Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Anne Soulard, Eric Eldred, Robert Shimmin
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE DUKE OF STOCKBRIDGE
A ROMANCE OF SHAYS' REBELLION
BY EDWARD BELLAMY
THE MARCH OF THE MINUTE MEN
The first beams of the sun of August 17, 1777, were glancing down the
long valley, which opening to the East, lets in the early rays of
morning, upon the village of Stockbridge. Then, as now, the Housatonic
crept still and darkling around the beetling base of Fisher's Nest,
and in the meadows laughed above its pebbly shoals, embracing the
verdant fields with many a loving curve. Then, as now, the mountains
cradled the valley in their eternal arms, all round, from the Hill of
the Wolves, on the north, to the peaks that guard the Ice Glen, away
to the far south-east. Then, as now, many a lake and pond gemmed the
landscape, and many a brook hung like a burnished silver chain upon
the verdant slopes. But save for this changeless frame of nature,
there was very little, in the village, which the modern dweller in
Stockbridge would recognize.
The main settlement is along a street lying east and west, across the
plain which extends from the Housatonic, northerly some distance, to
the foot of a hill. The village green or "smooth" lies rather at the
western end of the village than at the center. At this point the main
street intersects with the county road, leading north and south, and
with divers other paths and lanes, leading in crooked, rambling lines
to several points of the compass; sometimes ending at a single dwelling,
sometimes at clusters of several buildings. On the hill, to the north,
somewhat separated from the settlement on the plain, are quite a number
of houses, erected there during the recent French and Indian wars, for
the sake of being near the fort, which is now used as a parsonage by
Reverend Stephen West, the young minister. The streets are all very wide
and grassy, wholly without shade trees, and bordered generally by rail
fences or stone walls. The houses, usually separated by wide intervals
of meadow, are rarely over a story and a half in height. When painted,
the color is usually red, brown, or yellow, the effect of which is a
certain picturesqueness wholly outside any design on the part of the
practical minded inhabitants.
Interspersed among the houses, and occurring more thickly in the south
and west parts of the village, are curious huts, as much like wigwams
as houses. These are the dwellings of the Christianized and civilized
Stockbridge Indians, the original possessors of the soil, who live
intermingled with the whites on terms of the most utter comity, fully
sharing the offices of church and town, and fighting the battles of
the Commonwealth side by side with the white militia.
Around the green stand the public buildings of the place. Here is the
tavern, a low two-story building, without porch or piazza, and entered
by a door in the middle of the longest side. Over the door swings a
sign, on which a former likeness of King George has, by a metamorphosis
common at this period, been transformed into a soldier of the revolution,
in Continental uniform of buff and blue. But just at this time its
contemplation does not afford the patriotic tipler as much complacency
as formerly, for Burgoyne is thundering at the passes of the Hoosacs,
only fifty miles away, and King George may get his red coat back again,
after all. The Tories in the village say that the landlord keeps a pot
of red paint behind the door, so that the Hessian dragoons may not take
him by surprise when they come galloping down the valley, some afternoon.
On the other side [of] the green is the meeting-house, built some thirty
years ago, by a grant from government at Boston, and now considered
rather old-fashioned and inconvenient. Hard by the meeting-house is the
graveyard, with the sandy knoll in its south-west corner, set apart for
the use of the Indians. The whipping-post, stocks, and cage, for the
summary correction of such offences as come within the jurisdiction of
Justice Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire, adorn the middle of the village
green, and on Saturday afternoon are generally the center of a crowd
assembled to be edified by the execution of sentences.
On the other side [of] the green from the meeting-house stands the
store, built five years before, by Timothy Edwards, Esquire, a structure
of a story and a half, with the unusual architectural adornment of a
porch or piazza in front, the only thing of the kind in the village.
The people of Stockbridge are scarcely prouder of the divinity of their
late shepherd, the famous Dr. Jonathan Edwards, than they are of his
son Timothy's store. Indeed, what with Dr. Edwards, so lately in their
midst, Dr. Hopkins, down at Great Barrington, and Dr. Bellamy, just
over the State line in Bethlehem, Connecticut, the people of Berkshire
are decidedly more familiar with theologians than with storekeepers,
for when Mr. Edwards built his store in 1772, it was the only one in
At such a time it may be readily inferred that a commercial occupation
serves rather as a distinction than otherwise. Squire Edwards is
moreover chairman of the selectmen, and furthermore most of the
farmers are in his debt for supplies, while to these varied elements
of influence, his theological ancestry adds a certain odor of
sanctity. It is true that Squire Jahleel Woodbridge is even more
brilliantly descended, counting two colonial governors and numerous
divines among his ancestry, not to speak of a rumored kinship with the
English noble family of Northumberland. But instead of tending to a
profitless rivalry the respective claims of the Edwardses and the
Woodbridges to distinction have happily been merged by the marriage of
Jahleel Woodbridge and Lucy Edwards, the sister of Squire Timothy, so
that in all social and political matters, the two families are closely
The back room of the store is, in a sense, the Council-chamber, where
the affairs of the village are debated and settled by these magnates,
whose decisions the common people never dream of anticipating or
questioning. It is also a convivial center, a sort of clubroom. There,
of an afternoon, may generally be seen Squires Woodbridge, Williams,
Elisha Brown, Deacon Nash, Squire Edwards, and perhaps a few others,
relaxing their gravity over generous bumpers of some choice old
Jamaica, which Edwards had luckily laid in, just before the war
stopped all imports.
In the west half of the store building, Squire Edwards lives with his
family, including, besides his wife and children, the remnants of his
father's family and that of his sister, the widowed Mrs. President
Burr. Young Aaron Burr was there, for a while after his graduation at
Princeton, and during the intervals of his arduous theological studies
with Dr. Bellamy at Bethlehem. Perchance there are heart-sore maidens
in the village, who, to their sorrow, could give more particular
information of the exploits of the seductive Aaron at this period,
than I am able to.
Such are the mountains and rivers, the streets and the houses of
Stockbridge as the sun of this August morning in the year 1777,
discloses them to view. But where are the people? It is seven, yes,
nearly eight o'clock, and no human being is to be seen walking in the
streets, or travelling in the roads, or working in the fields. Such
lazy habits are certainly not what we have been wont to ascribe to our
sturdy forefathers. Has the village, peradventure, been deserted by
the population, through fear of the Hessian marauders, the threat of
whose coming has long hung like a portentous cloud, over the Berkshire
valley? Not at all. It is not the fear of man, but the fear of God,
that has laid a spell upon the place. It is the Sabbath, or what we
moderns call Sunday, and law and conscience have set their double seal
on every door, that neither man, woman nor child, may go forth till
sunset, save at the summons of the meeting-house bell. We may wander
all the way from the parsonage on the hill, to Captain Konkapot's hut
on the Barrington road, without meeting a soul, though the windows
will have a scandalized face framed in each seven by nine pane of
glass. And the distorted, uncouth and variously colored face and
figure, which the imperfections of the glass give the passer-by, will
doubtless appear to the horrified spectators, but the fit typical
representation of his inward depravity. We shall, I say, meet no one,
unless, as we pass his hut by Konkapot's brook, Jehoiachim
Naunumpetox, the Indian tithing man, spy us, and that will be to our
exceeding discomfiture, for straightway laying implacable hands upon
us, he will deliver us to John Schebuck, the constable, who will
grievously correct our flesh with stripes, for Sabbath-breaking, and
cause us to sit in the stocks, for an ensample.
But if so mild an excursion involve so dire a risk, what must be the
desperation of this horseman who is coming at a thundering gallop
along the county road from Pittsfield? His horse is in a foaming
sweat, the strained nostrils are filled with blood and the congested
eyes protrude as if they would leap from their sockets to be at their
It is Squire Woodbridge's two story red house before which the horseman
pulls rein, and leaving his steed with hanging head and trembling knees
and laboring sides, drags his own stiffened limbs up the walk and enters
the house. Almost instantly Squire Woodbridge himself, issues from the
door, dressed for church in a fine black coat, waistcoat, and
knee-breeches, white silk stockings, a three-cornered black hat and
silver buckles on his shoes, but in his hand instead of a Bible, a
musket. As he steps out, the door of a house further east opens also,
and another man similarly dressed, with brown woolen stockings, steps
forth with a gun in his hand also. He seems to have interpreted the
meaning of the horseman's message. This is Deacon Nash. Beckoning him
to follow, Squire Woodbridge steps out to the edge of the green, raises
his musket to his shoulder and discharges it into the air. Deacon Nash
coming up a moment later also raises and fires his gun, and e'er the
last echoes have reverberated from the mountains, Squire Edwards,
musket in hand, throws open his store door and stepping out on the
porch, fires the third gun.
A moment ago hundreds of faces were smiling, hundreds of eyes were
bright, hundreds of cheeks were flushed. Now there is not a single
smile or a trace of brightness, or a bit of color on a face in the
valley. Such is the woful change wrought in every household, as the
successive reports of the heavily-charged pieces sound through the
village, and penetrate to the farthest outlying farmhouse. The first
shot may well be an accident, the second may possibly be, but as the
third inexorably follows, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters,
parents and sons, look at each other with blanched faces, and instantly
a hundred scenes of quiet preparation for meeting, are transformed into
the confusion of a very different kind of preparation. Catechisms are
dropped for muskets, and Bibles fall unnoticed under foot, as men
spring for their haversacks and powder-horns. For those three guns
summon the minute men to be on the march for Bennington. All the
afternoon before, the roar of cannon has faintly sounded from the
northward, and the people knew that Stark was meeting Baum and his
Hessians, on the Hoosac. One detachment of Stockbridge men is already
with him. Does this new summons mean disaster? Has the dreaded foe made
good his boasted invincibility? No one knows, not even the exhausted
messenger, for he was sent off by Stark, while yet the issue of
yesterday's battle trembled in the balance.
"It's kinder suddin. I wuz in hopes the boys wouldn' hev to go, bein
as they wuz a fightin yisdy," quavered old Elnathan Hamlin, as he
trotted about, helplessly trying to help, and only hindering Mrs.
Hamlin, as with white face, but deft hands, and quick eyes, she was
getting her two boys ready, filling their haversacks, sewing a button
here, tightening a buckle there, and looking to everything.
"Ye must tak keer o' Reub, Perez. He ain't so rugged 'zye be. By
rights, he orter ha stayed to hum."
"Oh, I'm as stout as Perez. I can wrastle him. Don't fret about me,"
said Reuben, with attempted gayety, though his boyish lip quivered as
he looked at his mother's face, noting how she did not meet his eye,
lest she should lose her self-control, and not be able to do anything
"I'll look after the boy, never fear," said Perez, slapping his brother
on the back. "I'll fetch him back a General, as big a man as Squire
"I dunno what 'n time I shall dew 'bout gittin in the crops," whimpered
Elnathan. "I can't dew it 'lone, nohow. Seems though my rheumatiz wuz
wuss 'n ever, this las' spell o' weather."
"There goes Abner Rathbun, and George Fennell," cried Perez. "Time we
were off. Good-bye mother. There! There! Don't you cry, mother. We'll
be back all right. Got your gun, Reub? Good-bye father. Come on," and
the boys were off.
In seeming sympathy with the sudden grief that has fallen on the
village, the bright promise of the morning has given place in the last
hour to one of those sudden rain storms to which a mountainous region
is always liable, and a cold drizzle is now falling. But that does not
hinder every one who has friends among the departing soldiers, or
sympathy with the cause represented, from gathering on the green to
witness the muster and march of the men. All the leading men and the
officials of the town and parish are there, including the two Indian
selectmen, Johannes Metoxin and Joseph Sauquesquot. Squire Edwards,
Deacon Nash, Squire Williams and Captain Josiah Jones, brother-in-law
of Squire Woodbridge, are going about among the tearful groups, of one
of which each soldier is a centre, reassuring and encouraging both
those who go, and those who stay, the ones with the promise that their
wives and children and parents shall be looked after and cared for,
the others with confident talk of victory and speedy reunions.
Squire Edwards tells Elnathan, who with Mrs. Hamlin has come down to
the green, that he needn't fret about the mortgage on his house, and
Deacon Nash tells him that he'll see that his crops are saved, and
George Fennell, who, with his wife and daughter, stands by, is assured
by the Squire, that they shall have what they want from the store.
There is not a plough-boy among the minute men who is not honored
today with a cordial word or two, or at least a smile, from the
magnates who never before have recognized his existence.
And proud in her tears, to-day, is the girl who has a sweetheart among
the soldiers. Shy girls, who for fear of being laughed at, have kept a
secret of their inclinations, now grown suddenly bold, cry, as they
talk with their lovers, and refuse not the parting kiss. Desire
Edwards, the Squire's daughter, as she moves among the groups, and
sees these things, is stirred with envy and thinks she would give
anything if she, too, had a sweetheart to bid good-bye to. But she is
only fifteen, and Squire Edwards' daughter, moreover, to whom no
rustic swain dares pretend. Then she bethinks herself that one has
timidly, enough, so pretended. She knows that Elnathan Hamlin's son,
Perez, is dreadfully in love with her. He is better bred than the
other boys, but after all he is only a farmer's son, and while pleased
with his conquest as a testimony to her immature charms, she has
looked down upon him as quite an inferior order of being to herself.
But just now he appears to her in the desirable light of somebody to
bid good-bye to, to the end that she may be on a par with the other
girls whom she so envies. So she looks about for Perez.
And he, on his part, is looking about for her. That she, the Squire's
daughter, as far above him as a star, would care whether he went or
stayed, or would come to say good-bye to him, he had scarcely dared to
think. And yet how deeply has that thought, which he has scarcely
dared own, tinged all his other thinking! The martial glory that has
so dazzled his young imagination, how much of its glitter was but
reflected from a girl's eyes. As he looks about and not seeing her,
says, "She does not care, she will not come," the sword loses all its
sheen, and the nodding plume its charm, and his dreams of self-devotion
all their exhilaration.
"I came to bid you good-bye, Perez," says a voice behind him.
He wheels about, red, confused, blissful. Desire Edwards, dark and
sparkling as a gypsy, stands before him with her hand outstretched. He
takes it eagerly, timidly. The little white fingers press his big
brown ones. He does not feel them there; they seem to be clasping his
heart. He feels the ecstatic pressure there.
"Fall in," shouts Captain Woodbridge, for the Squire himself is their
There is a tumult of embraces and kisses all around. Reuben kissed his
"Will you kiss me, Desire?" said Perez, huskily, carried beyond
himself, scarcely knowing what he said, for if he had realized he
never would have dared.
Desire looked about, and saw all the women kissing their men. The air
"Yes," she said, and gave him her red lips, and for a moment it seemed
as if the earth had gone from under his feet. The next thing he knew
he was standing in line, with Reub on one side, and George Fennell on
the other and Abner Rathbun's six feet three towering at one end of
the line, while Parson West was standing on the piazza of the store,
praying for the blessing of God on the expedition.
"Amen," the parson said, and Captain Woodbridge's voice rang out
again. The lines faced to the right, filed off the green at quick
step, turned into the Pittsfield road, and left the women to their
NINE YEARS AFTER
Early one evening in the very last of August, 1786, only three years
after the close of the Revolutionary war, a dozen or twenty men and
boys, farmers and laborers, are gathered, according to custom, in the
big barroom of Stockbridge tavern. The great open fireplace of course
shows no cheery blaze of logs at this season, and the only light is
the dim and yellow illumination diffused by two or three homemade
tallow candles stuck about the bar, which runs along half of one side
of the apartment. The dim glimmer of some pewter mugs standing on a
shelf behind the bar is the only spot of reflected light in the room,
whose time-stained, unpainted woodwork, dingy plastering, and low
ceiling, thrown into shadows by the rude and massive crossbeams, seems
capable of swallowing up without a sign ten times the illumination
actually provided. The faces of four or five men, standing near the
bar, or lounging on it, are quite plainly visible, and the forms of
half a dozen more who are seated on a long settle placed against the
opposite wall, are more dimly to be seen, while in the back part of
the room, leaning against the posts or walls, or lounging in the open
doorway, a dozen or more figures loom indistinctly out of the
The tavern, it must be remembered, as a convivial resort, is the social
antipodes of the back room of Squire Edwards' "store." If you would
consort with silk-stockinged, wigged, and silver shoe-buckled gentlemen,
you must just step over there, for at the tavern are only to be found
the hewers of wood and drawers of water, mechanics, farm-laborers, and
farmers. Ezra Phelps and Israel Goodrich, the former the owner of the
new gristmill at "Mill Hollow," a mile west of the village, the other
a substantial farmer, with their corduroy coats and knee-breeches, blue
woolen hose and steel shoe buckles, are the most socially considerable
and respectably attired persons present.
Perhaps about half the men and boys are barefooted, according to the
economical custom of a time when shoes in summer are regarded as
luxuries not necessities. The costume of most is limited to shirt and
trousers, the material for which their own hands or those of their
women-folk have sheared, spun, woven and dyed. Some of the better
dressed wear trousers of blue and white striped stuff, of the kind
now-a-days exclusively used for bed-ticking. The leathern breeches
which a few years before were universal are still worn by a few in
spite of their discomfort in summer.
Behind the bar sits Widow Bingham, the landlady, a buxom, middle-aged
woman, whose sharp black eyes have lost none of their snap, whether
she is entertaining a customer with a little pleasant gossip, or
exploring the murky recesses of the room about the door, where she
well knows sundry old customers are lurking, made cowards of by
consciousness of long unsettled scores upon her slate. And whenever
she looks with special fixity into the darkness there is soon a
scuttling of somebody out of doors.
She pays little or no attention to the conversation of the men around
the bar. Being largely political, it might be expected to have the
less interest for one of the domestic sex, and moreover it is the same
old story she has been obliged to hear over and over every evening,
with little variation, for a year or two past.
For in those days, throughout Massachusetts, at home, at the tavern,
in the field, on the road, in the street, as they rose up, and as they
sat down, men talked of nothing but the hard times, the limited
markets, and low prices for farm produce, the extortions and
multiplying numbers of the lawyers and sheriffs, the oppressions of
creditors, the enormous, grinding taxes, the last sheriff's sale, and
who would be sold out next, the last batch of debtors taken to jail,
and who would go next, the utter dearth of money of any sort, the
impossibility of getting work, the gloomy and hopeless prospect for
the coming winter, and in general the wretched failure of the triumph
and independence of the colonies to bring about the public and private
prosperity so confidently expected.
The air of the room is thick with smoke, for most of the men are
smoking clay or corncob pipes, but the smoke is scarcely recognizable
as that of tobacco, so largely is that expensive weed mixed with dried
sweet-fern and other herbs, for the sake of economy. Of the score or
two persons present, only two, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, are
actually drinking anything. Not certainly that they are the only ones
disposed to drink, as the thirsty looks that follow the mugs to their
lips, sufficiently testify, but because they alone have credit at the
bar. Ezra furnishes Mrs. Bingham with meal from his mill, and drinks
against the credit thus created, while Israel furnishes the landlady
with potatoes on the same understanding. There being practically
almost no money in circulation, most kinds of trade are dependent on
such arrangements of barter. Meshech Little, the carpenter, who lies
dead-drunk on the floor, his clothing covered with the sand, which it
has gathered up while he was being unceremoniously rolled out of the
way, is a victim of one of these arrangements, having just taken his
pay in rum for a little job of tinkering about the tavern.
"Meshech hain't hed a steady job sence the new meetin-haouse wuz done
las' year, an I s'pose the critter feels kinder diskerridged like,"
said Abner Rathbun, regarding the prostrate figure sympathetically.
Abner has grown an inch and broadened proportionally, since Squire
Woodbridge made him file leader of the minute men by virtue of his six
feet three, and as he stands with his back to the bar, resting his
elbows on it, the room would not be high enough for his head, but that
he stands between the cross-beams.
"I s'pose Meshech's fam'ly 'll hev to go ontew the taown," observed
Israel Goodrich. "They say ez the poorhouse be twicet ez full ez't
orter be, naow."
"It'll hev more intew it fore 't hez less," said Abner grimly.
"Got no work, Abner? I hearn ye wuz up Lenox way a lookin fer suthin
to dew," inquired Peleg Bidwell, a lank, loose-jointed farmer, who was
leaning against a post in the middle of the room, just on the edge of
the circle of candlelight.
"A feller ez goes arter work goes on a fool's errant," responded
Abner, dejectedly. "There ain' no work nowhar, an a feller might jess
ez well sit down to hum an wait till the sheriff comes arter him."
"The only work as pays now-a-days is pickin the bones o' the people.
Why don't ye turn lawyer or depity sheriff, an take to that, Abner?"
said Paul Hubbard, an undersized man with a dark face, and thin,
He had been a lieutenant in the Continental army, and used rather
better language than the country folk ordinarily, which, as well as a
cynical wit which agreed with the embittered popular temper, gave him
considerable influence. Since the war he had been foreman of Colonel
William's iron-works at West Stockbridge. There was great distress
among the workmen on account of the stoppage of the works by reason of
the hard times, but Hubbard, as well as most of the men, still
remained in West Stockbridge, simply because there was no
encouragement to go elsewhere.
"Wat I can't make aout is that the lawyers an sheriffs sh'd git so
dern fat a pickin our bones, seein ez ther's sech a dern leatle meat
ontew us," said Abner.
"There's as much meat on squirrels as bears if you have enough of em,"
replied Hubbard. "They pick clean, ye see, an take all we've got, an
every little helps."
"Yas," said Abner, "they do pick darned clean, but that ain't the wust
on't, fer they sends our bones tew rot in jail arter they've got all
the meat orf."
"'Twas ony yesdy Iry Seymour sole out Zadkiel Poor, ez lives long side
o' me, an tuk Zadkiel daown tew Barrington jail fer the res' what the
sale didn't fetch," said Israel Goodrich. "Zadkiel he's been kinder
ailin like fer a spell back, an his wife, she says ez haow he can't
live a month daown tew the jail, an wen Iry tuk Zadkiel orf, she tuk
on reel bad. I declare for't, it seemed kinder tough."
"I hearn ez they be tew new fellers a studyin law intew Squire
Sedgwick's office," said Obadiah Weeks, a gawky youth of perhaps
twenty, evidently anxious to buy a standing among the adult circle of
talkers by contributing an item of information.
Abner groaned. "Great Crypus! More blood-suckers. Why, they be ten
lawyers in Stockbridge taown a'ready, an they warn't but one wen I wuz
a boy, an thar wuz more settlers 'n they be naow."
"Wal, I guess they'll git nuff to dew," said Ezra Phelps. "I hearn as
haow they's seven hundred cases on the docket o' the Common Pleas,
nex' week, mos' on em fer debt."
"I hearn as two hundred on em be from Stockbridge an the iron-works,"
added Israel. "I declare for't Zadkiel 'll hev plenty o' kumpny daown
tew jail, by the time them suits be all tried."
"By gosh, what be we a comin tew?" groaned Abner. "It doos seem zif we
all on us mout z'well move daown tew the jail to onc't, an hev done
with 't. We're baown to come to 't fuss or las'."
Presently Peleg Bidwell said, "My sister Keziah's son, by her fuss
husban's been daown tew Bosting, an I hearn say ez haow he says ez the
folks daown East mos'ly all hez furniter from Lunnon, and the women
wears them air Leghorn hats as cos ten shillin lawful, let alone
prunelly shoes an satin stockins, an he says as there ain't a ship
goes out o' Bosting harbor ez don' take more'n five thousan paound o'
lawful money outer the kentry. I callate," pursued Peleg, "that's jess
what's tew the bottom o' the trouble. It's all long o' the rich folks
a sendin money out o' the kentry to git theirselves fine duds, an
that's wy we don' git more'n tuppence a paound fer our mutton, an nex'
ter nothin fer wheat, an don't have nothin to pay taxes with nor to
settle with Squire Edwards, daown ter the store. That's the leak in
the bar'l, an times won't git no better till that's plugged naow, I
"If't comes to pluggin leaks ye kin look nigher hum nor Bosting,"
observed Abner. "I hearn ez Squire Woodbridge giv fifty pound lawful
fer that sorter tune box ez he'z get fer his gal, an they doos say ez
them cheers o' Squire Sedgwick's cos twenty pound lawful in the old
"What dew they call that air tune box?" inquired Israel Goodrich.
"I've hearn tell but I kinder fergit. It's some Frenchified soundin
"It's a pianner," said Obadiah.
"I guess peeanner's nigher right," observed Peleg critically. "My gal
hearn the Edwards gal call it peeanner."
"They ain't nuther of ye in a mile o' right. 'Tain't pianner, an
'tain't peeanner; it's pianny," said Abner, who on account of having
once served a few weeks in connection with a detachment of the French
auxiliaries, was conceded to be an authority on foreign pronunciation.
"I hain't got no idee on't, nohow," said Israel shaking his head. "I
hearn it a goin ez I wuz a comin by the store. Souns like ez if it wuz
a hailin ontew a lot o' milk pans. I never suspicioned ez I should
live tew hear sech a n'ise."
"I guess Peleg's baout right," said Abner. "Thar won't be no show fer
poor folks, 'nless they is a law agin' sendin money aouter the
"I callate that would be a shuttin of the barn door arter the hoss is
stole," said Ezra Phelps, as he arrested a mug of flip on its way to
his lips, to express his views. "There ain' no use o' beginnin to save
arter all's spent. I callate guvment's got ter print a big stack o'
new bills ef we're a goin to git holt o' no money."
"Ef it's paper bills as ye're a talkin baout," said Abner grimly,
"I've got quite a slew on em tew hum, mebbe a peck or tew. I got em
fer pay in the army. They're tew greasy tew kindle a fire with, an I
dunno o' nothin else ez they're good for. Ye're welcome to em, Ezry.
My little Bijah assed me fer some on em tew make a kite outer thuther
day, an I says tew him, says I, 'Bijah, I don' callate they'll do
nohow fer a kite, for I never hearn of a Continental bill a goin up,
but ef yer want a sinker fer yer fish line they're jess the thing.'"
There was a sardonic snicker at Ezra's expense, but he returned to the
charge quite undismayed.
"That ain't nuther here nor there," he said, turning toward Abner and
emphasizing his words with the empty mug. "What I asses yew is, wan't
them bills good fer suthin wen they wuz fuss printed?"
"They wuz wuth suthin fer a wile," assented Abner.
"Ezackly," said the other, "that's the nater o' bills. Allers they is
good fer a wile and then they kinder begins to run daown, an they runs
daown till they ain't wuth nuthin," and Ezra illustrated the process
by raising the mug as high as his head and bringing it slowly down to
his knees. "Paounds an shillins runs daown tew by gittin wored off
till they's light weight. Every kine o' money runs daown, on'y it's
the nater o' bills to run daown a leetle quicker nor other sorts. Naow
I says, an I ain't the ony one ez says it, that all guvment's got to
dew is tew keep a printin new bills ez fass ez the old ones gits run
daown. Times wuz good long in the war. A feller could git baout what
he assed fer his crops an he could git any wages he assed. Yer see
guvment wuz a printin money fass. Jess's quick ez a bill run daown
they up and printed another one, so they wuz allers plenty. Soon ez
the war wuz over they stopped a printin bills and immejetly the hard
times come. Hain't that so?"
"I dunno but yew be right," said Abner, thoughtfully, "I never thort
on't ezzackly that way," and Isaiah Goodrich also expressed the
opinion that there was "somethin into what Ezry says."
"What we wants," pursued Ezra, "what we wants, is a kine o' bills
printed as shall lose vally by reglar rule, jess so much a month, no
more no less, cordin ez its fixed by law an printed on tew the bills
so'z everybody'll understan an no-body'll git cheated. I hearn that's
the idee as the Hampshire folks went fer in the convenshun daown tew
Hatfield this week. Ye see, ez I wuz a sayin, bills is baoun tew come
daown anyhow ony if they comes daown regler, cordin tew law,
everybody'll know what t'expect, and nobody won' lose nothin."
"Praps the convenshun what's a sittin up tew Lenox'll rekummen them
bills," hopefully suggested a farmer who had been taking in Ezra's
wisdom with open mouth.
"I don' s'pose that it'll make any odds how many bills are printed as
far's we're concerned," said Hubbard, bitterly. "The lawyers'll make
out to git em all pretty soon. Ye might's well try to fat a hog with a
tape worm in him, as to make folks rich as long as there are any
"Yas, an jestices' fees, an sheriff fees is baout ez bad ez lawyer's,"
said Israel Goodrich, whose countenance was beginning to glow from the
influence of his potations. "I tell you wesh'd be a dern sight better
off 'f'all the courts wuz stopped. Most on ye is young fellers, 'cept
you Elnathan Hamlin, thar. He'll tell ye, ez I tell ye, that this air
caounty never seen sech good times, spite on'ts bein war times, ez
long fur '74 to '80, arter we'd stopped the King's courts from sittin
an afore we'd voted for the new constitution o' the state, ez we wuz
durn fools fer doin of, ef I dew say it. In them six year thar warn't
nary court sot nowhere in the caounty, from Boston Corner tew ole Fort
Massachusetts, an o' course thar warn't no lawyers an no sheriffs ner
no depity sheriffs nuther, tew make every debt twice as big with ther
darnation fees. They warn't no sheriffs sales, nuther, a sellin of a
feller outer house'n hum an winter comin on, an thar warn't no suein
an no jailin of fellers fer debt. Folks wuz keerful who they trusted,
ez they'd orter be allers, for ther warn't no klectin o' debts nohow,
an ef that warn't allers jestice I reckin 'twas as nigh jestice as
'tis to klect bills swelled more'n double by lawyers' and sheriffs'
and jestices' fees ez they doos naow. In them days ef any feller wuz
put upon by another he'd jess got tew complain tew the slectmen or the
committee, an they'd right him. I tell yew rich folks an poor folks
lived together kinder neighborly in them times an 'cordin tew
scripter. The rich folks warn't a grindin the face o' the poor, an the
poor they wuzn't a hatin an a envyin o' the rich, nigh untew blood, ez
they is naow, ef I dew say it. Yew rekullec them days, Elnathan,
warn't it jess ez I say?"
"Them wuz good times, Israel. Ye ain't sayin nothin more'n wuz trew,"
said Elnathan in a feeble treble, from his seat on the settle.
"I tell you they wuz good," reiterated Israel, as he looked around
upon the group with scintillating eyes, and proceeded to hand his mug
over the bar to be refilled.
"I hearn ez haow the convenshun up tew Lenox is a go in tew 'bolish
the lawyers an the courts," said a stalwart fellow of bovine
countenance, named Laban Jones, one of the discharged iron-works men.
"The convenshun can't 'bolish nothin," said Peleg Bidwell, gloomily.
"It can't do nothin but rekommen the Gineral Court way daown tew
Bosting. Bosting is too fer orf fer this caounty, nor Hampshire
nuther, tew git no considerashin. This eend o' the state ull never git
its rights till the guvment's moved outer Bosting tew Worcester
where't uster be in war times."
"That's so," said Ezra Phelps, "everybody knows as these tew counties
be taxed higher nor the other eend o' the state."
"Hev yew paid up ye taxes fer las' year, Peleg?" inquired Abner.
"No, I hain't, nor fer year afore, nuther. Gosh, I can't. I could pay
in pertaters, but I can't pay in money. Ther ain't no money. Klector
Williams says as haow he'd hafter sell me out, an I s'pose he's goin
ter. It's kinder tough, but I don' see zi kin dew nothin. I callate to
be in the jail or poorhouse, afore spring."
"I dunno o' nobody roun here, as haz paid ther taxes fer las year,
yit," said Israel. "I callate that more'n half the farms in the
caounty 'll be sole fer taxes afore spring."
"I hearn as how Squire Woodbridge says taxes is ten times what they
wuz afore the war, an its sartain that they ain't one shillin intew
folks' pockets tew pay em with whar they wuz ten on em in them days.
It seems dern curis, bein as we fit agin the redcoats jest tew git rid
o' taxes," said Abner.
"Taxes is mosly fer payin interest ontew the money what govment
borrowed tew kerry on the war. Naow, I says, an I ain't the on'y one
in the caounty as says it, nuther, ez debts orter run daown same ez
bills does, reglar, so much a month, till they ain't nuthin leff,"
said Ezra Phelps, setting down his mug with an emphatic thud. "S'poosn
I borrers money of yew, Abner, an built a haouse, that haouse is boun
tew run daown in vally, I callate, 'long from year tew year. An it
seems kinder rees'nable that the debt sh'd run daown's fass as the
haouse, so's wen the haouse gits wored aout, the debt 'll be, tew.
Them things ez govment bought with the money it borrered, is wore
aout, an it seems kinder rees'nable that the debts should be run daown
tew. A leetle orter a been took orf the debt every year, instead o'
payin interes ontew it."
"I guess like's not ye hev the rights on't, Ezry. I wuzn't a thinkin
on't that air way, ezzactly. I wuz a thinkin that if govment paid one
kine o' debts 't orter pay t'other kine. I fetched my knapsack full o'
govment bills hum from the war. I callate them bills wuz all on em
debts what the govment owed tew me fur a fightin. Ef govment ain't a
goin tew pay me them bills, an 'tain't, 'it don' seem fair tew tax me
so's it kin pay debts it owes tew other folks. Leastways seems's
though them bills govment owes me orter be caounted agin the taxes
instead o' bein good fer nothin. It don't seem ez if 'twas right,
"Leastways," said Peleg, "if the Gineral Court hain't a goin ter print
more bills 't orter pass a lor, seein thar ain't no money in the
kentry, so 'z a feller's prop'ty could be tuk by a fair valiation fer
what he owes, instead o' lettin the sheriff sell it fer nothin and
sendin a feller tew jail fer the balince. Wen I giv Squire Edwards
that air leetle morgidge on my farm, money wuz plenty, an I callated
tew pay it up easy; an naow thar ain't no money, an I can't git none,
if I died for't. It's jess zif I 'greed tew sell a load o' ice in
January, an a thaw come an thar wan't no ice leff. Property's wuth's
much 'z ever I callate, an't orter be good fer debts instead o' money,
'cordin to a far valiation."
"Mr. Goodrich, how did you go to work to stop the King's courts in
'74? Did you hang the justices?" inquired Paul Hubbard, arousing from
a fit of contemplation.
"Nary bit," replied Isaiah, "there warn't no need o' hangin nobody.
'Twas a fine mornin in May, I rekullec jess zif 'twas yes'day, wen the
court was a goin tew open daown tew Barrington, an abaout a thousan
men on us jess went daown an filled up the court haouse, an woudn' let
the jedges in, an wen they see 'twan't no use, they jess give in
quiet's lambs, an we made em sign their names tew a paper agreein not
tew hold no more courts, an the job wuz done. Ye see the war wuzn't
farly begun an none o' the King's courts in th' uther caounties wuz
stopped, but we callated the court mout make trouble for some o' the
Sons o' Liberty, in the caounty if we let it set."
"I callate 't ain't nothin very hard tew stop a court, 'cordin tew
that," said Peleg Bidwell.
"No, 'tain't hard, not ef the people is gen'ally agin' the settin on
it," said Isaiah.
"I s'pose ef a thousan men sh'd be daown tew Barrington nex' week
Tewsday, they could stop the jestice fr'm openin the Common Pleas,
jess same ez yew did," said Peleg, thoughtfully.
"Sartain," said Isaac, "sartain; leastways's long ez the militia
warn't aout, but gosh, they ain't no sense o' talkin baout sech
things! These hain't no sech times ez them wuz, an folks ain't what
they wuz, nuther. They seems kinder slimpsy; hain't got no grit."
During this talk, Elnathan had risen and gone feebly out.
"Elnathan seems tew take it tew heart baout leavin the ole place. I
hearn ez how Solomon Gleason's goin ter sell him aout pooty soon,"
"I guess t'ain't so much that as 'tis the bad news he's heerd baout
Reub daown tew Barrington jail," said Obadiah Weeks.
"What's abaout Reub?" asked Abner.
"He's a goin intew a decline daown to the jail."
"I wanter know! Poor Reub!" said Abner, compassionately. "He fout side
o' me tew Stillwater, an Perez was t'other side. Perez done me a good
turn that day, ez I shan't furgit in a hurry. Gosh, he'd take it hard
ef he hearn ez haow Reub wuz in jail! I never seed tew fellers set
more store by another 'n he did by Reub."
"Wonder ef Perez ain't never a comin hum. He hain't been back sence
the war. I hearn his folks had word a spell ago, ez he wuz a comin,"
"Gosh!" exclaimed Abner, his rough features softening with a pensive
cast, "I rekullec jess zif 'twar yes'dy, that rainy mornin wen we
fellers set orf long with Squire Woodbridge fer Bennington. Thar wuz
me, 'n Perez, an Reub, an Abe Konkapot, 'n lessee, yew went afore,
didn't ye, Peleg?"
"Yas, I went with Cap'n Stoddard," replied that individual.
"Thar we wuz; all a stannin in line," pursued Abner, gazing right
through the ceiling, as if he could see just the other side of it the
scene which he so vividly recalled, "an Parson West a prayin, an the
wimmin a whimperin, an we nigh ontew it; fer we wuz green, an the
mothers' milk warn't aouter us. But I bet we tho't we wuz big
pertaters, agoin to fight fer lib'ty. Wall, we licked the redcoats,
and we got lib'ty, I s'pose; lib'ty ter starve, that is ef we don'
happin to git sent tew jail fus," and Abner's voice fell, and his chin
dropped on his breast, in a sudden reaction of dejection at the
thought of the bitter disappointment of all the hopes which that day
had made their hearts so strong, even in the hour of parting.
"I callate we wuz a dern sight better orf every way under the King, 'n
we be naow. The Tories wuz right, arter all, I guess. We'd better a
let well nuff l'one, an not to a jumped aouter the fryin-pan intew the
fire," said Peleg, gloomily.
As he ended speaking, a medium sized man, with a pasty white, freckled
complexion, bristly red hair, a retreating forehead and small, sharp
eyes, came forward from the dark corner near the door. His thin lips
writhed in a mocking smile, as he stood confronting Peleg and Abner,
and looking first at one and then at the other:
"Ef I don' furgit," he said at length, "that's 'baout the way I talked
wen the war wuz a goin on, an if I rekullec, ye, Peleg, an ye, Abner
Rathbun and Meshech Little, thar on the floor, tuk arter me with yer
guns and dorgs caze ye said I wuz a dum Tory. An ye hunted me on
Stockbridge mounting like a woodchuck, an ye'd a hed my skelp fer
sartin ef I hadn't been a durn sight smarter 'n ye ever wuz."
"Jabez," said Abner, "I hope ye don' hev no hard feelin's. Times be
changed. Let by gones be by gones."
"Mos' folks ud say I hed some call to hev hard feelin's. Ye druv me
ter hide in caves, an holes, fer the best part o' tew year. I dass'n
come hum tew see my wife die, nor tew bury on her. Ye confiscated my
house and tuk my crops fer yer derned army. Mos' folks ud sartingly
say ez I hed call tew hev hard feelin's agin' ye. But gosh, I hain't,
an wy hain't I? Gaze ye hev been yer own wust enemies; ye've hurt
yerselves more ner ye hev me, though ye didn't go fer ter dew it.
Pooty nigh all on ye, as fit agen the King, is beggars naow, or next
door tew it. Everybudy hez a kick fer a soldier. Ye'll fine em mosly
in the jails an the poorhaouses. Look at you fellers as wuz a huntin
me. Ther's Meshech on the floor, a drunken, worthless cuss. Thar ye
be, Abner, 'thout a shillin in the world, nor a foot o' lan', yer
dad's farm gone fer taxes. An thar be ye, Peleg. Wal Peleg, they dew
say, ez the neighbors sends ye in things."
Jabez looked from one to the other till he had sufficiently enjoyed
their discomfiture and then he continued:
"I ain't much better orf'n ye be, but I hain't got nothin ontew my
conscience. An wen I looks roun' an sees the oppresshin, and the
poverty of the people, and how they have none tew help, an the jails
so full, an the taxes, an the plague o' lawyers, an the voice o' cryin
as is goin up from the land, an all the consekences o' the war, I tell
ye, it's considabul satisfacshin to feel ez I kin wash my hans on't."
And, with a glance of contemptuous triumph around the circle, Jabez
turned on his heel and went out. The silence was first broken by Ezra
Phelps, who said quietly:
"Wal, Jabez ain't fur from right. It's abaout so. Some says the King
is callatin to try to git the colonies back agin fore long. Ef he doos
I guess he'll make aout, fur I don't bleeve ez a kumpny o' men could
be raised in all Berkshire, tew go an fight the redcoats agin, if they
wuz to come to-morrer." And a general murmur of assent confirmed his
"Wal," said Abner, recovering speech, "live an larn. In them days wen
I went a gunnin arter Jabez, I uster to think ez thar wuzn't no sech
varmint ez a Tory, but I didn't know nothin bout lawyers, and sheriffs
them times. I callate ye could cut five Tories aout o' one lawyer an
make a dozen skunks aout o' what wuz leff over. I'm a goin hum."
This was the signal for a general break-up. Israel, who had fallen
into a boozy slumber on the settle, was roused and sent home between
his son and hired man, and presently the tavern was dark save for the
soon extinguished glimmer of a candle at the upstairs window of Widow
Bingham's apartment. Meshech was left to snore upon the barroom floor
and grope his way outdoors as best he might, when he should return to
his senses. For doors were not locked in Stockbridge in those days.
THE TAVERN-JAIL AT BARRINGTON
Peleg's information, although of a hearsay character, was correct.
Perez Hamlin was coming home. The day following the conversation in
the barroom of Stockbridge tavern, which I have briefly sketched in
the last chapter, about an hour after noon, a horseman might have been
seen approaching the village of Great Barrington, on the road from
Sheffield. He wore the buff and blue uniform of a captain in the late
Continental army, and strapped to the saddle was a steel hilted sword
which had apparently experienced a good many hard knocks. The lack of
any other baggage to speak of, as well as the frayed and stained
condition of his uniform, indicated that however rich the rider might
be in glory, he was tolerably destitute of more palpable forms of
Poverty, in fact, had been the chief reason that had prevented Captain
Hamlin from returning home before. The close of the war had found him
serving under General Greene in South Carolina, and on the disbandment
of the troops he had been left without means of support. Since then he
had been slowly working his way homewards, stopping a few months
wherever employment or hospitality offered. What with the lack and
insecurity of mails, and his frequent movements, he had not heard from
home for two or three years, though he had written. But in those days,
when the constant exchange of bulletins of health and business between
friends, which burdens modern mail bags, was out of the question, the
fact perhaps developed a more robust quality of faith in the well-being
of the absent than is known in these timid and anxious days. Certain it
is that as the soldier rides along, the smiles that from time to time
chase each other across his bronzed face, indicate that gay and tender
anticipations of the meeting now only a few hours away, leave no room in
his mind for gloomy conjectures of possible disaster. It is nine years
since he parted with his father and mother; and his brother Reub he has
not seen since the morning in 1778, when Perez, accepting a commission,
had gone south with General Greene, and Reub had left for home with Abner
and Fennell, and a lot of others whose time had expired. He smiles now as
he thinks how he never really knew what it was to enjoy the fighting
until he got the lad off home, so that he had not to worry about his
being hit every time there was any shooting going on. Coming into Great
Barrington, he asked the first man he met where the tavern was.
"That's it, over yonder," said the man, jerking his thumb over his
shoulder at a nondescript building some way ahead.
"That looks more like a jail."
"Wal, so 'tis. The jail's in the ell part o' the tavern. Cephe Bement
keeps 'em both."
"It's a queer notion to put em under the same roof."
"I dunno 'bout that, nuther. It's mostly by way o' the tavern that
fellers gits inter jail, I calc'late."
Perez laughed, and riding up to the tavern end of the jail, dismounted,
and going into the barroom, ordered a plate of pork and beans. Feeling
in excellent humor he fell to conversing over his modest meal with the
landlord, a big, beefy man, who evidently liked to hear himself talk,
and in a gross sort of way, appeared to be rather good natured.
"I saw a good many red flags on farmhouses, as I was coming up from
Sheffield, this morning," said Perez. "You haven't got the smallpox in
the county again, have you?"
"Them wuz sheriff's sales," said the landlord, laughing uproariously,
in which he was joined by a seedy, red-nosed character, addressed as
Zeke, who appeared to be a hanger-on of the barroom in the function of
echo to the landlord's jokes.
"Ye'll git uster that air red flag ef ye stay long in these parts. Ye
ain't so fer from right arter all, though, fer I guess mos' folks'd
baout as leeve hev the smallpox in the house ez the sheriff."
"Times are pretty hard hereabouts, are they?"
"Wal, yes, they be baout ez hard ez they kin be, but ye see it's wuss
in this ere caounty 'n 'tis 'n mos' places, cause ther warn't nary
court here fer six or eight year, till lately, an no debts wuz klected
'n so they've kinder piled up. I callate they ain't but dern few
fellers in the caounty 'cept the parsons, 'n lawyers, 'n doctors ez
ain't a bein sued ted-day, 'specially the farmers. I tell you it makes
business lively fer the lawyers an sheriffs. They're the ones ez rides
in kerridges these days."
"Is the jail pretty full now?"
"Chock full, hed to send a batch up ter Lenox las' week, an got em
packed bout's thick's they'll lay naow, like codfish in a bar'l. Haow
in time I'm a gonter make room fer the fellers the court'll send in
nex' week, I d'now, derned if I dew. They'd orter be three new jails
in the caounty this blamed minit."
"Do you expect a good many more this week?"
"Gosh, yes. Why, man alive, the Common Pleas never had ez much business
ez this time. I callate they's nigh onter seven hundred cases tew try."
"The devil! Has there been a riot or a rebellion in the county? What
have they all done?"
"Oh they hain't done nothin," replied the landlord, "they ain't nothin
but debtors. Dern debtors, I don' like to hev the jailin of em. They
hain't got no blood intew em like Sabbath-breakers, an blasphemers, an
rapers has. They're weakly, pulin kinder chaps, what thar ain't no
satisfaction a lockin up an a knockin roun'. They're dreffle
deskerridgin kind o' fellers tew. Ye see we never git rid on em. They
never gits let aout like other fellers as is in jail. They hez tew
stay till they pays up, an naterally they can't pay up's long ez they
stays. Genally they goes aout feet foremost, when they goes aout at
all, an they ain't long lived."
"Why don't they pay up before they get in?" queried Perez.
"Whar be ye from?" asked the landlord, staring at him.
"I'm from New York, last."
"I thort ye could't be from roun' here, nowheres, to as' sech a
queschin. Why don' they pay their debts? Did ye hear that Zeke? Why,
jess caze they ain' no money in the kentry tew pay em with. It don'
make a mite o' odds haow much propty a feller's got. It don' fetch
nothin tew a sale. The credtor buys it in fer nothin, an the feller
goes to jail fer the balance. A man as has got a silver sixpence can
amos buy a farm. Some folks says they orter be a law makin propty a
tender fer debts on a far valiation. I dunno, I don' keer, I hain't no
fault tew find with my business, leastways the jail end on't."
Finishing his dinner, Perez asked for his score, and drew a large
wallet from his pocket, and took out a roll of about five thousand
dollars in Continental bills.
"Hain't ye got no Massachusetts bills? They ain't wuth but one shillin
in six but that's suthin, and them Continental bills ain't wuth haouse
room. Gosh durn it. I swow, ef I'd a known ye hadn't nothin but them,
I wouldn't a guv ye a drop to drink nor eat nuther. Marthy say ony
this morning, 'Cephas,' says she, 'rum 's rum an rags is rags, an don'
ye give no more rum fer rags.'"
"Well," said Perez, "I have nothing else. Government thought they were
good enough to pay the soldiers for their blood; they ought to pay
landlords for their rum."
"I dunno nothin baout bein soldiers, an I dunno ez I or any other
man's beholden to ye for't, nuther. Ye got paid all twat wuth if ye
didn't git paid nuthin; fur's I kin reckon, we wuz a durn sight better
orf under Ole King George 's we be naow. Ain' that baout so, Zeke?"
"Well," said Perez, "if you won't take these, I can't pay you at all."
"Well" said Bement crossly, "thar's the beans an mug o' flip. Call it
a thousand dollars, an fork over, but by gosh, I don' git caught that
way again. It's downright robbery, that's wot it is. I say ain't ye
got no cleaner bills nor these?"
"Perhaps these are cleaner," said Perez, handing him another lot.
"What odds does it make?"
"Wal, ye see, ef they be middlin clean, I kin keep kaounts on the
backs on em, and Marthy finds em handy wen she writes to her folks
daown tew Springfield. Tain't fuss class writin paper, but it's
cheaper'n other kinds, an that's suthin in these times."
Having satisfied the landlord's requirements, as well as possible,
Perez walked to the door and stood looking out. The ell containing the
jail, coming under his eye, he turned and said, "You spoke of several
hundred debtors coming before the court next week. It don't look as if
you could get over fifty in here."
"Oh ye can jam in a hundred. I've got nigh that naow, and thay's other
lockups in the caounty," replied the landlord. "But ef they wuz a
gonter try to shet up all the debtors, they'd hev tew build a half a
dozen new jails. But bless ye, the mos' on em won't be shet up. Ther
creditors 'll git jedgments agin' em, an then they'll hev rings in
their noses, an kin dew wot they likes with em caze ef they don' stan
raoun' they kin shove em right intew jug ye see."
"You don't mean to say there's much of that sort of slavery,"
"I'd now baout slavery ezzackly, but thar's plenty o' that sort o'
thing fer sartin. Credtors mosly'd ruther dew that way, caze they kin
git suthin aout a feller, an ef they sen em tew jail it's a dead loss.
They makes em work aout ther debt and reckons ther work tew baout wat
they pleases. They is some queer kinder talk baout wat kind er things
they makes em stan sometimes rather'n go ter jail. Wal, all I says is
that a feller ez hez got a good lookin gal hed better not git a owin
much in these ere times. I hain't said nothin, hev I, Zeke?" and that
worthy answered his wink with a salacious chuckle.
"Have you any debtors from Stockbridge?" asked Perez, suddenly.
"A hull slew on em," replied Bement. "I've got one more'n I shall hev
much longer, tew."
"Who be that?" asked Zeke.
"Wal, I callate George Fennell won't hole out much longer."
"Fennell; George Fennell! George Fennell is not in this jail," cried
"Wal, naow," said Bement, imperturbably, "perhaps ye know better'n I
"But, landlord, he's my friend, my comrade, I'd like to see him," and
the young man's countenance expressed the liveliest concern.
The landlord seemed to hesitate. Finally he turned his head and
called, "Marthy", and a plump, kitten-like little woman appeared at a
door, opening into the end of the bar, whereupon, the landlord, as he
jerked his thumb over his shoulder to indicate their guest, remarked:
"He wants ter know if 'ee kin be let ter see George Fennell. Says he's
his fren, an uster know him to the war."
Mrs. Bement looked at the officer and said, "Wal, my husbun don'
genally keer to hev folks a seein the pris'ners, coz it makes em
kinder discontented like." She hesitated a little and then added, "But
I dunno's 'twill dew no harm Cephas, bein as Fennell won' las' much
Thus authorized, Bement took a bundle of keys from a hook behind the
bar, and proceeded to unlock the padlock which fastened an iron bar
across a heavy plank door, in the middle of one of the sides of the
room. As he threw open the door, a gust of foul stenches belched forth
into the room, almost nauseating Perez. The smell of the prison was
like that of a pig sty. The door had opened into a narrow corridor,
dimly lit by a small square grated window at the further end, while
along either side were rows of strong plank doors opening outward, and
secured by heavy, oaken bars, slipped across them at the middle. The
muggy dog-day had been very oppressive, even out of doors; but here in
the corridor, it was intolerable. To breathe in the horrible concoction
of smells, was like drinking from a sewer; the lungs, even as they
involuntarily took it in, strove spasmodically to close their passages
against it. It was impossible for one unaccustomed to such an atmosphere,
to breathe, save by gasps. Bement stopped at one of the doors, and as
he was raising the bar across it, he said:
"Thar ain' on'y one feller 'sides Fennell in here. He's a Stockbridge
feller, too. The cell ain' so big's the others. Genally thar's three
or four together. I'll jess shet ye in, an come back for ye in a
He opened the door, and as the other stepped in, it was closed and
barred behind him. The cell was about seven feet square and as high.
The floor was a foot lower than the corridor, and correspondingly
damper. It must have been on or below the level of the ground, and the
floor, as well as the lower end of the planks which formed the walls,
was black with moisture. The cell was littered with straw and every
kind of indescribable filth, while the walls and ceiling were mildewed
and spotted with ghastly growths of mould, feeding on the moist and
filthy vapors, which were even more sickening than in the corridor.
Full six feet from the floor, too high to look out of, was a small
grated window, a foot square, through which a few feeble, dog-day
sunbeams, slanting downward, made a little yellow patch upon the lower
part of one of the sides of the cell. Sitting upon a pile of filthy
straw, leaning back against the wall, with his face directly in this
spot, one of the prisoners was half-sitting, half-lying, his eyes shut
as if asleep, and a smile of perfect happiness resting on his pale and
weazened face. Doubtless he was dreaming of the time, when, as a boy,
he played all day in the shining fields, or went blackberrying in the
ardent July sun. For him the river was gleaming again, turning its
million glittering facets to the sun, or, maybe, his eye was
delighting in the still sheen of ponds in Indian summer, as they
reflected the red glory of the overhanging maple or the bordering
The other prisoner was kneeling on the floor before the wall, with a
piece of charcoal in his hand, mumbling to himself as he busily added
figures to a sum with which the surface above was already covered. As
the door of the cell closed, he looked around from his work. Like the
man's on the floor, his face had a ghastly pallor, against which the
dirt with which it is stained, shows with peculiarly obscene effect,
while the beards and hair of both had grown long and matted and were
filled with straw. So completely had their miserable condition disguised
them, that Perez would not have known in the dim light of the cell that
he had ever seen either before.
The man who had been kneeling on the floor, after his first look of
dull curiosity, began to stare fixedly at Perez, as if he were an
apparition, and then rose to his feet. As he did so, Perez saw that he
could not be Fennell, for the latter was tall, and this man was quite
short. Yes, the reclining man must be George, and now he noted as an
unmistakable confirmation, a scar on one of the emaciated hands lying
on his breast. "George," he said, stepping to his side. As he did so
he passed athwart the bar of sunshine that was falling on the man's
countenance. A peevish expression crossed his face, and he opened his
eyes, the burning, glassy eyes of the consumptive. For a few seconds
he looked fixedly, wonderingly, and then said half dreamily, half
inquiringly, as if he were not quite certain whether it were a man or
a vision, he murmured:
"Yes, it is I, George," said the soldier, his eyes filling with
compassionate tears. "How came you in this horrible place?"
But before Fennell could answer the other prisoner sprang to the side
of the speaker, clutching his arm in his claw-like fingers, and crying
in an anguished voice:
"Perez; brother Perez. Don't you know me?"
At the voice Perez started as if a bullet had reached his heart. Like
lightning he turned, his face, frozen with fear, that was scarcely yet
comprehended, his eyes like darts. From that white filthy face in its
wild beast's mat of hair, his brother's eyes were looking into his.
"Lord, God in Heaven!" It was a husky, struggling voice, scarcely more
than a whisper in which he uttered the words. For several seconds the
brothers stood gazing into each other's countenances, Reuben holding
Perez' arm and he half shrinking, not from his brother, though such
was the attitude, but from the horror of the discovery.
"How long" he began to ask, and then his voice broke. The emaciated
figure before him, the face bleached with the ghastly pallor which a
sunless prison gives, the deep sunken eyes looking like coals of fire,
eating their way into his brain, the tattered clothing, the long
unkempt hair and beard, prematurely whitening, and filled with filth,
the fingers grown claw-like and blue, with prison mould, the dull
vacant look and the thought that this was Reuben, his brother; these
things all filled him with such an unutterable, intolerable pity, that
it seemed as if he should lose his head and go wild for very anguish
"I 'spose I'm kinder thin and some changed, so ye didn't know me,"
said Reuben, with a feeble smile. "Ye see I've been here a year, and
am going into a decline. I sent word home to have father ask Deacon
Nash if he wouldn't let me go home to be nussed up by mother. I should
get rugged again if I could have a little o' mother's nussin. P'raps
ye've come to take me home, Perez?" And a faint gleam of hope came
into his face.
"Reub, Reub, I didn't know you was here," groaned Perez, as he put his
arm about his brother, and supported his feeble figure.
"How come ye here, then?" asked Reuben.
"I was going home. I haven't been home since the war. Didn't you know?
I heard o' George's being here, and came in to see him, but I didn't
think o' you're being here."
"Where have ye been, Perez, all the time? I callated ye must be in
jail, somewheres, like all the rest of the soldiers."
"I had no money to get home with. But how came you here, Reub? Who put
"Twas Deacon Nash done it. I tried to start a farm arter the war, and
got in debt to Deacon for seed and stock, and there wasn't no crop,
and the hard times come. I couldn't pay, and the Deacon sued, and so I
lost the farm and had to come here."
"Why didn't father help you? He ain't dead is he?"
Almost any misfortune now seemed possible to Perez.
"No, he ain't dead, but he ain't got nothin. I spose he's sold out by
this time. Sol Gleason had a mortgage on the place."
"How much was your debt, Reub?"
"Nineteen pound, seven shilling and six-pence. 'Leastways, the debt
was nine pound, and the rest was lawyers', justices' and sheriffs'
fees. I callate they'll find them figgers cut into my heart, when I'm
And then he pointed to the sums in charcoal, covering the walls of the
"I callated the interest down to how much a minute. I allers liked
cipherin, ye know, Perez, and I have a great deal of time here. Ye
see, every day, the interest is a penny and twenty-six twenty-sevenths
of a farthin. The wall round me gits that much higher and thicker
every day." He stepped closer up to the wall, and pointed to a
particular set of figures.
"Here's my weight, ye see, ten stone and a fraction," and then
observing Perez' pitiful glance at his emaciated form, he added, "I
mean when I come to jail. Dividin nineteen pound, seven and six, by
that, it makes me come to thrippence happenny a pound, 'cording to
the laws o' Massachusetts, countin bones and waste. Mutton ain't wuth
but tuppence, and there's lots o' fellers here for sech small debts,
that they don't come to mor'n a farthin a pound, and ye see I'm gittin
dearer, Perez. There's the interest one way, and I'm a gittin thinner
the other way," he added with a piteous smile.
"Perez," interrupted Fennell, in a feeble, whimpering voice, as he
weakly endeavored to raise himself from the floor, "I wish you'd jess
give me a boost on your shoulders, so I kin see out the winder. Reub
uster to do it, but he ain't stout enough now. It's two months since
I've seen out. Say, Perez, won't ye?"
"It'll do him a sight o' good, Perez, if ye will. I never see a feller
set sech store by trees and mountings as George does. They're jess
like medicine to him, an he's fell off faster'n ever since I hain't
been able to boost him up."
Perez knelt, too much moved for speech, and Reub helped to adjust upon
his shoulders the feeble frame of the sick man, into whose face had
come an expression of eager, excited expectation. As the soldier rose
he fairly tottered from the unexpected lightness of his burden. He
stepped beneath the high, grated window, and Fennell, resting his
hands on the lintel, while Reub steadied him from behind, peered out.
He made no sound, and finally Perez let him down to the floor.
"Could you see much?" asked Reub, but the other did not answer. His
gaze was afar off as if the prison walls were no barrier to his eyes,
and a smile of rapturous contemplation rested on his face. Then with a
deep breath he seemed to return to a perception of his surroundings,
and in tones of irrepressible exultation he murmured:
"I saw the mountains. They are so," and with a waving, undulating
gesture of the hand that was wonderfully eloquent, he indicated the
bold sweep of the forest clad Taghcanic peaks. The door swung open,
and the jailer stood there.
"Time's up," he said sharply.
"What, you're not going now? You're not going to leave us yet?" cried
Perez choked down the wrath and bitterness that was turning his heart
to iron and said, humbly.
"Mr. Bement, I should like to stay a few minutes longer. This is my
brother. I did not know he was here."
"Sorry for't," said Bement, carelessly. "Don' see as I kin help it,
though. S'posed like nuff he was somebuddy's brother. Mout's well be
your'n ez anybuddy's. I dunno who ye be. All I knows is that ye've
been here fifteen minutes and now ye must leave. Don' keep me waitin,
nuther. Thay ain' nobuddy tendin bar."
"Don't make him mad, Perez, or else he won't let ye come again,"
whispered Reuben, who saw that his brother was on the point of some
violent outburst. Perez controlled himself, and took his brother's
hands in his coming close up to him and looking away over his shoulder
so that he might not see the pitiful workings of his features which
would have negatived his words of comfort.
"Cheer up, Reub," he said huskily, "I'll get you out. I'll come for
you," and still holding his grief-wrung face averted, that Reuben
might not see it, he went forth, and Bement shut the door and barred
THE PEOPLE ASK BREAD AND RECEIVE A STONE
As Captain Hamlin, leaving behind him Great Barrington and its
tavern-jail, was riding slowly on toward Stockbridge, oblivious in the
bitter tumult of his feelings, to the glorious scenery around him,
Stockbridge Green was the scene of a quite unusual assemblage. Squire
Sedgwick, the town's delegate, was expected back that afternoon from
the county convention, which had been sitting at Lenox, to devise
remedies for the popular distress, and the farmers from the outlying
country had generally come into the village to get the first tidings
of the result of its deliberations.
Seated on the piazza of the store, and standing around it, at a distance
from the assemblage of the common people, suitably typifying their
social superiority, was a group of the magnates of Stockbridge, in the
stately dress of gentlemen of the olden time, their three-cornered hats
resting upon powdered wigs, and long silk hose revealing the goodly
proportions of their calves. Upon the piazza sits a short, portly
gentleman, with bushy black eyebrows and a severe expression of
countenance. Although a short man he has a way of holding his neck
stiff, with the chin well out, and looking downward from beneath his
eyelids, upon those who address him, which, with his pursed up lips,
gives a decided impression of authority and unapproachableness. This
is Jahleel Woodbridge, Esquire.
Parson West is standing on the ground in front of him, his silver
headed cane tucked under one arm. His small person--he is not an inch
over five feet tall--is as neatly dressed as if just taken out of a
band-box, and his black, shining hose encase a leg and ankle which are
the chaste admiration of the ladies of the parish, and the source, it
is whispered, of no small complacency to the good man himself.
"What think you," he is saying to Squire Woodbridge, "will have been
the action of the convention? Will it have emulated the demagogic tone
of that at Hatfield, do you opine?"
"Let us hope not, Reverend Sir," responded the Squire, "but methinks
it was inexpedient to allow the convention to meet, although Squire
Sedgwick's mind was on that point at variance with mine. It is an
easier matter to prevent a popular assembly than to restrain its
utterances, when assembled."
"I trust," said the parson, looking around upon those standing near,
"that we have all made it a subject of prayer, that the convention
might be Providentially led to devise remedies for the inconveniences
of the time, for they are sore, and the popular discontent is great."
"Nay, I fear 'tis past hoping for that the people will be contented
with anything the convention may have done, however well considered,"
said Dr. Partridge. "They have set their hearts on some such miracle
as that whereby Moses did refresh fainting Israel with water from the
smitten rock. The crowd over yonder will be satisfied with nothing
short of that from the convention," and the doctor waved his hand
toward the people on the green, with a smile of tolerant contempt on
his clean-cut, sarcastic, but not unkindly face.
"I much err," said Squire Woodbridge, "if the stocks and the
whipping-post be not the remedy their discontent calls for. I am told
that seditious and disorderly speech is common at the tavern of
evenings. This presumption of the people to talk concerning matters
of government, is an evil that has greatly increased since the war,
and calls for sharp castigation. These numskulls must be taught their
place or t'will shortly be no country for gentlemen to live in."
"A letter that I had but a day or two ago from my brother at Hatfield,"
said Dr. Partridge, "speaks of the people being much stirred up in
Hampshire, so that some even fear an attempt of the mob to obstruct
the court at Northampton, though my brother opined that their insolence
would not reach so far. One Daniel Shays, an army captain, is spoken
of as a leader."
Timothy Edwards, Esquire, a tall sharp featured man, with a wrinkled
forehead, had come to the door of his store while the doctor was
talking. I should vainly try to describe this stately merchant of the
olden time, if the reader were to confound him, ever so little in his
mind's eye, with the bustling, smiling, obsequious, modern storekeeper.
Even a royal customer would scarcely have presumed so far as to ask
this imposing gentleman, in powdered wig, snuff-colored coat, waistcoat
and short clothes, white silk stockings and silver-buckled shoes, to
cut off a piece of cloth or wrap up a bundle for him. It may be taken
for granted that commercial enterprise, as illustrated in Squire
Edwards' store, was entirely subservient to the maintenance of the
proprietor's personal dignity. He now addressed Dr. Partridge:
"Said your brother anything of the report that the Tories and British
emissaries are stirring up the popular discontent, to the end that
reproach may be brought on the new government of the States, by
revealing its weakness as compared with the King's?"
"Nay, of that he spoke not."
"For my part, I do fully believe it," resumed Edwards, "and, moreover,
that this is but a branch of the British policy, looking toward the
speedy reconquering of these States. It is to this end, also, that
they are aiming to weaken us by drawing all the money out of the
country, whereby, meanwhile, the present scarcity is caused."
"Methinks, good sir," replied the doctor, "the great expense of the
war, and the public and private debts made thereby, with the
consequential taxes and suits at law, do fully explain the lamentable
state of the country, and the disquiet of the people, though it may be
that the King has also designs against us."
"Nay," said the parson, in tones of gentle reproof, "these all be
carnal reasons, whereby if we seek to explain the judgments of God, we
do fail of the spiritual profiting we might find therein. For no doubt
these present calamities are God's judgment upon this people for its
sins, seeing it is well known that the bloody and cruel war now over,
hath brought in upon us all manner of new and strange sins, even as if
God would have us advertised how easily that liberty which we have
gained may run into licentiousness. Sabbath-breaking and blasphemy
have come in upon us like a flood, and the new and heinous sin of
card-playing hath contaminated our borders, as hath been of late
brought to light in the cases of Jerubbabel Galpin and Zedekiah
Armstrong, who were taken in the act, and are even now in the stocks.
And thereby am I reminded that I had purposed to improve this occasion
for the reproof and admonition of them that stand by."
And thereupon the parson saluted the gentlemen and sedately crossed
the green toward the stocks, around which was a noisy crowd of men and
boys. As the parson approached, however, a respectful silence fell
upon them. There was a general pulling off of hats and caps, and those
in his path stood obsequiously aside, while the little children,
slinking behind the grown folks, peeped around their legs at him. The
two hobbledehoys in the stocks, loutish farmer's boys, had been
already undergoing the punishment for about an hour. Their backs were
bent so that their bodies resembled the letter U laid on its side, and
their arms were strained as if they were pulling out of the sockets.
All attempted bravado, all affectation of stoical indifference, all
sense even of embarrassment, had evidently been merged in the
demoralization of intense physical discomfort, and the manner in which
they lolled their heads, first on one side and then on the other, was
eloquent of abject and shameless misery. Standing directly in front of
these hapless youths, and using them as his text, the parson began to
admonish the people in this wise:
"It would seem the will of God to permit the adversary to try the
people of Stockbridge with divers new and strange temptations, not
known to our fathers, doubtless to the end, that their graces may
shine forth the more clearly, even as gold tried in the fire hath a
more excellent lustre, by reason of its discipline.
"I have examined myself with fasting, to see if any weakness or laxity
in my office, as shepherd of this flock, might be the occasion of this
license given to Satan. And it behooveth you, each in his own soul,
and in his own household, to make inquisition lest some sin of his or
theirs, bring this new temptation of card-playing, upon our people,
even as the wedge of fine gold which Achan took and hid in his tent,
did mightily discomfit the host of Israel with the plagues of the
Lord. For even as for the sin of Adam, we are all justly chargeable,
so for the sins of one another, doth the justice of God afflict us, so
that we may find our account in watching over our brethren, even as
"And you, whom Satan hath led away captive," pursued the reverend
orator, addressing himself to the young men in the stocks, "be ye
thankful that ye have not been permitted to escape this temporal
recompense of your transgression, which, if proved, may save you from
the eternal flames of hell, Reflect, whether it be not better to
endure for a season, the contempt and the chastisement of men, rather
than to bear the torments and jeers of the devil and his angels
"Behold," said the minister, holding up the pack of cards taken from
the prisoners, "with what instruments Satan doth tempt mankind, and
consider how perverse must be the inclination which can be tempted by
devices that do so plainly advertise their devilish origin. At times
Satan doth so shrewdly mask his wiles that if it were possible the
very elect might be deceived, but how evidently doth he here reveal
He held up some of the court cards.
"Take note of these misshaped and deformed figures, heathenishly
attired, and with no middle parts or legs, but with two heads turned
diverse ways. These are not similitudes of man, who was made in the
image of his Maker, but doubtless of fiends, revealed by Satan to the
artificers who do his work in the fabrication of these instruments of
sin. Mark these figures of diamonds and hearts, and these others,
which I am told do signify spades and clubs. How plainly do they
typify ill-gotten riches and bleeding hearts, violence and the grave.
Wretched youths, which of ye tempted the other to this sin?"
"Je assed me to dew it," whimpered Zedekiah.
"Kiah, he assed me fust," averred Jerubbabel.
"No doubt ye are both right," said the minister sternly. "When two sin
together, Satan is divided in twain, and the one half tempteth the
other. See to it that ye sin not again on this wise, lest a worse
thing come upon you."
Scarcely had the parson turned away, when a shout from some boys who
had gone to the corner to watch for the coming of the Squire,
announced his approach, and presently he appeared at the corner,
riding a fine gray horse, and came on at an easy canter across the
green. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, finely-proportioned man of
about forty, with a refined face, frank and open, but rather haughty
in expression, with piercing black eyes; a man in whose every gesture
lay conscious power and obvious superiority. As he rode by the silent
crowd, he acknowledged the salutations of the people with a courteous
wave of the hand, but drew rein only when he reached the group of
dignitaries about the store. There he dismounted and shook hands with
the parson, who has rejoined the party, with Dr. Partridge, Squire
Edwards and Squire Woodbridge.
"What news bring you from the convention? I trust you have been
Providentially guided. I have not failed to remember you in my
prayers," said the parson.
"For which I am deeply grateful, Reverend Sir," replied Sedgwick. "And
truly I think your prayers have been effectual. The blessing of God
has been manifestly upon the convention. Berkshire has not been
disgraced, as have been the lower counties, by a seditious and
incendiary body of resolutions on the part of her delegates. There
were not wanting plenty of hot-heads, but they were overruled. I am
convinced such might also have been the issue in the other counties,
had the gentlemen put themselves forward as delegates, instead of
leaving it all in a fit of disgust to the people."
"Was there any action taken in favor of the plan for the emission of
bills, which shall systematically depreciate!" inquired Squire
"Such a resolution was introduced by Thomas Gold of Pittsfield, a
pestilent fellow, but we threw it out."
"What was the action on reduction of expenses of suits at law?"
inquired Dr. Partridge.
"Again nothing," replied Sedgwick. "In a word, we refused to yield to
any of the demands of the malcontents, or to hamper the Legislature
with any specific recommendations. You know that we Berkshire people,
thanks to our delay in recognizing the State authority, have an evil
repute at Boston for a mobbish and ungovernable set. It seemed that
this was a good opportunity, when the conventions of all the other
counties were sending up seditious petitions, to make the moderation
of our conduct such a contrast that there might be an end of such talk
in the future."
Meanwhile, as it became apparent to the crowd on the green that they
were not likely to be vouchsafed any information unless they asked for
it, a brisk disputation, conducted in an undertone, so that it might
not reach the ears of the gentlemen, arose as to who should be the
"I jess ez leeve go 's not," said Jabez Flint, the Tory, "only they
wouldn' hev nothin tew say ter me ez wuz a Tory."
"Ef I were ten year younger, I'd go in a minute," said Israel
Goodrich, "but my jints is kinder stiff. Abner, thar, he'd orter go,
"Why don' ye go, Abner? Ye ain't scairt o' speakin tew Squire, be ye!"
"I ain't scairt o' no man, and ye know it's well's ye wanter know. I'd
go in a jiffey, only bein a young man, I don' like tew put myself
forrard tew speak for them as is older."
"Why don' ye go yerself, Peleg, if ye be so dretful brave!" inquired
"That's so, Peleg, why don' ye go?"
"I ain't no talker," said Peleg. "Ther's Ezry, he'd orter go, he's
sech a good talker."
But Ezra swallowed the bait without taking the hook. "Tain't talkin ez
is wanted, it's assin. Any on ye kin dew that's well's I," he
The spirit of mutual deference was so strong that it is doubtful how
long the contest of modesty might have continued, had not Laban Jones
"Ef none on ye dasn't ass what the convenshin has did, I'll ass
myself. I'm more scairt o' my hungry babbies an I be o' the face o'
Raising his stalwart figure to its full height, and squaring his
shoulders as if to draw courage from a consciousness of his thews and
sinews, Laban strode toward the store. But though he took the first
steps strongly and firmly, his pace grew feebler and more hesitating
as he neared the group of gentlemen, and his courage might have ebbed
entirely, had not the parson, glancing around and catching his eye,
given him a friendly nod. Laban thereupon came up to within a rod or
two of the group, and taking off his cap, said in a small voice:
"Please we'd like ter know what the convenshin has did?"
Sedgwick, who had his back to him, turned quickly, and seeing Laban,
said in a preemptory tone:
"Ah! Laban, you may tell your friends that the convention very wisely
did nothing at all," and as he said this he turned to finish something
that he was saying to Squire Woodbridge. Laban's jaw fell, and he
continued to stand stock still for several moments, his dull features
working as he tried to take in the idea. Finally, his consternation
absorbing his timidity he said feebly:
"Nothin? Did you say, Squire?"
Sedgwick wheeled about with a frown, which however, changed into an
expression of contemptuous pity as he saw the genuineness of the poor
"Nothing, Laban," he said, "except to resolve to support the courts,
enforce the laws, and punish all disorderly persons. Don't forget that
last, Laban, to punish all disorderly persons. Be sure to tell your
friends that. And tell them, too, Laban, that it would be well for
them to leave matters of government to their betters and attend to
their farms," and as Laban turned mechanically and walked back
Sedgwick added, speaking to the gentlemen about him:
"I like not this assembling of the people to discuss political
matters. We must look to it, gentlemen, or we shall find that we have
ridded ourselves of a king only to fall into the hands of a democracy,
which I take it would be a bad exchange."
"Sir," said Edwards, "you must be in need of refreshment, after your
ride. Come in, sir, and come in gentlemen, all. We shall discuss the
Providential issue of the convention more commodiously within doors,
over a suitable provision of Jamaica."
The suggestion seemed to be timely and acceptable, and one by one the
gentlemen, standing aside with ceremonious politeness to let one
another precede, entered the store, Parson West leading, for it was
neither according to the requirements of decorum, or his own private
tastes, that the minister should decline a convivial invitation of
"What d'ee say, Laban?"
"What did they dew?"
"Did they 'bolish the loryers?"
"Wat did they dew baout more bills, Laban, hey?"
"What did they dew baout the taxes?"
"Why don't ye speak, man?"
"What's the matter on ye?" were some of the volley of questions with
which the people hailed their chop-fallen deputy on his return,
crowding forward around him, plucking his sleeves and pushing him to
get his attention, for he regarded them with a dazed and sleep-walking
expression. Finally he found his voice, and said:
"Squire says ez haow they didn' dew nothin."
There was a moment's dead silence, then the clamor burst out again.
"Not dew nothin?"
"What d'ye mean, Laban?"
"Nothin baout the taxes?"
"Nothin baout the loryers?"
"Nothin baout the sheriffs' fees?"
"Nothin baout jailin for debt?"
"Nothin baout takin prop'ty tew a valiation, Laban?"
"Nothin baout movin govment aout o' Bosting?"
"Nothin, I tells ye," answered Laban, in the same tone of utter
discouragement. "Squire says ez haow the convenshin hain't done nothin
'cept tew resolve that ez courts sh'd go on an the laws sh'd be
kerried aout an disorderly folks sh'd be punished."
The men looked from one to another of each other's faces, and each
wore the same blank look. Finally Israel Goodrich said, nodding his
head with an expression of utter dejection at each word:
"Wal, I swow, I be kinder disappinted."
There was a space of silence.
"So be I," said Peleg.
Presently Paul Hubbard's metallic voice was heard.
"We were fools not to have known it. Didn't we elect a General Court
last year a purpose to do something for us, and come to get down to
Bosting didn't the lawyers buy em up or fool em so they didn't do a
thing? The people won't git righted till they take hold and right
themselves, as they did in the war."
"Is that all the Squire said, Laban, every word?" asked Israel, and as
he did so all eyes turned on Laban with a faint gleam of hope that
there might yet be some crumb of comfort. Laban scratched his head.
"He said suthin baout govment bein none o' our business an haow we'd a
better go hum an not be loafin roun'."
"Ef govment hain't no business o' ourn I'd like tew know what in time
we fit the King fer," said Peleg.
"That's so, wy didn' ye ass Squire that queschin?" said Meshech
"By gosh," exclaimed Abner Rathbun, with a sudden vehemence, "ef
govment ain't no business o' ourn they made a mistake when they
teached us that fightin was."
"What dew ye mean?" asked Israel half timorously.
"Never mind wat I mean," replied Abner, "on'y a wum 'll turn wen it's
"I don' bleeve but that Laban's mistook wat the Squire said. Ye ain't
none tew clever, ye know, yerself, Laban, and I callate that ye didn'
more'n half understan' wat Squire meant."
It was Ezra Phelps who announced this cheering view, which instantly
found general favor, and poor Laban's limited mental powers were at
once the topic of comments more plain spoken than flattering. Paul
Hubbard, indeed, shook his head and smiled bitterly at this revulsion
of hopefulness, but even Laban himself seemed eager to find ground for
believing himself to have been, in this instance, an ass.
"Ye see the hull thing's in a nutshell," said Abner. "Either Laban's a
fool, or else the hull caounty convenshin o' Berkshire is fools an
wuss, an I callate it's Laban."
Perhaps the back room of the store lacked for Sedgwick, a comparatively
recent resident of Stockbridge, those charms of familiarity it
possessed for the other gentlemen, for even as Abner was speaking,
he came out alone. As he saw the still waiting and undiminished crowd
of people, he frowned angrily, and mounting his horse, rode directly
toward them. Their sullen aspect, which might have caused another to
avoid them, was his very reason for seeking an encounter. As he
approached, his piercing eye rested a moment on the face of every man,
and as it did so, each eye, impelled by a powerfull magnetism, rose
deferentially to his, and every cap was pulled off.
"What is it, Ezra?" he demanded sharply, seeing that Ezra wanted to
"If you please, Squire," said Ezra, cap in hand, "Laban's kinder
stupid, an we callate he muster got what ye said tuther eend to. Will
ye kindly tell us what the convenshin did?"
Stopping his horse, Sedgwick replied, in a loud, clear voice.
"The convention declared that the laws shall be enforced, and all
disorderly persons punished with the stocks and with lashes on the
"Is that all?" faltered Ezra.
"All!" exclaimed Sedgwick, as his eye rested a moment on every face
before him. "Let every one of you look out that he does not find it
And now he suddenly broke off in a tone of sharp command, "Disperse
and go to your houses on the pains and penalties of Sabbath breaking.
The sun is down," and he pointed to the last glimmer of the yellow orb
as it sank below the mountains. The people stood still just long
enough to verify the fact with a glance, that holy time had begun, and
instantly the green was covered with men and boys swiftly seeking
shelter within their doors from the eye of an angry Deity, while from
the store hastily emerged Squire Woodbridge, Dr. Partridge and the
parson, and made their several ways homeward as rapidly as dignity
Perhaps ten minutes later, Captain Perez Hamlin might have been seen
pricking his jaded horse across the deserted green. He looked around
curiously at the new buildings and recent changes in the appearance of
the village, and once or twice seemed a little at loss about his
route. But finally he turned into a lane leading northerly toward the
hill, just at the foot of which, beside the brook that skirted it,
stood a weather-beaten house of a story and a half. As he caught sight
of this, Perez spurred his horse to a gallop, and in a few moments the
mother, through her tears of joy, was studying out in the stern face
of the man, the lineaments of the boy whose soldier's belt she had
buckled round him nine years before.
THAT MEANS REBELLION!
Elnathan was the only one of the family who went to church the
following day. Mrs. Hamlin was too infirm to climb the hill to the
meeting-house, and Perez' mood was more inclined to blood-spilling
than to God's worship. All day he walked the house, his fists
clenched, muttering curses through his set teeth, and looking not
unlike a lion, ferociously pacing his cage. For his mother was
tearfully relating to him the share of the general misery that had
fallen to their lot, as a family, in the past nine years, how Elnathan
had not been able to carry on his farm, without the aid of the boys,
and had run behind, till now, Solomon Gleason the schoolmaster, had
got hold of the mortgage, and was going to turn them into the street,
that very week. But all this with the mother, as with the brother, was
as nothing, compared with Reuben's imprisonment and sickness unto
It was Mrs. Hamlin, who did most of the talking, and much of what she
said fell unheeded on Perez' ears, as he walked unceasingly to and fro
across the kitchen. For his mind was occupied with all the intensity
of application, of which it was capable, with the single point,--how
he was to get Reuben out of jail. Even the emergency, which would so
soon be raised, by the selling out of the homestead, and the turning
of the family into the street, was subordinated, in his mind, to this
prime question. The picture of his brother, shaggy-haired and foul,
wallowing in the filth of that prison sty, and breathing its fetid
air, which his memory kept constantly before him, would have driven
him distracted, if for a moment he had allowed himself to doubt that
he should somehow liberate him, and soon. He had told his mother
nothing of the horrible condition in which he had found him. Under no
circumstances must she know of that, not even if worst came to worst,
and so even while he shuddered at the vision before his mind's eye, he
essayed to speak cheerfully about Reuben's surroundings, and his
condition of health. When she told him that Deacon Nash had refused to
let him come home to be nursed back to health, Perez had to comfort
her by pretending that he was not so very badly off where he was, and
would doubtless recover.
"Nay, Perez," she said, "my eyes are dim, come close to me, that I may
read your eyes. You were ever tender to your old mother, and I fear
me, you hide somewhat lest I should disquiet myself. Come here my
son." The brave man's eyes, that had never quailed before the belching
artillery, had now ado indeed. Such sickness at heart behind them,
such keen mother's instinct trying them before.
"Oh, Perez! My boy is dying! I see it."
"He is not, I tell you he is not," he cried hoarsely, breaking away
from her. "He is well. He looks strong. Do you think I would lie to
you? I tell you he is well and getting better."
But after that she would not be comforted. The afternoon wore on.
Elnathan came from meeting, and at last, through the open windows of
the house, came the cry, in children's voices.
"Sun's down! Sun's down!"
From the upper windows, its disc was yet visible, above the crest of
the western mountains, and on the hilltops, it was still high Sabbath;
but in the streets below, holy time was at an end. The doors, behind
which, in Sabbatical decorum, the children had been pent up all day
long, swung open with a simultaneous bang, and the boys with a whoop
and halloo, tumbled over each other into the street, while the girls
tripped gaily after. Innumerable games of tag, and "I spy," were
organized in a trice, and for the hour or two between that and bed
time, the small fry of the village devoted themselves, without a
moment's intermission, to getting the Sabbath stiffening out of their
legs and tongues.
Nor was the reawakening of the community by any means confined to the
boys and girls. For soon the streets began to be alive with groups of
men and women, all in their Sunday best, going to make social calls.
In the majority of Stockbridge households, the best clothes, unless
there chanced to be a funeral, were not put on oftener than once a
week, when the recurrence of the Sabbath made their assumption a
religious duty, and on this account it naturally became the custom to
make the evening of that day the occasion of formal social intercourse.
As soon, too, as the gathering twilight afforded some shield to their
secret designs, sundry young men with liberally greased hair, their
arms stiff in the sleeves of the unusual and Sunday coat, their feet,
accustomed to the immediate contact of the soil, encased in well larded
shoes, might have been seen gliding under the shadows of friendly
fences, and along bypaths, with that furtive and hangdog air which,
in all ages, has characterized the chicken-thief and the lover.
In front of the door of Squire Sedgwick's house is drawn up his
travelling carriage, with two fine horses. On the box is Sol, the
coachman, one of the Squire's negro freedmen, whose allegiance to the
Sedgwick family was not in the least shaken by the abolition of
slavery in the state by the adoption of the bill of rights six years
"I dunno noffin bout no Bill Wright," was Sol's final dismissal of the
"Drive to Squire Woodbridge's house, Sol," said Sedgwick, as he
stepped into the carriage.
Woodbridge was at the gate of his house, apparently about starting on
his usual evening visit to the store, when the carriage drove up.
Sedgwick alighted, and taking the other a little aside, said:
"It is necessary for me to start tonight for Boston, where I have some
important cases. I regret it, because I would rather be at home just
now. The spirit among the people is unruly, and while I do not
anticipate serious trouble, I think it is a time when gentlemen should
make their influence felt in their communities. I have no doubt,
however, that the interests of Stockbridge and of the government are
entirely safe in your hands as selectman and magistrate."
"I hope, sir, that I am equal to the duties of my position," replied
"Allow me again to assure you that I have not the smallest doubt of
it," said Sedgwick, affably, "but I thought it well to notify you of
my own necessary departure, and to put you on your guard. The bearing
of the people on the green last evening, of which I saw more than you
did, was unmistakably sullen, and their disappointment at the refusal
of the convention to lend itself to their seditious and impracticable
desires, is very bitter."
"Undoubtedly the result of the convention has been to increase the
popular agitation. I had the honor to represent to you before it was
held that such would be its effect, at which time, I believe you held
a different view. Nevertheless, I opine that you exaggerate the degree
of the popular agitation. It would be natural, that being a
comparatively recent resident, you should be less apt to judge the
temper of the Stockbridge people, than we who are longer here."
A half humorous, half impatient expression on Sedgwick's face, was the
only indication he gave that he had recognized the other's huffy and
"Your opinion, Sir," he replied, with undiminished affability, "tends
to relieve my apprehensions. I trust the event will justify it.
"And how does Miss Desire, this evening?" he added, saluting with
doffed hat and a courtly bow, a young lady who had just come up, with
the apparent intention of going in at the Woodbridge gate.
"I do but indifferent well, Sir. As well as a damsel may do in a world
where gentlemen keep not their promises," she answered, with a
curtsey, so saucily deep, that the crisp crimson silk of her skirt
rustled on the ground.
"Nay, but tell me the caitiff's name, and let me be myself your
knight, fair mistress, to redress your wrongs."
"Nay, 'tis yourself, Sir. Did you not promise you would come and hear
me play my piano, when it came from Boston, and I have it a week
"And I did not know it. Yes, now I bethink myself, Mrs. Sedgwick spoke
thereof, but this convention has left me not a moment. But damsels are
not political; no doubt you have heard nothing of the convention."
"Oh, yes; 'tis that all the poor want to be rich, and to hang all the
lawyers. I've heard. 'Tis a fine scheme."
"No doubt the piano is most excellent in sound."
"It goes middling well, but already I weary me of my bargain."
"Are you then in trade, Miss Desire?"
"A little. Papa said if I would not tease him to let me go to New York
this winter, he would have me a piano. I know not what came over me
that I consented. I shall go into a decline ere spring. The ugly dress
and the cowlike faces of the people, make me sick at heart, and give
me bad dreams, and the horses neigh in better English than the farmers
talk. Alack, 'tis a dreary place for a damsel! But, no doubt, I have
interrupted some weighty discussion. I bid you good even, Sir," and,
once more curtsying, the girl went up the path to the house, much to
her uncle Jahleel's relief, who had no taste for badinage, and wanted
to get on to the store, whither, presently he was on his way, while
Sedgwick's carriage rolled off toward Boston.
About a mile out of Stockbridge, the carriage passed two men standing
by the roadside, earnestly talking. These men were Perez Hamlin and
"You remember the Ice-hole," said Perez, referring to an extraordinary
cleft or chasm, of great depth, and extremely difficult and perilous
of access, situated near the top of Little Mountain, a short distance
"Yes," said Abner, "I rekullec it, well. I guess you an I, Perez, air
abaout the on'y fellers in taown, ez hev been clean through it."
"My plan is this," said Perez. "Kidnap Deacon Nash, carry him up to
the Ice-hole, and keep him there till he makes out a release for Reub,
then just carry down the paper to jail, get Reub out, and across the
York State line, and send back word to Stockbridge where to find the
"But what'll we dew, ourselves?"
"Of course we shall have to stay in York. Why shouldn't we? There's no
chance for a poor man here. The chances are that we should both be in
jail for debt before spring."