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The Duke of Stockbridge
by Edward Bellamy
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"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 preemptory 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.

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