Part 4 out of 6
In the pressure of the present emergency, the poor man appeared to
have forgotten the insults which Abner had heaped upon him a few days
before, and Abner himself, who was in high good humor, and really felt
almost sorry for the proud man before him, replied:
"Sartin, Sartin. I'll git em aout, but what's the peeanner agoin fer?"
"The men thought they would like to hear it, and my daughter was kind
enough to play a little for them," said Edwards, his face flushing
again, even after the mortifications of the evening, at the necessity
of thus confessing his powerlessness to resist the most insulting
demands of the rabble.
Abner passed through the door in the back room of the store, which
opened into the living-room, a richly carpeted apartment, with fine
oaken furniture imported from England. The parlor beyond was even more
expensively furnished and decorated. Flat on his back, in the middle
of the parlor carpet, was stretched Meshech Little, dead drunk. In
nearly every chair was a barefooted, coatless lout, drunk and snoring
with his hat over his eyes, and his legs stretched out, or vacantly
staring with open mouth at Desire, who, with a face like ashes and the
air of an automaton, was playing the piano.
PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS
On the day following, which was Saturday, at about three o'clock in
the afternoon, Perez Hamlin was at work in the yard behind the house,
shoeing his horse in preparation for the start west the next week.
Horse shoeing was an accomplishment he had acquired in the army, and
he had no shillings to waste in hiring others to do anything he could
do himself. As he let the last hoof out from between his knees, and
stood up, he saw Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps coming across the
yard toward him. Ezra wore his working suit, sprinkled with the meal
dust of his gristmill, and Israel had on a long blue-woolen farmer's
smock, reaching to his knees, and carried in his hand a hickory-handled
whip with a long lash, indicating that he had come in his cart, which
he had presumably left hitched to the rail fence in front of the house.
After breaking ground by a few comments on the points of Perez' horse,
Israel opened the subject of the visit, as follows:
"Ye see, Perez, I wuz over't Mill-Holler arter a grist o' buckwheat,
an me 'n Ezry got ter talkin baout the way things wuz goin in the
village. I s'pose ye've hearn o' the goins on."
"Very little, indeed," said Perez. "I have scarcely been out of the
yard this week, I've been hard at work. But I've heard considerable
"Wal," said Israel, "the long an short on't is the fellers be raisin
the old Harry, an it's time somebody said whoa. I've been a talkin tew
Abner baout it, an so's Ezry, but Abner ain't the same feller he wuz.
He's tight mos' o' the time naow, an he says he don' keer a darn haow
bad they treats the silk stockins. Turn abaout's fair play, he says,
an he on'y larfed w'en I tole him some o' the mischief the fellers wuz
up tew. An you said, Ezry, he talked jess so to yew."
"Sartin, he did," said Ezra. "Ye see," he continued to Perez, "me an
Isr'el be men o' prop'ty, an we jined the folks agin' the courts caze
we seen they wuz bein 'bused. Thar warn't no sense in makin folks pay
debts w'en ther warn't no money in cirk'lashun to pay em. 'Twuz jess
like makin them ere chil'ren of Isr'el make bricks 'thout no straw. I
allers said, an I allers will say," and the glitter that came into
Ezra's eye indicated that he felt the inspiring bound of his hobby
beneath him, "ef govment makes folks pay ther debts, govment's baoun
ter see they hez sunthin tew pay em with. I callate that's plain ez a
pike-staff. An it's jess so with taxes. Ef govment--"
"Sartin, sartin," interrupted Israel, quietly choking him off, "but
less stick tew what we wuz a sayin, Ezry. Things be a goin tew fur, ye
see, Perez. We tuk part with the poor folks w'en they wuz bein 'bused,
but I declar' for't 't looks though we'd hefter take part with the
silk stockins pootty soon, at the rate things be agoin. It's a reg'lar
see-saw. Fust the rich folks eend wuz up too fur, and naow et's
"They be a burnin fences ev'ry night," said Ezra, "an they'll have the
hull town afire one o' these days. I don' b'lieve in destroyin prop'ty.
Thar ain't no sense in that. That air Paul Hubbard's wuss 'n Abner.
Abner he jess larfs an don' keer, but Paul he's thet riled agin the
silk stockins that he seems farly crazy. He's daown from the iron-works
with his gang ev'ry night, eggin on the fellers tew burn fences, an
stone houses, an he wuz akchilly tryin tew git the boys tew tar and
feather Squire, t'uther night. They didn't quite dasst dew that, but
thar ain't no tellin what they'll come tew yit."
"Ye see, Perez," said Israel, at last getting to the point, "we
callate yew mout dew suthin to kinder stop em ef ye'd take a holt.
Abner 'l hear ter ye, an all on em would. I don' see's nobody else in
taown kin dew nothin. Ezry an me wuz a talkin baout ye overt' the
mill, an Ezry says, 'Le's gwover ter see him.' I says, 'Git right
inter my cart, an we'll go,' an so here we be."
"I can't very well mix in, you see," replied Perez, "for I'm going to
leave town for good the first of the week."
"Whar be ye goin?"
"I'm going to take father and mother and Reuben over the York line, to
New Lebanon, and then I'm going on to the Chenango purchase to clear a
farm and settle with them."
"Sho! I wanter know," exclaimed Israel, scratching his head. "Wal, I
swow," he added, thoughtfully, "I don't blame ye a mite, arter all.
This ere state o' Massachusetts Bay, ain't no place fer a poor man,
sence the war, an ye'll find lots o' Stockbridge folks outter
Chenango. They's a lot moved out thar."
"Ef I war ten year younger I'd go long with ye," said Ezra, "darned ef
I wouldn't. I callate thar muss be a right good chance fer a gristmill
"Wal, Ezry," said Israel, after a pause, "I don' see but wat we've hed
our trouble fer nothin, an I declar I dunno wat's gonter be did. The
silk stockins be a tryin tew fetch back the ole times, an the people
be a raisin Cain, an wat's a gonter come on't Goramity on'y knows.
Come 'long, Ezry," and the two old men went sorrowfully away.
It seems that Israel and Ezra were not the only persons in Stockbridge
whose minds turned to Perez as the only available force which could
restrain the mob, and end the reign of lawlessness in the village.
Scarcely had those worthies departed when Dr. Partridge rode around
into the back yard and approached the young man.
"I come to you," he said, without any preliminary beating about the
bush, "as the recognized leader of the people in this insurrection, to
demand of you, as an honest fellow, that you do something to stop the
outrages of your gang."
"If I was their leader the other day, I am so no longer," replied
Perez, coldly. "They are not my followers. It is none of my business
what they do."
"Yes, it is," said Dr. Partridge, sharply. "You can't throw off the
responsibility that way. But for you, the rebellion here in
Stockbridge would never have gained headway. You can't drop the
business now and wash your hands of it."
"I don't care to wash my hands of it," replied Perez, sternly. "I
don't know what the men have done of late for I have stayed at home,
but no doubt the men who suffer from their doings, deserve it all, and
more too. Even if I were to stay in Stockbridge, I see no reason why I
should interfere. The people have a right to avenge their wrongs. But
I am going away the coming week. My only concern in the rebellion was
the release of my brother, and now I propose to take him and my father
and mother out of this accursed Commonwealth, and leave you whose
oppression and cruelties have provoked the rebellion, to deal with
"Do you consider that an honorable course, Captain Hamlin?" The young
man's face flushed, and he answered angrily:
"Shall I stay here to protect men who the moment they are able will
throw my brother into jail and send me to the gallows? Have you, sir,
the assurance to tell me that is my duty?"
The doctor for a moment found it difficult to reply to this, and Perez
went on, with increasing bitterness:
"You have sown the wind, you are reaping the whirlwind. Why should I
interfere? You have had no pity on the poor, why should they have pity
on you? Instead of having the face to ask me to stay here and protect
you, rather be thankful that I am willing to go and leave unavenged
the wrongs which my father's family has suffered at your hands. Be
careful how you hinder my going." The doctor, apparently inferring
from the bitter tone of the young man, and the hard, steely gleam in
his blue eyes, that perhaps there was something to be considered in
his last words turned his horse's head, without a word, and went away
like the two envoys who had preceded him.
The doctor was disappointed. Without knowing much of Perez, he had
gained a strong impression from what little he had seen of him, that
he was of a frank, impulsive temperament, sudden and fierce in
quarrel, perhaps, but incapable of a brooding revengefulness, and most
unlikely to cherish continued animosity toward enemies who were at his
mercy. And as I would not have the reader do the young man injustice
in his mind, I hasten to say that the doctor's view of his character
was not far out of the way. The hard complacency with which he just
now regarded the calamities of the gentlemen of the town, had its
origin in the constant and bitter brooding of the week past over
Desire's treatment of him. The sense of being looked down on by her,
as a fine lady, and his respectful passion despised, had been teaching
him the past few days a bitterness of caste jealousy, which had never
before been known to his genial temper. He was trying to forget his
love for her, in hatred for her class. He was getting to feel toward
the silk stockings a little as Paul Hubbard did.
Probably one of this generation of New Englanders, who could have been
placed in Stockbridge the day following, would have deemed it a very
quiet Sabbath indeed. But what, by our lax modern standards seem very
venial sins of Sabbath-breaking, if indeed any such sins be now
recognized at all, to that generation were heinous and heaven-daring.
The conduct of certain reckless individuals that Sabbath, did more to
shock the public mind than perhaps anything that had hitherto occurred
in the course of the revolt. For instance, divers young men were seen
openly walking about the streets with their sweethearts during
meeting-time, laughing and talking in a noisy manner, and evidently
bent merely on pleasure. It was credibly reported that one man,
without any attempt at concealment, rode down to Great Barrington to
make a visit of recreation upon his friends. Several other persons,
presumably for similar profane purposes, walked out to Lee and Lenox
furnaces, to the prodigious scandal of the dwellers along those roads.
As if this were not enough iniquity for one day, there were whispers
that Abner Rathbun and Meshech Little had gone a fishing. This rumor
was not, indeed, fully substantiated, but the mere fact that it found
circulation and some to credit it, is in itself striking evidence of
the agitated and abnormal condition of the public mind.
Toward sunset, the news reached Stockbridge of yet another rebel
victory in the lower counties. The Monday preceding, 300 armed farmers
had marched into the town of Concord, and prevented the sitting of the
courts of Middlesex county. The weakness of the government was shown
by the fact that, although ample warning of the intentions of the
rebels had been given, no opposition to them was attempted. The
governor had, indeed, at first ordered the militia to arms, but
through apprehension of their unfaithfulness had subsequently
countermanded the order. The fact that the rebellion had manifested
such strength and boldness within a few hours' march of Boston, the
capital of the state, was an important element in the elation which
the tidings produced among the people. It showed that the western
counties were not alone engaged in the insurrection, but that the
people all over the state were making common cause against the courts
and the party that upheld them.
The jubilation produced by this intelligence, combining with the usual
reaction at sunset after the repression of the day, caused that
evening a general pandemonium of tin-pans, bonfires, mischief of all
sorts, and the usual concomitant of unlimited drunkenness. In the
midst of the uproar, Mrs. Jahleel Woodbridge, Squire Edward's sister,
died. The violence of the mob was such, however, that Edwards did not
dare to avail himself of even this excuse for refusing to furnish
liquor to the crowd.
The funeral took place Tuesday. It was the largest and most imposing
that had taken place in the village for a long time. The prominence of
both the families concerned, procured the attendance of all the gentry
of Southern Berkshire. I employ an English phrase to describe a class
for which, in our modern democratic New England, there is no
counterpart. The Stoddards, Littles, and Wendells, of Pittsfield, were
represented. Colonel Ashley was there from Sheffield, Justices Dwight
and Whiting from Great Barrington, and Barker from Lanesborough, with
many more. The carriages, some of them bearing coats of arms upon
their panels, made a fine array, which, not less than the richly
attired dames and gentlemen who descended from them, impressed a
temporary awe upon even the most seditious and democratically inclined
of the staring populace. The six pall-bearers, adorned with scarves,
and mourning rings, were Chief Justice Dwight, Colonel Elijah Williams
of West Stockbridge, the founder and owner of the iron-works there,
Dr. Sergeant of Stockbridge, Captain Solomon Stoddard, commander of
the Stockbridge militia, Oliver Wendell of Pittsfield, and Henry W.
Dwight of Stockbridge, the county treasurer. There were not in
Stockbridge alone enough families to have furnished six pall-bearers
of satisfactory social rank. For while all men of liberal education or
profession, or such as held prominent offices were recognized as
gentlemen in sharp distinction from the common people, yet the
generality of even these were looked far down upon by the county
families of long pedigree and large estate. The Partridges, Dr.
Sergeant, the Dwights, the Williamses, the Stoddards, and of course
his brother-in-law Edwards, were the only men in Stockbridge whom
Woodbridge regarded as belonging to his own caste. Even Theodore
Sedgwick, despite his high public offices, he affected to consider
entitled to social equality chiefly by virtue of his having married a
After the funeral exercises, Squire Woodbridge managed to whisper a
few words in the ear of a dozen or so of the gentlemen present, the
tenor of which, to the great surprise of those addressed, was a
request that they would call on him that evening after dark, taking
care to come alone, and attract as little attention as possible. Each
one supposed himself to have been alone invited, and on being met at
the door by Squire Woodbridge and ushered into the study, was
surprised to find the room full of gentlemen. Drs. Partridge and
Sergeant and Squire Edwards were there, Captain Stoddard, Sheriff
Seymour, Tax-collector Williams, Solomon Gleason, John Bacon, Esquire,
General Pepoon and numerous other lawyers, County Treasurer Dwight,
Deacon Nash, Ephraim Williams, Esquire, Sedgwick's law-partner,
Captain Jones, the militia commissary of Stockbridge, at whose house
the town stock of arms and ammunition was stored, and some other
When all had assembled, Woodbridge, having satisfied himself there
were no spies lurking about the garden, and that the gathering of
gentlemen had not attracted attention to the house, proceeded to close
the blinds of the study windows and draw the curtains. He then drew a
piece of printed paper from his pocket, opened it, and broached the
matter in hand to the wondering company, as follows:
"The awful suggestions with which the recent visitation of God has
invested my house for the time being, has enabled us to meet to-night
without danger that our deliberations will be interrupted, either by
the curiosity or the violence of the rabble. For this one night, the
first for many weeks, they have left me in peace, and I deem it is no
desecration of the beloved memory of my departed companion, that we
should avail ourselves of so melancholy an opportunity to take counsel
for the restoration of law and order in this sorely troubled
community. I have this day received from his excellency, the governor,
and the honorable council at Boston, a proclamation, directed to all
justices, sheriffs, jurors, and citizens, authorizing and strictly
commanding them to suppress, by force of arms, all riotous
proceedings, and to apprehend the rioters. I have called you privately
together, that we might arrange for concerted action to these ends."
In a low voice, so that no chance listener from without might catch
its tenor, the Squire then proceeded to read Governor Bowdoin's
proclamation, closing with that time-honored and impressive formula,
"God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Captain Stoddard was
first to break the silence which followed the reading of the document.
"I, for one, am ready to fight the mob to-morrow, but how are we to go
about it. There are ten men for the mob to one against it. What can we
"How many men in your company could be depended on to fight the mob,
if it came to blows?" asked Woodbridge.
"I'm afraid not over twenty or thirty. Three-quarters are for the
"There are a dozen of us here, and I presume at least a score more
gentlemen in town could be depended on," said Dr. Partridge.
"But that would give not over three score, and the mob could easily
muster four times that," said Gleason.
"They have no leaders, though," said Bacon. "Such fellows are only
dangerous when they have leaders. They could not stand before us, for
methinks we are by this time become desperate men."
"You forget this Hamlin fellow will stop at nothing, and they will
follow him," remarked Seymour.
"He is going to leave town this week, if he be not already gone," said
"What?" exclaimed Woodbridge, almost with consternation.
"He is going away," repeated the doctor.
"Perhaps it would be expedient to wait till he has gone," was
Gleason's prudent suggestion.
"And let the knave escape!" exclaimed Woodbridge, looking fiercely at
the schoolmaster. "I would not have him get away for ten thousand
pounds. I have a little reckoning to settle with him. If he is going
to leave, we must not delay."
"My advices state that Squire Sedgwick will be home in a few days to
attend to his cases at the October term of the Supreme Court at
Barrington. His co-operation would no doubt strengthen our hands,"
suggested Ephraim Williams.
If the danger of Hamlin's escape had not been a sufficient motive in
Woodbridge's mind for hastening matters, the possibility that his
rival might return in time to share the credit of the undertaking
would have been. But he merely said, coldly:
"The success of our measures will scarcely depend on the co-operation
of one man more or less, and seeing that we have broached the
business, as little time as possible should intervene ere its
execution lest some whisper get abroad and warn the rabble, for it is
clear that it is only by a surprise that we can be sure of beating
He then proceeded to lay before them a scheme of action which was at
once so bold and so prudent that it obtained the immediate and
admiring approval of all present. Just before dawn, at three o'clock
in the morning of Thursday, the next day but one, that being the hour
at which the village was most completely wrapped in repose, the
conspirators were secretly to rendezvous at Captain Jones' house, and
such as had not arms and ammunition of their own were there to be
supplied from the town stock. Issuing thence and dividing into parties
the arrest of Hamlin, Abner Rathbun, Peleg Bidwell, Israel Goodrich,
Meshech Little, and other men regarded as leaders of the mob, was to
be simultaneously effected. Strong guards were then to be posted so
that when the village woke up it would be to find itself in military
possession of the legal authorities. The next step would be
immediately to bring the prisoners before Justice Woodbridge to be
tried, the sentences to be summarily carried out at the whipping-post
on the green, and the prisoners then remanded to custody to await the
further action of the law before higher tribunals. It might be
necessary to keep up the military occupation of the village for some
time, but it was agreed among the gentlemen that the execution of the
above program would be sufficient to break the spirit of the mob
entirely. The excesses of the rabble during the past week had, it was
believed, already done something to produce a reaction of feeling
against them among their former sympathizers, and there would
doubtless be plenty of recruits for the party of order as soon as it
had shown itself the stronger. The intervening day, Wednesday, was to
be devoted by those present to secretly warning such as were counted
on to assist in the project. It was estimated that including all the
able-bodied gentlemen in town as well as some of the people known to
be disaffected to the mob, about seventy-five sure men could be
secured for the work in hand.
Now Lu Nimham, the beautiful Indian girl whom Perez had noticed in
meeting sitting beside Prudence Fennell, had another lover besides Abe
Konkapot, no other in fact than Abe's own brother Jake. Abe had been
to the war and Jake had not, and Lu, as might have been expected from
a girl whose father and brother had fallen at White Plains in the
Continental uniform, preferred the soldier lover to the other. But not
so the widow Nimham, her mother, in whose eyes Jake's slightly better
worldly prospects gave him the advantage. It so happened that soon
after dusk, Wednesday evening, Abe, drawn by a tender inward stress
betook himself to the lonely dell in the extreme west part of the
village, now called Glendale, where the hut of the Nimham family
stood. His discomfiture was great on finding Jake already comfortably
installed in the kitchen and basking in Lu's society. He did not
linger. The widow did not invite him to stop; in fact, not to put too
fine a point upon it, she intimated that it would be just as well if
he were to finish his call some other time. Lu indeed threw sundry
tender commiserating glances in his direction, but her mother watched
her like a cat, and mothers in those times were a good deal more in
the way than they are nowadays.
How little do we know what is good for us! As he beat an ignominious
retreat, pursued by the scornful laughter of his brother, Abe
certainly had apparent reason to be down on his luck. Nevertheless the
fact that he was cut out that particular evening proved to be one of
the clearest streaks of luck that had ever occurred in his career, and
a good many others besides he had equal reason ere morning dawned to
be thankful for it. The matter fell out on this wise:
A couple of hours later, a little after nine in fact, the Hamlin
household was about going to bed. Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin had already
retired to the small bedroom opening out of the kitchen. Reuben,
George Fennell and Perez slept in the kitchen, and Prudence in the
loft above. The two invalids were already abed, and the girl was just
giving the last attentions for the night to her father before climbing
to her pallet. Perez sat at the other end of the great room before the
open chimney, gazing into the embers of the fire. The family was to
start for New York the next morning, and as this last night in the old
homestead was closing in the young man had enough sad matter to occupy
his thoughts. Her loving cares completed, Prudence came and stood
silently by his side. Taking note of her friendly presence, after
awhile he put out his hand without looking up and took hers as it hung
by her side. He had taken quite a liking to the sweet-tempered little
lassie, and had felt particularly kindly towards her since her
well-meaning, if rather inadequate effort to console him that Sunday
behind the barn.
"You're a good little girl, Prudy," he said, "and I know you will take
good care of your father. You can stay here if you want, you know,
after we're gone. I don't think Solomon Gleason or the sheriff will
trouble you. Or you can go to your father's old house. Obadiah says
Gleason has left it. Obadiah will look after you and do any chores you
may want about the house. He'll be very glad to. He thinks a good deal
of you, Obadiah does. I s'pose he'll be wanting you to keep house for
him when you get a little older," and he looked cheerily up at her.
But evidently his little jest had struck her mind amiss. Her eyes were
full of tears and the childish mouth quivered.
"Why what's the matter Prudy?" he asked in surprise.
"I wish you wouldn't talk so to me, now," she said, "as if I didn't
care anything when you're all going away and have been so good to me
and father. And I don't care about Obadiah either, and you needn't say
so. He's just a great gumph."
At this point, the conversation was abruptly broken off by the noise
of the latchstring being pulled. Both turned. Lu Nimham was standing
in the doorway, her great black eyes shining in the dusk like those of
a deer fascinated by the night-hunter's torch. Prudence, with a low
exclamation of surprise, crossed the room to her, and Lu whispering
something drew her out. Immediately, however, the white girl
reappeared in the doorway, her rosy face pale, her eyes dilated, and
beckoned to Perez, who in a good deal of wonderment at once obeyed the
gesture. The two girls were standing by a corner of the house, out of
earshot from the window of Elnathan's bedroom. Both looked very much
excited, but the Indian girl was smiling as if the stimulus affected
her nerves agreeably rather than otherwise. Abe Konkapot, looking
rather sober, stood near by.
"Oh, what shall we do?" exclaimed Prudence in a terrified half-whisper.
"She says the militia are coming to take you!"
"What is it all?" demanded Perez of the Indian girl, as he laid his
hand soothingly on Prudence's shoulder.
"Jake Konkapot, he come see me tonight," said Lu, still smiling. "Jake
no like Abe, cause Abe like me too. Jake he ask me if I like Abe any
more after he git whip on back by constable man. I say no. Indian gal,
no like marry man what been whip. Jake laugh and say I no marry Abe
sure nuff, cause Abe git whip to-morrow. He no tell me what he mean
till I say I give him kiss. Man all like kiss. Jake he says yes, an I
give him kiss. Ugh! Arter that he say Squire an Deacon Edwards, and
Deacon Nash, an Cap'n Stoddard an heap more, an Jake he go too, gonter
git up arly, at tree o'clock to-morrer, with guns; make no noise go
roun creepy, creepy, creepy." Here she expressed by pantomime the way
a cat stealthily approaches its prey, culminating by a sudden clutch
on Perez' arm that startled him, as she added explosively, "Catch you
so, all abed, an Abe an Abner an heap more! Then when mornin come they
whip all on yer to the whippin-post. When Jake go home I wait till
mammy go sleep, slip out winder an go tell Abe so he no git whip. Then
I tink come here tell Prudence, for I tink she no like you git whip."
Perez had listened with an intense interest that lost not a syllable.
As the girl described the disgrace which his enemies had planned to
inflict on him, if their plan succeeded, his cheek paled and his lips
drew tense across his set teeth. As Prudence looked up at him there
was a suppressed intensity of rage in his face which checked the
ejaculations upon her lips. There was a silence of several seconds,
and then he said in a low suppressed voice, hard and unnatural in
"Young woman, I owe you more than if you had saved me from death." Lu
smilingly nodded, evidently fully appreciating the point.
"Three o'clock, you said?" muttered Perez presently, half to himself,
as the others still were silent.
"Tree 'clock, Jake say. Jake an all udder man meet to Cap'n Jones'
tree 'clock to git um guns."
"It's nine now, six hours. Time enough," muttered Perez.
"Yes, there's time for you to get away," said Prudence eagerly. "You
can get to York State by three o'clock, if you hurry. Oh, don't wait a
minute. If they should catch you!"
He smiled grimly.
"Yes, there's time for me to get away, but there's no time for them,
"Abe," he added, abruptly changing his tone, "you've heard what
they're going to do? What are you going to do?"
"I tink me go woke up fellers. Heap time, run clean 'way 'fore tree
'clock," said the Indian. "Mlishy come tree 'clock, no find us. 'Fraid
have to leave Abner. Abner heap drunk to-night. No can walk. Too big
for carry. Heap sorry, but no can help it."
"But you don't want to leave home, Abe. You don't want to leave Lu
here for Jake to get."
Abe shook his head gloomily.
"No use stay," he said. "If I get whip, Lu no marry me."
"Abe," said Perez, stepping up to the disconsolate Indian and clapping
him sharply on the shoulder, "you were in the army. You're not afraid
of fighting. We'll stay and beat these fine gentlemen at their own
game. By three o'clock we'll have every one of them under guard, and,
by the Lord God of Israel, by noon to-morrow, every man of them shall
get ten lashes on his bare back with all Stockbridge looking on. We'll
see who's whipped."
"Ha! you no run. You stay fight em. What heap more better as run. You,
great brave, ha! ha!" cried Lu dancing in front of Perez and clapping
her hands in noiseless ecstasy, while her splendid eyes rested on him
with an admiration of which Abe might have been excusably jealous.
Her Mohegan blood was on fire at the prospect of a scrimmage, and her
lover's response, if more laconic, was quite as satisfactory.
"Me no like to run. Me stay fight. Me do what you say."
"Wait here till I get my sword and pistols. We've plenty of time, but
none to lose," and Perez went into the house, followed by Prudence.
Mrs. Hamlin, with something hastily thrown over her nightdress, had
come out of her bedroom.
"I heard voices. What is it, Perez?" she said.
"Abe has come to get me to go off on a coon hunt. He thinks he's treed
several," replied Perez, strapping on his accoutrements. He had no
notion of leaving his mother a prey to sleepless anxiety during his
"You're not telling me the truth, Perez. Look at Prudence." The girl's
face, pale as ashes and her eyes full of fear and excitement, had
betrayed him, and so he had to tell her in a few words what he was
going to do. The door stood open. On the threshold, as he was going
out, he turned his head, and said in confident, ringing tones:
"You needn't be at all afraid. We shall certainly succeed."
No wonder the breath of the night had inspired him with such
confidence. It was the night of all nights in the year which a man
would choose if he were to stake his life and all on the issue of some
daring stake, assured that then, if ever, he could depend to the
uttermost on every atom of nerve and muscle in his body. The bare
mountain peaks overhanging the village were tipped with silver by the
moon, and under its light the dense forests that clothed their sides,
wore the sheen of thick and glossy fur. The air was tingling with that
electric stimulus which characterizes autumn evenings in New England
about the time of the first frosts. A faint, sweet smell of aromatic
smoke from burning pine woods somewhere off in the mountains, could
barely be detected. The intense vitality of the atmosphere
communicated itself to the nerves, stringing them like steel chords,
and setting them vibrating with lust for action, reckless, daring
The plan which Perez had formed for forestalling his adversaries and
visiting upon their own heads the fate they had prepared for him, was
very simple. He proposed to go down into the village with Abe and Lu
and with their assistance, to call up, without waking anybody else,
some forty or fifty of the most determined fellows of the rebel party.
With the aid of these, he intended as noiselessly as possible, to
enter the houses of Woodbridge, Edwards, Deacon Nash, Captain Stoddard
and others, and arrest them in their beds, simultaneously seizing the
town stock of muskets and powder, and conveying it to a guarded place,
so that when the conspirators' party assembled at three o'clock, they
might find themselves at once without arms or officers, their leaders
hostages in the hands of the enemy, and their design completely set at
naught. Thanks to the excesses of the past week or two, there were
many more than forty men in the village who, knowing that the
restoration of law and order meant a sharp reckoning for them, would
stop at nothing to prevent it, and Perez could thus command precisely
the sort of followers he wanted for his present undertaking.
For generations after, in certain Stockbridge households, the story in
grandmother's repertoire most eagerly called by the young folks on
winter evenings, was about how the "Regulators" came for grandpa; how
at dead of night the heavy tramp of men and the sound of rough voices
in the rooms below, awoke the children sleeping overhead and froze
their young blood with fear of Indians; how at last mustering courage,
they crept downstairs, and peeking into the living-room saw it full of
fierce men, with green boughs in their hats, the flaring candles
gleaming upon their muskets and bayonets, and the drawn sword of their
captain; while in the midst, half-dressed and in his nightcap, grandpa
was being hustled about.
Leaving these details to the imagination, suffice it to say that
Perez' plan, clearly-conceived and executed with prompt, relentless
vigor, was perfectly successful, and so noiselessly carried out, that
excepting those families whose heads were arrested by the soldiers,
the village as a whole, had no suspicion that anything in particular
was going on, until waking up the next morning, the people found
squads of armed men on guard at the street corners, and sentinels
pacing up and down before the Fennell house, that building left vacant
by Gleason's ejection, having been selected by Perez for the storage
of his prisoners and the stores he had confiscated. As the people ran
together on the green, to learn the reason of these strange
appearances, and the story passed from lip to lip what had been the
plot against their newly-acquired liberties, and the persons of their
leaders, and by what a narrow chance, and by whose bold action the
trouble had been averted, the sensation was prodigious. The tendency
of public opinion which had been inclining to sympathize a little with
the abuse the silk stockings had been undergoing the past week, was
instantly reversed, now that the so near success of their plot once
more made them objects of terror. The exasperation was far more
general and profound than had been excited by the previous attempt to
restore the old order of things, in the case of the sale of David
Joy's house. This was more serious business. Every man who had been
connected with the rebellion, felt in imagination the lash on his
back, and white faces were plenty among the stoutest of them. And what
they felt for themselves, you may be sure their wives and children and
friends felt for them, with even greater intensity. As now and then
the wife or child of one of the prisoners in the guard house, with
anxious face, timidly passed through the throng, on the way to make
inquiries concerning the welfare of the husband or father, black looks
and muttered curses followed them, and the rude gibes with which the
sentinels responded to their anxious, tearful questionings, were
received with hoarse laughter by the crowd.
As Perez, coming forth for some purpose, appeared at the door of the
Fennell house, there was a great shout of acclamation, the popular
ratification of the night's work. But an even more convincing
demonstration of approval awaited him. As he began to make his way
through the throng, Submit Goodrich, Old Israel's buxom, black-eyed
daughter, confronted him, saying:
"My old daddy'd a been in the stocks by this time if it hadn't been
for you, so there," and throwing her arms around his neck she gave him
a resounding smack on the lips. Meshech Little's wife followed suit,
and then Peleg Bidwell's and a lot of other women of the people, amid
the uproarious plaudits of the crowd, which became deafening as
Resignation Ann Poor, Zadkiel's wife, elbowed her way through the pack
and clasping the helpless Perez against her bony breast in a genuine
bear's hug, gave him a kiss like a file.
"Well, I never," ejaculated Prudence Fennell, who was bringing some
breakfast to Perez, and had observed all this kissing with a rather
Unluckily for her, Submit overheard the words.
"You never, didn't you? an livin in the same haouse long with him too?
Wal it's time you did," she exclaimed loudly, and seizing the
struggling girl she thrust her before Perez, holding down her hands so
that she could not cover her furiously blushing face, and amid the
boisterous laughter of the bystanders she was kissed also, a
proceeding which evidently pleased Obadiah Weeks, who stood near, as
little as the other part had pleased Prudence. As Submit released her
and she rushed away, Obadiah followed her.
"Haow'd ye like it?" he said, with a sickly grin of jealous irony. "I
see ye didn' cover yer face very tight, he! he! Took keer to leave a
hole, he! he!"
The girl turned on him like a flash and gave him a resounding slap on
"Take that, you great gumph!" she exclaimed.
"Wha'd ye wanter hit a feller fer?" whined Obadiah, rubbing the
smitten locality. "Gol darn it, I hain't done nothin to ye. Ye didn'
slap him wen he kissed ye, darn him. Guess t'ain't the fuss time he's
done it, nuther."
Prudence turned her back to him and walked off, but Obadiah, his
bashfulness for the moment quite forgotten in his jealous rage,
followed her long enough to add:
"Oh ye needn' think I hain't seen ye settin yer cap fer him all 'long,
an he ole nuff tew be yer dad. S'pose ye thort ye'd git him, bein in
the same haouse long with him, but ye hain't made aout. He's goin tew
York an he don' keer no more baout yew nor the dirt unner his feet. He
ez good's tole me so."
"Thar comes Abner Rathbun," said some one in the group around Perez.
With heavy eyes, testifying to his debauch over night, and a generally
crestfallen appearance, the giant was approaching from the tavern,
where he had presumably been bracing up with a little morning flip.
"A nice sorter man you be Abner, fer yer neighbors to be a trustin ter
look aout fer things," said an old farmer, sarcastically.
"Ef 't hadn't been fer Cap'n Hamlin thar, the constable would 'a waked
ye up this mornin with the eend of a gad," said another.
"You'll have to take in your horns a little, after this, Abner. It
won't do to be putting on any more airs," remarked a third.
"Go ahead," said Abner, ruefully, "I hain't got nothin ter say. Ye kin
sass me all ye wanter. Every one on ye kin take yer hack at me. I'm
kinder sorry thar ain't any on ye big nuff ter kick me, fer I orter be
"Never mind, Abner," said Perez, pitying his humiliated condition.
"Anybody may get too much flip now and then. We missed you, but we
managed to get through with the job all right."
"Cap'n," said Abner, "I was bleeged ter ye w'en ye pulled them two
Britshers or'fer me tew Stillwater, but that ain't a sarcumstance to
the way I be bleeged to ye this mornin, fer it's all your doins, and
no thanks ter me, that I ain't gittin ten lashes this very minute,
with all the women a snickerin at the size o' my back. I hev been
kinder cocky, an I hev put on some airs, ez these fellers says, fer I
callated ye'd kinder washed yer hands o' this business, an leff me tew
be capin, but arter this ye'll fine Abner Rathbun knows his place."
"You were quite right about it, Abner. I have washed my hands of the
business. I am going to take my folks out to York State. I meant to
start this morning. If the silk stockings had waited till to-night
they wouldn't have found me in their way."
"I callate twuz Providenshil they did'n wait, fer we'd 'a been gone
suckers sure ez ye hedn't been on hand to dew wat ye did," said one of
the men. "Thar ain't another man in town ez could a did it, or would
"But ye ain't callatin ter go arter this be ye, Perez?" said Abner.
"This makes no difference. I expect to get off to-morrow," replied
"Ye shan't go, not ef I hold ye," cried Mrs. Poor, edging up to him as
if about to secure his person on the spot.
"Ef ye go the res' on us mout 's well go with ye, fer the silk
stockins 'll hev it all ther own way then," remarked a farmer,
"I don't think the silk stockings will try any more tricks right off,"
said Perez, grimly. "I propose to give em a lesson this morning, which
they'll be likely to remember for one while."
"What be ye a gonter dew to em?" asked Abner, eagerly.
"Well," said Perez, deliberately, as every eye rested on him. "You see
they had set their minds on havin some whipping done this morning, and
I don't propose to have em disappointed. I'm going to do to them as
they would have done to us. The whipping will come off as soon as Abe
can find Little Pete to handle the gad. I sent him off some time ago.
I don' see what's keeping him."
His manner was as quiet and matter-of-course as if he were proposing
the most ordinary sort of forenoon occupation, and when he finished
speaking he walked away without so much as a glance around to see how
the people took it. It was nevertheless quite worth observing, the
fascinated stare with which they looked after him, and then turned to
fix on each other. It was Abner who, after several moments of dead
silence, said in an awed voice, like a loud whisper:
"He's a gonter whip em." And Obadiah almost devoutly murmured, "By
The men who stood around, were intensely angry with the prisoners, for
their plot to arrest and whip them, but the idea of retaliating in
kind, by whipping the prisoners themselves, had not for an instant
occurred to the boldest. The prisoners were gentlemen, and the idea of
whipping a gentleman just as if he were one of themselves, was
something the most lawless of them had never entertained. Education,
precedent, and innate caste sentiment had alike precluded the idea.
But after the first sensation of bewilderment had passed, it was
evident that the shock which the popular mind had received from Perez'
words, was not wholly disagreeable, but rather suggestive of a certain
shuddering delight. The introspective gleam which shone in everybody's
eye, betrayed the half-scared pleasure with which each in his own mind
was turning over the daring imagination.
"Wy not, arter all?" said Meshech Little, hesitatingly, as if his
logic didn't convince himself. "They wuz gonter lick us. They'd a had
us licked by this time. It's tit for tat."
"I s'pose Goramity made our backs as well as theirn," observed Abner.
"The on'y odds is in the kind o' coats we wears. Ourn ain't so fine ez
theirn, but it's the back an not the coat that gits licked. Arter Pete
has tuk orf ther coats thar won't be no odds."
The chuckle with which this was received, showed how fast the people
were yielding to the awful charm of the thought.
"Dew yew s'pose Cap'n really dass dew it?" asked Obadiah.
"Dew it? Yes he'll dew it, you better b'lieve. Did yer see the set of
his jaw w'en he wuz talkin so quiet-like baout lickin em? I wuz in the
army with Perez, an I know his ways. W'en he sets his jaw that air way
I don' keer to git in his way, big ez I be. He'll dew it ef he doos it
with his own hands. He's pison proud, Perez is, an I guess the idee
they wuz callatin tew hev him licked, hez kinder riled him."
As the people talked, their hearts began to burn. The more they
thought of it, the more the idea fascinated them. Jests and hilarious
comments, which betrayed a temper of delighted expectancy, soon began
to be bandied about.
In ten minutes more, this very crowd which had received in shocked
silence the first suggestion of whipping the gentlemen, had so set
their fancy on that diversion that it would have been hard balking
them. It must be remembered that this was a hundred years ago. The
weekly spectacle of the cruel punishment of the lash, and the scarcely
less painful and disgraceful infliction of the stocks and the pillory
left in their minds no possibility for any revolt of mere humane
sentiment against the proposed doings, such as a modern assembly would
experience. To men and women who had learned from childhood to find a
certain brutish titillation in beholding the public humiliation and
physical anguish of their acquaintances and fellow-townsmen, the
prospect of seeing the scourge actually applied to the backs of envied
and hated social superiors, could not be otherwise than delightfully
Nor were there lacking supplies of Dutch courage for the timid. Among
the town stores seized and conveyed to the Fennell house the night
before, had been several casks of rum. One of these had been secretly
sequestrated by some of the men and hidden in a neighboring barn. The
secret of its whereabouts had been, in drunken confidence, conveyed
from one man to another, with the consequence that pretty much all the
men were rapidly getting drunk. Shortly after Perez had communicated
his intention to the people, Paul Hubbard, with thirty or forty of the
iron-workers, armed with bludgeons, arrived from West Stockbridge.
Some rumor of the doings of the previous night had reached there, and
he had hastily rallied his myrmidons and come down, not knowing but
there might be some fighting to be done.
"Paul 'll be nigh tickled to death to hear of the whippin," said
Abner, seeing him coming. "If he had his way he'd skin the silk
stockins, an make whips out o' their own hides to whip em with. He
don't seem to love em somehow 'nuther, wuth a darn." Nor was Paul's
satisfaction at the news any less than Abner had anticipated.
Presently he burst into the room in the Fennell house, which Perez had
appropriated as a sort of headquarters, and wrung his rather
indifferent hand with an almost tremulous delight.
"Bully for you, Hamlin, bully for you, by the Lord I didn't s'pose you
had the mettle to do it. Little Pete is just the man for the business,
but if he don't come, you can have one of my Welshmen. I s'pose most
of the Stockbridge men wouldn't quite dare, but just wait till after
the whipping. They won't be afraid of the bigwigs any longer. That'll
break the charm. Little Pete's whip will do more to make us free and
equal than all the swords and guns in Berkhire." And Hubbard went out
As he was leaving, he met no less an one than Parson West coming in,
and wearing rather a discomfited countenance. The parson had been
used, as parsons were in those days, to a good deal of deference from
his flock, and the lowering looks and covered heads of the crowd about
the door were disagreeable novelties. No institution in the New
England of that day was, in fact, more strictly aristocratic than the
pulpit. Its affiliations were wholly with the governing and wealthy
classes, and its tone with the common people as arrogant and
domineering as that of the magistracy itself. And though Parson West
was personally a man of unusual affability toward the poor and lowly,
it was impossible in a time like this that one of his class should not
be regarded with suspicion and aversion by the popular party.
"I would have word with your captain," he said to the sentinel at the
"He's in thar," said the soldier, pointing to the door of the
headquarters' room. Perez, who was walking to and fro, turned at the
opening door and respectfully greeted the parson.
"Are you the captain of the armed band without?"
"You have certain gentlemen in confinement, I have heard. I came to
see you on account of an extraordinary report that you had threatened
to inflict a disgraceful public chastisement upon their persons. No
doubt the report is erroneous. You surely could not contemplate so
cruel and scandalous a proceeding?"
"The report is entirely true, reverend sir. I am but waiting for a
certain Hessian drummer who will wield the lash."
"But man," exclaimed the parson, "you have forgotten that these are
the first men in the county. They are gentlemen of distinguished birth
and official station. You would not whip them like common offenders.
It is impossible. You are beside yourself. Such a thing was never
heard of. It is most criminal, most wicked. As a minister of the
gospel I protest! I forbid such a thing," and the little parson fairly
choked with righteous indignation.
"These men, if they had succeeded in their plan last night, would have
whipped me, and a score of others to-day. Would you have protested
"That is different. They would have proceeded against you as
criminals, according to law."
"No doubt they would have proceeded according to law," replied Perez,
with a bitter sneer. "They have been proceeding according to law for
the past six years here in Berkshire, and that's why the people are in
rebellion. I'm no lawyer, but I know that Perez Hamlin is as good as
Jahleel Woodbridge, whatever the parson may think, and what he would
have done to me, shall be done to him."
"That is not the rule of the gospel," said the minister, taking
another tack. "Christ said if any man smite you on the right cheek,
turn to him the other also."
"If that is your counsel, take it to those who are likely to need it.
I am going to do the smiting this time, and it's their time to do the
turning. They need not trouble themselves, however. Pete will see that
they get it on both sides."
"And now sir," he added, "if you would like to see the prisoners to
prepare them for what's coming, you are welcome to," and opening the
door of the room he told the sentinel in the corridor to let the
parson into the guard room, and the silenced and horrified man of God
mechanically acting upon the hint went out and left him alone.
The imagination of the reader will readily depict the state of mind in
which the families of the arrested gentlemen were left after the
midnight visit of Perez' band. That there was no more sleep in those
households that night will be easily understood. In the Edwards family
the long hours till morning passed in praying and weeping by Mrs.
Edwards and Desire, and the younger children. They scarcely dared to
doubt that the husband and father was destined to violence or death at
the hands of these bloody and cruel men. At dawn Jonathan, who, on
trying to follow his father when first arrested, had been driven back
with blows, went out again, and the tidings which he brought back,
that the prisoners were confined in the Fennell house and as yet had
undergone no abuse, somewhat restored their agitated spirits. An hour
or two later the boy came tearing into the house, with white face,
clenched fists and blazing eyes.
"What is it?" cried his mother and sister, half scared to death at his
"They're going,"--Jonathan choked.
"They're going to have father whipped," he finally made out to
"Whipped!" echoed Desire, faintly and uncomprehendingly.
"Yes!" cried the boy hoarsely, "like any vagabond, stripped and
whipped at the whipping-post."
"What do you mean?" said Mrs. Edwards, as she took Jonathan by the
"They're going to whip father, and uncle, and all the others," he
repeated, beginning to whimper, stout boy as he was.
"Whip father? You're crazy, Jonathan, you didn't hear right. They'd
never dare! It can't be! Run and find out," cried Desire, wildly.
"There ain't any use. I heard the Hamlin fellow say so himself.
They're going to do it. They said it's no worse than whipping one of
them, as if they were gentlemen," blubbered Jonathan.
"Oh no! no! They can't, they won't," cried the girl in an anguished
voice, her eyes glazed with tears as she looked appealingly from
Jonathan to her mother, in whose faces there was little enough to
"Don't, mother, you hurt," said Jonathan, trying to twist away from
the clasp which his mother had retained upon his arm, unconsciously
tightening it till it was like a vise.
"Whip my husband!" said she, slowly, in a hollow tone. "Whip him!" she
repeated. "Such a thing was never heard of. There must be some
"There must be. There must be," exclaimed Desire again. "It can never
be. They are not so wicked. That Hamlin fellow is bad enough, but oh
he isn't bad enough for that. They would not dare. God would not
permit it. Some one will stop them."
"There is no one to stop them. The people are all against us. They are
glad of it. They are laughing. Oh! how I hate them. Why don't God kill
them?" and with a prolonged, inarticulate roar of impotent grief and
indignation, the boy threw himself flat on the floor, and burying his
face in his arms sobbed and rolled, and rolled and sobbed, like one in
"I will go and have speech with this Son of Belial, Hamlin. It may be
the Lord will give me strength to prevail with him," said Mrs.
Edwards. "And if not, they shall not put me from my husband. I will
bear the stripes with him, that he may never be ashamed before the
wife of his bosom," and with a calm and self-controlled demeanor, she
bestirred herself to make ready to go out.
"Let me go mother," said Desire, half hesitatingly.
"It is not your place my child. I am his wife," replied Mrs. Edwards.
"Yes mother, but Desire's so pretty, and this Hamlin fellow stopped
the horse-fiddles just to please her, the other time," whimpered
Jonathan. "Perhaps he'd let father off if she went. Do let her go
The allusion to the stopping of the horse-fiddle was Greek to Mrs.
Edwards, to whose ears the story had never come. But the present was
not a time for general inquiries. It sufficed that she saw the main
point, the persuasive power of beauty over mankind.
"It may be that you had better go," she said. "If you fail I will go
myself to my husband, and meantime I shall be in prayer, that this cup
may pass from us."
Hastily the girl gathered her beautiful disheveled hair into a ribbon
behind, removed the traces of tears from her wild and terror-stricken
eyes, and not stopping even for her hat, in her fear that she might be
too late, left the house and made her way through the throng before
the Fennell house. At sight of her pallid cheeks and set lips, the
ribald jeer died on the lips even of the drunken, and the people made
way for her in silence. It was not that they had ever liked her, or
now sympathized with her. She had always held herself too daintily
aloof from speech or contact with them for that, but they guessed her
errand, and had a certain rude sense of the pathos of such a
humiliation for the haughty Desire Edwards.
PEREZ GETS HIS TITLE
As Desire entered the headquarters room, which Parson West had barely
left, Perez was sitting at a table with his back to the door. He
turned at the noise of her entrance and seeing who it was gave a great
start. Then he rose slowly to his feet and confronted her. It was the
first time he had seen her since that Sunday when she cut him dead
before all the people, coming out of meeting. For a moment the two
stood motionless gazing at each other. Then she came quickly up to him
and laid her hand upon his arm. Her dark eyes were full of terrified
"What are you going to do to my father?" she cried in poignant tones.
After a pause he repeated stammeringly, as if he had not quite taken
in the idea.
"Yes, my father! What are you going to do to him?" she repeated more
His vacant answer had been no affectation. Her beauty, her distress,
the touch of her hand on his arm, her warm breath on his cheek, her
face so near to his, left him capable in that moment of but one
thought, and that was that he loved her wildly, with a love which it
had been madness for him to think he could ever overcome or forget.
But it was not with soft and melting emotions, but rather in great
bitterness, that he owned the mastery of the passion which he had
tried so hard to throw off. He knew that if she despised him before,
she must hate and loathe him now. Knowing this it gave him a cruel
pleasure to crush her, and to make her tears flow, and even while his
glowing eyes devoured her face he answered her in a hard, relentless
"What am I going to do with your father? I am going to whip him with
She started back, stung into sudden defiance, her eyes flashing, her
bosom tumultuously heaving.
"You will not! You dare not!"
He shrugged his shoulders and replied coldly:
"If you are so sure of that, why did you come to me?"
"Oh, but you will not! You will not!" she cried again, her terror
returning with a rush of tears.
Weeping she was even more beautiful than before. But conscious of her
loathing her beauty only caused him an intolerable ache. In the
self-despite of an embittered hopeless love he gloated over her despair,
even while every nerve thrilled with wildering passion. She caught
that look, at once so passionate and so bitter, and perhaps by her
woman's instinct interpreting it aright, turned away as in despair,
and with her head bent in hopeless grief walked slowly across the
room, laid her hand on the latch and there paused. After a moment she
turned her head quickly and looked at him, as he stood gazing after
her, and shuddered perceptibly. Her left hand, which hung at her side,
clenched convulsively. Then after another moment she removed her hand
from the latch and came back a few steps toward him and said:
"You kissed me once. Would you like to do it now? You may if you will
let my father go."
His gaze, before so glowing, actually dropped in confession before her
cold, hard eyes, and for a moment it seemed as if such supreme and icy
indifference had been able quite to chill his ardor. But as he lifted
his eyes again, and looked upon her, the temptation of so much
submissive beauty proved too great. He snatched her in his arms and
covered her lips and cheeks and temples with burning kisses, for one
alone of which he would have deemed it cheap to give his life if he
could not have won it otherwise. He kissed her, passive and
unresisting as a statue, till in very pity he was fain to let her go.
Even then she did not start away, but standing there before him,
pallid, rigid, with compressed lips and clenched hands, said faintly:
"You will release my father?" He bowed his head, unable to speak, and
she went out.
The people whispered to each other as she passed through the crowd, that
she had failed in her mission, she looked so white and anguish-stricken.
And when she reached home and throwing herself into a chair, covered her
face with her hands, her mother said:
"The Lord's will be done. You have failed."
"No, mother, I have not failed. Father will be released, but I had
liefer have borne the whipping for him."
But that was all she said, nor did she tell any one at what price she
had delivered him.
Desire had scarcely gone when the door opened and Hubbard and Abner
came in. Perez was sitting staring at the wall in a daze.
"Little Pete's come, and the people want to know when the whipping's
going to begin. Shall I bring em out?" said Hubbard.
"I've made up my mind that it will be better to have no whipping,"
replied Perez, quietly.
"The devil, you have!" exclaimed Hubbard, in high dudgeon.
"I knowd haow 'twoud be w'en I see that air Edwards gal goin in. Ef
I'd been on guard, she'd never a got in," said Abner, gloomily.
"Who'd have supposed Hamlin was such a milksop as to mind a girl's
bawling?" said Hubbard, scornfully.
"The fellers is kinder sot on seein the silk stockins licked, now
ye've got em inter the noshin on't, an I dunno haow they'll take it
ter be disappointed," continued Abner.
There was a shout of many voices from before the house.
"Bring em out! Bring out the silk stockins."
"Do you hear that?" demanded Hubbard, triumphantly. "I tell you,
Hamlin," he went on in a bolder tone, "you can't stop this thing,
whether you want to, or not, and if you know what's best for you, you
won't try. I tell you that crowd won't stand any fooling. They're mad,
and they're drunk, and they're bound to see a silk stocking whipped
for once in their lives, and by God they shall see it, too, for all
you or any other man. If you won't order em brought out, I will," and
he went out.
Without a word, Perez took his pistols from the table, and followed
him, and Abner, who seemed irresolute and demoralized, came slowly
after. The report that Perez, in a sudden whim, now proposed to
deprive them of the treat he had promised them, had produced on the
drunken and excited crowd, all the effect which Hubbard had counted
on, and as Perez reached the front door of the house, a mass of men
with brandished clubs and muskets, were pressing around it, and the
sentinel, hesitating and frightened, in another moment would have
given way and let them into the building. As Perez, a pistol in either
hand, appeared on the threshold, the crowd recoiled a little.
"Stand back," he said. "If any one of you tries to enter, I'll blow
his brains out. The men in here, are my prisoners, not yours. I took
them when most of you were snoring in bed, and I'll do what I please
with them. As for Hubbard and these West Stockbridge men, who make so
much noise, this is none of their business, anyway. If they don't like
the way we manage here in Stockbridge, let them go home."
As he finished speaking, Abner shouldered his way by him, from within,
and stepped out between him and the crowd. Deliberately taking off his
coat and laying it down, and pitching his hat after it, he drawlingly
"Look a here, fellers. I be ez disapp'inted ez any on ye, not ter
see them fellers licked. But ye see, 'twuz the Cap'n that saved my
back, an it don't nohow lie in my mouth no more'n doos yourn to call
names naow he's tuk a noshin tew save theirn. So naow, Cap'n," he
continued, as he drew his immense bulk squarely up, "I guess you won't
need them shooters. I'll break ther necks ez fass ez they come on."
But they didn't come on. Perez' determined attitude and words,
especially his appeal to local prejudice, perhaps the most universal
and virulent of all human instincts, would have of themselves suffered
to check and divide the onset, and Abner's business-like proposal
quite ended the demonstration.
A couple of hours later, when the people had largely gone home to
dinner, the prisoners were quietly set free, and went to their homes
without attracting special attention. About twilight a carriage rolled
away from before Squire Woodbridge's door, and took the road to
Pittsfield. The next day it was known all over the village that the
Squire had left town, without giving out definitely when he would
"Squire's kinder obstinit, but arter all he knows w'en he's licked,"
observed Abner, which was substantially the view generally taken of
the magnate's retirement from the field.
That night, Perez set a guard of a dozen men at the Fennell house, to
secure the town military stores against any possibility of recapture
by another silk stocking conspiracy, and to still further protect the
community against any violent enterprise, he organized a regular
patrol for the night. If any of the disaffected party were desperate
enough still to cherish the hope of restoring their fortunes by force,
it must needs have died in their breasts, as looking forth from their
bedroom windows, that night, they caught the gleam of the moonlight
upon the bayonet of the passing sentinel. But there was no need of
such a reminder. Decidedly, the spirit of the court party was broken.
Had their leaders actually undergone the whipping they had so narrowly
escaped, they would have scarcely been more impressed with the abject
and powerless situation in which they were left by the miscarriage of
their plot. The quasi military occupation of the town, the night after
the attempted revolution, was indeed welcomed by them and their
terrified families as some guarantee of order. So entirely had the
revolution of the past twenty-four hours changed their attitude toward
Perez, that they now looked on him as their saviour from the mob, and
only possible protector against indefinite lengths of lawlessness. It
was among them, rather than among the people, that the knowledge of
his intended speedy departure for New York, now produced the liveliest
apprehensions. And the most timid of the popular party were not more
relieved than they, when the next day it became known that he had
declared his resolve to give up going west, and remain in Stockbridge
for the present.
It would sound much better if I could make out that this abrupt change
in his plans was on account of concern for the welfare of the
community, but such was not the case. His motive was wholly selfish.
The key to it was the discovery that as responsible chief of the mob,
holding the fate and fortunes of her friends in his power, he had a
hold on Desire. Unwilling brides were not the most unhappy wives. Yes,
even to that height had his hopes suddenly risen from the very dust in
which they had lain quite dead a few hours ago. As the poor ex-captain
and farmer she had held him afar off in supercilious scoorn; as the
chief of the insurgents she had come to him in tears and entreaty, had
laid her hand on his arm, had even given him her lips. With that scene
in the guardhouse to look back on, what might he not dare to hope.
His fate was in his own hands. Who could foresee the end of the epoch
of revolution and anarchy upon which the state now seemed entering.
These were times when the sword carved out fortunes and the soldier
might command the most brilliant rewards.
No sooner then had he resolved to stay in Stockbridge, than he set
about strengthening his hold on his followers, and imparting a more
regular military organization to the insurgent element in the town.
The Fennell house was adopted as a regular headquarters, and a young
hemlock tree, by way of rebel standard, planted before the door. Night
and day patrols, with regular officers of the day, were organized, and
about a hundred men formed into a company and drilled daily on the
green. A large proportion of them having served in the revolution,
they made a very creditable appearance after a little practice. In
their hats they wore jauntily hemlock plumes, and old Continental
uniforms being still quite plentiful, with a little swapping and
borrowing, enough army coats were picked up to clothe pretty much the
One afternoon, as the drill was going on, a traveling carriage turned
in from the Boston road, drove across the green in front of the
embattled line, and turning down toward the Housatonic, stopped before
the Sedgwick house, and Theodore Sedgwick descended. The next day, as
Perez was walking along the street, he saw Dr. Partridge, Squire
Edwards, and a gentleman to him unknown, conversing. As he approached
them, the doctor said, in the good-humored, yet half-mocking tone
characteristic of him:
"Squire Sedgwick, let me introduce to you the Duke of Stockbridge,
Captain Perez Hamlin, to whose gracious protection we of the court
party, owe our lives and liberties at present."
Sedgwick scanned Perez with evident curiosity, but merely bowed
without speaking, and the other passed on. Either somebody overheard
the remark, or the doctor repeated it elsewhere, for within a day or
two it was all over town, and henceforth, by general consent, half in
jest, half in recognition of the aptness of the title under the
circumstances, Perez was dubbed Duke of Stockbridge, or more briefly
referred to as "The Duke."
The conversation which his passing had momentarily interrupted, was a
very grave one. Sedgwick had passed through Springfield in his
carriage on the twenty-seventh of September, and reported that he had
found the town full of armed men. The Supreme Judicial Court of the
Commonwealth was to have met on the twenty-sixth, but 1200 insurgents,
under Captain Daniel Shays himself, were on hand to prevent it, and
were confronted by 800 militia under General Shepard, who held the
courthouse. The town was divided into hostile camps, with regular
lines of sentinels. At the time Sedgwick had passed through, no actual
collision had yet taken place, but should the justices persist in
their intention to hold court, there would certainly be fighting, for
it was justly apprehended by Shays and his lieutenants that the court
intended to proceed against them for treason, and they would stop at
nothing to prevent that. It was this news which Sedgwick was imparting
to the two gentlemen.
"We have a big business on our hands," he said gravely, "a very big
and a very delicate business. A little bungling will be enough to turn
it into a civil war, with the chances all against the government."
"I don't see that the government, as yet, has done anything," said
Edwards. "Do they intend to leave everything to the mob?"
"Between us, there is really nothing that can be done just now,"
replied Sedgwick. "The passiveness of the government results from
their knowledge that the militia are not to be depended on. Why, as I
passed through Springfield, I saw whole companies of militia that had
been called out by the sheriff to protect the court, march, with drums
beating, over to the insurgents. No, gentlemen, there is actually no
force that could be confidently counted on against the mob save a
regiment or two in Boston. Weakness leaves the government no choice
but to adopt a policy of conciliation with the rascals, for the
present, at least. His Excellency has called the Legislature in extra
session the twenty-sixth, and a number of measures will at once be
passed for relief. If these do not put an end to the mobs, they will,
it is hoped, at least so far improve the public temper that a part of
the militia will be available.
"It is a mysterious Providence, indeed," he continued, "that our
state, in the infancy of its independence, is left to undergo so
fearful a trial. Already there are many of the Tories who wag the head
and say 'Aha, so would we have it,' averring that this insurrection is
but the first fruits of our liberty, and that the rest will be like
"God grant that we may not have erred in throwing off the yoke of the
King," said Edwards, gloomily. "I do confess that I have had much
exercise of mind upon that point during the trials of the past weeks."
"I beg of you, sir, not to give way to such a frame," said Sedgwick
earnestly, "for it is to gentlemen of your degree that the well
disposed look for guidance and encouragement in these times. And yet I
am constrained to admit that in Boston at no time in the late war, no,
not when our fortunes were at the lowest ebb, has there been such
gloom as now. And verily I could not choose but to share it, but for
my belief that the convention, which is shortly to sit in Philadelphia
to devise a more perfect union for the thirteen states, will pave the
way for a stronger government of the continent, and one that will
guarantee us not only against foreign invasion but domestic violence
and insurrection also."
"We had best separate now," said Partridge in a low voice. "If the
populace see but two or three of us having our heads together, they
straightway imagine that we are plotting against them, and I see those
fellows yonder are sending black looks this way already.
"I shall do myself the honor," he added, to Sedgwick, "to call upon
you at your house for further consultation, since under the pretext of
a physician's duty, I am allowed by their high mightinesses, the
rabble, to go about more freely than is prudent for other gentlemen."
The next day the news from Springfield, which Sedgwick had privately
brought, reached the village from other sources, together with the
developments since his passage through the town. It seemed that there
had indeed been no collision between the militia and the rebel force,
but it was because the Supreme Court had, after demurring for two
days, finally yielded to the orders of Captain Shays and adjourned,
after which the rebels took triumphant possession of the courthouse.
The elation which the news produced among the people was prodigious.
Perez doubled the patrols, and even then had to wink at a good many
acts of lawlessness at the expense of the friends of the courts.
Nothing but his personal interposition prevented a drunken gang from
giving Sedgwick a tin-pan serenade. As for Squire Edwards, he was glad
to purchase immunity at the expense of indiscriminate treating of the
Whether the Supreme Court would attempt to hold its regular session
the first week in October, at Great Barrington, was a point on which
there was a diversity of opinion. Before adjourning at Springfield, it
had indeed passed resolutions that it would not be expedient to go to
Berkshire, but it was loudly declared by many that this was a mere
trick to put the people off their guard, and prevent their assembling
in arms to stop the proceedings. Accordingly, when the time came,
although the justices did not put in an appearance, a mob of several
hundred men did, and a very ugly mob it turned out to be, in fact the
worst hitherto in the entire course of the insurrection. Finding no
court to stop, and the empty jail affording no opportunity for another
jail delivery, the crowd, after loafing around town for a while and
getting thirsty, began to break into houses to get liquor. A beginning
once made, this was found to be such an amusing recreation that it was
gone into generally, and when liquor could not be found the men
contented themselves with appropriating other articles. The fun
growing fast and furious, they next began to hustle and stone
prominent citizens known to be friendly to the courts, as well as such
as objected to having their houses entered and gutted. When their
victims broke away from them and fled, being too drunk to overtake
them it was quite natural that they should fire their muskets after
them, and if the bullets did not generally hit their marks it was
merely because the hands of the marksmen were as unsteady as their
legs. Some of the most prominent citizens of Great Barrington passed
the day hid in outhouses and garrets, while others, mounted on fleet
steeds, escaped amid a peltering of bullets, and took refuge in
neighboring towns, some going as far as Pittsfield before they halted.
Squire Sedgwick chanced to be at Great Barrington, that day, at the
house of his brother-in-law, Justice Dwight. As a lawyer, an
aristocrat, and a member of the detested State Senate, he not only
shared the general unpopularity of those classes, but as prosecuting
attorney for the county, was in particularly evil odor with the lewd
fellows of the baser sort, who were to-day on the rampage. When the
uproar was at its height, word got around that he was in town, and
immediately the mob dropped whatever was in hand, and rushed in a body
toward Dwight's house. As they came in sight of the house a servant
was holding Sedgwick's gray by the bridle before the gate. Fearing
that their prey might yet escape them, the crowd burst into a run,
brandishing cudgels, guns and pitchforks, and yelling, "Kill him,"
"Hang him," "Shoot him." They were not fifty yards away when Sedgwick
came out and deliberately mounted his horse. The beast was a good one,
and the distance was enough to make his rider's escape perfectly
secure. But instead of galloping off, Sedgwick turned his horse's head
toward the onrushing, hooting multitude, and rode at a gentle trot
directly toward them. It seemed like madness, but the effect fully
justified the cool daring that had prompted the action. With the first
forward step of the animal, the moment the rider's intention became
evident, the mob stopped dead, and the uproar of execrations gave
place to a silence of perfect astonishment, in which you could have
heard the swish of a bird's wing. As the horse's head touched the line
of men, they slunk aside as if they knew not what they did, their eyes
falling abashed before Sedgwick's quiet glance and air, as devoid of a
trace of fear as it was of ostentatious defiance. The calm,
unquestioning assumption that no one would presume to stop him, was a
moral force which paralyzed the arm of the most reckless ruffian in
the crowd. And so, checking his horse when he would have gone faster,
his features as composed as if he were sitting in the Senate, and his
bearing as cool and matter of course as if he were on a promenade, he
rode through the mob, and had passed out of musket shot by the time
the demoralized ruffians had begun to accuse each other of cowardice,
and each one to explain what he would have done if he had been in
somebody else's place, or would do again.
TWO CRITICAL INTERVIEWS
The news of the riot at Great Barrington, brought by Sedgwick, excited
a ferment of terror among the gentlemen's families in Stockbridge.
Later in the day when the report got around that the mob intended to
visit the latter place, and treat it in like manner, there was little
less than a panic. The real facts of the Great Barrington outrages,
quite bad enough in themselves, had been exaggerated ten-fold by
rumor, and it was believed that the town was in flames and the streets
full of murder and rapine. Some already began to barricade their
doors, in preparation for the worst, while others who had horses and
vehicles prepared to convey a part at least of their families and
goods out of reach of the marauders. There were some in Stockbridge
who well remembered the alarm, "The Indians are coming," that summer
Sunday, when the Schaghticokes came down on the infant settlement, one
and thirty years before. There was scarcely wilder terror then, but
one point of difference sadly illustrated the distinction between a
foreign invasion and a civil war. Then all the people were in the same
fright, but now the panic was confined to the well-to-do families and
those conscious of being considered friendly to the courts. The poorer
people looked on their agitation with indifference, while some even
jeered at it.
The afternoon wore away, however, and the expected mob failed to make
its appearance, whereupon the people gradually took heart again. Those
who had put their furniture into carts unloaded it, and those who had
buried their silver in their cellars dug it up to use on the tea
table. Nevertheless, along about dusk, a good many men living in
Stockbridge, who had been down to Great Barrington all day, came home
drunk and flushed with victory and these, with the aid of some of the
same kidney in the village, kept up a lively racket all the evening,
varied with petty outrages which Perez thought best to ignore, knowing
too well the precarious tenure of his authority, to endanger it by
overstrictness. Perhaps, indeed, he was not wholly averse to such
occasional displays by the mob, as would keep before the gentlemen of
the town a vivid impression of what would be in store for them if but
for his guardianship.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening that, coming in sight of the
store, he saw it besieged by a gang of men, whom Squire Edwards,
visible against the background of the lighted doorway, was
expostulating with. The men were drunk and reckless. They wanted rum
and were bound to have it, and on the other hand the Squire had
evidently made up his mind that if they got into his store in their
present mood, they would be likely to plunder him of whatever he had,
and drawing valor from desperation, was opposing, a resistance which
involved no small personal peril. The crowd, besides being drunk, was
composed of the very men who had grudged him his escape from the
whipping-post a few days previous, and was by no means disposed to
stand on ceremony with him. Already he was being hustled, his wig had
been displaced, and his cane struck out of his hand, and in another
minute he would have been knocked down and the store thronged. The
light of a blazing bonfire on the green, threw glimmering reflections
upon the crowd before the store, and Edwards catching sight of Perez'
three-cornered hat cried in desperation:
"Captain Hamlin, will you let them kill me?"
In another moment Perez was up on the piazza in full view of the
crowd, which abashed a little by his presence, for a moment drew back
"What do you want, men? You ought not to break into people's houses!
You musn't disgrace the hemlock."
"Tha's all mighty fine, Cap'n," said Meshech Little, "but we want
suthin tew drink."
"Why don't you get it at the tavern?"
"The widder won't treat no more, an she's kinder got Abner bewitched
like, so's he backs her up, an we can't git nothin thar 'thout fightin
Abner, darn him."
"I say Cap'n 'tain't fa'r fer yew ter be a interferin with all our
fun," spoke up another.
"That's so," said others. "Cap'n," remarked Meshech, "yew jess let us
'lone, we hain't a techin yew, an we're baoun tew hev a time ter
Perez knew well enough that to attempt to wholly thwart the intentions
of this excited and drunken crowd, would be beyond his power, or at
least involve a bloody riot, and so he replied, good-naturedly:
"That's all right, boys, you shall have your time, but it won't do to
break into houses. Go over to the guardhouse and tell Abe Konkapot
that I say you may have a couple of gallons of the town rum we seized
the other night." This compromise was tumultuously accepted, the
entire crowd starting on a run toward the Fennell house, each hoping
to get the first advantage of the largess.
"Come in, Captain," said Edwards, and Perez entered.
Mrs. Edwards, Desire and Jonathan were in the store, having hurried
thither from the inner living-rooms at the noise of the crowd, to
share if they could not repel, the danger which threatened the head of
the house. As Jonathan quickly closed and barred the door, Edwards
"Wife, I owe my property and perhaps my life, also, to Captain
Mrs. Edwards dropped a stately curtsey, and said with a grand air
which made Perez feel as if her acknowledgments were a condescension
quite dwarfing his performance:
"I truly thank you for your succor." He mumbled something, he could
not have said what, and then his eyes sought Desire, who stood a
little aside. As he met her eye, he found himself blushing with
embarrassment at thought of their last interview. He had supposed that
it would be she who would be confused and self-conscious when they
met, but it was all on his side. She looked cool, dignified and
perfectly composed, quite as if he were a stock or a stone. He could
but wonder if he had remembered the incidents correctly. What with
Mrs. Edwards' grand air of condescending politeness, and Desire's icy
composure, he began to feel that he needed to get outdoors again,
where he could review the situation and recover his equanimity. But on
his making a movement in that direction, Squire Edwards, who had no
notion of parting with the protection of his presence just at present,
insisted that he should first go into the parlor, and Mrs. Edwards
dutifully and crushingly seconding the invitation, he found himself
without choice. The education of the camp, while it may adapt a man to
command other men, does not necessarily fit him to shine in the salon.
Perez stepped on his toes once or twice in passing through the store,
and in the parlor doorway, to his intense mortification, jostled,
heavily against Desire. He plumped down in the easiest chair in the
room, before being invited to sit at all, and changing hastily from
that to a stool too small for him, at the third attempt settled in a
chair of the right size. It was then that he remembered to take off
his hat, and having crossed and uncrossed his legs several times, and
tried numerous postures, finally sat bolt upright, gripping the lapels
of his coat with his hands. As for any tender emotions on account of
the girl who sat near him, he was scarcely conscious of her presence,
save as an element of embarrassment.
"I understand that you have served at the south, Captain Hamlin," said
"Yes, I thank you," he replied.
"You were with General Green, perhaps?"
"Yes--that is--yes m'am."
"How is your mother's health?"
"Very well indeed,--that is, when--when she isn't sick. She is
"Yes, but she's pretty well otherwise. How are you?" this last,
"Oh, thanks, I'm quite well," Mrs. Edwards replied, with a slight
elevation of the eyebrows. Somehow he felt that he ought not to have
asked that, and then he made another desperate resolution to go home.
"I think they'll be looking for me at home," he said, tentatively
rising halfway from his chair. "Father isn't well, you see." He had a
vague feeling that he could not go unless they formally admitted the
adequacy of his excuse.
At that moment there came the noise of an axe from the green, with
"What is that?" asked Mrs. Edwards of her husband, who entered from
the store at that moment.
"The rascals--that is--" he corrected himself with a glance at Perez,
"the men are chopping down the whippingpost to put on the bonfire. You
were not thinking of going so soon, Captain Hamlin?" he added with
"Yes, I think I will go," said Perez, straightening up and assuming a
"I beg you will not be so hasty," said Mrs. Edwards, taking her
husband's cue, and Perez abjectly sat down again.
"You must partake of my hospitality," said Edwards. "Jonathan, draw a
decanter of that old Jamaica. Desire, bring us tumblers."
The only thought of Perez was that the liquor would, perhaps, brace
him up a little, and to that end he filled his tumbler well up and did
not refuse a second invitation. The result answered his expectations.
In a very few moments he began to feel much more at ease. The incubus
upon his faculties seemed lifted. His muscles relaxed. He recovered
the free control of his tongue and his eyes. Whereas he had previously
been only conscious of Mrs. Edwards, and but vaguely of the room in
which they were and its other inmates, he now began to look around,
and take cognizance of persons and things and even found himself
complimenting his host on the quality of the rum with an ease at which
he was surprised. He could readily have mustered courage enough now to
take his leave, but he no longer felt in haste. As I observed above,
he had heretofore but vaguely taken notice of Desire, as she had sat
silently near by. Now he became conscious of her. He observed her
closely. He had never seen her dressed as she was now, in a low-necked,
white dress with short sleeves. As he was a few moments before, such
new revelations of her beauty would have daunted him, would have
actually added to his demoralization, but now he contemplated her
with an intense, elated complacency. It was easier talking with Mr.
Edwards than with Madam, and half an hour had passed, when Perez rose
and said, this time without trying to excuse himself, that he must go.
Mrs. Edwards had some time before excused herself from the room.
Jonathan had also gone. Desire bade him good evening, and Squire
Edwards led the way into the store to show him out. But Perez, after
starting to follow him, abruptly turned back, and crossing the room
to where Desire stood, held out his hand. She hesitated, and then put
hers in it. He raised it to his lips, although she tried to snatch it
away, and then, as if the touch had maddened him, he audaciously drew
her to him and kissed her lips. She broke away, shivering and speechless.
Then he saw her face crimson to the roots of her hair. She had seen her
mother standing in the doorway, looking at her. But Perez, as he turned
and went out through the store, did not perceive this. Had he turned to
look back, he would have witnessed a striking tableau.
Desire had thrown herself into a chair and buried her face in her
arms, against whose rounded whiteness the crimsoned ear tips and
temples testified to the shameful glow upon the hidden face while her
mother stood gazing at her, amazement and indignation pictured on her
face. For a full half minute she stood thus, and then said:
"My daughter, what does this mean?"
There was no answer, save that, at the voice of her mother, a warm
glow appeared upon the nape of the girl's neck, and even spread over
the glistening shoulders, while her form shook with a single
"Desire, tell me this instant," exclaimed Mrs. Edwards.
The girl threw up her head and faced her mother, her eyes blazing with
indignant shame and glistening with tears, which were quite dried up
by her hot cheeks ere they had run half their course.
"You saw," she said in a low, hard, fierce tone, "the fellow kissed
me. He does it when he pleases. I have no one to protect me."
"Why do you let him? Why didn't you cry out?"
"And let father be whipped, let him be killed! Don't you know why I
didn't?" cried the girl in a voice hoarse with excitement and
overwhelming exasperation that the motive of the sacrifice should not
be understood, even for a moment. She had sprung to her feet and was
facing her mother.
"Was it for this that he released your father the other day?"
Desire looked at her mother without a word, in a way that was an
answer. Mrs. Edwards seemed completely overcome, while Desire met her
horrified gaze with a species of desperate hardihood.
"Yes, it is I," she said, in a shrill, nervously excited tone. "It is
your daughter, Desire Edwards, whom this fellow has for a sweetheart.
Oh, yes. He kisses me where he chooses, and I do not cry out. Isn't it
fine, ha! ha!" and then her overstrained feelings finding expression
in a burst of hysterical laughter, she threw herself back into her
chair, and buried her face in her arms on the table as at first.
"What's the matter? What ails the girl?" said Edwards, coming in from
the store, and viewing the scene with great surprise.
"The matter?" replied Mrs. Edwards slowly. "The matter is this: as
that fellow was leaving, and your back was turned, he took our girl
here and hugged and kissed her, and though she resisted what she
could, she did not cry out. I stood in that door and saw it with my
own eyes. When I called her to account for this scandal, she began
vehemently to weep, and protested that she dared not anger him by
outcry, fearing for your life if he were offended. And she further
hinted that it was not the first time he had had the kissing of her.
Nay, she as good as said it was with kisses that she ransomed you out
of his hands the other day."
Edwards listened with profound interest, but with more evidence of
curiosity than agitation, and after thinking a few moments, said
"I have marvelled much by what manner of argument she compassed our
deliverance, after the parson, a man mighty in persuasion and rebuke,
had wholly failed therein. Verily, the devices of Providence for the
protection of his saints in troublous times are past understanding. To
this very intent doubtless, was the gift of comeliness bestowed on the
maiden, a matter wherefore I have often, in much perplexity, inquired
of the Lord, seeing that it is a gift that often brings the soul into
jeopardy through vain thoughts. But now is the matter made plain to my
It was no light thing in those days for a wife to reproach her lord,
but Mrs. Edwards' eyes fairly lightened as she demanded with a forced
"Will you, then, give up your daughter to these lewd fellows as Lot
would have given up his daughters to save his house?"
"Tut! tut!" said Edwards, frowning. "Your speech is unbridled and
unseemly. I am not worthy to be likened to that holy man of old, for
whose sake the Lord well nigh saved Sodom, nor am I placed in so sore
a strait. You spoke of nothing worse than kissing. The girl will not
be the worse, I trow, for a buss or two. Women are not so mighty
tender. So long as girls like not the kissing, be sure t'will do them
no harm, eh, Desire?" and he pinched her arm.
She snatched it away, and rushing across the room, threw herself upon
the settle, with her face in the cushion.
"Pish!" said her father, peevishly, "she grudges a kiss to save her
father from disgrace and ruin. It is a sinful, proud wench!"
"Proud!" echoed the girl, raising her tear-stained face from the
cushion and sitting up. "I was proud, but I'm not any more. All the
rabble are welcome to kiss me, seeing my father thinks it no matter."
"Pshaw, child, what a coil about a kiss or two, just because the
fellow smells a little, maybe, of the barn! Can't you wash your face
after? Take soap to 't, and save your tears. Bless me! you shall hide
in the garret after this, but for my part, I shall still treat the
fellow civilly, for he holds us, as it were, in the hollow of his
hand," and he went into the store in a pet.
There was one redeeming feature about the disturbances in Stockbridge.
The early bedtime habits of the people were too deeply fixed to be
affected by any political revolution, and however noisy the streets
might be soon after dusk, by half past nine or ten all was quiet. As
Perez crossed the green, after leaving the store, the only sound that
broke the stillness of the night, was the rumble of wheels on the
Boston road. It was Sedgwick's carriage, bearing him back to the
capital, to take his seat in the already convened State Senate. If his
flying visit home had been a failure so far as his law business before
the Supreme Court was concerned, it had at least enabled him to gain a
vivid conception of the extent and virulence of the insurrection.
There was really a good deal more than a joke in calling Perez, Duke
of Stockbridge. The antechamber of the headquarters room, at the
guardhouse, was often half full of a morning with gentlemen, and those
of lower degree as well, waiting to see him with requests. Some wanted
passes, or authority to go out of town, or carry goods away. Others
had complaints of orchards robbed, property stolen, or other injuries
from the lawless, with petitions for redress. The varieties of cases
in which Perez' intervention as the only substitute for law in the
village was being constantly demanded, it would quite exceed my space
to enumerate. In addition to this, he had the military affairs of the
insurgent train-band to order, besides transacting business with the
agents of neighboring towns, and even with messengers from Shays, who
already had begun to call on the Berkshire towns for quotas to swell
the rebel forces, of which a regular military organization was now
An informal sort of constitutional convention at the tavern had
committed the general government of the town, pending the present
troubles, to a Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety,
consisting of Perez, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, but the two
latter practically left everything to Perez. There was not in this
improvised form of town government, singular as it strikes us,
anything very novel or startling to the people of the village,
accustomed as they were all through the war to the discretionary and
almost despotic sway in internal as well as external affairs, of the
town revolutionary committees of the same name. These, at first
irregular, were subsequently recognized alike by the Continental and
state authorities, and on them the work of carrying the people through
the war practically and chiefly fell. In Berkshire, indeed, the
offices of the revolutionary committees had been even more
multifarious and extensive than in the other counties, for owing to
the course of Berkshire in refusing to acknowledge the authority of
the state government from 1775 to 1780, and the consequent suppression
of courts during that period, even judicial functions had often
devolved upon the committees, and suits at law had been heard and
determined, and the verdicts enforced by them. To the town meeting
alone did the revolutionary committees hold themselves responsible.
The effect of the outbreak of the revolutionary war had been, indeed,
to reduce democracy to its simplest terms. The Continental Congress
had no power, and only pretended to recommend and advise. The state
government, by sundering its relations with the crown, lost its legal
title, and for some time after the war began, and as regards
Berkshire, until the county voted to accept the new state constitution
in 1780, its authority was not recognized. During that period it may
be properly said that, while the Continental Congress advised and the
state convention recommended, the town meeting was the only body of
actual legislative powers in the Commonwealth. The reader must excuse
this brief array of dry historical details, because only by bearing in
mind that such had been the peculiar political education of the people
of Berkshire, will it appear fully credible that revolt should so
readily become organized, and anarchy assume the forms of law and
From the extent of his property interests and the popular animosity
which endangered them, no gentleman in Stockbridge had more necessity
to keep the right side of Perez Hamlin than Squire Edwards, and it was
not the storekeeper's fault if he did not. Comparatively few days
passed in which Perez did not find himself invited to take a glass of
something, as he passed the store, and without touching the point
either of servility or hypocrisy Edwards knew how to make himself so
affable that Perez began actually to think that perhaps he liked him
for his own sake, and even cherished the wild idea of taking him into
confidence concerning his passion and hope as to Desire. Had he done
so Edwards would certainly have found himself in a very awkward
predicament. Meanwhile, day after day and even week after week passed,
and save for an occasional glimpse of her passing a window, or the
shadow on her bedroom curtain with which his long night watches were
sometimes rewarded, he saw nothing of Desire. She never went on the
street, and for two Sundays had stayed at home from meeting. He could
not muster courage to ask Edwards about her, feeling that it must be
that she kept within doors merely to avoid him. One evening, however,
late in October, as he was sitting over some rum with the storekeeper,
the latter remarked, in a casual way, that the doctor had advised that
his daughter Desire, who had not been well of late, should take a trip
to Pittsfield for her health, and as if it were something quite
casual, asked Perez to have the kindness to make out a pass for her to
go the next day. As the Squire made this request, speaking as if it
were a mere matter of course, Perez was in the act of raising a glass
of liquor to his lips. He gave Edwards one glance, very slowly set
down the untasted beverage, and without a word of reply or of parting
salutation, got up and went out. The moment he was gone the door
connecting the living-rooms with the back of the store, softly opened,
and Mrs. Edwards and Desire entered.
"Did you get it?" asked the latter.
"Get it," replied Edwards in disgust, "I should think not. He looked
at me like a wolf when I spoke of it. I had some notion that he would
stick his hanger through my stomach, but he thought better of that and
got up and stalked out without so much as winking at me. He's a
terrible fellow. I doubt if he does not some outrage to us for this."
"Dear! Dear! What shall I do?" cried Desire, wringing her hands. "I
must go. I can't stay here, shut up like a prisoner, I shall be sick
"Who knows," said Mrs. Edwards, "what this ruffian may do next? He
will stop at nothing. He will not much longer respect our house. He
may force himself in any day. She is not safe here. I dare not have
her stay another day."
"I don't know what can be done, she can't get away without a pass,"
replied Edwards. "It would do no good for me to ask him again. Perhaps
the girl herself might coax a pass out of him. It's the only chance."
"I coax him! I see him again! Oh I can't, I can't do that," cried
Desire with an air of overwhelming repugnance.
"I could leave the door ajar you know, Desire, and be ready to come
into the room if he were unmannerly," said her mother. "I think he's
rather afraid of me. I'm afraid it's the only chance, as your father
says, if you could but bring yourself to it."
"Oh it doesn't seem as if I could. It doesn't seem as if I could,"
cried the girl.
Perez did not come near the store for some days and it was on the
street that Edwards next met him. The storekeeper was very cordial and
made no further allusion to the pass. In the course of conversation he
managed to make some reference to Desire's piano, and the curiosity
the people seemed to feel about the novel instrument. He asked Perez
if he had ever seen it, and Perez saying no, invited him to drop in
that evening and hear Desire play a little. It is needless to say that
the young man's surprise at the invitation did not prevent his
accepting it. It would have melted the heart of his worst enemy to
have seen how long he toiled that afternoon trying to refurbish his
threadbare coat so white in the seams, and the rueful face with which
he contemplated the result. On presenting himself at the store soon
after dusk, Edwards at once ushered him into the parlor, and withdrew,
saying that he must see to his business.
Desire sat at the piano, no one else being in the room. She looked
rather pallid and thinner than when he had seen her last, but all the
more interesting for this delicacy. There was, however, a far more
striking alteration in her manner, for to his surprise she rose at his
entrance, and came forward with a smile to greet him. He was
"I scarcely know how to greet a Duke, for such I hear you are become,"
said Desire with a profound curtsy and a bewitching tone of badinage.
Entirely taken aback, he murmured something inarticulate, about her
"Would your grace like to have me play a little?" she asked, gaily.
He intimated that he would, and she at once sat down before the little
instrument. It was scarcely more to be compared with the magnificent
machines of our day than the flageolets of Virgil's shepherds with the
cornet-a-piston of the modern star performer, but Mozart, Haydn,
Handel, or Beethoven never lived to see a better. It was only about
two feet across by four and a half in width, with a small square
sounding board at the end. The almost threadlike wires, strung on a
wooden frame, gave forth a thin and tinny sound which would
instantaneously bring the hands of a modern audience to its ears. But
to Perez it seemed divine, and when, too, Desire opened her mouth and
sang, tears of genuine emotion filled his eyes. She was more richly
dressed than he had ever seen her before, wearing a cherry colored
silk bodice, low necked, and with bell mouthed sleeves reaching to her
elbows only, while the rounded white arms were set off with coral
bracelets, a necklace of the same material encircling her throat. Upon
one cheek, a little below the outside corner of the eye she wore a
small black patch, according to a fashion of the time, by way of
heightening by contrast the delicacy of her complexion. The faint
perfume with which she had completed her toilet, seemed less a perfume
than the very breath of her beauty, the voluptuous effluence which it
exhaled. Having played and sung for some time she let her hands drop
by her side and raising her eyes to meet Perez' fascinated gaze, said
"Do you like it?" The most exacting performer would have been
satisfied with the manner in which after a husky attempt to say
something in reply, he bowed his head in silence.
"I'm glad you came in tonight," she said, "for I want to ask something
of you. Since you are Duke of Stockbridge we all have to ask favors of
you, you see."
"What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, dear me," she said, laughing. "That's not the way people ask
favors of kings and dukes. They make em promise to grant the favor
first, and then tell em what it is. This is the way," and with the
words she dropped lightly on one knee before Perez, and with her
clasped hands pressed against her bosom, raised her face up toward
his, her eyes eloquent, of intoxicating submissiveness.
"If thine handmaiden has found grace in the sight of my lord, the
duke, let my request be done even according to the prayer of my lips."