.”

“Yas,” said Abner, “they do pick darned clean, but that ain’t the wust
on’t, fer they sends our bones tew rot in jail arter they’ve got all the
meat orf.”

“‘Twas ony yesdy Iry Seymour sole out Zadkiel Poor, ez lives long side
o’ me, an tuk Zadkiel daown tew Barrington jail fer the res’ what the
sale didn’t fetch,” said Israel Goodrich. “Zadkiel he’s been kinder
ailin like fer a spell back, an his wife, she says ez haow he can’t live
a month daown tew the jail, an wen Iry tuk Zadkiel orf, she tuk on reel
bad. I declare for’t, it seemed kinder tough.”

“I hearn ez they be tew new fellers a studyin law intew Squire
Sedgwick’s office,” said Obadiah Weeks, a gawky youth of perhaps twenty,
evidently anxious to buy a standing among the adult circle of talkers by
contributing an item of information.

Abner groaned. “Great Crypus! More blood-suckers. Why, they be ten
lawyers in Stockbridge taown a’ready, an they warn’t but one wen I wuz a
boy, an thar wuz more settlers ‘n they be naow.”

“Wal, I guess they’ll git nuff to dew,” said Ezra Phelps. “I hearn as
haow they’s seven hundred cases on the docket o’ the Common Pleas, nex’
week, mos’ on em fer debt.”

“I hearn as two hundred on em be from Stockbridge an the iron-works,”
 added Israel. “I declare for’t Zadkiel ‘ll hev plenty o’ kumpny daown
tew jail, by the time them suits be all tried.”

“By gosh, what be we a comin tew?” groaned Abner. “It doos seem zif we
all on us mout z’well move daown tew the jail to onc’t, an hev done with
‘t. We’re baown to come to ‘t fuss or las’.”

Presently Peleg Bidwell said, “My sister Keziah’s son, by her fuss
husban’s been daown tew Bosting, an I hearn say ez haow he says ez the
folks daown East mos’ly all hez furniter from Lunnon, and the women
wears them air Leghorn hats as cos ten shillin lawful, let alone
prunelly shoes an satin stockins, an he says as there ain’t a ship goes
out o’ Bosting harbor ez don’ take more’n five thousan paound o’ lawful
money outer the kentry. I callate,” pursued Peleg, “that’s jess what’s
tew the bottom o’ the trouble. It’s all long o’ the rich folks a sendin
money out o’ the kentry to git theirselves fine duds, an that’s wy we
don’ git more’n tuppence a paound fer our mutton, an nex’ ter nothin fer
wheat, an don’t have nothin to pay taxes with nor to settle with Squire
Edwards, daown ter the store. That’s the leak in the bar’l, an times
won’t git no better till that’s plugged naow, I tell yew.”

“If’t comes to pluggin leaks ye kin look nigher hum nor Bosting,”
 observed Abner. “I hearn ez Squire Woodbridge giv fifty pound lawful fer
that sorter tune box ez he’z get fer his gal, an they doos say ez them
cheers o’ Squire Sedgwick’s cos twenty pound lawful in the old kentry.”

“What dew they call that air tune box?” inquired Israel Goodrich. “I’ve
hearn tell but I kinder fergit. It’s some Frenchified soundin name.”

“It’s a pianner,” said Obadiah.

“I guess peeanner’s nigher right,” observed Peleg critically. “My gal
hearn the Edwards gal call it peeanner.”

“They ain’t nuther of ye in a mile o’ right. ‘Tain’t pianner, an ‘tain’t
peeanner; it’s pianny,” said Abner, who on account of having once served
a few weeks in connection with a detachment of the French auxiliaries,
was conceded to be an authority on foreign pronunciation.

“I hain’t got no idee on’t, nohow,” said Israel shaking his head. “I
hearn it a goin ez I wuz a comin by the store. Souns like ez if it wuz
a hailin ontew a lot o’ milk pans. I never suspicioned ez I should live
tew hear sech a n’ise.”

“I guess Peleg’s baout right,” said Abner. “Thar won’t be no show fer
poor folks, ‘nless they is a law agin’ sendin money aouter the kentry.”

“I callate that would be a shuttin of the barn door arter the hoss is
stole,” said Ezra Phelps, as he arrested a mug of flip on its way to his
lips, to express his views. “There ain’ no use o’ beginnin to save arter
all’s spent. I callate guvment’s got ter print a big stack o’ new bills
ef we’re a goin to git holt o’ no money.”

“Ef it’s paper bills as ye’re a talkin baout,” said Abner grimly, “I’ve
got quite a slew on em tew hum, mebbe a peck or tew. I got em fer pay
in the army. They’re tew greasy tew kindle a fire with, an I dunno o’
nothin else ez they’re good for. Ye’re welcome to em, Ezry. My little
Bijah assed me fer some on em tew make a kite outer thuther day, an
I says tew him, says I, ‘Bijah, I don’ callate they’ll do nohow fer a
kite, for I never hearn of a Continental bill a goin up, but ef yer want
a sinker fer yer fish line they’re jess the thing.’”

There was a sardonic snicker at Ezra’s expense, but he returned to the
charge quite undismayed.

“That ain’t nuther here nor there,” he said, turning toward Abner and
emphasizing his words with the empty mug. “What I asses yew is, wan’t
them bills good fer suthin wen they wuz fuss printed?”

“They wuz wuth suthin fer a wile,” assented Abner.

“Ezackly,” said the other, “that’s the nater o’ bills. Allers they is
good fer a wile and then they kinder begins to run daown, an they runs
daown till they ain’t wuth nuthin,” and Ezra illustrated the process by
raising the mug as high as his head and bringing it slowly down to his
knees. “Paounds an shillins runs daown tew by gittin wored off till
they’s light weight. Every kine o’ money runs daown, on’y it’s the nater
o’ bills to run daown a leetle quicker nor other sorts. Naow I says,
an I ain’t the ony one ez says it, that all guvment’s got to dew is tew
keep a printin new bills ez fass ez the old ones gits run daown. Times
wuz good long in the war. A feller could git baout what he assed fer his
crops an he could git any wages he assed. Yer see guvment wuz a printin
money fass. Jess’s quick ez a bill run daown they up and printed another
one, so they wuz allers plenty. Soon ez the war wuz over they stopped a
printin bills and immejetly the hard times come. Hain’t that so?”

“I dunno but yew be right,” said Abner, thoughtfully, “I never thort
on’t ezzackly that way,” and Isaiah Goodrich also expressed the opinion
that there was “somethin into what Ezry says.”

“What we wants,” pursued Ezra, “what we wants, is a kine o’ bills
printed as shall lose vally by reglar rule, jess so much a month, no
more no less, cordin ez its fixed by law an printed on tew the bills
so’z everybody’ll understan an no-body’ll git cheated. I hearn that’s
the idee as the Hampshire folks went fer in the convenshun daown tew
Hatfield this week. Ye see, ez I wuz a sayin, bills is baoun tew
come daown anyhow ony if they comes daown regler, cordin tew law,
everybody’ll know what t’expect, and nobody won’ lose nothin.”

“Praps the convenshun what’s a sittin up tew Lenox’ll rekummen them
bills,” hopefully suggested a farmer who had been taking in Ezra’s
wisdom with open mouth.

“I don’ s’pose that it’ll make any odds how many bills are printed as
far’s we’re concerned,” said Hubbard, bitterly. “The lawyers’ll make out
to git em all pretty soon. Ye might’s well try to fat a hog with a tape
worm in him, as to make folks rich as long as there are any lawyers
round.”

“Yas, an jestices’ fees, an sheriff fees is baout ez bad ez lawyer’s,”
 said Israel Goodrich, whose countenance was beginning to glow from the
influence of his potations. “I tell you wesh’d be a dern sight better
off ‘f’all the courts wuz stopped. Most on ye is young fellers, ‘cept
you Elnathan Hamlin, thar. He’ll tell ye, ez I tell ye, that this air
caounty never seen sech good times, spite on’ts bein war times, ez long
fur ‘74 to ‘80, arter we’d stopped the King’s courts from sittin an
afore we’d voted for the new constitution o’ the state, ez we wuz durn
fools fer doin of, ef I dew say it. In them six year thar warn’t nary
court sot nowhere in the caounty, from Boston Corner tew ole Fort
Massachusetts, an o’ course thar warn’t no lawyers an no sheriffs ner
no depity sheriffs nuther, tew make every debt twice as big with ther
darnation fees. They warn’t no sheriffs sales, nuther, a sellin of a
feller outer house’n hum an winter comin on, an thar warn’t no suein an
no jailin of fellers fer debt. Folks wuz keerful who they trusted, ez
they’d orter be allers, for ther warn’t no klectin o’ debts nohow, an
ef that warn’t allers jestice I reckin ‘twas as nigh jestice as ‘tis
to klect bills swelled more’n double by lawyers’ and sheriffs’ and
jestices’ fees ez they doos naow. In them days ef any feller wuz put
upon by another he’d jess got tew complain tew the slectmen or the
committee, an they’d right him. I tell yew rich folks an poor folks
lived together kinder neighborly in them times an ‘cordin tew scripter.
The rich folks warn’t a grindin the face o’ the poor, an the poor they
wuzn’t a hatin an a envyin o’ the rich, nigh untew blood, ez they is
naow, ef I dew say it. Yew rekullec them days, Elnathan, warn’t it jess
ez I say?”

“Them wuz good times, Israel. Ye ain’t sayin nothin more’n wuz trew,”
 said Elnathan in a feeble treble, from his seat on the settle.

“I tell you they wuz good,” reiterated Israel, as he looked around upon
the group with scintillating eyes, and proceeded to hand his mug over
the bar to be refilled.

“I hearn ez haow the convenshun up tew Lenox is a go in tew ‘bolish the
lawyers an the courts,” said a stalwart fellow of bovine countenance,
named Laban Jones, one of the discharged iron-works men.

“The convenshun can’t ‘bolish nothin,” said Peleg Bidwell, gloomily. “It
can’t do nothin but rekommen the Gineral Court way daown tew Bosting.
Bosting is too fer orf fer this caounty, nor Hampshire nuther, tew git
no considerashin. This eend o’ the state ull never git its rights till
the guvment’s moved outer Bosting tew Worcester where’t uster be in war
times.”

“That’s so,” said Ezra Phelps, “everybody knows as these tew counties be
taxed higher nor the other eend o’ the state.”

“Hev yew paid up ye taxes fer las’ year, Peleg?” inquired Abner.

“No, I hain’t, nor fer year afore, nuther. Gosh, I can’t. I could pay
in pertaters, but I can’t pay in money. Ther ain’t no money. Klector
Williams says as haow he’d hafter sell me out, an I s’pose he’s goin
ter. It’s kinder tough, but I don’ see zi kin dew nothin. I callate to
be in the jail or poorhouse, afore spring.”

“I dunno o’ nobody roun here, as haz paid ther taxes fer las year, yit,”
 said Israel. “I callate that more’n half the farms in the caounty ‘ll be
sole fer taxes afore spring.”

“I hearn as how Squire Woodbridge says taxes is ten times what they wuz
afore the war, an its sartain that they ain’t one shillin intew folks’
pockets tew pay em with whar they wuz ten on em in them days. It seems
dern curis, bein as we fit agin the redcoats jest tew git rid o’ taxes,”
 said Abner.

“Taxes is mosly fer payin interest ontew the money what govment borrowed
tew kerry on the war. Naow, I says, an I ain’t the on’y one in the
caounty as says it, nuther, ez debts orter run daown same ez bills does,
reglar, so much a month, till they ain’t nuthin leff,” said Ezra Phelps,
setting down his mug with an emphatic thud. “S’poosn I borrers money
of yew, Abner, an built a haouse, that haouse is boun tew run daown
in vally, I callate, ‘long from year tew year. An it seems kinder
rees’nable that the debt sh’d run daown’s fass as the haouse, so’s wen
the haouse gits wored aout, the debt ‘ll be, tew. Them things ez govment
bought with the money it borrered, is wore aout, an it seems kinder
rees’nable that the debts should be run daown tew. A leetle orter a been
took orf the debt every year, instead o’ payin interes ontew it.”

“I guess like’s not ye hev the rights on’t, Ezry. I wuzn’t a thinkin
on’t that air way, ezzactly. I wuz a thinkin that if govment paid one
kine o’ debts ‘t orter pay t’other kine. I fetched my knapsack full o’
govment bills hum from the war. I callate them bills wuz all on em debts
what the govment owed tew me fur a fightin. Ef govment ain’t a goin tew
pay me them bills, an ‘tain’t, ‘it don’ seem fair tew tax me so’s it kin
pay debts it owes tew other folks. Leastways seems’s though them bills
govment owes me orter be caounted agin the taxes instead o’ bein good
fer nothin. It don’t seem ez if ‘twas right, nohaow.”

“Leastways,” said Peleg, “if the Gineral Court hain’t a goin ter print
more bills ‘t orter pass a lor, seein thar ain’t no money in the kentry,
so ‘z a feller’s prop’ty could be tuk by a fair valiation fer what he
owes, instead o’ lettin the sheriff sell it fer nothin and sendin a
feller tew jail fer the balince. Wen I giv Squire Edwards that air
leetle morgidge on my farm, money wuz plenty, an I callated tew pay it
up easy; an naow thar ain’t no money, an I can’t git none, if I died
for’t. It’s jess zif I ‘greed tew sell a load o’ ice in January, an a
thaw come an thar wan’t no ice leff. Property’s wuth’s much ‘z ever I
callate, an’t orter be good fer debts instead o’ money, ‘cordin to a far
valiation.”

“Mr. Goodrich, how did you go to work to stop the King’s courts in ‘74?
Did you hang the justices?” inquired Paul Hubbard, arousing from a fit
of contemplation.

“Nary bit,” replied Isaiah, “there warn’t no need o’ hangin nobody.
‘Twas a fine mornin in May, I rekullec jess zif ‘twas yes’day, wen the
court was a goin tew open daown tew Barrington, an abaout a thousan men
on us jess went daown an filled up the court haouse, an woudn’ let the
jedges in, an wen they see ‘twan’t no use, they jess give in quiet’s
lambs, an we made em sign their names tew a paper agreein not tew hold
no more courts, an the job wuz done. Ye see the war wuzn’t farly begun
an none o’ the King’s courts in th’ uther caounties wuz stopped, but we
callated the court mout make trouble for some o’ the Sons o’ Liberty, in
the caounty if we let it set.”

“I callate ‘t ain’t nothin very hard tew stop a court, ‘cordin tew
that,” said Peleg Bidwell.

“No, ‘tain’t hard, not ef the people is gen’ally agin’ the settin on
it,” said Isaiah.

“I s’pose ef a thousan men sh’d be daown tew Barrington nex’ week
Tewsday, they could stop the jestice fr’m openin the Common Pleas, jess
same ez yew did,” said Peleg, thoughtfully.

“Sartain,” said Isaac, “sartain; leastways’s long ez the militia warn’t
aout, but gosh, they ain’t no sense o’ talkin baout sech things! These
hain’t no sech times ez them wuz, an folks ain’t what they wuz, nuther.
They seems kinder slimpsy; hain’t got no grit.”

During this talk, Elnathan had risen and gone feebly out.

“Elnathan seems tew take it tew heart baout leavin the ole place. I
hearn ez how Solomon Gleason’s goin ter sell him aout pooty soon,” Abner
remarked.

“I guess t’ain’t so much that as ‘tis the bad news he’s heerd baout Reub
daown tew Barrington jail,” said Obadiah Weeks.

“What’s abaout Reub?” asked Abner.

“He’s a goin intew a decline daown to the jail.”

“I wanter know! Poor Reub!” said Abner, compassionately. “He fout side
o’ me tew Stillwater, an Perez was t’other side. Perez done me a good
turn that day, ez I shan’t furgit in a hurry. Gosh, he’d take it hard
ef he hearn ez haow Reub wuz in jail! I never seed tew fellers set more
store by another ‘n he did by Reub.”

“Wonder ef Perez ain’t never a comin hum. He hain’t been back sence the
war. I hearn his folks had word a spell ago, ez he wuz a comin,” said
Peleg.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Abner, his rough features softening with a pensive
cast, “I rekullec jess zif ‘twar yes’dy, that rainy mornin wen we
fellers set orf long with Squire Woodbridge fer Bennington. Thar wuz me,
‘n Perez, an Reub, an Abe Konkapot, ‘n lessee, yew went afore, didn’t
ye, Peleg?”

“Yas, I went with Cap’n Stoddard,” replied that individual.

“Thar we wuz; all a stannin in line,” pursued Abner, gazing right
through the ceiling, as if he could see just the other side of it the
scene which he so vividly recalled, “an Parson West a prayin, an the
wimmin a whimperin, an we nigh ontew it; fer we wuz green, an the
mothers’ milk warn’t aouter us. But I bet we tho’t we wuz big pertaters,
agoin to fight fer lib’ty. Wall, we licked the redcoats, and we got
lib’ty, I s’pose; lib’ty ter starve, that is ef we don’ happin to git
sent tew jail fus,” and Abner’s voice fell, and his chin dropped on his
breast, in a sudden reaction of dejection at the thought of the bitter
disappointment of all the hopes which that day had made their hearts so
strong, even in the hour of parting.

“I callate we wuz a dern sight better orf every way under the King, ‘n
we be naow. The Tories wuz right, arter all, I guess. We’d better a
let well nuff l’one, an not to a jumped aouter the fryin-pan intew the
fire,” said Peleg, gloomily.

As he ended speaking, a medium sized man, with a pasty white, freckled
complexion, bristly red hair, a retreating forehead and small, sharp
eyes, came forward from the dark corner near the door. His thin lips
writhed in a mocking smile, as he stood confronting Peleg and Abner, and
looking first at one and then at the other:

“Ef I don’ furgit,” he said at length, “that’s ‘baout the way I talked
wen the war wuz a goin on, an if I rekullec, ye, Peleg, an ye, Abner
Rathbun and Meshech Little, thar on the floor, tuk arter me with
yer guns and dorgs caze ye said I wuz a dum Tory. An ye hunted me on
Stockbridge mounting like a woodchuck, an ye’d a hed my skelp fer sartin
ef I hadn’t been a durn sight smarter ‘n ye ever wuz.”

“Jabez,” said Abner, “I hope ye don’ hev no hard feelin’s. Times be
changed. Let by gones be by gones.”

“Mos’ folks ud say I hed some call to hev hard feelin’s. Ye druv me ter
hide in caves, an holes, fer the best part o’ tew year. I dass’n come
hum tew see my wife die, nor tew bury on her. Ye confiscated my house
and tuk my crops fer yer derned army. Mos’ folks ud sartingly say ez
I hed call tew hev hard feelin’s agin’ ye. But gosh, I hain’t, an wy
hain’t I? Gaze ye hev been yer own wust enemies; ye’ve hurt yerselves
more ner ye hev me, though ye didn’t go fer ter dew it. Pooty nigh
all on ye, as fit agen the King, is beggars naow, or next door tew it.
Everybudy hez a kick fer a soldier. Ye’ll fine em mosly in the jails an
the poorhaouses. Look at you fellers as wuz a huntin me. Ther’s Meshech
on the floor, a drunken, worthless cuss. Thar ye be, Abner, ‘thout a
shillin in the world, nor a foot o’ lan’, yer dad’s farm gone fer taxes.
An thar be ye, Peleg. Wal Peleg, they dew say, ez the neighbors sends ye
in things.”

Jabez looked from one to the other till he had sufficiently enjoyed
their discomfiture and then he continued:

“I ain’t much better orf’n ye be, but I hain’t got nothin ontew my
conscience. An wen I looks roun’ an sees the oppresshin, and the poverty
of the people, and how they have none tew help, an the jails so full, an
the taxes, an the plague o’ lawyers, an the voice o’ cryin as is goin
up from the land, an all the consekences o’ the war, I tell ye, it’s
considabul satisfacshin to feel ez I kin wash my hans on’t.” And, with
a glance of contemptuous triumph around the circle, Jabez turned on his
heel and went out. The silence was first broken by Ezra Phelps, who said
quietly:

“Wal, Jabez ain’t fur from right. It’s abaout so. Some says the King is
callatin to try to git the colonies back agin fore long. Ef he doos I
guess he’ll make aout, fur I don’t bleeve ez a kumpny o’ men could be
raised in all Berkshire, tew go an fight the redcoats agin, if they wuz
to come to-morrer.” And a general murmur of assent confirmed his words.

“Wal,” said Abner, recovering speech, “live an larn. In them days wen
I went a gunnin arter Jabez, I uster to think ez thar wuzn’t no sech
varmint ez a Tory, but I didn’t know nothin bout lawyers, and sheriffs
them times. I callate ye could cut five Tories aout o’ one lawyer an
make a dozen skunks aout o’ what wuz leff over. I’m a goin hum.”

This was the signal for a general break-up. Israel, who had fallen into
a boozy slumber on the settle, was roused and sent home between his
son and hired man, and presently the tavern was dark save for the
soon extinguished glimmer of a candle at the upstairs window of Widow
Bingham’s apartment. Meshech was left to snore upon the barroom floor
and grope his way outdoors as best he might, when he should return to
his senses. For doors were not locked in Stockbridge in those days.



CHAPTER THIRD

THE TAVERN-JAIL AT BARRINGTON


Peleg’s information, although of a hearsay character, was correct.
Perez Hamlin was coming home. The day following the conversation in the
barroom of Stockbridge tavern, which I have briefly sketched in the
last chapter, about an hour after noon, a horseman might have been seen
approaching the village of Great Barrington, on the road from Sheffield.
He wore the buff and blue uniform of a captain in the late Continental
army, and strapped to the saddle was a steel hilted sword which had
apparently experienced a good many hard knocks. The lack of any other
baggage to speak of, as well as the frayed and stained condition of his
uniform, indicated that however rich the rider might be in glory, he was
tolerably destitute of more palpable forms of wealth.

Poverty, in fact, had been the chief reason that had prevented Captain
Hamlin from returning home before. The close of the war had found him
serving under General Greene in South Carolina, and on the disbandment
of the troops he had been left without means of support. Since then
he had been slowly working his way homewards, stopping a few months
wherever employment or hospitality offered. What with the lack and
insecurity of mails, and his frequent movements, he had not heard from
home for two or three years, though he had written. But in those days,
when the constant exchange of bulletins of health and business between
friends, which burdens modern mail bags, was out of the question, the
fact perhaps developed a more robust quality of faith in the well-being
of the absent than is known in these timid and anxious days. Certain it
is that as the soldier rides along, the smiles that from time to time
chase each other across his bronzed face, indicate that gay and tender
anticipations of the meeting now only a few hours away, leave no room in
his mind for gloomy conjectures of possible disaster. It is nine years
since he parted with his father and mother; and his brother Reub he has
not seen since the morning in 1778, when Perez, accepting a commission,
had gone south with General Greene, and Reub had left for home with
Abner and Fennell, and a lot of others whose time had expired. He smiles
now as he thinks how he never really knew what it was to enjoy the
fighting until he got the lad off home, so that he had not to worry
about his being hit every time there was any shooting going on. Coming
into Great Barrington, he asked the first man he met where the tavern
was.

“That’s it, over yonder,” said the man, jerking his thumb over his
shoulder at a nondescript building some way ahead.

“That looks more like a jail.”

“Wal, so ‘tis. The jail’s in the ell part o’ the tavern. Cephe Bement
keeps ‘em both.”

“It’s a queer notion to put em under the same roof.”

“I dunno ‘bout that, nuther. It’s mostly by way o’ the tavern that
fellers gits inter jail, I calc’late.”

Perez laughed, and riding up to the tavern end of the jail, dismounted,
and going into the barroom, ordered a plate of pork and beans. Feeling
in excellent humor he fell to conversing over his modest meal with the
landlord, a big, beefy man, who evidently liked to hear himself talk,
and in a gross sort of way, appeared to be rather good natured.

“I saw a good many red flags on farmhouses, as I was coming up from
Sheffield, this morning,” said Perez. “You haven’t got the smallpox in
the county again, have you?”

“Them wuz sheriff’s sales,” said the landlord, laughing uproariously, in
which he was joined by a seedy, red-nosed character, addressed as Zeke,
who appeared to be a hanger-on of the barroom in the function of echo to
the landlord’s jokes.

“Ye’ll git uster that air red flag ef ye stay long in these parts. Ye
ain’t so fer from right arter all, though, fer I guess mos’ folks’d
baout as leeve hev the smallpox in the house ez the sheriff.”

“Times are pretty hard hereabouts, are they?”

“Wal, yes, they be baout ez hard ez they kin be, but ye see it’s wuss
in this ere caounty ‘n ‘tis ‘n mos’ places, cause ther warn’t nary court
here fer six or eight year, till lately, an no debts wuz klected ‘n so
they’ve kinder piled up. I callate they ain’t but dern few fellers in
the caounty ‘cept the parsons, ‘n lawyers, ‘n doctors ez ain’t a bein
sued ted-day, ‘specially the farmers. I tell you it makes business
lively fer the lawyers an sheriffs. They’re the ones ez rides in
kerridges these days.”

“Is the jail pretty full now?”

“Chock full, hed to send a batch up ter Lenox las’ week, an got em
packed bout’s thick’s they’ll lay naow, like codfish in a bar’l. Haow
in time I’m a gonter make room fer the fellers the court’ll send in nex’
week, I d’now, derned if I dew. They’d orter be three new jails in the
caounty this blamed minit.”

“Do you expect a good many more this week?”

“Gosh, yes. Why, man alive, the Common Pleas never had ez much business
ez this time. I callate they’s nigh onter seven hundred cases tew try.”

“The devil! Has there been a riot or a rebellion in the county? What
have they all done?”

“Oh they hain’t done nothin,” replied the landlord, “they ain’t nothin
but debtors. Dern debtors, I don’ like to hev the jailin of em. They
hain’t got no blood intew em like Sabbath-breakers, an blasphemers,
an rapers has. They’re weakly, pulin kinder chaps, what thar ain’t
no satisfaction a lockin up an a knockin roun’. They’re dreffle
deskerridgin kind o’ fellers tew. Ye see we never git rid on em. They
never gits let aout like other fellers as is in jail. They hez tew stay
till they pays up, an naterally they can’t pay up’s long ez they stays.
Genally they goes aout feet foremost, when they goes aout at all, an
they ain’t long lived.”

“Why don’t they pay up before they get in?” queried Perez.

“Whar be ye from?” asked the landlord, staring at him.

“I’m from New York, last.”

“I thort ye could’t be from roun’ here, nowheres, to as’ sech a
queschin. Why don’ they pay their debts? Did ye hear that Zeke? Why,
jess caze they ain’ no money in the kentry tew pay em with. It don’ make
a mite o’ odds haow much propty a feller’s got. It don’ fetch nothin tew
a sale. The credtor buys it in fer nothin, an the feller goes to jail
fer the balance. A man as has got a silver sixpence can amos buy a farm.
Some folks says they orter be a law makin propty a tender fer debts on a
far valiation. I dunno, I don’ keer, I hain’t no fault tew find with my
business, leastways the jail end on’t.”

Finishing his dinner, Perez asked for his score, and drew a large wallet
from his pocket, and took out a roll of about five thousand dollars in
Continental bills.

“Hain’t ye got no Massachusetts bills? They ain’t wuth but one shillin
in six but that’s suthin, and them Continental bills ain’t wuth haouse
room. Gosh durn it. I swow, ef I’d a known ye hadn’t nothin but them,
I wouldn’t a guv ye a drop to drink nor eat nuther. Marthy say ony this
morning, ‘Cephas,’ says she, ‘rum ‘s rum an rags is rags, an don’ ye
give no more rum fer rags.’”

“Well,” said Perez, “I have nothing else. Government thought they were
good enough to pay the soldiers for their blood; they ought to pay
landlords for their rum.”

“I dunno nothin baout bein soldiers, an I dunno ez I or any other man’s
beholden to ye for’t, nuther. Ye got paid all twat wuth if ye didn’t git
paid nuthin; fur’s I kin reckon, we wuz a durn sight better orf under
Ole King George ‘s we be naow. Ain’ that baout so, Zeke?”

“Well,” said Perez, “if you won’t take these, I can’t pay you at all.”

“Well” said Bement crossly, “thar’s the beans an mug o’ flip. Call it a
thousand dollars, an fork over, but by gosh, I don’ git caught that way
again. It’s downright robbery, that’s wot it is. I say ain’t ye got no
cleaner bills nor these?”

“Perhaps these are cleaner,” said Perez, handing him another lot. “What
odds does it make?”

“Wal, ye see, ef they be middlin clean, I kin keep kaounts on the backs
on em, and Marthy finds em handy wen she writes to her folks daown tew
Springfield. Tain’t fuss class writin paper, but it’s cheaper’n other
kinds, an that’s suthin in these times.”

Having satisfied the landlord’s requirements, as well as possible, Perez
walked to the door and stood looking out. The ell containing the jail,
coming under his eye, he turned and said, “You spoke of several hundred
debtors coming before the court next week. It don’t look as if you could
get over fifty in here.”

“Oh ye can jam in a hundred. I’ve got nigh that naow, and thay’s other
lockups in the caounty,” replied the landlord. “But ef they wuz a gonter
try to shet up all the debtors, they’d hev tew build a half a dozen new
jails. But bless ye, the mos’ on em won’t be shet up. Ther creditors ‘ll
git jedgments agin’ em, an then they’ll hev rings in their noses, an kin
dew wot they likes with em caze ef they don’ stan raoun’ they kin shove
em right intew jug ye see.”

“You don’t mean to say there’s much of that sort of slavery,” ejaculated
Perez.

“I’d now baout slavery ezzackly, but thar’s plenty o’ that sort o’ thing
fer sartin. Credtors mosly’d ruther dew that way, caze they kin git
suthin aout a feller, an ef they sen em tew jail it’s a dead loss. They
makes em work aout ther debt and reckons ther work tew baout wat they
pleases. They is some queer kinder talk baout wat kind er things they
makes em stan sometimes rather’n go ter jail. Wal, all I says is that
a feller ez hez got a good lookin gal hed better not git a owin much
in these ere times. I hain’t said nothin, hev I, Zeke?” and that worthy
answered his wink with a salacious chuckle.

“Have you any debtors from Stockbridge?” asked Perez, suddenly.

“A hull slew on em,” replied Bement. “I’ve got one more’n I shall hev
much longer, tew.”

“Who be that?” asked Zeke.

“Wal, I callate George Fennell won’t hole out much longer.”

“Fennell; George Fennell! George Fennell is not in this jail,” cried
Perez.

“Wal, naow,” said Bement, imperturbably, “perhaps ye know better’n I
dew.”

“But, landlord, he’s my friend, my comrade, I’d like to see him,” and
the young man’s countenance expressed the liveliest concern.

The landlord seemed to hesitate. Finally he turned his head and called,
“Marthy”, and a plump, kitten-like little woman appeared at a door,
opening into the end of the bar, whereupon, the landlord, as he jerked
his thumb over his shoulder to indicate their guest, remarked:

“He wants ter know if ‘ee kin be let ter see George Fennell. Says he’s
his fren, an uster know him to the war.”

Mrs. Bement looked at the officer and said, “Wal, my husbun don’
genally keer to hev folks a seein the pris’ners, coz it makes em kinder
discontented like.” She hesitated a little and then added, “But I
dunno’s ‘twill dew no harm Cephas, bein as Fennell won’ las’ much longer
anyhow.”

Thus authorized, Bement took a bundle of keys from a hook behind the
bar, and proceeded to unlock the padlock which fastened an iron bar
across a heavy plank door, in the middle of one of the sides of the
room. As he threw open the door, a gust of foul stenches belched forth
into the room, almost nauseating Perez. The smell of the prison was like
that of a pig sty. The door had opened into a narrow corridor, dimly lit
by a small square grated window at the further end, while along either
side were rows of strong plank doors opening outward, and secured by
heavy, oaken bars, slipped across them at the middle. The muggy dog-day
had been very oppressive, even out of doors; but here in the corridor,
it was intolerable. To breathe in the horrible concoction of smells, was
like drinking from a sewer; the lungs, even as they involuntarily took
it in, strove spasmodically to close their passages against it. It was
impossible for one unaccustomed to such an atmosphere, to breathe, save
by gasps. Bement stopped at one of the doors, and as he was raising the
bar across it, he said:

“Thar ain’ on’y one feller ‘sides Fennell in here. He’s a Stockbridge
feller, too. The cell ain’ so big’s the others. Genally thar’s three or
four together. I’ll jess shet ye in, an come back for ye in a minit.”

He opened the door, and as the other stepped in, it was closed and
barred behind him. The cell was about seven feet square and as high. The
floor was a foot lower than the corridor, and correspondingly damper.
It must have been on or below the level of the ground, and the floor,
as well as the lower end of the planks which formed the walls, was
black with moisture. The cell was littered with straw and every kind
of indescribable filth, while the walls and ceiling were mildewed and
spotted with ghastly growths of mould, feeding on the moist and filthy
vapors, which were even more sickening than in the corridor.

Full six feet from the floor, too high to look out of, was a small
grated window, a foot square, through which a few feeble, dog-day
sunbeams, slanting downward, made a little yellow patch upon the lower
part of one of the sides of the cell. Sitting upon a pile of filthy
straw, leaning back against the wall, with his face directly in this
spot, one of the prisoners was half-sitting, half-lying, his eyes shut
as if asleep, and a smile of perfect happiness resting on his pale and
weazened face. Doubtless he was dreaming of the time, when, as a boy,
he played all day in the shining fields, or went blackberrying in the
ardent July sun. For him the river was gleaming again, turning its
million glittering facets to the sun, or, maybe, his eye was delighting
in the still sheen of ponds in Indian summer, as they reflected the red
glory of the overhanging maple or the bordering sumach thicket.

The other prisoner was kneeling on the floor before the wall, with a
piece of charcoal in his hand, mumbling to himself as he busily added
figures to a sum with which the surface above was already covered. As
the door of the cell closed, he looked around from his work. Like the
man’s on the floor, his face had a ghastly pallor, against which the
dirt with which it is stained, shows with peculiarly obscene effect,
while the beards and hair of both had grown long and matted and were
filled with straw. So completely had their miserable condition disguised
them, that Perez would not have known in the dim light of the cell that
he had ever seen either before.

The man who had been kneeling on the floor, after his first look of dull
curiosity, began to stare fixedly at Perez, as if he were an apparition,
and then rose to his feet. As he did so, Perez saw that he could not be
Fennell, for the latter was tall, and this man was quite short. Yes,
the reclining man must be George, and now he noted as an unmistakable
confirmation, a scar on one of the emaciated hands lying on his breast.
“George,” he said, stepping to his side. As he did so he passed athwart
the bar of sunshine that was falling on the man’s countenance. A peevish
expression crossed his face, and he opened his eyes, the burning,
glassy eyes of the consumptive. For a few seconds he looked fixedly,
wonderingly, and then said half dreamily, half inquiringly, as if he
were not quite certain whether it were a man or a vision, he murmured:

“Perez?”

“Yes, it is I, George,” said the soldier, his eyes filling with
compassionate tears. “How came you in this horrible place?”

But before Fennell could answer the other prisoner sprang to the side of
the speaker, clutching his arm in his claw-like fingers, and crying in
an anguished voice:

“Perez; brother Perez. Don’t you know me?”

At the voice Perez started as if a bullet had reached his heart. Like
lightning he turned, his face, frozen with fear, that was scarcely yet
comprehended, his eyes like darts. From that white filthy face in its
wild beast’s mat of hair, his brother’s eyes were looking into his.

“Lord, God in Heaven!” It was a husky, struggling voice, scarcely more
than a whisper in which he uttered the words. For several seconds the
brothers stood gazing into each other’s countenances, Reuben holding
Perez’ arm and he half shrinking, not from his brother, though such was
the attitude, but from the horror of the discovery.

“How long” he began to ask, and then his voice broke. The emaciated
figure before him, the face bleached with the ghastly pallor which a
sunless prison gives, the deep sunken eyes looking like coals of fire,
eating their way into his brain, the tattered clothing, the long unkempt
hair and beard, prematurely whitening, and filled with filth, the
fingers grown claw-like and blue, with prison mould, the dull vacant
look and the thought that this was Reuben, his brother; these things all
filled him with such an unutterable, intolerable pity, that it seemed as
if he should lose his head and go wild for very anguish of heart.

“I ‘spose I’m kinder thin and some changed, so ye didn’t know me,” said
Reuben, with a feeble smile. “Ye see I’ve been here a year, and am going
into a decline. I sent word home to have father ask Deacon Nash if he
wouldn’t let me go home to be nussed up by mother. I should get rugged
again if I could have a little o’ mother’s nussin. P’raps ye’ve come to
take me home, Perez?” And a faint gleam of hope came into his face.

“Reub, Reub, I didn’t know you was here,” groaned Perez, as he put his
arm about his brother, and supported his feeble figure.

“How come ye here, then?” asked Reuben.

“I was going home. I haven’t been home since the war. Didn’t you know? I
heard o’ George’s being here, and came in to see him, but I didn’t think
o’ you’re being here.”

“Where have ye been, Perez, all the time? I callated ye must be in jail,
somewheres, like all the rest of the soldiers.”

“I had no money to get home with. But how came you here, Reub? Who put
you here?”

“Twas Deacon Nash done it. I tried to start a farm arter the war, and
got in debt to Deacon for seed and stock, and there wasn’t no crop, and
the hard times come. I couldn’t pay, and the Deacon sued, and so I lost
the farm and had to come here.”

“Why didn’t father help you? He ain’t dead is he?”

Almost any misfortune now seemed possible to Perez.

“No, he ain’t dead, but he ain’t got nothin. I spose he’s sold out by
this time. Sol Gleason had a mortgage on the place.”

“How much was your debt, Reub?”

“Nineteen pound, seven shilling and six-pence. ‘Leastways, the debt was
nine pound, and the rest was lawyers’, justices’ and sheriffs’ fees. I
callate they’ll find them figgers cut into my heart, when I’m dead.”

And then he pointed to the sums in charcoal, covering the walls of the
cell.

“I callated the interest down to how much a minute. I allers liked
cipherin, ye know, Perez, and I have a great deal of time here. Ye see,
every day, the interest is a penny and twenty-six twenty-sevenths of a
farthin. The wall round me gits that much higher and thicker every day.”
 He stepped closer up to the wall, and pointed to a particular set of
figures.

“Here’s my weight, ye see, ten stone and a fraction,” and then observing
Perez’ pitiful glance at his emaciated form, he added, “I mean when I
come to jail. Dividin nineteen pound, seven and six, by that, it
makes me come to thrippence happenny a pound, ‘cording to the laws o’
Massachusetts, countin bones and waste. Mutton ain’t wuth but tuppence,
and there’s lots o’ fellers here for sech small debts, that they don’t
come to mor’n a farthin a pound, and ye see I’m gittin dearer, Perez.
There’s the interest one way, and I’m a gittin thinner the other way,”
 he added with a piteous smile.

“Perez,” interrupted Fennell, in a feeble, whimpering voice, as he
weakly endeavored to raise himself from the floor, “I wish you’d jess
give me a boost on your shoulders, so I kin see out the winder. Reub
uster to do it, but he ain’t stout enough now. It’s two months since
I’ve seen out. Say, Perez, won’t ye?”

“It’ll do him a sight o’ good, Perez, if ye will. I never see a feller
set sech store by trees and mountings as George does. They’re jess like
medicine to him, an he’s fell off faster’n ever since I hain’t been able
to boost him up.”

Perez knelt, too much moved for speech, and Reub helped to adjust upon
his shoulders the feeble frame of the sick man, into whose face had
come an expression of eager, excited expectation. As the soldier rose he
fairly tottered from the unexpected lightness of his burden. He stepped
beneath the high, grated window, and Fennell, resting his hands on the
lintel, while Reub steadied him from behind, peered out. He made no
sound, and finally Perez let him down to the floor.

“Could you see much?” asked Reub, but the other did not answer. His gaze
was afar off as if the prison walls were no barrier to his eyes, and a
smile of rapturous contemplation rested on his face. Then with a deep
breath he seemed to return to a perception of his surroundings, and in
tones of irrepressible exultation he murmured:

“I saw the mountains. They are so,” and with a waving, undulating
gesture of the hand that was wonderfully eloquent, he indicated the bold
sweep of the forest clad Taghcanic peaks. The door swung open, and the
jailer stood there.

“Time’s up,” he said sharply.

“What, you’re not going now? You’re not going to leave us yet?” cried
Reuben, piteously.

Perez choked down the wrath and bitterness that was turning his heart to
iron and said, humbly.

“Mr. Bement, I should like to stay a few minutes longer. This is my
brother. I did not know he was here.”

“Sorry for’t,” said Bement, carelessly. “Don’ see as I kin help it,
though. S’posed like nuff he was somebuddy’s brother. Mout’s well be
your’n ez anybuddy’s. I dunno who ye be. All I knows is that ye’ve been
here fifteen minutes and now ye must leave. Don’ keep me waitin, nuther.
Thay ain’ nobuddy tendin bar.”

“Don’t make him mad, Perez, or else he won’t let ye come again,”
 whispered Reuben, who saw that his brother was on the point of some
violent outburst. Perez controlled himself, and took his brother’s hands
in his coming close up to him and looking away over his shoulder so that
he might not see the pitiful workings of his features which would have
negatived his words of comfort.

“Cheer up, Reub,” he said huskily, “I’ll get you out. I’ll come for
you,” and still holding his grief-wrung face averted, that Reuben might
not see it, he went forth, and Bement shut the door and barred it.



CHAPTER FOURTH

THE PEOPLE ASK BREAD AND RECEIVE A STONE


As Captain Hamlin, leaving behind him Great Barrington and its
tavern-jail, was riding slowly on toward Stockbridge, oblivious in
the bitter tumult of his feelings, to the glorious scenery around him,
Stockbridge Green was the scene of a quite unusual assemblage. Squire
Sedgwick, the town’s delegate, was expected back that afternoon from the
county convention, which had been sitting at Lenox, to devise remedies
for the popular distress, and the farmers from the outlying country had
generally come into the village to get the first tidings of the result
of its deliberations.

Seated on the piazza of the store, and standing around it, at a distance
from the assemblage of the common people, suitably typifying their
social superiority, was a group of the magnates of Stockbridge, in the
stately dress of gentlemen of the olden time, their three-cornered hats
resting upon powdered wigs, and long silk hose revealing the goodly
proportions of their calves. Upon the piazza sits a short, portly
gentleman, with bushy black eyebrows and a severe expression of
countenance. Although a short man he has a way of holding his neck
stiff, with the chin well out, and looking downward from beneath his
eyelids, upon those who address him, which, with his pursed up lips,
gives a decided impression of authority and unapproachableness. This is
Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire.

Parson West is standing on the ground in front of him, his silver headed
cane tucked under one arm. His small person--he is not an inch over five
feet tall--is as neatly dressed as if just taken out of a band-box,
and his black, shining hose encase a leg and ankle which are the chaste
admiration of the ladies of the parish, and the source, it is whispered,
of no small complacency to the good man himself.

“What think you,” he is saying to Squire Woodbridge, “will have been the
action of the convention? Will it have emulated the demagogic tone of
that at Hatfield, do you opine?”

“Let us hope not, Reverend Sir,” responded the Squire, “but methinks
it was inexpedient to allow the convention to meet, although Squire
Sedgwick’s mind was on that point at variance with mine. It is an easier
matter to prevent a popular assembly than to restrain its utterances,
when assembled.”

“I trust,” said the parson, looking around upon those standing near,
“that we have all made it a subject of prayer, that the convention might
be Providentially led to devise remedies for the inconveniences of the
time, for they are sore, and the popular discontent is great.”

“Nay, I fear ‘tis past hoping for that the people will be contented with
anything the convention may have done, however well considered,” said
Dr. Partridge. “They have set their hearts on some such miracle as that
whereby Moses did refresh fainting Israel with water from the smitten
rock. The crowd over yonder will be satisfied with nothing short of that
from the convention,” and the doctor waved his hand toward the people
on the green, with a smile of tolerant contempt on his clean-cut,
sarcastic, but not unkindly face.

“I much err,” said Squire Woodbridge, “if the stocks and the
whipping-post be not the remedy their discontent calls for. I am
told that seditious and disorderly speech is common at the tavern of
evenings. This presumption of the people to talk concerning matters of
government, is an evil that has greatly increased since the war, and
calls for sharp castigation. These numskulls must be taught their place
or t’will shortly be no country for gentlemen to live in.”

“A letter that I had but a day or two ago from my brother at Hatfield,”
 said Dr. Partridge, “speaks of the people being much stirred up in
Hampshire, so that some even fear an attempt of the mob to obstruct
the court at Northampton, though my brother opined that their insolence
would not reach so far. One Daniel Shays, an army captain, is spoken of
as a leader.”

Timothy Edwards, Esquire, a tall sharp featured man, with a wrinkled
forehead, had come to the door of his store while the doctor was
talking. I should vainly try to describe this stately merchant of the
olden time, if the reader were to confound him, ever so little in his
mind’s eye, with the bustling, smiling, obsequious, modern storekeeper.
Even a royal customer would scarcely have presumed so far as to ask this
imposing gentleman, in powdered wig, snuff-colored coat, waistcoat and
short clothes, white silk stockings and silver-buckled shoes, to cut
off a piece of cloth or wrap up a bundle for him. It may be taken for
granted that commercial enterprise, as illustrated in Squire Edwards’
store, was entirely subservient to the maintenance of the proprietor’s
personal dignity. He now addressed Dr. Partridge:

“Said your brother anything of the report that the Tories and British
emissaries are stirring up the popular discontent, to the end that
reproach may be brought on the new government of the States, by
revealing its weakness as compared with the King’s?”

“Nay, of that he spoke not.”

“For my part, I do fully believe it,” resumed Edwards, “and, moreover,
that this is but a branch of the British policy, looking toward the
speedy reconquering of these States. It is to this end, also, that they
are aiming to weaken us by drawing all the money out of the country,
whereby, meanwhile, the present scarcity is caused.”

“Methinks, good sir,” replied the doctor, “the great expense of the war,
and the public and private debts made thereby, with the consequential
taxes and suits at law, do fully explain the lamentable state of the
country, and the disquiet of the people, though it may be that the King
has also designs against us.”

“Nay,” said the parson, in tones of gentle reproof, “these all be carnal
reasons, whereby if we seek to explain the judgments of God, we do fail
of the spiritual profiting we might find therein. For no doubt these
present calamities are God’s judgment upon this people for its sins,
seeing it is well known that the bloody and cruel war now over, hath
brought in upon us all manner of new and strange sins, even as if God
would have us advertised how easily that liberty which we have gained
may run into licentiousness. Sabbath-breaking and blasphemy have come in
upon us like a flood, and the new and heinous sin of card-playing hath
contaminated our borders, as hath been of late brought to light in the
cases of Jerubbabel Galpin and Zedekiah Armstrong, who were taken in the
act, and are even now in the stocks. And thereby am I reminded that I
had purposed to improve this occasion for the reproof and admonition of
them that stand by.”

And thereupon the parson saluted the gentlemen and sedately crossed the
green toward the stocks, around which was a noisy crowd of men and boys.
As the parson approached, however, a respectful silence fell upon them.
There was a general pulling off of hats and caps, and those in his path
stood obsequiously aside, while the little children, slinking behind the
grown folks, peeped around their legs at him. The two hobbledehoys
in the stocks, loutish farmer’s boys, had been already undergoing the
punishment for about an hour. Their backs were bent so that their bodies
resembled the letter U laid on its side, and their arms were strained
as if they were pulling out of the sockets. All attempted bravado, all
affectation of stoical indifference, all sense even of embarrassment,
had evidently been merged in the demoralization of intense physical
discomfort, and the manner in which they lolled their heads, first on
one side and then on the other, was eloquent of abject and shameless
misery. Standing directly in front of these hapless youths, and using
them as his text, the parson began to admonish the people in this wise:

“It would seem the will of God to permit the adversary to try the people
of Stockbridge with divers new and strange temptations, not known to
our fathers, doubtless to the end, that their graces may shine forth
the more clearly, even as gold tried in the fire hath a more excellent
lustre, by reason of its discipline.

“I have examined myself with fasting, to see if any weakness or laxity
in my office, as shepherd of this flock, might be the occasion of this
license given to Satan. And it behooveth you, each in his own soul,
and in his own household, to make inquisition lest some sin of his or
theirs, bring this new temptation of card-playing, upon our people,
even as the wedge of fine gold which Achan took and hid in his tent, did
mightily discomfit the host of Israel with the plagues of the Lord. For
even as for the sin of Adam, we are all justly chargeable, so for the
sins of one another, doth the justice of God afflict us, so that we may
find our account in watching over our brethren, even as over ourselves.

“And you, whom Satan hath led away captive,” pursued the reverend
orator, addressing himself to the young men in the stocks, “be ye
thankful that ye have not been permitted to escape this temporal
recompense of your transgression, which, if proved, may save you from
the eternal flames of hell, Reflect, whether it be not better to endure
for a season, the contempt and the chastisement of men, rather than to
bear the torments and jeers of the devil and his angels forever.”

“Behold,” said the minister, holding up the pack of cards taken from the
prisoners, “with what instruments Satan doth tempt mankind, and consider
how perverse must be the inclination which can be tempted by devices
that do so plainly advertise their devilish origin. At times Satan doth
so shrewdly mask his wiles that if it were possible the very elect might
be deceived, but how evidently doth he here reveal his handiwork.”

He held up some of the court cards.

“Take note of these misshaped and deformed figures, heathenishly
attired, and with no middle parts or legs, but with two heads turned
diverse ways. These are not similitudes of man, who was made in the
image of his Maker, but doubtless of fiends, revealed by Satan to the
artificers who do his work in the fabrication of these instruments of
sin. Mark these figures of diamonds and hearts, and these others,
which I am told do signify spades and clubs. How plainly do they typify
ill-gotten riches and bleeding hearts, violence and the grave. Wretched
youths, which of ye tempted the other to this sin?”

“Je assed me to dew it,” whimpered Zedekiah.

“Kiah, he assed me fust,” averred Jerubbabel.

“No doubt ye are both right,” said the minister sternly. “When two
sin together, Satan is divided in twain, and the one half tempteth the
other. See to it that ye sin not again on this wise, lest a worse thing
come upon you.”

Scarcely had the parson turned away, when a shout from some boys who had
gone to the corner to watch for the coming of the Squire, announced his
approach, and presently he appeared at the corner, riding a fine gray
horse, and came on at an easy canter across the green. He was a tall,
broad-shouldered, finely-proportioned man of about forty, with a refined
face, frank and open, but rather haughty in expression, with piercing
black eyes; a man in whose every gesture lay conscious power and
obvious superiority. As he rode by the silent crowd, he acknowledged the
salutations of the people with a courteous wave of the hand, but drew
rein only when he reached the group of dignitaries about the store.
There he dismounted and shook hands with the parson, who has rejoined
the party, with Dr. Partridge, Squire Edwards and Squire Woodbridge.

“What news bring you from the convention? I trust you have been
Providentially guided. I have not failed to remember you in my prayers,”
 said the parson.

“For which I am deeply grateful, Reverend Sir,” replied Sedgwick. “And
truly I think your prayers have been effectual. The blessing of God has
been manifestly upon the convention. Berkshire has not been disgraced,
as have been the lower counties, by a seditious and incendiary body of
resolutions on the part of her delegates. There were not wanting plenty
of hot-heads, but they were overruled. I am convinced such might
also have been the issue in the other counties, had the gentlemen put
themselves forward as delegates, instead of leaving it all in a fit of
disgust to the people.”

“Was there any action taken in favor of the plan for the emission
of bills, which shall systematically depreciate!” inquired Squire
Woodbridge.

“Such a resolution was introduced by Thomas Gold of Pittsfield, a
pestilent fellow, but we threw it out.”

“What was the action on reduction of expenses of suits at law?” inquired
Dr. Partridge.

“Again nothing,” replied Sedgwick. “In a word, we refused to yield to
any of the demands of the malcontents, or to hamper the Legislature with
any specific recommendations. You know that we Berkshire people, thanks
to our delay in recognizing the State authority, have an evil repute
at Boston for a mobbish and ungovernable set. It seemed that this was
a good opportunity, when the conventions of all the other counties were
sending up seditious petitions, to make the moderation of our conduct
such a contrast that there might be an end of such talk in the future.”

Meanwhile, as it became apparent to the crowd on the green that they
were not likely to be vouchsafed any information unless they asked for
it, a brisk disputation, conducted in an undertone, so that it might
not reach the ears of the gentlemen, arose as to who should be the
spokesmen.

“I jess ez leeve go ‘s not,” said Jabez Flint, the Tory, “only they
wouldn’ hev nothin tew say ter me ez wuz a Tory.”

“Ef I were ten year younger, I’d go in a minute,” said Israel Goodrich,
“but my jints is kinder stiff. Abner, thar, he’d orter go, by rights.”

“Why don’ ye go, Abner? Ye ain’t scairt o’ speakin tew Squire, be ye!”
 said Peleg.

“I ain’t scairt o’ no man, and ye know it’s well’s ye wanter know.
I’d go in a jiffey, only bein a young man, I don’ like tew put myself
forrard tew speak for them as is older.”

“Why don’ ye go yerself, Peleg, if ye be so dretful brave!” inquired
Israel Goodrich.

“That’s so, Peleg, why don’ ye go?”

“I ain’t no talker,” said Peleg. “Ther’s Ezry, he’d orter go, he’s sech
a good talker.”

But Ezra swallowed the bait without taking the hook. “Tain’t talkin
ez is wanted, it’s assin. Any on ye kin dew that’s well’s I,” he
discriminated.

The spirit of mutual deference was so strong that it is doubtful how
long the contest of modesty might have continued, had not Laban Jones
suddenly said:

“Ef none on ye dasn’t ass what the convenshin has did, I’ll ass myself.
I’m more scairt o’ my hungry babbies an I be o’ the face o’ any man.”

Raising his stalwart figure to its full height, and squaring his
shoulders as if to draw courage from a consciousness of his thews and
sinews, Laban strode toward the store. But though he took the first
steps strongly and firmly, his pace grew feebler and more hesitating
as he neared the group of gentlemen, and his courage might have ebbed
entirely, had not the parson, glancing around and catching his eye,
given him a friendly nod. Laban thereupon came up to within a rod or two
of the group, and taking off his cap, said in a small voice:

“Please we’d like ter know what the convenshin has did?”

Sedgwick, who had his back to him, turned quickly, and seeing Laban,
said in a preëmptory tone:

“Ah! Laban, you may tell your friends that the convention very wisely
did nothing at all,” and as he said this he turned to finish something
that he was saying to Squire Woodbridge. Laban’s jaw fell, and he
continued to stand stock still for several moments, his dull features
working as he tried to take in the idea. Finally, his consternation
absorbing his timidity he said feebly:

“Nothin? Did you say, Squire?”

Sedgwick wheeled about with a frown, which however, changed into an
expression of contemptuous pity as he saw the genuineness of the poor
fellow’s discomfiture.

“Nothing, Laban,” he said, “except to resolve to support the courts,
enforce the laws, and punish all disorderly persons. Don’t forget that
last, Laban, to punish all disorderly persons. Be sure to tell your
friends that. And tell them, too, Laban, that it would be well for them
to leave matters of government to their betters and attend to their
farms,” and as Laban turned mechanically and walked back Sedgwick added,
speaking to the gentlemen about him:

“I like not this assembling of the people to discuss political matters.
We must look to it, gentlemen, or we shall find that we have ridded
ourselves of a king only to fall into the hands of a democracy, which I
take it would be a bad exchange.”

“Sir,” said Edwards, “you must be in need of refreshment, after your
ride. Come in, sir, and come in gentlemen, all. We shall discuss the
Providential issue of the convention more commodiously within doors,
over a suitable provision of Jamaica.”

The suggestion seemed to be timely and acceptable, and one by one the
gentlemen, standing aside with ceremonious politeness to let one another
precede, entered the store, Parson West leading, for it was neither
according to the requirements of decorum, or his own private tastes,
that the minister should decline a convivial invitation of this
character.

“What d’ee say, Laban?”

“What did they dew?”

“Did they ‘bolish the loryers?”

“Wat did they dew baout more bills, Laban, hey?”

“What did they dew baout the taxes?”

“Why don’t ye speak, man?”

“What’s the matter on ye?” were some of the volley of questions with
which the people hailed their chop-fallen deputy on his return, crowding
forward around him, plucking his sleeves and pushing him to get
his attention, for he regarded them with a dazed and sleep-walking
expression. Finally he found his voice, and said:

“Squire says ez haow they didn’ dew nothin.”

There was a moment’s dead silence, then the clamor burst out again.

“Not dew nothin?”

“What d’ye mean, Laban?”

“Nothin baout the taxes?”

“Nothin baout the loryers?”

“Nothin baout the sheriffs’ fees?”

“Nothin baout jailin for debt?”

“Nothin baout takin prop’ty tew a valiation, Laban?”

“Nothin baout movin govment aout o’ Bosting?”

“Nothin, I tells ye,” answered Laban, in the same tone of utter
discouragement. “Squire says ez haow the convenshin hain’t done nothin
‘cept tew resolve that ez courts sh’d go on an the laws sh’d be kerried
aout an disorderly folks sh’d be punished.”

The men looked from one to another of each other’s faces, and each wore
the same blank look. Finally Israel Goodrich said, nodding his head with
an expression of utter dejection at each word:

“Wal, I swow, I be kinder disappinted.”

There was a space of silence.

“So be I,” said Peleg.

Presently Paul Hubbard’s metallic voice was heard.

“We were fools not to have known it. Didn’t we elect a General Court
last year a purpose to do something for us, and come to get down to
Bosting didn’t the lawyers buy em up or fool em so they didn’t do
a thing? The people won’t git righted till they take hold and right
themselves, as they did in the war.”

“Is that all the Squire said, Laban, every word?” asked Israel, and as
he did so all eyes turned on Laban with a faint gleam of hope that there
might yet be some crumb of comfort. Laban scratched his head.

“He said suthin baout govment bein none o’ our business an haow we’d a
better go hum an not be loafin roun’.”

“Ef govment hain’t no business o’ ourn I’d like tew know what in time we
fit the King fer,” said Peleg.

“That’s so, wy didn’ ye ass Squire that queschin?” said Meshech Little.

“By gosh,” exclaimed Abner Rathbun, with a sudden vehemence, “ef govment
ain’t no business o’ ourn they made a mistake when they teached us that
fightin was.”

“What dew ye mean?” asked Israel half timorously.

“Never mind wat I mean,” replied Abner, “on’y a wum ‘ll turn wen it’s
trod on.”

“I don’ bleeve but that Laban’s mistook wat the Squire said. Ye ain’t
none tew clever, ye know, yerself, Laban, and I callate that ye didn’
more’n half understan’ wat Squire meant.”

It was Ezra Phelps who announced this cheering view, which instantly
found general favor, and poor Laban’s limited mental powers were at once
the topic of comments more plain spoken than flattering. Paul Hubbard,
indeed, shook his head and smiled bitterly at this revulsion of
hopefulness, but even Laban himself seemed eager to find ground for
believing himself to have been, in this instance, an ass.

“Ye see the hull thing’s in a nutshell,” said Abner. “Either Laban’s a
fool, or else the hull caounty convenshin o’ Berkshire is fools an wuss,
an I callate it’s Laban.”

Perhaps the back room of the store lacked for Sedgwick, a comparatively
recent resident of Stockbridge, those charms of familiarity it possessed
for the other gentlemen, for even as Abner was speaking, he came out
alone. As he saw the still waiting and undiminished crowd of people,
he frowned angrily, and mounting his horse, rode directly toward them.
Their sullen aspect, which might have caused another to avoid them, was
his very reason for seeking an encounter. As he approached, his piercing
eye rested a moment on the face of every man, and as it did so, each
eye, impelled by a powerfull magnetism, rose deferentially to his, and
every cap was pulled off.

“What is it, Ezra?” he demanded sharply, seeing that Ezra wanted to
address him.

“If you please, Squire,” said Ezra, cap in hand, “Laban’s kinder stupid,
an we callate he muster got what ye said tuther eend to. Will ye kindly
tell us what the convenshin did?”

Stopping his horse, Sedgwick replied, in a loud, clear voice.

“The convention declared that the laws shall be enforced, and all
disorderly persons punished with the stocks and with lashes on the bare
back.”

“Is that all?” faltered Ezra.

“All!” exclaimed Sedgwick, as his eye rested a moment on every face
before him. “Let every one of you look out that he does not find it too
much.”

And now he suddenly broke off in a tone of sharp command, “Disperse and
go to your houses on the pains and penalties of Sabbath breaking. The
sun is down,” and he pointed to the last glimmer of the yellow orb as
it sank below the mountains. The people stood still just long enough to
verify the fact with a glance, that holy time had begun, and instantly
the green was covered with men and boys swiftly seeking shelter within
their doors from the eye of an angry Deity, while from the store hastily
emerged Squire Woodbridge, Dr. Partridge and the parson, and made their
several ways homeward as rapidly as dignity would permit.

Perhaps ten minutes later, Captain Perez Hamlin might have been seen
pricking his jaded horse across the deserted green. He looked around
curiously at the new buildings and recent changes in the appearance of
the village, and once or twice seemed a little at loss about his route.
But finally he turned into a lane leading northerly toward the hill,
just at the foot of which, beside the brook that skirted it, stood a
weather-beaten house of a story and a half. As he caught sight of this,
Perez spurred his horse to a gallop, and in a few moments the mother,
through her tears of joy, was studying out in the stern face of the man,
the lineaments of the boy whose soldier’s belt she had buckled round him
nine years before.



CHAPTER FIFTH

THAT MEANS REBELLION!


Elnathan was the only one of the family who went to church the following
day. Mrs. Hamlin was too infirm to climb the hill to the meeting-house,
and Perez’ mood was more inclined to blood-spilling than to God’s
worship. All day he walked the house, his fists clenched, muttering
curses through his set teeth, and looking not unlike a lion, ferociously
pacing his cage. For his mother was tearfully relating to him the share
of the general misery that had fallen to their lot, as a family, in the
past nine years, how Elnathan had not been able to carry on his farm,
without the aid of the boys, and had run behind, till now, Solomon
Gleason the schoolmaster, had got hold of the mortgage, and was going to
turn them into the street, that very week. But all this with the mother,
as with the brother, was as nothing, compared with Reuben’s imprisonment
and sickness unto death.

It was Mrs. Hamlin, who did most of the talking, and much of what she
said fell unheeded on Perez’ ears, as he walked unceasingly to and fro
across the kitchen. For his mind was occupied with all the intensity of
application, of which it was capable, with the single point,--how he was
to get Reuben out of jail. Even the emergency, which would so soon be
raised, by the selling out of the homestead, and the turning of the
family into the street, was subordinated, in his mind, to this prime
question. The picture of his brother, shaggy-haired and foul, wallowing
in the filth of that prison sty, and breathing its fetid air, which his
memory kept constantly before him, would have driven him distracted,
if for a moment he had allowed himself to doubt that he should somehow
liberate him, and soon. He had told his mother nothing of the horrible
condition in which he had found him. Under no circumstances must she
know of that, not even if worst came to worst, and so even while he
shuddered at the vision before his mind’s eye, he essayed to speak
cheerfully about Reuben’s surroundings, and his condition of health.
When she told him that Deacon Nash had refused to let him come home to
be nursed back to health, Perez had to comfort her by pretending that he
was not so very badly off where he was, and would doubtless recover.

“Nay, Perez,” she said, “my eyes are dim, come close to me, that I may
read your eyes. You were ever tender to your old mother, and I fear me,
you hide somewhat lest I should disquiet myself. Come here my son.” The
brave man’s eyes, that had never quailed before the belching artillery,
had now ado indeed. Such sickness at heart behind them, such keen
mother’s instinct trying them before.

“Oh, Perez! My boy is dying! I see it.”

“He is not, I tell you he is not,” he cried hoarsely, breaking away from
her. “He is well. He looks strong. Do you think I would lie to you? I
tell you he is well and getting better.”

But after that she would not be comforted. The afternoon wore on.
Elnathan came from meeting, and at last, through the open windows of the
house, came the cry, in children’s voices.

“Sun’s down! Sun’s down!”

From the upper windows, its disc was yet visible, above the crest of the
western mountains, and on the hilltops, it was still high Sabbath; but
in the streets below, holy time was at an end. The doors, behind which,
in Sabbatical decorum, the children had been pent up all day long, swung
open with a simultaneous bang, and the boys with a whoop and halloo,
tumbled over each other into the street, while the girls tripped gaily
after. Innumerable games of tag, and “I spy,” were organized in a trice,
and for the hour or two between that and bed time, the small fry of the
village devoted themselves, without a moment’s intermission, to getting
the Sabbath stiffening out of their legs and tongues.

Nor was the reawakening of the community by any means confined to the
boys and girls. For soon the streets began to be alive with groups of
men and women, all in their Sunday best, going to make social calls. In
the majority of Stockbridge households, the best clothes, unless there
chanced to be a funeral, were not put on oftener than once a week, when
the recurrence of the Sabbath made their assumption a religious duty,
and on this account it naturally became the custom to make the evening
of that day the occasion of formal social intercourse. As soon, too,
as the gathering twilight afforded some shield to their secret designs,
sundry young men with liberally greased hair, their arms stiff in the
sleeves of the unusual and Sunday coat, their feet, accustomed to the
immediate contact of the soil, encased in well larded shoes, might
have been seen gliding under the shadows of friendly fences, and along
bypaths, with that furtive and hangdog air which, in all ages, has
characterized the chicken-thief and the lover.

In front of the door of Squire Sedgwick’s house is drawn up his
travelling carriage, with two fine horses. On the box is Sol, the
coachman, one of the Squire’s negro freedmen, whose allegiance to the
Sedgwick family was not in the least shaken by the abolition of slavery
in the state by the adoption of the bill of rights six years before.

“I dunno noffin bout no Bill Wright,” was Sol’s final dismissal of the
subject.

“Drive to Squire Woodbridge’s house, Sol,” said Sedgwick, as he stepped
into the carriage.

Woodbridge was at the gate of his house, apparently about starting
on his usual evening visit to the store, when the carriage drove up.
Sedgwick alighted, and taking the other a little aside, said:

“It is necessary for me to start tonight for Boston, where I have some
important cases. I regret it, because I would rather be at home
just now. The spirit among the people is unruly, and while I do not
anticipate serious trouble, I think it is a time when gentlemen should
make their influence felt in their communities. I have no doubt,
however, that the interests of Stockbridge and of the government are
entirely safe in your hands as selectman and magistrate.”

“I hope, sir, that I am equal to the duties of my position,” replied
Woodbridge, stiffly.

“Allow me again to assure you that I have not the smallest doubt of it,”
 said Sedgwick, affably, “but I thought it well to notify you of my own
necessary departure, and to put you on your guard. The bearing of the
people on the green last evening, of which I saw more than you did,
was unmistakably sullen, and their disappointment at the refusal of the
convention to lend itself to their seditious and impracticable desires,
is very bitter.”

“Undoubtedly the result of the convention has been to increase the
popular agitation. I had the honor to represent to you before it was
held that such would be its effect, at which time, I believe you held a
different view. Nevertheless, I opine that you exaggerate the degree of
the popular agitation. It would be natural, that being a comparatively
recent resident, you should be less apt to judge the temper of the
Stockbridge people, than we who are longer here.”

A half humorous, half impatient expression on Sedgwick’s face, was the
only indication he gave that he had recognized the other’s huffy and
bristling manner.

“Your opinion, Sir,” he replied, with undiminished affability, “tends to
relieve my apprehensions. I trust the event will justify it.

“And how does Miss Desire, this evening?” he added, saluting with doffed
hat and a courtly bow, a young lady who had just come up, with the
apparent intention of going in at the Woodbridge gate.

“I do but indifferent well, Sir. As well as a damsel may do in a world
where gentlemen keep not their promises,” she answered, with a curtsey,
so saucily deep, that the crisp crimson silk of her skirt rustled on the
ground.

“Nay, but tell me the caitiff’s name, and let me be myself your knight,
fair mistress, to redress your wrongs.”

“Nay, ‘tis yourself, Sir. Did you not promise you would come and hear me
play my piano, when it came from Boston, and I have it a week already?”

“And I did not know it. Yes, now I bethink myself, Mrs. Sedgwick spoke
thereof, but this convention has left me not a moment. But damsels are
not political; no doubt you have heard nothing of the convention.”

“Oh, yes; ‘tis that all the poor want to be rich, and to hang all the
lawyers. I’ve heard. ‘Tis a fine scheme.”

“No doubt the piano is most excellent in sound.”

“It goes middling well, but already I weary me of my bargain.”

“Are you then in trade, Miss Desire?”

“A little. Papa said if I would not tease him to let me go to New York
this winter, he would have me a piano. I know not what came over me that
I consented. I shall go into a decline ere spring. The ugly dress and
the cowlike faces of the people, make me sick at heart, and give me bad
dreams, and the horses neigh in better English than the farmers
talk. Alack, ‘tis a dreary place for a damsel! But, no doubt, I have
interrupted some weighty discussion. I bid you good even, Sir,” and,
once more curtsying, the girl went up the path to the house, much to her
uncle Jahleel’s relief, who had no taste for badinage, and wanted to get
on to the store, whither, presently he was on his way, while Sedgwick’s
carriage rolled off toward Boston.

About a mile out of Stockbridge, the carriage passed two men standing by
the roadside, earnestly talking. These men were Perez Hamlin and Abner
Rathbun.

“You remember the Ice-hole,” said Perez, referring to an extraordinary
cleft or chasm, of great depth, and extremely difficult and perilous of
access, situated near the top of Little Mountain, a short distance from
Stockbridge.

“Yes,” said Abner, “I rekullec it, well. I guess you an I, Perez, air
abaout the on’y fellers in taown, ez hev been clean through it.”

“My plan is this,” said Perez. “Kidnap Deacon Nash, carry him up to the
Ice-hole, and keep him there till he makes out a release for Reub, then
just carry down the paper to jail, get Reub out, and across the York
State line, and send back word to Stockbridge where to find the deacon.”

“But what’ll we dew, ourselves?”

“Of course we shall have to stay in York. Why shouldn’t we? There’s no
chance for a poor man here. The chances are that we should both be in
jail for debt before spring.”

“But what be I a goin to dew with my little Bijah? He’s all I’ve got,
but I can’t leave him.”

“My father and mother will take care of him, and bring him with em to
York State, for I’m goin to get them right over there as soon as they’re
sold out. There’s a chance for poor folks west; there’s no chance here.”

“Perez, thar’s my fist. By gosh I’m with ye.”

“Abner, it’s a risky business, and you haven’t got the call I’ve got,
being as Reub isn’t your brother. I’m asking a good deal of you Abner.”

“Don’ ye say nothin more baout it,” said Abner, violently shaking the
hand he still held, while he reassuringly clapped Perez on the back.
“Dew ye rekullec that time tew Stillwater, when ye pulled them tew
Britishers orfer me? Fer common doin’s I don’ callate ez two fellers is
more’n my fair share in a scrimmage, but ye see my arm wuz busted, an if
ye hadn’t come along jess wen ye did, I callate the buryin squad would a
cussed some on caount of my size, that evenin.

“But gosh all hemlock, Perez, I dunno wat makes me speak o’ that naow.
It wouldn’ make no odds ef I’d never sot eyes onter ye afore. I’d help
eny feller, ‘bout sech a job es this ere, jess fer the fun on’t. Risky!
Yes it’s risky; that’s the fun. I hain’t hed my blood fairly flowin
afore, sence the war. It doos me more good nor a box o’ pills.
Jerewsalem, how riled deacon’ll be!”

The two young men walked slowly back to the village, earnestly
discussing the details of their daring enterprise, and turning up the
lane, leading to the Hamlin house, paused, still conversing, at the
gate. As they stood there, the house door opened, and a young girl came
out, and approached them, while Mrs. Hamlin, standing in the door, said:

“Perez, this is Prudence Fennell, George Fennell’s girl. She heard you
had seen her father, and came to ask you about him.”

The girl came near to Perez, and looked up at him with a questioning
face, in which anxiety was struggling with timidity. She was a rosy
cheeked lass, of about sixteen, well grown for her age, and dressed in
coarse woolen homespun, while beneath her short skirt, appeared a pair
of heavy shoes, which evidently bore very little relation to the
shape of the feet within them. Her eyes were gray and frank, and the
childishness, which the rest of her face was outgrowing, still lingered
in the pout of her lips.

“Is my father much sick, sir?”

“He is very sick,” said Perez.

The pitifulness of his tone, no doubt, more than his words, betrayed
the truth to her fearful heart, for all the color ran down out of
her cheeks, and he seemed to see nothing of her face, save two great
terrified eyes, which piteously beseeched a merciful reply, even while
they demanded the uttermost truth.

“Is he going to die?”

Perez felt a strong tugging at his heart strings, in which, for the
moment, he forgot his own personal trouble.

“I don’t know, my child,” he replied, very gently.

“Oh, he’s going to die. I know he’s going to die,” she cried, still
looking through her welling eyes a moment, to see if he would not
contradict her intuition, and then, as he looked on the ground, making
no reply, she turned away, and walked slowly down the lane sobbing as
she went.

“Abner, we must manage somehow to get George out too.”

“Poor little gal, so we must Perez. We’ll kidnap Schoolmaster Gleason
‘long with deacon. But it’s a pootty big job, Perez, two o’ them and
on’y two o’ us.”

“I’m afraid we’re trying more than we can do, Abner. If we try too much,
we shall fail entirely. I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s the whole
jail full, and one ought to come out as well as another. All have got
friends that feel as bad as we do.” He reflected a moment. “By the Lord,
we’ll try it, Abner. Poor little girl. It’s a desperate game, anyway,
and we might as well play for high stakes.”

Abner went down the lane to the green, and Perez went into the house,
and sat down in the dark to ponder the new difficulties with which
the idea of also liberating Fennell complicated their first plan. Bold
soldier as he was, practiced in the school of Marion and Sumter, in the
surprises and strategems of partisan warfare, he was forced to admit
that if their project had been hazardous before, this new feature made
it almost foolhardy. In great perplexity he had finally determined to
go to bed, hoping that the refreshment of morning would bring a clearer
head and more sanguine mood, when there was a knock on the door. It was
Abner looking very much excited.

“Come out! Come out! Crypus! Come out, I’ve got news.”

“What is it?” said Perez eagerly, stepping forth into the darkness.

“That wuz a pootty leetle plan o’ yourn, Perez.”

“Yes, yes.”

Abner, he knew had not come to tell him that, for his voice trembled
with suppressed excitement, and the grip of his hand on his shoulder was
convulsive.

“P’raps we could a kerried it aout, an p’raps we should a kerflummuxed.
Ye’ve got grit an I’ve got size,” pursued Abner. “Twuz wuth tryin on.
I’m kinder sorry we ain’t a gonter try it.”

“What the devil do you mean, Abner? not going to try it?”

“No, Perez, we ain’t goin tew try it, leastways, not the same plan we
callated, an we ain’t a goin tew try it alone,” and he leaned over and
hissed in Perez’ ear:

“The hull caounty o’ Berkshire ‘s a gonter help us.”

Perez looked at him with horror. He was not drunk; he must be going
crazy.

“What do you mean, Abner?” he said soothingly.

“Ye think I don’ know wat I be a talkin baout, don’ ye, Perez? Wal,
jess hole on a minit. A feller hez jess got in, a ridin ‘xpress from
Northampton, to fetch word that the people in Hampshire has riz, and
stopped the courts. Fifteen hundred men, with Captain Dan Shays tew
ther head, stopped em. Leastways, they sent word to the jedges that
they kinder wisht they wouldn’t hole no more courts till the laws wuz
changed, and the jedges, they concluded that the ‘dvice o’ so many
fellers with guns, wuz wuth suthin, so they ‘journed.”

“That means rebellion, Abner.”

“In course it doos. An it means the Lord ain’t quite dead yit. That’s
wat it means.”

“But what’s that got to do with Reub and George?”

“Dew with em, why, man alive, don’ ye unnerstan? Don’ ye callate
Berkshire folks haz got ez much grit ez the Hampshire fellers, an don’
ye callate we haz ez much call to hev a grudge agin courts? Ye orter
been daown tew the tavern tew see haow the fellers cut up wen the news
come. T’was like a match dropping intew a powder bar’l. Tuesday’s court
day tew Barrington, an ef thar ain’t more’n a thousand men on han with
clubs an guns, tew stop that air court, wy, call me a skunk. An wen
that air court’s stopped, that air jail’s a comin open, or it’s a comin
daown, one o’ the tew naow.”



CHAPTER SIXTH

PEREZ DEFINES HIS POSITION


We who live in these days, when press and telegraph may be said to
have almost rendered the tongue a superfluous member, quite fail to
appreciate the rapidity with which intelligence was formerly transmitted
from mouth to mouth. Virgil’s description of hundred tongued Rumor
appeared by no means so poetical an exaggeration to our ancestors as it
does to us. Although the express, bearing the news of the Northampton
uprising did not reach Stockbridge tavern a minute before half-past
seven in the evening, there were very few families in the village or the
outlying farmhouses, which had not heard it ere bedtime, an hour and a
half later. And by the middle of the following forenoon there was in
all Southern Berkshire, only here and there a family, off on a lonely
hillside, or in a hidden valley, in which it was not the subject of
debate.

In Stockbridge, that morning, what few industries still supported a
languishing existence in spite of the hard times, were wholly suspended.
The farmer left his rowen to lie in the field and take the chances of
the weather, the miller gave his mill-stream a holiday, the carpenter
left the house half-shingled with rain threatening, and the painter his
brush in the pot, to collect on the street corners with their neighbors
and discuss the portentous aspect of affairs. And even where there was
little or no discussion, to stand silently in groups was something. Thus
merely to be in company was, to these excited men, a necessity and
a satisfaction, for so does the electricity of a common excitement
magnetize human beings, that they have an attraction for one another,
and are drawn together by a force not felt at other times. There were
not less than three hundred men, a quarter of the entire population
of the town, on and about Stockbridge Green at ten o’clock that Monday
morning, twice as many as had assembled to hear the news from the
convention the Saturday preceding.

The great want of the people, for the most part, tongue-tied farmers,
seemed to be to hear talk, to have something said, and wherever a few
brisk words gave promise of a lively dialogue, the speakers were at once
surrounded by a dense throng of listeners. The thirsting eagerness
with which they turned their open mouths toward each one as he began to
speak, in the hope that he would express to themselves some one of the
ideas formlessly astir in their own stolid minds, was pathetic
testimony to the depth to which the iron of poverty, debt, judicial and
governmental oppression had entered their souls. They had thought little
and vaguely, but they had felt much and keenly, and it was evident
the man who could voice their feelings, however partially, however
perversely, and for his own ends, would be master of their actions.

Abner was not present, having gone at an early hour over to Lenox
furnaces, where he was acquainted, to carry the news from Northampton,
if it should not have arrived there, and notify the workmen that there
would be goings-on at Barrington, Tuesday, and they were expected to be
on hand. Paul Hubbard, also, had not come down from West Stockbridge,
although the news had reached that place last night. But from the
disposition of the man, there could be no question that he was busily
at work moulding his particular myrmidons, the iron-workers, into good
insurrectionary material. There was no doubt that he would have them
down to Barrington on time, whoever else was there.

In the dearth of any further details of the Northampton uprising,
the talk among the crowd on Stockbridge Green turned largely upon
reminiscences and anecdotes of the disturbances at the same place,
and at Hatfield four or five years previous. Ezra Phelps, who had
been concerned in them, having subsequently removed from Hatfield to
Stockbridge, enjoyed by virtue of that fact an oracular eminence, and
as he stood under the shadow of the buttonwood tree before the tavern,
relating his experiences, the people hung upon his lips.

“Parson Ely,” he explained, “Parson Sam’l Ely wuz kinder tew the head on
us. He wuz a nice sorter man, I tell yew. He wuz the on’y parson I ever
seen ez hed any flesh in his heart for poor folks, ‘nless it be some o’
them ere Methody an Baptis preachers ez hez come in sence the war, an
I callate they ain’ reglar parsons nuther. Leastways, thuther parsons,
they turned Parson Ely aout o’ the min’stry daown to Somers whar he wuz,
fer a tellin the poor folks they didn’ git their rights. Times wuz hard
four or five year ago, though they warn’t so all-fired hard ez they be
naow. Taxes wuz high ‘nuff, an money wuz dretful skurce, an thar wuz
lots o’ lawin an suein o’ poor folks. But gosh, ef we’d a known haow
much wuss all them things wuz a going tew git, we sh’d a said we wuz
well orf. But ye see we warn’t so uster bein starved an cheated an
jailed an knocked roun’ then’s we be sence, an so we wuz kinder desprit,
an a slew on us come daown from Hatfield tew Northampton an stopped the
court, wen t’wuz gonter set in the spring o’ ‘82. I callate we went tew
work baout the same ez Dan Shays an them fellers did las’ week. Wal,
arter we’d did the job an gone hum agin, Sheriff Porter up an nabbed the
parson, an chucked him inter jail. He was long with us ye see, though
he warn’t no more tew blame nor any of us. Wal, ye see, we callated
t’wouldn’t be ezzackly fa’r tew let parson git intew trouble fer
befriendin on us, an so baout 300 on us went daown tew Northampton agin,
and broke open the jail an tuk parson aout. The sheriff didn’ hev nothin
tew say wen we wuz thar, but ez soon ez we’d gone hum, he up an took
three o’ the parson’s frens as lived to Northampton an chucked em inter
jail fer tew hold ez sorter hostiges. He callated he’d hev a ring in the
parson’s nose that ere way, so’s he wouldn’ dass dew nothin. Thar warn’t
no law nor no reason in sech doins, but ‘twuz plantin time, leastways
gittin on tew it, and he callated the farmers wouldn’ leave ther farms,
not fer nothin. But he mistook. Ye see we wuz fightin mad. Baout 500 on
us tuk our guns an made tracks fer Northampton. Sheriff he’d got more’n
a thousan milishy tew defend the jail, but the milishy didn’ wanter
fight, an we did, an that made a sight o’ odds, fer wen we stopped night
tew the taown an sent word that ef he didn’ let them fellers aout o’
jail we’d come an take em aout, he let em aout dum quick.”

“Wat did they do nex?” inquired Obadiah Weeks, as Ezra paused with the
appearance of having made an end of his narration.

“That wuz the eend on’t,” said Ezra. “By that time govment seen the
people wuz in arnest, an quit foolin. Ginral Court passed a law pardnin
all on us fer wat we’d done. They allers pardons fellers, ye see, wen
ther’s tew many on em tew lick, govment doos, an pooty soon arter they
passed that ere tender law fer tew help poor folks ez hed debts so’s
prop’ty could be offered tew a far valiation instid o’ cash.”

“That air law wuz repealed sence,” said Peleg. “Ef we hed it naow, mebbe
we could git ‘long spite o’ ther being no money a cirkilatin.”

“In course it wuz repealed,” said Israel. “They on’y passed it caze they
wuz scairt o’ the people. The loryers an rich folks got it repealed soon
ez ever they dasted. Gosh, govment don’ keer nothin fer wat poor folks
wants, ‘nless they gits up riots. That’s the on’y way they kin git laws
changed, ‘s fur ‘s I see. Ain’t that ‘bout so Peleg?”

“Ye ain’t fur outer the way, Isr’el. We hain’t got no money, an they
don’ keer wat we says, but when we takes hole, an doos sumthin they
wakes up a leetle. We can’t make em hear us, but by jocks, we kin make
em feel us,” and Peleg pointed the sentiment with that cornerwise nod of
the head, which is the rustic gesture of emphasis. “I callate ye’ve hit
the nail on the head, Peleg,” said a grizzled farmer. “We poor folks hez
to git our rights by our hands, same ez we gits our livin.”

But at this moment, a sudden hush fell upon the group, and from the
general direction of the eyes, it was evidently the approach of Perez
Hamlin, as he crossed the green toward the tavern, which was the
cause thereof. Although Perez had arrived in town only at dusk on the
preceding Saturday, and excepting his Sunday evening stroll with Abner,
had kept within doors, the tongue of rumor had not only notified pretty
much the entire community of his arrival, but had adorned that bare fact
with a profuse embroidery of conjecture, as to his recent experiences,
present estate, and intentions for the future.

An absence of nine years had, however, made him personally a stranger to
most of the people. The young men had been mere lads when he went away,
while of the elders, many were dead, or removed. As he approached the
group around Ezra, he recognized but few of the faces, all of which were
turned upon him with a common expression of curious scrutiny. There was
Meshech Little. Him he shook hands with, and also with Peleg, and Israel
Goodrich. Ezra had come to the village since his day.

“Surely this is Abe Konkapot,” he said, extending his hand to a fine
looking Indian. “Why Abe, I heard the Stockbridges had moved out to York
State.”

“You hear true,” responded the smiling Indian. “Heap go. Some stay. No
want to go.”

“Widder Nimham’s gal Lu, could tell ye ‘bout why Abe don’ want ter go, I
guess,” observed Obadiah Weeks, who directed the remark, however, not
so much to Perez as to some of the half-grown young men, from whom it
elicited a responsive snicker at Abe’s expense.

Indeed, after the exchange of the first greetings, it became apparent
that Perez’ presence was a damper on the conversation. The simple fact
was, the people did not recognize him as one of them. It was not that
his dress, although a uniform, was better or costlier than theirs. The
blue stockings were threadbare, and had been often mended, and the coat,
of the same hue, was pitiably white in the seams, while the original
buff of the waistcoat and knee breeches had faded to a whitey brown.
But the erect soldierly carriage of the wearer, and that neatness and
trimness in details, which military experience renders habitual, made
this frayed and time-stained uniform seem almost elegant, as compared
with the clothes that hung slouchily upon the men around him. Their
faces were rough, and unshaven, their hair unkempt, their feet bare,
or covered with dusty shoes, and they had generally left their coats
at home. Perez was clean shaven, his shoes, although they barely held
together, were neatly brushed, and the steel buckles polished, while his
hair was gathered back over his ears, and tied with a black ribbon in a
queue behind, in the manner of gentlemen. But Israel Goodrich and Ezra
also wore their hair in this manner, while shoes and clean shaved faces
were occasional indulgences with every bumpkin who stood around. It was
not then alone any details of dress, but a certain distinction in
air and bearing about Perez, which had struck them. The discipline
of military responsibility, and the officer’s constant necessity of
maintaining an aspect of authority and dignity, before his men, had left
refining marks upon his face, which distinguished it as a different
sort from the countenances about him with their expressions of pathetic
stolidity, or boorish shrewdness. In a word, although they knew old
Elnathan Hamlin to be one of themselves, they instinctively felt that
this son of his had become a gentleman.

At any time this consciousness would have produced constraint, and
checked spontaneous conversation, but now, just at the moment when the
demarcation of classes was taking the character of open hostility, it
produced a sentiment of repulsion and enmity. His place was on the other
side; not with the people, but with the gentlemen, the lawyers, the
parsons, and the judges. Why did he come spying among them?

Perez, without guessing the reason of it, began to be conscious of
the unsympathetic atmosphere, and was about moving away, when Israel
Goodrich remarked, with the air of wishing to avoid an appearance of
churlishness.

“Lessee, Perez, ye’ve been gone nigh onter nine year. Ye muss find some
changes in the taown.”

Israel, as a man of more considerable social importance than the most
of those who stood around, and being moreover, old enough to be Perez’
father, had been less affected by the impulse of class jealousy than the
others.

“I’ve been home only one day, Mr. Goodrich,” said Perez quietly, “but
I’ve noticed some changes already. When I went away, every man in town
had a farm of his own. As far as I’ve seen since I’ve been back, a few
rich men have got pretty near all the farms now, and the men who used to
own em, are glad of a chance to work on em as hired hands.”

Such a sentiment, expressed by one of themselves, would have called
forth a shower of confirmatory ejaculations, but the people stared at
Perez in mere astonishment, the dead silence of surprise, at hearing
such a strong statement of their grievances, from one whose appearance
and manner seemed to identify him with the anti-popular, or gentleman’s
side. So far as this feeling of bewilderment took any more definite
form, it evidently inclined to suspicion, rather than confidence. Was he
mocking them? Was he trying to entrap them? Even Israel looked sharply
at him, and his next remark, after quite a silence, was on another
subject.

“I s’pose ye know ez haow they’ve set the niggers free.”

“Yes,” replied Perez, “I heard of that when I was away, but I didn’t
know the reason why they’d set em free, till I got home.”

“What dew ye callate ‘s the reason?”

“I see they’ve made slaves of the poor folks, and don’t need the niggers
any more,” replied Perez, as quietly as if he were making the most
casual remark.

But still the people stared at him and looked questioningly at each
other, so bereft of magnetic force is language, though it express our
inmost convictions, when we do not believe that the heart of the speaker
beats in sympathy with what he says.

“I don’ quite git yer idee. Haow dew ye make out that air ‘bout poor
folks bein slaves?” said Ezra Phelps dryly.

It was evident that any man who thought he was going to get at the real
feelings of these rustics without first gaining their confidence, little
understood the shrewd caution of the race.

“I make it out this way,” replied Perez. “I find pretty much every rich
man has a gang of debtors working for him, working out their debts. If
they are idle, if they dispute with him, if they don’t let him do what
he pleases with them and their families, he sends them to jail with
a word, and there they stay till he wants to let them out. No man can
interfere between him and them. He does with em whatsoever he will. And
that’s why I call them slaves.”

Now, Meshech Little was slightly intoxicated. By that mysterious
faculty, whereby the confirmed drunkard, although absolutely
impecunious, nevertheless manages to keep soaked, while other thirsty
men can get nothing, he had obtained rum. And Meshech it was who,
proceeding in that spirit of frankness engendered by the bottle, now
brought about the solution of a misunderstanding, that was becoming
painful.

“Wha’ ye say, Perez, z’all right, but wha’n time be _yew_ a sayin on it
fer? Ye be dressed so fine, an a cap’n b’sides, that we callated ye’d
take yer tod tew the store, long with the silk stockins, ‘stid o’
consortin with common folks like we be.”

There was a general sensation. Every mouth was opened, and every neck
craned forward to catch the reply.

“Did you think so, Meshech? Well, you see you are mistaken. There’s not
a man among you has less cause to love the silk stockings, as you call
them, than I have, and you Meshech ought to know it. Nine years ago,
my brother Reub and I marched with the minute men. Parson and Squire
Woodbridge, and Squire Edwards and all of em, came round us and said,
‘We’ll take care of your father and mother. We’ll never forget what you
are doing to-day.’ Yesterday I came home to find my father and mother
waiting to be sold out by the sheriff, and go to the poor house; and
Reub, I found my brother Reub, rotting to death in Barrington jail.”

“By gosh, I forgot baout Reub, I declar I did,” exclaimed Meshech,
contritely.

“Give us yer hand,” said Israel, “I forgot same ez Meshech, an I
misdoubted ye. This be Ezra Phelps, ez owns the new mill.”

“Shake agin,” said Peleg, extending his hand.

There was exhilaration as well as cordiality in the faces of the men,
who now crowded around Perez, an exhilaration which had its source in
the fact, that one whose appearance and bearing identified him with the
gentlemen, was on their side. It filled them with more encouragement,
than would have done the accession of a score of their own rank and
sort. Brawn and muscle they could themselves supply, but for leadership,
social, political and religious, they had always been accustomed to look
to the gentlemen of the community, and from this lifelong and inherited
habit, came the new sense of confidence and moral sanction, which they
felt in having upon their side in the present crisis, one in whom they
had instinctively recognized the traits of the superior caste.

“Hev ye hearn the news from Northampton, Perez?” asked Israel.

“Yes, and if you men are as much in earnest as I am, there’ll be news
from Barrington to-morrow,” replied Perez, glancing around.

“Ef thar ain’t, there’ll be a lot on us disappinted, fer we be all a
callatin tew go thar tew see,” said Israel, significantly.

“We’ll git yer brother aouter jail, fer ye, Perez, an ef thar’s any
fightin with the m’lishy, ye kin show us haow, I guess.”

Meshech, as before intimated, was partially drunk, and spoke out of the
fullness of his heart. But except for this one outburst, a stranger,
especially one who did not know the New England disposition, and its
preference for innuendo to any other mode of speech, in referring to the
most important and exciting topics, would have failed entirely to get
the idea that these farmers and laborers contemplated an act of armed
rebellion on the morrow. He would, indeed, have heard frequent allusions
to the probability there would be great goings on at Barrington, next
morning, and intimations more or less explicit, on the part of nearly
every man present, that he expected to be on hand to see what was done.
But there was no intimation that they, themselves, expected to be the
doers. Many, indeed, perhaps most, had very likely no distinct idea, of
personally doing anything, nor was it at all necessary that they should
have in order to ensure the expected outbreak, when the time should
come. Given an excited crowd, all expecting something to be done which
they desire to have done, and all the necessary elements of mob action
are present.



CHAPTER SEVENTH

THE FIRST ENCOUNTER


The next morning by six o’clock, a large number of persons had gathered
on the green at Stockbridge, in consequence of an understanding
that those intending to witness the goings on at Barrington, should
rendezvous at the tavern, and go down together, whereby their own hearts
would be made stronger, and their enemies the more impressed. A good
many had, indeed, gone on ahead, singly, or in parties. Meshech Little,
who lived on the Barrington road, said that he hadn’t had a wink
of sleep since four o’clock, for the noise of passing teams and
pedestrians. Those who owned horses and carts, including such men as
Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, had preferred that mode of locomotion,
but there were, nevertheless, as many as one hundred men and boys in the
muster on the green. Perhaps a quarter of them had muskets, the others
carried stout cudgels.

All sorts of rumors were flying about. One story was that the militia
had been ordered out with a dozen rounds of cartridges, to defend the
court and jail. Some even had heard that a cannon had been placed in
front of the court house, and trained on the Stockbridge road. On the
other hand, it was asserted that the court would not try to sit at all.
As now one, and now another, of these contradictory reports prevailed,
ebullitions of courage and symptoms of panic alternated among the
people. It was easy to see that they contemplated the undertaking, on
which they were embarking, not without a good deal of nervousness. Abner
was going from group to group, trying to keep up their spirits.

“Hello,” he exclaimed, coming across Jabez Flint. “Look a here, boys.
Derned ef Jabez ain’t a comin long with the res’ on us. Wal, Jabez, I
swow, I never callated ez I sh’d be a fightin long side o’ ye. Misry
makes strange bedfellers, though.”

“It’s you ez hez changed sides, not me,” responded the Tory. “I wuz
allers agin the state, an naow ye’ve come over tew my side.”

Abner scratched his head.

“I swan, it doos look so. Anyhow, I be glad tew see ye tidday. I see
ye’ve got yer gun, Jabez. Ye muss be keerful. Loryers is so derndly like
foxes, that ye mout hit one on em by mistake.”

There was a slight snicker at this, but the atmosphere was decidedly too
heavy for jokes. However boldly they might discourse at the tavern of an
evening, over their mugs of flip, about taking up arms and hanging the
lawyers, it was not without manifold misgivings, that these law-abiding
farmers found themselves on the point of being actually arrayed against
the public authorities in armed rebellion. The absence of Israel
Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, who were looked up to as the most substantial
in estate and general respectability of those who inclined to the
popular side, was moreover unfortunate, although it was supposed that
they would be present at Barrington.

Meshech, indeed, in spite of the earliness of the hour, was full of
pot-valor, and flourished his gun in a manner more perilous to those
about him than to the state authorities, but his courage reeked so
strongly of its source, that the display was rather discouraging than
otherwise to the sober men around. Paul Hubbard, who had come down from
the ironworks with thirty men or more, presently drew Abner aside and
said:

“See here. It won’t do to wait round any longer. We must start. They’re
losing all their grit standing here and thinking it over.”

But the confabulation was interrupted by a cry of panic from Obadiah
Weeks:

“Golly, here come the slectmen!”

“Hell!” exclaimed Hubbard, whirling on his heel, and taking in the
situation with a glance, while Abner’s face was expressive of equal
consternation.

The local authorities had been so quiet the day before, that no
interference on their part had been thought of.

But here in a body came the five selectmen, cane in hand, headed by
Jahleel Woodbridge, wearing his most awful frown, and looking like the
embodied majesty of law. The actions and attitudes of the crowd were
like those of scholars interrupted by the entrance of the master in
the midst of a scene of uproar. Those nearest the corners of the tavern
promptly slunk behind it. Obadiah slipped around to the further side of
the buttonwood tree before the tavern. There was a general movement in
the body of the crowd, caused by the effort of each individual to slip
quietly behind somebody else, while from the edges, men began to sneak
homewards across the green, at a rate, which, had the warning been a
little longer, would have left no assemblage at all by the time the
selectmen arrived on the spot. Those who could not find shelter behind
their fellows, and could not escape save by a dead run, pulled their
hats over their eyes and looked on the ground, slyly dropping their
cudgels, meanwhile, in the grass. There was not a gun to be seen.

With his head thrown back in the stiffest possible manner, his lips
pursed out, and throwing glances like lashes right and left, Woodbridge,
followed by the other selectmen, passed through the midst of the people,
until he reached the stone step before the tavern door. He stepped up
on this, and ere he opened his lips, swept the shame-faced assemblage
before him with a withering glance. What with those who had pulled their
hats over their eyes, and those who had turned their backs to him in
anxiety to avoid identification, there was not an eye that met his.
Abner himself, brave as a lion with his own class, was no braver than
any one of them when it came to encountering one of the superior caste,
to which he, and his ancestors before him, had looked up as their rulers
and leaders by prescription. And so it must be written of even Abner,
that he had somehow managed to get the trunk of the buttonwood tree,
which sheltered Obadiah, between a part at least of his own enormous
bulk, and Squire Woodbridge’s eye. Paul Hubbard’s bitter hatred of
gentlemen, so far stood him in stead of courage, that it would not let
him hide himself. He stood in plain view, but with his face half averted
from Woodbridge, while his lip curled in bitter scorn of his own craven
spirit. For it must be remembered that I am writing not of the American
farmer and laborer of this democratic age, but of men who were separated
but by a generation or two from the peasant serfs of England, and who
under the stern and repressive rule of the untitled aristocracy of
the colonies, had enjoyed little opportunity for outgrowing inherited
instincts of servility.

And now it was that Perez Hamlin, who had been all this while within the
tavern, his attention attracted by the sudden silence which had fallen
on the people without, stepped to the door, appearing on the threshold
just above Squire Woodbridge’s head and a little to one side of him. At
a glance he saw the way things were going. Already half demoralized by
the mere presence and glance of the magnates, a dozen threatening
words from the opening lips of Woodbridge would suffice to send these
incipient rebels, like whipped curs, to their homes. He thought of Reub,
and for a moment his heart was filled with grief and terror. Then he had
an inspiration.

In the crowd was one known as Little Pete, a German drummer of
Reidesel’s Hessian corps, captured with Burgoyne’s army. Brought to
Stockbridge and quartered there as a prisoner he had continued to live
in the town since the war. Abner had somewhere procured an old drum for
Pete, and with this hung about his neck, the sticks in his hands, he
now stood not ten feet away from the tavern door. He spoke but little
English, and, being a foreigner, had none of that awe for the selectmen,
alike in their personal and official characters, which unnerved the
village folk. Left isolated by the falling back of the people around
him, Pete was now staring at these dignitaries in stolid indifference.
They did not wear uniforms, and Pete had never learned to respect or
fear anything not in uniform.

Having first brought the people before him, to the fitting preliminary
stage of demoralization, by the power of his eye, Woodbridge said in
stern, authoritative tones, the more effective for being low pitched,

“You may well”----

That was as far, however, as he got. With the first sound of his voice,
Perez stepped down beside him. Drawing his sword, which he had put on
that morning, he waved it with a commanding gesture, and looking at
little Pete, said with a quick, imperious accent:

“Drum!”

If a man in an officer’s uniform, with a shining piece of steel in his
hand, should order Pete to jump into the mouth of a cannon, he would no
more think of hesitating, than the cannon itself of refusing to go off
when the linstock was pulled. Without the change of a muscle in his
heavy face, he raised the drumsticks and brought them down on the
sheepskin.

And instantly the roll of the drum deafened the ears of the people,
utterly drowning the imperious tones of the selectman, and growing
louder and swifter from moment to moment, as the long unused wrists of
the drummer recalled their former cunning.

Woodbridge spoke yet a few words without being able to hear himself.
Then, his smooth, fleshy face purple with rage, he wheeled and glared at
Hamlin. It did not need the drum to silence him now. He was so overcome
with amazement and passion that he could not have articulated a word.
But if he thought to face down the man by his side, he was mistaken. At
least a head taller than Woodbridge, Perez turned and looked down into
the congested eyes of the other with cool, careless, defiance.

And how about the people who looked on? The confident, decisive tone of
Hamlin’s order to the drummer, the bold gesture that enforced it, the
fearless contempt for the village great man, which it implied, the
unflinching look with which he met his wrathful gaze, and accompanying
all these, the electrifying roll of the drum with its martial
suggestions, had acted like magic on the crowd. Those who had slunk
away came running back. Muskets rose to shoulders, sticks were again
brandished, and the eyes of the people, a moment ago averted and
downcast, rose defiantly. On every face there was a broad grin of
delight. Even Paul Hubbard’s cynical lips were wreathed with a smile of
the keenest satisfaction, and he threw upon Perez one of the few glances
of genuine admiration which men of his sardonic type ever have to spare
for anybody.

For a few moments Woodbridge hesitated, uncertain what to do. To remain
standing there, was impossible, with this crowd of his former vassals on
the broad grin at his discomfiture. To retire was to confess defeat.
The question was settled, however, when one of his official associates,
unable longer to endure the din of the drum, desperately clapped both
hands over his ears. At this the crowd began to guffaw uproariously, and
seeing that it was high time to see about saving what little dignity he
still retained, Woodbridge led the way into the tavern, whither he was
incontinently followed by his compeers.

Instantly, at a gesture from Perez, the drum ceased, and his voice
sounded strangely clear in the sudden and throbbing silence, as he
directed little Pete to head the column, and gave the order to march.
With a cheer, and a tread that shook the ground, the men set out. Perez
remained standing before the tavern, till the last man had passed, by
way of guarding against any new move by the selectmen, and then mounting
his horse, rode along the column.

They were about half a mile out of Stockbridge, when Abner, accompanied
by Paul Hubbard, approached Perez, and remarked:

“The fellers all on em says, ez haow ye’ll hev tew be cap’n o’ this ere
kumpny. Thar’s no use o’ shilly-shallyin the business, we’ve got tew hev
somebody ez kin speak up tew the silk stockins. Hain’t that so, Paul?”

Hubbard nodded, but did not speak. It was gall and wormwood to his
jealous and ambitious spirit, to concede the leadership to another, but
his good sense forced him to recognize the necessity of so doing in the
present case.

“Abner,” replied Perez, “you know I only want to get Reub out. That’s
why I interfered when the plan looked like falling through. I don’t want
to be captain, man, I’d no notion of that.”

“Nuther had I,” said Abner, “till ye tackled the Squire, an then I see
quick ez a flash that ye’d got ter be, an so’d all the other fellers. We
sh’d a kerflummuxed sure’s taxes, ef ye hadn’t done jess what ye did. An
naow, ye’ve got tew be cap’n, whether or no.”

“Well,” said Perez, “If I can do anything for you, I will. We’re all
in the same boat, I suppose. But if I’m captain, you two must be
lieutenants.”

“Yes, we’re a gonter be,” replied Abner. “Ye kin depend on us in a
scrimmage, but ye muss sass the silk stockins.”

Meanwhile the men, as they marched along the road in some semblance of
military order, were eagerly discussing the recent passage between the
dreaded Squire and their new champion. Their feeling about Perez seemed
to be a certain odd mingling of respect, with an exultant sense of
proprietorship in him as a representative of their own class, a
farmer’s son who had made himself as fine a gentleman as any of the silk
stockings, and could face down the Squire himself.

“Did ye see haow Squire looked at Perez wen Pete begun tew drum?”
 observed Peleg. “I reckoned he wuz a gonter lay hans ontew him.”

“Ef he had, by jimmeny, I b’leeve Cap’n would a hit him a crack ez would
a knocked him inter the middle o’ nex week,” said Meshech.

“Oh, gosh, I ony wisht he hed,” cried Obadiah, quite carried away at
the wild thought of the mighty Squire rolling on the grass with a bloody
nose.

“I allers hearn ez them Hamlin boys hed good blood intew em,” observed
a farmer. “Mrs. Hamlin’s a Hawley, one o’ them air River Gods, ez they
calls em daown Hampshire way. Her folks wuz riled wen she tuk up with
Elnathan, I hearn.”



CHAPTER EIGHTH

GREAT GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON


As the company from Stockbridge surmounted the crest of a hill, about
half way to Barrington, they saw a girl in a blue tunic, a brown rush
hat, and a short gown, of the usual butternut dye, trudging on in the
same direction, some distance ahead. As she looked back, in evident
amazement at the column of men marching after her, Perez thought that
he recognized the face, and on coming up with her, she proved to be, in
fact, no other than Prudence Fennell, the little lass who had called at
the house Sunday evening to inquire about her father down at the jail,
and whose piteous grief at the report Perez was obliged to give, had
determined Abner and him to attempt the rescue of George, as well as
Reub, at whatever additional risk.

Far enough were they then from dreaming that two days later would find
them leading a battalion of armed men, by broad daylight along the high
road, to free the captives by open force. As readily would they then
have counted on an earthquake to open the prison doors, as on this
sudden uprising of the people in their strength.

As the men came up, Prudence stopped to let them pass by, her fresh,
pretty face expressive of considerable dismay. As she shrunk closely
up to the rail fence that lined the highway, she looked with timid
recognition up at Perez, as if to claim his protection.

“Where are you going?” he asked kindly, stopping his horse.

“I’m going to see father,” she said with a tremulous lip.

“Poor little lassie, were you going to walk all the way?”

“It is nothing,” she said, “I could not wait, you know. He might die,”
 and her bosom heaved with a sob that would fain break forth.

Perez threw himself from his horse.

“We are all going to the jail,” he said. “You shall come with us, and
ride upon my horse. Men, she shall lead us.”

The men, whose discipline was not as yet very rigid, had halted and
crowded around to listen to the dialogue, and received this proposition
with a cheer. Prudence would far rather had them go on, and leave her to
make her own way, but she was quite too much scared to resist as Perez
lifted her upon his saddle. He shortened one of the stirrups, to support
her foot, and then the column took up its march under the new captain,
Perez walking by her side and leading the horse.

Had he arranged this stroke beforehand, he could not have hit on a more
effective device for toning up the morals of the men. Those in whose
minds the old misgivings as to their course had succeeded the sudden
inspiration of Little Pete’s drum, now felt that the child riding ahead
lent a new and sacred sanction to their cause. They all knew her story,
and to their eyes she seemed, at this moment, an embodiment of the
spirit of suffering and outraged humanity, which had nerved them for
this day’s work. A more fitting emblem, a more inspiring standard, could
not have been borne before them. But it must not be supposed that even
this prevented, now and then, a conscience-stricken individual from
stopping to drink at some brook crossing the road, until the column had
passed the next bend in the road, and then slinking home cross-lots,
taking an early opportunity after arriving to pass the store, so as to
be seen and noted as not among the rioters. But whatever was lost in
this way, if the defection of such material can be called a loss, was
more than made up by the recruits which swelled the ranks from the
farmhouses along the road. And so, by the time they entered Muddy Brook,
a settlement just outside of Great Barrington, through which the road
from Stockbridge then passed, they numbered full one hundred and fifty.

Muddy Brook was chiefly inhabited by a poor and rather low class of
people, who, either from actual misery or mere riotous inclination,
might naturally be expected to join in any movement against constituted
authority. But instead of gaining any accession of forces here, the
Stockbridge party found the place almost deserted. Even the small boys,
and the dogs were gone, and apparently a large part of the able-bodied
women as well.

“What be all the folks?” called out Abner to a woman who stood with a
baby in arms at an open door.

“Over tew Barrington seein the fun. Thar be great dewins,” she replied.

This news imparted valor to the most faint-hearted, for it was now
apparent that this was not a movement in which Stockbridge was alone
engaged, not a mere local revolt, but a general, popular uprising, whose
extent would be its justification. And yet, prepared as they thus were,
to find a goodly number of sympathizers already on the ground, it was
with mingled exultation and astonishment that, on topping the high hill
which separates Muddy Brook from Great Barrington, and gaining a view of
the latter place, they beheld the streets packed, and the green in front
of the court house fairly black with people.

There was a general outburst of surprise and satisfaction.

“By gosh, it looks like gineral trainin, or’n ordination.”

“Looks kinder ‘z if a good many fellers b’sides us hed business with the
jestices this mornin.”

“I’d no idee courts wuz so pop’lar.”

“They ain’t stocks nuff in Berkshire fer all the fellers as is out
tidday, that’s one sure thing, by gol.”

“No, by Jock, nor Saddleback mounting ain’t big nuff pillory to hold
em, nuther,” were some of the ejaculations which at once expressed the
delight and astonishment of the men, and at the same time betrayed the
nature of their previous misgivings, as to the possible consequences of
this day’s doings. Estimates of the number of the crowd in Barrington,
which were freely offered, ranged all the way from two thousand to ten
thousand, but Perez, practiced in such calculations, placed the number
at about eight or nine hundred men, half as many women and boys. What
gave him the liveliest satisfaction was the absence of any military
force, not indeed that he would have hesitated to fight if he could not
have otherwise forced access to the jail, but he had contemplated the
possibility of such a bloody collision between the people and militia,
with much concern.

“There’ll be no fighting to-day, boys,” he said, turning to the men,
“you’d better let off your muskets, so there may be no accidents. Fire
in the air,” and thus with a ringing salvo, that echoed and reechoed
among the hills and was answered with acclamations from the multitude
in the village, the Stockbridge battalion, with the girl riding at its
head, entered Great Barrington, and breaking ranks, mingled with the
crowd.

“Bully, we be jess in time to see the fun,” cried Obadiah delightedly,
as the courthouse bell rang out, thereby announcing that the justices
had left their lodgings to proceed to the courthouse and open court.

“I declar for’t,” exclaimed Jabez, “I wonder ef they be gonter try tew
hole court ‘n spite o’ all that crowd. Thar they be sure’s rates.”

And, indeed, as he spoke, the door of the residence of Justice Dwight
opened, and High Sheriff Israel Dickinson, followed by Justice Dwight
and the three other justices of the quorum, issued therefrom, and took
up their march directly toward the courthouse, seemingly oblivious of
the surging mass of a thousand men, which barred their way.

The sheriff advanced with a goose step, carrying his wand of office, and
the justices strode in Indian file behind him. They were dressed in fine
black suits, with black silk hose, silver buckles on their shoes, fine
white ruffled shirts, and ponderous cocked hats upon their heavily
powdered wigs. Their chests were well thrown out, their chins were
held in air, their lips were judicially pursed, and their eyes were
contemplatively fixed on vacancy, as if they had never for a moment
admitted the possibility that any impediment might be offered to their
progress. It must be admitted that their bearing worthily represented
the prestige of ancient authority and moral majesty of law. Nor did
the mob fail to render the tribute of an involuntary admiration to this
imposing and apparently invincible advance. It had evidently been taken
for granted that the mere assemblying and riotous attitude of so great
a multitude, bristling with muskets and bludgeons, would suffice to
prevent the justices from making any attempt to hold court. It was
with a certain awe, and a silence interrupted only by murmurs of
astonishment, that the people now awaited their approach. Perhaps had
the throng been less dense, it might have justified the serene and
haughty confidence of the justices, by opening a path for them. But
however disposed the first ranks might have been to give way, they could
not by reason of the pressure from behind, and on every side.

Still the sheriff continued to advance, with as much apparent confidence
of opening a way as if his wand were the veritable rod wherewith Moses
parted the Red Sea, until he almost trod on the toes of the shrinking
first rank. But there he was fain to pause. Moral force cannot penetrate
a purely physical obstacle.

And when the sheriff stopped, the justices marching behind him also
stopped. Not indeed that their honors so far forgot their dignity as to
appear to take direct cognizance of the vulgar and irregular impediment
before them. It was the sheriff’s business to clear the way for them.
And although Justice Dwight’s face was purple with indignation, he, as
well as his associates, continued to look away into vacancy, suffering
not their eyes to catch any of the glances of the people before them.

“Make way! Make way for the honorable justices of the Court of Common
Pleas of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!” cried the sheriff, in loud,
imperative tones.

A dead silence of several moments followed, in which the rattling of a
farmer’s cart, far down the street, as it brought in a belated load of
insurgents from Sheffield, was distinctly audible. Then somebody in the
back part of the crowd, impressed with a certain ludicrousness in
the situation, tittered. Somebody else tittered, then a number, and
presently a hoarse haw haw of derision, growing momentarily louder, and
soon after mingled with yells, hoots and catcalls, burst forth from a
thousand throats. The prestige of the honorable justices of the Court of
Common Pleas, was gone.

A moment still they hesitated. Then the sheriff turned and said
something to them in a low voice, and they forthwith faced about and
deliberately marched back toward their lodgings. In this retrograde
movement the sheriff acted as rear guard, and he had not gone above a
dozen steps, before a rotten egg burst on one shoulder of his fine new
coat, and as he wheeled around an apple took him in the stomach, and at
the same moment the cocked hat of Justice Goodrich of Pittsfield,
was knocked off with a stone. His honor did not apparently think it
expedient to stop just then to pick it up, and Obadiah Weeks, leaping
forward, made it a prey, and instantly elevated it on a pole, amid
roars of derisive laughter. The retreat of the justices had indeed so
emboldened the more ruffianly and irresponsible element of the crowd,
many of whom were drunk, that it was just as well for the bodily safety
of their honors that the distance to their lodgings was no greater. As
it was, stones were flying fast, and the mob was close on the heels of
the sheriff when the house was gained, and as he attempted to shut the
door after him, there was a rush of men, bent on entering with him. He
knocked down the first, but would have been instantly overpowered
and trampled on, had not Perez Hamlin, followed by Abner, Peleg, Abe
Konkapot and half a dozen other Stockbridge men, shouldered their way
through the crowd, and come to his relief. Where then had Perez been,
meantime?



CHAPTER NINTH

JUDGE DWIGHT’S SIGNATURE


As soon as the Stockbridge battalion had arrived on the green at Great
Barrington, and broken ranks, Perez had directed Abner to pass the word
to all who had friends in the jail, and presently a party of forty or
fifty men was following him, as he led the way toward that building,
accompanied by Prudence, who had not dismounted. The rest of them could
attend to the stopping of the court. His concern was with the rescue of
his brother. But he had not traversed over half the distance when the
cry arose:

“They’re stoning the judges!”

Thus recalled to his responsibilities as leader of at least a part of
the mob, he had turned, and followed by a dozen men, had hurried back to
the rescue, arriving in the nick of time. Standing in the open door of
the house to which the justices had retired, the rescued sheriff just
behind him in the hall, he called out:

“Stand back! Stand back! What more do you want, men? The court is
stopped.”

But the people murmured. The Great Barrington men did not know Perez,
and were not ready to accept his dictation.

“We’ve stopped court to-day, sartin,” said one, “but wot’s to hender
they’re holden of it to-morrer, or ez soon’s we be gone, an hevin every
one on us in jail?”

“What do you want, then?” asked Perez.

“We want some sartainty baout it.”

“They’ve got tew ‘gree not ter hold no more courts till the laws be
changed,” were replies that seemed to voice the sentiments of the crowd.

“Leave it to me, and I’ll get you what you want,” said Perez, and he
went down the corridor to the kitchen at the back of the house, where
the sheriff had told him he would find the justices. Although the room
had been apparently chosen because it was the farthest removed from
the public, the mob had already found out their retreat, and a nose
was flattened against each pane of the windows. Tall men peered in over
short men’s shoulders, and cudgels were displayed in a way not at all
reassuring to the inmates.

Their honors by no means wore the unruffled and remotely superior aspect
of a few minutes before. It must be frankly confessed, as regards the
honorable Justices Goodrich of Pittsfield, Barker of Cheshire, and
Whiting of Great Barrington, that they looked decidedly scared, as in
fact, they had some right to be. It might have been supposed, indeed,
that the valor of the entire quorum had gone into its fourth member,
Justice Elijah Dwight, who, at the moment Perez entered the room,
was being withheld by the combined strength of his agonized wife and
daughter from sallying forth with a rusty Queen’s arm to defend his
mansion. His wig was disarranged with the struggle, and the powder
shaken from it streaked a countenance, scholarly enough in repose no
doubt, but just now purple with the three-fold wrath of one outraged in
the combined characters of householder, host, and magistrate.

“Your honors,” said Perez, “the people will not be satisfied without
your written promise to hold no more courts till their grievances are
redressed. I will do what I can to protect you, but my power is slight.”

“Who is this fellow who speaks for the rabble?” demanded Dwight.

“My name is Hamlin.”

“You are a disgrace to the uniform you wear. Do you know you have
incurred the penalties of high treason?” exclaimed the justice.

“This is not the first time I have incurred those penalties in behalf
of my oppressed countrymen, as that same uniform shows,” retorted the
other. “But it is not now a question of the penalties I have incurred,
but how are you to escape the wrath of the people,” he continued
sharply.

“I shall live to see you hung, drawn and quartered for treason, you
rascal,” roared Dwight.

“Nay, sir. Do but think this man holds your life in his hands. Entreat
him civilly,” expostulated Madam Dwight.

“He means not so, sir,” she added, turning to Perez.

“The fellers wanter know why in time that ere ‘greement ain’t signed. We
can’t keep em back much longer,” Abner cried, rushing to the door of the
kitchen a moment, and hurrying back to his post.

“Where are writing materials?” asked Justice Goodrich, nervously, as a
stone broke through one of the window panes and fell on the table.

“I will bring them,” said the young lady, Dwight’s daughter.

“Do make haste, Miss,” urged Justice Barker. “The mob is even now
forcing an entrance.”

“I forbid you to bring them. Remain here,” thundered Dwight.

The girl paused, irresolute, pale and terrified.

“Go, Eliza,” said her mother. “Disobey your father and save his life.”

She went, and in a moment returned with the articles. Perez wrote two
lines, and read them.

“‘We promise not to act under our commissions until the grievances of
which the people complain are redressed.’ Now sign that, and quickly, or
it will be too late.”

“Do you order us to sign?” said Barker, apparently willing to find in
this appearance of duress an excuse for yielding.

“Not at all,” replied Perez. “If you think you can make better terms
with the people for yourselves, you are welcome to try. I should judge
from the racket that they’re on the point of coming in.”

There was a hoarse howl from without, and Justices Goodrich, Barker and
Whiting simultaneously grabbed for the pen. Their names were affixed in
a trice.

“Will your honor sign?” said Perez to Dwight, who stood before the
fireplace, silently regarding the proceedings. His first ebullition of
rage had passed, and he appeared entirely calm.

“My associates may do as they please,” he replied with dignity, “but
it shall never be said that Elijah Dwight surrendered to a mob the
commission which he received from his excellency, the governor, and
their honors, the councillors of the Commonwealth.”

“I admire your courage, sir, but I cannot answer for the consequences of
your refusal,” said Perez.

“For my sake sign, sir,” urged Madam Dwight.

“Oh, sign, papa. They will kill you,” cried Eliza.

“Methinks, it is but proper prudence, to seem to yield for the time
being,” said Goodrich.

“‘Tis no more than the justices at Northampton have done,” added Barker.

“I need not remind your honor that a pledge given under duress, is not
binding,” said Whiting.

But Dwight waved them away, saying merely, “I know my duty.”

Suddenly Eliza Dwight stepped to the table and wrote something at the
bottom of the agreement, and giving the paper to Perez said something to
him in a low voice. But her father’s keen eye had noted the act, and he
said angrily:

“Child, have you dared to write my name?”

“Nay, father, I have not,” replied the girl.

Even as she spoke there were confused cries, heavy falls, and a rush
in the hall, and instantly the room was filled with men, their faces
flushed with excitement and drink. The guard had been overpowered.

“Whar’s that paper?”

“Hain’t they signed?”

“We’ll make ye sign, dum quick.”

“We’re a gonter tie ye up an give it to ye on the bare back.”

“We’ll give ye a dose o’ yer own med’cin.”

“I don’ wanter hurt ye, sis, but ye muss git aout o’ the way,” said a
burly fellow to Eliza, who, with her mother, had thrown herself between
the mob and Justice Dwight, his undaunted aspect appearing to excite the
special animosity of the rabble. The other three justices were huddled
in the furthest corner.

“It’s all right, men, it’s all right. No need of any more words. Here’s
the paper,” said Perez, authoritatively. A man caught it from his hand
and gave it to another, saying,

“Here, Pete, ye kin read. Wot does it say?” Pete took the document in
both hands, grasping it with unnecessary firmness, as if he depended
in some degree on physical force to overcome the difficulties of
decipherment, and proceeded slowly and with tremendous frowns to spell
it out.


“We-promise-not-to-ak--under--our-c--o--m,--commishins
until-the--g--r--i--e--grievunces,”--

“Wot be them?” demanded one of the crowd.

“That means taxes, ‘n loryers, ‘n debts, ‘n all that. I’ve hearn the
word afore,” exclaimed another. “G’long Pete.”

“Grievunces,” proceeded the reader, “of-wich-the-people-complain.”

“That’s so.”

“That’s dern good. In course we complains.”

“Is that writ so, Pete?”

“G’long, Pete, that ere’s good.”

“Complains,” began the reader again.

“Go back tew the beginnin Pete, I los’ the hang on’t.”

“Yes, go back a leetle, Pete. It be mos’z long ez a sermon.”

“Shell I begin tew the beginnin?”

“Yes, begin tew the beginnin agin, so’s we’ll all on us git the hang.”


“We--promise--not-tew-ak--under--our-commishins,
until--the--g--r--grievunces--of--wich--the--people--complain,
are--r--e--d--r--redressed.”

“Wot’s redressed?”

“That’s same ez ‘bolished.”

“Here be the names,” pursued Pete.

“Charles Goodrich.”

“He’s the feller ez loss his hat.”

“William Whiting.”

“James Barker.”

“Elijah Dwight.”

“It’s false,” exclaimed Dwight, “my name’s not there!”

But few, if any, heard or heeded his words, for at the moment Pete
pronounced the last name, Perez shouted:

“Now, men, we’ve done this job, let’s go to the jail and let out the
debtors, come on,” and suiting action to word he rushed out, and was
followed pell-mell by the yelling crowd, all their truculent enthusiasm
instantly diverted into this new channel.

The four justices, and the wife and daughter of Dwight, alone remained
in the room. Even the people who had been staring in, with their noses
flattened against the window panes, had rushed away to the new point of
interest. Dwight stood steadfastly looking at his daughter, with a stern
and Rhadamanthine gaze, in which, nevertheless, grief and reproachful
surprise, not less than indignation, were expressed. The girl shrinking
behind her mother, seemed more in terror than when the mob had burst
into the room.

“And so my daughter has disobeyed her father, has told him a lie, and
has disgraced him,” said the justice, slowly and calmly, but in tones
that bore a crushing weight of reproof. “Add, sir, at least, that she
has also saved his life,” interposed one of the other justices.

“Oh, don’t talk to me so, papa,” cried the girl sobbing. “I didn’t write
your name, papa, I truly didn’t.”

“Do not add to your sin, by denials, my daughter. Did the fellow not
read my name?” Dwight regarded her as he said this, as if he were
somewhat disgusted at such persistent falsehood, and the others looked a
little as if their sympathy with the girl had received a slight shock.

“But, papa, won’t you believe me,” sobbed the girl, clinging to her
mother as not daring to approach him to whom she appealed. “I only wrote
my own name.”

“Your name, Eliza, but he read mine.”

“Yes, but the pen was bad, you see, and my name looks so like yours,
when it’s writ carelessly, and the ‘a’ is a little quirked, and I
wrote it carelessly, papa. Please forgive me. I didn’t want to have you
killed, and I quirked the ‘a’ a little.”

The Rhadamanthine frown on Dwight’s face yielded to a very composite
expression, a look in which chagrin, tenderness, and a barely
perceptible trace of amusement mingled. The girl instantly had her arms
around his neck, and was crying violently on his shoulder, though she
knew she was forgiven. He put his hand a moment gently on her head, and
then unloosed her arms, saying, dryly,

“That will do, dear, go to your mother now. I shall see that you have
better instruction in writing.”

That was the only rebuke he ever gave her.



CHAPTER TENTH

GREAT GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON CONTINUED


When Perez and the men who with him were in the act of advancing on the
jail, were so suddenly recalled by the cry that the people were stoning
the judges, Prudence had been left quite alone, sitting on Perez’ horse
in the middle of the street. She had no clear idea what all this crowd
and commotion in the village was about, nor even what the Stockbridge
men had come down for in such martial array. She only knew that Mrs.
Hamlin’s son, the captain with the sword, had said he would bring her
to her father, and now that he had run off taking all the other men with
him, she knew not what to do or which way to turn. To her, thus perched
up on the big horse, confused and scared by the tumult, approached
a tall, sallow, gaunt old woman, in a huge green sunbonnet, and a
butternut gown of coarsest homespun. Her features were strongly marked,
but their expression was not unkindly, though just now troubled and
anxious.

“I guess I’ve seen yew tew meetin,” she said to Prudence. “Ain’t you
Fennell’s gal?”

“Yes,” replied the girl, “I come daown to see father.” Prudence,
although she had profited by having lived at service in the Woodbridge
family, where she heard good English spoken, had frequent lapses into
the popular dialect.

“I’m Mis Poor. Zadkiel Poor’s my husban’. He’s in jail over thar long
with yer dad. He’s kinder ailin, an I fetched daown some roots ‘n yarbs
as uster dew him a sight o’ good, w’en he was ter hum. I thort mebbe I
mout git to see him. Him as keeps jail lets folks in sometimes, I hearn
tell.”

“Do you know where the jail is?” asked the girl.

“It’s that ere haouse over thar. It’s in with the tavern.”

“Let’s go and ask the jailer if he’ll let us in,” suggested Prudence.

“I wuz gonter wait an’ git Isr’el Goodrich tew go long an kinder speak
fer me, ef I could,” said Mrs. Poor. “He’s considabul thought on by
folks roun’ here, and he’s a neighbor o’ ourn, an real kind, Isr’el
Goodrich is. But I don’ see him nowhar roun’, an mebbe we mout’s well go
right along, an not wait no longer.”

And so the two women went on toward the jail, and Prudence dismounted
before the door of the tavern end, and tied the horse.

“I callate they muss keep the folks in that ere ell part, with the row
o’ leetle winders,” said Mrs. Poor. She spoke in a hushed voice, as
one speaks near a tomb. The girl was quite pale, and she stared with
a scared fascination at the wall behind which her father was shut up.
Timidly the women entered the open door. Both Bement and his wife were
in the barroom.

“What dew ye want?” demanded the latter, sharply.

Mrs. Poor curtsied very low, and smiled a vague, abject smile of
propitiation.

“If ye please, marm, I’m Mis Poor. He’s in this ere jail fer debt. He’s
kinder pulin like, Zadkiel is, an I jess fetched daown some yarbs fer
him. He’s been uster takin on em, an they doos him good, specially the
sassafras. An I thort mebbe, marm, I mout git tew see him, bein ez he
ain’t a well man, an never wuz sence I married him, twenty-five year
agone come nex’ Thanksgivin.”

“And I want to see father, if you please, marm. My father’s George
Fennell. Is he very sick marm?” added Prudence eagerly, seeing that Mrs.
Poor was forgetting her.

“I don’ keer who ye be, an ye needn’ waste no time o’ tellin me,”
 replied Mrs. Bement, her pretty blue eyes as hard as steel. “Ye couldn’t
go intew that jail not ef ye wuz Gin’ral Washington. I ain’t goin ter
hev no women folks a bawlin an a blubberin roun’ this ere jail’s long’s
_my_ husban’ keeps it, an that’s flat.

“I won’t cry a bit, if you’ll only let me see father,” pleaded Prudence,
two great tears gathering in her eyes, even as she spoke, and testifying
to the value of her promise. “And--and I’ll scrub the floor for you,
too. It needs it, and I’m a good scrubber, Mrs. Woodbridge says I am.”

“I’d take it kind of ye, I would,” said Mrs. Poor, “ef ye’d let me in
jess fer a minit. He’d set store by seein of me, an I could give him the
yarbs. He ain’t a well man, an never wuz, Zadkiel ain’t. Ye needn’t let
the gal in. It don’ matter ‘s much about her, an gals is cryin things.
I’ll scrub yer floor better’n she ever kin, an come to look it doos
kinder need it,” and she turned her agonized eyes a moment upon the
floor in affected critical inspection.

“Cephas, see that crowd comin. What do they mean? Put them women out.
G’long there, git out, quick! Shut the door, Cephas. Put up the bar.
What ever’s comin to us?”

Well might Mrs. Bement say so, for the sight that had caught her eyes
as she stood confronting the women and the open door, was no less an one
than a mass of nearly a thousand men and boys, bristling with clubs and
guns, rushing directly toward the jail.

Scarcely had the women been thrust out, and the white-faced Bement
dropped the bar into its sockets across the middle of the door, than
there was a rushing, tramping sound before the house, like the noise
of many waters, and a great hubbub of hoarse voices. Then came a heavy
blow, as if with the hilt of a sword against the door, and a loud voiced
called,

“Open, and be quick about it!”

“Don’t do it, Cephas, the house is stout, and mebbe help’ll come,” said
Mrs. Bement, although she trembled.

But Cephas, though generally like clay in the hands of his wife, was
at this instant dominated by a terror greater than his fear of her. He
lifted the bar from the sockets, and was instantly sent staggering back
against the wall as the door burst open. The room was instantly filled
to its utmost capacity with men, who dropped the butts of their muskets
on the floor with a jar that made the bottles in the bar clink in
concert.

Bement who had managed to get behind the bar, stood there with a face
like ashes, his flabby cheeks relaxed with terror so they hung like
dewlaps. He evidently expected nothing better than to be butchered
without mercy on the spot.

“Good morning, Mr. Bement,” said Perez, as coolly as if he had just
dropped in for a glass of flip.

“Good morning sir,” faintly articulated the landlord.

“You remember me, perhaps. I took dinner here, and visited by brother in
the jail last Saturday. I should like to see him again. Will you be kind
enough to hand me the keys, there behind you?” Bement stared as if dazed
at Perez, looked around at the crowd of men, and then looked back at
Perez again, and still stood gaping.

“Did ye hear the cap’n?” shouted Abner in a voice of thunder. Bement
gave a start of terror, and involuntarily turned to take the bunch of
keys down from the nail. But by the time he had turned, the keys were no
longer there.

It had been easy to see from the first, that Mrs. Bement was made of
quite different stuff from her husband. As she stood by his side behind
the bar, although she was tremulous with excitement, the look with which
she had faced the crowd was rather vixenish than frightened. There was
a vicious sparkle in her eyes, and the color of her cheeks was
concentrated in two small spots, one under each cheek bone. Just as her
husband, succumbing to the inevitable, was turning to take the keys from
their nail and deliver them over, she quietly reached behind him, and
snatched them. Then, with a deft motion opening the top of her gown
a little, she dropped them into her bosom, and looked at Perez with a
defiant expression, as much as to say, “Now I should like to see you get
them.”

There was no doubt about the little shrew being thoroughly game, and yet
her act was less striking as evidence of her bravery, than as testifying
her confidence in the chivalry of the rough men before her. And, indeed,
it was comical to see the dumbfoundered and chop-fallen expression on
their flushed and excited faces, as they took in the meaning of this
piece of strategy. They had taken up arms against their government, and
but a few moments before had been restrained with difficulty from laying
violent hands upon the august judges of the land, but not the boldest of
them thought it possible to touch this woman. There were men here whom
neither lines of bayonets nor walls of stone would have turned back,
but not one of them was bold enough to lay a forcible hand upon the veil
that covered a woman’s breast. They were Americans.

There was a dead silence. The men gaped at each other, and Perez himself
looked a little foolish for a moment. Then he turned to Abner and said
in a grimly quiet way:

“Knock Bement down. Then four of you swing him by his arms and legs and
break the jail door through with his head.”

“Ye wouldn’ murder me, cap’n,” gasped the hapless man. In a trice Abner
had hauled him out from behind the bar, and tripped him up on the floor.
Then three other men, together with Abner, seized him by the hands and
feet, and half dragged, half carried him across the room to the door in
the middle of one of the sides which opened into the jail corridor.

“Swing the cuss three times, so’s ter git kinder a goin, an then we’ll
see w’ether his head or the door’s the thickest,” said Abner.

“Giv’ em the keys, Marthy. They’re a killin me,” screeched Bement.

The woman had set her teeth. Her face was a little whiter, the red spots
under her cheek bones were a little smaller and a little redder than
before. That was all the sign she gave. Putting her hand convulsively
over the spot on her bosom where the desired articles were secreted, she
replied in a shrill voice:

“I shell keep the keys, Cephas. It’s my dewty. Pray, Cephas, that I may
hev strength given me ter dew my dewty.”

“Ye won’t see me killed ‘fore yer eyes, will ye, give em the keys I tell
ye,” shrieked Bement, as they began to swing him, and Abner said:

“One.”

The woman looked a bit more like going into hysterics, but not a whit
more like yielding.

“Mebbe t’wont kill ye, an they can’t bust the door, nohow. Mebbe they’ll
git tuckered ‘fore long. If wust comes to wust, it’s a comfort ter know
ez ye’re a perfesser in good stannin.”

Bement had doubtless had previous experience of a certain tenacity
of purpose on the part of his spouse, for ceasing to address further
adjurations to her, he began to appeal for mercy to the men.

“Two,” said Abner, as they swung him again.

Now, Mrs. Poor and Prudence, having been thrust out of the barroom just
before the mob thundered up against the barred door, had been borne back
into the room again by the rush when the door was opened, and it was
Mrs. Poor who now made a diversion.

“Look a here, Abner Rathbun,” she said. “W’at in time’s the use of
murd’rin the man? He hain’t done nothin. It’s the woman, as has got the
keys. She wouldn’ let me inter see Zadkiel, an I’m jess a itchin tew git
my hands ontew her, an that’s the trewth, ef I be a perfesser. You let
the man alone. I’ll git them keys, or my name ain’t Resignation Ann
Poor.”

There was a general murmur of approval, and without waiting for orders
from Perez, Abner and his helpers let Bement drop, and he scrambled to
his feet.

Mrs. Bement began to pant. She knew well enough that she had nothing
to fear from all the men in Massachusetts, but one of her own sex was a
more formidable enemy. And, indeed, a much more robust person than the
jailer’s little wife, might have been excused for not relishing a tussle
with the tall, rawboned old woman, with hands brown, muscular, and
labor hardened as a man’s, who now laid her big green sunbonnet on the
counter, and stepping to the open end of the bar, advanced toward her.
Mrs. Poor held her hands before her about breast high, at half arm’s
length, elbows depressed, palms turned outward, the fingers curved like
a cat’s claws. There was an expression of grim satisfaction on her hard
features.

Mrs. Bement stood awaiting her, breathing hard, evidently scared, but
equally evidently, furious.

“Give em the keys, Marthy. She’ll kill ye,” called out Bement, from the
back of the room.

But she paid no attention to this. Her fingers began to curve back like
claws, and her hands assumed the same feline attitude as Mrs. Poor’s.
It was easy to see that the pluck of the little woman extorted a certain
admiration from the very men who had fathers, sons and brothers in the
cells beyond. She was not a bit more than half as big as her antagonist,
but she looked game to the backbone, and the forthcoming result was not
altogether to be predicted. You could have heard a pin drop in the room,
as the men leaned over the counter with faces expressive of intensest
excitement, while those behind stood on tiptoe to see. For the moment
everything else was forgotten in the interest of the impending combat.
Mrs. Bement seemed drawing back for a spring. Then suddenly, quick
as lightning, she put her hand in her bosom, drew out the keys, and
throwing them down on the counter, burst into hysterical sobs.

In another moment the jail door was thrown open, and the men were
rushing down the corridor.



CHAPTER ELEVENTH

END OF THE GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON


Then, presently, the jail was full of cries of horror and indignation.
For each cell door as it was unbarred and thrown open revealed the
same piteous scene, the deliverers starting back, or standing quite
transfixed before the ghastly and withered figures which rose up before
them from dank pallets of putrid straw. The faces of these dismal
apparitions expressed the terror and apprehension which the tumult
and uproar about the jail had created in minds no longer capable of
entertaining hope.

Ignorant who were the occupants of particular cells it was of course
a matter of chance whether those who opened any one of them, were the
friends of the unfortunates who were its inmates. But for a melancholy
reason this was a matter of indifference. So ghastly a travesty on their
former hale and robust selves, had sickness and sunless confinement
made almost all the prisoners, that not even brothers recognized their
brothers, and the corridor echoed with poignant voices, calling to the
poor creatures:

“What’s your name?” “Is this Abijah Galpin?” “Are you my brother Jake?”
 “Are you Sol Morris?” “Father, is it you?”

As they entered the jail with the rush of men, Perez had taken
Prudence’s hand, and remembering the location of Reuben’s cell, stopped
before it, lifted the bar, threw open the door and they went in. George
Fennell was lying on the straw upon the floor. He had raised himself on
one elbow, and was looking apprehensively to see what the opening of
the door would reveal as the cause of this interruption to the usually
sepulchral stillness of the jail. Reuben was standing in the middle of
the floor, eagerly gazing in the same direction. Perez sprang to his
brother’s side, his face beautiful with the joy of the deliverer. If
he had been a Frenchman, or an Italian, anything but an Anglo Saxon,
he would have kissed him, with one of those noblest kisses of all,
wherewith once in a lifetime, or so, men may greet each other. But he
only supported him with one arm about the waist, and stroked his wasted
cheek with his hand, and said:

“I’ve come for you Reub, old boy, you’re free.”

Prudence had first peered anxiously into the face of Reuben, and next
glanced at the man lying on the straw. Then she plucked Perez by the
sleeve, and said in an anguished voice:

“Father ain’t here. Where is he?” and turned to run out.

“That’s your father,” replied Perez, pointing to the sick man.

The girl sprang to his side, and kneeling down, searched with straining
eyes in the bleached and bony face, fringed with matted hair and long
unkempt gray beard, for some trace of the full and ruddy countenance
which she remembered. She would still have hesitated, but her father
said:

“Prudy, my little girl, is it you?”

Her eyes might not recognize the lineaments of the face, but her heart
recalled the intonation of tenderness, though the voice was weak and
changed. Throwing her arms around his neck, pressing her full red lips
in sobbing kisses upon his corpse-like face, she cried:

“Father! Oh Father!”

Presently the throng began to pour out of the jail, bringing with them
those they had released. The news that the jail was being broken
open, and the prisoners set free, had spread like wildfire through the
thronged village, and nearly two thousand people were now assembled in
front of and about the jail, including besides the people from out
of town, nearly every man, woman and child in Great Barrington,
not actually bedridden, excepting of course, the families of the
magistrates, lawyers, court officers, and the wealthier citizens, who
sympathized with them. These were trembling behind their closed doors,
hoping, but by no means assured, that this sudden popular whirlwind,
might exhaust itself, before involving them in destruction. And indeed
the cries of pity, and the hoarse deep groans of indignation with
which the throng before the jail received the prisoners as they were
successively brought forth, were well calculated to inspire with
apprehension, those who knew that they were held responsible by the
public judgment for the deeds of darkness now being brought to light. It
was now perhaps the old mother and young wife of a prisoner, holding up
between them the son and husband, and guiding his tottering steps,
that set the people crying and groaning. Now it was perhaps a couple
of sturdy sons, unused tears running down their tanned cheeks, as they
brought forth a white-haired father, blinking with bleared eyes at the
forgotten sun, and gazing with dazed terror at the crowd of excited
people. Now it was Perez Hamlin, leading out Reuben, holding him up with
his arm, and crying like a baby in spite of all that he could do. Nor
need he have been ashamed, for there were few men who were not in like
plight. Then came Abner, and Abe Konkapot, stepping carefully, as they
carried in their arms George Fennell, Prudence walking by his side, and
holding fast his hand.

Nor must I forget to speak of Mrs. Poor. The big, raw-boned woman’s
hard-favored countenance was lit up with motherly solicitude, as she
lifted, rather than assisted, Zadkiel, down the steps of the tavern.

“Wy don’ ye take him up in yer arms?” remarked Obadiah Weeks,
facetiously, but it was truly more touching than amusing, to see the
protecting tenderness of the woman, for the puny little fellow whom an
odd freak of Providence had given her for a husband, instead of a son.

Although Mrs. Poor movingly declared that “He warn’t the shadder of
hisself,” the fact was, that having been but a short time in jail,
Zadkiel showed few marks of confinement, far enough was he, from
comparing in this respect, with the others, many of whom had been shut
up for years. They looked, with the dead whiteness of their faces
and hands, rather like grewsome cellar plants, torn from their native
darkness, only to wither in the upper light and air, than like human
organisms just restored to their normal climate. As they moved among the
tanned and ruddy-faced people, their abnormal complexion made them look
like representatives of the strange race of Albinos.

But saddest perhaps of all the sights were the debtors who found no
acquaintances or relatives to welcome them as they came forth again
helpless as at their first birth, into the world of bustle and sun
and breeze. It was piteous to see them wandering about with feeble and
sinewless steps, and vacant eyes, staring timidly at the noisy people,
and shrinking dismayed from the throngs of sympathizing questioners
which gathered round them. There were some whose names not even the
oldest citizens could recall so long had they been shut up from the
sight of men.

Jails in those days were deemed as good places as any for insane
persons, and in fact were the only places available, so that, besides
those whom long confinement had brought almost to the point of
imbecility, there were several entirely insane and idiotic individuals
among the prisoners. One of them went around in a high state of
excitement declaring that it was the resurrection morning. Nor was the
delusion altogether to be marvelled at considering the suddenness with
which its victim had exchanged the cell, which for twenty years had been
his home, for the bright vast firmament of heaven, with its floods of
dazzling light and its blue and bottomless dome.

Another debtor, a man from Sheffield, as a prisoner of war during the
revolution, had experienced the barbarities practiced by the British
provost Cunningham at New York. Having barely returned home to his
native village when he was thrust into jail as a debtor, he had not
unnaturally run the two experiences together in his mind. It was his
hallucination that he had been all the while a prisoner of the British
at New York, and that the victorious Continental army had just arrived
to deliver him and his comrades. In Perez he recognized General
Washington.

“Ye was a long time comin, Ginral, but it’s all right now,” he said. “I
knowd ye’d come at las’, an I tole the boys not to git diskerridged. The
redcoats has used us bad though, an I hope ye’ll hang em, Gin’ral.”

At the time of which I write, rape was practically an unknown crime in
Berkshire, and theft extremely uncommon. But among the debtors there
were a few criminals. These, released with the rest, were promptly
recognized and seized by the people. The general voice was first for
putting them back in the cells, but Abner declared that it would be
doing them a kindness to knock them on the head rather than to send them
back to such pigsties, and this view of the matter finding favor, the
fellows were turned loose with a kick apiece and a warning to make
themselves scarce.

In the first outburst of indignation over the horrible condition of the
prison and the prisoners, there was a yell for Bement, and had the men,
in their first rage, laid hands on him, it certainly would have gone
hard with him. But he was not to be found, and it was not till some time
after, that in ransacking the tavern, some one found him in the garret,
hidden under a tow mattress stuffed with dried leaves, on which the
hired man slept nights. He was hauled downstairs by the heels pretty
roughly, and shoved and buffeted about somewhat, but the people having
now passed into a comparatively exhilarated and good-tempered frame of
mind, he underwent no further punishment, that is in his person. But
that was saved only at the expense of his pocket, for the men insisted
on his going behind the bar and treating the crowd, a process which
was kept up until there was not a drop of liquor in his barrels, and
scarcely a sober man in the village. Mrs. Bement, meanwhile, had been
caught and held by some of the women, while one of the prisoners, a
bestial looking idiot, drivelling and gibbering, and reeking with filth,
was made to kiss her. No other penalty could have been devised at once
so crushing to the victim, and so fully commending itself to the popular
sense of justice.

There were about ten or fifteen of the released debtors whose homes were
in or about Stockbridge, and as they could not walk any considerable
distance, it was necessary to provide for their transport. Israel
Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, as well as other Stockbridge men, had driven
down in their carts, and these vehicles being filled with straw, the
Stockbridge prisoners were placed in them. Israel Goodrich insisted that
Reuben Hamlin and George Fennell, with Prudence, should go in his cart,
and into it were also lifted three or four of the friendless prisoners,
who had nowhere to go, and whose helpless condition had stirred old
Israel’s benevolent heart to its depths.

“The poor critters shell stay with me, ef I hev tew send my chil’n tew
the neighbours ter make room fer em,” he declared, blowing his nose with
a blast that made his horses jump.

With six or seven carts leading the way, and some seventy or eighty men
following on foot, the Stockbridge party began the march home about two
o’clock. Full half the men who had marched down in the morning, chose to
remain over in Barrington till later, and a good many were too drunk on
Bement’s free rum to walk. Most of Paul Hubbard’s ironworkers being in
that condition, he stayed to look after them, and Peleg Bidwell had also
stayed, to see that none of the Stockbridge stragglers got into trouble,
and bring them back when he could. Abner walked at the head of the men.
Perez rode by Israel Goodrich’s cart. They went on slowly, and it was
five o’clock when they came in plain view of Stockbridge. The same
exclamation was on every lip. It seemed a year instead of a few hours
only since they had left in the morning.

“It’s been a good day’s work, Cap’n Hamlin, the best I ever hed a hand
in,” said Israel. “I callate it was the Lord’s own work, ef we dew git
hanged for’t.”

As the procession passed Israel’s house, he helped out his sad guests,
and sent on his cart with its other inmates. All the way back from
Barrington, the Stockbridge company had been meeting a string of men
and boys, in carts and afoot, who, having heard reports of what had been
done, were hastening to see for themselves. Many of these turned back
with the returning procession, others keeping on. This exodus of the
masculine element, begun in the morning, and continued all day, had left
in Stockbridge little save women and girls and small children, always
excepting, of course, the families of the wealthier and governing
classes, who had no part nor lot in the matter. Accordingly, when the
party reached the green, there was only an assemblage of women and
children to receive them. These crowded around the carts containing the
released prisoners, with exclamations of pity and amazement, and as the
vehicles took different directions at the parting of the streets, each
one was followed by a score or two, who witnessed with tearful sympathy
each reunion of husband and wife, of brother and sister, of mother and
son. Several persons offered to take George Fennell, who had no home
to go to, into their houses, but Perez said that he should, for the
present, at least, lodge with him.

As Israel Goodrich’s cart, containing Reuben and Fennell and Prudence,
and followed by quite a concourse, turned up the lane to Elnathan
Hamlin’s house and stopped before the door, Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin
came out looking terrified. Perez, fearing some disappointment, had not
told them plainly that he should bring Reuben home, and the report
of the jail-breaking, although it had reached Stockbridge, had not
penetrated to their rather isolated dwelling. So that it was with
chilling apprehensions, rather than hope, that they saw the cart, driven
slowly, as if it carried the dead, stop before their door, and the crowd
of people following it.

“Mother, I’ve brought Reub home,” said Perez, and a gaunt, wild-looking
man was helped out of the cart, and tottered into Mrs. Hamlin’s arms.

There was nothing but the faint, familiar smile, and the unaltered eyes,
to tell her that this was the stalwart son whom the sheriff led away a
year ago. Had she learned that he was dead, it would have shocked her
less than to receive him alive and thus. Elnathan and she led him into
the house between them. Ready hands lifted Fennell out of the cart and
bore him in, Prudence following. And then Perez went in and shut the
door, and the cart drove off, the people following.

Although the shock which Mrs. Hamlin had received was almost
overwhelming, she had known, after the first moment, how to conceal it,
and no sooner had the invalids been brought within doors and comfortably
placed, than she began without a moment’s delay, to bestir herself to
prepare them food and drink, and make provision for their comfort. Tears
of anguish filled her eyes whenever she turned aside, but they were
wiped away, and her face was smiling and cheery when she looked at
Reuben. But being with Perez a moment in a place apart, she broke down
and cried bitterly.

“You have brought him home to die,” she said.

But he reassured her.

“I have seen sick men,” he said, “and I don’t think Reub will die. He’ll
pull through, now he has your care. I’m afraid poor George is too far
gone, but Reub will come out all right. Never fear mother.”

“Far be it from me to limit the Holy One of Israel by my want of faith,”
 said Mrs. Hamlin. “If it be the Lord’s will that Reuben live, he will
live, and if it be not His will, yet still will I praise His name for
His great goodness in that I am permitted to take care of him, and
do for him to the last. Who can say but the Most High will show still
greater mercy to his servant, and save my son alive?”

As soon as the sick men were a little revived from the exhaustion of
their journey, tubs of water were provided in the shed, and they washed
themselves all over, Elnathan and Perez assisting in the repulsive task.
Then, their filthy prison garments being thrown away, they were dressed
in old clothing of Elnathan’s, and their hair and matted beards were
shorn off with scissors. Perez built a fire in the huge open fireplace
to ward off the slight chill of evening, and the sick men were
comfortably arranged before it upon the great settle. The elderly woman
and the deft handed maiden, moved softly about, setting the tea table,
and ministering to the needs of the invalids, arranging now a covering,
now moving a stool, or maybe merely resting their cool and tender palms
upon the fevered foreheads. Fennell had fallen peacefully asleep, but
Reuben’s face wore a smile, and in his eyes, as they languidly followed
his mother’s motions, to and fro, there was a look of unutterable
content.

“I declar for ‘t,” piped old Elnathan, as he sat in the chimney corner
warming his fingers over the ruddy blaze, “I declar for ‘t, mother, the
boy looks like another man a’ ready. They ain’t nothin like hum fer sick
folks.”

“I shan’t want no doctor’s stuff,” said Reuben, feebly. “Seein mother
round ‘s med’cin nuff fer me, I guess.”

And Perez, as he stood leaning against the chimney, and looking on the
scene, lit by the flickering firelight, said to himself, that never
surely, in all his fighting had he ever drawn his sword to such good and
holy purpose as that day.

Soon after nightfall the latchstring was pulled in a timid sort of way,
and Obadiah Weeks stood on the threshold, waiting sheepishly till Mrs.
Hamlin bade him enter. He came forward, toward the chimney, taking off
his hat and smoothing his hair with his hand.

“It looks kinder good tew see a fire,” he remarked, presently
supplementing this by the observation that it was “kinder hot, though,”
 and grinning vaguely around at every one in the room, with the exception
of Prudence. He did not look at her, though he looked all around her. He
put his hands in his pockets and took them out, rubbed one boot against
the other, and examined a wart on one of his thumbs, as if he now
observed it for the first time, and was quite absorbed in the discovery.

Then with a suddenness that somewhat startled Perez, who had been
observing him with some curiosity, he wheeled round so as to face
Prudence, and simultaneously sought in his pocket for something. Not
finding it at first, his face got very red. Finally, however, he drew
forth a little bundle and gave it to the girl, mumbling something about
“Sassafras, thort mebbe ‘twould be good fer yer dad,” and bolted out of
the room.

Nobody said anything after Obadiah’s abrupt retirement, but when a few
moments later, Prudence looked shyly around, with cheeks a little
rosier than usual, she saw Perez regarding her with a slight smile of
amusement. A minute after she got up and went over to Mrs. Hamlin, and
laid the sassafras in her lap, saying:

“Don’t you want this, Mrs. Hamlin? I’m sure I don’t know what it’s good
for,” and went back to her seat and sat down again, with a slight toss
of the head.

Presently a medley of discordant sounds began to float up from the
village on the gentle southerly breeze. There was a weird, unearthly
groaning, as of a monster in pain, mingled with the beating of tin-pans.
Perez finally went to see what it was. At the end of the lane he met
Peleg Bidwell, and Peleg explained the matter.

“Ye see the boys hev all got back from Barrington, and they’re pretty
gosh darned drunk, most on em, an so nothin would do but they must go
an rig up a hoss-fiddle an hunt up some pans, an go an serenade the silk
stockins. They wuz a givin it tew Squire Woodbridge, wen I come by.
I guess he won’t git much sleep ter night,” and with this information
Perez went home again.



CHAPTER TWELFTH

A FAIR SUPPLIANT


Dr. Partridge lived at this time on the hill north of the village, and
not very far from the parsonage, which made it convenient for him to
report promptly to Parson West, when any of his patients had
reached that point where spiritual must be substituted for medical
ministrations. It was about ten o’clock by the silver dialed clock in
the living room of the doctor’s house, when Prudence Fennell knocked at
the open kitchen door.

“What do you want, child?” said Mrs. Partridge, who was in the kitchen
trying to instruct a negro girl how to use her broom of twigs so as to
distribute the silver sand upon the floor in the complex wavy figures,
which were the pride of the housewife of that day.

“Please, marm, father’s sick, and Mis Hamlin thinks he ought to have the
doctor.”

“Your father and Mrs. Hamlin? Who is your father, pray?”

“I’m Prudence Fennell, marm, and father’s George Fennell. He’s one of
them that were fetched from Barrington jail yesterday, and he’s sick.
He’s at Mis Hamlin’s, please marm.”

“Surely, by that he must be one of the debtors. The sheriff is more like
to come for them than the doctor. They will be back in jail in a few
days, no doubt,” said Mrs. Partridge, sharply.

“No one will be so cruel. Father is so sick. If you could see him, you
would not say so. They shall not take him to jail again. If Mr. Seymour
comes after him, I’ll tear his eyes out. I’ll kill him.”

“What a little tiger it is!” said Mrs. Partridge, regarding with
astonishment the child’s blazing eyes and panting bosom, while peering
over her mistress’s shoulders, the negro girl was turning up the whites
of her eyes at the display. “There, there, child, I meant nothing. If
he is sick, maybe they will leave him. I know naught of such things. But
this Perez Hamlin will be hung of a surety, and the rest be put in the
stocks and well whipt.”

“He will not be hung. No one will dare to touch him,” cried Prudence,
becoming excited again. “He is the best man in the world. He fetched my
father out of jail.”

“Nay, but if you are so spunky to say ‘no’ to your betters, ‘tis time
you went. I know not what we are in the way to, when a chit of a maid
shall set me right,” said Mrs. Partridge, bristling up, and turning
disdainfully away.

But her indignation, at once forgotten in terror lest the doctor might
not come to her father, Prudence came after her and caught her sleeve,
and said with tones of entreaty, supported by eyes full of tears:

“Please, marm, don’t mind what I said. Box my ears, marm, but please let
doctor come. Father coughs so bad.”

“I will tell him, and he will do as he sees fit,” said Mrs. Partridge,
stiffly, “and now run home, and do not put me out with your sauce
again.”

An hour or two later, the doctor’s chaise stopped at the Hamlins.
Doctors, as well as other people, were plainer-spoken in those days,
especially in dealing with the poor. Dr. Partridge was a kind-hearted
man, but it did not occur to him as it does to his successors of our
day, to mince matters with patients, and cheer them up with hopeful
generalities, reserving the bitter truths to whisper in the ears of
their friends outside the door. After a look and a few words, he said to
Fennell:

“I can do you no good.”

“Shall I die?” asked the sick man, faintly.

“You may live a few weeks, but not longer. The disease has taken too
strong a hold.”

Fennell looked around the room. Prudence was not present.

“Don’t tell Prudy,” he said.

As to Reuben, who was already looking much brighter than the preceding
night, the doctor said:

“He may get well,” and left a little medicine.

Perez, who had been in the room, followed him out of doors.

“Do you think my brother will get well?” he asked.

“I think so, if he does not have to go back to jail.”

“He will not go back unless I go with him,” said Perez.

“Well, I think it most likely you will,” replied the doctor dryly. “On
the whole, I should say his prospect of long life was better than yours,
if I am speaking to Perez Hamlin, the mob captain.”

“You mean I shall be hung?”

“And drawn and quartered,” amended the doctor, grimly. “That is the
penalty for treason, I believe.”

“Perhaps,” said Perez. “We shall see. There will be fighting before
hanging. At any rate, if I’m hung, it will be as long as it’s short, for
Reub would have died if I hadn’t got him out of jail.”

The doctor gathered up the reins.

“I want to thank you for coming,” said Perez. “You know, I s’pose, that
we are very poor, and can’t promise much pay.”

“If you’ll see that your mob doesn’t give me such a serenade as it did
Squire Woodbridge last night, I’ll call it square,” said the doctor, and
drove off.

Now, Meshech Little, the carpenter, had gone home and to bed towering
drunk the night before, after taking part as a leading performer in the
aforesaid serenade to the Squire. His sleep had been exceedingly dense,
and in the morning when it became time for him to go to his work, it was
only after repeated callings and shakings, that Mrs. Little was able to
elicit the first sign of wakefulness.

“You must get up,” she expostulated. “Sun’s half way daown the west
post, an ye know how mad Deacon Nash’ll be ef ye don’ git don shinglin
his barn tidday.” After a series of heartrending groans and yawns,
Meshech, who had tumbled on the bed in his clothes, got up and stood
stretching and rubbing his eyes in the middle of the floor.

“By gosh, it’s kinder tough,” he said, “I wuz jess a dreamin ez I wuz
latherin deakin. I’d jess swotted him one in the snout wen ye woke me,
an naow, by gorry, I’ve got tew go an work fer the critter.”

“An ye better hurry, tew,” urged his wife anxiously. “Ye know ye didn’t
dew the fuss thing all day yis’dy.”

“Whar wuz I yis’dy?” asked Meshech, in whose confused faculties the only
distinct recollection was that he had been drunk.

“Ye went daown tew Barrington ‘long with the crowd.”

Meshech was in the act of ducking his head in a bucket of water,
standing on a bench by the door, but at his wife’s words he became
suddenly motionless as a statue, his nose close to the water. Then
he straightened sharply up and stared at her, the working of his eyes
showing that he was gathering up tangled skeins of recollection.

“Wal, I swow,” he finally ejaculated, with an astonished drawl, “ef I
hadn’t a furgut the hull dum performance, an here I wuz a gittin up an
goin to work jess ez if court hadn’t been stopped. Gosh, Sally, I guess
I be my own man tidday, ef I hev got a bad tas in my mouth. Gorry, it’s
lucky I thort afore I wet my hed. I couldn’t a gone tew sleep agin,” and
Meshech turned toward the bed, with apparent intention of resuming his
slumbers.

But Mrs. Little, though she knew there had been serious disturbances
the preceding day, could by no means bring her mind to believe that the
entire system of law and public authority had been thus suddenly and
completely overthrown, and she yet again adjured her husband, this time
by a more dreadful name, to betake himself to labor.

“Ef ye don’ go to work, Meshech, Squire Woodbridge ‘ll hev ye in the
stocks fer gittin drunk. Deakin kin git ye put in any time he wants ter
complain on ye. Ye better not rile him.”

But at this Meshech, instead of being impressed, burst into a loud haw
haw.

“Yes’dy mornin ye could a scart me outer a week’s growth a talkin baout
Squire, but, gol, ye’ll have ter try suthen else naow. Wy don’ ye know
we wuz a serenadin Squire with a hoss-fiddle till ten o’clock las’
night, an he didn’ das show his nose outer doors.

“Gosh!” he continued, getting into bed and turning over toward the wall,
“I’d giv considabul, ef I could dream I wuz lickin Squire. Mebbe I
kin. Don’ ye wake me up agin Sally,” and presently his regular snoring
proclaimed that he had departed to the free hunting grounds of dreamland
in pursuit of his desired game.

Now Meshech’s was merely a representative case. He was by no means the
only workingman who that morning kept his bed warm to an unaccustomed
hour. Except such as had farms of their own to work on, or work for
themselves to do, there was scarcely any one in Stockbridge who went to
work. A large part of the labor by which the industries of the community
had been carried on, had been that of debtors working out their debts at
such allowance for wages as their creditor-employers chose to make them.
If they complained that it was too small, they had, indeed, their choice
to go to jail in preference to taking it, but no third alternative was
before them. Of these coolies, as we should call them in these days,
only a few who were either very timid, or ignorant of the full effect of
yesterday’s doings, went to their usual tasks.

Besides the coolies, there was a small number of laborers who commanded
actual wages in produce or in money. Although there was no reason in
yesterday’s proceedings, why these should not go to work as usual, yet
the spirit of revolt that was in the air, and the vague impression of
impending changes that were to indefinitely better the condition of the
poor, had so far affected them also, that the most took this day as a
holiday, with a hazy but pleasing notion that it was the beginning of
unlimited holidays.

All this idle element naturally drifted into the streets, and collected
in particular force on the green and about the tavern. By afternoon,
these groups, reënforced by those who had been busy at home during the
morning, began to assume the dimensions of a crowd. Widow Bingham,
at the tavern, had deemed it expedient to keep the right side of the
lawless element by a rather free extension of credit at the bar, and
there was a good deal of hilarity, which, together with the atmosphere
of excitement created by the recent stirring events, made it seem
quite like a gala occasion. Women and girls were there in considerable
numbers, the latter wearing their ribbons, and walking about in groups
together, or listening to their sweethearts, as each explained to a
credulous auditor, how yesterday’s great events had hinged entirely on
the narrator’s individual presence and prowess.

Some of the youths, the preceding night, had cut a tall sapling and set
it in the middle of the green, in front of the tavern. On the top of
this had been fixed the cocked hat of Justice Goodrich, brought as a
trophy from Great Barrington. This was the center of interest, the focus
of the crowd, a visible, palpable proof of the people’s victory over
the courts, which was the source of inextinguishable hilarity. It was
evident, indeed, from the conversation of the children, that there
existed in the minds of those of tender years, some confusion as to the
previous ownership of the hat, and the circumstances connected with its
acquisition by the people. Some said that it was Burgoyne’s hat, and
others that it was the hat of King George, himself, while the affair
of the day before at Great Barrington, was variously represented as a
victory over the redcoats, the Indians and the Tories. But, whatever
might be the differences of opinion on these minor points, the children
were uproariously agreed that there was something to be exceedingly
joyful about.

Next to the hat, two uncouth-looking machines which stood on the
green near the stocks, were the centers of interest. They were wooden
structures, somewhat resembling saw-horses. Beside each were several
boards, and close inspection would have shown that both the surface of
the horses and one side of these boards, were well smeared with rosin.
These were the horse-fiddles, contrived for the purpose of promoting
wakefulness by night, on the part of the silk stockings. Given plenty of
rosin, and a dozen stout fellows to each fiddle, drawing the boards
to and fro across the backs of the horses, pressing on hard, and the
resulting shrieks were something only to be imagined with the fingers in
the ears. The concert given to Squire Woodbridge the night previous,
had been an extemporized affair, with only one horse-fiddle, and
insufficient support from other instruments. To judge from the
conversation of the men and boys standing around, it was intended
to-night to give the Squire a demonstration which should quite
compensate him for the unsatisfactory nature of the former
entertainment, and leave him in no sort of doubt as to the sentiments
of the people toward the magistracy and silk stockings in general, and
himself in particular. A large collection of tin-pans had been made,
and the pumpkin vines of the vicinity had been dismantled for the
construction of pumpkinstalk trombones, provided with which, some
hundreds of small boys were to be in attendance.

Although the loud guffaws which from time to time were heard from the
group of men and hobbledehoys about the horse-fiddles on the green,
were evidence that the projected entertainment was not without comical
features as they looked at it, the aspect of the affair as viewed by
other eyes was decidedly tragical. Mrs. Woodbridge had long been sinking
with consumption, and the uproar and excitement of the preceding night
had left her in so prostrate a condition that Dr. Partridge had been
called in. During the latter part of her aunt’s sickness Desire Edwards
had made a practice of running into her Uncle Jahleel’s many times a day
to give a sort of oversight to the housekeeping, a department in which
she was decidedly more proficient than damsels of this day, of much less
aristocratic pretensions, find it consistent with their dignity to be.
The doctor and Desire were at this moment in the living-room, inspecting
through the closed shutters the preparations on the green for the
demonstration of the evening.

“Another such night will kill her, won’t it, doctor?”

“I could not answer for the consequences,” replied the doctor, gravely.
“I could scarcely hazard giving her laudanum enough to carry her through
such a racket, and without sleep she cannot live another day.”

“What shall we do? What shall we do? Oh, poor Aunty! The brutes! The
brutes! Look at them over there laughing their great horse laughs. I
never liked to see them whipped before, when the constable whipped them,
but oh I shall like to after this. I should like to see them whipped
till the blood ran down,” cried the girl, tears of mingled grief and
anger filling her flashing eyes.

“I don’t know when you are likely to have the opportunity,” said the
doctor, dryly. “At present they have the upper hand in town, and seem
very likely to keep it. We may thank our stars if the idea of whipping
some of us does not occur to them.”

“My father fears that they will plunder the store and perhaps murder us,
unless help comes soon.”

“There is no help to come,” said the doctor. “The militia are all in the
mob.”

“But is there nothing we can do? Must we let them murder Aunty before
our eyes?”

“Perhaps,” said the doctor, “if your Uncle Jahleel were to go out to the
mob this evening, and entreat them civilly, and beg them to desist by
reason of your aunt’s sickness, they would hear to him.”

“Doctor! Doctor! you don’t know my uncle,” cried Desire. “He would
sooner have Aunt Lucy die, and die himself, and have us all killed, than
stoop to ask a favor of the rabble.”

“I suppose it would be hard for him,” said the doctor, “and yet to save
your aunt’s life maybe--”

“Oh I couldn’t bear to have him do it,” interrupted Desire. “Poor Uncle!
I’d rather go out to the mob myself than have Uncle Jahleel. It would
kill him. He is so proud.”

The doctor walked across the room two or three times with knitted brow
and then paused and looked with a certain critical admiration at the
face of the girl to which excitement had lent an unusual brilliance.

“I will tell you,” he said, “the only way I see of securing a quiet
night to your aunt. Just go yourself and see this Hamlin who is the
captain of the mob, and make your petition to him. I had words with him
this morning. He is a well seeming fellow enough, and has a bold way of
speech that liked me well i’ faith, though no doubt he’s a great rascal
and well deserves a hanging.”

He paused, for Desire was confronting him, with a look that was a
peremptory interruption. Her eyes were flashing, her cheeks mantled with
indignant color, and the delicate nostrils were distended with scorn.

“Me, Desire Edwards, sue for favors of this low fellow! You forget
yourself strangely, Dr. Partridge.”

The doctor took his hat from the table and bowed low. “I beg your
pardon, Miss Desire. Possibly your aunt may live through the night,
after all,” and he went out of the house shrugging his shoulders.

Desire was still standing in the same attitude when a faint voice caught
her ear, and stepping to a door she opened it, and asked gently, “What
is it, Aunty?”

“Your uncle hasn’t gone out, has he?” asked Mrs. Woodbridge, feebly.

“No, Aunty, he’s in his study walking to and fro as he’s been all day,
you know.”

“He musn’t go out. I was afraid he’d gone out. Tell him I beg he will
not go out. The mob will kill him.”

“I don’t think he will go, Aunty.”

“Do you think they will make that terrible noise again tonight.”

“I--I don’t know. I’m afraid so, Aunt Lucy.”

“Oh dear,” sighed the invalid, with a moan of exhaustion, “it don’t
seem as if I could live through it again, I’m so weak, and so tired. You
can’t think, dear, how tired I am.”

Desire went in and shook up the pillows, and soothed the sick woman with
some little cares and then came out and shut the door. Her wide brimmed
hat of fine leghorn straw with a blue ostrich plume curled around the
crown, and a light cashmere shawl lay on the table. Perching the one a
trifle sideways on her dark brown curls, which were gathered simply in
a ribbon behind, according to the style of the day, she threw the shawl
about her shoulders, and knocked at the door of her Uncle Jahleel’s
study, which also opened into the living-room, and was the apartment in
which he held court, when acting as magistrate. In response to the
knock the Squire opened the door. He looked as if he had had a fit
of sickness, so deeply had the marks of chagrin and despite impressed
itself on his face in the past two days.

“I’m going out for a little while,” said Desire, “and you will go to
Aunty, if she calls, won’t you?”

Her uncle nodded and resumed his walking to and fro, and Desire,
stepping out of the house by a back way, went by a path across the
fields, toward Elnathan Hamlin’s house.

The Hamlin house, like the houses of most of the poorer class of people,
had but two rooms on the ground floor, a small bedroom and a great
kitchen, in which the family lived, worked, cooked, ate and received
company. There were two doors opening into the kitchen from without, the
front door and the back door. On the former of these, there came a
light tap. Now callers upon the Hamlins, in general, just pulled
the latchstring and came in. Nobody tapped except the sheriff, the
constable, the tax-collector and the parson, and the latter’s calls had
been rare since the family fortunes, never other than humble, had been
going from bad to worse. So that it was not without some trepidation,
which was shared by the family, that old Elnathan now rose from his seat
by the chimney corner and went and opened the door. A clear, soft voice,
with the effect of distinctness without preciseness, which betrays the
cultured class, was heard by those within, asking, “Is Captain Hamlin in
the house?”

“Do ye mean Perez?” parleyed Elnathan.

“Yes.”

“I b’leve he’s somewheres raound. He’s aout doin up the chores, I
callate. Did ye wanter see him?”

“If you please.”

“Wal, come in won’t ye, an sid down, an I’ll go aout arter him,” said
Elnathan, backing in and making way for the guest to enter.

“It’s the Edwards gal,” he continued, in a feebly introductory manner,
as Desire entered.

Mrs. Hamlin hastily let down her sleeves, and glanced, a little
shamefacedly, at her linsey-woolsey short gown and coarse petticoat, and
then about the room, which was a good deal cluttered up, and small blame
to her, considering the sudden increase of her household cares. But it
was, nevertheless, with native dignity that she greeted her guest
and set her a chair, not allowing herself to be put out by the rather
fastidious way in which Desire held up her skirts.

“Sid down,” said Elnathan “an be kinder neighborly. She wants to see
Perez, mother. I dunno what baout, I’m sure. Ef he’s a milkin naow I
s’pose I kin spell him so’s he kin come in an see what she’s a wantin of
him,” and the old man shuffled out the back door.

Desire sat down, calm and composed outwardly, but tingling in every
particle of her body with a revulsion of taste at the vulgarity of the
atmosphere, which almost amounted to nausea. But it may be doubted if
her dainty attire, her air of distinction, and the refined delicacy of
her flower-like face, had ever appeared to more advantage than as she
sat, inwardly fuming, on that rude chair, in that rude room, amid its
more or less clownish inmates. Prudence was very red in the face, and
confused. As housemaid in Mr. Woodbridge’s family, she knew Desire well,
and felt a certain sort of responsibility for her on that account. She
did not know whether she ought to go and speak to her now, though Desire
took no notice of her. Reuben also had risen from his chair as she came
in, and still stood awkwardly leaning on the back of it, not seeming
sure if he ought to sit down again or not. Fennell, too sick to care,
was the only self-possessed person in the room. It was a relief to all
when the noise of feet at the door indicated the return of Elnathan
with Perez, but the running explanations of the former which his senile
treble made quite audible through the door, were less reassuring.

“Can’t make aout what in time she wants on ye. Mebbe she’s tuk a shine
to ye, he, he, I dunno. Ye uster be allers arter her when ye wuz a young
un.”

“Hush father, she’ll hear,” said Perez, and opening the door came into
the kitchen.

Desire arose to her feet as he did so, and their eyes met. He would have
known her anywhere, in spite of the nine years since he had seen her.
The small oval of the sparkling gypsy face, the fine features, so
mobile and piquant, he instantly recognized from the portrait painted in
undying colors upon his youthful imagination.

“Are you Captain Hamlin?” she said.

“I hope you remember Perez Hamlin,” he answered.

“I remember the name,” she replied coldly. “I am told that you command
the--the men”--she was going to say mob--“in the village.”

“I believe so,” he answered. He was thinking that those red lips of hers
had once kissed his, that August morning when he stood on the green,
ready to march with the minute men.

“My Aunt Woodbridge is very sick. If your men make a noise again in
front of my uncle’s house, she will die. I came to--to ask”--she had to
say it--“you to prevent it.”

“I will prevent it,” said Perez.

Desire dropped an almost imperceptible curtsey, raised the latch of the
door and went out.

All through the interview, even when she had overheard Elnathan’s
confidences to Perez, at the door, her cheeks had not betrayed her by a
trace of unusual color, but now as she hurried home across the fields,
they burned with shame, and she fairly choked to think of the vulgar
familiarity to which she had submitted, and the abject attitude she had
assumed to this farmer’s son. She remembered well enough that childish
kiss, and saw in his eyes that he remembered it. This perception had
added the last touch to her humiliation.

But Perez went out and wandered into the wood-lot and sat down on a
fallen tree, and stared a long time into vacancy with glowing eyes.
He had dreamed of Desire a thousand times during his long absence
from home, but since his return, so vehement had been the pressure of
domestic troubles, so rapid the rush of events, that he had not had time
to once think of her existence, up to the moment when she had confronted
him there in the kitchen, in a beauty at once the same, and so much more
rare, and rich and perfect, than that which had ruled his boyish dreams.

Presently he went down to the tavern. The crowd of men and boys on the
green received him with quite an ovation. Shaking hands right and left
with the men, he went on to the tavern, and finding Abner smoking on the
bench outside the door, drew him aside and asked him to see that there
was no demonstration in front of Woodbridge’s that evening. Abner
grumbled a little.

“O’ course I’m sorry for the woman, if she’s sick, but they never showed
no considerashun fer our feelin’s, an I don’ see wy we sh’d be so durn
tender o’ theirn. I shouldn’t be naow, arter they’d treated a brother o’
mine ez they hev Reub. But ye be cap’n, Perez, an it shel be ez ye say.
The boys kin try ther fiddles on Squire Edwards instid.”

“No. Not there, Abner,” said Perez, quickly.

“Wy not, I sh’d like ter know. His wife ain’t sick, be she?”

“No, that is I don’t know,” said Perez, his face flushing a little with
the difficulty of at once thinking of any plausible reason. “You
see,” he finally found words to say, “the store is so near Squire
Woodbridge’s, that the noise might disturb Madam Woodbridge.”

“She muss hev dum sharp ears, ef she kin hear much at that distance,”
 observed Abner, “but it shell be as ye say, Cap’n. I s’pose ye’ve nothin
agin our givin Sheriff Seymour a little mewsick.”

“As much as you please, Abner.”



CHAPTER THIRTEENTH

A PRAISE MEETING


As a fever awakes to virulent activity the germs of disease in the body,
so revolution in the political system develops the latent elements of
anarchy. It is a test of the condition of the system. The same political
shock which throws an ill-constituted and unsound government into a
condition of chaos, is felt in a politically vigorous and healthful
commonwealth, as only a slight disturbance of the ordinary functions.
The promptness with which the village of Stockbridge relapsed into its
ordinary mode of life after the revolt and revolution of Tuesday, was
striking testimony to the soundness and vitality which a democratic form
of government and a popular sense of responsibility impart to a body
politic. On Tuesday the armed uprising of the people had taken place;
on Wednesday there was considerable effervescence of spirits, though
no violence; on Thursday there was still a number of loutish fellows
loafing about the streets, wearing, however, an appearance of being
disappointed that there was no more excitement, and no prospect of
anything special turning up. Friday and Saturday, apparently disgusted
at finding rebellion such a failure in elements of recreation, these had
gone back to their farm-work and chores, and the village had returned to
its normal quiet without even any more serenades to the silk stockings,
to enliven the evenings.

A foreigner, who had chanced to be passing through Southern Berkshire
at this time, would have deemed an informant practicing on his credulity
who should have assured him that everywhere throughout these quiet
and industrious communities, the entire governmental machinery was
prostrate, that not a local magistrate undertook to sit, not a constable
ventured to attempt an arrest, not a sheriff dared to serve a process or
make an execution, or a tax-collector distrain for taxes. And yet
such was the sober truth, for Stockbridge was in no respect peculiarly
situated, and in many of the towns around, especially in Sheffield,
Egremont, Great Barrington, and Sandisfield, an even larger proportion
of the people were open sympathizers with the rebellion than in the
former village.

In these modern days, restaurants, barrooms, and saloons, and similar
places of resort, are chiefly thronged on Saturday evening, when the
labors of the week being ended, the worker, in whatever field, finds
himself at once in need of convivial relaxation, and disposed thereto
by the exhilaration of a prospective holiday. Necessarily, however,
Saturday evening could not be thus celebrated in a community which
regarded it in the light of holy time, and, accordingly in Stockbridge,
as elsewhere in New England at that day, Friday and Sunday evenings
were by way of eminence the convivial occasions of the week. One of the
consequences of this arrangement was that a “blue Saturday” as well as
the modern “blue Monday,” found place in the workingman’s calendar. But
the voice of the temperance lecturer was not yet heard in the land, and
headaches were still looked upon as Providential mysteries.

The Friday following the “goings on at Barrington,” the tavern was
filled by about the same crowd which had been present the Friday evening
preceding, and of whose conversation on that occasion, some account was
given. But the temper of the gathering a week before had been gloomy,
foreboding, hopeless and well-nigh desperate; to-night, it was jubilant.

“It’s the Lord’s doin’s, an marvellous in our eyes, an that’s all I
kin say about it,” declared Israel Goodrich, his rosy face beaming with
benevolent satisfaction, beneath its crown of white hair. “Jess think
whar we wuz a week ago, an whar we be naow. By gosh who’d a thought it?
If one on ye had a tole me las’ Friday night, what was a comin raound
inside of a week, I should a said he wuz stark starin mad.”

“We mout a knowed somethin wuz a gonter happin,” said Abner. “It’s
allers darkest jess afore dawn, an ‘twas dark nuff tew cut las’ Friday.”

“I declar for’t,” said Peleg Bidwell, “seem’s though I never did feel
quite so down-hearted like ez I did las’ Friday night, wen we wuz a
talkin it over. I’d hed a bad day on’t. Sol Gleason’d been a sassin of
me, an I dassn’t say a word, fer fear he’d send me to jail, fer owin
him, an wen I got home She wuz a cryin, fer Gleason’d been thar, an I
dunno what he’d said tew her, and then Klector Williams he told me
he’d hev tew sell the furnicher fer taxes, an by gosh, takin the hull
together seemed ‘s though thar warn’t no place fer a poor man in this
ere world, and I didn’ keer ef I lived much longer or not. An naow!
Wal thay ain’t no use o’ tellin ye what ye know. I seen Gleason on the
street yisday, an he looked like a whipped cur. He hed his tail atween
his legs, I tell yew. I reckon he thort I wuz gonter lick him. It wuz
‘Good mornin, Peleg,’ ez sweet’s sugar, an he didn’t hev nothing tew say
baout what I wuz a owin him, no; nor he didn’t ass me nothin baout wy I
hedn’t been tew work fer him sence Tewsday.”

After the haw-haw over Peleg’s description had subsided, he added, with
a grin,

“Klector Williams he hain’t thort tew call baout them taxes, sence
Tewsday, nuther. Hev any on ye seen nothin on him?”

“He hain’t skurcely been outer his haouse,” said Obadiah Weeks. “I on’y
see him onct. It was arter dark, an he wuz a slippin over’t the store
arter his tod.”

“I guess it muss be considabul like a funeral over’t the store, nights,”
 observed Abner, grinning. “Gosh I sh’d like ter peek in an see em a
talkin on it over. Wal, turn about’s fair play. They don’ feel no wuss
nor we did.”

“Won’t thar be no more klectin taxes?” inquired Laban Jones.

“I guess thar won’t be much more klectin roun’ here ‘nless the klector
hez a couple o’ rigiments o’ melishy tew help him dew it,” replied
Abner.

“I dunno, baout that,” said Ezra Phelps. “Thar’s more’n one way ter skin
a cat.”

“Thar ain’t no way o’ skinnin this ere cat ‘cept with bagonets,” said
Abner, decidedly, and a general murmur expressed the opinion that so far
as the present company was concerned government would have to practice
some preliminary phlebotomy on their persons before they would submit
to any further bleeding of their purses by the tax-collector. Nothing
pleased Ezra more than to get placed thus argumentatively at bay, with
the entire company against him, and then discomfit them all at a stroke.
The general expression of dissent with which his previous remark was
received, seemed actually to please him. He stood looking at Abner for a
moment, without speaking, a complacent smile just curving his lips,
and the sparkle of the intellectual combatant in his eye. To persons of
Ezra’s disputatious and speculative temper, such moments, in which they
gloat over their victim as he stands within the very jaws of the logic
trap which they are about to spring, are no doubt, the most delightful
of life.

“Don’t yew be in sech a hurry, Abner,” he finally ejaculated. “Would ye
mind payin yer taxes ef govment giv ye the money ter pay em with?”

“No. In course I wouldn’t.”

“Ezzackly. Course ye wouldn’t. Ye’d be dum unreas’nable ef ye did. Wal,
naow I callate that air’s jess what govment’s gonter dew, ez soon ez it
gits the news from Northampton and Barrington. It’s gonter print a
stack o’ bills, an git em inter cirk’lashun, an then we’ll all on us
hev suthin tew pay fer taxes, an not mind it a bit; yis, an pay all the
debts that’s a owin, tew.”

“I hain’t no objeckshun ter that,” admitted Abner, frankly.

“Of course ye hain’t,” said Ezra. “Nobody hain’t. Ye see ye spoke tew
quick, Abner. All the kentry wants is bills, a hull slew on em, lots
on em, an then the courts kin go on, an debts an taxes kin be paid,
an everything’ll be all right. I ain’t one o’ them ez goes agin’ payin
debts an taxes. I says let em be paid, ev’ry shillin, on’y let govment
print nuff bills fer folks tew pay em with.”

“I callate a couple o’ wagon loads o’ new bills would pay orf
ev’ry morgidge, an mos’ o’ the debts, in Berkshire,” said Israel,
reflectively.

“Sartinly, sartinly,” exclaimed Ezra. “That would be plenty. It don’
cost nothin tew print em, an they’d pacify this ere caounty a dum sight
quicker nor no two rigiments, nor no ten, nuther.”

“That air’s what I believe in,” said Israel, beamingly, “peaceable ways
o’ settlin the trouble; bills instid o’ bagonets. The beauty on’t so fer
is that thar hain’t been no sheddin o’ blood, nor no vi’lence tew speak
of, ceppin a leetle shovin daown tew Barrington, an I hope thar won’t
be.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Paul Hubbard. “Not that I want to see
any killing, but there are some silk stockings in this here town that
would look mighty well sticking through the stocks, an there are some
white skins that ought to know how a whip feels, jist so the men that
own em might see how the medicine tastes they’ve been giving us so many
years.”

There was a general murmur indicating approval of this sentiment, and
several “that’s sos” were heard, but Israel said, as he patted Hubbard
paternally on the back:

“Let bygones be bygones, Paul. Them things be all over naow, an I
callate thar won’t be no more busin of poor folks. The lyin an the
lamb be a gonter lie down together arter this, ‘cordin tew scripter. I
declar, it seems jiss like the good ole times ‘long from ‘74 to ‘80,
wen thar warn’t no courts in Berkshire. Wen I wuz a tellin ye baout them
times ‘tother night, I swow I didn’t callate ye’d ever have a chance to
see em fer yerselves, leastways, not till ye got ter Heavin, an I guess
that’s a slim chance with most on ye. Jess think on’t, boys. Thar ain’t
been nary sheriff’s sale, nor a man tuk ter jail this hull week.”

“Iry Seymour wuz a gonter sell aout Elnathan Hamlin this week, but
somehow he hain’t got tew it,” said Abner, dryly. “I callate he heard
some news from Barrington baout Tuesday.”

“Iry mout’s well give up his comishin ez depity sheriff an try ter git
inter some honest trade,” remarked Israel.

“Whar does Squire Woodbridge keep hisself these days? I hain’t seen him
skurcely this week,” said Ezra Phelps.

“Yew don’ genally see much of a rooster the week arter another rooster’s
gin him a darnation lickin on his own dung hill, an that’s wat’s the
matter with Squire,” replied Abner. Shifting his quid of tobacco to the
other side of the mouth and expectorating across half the room into the
chimney place he continued, reflectively:

“By gosh, I don’ blame him, nuther. It muss come kinder tough fer a
feller ez hez lorded it over Stockbridge fer nigh twenty year tew git
put daown afore the hull village the way Perez put him daown Tuesday. Ef
I wuz Squire, I shouldn’t never wan ter show myself agin roun’ here.”

“I be kinder sorry fer him,” said Israel Goodrich. “I declar for’t if I
ain’t. It muss be kinder tough tew git took daown so, specially fer sech
a dreffle proud man.”

“I hain’t sot eyes on him on’y once sence Tewsday,” said Peleg. “He
looked right straight through me ‘z ef he didn’ see nothin. He didn’
seem ter notice nobody ez he went along the street.”

“By gosh, he’d notice ye quick nuff ef he could put ye in the stocks,”
 observed Abner, grimly. “I tell yew he ain’t furgut one on us that
went daown ter Barrington, nor one on us ez wuz a serenadin him t’other
night. Yew jess let Squire git his grip onto this ere taown agin ez he
uster hev it an the constable an the whippin post won’t hev no rest till
he’s paid orf his grudge agin’ every one on us. An ef yew dunno that,
yew dunno Squire Woodbridge.”

The silence which followed indicated that the hearers did know the
Squire well enough to appreciate the force of Abner’s remarks, and
that the contingencies which they suggested were inducive of serious
reflections. It was Jabez Flint, the Tory, who effected a diversion by
observing dryly,

“Yes, ef Squire gits his grip agin, some on us will git darnation sore
backs, but he’s lost it, an he ain’t a gonter git it agin ez long ez we
fellers keeps ourn. On’y ‘twont dew ter hev no foolin, tain’t no child’s
play we’re at.”

“I know one thing dum well” said Obadiah Weeks, “and that is I wouldn’
like tew be in Cap’n Hamlin’s shoes ef Squire sh’d git top agin.
Jehosaphat, though, wouldn’ he jess go fer the Cap’n. I guess he’d give
him ten lashes ev’ry day fer a month an make him set in the stocks with
pepper ‘n salt rubbed in his back ‘tween times, an then hev him hung ter
wind up with, an he wouldn’ be half sassified then.”

“Warn’t that the gol-darndest though, baout that Edwards gal agoin tew
ass Perez to git the mewsic stopped? By gosh, I can’t git over that,”
 exclaimed Peleg, grinning from ear to ear. “I was a lyin awake las’
night and I got ter thinkin bout it, an I begun snickering so’s She
waked up, and She says, ‘Peleg,’ seshee ‘what in time be yew a snickerin
at?’ and I says I wuz a snickerin tew think o’ that air stuck up leetle
gal o’ Squire Edwards daown on her knees tew Perez, a cryin an a assin
him ef he wouldn’ please hev the racket stopped. Yew sed she wuz ontew
her knees, didn’t yew, Obadiah?”

“Tell us all about it Obadiah, we wanter hear it agin,” was the general
demand.

“Ye see the way on’t wuz this,” said Obadiah, nothing loath. “She come
in all a cryin an scairt like, and Perez he wuz thar an so wuz the res’
o’ the family, an the fuss thing she does, she gits down on the floor
intew the sand with a new silk gown she hed on, and asses Perez to hev
the hoss-fiddles stopped. An he said t’er fuss, as haow he wouldn’t,
said ‘twas good nuff fur the silk stockings, and he pinted ter Reub an
says for her tew see what they’d done ter his family. But she cried
an tuck on, an says ez haow she wouldn’t git up ‘nless he’d stop the
hoss-fiddles, an so he hed tew give in, an that’s all I knows about it.”

“Ye see Obadiah knows all baout it,” said Abner. “He keeps kumpny with
the Fennell gal, as is tew the Hamlins. He got it straight’s a string,
didn’t ye, Obadiah?”

“Yes,” said Obadiah, “it’s all jess so. Thar ain’t no mistake.”

No incident of the insurrection had taken such hold on the popular
imagination as the appeal of Desire Edwards to Perez for protection.
It was immensely flattering to the vanity of the mob, as typifying the
state of terror to which the aristocrats had been reduced, and all the
louts in town felt an inch the taller, by reason of it, and walked with
an additional swagger. The demand for the details of the scene between
Perez and Desire was insatiable and Obadiah was called on twenty times
a day to relate to gaping, grinning audiences just how she looked, what
she did, and said, and what Perez said. The fact that Obadiah’s positive
information on the subject was limited to a few words that Prudence had
dropped, made it necessary for him to depend largely on his imagination
to satisfy the demands of his auditors, which accounts for the slight
discrepancy between the actual facts as known to the reader and the
popular version. After everybody had haw hawed and cracked his joke over
Obadiah’s last repetition of the anecdote, Peleg observed:

“I dunno’s az a feller kin blame Perez fer givin intew her. The gal’s
derned hansum, though she be mos’ too black complected.”

“She ain’t none tew black, not to my thinkin,” said Widow Bingham,
looking up from her knitting as she sat behind the bar,--the widow
herself was a buxom brunette--“but I never did see anybuddy kerry ther
nose quite so high in all my born days. She don’t pay no more ‘tension
to common folks ‘n if they wuz dirt under her feet.”

“Whar’s Meshech Little, ter night?” inquired Israel Goodrich, not so
much interested as the younger men in the points of young women.

“He’s been drunk all day,” said Obadiah, who always knew everything that
was going on.

“Whar’d he git the money?” asked some one.

“Meshech don’ need no money tew git drunk,” said Abner. “He’s got a
thirst ontew him as’ll draw liquor aout a cask a rod orf, an the bung
in, jess like the clouds draws water on a hot day. He don’ need no
money, Meshech don’ tew git soaked.”

“He hed some, he hed a shillin howsumever,” said Obadiah. “Deacon Nash
give it tew him fer pitchin rowen.”

“I hain’t been so tickled in ten year,” said Israel, “ez I wuz wen
Deacon come roun tidday a offerin a shillin lawful tew the fellers tew
git in his rowen fer him. It must hev been like pullin teeth fer Deacon
tew pay aout cash fer work seein ez he’s made his debtors dew all his
farmin fer him this five year, but he hed tew come tew ‘t, fer his rowen
wuz a spilin, an nary one o’ his debtors would lif a finger ‘thout bein
paid for ‘t.”

“That air shillin o’ Meshech’s is the fuss money o’ his’n I’ve seen
fer flip in more’n a year,” said Widow Bingham, “an thar be them, not a
thousan mile from here, nuther, ez I could say the same on, more shame
to em, for’t, an I a lone widder.”

The line of remark adopted by the widow, appeared to exert a depressing
influence on the spirits of the company, and this, together with the
information volunteered by Obadiah, that it was “arter nine,” presently
caused a general break-up.



CHAPTER FOURTEENTH

PEREZ GOES TO MEETING


The very next day, as Squire Edwards and his family were sitting down to
dinner, the eldest son Jonathan, a fine young fellow of sixteen, came in
late with a blacked eye and torn clothes.

“My son,” said Squire Edwards, sternly, “why do you come to the table in
such a condition? What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been fighting Obadiah Weeks, sir, and I whipped him, too.”

“And I shall whip you, sir, and soundly,” said his father, with the
Jove-like frown of the eighteenth century parent. “What have I told you
about fighting? Go to your room, and wait for me there. You will have no
dinner.”

The boy turned on his heel without a word, and went out and up to his
room. In the course of the afternoon, Squire Edwards was as good as his
word. When he had come downstairs, after the discharge of his parental
responsibilities, and gone into the store, Desire slipped up to
Jonathan’s room with a substantial luncheon under her apron. He was her
favorite brother, and it was her habit thus surreptitiously to
temper justice with mercy on occasions like the present. The lively
satisfaction with which the youth hailed her appearance, gave ground to
the suspicion that an empty stomach had been causing him more discomfort
than a reproving conscience. As Desire was arranging the viands on the
table she expressed a hope that the paternal correction had not been
more painful than usual. The boy began to grin.

“Don’t you fret about father’s lickins,” he said, “I’d just as lieve
he’d lick me all day if he’ll give me a couple o’ minutes to get ready
in. How many pair o’ trowsers do you s’pose I’ve got on?”

“One, of course.”

“Four,” replied Jonathan, laying one forefinger by the side of his nose
and winking at his sister. “I was sort of sorry for father, he got so
tuckered trying to make me cry. Jimmeny, though, that veal pie looks
good. I should hated to have lost that. You was real good to fetch it
up.

“T’was only fair, though, this time,” he continued, with his mouth full,
“for t’was on ‘count o’ you I got to fightin.”

“What do you mean?” said she.

“Why, Obadiah’s been tellin the biggest set o’ lies about you I ever
heard of. He’s been tellin em all over town. He said you went over to
Elnathan Hamlin’s, Wednesday, and got down on your knees to that Cap’n
Hamlin, so’s to get him not to have no more o’ those horse-fiddles in
front of Uncle’s and our houses. You better believe I walloped him well,
if he is bigger than me.”

Jonathan, busy with eating, had not observed his sister’s face during
this recital, but now he said, glancing up:

“What on earth do you s’pose put such a lie into his head?”

“It isn’t all a lie, Jonathan.”

The boy laid down his knife and fork, and stared at her aghast.

“You don’t mean you was over there?” he exclaimed.

Desire’s face was crimson to the roots of her hair. She bowed her head.

“Wh-a-a-t!” said Jonathan, in a tone of utter disgust, tempered only by
a remnant of incredulity.

“I didn’t go on my knees to him,” said Desire faintly.

“Oh, you didn’t, didn’t you? I believe you did,” said the boy slowly,
with an accent of ineffable scorn, rising to his feet and drawing away
from his sister, as she seemed about to approach him.

Before the lad of sixteen, his elder sister, who had carried him in her
arms as a baby, and been his teacher as a boy, stood like a culprit,
quite abject. Finally she said:

“I didn’t do it for myself. I did it for Aunt Lucy. The doctor said it
would kill her if she was kept awake another night, and there was no
other way to stop the mob. And so I did it.”

“Was that the way?” said the boy, evidently staggered by this unexpected
plea, and seeming quite at loss what to say.

“Yes,” said Desire, rallying a little. “You might know it was. Do you
think I’d do it any other way? I couldn’t see Aunty die, could I?”

“No-o, darn it. I s’pose not,” replied Jonathan slowly, as if he were
not quite sure. His face wore a puzzled expression, the problem offered
by this conflict of ethical obligations with caste sentiment being
evidently too much for his boyish intellect. Evidently he had not
inherited his grandfather’s metaphysical faculty. Finally, with an air
of being entirely posed, and losing interest in the subject, he sat down
on the edge of his bed and abruptly closed the interview by observing:

“I’m going to take off some of these trowsers. They’re too hot.” Desire
discreetly went out.

The only point in the observance of Sunday by the forefathers of New
England, which is still generally practiced in these degenerate
days, namely, the duty of sleeping later than usual that morning, was
transgressed in at least one Stockbridge household on the Lord’s Day
following. Captain Perez Hamlin was up betimes and busy about house and
barns. Since he had returned home he had taken the responsibility of all
the chores about the place from the enfeebled shoulders of his father,
besides supplying the place of man nurse to the invalids. This morning
he had risen earlier than usual because he wanted to do up all the work
before time for meeting.

It would have been easy for any one whose eye had followed him at his
work, to see that his mind was preoccupied. Now he would walk about
briskly, with head in the air, whistling as he went, or talking to
the horse and cow, and anon bursting out laughing at his own
absent-mindedness, as he found he had given the horse the cow’s food, or
put the meal into the water bucket. And again you would have certainly
thought that he was fishing for the frogs at the bottom of the well
instead of drawing water, so long did he stand leaning over the
well-curb, before he bethought himself to loose his hold on the rope and
let the ponderous well-sweep bring up the bucket.

He had not seen Desire Edwards since the Wednesday afternoon when she
had called, but he knew he should see her at meeting. It was she who
was responsible for the daydreaming way in which he was going about this
morning, and for a good deal of previous daydreaming and night dreaming,
too, in the last few days. The analogy of the tender passion to
the chills and fever, had been borne out in his case by the usual
alternations of complacency and depression. He told himself, that since
he remembered so well his boyish courtship of her, she, too, doubtless
remembered it. A woman was even more likely than a man to remember such
things. Doubtless, she remembered too, that kiss she had given him.
Her coming to him to ask his protection for her aunt, if she remembered
those passages had some significance. She must have known that he
would also remember them, and surely that would have deterred her from
reopening their acquaintance had she found the reminiscences in question
disagreeable. He assured himself that had it been wholly unpleasant for
her to meet him, she would have been shrewd enough to devise some other
way of securing the purpose of her visit. She had remained unmarried
all the time of his absence, although she must have had suitors.
Perhaps--well if this conjecture sounded a little conceited, be sure it
was alternated with others self-depreciatory enough to balance it. But I
have no space or need to describe the familiar process of architecture,
by which with a perhaps for a keystone, possibilities for pillars,
and dreams for pinnacles, lovers are wont to rear in a few idle hours,
palaces outdazzling Aladdin’s. I shall more profitably give a word
or two of explanation to another point. Those familiar with the
aristocratic constitution of New England society at this period, will
perhaps deem it strange that the social gulf between the poor farmer’s
son, like Perez, and the daughter of one of the most distinguished
families in Berkshire, should not have sufficed to deter the young man
from indulging aspirations in that direction.

Perhaps, if he had grown up at home, such might have been the case,
despite his boyish fondness for the girl. But the army of the revolution
had been for its officers and more intelligent element, a famous school
of democratic ideas. Perez was only one of thousands, who came home
deeply imbued with principles of social equality; principles, which,
despite finely phrased manifestoes and declarations of independence,
were destined to work like a slow leaven for generations yet, ere
they transformed the oligarchical system of colonial society, into
the democracy of our day. It is true that, Paul Hubbard, Abner, Peleg,
Meshech, and the rest, had been like Perez in the army, and yet the
democratic impressions they had there received, now that they had
returned home, served only to exasperate them against the pretensions of
the superior class, without availing to eradicate their inbred instincts
of servility in the presence of the very men they hated. Precisely this
self-contemptuous recognition of his own servile feeling, operating on
a morose temper, was the key to Hubbard’s special bitterness toward the
silk stockings. That Perez had none of this peasant’s instinct, must,
after all, be partly ascribed to the fact that his descent, by his
mother’s side, had been a gentleman’s, and as Reuben had taken after
Elnathan, so Perez was his mother’s boy. He felt himself a gentleman,
although a farmer’s son. The air of dainty remoteness and distinction,
which invested Desire in his imagination, was by virtue of her
womanhood, solely, not as the representative of a higher class. He was
penniless, she was rich, but to that sufficiently discouraging obstacle,
no paralyzing sense of caste inferiority was added, in his mind.

Despite the dilatory and absent-minded procedure of the young man, by
the time Prudence came out to call him in to the breakfast of fried pork
and johnny-cake, the chores were done, and afterwards he had only to
concern himself with his toilet. He stood a long time gazing ruefully
at his coat, so sadly threadbare and white in the seams. It was his only
one, and very old, but Prudence thought, when with a sigh he finally
drew it on, that she had never seen so fine a soldier, and, indeed, the
coat did look much better on than off, for a gallant bearing will, to
some extent, redeem the most dilapidated attire.

Reuben had grown stronger from day to day, and though still weak, it was
thought that he could well enough take care of George Fennell, during
the forenoon, and allow the rest of the family to go to meeting. Perez
had tinkered up the old cart, and contrived a harness out of ropes, by
which his own horse could be attached to it, the farm horse having been
long since sold off, and Mrs. Hamlin, who by reason of infirmities, had
long been debarred from the privileges of the sanctuary, expected to be
able by this means, to be present there this morning, to offer up
devout thanksgiving for the mercy which had so wonderfully, in one week,
restored her two sons to her.

It was half-past nine when the air was filled with a deep musical,
melancholy sound, which appeared to come from the hill north of the
village, where the meeting-house stood. It lasted, perhaps, five
seconds, beginning with a long crescendo, and quivering into silence by
an equally prolonged diminuendo. It was certainly an astonishing sound
but none of the family appeared in the least agitated, Elnathan merely
remarking:

“Thar’s the warnin blow, Perez, I guess ye better be thinkin baout
hitchin up.” It were a pity indeed if the people of Stockbridge had
not by that time become familiar with the sound of the old Indian
conch-shell which since the mission church was founded at the first
settlement of the town had served instead of a meeting-house bell.
It may be well believed that strong lungs were the first requisite in
sextons of that day. When an hour later the same dreary wail filled the
valley once more with its weird echoes, the family was on its way to
meeting, Mrs. Hamlin and Elnathan in the cart, and Perez with Prudence
on foot. The congregation was now rapidly arriving from every direction,
and the road was full of people. There were men on horseback with their
wives sitting on a pillion behind, and clasping the conjugal waistband
for security, families in carts, and families trudging afoot, while here
and there the more pretentious members of the congregation were seen in
chaises.

The new meeting-house on the hill had been built during Perez’ absence,
to supersede the old church on the green, with which his childish
associations were connected. It had been erected directly after the
close of the war and the effort in addition to the heavy taxation then
necessary for public purposes, was such a drain on the resources of the
town, as to have been a serious local aggravation of the distress of the
times. According to the rule in church building religiously adhered to
by the early New Englanders, the bleakest spot within the town limits
had been selected for the meetinghouse. It was a white barn-shaped
structure, fifty feet by sixty, with a steeple, the pride of the whole
countryside, sixty-two feet high, and tipped with a brass rooster
brought from Boston, by way of weather vane.

Perez and Prudence separating at the door went to the several places
which Puritan decorum assigned to those of the spinster and bachelor
condition respectively, the former going into the right hand gallery,
the other into the left, exceptions being however made in behalf of the
owners of the square pews, who enjoyed the privilege of having their
families with them in the house of God. Across the middle of the end
gallery Dr. Partridge’s square pew extended, so that by no means might
the occupants of the two side galleries come within whispering distance
of each other.

Obadiah Weeks, Abe Konkapot and Abner, who was a a widower and classed
himself with bachelors, and a large number of other younger men whom
Perez recognized as belonging to the mob under his leadership on
Tuesday, were already in their seats. Fidgeting in unfamiliar boots
and shoes, and meek with plentifully greased and flatly plastered hair,
there was very little in the subdued aspect of these young men to remind
any one of the truculent rebels who a few days before had shaken their
bludgeons in the faces of the Honorable the Justices of the Common
Pleas. As Perez entered the seat with them, they recognized him with
sheepish grins, as much as to say, “We’re all in the same box,” quite as
the occupants of a prisoner’s dock might receive a fellow victim thrust
in with them by the sheriff. Obadiah reached out his clenched first with
something in it, and Perez putting forth his hand, received therein a
lot of dried caraway seeds. “Thort mebbe ye hadn’t got no meetin seed,”
 whispered Obadiah.

Owing to the fact that nine years absence from home had weaned him
somewhat from native customs, Perez had, in fact, forgotten to lay in a
supply of this inestimable simple, to the universal use of which by our
forefathers during religious service, may probably be ascribed their
endurance of Sabbatical and doctrinal rigors to which their descendants
are confessedly unequal. It is well known that their knowledge of the
medicinal uses of common herbs was far greater than ours, and it was
doubtless the discovery of some secret virtue, some occult theological
reaction, if I may so express myself, in the seeds of the humble
caraway, which led to the undeviating rule of furnishing all the members
of every family, from children to grey heads, with a small quantity to
be chewed in the mouth and mingled with the saliva during attendance
on the stated ordinances of the Gospel. Whatever may be thought of this
theory, the fact will not be called in question that in the main, the
relaxation of religious doctrine and Sabbath observance in New England,
has proceeded side by side with the decline in the use of meetin seed.

In putting all the young men together in one gallery, it may be thought
that some risk was incurred of making that a quarter of disturbance. But
if the tithingman, with his argus-eyes and long rod were not enough
to insure propriety, the charming rows of maidens on the seats of the
gallery directly opposite could have been relied on to complete the
work. The galleries were very deep, and the distance across the meeting
house, from the front seat of one to that of the other, was not over
twenty-five feet. At this close range, reckoning girls’ eyes to have
been about as effective then as they are now-a-days, it may be readily
inferred what havoc must have been wrought on the bachelors’ seats in
the course of a two hour service. After being exposed to such a fire all
day, it was no wonder at all, quite apart from other reasons, that on
Sunday night the young men found their ardor inflamed to a pitch at
which an interview with the buxom enslaver became a necessity.

The singers sat in the front seat of the galleries, the bass singers in
the front seat on the bachelors’ side, the treble in the front seat on
the spinsters’ side, and the alto and tenor singers in the wings of
the end gallery, separated by Dr. Partridge’s pew. For, as in most New
England churches at this date, the “old way,” of purely congregational
singing by “lining out,” had given place to select choirs, an innovation
however, over which the elder part of the people still groaned and
croaked. On the back seats of the end gallery, behind the tenors and
altos respectively sat the negro freedmen and freedwomen, the Pomps and
Cudjos, the Dinahs and Blossoms. Sitting by Prudence, among the treble
singers, Perez noticed a young Indian girl of very uncommon beauty,
and refinement of features, her dark olive complexion furnishing a most
perfect foil to the blooming face of the white girl.

“Who’s that girl by Prudence Fennell?” he whispered to Abe Konkapot,
who sat beside him. The young Indian’s bronze face flushed darkly, as he
replied:

“That’s Lucretia Nimham.”

Perez was about to make further inquiries, when it flashed on him that
this was the girl, whom Obadiah had jokingly alluded to as the reason
why Abe had lingered in Stockbridge, instead of moving out to York State
with his tribe. She certainly was a very sufficient reason for a man’s
doing or not doing almost anything.

From his position in the gallery, Perez could look down on the main body
of the congregation below, and his cheek flushed with anger as he saw
his father and mother occupying one of the seats in the back part of
the room, in the locality considered least in honor, according to the
distinctions followed by the parish committee, in periodically reseating
the congregation, or “dignifying the seats,” as the people called it.
Considerably nearer the pulpit, and in seats of correspondingly greater
dignity, he recognized Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, the two men
of chiefest estate among the insurgents. Directly under and before the
pulpit, almost beneath it, in fact, facing the people from behind a sort
of railing, sat Deacon Nash. His brother deacon, no less an one than
Squire Timothy Edwards, has not yet arrived.

As he looked over the fast filling house, for he and Prudence had
arrived rather early, he met many eyes fixed curiously upon him.
Sometimes a whisper would pass along a seat, from person to person, till
one after another, the entire row had turned and stared intently at him.
It was fame.



CHAPTER FIFTEENTH

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER MEETING


There had been considerable discussion during the week as to whether
Squire Woodbridge, in view of the public humiliation which had been put
upon him, would expose himself to the curious gaze of the community by
coming to meeting the present Sunday. It had been the more prevalent
opinion that he would find in the low condition of Mrs. Woodbridge, who
was hovering between life and death, a reason which would serve as an
excuse for not “attending on the stated ordinances of the gospel,”
 the present Sabbath. But now from those whose position enabled them to
command a view of the front door of the meeting-house, rose a sibilant
whisper, distinct above the noise of boots and shoes upon the uncarpeted
aisles:

“Here he comes! Here comes Squire.”

There were several gentlemen in Stockbridge who, by virtue of a liberal
profession or present or past official dignities, had a claim, always
rigorously enforced and scrupulously conceded, to the title of Esquire,
but when “_The_ Squire,” was spoken of, it was always Jahleel Woodbridge
whom the speaker had in mind. Decidedly, those who thought he would not
dare to appear in public had mistaken his temper. His face, always that
of a full-blooded man, was redder than common, in fact, contrasted with
the white powder of his wig, it seemed almost purple, but that was the
only sign he gave that he was conscious of the people’s looks. He wore a
long-skirted, straight-cut coat of fine blue cloth with brass buttons; a
brown waistcoat, and small clothes, satin hose with ruffled white shirt
and cuffs. Under one arm he carried his three-cornered hat and under
the other his gold-headed cane, and walked with his usual firm, heavy,
full-bodied step; the step of a man who is not afraid of making a noise,
and expects that people will look at him. There was not the slightest
deflection from the old-time arrogance in the stiff carriage of the head
and eyes, nor anything whatever to show that he considered himself one
jot or tittle less the autocrat of Stockbridge, than on the Sunday a
week ago. Walking the whole length of the meeting-house, he opened the
door of the big square pew at the right hand of the pulpit, considered
the first in honor, and the only part of the interior of the
meeting-house, save the pulpit and sounding-board, which was painted.
One by one the numerous children who called him father, passed before
him into the pew. Then he closed the door and sat down facing the
congregation, and slowly and deliberately looked at the people. As his
glance traveled steadily along the lines of seats, the starers left off
staring and looked down abashed. After he had thus reviewed the seats
below, he turned his eyes upward and proceeded to scan the galleries
with the same effect.

So strong was the impression made by this unruffled and authoritative
demeanor, that the people were fain to scratch their heads and look
at one another in vacant questioning, as if doubtful if they had not
dreamed all this, about the great man’s being put down by Perez Hamlin,
insulted by the mob, and reduced even now to such powerlessness that
he owed the protection of his sick wife to the favor of the threadbare
Continental captain up there in the gallery. To those conscious of
having had a part in these doings, there was a disagreeably vivid
suggestion of the stocks and whipping post in the Squire’s haughty
stare, against which even a sense of their numbers failed to reassure
them. Of course the revolt had gained far too great headway to be now
suppressed by anybody’s personal prestige, by the frowns and stares
of any number of Squire Woodbridges, but, nevertheless, the impression
which even after the events of the last week, he was still able to make
upon the people, by his mere manner, was striking testimony to their
inveterate habit of awe toward him, as the embodiment of secular
authority in their midst.

Perez had been too long absent from home, and differed too much in
habits of thought, to fully understand the sentiments of the peasants
round him for the Squire, and in truth his attention was diverted
from that gentleman ere he had time to fully observe the effect of his
entrance. For he had scarcely reached his pew, when Squire and Deacon
Timothy Edwards came up the aisle, followed by his family. Desire wore
a blue silk skirt and close-fitting bodice, with a white lace kerchief
tucked in about her shoulders, and the same blue plumed hat of soft
Leghorn straw, in which we have seen her before, the wide brim falling
lower on one side than the other, over her dark curls. As she swept up
the aisle between the rows of farmers and farmers’ wives, the contrast
between their coarse, ill-fitting and sad-colored homespun, and her rich
and tasteful robes, was not more striking than the difference between
the delicate distinction of her features and their hard, rough faces,
weather-beaten and wrinkled with toil and exposure, or sallow and hollow
cheeked with care and trouble. She looked like one of a different order
of beings, and indeed, it is nothing more than truth to say that such
was exactly the opinion which Miss Desire herself entertained. The eyes
of admiration with which the girls leaning over the gallery followed her
up the aisle, were quite without a spark of jealousy, for they knew
that their rustic sweethearts would no more think of loving her than of
wasting their passion on the moon. She was meat for their betters, for
some great gentleman from New York or Boston, all in lace and ruffles,
some judge or senator, or, greater still, maybe some minister.

To tell the whole truth, however, the admiring attention which her own
sex accorded to Desire on Sundays, was rather owing to the ever varying
attractions of her toilet, than to her personal charms. If any of the
damsels of Stockbridge who went to bed without their supper Sunday
night, because they couldn’t remember the text of the sermon, had
been allowed to substitute an account of Desire Edwards’ toilet, it is
certain they would not have missed an item. It was the chief boast of
Mercy Scott, the Stockbridge seamstress, that Desire trusted her new
gowns to her instead of sending to New York for them. From the glow
of pride and importance on Miss Mercy’s rather dried-up features, when
Desire wore a new gown for the first time to church, it was perfectly
evident that she looked upon herself as the contributor of the central
feature of the day’s services. At the quilting and apple paring bees
held about the time of such a new gown, Miss Mercy was the center of
interest, and no other gossip was started till she had completed her
confidences as to the material, cost, cut and fit of the foreshadowed
garment. It was with glistening eyes and fingers that forgot their
needles, that these wives and daughters of poor hard-working farmers,
drank in the details about rich eastern silks and fabrics of gorgeous
tints and airy textures, their own coarse, butternut homespun quite
forgotten in imagined splendors. In their rapt attention there was no
tinge of envy, for such things were too far above their reach to be
once thought of in connection with themselves. It was upon the fit of
Desire’s dresses, however, that Miss Mercy, with the instinct of the
artist, grew most impassioned.

“‘Tain’t no credit to me a fittin her,” she would sometimes protest.
“Thar’s some figgers you can’t fetch cloth tew, nohow. But, deary me,
lands sakes alive, the cloth seems tew love her, it clings to her so
nateral. An tain’t no wonder ef it doos. I never see sech a figger.
Why her----.” But Miss Mercy’s audiences at such times were exclusively
composed of ladies. She had no inflamable masculine imaginations to
consider.

It was a very noticeable circumstance on the present Sunday, that all
the persons in the meeting-house who looked at Desire as she walked up
the aisle, proceeded immediately afterwards to screw around their necks
and stare at Perez, thereby betraying that the sight of the one had
immediately suggested the other to their minds.

The Edwards seat was the second in dignity in the meeting-house,
being the one on the left of the pulpit, and ranking with that of the
Sedgwicks, although as between the several leading pews the distinction
was not considered so decided as to be odious. Having ushered his family
to their place, Squire Edwards took his own official seat as deacon,
beside Deacon Nash, behind the railing, below the pulpit and facing the
people.

And now Parson West comes up the aisle in flowing gown and bands, his
three-cornered hat under his arm, and climbs the steps into the lofty
pulpit, sets the hour glass up in view, and the service begins. There
is singing, a short prayer, and again singing, and then the entire
congregation rises, the seats are fastened up that none may sit, and the
long prayer begins, and goes on and on for nearly an hour. Then there is
another psalm, and then the sermon begins. Up at Pittsfield to-day,
you may be very sure that Parson Allen is giving his people a rousing
discourse on the times, wherein the sin of rebellion is treated without
gloves, and the duty of citizens to submit to the powers that be, and to
maintain lawful authority even to the shedding of blood, are vigorously
set forth. But Parson West is not a political parson, and there is not a
word in his sermon which his hearers, watchful for anything of the kind,
can construe into a reference to the existing events of the past week.
It is his practice to keep several sermons on hand, and this might just
as well have been prepared a thousand years before. It was upon the
subject of the deplorable consequences of neglecting the baptism of
infants.

If a parent truly gave up a child in baptism, it would be accepted and
saved, whether it died in infancy or lived to pass through the mental
exercises of an adult convert. But on the other hand, if that duty was
purposely neglected, or if baptism was unaccompanied by a proper frame
of mind in the parent, there was no reason or hint from revelation to
believe that the child was saved. Considering that the infant was justly
liable to eternal suffering on account of Adam’s sin, it was impossible
for the human mind to see how God could be just and yet the justifier
of an unbaptized infant. But it was not for the human mind to limit
infinite mercy and wisdom, and possibly in His secret councils God had
devised a way of salvation even for so desperate a case. So that while
hope was not absolutely forbidden to parents who had neglected
the baptism of their infants, confidence would be most wicked and
presumptuous.

Deacon Edwards fidgeted on his seat at the laxity of this doctrine as
well might the son of Jonathan Edwards, and Deacon Nash, who inherited
his Calvinism from a father who had moved from Westfield to Stockbridge
for the express purpose of sitting under that renowned divine, seemed
equally uncomfortable. Parson West, as a young man, had been notoriously
affected with Arminian leanings, and although his conversion to
Calvinism by Dr. Hopkins of Great Barrington, had been deemed a
wonderful work of grace, a tendency to sacrifice the logical development
of doctrines to the weak suggestions of the flesh, was constantly
cropping out in his sermons, to the frequent grief and scandal of the
deacons.

At length the service was at an end and the hum and buzz of voices rose
from all parts of the house, as the people passing out of their pews met
and greeted each other in the aisles. The afternoon service came in an
hour and a half, and only those went home who lived close at hand or
could easily make the distances in their carriages. These took with
them such friends and acquaintances as they might invite. Others of the
congregation spent the brief nooning in the “noon-house,” a shed near
by, erected for this purpose. There, or on the meeting-house steps, or
maybe seated near by on the grass and using the stumps of felled trees,
with which it was studded, for tables, they discussed the sermon as a
relish to their lunches of doughnuts, cheese, pie and gingerbread. To
converse on any other than religious subjects on the Sabbath, was a sin
and a scandal which exposed the offender to church discipline, but in a
public emergency like the present, when rebellion was rampant throughout
the county, it was impossible that political affairs should not
preoccupy the most pious minds. Talk of them the people must and did,
of the stopping of the courts, the breaking of the jails, of Squire
Woodbridge and Perez Hamlin, of the news from the other counties, and
of what would next take place, but it was amusing to see the ingenious
manner by which the speakers contrived to compound with their
consciences and prevent scandal by giving a pious twist and a Sabbatical
intonation to their sentences.

Among the younger people, as might be expected, there was less of this
affectation. They were all discussing with eager interest something
which had just happened.

“Wal, all I say is I don’t want to be a lady if it makes folks so crewel
an so deceitful as that,” said Submit Goodrich, a black-eyed, bright
cheeked wench, old Israel’s youngest daughter. “To think o’ her
pretendin not to know him, right afore all the folks, and she on her
knees to him a cryin only four days ago. I don’t care if she is Squire
Edwards’ gal, I hain’t got no opinyun o’ such doin’s.”

Most of the girls agreed with Submit, but some of the young men were
inclined to laugh at Perez, saying it was good enough for him, and that
he who was nothing more than a farmer like the rest of them was served
right for trying to push in among the big folks.

“I s’pose she’s dretful riled to think it’s all ‘round bout her goin
over to the Hamlins las’ week an she thort she’d jess let folks see she
was as proud as ever. Land! How red he was! I felt reel bad for him, and
such a nice bow ez he made, jess like any gentleman!”

“I callate Jerushy wouldn’t a been so hard on him,” jealously snickered
a young farmer sitting by the young woman who last spoke.

“No, I wouldn’t,” she said, turning sharply to him. “I s’pose ye thort
I wasn’t no judge o’ hansome men, cause I let you keep kumpny with me.”
 There was nothing more from that quarter.

But what is it they are talking about anyway? Why, simply this: In
front of the meeting-house, as they came out from the service, Perez met
Desire face to face. All the people were standing around, talking and
waiting to see the great folks get into their carriages to drive home.
Naturally, everybody looked with special interest to see the meeting of
these two whose names gossip had so constantly coupled during the
week. Jonathan was with Desire, and looked fiercely at Perez, but his
fierceness was quite wasted. Perez did not see him. He took off his hat
and bowed to her with an air of the most profound respect. She gave not
the faintest sign of recognition, even to the dropping of an eyelid. The
people had stopped talking and were staring. The blood rushed to Perez’
forehead.

“Good day, Miss Edwards,” he said, firmly and distinctly, yet
respectfully, his hat still in his hand. Jonathan, in his indignation,
was as red as he, but Desire could not have appeared more unconscious
of being addressed had she been stone deaf as well as blind. In a moment
more she had passed on and entered the carriage, and the people were
left with something to talk about. Now, Captain Perez Hamlin had gone
to meeting that morning as much in love with Desire Edwards as four
days thinking of little else save a fair face and charming form might be
expected to leave a susceptible young man, particularly when the manly
passion is but the resurrection of an unforgotten love of boyhood. He
walked home somewhat more angry with the same young woman than he could
remember ever having been with anybody. If a benevolent fairy had asked
him his dearest wish just then, it would have been that Desire Edwards
might be transformed into a young gentleman for about five minutes, in
order that he might impart to him the confoundedest thrashing that a
young gentleman ever experienced, nor did even the consciousness that no
such transformation was possible, prevent his fingers from tingling with
a most ungallant aspiration to box her small ears till they were as red
as his own face had been at the moment she cut him so coolly. For he
was a very proud man, was Captain Perez Hamlin, with a soldier’s
sensitiveness to personal affronts, and none of that mean opinion of
himself and his position in society which helped the farmers around to
bear with equanimity the snubs of those they regarded as their natural
superiors.

The father and mother had fortunately driven on before the scene took
place, and so at least he was spared the added exasperation of being
condoled with on arriving at home. Prudence had stayed to the afternoon
service. Toward twilight, as he was walking to and fro behind the barn,
and indulging an extremely unsanctified frame of mind, she came to him
and blurted out, breathlessly:

“All the girls think she was mean and wicked, and I’ll never do any more
work for her or Mis Woodbridge either,” and before he could answer she
had run back into the house with burning cheeks. He had seen that her
eyes were also full of tears. It was clear she had been struggling hard
between the pity which prompted her to tender some form of consolation,
and her fear of speaking to him.

The dreamy habit of the mind induced by love in its first stage, often
extends to the point of overspreading all the realities of life and
the circumstances of the individual, with a glamour, which for the time
being, disguises the hard and rigid outlines of fact. The painful shock
which had so sharply ended Perez’ brief delusion, that Desire might
possibly accept his devotion, had at the same time roused him to a
recognition of the critical position of himself and his father’s family.
What business had he or they lingering here in Stockbridge? Yesterday,
in the vague unpractical way in which hopeful lovers do all their
thinking he had thought they might remain indefinitely. Now he saw that
it would be tempting Providence to postpone any further the carrying out
of his original plan, of moving with them to New York State. The present
insurrection might last a longer or shorter time, but there was no
reason to think it would result in remedying the already desperate
financial condition of the family. The house was to have been sold
the past week, and doubtless would be as soon as affairs were a little
quieter. Reuben was, moreover, liable to re-arrest and imprisonment on
his old debt, and as for himself, he knew that his life was forfeit to
the gallows for the part he had taken in the rebellion.

Once across the state line, however, they would be as safe as in Europe,
for the present Union of the states was not yet formed, and the loose
and nerveless bond of the old Federation, then in its last stage of
decrepitude, left the states practically foreign countries to each
other. His idea was then to get the family over into New York without
delay, with such remnants of the farm stock as could be got together,
and leaving them for the winter at New Lebanon, just the other side the
border, to go on himself, meanwhile, to the western part of the state,
to secure a farm in the new tracts being already opened up in that rich
region, and rapidly filling with settlers. For the populating of the
west, and New York was then the west, has gone on by successive waves
of emigration, set in motion by periodical epochs of financial and
industrial distress in the Atlantic states, and the first of these
impulses, the hard times following the Revolution, was already sending
thousands to seek new homes toward the setting sun.

Busy with preparations for the start, he kept close at home during the
entire week following. Only once or twice did he even go down street,
and then on some errand. Obadiah dropped around frequently and looked
on as he worked, evidently having something on his mind. One twilight as
Perez was cutting wood for the evening fire, the young man came into the
back yard and opened conversation in this wise:

“Guess it’s gonter rain.”

“Looks a little like it,” Perez assented.

Obadiah was silent a space, and ground the heel of his bare foot into
the dirt.

“D’you know what’s good fer warts?” he finally asked. Perez said he did
not. After a pause, Obadiah remarked critically:

“Them bricks roun’ the top o’ the chimly be kinder loose, bean’t they?”
 They were, and Perez freely admitted as much. Obadiah looked around for
some other topic of conversation, but apparently finding none, he picked
up a stone and asked with affected carelessness, as he jerked it toward
the barn:

“Be ye a gonter take George Fennell ‘long with ye?”

“No,” said Perez. “He will not live long, I fear, and he can’t be moved.
I suppose some of the people will take him and Prudence in, when we go.”

Obadiah said nothing, but from the change which instantly came over
his manner, it was evident that the information obtained with such
superfluous diplomacy was a prodigious relief to his mind. The
officiousness with which he urged a handful of chestnuts on Perez, and
even offered to carry in the wood for him, might moreover be construed
as indicating a desire to make amends to him for unjust suspicions
secretly cherished. As for asking Prudence directly whether she was
expecting to go away, that would have been a piece of hardihood of which
the bashful youth was quite incapable. If he could not have ascertained
her intentions otherwise than by such a desperate measure, he would
have waited till the Hamlins set out, and then been on hand to see for
himself whether she went or not.



CHAPTER SIXTEENTH

AN AUCTION SALE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES


Squire Woodbridge had not failed to detect the first signs of decrease
in the ebullition of the popular mind after the revolt of Tuesday, and
when by Friday and Saturday the mob had apparently quite disappeared,
and the village had returned to its normal condition, he assured himself
that the rebellion was all over, and it only remained for him and his
colleagues cautiously to get hold of the reins again, and then--then for
the whip. For, the similitude under which the Squire oftenest thought
of the people of Stockbridge was that of a team of horses which he was
driving. There had been a little runaway, and he had been pitched out on
his head. Let him once get his grip on the lines again, and the whip in
his hand, and there should be some fine dancing among the leaders, or
his name was not Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire, and the whipping post on
the green was nothing but a rosebush.

He was in a hurry for two reasons to get the reins in his hands again.
In the first place, for the very natural and obvious reason that he
grudged every moment of immunity from punishment enjoyed by men who had
put him to such an open shame. The other and less obvious reason was the
expected return of Squire Sedgwick from Boston. Sedgwick had been gone
a week. He might be absent a week or two weeks more, but he might return
any day. One thing was evident to Jahleel Woodbridge. Before this man
returned, of whose growing and rival influence he had already so much
reason to be jealous, he must have put an end to anarchy in Stockbridge,
and once more stand at the head of its government. Sedgwick had warned
him of the explosive state of popular feeling: he had resented that
warning, and the event had proved his rival right. The only thing now
left him was to show Sedgwick that if he had not been able to foresee
the rebellion, he had been able to suppress it. Nevertheless he would
proceed cautiously.

The red flag of the sheriff had for some weeks waved from the gable end
of a small house on the main street, owned by a Baptist cobbler,
one David Joy. There were quite a number of Baptists among the Welsh
iron-workers at West Stockbridge, and some Methodists, but none of
either heresy save David in Stockbridge, which, with this exception was,
as a parish, a Congregational lamb without blemish. No wonder then that
David was a thorn in the side to the authorities of the church, nor was
he less despised by the common people. There was not a drunken loafer in
town who did not pride himself upon the fact that, though he might be
a drunkard, he was at least no Baptist, but belonged to the “Standing
Order.” Meshech Little, himself, who believed and practiced the doctrine
of total immersion in rum, had no charity for one who believed in total
immersion in water.

The date which had been set for the sale of David’s goods and house,
chanced to be the very Monday following the Sunday with whose religious
services and other events the previous chapters have been concerned. It
seemed to Squire Woodbridge that David’s case would be an excellent one
with which to inaugurate once more the reign of law. Owing to the social
isolation and unpopularity of the man, the proceedings against him would
be likely to excite very little sympathy or agitation of any kind, and
having thus got the machinery of the law once more into operation,
it would be easy enough to proceed thereafter, without fear or favor,
against all classes of debtors and evil-doers in the good old way.
Moreover, it had long been the intention of those having the interest
of Zion at heart to “freeze out” David by this very process, and to that
end considerable sanctified shrewdness had been expended in getting him
into debt. So that by enforcing the sale in his case, two birds would,
so to speak, be killed with one stone, and the political and spiritual
interests of the parish be coincidently furthered, making it altogether
an undertaking on which the blessing of Heaven might be reasonably
looked for.

At three o’clock in the afternoon the sale took place. Everything worked
as the Squire had expected. It being the general popular supposition
that there were to be no more sheriffs’ sales, there were no persons
present at the auction save the officers of the law and the gentlemen
who were to bid. Only here and there an astonished face peered out of a
window at the proceedings, and a knot of loafers, who had been boozing
away the afternoon, stood staring in the door of the tavern. That was
all. There was no crowd, and no attempt at interruption. But the news
that a man had been sold out for debt spread fast, and by sunset,
when the men and boys came home from their farm-work or mechanical
occupations, numerous groups of excited talkers had gathered in the
streets. There was a very full meeting that night at the tavern.

“I declar for’t,” said Israel Goodrich, with an air of mingled
disappointment and wrath, “I be reel put aout, an disappinted like. I
dunno what tew make on’t. I callated the trouble wuz all over, an times
wuz gonter be good and folks live kinder neighbourly ‘thout no more
suein an jailin, an sellin aout, same ez long from ‘74 tew ‘80. I
reckoned sure nuff them times wuz come ‘round agin, an here they’ve gone
an kicked the pot over, an the fat’s in the fire agin, bad’s ever.”

“Darn em. Gosh darn em, I say,” exclaimed Abner. “Didn’t they git our
idee what we wuz arter wen we stopped the courts? Did they think we wuz
a foolin baout it? That’s what I want some feller tew tell me. Did they
think we wuz a foolin?”

Abner’s usually good humoured face was darkly flushed, and there was an
ugly gleam in his eye as he spoke.

“We wuz so quiet like las’ week, they callated we’d jess hed our fling
an got over it. I guess that wuz haow it wuz,” said Peleg Bidwell.

“Did they think we’d been five year a gittin our dander up an would git
over it in a week?” demanded Abner, glaring round. “If t’wuz caze we wuz
tew quiet, we’ll make racket nuff to suit em arter this, hey, boys?
If racket’s the ony thing they kin understan, they shall hev a plenty
on’t.”

“Israel thought it wuz kingdom come already,” said Paul Hubbard, who
had hurried down from the iron-works with a gang of his myrmidons, on
receipt of the news. “He thought the silk stockings was goin to give
right in as sweet as sugar. Not by a darned sight. No sir. They ain’t
going to let go so easy. They ain’t none o’ that sort. They mean to have
the old times back again, and they’ll have em back, too, unless you wake
up and show em you’re in earnest.”

“Not yit awhile, by the everlastin Jocks,” shouted Abner. “Ef thar’s
any vartue in gunpowder them times shan’t come back,” and there was an
answering yell that shook the room.

“That’s the talk, Abner. Give us yer paw,” said Paul, delighted to
find the people working up to his own pitch of bitter and unrelenting
animosity against the gentlemen. “That’s the talk, but it’ll take more’n
talk. Look here men, three out of four of you have done enough already
to get a dozen lashes on his bare back, if the silk stockings get on top
again. It’s all in a nutshell. If we don’t keep them under they’ll keep
us under. We’ve just got to take hold and raise the devil with them.
If we don’t give them the devil, they’ll give us the devil. Take your
choice. It’s one or the other.”

There was a chorus of exclamations.

“That’s so.” “By gosh we’re in for’t, an we might’s well go ahead.”
 “Ye’re right, Paul.” “We’ll git aout the hoss-fiddles an give em some
mewsic.” “We’ll raise devil nuff fer em ter night.” “Come on fellers.”
 “Les give em a bonfire.”

There was a general movement of the men out of the barroom, all talking
together, clamorously suggesting plans, or merely, as in the case of the
younger men and boys, venting their excitement in hoots and catcalls.
It was a close dark night, obscure enough to make cowards brave, and the
crowd that surged out of the tavern were by no means cowards, but angry
and resolute men, whose exasperation at the action of the authorities,
was sharpened and pointed by well-founded apprehensions of the personal
consequences to themselves which that action threatened if not resisted.
Some one’s suggestion that they should begin by putting David Joy and
his family back into their house, was received with acclamation and they
were forthwith fetched from a neighboring shed, under which they had
encamped for the night, and without much ceremony thrust into their
former residence and ordered to stay there. For though in this case
David happened to be identified with their own cause, it went against
their grain to help a Baptist.

“Now, boys, les go an see Iry Seymour,” said Abner, and with a yell, the
crowd rushed off in the direction of the deputy sheriff’s house.

Their blood was up, and it was perhaps well for that official that he
did not wait to be interviewed. As the crowd surged up before the house,
a man’s figure was seen dimly flitting across the field behind, having
apparently emerged from the back door. There was a yell “There goes
Iry,” and half the mob took after him, but, thanks to the darkness, the
nimble-footed sheriff made good his escape, and his pursuers presently
returned, breathless, but in high good humor over the novel sport,
protesting that they laughed so hard they couldn’t run.

The only other important demonstration by the mob that evening, was the
tearing up of the fence in front of Squire Woodbridge’s house and the
construction of an immense bonfire in the street out of the fragments,
the conflagration proceeding to the accompaniment of an obligato on the
horse-fiddles.

So it came to pass that, as sometimes happens in such cases, Squire
Woodbridge’s first attempt to get the reins of the runaway team into
his hands, had the effect of startling the horses into a more headlong
gallop than ever.

If the events of the night, superadded to the armed revolt of the
week before, left any doubt in the most sanguine mind that the present
disturbances were no mere local and trifling irritations, but a general
rebellion, the news which was in the village early the following
morning, must have dispelled it. This news was that the week before, an
armed mob of several hundred had stopped the courts at their meeting
in Worcester and forced an adjournment for two months; that the entire
state, except the district close around Boston, was in a ferment; that
the people were everywhere arming and drilling and fully determined
that no more courts should sit till the distresses of the times had
been remedied. As yet the state authorities had taken no action looking
toward the suppression of the insurrection, in which, indeed, the great
majority of the population appeared actively or sympathetically engaged.
The messenger reported that in the lower counties a sprig of hemlock in
the hat, had been adopted as the badge of the insurgents, and that the
towns through which he had ridden seemed to have fairly turned green, so
universally did men, women and children wear the hemlock. The news had
not been an hour in Stockbridge before every person on the streets had a
bit of hemlock in their hat or hair. I say every person upon the street,
for those who belonged to the anti-popular or court party, took good
care to keep within doors that morning.

“I’m glad to see the hemlock, agin,” said Israel Goodrich. “The old pine
tree flag wuz a good flag to fight under. There wuz good blood spilt
under it in the old colony days. Thar wuz better times in this ‘ere
province o’ Massachusetts Bay, under the pine tree flag, than this dum
Continental striped rag hez ever fetched, or ever will, I reckon.”

The dismay which the news of the extent and apparent irresistibleness
of the rebellion produced among those attached to the court party in
Stockbridge, corresponded to the exultation to which the people gave
themselves up. Nor did the populace lose any time in giving expression
to their bolder temper by overt acts. About nine o’clock in the morning,
Deputy Sheriff Seymour, who had not ventured to return to his house,
was found concealed in the corn-bin of a barn near the burying-ground.
A crowd instantly collected and dragged the terrified man from his
concealment. Some one yelled:

“Ride him on a rail,” and the suggestion finding an echo in the popular
breast, a three-cornered fence rail was thrust between his legs, and
lifted on men’s shoulders. Astride of this sharp-backed steed, holding
on with his hands for dear life, lest he should fall off and break his
neck, he was carried, through the main streets of the village, followed
by a howling crowd, and pelted with apples by the boys, while the
windows of the houses along the way were full of laughing women. Having
graced the popular holiday by this involuntary exhibition of himself,
Seymour was let go without suffering any further violence, the crowd
appearing boisterously jocose rather than embittered in temper. Master
Hopkins, a young man who had recently entered Squire Sedgwick’s office
to study law, was next pounced upon, having indiscreetly ventured on the
street, and treated to a similar free ride, which was protracted until
the youth purchased surcease by consenting to wear a sprig of hemlock in
his hat.

About the middle of the forenoon Squire Woodbridge, Deacon Nash, Dr.
Partridge, with Squire Edwards and several other gentlemen were sitting
in the back room of the store. It was a gloomy council. Woodbridge
quaffed his glass of rum in short, quick unenjoying gulps, and said not
a word. The others from time to time dropped a phrase or two expressive
of the worst apprehensions as to what the mob might do, and entire
discouragement as to the possibility of doing anything to restrain them.
Suddenly, young Jonathan Edwards, who was in the outer room tending
store, cried out:

“Father, the mob is coming. Shall I shut the door?”

Squire Edwards cried “Yes,” and hastily went out to assist, but Dr.
Partridge, with more presence of mind than the others seemed to possess
at that moment, laid his hand on the storekeeper’s arm, saying:

“Better not shut the door. They will tear the house down if you do.
Resistance is out of the question.”

In another moment a boisterous crowd of men, their faces flushed with
drink, all wearing sprigs of hemlock in their hats, came pouring up
the steps and filled the store, those who could not enter thronging the
piazza and grinning in at the windows. Edwards and the other gentlemen
stood at bay at the back end of the store, in front of the liquor
hogsheads. Their bearing was that of men who expected personal violence,
but in a justifiable agitation did not forget their personal dignity.
But the expression on the face of Abner, who was the leader of the gang,
was less one of exasperation than of sardonic humor.

“Good mornin,” he said.

“Good morning, Abner,” replied Edwards, propitiatingly.

“It’s a good mornin and it’s good news ez is come to taown. I s’pose ye
hearn it a’ ready. I thort so. Ye look ez ef ye hed. But we didn’ come
tew talk ‘baout that. Thar wuz a leetle misunderstandin yisdy ‘baout
selling aout David. He ain’t nothin but a skunk of a Baptis, an ef Iry
hed put him in the stocks or licked him ‘twould a sarved him right. But
ye see some of the boys hev got a noshin agin heven any more fellers
sole aout fer debt, an we’ve been a explainin our idee to Iry this
mornin. I callate he’s got it through his head, Iry hez. Ye see ef
neighbors be gonter live together peaceable they’ve jess got ter
unnerstan each other. What do yew s’pose Iry said? He said Squire thar
tole him to sell David aout. In course we didn’ b’leeve that. Squire
ain’t no gol darned fool, ez that would make him aout ter be. He knowd
the men ez stopped the courts las’ week wouldn’ be afeard o’ stoppin a
sherriff. He knows the folks be in arnest ‘baout hevin an eend on sewin
an sellin an sendin tew jail. Squire knows, an ye all know that thar’ll
be fightin fore thar’s any more sellin.”

Abner had grown excited as he spoke, and the peculiar twinkle in his eye
had given place to a wrathy glare as he uttered the last words, but this
passed, and it was with his former sardonic grin that he added:

“But Iry didn’ save his hide by tryin tew lay it orf ontew Squire an I
guess he won’t try no more sellin aout right away, not ef Goramity tole
him tew.”

“Yer gab’s runnin away with yer. Git to yer p’int, Abner,” said Peleg
Bidwell.

“Lemme ‘lone I’m comin ‘roun,” replied Abner. “Ye wuz over’t the sale
yisdy, warn’t ye, Squire?” he said, addressing Edwards.

“Yes, Abner.”

“Wal, ye see, when we come tew put back David’s folks intew the haouse
his woman missed the clock, and somebody said ez haow ye’d took et.”

“I bid it in,” said Edwards.

“I s’pose ye clean furgut t’wuz the on’y clock she hed,” suggested
Abner with a bland air of accounting for the other’s conduct on the most
favorable supposition.

Edwards, making no reply save to grow rather red, Abner continued:

“In course ye furgut it, that’s what I tole the fellers, for ye wouldn’t
go and take the on’y clock a poor man hed wen ye’ve got a plenty, ‘nless
ye furgut. Ye see we knowed ye’d wanter send it right back soon ez ye
thort o’ that, and so we jess called in for’t, callaten tew save ye the
trouble.”

“But--but I bought it,” stammered Edwards.

“Sartin, sartin,” said Abner. “Jess what I sed, ye bought it caze ye
clean furgut it wuz David’s on’y one, an he poor an yew rich. Crypus!
Squire, ye hain’t got no call tew explain it tew us. Ye see we knows
yer ways Squire. We knows how apt ye be tew furgit jiss that way. We kin
make allowances fer ye.”

Edwards’ forehead was crimson.

“There’s the clock,” he said, pointing to it where it lay on the
counter. Abner took it up and put it under his arm, saying:

“David ‘ll be ‘bliged to ye, Squire, when I tell him how cheerful ye
sent it back. Some o’ the fellers,” he pursued with an affectation of a
confidential tone, “some o’ the fellers said mebbe ye wouldn’t send it
back cheerful. They said ye’d got no more compassion fer the poor than a
flint stun. They said, them fellers did, that ye’d never in yer life
let up on a man as owed ye, an would take a feller’s last drop o’ blood
sooner’n lose a penny debt. They said, them fellers did, that yer hands,
wite ez they looks, wuz red with the blood o’ them that ye’d sent to die
in jail.”

Abner’s voice had risen to a tremendous crescendo of indignation, and he
seemed on the point of quite forgetting his ironical affectation,
when, with an effort which added to the effect, he checked himself and
resuming his former tone and grin, he added:

“I argyed with them fellers ez said them things bout ye. I tole em haow
it couldn’t be so, caze ye wuz a deakin, an hed family prayers, and
could pray mos’ ez long ez parson. But I couldn’t do nothin with em,
they wuz so sot. Wy them fellers akchilly said ye took this ere clock a
knowin that it wuz David’s on’y one, wen ye hed a plenty o’ yer own tew.
Jess think o’ that Squire. What a hoggish old hunks they took ye fer,
didn’t they, naow?” Edwards glared at his tormentor with a countenance
red and white with speechless rage, but Abner appeared as unconscious
of anything peculiar in his manner as he did of the snickers of the men
behind him. Having concluded his remarks he blandly bade the gentlemen
good morning and left the store, followed by his gang, the suppressed
risibilities of the party finding expression in long continued and
uproarious laughter, as soon as they reached the outer air. After
leaving the store they called on all the gentlemen who had bidden in
anything at yesterday’s sale, one after another, and reclaimed every
article and returned it to David.

If any of the court party had flattered themselves that this mob, like
that of the week before, would, after making an uproar for a day or
two, disappear and leave the community in quiet, they were destined
to disappointment. The popular exasperation and apprehension which the
Squire’s ill-starred attempt to regain authority had produced, gave to
the elements of anarchy in the village a new cohesive force and impulse,
while, thanks to the news of the spread and success of the rebellion
elsewhere, the lawless were encouraged by entire confidence of impunity.
From this day, in fact, it might be said that anarchy was organized in
the village.

There were two main elements in the mob. One, the most dangerous, and
the real element of strength in it, was composed of a score or two of
men whom the stoppage of the courts had come too late to help. Their
property all gone, they had been reduced to the condition of loafers,
without stake in the community. Having no farms of their own to work on,
and the demand for laborers being limited, they had nothing to do
all day but to lounge around the tavern, drinking when they could get
drinks, sneering at the silk stockings, and debating how further to
discomfit them. The other element of the mob, the most mischievous,
although not so seriously formidable, was composed of boys and
half-grown youths, who less out of malice against the court party, than
out of mere love of frolic, availed themselves to the utmost of the
opportunity to play off pranks on the richer class of citizens. Bands of
them ranged the streets from twilight till midnight, robbing orchards,
building bonfires out of fences, opening barns and letting the cows into
the gardens, stealing the horses for midnight races, afterwards leaving
them to find their way home as they could, tying strings across the
streets to trip wayfarers up, stoning windows, and generally making life
a burden for their victims by an ingenious variety of petty outrages.
Nor were the persons even of the unpopular class always spared. In the
daytime it was tolerably safe for one of them to go abroad, but after
dark, let him beware of unripe apples and overripe eggs. For the most
part the silk stockings kept their houses in the evening, as much for
their own protection as for that of their families, and the more prudent
of them sat in the dark until bedtime, owing to the fact that lighted
windows were a favorite mark with the boys.

The mob had dubbed itself “The Regulators,” a title well enough
deserved, indeed, by the extent to which they undertook to reorganize
the property interests of the community. For the theory of the
reclamation of property carried out in the case of the goods of David
Joy, by no means stopped there. It was presently given an ex-post facto
application, and made to cover articles of property which had changed
hands at Sheriff’s sales not only since but also previous to the
stoppage of the courts. Wherever, in fact, a horse or a cart, a harness,
a yoke of oxen or a piece of furniture had passed from the ownership of
a poor man to the possession of a rich man and one of the court party,
the original owner now reclaimed it, if so disposed, and so effectual
was the mob terrorism in the village that such a claim was, generally,
with better or worse grace yielded to.

Nor was the application of this doctrine of the restitution of all
things even confined to personal property. Many of the richer class of
citizens occupied houses acquired by harsh foreclosures since the dearth
of circulating medium had placed debtors at the mercy of creditors.
A few questions as to when they were thinking of moving out, with an
intimation that the neighbors were ready to assist them, if it appeared
necessary, was generally hint enough to secure a prompt vacating of
the premises, though now and then when the occupants were unusually
obstinate and refused to “take a joke” there were rather rough
proceedings. Among those thus ejected was Solomon Gleason, the
schoolmaster, who had been living in the house which George Fennel had
formerly owned. In this case, however, the house remained vacant, George
being too sick to be moved.

When Friday night came round again, there was a tremendous carouse at
the tavern, in the midst of which Widow Bingham, rendered desperate by
the demands for rum, demands which she did not dare to refuse for fear
of provoking the mob to gut her establishment, finally exclaimed:

“Why don’ ye go over’t the store an let Squire Edwards stan treat
awhile? What’s the use o’ making me dew it all? He’s got better likker
nor I hev an more on’t, an he ain’t a poor lone widder nuther, without
noboddy ter stan up fer her,” and the widow pointed her appeal by
beginning to cry, which, as she was a buxom well-favored woman, made a
decided impression on the crowd.

Abner, who was drunk as a king, instantly declared that “By the
everlastin Jehu” he’d break the head o’ the “fuss dum Nimshi” that
asked for another drink, which brought the potations of the company to a
sudden check. Presently Meshech Little observed:

“Come long fellersh, lesh go t’ the store. Whosh fraid? I ain’t.” There
was a chorus of thick-tongued protestations of equal valor, and the
crowd reeled out after Meshech. Abner was left alone with the widow.

“I’m reel beholden to ye Abner Rathbun, fer stannin up fer me,” said she
warmly, “an Seliny Bingham ain’t one tew ferget a favor nuther.”

“I’d a smashed the snout o’ the fuss one on em ez assed fer more. I’d a
knocked his lights outer him, I don’ keer who twuz,” declared Abner, his
valor still further inflamed by the gratitude which sparkled from the
widow’s fine eyes.

“Lemme mix ye a leetle rum ‘n sugar, Abner. It’ll dew ye good,” said the
widow. “I hope ye didn’ take none o’ that to yerself what I said tew the
res’ on em. I’m sure I don’ grudge ye a drop ye’ve ever hed, caze I know
ye be a nice stiddy man, an I feels safer like wen ye be raoun. Thar
naow, jess try that an see ef it’s mixed right.”

Abner did try that, and more subsequently and sweet smiles and honeyed
words therewith, the upshot of all which was the tacit conclusion that
evening of a treaty of alliance, the tacitly understood conditions being
that Abner should stand by the widow and see she was not put upon, in
return for which the widow would see that he was not left thirsty, and
if this understanding was sealed with a kiss snatched by one of the
contracting parties as the other leaned too far over the bar with the
fourth tumbler of rum and sugar, why it was all the more likely to
be faithfully observed. That the widow was a fine woman Abner had
previously observed, but any natural feeling which this observation
might have excited had been kept in check by the consciousness of a long
unsettled score. The woman was merged in the landlady, the sex in the
creditor. Seeing that there is no more ecstatic experience known to the
soul than the melting of awe into a tenderer sentiment, it will not be
wondered at that Abner lingered over his twofold inebriation till at
nine o’clock the widow said that she must really shut up the tavern.

His surprise was great on passing the store to see it still lit up, and
a crowd of men inside, while from the apartments occupied by the Edwards
family came the tinkling of Desire’s piano. Going in, he found the store
filled with drunken men, and the back room crowded with drinkers, whom
young Jonathan Edwards was serving with liquor, while the Squire was
walking about with a worn and anxious face, seeing that there was
no stealing of his goods. As he saw Abner he said, making a pitiable
attempt to affect a little dignity:

“I’ve been treating the men to a little liquor, but it’s rather late,
and I should like to get them out. You have some control over them, I
believe. May I ask you to send them out?”

In the pressure of the present emergency, the poor man appeared to have
forgotten the insults which Abner had heaped upon him a few days before,
and Abner himself, who was in high good humor, and really felt almost
sorry for the proud man before him, replied:

“Sartin, Sartin. I’ll git em aout, but what’s the peeanner agoin fer?”

“The men thought they would like to hear it, and my daughter was kind
enough to play a little for them,” said Edwards, his face flushing
again, even after the mortifications of the evening, at the necessity of
thus confessing his powerlessness to resist the most insulting demands
of the rabble.

Abner passed through the door in the back room of the store, which
opened into the living-room, a richly carpeted apartment, with fine
oaken furniture imported from England. The parlor beyond was even more
expensively furnished and decorated. Flat on his back, in the middle of
the parlor carpet, was stretched Meshech Little, dead drunk. In nearly
every chair was a barefooted, coatless lout, drunk and snoring with his
hat over his eyes, and his legs stretched out, or vacantly staring with
open mouth at Desire, who, with a face like ashes and the air of an
automaton, was playing the piano.



CHAPTER SEVENTEENTH

PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS


On the day following, which was Saturday, at about three o’clock in
the afternoon, Perez Hamlin was at work in the yard behind the house,
shoeing his horse in preparation for the start west the next week. Horse
shoeing was an accomplishment he had acquired in the army, and he had no
shillings to waste in hiring others to do anything he could do himself.
As he let the last hoof out from between his knees, and stood up, he saw
Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps coming across the yard toward him. Ezra
wore his working suit, sprinkled with the meal dust of his gristmill,
and Israel had on a long blue-woolen farmer’s smock, reaching to his
knees, and carried in his hand a hickory-handled whip with a long lash,
indicating that he had come in his cart, which he had presumably left
hitched to the rail fence in front of the house. After breaking ground
by a few comments on the points of Perez’ horse, Israel opened the
subject of the visit, as follows:

“Ye see, Perez, I wuz over’t Mill-Holler arter a grist o’ buckwheat, an
me ‘n Ezry got ter talkin baout the way things wuz goin in the village.
I s’pose ye’ve hearn o’ the goins on.”

“Very little, indeed,” said Perez. “I have scarcely been out of the yard
this week, I’ve been hard at work. But I’ve heard considerable racket
nights.”

“Wal,” said Israel, “the long an short on’t is the fellers be raisin the
old Harry, an it’s time somebody said whoa. I’ve been a talkin tew Abner
baout it, an so’s Ezry, but Abner ain’t the same feller he wuz. He’s
tight mos’ o’ the time naow, an he says he don’ keer a darn haow bad
they treats the silk stockins. Turn abaout’s fair play, he says, an he
on’y larfed w’en I tole him some o’ the mischief the fellers wuz up tew.
An you said, Ezry, he talked jess so to yew.”

“Sartin, he did,” said Ezra. “Ye see,” he continued to Perez, “me an
Isr’el be men o’ prop’ty, an we jined the folks agin’ the courts caze we
seen they wuz bein ‘bused. Thar warn’t no sense in makin folks pay debts
w’en ther warn’t no money in cirk’lashun to pay em. ‘Twuz jess like
makin them ere chil’ren of Isr’el make bricks ‘thout no straw. I allers
said, an I allers will say,” and the glitter that came into Ezra’s eye
indicated that he felt the inspiring bound of his hobby beneath him,
“ef govment makes folks pay ther debts, govment’s baoun ter see they hez
sunthin tew pay em with. I callate that’s plain ez a pike-staff. An it’s
jess so with taxes. Ef govment--”

“Sartin, sartin,” interrupted Israel, quietly choking him off, “but less
stick tew what we wuz a sayin, Ezry. Things be a goin tew fur, ye see,
Perez. We tuk part with the poor folks w’en they wuz bein ‘bused, but
I declar’ for’t ‘t looks though we’d hefter take part with the silk
stockins pootty soon, at the rate things be agoin. It’s a reg’lar
see-saw. Fust the rich folks eend wuz up too fur, and naow et’s t’other
way.”

“They be a burnin fences ev’ry night,” said Ezra, “an they’ll have the
hull town afire one o’ these days. I don’ b’lieve in destroyin prop’ty.
Thar ain’t no sense in that. That air Paul Hubbard’s wuss ‘n Abner.
Abner he jess larfs an don’ keer, but Paul he’s thet riled agin the silk
stockins that he seems farly crazy. He’s daown from the iron-works with
his gang ev’ry night, eggin on the fellers tew burn fences, an stone
houses, an he wuz akchilly tryin tew git the boys tew tar and feather
Squire, t’uther night. They didn’t quite dasst dew that, but thar ain’t
no tellin what they’ll come tew yit.”

“Ye see, Perez,” said Israel, at last getting to the point, “we callate
yew mout dew suthin to kinder stop em ef ye’d take a holt. Abner ‘l hear
ter ye, an all on em would. I don’ see’s nobody else in taown kin dew
nothin. Ezry an me wuz a talkin baout ye overt’ the mill, an Ezry says,
‘Le’s gwover ter see him.’ I says, ‘Git right inter my cart, an we’ll
go,’ an so here we be.”

“I can’t very well mix in, you see,” replied Perez, “for I’m going to
leave town for good the first of the week.”

“Whar be ye goin?”

“I’m going to take father and mother and Reuben over the York line, to
New Lebanon, and then I’m going on to the Chenango purchase to clear a
farm and settle with them.”

“Sho! I wanter know,” exclaimed Israel, scratching his head. “Wal, I
swow,” he added, thoughtfully, “I don’t blame ye a mite, arter all. This
ere state o’ Massachusetts Bay, ain’t no place fer a poor man, sence the
war, an ye’ll find lots o’ Stockbridge folks outter Chenango. They’s a
lot moved out thar.”

“Ef I war ten year younger I’d go long with ye,” said Ezra, “darned ef I
wouldn’t. I callate thar muss be a right good chance fer a gristmill out
thar.”

“Wal, Ezry,” said Israel, after a pause, “I don’ see but wat we’ve hed
our trouble fer nothin, an I declar I dunno wat’s gonter be did. The
silk stockins be a tryin tew fetch back the ole times, an the people
be a raisin Cain, an wat’s a gonter come on’t Goramity on’y knows. Come
‘long, Ezry,” and the two old men went sorrowfully away.

It seems that Israel and Ezra were not the only persons in Stockbridge
whose minds turned to Perez as the only available force which could
restrain the mob, and end the reign of lawlessness in the village.
Scarcely had those worthies departed when Dr. Partridge rode around into
the back yard and approached the young man.

“I come to you,” he said, without any preliminary beating about the
bush, “as the recognized leader of the people in this insurrection, to
demand of you, as an honest fellow, that you do something to stop the
outrages of your gang.”

“If I was their leader the other day, I am so no longer,” replied Perez,
coldly. “They are not my followers. It is none of my business what they
do.”

“Yes, it is,” said Dr. Partridge, sharply. “You can’t throw off the
responsibility that way. But for you, the rebellion here in Stockbridge
would never have gained headway. You can’t drop the business now and
wash your hands of it.”

“I don’t care to wash my hands of it,” replied Perez, sternly. “I don’t
know what the men have done of late for I have stayed at home, but no
doubt the men who suffer from their doings, deserve it all, and more
too. Even if I were to stay in Stockbridge, I see no reason why I should
interfere. The people have a right to avenge their wrongs. But I am
going away the coming week. My only concern in the rebellion was the
release of my brother, and now I propose to take him and my father and
mother out of this accursed Commonwealth, and leave you whose oppression
and cruelties have provoked the rebellion, to deal with it.”

“Do you consider that an honorable course, Captain Hamlin?” The young
man’s face flushed, and he answered angrily:

“Shall I stay here to protect men who the moment they are able will
throw my brother into jail and send me to the gallows? Have you, sir,
the assurance to tell me that is my duty?”

The doctor for a moment found it difficult to reply to this, and Perez
went on, with increasing bitterness:

“You have sown the wind, you are reaping the whirlwind. Why should I
interfere? You have had no pity on the poor, why should they have pity
on you? Instead of having the face to ask me to stay here and protect
you, rather be thankful that I am willing to go and leave unavenged the
wrongs which my father’s family has suffered at your hands. Be careful
how you hinder my going.” The doctor, apparently inferring from the
bitter tone of the young man, and the hard, steely gleam in his blue
eyes, that perhaps there was something to be considered in his last
words turned his horse’s head, without a word, and went away like the
two envoys who had preceded him.

The doctor was disappointed. Without knowing much of Perez, he had
gained a strong impression from what little he had seen of him, that
he was of a frank, impulsive temperament, sudden and fierce in quarrel,
perhaps, but incapable of a brooding revengefulness, and most unlikely
to cherish continued animosity toward enemies who were at his mercy. And
as I would not have the reader do the young man injustice in his mind, I
hasten to say that the doctor’s view of his character was not far out
of the way. The hard complacency with which he just now regarded the
calamities of the gentlemen of the town, had its origin in the constant
and bitter brooding of the week past over Desire’s treatment of him. The
sense of being looked down on by her, as a fine lady, and his respectful
passion despised, had been teaching him the past few days a bitterness
of caste jealousy, which had never before been known to his genial
temper. He was trying to forget his love for her, in hatred for her
class. He was getting to feel toward the silk stockings a little as Paul
Hubbard did.

Probably one of this generation of New Englanders, who could have been
placed in Stockbridge the day following, would have deemed it a very
quiet Sabbath indeed. But what, by our lax modern standards seem
very venial sins of Sabbath-breaking, if indeed any such sins be now
recognized at all, to that generation were heinous and heaven-daring.
The conduct of certain reckless individuals that Sabbath, did more to
shock the public mind than perhaps anything that had hitherto occurred
in the course of the revolt. For instance, divers young men were
seen openly walking about the streets with their sweethearts during
meeting-time, laughing and talking in a noisy manner, and evidently bent
merely on pleasure. It was credibly reported that one man, without any
attempt at concealment, rode down to Great Barrington to make a visit
of recreation upon his friends. Several other persons, presumably for
similar profane purposes, walked out to Lee and Lenox furnaces, to the
prodigious scandal of the dwellers along those roads. As if this were
not enough iniquity for one day, there were whispers that Abner Rathbun
and Meshech Little had gone a fishing. This rumor was not, indeed, fully
substantiated, but the mere fact that it found circulation and some to
credit it, is in itself striking evidence of the agitated and abnormal
condition of the public mind.

Toward sunset, the news reached Stockbridge of yet another rebel victory
in the lower counties. The Monday preceding, 300 armed farmers had
marched into the town of Concord, and prevented the sitting of the
courts of Middlesex county. The weakness of the government was shown by
the fact that, although ample warning of the intentions of the rebels
had been given, no opposition to them was attempted. The governor had,
indeed, at first ordered the militia to arms, but through apprehension
of their unfaithfulness had subsequently countermanded the order. The
fact that the rebellion had manifested such strength and boldness within
a few hours’ march of Boston, the capital of the state, was an important
element in the elation which the tidings produced among the people.
It showed that the western counties were not alone engaged in the
insurrection, but that the people all over the state were making common
cause against the courts and the party that upheld them.

The jubilation produced by this intelligence, combining with the usual
reaction at sunset after the repression of the day, caused that evening
a general pandemonium of tin-pans, bonfires, mischief of all sorts,
and the usual concomitant of unlimited drunkenness. In the midst of
the uproar, Mrs. Jahleel Woodbridge, Squire Edward’s sister, died. The
violence of the mob was such, however, that Edwards did not dare to
avail himself of even this excuse for refusing to furnish liquor to the
crowd.

The funeral took place Tuesday. It was the largest and most imposing
that had taken place in the village for a long time. The prominence of
both the families concerned, procured the attendance of all the gentry
of Southern Berkshire. I employ an English phrase to describe a
class for which, in our modern democratic New England, there is no
counterpart. The Stoddards, Littles, and Wendells, of Pittsfield, were
represented. Colonel Ashley was there from Sheffield, Justices Dwight
and Whiting from Great Barrington, and Barker from Lanesborough, with
many more. The carriages, some of them bearing coats of arms upon their
panels, made a fine array, which, not less than the richly attired dames
and gentlemen who descended from them, impressed a temporary awe upon
even the most seditious and democratically inclined of the staring
populace. The six pall-bearers, adorned with scarves, and mourning
rings, were Chief Justice Dwight, Colonel Elijah Williams of West
Stockbridge, the founder and owner of the iron-works there, Dr. Sergeant
of Stockbridge, Captain Solomon Stoddard, commander of the Stockbridge
militia, Oliver Wendell of Pittsfield, and Henry W. Dwight of
Stockbridge, the county treasurer. There were not in Stockbridge alone
enough families to have furnished six pall-bearers of satisfactory
social rank. For while all men of liberal education or profession, or
such as held prominent offices were recognized as gentlemen in sharp
distinction from the common people, yet the generality of even these
were looked far down upon by the county families of long pedigree and
large estate. The Partridges, Dr. Sergeant, the Dwights, the Williamses,
the Stoddards, and of course his brother-in-law Edwards, were the only
men in Stockbridge whom Woodbridge regarded as belonging to his own
caste. Even Theodore Sedgwick, despite his high public offices, he
affected to consider entitled to social equality chiefly by virtue of
his having married a Dwight.

After the funeral exercises, Squire Woodbridge managed to whisper a few
words in the ear of a dozen or so of the gentlemen present, the tenor of
which, to the great surprise of those addressed, was a request that they
would call on him that evening after dark, taking care to come alone,
and attract as little attention as possible. Each one supposed himself
to have been alone invited, and on being met at the door by Squire
Woodbridge and ushered into the study, was surprised to find the room
full of gentlemen. Drs. Partridge and Sergeant and Squire Edwards
were there, Captain Stoddard, Sheriff Seymour, Tax-collector Williams,
Solomon Gleason, John Bacon, Esquire, General Pepoon and numerous
other lawyers, County Treasurer Dwight, Deacon Nash, Ephraim Williams,
Esquire, Sedgwick’s law-partner, Captain Jones, the militia commissary
of Stockbridge, at whose house the town stock of arms and ammunition was
stored, and some other gentlemen.

When all had assembled, Woodbridge, having satisfied himself there were
no spies lurking about the garden, and that the gathering of gentlemen
had not attracted attention to the house, proceeded to close the blinds
of the study windows and draw the curtains. He then drew a piece of
printed paper from his pocket, opened it, and broached the matter in
hand to the wondering company, as follows:

“The awful suggestions with which the recent visitation of God has
invested my house for the time being, has enabled us to meet to-night
without danger that our deliberations will be interrupted, either by the
curiosity or the violence of the rabble. For this one night, the
first for many weeks, they have left me in peace, and I deem it is no
desecration of the beloved memory of my departed companion, that we
should avail ourselves of so melancholy an opportunity to take counsel
for the restoration of law and order in this sorely troubled community.
I have this day received from his excellency, the governor, and the
honorable council at Boston, a proclamation, directed to all justices,
sheriffs, jurors, and citizens, authorizing and strictly commanding them
to suppress, by force of arms, all riotous proceedings, and to apprehend
the rioters. I have called you privately together, that we might arrange
for concerted action to these ends.” In a low voice, so that no chance
listener from without might catch its tenor, the Squire then proceeded
to read Governor Bowdoin’s proclamation, closing with that time-honored
and impressive formula, “God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
 Captain Stoddard was first to break the silence which followed the
reading of the document.

“I, for one, am ready to fight the mob to-morrow, but how are we to go
about it. There are ten men for the mob to one against it. What can we
do?”

“How many men in your company could be depended on to fight the mob, if
it came to blows?” asked Woodbridge.

“I’m afraid not over twenty or thirty. Three-quarters are for the mob.”

“There are a dozen of us here, and I presume at least a score more
gentlemen in town could be depended on,” said Dr. Partridge.

“But that would give not over three score, and the mob could easily
muster four times that,” said Gleason.

“They have no leaders, though,” said Bacon. “Such fellows are only
dangerous when they have leaders. They could not stand before us, for
methinks we are by this time become desperate men.”

“You forget this Hamlin fellow will stop at nothing, and they will
follow him,” remarked Seymour.

“He is going to leave town this week, if he be not already gone,” said
Dr. Partridge.

“What?” exclaimed Woodbridge, almost with consternation.

“He is going away,” repeated the doctor.

“Perhaps it would be expedient to wait till he has gone,” was Gleason’s
prudent suggestion.

“And let the knave escape!” exclaimed Woodbridge, looking fiercely
at the schoolmaster. “I would not have him get away for ten thousand
pounds. I have a little reckoning to settle with him. If he is going to
leave, we must not delay.”

“My advices state that Squire Sedgwick will be home in a few days
to attend to his cases at the October term of the Supreme Court at
Barrington. His co-operation would no doubt strengthen our hands,”
 suggested Ephraim Williams.

If the danger of Hamlin’s escape had not been a sufficient motive in
Woodbridge’s mind for hastening matters, the possibility that his rival
might return in time to share the credit of the undertaking would have
been. But he merely said, coldly:

“The success of our measures will scarcely depend on the co-operation of
one man more or less, and seeing that we have broached the business,
as little time as possible should intervene ere its execution lest some
whisper get abroad and warn the rabble, for it is clear that it is only
by a surprise that we can be sure of beating them.”

He then proceeded to lay before them a scheme of action which was at
once so bold and so prudent that it obtained the immediate and admiring
approval of all present. Just before dawn, at three o’clock in the
morning of Thursday, the next day but one, that being the hour at which
the village was most completely wrapped in repose, the conspirators were
secretly to rendezvous at Captain Jones’ house, and such as had not
arms and ammunition of their own were there to be supplied from the town
stock. Issuing thence and dividing into parties the arrest of Hamlin,
Abner Rathbun, Peleg Bidwell, Israel Goodrich, Meshech Little, and other
men regarded as leaders of the mob, was to be simultaneously effected.
Strong guards were then to be posted so that when the village woke up it
would be to find itself in military possession of the legal authorities.
The next step would be immediately to bring the prisoners before Justice
Woodbridge to be tried, the sentences to be summarily carried out at the
whipping-post on the green, and the prisoners then remanded to custody
to await the further action of the law before higher tribunals. It might
be necessary to keep up the military occupation of the village for some
time, but it was agreed among the gentlemen that the execution of
the above program would be sufficient to break the spirit of the mob
entirely. The excesses of the rabble during the past week had, it
was believed, already done something to produce a reaction of feeling
against them among their former sympathizers, and there would doubtless
be plenty of recruits for the party of order as soon as it had shown
itself the stronger. The intervening day, Wednesday, was to be devoted
by those present to secretly warning such as were counted on to assist
in the project. It was estimated that including all the able-bodied
gentlemen in town as well as some of the people known to be disaffected
to the mob, about seventy-five sure men could be secured for the work in
hand.

Now Lu Nimham, the beautiful Indian girl whom Perez had noticed in
meeting sitting beside Prudence Fennell, had another lover besides Abe
Konkapot, no other in fact than Abe’s own brother Jake. Abe had been
to the war and Jake had not, and Lu, as might have been expected from
a girl whose father and brother had fallen at White Plains in the
Continental uniform, preferred the soldier lover to the other. But not
so the widow Nimham, her mother, in whose eyes Jake’s slightly better
worldly prospects gave him the advantage. It so happened that soon after
dusk, Wednesday evening, Abe, drawn by a tender inward stress betook
himself to the lonely dell in the extreme west part of the village,
now called Glendale, where the hut of the Nimham family stood. His
discomfiture was great on finding Jake already comfortably installed in
the kitchen and basking in Lu’s society. He did not linger. The widow
did not invite him to stop; in fact, not to put too fine a point upon
it, she intimated that it would be just as well if he were to finish
his call some other time. Lu indeed threw sundry tender commiserating
glances in his direction, but her mother watched her like a cat, and
mothers in those times were a good deal more in the way than they are
nowadays.

How little do we know what is good for us! As he beat an ignominious
retreat, pursued by the scornful laughter of his brother, Abe certainly
had apparent reason to be down on his luck. Nevertheless the fact that
he was cut out that particular evening proved to be one of the clearest
streaks of luck that had ever occurred in his career, and a good many
others besides he had equal reason ere morning dawned to be thankful for
it. The matter fell out on this wise:

A couple of hours later, a little after nine in fact, the Hamlin
household was about going to bed. Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin had already
retired to the small bedroom opening out of the kitchen. Reuben, George
Fennell and Perez slept in the kitchen, and Prudence in the loft above.
The two invalids were already abed, and the girl was just giving the
last attentions for the night to her father before climbing to her
pallet. Perez sat at the other end of the great room before the open
chimney, gazing into the embers of the fire. The family was to start for
New York the next morning, and as this last night in the old homestead
was closing in the young man had enough sad matter to occupy his
thoughts. Her loving cares completed, Prudence came and stood silently
by his side. Taking note of her friendly presence, after awhile he put
out his hand without looking up and took hers as it hung by her side.
He had taken quite a liking to the sweet-tempered little lassie, and had
felt particularly kindly towards her since her well-meaning, if rather
inadequate effort to console him that Sunday behind the barn.

“You’re a good little girl, Prudy,” he said, “and I know you will take
good care of your father. You can stay here if you want, you know, after
we’re gone. I don’t think Solomon Gleason or the sheriff will trouble
you. Or you can go to your father’s old house. Obadiah says Gleason
has left it. Obadiah will look after you and do any chores you may want
about the house. He’ll be very glad to. He thinks a good deal of you,
Obadiah does. I s’pose he’ll be wanting you to keep house for him when
you get a little older,” and he looked cheerily up at her. But evidently
his little jest had struck her mind amiss. Her eyes were full of tears
and the childish mouth quivered.

“Why what’s the matter Prudy?” he asked in surprise.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk so to me, now,” she said, “as if I didn’t
care anything when you’re all going away and have been so good to me and
father. And I don’t care about Obadiah either, and you needn’t say so.
He’s just a great gumph.”

At this point, the conversation was abruptly broken off by the noise of
the latchstring being pulled. Both turned. Lu Nimham was standing in the
doorway, her great black eyes shining in the dusk like those of a deer
fascinated by the night-hunter’s torch. Prudence, with a low exclamation
of surprise, crossed the room to her, and Lu whispering something drew
her out. Immediately, however, the white girl reappeared in the doorway,
her rosy face pale, her eyes dilated, and beckoned to Perez, who in a
good deal of wonderment at once obeyed the gesture. The two girls were
standing by a corner of the house, out of earshot from the window of
Elnathan’s bedroom. Both looked very much excited, but the Indian girl
was smiling as if the stimulus affected her nerves agreeably rather than
otherwise. Abe Konkapot, looking rather sober, stood near by.

“Oh, what shall we do?” exclaimed Prudence in a terrified half-whisper.
“She says the militia are coming to take you!”

“What is it all?” demanded Perez of the Indian girl, as he laid his hand
soothingly on Prudence’s shoulder.

“Jake Konkapot, he come see me tonight,” said Lu, still smiling. “Jake
no like Abe, cause Abe like me too. Jake he ask me if I like Abe any
more after he git whip on back by constable man. I say no. Indian gal,
no like marry man what been whip. Jake laugh and say I no marry Abe sure
nuff, cause Abe git whip to-morrow. He no tell me what he mean till I
say I give him kiss. Man all like kiss. Jake he says yes, an I give him
kiss. Ugh! Arter that he say Squire an Deacon Edwards, and Deacon Nash,
an Cap’n Stoddard an heap more, an Jake he go too, gonter git up arly,
at tree o’clock to-morrer, with guns; make no noise go roun creepy,
creepy, creepy.” Here she expressed by pantomime the way a cat
stealthily approaches its prey, culminating by a sudden clutch on Perez’
arm that startled him, as she added explosively, “Catch you so, all
abed, an Abe an Abner an heap more! Then when mornin come they whip
all on yer to the whippin-post. When Jake go home I wait till mammy go
sleep, slip out winder an go tell Abe so he no git whip. Then I tink
come here tell Prudence, for I tink she no like you git whip.”

Perez had listened with an intense interest that lost not a syllable. As
the girl described the disgrace which his enemies had planned to inflict
on him, if their plan succeeded, his cheek paled and his lips drew
tense across his set teeth. As Prudence looked up at him there was a
suppressed intensity of rage in his face which checked the ejaculations
upon her lips. There was a silence of several seconds, and then he said
in a low suppressed voice, hard and unnatural in tone:

“Young woman, I owe you more than if you had saved me from death.” Lu
smilingly nodded, evidently fully appreciating the point.

“Three o’clock, you said?” muttered Perez presently, half to himself, as
the others still were silent.

“Tree ‘clock, Jake say. Jake an all udder man meet to Cap’n Jones’ tree
‘clock to git um guns.”

“It’s nine now, six hours. Time enough,” muttered Perez.

“Yes, there’s time for you to get away,” said Prudence eagerly. “You
can get to York State by three o’clock, if you hurry. Oh, don’t wait a
minute. If they should catch you!”

He smiled grimly.

“Yes, there’s time for me to get away, but there’s no time for them, my
sirs.”

“Abe,” he added, abruptly changing his tone, “you’ve heard what they’re
going to do? What are you going to do?”

“I tink me go woke up fellers. Heap time, run clean ‘way ‘fore tree
‘clock,” said the Indian. “Mlishy come tree ‘clock, no find us. ‘Fraid
have to leave Abner. Abner heap drunk to-night. No can walk. Too big for
carry. Heap sorry, but no can help it.”

“But you don’t want to leave home, Abe. You don’t want to leave Lu here
for Jake to get.”

Abe shook his head gloomily.

“No use stay,” he said. “If I get whip, Lu no marry me.”

“Abe,” said Perez, stepping up to the disconsolate Indian and clapping
him sharply on the shoulder, “you were in the army. You’re not afraid of
fighting. We’ll stay and beat these fine gentlemen at their own game. By
three o’clock we’ll have every one of them under guard, and, by the Lord
God of Israel, by noon to-morrow, every man of them shall get ten
lashes on his bare back with all Stockbridge looking on. We’ll see who’s
whipped.”

“Ha! you no run. You stay fight em. What heap more better as run. You,
great brave, ha! ha!” cried Lu dancing in front of Perez and clapping
her hands in noiseless ecstasy, while her splendid eyes rested on him
with an admiration of which Abe might have been excusably jealous.

Her Mohegan blood was on fire at the prospect of a scrimmage, and her
lover’s response, if more laconic, was quite as satisfactory.

“Me no like to run. Me stay fight. Me do what you say.”

“Wait here till I get my sword and pistols. We’ve plenty of time, but
none to lose,” and Perez went into the house, followed by Prudence. Mrs.
Hamlin, with something hastily thrown over her nightdress, had come out
of her bedroom.

“I heard voices. What is it, Perez?” she said.

“Abe has come to get me to go off on a coon hunt. He thinks he’s treed
several,” replied Perez, strapping on his accoutrements. He had no
notion of leaving his mother a prey to sleepless anxiety during his
absence.

“You’re not telling me the truth, Perez. Look at Prudence.” The girl’s
face, pale as ashes and her eyes full of fear and excitement, had
betrayed him, and so he had to tell her in a few words what he was going
to do. The door stood open. On the threshold, as he was going out, he
turned his head, and said in confident, ringing tones:

“You needn’t be at all afraid. We shall certainly succeed.”

No wonder the breath of the night had inspired him with such confidence.
It was the night of all nights in the year which a man would choose if
he were to stake his life and all on the issue of some daring stake,
assured that then, if ever, he could depend to the uttermost on
every atom of nerve and muscle in his body. The bare mountain peaks
overhanging the village were tipped with silver by the moon, and under
its light the dense forests that clothed their sides, wore the sheen of
thick and glossy fur. The air was tingling with that electric stimulus
which characterizes autumn evenings in New England about the time of the
first frosts. A faint, sweet smell of aromatic smoke from burning pine
woods somewhere off in the mountains, could barely be detected. The
intense vitality of the atmosphere communicated itself to the nerves,
stringing them like steel chords, and setting them vibrating with lust
for action, reckless, daring emprise.



CHAPTER EIGHTEENTH

LEX TALIONIS


The plan which Perez had formed for forestalling his adversaries and
visiting upon their own heads the fate they had prepared for him, was
very simple. He proposed to go down into the village with Abe and Lu
and with their assistance, to call up, without waking anybody else, some
forty or fifty of the most determined fellows of the rebel party. With
the aid of these, he intended as noiselessly as possible, to enter the
houses of Woodbridge, Edwards, Deacon Nash, Captain Stoddard and others,
and arrest them in their beds, simultaneously seizing the town stock of
muskets and powder, and conveying it to a guarded place, so that when
the conspirators’ party assembled at three o’clock, they might find
themselves at once without arms or officers, their leaders hostages
in the hands of the enemy, and their design completely set at naught.
Thanks to the excesses of the past week or two, there were many more
than forty men in the village who, knowing that the restoration of law
and order meant a sharp reckoning for them, would stop at nothing to
prevent it, and Perez could thus command precisely the sort of followers
he wanted for his present undertaking.

For generations after, in certain Stockbridge households, the story
in grandmother’s repertoire most eagerly called by the young folks on
winter evenings, was about how the “Regulators” came for grandpa; how
at dead of night the heavy tramp of men and the sound of rough voices
in the rooms below, awoke the children sleeping overhead and froze their
young blood with fear of Indians; how at last mustering courage, they
crept downstairs, and peeking into the living-room saw it full of fierce
men, with green boughs in their hats, the flaring candles gleaming upon
their muskets and bayonets, and the drawn sword of their captain;
while in the midst, half-dressed and in his nightcap, grandpa was being
hustled about.

Leaving these details to the imagination, suffice it to say that Perez’
plan, clearly-conceived and executed with prompt, relentless vigor, was
perfectly successful, and so noiselessly carried out, that excepting
those families whose heads were arrested by the soldiers, the village
as a whole, had no suspicion that anything in particular was going on,
until waking up the next morning, the people found squads of armed men
on guard at the street corners, and sentinels pacing up and down before
the Fennell house, that building left vacant by Gleason’s ejection,
having been selected by Perez for the storage of his prisoners and the
stores he had confiscated. As the people ran together on the green, to
learn the reason of these strange appearances, and the story passed
from lip to lip what had been the plot against their newly-acquired
liberties, and the persons of their leaders, and by what a narrow
chance, and by whose bold action the trouble had been averted, the
sensation was prodigious. The tendency of public opinion which had been
inclining to sympathize a little with the abuse the silk stockings had
been undergoing the past week, was instantly reversed, now that the so
near success of their plot once more made them objects of terror. The
exasperation was far more general and profound than had been excited by
the previous attempt to restore the old order of things, in the case of
the sale of David Joy’s house. This was more serious business. Every man
who had been connected with the rebellion, felt in imagination the lash
on his back, and white faces were plenty among the stoutest of them. And
what they felt for themselves, you may be sure their wives and children
and friends felt for them, with even greater intensity. As now and
then the wife or child of one of the prisoners in the guard house, with
anxious face, timidly passed through the throng, on the way to make
inquiries concerning the welfare of the husband or father, black looks
and muttered curses followed them, and the rude gibes with which
the sentinels responded to their anxious, tearful questionings, were
received with hoarse laughter by the crowd.

As Perez, coming forth for some purpose, appeared at the door of the
Fennell house, there was a great shout of acclamation, the popular
ratification of the night’s work. But an even more convincing
demonstration of approval awaited him. As he began to make his way
through the throng, Submit Goodrich, Old Israel’s buxom, black-eyed
daughter, confronted him, saying:

“My old daddy’d a been in the stocks by this time if it hadn’t been for
you, so there,” and throwing her arms around his neck she gave him a
resounding smack on the lips. Meshech Little’s wife followed suit, and
then Peleg Bidwell’s and a lot of other women of the people, amid the
uproarious plaudits of the crowd, which became deafening as Resignation
Ann Poor, Zadkiel’s wife, elbowed her way through the pack and clasping
the helpless Perez against her bony breast in a genuine bear’s hug, gave
him a kiss like a file.

“Well, I never,” ejaculated Prudence Fennell, who was bringing some
breakfast to Perez, and had observed all this kissing with a rather sour
expression.

Unluckily for her, Submit overheard the words.

“You never, didn’t you? an livin in the same haouse long with him too?
Wal it’s time you did,” she exclaimed loudly, and seizing the struggling
girl she thrust her before Perez, holding down her hands so that she
could not cover her furiously blushing face, and amid the boisterous
laughter of the bystanders she was kissed also, a proceeding which
evidently pleased Obadiah Weeks, who stood near, as little as the other
part had pleased Prudence. As Submit released her and she rushed away,
Obadiah followed her.

“Haow’d ye like it?” he said, with a sickly grin of jealous irony. “I
see ye didn’ cover yer face very tight, he! he! Took keer to leave a
hole, he! he!”

The girl turned on him like a flash and gave him a resounding slap on
the cheek.

“Take that, you great gumph!” she exclaimed.

“Wha’d ye wanter hit a feller fer?” whined Obadiah, rubbing the smitten
locality. “Gol darn it, I hain’t done nothin to ye. Ye didn’ slap him
wen he kissed ye, darn him. Guess t’ain’t the fuss time he’s done it,
nuther.”

Prudence turned her back to him and walked off, but Obadiah, his
bashfulness for the moment quite forgotten in his jealous rage, followed
her long enough to add:

“Oh ye needn’ think I hain’t seen ye settin yer cap fer him all ‘long,
an he ole nuff tew be yer dad. S’pose ye thort ye’d git him, bein in the
same haouse long with him, but ye hain’t made aout. He’s goin tew York
an he don’ keer no more baout yew nor the dirt unner his feet. He ez
good’s tole me so.”

“Thar comes Abner Rathbun,” said some one in the group around Perez.
With heavy eyes, testifying to his debauch over night, and a generally
crestfallen appearance, the giant was approaching from the tavern, where
he had presumably been bracing up with a little morning flip.

“A nice sorter man you be Abner, fer yer neighbors to be a trustin ter
look aout fer things,” said an old farmer, sarcastically.

“Ef ‘t hadn’t been fer Cap’n Hamlin thar, the constable would ‘a waked
ye up this mornin with the eend of a gad,” said another.

“You’ll have to take in your horns a little, after this, Abner. It won’t
do to be putting on any more airs,” remarked a third.

“Go ahead,” said Abner, ruefully, “I hain’t got nothin ter say. Ye kin
sass me all ye wanter. Every one on ye kin take yer hack at me. I’m
kinder sorry thar ain’t any on ye big nuff ter kick me, fer I orter be
kicked.”

“Never mind, Abner,” said Perez, pitying his humiliated condition.
“Anybody may get too much flip now and then. We missed you, but we
managed to get through with the job all right.”

“Cap’n,” said Abner, “I was bleeged ter ye w’en ye pulled them two
Britshers or’fer me tew Stillwater, but that ain’t a sarcumstance to
the way I be bleeged to ye this mornin, fer it’s all your doins, and no
thanks ter me, that I ain’t gittin ten lashes this very minute, with all
the women a snickerin at the size o’ my back. I hev been kinder cocky,
an I hev put on some airs, ez these fellers says, fer I callated ye’d
kinder washed yer hands o’ this business, an leff me tew be capin, but
arter this ye’ll fine Abner Rathbun knows his place.”

“You were quite right about it, Abner. I have washed my hands of the
business. I am going to take my folks out to York State. I meant to
start this morning. If the silk stockings had waited till to-night they
wouldn’t have found me in their way.”

“I callate twuz Providenshil they did’n wait, fer we’d ‘a been gone
suckers sure ez ye hedn’t been on hand to dew wat ye did,” said one of
the men. “Thar ain’t another man in town ez could a did it, or would
dast try.”

“But ye ain’t callatin ter go arter this be ye, Perez?” said Abner.

“This makes no difference. I expect to get off to-morrow,” replied
Perez.

“Ye shan’t go, not ef I hold ye,” cried Mrs. Poor, edging up to him as
if about to secure his person on the spot.

“Ef ye go the res’ on us mout ‘s well go with ye, fer the silk stockins
‘ll hev it all ther own way then,” remarked a farmer, gloomily.

“I don’t think the silk stockings will try any more tricks right off,”
 said Perez, grimly. “I propose to give em a lesson this morning, which
they’ll be likely to remember for one while.”

“What be ye a gonter dew to em?” asked Abner, eagerly.

“Well,” said Perez, deliberately, as every eye rested on him. “You see
they had set their minds on havin some whipping done this morning, and
I don’t propose to have em disappointed. I’m going to do to them as they
would have done to us. The whipping will come off as soon as Abe can
find Little Pete to handle the gad. I sent him off some time ago. I don’
see what’s keeping him.”

His manner was as quiet and matter-of-course as if he were proposing the
most ordinary sort of forenoon occupation, and when he finished speaking
he walked away without so much as a glance around to see how the people
took it. It was nevertheless quite worth observing, the fascinated stare
with which they looked after him, and then turned to fix on each other.
It was Abner who, after several moments of dead silence, said in an awed
voice, like a loud whisper:

“He’s a gonter whip em.” And Obadiah almost devoutly murmured, “By
Gosh!”

The men who stood around, were intensely angry with the prisoners, for
their plot to arrest and whip them, but the idea of retaliating in kind,
by whipping the prisoners themselves, had not for an instant occurred
to the boldest. The prisoners were gentlemen, and the idea of whipping
a gentleman just as if he were one of themselves, was something the most
lawless of them had never entertained. Education, precedent, and innate
caste sentiment had alike precluded the idea. But after the first
sensation of bewilderment had passed, it was evident that the shock
which the popular mind had received from Perez’ words, was not wholly
disagreeable, but rather suggestive of a certain shuddering delight.
The introspective gleam which shone in everybody’s eye, betrayed the
half-scared pleasure with which each in his own mind was turning over
the daring imagination.

“Wy not, arter all?” said Meshech Little, hesitatingly, as if his logic
didn’t convince himself. “They wuz gonter lick us. They’d a had us
licked by this time. It’s tit for tat.”

“I s’pose Goramity made our backs as well as theirn,” observed Abner.
“The on’y odds is in the kind o’ coats we wears. Ourn ain’t so fine ez
theirn, but it’s the back an not the coat that gits licked. Arter Pete
has tuk orf ther coats thar won’t be no odds.”

The chuckle with which this was received, showed how fast the people
were yielding to the awful charm of the thought.

“Dew yew s’pose Cap’n really dass dew it?” asked Obadiah.

“Dew it? Yes he’ll dew it, you better b’lieve. Did yer see the set of
his jaw w’en he wuz talkin so quiet-like baout lickin em? I wuz in the
army with Perez, an I know his ways. W’en he sets his jaw that air way
I don’ keer to git in his way, big ez I be. He’ll dew it ef he doos it
with his own hands. He’s pison proud, Perez is, an I guess the idee they
wuz callatin tew hev him licked, hez kinder riled him.”

As the people talked, their hearts began to burn. The more they thought
of it, the more the idea fascinated them. Jests and hilarious comments,
which betrayed a temper of delighted expectancy, soon began to be
bandied about.

In ten minutes more, this very crowd which had received in shocked
silence the first suggestion of whipping the gentlemen, had so set their
fancy on that diversion that it would have been hard balking them.
It must be remembered that this was a hundred years ago. The weekly
spectacle of the cruel punishment of the lash, and the scarcely less
painful and disgraceful infliction of the stocks and the pillory left
in their minds no possibility for any revolt of mere humane sentiment
against the proposed doings, such as a modern assembly would experience.
To men and women who had learned from childhood to find a certain
brutish titillation in beholding the public humiliation and physical
anguish of their acquaintances and fellow-townsmen, the prospect of
seeing the scourge actually applied to the backs of envied and hated
social superiors, could not be otherwise than delightfully agitating.

Nor were there lacking supplies of Dutch courage for the timid. Among
the town stores seized and conveyed to the Fennell house the night
before, had been several casks of rum. One of these had been secretly
sequestrated by some of the men and hidden in a neighboring barn. The
secret of its whereabouts had been, in drunken confidence, conveyed from
one man to another, with the consequence that pretty much all the men
were rapidly getting drunk. Shortly after Perez had communicated his
intention to the people, Paul Hubbard, with thirty or forty of the
iron-workers, armed with bludgeons, arrived from West Stockbridge. Some
rumor of the doings of the previous night had reached there, and he had
hastily rallied his myrmidons and come down, not knowing but there might
be some fighting to be done.

“Paul ‘ll be nigh tickled to death to hear of the whippin,” said Abner,
seeing him coming. “If he had his way he’d skin the silk stockins, an
make whips out o’ their own hides to whip em with. He don’t seem to love
em somehow ‘nuther, wuth a darn.” Nor was Paul’s satisfaction at the
news any less than Abner had anticipated. Presently he burst into the
room in the Fennell house, which Perez had appropriated as a sort of
headquarters, and wrung his rather indifferent hand with an almost
tremulous delight.

“Bully for you, Hamlin, bully for you, by the Lord I didn’t s’pose you
had the mettle to do it. Little Pete is just the man for the business,
but if he don’t come, you can have one of my Welshmen. I s’pose most of
the Stockbridge men wouldn’t quite dare, but just wait till after the
whipping. They won’t be afraid of the bigwigs any longer. That’ll break
the charm. Little Pete’s whip will do more to make us free and equal
than all the swords and guns in Berkhire.” And Hubbard went out
exultant.

As he was leaving, he met no less an one than Parson West coming in, and
wearing rather a discomfited countenance. The parson had been used, as
parsons were in those days, to a good deal of deference from his flock,
and the lowering looks and covered heads of the crowd about the door
were disagreeable novelties. No institution in the New England of
that day was, in fact, more strictly aristocratic than the pulpit. Its
affiliations were wholly with the governing and wealthy classes, and its
tone with the common people as arrogant and domineering as that of
the magistracy itself. And though Parson West was personally a man of
unusual affability toward the poor and lowly, it was impossible in
a time like this that one of his class should not be regarded with
suspicion and aversion by the popular party.

“I would have word with your captain,” he said to the sentinel at the
door.

“He’s in thar,” said the soldier, pointing to the door of the
headquarters’ room. Perez, who was walking to and fro, turned at the
opening door and respectfully greeted the parson.

“Are you the captain of the armed band without?”

“I am.”

“You have certain gentlemen in confinement, I have heard. I came to see
you on account of an extraordinary report that you had threatened to
inflict a disgraceful public chastisement upon their persons. No doubt
the report is erroneous. You surely could not contemplate so cruel and
scandalous a proceeding?”

“The report is entirely true, reverend sir. I am but waiting for a
certain Hessian drummer who will wield the lash.”

“But man,” exclaimed the parson, “you have forgotten that these are the
first men in the county. They are gentlemen of distinguished birth and
official station. You would not whip them like common offenders. It is
impossible. You are beside yourself. Such a thing was never heard of. It
is most criminal, most wicked. As a minister of the gospel I protest! I
forbid such a thing,” and the little parson fairly choked with righteous
indignation.

“These men, if they had succeeded in their plan last night, would have
whipped me, and a score of others to-day. Would you have protested
against that?”

“That is different. They would have proceeded against you as criminals,
according to law.”

“No doubt they would have proceeded according to law,” replied Perez,
with a bitter sneer. “They have been proceeding according to law for
the past six years here in Berkshire, and that’s why the people are in
rebellion. I’m no lawyer, but I know that Perez Hamlin is as good as
Jahleel Woodbridge, whatever the parson may think, and what he would
have done to me, shall be done to him.”

“That is not the rule of the gospel,” said the minister, taking another
tack. “Christ said if any man smite you on the right cheek, turn to him
the other also.”

“If that is your counsel, take it to those who are likely to need it.
I am going to do the smiting this time, and it’s their time to do the
turning. They need not trouble themselves, however. Pete will see that
they get it on both sides.”

“And now sir,” he added, “if you would like to see the prisoners to
prepare them for what’s coming, you are welcome to,” and opening the
door of the room he told the sentinel in the corridor to let the
parson into the guard room, and the silenced and horrified man of God
mechanically acting upon the hint went out and left him alone.

The imagination of the reader will readily depict the state of mind
in which the families of the arrested gentlemen were left after the
midnight visit of Perez’ band. That there was no more sleep in those
households that night will be easily understood. In the Edwards family
the long hours till morning passed in praying and weeping by Mrs.
Edwards and Desire, and the younger children. They scarcely dared to
doubt that the husband and father was destined to violence or death
at the hands of these bloody and cruel men. At dawn Jonathan, who, on
trying to follow his father when first arrested, had been driven back
with blows, went out again, and the tidings which he brought back,
that the prisoners were confined in the Fennell house and as yet had
undergone no abuse, somewhat restored their agitated spirits. An hour or
two later the boy came tearing into the house, with white face, clenched
fists and blazing eyes.

“What is it?” cried his mother and sister, half scared to death at his
looks.

“They’re going,”--Jonathan choked.

“They’re going to have father whipped,” he finally made out to
articulate.

“Whipped!” echoed Desire, faintly and uncomprehendingly.

“Yes!” cried the boy hoarsely, “like any vagabond, stripped and whipped
at the whipping-post.”

“What do you mean?” said Mrs. Edwards, as she took Jonathan by the
shoulder.

“They’re going to whip father, and uncle, and all the others,” he
repeated, beginning to whimper, stout boy as he was.

“Whip father? You’re crazy, Jonathan, you didn’t hear right. They’d
never dare! It can’t be! Run and find out,” cried Desire, wildly.

“There ain’t any use. I heard the Hamlin fellow say so himself. They’re
going to do it. They said it’s no worse than whipping one of them, as if
they were gentlemen,” blubbered Jonathan.

“Oh no! no! They can’t, they won’t,” cried the girl in an anguished
voice, her eyes glazed with tears as she looked appealingly from
Jonathan to her mother, in whose faces there was little enough to
reassure her.

“Don’t, mother, you hurt,” said Jonathan, trying to twist away from
the clasp which his mother had retained upon his arm, unconsciously
tightening it till it was like a vise.

“Whip my husband!” said she, slowly, in a hollow tone. “Whip him!” she
repeated. “Such a thing was never heard of. There must be some mistake.”

“There must be. There must be,” exclaimed Desire again. “It can never
be. They are not so wicked. That Hamlin fellow is bad enough, but oh he
isn’t bad enough for that. They would not dare. God would not permit it.
Some one will stop them.”

“There is no one to stop them. The people are all against us. They are
glad of it. They are laughing. Oh! how I hate them. Why don’t God kill
them?” and with a prolonged, inarticulate roar of impotent grief and
indignation, the boy threw himself flat on the floor, and burying his
face in his arms sobbed and rolled, and rolled and sobbed, like one in a
fit.

“I will go and have speech with this Son of Belial, Hamlin. It may be
the Lord will give me strength to prevail with him,” said Mrs. Edwards.
“And if not, they shall not put me from my husband. I will bear the
stripes with him, that he may never be ashamed before the wife of his
bosom,” and with a calm and self-controlled demeanor, she bestirred
herself to make ready to go out.

“Let me go mother,” said Desire, half hesitatingly.

“It is not your place my child. I am his wife,” replied Mrs. Edwards.

“Yes mother, but Desire’s so pretty, and this Hamlin fellow stopped the
horse-fiddles just to please her, the other time,” whimpered Jonathan.
“Perhaps he’d let father off if she went. Do let her go mother.”

The allusion to the stopping of the horse-fiddle was Greek to Mrs.
Edwards, to whose ears the story had never come. But the present was not
a time for general inquiries. It sufficed that she saw the main point,
the persuasive power of beauty over mankind.

“It may be that you had better go,” she said. “If you fail I will go
myself to my husband, and meantime I shall be in prayer, that this cup
may pass from us.”

Hastily the girl gathered her beautiful disheveled hair into a ribbon
behind, removed the traces of tears from her wild and terror-stricken
eyes, and not stopping even for her hat, in her fear that she might be
too late, left the house and made her way through the throng before the
Fennell house. At sight of her pallid cheeks and set lips, the ribald
jeer died on the lips even of the drunken, and the people made way
for her in silence. It was not that they had ever liked her, or now
sympathized with her. She had always held herself too daintily aloof
from speech or contact with them for that, but they guessed her errand,
and had a certain rude sense of the pathos of such a humiliation for the
haughty Desire Edwards.



CHAPTER NINETEENTH

PEREZ GETS HIS TITLE


As Desire entered the headquarters room, which Parson West had barely
left, Perez was sitting at a table with his back to the door. He turned
at the noise of her entrance and seeing who it was gave a great start.
Then he rose slowly to his feet and confronted her. It was the first
time he had seen her since that Sunday when she cut him dead before all
the people, coming out of meeting. For a moment the two stood motionless
gazing at each other. Then she came quickly up to him and laid her hand
upon his arm. Her dark eyes were full of terrified appeal.

“What are you going to do to my father?” she cried in poignant tones.
After a pause he repeated stammeringly, as if he had not quite taken in
the idea.

“Your father?”

“Yes, my father! What are you going to do to him?” she repeated more
insistently.

His vacant answer had been no affectation. Her beauty, her distress, the
touch of her hand on his arm, her warm breath on his cheek, her face
so near to his, left him capable in that moment of but one thought, and
that was that he loved her wildly, with a love which it had been madness
for him to think he could ever overcome or forget. But it was not with
soft and melting emotions, but rather in great bitterness, that he owned
the mastery of the passion which he had tried so hard to throw off. He
knew that if she despised him before, she must hate and loathe him now.
Knowing this it gave him a cruel pleasure to crush her, and to make
her tears flow, and even while his glowing eyes devoured her face he
answered her in a hard, relentless voice.

“What am I going to do with your father? I am going to whip him with the
others.”

She started back, stung into sudden defiance, her eyes flashing, her
bosom tumultuously heaving.

“You will not! You dare not!”

He shrugged his shoulders and replied coldly:

“If you are so sure of that, why did you come to me?”

“Oh, but you will not! You will not!” she cried again, her terror
returning with a rush of tears.

Weeping she was even more beautiful than before. But conscious of
her loathing her beauty only caused him an intolerable ache. In the
self-despite of an embittered hopeless love he gloated over her despair,
even while every nerve thrilled with wildering passion. She caught that
look, at once so passionate and so bitter, and perhaps by her woman’s
instinct interpreting it aright, turned away as in despair, and with her
head bent in hopeless grief walked slowly across the room, laid her
hand on the latch and there paused. After a moment she turned her head
quickly and looked at him, as he stood gazing after her, and
shuddered perceptibly. Her left hand, which hung at her side, clenched
convulsively. Then after another moment she removed her hand from the
latch and came back a few steps toward him and said:

“You kissed me once. Would you like to do it now? You may if you will
let my father go.”

His gaze, before so glowing, actually dropped in confession before her
cold, hard eyes, and for a moment it seemed as if such supreme and icy
indifference had been able quite to chill his ardor. But as he
lifted his eyes again, and looked upon her, the temptation of so much
submissive beauty proved too great. He snatched her in his arms and
covered her lips and cheeks and temples with burning kisses, for one
alone of which he would have deemed it cheap to give his life if he
could not have won it otherwise. He kissed her, passive and unresisting
as a statue, till in very pity he was fain to let her go. Even then she
did not start away, but standing there before him, pallid, rigid, with
compressed lips and clenched hands, said faintly:

“You will release my father?” He bowed his head, unable to speak, and
she went out.

The people whispered to each other as she passed through the crowd, that
she had failed in her mission, she looked so white and anguish-stricken.
And when she reached home and throwing herself into a chair, covered her
face with her hands, her mother said:

“The Lord’s will be done. You have failed.”

“No, mother, I have not failed. Father will be released, but I had
liefer have borne the whipping for him.”

But that was all she said, nor did she tell any one at what price she
had delivered him.

Desire had scarcely gone when the door opened and Hubbard and Abner came
in. Perez was sitting staring at the wall in a daze.

“Little Pete’s come, and the people want to know when the whipping’s
going to begin. Shall I bring em out?” said Hubbard.

“I’ve made up my mind that it will be better to have no whipping,”
 replied Perez, quietly.

“The devil, you have!” exclaimed Hubbard, in high dudgeon.

“I knowd haow ‘twoud be w’en I see that air Edwards gal goin in. Ef I’d
been on guard, she’d never a got in,” said Abner, gloomily.

“Who’d have supposed Hamlin was such a milksop as to mind a girl’s
bawling?” said Hubbard, scornfully.

“The fellers is kinder sot on seein the silk stockins licked, now ye’ve
got em inter the noshin on’t, an I dunno haow they’ll take it ter be
disappointed,” continued Abner.

There was a shout of many voices from before the house.

“Bring em out! Bring out the silk stockins.”

“Do you hear that?” demanded Hubbard, triumphantly. “I tell you,
Hamlin,” he went on in a bolder tone, “you can’t stop this thing,
whether you want to, or not, and if you know what’s best for you, you
won’t try. I tell you that crowd won’t stand any fooling. They’re mad,
and they’re drunk, and they’re bound to see a silk stocking whipped for
once in their lives, and by God they shall see it, too, for all you or
any other man. If you won’t order em brought out, I will,” and he went
out.

Without a word, Perez took his pistols from the table, and followed him,
and Abner, who seemed irresolute and demoralized, came slowly after. The
report that Perez, in a sudden whim, now proposed to deprive them of
the treat he had promised them, had produced on the drunken and excited
crowd, all the effect which Hubbard had counted on, and as Perez reached
the front door of the house, a mass of men with brandished clubs and
muskets, were pressing around it, and the sentinel, hesitating and
frightened, in another moment would have given way and let them into the
building. As Perez, a pistol in either hand, appeared on the threshold,
the crowd recoiled a little.

“Stand back,” he said. “If any one of you tries to enter, I’ll blow his
brains out. The men in here, are my prisoners, not yours. I took them
when most of you were snoring in bed, and I’ll do what I please with
them. As for Hubbard and these West Stockbridge men, who make so much
noise, this is none of their business, anyway. If they don’t like the
way we manage here in Stockbridge, let them go home.”

As he finished speaking, Abner shouldered his way by him, from within,
and stepped out between him and the crowd. Deliberately taking off his
coat and laying it down, and pitching his hat after it, he drawlingly
observed:

“Look a here, fellers. I be ez disapp’inted ez any on ye, not ter see
them fellers licked. But ye see, ‘twuz the Cap’n that saved my back, an
it don’t nohow lie in my mouth no more’n doos yourn to call names naow
he’s tuk a noshin tew save theirn. So naow, Cap’n,” he continued, as
he drew his immense bulk squarely up, “I guess you won’t need them
shooters. I’ll break ther necks ez fass ez they come on.”

But they didn’t come on. Perez’ determined attitude and words,
especially his appeal to local prejudice, perhaps the most universal and
virulent of all human instincts, would have of themselves suffered to
check and divide the onset, and Abner’s business-like proposal quite
ended the demonstration.

A couple of hours later, when the people had largely gone home to
dinner, the prisoners were quietly set free, and went to their homes
without attracting special attention. About twilight a carriage
rolled away from before Squire Woodbridge’s door, and took the road
to Pittsfield. The next day it was known all over the village that
the Squire had left town, without giving out definitely when he would
return.

“Squire’s kinder obstinit, but arter all he knows w’en he’s licked,”
 observed Abner, which was substantially the view generally taken of the
magnate’s retirement from the field.

That night, Perez set a guard of a dozen men at the Fennell house, to
secure the town military stores against any possibility of recapture
by another silk stocking conspiracy, and to still further protect the
community against any violent enterprise, he organized a regular patrol
for the night. If any of the disaffected party were desperate enough
still to cherish the hope of restoring their fortunes by force, it must
needs have died in their breasts, as looking forth from their bedroom
windows, that night, they caught the gleam of the moonlight upon
the bayonet of the passing sentinel. But there was no need of such a
reminder. Decidedly, the spirit of the court party was broken. Had their
leaders actually undergone the whipping they had so narrowly escaped,
they would have scarcely been more impressed with the abject and
powerless situation in which they were left by the miscarriage of their
plot. The quasi military occupation of the town, the night after the
attempted revolution, was indeed welcomed by them and their terrified
families as some guarantee of order. So entirely had the revolution of
the past twenty-four hours changed their attitude toward Perez, that
they now looked on him as their saviour from the mob, and only possible
protector against indefinite lengths of lawlessness. It was among them,
rather than among the people, that the knowledge of his intended speedy
departure for New York, now produced the liveliest apprehensions. And
the most timid of the popular party were not more relieved than they,
when the next day it became known that he had declared his resolve to
give up going west, and remain in Stockbridge for the present.

It would sound much better if I could make out that this abrupt change
in his plans was on account of concern for the welfare of the community,
but such was not the case. His motive was wholly selfish. The key to it
was the discovery that as responsible chief of the mob, holding the
fate and fortunes of her friends in his power, he had a hold on Desire.
Unwilling brides were not the most unhappy wives. Yes, even to that
height had his hopes suddenly risen from the very dust in which they had
lain quite dead a few hours ago. As the poor ex-captain and farmer
she had held him afar off in supercilious scoorn; as the chief of the
insurgents she had come to him in tears and entreaty, had laid her
hand on his arm, had even given him her lips. With that scene in the
guardhouse to look back on, what might he not dare to hope.

His fate was in his own hands. Who could foresee the end of the epoch of
revolution and anarchy upon which the state now seemed entering. These
were times when the sword carved out fortunes and the soldier might
command the most brilliant rewards.

No sooner then had he resolved to stay in Stockbridge, than he set about
strengthening his hold on his followers, and imparting a more regular
military organization to the insurgent element in the town. The Fennell
house was adopted as a regular headquarters, and a young hemlock
tree, by way of rebel standard, planted before the door. Night and day
patrols, with regular officers of the day, were organized, and about
a hundred men formed into a company and drilled daily on the green. A
large proportion of them having served in the revolution, they made a
very creditable appearance after a little practice. In their hats they
wore jauntily hemlock plumes, and old Continental uniforms being still
quite plentiful, with a little swapping and borrowing, enough army coats
were picked up to clothe pretty much the entire force.

One afternoon, as the drill was going on, a traveling carriage turned in
from the Boston road, drove across the green in front of the embattled
line, and turning down toward the Housatonic, stopped before the
Sedgwick house, and Theodore Sedgwick descended. The next day, as Perez
was walking along the street, he saw Dr. Partridge, Squire Edwards,
and a gentleman to him unknown, conversing. As he approached them, the
doctor said, in the good-humored, yet half-mocking tone characteristic
of him:

“Squire Sedgwick, let me introduce to you the Duke of Stockbridge,
Captain Perez Hamlin, to whose gracious protection we of the court
party, owe our lives and liberties at present.”

Sedgwick scanned Perez with evident curiosity, but merely bowed without
speaking, and the other passed on. Either somebody overheard the remark,
or the doctor repeated it elsewhere, for within a day or two it was all
over town, and henceforth, by general consent, half in jest, half in
recognition of the aptness of the title under the circumstances, Perez
was dubbed Duke of Stockbridge, or more briefly referred to as “The
Duke.”

The conversation which his passing had momentarily interrupted, was a
very grave one. Sedgwick had passed through Springfield in his carriage
on the twenty-seventh of September, and reported that he had found the
town full of armed men. The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth
was to have met on the twenty-sixth, but 1200 insurgents, under Captain
Daniel Shays himself, were on hand to prevent it, and were confronted by
800 militia under General Shepard, who held the courthouse. The town was
divided into hostile camps, with regular lines of sentinels. At the time
Sedgwick had passed through, no actual collision had yet taken place,
but should the justices persist in their intention to hold court, there
would certainly be fighting, for it was justly apprehended by Shays
and his lieutenants that the court intended to proceed against them for
treason, and they would stop at nothing to prevent that. It was this
news which Sedgwick was imparting to the two gentlemen.

“We have a big business on our hands,” he said gravely, “a very big and
a very delicate business. A little bungling will be enough to turn it
into a civil war, with the chances all against the government.”

“I don’t see that the government, as yet, has done anything,” said
Edwards. “Do they intend to leave everything to the mob?”

“Between us, there is really nothing that can be done just now,”
 replied Sedgwick. “The passiveness of the government results from their
knowledge that the militia are not to be depended on. Why, as I passed
through Springfield, I saw whole companies of militia that had been
called out by the sheriff to protect the court, march, with drums
beating, over to the insurgents. No, gentlemen, there is actually
no force that could be confidently counted on against the mob save a
regiment or two in Boston. Weakness leaves the government no choice but
to adopt a policy of conciliation with the rascals, for the present, at
least. His Excellency has called the Legislature in extra session
the twenty-sixth, and a number of measures will at once be passed for
relief. If these do not put an end to the mobs, they will, it is hoped,
at least so far improve the public temper that a part of the militia
will be available.

“It is a mysterious Providence, indeed,” he continued, “that our state,
in the infancy of its independence, is left to undergo so fearful a
trial. Already there are many of the Tories who wag the head and say
‘Aha, so would we have it,’ averring that this insurrection is but the
first fruits of our liberty, and that the rest will be like unto it.”

“God grant that we may not have erred in throwing off the yoke of
the King,” said Edwards, gloomily. “I do confess that I have had much
exercise of mind upon that point during the trials of the past weeks.”

“I beg of you, sir, not to give way to such a frame,” said Sedgwick
earnestly, “for it is to gentlemen of your degree that the well disposed
look for guidance and encouragement in these times. And yet I am
constrained to admit that in Boston at no time in the late war, no, not
when our fortunes were at the lowest ebb, has there been such gloom as
now. And verily I could not choose but to share it, but for my belief
that the convention, which is shortly to sit in Philadelphia to devise
a more perfect union for the thirteen states, will pave the way for a
stronger government of the continent, and one that will guarantee us
not only against foreign invasion but domestic violence and insurrection
also.”

“We had best separate now,” said Partridge in a low voice. “If the
populace see but two or three of us having our heads together, they
straightway imagine that we are plotting against them, and I see those
fellows yonder are sending black looks this way already.

“I shall do myself the honor,” he added, to Sedgwick, “to call upon you
at your house for further consultation, since under the pretext of a
physician’s duty, I am allowed by their high mightinesses, the rabble,
to go about more freely than is prudent for other gentlemen.”

The next day the news from Springfield, which Sedgwick had privately
brought, reached the village from other sources, together with the
developments since his passage through the town. It seemed that there
had indeed been no collision between the militia and the rebel force,
but it was because the Supreme Court had, after demurring for two days,
finally yielded to the orders of Captain Shays and adjourned, after
which the rebels took triumphant possession of the courthouse. The
elation which the news produced among the people was prodigious. Perez
doubled the patrols, and even then had to wink at a good many acts of
lawlessness at the expense of the friends of the courts. Nothing but his
personal interposition prevented a drunken gang from giving Sedgwick
a tin-pan serenade. As for Squire Edwards, he was glad to purchase
immunity at the expense of indiscriminate treating of the crowd.

Whether the Supreme Court would attempt to hold its regular session the
first week in October, at Great Barrington, was a point on which there
was a diversity of opinion. Before adjourning at Springfield, it had
indeed passed resolutions that it would not be expedient to go to
Berkshire, but it was loudly declared by many that this was a mere trick
to put the people off their guard, and prevent their assembling in arms
to stop the proceedings. Accordingly, when the time came, although the
justices did not put in an appearance, a mob of several hundred men did,
and a very ugly mob it turned out to be, in fact the worst hitherto in
the entire course of the insurrection. Finding no court to stop, and
the empty jail affording no opportunity for another jail delivery, the
crowd, after loafing around town for a while and getting thirsty, began
to break into houses to get liquor. A beginning once made, this was
found to be such an amusing recreation that it was gone into generally,
and when liquor could not be found the men contented themselves with
appropriating other articles. The fun growing fast and furious, they
next began to hustle and stone prominent citizens known to be friendly
to the courts, as well as such as objected to having their houses
entered and gutted. When their victims broke away from them and fled,
being too drunk to overtake them it was quite natural that they should
fire their muskets after them, and if the bullets did not generally
hit their marks it was merely because the hands of the marksmen were
as unsteady as their legs. Some of the most prominent citizens of Great
Barrington passed the day hid in outhouses and garrets, while others,
mounted on fleet steeds, escaped amid a peltering of bullets, and took
refuge in neighboring towns, some going as far as Pittsfield before they
halted.

Squire Sedgwick chanced to be at Great Barrington, that day, at the
house of his brother-in-law, Justice Dwight. As a lawyer, an aristocrat,
and a member of the detested State Senate, he not only shared the
general unpopularity of those classes, but as prosecuting attorney for
the county, was in particularly evil odor with the lewd fellows of the
baser sort, who were to-day on the rampage. When the uproar was at its
height, word got around that he was in town, and immediately the mob
dropped whatever was in hand, and rushed in a body toward Dwight’s
house. As they came in sight of the house a servant was holding
Sedgwick’s gray by the bridle before the gate. Fearing that their prey
might yet escape them, the crowd burst into a run, brandishing cudgels,
guns and pitchforks, and yelling, “Kill him,” “Hang him,” “Shoot him.”
 They were not fifty yards away when Sedgwick came out and deliberately
mounted his horse. The beast was a good one, and the distance was enough
to make his rider’s escape perfectly secure. But instead of galloping
off, Sedgwick turned his horse’s head toward the onrushing, hooting
multitude, and rode at a gentle trot directly toward them. It seemed
like madness, but the effect fully justified the cool daring that had
prompted the action. With the first forward step of the animal, the
moment the rider’s intention became evident, the mob stopped dead,
and the uproar of execrations gave place to a silence of perfect
astonishment, in which you could have heard the swish of a bird’s wing.
As the horse’s head touched the line of men, they slunk aside as if they
knew not what they did, their eyes falling abashed before Sedgwick’s
quiet glance and air, as devoid of a trace of fear as it was of
ostentatious defiance. The calm, unquestioning assumption that no one
would presume to stop him, was a moral force which paralyzed the arm of
the most reckless ruffian in the crowd. And so, checking his horse
when he would have gone faster, his features as composed as if he were
sitting in the Senate, and his bearing as cool and matter of course as
if he were on a promenade, he rode through the mob, and had passed out
of musket shot by the time the demoralized ruffians had begun to accuse
each other of cowardice, and each one to explain what he would have done
if he had been in somebody else’s place, or would do again.



CHAPTER TWENTIETH

TWO CRITICAL INTERVIEWS


The news of the riot at Great Barrington, brought by Sedgwick, excited
a ferment of terror among the gentlemen’s families in Stockbridge. Later
in the day when the report got around that the mob intended to visit the
latter place, and treat it in like manner, there was little less than a
panic. The real facts of the Great Barrington outrages, quite bad
enough in themselves, had been exaggerated ten-fold by rumor, and it was
believed that the town was in flames and the streets full of murder and
rapine. Some already began to barricade their doors, in preparation for
the worst, while others who had horses and vehicles prepared to convey a
part at least of their families and goods out of reach of the marauders.
There were some in Stockbridge who well remembered the alarm, “The
Indians are coming,” that summer Sunday, when the Schaghticokes came
down on the infant settlement, one and thirty years before. There
was scarcely wilder terror then, but one point of difference sadly
illustrated the distinction between a foreign invasion and a civil
war. Then all the people were in the same fright, but now the panic
was confined to the well-to-do families and those conscious of being
considered friendly to the courts. The poorer people looked on their
agitation with indifference, while some even jeered at it.

The afternoon wore away, however, and the expected mob failed to make
its appearance, whereupon the people gradually took heart again. Those
who had put their furniture into carts unloaded it, and those who had
buried their silver in their cellars dug it up to use on the tea table.
Nevertheless, along about dusk, a good many men living in Stockbridge,
who had been down to Great Barrington all day, came home drunk and
flushed with victory and these, with the aid of some of the same kidney
in the village, kept up a lively racket all the evening, varied with
petty outrages which Perez thought best to ignore, knowing too well the
precarious tenure of his authority, to endanger it by overstrictness.
Perhaps, indeed, he was not wholly averse to such occasional displays
by the mob, as would keep before the gentlemen of the town a
vivid impression of what would be in store for them if but for his
guardianship.

It was about eight o’clock in the evening that, coming in sight of the
store, he saw it besieged by a gang of men, whom Squire Edwards, visible
against the background of the lighted doorway, was expostulating with.
The men were drunk and reckless. They wanted rum and were bound to have
it, and on the other hand the Squire had evidently made up his mind that
if they got into his store in their present mood, they would be likely
to plunder him of whatever he had, and drawing valor from desperation,
was opposing, a resistance which involved no small personal peril. The
crowd, besides being drunk, was composed of the very men who had grudged
him his escape from the whipping-post a few days previous, and was by
no means disposed to stand on ceremony with him. Already he was being
hustled, his wig had been displaced, and his cane struck out of his
hand, and in another minute he would have been knocked down and the
store thronged. The light of a blazing bonfire on the green, threw
glimmering reflections upon the crowd before the store, and Edwards
catching sight of Perez’ three-cornered hat cried in desperation:

“Captain Hamlin, will you let them kill me?”

In another moment Perez was up on the piazza in full view of the crowd,
which abashed a little by his presence, for a moment drew back a little.

“What do you want, men? You ought not to break into people’s houses! You
musn’t disgrace the hemlock.”

“Tha’s all mighty fine, Cap’n,” said Meshech Little, “but we want suthin
tew drink.”

“Why don’t you get it at the tavern?”

“The widder won’t treat no more, an she’s kinder got Abner bewitched
like, so’s he backs her up, an we can’t git nothin thar ‘thout fightin
Abner, darn him.”

“I say Cap’n ‘tain’t fa’r fer yew ter be a interferin with all our fun,”
 spoke up another.

“That’s so,” said others. “Cap’n,” remarked Meshech, “yew jess let us
‘lone, we hain’t a techin yew, an we’re baoun tew hev a time ter night.”

Perez knew well enough that to attempt to wholly thwart the intentions
of this excited and drunken crowd, would be beyond his power, or at
least involve a bloody riot, and so he replied, good-naturedly:

“That’s all right, boys, you shall have your time, but it won’t do to
break into houses. Go over to the guardhouse and tell Abe Konkapot that
I say you may have a couple of gallons of the town rum we seized the
other night.” This compromise was tumultuously accepted, the entire
crowd starting on a run toward the Fennell house, each hoping to get the
first advantage of the largess.

“Come in, Captain,” said Edwards, and Perez entered.

Mrs. Edwards, Desire and Jonathan were in the store, having hurried
thither from the inner living-rooms at the noise of the crowd, to share
if they could not repel, the danger which threatened the head of the
house. As Jonathan quickly closed and barred the door, Edwards said:

“Wife, I owe my property and perhaps my life, also, to Captain Hamlin.”

Mrs. Edwards dropped a stately curtsey, and said with a grand air which
made Perez feel as if her acknowledgments were a condescension quite
dwarfing his performance:

“I truly thank you for your succor.” He mumbled something, he could
not have said what, and then his eyes sought Desire, who stood a little
aside. As he met her eye, he found himself blushing with embarrassment
at thought of their last interview. He had supposed that it would be she
who would be confused and self-conscious when they met, but it was all
on his side. She looked cool, dignified and perfectly composed, quite as
if he were a stock or a stone. He could but wonder if he had remembered
the incidents correctly. What with Mrs. Edwards’ grand air of
condescending politeness, and Desire’s icy composure, he began to
feel that he needed to get outdoors again, where he could review the
situation and recover his equanimity. But on his making a movement in
that direction, Squire Edwards, who had no notion of parting with the
protection of his presence just at present, insisted that he should
first go into the parlor, and Mrs. Edwards dutifully and crushingly
seconding the invitation, he found himself without choice. The education
of the camp, while it may adapt a man to command other men, does not
necessarily fit him to shine in the salon. Perez stepped on his toes
once or twice in passing through the store, and in the parlor doorway,
to his intense mortification, jostled, heavily against Desire. He
plumped down in the easiest chair in the room, before being invited to
sit at all, and changing hastily from that to a stool too small for him,
at the third attempt settled in a chair of the right size. It was then
that he remembered to take off his hat, and having crossed and uncrossed
his legs several times, and tried numerous postures, finally sat bolt
upright, gripping the lapels of his coat with his hands. As for any
tender emotions on account of the girl who sat near him, he was scarcely
conscious of her presence, save as an element of embarrassment.

“I understand that you have served at the south, Captain Hamlin,” said
Mrs. Edwards.

“Yes, I thank you,” he replied.

“You were with General Green, perhaps?”

“Yes--that is--yes m’am.”

“How is your mother’s health?”

“Very well indeed,--that is, when--when she isn’t sick. She is generally
sick.”

“Indeed.”

“Yes, but she’s pretty well otherwise. How are you?” this last,
desperately.

“Oh, thanks, I’m quite well,” Mrs. Edwards replied, with a slight
elevation of the eyebrows. Somehow he felt that he ought not to have
asked that, and then he made another desperate resolution to go home.

“I think they’ll be looking for me at home,” he said, tentatively rising
halfway from his chair. “Father isn’t well, you see.” He had a vague
feeling that he could not go unless they formally admitted the adequacy
of his excuse.

At that moment there came the noise of an axe from the green, with
shouts.

“What is that?” asked Mrs. Edwards of her husband, who entered from the
store at that moment.

“The rascals--that is--” he corrected himself with a glance at Perez,
“the men are chopping down the whippingpost to put on the bonfire.
You were not thinking of going so soon, Captain Hamlin?” he added with
evident concern.

“Yes, I think I will go,” said Perez, straightening up and assuming a
resolute air.

“I beg you will not be so hasty,” said Mrs. Edwards, taking her
husband’s cue, and Perez abjectly sat down again.

“You must partake of my hospitality,” said Edwards. “Jonathan, draw a
decanter of that old Jamaica. Desire, bring us tumblers.”

The only thought of Perez was that the liquor would, perhaps, brace him
up a little, and to that end he filled his tumbler well up and did not
refuse a second invitation. The result answered his expectations. In a
very few moments he began to feel much more at ease. The incubus upon
his faculties seemed lifted. His muscles relaxed. He recovered the free
control of his tongue and his eyes. Whereas he had previously been only
conscious of Mrs. Edwards, and but vaguely of the room in which they
were and its other inmates, he now began to look around, and take
cognizance of persons and things and even found himself complimenting
his host on the quality of the rum with an ease at which he was
surprised. He could readily have mustered courage enough now to take
his leave, but he no longer felt in haste. As I observed above, he had
heretofore but vaguely taken notice of Desire, as she had sat silently
near by. Now he became conscious of her. He observed her closely. He had
never seen her dressed as she was now, in a low-necked, white dress with
short sleeves. As he was a few moments before, such new revelations
of her beauty would have daunted him, would have actually added to his
demoralization, but now he contemplated her with an intense, elated
complacency. It was easier talking with Mr. Edwards than with Madam,
and half an hour had passed, when Perez rose and said, this time without
trying to excuse himself, that he must go. Mrs. Edwards had some time
before excused herself from the room. Jonathan had also gone. Desire
bade him good evening, and Squire Edwards led the way into the store to
show him out. But Perez, after starting to follow him, abruptly turned
back, and crossing the room to where Desire stood, held out his hand.
She hesitated, and then put hers in it. He raised it to his lips,
although she tried to snatch it away, and then, as if the touch had
maddened him, he audaciously drew her to him and kissed her lips. She
broke away, shivering and speechless. Then he saw her face crimson to
the roots of her hair. She had seen her mother standing in the doorway,
looking at her. But Perez, as he turned and went out through the
store, did not perceive this. Had he turned to look back, he would have
witnessed a striking tableau.

Desire had thrown herself into a chair and buried her face in her arms,
against whose rounded whiteness the crimsoned ear tips and temples
testified to the shameful glow upon the hidden face while her mother
stood gazing at her, amazement and indignation pictured on her face. For
a full half minute she stood thus, and then said:

“My daughter, what does this mean?”

There was no answer, save that, at the voice of her mother, a warm glow
appeared upon the nape of the girl’s neck, and even spread over the
glistening shoulders, while her form shook with a single convulsive sob.

“Desire, tell me this instant,” exclaimed Mrs. Edwards.

The girl threw up her head and faced her mother, her eyes blazing with
indignant shame and glistening with tears, which were quite dried up by
her hot cheeks ere they had run half their course.

“You saw,” she said in a low, hard, fierce tone, “the fellow kissed me.
He does it when he pleases. I have no one to protect me.”

“Why do you let him? Why didn’t you cry out?”

“And let father be whipped, let him be killed! Don’t you know why
I didn’t?” cried the girl in a voice hoarse with excitement and
overwhelming exasperation that the motive of the sacrifice should not be
understood, even for a moment. She had sprung to her feet and was facing
her mother.

“Was it for this that he released your father the other day?”

Desire looked at her mother without a word, in a way that was an answer.
Mrs. Edwards seemed completely overcome, while Desire met her horrified
gaze with a species of desperate hardihood.

“Yes, it is I,” she said, in a shrill, nervously excited tone. “It is
your daughter, Desire Edwards, whom this fellow has for a sweetheart.
Oh, yes. He kisses me where he chooses, and I do not cry out. Isn’t it
fine, ha! ha!” and then her overstrained feelings finding expression in
a burst of hysterical laughter, she threw herself back into her chair,
and buried her face in her arms on the table as at first.

“What’s the matter? What ails the girl?” said Edwards, coming in from
the store, and viewing the scene with great surprise.

“The matter?” replied Mrs. Edwards slowly. “The matter is this: as that
fellow was leaving, and your back was turned, he took our girl here and
hugged and kissed her, and though she resisted what she could, she did
not cry out. I stood in that door and saw it with my own eyes. When I
called her to account for this scandal, she began vehemently to weep,
and protested that she dared not anger him by outcry, fearing for your
life if he were offended. And she further hinted that it was not the
first time he had had the kissing of her. Nay, she as good as said it
was with kisses that she ransomed you out of his hands the other day.”

Edwards listened with profound interest, but with more evidence of
curiosity than agitation, and after thinking a few moments, said
thoughtfully:

“I have marvelled much by what manner of argument she compassed our
deliverance, after the parson, a man mighty in persuasion and rebuke,
had wholly failed therein. Verily, the devices of Providence for the
protection of his saints in troublous times are past understanding. To
this very intent doubtless, was the gift of comeliness bestowed on the
maiden, a matter wherefore I have often, in much perplexity, inquired
of the Lord, seeing that it is a gift that often brings the soul into
jeopardy through vain thoughts. But now is the matter made plain to my
eyes.”

It was no light thing in those days for a wife to reproach her lord, but
Mrs. Edwards’ eyes fairly lightened as she demanded with a forced calm:

“Will you, then, give up your daughter to these lewd fellows as Lot
would have given up his daughters to save his house?”

“Tut! tut!” said Edwards, frowning. “Your speech is unbridled and
unseemly. I am not worthy to be likened to that holy man of old, for
whose sake the Lord well nigh saved Sodom, nor am I placed in so sore
a strait. You spoke of nothing worse than kissing. The girl will not be
the worse, I trow, for a buss or two. Women are not so mighty tender. So
long as girls like not the kissing, be sure t’will do them no harm, eh,
Desire?” and he pinched her arm.

She snatched it away, and rushing across the room, threw herself upon
the settle, with her face in the cushion.

“Pish!” said her father, peevishly, “she grudges a kiss to save her
father from disgrace and ruin. It is a sinful, proud wench!”

“Proud!” echoed the girl, raising her tear-stained face from the cushion
and sitting up. “I was proud, but I’m not any more. All the rabble are
welcome to kiss me, seeing my father thinks it no matter.”

“Pshaw, child, what a coil about a kiss or two, just because the fellow
smells a little, maybe, of the barn! Can’t you wash your face after?
Take soap to ‘t, and save your tears. Bless me! you shall hide in the
garret after this, but for my part, I shall still treat the fellow
civilly, for he holds us, as it were, in the hollow of his hand,” and he
went into the store in a pet.

There was one redeeming feature about the disturbances in Stockbridge.
The early bedtime habits of the people were too deeply fixed to be
affected by any political revolution, and however noisy the streets
might be soon after dusk, by half past nine or ten all was quiet. As
Perez crossed the green, after leaving the store, the only sound that
broke the stillness of the night, was the rumble of wheels on the Boston
road. It was Sedgwick’s carriage, bearing him back to the capital, to
take his seat in the already convened State Senate. If his flying visit
home had been a failure so far as his law business before the Supreme
Court was concerned, it had at least enabled him to gain a vivid
conception of the extent and virulence of the insurrection.

There was really a good deal more than a joke in calling Perez, Duke
of Stockbridge. The antechamber of the headquarters room, at the
guardhouse, was often half full of a morning with gentlemen, and those
of lower degree as well, waiting to see him with requests. Some wanted
passes, or authority to go out of town, or carry goods away. Others had
complaints of orchards robbed, property stolen, or other injuries from
the lawless, with petitions for redress. The varieties of cases in which
Perez’ intervention as the only substitute for law in the village was
being constantly demanded, it would quite exceed my space to enumerate.
In addition to this, he had the military affairs of the insurgent
train-band to order, besides transacting business with the agents of
neighboring towns, and even with messengers from Shays, who already
had begun to call on the Berkshire towns for quotas to swell the
rebel forces, of which a regular military organization was now being
attempted.

An informal sort of constitutional convention at the tavern had
committed the general government of the town, pending the present
troubles, to a Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety,
consisting of Perez, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, but the two latter
practically left everything to Perez. There was not in this improvised
form of town government, singular as it strikes us, anything very novel
or startling to the people of the village, accustomed as they were
all through the war to the discretionary and almost despotic sway
in internal as well as external affairs, of the town revolutionary
committees of the same name. These, at first irregular, were
subsequently recognized alike by the Continental and state authorities,
and on them the work of carrying the people through the war practically
and chiefly fell. In Berkshire, indeed, the offices of the revolutionary
committees had been even more multifarious and extensive than in the
other counties, for owing to the course of Berkshire in refusing to
acknowledge the authority of the state government from 1775 to 1780, and
the consequent suppression of courts during that period, even judicial
functions had often devolved upon the committees, and suits at law had
been heard and determined, and the verdicts enforced by them. To the
town meeting alone did the revolutionary committees hold themselves
responsible. The effect of the outbreak of the revolutionary war had
been, indeed, to reduce democracy to its simplest terms. The Continental
Congress had no power, and only pretended to recommend and advise. The
state government, by sundering its relations with the crown, lost its
legal title, and for some time after the war began, and as regards
Berkshire, until the county voted to accept the new state constitution
in 1780, its authority was not recognized. During that period it may be
properly said that, while the Continental Congress advised and the state
convention recommended, the town meeting was the only body of actual
legislative powers in the Commonwealth. The reader must excuse this
brief array of dry historical details, because only by bearing in mind
that such had been the peculiar political education of the people of
Berkshire, will it appear fully credible that revolt should so readily
become organized, and anarchy assume the forms of law and order.

From the extent of his property interests and the popular animosity
which endangered them, no gentleman in Stockbridge had more necessity to
keep the right side of Perez Hamlin than Squire Edwards, and it was not
the storekeeper’s fault if he did not. Comparatively few days passed in
which Perez did not find himself invited to take a glass of something,
as he passed the store, and without touching the point either of
servility or hypocrisy Edwards knew how to make himself so affable that
Perez began actually to think that perhaps he liked him for his own
sake, and even cherished the wild idea of taking him into confidence
concerning his passion and hope as to Desire. Had he done so Edwards
would certainly have found himself in a very awkward predicament.
Meanwhile, day after day and even week after week passed, and save for
an occasional glimpse of her passing a window, or the shadow on her
bedroom curtain with which his long night watches were sometimes
rewarded, he saw nothing of Desire. She never went on the street, and
for two Sundays had stayed at home from meeting. He could not muster
courage to ask Edwards about her, feeling that it must be that she kept
within doors merely to avoid him. One evening, however, late in October,
as he was sitting over some rum with the storekeeper, the latter
remarked, in a casual way, that the doctor had advised that his daughter
Desire, who had not been well of late, should take a trip to Pittsfield
for her health, and as if it were something quite casual, asked Perez to
have the kindness to make out a pass for her to go the next day. As
the Squire made this request, speaking as if it were a mere matter of
course, Perez was in the act of raising a glass of liquor to his lips.
He gave Edwards one glance, very slowly set down the untasted beverage,
and without a word of reply or of parting salutation, got up and went
out. The moment he was gone the door connecting the living-rooms with
the back of the store, softly opened, and Mrs. Edwards and Desire
entered.

“Did you get it?” asked the latter.

“Get it,” replied Edwards in disgust, “I should think not. He looked at
me like a wolf when I spoke of it. I had some notion that he would stick
his hanger through my stomach, but he thought better of that and got
up and stalked out without so much as winking at me. He’s a terrible
fellow. I doubt if he does not some outrage to us for this.”

“Dear! Dear! What shall I do?” cried Desire, wringing her hands. “I
must go. I can’t stay here, shut up like a prisoner, I shall be sick and
die.”

“Who knows,” said Mrs. Edwards, “what this ruffian may do next? He will
stop at nothing. He will not much longer respect our house. He may
force himself in any day. She is not safe here. I dare not have her stay
another day.”

“I don’t know what can be done, she can’t get away without a pass,”
 replied Edwards. “It would do no good for me to ask him again. Perhaps
the girl herself might coax a pass out of him. It’s the only chance.”

“I coax him! I see him again! Oh I can’t, I can’t do that,” cried Desire
with an air of overwhelming repugnance.

“I could leave the door ajar you know, Desire, and be ready to come into
the room if he were unmannerly,” said her mother. “I think he’s rather
afraid of me. I’m afraid it’s the only chance, as your father says, if
you could but bring yourself to it.”

“Oh it doesn’t seem as if I could. It doesn’t seem as if I could,” cried
the girl.

Perez did not come near the store for some days and it was on the street
that Edwards next met him. The storekeeper was very cordial and made no
further allusion to the pass. In the course of conversation he managed
to make some reference to Desire’s piano, and the curiosity the people
seemed to feel about the novel instrument. He asked Perez if he had ever
seen it, and Perez saying no, invited him to drop in that evening and
hear Desire play a little. It is needless to say that the young man’s
surprise at the invitation did not prevent his accepting it. It would
have melted the heart of his worst enemy to have seen how long he toiled
that afternoon trying to refurbish his threadbare coat so white in the
seams, and the rueful face with which he contemplated the result. On
presenting himself at the store soon after dusk, Edwards at once ushered
him into the parlor, and withdrew, saying that he must see to his
business.

Desire sat at the piano, no one else being in the room. She looked
rather pallid and thinner than when he had seen her last, but all the
more interesting for this delicacy. There was, however, a far more
striking alteration in her manner, for to his surprise she rose at
his entrance, and came forward with a smile to greet him. He was
delightfully bewildered.

“I scarcely know how to greet a Duke, for such I hear you are become,”
 said Desire with a profound curtsy and a bewitching tone of badinage.

Entirely taken aback, he murmured something inarticulate, about her
piano.

“Would your grace like to have me play a little?” she asked, gaily.

He intimated that he would, and she at once sat down before the little
instrument. It was scarcely more to be compared with the magnificent
machines of our day than the flageolets of Virgil’s shepherds with the
cornet-a-piston of the modern star performer, but Mozart, Haydn, Handel,
or Beethoven never lived to see a better. It was only about two feet
across by four and a half in width, with a small square sounding board
at the end. The almost threadlike wires, strung on a wooden frame, gave
forth a thin and tinny sound which would instantaneously bring the hands
of a modern audience to its ears. But to Perez it seemed divine, and
when, too, Desire opened her mouth and sang, tears of genuine emotion
filled his eyes. She was more richly dressed than he had ever seen her
before, wearing a cherry colored silk bodice, low necked, and with bell
mouthed sleeves reaching to her elbows only, while the rounded white
arms were set off with coral bracelets, a necklace of the same material
encircling her throat. Upon one cheek, a little below the outside corner
of the eye she wore a small black patch, according to a fashion of the
time, by way of heightening by contrast the delicacy of her complexion.
The faint perfume with which she had completed her toilet, seemed less
a perfume than the very breath of her beauty, the voluptuous effluence
which it exhaled. Having played and sung for some time she let her hands
drop by her side and raising her eyes to meet Perez’ fascinated gaze,
said lightly:

“Do you like it?” The most exacting performer would have been satisfied
with the manner in which after a husky attempt to say something in
reply, he bowed his head in silence.

“I’m glad you came in tonight,” she said, “for I want to ask something
of you. Since you are Duke of Stockbridge we all have to ask favors of
you, you see.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“Oh, dear me,” she said, laughing. “That’s not the way people ask favors
of kings and dukes. They make em promise to grant the favor first,
and then tell em what it is. This is the way,” and with the words she
dropped lightly on one knee before Perez, and with her clasped hands
pressed against her bosom, raised her face up toward his, her eyes
eloquent, of intoxicating submissiveness.

“If thine handmaiden has found grace in the sight of my lord, the duke,
let my request be done even according to the prayer of my lips.”

Perez leaned forward toward the beautiful upward turning face.

“Whatever you want,” he murmured.

“To the half of my dukedom, you must say.”

“To the half of my dukedom,” he repeated, in a mechanical voice, not
removing his eyes from hers.

“Do you pledge your honor?” she demanded, still retaining her position.

If he had known that she intended asking him to blow his own brains out
the next moment, and had expected to keep his promise, he must needs,
with her kneeling so before him, have answered “yes,” and so he did in
fact reply.

“Thanks,” she said, rising lightly to her feet, “you make a very good
duke indeed, and to reward you I shall not ask for anything like half
your dukedom, but only for a scrap of paper. Here is ink and paper and
a pen. Please write me a pass to go to Pittsfield. Dr. Partridge says
I must have change of air, and I don’t want to be stopped by your
soldiers.”

A ghastly pallor overspread his face. “You’re not going away,” he
stammered, rising slowly up.

“To be sure I am. What else should I want of the pass? Come, you’re not
going to make me do all that asking over again. Please sit right down
again and write it. You know you promised on your word of honor.”

She even put her hand smilingly on his shoulder, as if to push him down,
and as he yielded to the light but irresistible pressure, she put a pen
in his nerveless fingers, saying gayly:

“Just your name at the bottom, that’s all. Father wrote the rest to
save you trouble. Now, please.” Powerless against an imperious magnetism
which would have compelled him to sign his own death-warrant, he
scrawled the words. As she took up the precious scrap of paper, and hid
it in her bosom, the door opened, and Mrs. Edwards entered with
stately formality, and the next moment Perez found himself blunderingly
answering questions about his mother’s state of health, not having the
faintest idea what he was saying. The next thing he was conscious of was
the cold frosty air on his face as he walked across the green from the
store to the guardhouse.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIRST

THE HUSKING


Scarcely had Perez left, when Edwards entered the parlor.

“Did you get it?” he asked of Desire.

“Yes, yes,” cried the girl. “Oh, that horrible, horrible fellow! I am
sick with shame all through, sick! sick! But if I can only get away out
of his reach, I shall not mind. Do let Cephas harness the horse into the
chaise at once. He may change his mind. Oh, hurry, father, do; don’t,
oh, don’t lose a minute.”

Half an hour later, Cephas, an old freedman of Edwards, drove the chaise
up to the side door, and a few bundles having been put into the vehicle,
Desire herself entered, and was driven hastily away toward Pittsfield.

To go back to Perez, on reaching the guardhouse, coming from the
store, he went in and sat down in the headquarters room. Presently, Abe
Konkapot, who was officer of the day, entered and spoke to him. Perez
making no reply, the Indian spoke again, and then went up to him and
laid his hand on his shoulder.

“What is it?” said Perez, in a dull voice.

“What matter with you, Cap’n? Me speake tree time. You no say nothin.
You seek?” Perez looked up at him vacantly.

“He no drunk?” pursued Abe, changing from the second to the third person
in his mode of speech, as he saw the other paid no attention. “Seem
like was heap drunk, but no smell rum,” and he scratched his head in
perplexity. Then he shook Perez’ shoulder again. “Say, Cap’n, what ails
yer?”

“She’s going away, Abe. Desire Edwards is going away,” replied Perez,
looking up at the Indian in a helpless, appealing way.

“You no like have her go, Cap’n? You like better she stay? What for let
her go then?”

“I gave her a pass, Abe. She was so beautiful I couldn’t help it.”

Abe scratched his head.

“If she so preety, me s’pose you keep her all more for that. No let her
go.”

Perez did not explain this point, but presently said:

“Abe, you may let the men go home, if you want. It’s nothing to me any
more what happens here in Stockbridge. The silk stockings are welcome
to come and hang me as soon as they please,” and his head dropped on his
breast like one whose life has suddenly lost its spring and motive.

“Look a here, Cap’n,” said Abe, “you say to me, Abe, stop that air gal,
fetch her back. Good. Me do it quick. Cap’n feel all right again.”

“I can’t, Abe, I can’t. I promised. I gave her my word. I can’t. I wish
she had asked me to cut my throat instead,” and he despairingly shook
his head.

Abe regarded him with evident perplexity for some moments, and then with
an abrupt nod of the head turned and glided out of the room. Perez,
in his gloomy preoccupation did not even note his going. His head sunk
lower on his breast, and he murmured to himself wild words of passion
and despair.

“If she only knew. If she knew how I loved her. But she would not care.
She hates me. She will never come back. Oh, no, never. I shall never see
her again. This is the end. It is the end. How beautiful she was!” and
he buried his face in his arms on the table and wept miserable tears.

There were voices and noises about and within the guardhouse, but he
took no note of them. Some one came into the room, but he did not look
up, and for a moment Desire Edwards, for she it was, in hat and cloak,
stood looking down on him. Then she said, in a voice whose first accent
brought him to his feet as if electrified:

“No wonder you hide your head.”

There was a red spot as big as a cherry in either cheek, and her eyes
scintillated with concentrated scorn and anger. Over her shoulder
was visible Abe Konkapot’s swarthy face, wearing a smile of great
self-satisfaction.

“I was foolish enough to think even a rebel might keep his word,” Desire
went on, in a voice trembling with indignation. “I did not suppose even
you would give me a pass and then send your footpads to stop me.”

It was evident from his dazed look, that he did not follow her words. He
glanced inquiringly at Abe, who responded with lucid brevity:

“Look a’ here, Cap’n, me see you feel heap bad cause gal go away. You
make fool promise; no can stop her. Me no make promise. Gal come long
in cart. Show pass. Pass good, but no good for gal to go. Tear up pass;
fetch gal back. Cap’n no break no promise, cause no stop gal. Abe no
break promise, cause no make none. Cap’n be leetle mad with Abe for
tear up pass, but heap more glad for git gal back,” and having thus
succinctly stated the matter the Indian retired.

“I beg your pardon, Captain Hamlin,” said Desire, with an engaging
smile. “I was too hasty. I suppose I was angry. I see you were not
to blame. If you will now please tell your men that I am not to be
interfered with again, I will make another start for Pittsfield.”

“No, not again,” he replied slowly.

“But you promised me,” she said, with rising apprehension, nervously
clasping the edge of her cloak with her fingers as she spoke. “You
promised me on the word of a duke you know,” and she made another feeble
attempt at a smile.

“I promised you,” replied he, “I don’t know why I was so mad. I was
bewitched. I did not break the promise, but I will not make it again.
God had pity on me, and brought you back. What have I suffered the last
hour, and shall I let you go again? Never! never! None shall pluck you
out of my hand.

“Don’t let me terrify you, my darling,” he went on passionately, in a
softened voice, as she changed countenance and recoiled before him in
evident fright. “I will not hurt you. I would die sooner than hurt a
hair of your head.” He tried to take her hand, and then as she snatched
it away, he caught the hem of her cloak, and kneeling quickly, raised it
with a gesture of boundless tenderness and reverence, to his lips.
She had shrunk back to the wall, and looked down on him in wide-eyed,
speechless terror, evidently no longer thinking of anything but escape.

“Oh, let me go home. Let me go home. I shall scream out if you don’t let
me go,” she cried.

He rose to his feet, walked quickly across the room and back, and then
having in some measure subdued his agitation, replied:

“Certainly, you shall go home. It is dark; I will go with you,” and they
walked together across to the store without speaking. Returning, Perez
met Abe, and taking him by the hand, gave it a tremendous grip, but said
nothing.

Whatever resentment Squire Edwards cherished against Perez on account
of Desire’s recapture and return, he was far too shrewd to allow it to
appear. He simply ignored the whole episode and was more affable than
ever. Whenever he met the young man, he had something pleasant to
say, and was always inviting him into the store to take a drop when
he passed. Meanwhile, however, so far as the latter’s opportunities of
seeing or talking with Desire were concerned, she might just as well
have been in Pittsfield, so strictly did she keep the house. A week or
ten days passed thus, every day adding fuel to his impatience, and he
had already begun to entertain plans worthy of a brigand or a kidnapper,
when circumstances presented an opportunity of which he made shrewd
profit.

During the Revolutionary war it had been a frequent policy with the
town authorities to attempt to correct the high and capricious prices
of goods, always incident to war times, by establishing fixed rates per
pound, bushel, yard or quart, by which all persons should be compelled
to sell or barter their merchandise and produce. It had been suggested
in the Stockbridge Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety
that the adoption of such a tariff would tend to relieve the present
distress and promote trade. Ezra Phelps proposed the plan, Israel
Goodrich was inclined to favor it, and Perez’ assent would have settled
the matter. He, it was, whom Squire Edwards approached with vehement
protestations. He might well be somewhat agitated, for being the only
merchant in town, the proposed measure was little more than a personal
discrimination against his profits, which, it must be admitted, had been
of late years pretty liberal, thanks to a dearth of money that had made
it necessary for farmers to barter produce for tools and supplies, at
rates virtually at the merchant’s discretion. If the storekeeper had
been compelled to trade at the committee’s prices for awhile, it would
perhaps have been little more than a rough sort of justice; but he did
not take that view. It is said that all is fair in love and war, and
this was the manner in which Perez proceeded selfishly to avail himself
of the Squire’s emergency. He listened to his protestations with a
sympathetic rather than a hopeful air, admitting that he himself would
be inclined to oppose the new policy, but remarking that the farmers and
some of the committee were so set on it that he doubted his ability to
balk them. He finally remarked, however, he might possibly do something,
if Edwards, himself, would meantime take a course calculated to placate
the insurgents and disarm their resentment. Being rather anxiously
inquired of by the storekeeper as to what he could consistently do,
Perez finally suggested that Israel Goodrich was going to have a husking
in his barn the following night, if the warm weather held; and if Desire
Edwards should attend, it would not only please the people generally,
but possibly gain over Israel, a member of the committee. Edwards made
no reply, and Perez left him to think the matter over, pretty confident
of the result.

That evening in the family circle, after a gloomy account of the
disaster threatening to engulf the family fortunes if the proposed
policy of fixing prices were carried out, Edwards spoke of Hamlin’s
disposition to come to his aid, and his suggestion concerning Desire’s
presence at the husking.

“These huskings are but low bussing-matches,” said Mrs. Edwards with
much disgust. “Desire has never set a foot in such a place. I suspect it
is a trick of this fellow to get her in his reach.”

“It may be so,” said her husband, gloomily. “I thought of that myself,
but what shall we do? Shall we submit to the spoiling of our goods? We
are fallen upon evil times, and the most we can do is to choose between
evils.”

Desire, who had sat in stolid silence, now said in much agitation:

“I don’t want to go. Please don’t make me go, father. I’d rather not.
I’m afraid of him. Since that last time I’m afraid. I’d rather not.”

“The child is well nigh sick with it all,” said Mrs. Edwards, sitting
down by her and soothingly drawing the head of the agitated girl to her
shoulder, which set her to sobbing. It was evident that the constant
apprehensions of the past several weeks as well as her virtual
imprisonment within doors, had not only whitened her cheek but affected
her nervous tone.

Edwards paced to and fro with knitted brow. Finally he said:

“I will by no means constrain your will in this matter, Desire. I do
not understand all your woman’s megrims, but your mother shall not
again reproach me with willingness to secure protection to my temporal
interests at the cost of your peace and quiet. You need not go to this
husking. No doubt I shall be able to bear whatever the Lord sends,” and
he went out.

Soon after, Desire ceased sobbing and raised her head from her mother’s
shoulder. “Mother,” she said, “did you ever hear of a maiden placed in
such a case as mine?”

“No, my child. It is a new sort of affliction, and of a strange nature.
I scarcely have confidence to advise you as to your duty. You had best
seek the counsel of the Lord in prayer.”

“Methinks in such matters a woman is the best judge,” said the girl
naively.

“Tut, tut, Desire!”

“Nay, I meant no harm, mother,” and then with a great sigh, she said: “I
will go. Poor father feels so bad.”

The next evening when, dressed for the husking, she took a last look
in her mirror she was fairly scared to see how pretty she was. And
yet despite the dismay and sinking of heart with which she apprehended
Perez’ attentions, she did not brush down the dark ringlets that
shadowed her temples so bewitchingly, or choose a less becoming ribbon
for her neck. That is not a woman’s way. It was about seven o’clock
when she and Jonathan, who went as her escort, reached Israel Goodrich’s
great barn, guided thither by the light which streamed from the open
door.

The husking was already in full blast. A dozen tallow dips, and half
as many lanterns, consisting of peaked cylinders of tin, with holes
plentifully punched in their sides for the light of the candle to
trickle through, illumined the scene. In the middle of the floor was a
pile of full a hundred bushels of ears of corn in the husk, and close
around this, their knees well thrust into the mass, sat full two-score
young men and maidens, for the most part duly paired off, save where
here and there two or three bashful youths sat together. The young men
had their coats off, and the round white arms of the girls twinkled
distractingly as with swift deft motions they freed the shining yellow
ears from their incasements and tossed them into the baskets. The
noisy rustling of the dry husks, the chatter and laughter of the merry
workers, ever and anon swelling into uproarious mirth as some protesting
maiden redeemed a red ear with a pair of red lips, made altogether a
merry medley that caused the cows and horses munching their suppers in
the neighboring stalls to turn and stare in wonder.

Some of the huskers, looking up, caught sight of Desire and Jonathan
at the door, and by a telegraphic system of whispers and nudges, the
information was presently carried to Israel Goodrich.

“Glad to see ye. Come right in,” he shouted in a broad, cheery voice.
“More the merrier’s, the sayin is. Glad to see ye. Glad to see ye.
Look’s kinder neighborly.”

As Desire entered the barn, some of the girls rose and curtsied, the
most merely looking bashful and avoiding her eye, as the rural mode of
greeting continues to be to this day. Perez was the first person whom
Desire had seen on entering the barn. Her eyes had been drawn to him by
a sort of fascination, certainly not a pleasant sort, the result of
her having thought so much about him. Nor was this fascination without
another evidence. There was a vacant stool by Perez, and as she passed
it, and he rose and bowed, she made as if she would seat herself there.

“Don’t ye sit thar,” said Israel, “that ain’t nothin but a stool. Thar’s
a chair furder along.”

The offer to sit by Perez was almost involuntary on her part, merely a
sign of her sense of powerlessness against him. She had had the thought
that he meant to have her sit there, and in her nervously abject mood
she had not thought of resisting. Her coming to the husking at all
had been a surrender to his will, and this seemed but an incident and
consequence of that. At Israel’s words she blushed faintly, but not in a
way to be compared with the red flush that swept over Perez’ face.

“Thar,” said Israel, good-humoredly, as she seated herself in the
promised chair, “naow I guess we’ll see the shucks begin to fly.”

“For the land sakes, Miss Edwards, you ain’t a gonter go ter shuckin
with them ere white hands o’ yourn,” exclaimed Submit Goodrich. “Lemme
git yer some mittins, an an apron tew. Deary me, yew mustn’t dew the
fuss thing till yew’ve got an apron.”

“Guess yew ain’t uster huskin, or yew woulden come in yer bes gaown,”
 said Israel cheerfully.

“Come naow, father,” Submit expostulated, “tain’t likely she’s got
nothin poor nuff fer sech doins. Ez if this ere wuz Miss Edwards’ bes
gaown. Yew’ve got a sight better’n this, hain’t yew?”

Desire smiled vaguely. Meanwhile the husking had been pretty much
suspended, the huskers either staring in vacant, open mouthedness at
Desire, or communicating whispered comments to each other. And even
after she had been duly provided with mittens and apron, and begun on
the corn, the chatter and boisterous merriment which her arrival had
interrupted, did not at once resume its course. Perhaps in a more modern
assembly the constraint might have been lasting, but our forefathers did
not depend so exclusively as we upon capricious and uncompellable
moods, which, like the winds, blow whence and when they list, for the
generation of vivacity in social gatherings. For that same end they used
most commonly a force as certain as steam in its action; an influence
kept in a jug.

Submit whispered to her father, and the old man merely poured a double
portion of rum into the cider flip, with which the huskers were being
regaled, and soon all went prosperously again. For rum in those good old
days was recognized as equally the accompaniment of toil and recreation,
and therefore had a double claim to the attention of huskers. From a
sale of meeting-house pews or an ordination, to a ball or a general
training, rum was the touch of nature that made the whole world of
our forefathers kin. And if Desire did but wet her lips with the flip
to-night, it was because the company rather than the beverage offended
her taste. For even at risk of alienating the sympathies of my teetotal
readers, I must refrain from claiming for the maiden a virtue which had
not then been invented.

The appearance of Uncle Sim’s black and smiling countenance, as he
entered bowing and grinning, his fiddle under his arm, was hailed with
uproar and caused a prodigious accession of activity among the huskers,
the completion of whose task would be the signal for the dancing to
begin. The red ears turned up so rapidly as to suggest the theory that
some of the youths had stuffed their pockets with a selected lot from
the domestic corn bin before coming. But though this opinion was loudly
expressed by the girls, it did not seem to excite that indignation in
their bosoms which such unblushing duplicity should have aroused. Half
a dozen lively tussles for kisses were constantly going on in various
parts of the floor and the uproar was prodigious.

In the midst of the hurly-burly, Desire sat bending over the task of
which her unused fingers made slow work, replying now and then with
little forced smiles to Submit’s good natured efforts to entertain her,
and paying no attention to the hilarious confusion around. She looked
for all the world to Perez like a captive queen among rude barbarian
conquerors, owing to her very humiliation, a certain touching dignity.
It repented him that he had been the means of bringing her to the place.
He could not even take any pleasure in looking at her, because he was so
angry to see the coarse stares of admiration which the bumpkins around
fixed on her. Paul Hubbard, who sat opposite him had been particularly
free with his eyes in that direction, and all the more so after he
perceived the discomfort it occasioned Perez, toward whom since their
collision concerning the disposition to be made of the prisoners, he had
cherished a bitter animosity. The last husks were being stripped off,
and Sim was already tuning his fiddle, when Hubbard sprang to his feet
with a red ear in his hand. He threw a mocking glance toward Perez, and
advanced behind the row of huskers toward Desire. Bending over her lap,
with downcast face, she did not observe him till he laid his hand on the
rich kerchief of India silk that covered her shoulders. Looking up and
catching sight of the dark, malicious face above her, its sensual leer
interpreted by the red ear brandished before her eyes, she sprang away
with a gasp. There was not one of the girls in the room who would have
thought twice about a kiss, or a dozen of them. One of their own number
who had made a fuss about such a trifle would have been laughed at.
But somehow they did not feel inclined to laugh at Desire’s terror and
repugnance. They felt that she was different from them, and the least
squeamish hoyden of the lot experienced a thrill of sympathy, and had
a sense of something tragic. And yet no one interfered. Hubbard was
but using his rights according to the ancient rules of the game. A girl
might defend herself with fists and nails from an unwelcome suitor, but
no third party could interfere. As Jonathan, who sat some way from his
sister was about to run to her aid, a stout farmer caught him around the
waist crying, good naturedly:

“Fair play youngster! fair play! No interferin!”

Perez had sprung up, looking very white, his eyes congested, his fists
clenched. As Desire threw an agonized look of appeal around the circle,
she caught sight of him. With a sudden impulse she darted to him crying:

“Oh, keep me from that man.”

“Get out of the way, Hamlin,” said Hubbard, rushing after his prey. “God
damn you, get out of my way. What do you mean by interfering?”

Perez scarcely looked at him, but he threw a glance around upon the
others, a glance of appeal, and said in a peculiar voice of suppressed
emotion:

“For God’s sake, some of you take the fellow away, or I shall kill him.”

Instantly Israel Goodrich and half a dozen more had rushed between the
two. The twitching muscles of Perez’ face and that strange tone as of a
man appealing to be saved from himself, had suddenly roused all around
from mirthful or curious contemplation of the scene to a perception that
a terrible tragedy had barely been averted.

Meanwhile the floor was being cleared of the husks and soon the merry
notes of the fiddle speedily dissipated the sobering influence of the
recent fracas. Desire danced once with her brother and once with old
Israel, who positively beamed with pleasure. But Hubbard, who was now
pretty drunk, followed her about, every now and then taking the red ear
out of his pocket and shaking it at her, so that between the dances and
after them, she took care not to be far from Perez, though she pretended
not to notice her pursuer. As for Perez, he was far enough from taking
advantage of the situation. Though his eyes followed her everywhere,
he did not approach her, and seemed very ill at ease and dissatisfied.
Finally he called Jonathan aside and told him that the last end of a
husking was often rather uproarious, and Desire perhaps would prefer
to go home early. He would, himself, see that they reached home without
molestation. Desire was glad enough to take the hint, and glad enough,
too, in view of Hubbard’s demonstration, to accept the offered escort.
As the three were on the way home, Perez finally broke the rather
stiff silence by expressing with evident distress his chagrin at the
unpleasant events of the evening; and Desire found herself replying
quite as if she felt for, and wished to lessen, his self-reproach. Then
they kept silent again till just before the store was reached, when he
said:

“I see that you do not go out doors at all. I suppose you are afraid
of me. If that is the reason, I hope you will not stay in after this. I
give you my word you shall not be annoyed, and I hope you’ll believe me.
Good night.”

“Good night.”

Was it Desire Edwards’ voice which so kindly, almost softly, responded
to his salutations? It was she who, in astonishment, asked herself the
question.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SECOND

BRACE OF PROCLAMATIONS


Perez profited by the fact that, however a man may have abused a woman,
that is all forgotten the moment he protects her against another man,
perhaps no worse than himself. Ever so little gratitude is fatal to
resentment, and the instinct of her sex to repay protection with esteem
is so deep, that it is no wonder Desire found her feelings toward Perez
oddly revolutionized by that scene at the husking. Try as she might to
resume her former resentment, terror, and disgust toward the young man,
the effort always ended in recalling with emotions of the liveliest
thankfulness how he had stood between her and that hateful fellow, whom
otherwise she could not have escaped. All that night she was constantly
dreaming of being pursued by ruffians and rescued by him. And the
grateful sense of safety and protection which, in her dreams, she
associated with him, lingered in her mind after she awoke in the
morning, and refused to be banished. She was half ashamed, she would not
have had anybody know it, and yet she had to own that after these weeks
of constant depression and apprehension, the change of mood was not
wholly disagreeable.

She had quite a debate with herself as to whether it would be consistent
with her dignity to accept Perez’ assurance that she would not be
annoyed, and go out to walk. Without fully determining the question,
she concluded to go anyway, and a beginning having been thus made,
she thereafter resumed her old habit of long daily walks, to the rapid
improvement of her health and spirits. For some days she did not chance
to meet Perez at all, and it annoyed the high-spirited girl to find that
she kept thinking of him, and wondering where she would meet him, and
what he would say or do, and how she ought to appear. And yet it
was perfectly natural that such should be the case. Thanks to his
persecution, he had preoccupied her mind with his personality for so
long a time that it was impossible the new phase of her relations toward
him should not strongly affect her fancy. The first time they actually
did meet, she found herself quite agitated. Her heart beat oddly when
she saw him coming, and if possible she would have turned aside to avoid
him. But he merely bowed and passed on with a word of greeting. After
that he met her oftener, but never presumed to stop--or say more than
“Good morning,” or “Good afternoon,” the result of which was that, after
having at first welcomed this formality as a relief, after awhile she
came to think it a little overstrained. It looked as if he thought that
she was childishly afraid of him. That seemed absurd. One day, as they
met, and with his usual courteously curt salutation he was passing by,
she observed that it was delightful weather. As her eye caught his start
of surprise, and the expression of almost overpowering pleasure that
passed over his face at her words, she blushed. She unquestionably
blushed and hurried on, scarcely waiting for his reply. Some days later,
as she was taking a favorite walk over a path among the thickets on the
slope of Laurel Hill, whence the hazy Indian Summer landscape could be
seen to perfection beneath the thin but wonderfully bland sunshine of
November, she again met him face to face. Perhaps it was the color in
her cheeks which reminded him to say:

“You don’t look as if you needed to go to Pittsfield for your health
now.”

“No,” she said, smiling. “When I found I could not go, I concluded I
would get well here.”

“I suppose you are very angry with me for stopping you that night,
though it was not I that did it.”

“If I were angry, I should not dare tell you, for fear of bringing down
your vengeance on me.”

“But are you angry?” he asked anxiously.

“I told you I did not dare say,” she replied, smiling at him with an
indomitable air.

“Please forgive me for it,” he said, not jestingly or lightly, but in
deepest earnest, with a look almost of tears in his eyes. She wondered
she had never before noticed what beautiful blue eyes they were. She
rather liked the sensation of having him look at her so.

“Won’t you stop me if I try to go again?” she demanded, with an
audacious impulse. But she repented her boldness as the passion leaped
back into his eyes, and hers fell before it.

“I can’t say that,” he said. “God knows I will stop you so long as
I have power, and when I can no longer stop you, the wheels of your
carriage shall pass over my body. I will not let you go.”

It was strange that the desperate resolution and the inexorable set of
his jaws, which, as he had made a similar declaration on the night of
her recapture, had caused her heart to sink, now produced a sensation of
rather pleasant excitement. Instead of blanching with fear or revolting
in defiance, she replied, with a bewitching air of mock terror:

“Dear me, what a terrible fellow!” and, with a toss of the head, went
on her way, leaving him puzzling his heavy masculine wits over the fact
that she no longer seemed a particle afraid of him.

The Laurel Hill walk, as I observed before, was an old favorite with
Desire, and in her present frame of mind it seemed no sufficient reason
to forsake it, that after this she often met Perez there. It is a
pleasant excitement, playing with lions or other formidable things.
Especially when one has long been in terror of them, the newly gained
sense of fearlessness is highly exhilarating. Desire enjoyed playing
with her lion, calming and exciting him, making his eyes now half fill
with tears, and now flash with passion. The romantic novelty of the
situation, which might have terrified a more timid maiden, began to
be its most attractive feature to her. Besides, he was really very
good-looking, come to observe him closely. How foolish it had been of
her to be so frightened of him at first! The recollection of her former
terror actually amused her; as if it were not easy enough to manage such
a fellow. She had not been in such high spirits for a long time. She
began to think that instead of being a hateful, terrible, revolting
tragedy, the rebellion was rather jolly, providentially adapted,
apparently, for the amusement of young ladies doomed to pass the winter
in dismal country towns. One day her mother, commenting on the fact that
the patrol and pass system of the insurgents had been somewhat relaxed,
suggested that Desire might go to Pittsfield. But she said she did not
care to go now. The fact was she preferred to play with her lion, though
she did not mention that reason to her mother. When from time to time
she heard of the fear and apprehension with which the gentlemen’s
families in town regarded Perez, she even owned to being a little
complacent over the fact that this lawless dictator was her humble
adorer. She finally went so far as occasionally to ask him as a favor to
have this or that done about the village. It was such fun to feel that
through him she could govern the community. One afternoon, being in
a particularly gracious mood, she took a pink ribbon from her neck,
knotted it about the hilt of his sword as an ornament.

The hillside path among the laurel thickets where they so often
chanced to meet, was a lonely spot, beyond the reach of spectators or
eavesdroppers; but, while their meetings were thus secret, nothing could
be more discreet than the way she managed them. She kept him so well in
hand that he did not even dare to speak of the love of which his whole
manner was eloquent. Since she had ceased to fear him, he had ceased
to be at all fear-inspiring. The rude lover whose lawless attempts
had formerly put her in such fear, was now respectful to the point of
reverence, and almost timid in his fear of offending her. The least
sign of anything like tenderness on her part sufficed to stir him with a
passion of humility which in turn touched her more deeply sometimes than
she would have liked to admit. Now that she had come to see how the poor
fellow loved her, she could not cherish the least anger with him for
what he had done to her.

Sometimes she led him on to speak of himself and his present position,
and he would tell her of his dream and hope, in this present period of
anarchy to make himself a name. She was somewhat impressed by his
talk, though she would not tell him so. She had heard enough political
discussion at her father’s and uncle’s tables to know that the future
political constitution and government of the colonies were wholly
unsettled, and that even a royal and aristocratic form, with Washington,
or some foreign princeling, at the head, was advocated by many.
Especially here in Massachusetts, just now, almost anything was
possible. And so when he said one day, “They call me Duke of Stockbridge
in jest, but it may be in earnest yet,” she did not laugh, but owned to
herself that the tall, handsome fellow would look every inch a duke, if
he only had some better clothes. She did not let him tell her in so many
words that the motive of his ambition was to win her, but she knew it
well enough, and the thought did not excite her indignation, though she
knew it ought to.

The nearest she would let him come to talking love to her, was to talk
of their childhood and how he had adored her then. Her own remembrance
of those days of budding girlhood was dim, but he seemed to remember
everything about her, and she could but be touched as he reminded her of
scores of little incidents and scenes and words which had quite escaped
her memory. The doting tenderness which his tone sometimes took on as
he dwelt on these reminiscences, made her heart beat rather fast, and in
her embarrassment she had some ado to make light of the subject.

But now Indian Summer, by whose grace the warm weather had been extended
nearly through November, came abruptly to a close. New England weather
was as barbarous in its sudden changes then as now. One day was warm and
pleasant, the next a foot of snow covered the ground and the next after
that the thermometer, had there been one at that date in Berkshire,
would have recorded zero. The Sunday before Thanksgiving was bitterly
cold, “tejus weather” in the farmer’s phrase. There was of course no
stove or other heater in the meeting-house and the temperature within
differed very slightly from that without, a circumstance aggravated by
the fact that furs were as yet almost unknown in the wardrobes even
of the wealthiest of the people. A small tippet of Desire’s, sent from
England, was the only thing of the kind in Stockbridge. Parson West wore
his gown and bands outside an overcoat and turned his notes with thick
woolen mittens, now and then giving a brisk rub to his ears. Like so
many clouds of incense rose the breath of the auditors, as they shivered
on their hard board seats. The wintry wind blew in gusts through the
plentifully broken window panes--for glass was as brittle then as now
and costlier to replace,--and every now and then sifted a whiff of
snow down the backs of the sitters in the gallery. Fathers and mothers
essayed to still their little one’s chattering teeth by taking them in
their laps and holding them tight, and where a woman was provided with
the luxury of a foot-stove or hot-stone, children were squatted round
it in the bottom of the pew quarreling with each other to get their
tingling toes upon it. A dreadful sound of coughing rose from the
audience, mingled with sneezing from such as were now first taking their
all-winter colds and diversified from time to time by the wail of some
child too miserable and desperate to have any fear of the parental
knuckles before its face.

Struggling with these noises and sometimes wholly lost to those in the
back part of the house, when some tremendous gust of wind shook and
strained the building, the voice of Parson West flowed on and on. He
was demonstrating that seeing it was evident some souls would be lost
it must be for the glory of God that they should be lost, and such being
the case all true saints must and should rejoice in the fact, and praise
God for it. But in order that their approval of the Divine decree
in this matter should be genuine and sincere it must be purely
disinterested, and therefore they must be willing, if God in his
inscrutable wisdom should so will, to be themselves among the lost and
forever to hate and blaspheme him in hell, because thus would his glory
be served. The parson warmly urged that all who believed themselves
to have been born again, should constantly inquire of their own souls
whether they were so resigned, for if they did not feel that they were,
it was to be feared they were still dead in trespasses and sins.

The sermon ended, the parson proceeded to read the annual Thanksgiving
Day proclamation of the governor. To this magic formula, which annually
evoked from the great brick oven stuffed turkey, chicken pie, mince pie
and plum pudding galore, the children listened with faces of mingled awe
and delight, forgetful of their aching toes. The mothers smiled at the
children, while the sheepish grins and glances exchanged between the
youth and maidens in their opposite galleries, showed them not unmindful
of the usual Thanksgiving ball, and, generally speaking, it is to be
feared the thoughts of the congregation were quite diverted, for the
time being, from the spiritual exercise suggested by the parson. But
now the people lift faces of surprise to the pulpit, for instead of the
benediction the parson begins to read yet another proclamation. It is
no less than an offer by His Excellency, the Governor and the honorable
Council, of pardon to those concerned in the late risings against the
courts provided they take the oath of allegiance to the state before the
first of January, with the warning that all not availing themselves
in time of this offer will be subject to arrest without bail at the
governor’s discretion, under the recent act suspending the Habeas
corpus. Added to which is a recital of the special act of the
Legislature, that all persons who do not at once disperse upon reading
of the riot act are to receive thirty-nine lashes and one year’s
imprisonment, with thirty-nine more lashes at the end of each three
months of that period.

There was little enough Thanksgiving look on the people’s faces by the
time the parson had made an end, and it is to be feared that in many a
heart the echo of the closing formula, “God save the Commonwealth,” was
something like “May the devil take it.”

“Pardon fer wot I sh’d like ter know,” blurted out Abner on the
meeting-house steps. “I dunno nothin baout the res’ on ye, but I hain’t
done nothin I’m shamed on.”

And Israel Goodrich, too, said: “Ef he’s gonter go ter pardinin us for
lettin them poor dyin critters outer jail tew Barrington t’other day,
he’s jess got the shoe onter the wrong foot. It’s them as put em in
needs the pardinin cordin tew my noshin.”

“An I guess we don’ want no pardon fer stoppin courts nuther. Ef the
Lord pardons us fer not hangin the jedges an lawyers, it’ll be more’n I
look fer,” observed Peleg Bidwell.

“Here comes the Duke,” said another. “Wat dew yew say ter this ere
proclamashin, Cap’n?”

Perez laughed.

“The more paper government wastes on proclamations, the less it’ll have
left for cartridges,” he replied.

There was a laugh at this, but it was rather grim sort of talk, and a
good many of the farmers got into their sleighs and drove away with very
sober faces.

“It is the beginning of the end,” said Squire Edwards, in high good
humor, as he sat in his parlor that evening. “From my seat I could see
the people. They were like frightened sheep. The rebellion is knocked
on the head. The governor won’t have to call out a soldier. You see the
scoundrels have bad consciences, and that makes cowards of them. This
Hamlin here will be running away to save his neck in a week, mark my
words.”

“I don’t believe he is a coward, father, I don’t believe he’ll run
away,” said Desire, explosively, and then quickly rose from the chair
and turned her back, and looked out the window into the darkness.

“What do you know about him, child?” said her father, in surprise.

“I don’t think he seems like one,” said Desire, still with her back
turned. And then she added, more quietly: “You know he was a captain in
the army, and was in battles.”

“I don’t know it; nobody knows it. He says so, that’s all,” replied
Edwards, laughing contemptuously. “All we know about it is, he wears
an old uniform. He might have picked it up in a gutter, or stolen it
anywhere. General Pepoon thinks he stole it, and I shouldn’t wonder.”

“It’s a lie, a wicked lie!” cried the girl, whirling around, and
confronting her father, with blazing cheeks and eyes.

She had been in a ferment ever since she had heard the proclamation read
that afternoon at meeting, and her father’s words had added the last
aggravation to the already explosive state of her nerves. Squire Edwards
looked dumbfounded, and Mrs. Edwards cried in astonishment:

“Desire, child, what’s all this?”

But before the girl could speak, there was an effectual diversion.
Jonathan came rushing in from outdoors, crying:

“They’re burning the governor!”

“What!” gasped his father.

“They’ve stuffed some clothes with straw, so’s to look like a man, and
put that hat of Justice Goodrich they fetched back from Barrington, on
top and they’re burning it for Governor Bowdoin, on the hill,” cried
Jonathan. “See there! You can see it from the window. See the light!”

Sure enough, on the summit of Laurel Hill the light of a big bonfire
shone like a beacon.

“It’s just where they burned Benedict Arnold’s effigy in the war,”
 continued Jonathan. “There’s more’n a hundred men up there. They’re
awful mad with the governor. There was some powder put in the straw, and
when the fire came to’t, it blew up, and the people laughed. But Cap’n
Hamlin said ‘twas a pity to waste the powder. They might need it all
before this business was through with. And then they cheered again. He
meant there’d be fighting, father.”

In the new excitement there was no thought of resuming the conversation
which Jonathan’s advent had broken off so opportunely for Desire, and
the latter was able without further challenge to escape to her own room.
Scarcely had she reached it when there was a sound of fife and drum, and
presently a hundred men or more with hemlock in their hats came marching
by on their way from Laurel Hill, and Perez Hamlin was riding ahead.
They were singing in rude chorus one of the popular songs of the late
war, or rather of the stamp act agitation preceding it:

   “With the beasts of the wood, we will ramble for food,
    And lodge in wild deserts and caves;
    And live as poor Job on the skirts of the globe,
    Before we’ll submit to be slaves, brave boys,
    Before we’ll submit to be slaves.”

Such was the rebels’ response to the governor’s proclamation of mingled
mercy and threats. Desire had thrown open her window at the sound of the
music, and, carried away with excitement, as Perez looked up and bowed,
she waved her handkerchief to him. Yes, Desire Edwards actually waved
her handkerchief to the captain of the mob. In the shining winter
night her act was plainly seen by the passing men, and her parents and
brother, who having first blown out the candle, were looking out from
the lower windows, were astonished beyond measure to hear the ringing
cheer which the passing throng sent up. Then Desire cried a little and
went to bed feeling very reckless.

Squire Edwards had clearly been mistaken in thinking that the
proclamation had made an end of the rebellion. Its first effect had been
rather intimidating, no doubt, but upon reflection the insurgents found
that they were more mad than scared. It was indeed just opposition
enough to exasperate those who were fully committed and stimulate to
more vigorous demonstrations; and an express from Shays having summoned
a Berkshire contingent to join in a big military demonstration at
Worcester, fifty armed men under Abner marched from Stockbridge
Thanksgiving Day amid an excitement scarcely equalled since the day when
Jahleel Woodbridge’s minute men had left for Bennington. But the
return of the party about the middle of December, threw a damper on the
enthusiasm. The demonstration at Worcester had been indeed a brilliant
success in some respects. One thousand well armed men headed by Shays
himself with a full staff of officers and a band of music had held
the town for several days in full military occupation, overawing the
militia, preventing the sitting of the courts, and even threatening to
march on Boston. But on the other hand the temper of the population
had been lukewarm and often hostile. The soldiers had been half starved
through the refusal to supply provisions and nearly frozen. Some indeed
had died. In coming back a number of the Berkshire men had been arrested
and maltreated in Northampton. Formidable military preparations were
being made by the government, and parties of Boston cavalry were
scouring the eastern counties and had taken several insurgent leaders
prisoners, who would probably be hung. The men had been demoralized
by the spread of a well substantiated report that Shays had offered to
desert to the other side if he could be assured of pardon. In the lower
counties indeed all the talk was of pardon and terms of submission. The
white paper cockade which had been adopted in contradistinction to the
hemlock as the badge of the government party, predominated in many of
the towns through which Abner’s party had passed.

“That air proclamashin ‘s kinder skeert em more’n did us Berkshire
folks.” Abner explained to a crowd at the tavern. “They all wanter be
on the hangman’s side wen it comes tew the hangin. They hain’t got the
pluck of a weasel, them fellers daown east hain’t. This ere war’ll hev
tew be fit aout in this ere caounty, I guess, ef wuss comes to wuss.”

“They’ve got a slew o’ men daown Bosting way,” said a farmer. “I callate
we couldn’ hole aout agin’ em long ef it come tew fightin, an they
should reely tackle us.”

“I dunno baout that nuther,” declared Abner with a cornerwise nod of the
head. “Thar be plenty o’ pesky places long the road wen it gits up intew
the mountings an is narrer and windin like. I wouldn’ ass fer more’n
a kumpny tew stop a regiment in them places. I wuz talkin tew the Duke
baout that tidday. He says the hull caounty’s a reglar fort, an ef the
folks ‘ll hang tewgether it can’t be tuk by the hull res’ o’ the state.
We kin hole aout jist like the Green Mounting boys did agin the Yorkers
an licked em tew, and got shet of em an be indypendent tidday, by gol,
same ez Berkshire orter be.”

“Trew’s Gospel Abner,” averred Israel Goodrich, “thar ain’t no use o’
the two eends o’ the state tryin tew git on tewgether. They hain’t never
made aout tew gree, an I guess they never would nuther ef they tried it
a hundred year more. Darn it, the folks is differn folks daown east o’
Worcester. River folks is more like us but git daown east o’ Worcester,
an I hain’t no opinyun on em.”

“Yer right thar Isr’el,” said Abner with heartiness, “I can’t bear
Bosting fellers no more’n I kin a skunk, and I kin tell em baout ez fer
orf. I dunno wat tiz baout em, but I can’t git up no more feller feelin
fer em nor I kin fer Britishers. Seems though they wern’t ezzackly
human, though I s’pose they be, but darn em anyhaow.”

“I callate thar’s suthin in the mountain air changes men,” said Peleg,
“fer it’s sartain we be more like the Green Mounting boys in aour
noshins an ways an we be like the Bosting chaps.”

“I’d be in favor o’ jinin onter Vairmount, an mebbe that’ll be the
upshot on’t all,” observed Ezra Phelps. “Ye see Vairmount hain’t a
belongin tew the cussed Continental federashin, an it hain’t got none o’
them big debts ez is hangin round the necks o’ the thirteen states,
and so we sh’d git rid o’ the biggis part o’ our taxes all kerslap.
Vairmount is an indypendent kentry, an I callate we’d better jine. Ef
they’d a made aout with that air noshin folks hed a spell ago, baout
raisin up a new state, made aout o’ Hampshire caounty an a track o’ land
tew the northard, ’twould a been jess the sorter thing fer us Berkshire
fellers to a hitched on tew.”

“I never hearn nothin baout that idea” said Peleg.

“I s’pose ye hain’t,” replied Ezra. “I wuz livin in Hampshire them
times, an so I wuz right in the way o’ the talk. They wuz gonter call
the state New Connecticut. But the idee never come ter nothin. The war
come on an folks hed other fish ter fry.”

But Israel declared that he was not in favor of joining on to anything.
Berkshire was big enough state for him, and he did not want to see any
better times than along from ‘74 to ‘80, when Berkshire would take no
orders from Boston.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THIRD

SNOW-BOUND


All through the first half of December one heavy snow storm had followed
another. The roads about Stockbridge were often blocked for days
together. In the village the work of digging paths along the sidewalks,
between the widely-parted houses, was quite too great to be so much as
thought of, and the only way of getting about was in sleighs, or wading
mid-leg deep. Of course, for the women, this meant virtual imprisonment
to the house, save on the occasion of the Sunday drive to meeting. In
these days, even the disciplinary tedium of a convict’s imprisonment is
relieved by supplies of reading matter gathered by benevolent societies.
But for the imprisoned women of whom I write there was not even this
recreation. Printing had, indeed, been invented some hundreds of years,
but it can scarcely be said that books had been as yet, and especially
the kinds of books that ladies care to read. A bible, concordance, and
perhaps a commentary, with maybe three or four other grave volumes,
formed the limit of the average library in wealthy Berkshire families of
that day.

It is needless to say then, that Desire’s time hung very heavy on her
hands, despite the utmost alleviations which embroidery, piano-playing,
and cakemaking could afford. For her, isolated by social superiority,
and just now, more than ever, separated from intercourse with the lower
classes by reason of the present political animosities, there was
no participation in the sports which made the season lively for the
farmers’ daughters. The moonlight sledding and skating expeditions, the
promiscuously packed and uproarious sleighing-parties, the candy-pulls
and “bees” of one sort and another, and all the other robust and not
over-decorous social recreations in which the rural youth and maidens of
that day delighted, were not for the storekeeper’s fastidious daughter.
The gentlemen’s families in town did, indeed, afford a more refined
and correspondingly duller social circle, but naturally enough in the
present state of politics, there was very little thought of jollity in
that quarter.

And so, as I said, it was very dull for Desire, in fact terribly dull.
The only outside distraction all through the livelong day was the
occasional passage of a team in the road, and her mother, too, usually
occupied the chair at the only window commanding the road. And when the
aching dullness of the day was over, and the candles were lit for the
evening, and the little ones had been sent to bed, there was nothing for
her but to sit in the chimney corner, and look at the blazing logs and
brood and brood, till, at bedtime her father and Jonathan came in from
the store. Then her mother woke up, and there was a little talk, but
after that yawned the long dead night--sleep, sleep, nothing but sleep
for a heart and brain that cried out for occupation.

Up to the time when the sudden coming of the winter put an abrupt end
to her meeting with Perez, she was merely playing, or in more modern
parlance, “flirting” with him, as a princess might flirt with a
servitor. She had merely allowed his devotion to amuse her idleness. But
now, thanks to the tedium which made any mental distraction welcome, the
complexion of her thoughts concerning the young man suffered a gradual
change. Having no other resource, she gave her fancy _carte blanche_
to amuse her, and what materials could fancy find so effective as the
exciting experiences of the last Autumn? Sitting before the great open
fireplace in the evenings, while her mother dozed in the chimney corner,
and the silence was only broken by the purring of the cat, the crackling
of the fire, the ticking of the clock, and the low noise heard through
the partition, of men talking over their cups with her father in the
back room of the store, she fell into reveries from which she would be
roused by the thick, hot beating of her heart, or wake with cheeks
dyed in blushes at the voice of her mother. And then the long, dreamful
nights. Almost two-thirds of each twenty-four hours in this dark season
belonged to the domain of dreams. What wonder that discretion should
find itself all unable to hold its own against fancy in such a world of
shadows. What wonder that when, after meeting on Sundays she met Perez
as she was stepping into her father’s sleigh at the meeting-house door,
she should feel too confused fairly to look him in the face, much as she
had thought all through the week before of that opportunity of meeting
him.

One day it chanced that Mrs. Edwards who was sitting by the window, said
abruptly:

“Here comes that Hamlin fellow.”

Desire sprang up with such an appearance of agitation that her mother
added:

“Don’t be scared, child. He won’t come in here. It’s only into the store
he’s coming.”

She naturally presumed that it was terror which occasioned her
daughter’s perturbation. What would have been her astonishment if she
could have followed the girl as she presently went up to her room, and
seen her cowering there by the window in the cold for a full half-hour,
so that she might through a rent in the curtain have a glimpse of Perez
as he left the store! I am not sure that I even do right in telling the
reader of this. Indeed her own pride did so revolt against her weakness
that she tingled scarcely less with shame than with cold as she knelt
there. Once or twice she did actually rise up and leave the window, and
start to go downstairs, saying that she was glad she had not seen him
yet, for she could still draw back with some self-respect. But even as
she was thus in the act of retiring, some noise of boots in the store
below suggesting that now he might be going out, brought her hurriedly
back to the window. And when at last he did go, in her eagerness to see
him, she forgot all about her scruples. Her heart sprang into her throat
as she caught sight of him. She could have cried at a fleck in the
miserable glass which spoiled her view. Then when he turned and looked
up, a wave of color rushed all over her face, and she jumped back in
such fear at the thought he might see her, although she was well hidden,
that he had passed out of sight ere she dared look out again. But that
upward glance and the eager look in his eyes consoled her for the loss.
Had he not looked up, she would no doubt have yielded to a revulsion of
self-contempt for her weakness, which would have been a damper on her
growing infatuation. But that glance had made her foolishly, glowingly
elated, and disposed to make light of the reproaches of her pride.

“I suppose you were waiting for that Hamlin fellow to go away, before
coming down,” said her mother as Desire re-entered the living-room. The
girl started and averted her face with a guilty terror, saying faintly,
“What?” How did her mother know? Her fears were relieved, though not her
embarrassment, as her mother added:

“You needn’t have been so much frightened, although I really can’t blame
you for it, after all you’ve been through at his hands. Still he would
scarcely dare, with all his impudence, to try to force a way in here.
You would have been quite safe, had you staid downstairs.”

The good lady could not understand why, in spite of this reassurance,
Desire should thereafter persist, as she did, in retiring to her own
room whenever Hamlin came into the store. As the better informed reader
will infer from this fact the girl’s infatuation was on the increase.
She had become quite shameless and hardened about using her point of
espionage to see, without being seen, the lover who so occupied her
thoughts. The only events of the slow, dull days for her were now his
visits to the store. She no longer started back when, in going, his
eager glance rose to her window, but panting, yet secure behind her
covert, looked into his eyes and scanned his expression. Sometimes a
quick rush of tears would rob her of her vision as she read in the sad
hunger of those eyes how he longed for a glimpse of her face. But for
very shame’s sake she would have pulled the curtains up. It was so
unfair of her, she thought self-reproachfully, to sate her own eyes
while cheating his. She knew well enough that all which brought him to
the store so often was the hope of seeing and speaking with her. And
finally, about the middle of January, she made a desperate resolution
that he should. For several days she managed to occupy her mother’s
usual seat by the window commanding the approach to the store, and
finally was rewarded by seeing Hamlin go in. She said nothing at first,
but soon remarked carelessly:

“I wonder if father hasn’t got some other dimity in the store.”

“Perhaps. I think not, though,” replied Mrs. Edwards. Desire leaned back
in her chair, stifled a yawn and presently said:

“I believe I’ll just run in and ask him before I get any further
on this.” She rose up leisurely, stole a glance at the mirror in
passing--how pale she was--opened the connecting door and went into the
store.

She saw Perez, out of the corner of her eye, the instant she opened the
door. But not taking any notice of him, in fact holding her head very
stiffly, and walking unusually fast, she went across to her father
and asked him about the dimity. Receiving his reply she turned, still
without looking at Perez, and began mechanically to go back. So nervous
and cowardly had she been made by the excessive preoccupation of her
mind with him, that she actually had not the self-possession to carry
out her boldly begun project of speaking to him, now that he was so
near. It seemed as if she were actually afraid of looking at him. But
when he said in a rather hurt tone, “Good afternoon, Miss Edwards,” she
stopped, and turned abruptly toward him and without speaking held out
her hand. He had not ventured to offer his, but he now took hers. Her
face was red enough now, and what he saw in her eyes made him forget
everything else. They stood for several seconds in this intensely
awkward way, speechless, for she had not even answered his greeting.
Squire Edwards, in the act of putting back the roll of dimity on the
shelf, was staring over his shoulder at them, astounded. She knew her
father was looking at them, but she did not care. She felt at that
moment that she did not care who looked on or what happened.

“How cold the weather is!” she said, dreamily.

“Yes, very,” replied Perez.

“I hope it will be warmer, soon, don’t you?” she murmered.

Then she seemed to come to herself, slowly withdrew her hand from his,
and walked slowly into the living-room and shut the door, and went
upstairs to her chamber. As soon as Hamlin had gone Edwards came in and
spoke with some indignation of his presumption.

“If he had not let go her hand, I should have taken him by the shoulder
in another second,” he said angrily.

“Whatever made her shake hands with him?” demanded Mrs. Edwards.

“I suppose she thought she had to, or he would be murdering us all. The
girl acted very properly, and would not have noticed him if he had not
stopped her. But by the Providence of God matters now wear a better
look. This fellow is no longer to be greatly feared. The rebels lose
ground daily in town as well as in the county and state, and this Hamlin
is losing control even over his own sort. If he does not leave the
village he will be arrested soon. There is no need that we should humble
ourselves before him any longer.”

All of which was quite true. For while we have been following the dreams
of a fancy-fevered girl, secluded in her snow-bound home among the hills
of Berkshire, the scenes have shifted swiftly in the great drama of the
rebellion, and a total change has come over the condition and prospects
of the revolt. The policy of conciliation pursued by the state
government had borne its fruit, better and more speedy fruit than any
other policy could have borne. Any other would have plunged the state
into bloody war and been of doubtful final issue. The credit for its
adoption is due primarily to the popular form of the government which
made it impossible for the authorities to act save in accordance with
popular sentiment. There was no force save the militia, and for their
use the approval of the two houses of the Legislature was needful. The
conservative and aristocratic Senate might alone have favored a
harsh course, but it could do nothing without the House, which fully
sympathized with the people. The result was a compromise by which the
Legislature at its extra session, ending the middle of November,
passed laws giving the people the most of what they demanded, and then
threatened them with the heavy arm of the law if they did not thereafter
conduct themselves peaceably.

To alleviate the distress from the lack of circulating medium, the
payment of back taxes in certain specified articles other than money
was authorized, and real and personal estate at appraised value was made
legal tender in actions for debt and in satisfaction for executions.
An act was also passed and others were promised reducing the justly
complained of costs of legal processes, and the fee tables of attorneys,
sheriffs, clerks of courts and justices, for, according to the system
then in vogue, most classes of judges were paid by fees from litigating
parties instead of by salary. The complaint against the appropriation
of so large a part of the income from the import and excise taxes to the
payment of interest on the state debt was met by the appropriation
of one-third of those taxes to government expenses. To be sure the
Legislature had refused to provide for the emission of any more paper
money, and this, in the opinion of many, was unpardonable but it had
shown a disposition to make up in some degree for this failure
by passing a law to establish a mint in Boston. These concessions
practically cut the ground out from under the rebellion, and the
practical minded people of the state, reckoning up what they had gained,
wisely concluded that it would not be worth while to go to blows for the
residue, especially as there was every reason to think the Legislature
at the next sitting would complete the work of reform it had so well
begun. A convention of the Hampshire County people at Hadley, on the
second of January, gave formal expression to these views in a resolution
advising all persons to lay aside arms and trust to peaceable petition
for the redress of such grievances as still remained.

Indeed, even if the mass of the people had been less satisfied than
they had reason to be with the Legislature’s action, they had had
quite enough of anarchy. The original stopping of the courts and jail
deliveries, had been with their entire approval. But, as might be
expected, the mobs which had done the business had been chiefly
recruited from the idle and shiftless. Each village had furnished its
contingent of tavern loafers, neerdowells, and returned soldiers with
a distaste for industry. These fellows were all prompt to feel their
importance and responsibility as champions of the people, and to a large
extent had taken the domestic police as well as military affairs into
their own hands. Of course it was not long before these self-elected
dictators, began to indulge themselves in unwarrantable liberties with
persons and property, while the vicious and criminal classes generally,
taking advantage of the suspension of law, zealously made their hay
while the sun shone. In fact, whatever course the government had taken,
this state of things had grown so unbearable in many places that an
insurrection within the insurrection, a revolt of the people against the
rebels, must presently have taken place. But as may readily be supposed
these rebel bands, both privates and officers, were by no means in
favor of laying down their arms and thereby relapsing from their present
position of importance and authority to their former state of social
trash, despised by the solid citizens whom now they lorded it over.
Peace, and the social insignificance it involved had no charms for them.
Property for the most part they had none to lose. Largely veterans
of the Revolution, for eight years more used to camp than house, the
vagabond military state was congenial to them and its license sufficient
reward. The course of the Shays’ rebellion will not be readily
comprehensible to any who leave out of sight this great multitude of
returned soldiers with which the state was at the time filled, men
generally destitute, unemployed and averse to labor, but inured to war,
eager for its excitements, and moreover feeling themselves aggrieved by
a neglectful and thankless country. And so though the mass of the
people by the early part of winter had grown to be indifferent to
the rebellion, if not actually in sympathy with the government, the
insurgent soldiery still held together wonderfully and in a manner
that would be impossible to understand without taking into account the
peculiar material that composed it. Not a man of the lot took advantage
of the governor’s proclamation offering pardon, and instead of being
intimidated by the crushing military force sent against them in January,
the rebel army at the Battle of Springfield the last day of that month
was the largest body of insurgents that had been assembled at any time.

The causes described which had been at work in the lower counties, to
weaken popular sympathy with the insurgents, had simultaneously operated
in Berkshire. The report brought back from Worcester by Abner’s men,
with the subsequent action of the Hadley convention in advising the
laying aside of arms, had strengthened the hands of the conservatives
in Stockbridge. The gentlemen of the village who had been so quiet since
Perez’ relentless suppression of the Woodbridge rising in September,
found their voices again, and cautiously at first, but more boldly as
they saw the favorable change of popular feeling, began to talk and
reason with their fellow-citizens. If the insurrection had had no other
effect, it had at least taught these somewhat haughty aristocrats the
necessity of a conciliatory tone with the lower classes. The return
home of Theodore Sedgwick in the latter part of December, gave a marked
impulse to the government party, of whom he was at once recognized as
the leader. He had the iron hand of Woodbridge, with a velvet glove of
suavity, which the other lacked. To command seemed natural to him, but
he could persuade with as much dignity as he could command, a gift at
once rare and most needful in the present emergency. He it was who
wore into the village the first white paper cockade which had been
seen there, though within a week after, they were full as plenty as the
hemlock sprigs. The news which came in the early part of January, that
the government had ordered 4,400 militia under General Lincoln to march
into the disaffected counties, and put down the rebellion, produced a
strong impression. People who had thought stopping a court or two no
great matter, and indeed quite an old fashion in Berkshire, were by
no means ready to go to actually fighting the government. But still it
should be noted that the majority of those who took off the green did
not put on the white. The active furtherance of the government interests
was left to a comparatively small party. The mass of the people
contented themselves with withdrawing from open sympathy with the
insurrection, and maintaining a surly neutrality. They were tired of the
rebellion, without being warmly disposed toward the government. Neither
the friends of government nor the insurgents who still withstood them,
could presume too much on the support of this great neutral body, a fact
which prevented them from immediately proceeding to extremities against
each other.

It was fortunate that there was some such check on the animosity of the
two factions. For the bitterness of the still unreconciled insurgents
against the friends of the government was intense. They derided the
white cockade as “the white feather,” denounced its wearers as “Tories,”
 every whit as bad as those who took King George’s part against the
people, and deserving nothing better than confiscation and hanging.
Outrages committed upon the persons and families of government
sympathizers in outlying settlements were daily reported. Against
Sedgwick especial animosity was felt, but though he was constantly
riding about the county to organize and encourage the government party,
his reputation for indomitable courage, protected him from personal
molestation under circumstances where another man would have been
mobbed. In Stockbridge itself, there were no violent collisions of the
two parties save in the case of the children, terrific snowball fights
raging daily in the streets between the “Shayites” and the “Boston
Army.” Had Perez listened to the counsels of his followers, the exchange
of hard knocks in the village would have been by no means confined to
the children. But he well knew that the change in public opinion which
was undermining the insurrection would only be precipitated by any
violence towards the government party. Many of the men would not hear
reason, however, and his attitude on this point produced angry murmurs.
The men called up his failure to whip the silk stockings in September,
his care for Squire Edwards’ interests, and his veto of the plan for
fixing prices on the goods at the store. It was declared that he was
lukewarm to the cause, no better than a silk stocking himself, and that
it would have been better to have had Hubbard for captain. Even Abner
Rathbun, as well as Meshech Little, joined in this schism, which ended
in the desertion of the most of the members of the company Perez had
organized, to join Hubbard up at the iron-works. About the same time,
Israel Goodrich withdrew from the committee of safety. He told Perez
he was sorry to leave him, but the jig was plainly up, and he had his
family to consider. If his farm was confiscated, they’d have to go on
the town. “Arter all, Perez, we’ve made somethin by’t. I hain’t sorry I
gone intew it. Them new laws ull be somethin of a lift; an harf a loaf
be considabul better nor no bread.” He advised Perez to get out of the
business as quick as possible. “‘Tain’t no use kickin agin’ the pricks,”
 he said. Ezra, who was disgusted at the failure of the Legislature to
print more bills, stuck awhile longer, and then he too withdrew. Peleg
Bidwell and other men who had families or a little property at stake,
rapidly dropped off. They owed it to their wives and children not to get
into trouble, they said, and Perez could not blame them. And so day by
day all through the month of January he saw his power melting away by
a process as silent, irresistible and inevitable as the dissolving of a
snow bank in spring; and he knew that if he lingered much longer in
the village, the constable would come some morning and drag him
ignominiously away to the lockup. It was a desperate position, and yet
he was foolishly, wildly happy. Desire was not indifferent to him. That
awkward meeting in the store, those moments of silent hand-clasp, with
her eyes looking with such bold confession into his, had told him that
the sole end and object of his strange role here in Stockbridge was
gained. She loved him. Little indeed would he have recked that the role
was now at an end; little would he have cared to linger an hour longer
on this scene of his former fantastic fortunes, if but he could have
borne her with him on his flight. How gayly he would have laughed at
his enemies then. If he could but see her now, could but plead with her.
Perhaps he might persuade her. But there was no opportunity. Even as
far back as December, as soon as the rebellion began evidently to wane,
Edwards had began to turn the cold shoulder to him on his visits to the
store. He had put up with insults which had made his cheek burn, merely
because at the store was his only chance of seeing Desire. But Edwards’
tone to him after that meeting with her, had been such that he knew
it was only by violence that he could again force an entrance over the
storekeeper’s threshold. The fact was, Edwards, now that the danger was
over, blamed himself for an unnecessary subservience to the insurgent
leader, and his mortified pride expressed itself in a special virulence
toward him. There was then no chance of seeing Desire. She loved him,
but he must fly and leave her. One moment he said to himself that he was
the happiest of men. In the next he cursed himself as the most wretched.
And so alternately smiling and cursing, he wandered about the village
during those last days of January like one daft, too much absorbed in
the inward struggle to be more than half conscious of his danger.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOURTH

THE BATTLE OF WEST STOCKBRIDGE


One day, three days before the end of January, as Perez, returning from
a walk, approached the guardhouse, he saw that it was in possession of
Deputy Sheriff Seymour and a posse. The rebel garrison of three or four
men only, having made no resistance, had been disarmed and let go.
Perez turned on his heel and went home. That same afternoon about three
o’clock, as he was sitting in the house, his brother Reuben, who
had been on the watch, came in and said that a party of militia were
approaching.

“I’ve saddled your horse, Perez, and hitched him to the fence. You’ve
got a good start, but it won’t do to wait a minute.” Then Perez rose
up, bade his father and mother and brother good-bye, and went out and
mounted his horse. The militia were visible descending the hill at the
north of the village, several furlongs off. Perez turned his horse in
the opposite direction, and galloped down to the green. He rode up in
front of the store, flung himself from his horse, ran up the steps and
went in. Dr. Partridge was in the store talking to Edwards, and Jonathan
was also there. As Perez burst in, pale, excited, yet determined, the
two gentlemen sprang to their feet and Jonathan edged toward a gun that
stood in the corner. Edwards, as if apprehending his visitor’s purpose,
stepped between him and the door of the living-rooms. But Perez’ air was
beseeching, not threatening, almost abject, indeed.

“I am flying from the town,” he said. “The hue and cry is out after me.
I beg you to let me have a moment’s speech with Miss Desire.”

“You impudent rascal,” cried Edwards. “What do you mean by this. If
you do not instantly go, I will arrest you myself. See my daughter,
forsooth! Get out of here, fellow!” and he made a threatening step
forward, and then fell back again, for though Perez’ attitude of appeal
was unchanged, he looked terribly excited and pertinacious.

“Only a word,” he cried, his pleading eyes fixed on the storekeeper’s
angry ones. “A sight of her, that’s all I ask, sir. You shall stand
between us. Do you think I would harm her? Think, sir, I did not treat
you ill when I was master. I did not deny you what you asked.”

There was something more terrifying in the almost whining appeal of
Perez’ voice than the most violent threat could be, so intense was the
repressed emotion it indicated. But as Edwards’ forbidding and angry
face plainly indicated that his words were having no effect, this accent
of abjectness suddenly broke off in a tremendous cry:

“Great God, I must see her!”

Edwards was plainly very much frightened, but he did not yield.

“You shall not,” he replied between his teeth. “Jonathan! Dr. Partridge!
Will you see him murder me?”

Jonathan, gun in hand, pluckily rallied behind his father, while the
doctor laid his hand soothingly on Perez’ shoulder, who did not notice
him. But at that moment the door into the living-rooms was flung
open, and Desire and her mother came in. The loud voices had evidently
attracted their attention and excited their apprehensions, but from the
start which Desire gave as she saw Perez, it was evident she had not
guessed he was there. At sight of her, his tense attitude and expression
instantly softened, and it was plain that he no longer saw or took
account of any one in the room but the girl.

“Desire,” he said, “I came to see you. The militia are out after me
at last, and I am flying for my life. I couldn’t go without seeing you
again.”

Without giving Desire a chance to reply, which indeed she was much too
confused and embarrassed to do, her mother interposed.

“Mr. Edwards,” she exclaimed indignantly, “can’t you put the fellow out?
I’m sure you’ll help, Doctor. This is an outrage. I never heard of such
a thing. Are we not safe in our own house from this impudent loafer?”
 Perez had not minded the men, but even in his desperation, Mrs. Edwards
somewhat intimidated him, and he fell back a step, and his eye became
unsteady. Dr. Partridge walked to the window, looked out, and then
turning around, said coolly:

“I suppose it is our duty to arrest you, Hamlin, and hand you over to
the militia, but hang me if I wish you any harm. The militia are just
turning into the green, and if you expect to get away, you have not a
second to lose.”

“Run! Run!” cried Desire, speaking for the first time.

Perez glanced out at the window and saw his pursuers not ten rods off.

“I will go,” he said, looking at Desire. “I will escape, since you tell
me to, but I will come again some day,” and opening the door and rushing
out, he leaped on his horse and galloped away on the road to Lee, the
baffled militiamen satisfying themselves with yelling and firing one or
two vain shots after him.

Sedgwick, aware that in the ticklish state of public opinion, the
government party could not afford to provide the malcontents with any
martyrs, had postponed the attempt to arrest Perez until affairs were
fully ripe for it. The militia company of Captain Stoddard had been
quietly reorganized, so that the very night of Perez’ flight, patrols
were established, and a regular military occupation of the town began.
The larger part of the old company having gone over to the insurgents,
the depleted ranks had been filled out by the enlistment as privates
of the gentlemen of the village. The two Dwights, Drs. Sergeant and
Partridge, Deacons Nash and Edwards, and many other silk stockinged
magnates carried muskets, and a dozen gentlemen besides had organized
themselves into a party of cavalry, with Sedgwick himself as captain.
Even then the difficulty in finding men enough to fill out the company
was so great that lads of sixteen and seventeen, gentlemen’s sons, were
placed in line with the gray fathers of the settlement. There was
need indeed of every musket that could be mustered, for up at West
Stockbridge, only an hour’s march away, Paul Hubbard had a hundred and
fifty men about him, from whom a raid might at any moment be expected.

But Stockbridge was now to become the center of military operations, not
only for its own protection, but for that of the surrounding country.
Hampshire County, as well as the eastern counties, had been called
on for quotas to swell General Lincoln’s army, but upon Berkshire no
requisition had been made. The peculiar reputation of that county for
an independent and insubordinate temper, afforded little reason to hope
such a requisition would be regarded if made. And indeed the county
promptly showed itself quite equal to the independent role which the
Governor’s course conceded to it. An effective plan for the suppression
of the rebellion in the county had been concerted between Sedgwick and
the leading men of the other towns. It had been agreed upon to raise
five hundred men, and concentrate them at Stockbridge, using that town
as a base of operations against the rebel bands in Southern Berkshire.
Captain Stoddard’s company had scarcely taken military possession of
Stockbridge, when it was reënforced by companies from Pittsfield, Great
Barrington, Sheffield, Lanesboro, Lee and Lenox. It was under escort of
the Pittsfield company, that Jahleel Woodbridge returned to Stockbridge,
after an absence of nearly four months. General Patterson, one of the
major-generals of militia in the county, and an officer of revolutionary
service, assumed command of the battalion, and promptly gave it
something to do.

Far from appearing daunted by the presence of so large a body of militia
in Stockbridge, Hubbard’s force at the ironworks had increased to two
hundred men who boldly threatened to come down and clean out Patterson’s
“Tories,” a feat to which, if joined by some of the smaller insurgent
bands in the neighborhood, they might ere long be equal. For this
Patterson wisely decided not to wait. And so at noon of one of the first
days of February, about three hundred of the government troops, with
half a dozen rounds of cartridges per man, set out to attack Hubbard’s
camp.

There had been tearful farewells in the gentlemen’s households that
morning. Most had sent forth father and sons together to the fray and
some families there were which had three generations in the ranks. For
this was the gentlemen’s war. The mass of the people held sullenly aloof
and left them to fight it out. It was all that could be expected of
themselves if they did not actively join the other side. There were more
friends of theirs with Hubbard than with Patterson, and the temper in
which they viewed the preparations to march against the rebels was so
unmistakably ugly that as a protection to the families and property in
the village one company had to be left behind in Stockbridge. It was a
muggy overcast day, a poor day to give men stomach for fighting; drum
and fife were silent that the enemy might have no unnecessary warning
of their coming; and so with an ill-wishing community behind their
backs and the foe in front, the troops set out under circumstances as
depressing as could well occur. And as they went, mothers and daughters
and wives climbed to upper windows and looked out toward the western
mountain up whose face the column stretched, straining their ears for
the sound of shots with a more quaking apprehension than if their own
bosoms had been their marks. It is bad enough to send friends to far-off
wars, sad enough waiting for the slow tidings, but there is something
yet more poignant in seeing loved ones go out to battle almost within
sight of home.

The word was that Hubbard was encamped at a point where the road running
directly west over the mountain to West Stockbridge met two other roads
coming in from northerly and southerly directions. Accordingly, in
the hope of catching the insurgents in a trap the government force was
divided into three companies. One pushed straight up the mountain by
the direct road, while the others made respectively a northern and a
southern detour around the mountain intending to strike the other two
roads and thus come in on Hubbard’s flanks while he was engaged in
front. The center company did not set out till a little after the other
two, so as to give them a start. When it finally began to climb the
mountain Sedgwick with his cavalry rode ahead. A few rods behind them
came a score or two of infantry as a sort of advance guard, the rest
of the company being some distance in the rear. The gentlemen in that
little party of horsemen had nearly all seen service in the late war
and knew what fighting meant, but that was a war against their
country’s foes, invaders from over the sea, not like this, against their
neighbors. They had no taste for the job before them, resolute as they
were to perform it. The men they were going to meet had most of them
smelled powder, and knew how to fight. They were angry and desperate
and the conflict would be bloody and of no certain issue. So far as they
knew, it would be the first actual collision of the insurrection, for
the news of the battle at Springfield had not yet reached them. No
wonder they should ride along soberly and engrossed in thought.

Suddenly a man stepped out from the woods into the road and firing his
musket at them turned and ran. Thinking to capture him the gentlemen
spurred their horses forward at a gallop. Other shots were fired around
them, indicating clearly that they had come upon the picket line of
the enemy. But their blood was up and they rode on pell-mell after the
fugitive sentry. There was a turn in the road a short distance ahead.
As they dashed around it, now close behind the flying man, they found
themselves in the clearing at the crossing of the roads. Why do they
rein in their plunging steeds so suddenly? Well they may! Not six rods
off the entire rebel line of two hundred men is drawn up. They hear
Hubbard give the order “Present!” and the muskets of the men rise to
their cheeks.

“We’re dead men. God help my wife!” says Colonel Elijah Williams, who
rides at Sedgwick’s side. Advance or retreat is alike impossible and the
forthcoming volley can not fail to annihilate them.

“Leave it to me,” says Sedgwick, quietly, and the next instant he is
galloping quite alone toward the line of levelled guns. Seeing but one
man coming the rebels withhold their fire. Reining up his horse within a
yard of the muzzles of the guns he says in a loud, clear, authoritative
voice:

“What are you doing here, men? Laban Jones, Abner Rathbun, Meshech
Little, do you want to hang for murder? Throw down your arms. You’re
surrounded on three sides. You can’t escape. Throw down your arms and
I’ll see you’re not harmed. Throw away your guns. If one of them
should go off by accident in your hands, you couldn’t be saved from the
gallows.”

His air, evincing not the slightest perturbation or anxiety on his own
part, but carrying it as if they only were in peril, startled and filled
them with inquietude. His evident conviction that there was more peril
at their end of the guns than at his, impressed them. They lowered their
muskets, some threw them down. The line wavered.

“He lies. Shoot him! Fire! Damn you, fire!” yelled Hubbard in a panic.

“The first man that fires hangs for murder!” thundered Sedgwick. “Throw
down your arms and you shall not be harmed.”

“Kin yew say that for sartin, Squire?” asked Laban, hesitatingly.

“No, he lies. Our only chance is to fight!” yelled Hubbard, frantically.
“Shoot him, I tell you.”

But at this critical moment when the result of Sedgwick’s daring
experiment was still in doubt, the issue was determined by the
appearance of the laggard infantry at the mouth of the Stockbridge road,
while simultaneously shots resounding from the north and south showed
that the flanking companies were closing in.

“We’re surrounded! Run for your lives!” was shouted on every side, and
the line broke in confusion.

“Arrest that man!” said Sedgwick, pointing to Hubbard, and instantly
Laban Jones and others of his former followers had seized him. Many,
throwing down their arms, thronged around Sedgwick as if for protection,
while the rest fled in confusion, plunging into the woods to avoid the
troops who were now advancing in plain sight on all three roads. A few
scattered shots were exchanged between the fugitives and the militia,
and the almost bloodless conflict was over.

“Who’d have thought they were such a set of cowards?” said a young
militia officer, contemptuously.

“They are not cowards,” replied Sedgwick reprovingly. “They’re the same
men who fought at Bennington, but it takes away their courage to feel
they’re arrayed against their own neighbors and the law of the land.”

“You’d have had your stomach full of fighting, young man,” added
Colonel Williams, “if Squire Sedgwick had not taken them just as he did.
Squire,” he added, “my wife shall thank you that she’s not a widow, when
we get back to Stockbridge. I honor your courage, sir. The credit of
this day is yours.”

Those standing around joining heartily in this tribute, Sedgwick replied
quietly:

“You magnify the matter over much, gentlemen. I knew the men I was
dealing with. If I could get near enough to fix them with my eye before
they began to shoot I knew it would be easy to turn their minds.”

The reëntry of the militia into Stockbridge was made with screaming
fifes, and resounding drums, while nearly one hundred prisoners graced
the triumph of the victors. The poor fellows looked glum enough, as they
had reason to do. They had scorned the clemency of the government and
been taken with arms in their hands. Imprisonment and stripes was the
least they could expect, while the leaders were in imminent danger
of the gallows. But considerations other than those of strict justice
according to law determined their fate, and made their suspense of short
duration. It was well enough to use threats to intimidate rebels, but
in an insurrection with which so large a proportion of the people
sympathized partly or fully, severity to the conquered would have been a
fatal policy. As a merely practical point, moreover, there was not jail
room in Stockbridge for the prisoners. They must be either forthwith
killed or set free. The upshot of it was that excepting Hubbard and two
or three more they were offered release that very afternoon, upon taking
the oath of allegiance to the state. The poor fellows eagerly accepted
the terms. A line of them being formed they passed one by one before
Justice Woodbridge, with uplifted hand took the oath, slunk away home,
free men, but very much crestfallen. As if to add a climax to the
exultation of the government party, news was received, during the
evening, of the rout of the rebels under Shays at Springfield, in their
attack on the militia defending the arsenal there, the last day of
January.

Now it must be understood that not alone in Captain Stoddard’s
Stockbridge company had gentlemen filled up the places of the
disaffected farmers in the ranks, but such was equally the case with
the companies which had come in from the other towns, the consequence of
which was that the present muster represented the wealth, the culture,
and aristocracy of all Berkshire. There are far more people in Berkshire
now than then; far more aggregate wealth, and far more aggregate
culture, but with the decay of the aristocratic form of society which
prevailed in the day of which I write, passed away the elements of
such a gathering as this, which stands unique in the social history of
Stockbridge. The families of the county gentry here represented, though
generally living at a day or two’s journey apart, were more intimate
with each other than with the farmer folk, directly surrounded by whom,
they lived. They met now like members of one family, the sense of unity
heightened by the present necessity of defending the interests of their
order, sword in hand, against the rabble. The gentlemen’s families of
Stockbridge had opened wide their doors to these gallant and genial
defenders, whose presence in their households, far from being regarded
as a burden, required by the public necessity, was rather a social treat
of rare and welcome character; and, unless tradition deceives, more than
one happy match was the issue of the intimacies formed between the fair
daughters of Stockbridge and the knights who had come to their rescue.

Previous to the conflict at West Stockbridge and the news of the battle
at Springfield, the seriousness of the situation availed indeed to put
some check upon the spirits of the young people. But no sooner had it
become apparent that the suppression of the rebellion was not likely to
involve serious bloodshed than there was such a general ebullition of
fun and amusement as might be expected from the collection of such
a band of spirited youths. Not to speak of dances, teas, and indoor
entertainments, gay sleighing parties, out to the scene of “battle” of
West Stockbridge, as it was jokingly called, were of daily occurrence,
and every evening Mahkeenac’s shining face was covered with bands
of merry skaters, and screaming, laughing sledge-loads of youths and
damsels went whizzing down Long Hill to the no small jeopardy of their
own lives and limbs, to say nothing of such luckless wayfarers as might
be in their path. To provide partners for so many gentlemen the cradle
was almost robbed, and many a farmer’s daughter of Shayite proclivities
found herself, not unwillingly, conscripted to supply the dearth of
gentlemen’s daughters, and provided with an opportunity for contrasting
the merits of silk-stockinged and worsted-stockinged adorers, an
experience possibly not redounding to their after contentment in the
station to which Providence had called them.

But even with these conscripts there was still such an excess of beaux
that every girl had half a dozen. As for Desire Edwards, she had the
whole army. If I have hitherto spoken of her in a manner as if she
were the only “young lady” in Stockbridge, that is no more than the
impression which she gave. Although there were several families in the
village which had a claim to equal gentility, their daughters somehow
felt that they failed to make good that claim in Desire’s presence. They
owned, though they found less flattering terms in which to express it,
the same air of distinction and dainty aloofness about her, which the
farmers’ daughters, too humble for jealousy, so admiringly admitted. The
young militia officers and gentlemen privates found her adorable, and
the three or four young men whom Squire Edwards took into his house,
as his share in quartering the troops, were the objects of the most
rancorous envy of the entire army. These favored youths had too much
appreciation of their fortune to be absent from their quarters save when
military duty required, and what with the obligation of entertaining and
being entertained by them, and keeping in play the numerous callers who
dropped in from other quarters in the evening, Desire had mighty
little time to herself. It was of course very exciting for her and very
agreeable to be the sole queen of so gallant and devoted a court. She
enjoyed it as any sprightly, beautiful girl fond of society and well
nigh starved for it might be expected to. Provided here so unexpectedly
in remote winter-bound Stockbridge, it was like a table spread in the
wilderness, whereof the Psalmist speaks.

And in this whirl of gayety, did she quite forget Perez, did she so soon
forget the secret flame she had cherished for the Shayite captain? Be
sure she had not forgotten, but she would have been willing to give
anything in the world if she could.

After the conventual seclusion and mental vacancy of the preceding
months, the sudden, almost instantaneous change in her surroundings,
had been like a burst of air and sunlight which dissipates the soporific
atmosphere of a sleeping-room. It had brought back her thoughts and
feelings all at once to their normal standards, making her recollection
of that infatuation seem like a fantastic, grotesque dream; unreal,
impossible, yet shamefully real. Every time she entered her chamber, and
her eye caught sight of the little hole in the curtain whence she had
spied upon Perez, shame and self-contempt overcame her like a flood. How
could she, how ever could she be left to do such a thing! What would the
obsequious, admiring gallants she had left in her parlor say if they but
knew what that little pin-hole in her curtain reminded her of? She could
not believe it possible herself that the girl whose fine-cut haughty
beauty confronted her gaze from the mirror could have so lost her
self-respect, could have actually--Oh! and tears of self-despite would
rush into her eyes as her remorseless memory set before her those
scenes. And had she been utterly beside herself that day in the store,
when she gave him that look and that hand-clasp? But for that the only
fruit of her folly would have been the loss of her own self-respect, but
now she was guilty toward him. This wretched business was dead
earnest to him, if not to her. With what a pang of self-contemptuous
self-reproach she recalled his white, anguished face as he rushed into
the store to bid her farewell when the soldiers were coming to take him.
If he at first, by his persecution of her, had left her with a right to
complain, she had given him such a right by that glance. She writhed as
she admitted to herself that by that she had given him a sort of claim
on her.

The village gossip about Perez’ infatuation for her, although of her own
weakness none guessed, had naturally come to the ears of the visitors,
and some of the young men at Edwards’ good naturedly chaffed her about
it, speaking of it as an amusing joke. She had to bear this without
wincing, and worse still, she had to play the hypocrite so far as to
reply in the same jesting tone, joining in turning the laugh on the
poor, shabby mob captain, when she knew in her heart it ought to be
turned against her.

There was nothing else she could do, of course. She could not confess to
these gay bantering young gentlemen the incredible weakness of which she
had been guilty. But if the self-contempt of the doer can avenge a wrong
done to another, Perez was amply avenged for this. And the worst of
it was that the thought that she had wronged him here also, and meanly
taken advantage of him, added to that horrid sense of his claim on her.
He began to occupy her mind to a morbid and most painful extent, really
much affecting her enjoyment. His sad and shabby figure, with its
mutely reproachful face, haunted her. All that might have been to his
disadvantage compared with the refined and cultivated circle about her,
was overcome by the pathos and dignity with which her sense of having
done him wrong invested him. Such was her unenviable state of mind, when
one evening, a week or ten days after the affair at West Stockbridge,
one of the young men at the house said to her gayly:

“May I hope, Miss Edwards, not to be wholly forgotten if I should fall
on the gory field to-morrow?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“What, didn’t you know? General Patterson is fearful the Capuan delights
of Stockbridge will sap our martial vigor, and is going to lead us
against the foe in his lair at dawn to-morrow.”

“Where is his lair this time?” asked Desire, carelessly.

“We’ve heard that two or three hundred of the rascals have collected out
here at Lee to stop a petty court, and we’re going to capture them.”

“By the way, too, Miss Edwards,” broke in another, “your admirer,
Hamlin, is at the head of them, and I’ve no doubt his real design is
to make a dash on Stockbridge, and carry you off from the midst of
your faithful knights. He’ll have a chance to repent of his presumption
to-morrow. Squire Woodbridge told me this afternoon that if he does not
have him triced up to the whipping-post in two hours after we bring him
in, it will be because he is no justice of the quorum. It’s plain the
Squire has no liking for the fellow.”

“I hope there’ll be a little more fun this time than there was last
week. I’m sick of these battles without any fighting,” doughtily
remarked a very young man.

“I’m afraid your blood-thirstiness won’t be gratified this time,”
 answered the first speaker. “The General means to surprise them and take
every man-jack of them prisoner before they’re fairly waked up. We shall
be back to breakfast to receive your congratulations, Miss Edwards.”

But Miss Edwards had left the room.



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIFTH

A GAME OF BLUFF


Had Perez Hamlin been her sweetheart, her brother, her dearest friend,
the announcement that he was to be captured and brought to Stockbridge
for punishment would not have come upon her with a greater effect of
consternation. After hearing that news it would have been impossible for
her to have retained her composure sufficiently to have avoided remark
had she remained in the parlor. But there were other reasons why she had
fled to the seclusion of her chamber. It was necessary that she should
think of some plan to evade the humiliation of being confronted by him,
of being reminded by his presence, by his looks, and maybe his words
even, of the weak folly of which she was so cruelly ashamed, and which
she was trying to forget about. Desperately, she resolved to make some
excuse to fly to Pittsfield, to be away from home when Perez was brought
in. But no, she could think of no excuse, not even the wildest pretense
for thus precipitately leaving a house full of guests, and taking a
journey by dangerous roads to make an uninvited visit. Perez must be
warned, he must escape, he must not be captured. Thus only could she
see any way to evade meeting him. But how could word be got to him?
They marched at dawn. There were but a few hours. There was his family.
Surely, if they were warned, they would find a way of communicating with
him. She had heard that he had a brother. Whatever she did she must do
quickly, before she was missed from the parlor and her mother came to
her door to ask if she were sick. There was no time to change her dress,
or even her shoes. Throwing a big shawl over her head, which quite
concealed her figure, she noiselessly made her way downstairs, and out
into the snowy street, passing, as she went, close under the lighted
windows of the parlor, whence came the sound of the voices and laughter
of guests who, no doubt, were already wondering at her absence.

Thanks to the amount of travel of late weeks, the snow in the street had
been trodden to a passable condition. But blinded by the darkness every
now and then, with a gasp and a flounder, she would step out of the
path into the deep snow on either side, and once hearing a sleigh coming
along, she had to plunge into a drift nearly as high as her waist, and
stand there till the vehicle had passed, with the snow freezing her
ankles, and also ruining, as she well knew, her lovely morocco shoes.
Suddenly a tall figure loomed up close before her, there was a rattle of
accoutrements, and a rough voice said sharply:

“Halt!”

She stopped, all in a tremble. She had quite forgotten that the streets
were now-a-days guarded by regular lines of sentries.

“Advance and give the countersign,” said the soldier.

At first she gave herself quite up for lost. Then she remembered that by
the merest chance in the world she knew the countersign for that night.
The officer of the day had playfully asked her to name it, and in honor
of the patriotic citizens of the capital who had lent to the empty
treasury the money needed to equip and supply the force of militia
the governor had ordered out, she had given “The Merchants of Boston.”
 Scarcely believing that so simple a formula could remove this formidable
obstacle from her path, she repeated it in a tremulous voice. “Pass
on,” said the sentry, and the way was clear. Now turning out of the
main street, she made her way slowly and pantingly, rather wading than
walking up the less trodden lane leading to the Hamlins’ house, through
whose windows shines the flickering light of the fire on the hearth
within, the only species of evening illumination afforded in those days
save in the households of the rich.

She pulls the latchstring and enters. The miserable fittings of the
great kitchen denote extreme poverty, but the great fire of logs in the
chimney is such as the richest, in these days of wasted forests, cannot
afford, and the ruddy light illumines the room as all the candles in
Stockbridge scarcely could do. Before it sit Elnathan and his wife and
Reuben. The shawl which Desire wears is thickly flecked with the snow,
through which she has stumbled, and instinctively her first motion on
entering the room is to open and shake it, thereby revealing to the eyes
of the astonished family the toilet of a fashionable beauty. Her hair
is built up over a toupee with a charming effect of stateliness, the
dusting of powder upon the dark strands bringing out the rich bloom of
her brunette complexion. The shoulders gleam through the meshes of the
square of ancient yellow lace that covers them, while the curves of the
full young figure and the white roundness of the arms, left bare by the
elbow sleeves, are set off in charming contrast by the stiff folds of
the figured crimson brocade.

“Miss Edwards!” murmurs Mrs. Hamlin, as Elnathan and Reuben gape in
speechless bewilderment.

“Yes, it is I,” replied Desire, coming forward a few steps, but still
keeping in the back of the room. “I came to tell you that the army is
going to march at dawn to-morrow to Lee, to take your son, and all who
are with him prisoners, and bring them back here to be punished.” There
was a moment’s silence, then Mrs. Hamlin said:

“How do you know it?”

“I was told so ten minutes since by the officers at my father’s house,”
 replied Desire.

“And why do you tell us?” asked Mrs. Hamlin again, regarding her keenly
from beneath her bushy grey eyebrows, and speaking with a certain slight
hardness of tone, as if half suspicious of a warning from such a source.

“I thought if I told you in time, you might get some word to him so he
could get away. The countersign is ‘The Merchants of Boston.’”

Mrs. Hamlin’s face suddenly changed its expression, and she answered
slowly, in a tone of intense, suppressed feeling:

“And so you left them gay gentlemen, and waded through the snow all
alone half a mile way out here, all in your pretty clothes, so that no
harm might come to my boy. God bless you, my child! God bless you with
his choicest blessings, my sweet young lady! My son does well to worship
the ground you walk on.”

It was an odd sensation, but as the gray-haired woman was speaking, her
face aglow with tenderness, and her eyes wet with a mother’s gratitude,
Desire could not help half wishing she had deserved the words, even
though that wish implied her being really in love with this woman’s son.
It was not without emotion, and eyes to which a responsive wetness had
sprung that she exclaimed, with a gesture of deprecation:

“No, no, do not thank me. If you knew all, you would not thank me. I am
not so good as you think,” and, throwing the door open she sprang out
into the snow.

When she reentered the parlor at home, the silver-dialed clock, high
upon the wall, accused her of only an hour’s absence, and since nobody
but herself knew that her feet were quite wet through, there were no
explanations to make. But for the first time she wearied a little of her
courtiers. She found their compliments insipid and her repartees
were slow. Her thoughts were wandering to that poor home where all
undeservedly she had been received as an angel of light; and her
anxieties were with the messenger stumbling along the half broken road
to Lee to carry the warning. When, at last, Squire Edwards proposed
that all should fill their punch-glasses and drain to the success of
the morrow’s expedition, she set down hers untasted, passing off her
omission with some excuse. That night toward morning, though it was yet
pitch dark, she was awakened by the noise of opening doors and men’s
boots, and loud talk; and afterwards hearing a heavy, jarring sound,
she looked out the window and descried in the road, a long black column
moving rapidly along, noiseless save for now and then a hoarse word of
command. It was the expedition setting out for Lee. The impressiveness
of this silent, formidable departure gave her a new sense of the
responsibility she had taken on herself in frustrating the design of
so many grave and weighty men, and interfering with issues of life and
death. And then for the first time a dreadful thought occurred to her.
What if after all there should be a battle? She had only thought of
giving Perez warning, so he might fly with his men, but what if he
should take advantage of it to prepare an ambush and fight? She had not
thought of that. Jonathan was with the expedition. What if she should
prove to be the murderer of her brother? What had she done? Sick at
heart, she lay awake trembling till dawn. Then she got up and dressed,
and waited about miserably, till toward eight o’clock the news of the
result came. Then she laughed till she cried and ended by saying that
she would go to bed, for she thought she was going to be sick. And she
was right. Her mother wondered how she could have taken such a terrible
cold.

But leaving Dr. Partridge to cure her cold with calomel and laudanum,
after the manner of the day, let us inquire in a historical spirit what
it was in the news of the result at Lee which should cause a young woman
to laugh so immoderately.

It had been nearly midnight of the preceding evening, when Reuben
wearily and slowly making his way along the dark and difficult road,
reached Lee, and was directed at the rebel outposts to the house of Mrs.
Perry as the place which Perez occupied as a headquarters. Although
it was so late, the rebel commander, too full of anxious and brooding
thoughts to sleep, was still sitting before the smouldering fire in the
kitchen chimney when Reuben staggered in.

“Reub,” he cried, starting up as he recognized his brother, “what’s the
matter? Has anything happened at home?”

“Nothing bad. I’ve brought you news. Have you got some rum? I’m pretty
tired.”

Perez found a demijohn, poured out a mug, and watched his brother with
anxious eyes as he gulped it down. Presently, a little color came back
to his white face, and he said:

“Now I feel better. It was a hard road. I felt like giving out once or
twice. But I’m all right now.”

“What made you come, Reub? You’re not strong yet. It might have killed
you.”

“I had to, Perez. It was life or death for you. The army at Stockbridge
are going to surprise you at sunrise. I came to warn you. Desire Edwards
brought us word.”

“What!” exclaimed Perez, his face aglow. “She brought you word? Do you
mean that?”

“Jess hole on, and I’ll tell you how it was,” said Reub, with a manner
almost as full of enthusiasm as his brother’s. “It was nigh bedtime, and
we were setting afore the fire a talking ‘bout you, and a hopin you’d
get over the line into York; when the door opened, an in come Desire
Edwards, all dressed up in a shiny gaown, an her hair fixed, an
everything like as to a weddin. I tell yew, Perez, my eyes stood out
some. An afore we could say nothing, we wuz so flustered, she up an
says as haow she hearn them ossifers tew her haouse tellin haow they wuz
gonter s’prise ye in the mornin, an so she come ter tell us, thinkin we
mout git word ter ye.”

“Did she say that, Reub? Did she say those words? Did she say that about
me? Are you sure?” interrupted Perez, in a hushed tone of incredulous
ecstasy, as he nervously gripped his brother’s shoulder.

“Them wuz her words, nigh es I kin reckullec,” replied Reub, “an that
‘bout yew she said for sartin. She said we wuz ter sen’ word ter ye,
so’s ye mout git away, an then she guv me the countersign for ter say
tew the sentries, so’s I could git by ter fetch ye word.”

“To think of her doing all that for me, Reub. I can’t believe it. It’s
too much. Because you see, Reub, if she’d take all that trouble for me,
it shows--it shows--I think it must be she”--he hesitated, and finally
gulped out--“cares for me, Reub,” and his eyes filled with tears.

“Ye may say so, for sartin, Perez,” replied his brother with sympathetic
enthusiasm. “A gal wouldn’ dew what she did for no feller, unless she
sat store by him, naow. It’s a sign fer sure.”

“Reub,” said Perez, in a voice uneven with suppressed emotion, “now I
know she cares for me that much, I don’t mind a snap of the finger what
happens to me. If they came to hang me this minute, I should laugh in
their faces,” and he sprang up and paced to and fro, with fixed eyes
and a set smile, and then, still wearing the same look came back and sat
down by his brother, and said: “I sort of hoped she cared for me before,
but it seemed most too much to believe. You don’t know how I feel, Reub.
You can’t think, nohow.”

“Yes I can,” said Reuben, quietly; “I guess ye feel suthin ez I uster
baout Jemimy, sorter light inside an so pleased like ye don’t keer a
copper ef ye live or die. Yes, I know mor’n ye think I dew baout the
feelin’s a feller hez long o’ women, on’y ye see it didn’t come ter
nothin with Jemimy, fer wen my fust crop failed, an I was tuk for debt,
Peleg got her arter all.”

“I didn’t think ‘bout Jemimy, Reub,” said Perez, softly. In the
affluence of his own happiness, he was overwhelmed with compassion for
his brother. He was stricken by the patient look upon his pale face.
“Never mind, Reub,” he said. “Don’t be downhearted. You and me ‘ll stand
by each other, an mebbe it’ll be made up to ye some time,” and he laid
his arm tenderly on the other’s shoulder.

“I on’y spoke on’t ‘cause o’ what ye said ‘bout my not under-standin,”
 said Reuben, excusing himself for having made a demand on the other’s
compassion. “She never guv me no sech reasin ter think she set store by
me ez ye’ve hed ter night ‘long o’ Desire Edwards. I wuzn’t a comparin
on us, nohow.”

There was a space of silence finally disturbed by a noise of boots in
an adjoining room and presently Abner Rathbun stumped out. Abner had
escaped at the West Stockbridge rout and having made his way to Perez,
at Lee, had been forgiven his desertion by the latter and made his chief
lieutenant and adviser.

“Hello, Reub,” he exclaimed. “Whar’d ye drop from? Heard so much talkin,
callated suthin must a happened, an turned out ter see what it wuz.
Fetched any news, hev ye Reub? Spit it aout. Guess it muss be pooty
good, or the cap’n would’n be lookin so darned pleased.”

“The news I fetched is that the army in Stockbridge is going to attack
you to-morrow at dawn.”

Abner’s jaw fell. He looked from Reuben to Perez, whose face as he
gazed absently at the coals on the hearth still wore the smile which
had attracted his attention. This seemed to decide him, for as he turned
again to Reub, he said, shrewdly:

“Yew can’t fool me with no gum-game o’ that sort. I guess Perez wouldn’t
be grinnin that ar way ef he callated we wuz gonter be all chawed up
afore mornin.”

“Reuben tells the truth. They are going to attack us in the morning,”
 said Perez, looking up. Abner stared at him a moment, and then demanded
half-sullen, half-puzzled:

“Wal, Cap’n, wat dew ye see tew larf at in that? Derned ef I see nothin
funny.”

“Your glum mug would be enough to laugh at if there was nothing else
Abner,” said Perez, getting up and gayly slapping the giant on the
shoulder.

“I s’pose ye must hev got some plan in yer head fer gittin the best on
em,” suggested Abner, at last, evidently racking his brains to suggest a
hypothesis to explain his commander’s untimely levity.

“No, Abner,” replied Perez, “I have not thought of any plan yet. What do
you think about the business?”

“I’m afeard thar ain’t no dependin on the men fer a scrimmage. I callate
they’ll scatter ez soon’s the news gits raound that the white feathers
be comin, ‘thout even waitin fer em tew git in sight,” was Abner’s
gloomy response.

“I shouldn’t be at all surprised if they did. I don’t believe there’s a
dozen in the lot we could depend on,” said Perez cheerfully.

“Wat’s the matter with ye, Cap’n,” burst out Abner, in desperation. “I
can’t make aout wat’s come over ye. Ye talk ‘s though ye didn’ keer a
Bungtaown copper wether we fit or run, or stayed an got hung, but jess
set thar a grinnin tew yerself ez if ye’d loss yer wits.”

Perez laughed again, but checking himself, replied: “I s’pose I do seem
a little queer, Abner, but you mustn’t mind that. I hope I haven’t lost
my wits quite. Let’s see, now,” he went on in a businesslike tone, with
the air of one abruptly enforcing a new direction upon his thoughts.
“We could get up the men and retreat to the mountains by morning, but
two-thirds would desert before we’d marched two miles, and slink away
home, and the worst of it is the poor chaps would be arrested and abused
when they got home.”

“That’s sartin so, Cap’n,” said Abner, his anxiety for Perez’ sanity
evidently diminishing.

“It’s a shame to retreat, too, with such a position to defend. Why,
Abner, just look at it. The snow is three to four feet deep in the
fields and woods, and the enemy can only come in on the road. That road
is just like a causeway through a swamp or a bridge. They can’t go off
it without snowshoes. With half a company that I could depend on, I’d
defend it against a regiment. If I wanted breastworks all I’ve got to
do is to dig paths in the snow. I could hold Lee till the snow melts
or till they took it by zig-zags and parallels through the drifts. But
there’s no use talking about any such thing, for there’s no fight left
in the men, not a bit. If they had ever so little grit left, we might
hold out long enough at least to get some sort of fair terms, but, Lord
they haven’t. They’ll just run like sheep.”

“Ef we on’y hed a cannon naow, ef ‘twan’t but a three-pounder!” said
Abner, pathetically. “We could jess sot it in the middle of the road,
and all creation couldn’t get intew Lee. Yew an I could stop em alone
then. Gosh naow wat wouldn’t I give fer a cannon the size o’ Mis Perry’s
yarn-beam thar. Ef the white feathers seen a gun the size o’ that
p’inted at em an a feller behind it with a hot coal, I callate they’d be
durn glad tew ‘gree tew a fa’r settlement. But Lordomassy, gosh knows we
hain’t got no cannon, and we can’t make one.”

“I don’t know about that, Abner,” replied Perez, deliberately. His
glance had followed Abner’s to the loom standing in the back of the
kitchen, and as he answered his lieutenant he was fixedly regarding the
very yarn-beam to which the other had alluded, a round, smooth, dark
colored wooden roller, five or six feet long and eight or ten inches
through.

But perhaps it will be better to let Dr. Partridge tell the rest of the
story as he related it nearly three weeks later for the amusement of
Desire during her convalescence from the cold and fever through which he
had brought her.

“It was pitch dark when we left Stockbridge,” said the doctor, “and
allowing a good hour for the march owing to the state of the road, the
General calculated we should reach Lee about dawn and catch the rascals
taking their beauty sleep. It was excessively cold and our fingers began
to grow numb very soon, and if anybody touched the iron part of his gun
without the mittens he would leave a piece of skin behind. But you see
we had just heard of General Lincoln’s thirty-mile night march from
Hadley to Petersham in even worse weather, and for the credit of
Berkshire, we had to keep on if we froze to death. We met nobody until
we were within half a mile of Lee. Then we overhauled one of the rebel
sentries, and captured him, though not till he had let off his gun. Then
we heard the drum beating in the town. There was nothing to do but to
hurry on as fast as we could. And so we did for about ten minutes more
when somebody said, ‘There they are.’ Sure enough, about twenty rods
off, where the road enters the village was a black mass of men occupying
its entire breadth with a man on horseback in front whom I took for
Hamlin. We kept on a little longer and then the General ordered us to
halt, and Squire Woodbridge rode forward within easy speaking distance
of the rebels and began to read the riot act. But he had no sooner
begun than Hamlin made a gesture, and a drum struck up lustily among the
rebels, drowning the Squire’s voice. Nevertheless he made an end of
the reading so that we might proceed legally and thereupon the General
ordered the men to fix bayonets and gave the order to march. Then it
seemed that the rebels were about to retire, for their line fell back a
little and already our men had given a cheer when a sharp-eyed fellow in
the front rank sang out:

“‘They’ve got a cannon!’ And when we looked, sure enough the slight
falling back of the rebels we had noted, had only been to uncover a
piece of artillery which was planted squarely in the middle of the road,
pointing directly at us. A man with a smoking brazier of coals stood by
the breech, and another, whom by his size I took to be Abner Rathbun,
with a pair of tongs held a bright coal which he had taken from it. It
being yet rather dark, though close on sunrise, we could plainly see the
redness of the coal the fellow held in the tongs above the touchhole
of the gun, and ticklish near, it seemed, I can say. I know not to this
day, and others say the same, whether any one gave the order to halt or
not, but it is certain we stopped square, nor were those behind at all
disposed to push forward such as were in front, for there is this about
cannon balls that is different from musket balls. The front rank serves
the rear rank as a shield from the bullets, but the cannon ball plows
the whole length of the file and kills those behind as readily as those
before. And, moreover, we had as soon expected to see the devil in horns
and tail leading the rebels, as this cannon, for no one supposed there
was a piece of artillery in all Berkshire. You must know the place we
were in, was, moreover, as bad as could be; for we could only march
by the road, by reason of the deep snow on either hand, which was like
walls shutting us in, and leaving room for no more than eight men to
go abreast. If the cannon were loaded with a ball, it must needs cut
a swathe like a scythe from the first man to the last, and if it were
loaded with small balls, all of us who were near the front must needs go
down at once. The General asked counsel of us who were riding with him
at the front what had best be done, whereupon Squire Sedgwick advised
that half a dozen of us with horses should put spurs to them and dash
suddenly upon the cannon and take it. ‘Ten to one,’ he said, ‘the rascal
with the tongs will not dare touch off the gun, and if he does, why,
‘tis but one shot.’ But this seemed to us all a foolhardy thing; for,
though there were but one shot, who could tell whom it might hit? It
might be one of us as well as another. Your uncle Jahleel, as it seemed,
lest any should deem Squire Sedgwick braver than he, declared that he
was ready, but the others of us, by no means fell in with the notion and
General Patterson said flatly that he was responsible for all our lives
and would permit no such madness. And then, as no one had any other plan
to propose, we were in a quandary, and I noted that each one had his
eyes, as it were, fastened immovably upon the cannon and the glowing
coal which the fellow held in the tongs. For, in order to keep it clear
of ash, he kept waving it to and fro, and once or twice when he brought
it perilously close to the touchhole, I give you my word I began
to think in a moment of all the things I had done in my life. And I
remember, too, that if one of us was speaking when the fellow made as if
he would touch off the gun, there was an interruption of a moment in his
speech, ere he went on again. It must be that not only civilians like
myself, but men of war also do find a certain discomposing effect in
the stare of a cannon. Meanwhile the wind drew through the narrow path
wherein we stood, with vehemence, and, whereas we had barely kept our
blood in motion by our laboring through the snow, now that we stood
still, we seemed freezing. Our horses shivered and set their ears back
with the cold, but it was notable how quietly the men stood packed in
the road behind us, though they must have been well nigh frost-bitten.
No doubt they were absorbed in watching the fellow swinging the coal as
we were. But if we did not advance, we must retreat, that was plain.
We could not stay where we were. It was, I fancy, because no one could
bring himself to propose such an ignoble issue to our enterprise, that
we were for a little space all dumb.

“Then it was when the General could no longer have put off giving the
order to right about march, that Hamlin tied a white rag to his sword
and rode toward us holding it aloft. When he had come about half way, he
cried out:

“‘Will your commander and Dr. Partridge, if he be among you, ride out to
meet me? I would have a parley.’

“Why he pitched on me I know not, save that, wanting a witness, he chose
me as being a little more friendly to him than most of the Stockbridge
gentlemen. When we had ridden forward, he saluted us with great
cordiality and good humor, as if forsooth, instead of being within an
ace of murdering us all, he had but been trying us with a jest.

“‘I see,’ said he to the general, ‘that your fellows like not the look
of my artillery, and I blame them not, for it will be a nasty business
in that narrow lane if we have to let drive, as assuredly we shall do
if you come another foot further. But it may be we can settle our
difference without bloodshed. My men have fled together to me to be
protected from arrest and prosecution, for what they have heretofore
done, not because they intend further to attack the government. I will
agree that they shall disperse and go quietly to their homes, provided
you give me your word that they shall not be arrested or injured by your
men, and will promise to use your utmost influence to secure them from
any arrest hereafter, and that at any rate they shall have trial before
a jury of their neighbors.’

“The General is a shrewd bargainer, I make no doubt, for though I knew
he was delighted out of measure to find any honorable escape from the
predicament in which we were, he pulled a long face, and after some
thought, said that he would grant the conditions, provided the rebels
also surrendered their arms, and took the oath of allegiance to the
state. At this Hamlin laughed a little.

“‘I see, sir, we are but wasting time,’ he said, with a mighty
indifferent air. ‘You have got the boot on the wrong foot. It is we who
are granting you terms, not you us. You may thank your stars I don’t
require your men to surrender their arms. Look you, sir, my men will not
give up their guns, or take any oath but go as free as yours, with your
promise of protection hereafter. If you agree to those terms, you may
come into Lee, and we will disperse. If not let us lose no more time
waiting, but have at it.’

“It was something to make one’s blood run cold, to hear the fellow talk
so quietly about murdering us. The General hemmed and hawed a little,
and made a show of talking aside with me, and presently said that to
avoid shedding the blood of the misguided men on the other side, he
would consent to the terms, but he added, the artillery must at any rate
be surrendered.

“‘It is private property,’ said Hamlin.

“‘It is forfeited to its owner by its use against the government,’
replied the General sturdily.

“‘I will not stickle for the gun,’ said Hamlin, ‘but will leave you to
settle that with the owner,’ and, as he spoke, he looked as if he were
inwardly amused over something.

“Thereupon we separated. The announcement of the terms was received by
our men with a cheer, for they had made up their minds that there was
nothing before them but a march back to Stockbridge in the face of the
wind and to meet the ridicule of the populace. As we now approached the
cannon at quick-step Abner Rathbun came around and stood in front of it,
so we did not see it till we were close upon it. He was grinning from
ear to ear. The road just behind was packed with rebels all likewise on
the broad grin, as if at some prodigious jest. As we came up Hamlin said
to the General:

“‘Sir, I now deliver over to you the artillery, that is if you can
settle it with Mrs. Perry. Abner stand aside.’

“Rathbun did so and what we saw was a yarn-beam mounted on a pair of
oxcart wheels with the tongue of the cart resting on the ground behind.”



CHAPTER TWENTY-SIXTH

THE RESTORATION


As was remarked in the last chapter, it was some three weeks after
the famous encounter at Lee that Dr. Partridge entertained Desire one
afternoon with the account of the affair which I have transcribed for
the information of my readers. The interval between the night before the
Lee expedition, when she had taken her sickness, and the sunny afternoon
of expiring February, when she sat listening to the doctor’s story, had
for her been only a blank of sickness, but in the community around, it
had been a time of anxiety, of embitterment, and of critical change. The
gay and brilliant court, of which she had for a brief period been the
center, had long ago vanished. Hamlin’s band at Lee had been the last
considerable force of rebels embodied in Southern Berkshire, and a few
days after its dispersal the companies from other towns left Stockbridge
to return home, leaving the protection of the village to the home
company. Close on this followed the arrival at Pittsfield of General
Lincoln with a body of troops called into Berkshire by the invitation
of General Patterson, to the disgust of some gentlemen who thought the
county quite capable of attending to its own affairs. These forces
had completed the pacification of Northern Berkshire, where, among the
mountain fastnesses rebel bands had till then maintained themselves, so
that now the entire county was subdued and the insurrection, so far
as concerned any overt manifestation, was at an end. In Stockbridge
Tax-collector Williams once more went his rounds. Deputy Sheriff
Seymour’s red flag floated again from the gable ends of the houses
whence the mob had torn it last September, foreclosure sales were made,
processes were served, debtors taken to jail, and the almost forgotten
sound of the lash was once more heard on the green of Saturday
afternoons as the constable executed Squire Woodbridge’s sentences at
the reërected whipping-post and stocks. Sedgwick’s return to Boston to
his seat in the Legislature early in February, had left Woodbridge to
resume unimpeded his ancient autocracy in the village, and with as many
grudges as that gentleman had to pay off, it may well be supposed
the constable had no sinecure. The victims of justice were almost
exclusively those who had been concerned in the late rebellion. For
although the various amnesties, as well as the express stipulations
under which a large number had surrendered, protected most of the
insurgents from penalties for their political crimes, still misdemeanors
and petty offenses against property and persons during the late
disturbances were chargeable against most of them, and tried before a
magistrate whom, like Woodbridge, they had mobbed. A charge was as good
as a proof.

Nor if they appealed to a jury, was their chance much better, for the
Legislature coming together again in February, had excluded former
rebels from the jury box for three years, binding them to keep the peace
for the same time, and depriving them of the elective franchise in all
forms for a year, while on the other hand complete indemnity was granted
to the friends of government for all offences against property or
persons, which they might have committed in suppressing the rebellion.
Without here controverting the necessity of these measures, it is easy
to realize the state of hopeless discouragement to which they reduced
the class exposed to their effect. Originally driven into the rebellion
by the pressure of a poverty which made them the virtual serfs of the
gentlemen, they now found themselves not only forced to resume their
former position in that respect, but were in addition, deprived of the
ordinary civil rights and guarantees of citizens. In desperation many
fled over the border into New York and Connecticut, and joined bands of
similar refugees which were camped there. Others, weaker spirited,
or bound by ties they could not or would not break, remained at home,
seeking to propitiate their masters by a contrite and circumspect
demeanor, or sullenly enduring whatever was put upon them. A large
number prepared to emigrate to homes in the West as soon as spring
opened the roads.

Of the chief abettors of Perez, the fortunes may be briefly told. Jabez
Flint had sold all he had and escaped to Nova Scotia to join one of the
numerous colonies of deported Tories which had been formed there. Jabez
was down on his luck.

“I’ve hed enough o’ rebellin,” he declared. “I’ve tried both sides on’t.
In the fust rebellion I wuz agin’ the rebels, an the rebels licked. This
ere time I tuk sides agin’ the govment, an the govment hez licked. I’m
like a feller ez is fust kicked behind an then in the stummick. I be
done on both sides, like a pancake.”

Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, being excepted from the amnesties as
members of the rebel committee, had only escaped jailing because, as men
of some substance they had been able to give large bonds to await the
further disposition of the Boston government.

“I didn’ mind so much ‘bout that,” said Israel, “but what come kinder
tough on me wuz a seein them poor white-livered pulin chaps tew my house
tuk back ter jail.”

For the debtors whom the mob had released from Great Barrington jail,
including those to whom Israel had given asylum, had now been recaptured
and returned to the charge of Cephas Bement and his pretty wife. Reuben
Hamlin had been taken with the rest, though his stay in jail this
time did not promise to be a long one, for he had overdone his feeble
strength in that night walk through the snow to Lee, and since then had
declined rapidly. He was so far gone that it would scarcely have been
thought worth while to take him to jail if he could have remained at
home. But as the sheriff had now sold the Hamlin house at auction, and
Elnathan and his wife had been separated and boarded out as paupers,
this was out of the question.

There was one man in Stockbridge, however, who was more to be pitied
than Reuben. Peleg Bidwell found himself at the end of the rebellion
as at the opening of it, the debtor and thrall of Solomon Gleason, save
that his debt was greater, his means of paying it even less, while by
his insolent bearing toward Solomon during the rebellion, he had made
him not only his creditor but his enemy. The jail yawned before Peleg,
and of the jail he, as well as the people generally, had acquired a new
horror since the day when the mob had brought to light the secrets of
that habitation of cruelty. He felt that, come what might, he could not
go to a jail. And he did not. But his pretty wife stayed at home and
avoided her former acquaintances, and those who saw her said she was
pale and acted queer, and Peleg went about with a hangdog look, and
Solomon Gleason was a frequent caller, and the women of the neighborhood
whispered together.

Abner Rathbun and Meshech Little had fled across the border, and Abe
Konkapot would have done so but for the fact that he could not leave his
sweetheart Lu to be secured by his rival and brother, Jake. Jake, having
out of enmity to his brother sided with the government party, was now
in favor with the powers that were, and more preferred than ever by Lu’s
mother. But Abe knew the girl liked him rather the better, and did not
let himself be discouraged. Jake, observing that he made little progress
in spite of his advantages, laid a plot against his brother. The latter
had acquired in the army a tendency to use profane language in moments
of excitement, and it was of this weakness that Jake took advantage.
Picking an opportunity when there were witnesses, he provoked Abe to
wrath, and having made him swear profusely, went straightway to Squire
Woodbridge and complained of him for blasphemy. Abe was promptly
arrested and brought before the magistrate. The Squire, not unwilling to
get a handle against so bad a rebel, observed that it was high time for
the authorities to make a head against the tide of blasphemy which had
swept over the state since the war, and to advertise to the rabble
that the statute against profanity was not a dead letter and thereupon
sentenced Abe to ten lashes at the whipping-post, to be at once laid on,
it chancing to be a Saturday afternoon. While Abe, frantic with rage,
was struggling with the constable and his assistants, Jake ran away to
the Widow Nimham’s cottage and asking Lu to go to walk, managed to bring
her across the green in time to see the sentence carried into execution.
Jake had understood what he was about. There were no doubt white
girls in Stockbridge who might have married a lover whom they had seen
publicly whipped, but for Lu, with an Indian’s intense sensitiveness to
a personal indignity, it would have been impossible. Abe needed no one
to tell him that. As he was unbound and walked away from the post, his
blood-shotten eyes had taken her in standing there with Jake. He did
not even make an effort to see her afterwards and next Sunday Jake’s and
Lu’s banns were called in meeting. Abe had been drunk pretty much all
the time since, lying about the tavern floor. Widow Bingham said she
hadn’t a heart to refuse him rum, and in truth the poor fellow’s
manhood was so completely broken down, that he must have been a resolute
teetotaler, indeed, who would not have deemed it an act of common
humanity to help him temporarily to forget himself.

Such then are the events that were taking place in the community
about her while Desire was lying on her sick bed, or making her first
appearances as a convalescent downstairs. Only faint and occasional
echoes of them had reached her ears. She had been told, indeed, that
the rebellion was now all over and peace and order restored, but of the
details and incidents of the process she knew nothing. To be precise it
was during the latter part of the afternoon of the twenty-sixth day of
February, that Dr. Partridge was entertaining her as aforesaid with his
humorous version of the Lee affair. The Dr. and Mrs. Partridge had
come to tea, and to spend the evening, and just here, lest any modern
housewife should object that it is not a New England country practice
to invite company on washing-day, I would mention that in those days
of inexhaustible stores of linen, washing-day rarely came over once a
fortnight. After tea in the evening the Doctor and Squire Edwards sat
talking politics over their snuff-boxes, while Mrs. Partridge and Mrs.
Edwards discussed the difficulty of getting good help, now that the
negroes were beginning to feel the oats of their new liberty, and
the farmers’ daughters, since the war and the talk about liberty and
equality, thought themselves as good as their betters. Now that the
insurrection had still further stirred up their jealousy of gentlefolk,
it was to be expected that they would be quite past getting on with at
all, and for all Mrs. Edwards could see, ladies must make up their minds
to do their own work pretty soon.

Desire sat in an armchair, her hands folded in her lap, musingly gazing
into the glowing bed of coals upon the hearth, and listening half
absently to the talk about her. She had been twice to meeting the
day before, and considered herself as now quite well, but she had not
disused the invalid’s privilege of sitting silent in company.

“I marvel,” said Squire Edwards, contemplatively tapping his snuff-box,
“at the working of Providence, when I consider that so lately the
Commonwealth, and especially this county, was in turmoil, the rebels
having everything their own way, and we scarcely daring to call our
souls our own, and behold them now scattered, fled over the border,
in prison, or disarmed and trembling, and the authority of law and the
courts everywhere established.”

“Yes,” replied the Doctor, “we have reason to be thankful indeed, and
yet I cannot help compassionating the honester among the rebels. It is
the pity of an uprising like this, that while one must needs sympathize
with the want and suffering of the rebels, it is impossible to condemn
too strongly the mad plans they urge as remedies. Ezra Phelps was
telling me the other day, that their idea, had they succeeded, was to
cause so many bills to be printed and scattered abroad, that the
poorest could get enough to pay all their debts and taxes. Some were for
repudiating public and private debts altogether, but Ezra said that
this would not be honest. He was in favor of printing bills enough
so everything could be paid. I tried to show him that one plan was as
dishonest as the other; that they might just as well refuse payment, as
pay in worthless bits of printed paper, and that the morality of the two
schemes being the same, that of refusing outright the payment of dues,
was preferable practically, because at least, it would not further
derange trade by putting a debased and valueless currency in
circulation. But I fear he did not see it at all, if he even gave me
credit for sincerity, and yet he is an honest, well-meaning chap, and
more intelligent than the common run of the rebels.”

“That is the trouble nowadays,” said Edwards, “these numskulls must
needs have matters of government explained to them, and pass their own
judgment on public affairs. And when they cannot understand them, then
forsooth comes a rebellion. I think none can deny seeing in these
late troubles the first fruits of those pestilent notions of equality,
whereof we heard so much from certain quarters, during the late war of
independence. I would that Mr. Jefferson and some of the other writers
of pestilent democratic rhetoric might have been here in the state the
past winter, to see the outcome of their preaching.”

“It may yet prove,” said Dr. Partridge, “that these troubles are to work
providentially to incline the people of this state to favor a closer
union with the rest of the continent for mutual protection, if the
forthcoming convention at Philadelphia shall devise a practicable
scheme. By reason of the preponderant strength of our Commonwealth we
have deemed ourselves less in need of such a union than are our sister
colonies, but this recent experience must teach us that even we are not
strong enough to stand alone.”

“You are right there, sir,” said Edwards. “It is plain that if we keep
on as we are, Massachusetts will ere long split into as many states as
we have counties, or at least into several. What have these troubles
been but a revolt of the western counties against the eastern, and had
we gentlemen gone with the rebels, the state would have been by
this time divided, and you know well,” here Edwards’ voice became
confidential, “we have in the main, no great cause to be beholden to
the Bostonians. They treat our western counties as if they were but
provinces.”

Desire’s attention had lapsed as the gentlemen’s talk got into the
political depths, but some time after it was again aroused by hearing
the mention of Perez Hamlin’s name. The doctor was saying:

“They say he is lurking just over the York border at Lebanon. There are
four or five score ruffians with him, who breathe out threatenings and
slaughter against us Stockbridge people but I think we need lose no
sleep on that account for the knaves will scarcely care to risk their
necks on Massachusetts soil.”

“It is possible,” said Edwards, “that they may make some descents on
Egremont or Sheffield or other points just across the line, but they
will never venture so far inland as Stockbridge for fear of being cut
off, and if they do our militia is quite able for them. What mischief
they can do safely they will do, but nothing else for they are arrant
cowards when all’s said.”

The talk of the gentlemen branched off upon other topics, but Desire did
not follow it further, finding in what had just been said quite enough
to engross her thoughts. Of course there could be no real danger that
Hamlin would venture a visit to Stockbridge, since both her father and
the doctor scouted the idea; but there was in the mere suggestion enough
to be very agitating. To avoid the possibility of a meeting with
Hamlin, as well as to acquit her conscience of a goading conviction of
unfairness to him, she had already once risked compromising herself
by sending that midnight warning to Lee, nor did she grudge the three
weeks’ sickness it cost her, seeing it had succeeded. Nor was the idea
of meeting him any less terrifying now. The result of her experiences
in the last few months had been that all her old self-reliance was gone.
When she recalled what she had done and felt, and imagined what she
might have gone on to do, she owned in all humility that she could no
longer take care of herself or answer for herself. Desire Edwards was
after all capable of being as big a fool as any other girl. Especially
at the thought of meeting Hamlin again, this sense of insecurity
became actual panic. It was not that she feared her heart. She was not
conscious of loving him but of dreading him. Her imagination invested
him with some strange, irrestible magnetic power over her, the magnetism
of a tremendous passion, against which, demoralized by the memory of
her former weakness, she could not guarantee herself. And the upshot was
that just because she chanced to overhear that reference to Perez in the
gentlemen’s talk, she lay awake nervous and miserable for several hours
after going to bed that night. In fact she had finally to take herself
seriously to task about the folly of scaring herself to death about such
a purely fanciful danger, before she could go to sleep.

She woke hours after with a stifled scream, for her mother was standing
in the door of the room, half dressed, the candle she held revealing a
pale and frightened face, while the words Desire heard were:

“Quick, get up and dress, or you’ll be murdered in bed! An army of
Shayites is in the village.”

“Four o’clock in the morning courage,” that steadiness of nerve which is
not shaken when, suddenly roused from the relaxation and soft languor of
sleep, one is called to face pressing, deadly, and undreamed of peril in
the weird and chilling hour before dawn, was described by Napoleon as a
most rare quality among soldiers, and such being the case it is hardly
to be looked for among women. With chattering teeth and random motions,
half-distraught with incoherent terrors, Desire made a hasty, incomplete
toilet in the dark of her freezing bedroom, and ran downstairs. In the
living-room she found her mother and the smaller children with the negro
servants and Keziah Pixley, the white domestic. Downstairs in the
cellar her father and Jonathan were at work burying the silver and other
valuables, that having been the first thought when a fugitive from the
tavern where the rebels had first halted, brought the alarm. There
were no candles lit in the living-room lest their light should attract
marauders, and the faint light of the just breaking dawn made the faces
seem yet paler and ghastlier with fear than they were. From the street
without could be heard the noise of a drum, shouts, and now and then
musket shots, and having scraped away the thick frost from one of the
panes, Desire could see parties of men with muskets going about and
persons running across the green as if for their lives. As she looked
she saw a party fire their muskets after one of these fugitives, who
straightway came back and gave himself up. In the room it was bitterly
cold, for though the ashes had been raked off the coals no wood had been
put on lest the smoke from the chimney should draw attention.

The colored servants were in a state of abject terror, but the white
“help” made no attempt to conceal her exultation. They were her friends
the Shayites, and her sweetheart she declared was among them. He’d sent
her a hint that they were coming, she volubly declared, and yesterday
when Mrs. Edwards was “so high ‘n mighty with her a makin her sweep the
kitchen twicet over she was goodamiter tell her ez haow she’d see the
time she’d wisht she’d a kep the right side on her.”

“I’ve always tried to do right by you Keziah. I don’t think you have any
call to be revengeful,” said the poor lady, trembling.

“Mebbe I hain’t and mebbe I hev,” shrilled Keziah, tossing her head
disdainfully. “I guess I know them ez loves me from them ez don’t. I
s’pose ye think I dunno wat yer husbun an Jonathan be a buryin daown
stairs.”

“I’m sure you won’t betray us, Keziah,” said Mrs. Edwards. “You’ve had a
good place with us, Keziah. And there’s that dimity dress of mine. It’s
quite good yet. You could have it made over for you.”

“Oh yes,” replied Keziah, scornfully. “It’s all well nuff ter talk bout
givin some o’ yer things away wen yer likely to lose em all.”

With that, turning her back upon her terrified mistress, with the air of
a queen refusing a petition, she patronizingly assured Desire that
she had met with more favor in her eyes than her mother, and she would
accordingly protect her. “Though,” she added, “I guess ye won’t need my
helpin for Cap’n Hamlin ‘ll see nobuddy teches ye cept hisself.”

“Is he here?” gasped Desire, her dismay suddenly magnified into utter
panic.

“Fer sartain, my sweetheart ez sent me word ‘s under him,” replied
Keziah.

A noise of voices and tramp of feet at the outside door interrupted her.
The marauders had come. The door was barred and this having been tested,
there was a hail of gunstock blows upon it with orders to open and
blasphemous threats as to the consequences of refusal. There was a dead
silence within, but for Mrs. Edwards’ hollow whisper, “Don’t open.” With
staring eyes and mouths apart the terrified women and children looked at
one another motionless, barely daring to breathe. But as the volley of
blows and threats was renewed with access of violence, Keziah exclaimed:

“Ef they hain’t yeur frens they be mine, an I hain’t gonter see em kep
aout in the cold no longer fer nobuddy,” and she went to the door and
took hold of the bar.

“Don’t you do it,” gasped Mrs. Edwards springing forward to arrest her.
But she had done it, and instantly Meshech Little with three or four
followers burst into the room, wearing the green insignia of rebellion
in their caps and carrying muskets with bayonets fixed.

“Why didn’ ye open that ar door, afore?” demanded Meshech, angrily.

“What do you want?” asked Mrs. Edwards tremblingly confronting him.

“Wat dew we want ole woman?” replied Meshech. “Wal, we want most
evrything, but I guess we kin help oursels. Hey boys?”

“Callate we kin make aout tew,” echoed one of his followers, not a
Stockbridge man, and then as his eye caught Desire, as she stood pale
and beautiful, with wild eyes and disheveled hair, by her mother, he
made a dive at her saying: “Guess I’ll take a kiss tew begin with.”

“Let the gal ‘lone,” said Meshech, catching him by the shoulder. “Hands
orfen her. She’s the Duke’s doxy, an he’ll run ye through the body ef ye
tech her.”

“Gosh, she hain’t, though, is she?” said the fellow, refraining from
further demonstration but regarding her admiringly. “I hearn baout she.
Likely lookin gal, tew, hain’t she? On’y leetle tew black, mebbe.”

“Did’n ye know, ye dern fool, it’s along o’ her the Duke sent us here,
tew see nobuddy took nothin till he could come raoun?” said Meshech.
“But I callate the on’y way to keep other fellers from takin anything
tidday is ter take it yerself. We’ll hev suthin tew drink, anyhaow.
Hello, ole cock,” he added as Edwards, coming up from down cellar,
entered the room. “Ye be jess’n time. Come on, give us some rum,” and
neither daring nor able to make resistance, the storekeeper was hustled
into the store. Keziah’s sweetheart had remained behind. In the midst
of their mutual endearments, she had found opportunity to whisper to him
something, of which Mrs. Edwards caught the words, “cellar, nuff tew buy
us a farm an a haouse,” and guessed the drift. As Keziah and her young
man, who responded to her suggestion with alacrity, were moving toward
the cellar door, Mrs. Edwards barred their way. The fellow was about to
lay hands on her, when one of the drinkers, coming back from the store,
yelled: “Look out, thar’s the cap’n,” and Perez entered.



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVENTH

SOME REAL FIGHTING


At sight of his commander the soldier who had been about to lay hands
on Mrs. Edwards to thrust her out of his path to the cellar, giving over
his design, slunk into the store to join his comrades there, and was
followed by the faithful Keziah. Mrs. Edwards, who had faced the ruffian
only in the courage of desperation, sank trembling upon a settle, and
the children throwing themselves upon her, bawled in concert. Without
bestowing so much as a glance on any other object in the room Perez
crossed it to where Desire stood, and taking her nerveless hand in both
his, devoured her face with glowing eyes. She did not flush or show any
confusion; neither did she try to get away. She stood as if fascinated,
unresponsive but unresisting.

“Were you frightened?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied in a mechanical tone corresponding with her
appearance.

“Didn’t you know I was here? I told you I would come back for you, and I
have come. You have been sick. I heard of it. Are you well now?”

“Yes.”

“Reuben told me you came on foot through the snow to bring word so he
might warn me the night before the Lee battle. Was it that made you
sick?”

“Yes.”

“What is that, Desire? What do you mean about sending him warning?”
 cried Mrs. Edwards amazedly. Desire made no reply but Perez did:

“It is thanks to her I was not caught in my bed by your men that
morning. It is thanks to her I am not in jail today, disgraced by the
lash and waiting for the hangman. Oh my dear, how glad I am to owe it
to you,” and he caught the end of one of the long strands of jetty hair
that fell down her neck and touched it to his lips.

“You are crazy, fellow!” cried Mrs. Edwards, and starting forward and
grasping Desire by the arm she demanded, “What does this wild talk mean?
There is no truth in it, is there?”

“Yes,” said the girl in the same dead, mechanical voice, without turning
her eyes to her mother or even raising them.

Mrs. Edwards opened her mouth, but no sound came forth. Her astonishment
was too utter. Meanwhile Perez had passed his arm about Desire’s waist
as if to claim her on her own acknowledgement. Stung by the sight of her
daughter in the very arms of the rebel captain, Mrs. Edwards found her
voice once more, righteous indignation overcoming her first unmingled
consternation.

“Out upon you for a shameless hussy. Oh, that a daughter of mine should
come to this! Do you dare tell me you love this scoundrel?”

“No,” answered the girl.

“What?” faltered Perez, his arm involuntarily dropping from her waist.

For all reply she rushed to her mother and threw herself on her bosom,
sobbing hysterically. For once at least in their lives Mrs. Edwards’
and Perez Hamlin’s eyes met with an expression of perfect sympathy, the
sympathy of a common bewilderment. Then Mrs. Edwards tried to loosen
Desire’s convulsive clasp about her neck, but the girl held her tightly,
crying:

“Oh, don’t, mother, don’t.”

For several moments Perez stood motionless just where Desire had left
him, looking after her stupefied. The pupils of his eyes alternately
dilated and contracted, his mouth opened and closed; he passed his hand
over his forehead. Then he went up to her and stood over her as she
clung to her mother, but seemed no more decided as to what he could do
or say further.

But just then there was a diversion. Meshech and his followers who had
passed through from the living-room into the store in search of rum had
thrown open the outside door, and a gang of their comrades had poured in
to assist in the onset upon the liquor barrels. The spigots had all been
set running, or knocked out entirely, and yet comparatively little of
the fiery fluid was wasted, so many mugs, hats, caps, and all sorts of
receptacles were extended to catch the flow. Some who could not find
any sort of a vessel, actually lay under the stream and let it pour
into their mouths, or lapped it up as it ran on the floor. Meanwhile
the store was being depleted of other than the drinkable property. The
contents of the shelves and boxes were littered on the floor, and the
rebels were busy swapping their old hats, boots and mittens for new
ones, or filling their pockets with tobacco, tea or sugar, while some of
the more foresighted were making piles of selected goods to carry away.
But whatever might be the momentary occupation of the marauders, all
were drunk, excessively yet buoyantly drunk, drunk with that peculiarly
penetrating and tenacious intoxication which results from drinking in
the morning on an empty stomach, a time when liquor seems to pervade all
the interstices of the system and lap each particular fibre and tissue
in a special and independent intoxication on its own account. Several
fellows, including Meshech, had been standing for a few moments in the
door leading from the store into the living-room, grinningly observing
the little drama which the reader has been following. As Desire broke
away from Perez and rushed to her mother, Meshech exclaimed:

“Wy in time did’n yer hole ontew her, Cap’n? I’d like ter seen her git
away from me.”

“Or me nuther,” seconded the fellow next him.

Perez paid no heed to this remonstrance, and probably did not hear it at
all, but Mrs. Edwards looked up. In her bewilderment and distress over
Desire the thought of her husband and Jonathan had been driven from her
mind. The sight of Meshech recalled it.

“What have you done with my husband?” she demanded anxiously.

“He’s all right. He an the young cub be jess a gonter take a leetle walk
with us fellers ‘cross the border,” replied Meschech jocularly.

“What are you going to take them away for? What are you going to do to
them?” cried Mrs. Edwards.

“Oh, ye need’n be skeert,” Meshech reassured her. “He’ll hev good
kumpny. Squire Woodbridge an Ginral Ashley an Doctor Sergeant, Cap’n
Jones an schoolmaster Gleason, an a slew more o’ the silk stockins be a
goin’ tew.”

“Are you going to murder them?” exclaimed the frantic woman.

“Wal,” drawled Meshech, “that depends. Ef govment hangs any o’ our
fellers wat they’ve got in jail, we’re gonter hang yewr husban’ an the
res’ on em, sure’s taxes. Ef none o’ aourn ain’t hurt, we shan’t hurt
none o’ yourn. We take em fer kinder hostiges, ye see, ole lady.”

“Where have you got my husband? I must go to him. God help us!”
 ejaculated Mrs. Edwards; and loosing herself from her daughter, now in
turn forgotten in anxiety for husband and son, the poor woman hurried
past Meshech through the confused store and so out of the house.

At the same moment the drum at the tavern began to beat the recall to
the plundering parties of insurgents scattered over the village, and the
men poured out of the store.

Save for the presence of the smaller children and the negro servants
cowering in a corner, Desire and Perez were left alone in the room.
With no refuge to fly to, she stood where her mother had left her, just
before Perez, with face averted, trembling, motionless, like a timid
bird which seeing no escape struggles no longer, but waits for its
captor’s hand to close upon it. But in his nonplused, piteously
perplexed face, you would have vainly looked for the hardened and
remorseless expression appropriate to his part. The roll of the rebel
drum kept on.

“See here, Cap’n,” said Abner Rathbun, suddenly appearing at the outside
door of the living-room, “we’ve got the hostiges together, an we’d
better be a gittin along, for the ‘larm’s gone ter Pittsfield an all
roun’ an we’ll hev the milishy ontew us in no time. An besides that the
fellers tew the tavern be a gittin so drunk, some on em can’t walk a’
ready.”

Aroused by Abner’s insistent words, Perez took Desire’s hand, and said
desperately:

“Won’t you come, my darling? You shall have a woman to go with you, and
we’ll be married as soon as we’re over the border. I know it’s sudden,
but you see I can’t wait, and I thought you liked me a little. Won’t you
come, now?”

“Oh, no! Oh, no! I don’t want to,” she said, shuddering and drawing her
hand away.

Abner was silent a moment, and then he broke out vehemently:

“Look a’ here, Cap’n, we hain’t got no time fer soft sawder naow, with
the milishy a comin daown on us. I kin hear em a drummin up ter Lee
a’ready, an every jiffey we stay means a man’s life an hangin fer them
as is tuk. Ye’ve hed fuss nuff ‘long o’ that gal fust and last, an this
ain’t no time fer ye ter put up with any more o’ her tantrums.”

“She don’t want to come, Abner. She don’t like me and I thought she
did,” said Perez, turning his eyes from the girl to Abner, with an
expression of despairing, appealing helplessness, almost childlike.

“Nonsense,” replied Abner, with contemptuous impatience. “She likes ye,
or she’d never a sent ye that warnin. Akshins speaks louder’n words.
She’s kinder flustered an dunno her own mind, that’s all. Gals don’t,
genally. Ye’d be a darnation fool ter let her slip through yer fingers
naow, arter riskin yer neck an all aour necks in this ere job jess ter
git a holt of her, an a settin sech store by her ez ye allers hev.
Take a fool’s advice, Cap’n. Don’ waste no more talk, but jess grab her
kinder soft like, an fetch her aout ter the sleigh, willy nilly. She’ll
come roun’ in less ‘n an hour, an thank ye for’t. Gals allers does. They
likes a masterful man. There, that’s the talk. Fetch her right along.”

As the last words indicated, Perez, apparently decided by Abner’s words,
had thrown his arm about Desire’s waist and drawing her to him and half
lifting her from her feet had begun with gentle force to bear her away.
She made no violent resistance which indeed would have been quite vain
in his powerful clasp, but burst into tears, crying poignantly:

“Oh, don’t! Please! Please don’t! Don’t! Oh, don’t!” Had there been a
trace of defiance or of indignant pride in her tone, it would have been
easy for him to carry out his attempt. But of the proud, high-spirited
Desire Edwards there was no hint in the tear-glazed eyes turned up to
his in wild dismay. She was but a frightened girl quite broken up with
terror.

And yet if the thought of leaving her had been dreadful before, now the
pressure of his arm upon her pliant waist, the delicious sensation
of her weight, made it maddening, and thrilled him with all sorts of
reckless impulses. Still clasping her, he whispered hoarsely, “I love
you, I love you,” as if that mighty word left nothing further needed as
excuse or explanation for his conduct. “Let me go, then, if you love me.
Let me go,” she cried, frantically, catching at his plea and turning it
against him.

“Ef ye let her go, ye’ll never set eyes on her agin, Cap’n,” said Abner.

“I can’t. I can’t. Have pity on me,” groaned Perez. “I can’t let you
go.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake, do! If you loved me, you would. Oh, you would,”
 she cried again. He took her by the shoulders and held her away from
him, and looked long at her. There was something in his eyes which awed
her so that she quite forgot her former terror. Then he dropped his
hands to his side, and turned away as if he would leave her without
another word. But half way to the door he turned again and said huskily:

“You know I love you now. You believe it, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she answered in a small, scared voice, and without another word
he went out. As he went out, Mrs. Edwards, who had been standing in the
open doorway of the store a silent spectator of the last scene, came
forward, and at sight of her Desire started from the motionless attitude
in which she had remained, and cried out, pressing her hands to her
bosom:

“Oh, mother, mother, I wish he’d taken me. He feels so bad.”

“Nonsense, child,” said Mrs. Edwards, in a soothing, sensible voice.
“That would have been a pretty piece of business indeed. You’re all
upset, and don’t know what you’re saying, and no wonder, either, with
no breakfast and all this coil. There, there, mother’s little girl,” and
she drew her daughter’s head down on her shoulder and stroked her hair
till the nervous trembling and sobbing ceased, and raising her head she
asked:

“Where are father and Jonathan?”

“Hush! I gave one of the rebels my silver shoe-buckles, and he turned
his back while Mrs. Bingham hid them in the closet behind the chimney at
the tavern. They’re safe.”

The rebel column having only awaited the arrival of Perez and Abner,
at once set off at quick step on the road to Great Barrington, the
prisoners, thirty or forty in number, marching in the center. Perez rode
behind, looking neither to the right hand or the left, and taking heed
of nothing, and Abner seeing his condition, tacitly assumed command.
Two or three fellows, too utterly drunk to walk, had been perforce left
behind on the tavern floor, destined to be ignominiously dragged off
to the lockup by the citizens before the rebel force was fairly out
of sight. Two or three others nearly as drunk as those who were left
behind, but more fortunate in having friends, by dint of leaning heavily
upon a man on either side, were enabled to march. But the pace was
rapid, and at the first or second steep hill these wretches had to be
left behind unless their friends were to be sacrificed with them. There
was no danger of their freezing to death by the wayside. The pursuing
militia would come along soon enough to prevent that, never fear.

Nor were these poor chaps the only sort of burdens that were speedily
rejected by their bearers. As the rebels marched out of Stockbridge,
nearly every man was loaded with miscellaneous plunder. Some carried
bags of flour, or flitches of bacon, some an armful of muskets, others
bundles of cloth or clothing, hanks of yarn, a string of boots and
shoes, a churn, an iron pot, a pair of bellows, a pair of brass
andirons, while one even led a calf by a halter. Some, luckier than
their fellows, carried bags from which was audible the clink of
silverware. Squire Woodbridge, lagging a little, was poked in the back
by his own gold-headed cane to remind him to mend his pace, while Dr.
Sergeant, as a special favor from one of the rebels whose wife he had
once attended, was permitted to take a drink out of his own demijohn
of rum. In their eagerness to carry away all they could, the rebels
had forgotten that loads which they could barely hold up when standing
still, would prove quite too heavy to march under, and accordingly
before the band had got out of the village the road began to be littered
with the more bulky articles of property. At the foot of the first
hill there was a big pile of them, and two miles out of Stockbridge
the rebels were reduced once more to light marching order, and not much
richer than when they entered the village an hour or two before. Besides
the hostages, they had under their escort several sleighs containing
old men, women and children, the families of members of the band, or
of sympathizers with the rebellion, who were taking this opportunity
to elude their creditors and escape out of bondage across the New York
border. As the rebels crossed Muddy Brook, just before entering Great
Barrington, Abner Rathbun came up to Perez and said: “I don’ see yer
father’n mother nowhar in the sleighs.”

“My father and mother?” repeated Perez vacantly.

“Yes,” rejoined Abner. “Ye know ye wuz a gonter bring em back ter York
with ye, but I don’ see em nowhar.” Perez stared at Abner, and then
glanced vaguely at the row of sleighs in the line.

“I must have forgotten about them,” he finally said.

As the rebels entered Great Barrington, a company of militia was drawn
up as if to defend the tavern-jail, but upon the approach of the rebels,
who were decidedly more numerous, they retired rapidly on the road to
Sheffield. Halting in front of the building, a guard was left with the
prisoners, and then the rebels swarmed into the tavern, with the double
purpose of emptying the jail of debtors, and filling themselves with
Cephas Bement’s rum, for the hard tramp from Stockbridge had sobered
them and given them fresh thirst. Perez did not go in, but sat on his
horse in the road. Presently Abner came out with a very sober face and
slowly approached him. He looked around.

“What are we stopping here for, Abner?” he asked, a little peevishly.

“Wy, it’s the caounty jail, ye know, an we’re lettin aout the debtors.
Reub’s in here, ye know.”

“So he is; I’d forgotten,” replied Perez, and then after a pause, “Why
don’t he come out?”

“Cap’n,” said Abner, taking off his cap and looking at it, as he
fingered it. “I’ve got kinder tough news fer ye. Reub’s dead. He died
this mornin. I thort mebbe ye’d like ter see him.”

“Is he in there?”

“Yes.”

Perez got off his horse, and went in at the door, Abner leading the way.
In the barroom of the tavern there was a crowd of drinking, carousing
men, and among them a number of the white-faced debtors, already drunk
with the bumpers their deliverers were pouring down their throats.
Bement was not visible, but as Abner and Perez entered the jail, they
saw Mrs. Bement in the corridor. She was not making any fuss or
trouble at all over the breaking of the jail this time. With apparent
complaisance she was promptly opening cells, or answering questions in
response to the demands of Meshech Little and some companions. But there
was a vicious glint in her pretty blue eyes, and she was softly singing
the lugubrious hymn, beginning with the significant words,

    Ye living men, come view the ground
    Where ye shall shortly lie.

Abner pushed open the door of one of the cells that had been already
opened, and went in, Perez following. He knelt by the body of his
brother, and Abner turned his back. It was the same cell in which Perez
had found Reuben and George Fennell, six months before. Several minutes
passed, and neither moved. The drum began to beat without, summoning the
men to resume their march.

“Cap’n,” said Abner, “we’ll hev ter go. We can’t do the poor chap no
good by stayin, an they can’t do him no more harm.”

Then Perez rose up, and leaned on Abner’s shoulder, looking down on
the patient face of the dead. The first tears gathered in his eyes, and
trickled down, and he said: “I never was fair to Reub. I never allowed
enough for his losin Jemima. I was harder on him than I should have
been.”

“Ye warn’t noways hard on him, Perez. Ye wuz a good brother tew him.
I never hearn o’ no feller hevin a better brother nor he hed in yew,”
 protested Abner, in much distress.

Perez shook his head.

“I was hard on him. I never allowed as I’d ought for his losin his girl.
I’d a been kinder to him if I’d known. Ye must a thought I was hard
an unfeelin, Reub, dear, often’s the time, but I didn’t know, I didn’t
know. We’ll go now, if you want, Abner.”

The rebels had not left Stockbridge a moment too soon. Captain Stoddard
was rallying his company before they had got out of the village, and
messengers had been sent to Lee, Lenox, Pittsfield, Great Barrington,
Egremont and Sheffield, to rouse the people. Within an hour or two after
the rebels had marched south, the Stockbridge and Lenox companies were
in pursuit. Among the messengers to Great Barrington, was Peleg Bidwell.
For Peleg, since he had bought his safety by such a shameful surrender,
was embittered above all against those of his former comrades who had
been too brave to yield. And having brought word to Great Barrington, he
took his place in the ranks of the militia of that town, and though the
men among whom he stood, eyed him askance, knowing his record, not one
of them was really so eager to empty his gun into the bosom of the rebel
band as Peleg Bidwell.

As previously stated, the Great Barrington company, in which Peleg
carried a musket, had retired toward Sheffield, when the rebels entered
the former town. At Sheffield they were joined by the large company of
that populous settlement, and Colonel Ashley of the same village, taking
command of the combined forces, ordered a march on Great Barrington, to
meet the rebels. Now Great Barrington is but four or five miles from
the New York border, while Sheffield is about six, and as many south of
Great Barrington, the road between the two towns running nearly parallel
to the state line. There was nothing to hinder the rebels, after they
had gained their main objects, the capture of hostages and the release
of the debtors, from turning west from Great Barrington, and placing
themselves in an hour’s march across the town of Egremont, beyond the
reach of the militia, in neutral territory. Becoming apprehensive that
this would be their course, Colonel Ashley, instead of keeping on the
road from Sheffield to Great Barrington, presently left it and marched
his men along a back road running northwest toward the state line in a
direction that would intercept the rebels if they struck across Egremont
to New York.

He adopted, however, the precaution of leaving a party at the junction
of the main road with the road he took, so that if after all instead
of retreating westward the rebels had boldly kept on the main road to
Sheffield word might be sent after him. It so happened that this was
just what the rebels had done. Not having the fear of the Sheffield
company before their eyes, instead of trying to escape to New York by
the shortest cut, they had kept on toward Sheffield, marching south by
the main road. And not only this, but when they came to the junction of
the main road with that which Colonel Ashley had taken, and learned by
capturing the guard what plan the Colonel had devised, they became so
enraged that instead of keeping on to Sheffield and leaving the militia
to finish their wild goose chase, they turned into the back road after
them, and so the hunters became the hunted. In this way it happened that
while the militia were pressing on at full speed, breathlessly debating
their chances of heading off the flying rebels, “bang,” “bang,” came a
volley in their rear, and from the stragglers who had been fired upon
arose a cry, “The Shayites are after us.”

It is greatly to the credit of the militia officers that the result of
this surprise was not a hopeless panic among their men. As it was, for
several minutes utter confusion reigned. Then one of the companies took
to the woods on the right, the other entering the woods on the left,
and marching back they presently came in sight of their pursuers, still
pushing on pell-mell in the road. The militia now had every advantage,
and Colonel Ashley ordered them to open fire. But the men hesitated.
There, intermingled with the rebels, their very lineaments plainly to be
seen, were the prisoners, the first gentlemen of Stockbridge and of the
county. To pour a volley in upon the rebels would endanger the lives
of the prisoners as much as those of the enemy. Meanwhile the rebels
themselves were rapidly deploying and opening fire. The militia were in
danger of losing all their advantage, of being shot down defenseless,
of perhaps losing the day, all owing to the presence of the prisoners
in the enemy’s ranks. Again Colonel Ashley gave the order to fire. Again
not a man obeyed.

“We can’t kill our friends,” said an officer.

“God have mercy on their souls, but pour in your fire!” roared the
commander, and the volley was given. The prisoners broke from the ranks
of the enemy and ran; the firing became general. For five or ten minutes
a brisk engagement was kept up, and then the rebels broke and fled
in every direction. The Stockbridge and Lenox companies after having
followed the rebels through Great Barrington and on toward Sheffield had
also turned in after them on the back road, and coming up behind in the
nick of time had attacked their rear and caused their panic.

Only two of the militia had been wounded, one mortally. One also of the
prisoners had proved in need of Colonel Ashley’s invocation. Solomon
Gleason had fallen dead at the first volley from his friends. It was
generally supposed that his death was the result of a chance shot, but
Peleg Bidwell was never heard to express any opinion on the subject, and
Peleg was a very good marksman.

As the smoke of the last shot floated up among the tops of the gloomy
pines along the road, some thirty killed and wounded rebels lay on
the trampled and blood-stained snow. Abner Rathbun, mortally wounded,
writhed at the foot of a tree, and near by lay Perez Hamlin quite dead.





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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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