Part 3 out of 6
Perez, who had been in the room, followed him out of doors.
"Do you think my brother will get well?" he asked.
"I think so, if he does not have to go back to jail."
"He will not go back unless I go with him," said Perez.
"Well, I think it most likely you will," replied the doctor dryly. "On
the whole, I should say his prospect of long life was better than yours,
if I am speaking to Perez Hamlin, the mob captain."
"You mean I shall be hung?"
"And drawn and quartered," amended the doctor, grimly. "That is the
penalty for treason, I believe."
"Perhaps," said Perez. "We shall see. There will be fighting before
hanging. At any rate, if I'm hung, it will be as long as it's short,
for Reub would have died if I hadn't got him out of jail."
The doctor gathered up the reins.
"I want to thank you for coming," said Perez. "You know, I s'pose,
that we are very poor, and can't promise much pay."
"If you'll see that your mob doesn't give me such a serenade as it did
Squire Woodbridge last night, I'll call it square," said the doctor,
and drove off.
Now, Meshech Little, the carpenter, had gone home and to bed towering
drunk the night before, after taking part as a leading performer in
the aforesaid serenade to the Squire. His sleep had been exceedingly
dense, and in the morning when it became time for him to go to his
work, it was only after repeated callings and shakings, that Mrs.
Little was able to elicit the first sign of wakefulness.
"You must get up," she expostulated. "Sun's half way daown the west
post, an ye know how mad Deacon Nash'll be ef ye don' git don shinglin
his barn tidday." After a series of heartrending groans and yawns,
Meshech, who had tumbled on the bed in his clothes, got up and stood
stretching and rubbing his eyes in the middle of the floor.
"By gosh, it's kinder tough," he said, "I wuz jess a dreamin ez I wuz
latherin deakin. I'd jess swotted him one in the snout wen ye woke me,
an naow, by gorry, I've got tew go an work fer the critter."
"An ye better hurry, tew," urged his wife anxiously. "Ye know ye
didn't dew the fuss thing all day yis'dy."
"Whar wuz I yis'dy?" asked Meshech, in whose confused faculties the
only distinct recollection was that he had been drunk.
"Ye went daown tew Barrington 'long with the crowd."
Meshech was in the act of ducking his head in a bucket of water,
standing on a bench by the door, but at his wife's words he became
suddenly motionless as a statue, his nose close to the water. Then he
straightened sharply up and stared at her, the working of his eyes
showing that he was gathering up tangled skeins of recollection.
"Wal, I swow," he finally ejaculated, with an astonished drawl, "ef I
hadn't a furgut the hull dum performance, an here I wuz a gittin up an
goin to work jess ez if court hadn't been stopped. Gosh, Sally, I
guess I be my own man tidday, ef I hev got a bad tas in my mouth.
Gorry, it's lucky I thort afore I wet my hed. I couldn't a gone tew
sleep agin," and Meshech turned toward the bed, with apparent
intention of resuming his slumbers.
But Mrs. Little, though she knew there had been serious disturbances
the preceding day, could by no means bring her mind to believe that
the entire system of law and public authority had been thus suddenly
and completely overthrown, and she yet again adjured her husband, this
time by a more dreadful name, to betake himself to labor.
"Ef ye don' go to work, Meshech, Squire Woodbridge 'll hev ye in the
stocks fer gittin drunk. Deakin kin git ye put in any time he wants
ter complain on ye. Ye better not rile him."
But at this Meshech, instead of being impressed, burst into a loud haw
"Yes'dy mornin ye could a scart me outer a week's growth a talkin
baout Squire, but, gol, ye'll have ter try suthen else naow. Wy don'
ye know we wuz a serenadin Squire with a hoss-fiddle till ten o'clock
las' night, an he didn' das show his nose outer doors.
"Gosh!" he continued, getting into bed and turning over toward the
wall, "I'd giv considabul, ef I could dream I wuz lickin Squire. Mebbe
I kin. Don' ye wake me up agin Sally," and presently his regular
snoring proclaimed that he had departed to the free hunting grounds of
dreamland in pursuit of his desired game.
Now Meshech's was merely a representative case. He was by no means the
only workingman who that morning kept his bed warm to an unaccustomed
hour. Except such as had farms of their own to work on, or work for
themselves to do, there was scarcely any one in Stockbridge who went
to work. A large part of the labor by which the industries of the
community had been carried on, had been that of debtors working out
their debts at such allowance for wages as their creditor-employers
chose to make them. If they complained that it was too small, they
had, indeed, their choice to go to jail in preference to taking it,
but no third alternative was before them. Of these coolies, as we
should call them in these days, only a few who were either very timid,
or ignorant of the full effect of yesterday's doings, went to their
Besides the coolies, there was a small number of laborers who
commanded actual wages in produce or in money. Although there was no
reason in yesterday's proceedings, why these should not go to work as
usual, yet the spirit of revolt that was in the air, and the vague
impression of impending changes that were to indefinitely better the
condition of the poor, had so far affected them also, that the most
took this day as a holiday, with a hazy but pleasing notion that it
was the beginning of unlimited holidays.
All this idle element naturally drifted into the streets, and
collected in particular force on the green and about the tavern. By
afternoon, these groups, reenforced by those who had been busy at home
during the morning, began to assume the dimensions of a crowd. Widow
Bingham, at the tavern, had deemed it expedient to keep the right side
of the lawless element by a rather free extension of credit at the
bar, and there was a good deal of hilarity, which, together with the
atmosphere of excitement created by the recent stirring events, made
it seem quite like a gala occasion. Women and girls were there in
considerable numbers, the latter wearing their ribbons, and walking
about in groups together, or listening to their sweethearts, as each
explained to a credulous auditor, how yesterday's great events had
hinged entirely on the narrator's individual presence and prowess.
Some of the youths, the preceding night, had cut a tall sapling and
set it in the middle of the green, in front of the tavern. On the top
of this had been fixed the cocked hat of Justice Goodrich, brought as
a trophy from Great Barrington. This was the center of interest, the
focus of the crowd, a visible, palpable proof of the people's victory
over the courts, which was the source of inextinguishable hilarity. It
was evident, indeed, from the conversation of the children, that there
existed in the minds of those of tender years, some confusion as to
the previous ownership of the hat, and the circumstances connected
with its acquisition by the people. Some said that it was Burgoyne's
hat, and others that it was the hat of King George, himself, while the
affair of the day before at Great Barrington, was variously
represented as a victory over the redcoats, the Indians and the
Tories. But, whatever might be the differences of opinion on these
minor points, the children were uproariously agreed that there was
something to be exceedingly joyful about.
Next to the hat, two uncouth-looking machines which stood on the green
near the stocks, were the centers of interest. They were wooden
structures, somewhat resembling saw-horses. Beside each were several
boards, and close inspection would have shown that both the surface of
the horses and one side of these boards, were well smeared with rosin.
These were the horse-fiddles, contrived for the purpose of promoting
wakefulness by night, on the part of the silk stockings. Given plenty
of rosin, and a dozen stout fellows to each fiddle, drawing the boards
to and fro across the backs of the horses, pressing on hard, and the
resulting shrieks were something only to be imagined with the fingers
in the ears. The concert given to Squire Woodbridge the night
previous, had been an extemporized affair, with only one horse-fiddle,
and insufficient support from other instruments. To judge from the
conversation of the men and boys standing around, it was intended
to-night to give the Squire a demonstration which should quite compensate
him for the unsatisfactory nature of the former entertainment, and leave
him in no sort of doubt as to the sentiments of the people toward the
magistracy and silk stockings in general, and himself in particular. A
large collection of tin-pans had been made, and the pumpkin vines of
the vicinity had been dismantled for the construction of pumpkinstalk
trombones, provided with which, some hundreds of small boys were to be
Although the loud guffaws which from time to time were heard from the
group of men and hobbledehoys about the horse-fiddles on the green,
were evidence that the projected entertainment was not without comical
features as they looked at it, the aspect of the affair as viewed by
other eyes was decidedly tragical. Mrs. Woodbridge had long been
sinking with consumption, and the uproar and excitement of the
preceding night had left her in so prostrate a condition that Dr.
Partridge had been called in. During the latter part of her aunt's
sickness Desire Edwards had made a practice of running into her Uncle
Jahleel's many times a day to give a sort of oversight to the
housekeeping, a department in which she was decidedly more proficient
than damsels of this day, of much less aristocratic pretensions, find
it consistent with their dignity to be. The doctor and Desire were at
this moment in the living-room, inspecting through the closed shutters
the preparations on the green for the demonstration of the evening.
"Another such night will kill her, won't it, doctor?"
"I could not answer for the consequences," replied the doctor,
gravely. "I could scarcely hazard giving her laudanum enough to carry
her through such a racket, and without sleep she cannot live another
"What shall we do? What shall we do? Oh, poor Aunty! The brutes! The
brutes! Look at them over there laughing their great horse laughs. I
never liked to see them whipped before, when the constable whipped
them, but oh I shall like to after this. I should like to see them
whipped till the blood ran down," cried the girl, tears of mingled
grief and anger filling her flashing eyes.
"I don't know when you are likely to have the opportunity," said the
doctor, dryly. "At present they have the upper hand in town, and seem
very likely to keep it. We may thank our stars if the idea of whipping
some of us does not occur to them."
"My father fears that they will plunder the store and perhaps murder
us, unless help comes soon."
"There is no help to come," said the doctor. "The militia are all in
"But is there nothing we can do? Must we let them murder Aunty before
"Perhaps," said the doctor, "if your Uncle Jahleel were to go out to
the mob this evening, and entreat them civilly, and beg them to desist
by reason of your aunt's sickness, they would hear to him."
"Doctor! Doctor! you don't know my uncle," cried Desire. "He would
sooner have Aunt Lucy die, and die himself, and have us all killed,
than stoop to ask a favor of the rabble."
"I suppose it would be hard for him," said the doctor, "and yet to
save your aunt's life maybe--"
"Oh I couldn't bear to have him do it," interrupted Desire. "Poor
Uncle! I'd rather go out to the mob myself than have Uncle Jahleel. It
would kill him. He is so proud."
The doctor walked across the room two or three times with knitted brow
and then paused and looked with a certain critical admiration at the
face of the girl to which excitement had lent an unusual brilliance.
"I will tell you," he said, "the only way I see of securing a quiet
night to your aunt. Just go yourself and see this Hamlin who is the
captain of the mob, and make your petition to him. I had words with
him this morning. He is a well seeming fellow enough, and has a bold
way of speech that liked me well i' faith, though no doubt he's a
great rascal and well deserves a hanging."
He paused, for Desire was confronting him, with a look that was a
peremptory interruption. Her eyes were flashing, her cheeks mantled
with indignant color, and the delicate nostrils were distended with
"Me, Desire Edwards, sue for favors of this low fellow! You forget
yourself strangely, Dr. Partridge."
The doctor took his hat from the table and bowed low. "I beg your
pardon, Miss Desire. Possibly your aunt may live through the night,
after all," and he went out of the house shrugging his shoulders.
Desire was still standing in the same attitude when a faint voice
caught her ear, and stepping to a door she opened it, and asked
gently, "What is it, Aunty?"
"Your uncle hasn't gone out, has he?" asked Mrs. Woodbridge, feebly.
"No, Aunty, he's in his study walking to and fro as he's been all day,
"He musn't go out. I was afraid he'd gone out. Tell him I beg he will
not go out. The mob will kill him."
"I don't think he will go, Aunty."
"Do you think they will make that terrible noise again tonight."
"I--I don't know. I'm afraid so, Aunt Lucy."
"Oh dear," sighed the invalid, with a moan of exhaustion, "it don't
seem as if I could live through it again, I'm so weak, and so tired.
You can't think, dear, how tired I am."
Desire went in and shook up the pillows, and soothed the sick woman
with some little cares and then came out and shut the door. Her wide
brimmed hat of fine leghorn straw with a blue ostrich plume curled
around the crown, and a light cashmere shawl lay on the table.
Perching the one a trifle sideways on her dark brown curls, which were
gathered simply in a ribbon behind, according to the style of the day,
she threw the shawl about her shoulders, and knocked at the door of
her Uncle Jahleel's study, which also opened into the living-room, and
was the apartment in which he held court, when acting as magistrate.
In response to the knock the Squire opened the door. He looked as if
he had had a fit of sickness, so deeply had the marks of chagrin and
despite impressed itself on his face in the past two days.
"I'm going out for a little while," said Desire, "and you will go to
Aunty, if she calls, won't you?"
Her uncle nodded and resumed his walking to and fro, and Desire,
stepping out of the house by a back way, went by a path across the
fields, toward Elnathan Hamlin's house.
The Hamlin house, like the houses of most of the poorer class of
people, had but two rooms on the ground floor, a small bedroom and a
great kitchen, in which the family lived, worked, cooked, ate and
received company. There were two doors opening into the kitchen from
without, the front door and the back door. On the former of these,
there came a light tap. Now callers upon the Hamlins, in general, just
pulled the latchstring and came in. Nobody tapped except the sheriff,
the constable, the tax-collector and the parson, and the latter's
calls had been rare since the family fortunes, never other than
humble, had been going from bad to worse. So that it was not without
some trepidation, which was shared by the family, that old Elnathan
now rose from his seat by the chimney corner and went and opened the
door. A clear, soft voice, with the effect of distinctness without
preciseness, which betrays the cultured class, was heard by those
within, asking, "Is Captain Hamlin in the house?"
"Do ye mean Perez?" parleyed Elnathan.
"I b'leve he's somewheres raound. He's aout doin up the chores, I
callate. Did ye wanter see him?"
"If you please."
"Wal, come in won't ye, an sid down, an I'll go aout arter him," said
Elnathan, backing in and making way for the guest to enter.
"It's the Edwards gal," he continued, in a feebly introductory manner,
as Desire entered.
Mrs. Hamlin hastily let down her sleeves, and glanced, a little
shamefacedly, at her linsey-woolsey short gown and coarse petticoat,
and then about the room, which was a good deal cluttered up, and small
blame to her, considering the sudden increase of her household cares.
But it was, nevertheless, with native dignity that she greeted her
guest and set her a chair, not allowing herself to be put out by the
rather fastidious way in which Desire held up her skirts.
"Sid down," said Elnathan "an be kinder neighborly. She wants to see
Perez, mother. I dunno what baout, I'm sure. Ef he's a milkin naow I
s'pose I kin spell him so's he kin come in an see what she's a wantin
of him," and the old man shuffled out the back door.
Desire sat down, calm and composed outwardly, but tingling in every
particle of her body with a revulsion of taste at the vulgarity of the
atmosphere, which almost amounted to nausea. But it may be doubted if
her dainty attire, her air of distinction, and the refined delicacy of
her flower-like face, had ever appeared to more advantage than as she
sat, inwardly fuming, on that rude chair, in that rude room, amid its
more or less clownish inmates. Prudence was very red in the face, and
confused. As housemaid in Mr. Woodbridge's family, she knew Desire
well, and felt a certain sort of responsibility for her on that
account. She did not know whether she ought to go and speak to her
now, though Desire took no notice of her. Reuben also had risen from
his chair as she came in, and still stood awkwardly leaning on the
back of it, not seeming sure if he ought to sit down again or not.
Fennell, too sick to care, was the only self-possessed person in the
room. It was a relief to all when the noise of feet at the door
indicated the return of Elnathan with Perez, but the running
explanations of the former which his senile treble made quite audible
through the door, were less reassuring.
"Can't make aout what in time she wants on ye. Mebbe she's tuk a shine
to ye, he, he, I dunno. Ye uster be allers arter her when ye wuz a
"Hush father, she'll hear," said Perez, and opening the door came into
Desire arose to her feet as he did so, and their eyes met. He would
have known her anywhere, in spite of the nine years since he had seen
her. The small oval of the sparkling gypsy face, the fine features, so
mobile and piquant, he instantly recognized from the portrait painted
in undying colors upon his youthful imagination.
"Are you Captain Hamlin?" she said.
"I hope you remember Perez Hamlin," he answered.
"I remember the name," she replied coldly. "I am told that you command
the--the men"--she was going to say mob--"in the village."
"I believe so," he answered. He was thinking that those red lips of
hers had once kissed his, that August morning when he stood on the
green, ready to march with the minute men.
"My Aunt Woodbridge is very sick. If your men make a noise again in
front of my uncle's house, she will die. I came to--to ask"--she had
to say it--"you to prevent it."
"I will prevent it," said Perez.
Desire dropped an almost imperceptible curtsey, raised the latch of
the door and went out.
All through the interview, even when she had overheard Elnathan's
confidences to Perez, at the door, her cheeks had not betrayed her by
a trace of unusual color, but now as she hurried home across the
fields, they burned with shame, and she fairly choked to think of the
vulgar familiarity to which she had submitted, and the abject attitude
she had assumed to this farmer's son. She remembered well enough that
childish kiss, and saw in his eyes that he remembered it. This
perception had added the last touch to her humiliation.
But Perez went out and wandered into the wood-lot and sat down on a
fallen tree, and stared a long time into vacancy with glowing eyes. He
had dreamed of Desire a thousand times during his long absence from
home, but since his return, so vehement had been the pressure of
domestic troubles, so rapid the rush of events, that he had not had
time to once think of her existence, up to the moment when she had
confronted him there in the kitchen, in a beauty at once the same, and
so much more rare, and rich and perfect, than that which had ruled his
Presently he went down to the tavern. The crowd of men and boys on the
green received him with quite an ovation. Shaking hands right and left
with the men, he went on to the tavern, and finding Abner smoking on
the bench outside the door, drew him aside and asked him to see that
there was no demonstration in front of Woodbridge's that evening.
Abner grumbled a little.
"O' course I'm sorry for the woman, if she's sick, but they never
showed no considerashun fer our feelin's, an I don' see wy we sh'd be
so durn tender o' theirn. I shouldn't be naow, arter they'd treated a
brother o' mine ez they hev Reub. But ye be cap'n, Perez, an it shel
be ez ye say. The boys kin try ther fiddles on Squire Edwards instid."
"No. Not there, Abner," said Perez, quickly.
"Wy not, I sh'd like ter know. His wife ain't sick, be she?"
"No, that is I don't know," said Perez, his face flushing a little
with the difficulty of at once thinking of any plausible reason. "You
see," he finally found words to say, "the store is so near Squire
Woodbridge's, that the noise might disturb Madam Woodbridge."
"She muss hev dum sharp ears, ef she kin hear much at that distance,"
observed Abner, "but it shell be as ye say, Cap'n. I s'pose ye've
nothin agin our givin Sheriff Seymour a little mewsick."
"As much as you please, Abner."
A PRAISE MEETING
As a fever awakes to virulent activity the germs of disease in the
body, so revolution in the political system develops the latent
elements of anarchy. It is a test of the condition of the system. The
same political shock which throws an ill-constituted and unsound
government into a condition of chaos, is felt in a politically
vigorous and healthful commonwealth, as only a slight disturbance of
the ordinary functions. The promptness with which the village of
Stockbridge relapsed into its ordinary mode of life after the revolt
and revolution of Tuesday, was striking testimony to the soundness and
vitality which a democratic form of government and a popular sense of
responsibility impart to a body politic. On Tuesday the armed uprising
of the people had taken place; on Wednesday there was considerable
effervescence of spirits, though no violence; on Thursday there was
still a number of loutish fellows loafing about the streets, wearing,
however, an appearance of being disappointed that there was no more
excitement, and no prospect of anything special turning up. Friday and
Saturday, apparently disgusted at finding rebellion such a failure in
elements of recreation, these had gone back to their farm-work and
chores, and the village had returned to its normal quiet without even
any more serenades to the silk stockings, to enliven the evenings.
A foreigner, who had chanced to be passing through Southern Berkshire
at this time, would have deemed an informant practicing on his
credulity who should have assured him that everywhere throughout these
quiet and industrious communities, the entire governmental machinery
was prostrate, that not a local magistrate undertook to sit, not a
constable ventured to attempt an arrest, not a sheriff dared to serve
a process or make an execution, or a tax-collector distrain for taxes.
And yet such was the sober truth, for Stockbridge was in no respect
peculiarly situated, and in many of the towns around, especially in
Sheffield, Egremont, Great Barrington, and Sandisfield, an even larger
proportion of the people were open sympathizers with the rebellion
than in the former village.
In these modern days, restaurants, barrooms, and saloons, and similar
places of resort, are chiefly thronged on Saturday evening, when the
labors of the week being ended, the worker, in whatever field, finds
himself at once in need of convivial relaxation, and disposed thereto
by the exhilaration of a prospective holiday. Necessarily, however,
Saturday evening could not be thus celebrated in a community which
regarded it in the light of holy time, and, accordingly in Stockbridge,
as elsewhere in New England at that day, Friday and Sunday evenings
were by way of eminence the convivial occasions of the week. One of
the consequences of this arrangement was that a "blue Saturday" as
well as the modern "blue Monday," found place in the workingman's
calendar. But the voice of the temperance lecturer was not yet heard
in the land, and headaches were still looked upon as Providential
The Friday following the "goings on at Barrington," the tavern was
filled by about the same crowd which had been present the Friday
evening preceding, and of whose conversation on that occasion, some
account was given. But the temper of the gathering a week before had
been gloomy, foreboding, hopeless and well-nigh desperate; to-night,
it was jubilant.
"It's the Lord's doin's, an marvellous in our eyes, an that's all I
kin say about it," declared Israel Goodrich, his rosy face beaming
with benevolent satisfaction, beneath its crown of white hair. "Jess
think whar we wuz a week ago, an whar we be naow. By gosh who'd a
thought it? If one on ye had a tole me las' Friday night, what was a
comin raound inside of a week, I should a said he wuz stark starin
"We mout a knowed somethin wuz a gonter happin," said Abner. "It's
allers darkest jess afore dawn, an 'twas dark nuff tew cut las'
"I declar for't," said Peleg Bidwell, "seem's though I never did feel
quite so down-hearted like ez I did las' Friday night, wen we wuz a
talkin it over. I'd hed a bad day on't. Sol Gleason'd been a sassin of
me, an I dassn't say a word, fer fear he'd send me to jail, fer owin
him, an wen I got home She wuz a cryin, fer Gleason'd been thar, an I
dunno what he'd said tew her, and then Klector Williams he told me
he'd hev tew sell the furnicher fer taxes, an by gosh, takin the hull
together seemed 's though thar warn't no place fer a poor man in this
ere world, and I didn' keer ef I lived much longer or not. An naow!
Wal thay ain't no use o' tellin ye what ye know. I seen Gleason on the
street yisday, an he looked like a whipped cur. He hed his tail atween
his legs, I tell yew. I reckon he thort I wuz gonter lick him. It wuz
'Good mornin, Peleg,' ez sweet's sugar, an he didn't hev nothing tew
say baout what I wuz a owin him, no; nor he didn't ass me nothin baout
wy I hedn't been tew work fer him sence Tewsday."
After the haw-haw over Peleg's description had subsided, he added,
with a grin,
"Klector Williams he hain't thort tew call baout them taxes, sence
Tewsday, nuther. Hev any on ye seen nothin on him?"
"He hain't skurcely been outer his haouse," said Obadiah Weeks. "I
on'y see him onct. It was arter dark, an he wuz a slippin over't the
store arter his tod."
"I guess it muss be considabul like a funeral over't the store,
nights," observed Abner, grinning. "Gosh I sh'd like ter peek in an
see em a talkin on it over. Wal, turn about's fair play. They don'
feel no wuss nor we did."
"Won't thar be no more klectin taxes?" inquired Laban Jones.
"I guess thar won't be much more klectin roun' here 'nless the klector
hez a couple o' rigiments o' melishy tew help him dew it," replied
"I dunno, baout that," said Ezra Phelps. "Thar's more'n one way ter
skin a cat."
"Thar ain't no way o' skinnin this ere cat 'cept with bagonets," said
Abner, decidedly, and a general murmur expressed the opinion that so
far as the present company was concerned government would have to
practice some preliminary phlebotomy on their persons before they would
submit to any further bleeding of their purses by the tax-collector.
Nothing pleased Ezra more than to get placed thus argumentatively at
bay, with the entire company against him, and then discomfit them all
at a stroke. The general expression of dissent with which his previous
remark was received, seemed actually to please him. He stood looking
at Abner for a moment, without speaking, a complacent smile just
curving his lips, and the sparkle of the intellectual combatant in
his eye. To persons of Ezra's disputatious and speculative temper,
such moments, in which they gloat over their victim as he stands within
the very jaws of the logic trap which they are about to spring, are
no doubt, the most delightful of life.
"Don't yew be in sech a hurry, Abner," he finally ejaculated. "Would
ye mind payin yer taxes ef govment giv ye the money ter pay em with?"
"No. In course I wouldn't."
"Ezzackly. Course ye wouldn't. Ye'd be dum unreas'nable ef ye did.
Wal, naow I callate that air's jess what govment's gonter dew, ez soon
ez it gits the news from Northampton and Barrington. It's gonter print
a stack o' bills, an git em inter cirk'lashun, an then we'll all on us
hev suthin tew pay fer taxes, an not mind it a bit; yis, an pay all
the debts that's a owin, tew."
"I hain't no objeckshun ter that," admitted Abner, frankly.
"Of course ye hain't," said Ezra. "Nobody hain't. Ye see ye spoke tew
quick, Abner. All the kentry wants is bills, a hull slew on em, lots
on em, an then the courts kin go on, an debts an taxes kin be paid, an
everything'll be all right. I ain't one o' them ez goes agin' payin
debts an taxes. I says let em be paid, ev'ry shillin, on'y let govment
print nuff bills fer folks tew pay em with."
"I callate a couple o' wagon loads o' new bills would pay orf ev'ry
morgidge, an mos' o' the debts, in Berkshire," said Israel,
"Sartinly, sartinly," exclaimed Ezra. "That would be plenty. It don'
cost nothin tew print em, an they'd pacify this ere caounty a dum
sight quicker nor no two rigiments, nor no ten, nuther."
"That air's what I believe in," said Israel, beamingly, "peaceable
ways o' settlin the trouble; bills instid o' bagonets. The beauty on't
so fer is that thar hain't been no sheddin o' blood, nor no vi'lence
tew speak of, ceppin a leetle shovin daown tew Barrington, an I hope
thar won't be."
"I don't know about that," said Paul Hubbard. "Not that I want to see
any killing, but there are some silk stockings in this here town that
would look mighty well sticking through the stocks, an there are some
white skins that ought to know how a whip feels, jist so the men that
own em might see how the medicine tastes they've been giving us so
There was a general murmur indicating approval of this sentiment, and
several "that's sos" were heard, but Israel said, as he patted Hubbard
paternally on the back:
"Let bygones be bygones, Paul. Them things be all over naow, an I
callate thar won't be no more busin of poor folks. The lyin an the
lamb be a gonter lie down together arter this, 'cordin tew scripter. I
declar, it seems jiss like the good ole times 'long from '74 to '80,
wen thar warn't no courts in Berkshire. Wen I wuz a tellin ye baout
them times 'tother night, I swow I didn't callate ye'd ever have a
chance to see em fer yerselves, leastways, not till ye got ter Heavin,
an I guess that's a slim chance with most on ye. Jess think on't,
boys. Thar ain't been nary sheriff's sale, nor a man tuk ter jail this
"Iry Seymour wuz a gonter sell aout Elnathan Hamlin this week, but
somehow he hain't got tew it," said Abner, dryly. "I callate he heard
some news from Barrington baout Tuesday."
"Iry mout's well give up his comishin ez depity sheriff an try ter git
inter some honest trade," remarked Israel.
"Whar does Squire Woodbridge keep hisself these days? I hain't seen
him skurcely this week," said Ezra Phelps.
"Yew don' genally see much of a rooster the week arter another
rooster's gin him a darnation lickin on his own dung hill, an that's
wat's the matter with Squire," replied Abner. Shifting his quid of
tobacco to the other side of the mouth and expectorating across half
the room into the chimney place he continued, reflectively:
"By gosh, I don' blame him, nuther. It muss come kinder tough fer a
feller ez hez lorded it over Stockbridge fer nigh twenty year tew git
put daown afore the hull village the way Perez put him daown Tuesday.
Ef I wuz Squire, I shouldn't never wan ter show myself agin roun'
"I be kinder sorry fer him," said Israel Goodrich. "I declar for't if
I ain't. It muss be kinder tough tew git took daown so, specially fer
sech a dreffle proud man."
"I hain't sot eyes on him on'y once sence Tewsday," said Peleg. "He
looked right straight through me 'z ef he didn' see nothin. He didn'
seem ter notice nobody ez he went along the street."
"By gosh, he'd notice ye quick nuff ef he could put ye in the stocks,"
observed Abner, grimly. "I tell yew he ain't furgut one on us that
went daown ter Barrington, nor one on us ez wuz a serenadin him
t'other night. Yew jess let Squire git his grip onto this ere taown
agin ez he uster hev it an the constable an the whippin post won't hev
no rest till he's paid orf his grudge agin' every one on us. An ef yew
dunno that, yew dunno Squire Woodbridge."
The silence which followed indicated that the hearers did know the
Squire well enough to appreciate the force of Abner's remarks, and
that the contingencies which they suggested were inducive of serious
reflections. It was Jabez Flint, the Tory, who effected a diversion by
"Yes, ef Squire gits his grip agin, some on us will git darnation sore
backs, but he's lost it, an he ain't a gonter git it agin ez long ez
we fellers keeps ourn. On'y 'twont dew ter hev no foolin, tain't no
child's play we're at."
"I know one thing dum well" said Obadiah Weeks, "and that is I wouldn'
like tew be in Cap'n Hamlin's shoes ef Squire sh'd git top agin.
Jehosaphat, though, wouldn' he jess go fer the Cap'n. I guess he'd
give him ten lashes ev'ry day fer a month an make him set in the
stocks with pepper 'n salt rubbed in his back 'tween times, an then
hev him hung ter wind up with, an he wouldn' be half sassified then."
"Warn't that the gol-darndest though, baout that Edwards gal agoin tew
ass Perez to git the mewsic stopped? By gosh, I can't git over that,"
exclaimed Peleg, grinning from ear to ear. "I was a lyin awake las'
night and I got ter thinkin bout it, an I begun snickering so's She
waked up, and She says, 'Peleg,' seshee 'what in time be yew a
snickerin at?' and I says I wuz a snickerin tew think o' that air
stuck up leetle gal o' Squire Edwards daown on her knees tew Perez, a
cryin an a assin him ef he wouldn' please hev the racket stopped. Yew
sed she wuz ontew her knees, didn't yew, Obadiah?"
"Tell us all about it Obadiah, we wanter hear it agin," was the
"Ye see the way on't wuz this," said Obadiah, nothing loath. "She come
in all a cryin an scairt like, and Perez he wuz thar an so wuz the
res' o' the family, an the fuss thing she does, she gits down on the
floor intew the sand with a new silk gown she hed on, and asses Perez
to hev the hoss-fiddles stopped. An he said t'er fuss, as haow he
wouldn't, said 'twas good nuff fur the silk stockings, and he pinted
ter Reub an says for her tew see what they'd done ter his family. But
she cried an tuck on, an says ez haow she wouldn't git up 'nless he'd
stop the hoss-fiddles, an so he hed tew give in, an that's all I knows
"Ye see Obadiah knows all baout it," said Abner. "He keeps kumpny with
the Fennell gal, as is tew the Hamlins. He got it straight's a string,
didn't ye, Obadiah?"
"Yes," said Obadiah, "it's all jess so. Thar ain't no mistake."
No incident of the insurrection had taken such hold on the popular
imagination as the appeal of Desire Edwards to Perez for protection.
It was immensely flattering to the vanity of the mob, as typifying the
state of terror to which the aristocrats had been reduced, and all the
louts in town felt an inch the taller, by reason of it, and walked
with an additional swagger. The demand for the details of the scene
between Perez and Desire was insatiable and Obadiah was called on
twenty times a day to relate to gaping, grinning audiences just how
she looked, what she did, and said, and what Perez said. The fact that
Obadiah's positive information on the subject was limited to a few
words that Prudence had dropped, made it necessary for him to depend
largely on his imagination to satisfy the demands of his auditors,
which accounts for the slight discrepancy between the actual facts as
known to the reader and the popular version. After everybody had haw
hawed and cracked his joke over Obadiah's last repetition of the
anecdote, Peleg observed:
"I dunno's az a feller kin blame Perez fer givin intew her. The gal's
derned hansum, though she be mos' too black complected."
"She ain't none tew black, not to my thinkin," said Widow Bingham,
looking up from her knitting as she sat behind the bar,--the widow
herself was a buxom brunette--"but I never did see anybuddy kerry ther
nose quite so high in all my born days. She don't pay no more 'tension
to common folks 'n if they wuz dirt under her feet."
"Whar's Meshech Little, ter night?" inquired Israel Goodrich, not so
much interested as the younger men in the points of young women.
"He's been drunk all day," said Obadiah, who always knew everything
that was going on.
"Whar'd he git the money?" asked some one.
"Meshech don' need no money tew git drunk," said Abner. "He's got a
thirst ontew him as'll draw liquor aout a cask a rod orf, an the bung
in, jess like the clouds draws water on a hot day. He don' need no
money, Meshech don' tew git soaked."
"He hed some, he hed a shillin howsumever," said Obadiah. "Deacon Nash
give it tew him fer pitchin rowen."
"I hain't been so tickled in ten year," said Israel, "ez I wuz wen
Deacon come roun tidday a offerin a shillin lawful tew the fellers tew
git in his rowen fer him. It must hev been like pullin teeth fer
Deacon tew pay aout cash fer work seein ez he's made his debtors dew
all his farmin fer him this five year, but he hed tew come tew 't, fer
his rowen wuz a spilin, an nary one o' his debtors would lif a finger
'thout bein paid for 't."
"That air shillin o' Meshech's is the fuss money o' his'n I've seen
fer flip in more'n a year," said Widow Bingham, "an thar be them, not
a thousan mile from here, nuther, ez I could say the same on, more
shame to em, for't, an I a lone widder."
The line of remark adopted by the widow, appeared to exert a
depressing influence on the spirits of the company, and this, together
with the information volunteered by Obadiah, that it was "arter nine,"
presently caused a general break-up.
PEREZ GOES TO MEETING
The very next day, as Squire Edwards and his family were sitting down
to dinner, the eldest son Jonathan, a fine young fellow of sixteen,
came in late with a blacked eye and torn clothes.
"My son," said Squire Edwards, sternly, "why do you come to the table
in such a condition? What have you been doing?"
"I've been fighting Obadiah Weeks, sir, and I whipped him, too."
"And I shall whip you, sir, and soundly," said his father, with the
Jove-like frown of the eighteenth century parent. "What have I told
you about fighting? Go to your room, and wait for me there. You will
have no dinner."
The boy turned on his heel without a word, and went out and up to his
room. In the course of the afternoon, Squire Edwards was as good as
his word. When he had come downstairs, after the discharge of his
parental responsibilities, and gone into the store, Desire slipped up
to Jonathan's room with a substantial luncheon under her apron. He was
her favorite brother, and it was her habit thus surreptitiously to
temper justice with mercy on occasions like the present. The lively
satisfaction with which the youth hailed her appearance, gave ground
to the suspicion that an empty stomach had been causing him more
discomfort than a reproving conscience. As Desire was arranging the
viands on the table she expressed a hope that the paternal correction
had not been more painful than usual. The boy began to grin.
"Don't you fret about father's lickins," he said, "I'd just as lieve
he'd lick me all day if he'll give me a couple o' minutes to get ready
in. How many pair o' trowsers do you s'pose I've got on?"
"One, of course."
"Four," replied Jonathan, laying one forefinger by the side of his
nose and winking at his sister. "I was sort of sorry for father, he
got so tuckered trying to make me cry. Jimmeny, though, that veal pie
looks good. I should hated to have lost that. You was real good to
fetch it up.
"T'was only fair, though, this time," he continued, with his mouth
full, "for t'was on 'count o' you I got to fightin."
"What do you mean?" said she.
"Why, Obadiah's been tellin the biggest set o' lies about you I ever
heard of. He's been tellin em all over town. He said you went over to
Elnathan Hamlin's, Wednesday, and got down on your knees to that Cap'n
Hamlin, so's to get him not to have no more o' those horse-fiddles in
front of Uncle's and our houses. You better believe I walloped him
well, if he is bigger than me."
Jonathan, busy with eating, had not observed his sister's face during
this recital, but now he said, glancing up:
"What on earth do you s'pose put such a lie into his head?"
"It isn't all a lie, Jonathan."
The boy laid down his knife and fork, and stared at her aghast.
"You don't mean you was over there?" he exclaimed.
Desire's face was crimson to the roots of her hair. She bowed her
"Wh-a-a-t!" said Jonathan, in a tone of utter disgust, tempered only
by a remnant of incredulity.
"I didn't go on my knees to him," said Desire faintly.
"Oh, you didn't, didn't you? I believe you did," said the boy slowly,
with an accent of ineffable scorn, rising to his feet and drawing away
from his sister, as she seemed about to approach him.
Before the lad of sixteen, his elder sister, who had carried him in
her arms as a baby, and been his teacher as a boy, stood like a
culprit, quite abject. Finally she said:
"I didn't do it for myself. I did it for Aunt Lucy. The doctor said it
would kill her if she was kept awake another night, and there was no
other way to stop the mob. And so I did it."
"Was that the way?" said the boy, evidently staggered by this
unexpected plea, and seeming quite at loss what to say.
"Yes," said Desire, rallying a little. "You might know it was. Do you
think I'd do it any other way? I couldn't see Aunty die, could I?"
"No-o, darn it. I s'pose not," replied Jonathan slowly, as if he were
not quite sure. His face wore a puzzled expression, the problem
offered by this conflict of ethical obligations with caste sentiment
being evidently too much for his boyish intellect. Evidently he had
not inherited his grandfather's metaphysical faculty. Finally, with an
air of being entirely posed, and losing interest in the subject, he
sat down on the edge of his bed and abruptly closed the interview by
"I'm going to take off some of these trowsers. They're too hot."
Desire discreetly went out.
The only point in the observance of Sunday by the forefathers of New
England, which is still generally practiced in these degenerate days,
namely, the duty of sleeping later than usual that morning, was
transgressed in at least one Stockbridge household on the Lord's Day
following. Captain Perez Hamlin was up betimes and busy about house
and barns. Since he had returned home he had taken the responsibility
of all the chores about the place from the enfeebled shoulders of his
father, besides supplying the place of man nurse to the invalids. This
morning he had risen earlier than usual because he wanted to do up all
the work before time for meeting.
It would have been easy for any one whose eye had followed him at his
work, to see that his mind was preoccupied. Now he would walk about
briskly, with head in the air, whistling as he went, or talking to the
horse and cow, and anon bursting out laughing at his own
absent-mindedness, as he found he had given the horse the cow's food,
or put the meal into the water bucket. And again you would have
certainly thought that he was fishing for the frogs at the bottom of
the well instead of drawing water, so long did he stand leaning over
the well-curb, before he bethought himself to loose his hold on the
rope and let the ponderous well-sweep bring up the bucket.
He had not seen Desire Edwards since the Wednesday afternoon when she
had called, but he knew he should see her at meeting. It was she who
was responsible for the daydreaming way in which he was going about
this morning, and for a good deal of previous daydreaming and night
dreaming, too, in the last few days. The analogy of the tender passion
to the chills and fever, had been borne out in his case by the usual
alternations of complacency and depression. He told himself, that since
he remembered so well his boyish courtship of her, she, too, doubtless
remembered it. A woman was even more likely than a man to remember such
things. Doubtless, she remembered too, that kiss she had given him. Her
coming to him to ask his protection for her aunt, if she remembered
those passages had some significance. She must have known that he would
also remember them, and surely that would have deterred her from
reopening their acquaintance had she found the reminiscences in
question disagreeable. He assured himself that had it been wholly
unpleasant for her to meet him, she would have been shrewd enough to
devise some other way of securing the purpose of her visit. She had
remained unmarried all the time of his absence, although she must have
had suitors. Perhaps--well if this conjecture sounded a little conceited,
be sure it was alternated with others self-depreciatory enough to
balance it. But I have no space or need to describe the familiar
process of architecture, by which with a perhaps for a keystone,
possibilities for pillars, and dreams for pinnacles, lovers are wont
to rear in a few idle hours, palaces outdazzling Aladdin's. I shall
more profitably give a word or two of explanation to another point.
Those familiar with the aristocratic constitution of New England
society at this period, will perhaps deem it strange that the social
gulf between the poor farmer's son, like Perez, and the daughter of one
of the most distinguished families in Berkshire, should not have sufficed
to deter the young man from indulging aspirations in that direction.
Perhaps, if he had grown up at home, such might have been the case,
despite his boyish fondness for the girl. But the army of the
revolution had been for its officers and more intelligent element, a
famous school of democratic ideas. Perez was only one of thousands,
who came home deeply imbued with principles of social equality;
principles, which, despite finely phrased manifestoes and declarations
of independence, were destined to work like a slow leaven for
generations yet, ere they transformed the oligarchical system of
colonial society, into the democracy of our day. It is true that, Paul
Hubbard, Abner, Peleg, Meshech, and the rest, had been like Perez in
the army, and yet the democratic impressions they had there received,
now that they had returned home, served only to exasperate them
against the pretensions of the superior class, without availing to
eradicate their inbred instincts of servility in the presence of the
very men they hated. Precisely this self-contemptuous recognition of
his own servile feeling, operating on a morose temper, was the key to
Hubbard's special bitterness toward the silk stockings. That Perez had
none of this peasant's instinct, must, after all, be partly ascribed
to the fact that his descent, by his mother's side, had been a
gentleman's, and as Reuben had taken after Elnathan, so Perez was his
mother's boy. He felt himself a gentleman, although a farmer's son.
The air of dainty remoteness and distinction, which invested Desire in
his imagination, was by virtue of her womanhood, solely, not as the
representative of a higher class. He was penniless, she was rich, but
to that sufficiently discouraging obstacle, no paralyzing sense of
caste inferiority was added, in his mind.
Despite the dilatory and absent-minded procedure of the young man, by
the time Prudence came out to call him in to the breakfast of fried
pork and johnny-cake, the chores were done, and afterwards he had only
to concern himself with his toilet. He stood a long time gazing
ruefully at his coat, so sadly threadbare and white in the seams. It
was his only one, and very old, but Prudence thought, when with a sigh
he finally drew it on, that she had never seen so fine a soldier, and,
indeed, the coat did look much better on than off, for a gallant
bearing will, to some extent, redeem the most dilapidated attire.
Reuben had grown stronger from day to day, and though still weak, it
was thought that he could well enough take care of George Fennell,
during the forenoon, and allow the rest of the family to go to
meeting. Perez had tinkered up the old cart, and contrived a harness
out of ropes, by which his own horse could be attached to it, the farm
horse having been long since sold off, and Mrs. Hamlin, who by reason
of infirmities, had long been debarred from the privileges of the
sanctuary, expected to be able by this means, to be present there this
morning, to offer up devout thanksgiving for the mercy which had so
wonderfully, in one week, restored her two sons to her.
It was half-past nine when the air was filled with a deep musical,
melancholy sound, which appeared to come from the hill north of the
village, where the meeting-house stood. It lasted, perhaps, five
seconds, beginning with a long crescendo, and quivering into silence
by an equally prolonged diminuendo. It was certainly an astonishing
sound but none of the family appeared in the least agitated, Elnathan
"Thar's the warnin blow, Perez, I guess ye better be thinkin baout
hitchin up." It were a pity indeed if the people of Stockbridge had
not by that time become familiar with the sound of the old Indian
conch-shell which since the mission church was founded at the first
settlement of the town had served instead of a meeting-house bell. It
may be well believed that strong lungs were the first requisite in
sextons of that day. When an hour later the same dreary wail filled
the valley once more with its weird echoes, the family was on its way
to meeting, Mrs. Hamlin and Elnathan in the cart, and Perez with
Prudence on foot. The congregation was now rapidly arriving from every
direction, and the road was full of people. There were men on
horseback with their wives sitting on a pillion behind, and clasping
the conjugal waistband for security, families in carts, and families
trudging afoot, while here and there the more pretentious members of
the congregation were seen in chaises.
The new meeting-house on the hill had been built during Perez'
absence, to supersede the old church on the green, with which his
childish associations were connected. It had been erected directly
after the close of the war and the effort in addition to the heavy
taxation then necessary for public purposes, was such a drain on the
resources of the town, as to have been a serious local aggravation of
the distress of the times. According to the rule in church building
religiously adhered to by the early New Englanders, the bleakest spot
within the town limits had been selected for the meetinghouse. It was
a white barn-shaped structure, fifty feet by sixty, with a steeple,
the pride of the whole countryside, sixty-two feet high, and tipped
with a brass rooster brought from Boston, by way of weather vane.
Perez and Prudence separating at the door went to the several places
which Puritan decorum assigned to those of the spinster and bachelor
condition respectively, the former going into the right hand gallery,
the other into the left, exceptions being however made in behalf of
the owners of the square pews, who enjoyed the privilege of having
their families with them in the house of God. Across the middle of the
end gallery Dr. Partridge's square pew extended, so that by no means
might the occupants of the two side galleries come within whispering
distance of each other.
Obadiah Weeks, Abe Konkapot and Abner, who was a a widower and classed
himself with bachelors, and a large number of other younger men whom
Perez recognized as belonging to the mob under his leadership on
Tuesday, were already in their seats. Fidgeting in unfamiliar boots
and shoes, and meek with plentifully greased and flatly plastered
hair, there was very little in the subdued aspect of these young men
to remind any one of the truculent rebels who a few days before had
shaken their bludgeons in the faces of the Honorable the Justices of
the Common Pleas. As Perez entered the seat with them, they recognized
him with sheepish grins, as much as to say, "We're all in the same
box," quite as the occupants of a prisoner's dock might receive a
fellow victim thrust in with them by the sheriff. Obadiah reached out
his clenched first with something in it, and Perez putting forth his
hand, received therein a lot of dried caraway seeds. "Thort mebbe ye
hadn't got no meetin seed," whispered Obadiah.
Owing to the fact that nine years absence from home had weaned him
somewhat from native customs, Perez had, in fact, forgotten to lay in
a supply of this inestimable simple, to the universal use of which by
our forefathers during religious service, may probably be ascribed
their endurance of Sabbatical and doctrinal rigors to which their
descendants are confessedly unequal. It is well known that their
knowledge of the medicinal uses of common herbs was far greater than
ours, and it was doubtless the discovery of some secret virtue, some
occult theological reaction, if I may so express myself, in the seeds
of the humble caraway, which led to the undeviating rule of furnishing
all the members of every family, from children to grey heads, with a
small quantity to be chewed in the mouth and mingled with the saliva
during attendance on the stated ordinances of the Gospel. Whatever may
be thought of this theory, the fact will not be called in question
that in the main, the relaxation of religious doctrine and Sabbath
observance in New England, has proceeded side by side with the decline
in the use of meetin seed.
In putting all the young men together in one gallery, it may be
thought that some risk was incurred of making that a quarter of
disturbance. But if the tithingman, with his argus-eyes and long rod
were not enough to insure propriety, the charming rows of maidens on
the seats of the gallery directly opposite could have been relied on
to complete the work. The galleries were very deep, and the distance
across the meeting house, from the front seat of one to that of the
other, was not over twenty-five feet. At this close range, reckoning
girls' eyes to have been about as effective then as they are now-a-days,
it may be readily inferred what havoc must have been wrought on the
bachelors' seats in the course of a two hour service. After being
exposed to such a fire all day, it was no wonder at all, quite apart
from other reasons, that on Sunday night the young men found their
ardor inflamed to a pitch at which an interview with the buxom
enslaver became a necessity.
The singers sat in the front seat of the galleries, the bass singers
in the front seat on the bachelors' side, the treble in the front seat
on the spinsters' side, and the alto and tenor singers in the wings of
the end gallery, separated by Dr. Partridge's pew. For, as in most New
England churches at this date, the "old way," of purely congregational
singing by "lining out," had given place to select choirs, an
innovation however, over which the elder part of the people still
groaned and croaked. On the back seats of the end gallery, behind the
tenors and altos respectively sat the negro freedmen and freedwomen,
the Pomps and Cudjos, the Dinahs and Blossoms. Sitting by Prudence,
among the treble singers, Perez noticed a young Indian girl of very
uncommon beauty, and refinement of features, her dark olive complexion
furnishing a most perfect foil to the blooming face of the white girl.
"Who's that girl by Prudence Fennell?" he whispered to Abe Konkapot,
who sat beside him. The young Indian's bronze face flushed darkly, as
"That's Lucretia Nimham."
Perez was about to make further inquiries, when it flashed on him that
this was the girl, whom Obadiah had jokingly alluded to as the reason
why Abe had lingered in Stockbridge, instead of moving out to York
State with his tribe. She certainly was a very sufficient reason for a
man's doing or not doing almost anything.
From his position in the gallery, Perez could look down on the main
body of the congregation below, and his cheek flushed with anger as he
saw his father and mother occupying one of the seats in the back part
of the room, in the locality considered least in honor, according to
the distinctions followed by the parish committee, in periodically
reseating the congregation, or "dignifying the seats," as the people
called it. Considerably nearer the pulpit, and in seats of
correspondingly greater dignity, he recognized Israel Goodrich and
Ezra Phelps, the two men of chiefest estate among the insurgents.
Directly under and before the pulpit, almost beneath it, in fact,
facing the people from behind a sort of railing, sat Deacon Nash. His
brother deacon, no less an one than Squire Timothy Edwards, has not
As he looked over the fast filling house, for he and Prudence had
arrived rather early, he met many eyes fixed curiously upon him.
Sometimes a whisper would pass along a seat, from person to person,
till one after another, the entire row had turned and stared intently
at him. It was fame.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER MEETING
There had been considerable discussion during the week as to whether
Squire Woodbridge, in view of the public humiliation which had been
put upon him, would expose himself to the curious gaze of the
community by coming to meeting the present Sunday. It had been the
more prevalent opinion that he would find in the low condition of Mrs.
Woodbridge, who was hovering between life and death, a reason which
would serve as an excuse for not "attending on the stated ordinances
of the gospel," the present Sabbath. But now from those whose position
enabled them to command a view of the front door of the meeting-house,
rose a sibilant whisper, distinct above the noise of boots and shoes
upon the uncarpeted aisles:
"Here he comes! Here comes Squire."
There were several gentlemen in Stockbridge who, by virtue of a
liberal profession or present or past official dignities, had a claim,
always rigorously enforced and scrupulously conceded, to the title of
Esquire, but when "_The_ Squire," was spoken of, it was always Jahleel
Woodbridge whom the speaker had in mind. Decidedly, those who thought
he would not dare to appear in public had mistaken his temper. His
face, always that of a full-blooded man, was redder than common, in
fact, contrasted with the white powder of his wig, it seemed almost
purple, but that was the only sign he gave that he was conscious of
the people's looks. He wore a long-skirted, straight-cut coat of fine
blue cloth with brass buttons; a brown waistcoat, and small clothes,
satin hose with ruffled white shirt and cuffs. Under one arm he
carried his three-cornered hat and under the other his gold-headed
cane, and walked with his usual firm, heavy, full-bodied step; the
step of a man who is not afraid of making a noise, and expects that
people will look at him. There was not the slightest deflection from
the old-time arrogance in the stiff carriage of the head and eyes, nor
anything whatever to show that he considered himself one jot or tittle
less the autocrat of Stockbridge, than on the Sunday a week ago.
Walking the whole length of the meeting-house, he opened the door of
the big square pew at the right hand of the pulpit, considered the
first in honor, and the only part of the interior of the meeting-house,
save the pulpit and sounding-board, which was painted. One by one the
numerous children who called him father, passed before him into the pew.
Then he closed the door and sat down facing the congregation, and slowly
and deliberately looked at the people. As his glance traveled steadily
along the lines of seats, the starers left off staring and looked down
abashed. After he had thus reviewed the seats below, he turned his eyes
upward and proceeded to scan the galleries with the same effect.
So strong was the impression made by this unruffled and authoritative
demeanor, that the people were fain to scratch their heads and look at
one another in vacant questioning, as if doubtful if they had not
dreamed all this, about the great man's being put down by Perez
Hamlin, insulted by the mob, and reduced even now to such
powerlessness that he owed the protection of his sick wife to the
favor of the threadbare Continental captain up there in the gallery.
To those conscious of having had a part in these doings, there was a
disagreeably vivid suggestion of the stocks and whipping post in the
Squire's haughty stare, against which even a sense of their numbers
failed to reassure them. Of course the revolt had gained far too great
headway to be now suppressed by anybody's personal prestige, by the
frowns and stares of any number of Squire Woodbridges, but,
nevertheless, the impression which even after the events of the last
week, he was still able to make upon the people, by his mere manner,
was striking testimony to their inveterate habit of awe toward him, as
the embodiment of secular authority in their midst.
Perez had been too long absent from home, and differed too much in
habits of thought, to fully understand the sentiments of the peasants
round him for the Squire, and in truth his attention was diverted from
that gentleman ere he had time to fully observe the effect of his
entrance. For he had scarcely reached his pew, when Squire and Deacon
Timothy Edwards came up the aisle, followed by his family. Desire wore
a blue silk skirt and close-fitting bodice, with a white lace kerchief
tucked in about her shoulders, and the same blue plumed hat of soft
Leghorn straw, in which we have seen her before, the wide brim falling
lower on one side than the other, over her dark curls. As she swept up
the aisle between the rows of farmers and farmers' wives, the contrast
between their coarse, ill-fitting and sad-colored homespun, and her
rich and tasteful robes, was not more striking than the difference
between the delicate distinction of her features and their hard, rough
faces, weather-beaten and wrinkled with toil and exposure, or sallow
and hollow cheeked with care and trouble. She looked like one of a
different order of beings, and indeed, it is nothing more than truth
to say that such was exactly the opinion which Miss Desire herself
entertained. The eyes of admiration with which the girls leaning over
the gallery followed her up the aisle, were quite without a spark of
jealousy, for they knew that their rustic sweethearts would no more
think of loving her than of wasting their passion on the moon. She was
meat for their betters, for some great gentleman from New York or
Boston, all in lace and ruffles, some judge or senator, or, greater
still, maybe some minister.
To tell the whole truth, however, the admiring attention which her own
sex accorded to Desire on Sundays, was rather owing to the ever
varying attractions of her toilet, than to her personal charms. If any
of the damsels of Stockbridge who went to bed without their supper
Sunday night, because they couldn't remember the text of the sermon,
had been allowed to substitute an account of Desire Edwards' toilet,
it is certain they would not have missed an item. It was the chief
boast of Mercy Scott, the Stockbridge seamstress, that Desire trusted
her new gowns to her instead of sending to New York for them. From the
glow of pride and importance on Miss Mercy's rather dried-up features,
when Desire wore a new gown for the first time to church, it was
perfectly evident that she looked upon herself as the contributor of
the central feature of the day's services. At the quilting and apple
paring bees held about the time of such a new gown, Miss Mercy was the
center of interest, and no other gossip was started till she had
completed her confidences as to the material, cost, cut and fit of the
foreshadowed garment. It was with glistening eyes and fingers that forgot
their needles, that these wives and daughters of poor hard-working
farmers, drank in the details about rich eastern silks and fabrics of
gorgeous tints and airy textures, their own coarse, butternut homespun
quite forgotten in imagined splendors. In their rapt attention there
was no tinge of envy, for such things were too far above their reach
to be once thought of in connection with themselves. It was upon the
fit of Desire's dresses, however, that Miss Mercy, with the instinct
of the artist, grew most impassioned.
"'Tain't no credit to me a fittin her," she would sometimes protest.
"Thar's some figgers you can't fetch cloth tew, nohow. But, deary me,
lands sakes alive, the cloth seems tew love her, it clings to her so
nateral. An tain't no wonder ef it doos. I never see sech a figger.
Why her----." But Miss Mercy's audiences at such times were
exclusively composed of ladies. She had no inflamable masculine
imaginations to consider.
It was a very noticeable circumstance on the present Sunday, that all
the persons in the meeting-house who looked at Desire as she walked up
the aisle, proceeded immediately afterwards to screw around their
necks and stare at Perez, thereby betraying that the sight of the one
had immediately suggested the other to their minds.
The Edwards seat was the second in dignity in the meeting-house, being
the one on the left of the pulpit, and ranking with that of the
Sedgwicks, although as between the several leading pews the
distinction was not considered so decided as to be odious. Having
ushered his family to their place, Squire Edwards took his own
official seat as deacon, beside Deacon Nash, behind the railing, below
the pulpit and facing the people.
And now Parson West comes up the aisle in flowing gown and bands, his
three-cornered hat under his arm, and climbs the steps into the lofty
pulpit, sets the hour glass up in view, and the service begins. There
is singing, a short prayer, and again singing, and then the entire
congregation rises, the seats are fastened up that none may sit, and
the long prayer begins, and goes on and on for nearly an hour. Then
there is another psalm, and then the sermon begins. Up at Pittsfield
to-day, you may be very sure that Parson Allen is giving his people a
rousing discourse on the times, wherein the sin of rebellion is
treated without gloves, and the duty of citizens to submit to the
powers that be, and to maintain lawful authority even to the shedding
of blood, are vigorously set forth. But Parson West is not a political
parson, and there is not a word in his sermon which his hearers,
watchful for anything of the kind, can construe into a reference to
the existing events of the past week. It is his practice to keep
several sermons on hand, and this might just as well have been
prepared a thousand years before. It was upon the subject of the
deplorable consequences of neglecting the baptism of infants.
If a parent truly gave up a child in baptism, it would be accepted and
saved, whether it died in infancy or lived to pass through the mental
exercises of an adult convert. But on the other hand, if that duty was
purposely neglected, or if baptism was unaccompanied by a proper frame
of mind in the parent, there was no reason or hint from revelation to
believe that the child was saved. Considering that the infant was
justly liable to eternal suffering on account of Adam's sin, it was
impossible for the human mind to see how God could be just and yet the
justifier of an unbaptized infant. But it was not for the human mind
to limit infinite mercy and wisdom, and possibly in His secret
councils God had devised a way of salvation even for so desperate a
case. So that while hope was not absolutely forbidden to parents who
had neglected the baptism of their infants, confidence would be most
wicked and presumptuous.
Deacon Edwards fidgeted on his seat at the laxity of this doctrine as
well might the son of Jonathan Edwards, and Deacon Nash, who inherited
his Calvinism from a father who had moved from Westfield to
Stockbridge for the express purpose of sitting under that renowned
divine, seemed equally uncomfortable. Parson West, as a young man, had
been notoriously affected with Arminian leanings, and although his
conversion to Calvinism by Dr. Hopkins of Great Barrington, had been
deemed a wonderful work of grace, a tendency to sacrifice the logical
development of doctrines to the weak suggestions of the flesh, was
constantly cropping out in his sermons, to the frequent grief and
scandal of the deacons.
At length the service was at an end and the hum and buzz of voices
rose from all parts of the house, as the people passing out of their
pews met and greeted each other in the aisles. The afternoon service
came in an hour and a half, and only those went home who lived close
at hand or could easily make the distances in their carriages. These
took with them such friends and acquaintances as they might invite.
Others of the congregation spent the brief nooning in the "noon-house,"
a shed near by, erected for this purpose. There, or on the meeting-house
steps, or maybe seated near by on the grass and using the stumps of
felled trees, with which it was studded, for tables, they discussed the
sermon as a relish to their lunches of doughnuts, cheese, pie and
gingerbread. To converse on any other than religious subjects on the
Sabbath, was a sin and a scandal which exposed the offender to church
discipline, but in a public emergency like the present, when rebellion
was rampant throughout the county, it was impossible that political
affairs should not preoccupy the most pious minds. Talk of them the
people must and did, of the stopping of the courts, the breaking of the
jails, of Squire Woodbridge and Perez Hamlin, of the news from the other
counties, and of what would next take place, but it was amusing to see
the ingenious manner by which the speakers contrived to compound with
their consciences and prevent scandal by giving a pious twist and a
Sabbatical intonation to their sentences.
Among the younger people, as might be expected, there was less of this
affectation. They were all discussing with eager interest something
which had just happened.
"Wal, all I say is I don't want to be a lady if it makes folks so
crewel an so deceitful as that," said Submit Goodrich, a black-eyed,
bright cheeked wench, old Israel's youngest daughter. "To think o' her
pretendin not to know him, right afore all the folks, and she on her
knees to him a cryin only four days ago. I don't care if she is Squire
Edwards' gal, I hain't got no opinyun o' such doin's."
Most of the girls agreed with Submit, but some of the young men were
inclined to laugh at Perez, saying it was good enough for him, and
that he who was nothing more than a farmer like the rest of them was
served right for trying to push in among the big folks.
"I s'pose she's dretful riled to think it's all 'round bout her goin
over to the Hamlins las' week an she thort she'd jess let folks see
she was as proud as ever. Land! How red he was! I felt reel bad for
him, and such a nice bow ez he made, jess like any gentleman!"
"I callate Jerushy wouldn't a been so hard on him," jealously
snickered a young farmer sitting by the young woman who last spoke.
"No, I wouldn't," she said, turning sharply to him. "I s'pose ye thort
I wasn't no judge o' hansome men, cause I let you keep kumpny with
me." There was nothing more from that quarter.
But what is it they are talking about anyway? Why, simply this: In
front of the meeting-house, as they came out from the service, Perez
met Desire face to face. All the people were standing around, talking
and waiting to see the great folks get into their carriages to drive
home. Naturally, everybody looked with special interest to see the
meeting of these two whose names gossip had so constantly coupled
during the week. Jonathan was with Desire, and looked fiercely at
Perez, but his fierceness was quite wasted. Perez did not see him. He
took off his hat and bowed to her with an air of the most profound
respect. She gave not the faintest sign of recognition, even to the
dropping of an eyelid. The people had stopped talking and were
staring. The blood rushed to Perez' forehead.
"Good day, Miss Edwards," he said, firmly and distinctly, yet
respectfully, his hat still in his hand. Jonathan, in his indignation,
was as red as he, but Desire could not have appeared more unconscious
of being addressed had she been stone deaf as well as blind. In a
moment more she had passed on and entered the carriage, and the people
were left with something to talk about. Now, Captain Perez Hamlin had
gone to meeting that morning as much in love with Desire Edwards as
four days thinking of little else save a fair face and charming form
might be expected to leave a susceptible young man, particularly when
the manly passion is but the resurrection of an unforgotten love of
boyhood. He walked home somewhat more angry with the same young woman
than he could remember ever having been with anybody. If a benevolent
fairy had asked him his dearest wish just then, it would have been
that Desire Edwards might be transformed into a young gentleman for
about five minutes, in order that he might impart to him the
confoundedest thrashing that a young gentleman ever experienced, nor
did even the consciousness that no such transformation was possible,
prevent his fingers from tingling with a most ungallant aspiration to
box her small ears till they were as red as his own face had been at
the moment she cut him so coolly. For he was a very proud man, was
Captain Perez Hamlin, with a soldier's sensitiveness to personal
affronts, and none of that mean opinion of himself and his position in
society which helped the farmers around to bear with equanimity the
snubs of those they regarded as their natural superiors.
The father and mother had fortunately driven on before the scene took
place, and so at least he was spared the added exasperation of being
condoled with on arriving at home. Prudence had stayed to the
afternoon service. Toward twilight, as he was walking to and fro
behind the barn, and indulging an extremely unsanctified frame of
mind, she came to him and blurted out, breathlessly:
"All the girls think she was mean and wicked, and I'll never do any
more work for her or Mis Woodbridge either," and before he could
answer she had run back into the house with burning cheeks. He had
seen that her eyes were also full of tears. It was clear she had been
struggling hard between the pity which prompted her to tender some
form of consolation, and her fear of speaking to him.
The dreamy habit of the mind induced by love in its first stage, often
extends to the point of overspreading all the realities of life and
the circumstances of the individual, with a glamour, which for the
time being, disguises the hard and rigid outlines of fact. The painful
shock which had so sharply ended Perez' brief delusion, that Desire
might possibly accept his devotion, had at the same time roused him to
a recognition of the critical position of himself and his father's
family. What business had he or they lingering here in Stockbridge?
Yesterday, in the vague unpractical way in which hopeful lovers do all
their thinking he had thought they might remain indefinitely. Now he
saw that it would be tempting Providence to postpone any further the
carrying out of his original plan, of moving with them to New York
State. The present insurrection might last a longer or shorter time,
but there was no reason to think it would result in remedying the
already desperate financial condition of the family. The house was to
have been sold the past week, and doubtless would be as soon as
affairs were a little quieter. Reuben was, moreover, liable to re-arrest
and imprisonment on his old debt, and as for himself, he knew that his
life was forfeit to the gallows for the part he had taken in the
Once across the state line, however, they would be as safe as in
Europe, for the present Union of the states was not yet formed, and
the loose and nerveless bond of the old Federation, then in its last
stage of decrepitude, left the states practically foreign countries to
each other. His idea was then to get the family over into New York
without delay, with such remnants of the farm stock as could be got
together, and leaving them for the winter at New Lebanon, just the
other side the border, to go on himself, meanwhile, to the western
part of the state, to secure a farm in the new tracts being already
opened up in that rich region, and rapidly filling with settlers. For
the populating of the west, and New York was then the west, has gone
on by successive waves of emigration, set in motion by periodical
epochs of financial and industrial distress in the Atlantic states,
and the first of these impulses, the hard times following the
Revolution, was already sending thousands to seek new homes toward the
Busy with preparations for the start, he kept close at home during the
entire week following. Only once or twice did he even go down street,
and then on some errand. Obadiah dropped around frequently and looked
on as he worked, evidently having something on his mind. One twilight
as Perez was cutting wood for the evening fire, the young man came
into the back yard and opened conversation in this wise:
"Guess it's gonter rain."
"Looks a little like it," Perez assented.
Obadiah was silent a space, and ground the heel of his bare foot into
"D'you know what's good fer warts?" he finally asked. Perez said he
did not. After a pause, Obadiah remarked critically:
"Them bricks roun' the top o' the chimly be kinder loose, bean't
they?" They were, and Perez freely admitted as much. Obadiah looked
around for some other topic of conversation, but apparently finding
none, he picked up a stone and asked with affected carelessness, as he
jerked it toward the barn:
"Be ye a gonter take George Fennell 'long with ye?"
"No," said Perez. "He will not live long, I fear, and he can't be
moved. I suppose some of the people will take him and Prudence in,
when we go."
Obadiah said nothing, but from the change which instantly came over
his manner, it was evident that the information obtained with such
superfluous diplomacy was a prodigious relief to his mind. The
officiousness with which he urged a handful of chestnuts on Perez, and
even offered to carry in the wood for him, might moreover be construed
as indicating a desire to make amends to him for unjust suspicions
secretly cherished. As for asking Prudence directly whether she was
expecting to go away, that would have been a piece of hardihood of
which the bashful youth was quite incapable. If he could not have
ascertained her intentions otherwise than by such a desperate measure,
he would have waited till the Hamlins set out, and then been on hand
to see for himself whether she went or not.
AN AUCTION SALE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Squire Woodbridge had not failed to detect the first signs of decrease
in the ebullition of the popular mind after the revolt of Tuesday, and
when by Friday and Saturday the mob had apparently quite disappeared,
and the village had returned to its normal condition, he assured
himself that the rebellion was all over, and it only remained for him
and his colleagues cautiously to get hold of the reins again, and
then--then for the whip. For, the similitude under which the Squire
oftenest thought of the people of Stockbridge was that of a team of
horses which he was driving. There had been a little runaway, and he
had been pitched out on his head. Let him once get his grip on the
lines again, and the whip in his hand, and there should be some fine
dancing among the leaders, or his name was not Jahleel Woodbridge,
Esquire, and the whipping post on the green was nothing but a
He was in a hurry for two reasons to get the reins in his hands again.
In the first place, for the very natural and obvious reason that he
grudged every moment of immunity from punishment enjoyed by men who
had put him to such an open shame. The other and less obvious reason
was the expected return of Squire Sedgwick from Boston. Sedgwick had
been gone a week. He might be absent a week or two weeks more, but he
might return any day. One thing was evident to Jahleel Woodbridge.
Before this man returned, of whose growing and rival influence he had
already so much reason to be jealous, he must have put an end to
anarchy in Stockbridge, and once more stand at the head of its
government. Sedgwick had warned him of the explosive state of popular
feeling: he had resented that warning, and the event had proved his
rival right. The only thing now left him was to show Sedgwick that if
he had not been able to foresee the rebellion, he had been able to
suppress it. Nevertheless he would proceed cautiously.
The red flag of the sheriff had for some weeks waved from the gable
end of a small house on the main street, owned by a Baptist cobbler,
one David Joy. There were quite a number of Baptists among the Welsh
iron-workers at West Stockbridge, and some Methodists, but none of
either heresy save David in Stockbridge, which, with this exception
was, as a parish, a Congregational lamb without blemish. No wonder
then that David was a thorn in the side to the authorities of the
church, nor was he less despised by the common people. There was not a
drunken loafer in town who did not pride himself upon the fact that,
though he might be a drunkard, he was at least no Baptist, but
belonged to the "Standing Order." Meshech Little, himself, who
believed and practiced the doctrine of total immersion in rum, had no
charity for one who believed in total immersion in water.
The date which had been set for the sale of David's goods and house,
chanced to be the very Monday following the Sunday with whose
religious services and other events the previous chapters have been
concerned. It seemed to Squire Woodbridge that David's case would be
an excellent one with which to inaugurate once more the reign of law.
Owing to the social isolation and unpopularity of the man, the
proceedings against him would be likely to excite very little sympathy
or agitation of any kind, and having thus got the machinery of the law
once more into operation, it would be easy enough to proceed
thereafter, without fear or favor, against all classes of debtors and
evil-doers in the good old way. Moreover, it had long been the
intention of those having the interest of Zion at heart to "freeze
out" David by this very process, and to that end considerable
sanctified shrewdness had been expended in getting him into debt. So
that by enforcing the sale in his case, two birds would, so to speak,
be killed with one stone, and the political and spiritual interests of
the parish be coincidently furthered, making it altogether an
undertaking on which the blessing of Heaven might be reasonably looked
At three o'clock in the afternoon the sale took place. Everything
worked as the Squire had expected. It being the general popular
supposition that there were to be no more sheriffs' sales, there were
no persons present at the auction save the officers of the law and the
gentlemen who were to bid. Only here and there an astonished face
peered out of a window at the proceedings, and a knot of loafers, who
had been boozing away the afternoon, stood staring in the door of the
tavern. That was all. There was no crowd, and no attempt at
interruption. But the news that a man had been sold out for debt
spread fast, and by sunset, when the men and boys came home from their
farm-work or mechanical occupations, numerous groups of excited
talkers had gathered in the streets. There was a very full meeting
that night at the tavern.
"I declar for't," said Israel Goodrich, with an air of mingled
disappointment and wrath, "I be reel put aout, an disappinted like. I
dunno what tew make on't. I callated the trouble wuz all over, an
times wuz gonter be good and folks live kinder neighbourly 'thout no
more suein an jailin, an sellin aout, same ez long from '74 tew '80. I
reckoned sure nuff them times wuz come 'round agin, an here they've
gone an kicked the pot over, an the fat's in the fire agin, bad's
"Darn em. Gosh darn em, I say," exclaimed Abner. "Didn't they git our
idee what we wuz arter wen we stopped the courts? Did they think we
wuz a foolin baout it? That's what I want some feller tew tell me. Did
they think we wuz a foolin?"
Abner's usually good humoured face was darkly flushed, and there was
an ugly gleam in his eye as he spoke.
"We wuz so quiet like las' week, they callated we'd jess hed our fling
an got over it. I guess that wuz haow it wuz," said Peleg Bidwell.
"Did they think we'd been five year a gittin our dander up an would
git over it in a week?" demanded Abner, glaring round. "If t'wuz caze
we wuz tew quiet, we'll make racket nuff to suit em arter this, hey,
boys? If racket's the ony thing they kin understan, they shall hev a
"Israel thought it wuz kingdom come already," said Paul Hubbard, who
had hurried down from the iron-works with a gang of his myrmidons, on
receipt of the news. "He thought the silk stockings was goin to give
right in as sweet as sugar. Not by a darned sight. No sir. They ain't
going to let go so easy. They ain't none o' that sort. They mean to
have the old times back again, and they'll have em back, too, unless
you wake up and show em you're in earnest."
"Not yit awhile, by the everlastin Jocks," shouted Abner. "Ef thar's
any vartue in gunpowder them times shan't come back," and there was an
answering yell that shook the room.
"That's the talk, Abner. Give us yer paw," said Paul, delighted to
find the people working up to his own pitch of bitter and unrelenting
animosity against the gentlemen. "That's the talk, but it'll take
more'n talk. Look here men, three out of four of you have done enough
already to get a dozen lashes on his bare back, if the silk stockings
get on top again. It's all in a nutshell. If we don't keep them under
they'll keep us under. We've just got to take hold and raise the devil
with them. If we don't give them the devil, they'll give us the devil.
Take your choice. It's one or the other."
There was a chorus of exclamations.
"That's so." "By gosh we're in for't, an we might's well go ahead."
"Ye're right, Paul." "We'll git aout the hoss-fiddles an give em some
mewsic." "We'll raise devil nuff fer em ter night." "Come on fellers."
"Les give em a bonfire."
There was a general movement of the men out of the barroom, all
talking together, clamorously suggesting plans, or merely, as in the
case of the younger men and boys, venting their excitement in hoots
and catcalls. It was a close dark night, obscure enough to make
cowards brave, and the crowd that surged out of the tavern were by no
means cowards, but angry and resolute men, whose exasperation at the
action of the authorities, was sharpened and pointed by well-founded
apprehensions of the personal consequences to themselves which that
action threatened if not resisted. Some one's suggestion that they
should begin by putting David Joy and his family back into their
house, was received with acclamation and they were forthwith fetched
from a neighboring shed, under which they had encamped for the night,
and without much ceremony thrust into their former residence and
ordered to stay there. For though in this case David happened to be
identified with their own cause, it went against their grain to help a
"Now, boys, les go an see Iry Seymour," said Abner, and with a yell,
the crowd rushed off in the direction of the deputy sheriff's house.
Their blood was up, and it was perhaps well for that official that he
did not wait to be interviewed. As the crowd surged up before the
house, a man's figure was seen dimly flitting across the field behind,
having apparently emerged from the back door. There was a yell "There
goes Iry," and half the mob took after him, but, thanks to the
darkness, the nimble-footed sheriff made good his escape, and his
pursuers presently returned, breathless, but in high good humor over
the novel sport, protesting that they laughed so hard they couldn't
The only other important demonstration by the mob that evening, was
the tearing up of the fence in front of Squire Woodbridge's house and
the construction of an immense bonfire in the street out of the
fragments, the conflagration proceeding to the accompaniment of an
obligato on the horse-fiddles.
So it came to pass that, as sometimes happens in such cases, Squire
Woodbridge's first attempt to get the reins of the runaway team into
his hands, had the effect of startling the horses into a more headlong
gallop than ever.
If the events of the night, superadded to the armed revolt of the week
before, left any doubt in the most sanguine mind that the present
disturbances were no mere local and trifling irritations, but a
general rebellion, the news which was in the village early the
following morning, must have dispelled it. This news was that the week
before, an armed mob of several hundred had stopped the courts at
their meeting in Worcester and forced an adjournment for two months;
that the entire state, except the district close around Boston, was in
a ferment; that the people were everywhere arming and drilling and
fully determined that no more courts should sit till the distresses of
the times had been remedied. As yet the state authorities had taken no
action looking toward the suppression of the insurrection, in which,
indeed, the great majority of the population appeared actively or
sympathetically engaged. The messenger reported that in the lower
counties a sprig of hemlock in the hat, had been adopted as the badge
of the insurgents, and that the towns through which he had ridden
seemed to have fairly turned green, so universally did men, women and
children wear the hemlock. The news had not been an hour in
Stockbridge before every person on the streets had a bit of hemlock in
their hat or hair. I say every person upon the street, for those who
belonged to the anti-popular or court party, took good care to keep
within doors that morning.
"I'm glad to see the hemlock, agin," said Israel Goodrich. "The old
pine tree flag wuz a good flag to fight under. There wuz good blood
spilt under it in the old colony days. Thar wuz better times in this
'ere province o' Massachusetts Bay, under the pine tree flag, than
this dum Continental striped rag hez ever fetched, or ever will, I
The dismay which the news of the extent and apparent irresistibleness
of the rebellion produced among those attached to the court party in
Stockbridge, corresponded to the exultation to which the people gave
themselves up. Nor did the populace lose any time in giving expression
to their bolder temper by overt acts. About nine o'clock in the morning,
Deputy Sheriff Seymour, who had not ventured to return to his house,
was found concealed in the corn-bin of a barn near the burying-ground.
A crowd instantly collected and dragged the terrified man from his
concealment. Some one yelled:
"Ride him on a rail," and the suggestion finding an echo in the
popular breast, a three-cornered fence rail was thrust between his
legs, and lifted on men's shoulders. Astride of this sharp-backed
steed, holding on with his hands for dear life, lest he should fall
off and break his neck, he was carried, through the main streets of
the village, followed by a howling crowd, and pelted with apples by
the boys, while the windows of the houses along the way were full of
laughing women. Having graced the popular holiday by this involuntary
exhibition of himself, Seymour was let go without suffering any
further violence, the crowd appearing boisterously jocose rather than
embittered in temper. Master Hopkins, a young man who had recently
entered Squire Sedgwick's office to study law, was next pounced upon,
having indiscreetly ventured on the street, and treated to a similar
free ride, which was protracted until the youth purchased surcease by
consenting to wear a sprig of hemlock in his hat.
About the middle of the forenoon Squire Woodbridge, Deacon Nash, Dr.
Partridge, with Squire Edwards and several other gentlemen were
sitting in the back room of the store. It was a gloomy council.
Woodbridge quaffed his glass of rum in short, quick unenjoying gulps,
and said not a word. The others from time to time dropped a phrase or
two expressive of the worst apprehensions as to what the mob might do,
and entire discouragement as to the possibility of doing anything to
restrain them. Suddenly, young Jonathan Edwards, who was in the outer
room tending store, cried out:
"Father, the mob is coming. Shall I shut the door?"
Squire Edwards cried "Yes," and hastily went out to assist, but Dr.
Partridge, with more presence of mind than the others seemed to
possess at that moment, laid his hand on the storekeeper's arm,
"Better not shut the door. They will tear the house down if you do.
Resistance is out of the question."
In another moment a boisterous crowd of men, their faces flushed with
drink, all wearing sprigs of hemlock in their hats, came pouring up
the steps and filled the store, those who could not enter thronging
the piazza and grinning in at the windows. Edwards and the other
gentlemen stood at bay at the back end of the store, in front of the
liquor hogsheads. Their bearing was that of men who expected personal
violence, but in a justifiable agitation did not forget their personal
dignity. But the expression on the face of Abner, who was the leader
of the gang, was less one of exasperation than of sardonic humor.
"Good mornin," he said.
"Good morning, Abner," replied Edwards, propitiatingly.
"It's a good mornin and it's good news ez is come to taown. I s'pose
ye hearn it a' ready. I thort so. Ye look ez ef ye hed. But we didn'
come tew talk 'baout that. Thar wuz a leetle misunderstandin yisdy
'baout selling aout David. He ain't nothin but a skunk of a Baptis, an
ef Iry hed put him in the stocks or licked him 'twould a sarved him
right. But ye see some of the boys hev got a noshin agin heven any
more fellers sole aout fer debt, an we've been a explainin our idee to
Iry this mornin. I callate he's got it through his head, Iry hez. Ye
see ef neighbors be gonter live together peaceable they've jess got
ter unnerstan each other. What do yew s'pose Iry said? He said Squire
thar tole him to sell David aout. In course we didn' b'leeve that.
Squire ain't no gol darned fool, ez that would make him aout ter be.
He knowd the men ez stopped the courts las' week wouldn' be afeard o'
stoppin a sherriff. He knows the folks be in arnest 'baout hevin an
eend on sewin an sellin an sendin tew jail. Squire knows, an ye all
know that thar'll be fightin fore thar's any more sellin."
Abner had grown excited as he spoke, and the peculiar twinkle in his
eye had given place to a wrathy glare as he uttered the last words,
but this passed, and it was with his former sardonic grin that he
"But Iry didn' save his hide by tryin tew lay it orf ontew Squire an I
guess he won't try no more sellin aout right away, not ef Goramity
tole him tew."
"Yer gab's runnin away with yer. Git to yer p'int, Abner," said Peleg
"Lemme 'lone I'm comin 'roun," replied Abner. "Ye wuz over't the sale
yisdy, warn't ye, Squire?" he said, addressing Edwards.
"Wal, ye see, when we come tew put back David's folks intew the haouse
his woman missed the clock, and somebody said ez haow ye'd took et."
"I bid it in," said Edwards.
"I s'pose ye clean furgut t'wuz the on'y clock she hed," suggested
Abner with a bland air of accounting for the other's conduct on the
most favorable supposition.
Edwards, making no reply save to grow rather red, Abner continued:
"In course ye furgut it, that's what I tole the fellers, for ye
wouldn't go and take the on'y clock a poor man hed wen ye've got a
plenty, 'nless ye furgut. Ye see we knowed ye'd wanter send it right
back soon ez ye thort o' that, and so we jess called in for't,
callaten tew save ye the trouble."
"But--but I bought it," stammered Edwards.
"Sartin, sartin," said Abner. "Jess what I sed, ye bought it caze ye
clean furgut it wuz David's on'y one, an he poor an yew rich. Crypus!
Squire, ye hain't got no call tew explain it tew us. Ye see we knows
yer ways Squire. We knows how apt ye be tew furgit jiss that way. We
kin make allowances fer ye."
Edwards' forehead was crimson.
"There's the clock," he said, pointing to it where it lay on the
counter. Abner took it up and put it under his arm, saying:
"David 'll be 'bliged to ye, Squire, when I tell him how cheerful ye
sent it back. Some o' the fellers," he pursued with an affectation of
a confidential tone, "some o' the fellers said mebbe ye wouldn't send
it back cheerful. They said ye'd got no more compassion fer the poor
than a flint stun. They said, them fellers did, that ye'd never in yer
life let up on a man as owed ye, an would take a feller's last drop o'
blood sooner'n lose a penny debt. They said, them fellers did, that
yer hands, wite ez they looks, wuz red with the blood o' them that
ye'd sent to die in jail."
Abner's voice had risen to a tremendous crescendo of indignation, and
he seemed on the point of quite forgetting his ironical affectation,
when, with an effort which added to the effect, he checked himself and
resuming his former tone and grin, he added:
"I argyed with them fellers ez said them things bout ye. I tole em
haow it couldn't be so, caze ye wuz a deakin, an hed family prayers,
and could pray mos' ez long ez parson. But I couldn't do nothin with
em, they wuz so sot. Wy them fellers akchilly said ye took this ere
clock a knowin that it wuz David's on'y one, wen ye hed a plenty o'
yer own tew. Jess think o' that Squire. What a hoggish old hunks they
took ye fer, didn't they, naow?" Edwards glared at his tormentor with
a countenance red and white with speechless rage, but Abner appeared
as unconscious of anything peculiar in his manner as he did of the
snickers of the men behind him. Having concluded his remarks he
blandly bade the gentlemen good morning and left the store, followed
by his gang, the suppressed risibilities of the party finding
expression in long continued and uproarious laughter, as soon as they
reached the outer air. After leaving the store they called on all the
gentlemen who had bidden in anything at yesterday's sale, one after
another, and reclaimed every article and returned it to David.
If any of the court party had flattered themselves that this mob, like
that of the week before, would, after making an uproar for a day or
two, disappear and leave the community in quiet, they were destined to
disappointment. The popular exasperation and apprehension which the
Squire's ill-starred attempt to regain authority had produced, gave to
the elements of anarchy in the village a new cohesive force and
impulse, while, thanks to the news of the spread and success of the
rebellion elsewhere, the lawless were encouraged by entire confidence
of impunity. From this day, in fact, it might be said that anarchy was
organized in the village.
There were two main elements in the mob. One, the most dangerous, and
the real element of strength in it, was composed of a score or two of
men whom the stoppage of the courts had come too late to help. Their
property all gone, they had been reduced to the condition of loafers,
without stake in the community. Having no farms of their own to work
on, and the demand for laborers being limited, they had nothing to do
all day but to lounge around the tavern, drinking when they could get
drinks, sneering at the silk stockings, and debating how further to
discomfit them. The other element of the mob, the most mischievous,
although not so seriously formidable, was composed of boys and
half-grown youths, who less out of malice against the court party, than
out of mere love of frolic, availed themselves to the utmost of the
opportunity to play off pranks on the richer class of citizens. Bands
of them ranged the streets from twilight till midnight, robbing
orchards, building bonfires out of fences, opening barns and letting
the cows into the gardens, stealing the horses for midnight races,
afterwards leaving them to find their way home as they could, tying
strings across the streets to trip wayfarers up, stoning windows, and
generally making life a burden for their victims by an ingenious
variety of petty outrages. Nor were the persons even of the unpopular
class always spared. In the daytime it was tolerably safe for one of
them to go abroad, but after dark, let him beware of unripe apples and
overripe eggs. For the most part the silk stockings kept their houses
in the evening, as much for their own protection as for that of their
families, and the more prudent of them sat in the dark until bedtime,
owing to the fact that lighted windows were a favorite mark with the
The mob had dubbed itself "The Regulators," a title well enough
deserved, indeed, by the extent to which they undertook to reorganize
the property interests of the community. For the theory of the
reclamation of property carried out in the case of the goods of David
Joy, by no means stopped there. It was presently given an ex-post
facto application, and made to cover articles of property which had
changed hands at Sheriff's sales not only since but also previous to
the stoppage of the courts. Wherever, in fact, a horse or a cart, a
harness, a yoke of oxen or a piece of furniture had passed from the
ownership of a poor man to the possession of a rich man and one of the
court party, the original owner now reclaimed it, if so disposed, and
so effectual was the mob terrorism in the village that such a claim
was, generally, with better or worse grace yielded to.
Nor was the application of this doctrine of the restitution of all
things even confined to personal property. Many of the richer class of
citizens occupied houses acquired by harsh foreclosures since the
dearth of circulating medium had placed debtors at the mercy of
creditors. A few questions as to when they were thinking of moving
out, with an intimation that the neighbors were ready to assist them,
if it appeared necessary, was generally hint enough to secure a prompt
vacating of the premises, though now and then when the occupants were
unusually obstinate and refused to "take a joke" there were rather
rough proceedings. Among those thus ejected was Solomon Gleason, the
schoolmaster, who had been living in the house which George Fennel had
formerly owned. In this case, however, the house remained vacant,
George being too sick to be moved.
When Friday night came round again, there was a tremendous carouse at
the tavern, in the midst of which Widow Bingham, rendered desperate by
the demands for rum, demands which she did not dare to refuse for fear
of provoking the mob to gut her establishment, finally exclaimed:
"Why don' ye go over't the store an let Squire Edwards stan treat
awhile? What's the use o' making me dew it all? He's got better likker
nor I hev an more on't, an he ain't a poor lone widder nuther, without
noboddy ter stan up fer her," and the widow pointed her appeal by
beginning to cry, which, as she was a buxom well-favored woman, made a
decided impression on the crowd.
Abner, who was drunk as a king, instantly declared that "By the
everlastin Jehu" he'd break the head o' the "fuss dum Nimshi" that
asked for another drink, which brought the potations of the company to
a sudden check. Presently Meshech Little observed:
"Come long fellersh, lesh go t' the store. Whosh fraid? I ain't."
There was a chorus of thick-tongued protestations of equal valor, and
the crowd reeled out after Meshech. Abner was left alone with the
"I'm reel beholden to ye Abner Rathbun, fer stannin up fer me," said
she warmly, "an Seliny Bingham ain't one tew ferget a favor nuther."
"I'd a smashed the snout o' the fuss one on em ez assed fer more. I'd
a knocked his lights outer him, I don' keer who twuz," declared Abner,
his valor still further inflamed by the gratitude which sparkled from
the widow's fine eyes.
"Lemme mix ye a leetle rum 'n sugar, Abner. It'll dew ye good," said
the widow. "I hope ye didn' take none o' that to yerself what I said
tew the res' on em. I'm sure I don' grudge ye a drop ye've ever hed,
caze I know ye be a nice stiddy man, an I feels safer like wen ye be
raoun. Thar naow, jess try that an see ef it's mixed right."
Abner did try that, and more subsequently and sweet smiles and honeyed
words therewith, the upshot of all which was the tacit conclusion that
evening of a treaty of alliance, the tacitly understood conditions
being that Abner should stand by the widow and see she was not put
upon, in return for which the widow would see that he was not left
thirsty, and if this understanding was sealed with a kiss snatched by
one of the contracting parties as the other leaned too far over the
bar with the fourth tumbler of rum and sugar, why it was all the more
likely to be faithfully observed. That the widow was a fine woman
Abner had previously observed, but any natural feeling which this
observation might have excited had been kept in check by the
consciousness of a long unsettled score. The woman was merged in the
landlady, the sex in the creditor. Seeing that there is no more
ecstatic experience known to the soul than the melting of awe into a
tenderer sentiment, it will not be wondered at that Abner lingered
over his twofold inebriation till at nine o'clock the widow said that
she must really shut up the tavern.
His surprise was great on passing the store to see it still lit up,
and a crowd of men inside, while from the apartments occupied by the
Edwards family came the tinkling of Desire's piano. Going in, he found
the store filled with drunken men, and the back room crowded with
drinkers, whom young Jonathan Edwards was serving with liquor, while
the Squire was walking about with a worn and anxious face, seeing that
there was no stealing of his goods. As he saw Abner he said, making a
pitiable attempt to affect a little dignity:
"I've been treating the men to a little liquor, but it's rather late,
and I should like to get them out. You have some control over them, I
believe. May I ask you to send them out?"