Nor must I forget to speak of Mrs. Poor. The big, raw-boned woman's hard-favored countenance was lit up with motherly solicitude, as she lifted, rather than assisted, Zadkiel, down the steps of the tavern.
"Wy don' ye take him up in yer arms?" remarked Obadiah Weeks, facetiously, but it was truly more touching than amusing, to see the protecting tenderness of the woman, for the puny little fellow whom an odd freak of Providence had given her for a husband, instead of a son.
Although Mrs. Poor movingly declared that "He warn't the shadder of hisself," the fact was, that having been but a short time in jail, Zadkiel showed few marks of confinement, far enough was he, from comparing in this respect, with the others, many of whom had been shut up for years. They looked, with the dead whiteness of their faces and hands, rather like grewsome cellar plants, torn from their native darkness, only to wither in the upper light and air, than like human organisms just restored to their normal climate. As they moved among the tanned and ruddy-faced people, their abnormal complexion made them look like representatives of the strange race of Albinos.
But saddest perhaps of all the sights were the debtors who found no acquaintances or relatives to welcome them as they came forth again helpless as at their first birth, into the world of bustle and sun and breeze. It was piteous to see them wandering about with feeble and sinewless steps, and vacant eyes, staring timidly at the noisy people, and shrinking dismayed from the throngs of sympathizing questioners which gathered round them. There were some whose names not even the oldest citizens could recall so long had they been shut up from the sight of men.
Jails in those days were deemed as good places as any for insane persons, and in fact were the only places available, so that, besides those whom long confinement had brought almost to the point of imbecility, there were several entirely insane and idiotic individuals among the prisoners. One of them went around in a high state of excitement declaring that it was the resurrection morning. Nor was the delusion altogether to be marvelled at considering the suddenness with which its victim had exchanged the cell, which for twenty years had been his home, for the bright vast firmament of heaven, with its floods of dazzling light and its blue and bottomless dome.
Another debtor, a man from Sheffield, as a prisoner of war during the revolution, had experienced the barbarities practiced by the British provost Cunningham at New York. Having barely returned home to his native village when he was thrust into jail as a debtor, he had not unnaturally run the two experiences together in his mind. It was his hallucination that he had been all the while a prisoner of the British at New York, and that the victorious Continental army had just arrived to deliver him and his comrades. In Perez he recognized General Washington.
"Ye was a long time comin, Ginral, but it's all right now," he said. "I knowd ye'd come at las', an I tole the boys not to git diskerridged. The redcoats has used us bad though, an I hope ye'll hang em, Gin'ral."
At the time of which I write, rape was practically an unknown crime in Berkshire, and theft extremely uncommon. But among the debtors there were a few criminals. These, released with the rest, were promptly recognized and seized by the people. The general voice was first for putting them back in the cells, but Abner declared that it would be doing them a kindness to knock them on the head rather than to send them back to such pigsties, and this view of the matter finding favor, the fellows were turned loose with a kick apiece and a warning to make themselves scarce.
In the first outburst of indignation over the horrible condition of the prison and the prisoners, there was a yell for Bement, and had the men, in their first rage, laid hands on him, it certainly would have gone hard with him. But he was not to be found, and it was not till some time after, that in ransacking the tavern, some one found him in the garret, hidden under a tow mattress stuffed with dried leaves, on which the hired man slept nights. He was hauled downstairs by the heels pretty roughly, and shoved and buffeted about somewhat, but the people having now passed into a comparatively exhilarated and good-tempered frame of mind, he underwent no further punishment, that is in his person. But that was saved only at the expense of his pocket, for the men insisted on his going behind the bar and treating the crowd, a process which was kept up until there was not a drop of liquor in his barrels, and scarcely a sober man in the village. Mrs. Bement, meanwhile, had been caught and held by some of the women, while one of the prisoners, a bestial looking idiot, drivelling and gibbering, and reeking with filth, was made to kiss her. No other penalty could have been devised at once so crushing to the victim, and so fully commending itself to the popular sense of justice.
There were about ten or fifteen of the released debtors whose homes were in or about Stockbridge, and as they could not walk any considerable distance, it was necessary to provide for their transport. Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, as well as other Stockbridge men, had driven down in their carts, and these vehicles being filled with straw, the Stockbridge prisoners were placed in them. Israel Goodrich insisted that Reuben Hamlin and George Fennell, with Prudence, should go in his cart, and into it were also lifted three or four of the friendless prisoners, who had nowhere to go, and whose helpless condition had stirred old Israel's benevolent heart to its depths.
"The poor critters shell stay with me, ef I hev tew send my chil'n tew the neighbours ter make room fer em," he declared, blowing his nose with a blast that made his horses jump.
With six or seven carts leading the way, and some seventy or eighty men following on foot, the Stockbridge party began the march home about two o'clock. Full half the men who had marched down in the morning, chose to remain over in Barrington till later, and a good many were too drunk on Bement's free rum to walk. Most of Paul Hubbard's ironworkers being in that condition, he stayed to look after them, and Peleg Bidwell had also stayed, to see that none of the Stockbridge stragglers got into trouble, and bring them back when he could. Abner walked at the head of the men. Perez rode by Israel Goodrich's cart. They went on slowly, and it was five o'clock when they came in plain view of Stockbridge. The same exclamation was on every lip. It seemed a year instead of a few hours only since they had left in the morning.
"It's been a good day's work, Cap'n Hamlin, the best I ever hed a hand in," said Israel. "I callate it was the Lord's own work, ef we dew git hanged for't."
As the procession passed Israel's house, he helped out his sad guests, and sent on his cart with its other inmates. All the way back from Barrington, the Stockbridge company had been meeting a string of men and boys, in carts and afoot, who, having heard reports of what had been done, were hastening to see for themselves. Many of these turned back with the returning procession, others keeping on. This exodus of the masculine element, begun in the morning, and continued all day, had left in Stockbridge little save women and girls and small children, always excepting, of course, the families of the wealthier and governing classes, who had no part nor lot in the matter. Accordingly, when the party reached the green, there was only an assemblage of women and children to receive them. These crowded around the carts containing the released prisoners, with exclamations of pity and amazement, and as the vehicles took different directions at the parting of the streets, each one was followed by a score or two, who witnessed with tearful sympathy each reunion of husband and wife, of brother and sister, of mother and son. Several persons offered to take George Fennell, who had no home to go to, into their houses, but Perez said that he should, for the present, at least, lodge with him.
As Israel Goodrich's cart, containing Reuben and Fennell and Prudence, and followed by quite a concourse, turned up the lane to Elnathan Hamlin's house and stopped before the door, Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin came out looking terrified. Perez, fearing some disappointment, had not told them plainly that he should bring Reuben home, and the report of the jail-breaking, although it had reached Stockbridge, had not penetrated to their rather isolated dwelling. So that it was with chilling apprehensions, rather than hope, that they saw the cart, driven slowly, as if it carried the dead, stop before their door, and the crowd of people following it.
"Mother, I've brought Reub home," said Perez, and a gaunt, wild-looking man was helped out of the cart, and tottered into Mrs. Hamlin's arms.
There was nothing but the faint, familiar smile, and the unaltered eyes, to tell her that this was the stalwart son whom the sheriff led away a year ago. Had she learned that he was dead, it would have shocked her less than to receive him alive and thus. Elnathan and she led him into the house between them. Ready hands lifted Fennell out of the cart and bore him in, Prudence following. And then Perez went in and shut the door, and the cart drove off, the people following.
Although the shock which Mrs. Hamlin had received was almost overwhelming, she had known, after the first moment, how to conceal it, and no sooner had the invalids been brought within doors and comfortably placed, than she began without a moment's delay, to bestir herself to prepare them food and drink, and make provision for their comfort. Tears of anguish filled her eyes whenever she turned aside, but they were wiped away, and her face was smiling and cheery when she looked at Reuben. But being with Perez a moment in a place apart, she broke down and cried bitterly.
"You have brought him home to die," she said.
But he reassured her.
"I have seen sick men," he said, "and I don't think Reub will die. He'll pull through, now he has your care. I'm afraid poor George is too far gone, but Reub will come out all right. Never fear mother."
"Far be it from me to limit the Holy One of Israel by my want of faith," said Mrs. Hamlin. "If it be the Lord's will that Reuben live, he will live, and if it be not His will, yet still will I praise His name for His great goodness in that I am permitted to take care of him, and do for him to the last. Who can say but the Most High will show still greater mercy to his servant, and save my son alive?"
As soon as the sick men were a little revived from the exhaustion of their journey, tubs of water were provided in the shed, and they washed themselves all over, Elnathan and Perez assisting in the repulsive task. Then, their filthy prison garments being thrown away, they were dressed in old clothing of Elnathan's, and their hair and matted beards were shorn off with scissors. Perez built a fire in the huge open fireplace to ward off the slight chill of evening, and the sick men were comfortably arranged before it upon the great settle. The elderly woman and the deft handed maiden, moved softly about, setting the tea table, and ministering to the needs of the invalids, arranging now a covering, now moving a stool, or maybe merely resting their cool and tender palms upon the fevered foreheads. Fennell had fallen peacefully asleep, but Reuben's face wore a smile, and in his eyes, as they languidly followed his mother's motions, to and fro, there was a look of unutterable content.
"I declar for 't," piped old Elnathan, as he sat in the chimney corner warming his fingers over the ruddy blaze, "I declar for 't, mother, the boy looks like another man a' ready. They ain't nothin like hum fer sick folks."
"I shan't want no doctor's stuff," said Reuben, feebly. "Seein mother round 's med'cin nuff fer me, I guess."
And Perez, as he stood leaning against the chimney, and looking on the scene, lit by the flickering firelight, said to himself, that never surely, in all his fighting had he ever drawn his sword to such good and holy purpose as that day.
Soon after nightfall the latchstring was pulled in a timid sort of way, and Obadiah Weeks stood on the threshold, waiting sheepishly till Mrs. Hamlin bade him enter. He came forward, toward the chimney, taking off his hat and smoothing his hair with his hand.
"It looks kinder good tew see a fire," he remarked, presently supplementing this by the observation that it was "kinder hot, though," and grinning vaguely around at every one in the room, with the exception of Prudence. He did not look at her, though he looked all around her. He put his hands in his pockets and took them out, rubbed one boot against the other, and examined a wart on one of his thumbs, as if he now observed it for the first time, and was quite absorbed in the discovery.
Then with a suddenness that somewhat startled Perez, who had been observing him with some curiosity, he wheeled round so as to face Prudence, and simultaneously sought in his pocket for something. Not finding it at first, his face got very red. Finally, however, he drew forth a little bundle and gave it to the girl, mumbling something about "Sassafras, thort mebbe 'twould be good fer yer dad," and bolted out of the room.
Nobody said anything after Obadiah's abrupt retirement, but when a few moments later, Prudence looked shyly around, with cheeks a little rosier than usual, she saw Perez regarding her with a slight smile of amusement. A minute after she got up and went over to Mrs. Hamlin, and laid the sassafras in her lap, saying:
"Don't you want this, Mrs. Hamlin? I'm sure I don't know what it's good for," and went back to her seat and sat down again, with a slight toss of the head.
Presently a medley of discordant sounds began to float up from the village on the gentle southerly breeze. There was a weird, unearthly groaning, as of a monster in pain, mingled with the beating of tin-pans. Perez finally went to see what it was. At the end of the lane he met Peleg Bidwell, and Peleg explained the matter.
"Ye see the boys hev all got back from Barrington, and they're pretty gosh darned drunk, most on em, an so nothin would do but they must go an rig up a hoss-fiddle an hunt up some pans, an go an serenade the silk stockins. They wuz a givin it tew Squire Woodbridge, wen I come by. I guess he won't git much sleep ter night," and with this information Perez went home again.
A FAIR SUPPLIANT
Dr. Partridge lived at this time on the hill north of the village, and not very far from the parsonage, which made it convenient for him to report promptly to Parson West, when any of his patients had reached that point where spiritual must be substituted for medical ministrations. It was about ten o'clock by the silver dialed clock in the living room of the doctor's house, when Prudence Fennell knocked at the open kitchen door.
"What do you want, child?" said Mrs. Partridge, who was in the kitchen trying to instruct a negro girl how to use her broom of twigs so as to distribute the silver sand upon the floor in the complex wavy figures, which were the pride of the housewife of that day.
"Please, marm, father's sick, and Mis Hamlin thinks he ought to have the doctor."
"Your father and Mrs. Hamlin? Who is your father, pray?"
"I'm Prudence Fennell, marm, and father's George Fennell. He's one of them that were fetched from Barrington jail yesterday, and he's sick. He's at Mis Hamlin's, please marm."
"Surely, by that he must be one of the debtors. The sheriff is more like to come for them than the doctor. They will be back in jail in a few days, no doubt," said Mrs. Partridge, sharply.
"No one will be so cruel. Father is so sick. If you could see him, you would not say so. They shall not take him to jail again. If Mr. Seymour comes after him, I'll tear his eyes out. I'll kill him."
"What a little tiger it is!" said Mrs. Partridge, regarding with astonishment the child's blazing eyes and panting bosom, while peering over her mistress's shoulders, the negro girl was turning up the whites of her eyes at the display. "There, there, child, I meant nothing. If he is sick, maybe they will leave him. I know naught of such things. But this Perez Hamlin will be hung of a surety, and the rest be put in the stocks and well whipt."
"He will not be hung. No one will dare to touch him," cried Prudence, becoming excited again. "He is the best man in the world. He fetched my father out of jail."
"Nay, but if you are so spunky to say 'no' to your betters, 'tis time you went. I know not what we are in the way to, when a chit of a maid shall set me right," said Mrs. Partridge, bristling up, and turning disdainfully away.
But her indignation, at once forgotten in terror lest the doctor might not come to her father, Prudence came after her and caught her sleeve, and said with tones of entreaty, supported by eyes full of tears:
"Please, marm, don't mind what I said. Box my ears, marm, but please let doctor come. Father coughs so bad."
"I will tell him, and he will do as he sees fit," said Mrs. Partridge, stiffly, "and now run home, and do not put me out with your sauce again."
An hour or two later, the doctor's chaise stopped at the Hamlins. Doctors, as well as other people, were plainer-spoken in those days, especially in dealing with the poor. Dr. Partridge was a kind-hearted man, but it did not occur to him as it does to his successors of our day, to mince matters with patients, and cheer them up with hopeful generalities, reserving the bitter truths to whisper in the ears of their friends outside the door. After a look and a few words, he said to Fennell:
"I can do you no good."
"Shall I die?" asked the sick man, faintly.
"You may live a few weeks, but not longer. The disease has taken too strong a hold."
Fennell looked around the room. Prudence was not present.
"Don't tell Prudy," he said.
As to Reuben, who was already looking much brighter than the preceding night, the doctor said:
"He may get well," and left a little medicine.
Perez, who had been in the room, followed him out of doors.
"Do you think my brother will get well?" he asked.
"I think so, if he does not have to go back to jail."
"He will not go back unless I go with him," said Perez.
"Well, I think it most likely you will," replied the doctor dryly. "On the whole, I should say his prospect of long life was better than yours, if I am speaking to Perez Hamlin, the mob captain."
"You mean I shall be hung?"
"And drawn and quartered," amended the doctor, grimly. "That is the penalty for treason, I believe."
"Perhaps," said Perez. "We shall see. There will be fighting before hanging. At any rate, if I'm hung, it will be as long as it's short, for Reub would have died if I hadn't got him out of jail."
The doctor gathered up the reins.
"I want to thank you for coming," said Perez. "You know, I s'pose, that we are very poor, and can't promise much pay."
"If you'll see that your mob doesn't give me such a serenade as it did Squire Woodbridge last night, I'll call it square," said the doctor, and drove off.
Now, Meshech Little, the carpenter, had gone home and to bed towering drunk the night before, after taking part as a leading performer in the aforesaid serenade to the Squire. His sleep had been exceedingly dense, and in the morning when it became time for him to go to his work, it was only after repeated callings and shakings, that Mrs. Little was able to elicit the first sign of wakefulness.
"You must get up," she expostulated. "Sun's half way daown the west post, an ye know how mad Deacon Nash'll be ef ye don' git don shinglin his barn tidday." After a series of heartrending groans and yawns, Meshech, who had tumbled on the bed in his clothes, got up and stood stretching and rubbing his eyes in the middle of the floor.
"By gosh, it's kinder tough," he said, "I wuz jess a dreamin ez I wuz latherin deakin. I'd jess swotted him one in the snout wen ye woke me, an naow, by gorry, I've got tew go an work fer the critter."
"An ye better hurry, tew," urged his wife anxiously. "Ye know ye didn't dew the fuss thing all day yis'dy."
"Whar wuz I yis'dy?" asked Meshech, in whose confused faculties the only distinct recollection was that he had been drunk.
"Ye went daown tew Barrington 'long with the crowd."
Meshech was in the act of ducking his head in a bucket of water, standing on a bench by the door, but at his wife's words he became suddenly motionless as a statue, his nose close to the water. Then he straightened sharply up and stared at her, the working of his eyes showing that he was gathering up tangled skeins of recollection.
"Wal, I swow," he finally ejaculated, with an astonished drawl, "ef I hadn't a furgut the hull dum performance, an here I wuz a gittin up an goin to work jess ez if court hadn't been stopped. Gosh, Sally, I guess I be my own man tidday, ef I hev got a bad tas in my mouth. Gorry, it's lucky I thort afore I wet my hed. I couldn't a gone tew sleep agin," and Meshech turned toward the bed, with apparent intention of resuming his slumbers.
But Mrs. Little, though she knew there had been serious disturbances the preceding day, could by no means bring her mind to believe that the entire system of law and public authority had been thus suddenly and completely overthrown, and she yet again adjured her husband, this time by a more dreadful name, to betake himself to labor.
"Ef ye don' go to work, Meshech, Squire Woodbridge 'll hev ye in the stocks fer gittin drunk. Deakin kin git ye put in any time he wants ter complain on ye. Ye better not rile him."
But at this Meshech, instead of being impressed, burst into a loud haw haw.
"Yes'dy mornin ye could a scart me outer a week's growth a talkin baout Squire, but, gol, ye'll have ter try suthen else naow. Wy don' ye know we wuz a serenadin Squire with a hoss-fiddle till ten o'clock las' night, an he didn' das show his nose outer doors.
"Gosh!" he continued, getting into bed and turning over toward the wall, "I'd giv considabul, ef I could dream I wuz lickin Squire. Mebbe I kin. Don' ye wake me up agin Sally," and presently his regular snoring proclaimed that he had departed to the free hunting grounds of dreamland in pursuit of his desired game.
Now Meshech's was merely a representative case. He was by no means the only workingman who that morning kept his bed warm to an unaccustomed hour. Except such as had farms of their own to work on, or work for themselves to do, there was scarcely any one in Stockbridge who went to work. A large part of the labor by which the industries of the community had been carried on, had been that of debtors working out their debts at such allowance for wages as their creditor-employers chose to make them. If they complained that it was too small, they had, indeed, their choice to go to jail in preference to taking it, but no third alternative was before them. Of these coolies, as we should call them in these days, only a few who were either very timid, or ignorant of the full effect of yesterday's doings, went to their usual tasks.
Besides the coolies, there was a small number of laborers who commanded actual wages in produce or in money. Although there was no reason in yesterday's proceedings, why these should not go to work as usual, yet the spirit of revolt that was in the air, and the vague impression of impending changes that were to indefinitely better the condition of the poor, had so far affected them also, that the most took this day as a holiday, with a hazy but pleasing notion that it was the beginning of unlimited holidays.
All this idle element naturally drifted into the streets, and collected in particular force on the green and about the tavern. By afternoon, these groups, reenforced by those who had been busy at home during the morning, began to assume the dimensions of a crowd. Widow Bingham, at the tavern, had deemed it expedient to keep the right side of the lawless element by a rather free extension of credit at the bar, and there was a good deal of hilarity, which, together with the atmosphere of excitement created by the recent stirring events, made it seem quite like a gala occasion. Women and girls were there in considerable numbers, the latter wearing their ribbons, and walking about in groups together, or listening to their sweethearts, as each explained to a credulous auditor, how yesterday's great events had hinged entirely on the narrator's individual presence and prowess.
Some of the youths, the preceding night, had cut a tall sapling and set it in the middle of the green, in front of the tavern. On the top of this had been fixed the cocked hat of Justice Goodrich, brought as a trophy from Great Barrington. This was the center of interest, the focus of the crowd, a visible, palpable proof of the people's victory over the courts, which was the source of inextinguishable hilarity. It was evident, indeed, from the conversation of the children, that there existed in the minds of those of tender years, some confusion as to the previous ownership of the hat, and the circumstances connected with its acquisition by the people. Some said that it was Burgoyne's hat, and others that it was the hat of King George, himself, while the affair of the day before at Great Barrington, was variously represented as a victory over the redcoats, the Indians and the Tories. But, whatever might be the differences of opinion on these minor points, the children were uproariously agreed that there was something to be exceedingly joyful about.
Next to the hat, two uncouth-looking machines which stood on the green near the stocks, were the centers of interest. They were wooden structures, somewhat resembling saw-horses. Beside each were several boards, and close inspection would have shown that both the surface of the horses and one side of these boards, were well smeared with rosin. These were the horse-fiddles, contrived for the purpose of promoting wakefulness by night, on the part of the silk stockings. Given plenty of rosin, and a dozen stout fellows to each fiddle, drawing the boards to and fro across the backs of the horses, pressing on hard, and the resulting shrieks were something only to be imagined with the fingers in the ears. The concert given to Squire Woodbridge the night previous, had been an extemporized affair, with only one horse-fiddle, and insufficient support from other instruments. To judge from the conversation of the men and boys standing around, it was intended to-night to give the Squire a demonstration which should quite compensate him for the unsatisfactory nature of the former entertainment, and leave him in no sort of doubt as to the sentiments of the people toward the magistracy and silk stockings in general, and himself in particular. A large collection of tin-pans had been made, and the pumpkin vines of the vicinity had been dismantled for the construction of pumpkinstalk trombones, provided with which, some hundreds of small boys were to be in attendance.
Although the loud guffaws which from time to time were heard from the group of men and hobbledehoys about the horse-fiddles on the green, were evidence that the projected entertainment was not without comical features as they looked at it, the aspect of the affair as viewed by other eyes was decidedly tragical. Mrs. Woodbridge had long been sinking with consumption, and the uproar and excitement of the preceding night had left her in so prostrate a condition that Dr. Partridge had been called in. During the latter part of her aunt's sickness Desire Edwards had made a practice of running into her Uncle Jahleel's many times a day to give a sort of oversight to the housekeeping, a department in which she was decidedly more proficient than damsels of this day, of much less aristocratic pretensions, find it consistent with their dignity to be. The doctor and Desire were at this moment in the living-room, inspecting through the closed shutters the preparations on the green for the demonstration of the evening.
"Another such night will kill her, won't it, doctor?"
"I could not answer for the consequences," replied the doctor, gravely. "I could scarcely hazard giving her laudanum enough to carry her through such a racket, and without sleep she cannot live another day."
"What shall we do? What shall we do? Oh, poor Aunty! The brutes! The brutes! Look at them over there laughing their great horse laughs. I never liked to see them whipped before, when the constable whipped them, but oh I shall like to after this. I should like to see them whipped till the blood ran down," cried the girl, tears of mingled grief and anger filling her flashing eyes.
"I don't know when you are likely to have the opportunity," said the doctor, dryly. "At present they have the upper hand in town, and seem very likely to keep it. We may thank our stars if the idea of whipping some of us does not occur to them."
"My father fears that they will plunder the store and perhaps murder us, unless help comes soon."
"There is no help to come," said the doctor. "The militia are all in the mob."
"But is there nothing we can do? Must we let them murder Aunty before our eyes?"
"Perhaps," said the doctor, "if your Uncle Jahleel were to go out to the mob this evening, and entreat them civilly, and beg them to desist by reason of your aunt's sickness, they would hear to him."
"Doctor! Doctor! you don't know my uncle," cried Desire. "He would sooner have Aunt Lucy die, and die himself, and have us all killed, than stoop to ask a favor of the rabble."
"I suppose it would be hard for him," said the doctor, "and yet to save your aunt's life maybe—"
"Oh I couldn't bear to have him do it," interrupted Desire. "Poor Uncle! I'd rather go out to the mob myself than have Uncle Jahleel. It would kill him. He is so proud."
The doctor walked across the room two or three times with knitted brow and then paused and looked with a certain critical admiration at the face of the girl to which excitement had lent an unusual brilliance.
"I will tell you," he said, "the only way I see of securing a quiet night to your aunt. Just go yourself and see this Hamlin who is the captain of the mob, and make your petition to him. I had words with him this morning. He is a well seeming fellow enough, and has a bold way of speech that liked me well i' faith, though no doubt he's a great rascal and well deserves a hanging."
He paused, for Desire was confronting him, with a look that was a peremptory interruption. Her eyes were flashing, her cheeks mantled with indignant color, and the delicate nostrils were distended with scorn.
"Me, Desire Edwards, sue for favors of this low fellow! You forget yourself strangely, Dr. Partridge."
The doctor took his hat from the table and bowed low. "I beg your pardon, Miss Desire. Possibly your aunt may live through the night, after all," and he went out of the house shrugging his shoulders.
Desire was still standing in the same attitude when a faint voice caught her ear, and stepping to a door she opened it, and asked gently, "What is it, Aunty?"
"Your uncle hasn't gone out, has he?" asked Mrs. Woodbridge, feebly.
"No, Aunty, he's in his study walking to and fro as he's been all day, you know."
"He musn't go out. I was afraid he'd gone out. Tell him I beg he will not go out. The mob will kill him."
"I don't think he will go, Aunty."
"Do you think they will make that terrible noise again tonight."
"I—I don't know. I'm afraid so, Aunt Lucy."
"Oh dear," sighed the invalid, with a moan of exhaustion, "it don't seem as if I could live through it again, I'm so weak, and so tired. You can't think, dear, how tired I am."
Desire went in and shook up the pillows, and soothed the sick woman with some little cares and then came out and shut the door. Her wide brimmed hat of fine leghorn straw with a blue ostrich plume curled around the crown, and a light cashmere shawl lay on the table. Perching the one a trifle sideways on her dark brown curls, which were gathered simply in a ribbon behind, according to the style of the day, she threw the shawl about her shoulders, and knocked at the door of her Uncle Jahleel's study, which also opened into the living-room, and was the apartment in which he held court, when acting as magistrate. In response to the knock the Squire opened the door. He looked as if he had had a fit of sickness, so deeply had the marks of chagrin and despite impressed itself on his face in the past two days.
"I'm going out for a little while," said Desire, "and you will go to Aunty, if she calls, won't you?"
Her uncle nodded and resumed his walking to and fro, and Desire, stepping out of the house by a back way, went by a path across the fields, toward Elnathan Hamlin's house.
The Hamlin house, like the houses of most of the poorer class of people, had but two rooms on the ground floor, a small bedroom and a great kitchen, in which the family lived, worked, cooked, ate and received company. There were two doors opening into the kitchen from without, the front door and the back door. On the former of these, there came a light tap. Now callers upon the Hamlins, in general, just pulled the latchstring and came in. Nobody tapped except the sheriff, the constable, the tax-collector and the parson, and the latter's calls had been rare since the family fortunes, never other than humble, had been going from bad to worse. So that it was not without some trepidation, which was shared by the family, that old Elnathan now rose from his seat by the chimney corner and went and opened the door. A clear, soft voice, with the effect of distinctness without preciseness, which betrays the cultured class, was heard by those within, asking, "Is Captain Hamlin in the house?"
"Do ye mean Perez?" parleyed Elnathan.
"I b'leve he's somewheres raound. He's aout doin up the chores, I callate. Did ye wanter see him?"
"If you please."
"Wal, come in won't ye, an sid down, an I'll go aout arter him," said Elnathan, backing in and making way for the guest to enter.
"It's the Edwards gal," he continued, in a feebly introductory manner, as Desire entered.
Mrs. Hamlin hastily let down her sleeves, and glanced, a little shamefacedly, at her linsey-woolsey short gown and coarse petticoat, and then about the room, which was a good deal cluttered up, and small blame to her, considering the sudden increase of her household cares. But it was, nevertheless, with native dignity that she greeted her guest and set her a chair, not allowing herself to be put out by the rather fastidious way in which Desire held up her skirts.
"Sid down," said Elnathan "an be kinder neighborly. She wants to see Perez, mother. I dunno what baout, I'm sure. Ef he's a milkin naow I s'pose I kin spell him so's he kin come in an see what she's a wantin of him," and the old man shuffled out the back door.
Desire sat down, calm and composed outwardly, but tingling in every particle of her body with a revulsion of taste at the vulgarity of the atmosphere, which almost amounted to nausea. But it may be doubted if her dainty attire, her air of distinction, and the refined delicacy of her flower-like face, had ever appeared to more advantage than as she sat, inwardly fuming, on that rude chair, in that rude room, amid its more or less clownish inmates. Prudence was very red in the face, and confused. As housemaid in Mr. Woodbridge's family, she knew Desire well, and felt a certain sort of responsibility for her on that account. She did not know whether she ought to go and speak to her now, though Desire took no notice of her. Reuben also had risen from his chair as she came in, and still stood awkwardly leaning on the back of it, not seeming sure if he ought to sit down again or not. Fennell, too sick to care, was the only self-possessed person in the room. It was a relief to all when the noise of feet at the door indicated the return of Elnathan with Perez, but the running explanations of the former which his senile treble made quite audible through the door, were less reassuring.
"Can't make aout what in time she wants on ye. Mebbe she's tuk a shine to ye, he, he, I dunno. Ye uster be allers arter her when ye wuz a young un."
"Hush father, she'll hear," said Perez, and opening the door came into the kitchen.
Desire arose to her feet as he did so, and their eyes met. He would have known her anywhere, in spite of the nine years since he had seen her. The small oval of the sparkling gypsy face, the fine features, so mobile and piquant, he instantly recognized from the portrait painted in undying colors upon his youthful imagination.
"Are you Captain Hamlin?" she said.
"I hope you remember Perez Hamlin," he answered.
"I remember the name," she replied coldly. "I am told that you command the—the men"—she was going to say mob—"in the village."
"I believe so," he answered. He was thinking that those red lips of hers had once kissed his, that August morning when he stood on the green, ready to march with the minute men.
"My Aunt Woodbridge is very sick. If your men make a noise again in front of my uncle's house, she will die. I came to—to ask"—she had to say it—"you to prevent it."
"I will prevent it," said Perez.
Desire dropped an almost imperceptible curtsey, raised the latch of the door and went out.
All through the interview, even when she had overheard Elnathan's confidences to Perez, at the door, her cheeks had not betrayed her by a trace of unusual color, but now as she hurried home across the fields, they burned with shame, and she fairly choked to think of the vulgar familiarity to which she had submitted, and the abject attitude she had assumed to this farmer's son. She remembered well enough that childish kiss, and saw in his eyes that he remembered it. This perception had added the last touch to her humiliation.
But Perez went out and wandered into the wood-lot and sat down on a fallen tree, and stared a long time into vacancy with glowing eyes. He had dreamed of Desire a thousand times during his long absence from home, but since his return, so vehement had been the pressure of domestic troubles, so rapid the rush of events, that he had not had time to once think of her existence, up to the moment when she had confronted him there in the kitchen, in a beauty at once the same, and so much more rare, and rich and perfect, than that which had ruled his boyish dreams.
Presently he went down to the tavern. The crowd of men and boys on the green received him with quite an ovation. Shaking hands right and left with the men, he went on to the tavern, and finding Abner smoking on the bench outside the door, drew him aside and asked him to see that there was no demonstration in front of Woodbridge's that evening. Abner grumbled a little.
"O' course I'm sorry for the woman, if she's sick, but they never showed no considerashun fer our feelin's, an I don' see wy we sh'd be so durn tender o' theirn. I shouldn't be naow, arter they'd treated a brother o' mine ez they hev Reub. But ye be cap'n, Perez, an it shel be ez ye say. The boys kin try ther fiddles on Squire Edwards instid."
"No. Not there, Abner," said Perez, quickly.
"Wy not, I sh'd like ter know. His wife ain't sick, be she?"
"No, that is I don't know," said Perez, his face flushing a little with the difficulty of at once thinking of any plausible reason. "You see," he finally found words to say, "the store is so near Squire Woodbridge's, that the noise might disturb Madam Woodbridge."
"She muss hev dum sharp ears, ef she kin hear much at that distance," observed Abner, "but it shell be as ye say, Cap'n. I s'pose ye've nothin agin our givin Sheriff Seymour a little mewsick."
"As much as you please, Abner."
A PRAISE MEETING
As a fever awakes to virulent activity the germs of disease in the body, so revolution in the political system develops the latent elements of anarchy. It is a test of the condition of the system. The same political shock which throws an ill-constituted and unsound government into a condition of chaos, is felt in a politically vigorous and healthful commonwealth, as only a slight disturbance of the ordinary functions. The promptness with which the village of Stockbridge relapsed into its ordinary mode of life after the revolt and revolution of Tuesday, was striking testimony to the soundness and vitality which a democratic form of government and a popular sense of responsibility impart to a body politic. On Tuesday the armed uprising of the people had taken place; on Wednesday there was considerable effervescence of spirits, though no violence; on Thursday there was still a number of loutish fellows loafing about the streets, wearing, however, an appearance of being disappointed that there was no more excitement, and no prospect of anything special turning up. Friday and Saturday, apparently disgusted at finding rebellion such a failure in elements of recreation, these had gone back to their farm-work and chores, and the village had returned to its normal quiet without even any more serenades to the silk stockings, to enliven the evenings.
A foreigner, who had chanced to be passing through Southern Berkshire at this time, would have deemed an informant practicing on his credulity who should have assured him that everywhere throughout these quiet and industrious communities, the entire governmental machinery was prostrate, that not a local magistrate undertook to sit, not a constable ventured to attempt an arrest, not a sheriff dared to serve a process or make an execution, or a tax-collector distrain for taxes. And yet such was the sober truth, for Stockbridge was in no respect peculiarly situated, and in many of the towns around, especially in Sheffield, Egremont, Great Barrington, and Sandisfield, an even larger proportion of the people were open sympathizers with the rebellion than in the former village.
In these modern days, restaurants, barrooms, and saloons, and similar places of resort, are chiefly thronged on Saturday evening, when the labors of the week being ended, the worker, in whatever field, finds himself at once in need of convivial relaxation, and disposed thereto by the exhilaration of a prospective holiday. Necessarily, however, Saturday evening could not be thus celebrated in a community which regarded it in the light of holy time, and, accordingly in Stockbridge, as elsewhere in New England at that day, Friday and Sunday evenings were by way of eminence the convivial occasions of the week. One of the consequences of this arrangement was that a "blue Saturday" as well as the modern "blue Monday," found place in the workingman's calendar. But the voice of the temperance lecturer was not yet heard in the land, and headaches were still looked upon as Providential mysteries.
The Friday following the "goings on at Barrington," the tavern was filled by about the same crowd which had been present the Friday evening preceding, and of whose conversation on that occasion, some account was given. But the temper of the gathering a week before had been gloomy, foreboding, hopeless and well-nigh desperate; to-night, it was jubilant.
"It's the Lord's doin's, an marvellous in our eyes, an that's all I kin say about it," declared Israel Goodrich, his rosy face beaming with benevolent satisfaction, beneath its crown of white hair. "Jess think whar we wuz a week ago, an whar we be naow. By gosh who'd a thought it? If one on ye had a tole me las' Friday night, what was a comin raound inside of a week, I should a said he wuz stark starin mad."
"We mout a knowed somethin wuz a gonter happin," said Abner. "It's allers darkest jess afore dawn, an 'twas dark nuff tew cut las' Friday."
"I declar for't," said Peleg Bidwell, "seem's though I never did feel quite so down-hearted like ez I did las' Friday night, wen we wuz a talkin it over. I'd hed a bad day on't. Sol Gleason'd been a sassin of me, an I dassn't say a word, fer fear he'd send me to jail, fer owin him, an wen I got home She wuz a cryin, fer Gleason'd been thar, an I dunno what he'd said tew her, and then Klector Williams he told me he'd hev tew sell the furnicher fer taxes, an by gosh, takin the hull together seemed 's though thar warn't no place fer a poor man in this ere world, and I didn' keer ef I lived much longer or not. An naow! Wal thay ain't no use o' tellin ye what ye know. I seen Gleason on the street yisday, an he looked like a whipped cur. He hed his tail atween his legs, I tell yew. I reckon he thort I wuz gonter lick him. It wuz 'Good mornin, Peleg,' ez sweet's sugar, an he didn't hev nothing tew say baout what I wuz a owin him, no; nor he didn't ass me nothin baout wy I hedn't been tew work fer him sence Tewsday."
After the haw-haw over Peleg's description had subsided, he added, with a grin,
"Klector Williams he hain't thort tew call baout them taxes, sence Tewsday, nuther. Hev any on ye seen nothin on him?"
"He hain't skurcely been outer his haouse," said Obadiah Weeks. "I on'y see him onct. It was arter dark, an he wuz a slippin over't the store arter his tod."
"I guess it muss be considabul like a funeral over't the store, nights," observed Abner, grinning. "Gosh I sh'd like ter peek in an see em a talkin on it over. Wal, turn about's fair play. They don' feel no wuss nor we did."
"Won't thar be no more klectin taxes?" inquired Laban Jones.
"I guess thar won't be much more klectin roun' here 'nless the klector hez a couple o' rigiments o' melishy tew help him dew it," replied Abner.
"I dunno, baout that," said Ezra Phelps. "Thar's more'n one way ter skin a cat."
"Thar ain't no way o' skinnin this ere cat 'cept with bagonets," said Abner, decidedly, and a general murmur expressed the opinion that so far as the present company was concerned government would have to practice some preliminary phlebotomy on their persons before they would submit to any further bleeding of their purses by the tax-collector. Nothing pleased Ezra more than to get placed thus argumentatively at bay, with the entire company against him, and then discomfit them all at a stroke. The general expression of dissent with which his previous remark was received, seemed actually to please him. He stood looking at Abner for a moment, without speaking, a complacent smile just curving his lips, and the sparkle of the intellectual combatant in his eye. To persons of Ezra's disputatious and speculative temper, such moments, in which they gloat over their victim as he stands within the very jaws of the logic trap which they are about to spring, are no doubt, the most delightful of life.
"Don't yew be in sech a hurry, Abner," he finally ejaculated. "Would ye mind payin yer taxes ef govment giv ye the money ter pay em with?"
"No. In course I wouldn't."
"Ezzackly. Course ye wouldn't. Ye'd be dum unreas'nable ef ye did. Wal, naow I callate that air's jess what govment's gonter dew, ez soon ez it gits the news from Northampton and Barrington. It's gonter print a stack o' bills, an git em inter cirk'lashun, an then we'll all on us hev suthin tew pay fer taxes, an not mind it a bit; yis, an pay all the debts that's a owin, tew."
"I hain't no objeckshun ter that," admitted Abner, frankly.
"Of course ye hain't," said Ezra. "Nobody hain't. Ye see ye spoke tew quick, Abner. All the kentry wants is bills, a hull slew on em, lots on em, an then the courts kin go on, an debts an taxes kin be paid, an everything'll be all right. I ain't one o' them ez goes agin' payin debts an taxes. I says let em be paid, ev'ry shillin, on'y let govment print nuff bills fer folks tew pay em with."
"I callate a couple o' wagon loads o' new bills would pay orf ev'ry morgidge, an mos' o' the debts, in Berkshire," said Israel, reflectively.
"Sartinly, sartinly," exclaimed Ezra. "That would be plenty. It don' cost nothin tew print em, an they'd pacify this ere caounty a dum sight quicker nor no two rigiments, nor no ten, nuther."
"That air's what I believe in," said Israel, beamingly, "peaceable ways o' settlin the trouble; bills instid o' bagonets. The beauty on't so fer is that thar hain't been no sheddin o' blood, nor no vi'lence tew speak of, ceppin a leetle shovin daown tew Barrington, an I hope thar won't be."
"I don't know about that," said Paul Hubbard. "Not that I want to see any killing, but there are some silk stockings in this here town that would look mighty well sticking through the stocks, an there are some white skins that ought to know how a whip feels, jist so the men that own em might see how the medicine tastes they've been giving us so many years."
There was a general murmur indicating approval of this sentiment, and several "that's sos" were heard, but Israel said, as he patted Hubbard paternally on the back:
"Let bygones be bygones, Paul. Them things be all over naow, an I callate thar won't be no more busin of poor folks. The lyin an the lamb be a gonter lie down together arter this, 'cordin tew scripter. I declar, it seems jiss like the good ole times 'long from '74 to '80, wen thar warn't no courts in Berkshire. Wen I wuz a tellin ye baout them times 'tother night, I swow I didn't callate ye'd ever have a chance to see em fer yerselves, leastways, not till ye got ter Heavin, an I guess that's a slim chance with most on ye. Jess think on't, boys. Thar ain't been nary sheriff's sale, nor a man tuk ter jail this hull week."
"Iry Seymour wuz a gonter sell aout Elnathan Hamlin this week, but somehow he hain't got tew it," said Abner, dryly. "I callate he heard some news from Barrington baout Tuesday."
"Iry mout's well give up his comishin ez depity sheriff an try ter git inter some honest trade," remarked Israel.
"Whar does Squire Woodbridge keep hisself these days? I hain't seen him skurcely this week," said Ezra Phelps.
"Yew don' genally see much of a rooster the week arter another rooster's gin him a darnation lickin on his own dung hill, an that's wat's the matter with Squire," replied Abner. Shifting his quid of tobacco to the other side of the mouth and expectorating across half the room into the chimney place he continued, reflectively:
"By gosh, I don' blame him, nuther. It muss come kinder tough fer a feller ez hez lorded it over Stockbridge fer nigh twenty year tew git put daown afore the hull village the way Perez put him daown Tuesday. Ef I wuz Squire, I shouldn't never wan ter show myself agin roun' here."
"I be kinder sorry fer him," said Israel Goodrich. "I declar for't if I ain't. It muss be kinder tough tew git took daown so, specially fer sech a dreffle proud man."
"I hain't sot eyes on him on'y once sence Tewsday," said Peleg. "He looked right straight through me 'z ef he didn' see nothin. He didn' seem ter notice nobody ez he went along the street."
"By gosh, he'd notice ye quick nuff ef he could put ye in the stocks," observed Abner, grimly. "I tell yew he ain't furgut one on us that went daown ter Barrington, nor one on us ez wuz a serenadin him t'other night. Yew jess let Squire git his grip onto this ere taown agin ez he uster hev it an the constable an the whippin post won't hev no rest till he's paid orf his grudge agin' every one on us. An ef yew dunno that, yew dunno Squire Woodbridge."
The silence which followed indicated that the hearers did know the Squire well enough to appreciate the force of Abner's remarks, and that the contingencies which they suggested were inducive of serious reflections. It was Jabez Flint, the Tory, who effected a diversion by observing dryly,
"Yes, ef Squire gits his grip agin, some on us will git darnation sore backs, but he's lost it, an he ain't a gonter git it agin ez long ez we fellers keeps ourn. On'y 'twont dew ter hev no foolin, tain't no child's play we're at."
"I know one thing dum well" said Obadiah Weeks, "and that is I wouldn' like tew be in Cap'n Hamlin's shoes ef Squire sh'd git top agin. Jehosaphat, though, wouldn' he jess go fer the Cap'n. I guess he'd give him ten lashes ev'ry day fer a month an make him set in the stocks with pepper 'n salt rubbed in his back 'tween times, an then hev him hung ter wind up with, an he wouldn' be half sassified then."
"Warn't that the gol-darndest though, baout that Edwards gal agoin tew ass Perez to git the mewsic stopped? By gosh, I can't git over that," exclaimed Peleg, grinning from ear to ear. "I was a lyin awake las' night and I got ter thinkin bout it, an I begun snickering so's She waked up, and She says, 'Peleg,' seshee 'what in time be yew a snickerin at?' and I says I wuz a snickerin tew think o' that air stuck up leetle gal o' Squire Edwards daown on her knees tew Perez, a cryin an a assin him ef he wouldn' please hev the racket stopped. Yew sed she wuz ontew her knees, didn't yew, Obadiah?"
"Tell us all about it Obadiah, we wanter hear it agin," was the general demand.
"Ye see the way on't wuz this," said Obadiah, nothing loath. "She come in all a cryin an scairt like, and Perez he wuz thar an so wuz the res' o' the family, an the fuss thing she does, she gits down on the floor intew the sand with a new silk gown she hed on, and asses Perez to hev the hoss-fiddles stopped. An he said t'er fuss, as haow he wouldn't, said 'twas good nuff fur the silk stockings, and he pinted ter Reub an says for her tew see what they'd done ter his family. But she cried an tuck on, an says ez haow she wouldn't git up 'nless he'd stop the hoss-fiddles, an so he hed tew give in, an that's all I knows about it."
"Ye see Obadiah knows all baout it," said Abner. "He keeps kumpny with the Fennell gal, as is tew the Hamlins. He got it straight's a string, didn't ye, Obadiah?"
"Yes," said Obadiah, "it's all jess so. Thar ain't no mistake."
No incident of the insurrection had taken such hold on the popular imagination as the appeal of Desire Edwards to Perez for protection. It was immensely flattering to the vanity of the mob, as typifying the state of terror to which the aristocrats had been reduced, and all the louts in town felt an inch the taller, by reason of it, and walked with an additional swagger. The demand for the details of the scene between Perez and Desire was insatiable and Obadiah was called on twenty times a day to relate to gaping, grinning audiences just how she looked, what she did, and said, and what Perez said. The fact that Obadiah's positive information on the subject was limited to a few words that Prudence had dropped, made it necessary for him to depend largely on his imagination to satisfy the demands of his auditors, which accounts for the slight discrepancy between the actual facts as known to the reader and the popular version. After everybody had haw hawed and cracked his joke over Obadiah's last repetition of the anecdote, Peleg observed:
"I dunno's az a feller kin blame Perez fer givin intew her. The gal's derned hansum, though she be mos' too black complected."
"She ain't none tew black, not to my thinkin," said Widow Bingham, looking up from her knitting as she sat behind the bar,—the widow herself was a buxom brunette—"but I never did see anybuddy kerry ther nose quite so high in all my born days. She don't pay no more 'tension to common folks 'n if they wuz dirt under her feet."
"Whar's Meshech Little, ter night?" inquired Israel Goodrich, not so much interested as the younger men in the points of young women.
"He's been drunk all day," said Obadiah, who always knew everything that was going on.
"Whar'd he git the money?" asked some one.
"Meshech don' need no money tew git drunk," said Abner. "He's got a thirst ontew him as'll draw liquor aout a cask a rod orf, an the bung in, jess like the clouds draws water on a hot day. He don' need no money, Meshech don' tew git soaked."
"He hed some, he hed a shillin howsumever," said Obadiah. "Deacon Nash give it tew him fer pitchin rowen."
"I hain't been so tickled in ten year," said Israel, "ez I wuz wen Deacon come roun tidday a offerin a shillin lawful tew the fellers tew git in his rowen fer him. It must hev been like pullin teeth fer Deacon tew pay aout cash fer work seein ez he's made his debtors dew all his farmin fer him this five year, but he hed tew come tew 't, fer his rowen wuz a spilin, an nary one o' his debtors would lif a finger 'thout bein paid for 't."
"That air shillin o' Meshech's is the fuss money o' his'n I've seen fer flip in more'n a year," said Widow Bingham, "an thar be them, not a thousan mile from here, nuther, ez I could say the same on, more shame to em, for't, an I a lone widder."
The line of remark adopted by the widow, appeared to exert a depressing influence on the spirits of the company, and this, together with the information volunteered by Obadiah, that it was "arter nine," presently caused a general break-up.
PEREZ GOES TO MEETING
The very next day, as Squire Edwards and his family were sitting down to dinner, the eldest son Jonathan, a fine young fellow of sixteen, came in late with a blacked eye and torn clothes.
"My son," said Squire Edwards, sternly, "why do you come to the table in such a condition? What have you been doing?"
"I've been fighting Obadiah Weeks, sir, and I whipped him, too."
"And I shall whip you, sir, and soundly," said his father, with the Jove-like frown of the eighteenth century parent. "What have I told you about fighting? Go to your room, and wait for me there. You will have no dinner."
The boy turned on his heel without a word, and went out and up to his room. In the course of the afternoon, Squire Edwards was as good as his word. When he had come downstairs, after the discharge of his parental responsibilities, and gone into the store, Desire slipped up to Jonathan's room with a substantial luncheon under her apron. He was her favorite brother, and it was her habit thus surreptitiously to temper justice with mercy on occasions like the present. The lively satisfaction with which the youth hailed her appearance, gave ground to the suspicion that an empty stomach had been causing him more discomfort than a reproving conscience. As Desire was arranging the viands on the table she expressed a hope that the paternal correction had not been more painful than usual. The boy began to grin.
"Don't you fret about father's lickins," he said, "I'd just as lieve he'd lick me all day if he'll give me a couple o' minutes to get ready in. How many pair o' trowsers do you s'pose I've got on?"
"One, of course."
"Four," replied Jonathan, laying one forefinger by the side of his nose and winking at his sister. "I was sort of sorry for father, he got so tuckered trying to make me cry. Jimmeny, though, that veal pie looks good. I should hated to have lost that. You was real good to fetch it up.
"T'was only fair, though, this time," he continued, with his mouth full, "for t'was on 'count o' you I got to fightin."
"What do you mean?" said she.
"Why, Obadiah's been tellin the biggest set o' lies about you I ever heard of. He's been tellin em all over town. He said you went over to Elnathan Hamlin's, Wednesday, and got down on your knees to that Cap'n Hamlin, so's to get him not to have no more o' those horse-fiddles in front of Uncle's and our houses. You better believe I walloped him well, if he is bigger than me."
Jonathan, busy with eating, had not observed his sister's face during this recital, but now he said, glancing up:
"What on earth do you s'pose put such a lie into his head?"
"It isn't all a lie, Jonathan."
The boy laid down his knife and fork, and stared at her aghast.
"You don't mean you was over there?" he exclaimed.
Desire's face was crimson to the roots of her hair. She bowed her head.
"Wh-a-a-t!" said Jonathan, in a tone of utter disgust, tempered only by a remnant of incredulity.
"I didn't go on my knees to him," said Desire faintly.
"Oh, you didn't, didn't you? I believe you did," said the boy slowly, with an accent of ineffable scorn, rising to his feet and drawing away from his sister, as she seemed about to approach him.
Before the lad of sixteen, his elder sister, who had carried him in her arms as a baby, and been his teacher as a boy, stood like a culprit, quite abject. Finally she said:
"I didn't do it for myself. I did it for Aunt Lucy. The doctor said it would kill her if she was kept awake another night, and there was no other way to stop the mob. And so I did it."
"Was that the way?" said the boy, evidently staggered by this unexpected plea, and seeming quite at loss what to say.
"Yes," said Desire, rallying a little. "You might know it was. Do you think I'd do it any other way? I couldn't see Aunty die, could I?"
"No-o, darn it. I s'pose not," replied Jonathan slowly, as if he were not quite sure. His face wore a puzzled expression, the problem offered by this conflict of ethical obligations with caste sentiment being evidently too much for his boyish intellect. Evidently he had not inherited his grandfather's metaphysical faculty. Finally, with an air of being entirely posed, and losing interest in the subject, he sat down on the edge of his bed and abruptly closed the interview by observing:
"I'm going to take off some of these trowsers. They're too hot." Desire discreetly went out.
The only point in the observance of Sunday by the forefathers of New England, which is still generally practiced in these degenerate days, namely, the duty of sleeping later than usual that morning, was transgressed in at least one Stockbridge household on the Lord's Day following. Captain Perez Hamlin was up betimes and busy about house and barns. Since he had returned home he had taken the responsibility of all the chores about the place from the enfeebled shoulders of his father, besides supplying the place of man nurse to the invalids. This morning he had risen earlier than usual because he wanted to do up all the work before time for meeting.
It would have been easy for any one whose eye had followed him at his work, to see that his mind was preoccupied. Now he would walk about briskly, with head in the air, whistling as he went, or talking to the horse and cow, and anon bursting out laughing at his own absent-mindedness, as he found he had given the horse the cow's food, or put the meal into the water bucket. And again you would have certainly thought that he was fishing for the frogs at the bottom of the well instead of drawing water, so long did he stand leaning over the well-curb, before he bethought himself to loose his hold on the rope and let the ponderous well-sweep bring up the bucket.
He had not seen Desire Edwards since the Wednesday afternoon when she had called, but he knew he should see her at meeting. It was she who was responsible for the daydreaming way in which he was going about this morning, and for a good deal of previous daydreaming and night dreaming, too, in the last few days. The analogy of the tender passion to the chills and fever, had been borne out in his case by the usual alternations of complacency and depression. He told himself, that since he remembered so well his boyish courtship of her, she, too, doubtless remembered it. A woman was even more likely than a man to remember such things. Doubtless, she remembered too, that kiss she had given him. Her coming to him to ask his protection for her aunt, if she remembered those passages had some significance. She must have known that he would also remember them, and surely that would have deterred her from reopening their acquaintance had she found the reminiscences in question disagreeable. He assured himself that had it been wholly unpleasant for her to meet him, she would have been shrewd enough to devise some other way of securing the purpose of her visit. She had remained unmarried all the time of his absence, although she must have had suitors. Perhaps—well if this conjecture sounded a little conceited, be sure it was alternated with others self-depreciatory enough to balance it. But I have no space or need to describe the familiar process of architecture, by which with a perhaps for a keystone, possibilities for pillars, and dreams for pinnacles, lovers are wont to rear in a few idle hours, palaces outdazzling Aladdin's. I shall more profitably give a word or two of explanation to another point. Those familiar with the aristocratic constitution of New England society at this period, will perhaps deem it strange that the social gulf between the poor farmer's son, like Perez, and the daughter of one of the most distinguished families in Berkshire, should not have sufficed to deter the young man from indulging aspirations in that direction.
Perhaps, if he had grown up at home, such might have been the case, despite his boyish fondness for the girl. But the army of the revolution had been for its officers and more intelligent element, a famous school of democratic ideas. Perez was only one of thousands, who came home deeply imbued with principles of social equality; principles, which, despite finely phrased manifestoes and declarations of independence, were destined to work like a slow leaven for generations yet, ere they transformed the oligarchical system of colonial society, into the democracy of our day. It is true that, Paul Hubbard, Abner, Peleg, Meshech, and the rest, had been like Perez in the army, and yet the democratic impressions they had there received, now that they had returned home, served only to exasperate them against the pretensions of the superior class, without availing to eradicate their inbred instincts of servility in the presence of the very men they hated. Precisely this self-contemptuous recognition of his own servile feeling, operating on a morose temper, was the key to Hubbard's special bitterness toward the silk stockings. That Perez had none of this peasant's instinct, must, after all, be partly ascribed to the fact that his descent, by his mother's side, had been a gentleman's, and as Reuben had taken after Elnathan, so Perez was his mother's boy. He felt himself a gentleman, although a farmer's son. The air of dainty remoteness and distinction, which invested Desire in his imagination, was by virtue of her womanhood, solely, not as the representative of a higher class. He was penniless, she was rich, but to that sufficiently discouraging obstacle, no paralyzing sense of caste inferiority was added, in his mind.
Despite the dilatory and absent-minded procedure of the young man, by the time Prudence came out to call him in to the breakfast of fried pork and johnny-cake, the chores were done, and afterwards he had only to concern himself with his toilet. He stood a long time gazing ruefully at his coat, so sadly threadbare and white in the seams. It was his only one, and very old, but Prudence thought, when with a sigh he finally drew it on, that she had never seen so fine a soldier, and, indeed, the coat did look much better on than off, for a gallant bearing will, to some extent, redeem the most dilapidated attire.
Reuben had grown stronger from day to day, and though still weak, it was thought that he could well enough take care of George Fennell, during the forenoon, and allow the rest of the family to go to meeting. Perez had tinkered up the old cart, and contrived a harness out of ropes, by which his own horse could be attached to it, the farm horse having been long since sold off, and Mrs. Hamlin, who by reason of infirmities, had long been debarred from the privileges of the sanctuary, expected to be able by this means, to be present there this morning, to offer up devout thanksgiving for the mercy which had so wonderfully, in one week, restored her two sons to her.
It was half-past nine when the air was filled with a deep musical, melancholy sound, which appeared to come from the hill north of the village, where the meeting-house stood. It lasted, perhaps, five seconds, beginning with a long crescendo, and quivering into silence by an equally prolonged diminuendo. It was certainly an astonishing sound but none of the family appeared in the least agitated, Elnathan merely remarking:
"Thar's the warnin blow, Perez, I guess ye better be thinkin baout hitchin up." It were a pity indeed if the people of Stockbridge had not by that time become familiar with the sound of the old Indian conch-shell which since the mission church was founded at the first settlement of the town had served instead of a meeting-house bell. It may be well believed that strong lungs were the first requisite in sextons of that day. When an hour later the same dreary wail filled the valley once more with its weird echoes, the family was on its way to meeting, Mrs. Hamlin and Elnathan in the cart, and Perez with Prudence on foot. The congregation was now rapidly arriving from every direction, and the road was full of people. There were men on horseback with their wives sitting on a pillion behind, and clasping the conjugal waistband for security, families in carts, and families trudging afoot, while here and there the more pretentious members of the congregation were seen in chaises.
The new meeting-house on the hill had been built during Perez' absence, to supersede the old church on the green, with which his childish associations were connected. It had been erected directly after the close of the war and the effort in addition to the heavy taxation then necessary for public purposes, was such a drain on the resources of the town, as to have been a serious local aggravation of the distress of the times. According to the rule in church building religiously adhered to by the early New Englanders, the bleakest spot within the town limits had been selected for the meetinghouse. It was a white barn-shaped structure, fifty feet by sixty, with a steeple, the pride of the whole countryside, sixty-two feet high, and tipped with a brass rooster brought from Boston, by way of weather vane.
Perez and Prudence separating at the door went to the several places which Puritan decorum assigned to those of the spinster and bachelor condition respectively, the former going into the right hand gallery, the other into the left, exceptions being however made in behalf of the owners of the square pews, who enjoyed the privilege of having their families with them in the house of God. Across the middle of the end gallery Dr. Partridge's square pew extended, so that by no means might the occupants of the two side galleries come within whispering distance of each other.
Obadiah Weeks, Abe Konkapot and Abner, who was a a widower and classed himself with bachelors, and a large number of other younger men whom Perez recognized as belonging to the mob under his leadership on Tuesday, were already in their seats. Fidgeting in unfamiliar boots and shoes, and meek with plentifully greased and flatly plastered hair, there was very little in the subdued aspect of these young men to remind any one of the truculent rebels who a few days before had shaken their bludgeons in the faces of the Honorable the Justices of the Common Pleas. As Perez entered the seat with them, they recognized him with sheepish grins, as much as to say, "We're all in the same box," quite as the occupants of a prisoner's dock might receive a fellow victim thrust in with them by the sheriff. Obadiah reached out his clenched first with something in it, and Perez putting forth his hand, received therein a lot of dried caraway seeds. "Thort mebbe ye hadn't got no meetin seed," whispered Obadiah.
Owing to the fact that nine years absence from home had weaned him somewhat from native customs, Perez had, in fact, forgotten to lay in a supply of this inestimable simple, to the universal use of which by our forefathers during religious service, may probably be ascribed their endurance of Sabbatical and doctrinal rigors to which their descendants are confessedly unequal. It is well known that their knowledge of the medicinal uses of common herbs was far greater than ours, and it was doubtless the discovery of some secret virtue, some occult theological reaction, if I may so express myself, in the seeds of the humble caraway, which led to the undeviating rule of furnishing all the members of every family, from children to grey heads, with a small quantity to be chewed in the mouth and mingled with the saliva during attendance on the stated ordinances of the Gospel. Whatever may be thought of this theory, the fact will not be called in question that in the main, the relaxation of religious doctrine and Sabbath observance in New England, has proceeded side by side with the decline in the use of meetin seed.
In putting all the young men together in one gallery, it may be thought that some risk was incurred of making that a quarter of disturbance. But if the tithingman, with his argus-eyes and long rod were not enough to insure propriety, the charming rows of maidens on the seats of the gallery directly opposite could have been relied on to complete the work. The galleries were very deep, and the distance across the meeting house, from the front seat of one to that of the other, was not over twenty-five feet. At this close range, reckoning girls' eyes to have been about as effective then as they are now-a-days, it may be readily inferred what havoc must have been wrought on the bachelors' seats in the course of a two hour service. After being exposed to such a fire all day, it was no wonder at all, quite apart from other reasons, that on Sunday night the young men found their ardor inflamed to a pitch at which an interview with the buxom enslaver became a necessity.
The singers sat in the front seat of the galleries, the bass singers in the front seat on the bachelors' side, the treble in the front seat on the spinsters' side, and the alto and tenor singers in the wings of the end gallery, separated by Dr. Partridge's pew. For, as in most New England churches at this date, the "old way," of purely congregational singing by "lining out," had given place to select choirs, an innovation however, over which the elder part of the people still groaned and croaked. On the back seats of the end gallery, behind the tenors and altos respectively sat the negro freedmen and freedwomen, the Pomps and Cudjos, the Dinahs and Blossoms. Sitting by Prudence, among the treble singers, Perez noticed a young Indian girl of very uncommon beauty, and refinement of features, her dark olive complexion furnishing a most perfect foil to the blooming face of the white girl.
"Who's that girl by Prudence Fennell?" he whispered to Abe Konkapot, who sat beside him. The young Indian's bronze face flushed darkly, as he replied:
"That's Lucretia Nimham."
Perez was about to make further inquiries, when it flashed on him that this was the girl, whom Obadiah had jokingly alluded to as the reason why Abe had lingered in Stockbridge, instead of moving out to York State with his tribe. She certainly was a very sufficient reason for a man's doing or not doing almost anything.
From his position in the gallery, Perez could look down on the main body of the congregation below, and his cheek flushed with anger as he saw his father and mother occupying one of the seats in the back part of the room, in the locality considered least in honor, according to the distinctions followed by the parish committee, in periodically reseating the congregation, or "dignifying the seats," as the people called it. Considerably nearer the pulpit, and in seats of correspondingly greater dignity, he recognized Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, the two men of chiefest estate among the insurgents. Directly under and before the pulpit, almost beneath it, in fact, facing the people from behind a sort of railing, sat Deacon Nash. His brother deacon, no less an one than Squire Timothy Edwards, has not yet arrived.
As he looked over the fast filling house, for he and Prudence had arrived rather early, he met many eyes fixed curiously upon him. Sometimes a whisper would pass along a seat, from person to person, till one after another, the entire row had turned and stared intently at him. It was fame.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER MEETING
There had been considerable discussion during the week as to whether Squire Woodbridge, in view of the public humiliation which had been put upon him, would expose himself to the curious gaze of the community by coming to meeting the present Sunday. It had been the more prevalent opinion that he would find in the low condition of Mrs. Woodbridge, who was hovering between life and death, a reason which would serve as an excuse for not "attending on the stated ordinances of the gospel," the present Sabbath. But now from those whose position enabled them to command a view of the front door of the meeting-house, rose a sibilant whisper, distinct above the noise of boots and shoes upon the uncarpeted aisles:
"Here he comes! Here comes Squire."
There were several gentlemen in Stockbridge who, by virtue of a liberal profession or present or past official dignities, had a claim, always rigorously enforced and scrupulously conceded, to the title of Esquire, but when "The Squire," was spoken of, it was always Jahleel Woodbridge whom the speaker had in mind. Decidedly, those who thought he would not dare to appear in public had mistaken his temper. His face, always that of a full-blooded man, was redder than common, in fact, contrasted with the white powder of his wig, it seemed almost purple, but that was the only sign he gave that he was conscious of the people's looks. He wore a long-skirted, straight-cut coat of fine blue cloth with brass buttons; a brown waistcoat, and small clothes, satin hose with ruffled white shirt and cuffs. Under one arm he carried his three-cornered hat and under the other his gold-headed cane, and walked with his usual firm, heavy, full-bodied step; the step of a man who is not afraid of making a noise, and expects that people will look at him. There was not the slightest deflection from the old-time arrogance in the stiff carriage of the head and eyes, nor anything whatever to show that he considered himself one jot or tittle less the autocrat of Stockbridge, than on the Sunday a week ago. Walking the whole length of the meeting-house, he opened the door of the big square pew at the right hand of the pulpit, considered the first in honor, and the only part of the interior of the meeting-house, save the pulpit and sounding-board, which was painted. One by one the numerous children who called him father, passed before him into the pew. Then he closed the door and sat down facing the congregation, and slowly and deliberately looked at the people. As his glance traveled steadily along the lines of seats, the starers left off staring and looked down abashed. After he had thus reviewed the seats below, he turned his eyes upward and proceeded to scan the galleries with the same effect.
So strong was the impression made by this unruffled and authoritative demeanor, that the people were fain to scratch their heads and look at one another in vacant questioning, as if doubtful if they had not dreamed all this, about the great man's being put down by Perez Hamlin, insulted by the mob, and reduced even now to such powerlessness that he owed the protection of his sick wife to the favor of the threadbare Continental captain up there in the gallery. To those conscious of having had a part in these doings, there was a disagreeably vivid suggestion of the stocks and whipping post in the Squire's haughty stare, against which even a sense of their numbers failed to reassure them. Of course the revolt had gained far too great headway to be now suppressed by anybody's personal prestige, by the frowns and stares of any number of Squire Woodbridges, but, nevertheless, the impression which even after the events of the last week, he was still able to make upon the people, by his mere manner, was striking testimony to their inveterate habit of awe toward him, as the embodiment of secular authority in their midst.
Perez had been too long absent from home, and differed too much in habits of thought, to fully understand the sentiments of the peasants round him for the Squire, and in truth his attention was diverted from that gentleman ere he had time to fully observe the effect of his entrance. For he had scarcely reached his pew, when Squire and Deacon Timothy Edwards came up the aisle, followed by his family. Desire wore a blue silk skirt and close-fitting bodice, with a white lace kerchief tucked in about her shoulders, and the same blue plumed hat of soft Leghorn straw, in which we have seen her before, the wide brim falling lower on one side than the other, over her dark curls. As she swept up the aisle between the rows of farmers and farmers' wives, the contrast between their coarse, ill-fitting and sad-colored homespun, and her rich and tasteful robes, was not more striking than the difference between the delicate distinction of her features and their hard, rough faces, weather-beaten and wrinkled with toil and exposure, or sallow and hollow cheeked with care and trouble. She looked like one of a different order of beings, and indeed, it is nothing more than truth to say that such was exactly the opinion which Miss Desire herself entertained. The eyes of admiration with which the girls leaning over the gallery followed her up the aisle, were quite without a spark of jealousy, for they knew that their rustic sweethearts would no more think of loving her than of wasting their passion on the moon. She was meat for their betters, for some great gentleman from New York or Boston, all in lace and ruffles, some judge or senator, or, greater still, maybe some minister.
To tell the whole truth, however, the admiring attention which her own sex accorded to Desire on Sundays, was rather owing to the ever varying attractions of her toilet, than to her personal charms. If any of the damsels of Stockbridge who went to bed without their supper Sunday night, because they couldn't remember the text of the sermon, had been allowed to substitute an account of Desire Edwards' toilet, it is certain they would not have missed an item. It was the chief boast of Mercy Scott, the Stockbridge seamstress, that Desire trusted her new gowns to her instead of sending to New York for them. From the glow of pride and importance on Miss Mercy's rather dried-up features, when Desire wore a new gown for the first time to church, it was perfectly evident that she looked upon herself as the contributor of the central feature of the day's services. At the quilting and apple paring bees held about the time of such a new gown, Miss Mercy was the center of interest, and no other gossip was started till she had completed her confidences as to the material, cost, cut and fit of the foreshadowed garment. It was with glistening eyes and fingers that forgot their needles, that these wives and daughters of poor hard-working farmers, drank in the details about rich eastern silks and fabrics of gorgeous tints and airy textures, their own coarse, butternut homespun quite forgotten in imagined splendors. In their rapt attention there was no tinge of envy, for such things were too far above their reach to be once thought of in connection with themselves. It was upon the fit of Desire's dresses, however, that Miss Mercy, with the instinct of the artist, grew most impassioned.
"'Tain't no credit to me a fittin her," she would sometimes protest. "Thar's some figgers you can't fetch cloth tew, nohow. But, deary me, lands sakes alive, the cloth seems tew love her, it clings to her so nateral. An tain't no wonder ef it doos. I never see sech a figger. Why her——." But Miss Mercy's audiences at such times were exclusively composed of ladies. She had no inflamable masculine imaginations to consider.
It was a very noticeable circumstance on the present Sunday, that all the persons in the meeting-house who looked at Desire as she walked up the aisle, proceeded immediately afterwards to screw around their necks and stare at Perez, thereby betraying that the sight of the one had immediately suggested the other to their minds.
The Edwards seat was the second in dignity in the meeting-house, being the one on the left of the pulpit, and ranking with that of the Sedgwicks, although as between the several leading pews the distinction was not considered so decided as to be odious. Having ushered his family to their place, Squire Edwards took his own official seat as deacon, beside Deacon Nash, behind the railing, below the pulpit and facing the people.
And now Parson West comes up the aisle in flowing gown and bands, his three-cornered hat under his arm, and climbs the steps into the lofty pulpit, sets the hour glass up in view, and the service begins. There is singing, a short prayer, and again singing, and then the entire congregation rises, the seats are fastened up that none may sit, and the long prayer begins, and goes on and on for nearly an hour. Then there is another psalm, and then the sermon begins. Up at Pittsfield to-day, you may be very sure that Parson Allen is giving his people a rousing discourse on the times, wherein the sin of rebellion is treated without gloves, and the duty of citizens to submit to the powers that be, and to maintain lawful authority even to the shedding of blood, are vigorously set forth. But Parson West is not a political parson, and there is not a word in his sermon which his hearers, watchful for anything of the kind, can construe into a reference to the existing events of the past week. It is his practice to keep several sermons on hand, and this might just as well have been prepared a thousand years before. It was upon the subject of the deplorable consequences of neglecting the baptism of infants.
If a parent truly gave up a child in baptism, it would be accepted and saved, whether it died in infancy or lived to pass through the mental exercises of an adult convert. But on the other hand, if that duty was purposely neglected, or if baptism was unaccompanied by a proper frame of mind in the parent, there was no reason or hint from revelation to believe that the child was saved. Considering that the infant was justly liable to eternal suffering on account of Adam's sin, it was impossible for the human mind to see how God could be just and yet the justifier of an unbaptized infant. But it was not for the human mind to limit infinite mercy and wisdom, and possibly in His secret councils God had devised a way of salvation even for so desperate a case. So that while hope was not absolutely forbidden to parents who had neglected the baptism of their infants, confidence would be most wicked and presumptuous.
Deacon Edwards fidgeted on his seat at the laxity of this doctrine as well might the son of Jonathan Edwards, and Deacon Nash, who inherited his Calvinism from a father who had moved from Westfield to Stockbridge for the express purpose of sitting under that renowned divine, seemed equally uncomfortable. Parson West, as a young man, had been notoriously affected with Arminian leanings, and although his conversion to Calvinism by Dr. Hopkins of Great Barrington, had been deemed a wonderful work of grace, a tendency to sacrifice the logical development of doctrines to the weak suggestions of the flesh, was constantly cropping out in his sermons, to the frequent grief and scandal of the deacons.
At length the service was at an end and the hum and buzz of voices rose from all parts of the house, as the people passing out of their pews met and greeted each other in the aisles. The afternoon service came in an hour and a half, and only those went home who lived close at hand or could easily make the distances in their carriages. These took with them such friends and acquaintances as they might invite. Others of the congregation spent the brief nooning in the "noon-house," a shed near by, erected for this purpose. There, or on the meeting-house steps, or maybe seated near by on the grass and using the stumps of felled trees, with which it was studded, for tables, they discussed the sermon as a relish to their lunches of doughnuts, cheese, pie and gingerbread. To converse on any other than religious subjects on the Sabbath, was a sin and a scandal which exposed the offender to church discipline, but in a public emergency like the present, when rebellion was rampant throughout the county, it was impossible that political affairs should not preoccupy the most pious minds. Talk of them the people must and did, of the stopping of the courts, the breaking of the jails, of Squire Woodbridge and Perez Hamlin, of the news from the other counties, and of what would next take place, but it was amusing to see the ingenious manner by which the speakers contrived to compound with their consciences and prevent scandal by giving a pious twist and a Sabbatical intonation to their sentences.
Among the younger people, as might be expected, there was less of this affectation. They were all discussing with eager interest something which had just happened.
"Wal, all I say is I don't want to be a lady if it makes folks so crewel an so deceitful as that," said Submit Goodrich, a black-eyed, bright cheeked wench, old Israel's youngest daughter. "To think o' her pretendin not to know him, right afore all the folks, and she on her knees to him a cryin only four days ago. I don't care if she is Squire Edwards' gal, I hain't got no opinyun o' such doin's."
Most of the girls agreed with Submit, but some of the young men were inclined to laugh at Perez, saying it was good enough for him, and that he who was nothing more than a farmer like the rest of them was served right for trying to push in among the big folks.
"I s'pose she's dretful riled to think it's all 'round bout her goin over to the Hamlins las' week an she thort she'd jess let folks see she was as proud as ever. Land! How red he was! I felt reel bad for him, and such a nice bow ez he made, jess like any gentleman!"
"I callate Jerushy wouldn't a been so hard on him," jealously snickered a young farmer sitting by the young woman who last spoke.
"No, I wouldn't," she said, turning sharply to him. "I s'pose ye thort I wasn't no judge o' hansome men, cause I let you keep kumpny with me." There was nothing more from that quarter.
But what is it they are talking about anyway? Why, simply this: In front of the meeting-house, as they came out from the service, Perez met Desire face to face. All the people were standing around, talking and waiting to see the great folks get into their carriages to drive home. Naturally, everybody looked with special interest to see the meeting of these two whose names gossip had so constantly coupled during the week. Jonathan was with Desire, and looked fiercely at Perez, but his fierceness was quite wasted. Perez did not see him. He took off his hat and bowed to her with an air of the most profound respect. She gave not the faintest sign of recognition, even to the dropping of an eyelid. The people had stopped talking and were staring. The blood rushed to Perez' forehead.
"Good day, Miss Edwards," he said, firmly and distinctly, yet respectfully, his hat still in his hand. Jonathan, in his indignation, was as red as he, but Desire could not have appeared more unconscious of being addressed had she been stone deaf as well as blind. In a moment more she had passed on and entered the carriage, and the people were left with something to talk about. Now, Captain Perez Hamlin had gone to meeting that morning as much in love with Desire Edwards as four days thinking of little else save a fair face and charming form might be expected to leave a susceptible young man, particularly when the manly passion is but the resurrection of an unforgotten love of boyhood. He walked home somewhat more angry with the same young woman than he could remember ever having been with anybody. If a benevolent fairy had asked him his dearest wish just then, it would have been that Desire Edwards might be transformed into a young gentleman for about five minutes, in order that he might impart to him the confoundedest thrashing that a young gentleman ever experienced, nor did even the consciousness that no such transformation was possible, prevent his fingers from tingling with a most ungallant aspiration to box her small ears till they were as red as his own face had been at the moment she cut him so coolly. For he was a very proud man, was Captain Perez Hamlin, with a soldier's sensitiveness to personal affronts, and none of that mean opinion of himself and his position in society which helped the farmers around to bear with equanimity the snubs of those they regarded as their natural superiors.
The father and mother had fortunately driven on before the scene took place, and so at least he was spared the added exasperation of being condoled with on arriving at home. Prudence had stayed to the afternoon service. Toward twilight, as he was walking to and fro behind the barn, and indulging an extremely unsanctified frame of mind, she came to him and blurted out, breathlessly:
"All the girls think she was mean and wicked, and I'll never do any more work for her or Mis Woodbridge either," and before he could answer she had run back into the house with burning cheeks. He had seen that her eyes were also full of tears. It was clear she had been struggling hard between the pity which prompted her to tender some form of consolation, and her fear of speaking to him.
The dreamy habit of the mind induced by love in its first stage, often extends to the point of overspreading all the realities of life and the circumstances of the individual, with a glamour, which for the time being, disguises the hard and rigid outlines of fact. The painful shock which had so sharply ended Perez' brief delusion, that Desire might possibly accept his devotion, had at the same time roused him to a recognition of the critical position of himself and his father's family. What business had he or they lingering here in Stockbridge? Yesterday, in the vague unpractical way in which hopeful lovers do all their thinking he had thought they might remain indefinitely. Now he saw that it would be tempting Providence to postpone any further the carrying out of his original plan, of moving with them to New York State. The present insurrection might last a longer or shorter time, but there was no reason to think it would result in remedying the already desperate financial condition of the family. The house was to have been sold the past week, and doubtless would be as soon as affairs were a little quieter. Reuben was, moreover, liable to re-arrest and imprisonment on his old debt, and as for himself, he knew that his life was forfeit to the gallows for the part he had taken in the rebellion.
Once across the state line, however, they would be as safe as in Europe, for the present Union of the states was not yet formed, and the loose and nerveless bond of the old Federation, then in its last stage of decrepitude, left the states practically foreign countries to each other. His idea was then to get the family over into New York without delay, with such remnants of the farm stock as could be got together, and leaving them for the winter at New Lebanon, just the other side the border, to go on himself, meanwhile, to the western part of the state, to secure a farm in the new tracts being already opened up in that rich region, and rapidly filling with settlers. For the populating of the west, and New York was then the west, has gone on by successive waves of emigration, set in motion by periodical epochs of financial and industrial distress in the Atlantic states, and the first of these impulses, the hard times following the Revolution, was already sending thousands to seek new homes toward the setting sun.
Busy with preparations for the start, he kept close at home during the entire week following. Only once or twice did he even go down street, and then on some errand. Obadiah dropped around frequently and looked on as he worked, evidently having something on his mind. One twilight as Perez was cutting wood for the evening fire, the young man came into the back yard and opened conversation in this wise:
"Guess it's gonter rain."
"Looks a little like it," Perez assented.
Obadiah was silent a space, and ground the heel of his bare foot into the dirt.
"D'you know what's good fer warts?" he finally asked. Perez said he did not. After a pause, Obadiah remarked critically:
"Them bricks roun' the top o' the chimly be kinder loose, bean't they?" They were, and Perez freely admitted as much. Obadiah looked around for some other topic of conversation, but apparently finding none, he picked up a stone and asked with affected carelessness, as he jerked it toward the barn:
"Be ye a gonter take George Fennell 'long with ye?"
"No," said Perez. "He will not live long, I fear, and he can't be moved. I suppose some of the people will take him and Prudence in, when we go."
Obadiah said nothing, but from the change which instantly came over his manner, it was evident that the information obtained with such superfluous diplomacy was a prodigious relief to his mind. The officiousness with which he urged a handful of chestnuts on Perez, and even offered to carry in the wood for him, might moreover be construed as indicating a desire to make amends to him for unjust suspicions secretly cherished. As for asking Prudence directly whether she was expecting to go away, that would have been a piece of hardihood of which the bashful youth was quite incapable. If he could not have ascertained her intentions otherwise than by such a desperate measure, he would have waited till the Hamlins set out, and then been on hand to see for himself whether she went or not.
AN AUCTION SALE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Squire Woodbridge had not failed to detect the first signs of decrease in the ebullition of the popular mind after the revolt of Tuesday, and when by Friday and Saturday the mob had apparently quite disappeared, and the village had returned to its normal condition, he assured himself that the rebellion was all over, and it only remained for him and his colleagues cautiously to get hold of the reins again, and then—then for the whip. For, the similitude under which the Squire oftenest thought of the people of Stockbridge was that of a team of horses which he was driving. There had been a little runaway, and he had been pitched out on his head. Let him once get his grip on the lines again, and the whip in his hand, and there should be some fine dancing among the leaders, or his name was not Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire, and the whipping post on the green was nothing but a rosebush.