"We had best separate now," said Partridge in a low voice. "If the populace see but two or three of us having our heads together, they straightway imagine that we are plotting against them, and I see those fellows yonder are sending black looks this way already.
"I shall do myself the honor," he added, to Sedgwick, "to call upon you at your house for further consultation, since under the pretext of a physician's duty, I am allowed by their high mightinesses, the rabble, to go about more freely than is prudent for other gentlemen."
The next day the news from Springfield, which Sedgwick had privately brought, reached the village from other sources, together with the developments since his passage through the town. It seemed that there had indeed been no collision between the militia and the rebel force, but it was because the Supreme Court had, after demurring for two days, finally yielded to the orders of Captain Shays and adjourned, after which the rebels took triumphant possession of the courthouse. The elation which the news produced among the people was prodigious. Perez doubled the patrols, and even then had to wink at a good many acts of lawlessness at the expense of the friends of the courts. Nothing but his personal interposition prevented a drunken gang from giving Sedgwick a tin-pan serenade. As for Squire Edwards, he was glad to purchase immunity at the expense of indiscriminate treating of the crowd.
Whether the Supreme Court would attempt to hold its regular session the first week in October, at Great Barrington, was a point on which there was a diversity of opinion. Before adjourning at Springfield, it had indeed passed resolutions that it would not be expedient to go to Berkshire, but it was loudly declared by many that this was a mere trick to put the people off their guard, and prevent their assembling in arms to stop the proceedings. Accordingly, when the time came, although the justices did not put in an appearance, a mob of several hundred men did, and a very ugly mob it turned out to be, in fact the worst hitherto in the entire course of the insurrection. Finding no court to stop, and the empty jail affording no opportunity for another jail delivery, the crowd, after loafing around town for a while and getting thirsty, began to break into houses to get liquor. A beginning once made, this was found to be such an amusing recreation that it was gone into generally, and when liquor could not be found the men contented themselves with appropriating other articles. The fun growing fast and furious, they next began to hustle and stone prominent citizens known to be friendly to the courts, as well as such as objected to having their houses entered and gutted. When their victims broke away from them and fled, being too drunk to overtake them it was quite natural that they should fire their muskets after them, and if the bullets did not generally hit their marks it was merely because the hands of the marksmen were as unsteady as their legs. Some of the most prominent citizens of Great Barrington passed the day hid in outhouses and garrets, while others, mounted on fleet steeds, escaped amid a peltering of bullets, and took refuge in neighboring towns, some going as far as Pittsfield before they halted.
Squire Sedgwick chanced to be at Great Barrington, that day, at the house of his brother-in-law, Justice Dwight. As a lawyer, an aristocrat, and a member of the detested State Senate, he not only shared the general unpopularity of those classes, but as prosecuting attorney for the county, was in particularly evil odor with the lewd fellows of the baser sort, who were to-day on the rampage. When the uproar was at its height, word got around that he was in town, and immediately the mob dropped whatever was in hand, and rushed in a body toward Dwight's house. As they came in sight of the house a servant was holding Sedgwick's gray by the bridle before the gate. Fearing that their prey might yet escape them, the crowd burst into a run, brandishing cudgels, guns and pitchforks, and yelling, "Kill him," "Hang him," "Shoot him." They were not fifty yards away when Sedgwick came out and deliberately mounted his horse. The beast was a good one, and the distance was enough to make his rider's escape perfectly secure. But instead of galloping off, Sedgwick turned his horse's head toward the onrushing, hooting multitude, and rode at a gentle trot directly toward them. It seemed like madness, but the effect fully justified the cool daring that had prompted the action. With the first forward step of the animal, the moment the rider's intention became evident, the mob stopped dead, and the uproar of execrations gave place to a silence of perfect astonishment, in which you could have heard the swish of a bird's wing. As the horse's head touched the line of men, they slunk aside as if they knew not what they did, their eyes falling abashed before Sedgwick's quiet glance and air, as devoid of a trace of fear as it was of ostentatious defiance. The calm, unquestioning assumption that no one would presume to stop him, was a moral force which paralyzed the arm of the most reckless ruffian in the crowd. And so, checking his horse when he would have gone faster, his features as composed as if he were sitting in the Senate, and his bearing as cool and matter of course as if he were on a promenade, he rode through the mob, and had passed out of musket shot by the time the demoralized ruffians had begun to accuse each other of cowardice, and each one to explain what he would have done if he had been in somebody else's place, or would do again.
TWO CRITICAL INTERVIEWS
The news of the riot at Great Barrington, brought by Sedgwick, excited a ferment of terror among the gentlemen's families in Stockbridge. Later in the day when the report got around that the mob intended to visit the latter place, and treat it in like manner, there was little less than a panic. The real facts of the Great Barrington outrages, quite bad enough in themselves, had been exaggerated ten-fold by rumor, and it was believed that the town was in flames and the streets full of murder and rapine. Some already began to barricade their doors, in preparation for the worst, while others who had horses and vehicles prepared to convey a part at least of their families and goods out of reach of the marauders. There were some in Stockbridge who well remembered the alarm, "The Indians are coming," that summer Sunday, when the Schaghticokes came down on the infant settlement, one and thirty years before. There was scarcely wilder terror then, but one point of difference sadly illustrated the distinction between a foreign invasion and a civil war. Then all the people were in the same fright, but now the panic was confined to the well-to-do families and those conscious of being considered friendly to the courts. The poorer people looked on their agitation with indifference, while some even jeered at it.
The afternoon wore away, however, and the expected mob failed to make its appearance, whereupon the people gradually took heart again. Those who had put their furniture into carts unloaded it, and those who had buried their silver in their cellars dug it up to use on the tea table. Nevertheless, along about dusk, a good many men living in Stockbridge, who had been down to Great Barrington all day, came home drunk and flushed with victory and these, with the aid of some of the same kidney in the village, kept up a lively racket all the evening, varied with petty outrages which Perez thought best to ignore, knowing too well the precarious tenure of his authority, to endanger it by overstrictness. Perhaps, indeed, he was not wholly averse to such occasional displays by the mob, as would keep before the gentlemen of the town a vivid impression of what would be in store for them if but for his guardianship.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening that, coming in sight of the store, he saw it besieged by a gang of men, whom Squire Edwards, visible against the background of the lighted doorway, was expostulating with. The men were drunk and reckless. They wanted rum and were bound to have it, and on the other hand the Squire had evidently made up his mind that if they got into his store in their present mood, they would be likely to plunder him of whatever he had, and drawing valor from desperation, was opposing, a resistance which involved no small personal peril. The crowd, besides being drunk, was composed of the very men who had grudged him his escape from the whipping-post a few days previous, and was by no means disposed to stand on ceremony with him. Already he was being hustled, his wig had been displaced, and his cane struck out of his hand, and in another minute he would have been knocked down and the store thronged. The light of a blazing bonfire on the green, threw glimmering reflections upon the crowd before the store, and Edwards catching sight of Perez' three-cornered hat cried in desperation:
"Captain Hamlin, will you let them kill me?"
In another moment Perez was up on the piazza in full view of the crowd, which abashed a little by his presence, for a moment drew back a little.
"What do you want, men? You ought not to break into people's houses! You musn't disgrace the hemlock."
"Tha's all mighty fine, Cap'n," said Meshech Little, "but we want suthin tew drink."
"Why don't you get it at the tavern?"
"The widder won't treat no more, an she's kinder got Abner bewitched like, so's he backs her up, an we can't git nothin thar 'thout fightin Abner, darn him."
"I say Cap'n 'tain't fa'r fer yew ter be a interferin with all our fun," spoke up another.
"That's so," said others. "Cap'n," remarked Meshech, "yew jess let us 'lone, we hain't a techin yew, an we're baoun tew hev a time ter night."
Perez knew well enough that to attempt to wholly thwart the intentions of this excited and drunken crowd, would be beyond his power, or at least involve a bloody riot, and so he replied, good-naturedly:
"That's all right, boys, you shall have your time, but it won't do to break into houses. Go over to the guardhouse and tell Abe Konkapot that I say you may have a couple of gallons of the town rum we seized the other night." This compromise was tumultuously accepted, the entire crowd starting on a run toward the Fennell house, each hoping to get the first advantage of the largess.
"Come in, Captain," said Edwards, and Perez entered.
Mrs. Edwards, Desire and Jonathan were in the store, having hurried thither from the inner living-rooms at the noise of the crowd, to share if they could not repel, the danger which threatened the head of the house. As Jonathan quickly closed and barred the door, Edwards said:
"Wife, I owe my property and perhaps my life, also, to Captain Hamlin."
Mrs. Edwards dropped a stately curtsey, and said with a grand air which made Perez feel as if her acknowledgments were a condescension quite dwarfing his performance:
"I truly thank you for your succor." He mumbled something, he could not have said what, and then his eyes sought Desire, who stood a little aside. As he met her eye, he found himself blushing with embarrassment at thought of their last interview. He had supposed that it would be she who would be confused and self-conscious when they met, but it was all on his side. She looked cool, dignified and perfectly composed, quite as if he were a stock or a stone. He could but wonder if he had remembered the incidents correctly. What with Mrs. Edwards' grand air of condescending politeness, and Desire's icy composure, he began to feel that he needed to get outdoors again, where he could review the situation and recover his equanimity. But on his making a movement in that direction, Squire Edwards, who had no notion of parting with the protection of his presence just at present, insisted that he should first go into the parlor, and Mrs. Edwards dutifully and crushingly seconding the invitation, he found himself without choice. The education of the camp, while it may adapt a man to command other men, does not necessarily fit him to shine in the salon. Perez stepped on his toes once or twice in passing through the store, and in the parlor doorway, to his intense mortification, jostled, heavily against Desire. He plumped down in the easiest chair in the room, before being invited to sit at all, and changing hastily from that to a stool too small for him, at the third attempt settled in a chair of the right size. It was then that he remembered to take off his hat, and having crossed and uncrossed his legs several times, and tried numerous postures, finally sat bolt upright, gripping the lapels of his coat with his hands. As for any tender emotions on account of the girl who sat near him, he was scarcely conscious of her presence, save as an element of embarrassment.
"I understand that you have served at the south, Captain Hamlin," said Mrs. Edwards.
"Yes, I thank you," he replied.
"You were with General Green, perhaps?"
"Yes—that is—yes m'am."
"How is your mother's health?"
"Very well indeed,—that is, when—when she isn't sick. She is generally sick."
"Yes, but she's pretty well otherwise. How are you?" this last, desperately.
"Oh, thanks, I'm quite well," Mrs. Edwards replied, with a slight elevation of the eyebrows. Somehow he felt that he ought not to have asked that, and then he made another desperate resolution to go home.
"I think they'll be looking for me at home," he said, tentatively rising halfway from his chair. "Father isn't well, you see." He had a vague feeling that he could not go unless they formally admitted the adequacy of his excuse.
At that moment there came the noise of an axe from the green, with shouts.
"What is that?" asked Mrs. Edwards of her husband, who entered from the store at that moment.
"The rascals—that is—" he corrected himself with a glance at Perez, "the men are chopping down the whippingpost to put on the bonfire. You were not thinking of going so soon, Captain Hamlin?" he added with evident concern.
"Yes, I think I will go," said Perez, straightening up and assuming a resolute air.
"I beg you will not be so hasty," said Mrs. Edwards, taking her husband's cue, and Perez abjectly sat down again.
"You must partake of my hospitality," said Edwards. "Jonathan, draw a decanter of that old Jamaica. Desire, bring us tumblers."
The only thought of Perez was that the liquor would, perhaps, brace him up a little, and to that end he filled his tumbler well up and did not refuse a second invitation. The result answered his expectations. In a very few moments he began to feel much more at ease. The incubus upon his faculties seemed lifted. His muscles relaxed. He recovered the free control of his tongue and his eyes. Whereas he had previously been only conscious of Mrs. Edwards, and but vaguely of the room in which they were and its other inmates, he now began to look around, and take cognizance of persons and things and even found himself complimenting his host on the quality of the rum with an ease at which he was surprised. He could readily have mustered courage enough now to take his leave, but he no longer felt in haste. As I observed above, he had heretofore but vaguely taken notice of Desire, as she had sat silently near by. Now he became conscious of her. He observed her closely. He had never seen her dressed as she was now, in a low-necked, white dress with short sleeves. As he was a few moments before, such new revelations of her beauty would have daunted him, would have actually added to his demoralization, but now he contemplated her with an intense, elated complacency. It was easier talking with Mr. Edwards than with Madam, and half an hour had passed, when Perez rose and said, this time without trying to excuse himself, that he must go. Mrs. Edwards had some time before excused herself from the room. Jonathan had also gone. Desire bade him good evening, and Squire Edwards led the way into the store to show him out. But Perez, after starting to follow him, abruptly turned back, and crossing the room to where Desire stood, held out his hand. She hesitated, and then put hers in it. He raised it to his lips, although she tried to snatch it away, and then, as if the touch had maddened him, he audaciously drew her to him and kissed her lips. She broke away, shivering and speechless. Then he saw her face crimson to the roots of her hair. She had seen her mother standing in the doorway, looking at her. But Perez, as he turned and went out through the store, did not perceive this. Had he turned to look back, he would have witnessed a striking tableau.
Desire had thrown herself into a chair and buried her face in her arms, against whose rounded whiteness the crimsoned ear tips and temples testified to the shameful glow upon the hidden face while her mother stood gazing at her, amazement and indignation pictured on her face. For a full half minute she stood thus, and then said:
"My daughter, what does this mean?"
There was no answer, save that, at the voice of her mother, a warm glow appeared upon the nape of the girl's neck, and even spread over the glistening shoulders, while her form shook with a single convulsive sob.
"Desire, tell me this instant," exclaimed Mrs. Edwards.
The girl threw up her head and faced her mother, her eyes blazing with indignant shame and glistening with tears, which were quite dried up by her hot cheeks ere they had run half their course.
"You saw," she said in a low, hard, fierce tone, "the fellow kissed me. He does it when he pleases. I have no one to protect me."
"Why do you let him? Why didn't you cry out?"
"And let father be whipped, let him be killed! Don't you know why I didn't?" cried the girl in a voice hoarse with excitement and overwhelming exasperation that the motive of the sacrifice should not be understood, even for a moment. She had sprung to her feet and was facing her mother.
"Was it for this that he released your father the other day?"
Desire looked at her mother without a word, in a way that was an answer. Mrs. Edwards seemed completely overcome, while Desire met her horrified gaze with a species of desperate hardihood.
"Yes, it is I," she said, in a shrill, nervously excited tone. "It is your daughter, Desire Edwards, whom this fellow has for a sweetheart. Oh, yes. He kisses me where he chooses, and I do not cry out. Isn't it fine, ha! ha!" and then her overstrained feelings finding expression in a burst of hysterical laughter, she threw herself back into her chair, and buried her face in her arms on the table as at first.
"What's the matter? What ails the girl?" said Edwards, coming in from the store, and viewing the scene with great surprise.
"The matter?" replied Mrs. Edwards slowly. "The matter is this: as that fellow was leaving, and your back was turned, he took our girl here and hugged and kissed her, and though she resisted what she could, she did not cry out. I stood in that door and saw it with my own eyes. When I called her to account for this scandal, she began vehemently to weep, and protested that she dared not anger him by outcry, fearing for your life if he were offended. And she further hinted that it was not the first time he had had the kissing of her. Nay, she as good as said it was with kisses that she ransomed you out of his hands the other day."
Edwards listened with profound interest, but with more evidence of curiosity than agitation, and after thinking a few moments, said thoughtfully:
"I have marvelled much by what manner of argument she compassed our deliverance, after the parson, a man mighty in persuasion and rebuke, had wholly failed therein. Verily, the devices of Providence for the protection of his saints in troublous times are past understanding. To this very intent doubtless, was the gift of comeliness bestowed on the maiden, a matter wherefore I have often, in much perplexity, inquired of the Lord, seeing that it is a gift that often brings the soul into jeopardy through vain thoughts. But now is the matter made plain to my eyes."
It was no light thing in those days for a wife to reproach her lord, but Mrs. Edwards' eyes fairly lightened as she demanded with a forced calm:
"Will you, then, give up your daughter to these lewd fellows as Lot would have given up his daughters to save his house?"
"Tut! tut!" said Edwards, frowning. "Your speech is unbridled and unseemly. I am not worthy to be likened to that holy man of old, for whose sake the Lord well nigh saved Sodom, nor am I placed in so sore a strait. You spoke of nothing worse than kissing. The girl will not be the worse, I trow, for a buss or two. Women are not so mighty tender. So long as girls like not the kissing, be sure t'will do them no harm, eh, Desire?" and he pinched her arm.
She snatched it away, and rushing across the room, threw herself upon the settle, with her face in the cushion.
"Pish!" said her father, peevishly, "she grudges a kiss to save her father from disgrace and ruin. It is a sinful, proud wench!"
"Proud!" echoed the girl, raising her tear-stained face from the cushion and sitting up. "I was proud, but I'm not any more. All the rabble are welcome to kiss me, seeing my father thinks it no matter."
"Pshaw, child, what a coil about a kiss or two, just because the fellow smells a little, maybe, of the barn! Can't you wash your face after? Take soap to 't, and save your tears. Bless me! you shall hide in the garret after this, but for my part, I shall still treat the fellow civilly, for he holds us, as it were, in the hollow of his hand," and he went into the store in a pet.
There was one redeeming feature about the disturbances in Stockbridge. The early bedtime habits of the people were too deeply fixed to be affected by any political revolution, and however noisy the streets might be soon after dusk, by half past nine or ten all was quiet. As Perez crossed the green, after leaving the store, the only sound that broke the stillness of the night, was the rumble of wheels on the Boston road. It was Sedgwick's carriage, bearing him back to the capital, to take his seat in the already convened State Senate. If his flying visit home had been a failure so far as his law business before the Supreme Court was concerned, it had at least enabled him to gain a vivid conception of the extent and virulence of the insurrection.
There was really a good deal more than a joke in calling Perez, Duke of Stockbridge. The antechamber of the headquarters room, at the guardhouse, was often half full of a morning with gentlemen, and those of lower degree as well, waiting to see him with requests. Some wanted passes, or authority to go out of town, or carry goods away. Others had complaints of orchards robbed, property stolen, or other injuries from the lawless, with petitions for redress. The varieties of cases in which Perez' intervention as the only substitute for law in the village was being constantly demanded, it would quite exceed my space to enumerate. In addition to this, he had the military affairs of the insurgent train-band to order, besides transacting business with the agents of neighboring towns, and even with messengers from Shays, who already had begun to call on the Berkshire towns for quotas to swell the rebel forces, of which a regular military organization was now being attempted.
An informal sort of constitutional convention at the tavern had committed the general government of the town, pending the present troubles, to a Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, consisting of Perez, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, but the two latter practically left everything to Perez. There was not in this improvised form of town government, singular as it strikes us, anything very novel or startling to the people of the village, accustomed as they were all through the war to the discretionary and almost despotic sway in internal as well as external affairs, of the town revolutionary committees of the same name. These, at first irregular, were subsequently recognized alike by the Continental and state authorities, and on them the work of carrying the people through the war practically and chiefly fell. In Berkshire, indeed, the offices of the revolutionary committees had been even more multifarious and extensive than in the other counties, for owing to the course of Berkshire in refusing to acknowledge the authority of the state government from 1775 to 1780, and the consequent suppression of courts during that period, even judicial functions had often devolved upon the committees, and suits at law had been heard and determined, and the verdicts enforced by them. To the town meeting alone did the revolutionary committees hold themselves responsible. The effect of the outbreak of the revolutionary war had been, indeed, to reduce democracy to its simplest terms. The Continental Congress had no power, and only pretended to recommend and advise. The state government, by sundering its relations with the crown, lost its legal title, and for some time after the war began, and as regards Berkshire, until the county voted to accept the new state constitution in 1780, its authority was not recognized. During that period it may be properly said that, while the Continental Congress advised and the state convention recommended, the town meeting was the only body of actual legislative powers in the Commonwealth. The reader must excuse this brief array of dry historical details, because only by bearing in mind that such had been the peculiar political education of the people of Berkshire, will it appear fully credible that revolt should so readily become organized, and anarchy assume the forms of law and order.
From the extent of his property interests and the popular animosity which endangered them, no gentleman in Stockbridge had more necessity to keep the right side of Perez Hamlin than Squire Edwards, and it was not the storekeeper's fault if he did not. Comparatively few days passed in which Perez did not find himself invited to take a glass of something, as he passed the store, and without touching the point either of servility or hypocrisy Edwards knew how to make himself so affable that Perez began actually to think that perhaps he liked him for his own sake, and even cherished the wild idea of taking him into confidence concerning his passion and hope as to Desire. Had he done so Edwards would certainly have found himself in a very awkward predicament. Meanwhile, day after day and even week after week passed, and save for an occasional glimpse of her passing a window, or the shadow on her bedroom curtain with which his long night watches were sometimes rewarded, he saw nothing of Desire. She never went on the street, and for two Sundays had stayed at home from meeting. He could not muster courage to ask Edwards about her, feeling that it must be that she kept within doors merely to avoid him. One evening, however, late in October, as he was sitting over some rum with the storekeeper, the latter remarked, in a casual way, that the doctor had advised that his daughter Desire, who had not been well of late, should take a trip to Pittsfield for her health, and as if it were something quite casual, asked Perez to have the kindness to make out a pass for her to go the next day. As the Squire made this request, speaking as if it were a mere matter of course, Perez was in the act of raising a glass of liquor to his lips. He gave Edwards one glance, very slowly set down the untasted beverage, and without a word of reply or of parting salutation, got up and went out. The moment he was gone the door connecting the living-rooms with the back of the store, softly opened, and Mrs. Edwards and Desire entered.
"Did you get it?" asked the latter.
"Get it," replied Edwards in disgust, "I should think not. He looked at me like a wolf when I spoke of it. I had some notion that he would stick his hanger through my stomach, but he thought better of that and got up and stalked out without so much as winking at me. He's a terrible fellow. I doubt if he does not some outrage to us for this."
"Dear! Dear! What shall I do?" cried Desire, wringing her hands. "I must go. I can't stay here, shut up like a prisoner, I shall be sick and die."
"Who knows," said Mrs. Edwards, "what this ruffian may do next? He will stop at nothing. He will not much longer respect our house. He may force himself in any day. She is not safe here. I dare not have her stay another day."
"I don't know what can be done, she can't get away without a pass," replied Edwards. "It would do no good for me to ask him again. Perhaps the girl herself might coax a pass out of him. It's the only chance."
"I coax him! I see him again! Oh I can't, I can't do that," cried Desire with an air of overwhelming repugnance.
"I could leave the door ajar you know, Desire, and be ready to come into the room if he were unmannerly," said her mother. "I think he's rather afraid of me. I'm afraid it's the only chance, as your father says, if you could but bring yourself to it."
"Oh it doesn't seem as if I could. It doesn't seem as if I could," cried the girl.
Perez did not come near the store for some days and it was on the street that Edwards next met him. The storekeeper was very cordial and made no further allusion to the pass. In the course of conversation he managed to make some reference to Desire's piano, and the curiosity the people seemed to feel about the novel instrument. He asked Perez if he had ever seen it, and Perez saying no, invited him to drop in that evening and hear Desire play a little. It is needless to say that the young man's surprise at the invitation did not prevent his accepting it. It would have melted the heart of his worst enemy to have seen how long he toiled that afternoon trying to refurbish his threadbare coat so white in the seams, and the rueful face with which he contemplated the result. On presenting himself at the store soon after dusk, Edwards at once ushered him into the parlor, and withdrew, saying that he must see to his business.
Desire sat at the piano, no one else being in the room. She looked rather pallid and thinner than when he had seen her last, but all the more interesting for this delicacy. There was, however, a far more striking alteration in her manner, for to his surprise she rose at his entrance, and came forward with a smile to greet him. He was delightfully bewildered.
"I scarcely know how to greet a Duke, for such I hear you are become," said Desire with a profound curtsy and a bewitching tone of badinage.
Entirely taken aback, he murmured something inarticulate, about her piano.
"Would your grace like to have me play a little?" she asked, gaily.
He intimated that he would, and she at once sat down before the little instrument. It was scarcely more to be compared with the magnificent machines of our day than the flageolets of Virgil's shepherds with the cornet-a-piston of the modern star performer, but Mozart, Haydn, Handel, or Beethoven never lived to see a better. It was only about two feet across by four and a half in width, with a small square sounding board at the end. The almost threadlike wires, strung on a wooden frame, gave forth a thin and tinny sound which would instantaneously bring the hands of a modern audience to its ears. But to Perez it seemed divine, and when, too, Desire opened her mouth and sang, tears of genuine emotion filled his eyes. She was more richly dressed than he had ever seen her before, wearing a cherry colored silk bodice, low necked, and with bell mouthed sleeves reaching to her elbows only, while the rounded white arms were set off with coral bracelets, a necklace of the same material encircling her throat. Upon one cheek, a little below the outside corner of the eye she wore a small black patch, according to a fashion of the time, by way of heightening by contrast the delicacy of her complexion. The faint perfume with which she had completed her toilet, seemed less a perfume than the very breath of her beauty, the voluptuous effluence which it exhaled. Having played and sung for some time she let her hands drop by her side and raising her eyes to meet Perez' fascinated gaze, said lightly:
"Do you like it?" The most exacting performer would have been satisfied with the manner in which after a husky attempt to say something in reply, he bowed his head in silence.
"I'm glad you came in tonight," she said, "for I want to ask something of you. Since you are Duke of Stockbridge we all have to ask favors of you, you see."
"What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, dear me," she said, laughing. "That's not the way people ask favors of kings and dukes. They make em promise to grant the favor first, and then tell em what it is. This is the way," and with the words she dropped lightly on one knee before Perez, and with her clasped hands pressed against her bosom, raised her face up toward his, her eyes eloquent, of intoxicating submissiveness.
"If thine handmaiden has found grace in the sight of my lord, the duke, let my request be done even according to the prayer of my lips."
Perez leaned forward toward the beautiful upward turning face.
"Whatever you want," he murmured.
"To the half of my dukedom, you must say."
"To the half of my dukedom," he repeated, in a mechanical voice, not removing his eyes from hers.
"Do you pledge your honor?" she demanded, still retaining her position.
If he had known that she intended asking him to blow his own brains out the next moment, and had expected to keep his promise, he must needs, with her kneeling so before him, have answered "yes," and so he did in fact reply.
"Thanks," she said, rising lightly to her feet, "you make a very good duke indeed, and to reward you I shall not ask for anything like half your dukedom, but only for a scrap of paper. Here is ink and paper and a pen. Please write me a pass to go to Pittsfield. Dr. Partridge says I must have change of air, and I don't want to be stopped by your soldiers."
A ghastly pallor overspread his face. "You're not going away," he stammered, rising slowly up.
"To be sure I am. What else should I want of the pass? Come, you're not going to make me do all that asking over again. Please sit right down again and write it. You know you promised on your word of honor."
She even put her hand smilingly on his shoulder, as if to push him down, and as he yielded to the light but irresistible pressure, she put a pen in his nerveless fingers, saying gayly:
"Just your name at the bottom, that's all. Father wrote the rest to save you trouble. Now, please." Powerless against an imperious magnetism which would have compelled him to sign his own death-warrant, he scrawled the words. As she took up the precious scrap of paper, and hid it in her bosom, the door opened, and Mrs. Edwards entered with stately formality, and the next moment Perez found himself blunderingly answering questions about his mother's state of health, not having the faintest idea what he was saying. The next thing he was conscious of was the cold frosty air on his face as he walked across the green from the store to the guardhouse.
Scarcely had Perez left, when Edwards entered the parlor.
"Did you get it?" he asked of Desire.
"Yes, yes," cried the girl. "Oh, that horrible, horrible fellow! I am sick with shame all through, sick! sick! But if I can only get away out of his reach, I shall not mind. Do let Cephas harness the horse into the chaise at once. He may change his mind. Oh, hurry, father, do; don't, oh, don't lose a minute."
Half an hour later, Cephas, an old freedman of Edwards, drove the chaise up to the side door, and a few bundles having been put into the vehicle, Desire herself entered, and was driven hastily away toward Pittsfield.
To go back to Perez, on reaching the guardhouse, coming from the store, he went in and sat down in the headquarters room. Presently, Abe Konkapot, who was officer of the day, entered and spoke to him. Perez making no reply, the Indian spoke again, and then went up to him and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"What is it?" said Perez, in a dull voice.
"What matter with you, Cap'n? Me speake tree time. You no say nothin. You seek?" Perez looked up at him vacantly.
"He no drunk?" pursued Abe, changing from the second to the third person in his mode of speech, as he saw the other paid no attention. "Seem like was heap drunk, but no smell rum," and he scratched his head in perplexity. Then he shook Perez' shoulder again. "Say, Cap'n, what ails yer?"
"She's going away, Abe. Desire Edwards is going away," replied Perez, looking up at the Indian in a helpless, appealing way.
"You no like have her go, Cap'n? You like better she stay? What for let her go then?"
"I gave her a pass, Abe. She was so beautiful I couldn't help it."
Abe scratched his head.
"If she so preety, me s'pose you keep her all more for that. No let her go."
Perez did not explain this point, but presently said:
"Abe, you may let the men go home, if you want. It's nothing to me any more what happens here in Stockbridge. The silk stockings are welcome to come and hang me as soon as they please," and his head dropped on his breast like one whose life has suddenly lost its spring and motive.
"Look a here, Cap'n," said Abe, "you say to me, Abe, stop that air gal, fetch her back. Good. Me do it quick. Cap'n feel all right again."
"I can't, Abe, I can't. I promised. I gave her my word. I can't. I wish she had asked me to cut my throat instead," and he despairingly shook his head.
Abe regarded him with evident perplexity for some moments, and then with an abrupt nod of the head turned and glided out of the room. Perez, in his gloomy preoccupation did not even note his going. His head sunk lower on his breast, and he murmured to himself wild words of passion and despair.
"If she only knew. If she knew how I loved her. But she would not care. She hates me. She will never come back. Oh, no, never. I shall never see her again. This is the end. It is the end. How beautiful she was!" and he buried his face in his arms on the table and wept miserable tears.
There were voices and noises about and within the guardhouse, but he took no note of them. Some one came into the room, but he did not look up, and for a moment Desire Edwards, for she it was, in hat and cloak, stood looking down on him. Then she said, in a voice whose first accent brought him to his feet as if electrified:
"No wonder you hide your head."
There was a red spot as big as a cherry in either cheek, and her eyes scintillated with concentrated scorn and anger. Over her shoulder was visible Abe Konkapot's swarthy face, wearing a smile of great self-satisfaction.
"I was foolish enough to think even a rebel might keep his word," Desire went on, in a voice trembling with indignation. "I did not suppose even you would give me a pass and then send your footpads to stop me."
It was evident from his dazed look, that he did not follow her words. He glanced inquiringly at Abe, who responded with lucid brevity:
"Look a' here, Cap'n, me see you feel heap bad cause gal go away. You make fool promise; no can stop her. Me no make promise. Gal come long in cart. Show pass. Pass good, but no good for gal to go. Tear up pass; fetch gal back. Cap'n no break no promise, cause no stop gal. Abe no break promise, cause no make none. Cap'n be leetle mad with Abe for tear up pass, but heap more glad for git gal back," and having thus succinctly stated the matter the Indian retired.
"I beg your pardon, Captain Hamlin," said Desire, with an engaging smile. "I was too hasty. I suppose I was angry. I see you were not to blame. If you will now please tell your men that I am not to be interfered with again, I will make another start for Pittsfield."
"No, not again," he replied slowly.
"But you promised me," she said, with rising apprehension, nervously clasping the edge of her cloak with her fingers as she spoke. "You promised me on the word of a duke you know," and she made another feeble attempt at a smile.
"I promised you," replied he, "I don't know why I was so mad. I was bewitched. I did not break the promise, but I will not make it again. God had pity on me, and brought you back. What have I suffered the last hour, and shall I let you go again? Never! never! None shall pluck you out of my hand.
"Don't let me terrify you, my darling," he went on passionately, in a softened voice, as she changed countenance and recoiled before him in evident fright. "I will not hurt you. I would die sooner than hurt a hair of your head." He tried to take her hand, and then as she snatched it away, he caught the hem of her cloak, and kneeling quickly, raised it with a gesture of boundless tenderness and reverence, to his lips. She had shrunk back to the wall, and looked down on him in wide-eyed, speechless terror, evidently no longer thinking of anything but escape.
"Oh, let me go home. Let me go home. I shall scream out if you don't let me go," she cried.
He rose to his feet, walked quickly across the room and back, and then having in some measure subdued his agitation, replied:
"Certainly, you shall go home. It is dark; I will go with you," and they walked together across to the store without speaking. Returning, Perez met Abe, and taking him by the hand, gave it a tremendous grip, but said nothing.
Whatever resentment Squire Edwards cherished against Perez on account of Desire's recapture and return, he was far too shrewd to allow it to appear. He simply ignored the whole episode and was more affable than ever. Whenever he met the young man, he had something pleasant to say, and was always inviting him into the store to take a drop when he passed. Meanwhile, however, so far as the latter's opportunities of seeing or talking with Desire were concerned, she might just as well have been in Pittsfield, so strictly did she keep the house. A week or ten days passed thus, every day adding fuel to his impatience, and he had already begun to entertain plans worthy of a brigand or a kidnapper, when circumstances presented an opportunity of which he made shrewd profit.
During the Revolutionary war it had been a frequent policy with the town authorities to attempt to correct the high and capricious prices of goods, always incident to war times, by establishing fixed rates per pound, bushel, yard or quart, by which all persons should be compelled to sell or barter their merchandise and produce. It had been suggested in the Stockbridge Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety that the adoption of such a tariff would tend to relieve the present distress and promote trade. Ezra Phelps proposed the plan, Israel Goodrich was inclined to favor it, and Perez' assent would have settled the matter. He, it was, whom Squire Edwards approached with vehement protestations. He might well be somewhat agitated, for being the only merchant in town, the proposed measure was little more than a personal discrimination against his profits, which, it must be admitted, had been of late years pretty liberal, thanks to a dearth of money that had made it necessary for farmers to barter produce for tools and supplies, at rates virtually at the merchant's discretion. If the storekeeper had been compelled to trade at the committee's prices for awhile, it would perhaps have been little more than a rough sort of justice; but he did not take that view. It is said that all is fair in love and war, and this was the manner in which Perez proceeded selfishly to avail himself of the Squire's emergency. He listened to his protestations with a sympathetic rather than a hopeful air, admitting that he himself would be inclined to oppose the new policy, but remarking that the farmers and some of the committee were so set on it that he doubted his ability to balk them. He finally remarked, however, he might possibly do something, if Edwards, himself, would meantime take a course calculated to placate the insurgents and disarm their resentment. Being rather anxiously inquired of by the storekeeper as to what he could consistently do, Perez finally suggested that Israel Goodrich was going to have a husking in his barn the following night, if the warm weather held; and if Desire Edwards should attend, it would not only please the people generally, but possibly gain over Israel, a member of the committee. Edwards made no reply, and Perez left him to think the matter over, pretty confident of the result.
That evening in the family circle, after a gloomy account of the disaster threatening to engulf the family fortunes if the proposed policy of fixing prices were carried out, Edwards spoke of Hamlin's disposition to come to his aid, and his suggestion concerning Desire's presence at the husking.
"These huskings are but low bussing-matches," said Mrs. Edwards with much disgust. "Desire has never set a foot in such a place. I suspect it is a trick of this fellow to get her in his reach."
"It may be so," said her husband, gloomily. "I thought of that myself, but what shall we do? Shall we submit to the spoiling of our goods? We are fallen upon evil times, and the most we can do is to choose between evils."
Desire, who had sat in stolid silence, now said in much agitation:
"I don't want to go. Please don't make me go, father. I'd rather not. I'm afraid of him. Since that last time I'm afraid. I'd rather not."
"The child is well nigh sick with it all," said Mrs. Edwards, sitting down by her and soothingly drawing the head of the agitated girl to her shoulder, which set her to sobbing. It was evident that the constant apprehensions of the past several weeks as well as her virtual imprisonment within doors, had not only whitened her cheek but affected her nervous tone.
Edwards paced to and fro with knitted brow. Finally he said:
"I will by no means constrain your will in this matter, Desire. I do not understand all your woman's megrims, but your mother shall not again reproach me with willingness to secure protection to my temporal interests at the cost of your peace and quiet. You need not go to this husking. No doubt I shall be able to bear whatever the Lord sends," and he went out.
Soon after, Desire ceased sobbing and raised her head from her mother's shoulder. "Mother," she said, "did you ever hear of a maiden placed in such a case as mine?"
"No, my child. It is a new sort of affliction, and of a strange nature. I scarcely have confidence to advise you as to your duty. You had best seek the counsel of the Lord in prayer."
"Methinks in such matters a woman is the best judge," said the girl naively.
"Tut, tut, Desire!"
"Nay, I meant no harm, mother," and then with a great sigh, she said: "I will go. Poor father feels so bad."
The next evening when, dressed for the husking, she took a last look in her mirror she was fairly scared to see how pretty she was. And yet despite the dismay and sinking of heart with which she apprehended Perez' attentions, she did not brush down the dark ringlets that shadowed her temples so bewitchingly, or choose a less becoming ribbon for her neck. That is not a woman's way. It was about seven o'clock when she and Jonathan, who went as her escort, reached Israel Goodrich's great barn, guided thither by the light which streamed from the open door.
The husking was already in full blast. A dozen tallow dips, and half as many lanterns, consisting of peaked cylinders of tin, with holes plentifully punched in their sides for the light of the candle to trickle through, illumined the scene. In the middle of the floor was a pile of full a hundred bushels of ears of corn in the husk, and close around this, their knees well thrust into the mass, sat full two-score young men and maidens, for the most part duly paired off, save where here and there two or three bashful youths sat together. The young men had their coats off, and the round white arms of the girls twinkled distractingly as with swift deft motions they freed the shining yellow ears from their incasements and tossed them into the baskets. The noisy rustling of the dry husks, the chatter and laughter of the merry workers, ever and anon swelling into uproarious mirth as some protesting maiden redeemed a red ear with a pair of red lips, made altogether a merry medley that caused the cows and horses munching their suppers in the neighboring stalls to turn and stare in wonder.
Some of the huskers, looking up, caught sight of Desire and Jonathan at the door, and by a telegraphic system of whispers and nudges, the information was presently carried to Israel Goodrich.
"Glad to see ye. Come right in," he shouted in a broad, cheery voice. "More the merrier's, the sayin is. Glad to see ye. Glad to see ye. Look's kinder neighborly."
As Desire entered the barn, some of the girls rose and curtsied, the most merely looking bashful and avoiding her eye, as the rural mode of greeting continues to be to this day. Perez was the first person whom Desire had seen on entering the barn. Her eyes had been drawn to him by a sort of fascination, certainly not a pleasant sort, the result of her having thought so much about him. Nor was this fascination without another evidence. There was a vacant stool by Perez, and as she passed it, and he rose and bowed, she made as if she would seat herself there.
"Don't ye sit thar," said Israel, "that ain't nothin but a stool. Thar's a chair furder along."
The offer to sit by Perez was almost involuntary on her part, merely a sign of her sense of powerlessness against him. She had had the thought that he meant to have her sit there, and in her nervously abject mood she had not thought of resisting. Her coming to the husking at all had been a surrender to his will, and this seemed but an incident and consequence of that. At Israel's words she blushed faintly, but not in a way to be compared with the red flush that swept over Perez' face.
"Thar," said Israel, good-humoredly, as she seated herself in the promised chair, "naow I guess we'll see the shucks begin to fly."
"For the land sakes, Miss Edwards, you ain't a gonter go ter shuckin with them ere white hands o' yourn," exclaimed Submit Goodrich. "Lemme git yer some mittins, an an apron tew. Deary me, yew mustn't dew the fuss thing till yew've got an apron."
"Guess yew ain't uster huskin, or yew woulden come in yer bes gaown," said Israel cheerfully.
"Come naow, father," Submit expostulated, "tain't likely she's got nothin poor nuff fer sech doins. Ez if this ere wuz Miss Edwards' bes gaown. Yew've got a sight better'n this, hain't yew?"
Desire smiled vaguely. Meanwhile the husking had been pretty much suspended, the huskers either staring in vacant, open mouthedness at Desire, or communicating whispered comments to each other. And even after she had been duly provided with mittens and apron, and begun on the corn, the chatter and boisterous merriment which her arrival had interrupted, did not at once resume its course. Perhaps in a more modern assembly the constraint might have been lasting, but our forefathers did not depend so exclusively as we upon capricious and uncompellable moods, which, like the winds, blow whence and when they list, for the generation of vivacity in social gatherings. For that same end they used most commonly a force as certain as steam in its action; an influence kept in a jug.
Submit whispered to her father, and the old man merely poured a double portion of rum into the cider flip, with which the huskers were being regaled, and soon all went prosperously again. For rum in those good old days was recognized as equally the accompaniment of toil and recreation, and therefore had a double claim to the attention of huskers. From a sale of meeting-house pews or an ordination, to a ball or a general training, rum was the touch of nature that made the whole world of our forefathers kin. And if Desire did but wet her lips with the flip to-night, it was because the company rather than the beverage offended her taste. For even at risk of alienating the sympathies of my teetotal readers, I must refrain from claiming for the maiden a virtue which had not then been invented.
The appearance of Uncle Sim's black and smiling countenance, as he entered bowing and grinning, his fiddle under his arm, was hailed with uproar and caused a prodigious accession of activity among the huskers, the completion of whose task would be the signal for the dancing to begin. The red ears turned up so rapidly as to suggest the theory that some of the youths had stuffed their pockets with a selected lot from the domestic corn bin before coming. But though this opinion was loudly expressed by the girls, it did not seem to excite that indignation in their bosoms which such unblushing duplicity should have aroused. Half a dozen lively tussles for kisses were constantly going on in various parts of the floor and the uproar was prodigious.
In the midst of the hurly-burly, Desire sat bending over the task of which her unused fingers made slow work, replying now and then with little forced smiles to Submit's good natured efforts to entertain her, and paying no attention to the hilarious confusion around. She looked for all the world to Perez like a captive queen among rude barbarian conquerors, owing to her very humiliation, a certain touching dignity. It repented him that he had been the means of bringing her to the place. He could not even take any pleasure in looking at her, because he was so angry to see the coarse stares of admiration which the bumpkins around fixed on her. Paul Hubbard, who sat opposite him had been particularly free with his eyes in that direction, and all the more so after he perceived the discomfort it occasioned Perez, toward whom since their collision concerning the disposition to be made of the prisoners, he had cherished a bitter animosity. The last husks were being stripped off, and Sim was already tuning his fiddle, when Hubbard sprang to his feet with a red ear in his hand. He threw a mocking glance toward Perez, and advanced behind the row of huskers toward Desire. Bending over her lap, with downcast face, she did not observe him till he laid his hand on the rich kerchief of India silk that covered her shoulders. Looking up and catching sight of the dark, malicious face above her, its sensual leer interpreted by the red ear brandished before her eyes, she sprang away with a gasp. There was not one of the girls in the room who would have thought twice about a kiss, or a dozen of them. One of their own number who had made a fuss about such a trifle would have been laughed at. But somehow they did not feel inclined to laugh at Desire's terror and repugnance. They felt that she was different from them, and the least squeamish hoyden of the lot experienced a thrill of sympathy, and had a sense of something tragic. And yet no one interfered. Hubbard was but using his rights according to the ancient rules of the game. A girl might defend herself with fists and nails from an unwelcome suitor, but no third party could interfere. As Jonathan, who sat some way from his sister was about to run to her aid, a stout farmer caught him around the waist crying, good naturedly:
"Fair play youngster! fair play! No interferin!"
Perez had sprung up, looking very white, his eyes congested, his fists clenched. As Desire threw an agonized look of appeal around the circle, she caught sight of him. With a sudden impulse she darted to him crying:
"Oh, keep me from that man."
"Get out of the way, Hamlin," said Hubbard, rushing after his prey. "God damn you, get out of my way. What do you mean by interfering?"
Perez scarcely looked at him, but he threw a glance around upon the others, a glance of appeal, and said in a peculiar voice of suppressed emotion:
"For God's sake, some of you take the fellow away, or I shall kill him."
Instantly Israel Goodrich and half a dozen more had rushed between the two. The twitching muscles of Perez' face and that strange tone as of a man appealing to be saved from himself, had suddenly roused all around from mirthful or curious contemplation of the scene to a perception that a terrible tragedy had barely been averted.
Meanwhile the floor was being cleared of the husks and soon the merry notes of the fiddle speedily dissipated the sobering influence of the recent fracas. Desire danced once with her brother and once with old Israel, who positively beamed with pleasure. But Hubbard, who was now pretty drunk, followed her about, every now and then taking the red ear out of his pocket and shaking it at her, so that between the dances and after them, she took care not to be far from Perez, though she pretended not to notice her pursuer. As for Perez, he was far enough from taking advantage of the situation. Though his eyes followed her everywhere, he did not approach her, and seemed very ill at ease and dissatisfied. Finally he called Jonathan aside and told him that the last end of a husking was often rather uproarious, and Desire perhaps would prefer to go home early. He would, himself, see that they reached home without molestation. Desire was glad enough to take the hint, and glad enough, too, in view of Hubbard's demonstration, to accept the offered escort. As the three were on the way home, Perez finally broke the rather stiff silence by expressing with evident distress his chagrin at the unpleasant events of the evening; and Desire found herself replying quite as if she felt for, and wished to lessen, his self-reproach. Then they kept silent again till just before the store was reached, when he said:
"I see that you do not go out doors at all. I suppose you are afraid of me. If that is the reason, I hope you will not stay in after this. I give you my word you shall not be annoyed, and I hope you'll believe me. Good night."
Was it Desire Edwards' voice which so kindly, almost softly, responded to his salutations? It was she who, in astonishment, asked herself the question.
BRACE OF PROCLAMATIONS
Perez profited by the fact that, however a man may have abused a woman, that is all forgotten the moment he protects her against another man, perhaps no worse than himself. Ever so little gratitude is fatal to resentment, and the instinct of her sex to repay protection with esteem is so deep, that it is no wonder Desire found her feelings toward Perez oddly revolutionized by that scene at the husking. Try as she might to resume her former resentment, terror, and disgust toward the young man, the effort always ended in recalling with emotions of the liveliest thankfulness how he had stood between her and that hateful fellow, whom otherwise she could not have escaped. All that night she was constantly dreaming of being pursued by ruffians and rescued by him. And the grateful sense of safety and protection which, in her dreams, she associated with him, lingered in her mind after she awoke in the morning, and refused to be banished. She was half ashamed, she would not have had anybody know it, and yet she had to own that after these weeks of constant depression and apprehension, the change of mood was not wholly disagreeable.
She had quite a debate with herself as to whether it would be consistent with her dignity to accept Perez' assurance that she would not be annoyed, and go out to walk. Without fully determining the question, she concluded to go anyway, and a beginning having been thus made, she thereafter resumed her old habit of long daily walks, to the rapid improvement of her health and spirits. For some days she did not chance to meet Perez at all, and it annoyed the high-spirited girl to find that she kept thinking of him, and wondering where she would meet him, and what he would say or do, and how she ought to appear. And yet it was perfectly natural that such should be the case. Thanks to his persecution, he had preoccupied her mind with his personality for so long a time that it was impossible the new phase of her relations toward him should not strongly affect her fancy. The first time they actually did meet, she found herself quite agitated. Her heart beat oddly when she saw him coming, and if possible she would have turned aside to avoid him. But he merely bowed and passed on with a word of greeting. After that he met her oftener, but never presumed to stop— or say more than "Good morning," or "Good afternoon," the result of which was that, after having at first welcomed this formality as a relief, after awhile she came to think it a little overstrained. It looked as if he thought that she was childishly afraid of him. That seemed absurd. One day, as they met, and with his usual courteously curt salutation he was passing by, she observed that it was delightful weather. As her eye caught his start of surprise, and the expression of almost overpowering pleasure that passed over his face at her words, she blushed. She unquestionably blushed and hurried on, scarcely waiting for his reply. Some days later, as she was taking a favorite walk over a path among the thickets on the slope of Laurel Hill, whence the hazy Indian Summer landscape could be seen to perfection beneath the thin but wonderfully bland sunshine of November, she again met him face to face. Perhaps it was the color in her cheeks which reminded him to say:
"You don't look as if you needed to go to Pittsfield for your health now."
"No," she said, smiling. "When I found I could not go, I concluded I would get well here."
"I suppose you are very angry with me for stopping you that night, though it was not I that did it."
"If I were angry, I should not dare tell you, for fear of bringing down your vengeance on me."
"But are you angry?" he asked anxiously.
"I told you I did not dare say," she replied, smiling at him with an indomitable air.
"Please forgive me for it," he said, not jestingly or lightly, but in deepest earnest, with a look almost of tears in his eyes. She wondered she had never before noticed what beautiful blue eyes they were. She rather liked the sensation of having him look at her so.
"Won't you stop me if I try to go again?" she demanded, with an audacious impulse. But she repented her boldness as the passion leaped back into his eyes, and hers fell before it.
"I can't say that," he said. "God knows I will stop you so long as I have power, and when I can no longer stop you, the wheels of your carriage shall pass over my body. I will not let you go."
It was strange that the desperate resolution and the inexorable set of his jaws, which, as he had made a similar declaration on the night of her recapture, had caused her heart to sink, now produced a sensation of rather pleasant excitement. Instead of blanching with fear or revolting in defiance, she replied, with a bewitching air of mock terror:
"Dear me, what a terrible fellow!" and, with a toss of the head, went on her way, leaving him puzzling his heavy masculine wits over the fact that she no longer seemed a particle afraid of him.
The Laurel Hill walk, as I observed before, was an old favorite with Desire, and in her present frame of mind it seemed no sufficient reason to forsake it, that after this she often met Perez there. It is a pleasant excitement, playing with lions or other formidable things. Especially when one has long been in terror of them, the newly gained sense of fearlessness is highly exhilarating. Desire enjoyed playing with her lion, calming and exciting him, making his eyes now half fill with tears, and now flash with passion. The romantic novelty of the situation, which might have terrified a more timid maiden, began to be its most attractive feature to her. Besides, he was really very good-looking, come to observe him closely. How foolish it had been of her to be so frightened of him at first! The recollection of her former terror actually amused her; as if it were not easy enough to manage such a fellow. She had not been in such high spirits for a long time. She began to think that instead of being a hateful, terrible, revolting tragedy, the rebellion was rather jolly, providentially adapted, apparently, for the amusement of young ladies doomed to pass the winter in dismal country towns. One day her mother, commenting on the fact that the patrol and pass system of the insurgents had been somewhat relaxed, suggested that Desire might go to Pittsfield. But she said she did not care to go now. The fact was she preferred to play with her lion, though she did not mention that reason to her mother. When from time to time she heard of the fear and apprehension with which the gentlemen's families in town regarded Perez, she even owned to being a little complacent over the fact that this lawless dictator was her humble adorer. She finally went so far as occasionally to ask him as a favor to have this or that done about the village. It was such fun to feel that through him she could govern the community. One afternoon, being in a particularly gracious mood, she took a pink ribbon from her neck, knotted it about the hilt of his sword as an ornament.
The hillside path among the laurel thickets where they so often chanced to meet, was a lonely spot, beyond the reach of spectators or eavesdroppers; but, while their meetings were thus secret, nothing could be more discreet than the way she managed them. She kept him so well in hand that he did not even dare to speak of the love of which his whole manner was eloquent. Since she had ceased to fear him, he had ceased to be at all fear-inspiring. The rude lover whose lawless attempts had formerly put her in such fear, was now respectful to the point of reverence, and almost timid in his fear of offending her. The least sign of anything like tenderness on her part sufficed to stir him with a passion of humility which in turn touched her more deeply sometimes than she would have liked to admit. Now that she had come to see how the poor fellow loved her, she could not cherish the least anger with him for what he had done to her.
Sometimes she led him on to speak of himself and his present position, and he would tell her of his dream and hope, in this present period of anarchy to make himself a name. She was somewhat impressed by his talk, though she would not tell him so. She had heard enough political discussion at her father's and uncle's tables to know that the future political constitution and government of the colonies were wholly unsettled, and that even a royal and aristocratic form, with Washington, or some foreign princeling, at the head, was advocated by many. Especially here in Massachusetts, just now, almost anything was possible. And so when he said one day, "They call me Duke of Stockbridge in jest, but it may be in earnest yet," she did not laugh, but owned to herself that the tall, handsome fellow would look every inch a duke, if he only had some better clothes. She did not let him tell her in so many words that the motive of his ambition was to win her, but she knew it well enough, and the thought did not excite her indignation, though she knew it ought to.
The nearest she would let him come to talking love to her, was to talk of their childhood and how he had adored her then. Her own remembrance of those days of budding girlhood was dim, but he seemed to remember everything about her, and she could but be touched as he reminded her of scores of little incidents and scenes and words which had quite escaped her memory. The doting tenderness which his tone sometimes took on as he dwelt on these reminiscences, made her heart beat rather fast, and in her embarrassment she had some ado to make light of the subject.
But now Indian Summer, by whose grace the warm weather had been extended nearly through November, came abruptly to a close. New England weather was as barbarous in its sudden changes then as now. One day was warm and pleasant, the next a foot of snow covered the ground and the next after that the thermometer, had there been one at that date in Berkshire, would have recorded zero. The Sunday before Thanksgiving was bitterly cold, "tejus weather" in the farmer's phrase. There was of course no stove or other heater in the meeting-house and the temperature within differed very slightly from that without, a circumstance aggravated by the fact that furs were as yet almost unknown in the wardrobes even of the wealthiest of the people. A small tippet of Desire's, sent from England, was the only thing of the kind in Stockbridge. Parson West wore his gown and bands outside an overcoat and turned his notes with thick woolen mittens, now and then giving a brisk rub to his ears. Like so many clouds of incense rose the breath of the auditors, as they shivered on their hard board seats. The wintry wind blew in gusts through the plentifully broken window panes—for glass was as brittle then as now and costlier to replace,—and every now and then sifted a whiff of snow down the backs of the sitters in the gallery. Fathers and mothers essayed to still their little one's chattering teeth by taking them in their laps and holding them tight, and where a woman was provided with the luxury of a foot-stove or hot-stone, children were squatted round it in the bottom of the pew quarreling with each other to get their tingling toes upon it. A dreadful sound of coughing rose from the audience, mingled with sneezing from such as were now first taking their all-winter colds and diversified from time to time by the wail of some child too miserable and desperate to have any fear of the parental knuckles before its face.
Struggling with these noises and sometimes wholly lost to those in the back part of the house, when some tremendous gust of wind shook and strained the building, the voice of Parson West flowed on and on. He was demonstrating that seeing it was evident some souls would be lost it must be for the glory of God that they should be lost, and such being the case all true saints must and should rejoice in the fact, and praise God for it. But in order that their approval of the Divine decree in this matter should be genuine and sincere it must be purely disinterested, and therefore they must be willing, if God in his inscrutable wisdom should so will, to be themselves among the lost and forever to hate and blaspheme him in hell, because thus would his glory be served. The parson warmly urged that all who believed themselves to have been born again, should constantly inquire of their own souls whether they were so resigned, for if they did not feel that they were, it was to be feared they were still dead in trespasses and sins.
The sermon ended, the parson proceeded to read the annual Thanksgiving Day proclamation of the governor. To this magic formula, which annually evoked from the great brick oven stuffed turkey, chicken pie, mince pie and plum pudding galore, the children listened with faces of mingled awe and delight, forgetful of their aching toes. The mothers smiled at the children, while the sheepish grins and glances exchanged between the youth and maidens in their opposite galleries, showed them not unmindful of the usual Thanksgiving ball, and, generally speaking, it is to be feared the thoughts of the congregation were quite diverted, for the time being, from the spiritual exercise suggested by the parson. But now the people lift faces of surprise to the pulpit, for instead of the benediction the parson begins to read yet another proclamation. It is no less than an offer by His Excellency, the Governor and the honorable Council, of pardon to those concerned in the late risings against the courts provided they take the oath of allegiance to the state before the first of January, with the warning that all not availing themselves in time of this offer will be subject to arrest without bail at the governor's discretion, under the recent act suspending the Habeas corpus. Added to which is a recital of the special act of the Legislature, that all persons who do not at once disperse upon reading of the riot act are to receive thirty-nine lashes and one year's imprisonment, with thirty-nine more lashes at the end of each three months of that period.
There was little enough Thanksgiving look on the people's faces by the time the parson had made an end, and it is to be feared that in many a heart the echo of the closing formula, "God save the Commonwealth," was something like "May the devil take it."
"Pardon fer wot I sh'd like ter know," blurted out Abner on the meeting-house steps. "I dunno nothin baout the res' on ye, but I hain't done nothin I'm shamed on."
And Israel Goodrich, too, said: "Ef he's gonter go ter pardinin us for lettin them poor dyin critters outer jail tew Barrington t'other day, he's jess got the shoe onter the wrong foot. It's them as put em in needs the pardinin cordin tew my noshin."
"An I guess we don' want no pardon fer stoppin courts nuther. Ef the Lord pardons us fer not hangin the jedges an lawyers, it'll be more'n I look fer," observed Peleg Bidwell.
"Here comes the Duke," said another. "Wat dew yew say ter this ere proclamashin, Cap'n?"
"The more paper government wastes on proclamations, the less it'll have left for cartridges," he replied.
There was a laugh at this, but it was rather grim sort of talk, and a good many of the farmers got into their sleighs and drove away with very sober faces.
"It is the beginning of the end," said Squire Edwards, in high good humor, as he sat in his parlor that evening. "From my seat I could see the people. They were like frightened sheep. The rebellion is knocked on the head. The governor won't have to call out a soldier. You see the scoundrels have bad consciences, and that makes cowards of them. This Hamlin here will be running away to save his neck in a week, mark my words."
"I don't believe he is a coward, father, I don't believe he'll run away," said Desire, explosively, and then quickly rose from the chair and turned her back, and looked out the window into the darkness.
"What do you know about him, child?" said her father, in surprise.
"I don't think he seems like one," said Desire, still with her back turned. And then she added, more quietly: "You know he was a captain in the army, and was in battles."
"I don't know it; nobody knows it. He says so, that's all," replied Edwards, laughing contemptuously. "All we know about it is, he wears an old uniform. He might have picked it up in a gutter, or stolen it anywhere. General Pepoon thinks he stole it, and I shouldn't wonder."
"It's a lie, a wicked lie!" cried the girl, whirling around, and confronting her father, with blazing cheeks and eyes.
She had been in a ferment ever since she had heard the proclamation read that afternoon at meeting, and her father's words had added the last aggravation to the already explosive state of her nerves. Squire Edwards looked dumbfounded, and Mrs. Edwards cried in astonishment:
"Desire, child, what's all this?"
But before the girl could speak, there was an effectual diversion. Jonathan came rushing in from outdoors, crying:
"They're burning the governor!"
"What!" gasped his father.
"They've stuffed some clothes with straw, so's to look like a man, and put that hat of Justice Goodrich they fetched back from Barrington, on top and they're burning it for Governor Bowdoin, on the hill," cried Jonathan. "See there! You can see it from the window. See the light!"
Sure enough, on the summit of Laurel Hill the light of a big bonfire shone like a beacon.
"It's just where they burned Benedict Arnold's effigy in the war," continued Jonathan. "There's more'n a hundred men up there. They're awful mad with the governor. There was some powder put in the straw, and when the fire came to't, it blew up, and the people laughed. But Cap'n Hamlin said 'twas a pity to waste the powder. They might need it all before this business was through with. And then they cheered again. He meant there'd be fighting, father."
In the new excitement there was no thought of resuming the conversation which Jonathan's advent had broken off so opportunely for Desire, and the latter was able without further challenge to escape to her own room. Scarcely had she reached it when there was a sound of fife and drum, and presently a hundred men or more with hemlock in their hats came marching by on their way from Laurel Hill, and Perez Hamlin was riding ahead. They were singing in rude chorus one of the popular songs of the late war, or rather of the stamp act agitation preceding it:
"With the beasts of the wood, we will ramble for food, And lodge in wild deserts and caves; And live as poor Job on the skirts of the globe, Before we'll submit to be slaves, brave boys, Before we'll submit to be slaves."
Such was the rebels' response to the governor's proclamation of mingled mercy and threats. Desire had thrown open her window at the sound of the music, and, carried away with excitement, as Perez looked up and bowed, she waved her handkerchief to him. Yes, Desire Edwards actually waved her handkerchief to the captain of the mob. In the shining winter night her act was plainly seen by the passing men, and her parents and brother, who having first blown out the candle, were looking out from the lower windows, were astonished beyond measure to hear the ringing cheer which the passing throng sent up. Then Desire cried a little and went to bed feeling very reckless.
Squire Edwards had clearly been mistaken in thinking that the proclamation had made an end of the rebellion. Its first effect had been rather intimidating, no doubt, but upon reflection the insurgents found that they were more mad than scared. It was indeed just opposition enough to exasperate those who were fully committed and stimulate to more vigorous demonstrations; and an express from Shays having summoned a Berkshire contingent to join in a big military demonstration at Worcester, fifty armed men under Abner marched from Stockbridge Thanksgiving Day amid an excitement scarcely equalled since the day when Jahleel Woodbridge's minute men had left for Bennington. But the return of the party about the middle of December, threw a damper on the enthusiasm. The demonstration at Worcester had been indeed a brilliant success in some respects. One thousand well armed men headed by Shays himself with a full staff of officers and a band of music had held the town for several days in full military occupation, overawing the militia, preventing the sitting of the courts, and even threatening to march on Boston. But on the other hand the temper of the population had been lukewarm and often hostile. The soldiers had been half starved through the refusal to supply provisions and nearly frozen. Some indeed had died. In coming back a number of the Berkshire men had been arrested and maltreated in Northampton. Formidable military preparations were being made by the government, and parties of Boston cavalry were scouring the eastern counties and had taken several insurgent leaders prisoners, who would probably be hung. The men had been demoralized by the spread of a well substantiated report that Shays had offered to desert to the other side if he could be assured of pardon. In the lower counties indeed all the talk was of pardon and terms of submission. The white paper cockade which had been adopted in contradistinction to the hemlock as the badge of the government party, predominated in many of the towns through which Abner's party had passed.
"That air proclamashin 's kinder skeert em more'n did us Berkshire folks." Abner explained to a crowd at the tavern. "They all wanter be on the hangman's side wen it comes tew the hangin. They hain't got the pluck of a weasel, them fellers daown east hain't. This ere war'll hev tew be fit aout in this ere caounty, I guess, ef wuss comes to wuss."
"They've got a slew o' men daown Bosting way," said a farmer. "I callate we couldn' hole aout agin' em long ef it come tew fightin, an they should reely tackle us."
"I dunno baout that nuther," declared Abner with a cornerwise nod of the head. "Thar be plenty o' pesky places long the road wen it gits up intew the mountings an is narrer and windin like. I wouldn' ass fer more'n a kumpny tew stop a regiment in them places. I wuz talkin tew the Duke baout that tidday. He says the hull caounty's a reglar fort, an ef the folks 'll hang tewgether it can't be tuk by the hull res' o' the state. We kin hole aout jist like the Green Mounting boys did agin the Yorkers an licked em tew, and got shet of em an be indypendent tidday, by gol, same ez Berkshire orter be."
"Trew's Gospel Abner," averred Israel Goodrich, "thar ain't no use o' the two eends o' the state tryin tew git on tewgether. They hain't never made aout tew gree, an I guess they never would nuther ef they tried it a hundred year more. Darn it, the folks is differn folks daown east o' Worcester. River folks is more like us but git daown east o' Worcester, an I hain't no opinyun on em."
"Yer right thar Isr'el," said Abner with heartiness, "I can't bear Bosting fellers no more'n I kin a skunk, and I kin tell em baout ez fer orf. I dunno wat tiz baout em, but I can't git up no more feller feelin fer em nor I kin fer Britishers. Seems though they wern't ezzackly human, though I s'pose they be, but darn em anyhaow."
"I callate thar's suthin in the mountain air changes men," said Peleg, "fer it's sartain we be more like the Green Mounting boys in aour noshins an ways an we be like the Bosting chaps."
"I'd be in favor o' jinin onter Vairmount, an mebbe that'll be the upshot on't all," observed Ezra Phelps. "Ye see Vairmount hain't a belongin tew the cussed Continental federashin, an it hain't got none o' them big debts ez is hangin round the necks o' the thirteen states, and so we sh'd git rid o' the biggis part o' our taxes all kerslap. Vairmount is an indypendent kentry, an I callate we'd better jine. Ef they'd a made aout with that air noshin folks hed a spell ago, baout raisin up a new state, made aout o' Hampshire caounty an a track o' land tew the northard,'twould a been jess the sorter thing fer us Berkshire fellers to a hitched on tew."
"I never hearn nothin baout that idea" said Peleg.
"I s'pose ye hain't," replied Ezra. "I wuz livin in Hampshire them times, an so I wuz right in the way o' the talk. They wuz gonter call the state New Connecticut. But the idee never come ter nothin. The war come on an folks hed other fish ter fry."
But Israel declared that he was not in favor of joining on to anything. Berkshire was big enough state for him, and he did not want to see any better times than along from '74 to '80, when Berkshire would take no orders from Boston.
All through the first half of December one heavy snow storm had followed another. The roads about Stockbridge were often blocked for days together. In the village the work of digging paths along the sidewalks, between the widely-parted houses, was quite too great to be so much as thought of, and the only way of getting about was in sleighs, or wading mid-leg deep. Of course, for the women, this meant virtual imprisonment to the house, save on the occasion of the Sunday drive to meeting. In these days, even the disciplinary tedium of a convict's imprisonment is relieved by supplies of reading matter gathered by benevolent societies. But for the imprisoned women of whom I write there was not even this recreation. Printing had, indeed, been invented some hundreds of years, but it can scarcely be said that books had been as yet, and especially the kinds of books that ladies care to read. A bible, concordance, and perhaps a commentary, with maybe three or four other grave volumes, formed the limit of the average library in wealthy Berkshire families of that day.
It is needless to say then, that Desire's time hung very heavy on her hands, despite the utmost alleviations which embroidery, piano-playing, and cakemaking could afford. For her, isolated by social superiority, and just now, more than ever, separated from intercourse with the lower classes by reason of the present political animosities, there was no participation in the sports which made the season lively for the farmers' daughters. The moonlight sledding and skating expeditions, the promiscuously packed and uproarious sleighing-parties, the candy-pulls and "bees" of one sort and another, and all the other robust and not over-decorous social recreations in which the rural youth and maidens of that day delighted, were not for the storekeeper's fastidious daughter. The gentlemen's families in town did, indeed, afford a more refined and correspondingly duller social circle, but naturally enough in the present state of politics, there was very little thought of jollity in that quarter.
And so, as I said, it was very dull for Desire, in fact terribly dull. The only outside distraction all through the livelong day was the occasional passage of a team in the road, and her mother, too, usually occupied the chair at the only window commanding the road. And when the aching dullness of the day was over, and the candles were lit for the evening, and the little ones had been sent to bed, there was nothing for her but to sit in the chimney corner, and look at the blazing logs and brood and brood, till, at bedtime her father and Jonathan came in from the store. Then her mother woke up, and there was a little talk, but after that yawned the long dead night—sleep, sleep, nothing but sleep for a heart and brain that cried out for occupation.
Up to the time when the sudden coming of the winter put an abrupt end to her meeting with Perez, she was merely playing, or in more modern parlance, "flirting" with him, as a princess might flirt with a servitor. She had merely allowed his devotion to amuse her idleness. But now, thanks to the tedium which made any mental distraction welcome, the complexion of her thoughts concerning the young man suffered a gradual change. Having no other resource, she gave her fancy carte blanche to amuse her, and what materials could fancy find so effective as the exciting experiences of the last Autumn? Sitting before the great open fireplace in the evenings, while her mother dozed in the chimney corner, and the silence was only broken by the purring of the cat, the crackling of the fire, the ticking of the clock, and the low noise heard through the partition, of men talking over their cups with her father in the back room of the store, she fell into reveries from which she would be roused by the thick, hot beating of her heart, or wake with cheeks dyed in blushes at the voice of her mother. And then the long, dreamful nights. Almost two-thirds of each twenty-four hours in this dark season belonged to the domain of dreams. What wonder that discretion should find itself all unable to hold its own against fancy in such a world of shadows. What wonder that when, after meeting on Sundays she met Perez as she was stepping into her father's sleigh at the meeting-house door, she should feel too confused fairly to look him in the face, much as she had thought all through the week before of that opportunity of meeting him.
One day it chanced that Mrs. Edwards who was sitting by the window, said abruptly:
"Here comes that Hamlin fellow."
Desire sprang up with such an appearance of agitation that her mother added:
"Don't be scared, child. He won't come in here. It's only into the store he's coming."
She naturally presumed that it was terror which occasioned her daughter's perturbation. What would have been her astonishment if she could have followed the girl as she presently went up to her room, and seen her cowering there by the window in the cold for a full half-hour, so that she might through a rent in the curtain have a glimpse of Perez as he left the store! I am not sure that I even do right in telling the reader of this. Indeed her own pride did so revolt against her weakness that she tingled scarcely less with shame than with cold as she knelt there. Once or twice she did actually rise up and leave the window, and start to go downstairs, saying that she was glad she had not seen him yet, for she could still draw back with some self-respect. But even as she was thus in the act of retiring, some noise of boots in the store below suggesting that now he might be going out, brought her hurriedly back to the window. And when at last he did go, in her eagerness to see him, she forgot all about her scruples. Her heart sprang into her throat as she caught sight of him. She could have cried at a fleck in the miserable glass which spoiled her view. Then when he turned and looked up, a wave of color rushed all over her face, and she jumped back in such fear at the thought he might see her, although she was well hidden, that he had passed out of sight ere she dared look out again. But that upward glance and the eager look in his eyes consoled her for the loss. Had he not looked up, she would no doubt have yielded to a revulsion of self-contempt for her weakness, which would have been a damper on her growing infatuation. But that glance had made her foolishly, glowingly elated, and disposed to make light of the reproaches of her pride.
"I suppose you were waiting for that Hamlin fellow to go away, before coming down," said her mother as Desire re-entered the living-room. The girl started and averted her face with a guilty terror, saying faintly, "What?" How did her mother know? Her fears were relieved, though not her embarrassment, as her mother added:
"You needn't have been so much frightened, although I really can't blame you for it, after all you've been through at his hands. Still he would scarcely dare, with all his impudence, to try to force a way in here. You would have been quite safe, had you staid downstairs."
The good lady could not understand why, in spite of this reassurance, Desire should thereafter persist, as she did, in retiring to her own room whenever Hamlin came into the store. As the better informed reader will infer from this fact the girl's infatuation was on the increase. She had become quite shameless and hardened about using her point of espionage to see, without being seen, the lover who so occupied her thoughts. The only events of the slow, dull days for her were now his visits to the store. She no longer started back when, in going, his eager glance rose to her window, but panting, yet secure behind her covert, looked into his eyes and scanned his expression. Sometimes a quick rush of tears would rob her of her vision as she read in the sad hunger of those eyes how he longed for a glimpse of her face. But for very shame's sake she would have pulled the curtains up. It was so unfair of her, she thought self-reproachfully, to sate her own eyes while cheating his. She knew well enough that all which brought him to the store so often was the hope of seeing and speaking with her. And finally, about the middle of January, she made a desperate resolution that he should. For several days she managed to occupy her mother's usual seat by the window commanding the approach to the store, and finally was rewarded by seeing Hamlin go in. She said nothing at first, but soon remarked carelessly:
"I wonder if father hasn't got some other dimity in the store."
"Perhaps. I think not, though," replied Mrs. Edwards. Desire leaned back in her chair, stifled a yawn and presently said:
"I believe I'll just run in and ask him before I get any further on this." She rose up leisurely, stole a glance at the mirror in passing —how pale she was—opened the connecting door and went into the store.
She saw Perez, out of the corner of her eye, the instant she opened the door. But not taking any notice of him, in fact holding her head very stiffly, and walking unusually fast, she went across to her father and asked him about the dimity. Receiving his reply she turned, still without looking at Perez, and began mechanically to go back. So nervous and cowardly had she been made by the excessive preoccupation of her mind with him, that she actually had not the self-possession to carry out her boldly begun project of speaking to him, now that he was so near. It seemed as if she were actually afraid of looking at him. But when he said in a rather hurt tone, "Good afternoon, Miss Edwards," she stopped, and turned abruptly toward him and without speaking held out her hand. He had not ventured to offer his, but he now took hers. Her face was red enough now, and what he saw in her eyes made him forget everything else. They stood for several seconds in this intensely awkward way, speechless, for she had not even answered his greeting. Squire Edwards, in the act of putting back the roll of dimity on the shelf, was staring over his shoulder at them, astounded. She knew her father was looking at them, but she did not care. She felt at that moment that she did not care who looked on or what happened.
"How cold the weather is!" she said, dreamily.
"Yes, very," replied Perez.
"I hope it will be warmer, soon, don't you?" she murmered.
Then she seemed to come to herself, slowly withdrew her hand from his, and walked slowly into the living-room and shut the door, and went upstairs to her chamber. As soon as Hamlin had gone Edwards came in and spoke with some indignation of his presumption.
"If he had not let go her hand, I should have taken him by the shoulder in another second," he said angrily.
"Whatever made her shake hands with him?" demanded Mrs. Edwards.
"I suppose she thought she had to, or he would be murdering us all. The girl acted very properly, and would not have noticed him if he had not stopped her. But by the Providence of God matters now wear a better look. This fellow is no longer to be greatly feared. The rebels lose ground daily in town as well as in the county and state, and this Hamlin is losing control even over his own sort. If he does not leave the village he will be arrested soon. There is no need that we should humble ourselves before him any longer."
All of which was quite true. For while we have been following the dreams of a fancy-fevered girl, secluded in her snow-bound home among the hills of Berkshire, the scenes have shifted swiftly in the great drama of the rebellion, and a total change has come over the condition and prospects of the revolt. The policy of conciliation pursued by the state government had borne its fruit, better and more speedy fruit than any other policy could have borne. Any other would have plunged the state into bloody war and been of doubtful final issue. The credit for its adoption is due primarily to the popular form of the government which made it impossible for the authorities to act save in accordance with popular sentiment. There was no force save the militia, and for their use the approval of the two houses of the Legislature was needful. The conservative and aristocratic Senate might alone have favored a harsh course, but it could do nothing without the House, which fully sympathized with the people. The result was a compromise by which the Legislature at its extra session, ending the middle of November, passed laws giving the people the most of what they demanded, and then threatened them with the heavy arm of the law if they did not thereafter conduct themselves peaceably.