The Duke of Stockbridge
by
Edward Bellamy

Part 2 out of 6



"But what be I a goin to dew with my little Bijah? He's all I've got,
but I can't leave him."

"My father and mother will take care of him, and bring him with em to
York State, for I'm goin to get them right over there as soon as
they're sold out. There's a chance for poor folks west; there's no
chance here."

"Perez, thar's my fist. By gosh I'm with ye."

"Abner, it's a risky business, and you haven't got the call I've got,
being as Reub isn't your brother. I'm asking a good deal of you Abner."

"Don' ye say nothin more baout it," said Abner, violently shaking the
hand he still held, while he reassuringly clapped Perez on the back.
"Dew ye rekullec that time tew Stillwater, when ye pulled them tew
Britishers orfer me? Fer common doin's I don' callate ez two fellers
is more'n my fair share in a scrimmage, but ye see my arm wuz busted,
an if ye hadn't come along jess wen ye did, I callate the buryin squad
would a cussed some on caount of my size, that evenin.

"But gosh all hemlock, Perez, I dunno wat makes me speak o' that naow.
It wouldn' make no odds ef I'd never sot eyes onter ye afore. I'd help
eny feller, 'bout sech a job es this ere, jess fer the fun on't.
Risky! Yes it's risky; that's the fun. I hain't hed my blood fairly
flowin afore, sence the war. It doos me more good nor a box o' pills.
Jerewsalem, how riled deacon'll be!"

The two young men walked slowly back to the village, earnestly
discussing the details of their daring enterprise, and turning up the
lane, leading to the Hamlin house, paused, still conversing, at the
gate. As they stood there, the house door opened, and a young girl
came out, and approached them, while Mrs. Hamlin, standing in the
door, said:

"Perez, this is Prudence Fennell, George Fennell's girl. She heard you
had seen her father, and came to ask you about him."

The girl came near to Perez, and looked up at him with a questioning
face, in which anxiety was struggling with timidity. She was a rosy
cheeked lass, of about sixteen, well grown for her age, and dressed in
coarse woolen homespun, while beneath her short skirt, appeared a pair
of heavy shoes, which evidently bore very little relation to the shape
of the feet within them. Her eyes were gray and frank, and the
childishness, which the rest of her face was outgrowing, still
lingered in the pout of her lips.

"Is my father much sick, sir?"

"He is very sick," said Perez.

The pitifulness of his tone, no doubt, more than his words, betrayed
the truth to her fearful heart, for all the color ran down out of her
cheeks, and he seemed to see nothing of her face, save two great
terrified eyes, which piteously beseeched a merciful reply, even while
they demanded the uttermost truth.

"Is he going to die?"

Perez felt a strong tugging at his heart strings, in which, for the
moment, he forgot his own personal trouble.

"I don't know, my child," he replied, very gently.

"Oh, he's going to die. I know he's going to die," she cried, still
looking through her welling eyes a moment, to see if he would not
contradict her intuition, and then, as he looked on the ground, making
no reply, she turned away, and walked slowly down the lane sobbing as
she went.

"Abner, we must manage somehow to get George out too."

"Poor little gal, so we must Perez. We'll kidnap Schoolmaster Gleason
'long with deacon. But it's a pootty big job, Perez, two o' them and
on'y two o' us."

"I'm afraid we're trying more than we can do, Abner. If we try too
much, we shall fail entirely. I don't know. I don't know. There's the
whole jail full, and one ought to come out as well as another. All
have got friends that feel as bad as we do." He reflected a moment.
"By the Lord, we'll try it, Abner. Poor little girl. It's a desperate
game, anyway, and we might as well play for high stakes."

Abner went down the lane to the green, and Perez went into the house,
and sat down in the dark to ponder the new difficulties with which the
idea of also liberating Fennell complicated their first plan. Bold
soldier as he was, practiced in the school of Marion and Sumter, in
the surprises and strategems of partisan warfare, he was forced to
admit that if their project had been hazardous before, this new
feature made it almost foolhardy. In great perplexity he had finally
determined to go to bed, hoping that the refreshment of morning would
bring a clearer head and more sanguine mood, when there was a knock on
the door. It was Abner looking very much excited.

"Come out! Come out! Crypus! Come out, I've got news."

"What is it?" said Perez eagerly, stepping forth into the darkness.

"That wuz a pootty leetle plan o' yourn, Perez."

"Yes, yes."

Abner, he knew had not come to tell him that, for his voice trembled
with suppressed excitement, and the grip of his hand on his shoulder
was convulsive.

"P'raps we could a kerried it aout, an p'raps we should a
kerflummuxed. Ye've got grit an I've got size," pursued Abner. "Twuz
wuth tryin on. I'm kinder sorry we ain't a gonter try it."

"What the devil do you mean, Abner? not going to try it?"

"No, Perez, we ain't goin tew try it, leastways, not the same plan we
callated, an we ain't a goin tew try it alone," and he leaned over and
hissed in Perez' ear:

"The hull caounty o' Berkshire 's a gonter help us."

Perez looked at him with horror. He was not drunk; he must be going
crazy.

"What do you mean, Abner?" he said soothingly.

"Ye think I don' know wat I be a talkin baout, don' ye, Perez? Wal,
jess hole on a minit. A feller hez jess got in, a ridin 'xpress from
Northampton, to fetch word that the people in Hampshire has riz, and
stopped the courts. Fifteen hundred men, with Captain Dan Shays tew
ther head, stopped em. Leastways, they sent word to the jedges that
they kinder wisht they wouldn't hole no more courts till the laws wuz
changed, and the jedges, they concluded that the 'dvice o' so many
fellers with guns, wuz wuth suthin, so they 'journed."

"That means rebellion, Abner."

"In course it doos. An it means the Lord ain't quite dead yit. That's
wat it means."

"But what's that got to do with Reub and George?"

"Dew with em, why, man alive, don' ye unnerstan? Don' ye callate
Berkshire folks haz got ez much grit ez the Hampshire fellers, an don'
ye callate we haz ez much call to hev a grudge agin courts? Ye orter
been daown tew the tavern tew see haow the fellers cut up wen the news
come. T'was like a match dropping intew a powder bar'l. Tuesday's
court day tew Barrington, an ef thar ain't more'n a thousand men on
han with clubs an guns, tew stop that air court, wy, call me a skunk.
An wen that air court's stopped, that air jail's a comin open, or it's
a comin daown, one o' the tew naow."




CHAPTER SIXTH

PEREZ DEFINES HIS POSITION


We who live in these days, when press and telegraph may be said to
have almost rendered the tongue a superfluous member, quite fail to
appreciate the rapidity with which intelligence was formerly
transmitted from mouth to mouth. Virgil's description of hundred
tongued Rumor appeared by no means so poetical an exaggeration to our
ancestors as it does to us. Although the express, bearing the news of
the Northampton uprising did not reach Stockbridge tavern a minute
before half-past seven in the evening, there were very few families in
the village or the outlying farmhouses, which had not heard it ere
bedtime, an hour and a half later. And by the middle of the following
forenoon there was in all Southern Berkshire, only here and there a
family, off on a lonely hillside, or in a hidden valley, in which it
was not the subject of debate.

In Stockbridge, that morning, what few industries still supported a
languishing existence in spite of the hard times, were wholly
suspended. The farmer left his rowen to lie in the field and take the
chances of the weather, the miller gave his mill-stream a holiday, the
carpenter left the house half-shingled with rain threatening, and the
painter his brush in the pot, to collect on the street corners with
their neighbors and discuss the portentous aspect of affairs. And even
where there was little or no discussion, to stand silently in groups
was something. Thus merely to be in company was, to these excited men,
a necessity and a satisfaction, for so does the electricity of a
common excitement magnetize human beings, that they have an attraction
for one another, and are drawn together by a force not felt at other
times. There were not less than three hundred men, a quarter of the
entire population of the town, on and about Stockbridge Green at ten
o'clock that Monday morning, twice as many as had assembled to hear
the news from the convention the Saturday preceding.

The great want of the people, for the most part, tongue-tied farmers,
seemed to be to hear talk, to have something said, and wherever a few
brisk words gave promise of a lively dialogue, the speakers were at
once surrounded by a dense throng of listeners. The thirsting
eagerness with which they turned their open mouths toward each one as
he began to speak, in the hope that he would express to themselves
some one of the ideas formlessly astir in their own stolid minds, was
pathetic testimony to the depth to which the iron of poverty, debt,
judicial and governmental oppression had entered their souls. They had
thought little and vaguely, but they had felt much and keenly, and it
was evident the man who could voice their feelings, however partially,
however perversely, and for his own ends, would be master of their
actions.

Abner was not present, having gone at an early hour over to Lenox
furnaces, where he was acquainted, to carry the news from Northampton,
if it should not have arrived there, and notify the workmen that there
would be goings-on at Barrington, Tuesday, and they were expected to
be on hand. Paul Hubbard, also, had not come down from West Stockbridge,
although the news had reached that place last night. But from the
disposition of the man, there could be no question that he was busily
at work moulding his particular myrmidons, the iron-workers, into good
insurrectionary material. There was no doubt that he would have them
down to Barrington on time, whoever else was there.

In the dearth of any further details of the Northampton uprising, the
talk among the crowd on Stockbridge Green turned largely upon
reminiscences and anecdotes of the disturbances at the same place, and
at Hatfield four or five years previous. Ezra Phelps, who had been
concerned in them, having subsequently removed from Hatfield to
Stockbridge, enjoyed by virtue of that fact an oracular eminence, and
as he stood under the shadow of the buttonwood tree before the tavern,
relating his experiences, the people hung upon his lips.

"Parson Ely," he explained, "Parson Sam'l Ely wuz kinder tew the head
on us. He wuz a nice sorter man, I tell yew. He wuz the on'y parson I
ever seen ez hed any flesh in his heart for poor folks, 'nless it be
some o' them ere Methody an Baptis preachers ez hez come in sence the
war, an I callate they ain' reglar parsons nuther. Leastways, thuther
parsons, they turned Parson Ely aout o' the min'stry daown to Somers
whar he wuz, fer a tellin the poor folks they didn' git their rights.
Times wuz hard four or five year ago, though they warn't so all-fired
hard ez they be naow. Taxes wuz high 'nuff, an money wuz dretful
skurce, an thar wuz lots o' lawin an suein o' poor folks. But gosh, ef
we'd a known haow much wuss all them things wuz a going tew git, we
sh'd a said we wuz well orf. But ye see we warn't so uster bein
starved an cheated an jailed an knocked roun' then's we be sence, an
so we wuz kinder desprit, an a slew on us come daown from Hatfield tew
Northampton an stopped the court, wen t'wuz gonter set in the spring
o' '82. I callate we went tew work baout the same ez Dan Shays an them
fellers did las' week. Wal, arter we'd did the job an gone hum agin,
Sheriff Porter up an nabbed the parson, an chucked him inter jail. He
was long with us ye see, though he warn't no more tew blame nor any of
us. Wal, ye see, we callated t'wouldn't be ezzackly fa'r tew let
parson git intew trouble fer befriendin on us, an so baout 300 on us
went daown tew Northampton agin, and broke open the jail an tuk parson
aout. The sheriff didn' hev nothin tew say wen we wuz thar, but ez
soon ez we'd gone hum, he up an took three o' the parson's frens as
lived to Northampton an chucked em inter jail fer tew hold ez sorter
hostiges. He callated he'd hev a ring in the parson's nose that ere
way, so's he wouldn' dass dew nothin. Thar warn't no law nor no reason
in sech doins, but 'twuz plantin time, leastways gittin on tew it, and
he callated the farmers wouldn' leave ther farms, not fer nothin. But
he mistook. Ye see we wuz fightin mad. Baout 500 on us tuk our guns an
made tracks fer Northampton. Sheriff he'd got more'n a thousan milishy
tew defend the jail, but the milishy didn' wanter fight, an we did, an
that made a sight o' odds, fer wen we stopped night tew the taown an
sent word that ef he didn' let them fellers aout o' jail we'd come an
take em aout, he let em aout dum quick."

"Wat did they do nex?" inquired Obadiah Weeks, as Ezra paused with the
appearance of having made an end of his narration.

"That wuz the eend on't," said Ezra. "By that time govment seen the
people wuz in arnest, an quit foolin. Ginral Court passed a law
pardnin all on us fer wat we'd done. They allers pardons fellers, ye
see, wen ther's tew many on em tew lick, govment doos, an pooty soon
arter they passed that ere tender law fer tew help poor folks ez hed
debts so's prop'ty could be offered tew a far valiation instid o'
cash."

"That air law wuz repealed sence," said Peleg. "Ef we hed it naow,
mebbe we could git 'long spite o' ther being no money a cirkilatin."

"In course it wuz repealed," said Israel. "They on'y passed it caze
they wuz scairt o' the people. The loryers an rich folks got it
repealed soon ez ever they dasted. Gosh, govment don' keer nothin fer
wat poor folks wants, 'nless they gits up riots. That's the on'y way
they kin git laws changed, 's fur 's I see. Ain't that 'bout so
Peleg?"

"Ye ain't fur outer the way, Isr'el. We hain't got no money, an they
don' keer wat we says, but when we takes hole, an doos sumthin they
wakes up a leetle. We can't make em hear us, but by jocks, we kin make
em feel us," and Peleg pointed the sentiment with that cornerwise nod
of the head, which is the rustic gesture of emphasis. "I callate ye've
hit the nail on the head, Peleg," said a grizzled farmer. "We poor
folks hez to git our rights by our hands, same ez we gits our livin."

But at this moment, a sudden hush fell upon the group, and from the
general direction of the eyes, it was evidently the approach of Perez
Hamlin, as he crossed the green toward the tavern, which was the cause
thereof. Although Perez had arrived in town only at dusk on the
preceding Saturday, and excepting his Sunday evening stroll with
Abner, had kept within doors, the tongue of rumor had not only
notified pretty much the entire community of his arrival, but had
adorned that bare fact with a profuse embroidery of conjecture, as to
his recent experiences, present estate, and intentions for the future.

An absence of nine years had, however, made him personally a stranger
to most of the people. The young men had been mere lads when he went
away, while of the elders, many were dead, or removed. As he
approached the group around Ezra, he recognized but few of the faces,
all of which were turned upon him with a common expression of curious
scrutiny. There was Meshech Little. Him he shook hands with, and also
with Peleg, and Israel Goodrich. Ezra had come to the village since
his day.

"Surely this is Abe Konkapot," he said, extending his hand to a fine
looking Indian. "Why Abe, I heard the Stockbridges had moved out to
York State."

"You hear true," responded the smiling Indian. "Heap go. Some stay. No
want to go."

"Widder Nimham's gal Lu, could tell ye 'bout why Abe don' want ter go,
I guess," observed Obadiah Weeks, who directed the remark, however,
not so much to Perez as to some of the half-grown young men, from whom
it elicited a responsive snicker at Abe's expense.

Indeed, after the exchange of the first greetings, it became apparent
that Perez' presence was a damper on the conversation. The simple fact
was, the people did not recognize him as one of them. It was not that
his dress, although a uniform, was better or costlier than theirs. The
blue stockings were threadbare, and had been often mended, and the
coat, of the same hue, was pitiably white in the seams, while the
original buff of the waistcoat and knee breeches had faded to a whitey
brown. But the erect soldierly carriage of the wearer, and that
neatness and trimness in details, which military experience renders
habitual, made this frayed and time-stained uniform seem almost
elegant, as compared with the clothes that hung slouchily upon the men
around him. Their faces were rough, and unshaven, their hair unkempt,
their feet bare, or covered with dusty shoes, and they had generally
left their coats at home. Perez was clean shaven, his shoes, although
they barely held together, were neatly brushed, and the steel buckles
polished, while his hair was gathered back over his ears, and tied
with a black ribbon in a queue behind, in the manner of gentlemen. But
Israel Goodrich and Ezra also wore their hair in this manner, while
shoes and clean shaved faces were occasional indulgences with every
bumpkin who stood around. It was not then alone any details of dress,
but a certain distinction in air and bearing about Perez, which had
struck them. The discipline of military responsibility, and the
officer's constant necessity of maintaining an aspect of authority and
dignity, before his men, had left refining marks upon his face, which
distinguished it as a different sort from the countenances about him
with their expressions of pathetic stolidity, or boorish shrewdness.
In a word, although they knew old Elnathan Hamlin to be one of
themselves, they instinctively felt that this son of his had become a
gentleman.

At any time this consciousness would have produced constraint, and
checked spontaneous conversation, but now, just at the moment when the
demarcation of classes was taking the character of open hostility, it
produced a sentiment of repulsion and enmity. His place was on the
other side; not with the people, but with the gentlemen, the lawyers,
the parsons, and the judges. Why did he come spying among them?

Perez, without guessing the reason of it, began to be conscious of the
unsympathetic atmosphere, and was about moving away, when Israel
Goodrich remarked, with the air of wishing to avoid an appearance of
churlishness.

"Lessee, Perez, ye've been gone nigh onter nine year. Ye muss find
some changes in the taown."

Israel, as a man of more considerable social importance than the most
of those who stood around, and being moreover, old enough to be Perez'
father, had been less affected by the impulse of class jealousy than
the others.

"I've been home only one day, Mr. Goodrich," said Perez quietly, "but
I've noticed some changes already. When I went away, every man in town
had a farm of his own. As far as I've seen since I've been back, a few
rich men have got pretty near all the farms now, and the men who used
to own em, are glad of a chance to work on em as hired hands."

Such a sentiment, expressed by one of themselves, would have called
forth a shower of confirmatory ejaculations, but the people stared at
Perez in mere astonishment, the dead silence of surprise, at hearing
such a strong statement of their grievances, from one whose appearance
and manner seemed to identify him with the anti-popular, or gentleman's
side. So far as this feeling of bewilderment took any more definite
form, it evidently inclined to suspicion, rather than confidence. Was
he mocking them? Was he trying to entrap them? Even Israel looked
sharply at him, and his next remark, after quite a silence, was on
another subject.

"I s'pose ye know ez haow they've set the niggers free."

"Yes," replied Perez, "I heard of that when I was away, but I didn't
know the reason why they'd set em free, till I got home."

"What dew ye callate 's the reason?"

"I see they've made slaves of the poor folks, and don't need the
niggers any more," replied Perez, as quietly as if he were making the
most casual remark.

But still the people stared at him and looked questioningly at each
other, so bereft of magnetic force is language, though it express our
inmost convictions, when we do not believe that the heart of the
speaker beats in sympathy with what he says.

"I don' quite git yer idee. Haow dew ye make out that air 'bout poor
folks bein slaves?" said Ezra Phelps dryly.

It was evident that any man who thought he was going to get at the
real feelings of these rustics without first gaining their confidence,
little understood the shrewd caution of the race.

"I make it out this way," replied Perez. "I find pretty much every
rich man has a gang of debtors working for him, working out their
debts. If they are idle, if they dispute with him, if they don't let
him do what he pleases with them and their families, he sends them to
jail with a word, and there they stay till he wants to let them out.
No man can interfere between him and them. He does with em whatsoever
he will. And that's why I call them slaves."

Now, Meshech Little was slightly intoxicated. By that mysterious
faculty, whereby the confirmed drunkard, although absolutely
impecunious, nevertheless manages to keep soaked, while other thirsty
men can get nothing, he had obtained rum. And Meshech it was who,
proceeding in that spirit of frankness engendered by the bottle, now
brought about the solution of a misunderstanding, that was becoming
painful.

"Wha' ye say, Perez, z'all right, but wha'n time be _yew_ a sayin
on it fer? Ye be dressed so fine, an a cap'n b'sides, that we callated
ye'd take yer tod tew the store, long with the silk stockins, 'stid o'
consortin with common folks like we be."

There was a general sensation. Every mouth was opened, and every neck
craned forward to catch the reply.

"Did you think so, Meshech? Well, you see you are mistaken. There's
not a man among you has less cause to love the silk stockings, as you
call them, than I have, and you Meshech ought to know it. Nine years
ago, my brother Reub and I marched with the minute men. Parson and
Squire Woodbridge, and Squire Edwards and all of em, came round us and
said, 'We'll take care of your father and mother. We'll never forget
what you are doing to-day.' Yesterday I came home to find my father
and mother waiting to be sold out by the sheriff, and go to the poor
house; and Reub, I found my brother Reub, rotting to death in
Barrington jail."

"By gosh, I forgot baout Reub, I declar I did," exclaimed Meshech,
contritely.

"Give us yer hand," said Israel, "I forgot same ez Meshech, an I
misdoubted ye. This be Ezra Phelps, ez owns the new mill."

"Shake agin," said Peleg, extending his hand.

There was exhilaration as well as cordiality in the faces of the men,
who now crowded around Perez, an exhilaration which had its source in
the fact, that one whose appearance and bearing identified him with
the gentlemen, was on their side. It filled them with more
encouragement, than would have done the accession of a score of their
own rank and sort. Brawn and muscle they could themselves supply, but
for leadership, social, political and religious, they had always been
accustomed to look to the gentlemen of the community, and from this
lifelong and inherited habit, came the new sense of confidence and
moral sanction, which they felt in having upon their side in the
present crisis, one in whom they had instinctively recognized the
traits of the superior caste.

"Hev ye hearn the news from Northampton, Perez?" asked Israel.

"Yes, and if you men are as much in earnest as I am, there'll be news
from Barrington to-morrow," replied Perez, glancing around.

"Ef thar ain't, there'll be a lot on us disappinted, fer we be all a
callatin tew go thar tew see," said Israel, significantly.

"We'll git yer brother aouter jail, fer ye, Perez, an ef thar's any
fightin with the m'lishy, ye kin show us haow, I guess."

Meshech, as before intimated, was partially drunk, and spoke out of
the fullness of his heart. But except for this one outburst, a
stranger, especially one who did not know the New England disposition,
and its preference for innuendo to any other mode of speech, in
referring to the most important and exciting topics, would have failed
entirely to get the idea that these farmers and laborers contemplated
an act of armed rebellion on the morrow. He would, indeed, have heard
frequent allusions to the probability there would be great goings on
at Barrington, next morning, and intimations more or less explicit, on
the part of nearly every man present, that he expected to be on hand
to see what was done. But there was no intimation that they,
themselves, expected to be the doers. Many, indeed, perhaps most, had
very likely no distinct idea, of personally doing anything, nor was it
at all necessary that they should have in order to ensure the expected
outbreak, when the time should come. Given an excited crowd, all
expecting something to be done which they desire to have done, and all
the necessary elements of mob action are present.




CHAPTER SEVENTH

THE FIRST ENCOUNTER


The next morning by six o'clock, a large number of persons had gathered
on the green at Stockbridge, in consequence of an understanding that
those intending to witness the goings on at Barrington, should
rendezvous at the tavern, and go down together, whereby their own
hearts would be made stronger, and their enemies the more impressed.
A good many had, indeed, gone on ahead, singly, or in parties. Meshech
Little, who lived on the Barrington road, said that he hadn't had a
wink of sleep since four o'clock, for the noise of passing teams and
pedestrians. Those who owned horses and carts, including such men as
Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, had preferred that mode of locomotion,
but there were, nevertheless, as many as one hundred men and boys in
the muster on the green. Perhaps a quarter of them had muskets, the
others carried stout cudgels.

All sorts of rumors were flying about. One story was that the militia
had been ordered out with a dozen rounds of cartridges, to defend the
court and jail. Some even had heard that a cannon had been placed in
front of the court house, and trained on the Stockbridge road. On the
other hand, it was asserted that the court would not try to sit at
all. As now one, and now another, of these contradictory reports
prevailed, ebullitions of courage and symptoms of panic alternated
among the people. It was easy to see that they contemplated the
undertaking, on which they were embarking, not without a good deal of
nervousness. Abner was going from group to group, trying to keep up
their spirits.

"Hello," he exclaimed, coming across Jabez Flint. "Look a here, boys.
Derned ef Jabez ain't a comin long with the res' on us. Wal, Jabez, I
swow, I never callated ez I sh'd be a fightin long side o' ye. Misry
makes strange bedfellers, though."

"It's you ez hez changed sides, not me," responded the Tory. "I wuz
allers agin the state, an naow ye've come over tew my side."

Abner scratched his head.

"I swan, it doos look so. Anyhow, I be glad tew see ye tidday. I see
ye've got yer gun, Jabez. Ye muss be keerful. Loryers is so derndly
like foxes, that ye mout hit one on em by mistake."

There was a slight snicker at this, but the atmosphere was decidedly
too heavy for jokes. However boldly they might discourse at the tavern
of an evening, over their mugs of flip, about taking up arms and
hanging the lawyers, it was not without manifold misgivings, that
these law-abiding farmers found themselves on the point of being
actually arrayed against the public authorities in armed rebellion.
The absence of Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, who were looked up to
as the most substantial in estate and general respectability of those
who inclined to the popular side, was moreover unfortunate, although
it was supposed that they would be present at Barrington.

Meshech, indeed, in spite of the earliness of the hour, was full of
pot-valor, and flourished his gun in a manner more perilous to those
about him than to the state authorities, but his courage reeked so
strongly of its source, that the display was rather discouraging than
otherwise to the sober men around. Paul Hubbard, who had come down
from the ironworks with thirty men or more, presently drew Abner aside
and said:

"See here. It won't do to wait round any longer. We must start.
They're losing all their grit standing here and thinking it over."

But the confabulation was interrupted by a cry of panic from Obadiah
Weeks:

"Golly, here come the slectmen!"

"Hell!" exclaimed Hubbard, whirling on his heel, and taking in the
situation with a glance, while Abner's face was expressive of equal
consternation.

The local authorities had been so quiet the day before, that no
interference on their part had been thought of.

But here in a body came the five selectmen, cane in hand, headed by
Jahleel Woodbridge, wearing his most awful frown, and looking like the
embodied majesty of law. The actions and attitudes of the crowd were
like those of scholars interrupted by the entrance of the master in
the midst of a scene of uproar. Those nearest the corners of the
tavern promptly slunk behind it. Obadiah slipped around to the further
side of the buttonwood tree before the tavern. There was a general
movement in the body of the crowd, caused by the effort of each
individual to slip quietly behind somebody else, while from the edges,
men began to sneak homewards across the green, at a rate, which, had
the warning been a little longer, would have left no assemblage at all
by the time the selectmen arrived on the spot. Those who could not
find shelter behind their fellows, and could not escape save by a dead
run, pulled their hats over their eyes and looked on the ground, slyly
dropping their cudgels, meanwhile, in the grass. There was not a gun
to be seen.

With his head thrown back in the stiffest possible manner, his lips
pursed out, and throwing glances like lashes right and left, Woodbridge,
followed by the other selectmen, passed through the midst of the people,
until he reached the stone step before the tavern door. He stepped up
on this, and ere he opened his lips, swept the shame-faced assemblage
before him with a withering glance. What with those who had pulled
their hats over their eyes, and those who had turned their backs to
him in anxiety to avoid identification, there was not an eye that met
his. Abner himself, brave as a lion with his own class, was no braver
than any one of them when it came to encountering one of the superior
caste, to which he, and his ancestors before him, had looked up as
their rulers and leaders by prescription. And so it must be written of
even Abner, that he had somehow managed to get the trunk of the
buttonwood tree, which sheltered Obadiah, between a part at least of
his own enormous bulk, and Squire Woodbridge's eye. Paul Hubbard's
bitter hatred of gentlemen, so far stood him in stead of courage,
that it would not let him hide himself. He stood in plain view, but
with his face half averted from Woodbridge, while his lip curled in
bitter scorn of his own craven spirit. For it must be remembered that
I am writing not of the American farmer and laborer of this democratic
age, but of men who were separated but by a generation or two from the
peasant serfs of England, and who under the stern and repressive rule
of the untitled aristocracy of the colonies, had enjoyed little
opportunity for outgrowing inherited instincts of servility.

And now it was that Perez Hamlin, who had been all this while within
the tavern, his attention attracted by the sudden silence which had
fallen on the people without, stepped to the door, appearing on the
threshold just above Squire Woodbridge's head and a little to one side
of him. At a glance he saw the way things were going. Already half
demoralized by the mere presence and glance of the magnates, a dozen
threatening words from the opening lips of Woodbridge would suffice to
send these incipient rebels, like whipped curs, to their homes. He
thought of Reub, and for a moment his heart was filled with grief and
terror. Then he had an inspiration.

In the crowd was one known as Little Pete, a German drummer of
Reidesel's Hessian corps, captured with Burgoyne's army. Brought to
Stockbridge and quartered there as a prisoner he had continued to live
in the town since the war. Abner had somewhere procured an old drum
for Pete, and with this hung about his neck, the sticks in his hands,
he now stood not ten feet away from the tavern door. He spoke but
little English, and, being a foreigner, had none of that awe for the
selectmen, alike in their personal and official characters, which
unnerved the village folk. Left isolated by the falling back of the
people around him, Pete was now staring at these dignitaries in stolid
indifference. They did not wear uniforms, and Pete had never learned
to respect or fear anything not in uniform.

Having first brought the people before him, to the fitting preliminary
stage of demoralization, by the power of his eye, Woodbridge said in
stern, authoritative tones, the more effective for being low pitched,

"You may well"----

That was as far, however, as he got. With the first sound of his
voice, Perez stepped down beside him. Drawing his sword, which he had
put on that morning, he waved it with a commanding gesture, and
looking at little Pete, said with a quick, imperious accent:

"Drum!"

If a man in an officer's uniform, with a shining piece of steel in his
hand, should order Pete to jump into the mouth of a cannon, he would
no more think of hesitating, than the cannon itself of refusing to go
off when the linstock was pulled. Without the change of a muscle in
his heavy face, he raised the drumsticks and brought them down on the
sheepskin.

And instantly the roll of the drum deafened the ears of the people,
utterly drowning the imperious tones of the selectman, and growing
louder and swifter from moment to moment, as the long unused wrists of
the drummer recalled their former cunning.

Woodbridge spoke yet a few words without being able to hear himself.
Then, his smooth, fleshy face purple with rage, he wheeled and glared
at Hamlin. It did not need the drum to silence him now. He was so
overcome with amazement and passion that he could not have articulated
a word. But if he thought to face down the man by his side, he was
mistaken. At least a head taller than Woodbridge, Perez turned and
looked down into the congested eyes of the other with cool, careless,
defiance.

And how about the people who looked on? The confident, decisive tone
of Hamlin's order to the drummer, the bold gesture that enforced it,
the fearless contempt for the village great man, which it implied, the
unflinching look with which he met his wrathful gaze, and accompanying
all these, the electrifying roll of the drum with its martial
suggestions, had acted like magic on the crowd. Those who had slunk
away came running back. Muskets rose to shoulders, sticks were again
brandished, and the eyes of the people, a moment ago averted and
downcast, rose defiantly. On every face there was a broad grin of
delight. Even Paul Hubbard's cynical lips were wreathed with a smile
of the keenest satisfaction, and he threw upon Perez one of the few
glances of genuine admiration which men of his sardonic type ever have
to spare for anybody.

For a few moments Woodbridge hesitated, uncertain what to do. To
remain standing there, was impossible, with this crowd of his former
vassals on the broad grin at his discomfiture. To retire was to
confess defeat. The question was settled, however, when one of his
official associates, unable longer to endure the din of the drum,
desperately clapped both hands over his ears. At this the crowd began
to guffaw uproariously, and seeing that it was high time to see about
saving what little dignity he still retained, Woodbridge led the way
into the tavern, whither he was incontinently followed by his
compeers.

Instantly, at a gesture from Perez, the drum ceased, and his voice
sounded strangely clear in the sudden and throbbing silence, as he
directed little Pete to head the column, and gave the order to march.
With a cheer, and a tread that shook the ground, the men set out.
Perez remained standing before the tavern, till the last man had
passed, by way of guarding against any new move by the selectmen, and
then mounting his horse, rode along the column.

They were about half a mile out of Stockbridge, when Abner,
accompanied by Paul Hubbard, approached Perez, and remarked:

"The fellers all on em says, ez haow ye'll hev tew be cap'n o' this
ere kumpny. Thar's no use o' shilly-shallyin the business, we've got
tew hev somebody ez kin speak up tew the silk stockins. Hain't that
so, Paul?"

Hubbard nodded, but did not speak. It was gall and wormwood to his
jealous and ambitious spirit, to concede the leadership to another,
but his good sense forced him to recognize the necessity of so doing
in the present case.

"Abner," replied Perez, "you know I only want to get Reub out. That's
why I interfered when the plan looked like falling through. I don't
want to be captain, man, I'd no notion of that."

"Nuther had I," said Abner, "till ye tackled the Squire, an then I see
quick ez a flash that ye'd got ter be, an so'd all the other fellers.
We sh'd a kerflummuxed sure's taxes, ef ye hadn't done jess what ye
did. An naow, ye've got tew be cap'n, whether or no."

"Well," said Perez, "If I can do anything for you, I will. We're all
in the same boat, I suppose. But if I'm captain, you two must be
lieutenants."

"Yes, we're a gonter be," replied Abner. "Ye kin depend on us in a
scrimmage, but ye muss sass the silk stockins."

Meanwhile the men, as they marched along the road in some semblance of
military order, were eagerly discussing the recent passage between the
dreaded Squire and their new champion. Their feeling about Perez
seemed to be a certain odd mingling of respect, with an exultant sense
of proprietorship in him as a representative of their own class, a
farmer's son who had made himself as fine a gentleman as any of the
silk stockings, and could face down the Squire himself.

"Did ye see haow Squire looked at Perez wen Pete begun tew drum?"
observed Peleg. "I reckoned he wuz a gonter lay hans ontew him."

"Ef he had, by jimmeny, I b'leeve Cap'n would a hit him a crack ez
would a knocked him inter the middle o' nex week," said Meshech.

"Oh, gosh, I ony wisht he hed," cried Obadiah, quite carried away at
the wild thought of the mighty Squire rolling on the grass with a
bloody nose.

"I allers hearn ez them Hamlin boys hed good blood intew em," observed
a farmer. "Mrs. Hamlin's a Hawley, one o' them air River Gods, ez they
calls em daown Hampshire way. Her folks wuz riled wen she tuk up with
Elnathan, I hearn."




CHAPTER EIGHTH

GREAT GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON


As the company from Stockbridge surmounted the crest of a hill, about
half way to Barrington, they saw a girl in a blue tunic, a brown rush
hat, and a short gown, of the usual butternut dye, trudging on in the
same direction, some distance ahead. As she looked back, in evident
amazement at the column of men marching after her, Perez thought that
he recognized the face, and on coming up with her, she proved to be,
in fact, no other than Prudence Fennell, the little lass who had
called at the house Sunday evening to inquire about her father down at
the jail, and whose piteous grief at the report Perez was obliged to
give, had determined Abner and him to attempt the rescue of George, as
well as Reub, at whatever additional risk.

Far enough were they then from dreaming that two days later would find
them leading a battalion of armed men, by broad daylight along the
high road, to free the captives by open force. As readily would they
then have counted on an earthquake to open the prison doors, as on
this sudden uprising of the people in their strength.

As the men came up, Prudence stopped to let them pass by, her fresh,
pretty face expressive of considerable dismay. As she shrunk closely
up to the rail fence that lined the highway, she looked with timid
recognition up at Perez, as if to claim his protection.

"Where are you going?" he asked kindly, stopping his horse.

"I'm going to see father," she said with a tremulous lip.

"Poor little lassie, were you going to walk all the way?"

"It is nothing," she said, "I could not wait, you know. He might die,"
and her bosom heaved with a sob that would fain break forth.

Perez threw himself from his horse.

"We are all going to the jail," he said. "You shall come with us, and
ride upon my horse. Men, she shall lead us."

The men, whose discipline was not as yet very rigid, had halted and
crowded around to listen to the dialogue, and received this
proposition with a cheer. Prudence would far rather had them go on,
and leave her to make her own way, but she was quite too much scared
to resist as Perez lifted her upon his saddle. He shortened one of the
stirrups, to support her foot, and then the column took up its march
under the new captain, Perez walking by her side and leading the
horse.

Had he arranged this stroke beforehand, he could not have hit on a
more effective device for toning up the morals of the men. Those in
whose minds the old misgivings as to their course had succeeded the
sudden inspiration of Little Pete's drum, now felt that the child
riding ahead lent a new and sacred sanction to their cause. They all
knew her story, and to their eyes she seemed, at this moment, an
embodiment of the spirit of suffering and outraged humanity, which had
nerved them for this day's work. A more fitting emblem, a more inspiring
standard, could not have been borne before them. But it must not be
supposed that even this prevented, now and then, a conscience-stricken
individual from stopping to drink at some brook crossing the road,
until the column had passed the next bend in the road, and then slinking
home cross-lots, taking an early opportunity after arriving to pass the
store, so as to be seen and noted as not among the rioters. But
whatever was lost in this way, if the defection of such material can
be called a loss, was more than made up by the recruits which swelled
the ranks from the farmhouses along the road. And so, by the time they
entered Muddy Brook, a settlement just outside of Great Barrington,
through which the road from Stockbridge then passed, they numbered
full one hundred and fifty.

Muddy Brook was chiefly inhabited by a poor and rather low class of
people, who, either from actual misery or mere riotous inclination,
might naturally be expected to join in any movement against
constituted authority. But instead of gaining any accession of forces
here, the Stockbridge party found the place almost deserted. Even the
small boys, and the dogs were gone, and apparently a large part of the
able-bodied women as well.

"What be all the folks?" called out Abner to a woman who stood with a
baby in arms at an open door.

"Over tew Barrington seein the fun. Thar be great dewins," she
replied.

This news imparted valor to the most faint-hearted, for it was now
apparent that this was not a movement in which Stockbridge was alone
engaged, not a mere local revolt, but a general, popular uprising,
whose extent would be its justification. And yet, prepared as they
thus were, to find a goodly number of sympathizers already on the
ground, it was with mingled exultation and astonishment that, on
topping the high hill which separates Muddy Brook from Great
Barrington, and gaining a view of the latter place, they beheld the
streets packed, and the green in front of the court house fairly black
with people.

There was a general outburst of surprise and satisfaction.

"By gosh, it looks like gineral trainin, or'n ordination."

"Looks kinder 'z if a good many fellers b'sides us hed business with
the jestices this mornin."

"I'd no idee courts wuz so pop'lar."

"They ain't stocks nuff in Berkshire fer all the fellers as is out
tidday, that's one sure thing, by gol."

"No, by Jock, nor Saddleback mounting ain't big nuff pillory to hold
em, nuther," were some of the ejaculations which at once expressed the
delight and astonishment of the men, and at the same time betrayed the
nature of their previous misgivings, as to the possible consequences
of this day's doings. Estimates of the number of the crowd in
Barrington, which were freely offered, ranged all the way from two
thousand to ten thousand, but Perez, practiced in such calculations,
placed the number at about eight or nine hundred men, half as many
women and boys. What gave him the liveliest satisfaction was the
absence of any military force, not indeed that he would have hesitated
to fight if he could not have otherwise forced access to the jail, but
he had contemplated the possibility of such a bloody collision between
the people and militia, with much concern.

"There'll be no fighting to-day, boys," he said, turning to the men,
"you'd better let off your muskets, so there may be no accidents. Fire
in the air," and thus with a ringing salvo, that echoed and reechoed
among the hills and was answered with acclamations from the multitude
in the village, the Stockbridge battalion, with the girl riding at its
head, entered Great Barrington, and breaking ranks, mingled with the
crowd.

"Bully, we be jess in time to see the fun," cried Obadiah delightedly,
as the courthouse bell rang out, thereby announcing that the justices
had left their lodgings to proceed to the courthouse and open court.

"I declar for't," exclaimed Jabez, "I wonder ef they be gonter try tew
hole court 'n spite o' all that crowd. Thar they be sure's rates."

And, indeed, as he spoke, the door of the residence of Justice Dwight
opened, and High Sheriff Israel Dickinson, followed by Justice Dwight
and the three other justices of the quorum, issued therefrom, and took
up their march directly toward the courthouse, seemingly oblivious of
the surging mass of a thousand men, which barred their way.

The sheriff advanced with a goose step, carrying his wand of office,
and the justices strode in Indian file behind him. They were dressed
in fine black suits, with black silk hose, silver buckles on their
shoes, fine white ruffled shirts, and ponderous cocked hats upon their
heavily powdered wigs. Their chests were well thrown out, their chins
were held in air, their lips were judicially pursed, and their eyes
were contemplatively fixed on vacancy, as if they had never for a
moment admitted the possibility that any impediment might be offered
to their progress. It must be admitted that their bearing worthily
represented the prestige of ancient authority and moral majesty of
law. Nor did the mob fail to render the tribute of an involuntary
admiration to this imposing and apparently invincible advance. It had
evidently been taken for granted that the mere assemblying and riotous
attitude of so great a multitude, bristling with muskets and bludgeons,
would suffice to prevent the justices from making any attempt to hold
court. It was with a certain awe, and a silence interrupted only by
murmurs of astonishment, that the people now awaited their approach.
Perhaps had the throng been less dense, it might have justified the
serene and haughty confidence of the justices, by opening a path for
them. But however disposed the first ranks might have been to give
way, they could not by reason of the pressure from behind, and on
every side.

Still the sheriff continued to advance, with as much apparent
confidence of opening a way as if his wand were the veritable rod
wherewith Moses parted the Red Sea, until he almost trod on the toes
of the shrinking first rank. But there he was fain to pause. Moral
force cannot penetrate a purely physical obstacle.

And when the sheriff stopped, the justices marching behind him also
stopped. Not indeed that their honors so far forgot their dignity as
to appear to take direct cognizance of the vulgar and irregular
impediment before them. It was the sheriff's business to clear the way
for them. And although Justice Dwight's face was purple with
indignation, he, as well as his associates, continued to look away
into vacancy, suffering not their eyes to catch any of the glances of
the people before them.

"Make way! Make way for the honorable justices of the Court of Common
Pleas of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!" cried the sheriff, in
loud, imperative tones.

A dead silence of several moments followed, in which the rattling of a
farmer's cart, far down the street, as it brought in a belated load of
insurgents from Sheffield, was distinctly audible. Then somebody in
the back part of the crowd, impressed with a certain ludicrousness in
the situation, tittered. Somebody else tittered, then a number, and
presently a hoarse haw haw of derision, growing momentarily louder,
and soon after mingled with yells, hoots and catcalls, burst forth
from a thousand throats. The prestige of the honorable justices of the
Court of Common Pleas, was gone.

A moment still they hesitated. Then the sheriff turned and said
something to them in a low voice, and they forthwith faced about and
deliberately marched back toward their lodgings. In this retrograde
movement the sheriff acted as rear guard, and he had not gone above a
dozen steps, before a rotten egg burst on one shoulder of his fine new
coat, and as he wheeled around an apple took him in the stomach, and
at the same moment the cocked hat of Justice Goodrich of Pittsfield,
was knocked off with a stone. His honor did not apparently think it
expedient to stop just then to pick it up, and Obadiah Weeks, leaping
forward, made it a prey, and instantly elevated it on a pole, amid
roars of derisive laughter. The retreat of the justices had indeed so
emboldened the more ruffianly and irresponsible element of the crowd,
many of whom were drunk, that it was just as well for the bodily
safety of their honors that the distance to their lodgings was no
greater. As it was, stones were flying fast, and the mob was close
on the heels of the sheriff when the house was gained, and as he
attempted to shut the door after him, there was a rush of men, bent on
entering with him. He knocked down the first, but would have been
instantly overpowered and trampled on, had not Perez Hamlin, followed
by Abner, Peleg, Abe Konkapot and half a dozen other Stockbridge men,
shouldered their way through the crowd, and come to his relief. Where
then had Perez been, meantime?




CHAPTER NINTH

JUDGE DWIGHT'S SIGNATURE


As soon as the Stockbridge battalion had arrived on the green at Great
Barrington, and broken ranks, Perez had directed Abner to pass the
word to all who had friends in the jail, and presently a party of
forty or fifty men was following him, as he led the way toward that
building, accompanied by Prudence, who had not dismounted. The rest of
them could attend to the stopping of the court. His concern was with
the rescue of his brother. But he had not traversed over half the
distance when the cry arose:

"They're stoning the judges!"

Thus recalled to his responsibilities as leader of at least a part of
the mob, he had turned, and followed by a dozen men, had hurried back
to the rescue, arriving in the nick of time. Standing in the open door
of the house to which the justices had retired, the rescued sheriff
just behind him in the hall, he called out:

"Stand back! Stand back! What more do you want, men? The court is
stopped."

But the people murmured. The Great Barrington men did not know Perez,
and were not ready to accept his dictation.

"We've stopped court to-day, sartin," said one, "but wot's to hender
they're holden of it to-morrer, or ez soon's we be gone, an hevin
every one on us in jail?"

"What do you want, then?" asked Perez.

"We want some sartainty baout it."

"They've got tew 'gree not ter hold no more courts till the laws be
changed," were replies that seemed to voice the sentiments of the
crowd.

"Leave it to me, and I'll get you what you want," said Perez, and he
went down the corridor to the kitchen at the back of the house, where
the sheriff had told him he would find the justices. Although the room
had been apparently chosen because it was the farthest removed from
the public, the mob had already found out their retreat, and a nose
was flattened against each pane of the windows. Tall men peered in
over short men's shoulders, and cudgels were displayed in a way not at
all reassuring to the inmates.

Their honors by no means wore the unruffled and remotely superior
aspect of a few minutes before. It must be frankly confessed, as
regards the honorable Justices Goodrich of Pittsfield, Barker of
Cheshire, and Whiting of Great Barrington, that they looked decidedly
scared, as in fact, they had some right to be. It might have been
supposed, indeed, that the valor of the entire quorum had gone into
its fourth member, Justice Elijah Dwight, who, at the moment Perez
entered the room, was being withheld by the combined strength of his
agonized wife and daughter from sallying forth with a rusty Queen's
arm to defend his mansion. His wig was disarranged with the struggle,
and the powder shaken from it streaked a countenance, scholarly enough
in repose no doubt, but just now purple with the three-fold wrath of
one outraged in the combined characters of householder, host, and
magistrate.

"Your honors," said Perez, "the people will not be satisfied without
your written promise to hold no more courts till their grievances are
redressed. I will do what I can to protect you, but my power is
slight."

"Who is this fellow who speaks for the rabble?" demanded Dwight.

"My name is Hamlin."

"You are a disgrace to the uniform you wear. Do you know you have
incurred the penalties of high treason?" exclaimed the justice.

"This is not the first time I have incurred those penalties in behalf
of my oppressed countrymen, as that same uniform shows," retorted the
other. "But it is not now a question of the penalties I have incurred,
but how are you to escape the wrath of the people," he continued
sharply.

"I shall live to see you hung, drawn and quartered for treason, you
rascal," roared Dwight.

"Nay, sir. Do but think this man holds your life in his hands. Entreat
him civilly," expostulated Madam Dwight.

"He means not so, sir," she added, turning to Perez.

"The fellers wanter know why in time that ere 'greement ain't signed.
We can't keep em back much longer," Abner cried, rushing to the door
of the kitchen a moment, and hurrying back to his post.

"Where are writing materials?" asked Justice Goodrich, nervously, as a
stone broke through one of the window panes and fell on the table.

"I will bring them," said the young lady, Dwight's daughter.

"Do make haste, Miss," urged Justice Barker. "The mob is even now
forcing an entrance."

"I forbid you to bring them. Remain here," thundered Dwight.

The girl paused, irresolute, pale and terrified.

"Go, Eliza," said her mother. "Disobey your father and save his life."

She went, and in a moment returned with the articles. Perez wrote two
lines, and read them.

"'We promise not to act under our commissions until the grievances of
which the people complain are redressed.' Now sign that, and quickly,
or it will be too late."

"Do you order us to sign?" said Barker, apparently willing to find in
this appearance of duress an excuse for yielding.

"Not at all," replied Perez. "If you think you can make better terms
with the people for yourselves, you are welcome to try. I should judge
from the racket that they're on the point of coming in."

There was a hoarse howl from without, and Justices Goodrich, Barker
and Whiting simultaneously grabbed for the pen. Their names were
affixed in a trice.

"Will your honor sign?" said Perez to Dwight, who stood before the
fireplace, silently regarding the proceedings. His first ebullition of
rage had passed, and he appeared entirely calm.

"My associates may do as they please," he replied with dignity, "but
it shall never be said that Elijah Dwight surrendered to a mob the
commission which he received from his excellency, the governor, and
their honors, the councillors of the Commonwealth."

"I admire your courage, sir, but I cannot answer for the consequences
of your refusal," said Perez.

"For my sake sign, sir," urged Madam Dwight.

"Oh, sign, papa. They will kill you," cried Eliza.

"Methinks, it is but proper prudence, to seem to yield for the time
being," said Goodrich.

"'Tis no more than the justices at Northampton have done," added
Barker.

"I need not remind your honor that a pledge given under duress, is not
binding," said Whiting.

But Dwight waved them away, saying merely, "I know my duty."

Suddenly Eliza Dwight stepped to the table and wrote something at the
bottom of the agreement, and giving the paper to Perez said something
to him in a low voice. But her father's keen eye had noted the act,
and he said angrily:

"Child, have you dared to write my name?"

"Nay, father, I have not," replied the girl.

Even as she spoke there were confused cries, heavy falls, and a rush
in the hall, and instantly the room was filled with men, their faces
flushed with excitement and drink. The guard had been overpowered.

"Whar's that paper?"

"Hain't they signed?"

"We'll make ye sign, dum quick."

"We're a gonter tie ye up an give it to ye on the bare back."

"We'll give ye a dose o' yer own med'cin."

"I don' wanter hurt ye, sis, but ye muss git aout o' the way," said a
burly fellow to Eliza, who, with her mother, had thrown herself
between the mob and Justice Dwight, his undaunted aspect appearing to
excite the special animosity of the rabble. The other three justices
were huddled in the furthest corner.

"It's all right, men, it's all right. No need of any more words.
Here's the paper," said Perez, authoritatively. A man caught it from
his hand and gave it to another, saying,

"Here, Pete, ye kin read. Wot does it say?" Pete took the document in
both hands, grasping it with unnecessary firmness, as if he depended
in some degree on physical force to overcome the difficulties of
decipherment, and proceeded slowly and with tremendous frowns to spell
it out.

"We-promise-not-to-ak--under--our-c--o--m,--commishins--until-the--
g--r--i--e--grievunces,"--

"Wot be them?" demanded one of the crowd.

"That means taxes, 'n loryers, 'n debts, 'n all that. I've hearn the
word afore," exclaimed another. "G'long Pete."

"Grievunces," proceeded the reader, "of-wich-the-people-complain."

"That's so."

"That's dern good. In course we complains."

"Is that writ so, Pete?"

"G'long, Pete, that ere's good."

"Complains," began the reader again.

"Go back tew the beginnin Pete, I los' the hang on't."

"Yes, go back a leetle, Pete. It be mos'z long ez a sermon."

"Shell I begin tew the beginnin?"

"Yes, begin tew the beginnin agin, so's we'll all on us git the hang."

"We--promise--not-tew-ak--under--our-commishins,--until--the--g--r--
grievunces--of--wich--the--people--complain,--are--r--e--d--r--
redressed."

"Wot's redressed?"

"That's same ez 'bolished."

"Here be the names," pursued Pete.

"Charles Goodrich."

"He's the feller ez loss his hat."

"William Whiting."

"James Barker."

"Elijah Dwight."

"It's false," exclaimed Dwight, "my name's not there!"

But few, if any, heard or heeded his words, for at the moment Pete
pronounced the last name, Perez shouted:

"Now, men, we've done this job, let's go to the jail and let out the
debtors, come on," and suiting action to word he rushed out, and was
followed pell-mell by the yelling crowd, all their truculent
enthusiasm instantly diverted into this new channel.

The four justices, and the wife and daughter of Dwight, alone remained
in the room. Even the people who had been staring in, with their noses
flattened against the window panes, had rushed away to the new point
of interest. Dwight stood steadfastly looking at his daughter, with a
stern and Rhadamanthine gaze, in which, nevertheless, grief and
reproachful surprise, not less than indignation, were expressed. The
girl shrinking behind her mother, seemed more in terror than when the
mob had burst into the room.

"And so my daughter has disobeyed her father, has told him a lie, and
has disgraced him," said the justice, slowly and calmly, but in tones
that bore a crushing weight of reproof. "Add, sir, at least, that she
has also saved his life," interposed one of the other justices.

"Oh, don't talk to me so, papa," cried the girl sobbing. "I didn't
write your name, papa, I truly didn't."

"Do not add to your sin, by denials, my daughter. Did the fellow not
read my name?" Dwight regarded her as he said this, as if he were
somewhat disgusted at such persistent falsehood, and the others looked
a little as if their sympathy with the girl had received a slight
shock.

"But, papa, won't you believe me," sobbed the girl, clinging to her
mother as not daring to approach him to whom she appealed. "I only
wrote my own name."

"Your name, Eliza, but he read mine."

"Yes, but the pen was bad, you see, and my name looks so like yours,
when it's writ carelessly, and the 'a' is a little quirked, and I
wrote it carelessly, papa. Please forgive me. I didn't want to have
you killed, and I quirked the 'a' a little."

The Rhadamanthine frown on Dwight's face yielded to a very composite
expression, a look in which chagrin, tenderness, and a barely
perceptible trace of amusement mingled. The girl instantly had her
arms around his neck, and was crying violently on his shoulder, though
she knew she was forgiven. He put his hand a moment gently on her
head, and then unloosed her arms, saying, dryly,

"That will do, dear, go to your mother now. I shall see that you have
better instruction in writing."

That was the only rebuke he ever gave her.




CHAPTER TENTH

GREAT GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON CONTINUED


When Perez and the men who with him were in the act of advancing on
the jail, were so suddenly recalled by the cry that the people were
stoning the judges, Prudence had been left quite alone, sitting on
Perez' horse in the middle of the street. She had no clear idea what
all this crowd and commotion in the village was about, nor even what
the Stockbridge men had come down for in such martial array. She only
knew that Mrs. Hamlin's son, the captain with the sword, had said he
would bring her to her father, and now that he had run off taking all
the other men with him, she knew not what to do or which way to turn.
To her, thus perched up on the big horse, confused and scared by the
tumult, approached a tall, sallow, gaunt old woman, in a huge green
sunbonnet, and a butternut gown of coarsest homespun. Her features
were strongly marked, but their expression was not unkindly, though
just now troubled and anxious.

"I guess I've seen yew tew meetin," she said to Prudence. "Ain't you
Fennell's gal?"

"Yes," replied the girl, "I come daown to see father." Prudence,
although she had profited by having lived at service in the Woodbridge
family, where she heard good English spoken, had frequent lapses into
the popular dialect.

"I'm Mis Poor. Zadkiel Poor's my husban'. He's in jail over thar long
with yer dad. He's kinder ailin, an I fetched daown some roots 'n
yarbs as uster dew him a sight o' good, w'en he was ter hum. I thort
mebbe I mout git to see him. Him as keeps jail lets folks in
sometimes, I hearn tell."

"Do you know where the jail is?" asked the girl.

"It's that ere haouse over thar. It's in with the tavern."

"Let's go and ask the jailer if he'll let us in," suggested Prudence.

"I wuz gonter wait an' git Isr'el Goodrich tew go long an kinder speak
fer me, ef I could," said Mrs. Poor. "He's considabul thought on by
folks roun' here, and he's a neighbor o' ourn, an real kind, Isr'el
Goodrich is. But I don' see him nowhar roun', an mebbe we mout's well
go right along, an not wait no longer."

And so the two women went on toward the jail, and Prudence dismounted
before the door of the tavern end, and tied the horse.

"I callate they muss keep the folks in that ere ell part, with the row
o' leetle winders," said Mrs. Poor. She spoke in a hushed voice, as
one speaks near a tomb. The girl was quite pale, and she stared with a
scared fascination at the wall behind which her father was shut up.
Timidly the women entered the open door. Both Bement and his wife were
in the barroom.

"What dew ye want?" demanded the latter, sharply.

Mrs. Poor curtsied very low, and smiled a vague, abject smile of
propitiation.

"If ye please, marm, I'm Mis Poor. He's in this ere jail fer debt.
He's kinder pulin like, Zadkiel is, an I jess fetched daown some yarbs
fer him. He's been uster takin on em, an they doos him good, specially
the sassafras. An I thort mebbe, marm, I mout git tew see him, bein ez
he ain't a well man, an never wuz sence I married him, twenty-five
year agone come nex' Thanksgivin."

"And I want to see father, if you please, marm. My father's George
Fennell. Is he very sick marm?" added Prudence eagerly, seeing that
Mrs. Poor was forgetting her.

"I don' keer who ye be, an ye needn' waste no time o' tellin me,"
replied Mrs. Bement, her pretty blue eyes as hard as steel. "Ye
couldn't go intew that jail not ef ye wuz Gin'ral Washington. I ain't
goin ter hev no women folks a bawlin an a blubberin roun' this ere
jail's long's _my_ husban' keeps it, an that's flat.

"I won't cry a bit, if you'll only let me see father," pleaded
Prudence, two great tears gathering in her eyes, even as she spoke,
and testifying to the value of her promise. "And--and I'll scrub the
floor for you, too. It needs it, and I'm a good scrubber, Mrs.
Woodbridge says I am."

"I'd take it kind of ye, I would," said Mrs. Poor, "ef ye'd let me in
jess fer a minit. He'd set store by seein of me, an I could give him
the yarbs. He ain't a well man, an never wuz, Zadkiel ain't. Ye
needn't let the gal in. It don' matter 's much about her, an gals is
cryin things. I'll scrub yer floor better'n she ever kin, an come to
look it doos kinder need it," and she turned her agonized eyes a
moment upon the floor in affected critical inspection.

"Cephas, see that crowd comin. What do they mean? Put them women out.
G'long there, git out, quick! Shut the door, Cephas. Put up the bar.
What ever's comin to us?"

Well might Mrs. Bement say so, for the sight that had caught her eyes
as she stood confronting the women and the open door, was no less an
one than a mass of nearly a thousand men and boys, bristling with
clubs and guns, rushing directly toward the jail.

Scarcely had the women been thrust out, and the white-faced Bement
dropped the bar into its sockets across the middle of the door, than
there was a rushing, tramping sound before the house, like the noise
of many waters, and a great hubbub of hoarse voices. Then came a heavy
blow, as if with the hilt of a sword against the door, and a loud
voiced called,

"Open, and be quick about it!"

"Don't do it, Cephas, the house is stout, and mebbe help'll come,"
said Mrs. Bement, although she trembled.

But Cephas, though generally like clay in the hands of his wife, was
at this instant dominated by a terror greater than his fear of her. He
lifted the bar from the sockets, and was instantly sent staggering
back against the wall as the door burst open. The room was instantly
filled to its utmost capacity with men, who dropped the butts of their
muskets on the floor with a jar that made the bottles in the bar clink
in concert.

Bement who had managed to get behind the bar, stood there with a face
like ashes, his flabby cheeks relaxed with terror so they hung like
dewlaps. He evidently expected nothing better than to be butchered
without mercy on the spot.

"Good morning, Mr. Bement," said Perez, as coolly as if he had just
dropped in for a glass of flip.

"Good morning sir," faintly articulated the landlord.

"You remember me, perhaps. I took dinner here, and visited by brother
in the jail last Saturday. I should like to see him again. Will you be
kind enough to hand me the keys, there behind you?" Bement stared as
if dazed at Perez, looked around at the crowd of men, and then looked
back at Perez again, and still stood gaping.

"Did ye hear the cap'n?" shouted Abner in a voice of thunder. Bement
gave a start of terror, and involuntarily turned to take the bunch of
keys down from the nail. But by the time he had turned, the keys were
no longer there.

It had been easy to see from the first, that Mrs. Bement was made of
quite different stuff from her husband. As she stood by his side
behind the bar, although she was tremulous with excitement, the look
with which she had faced the crowd was rather vixenish than
frightened. There was a vicious sparkle in her eyes, and the color of
her cheeks was concentrated in two small spots, one under each cheek
bone. Just as her husband, succumbing to the inevitable, was turning
to take the keys from their nail and deliver them over, she quietly
reached behind him, and snatched them. Then, with a deft motion
opening the top of her gown a little, she dropped them into her bosom,
and looked at Perez with a defiant expression, as much as to say, "Now
I should like to see you get them."

There was no doubt about the little shrew being thoroughly game, and
yet her act was less striking as evidence of her bravery, than as
testifying her confidence in the chivalry of the rough men before her.
And, indeed, it was comical to see the dumbfoundered and chop-fallen
expression on their flushed and excited faces, as they took in the
meaning of this piece of strategy. They had taken up arms against
their government, and but a few moments before had been restrained
with difficulty from laying violent hands upon the august judges of
the land, but not the boldest of them thought it possible to touch
this woman. There were men here whom neither lines of bayonets nor
walls of stone would have turned back, but not one of them was bold
enough to lay a forcible hand upon the veil that covered a woman's
breast. They were Americans.

There was a dead silence. The men gaped at each other, and Perez
himself looked a little foolish for a moment. Then he turned to Abner
and said in a grimly quiet way:

"Knock Bement down. Then four of you swing him by his arms and legs
and break the jail door through with his head."

"Ye wouldn' murder me, cap'n," gasped the hapless man. In a trice
Abner had hauled him out from behind the bar, and tripped him up on
the floor. Then three other men, together with Abner, seized him by
the hands and feet, and half dragged, half carried him across the room
to the door in the middle of one of the sides which opened into the
jail corridor.

"Swing the cuss three times, so's ter git kinder a goin, an then we'll
see w'ether his head or the door's the thickest," said Abner.

"Giv' em the keys, Marthy. They're a killin me," screeched Bement.

The woman had set her teeth. Her face was a little whiter, the red
spots under her cheek bones were a little smaller and a little redder
than before. That was all the sign she gave. Putting her hand
convulsively over the spot on her bosom where the desired articles
were secreted, she replied in a shrill voice:

"I shell keep the keys, Cephas. It's my dewty. Pray, Cephas, that I
may hev strength given me ter dew my dewty."

"Ye won't see me killed 'fore yer eyes, will ye, give em the keys I
tell ye," shrieked Bement, as they began to swing him, and Abner said:

"One."

The woman looked a bit more like going into hysterics, but not a whit
more like yielding.

"Mebbe t'wont kill ye, an they can't bust the door, nohow. Mebbe they'll
git tuckered 'fore long. If wust comes to wust, it's a comfort ter know
ez ye're a perfesser in good stannin."

Bement had doubtless had previous experience of a certain tenacity of
purpose on the part of his spouse, for ceasing to address further
adjurations to her, he began to appeal for mercy to the men.

"Two," said Abner, as they swung him again.

Now, Mrs. Poor and Prudence, having been thrust out of the barroom
just before the mob thundered up against the barred door, had been
borne back into the room again by the rush when the door was opened,
and it was Mrs. Poor who now made a diversion.

"Look a here, Abner Rathbun," she said. "W'at in time's the use of
murd'rin the man? He hain't done nothin. It's the woman, as has got
the keys. She wouldn' let me inter see Zadkiel, an I'm jess a itchin
tew git my hands ontew her, an that's the trewth, ef I be a perfesser.
You let the man alone. I'll git them keys, or my name ain't
Resignation Ann Poor."

There was a general murmur of approval, and without waiting for orders
from Perez, Abner and his helpers let Bement drop, and he scrambled to
his feet.

Mrs. Bement began to pant. She knew well enough that she had nothing
to fear from all the men in Massachusetts, but one of her own sex was
a more formidable enemy. And, indeed, a much more robust person than
the jailer's little wife, might have been excused for not relishing a
tussle with the tall, rawboned old woman, with hands brown, muscular,
and labor hardened as a man's, who now laid her big green sunbonnet on
the counter, and stepping to the open end of the bar, advanced toward
her. Mrs. Poor held her hands before her about breast high, at half
arm's length, elbows depressed, palms turned outward, the fingers
curved like a cat's claws. There was an expression of grim
satisfaction on her hard features.

Mrs. Bement stood awaiting her, breathing hard, evidently scared, but
equally evidently, furious.

"Give em the keys, Marthy. She'll kill ye," called out Bement, from
the back of the room.

But she paid no attention to this. Her fingers began to curve back
like claws, and her hands assumed the same feline attitude as Mrs.
Poor's. It was easy to see that the pluck of the little woman extorted
a certain admiration from the very men who had fathers, sons and
brothers in the cells beyond. She was not a bit more than half as big
as her antagonist, but she looked game to the backbone, and the
forthcoming result was not altogether to be predicted. You could have
heard a pin drop in the room, as the men leaned over the counter with
faces expressive of intensest excitement, while those behind stood on
tiptoe to see. For the moment everything else was forgotten in the
interest of the impending combat. Mrs. Bement seemed drawing back for
a spring. Then suddenly, quick as lightning, she put her hand in her
bosom, drew out the keys, and throwing them down on the counter, burst
into hysterical sobs.

In another moment the jail door was thrown open, and the men were
rushing down the corridor.




CHAPTER ELEVENTH

END OF THE GOINGS ON AT BARRINGTON


Then, presently, the jail was full of cries of horror and indignation.
For each cell door as it was unbarred and thrown open revealed the
same piteous scene, the deliverers starting back, or standing quite
transfixed before the ghastly and withered figures which rose up
before them from dank pallets of putrid straw. The faces of these
dismal apparitions expressed the terror and apprehension which the
tumult and uproar about the jail had created in minds no longer
capable of entertaining hope.

Ignorant who were the occupants of particular cells it was of course a
matter of chance whether those who opened any one of them, were the
friends of the unfortunates who were its inmates. But for a melancholy
reason this was a matter of indifference. So ghastly a travesty on
their former hale and robust selves, had sickness and sunless
confinement made almost all the prisoners, that not even brothers
recognized their brothers, and the corridor echoed with poignant
voices, calling to the poor creatures:

"What's your name?" "Is this Abijah Galpin?" "Are you my brother
Jake?" "Are you Sol Morris?" "Father, is it you?"

As they entered the jail with the rush of men, Perez had taken
Prudence's hand, and remembering the location of Reuben's cell,
stopped before it, lifted the bar, threw open the door and they went
in. George Fennell was lying on the straw upon the floor. He had
raised himself on one elbow, and was looking apprehensively to see
what the opening of the door would reveal as the cause of this
interruption to the usually sepulchral stillness of the jail. Reuben
was standing in the middle of the floor, eagerly gazing in the same
direction. Perez sprang to his brother's side, his face beautiful with
the joy of the deliverer. If he had been a Frenchman, or an Italian,
anything but an Anglo Saxon, he would have kissed him, with one of
those noblest kisses of all, wherewith once in a lifetime, or so, men
may greet each other. But he only supported him with one arm about the
waist, and stroked his wasted cheek with his hand, and said:

"I've come for you Reub, old boy, you're free."

Prudence had first peered anxiously into the face of Reuben, and next
glanced at the man lying on the straw. Then she plucked Perez by the
sleeve, and said in an anguished voice:

"Father ain't here. Where is he?" and turned to run out.

"That's your father," replied Perez, pointing to the sick man.

The girl sprang to his side, and kneeling down, searched with
straining eyes in the bleached and bony face, fringed with matted hair
and long unkempt gray beard, for some trace of the full and ruddy
countenance which she remembered. She would still have hesitated, but
her father said:

"Prudy, my little girl, is it you?"

Her eyes might not recognize the lineaments of the face, but her heart
recalled the intonation of tenderness, though the voice was weak and
changed. Throwing her arms around his neck, pressing her full red lips
in sobbing kisses upon his corpse-like face, she cried:

"Father! Oh Father!"

Presently the throng began to pour out of the jail, bringing with them
those they had released. The news that the jail was being broken open,
and the prisoners set free, had spread like wildfire through the
thronged village, and nearly two thousand people were now assembled in
front of and about the jail, including besides the people from out of
town, nearly every man, woman and child in Great Barrington, not
actually bedridden, excepting of course, the families of the
magistrates, lawyers, court officers, and the wealthier citizens, who
sympathized with them. These were trembling behind their closed doors,
hoping, but by no means assured, that this sudden popular whirlwind,
might exhaust itself, before involving them in destruction. And indeed
the cries of pity, and the hoarse deep groans of indignation with
which the throng before the jail received the prisoners as they were
successively brought forth, were well calculated to inspire with
apprehension, those who knew that they were held responsible by the
public judgment for the deeds of darkness now being brought to light.
It was now perhaps the old mother and young wife of a prisoner,
holding up between them the son and husband, and guiding his tottering
steps, that set the people crying and groaning. Now it was perhaps a
couple of sturdy sons, unused tears running down their tanned cheeks,
as they brought forth a white-haired father, blinking with bleared
eyes at the forgotten sun, and gazing with dazed terror at the crowd
of excited people. Now it was Perez Hamlin, leading out Reuben,
holding him up with his arm, and crying like a baby in spite of all
that he could do. Nor need he have been ashamed, for there were few
men who were not in like plight. Then came Abner, and Abe Konkapot,
stepping carefully, as they carried in their arms George Fennell,
Prudence walking by his side, and holding fast his hand.

Nor must I forget to speak of Mrs. Poor. The big, raw-boned woman's
hard-favored countenance was lit up with motherly solicitude, as she
lifted, rather than assisted, Zadkiel, down the steps of the tavern.

"Wy don' ye take him up in yer arms?" remarked Obadiah Weeks,
facetiously, but it was truly more touching than amusing, to see the
protecting tenderness of the woman, for the puny little fellow whom an
odd freak of Providence had given her for a husband, instead of a son.

Although Mrs. Poor movingly declared that "He warn't the shadder of
hisself," the fact was, that having been but a short time in jail,
Zadkiel showed few marks of confinement, far enough was he, from
comparing in this respect, with the others, many of whom had been shut
up for years. They looked, with the dead whiteness of their faces and
hands, rather like grewsome cellar plants, torn from their native
darkness, only to wither in the upper light and air, than like human
organisms just restored to their normal climate. As they moved among
the tanned and ruddy-faced people, their abnormal complexion made them
look like representatives of the strange race of Albinos.

But saddest perhaps of all the sights were the debtors who found no
acquaintances or relatives to welcome them as they came forth again
helpless as at their first birth, into the world of bustle and sun and
breeze. It was piteous to see them wandering about with feeble and
sinewless steps, and vacant eyes, staring timidly at the noisy people,
and shrinking dismayed from the throngs of sympathizing questioners
which gathered round them. There were some whose names not even the
oldest citizens could recall so long had they been shut up from the
sight of men.

Jails in those days were deemed as good places as any for insane
persons, and in fact were the only places available, so that, besides
those whom long confinement had brought almost to the point of
imbecility, there were several entirely insane and idiotic individuals
among the prisoners. One of them went around in a high state of
excitement declaring that it was the resurrection morning. Nor was the
delusion altogether to be marvelled at considering the suddenness with
which its victim had exchanged the cell, which for twenty years had
been his home, for the bright vast firmament of heaven, with its
floods of dazzling light and its blue and bottomless dome.

Another debtor, a man from Sheffield, as a prisoner of war during the
revolution, had experienced the barbarities practiced by the British
provost Cunningham at New York. Having barely returned home to his
native village when he was thrust into jail as a debtor, he had not
unnaturally run the two experiences together in his mind. It was his
hallucination that he had been all the while a prisoner of the British
at New York, and that the victorious Continental army had just arrived
to deliver him and his comrades. In Perez he recognized General
Washington.

"Ye was a long time comin, Ginral, but it's all right now," he said.
"I knowd ye'd come at las', an I tole the boys not to git
diskerridged. The redcoats has used us bad though, an I hope ye'll
hang em, Gin'ral."

At the time of which I write, rape was practically an unknown crime in
Berkshire, and theft extremely uncommon. But among the debtors there
were a few criminals. These, released with the rest, were promptly
recognized and seized by the people. The general voice was first for
putting them back in the cells, but Abner declared that it would be
doing them a kindness to knock them on the head rather than to send
them back to such pigsties, and this view of the matter finding favor,
the fellows were turned loose with a kick apiece and a warning to make
themselves scarce.

In the first outburst of indignation over the horrible condition of the
prison and the prisoners, there was a yell for Bement, and had the men,
in their first rage, laid hands on him, it certainly would have gone
hard with him. But he was not to be found, and it was not till some
time after, that in ransacking the tavern, some one found him in the
garret, hidden under a tow mattress stuffed with dried leaves, on which
the hired man slept nights. He was hauled downstairs by the heels pretty
roughly, and shoved and buffeted about somewhat, but the people having
now passed into a comparatively exhilarated and good-tempered frame of
mind, he underwent no further punishment, that is in his person. But
that was saved only at the expense of his pocket, for the men insisted
on his going behind the bar and treating the crowd, a process which
was kept up until there was not a drop of liquor in his barrels, and
scarcely a sober man in the village. Mrs. Bement, meanwhile, had been
caught and held by some of the women, while one of the prisoners, a
bestial looking idiot, drivelling and gibbering, and reeking with
filth, was made to kiss her. No other penalty could have been devised
at once so crushing to the victim, and so fully commending itself to
the popular sense of justice.

There were about ten or fifteen of the released debtors whose homes
were in or about Stockbridge, and as they could not walk any
considerable distance, it was necessary to provide for their
transport. Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, as well as other
Stockbridge men, had driven down in their carts, and these vehicles
being filled with straw, the Stockbridge prisoners were placed in
them. Israel Goodrich insisted that Reuben Hamlin and George Fennell,
with Prudence, should go in his cart, and into it were also lifted
three or four of the friendless prisoners, who had nowhere to go, and
whose helpless condition had stirred old Israel's benevolent heart to
its depths.

"The poor critters shell stay with me, ef I hev tew send my chil'n tew
the neighbours ter make room fer em," he declared, blowing his nose
with a blast that made his horses jump.

With six or seven carts leading the way, and some seventy or eighty
men following on foot, the Stockbridge party began the march home
about two o'clock. Full half the men who had marched down in the
morning, chose to remain over in Barrington till later, and a good
many were too drunk on Bement's free rum to walk. Most of Paul
Hubbard's ironworkers being in that condition, he stayed to look after
them, and Peleg Bidwell had also stayed, to see that none of the
Stockbridge stragglers got into trouble, and bring them back when he
could. Abner walked at the head of the men. Perez rode by Israel
Goodrich's cart. They went on slowly, and it was five o'clock when
they came in plain view of Stockbridge. The same exclamation was on
every lip. It seemed a year instead of a few hours only since they had
left in the morning.

"It's been a good day's work, Cap'n Hamlin, the best I ever hed a hand
in," said Israel. "I callate it was the Lord's own work, ef we dew git
hanged for't."

As the procession passed Israel's house, he helped out his sad guests,
and sent on his cart with its other inmates. All the way back from
Barrington, the Stockbridge company had been meeting a string of men
and boys, in carts and afoot, who, having heard reports of what had
been done, were hastening to see for themselves. Many of these turned
back with the returning procession, others keeping on. This exodus of
the masculine element, begun in the morning, and continued all day,
had left in Stockbridge little save women and girls and small
children, always excepting, of course, the families of the wealthier
and governing classes, who had no part nor lot in the matter.
Accordingly, when the party reached the green, there was only an
assemblage of women and children to receive them. These crowded around
the carts containing the released prisoners, with exclamations of pity
and amazement, and as the vehicles took different directions at the
parting of the streets, each one was followed by a score or two, who
witnessed with tearful sympathy each reunion of husband and wife, of
brother and sister, of mother and son. Several persons offered to take
George Fennell, who had no home to go to, into their houses, but Perez
said that he should, for the present, at least, lodge with him.

As Israel Goodrich's cart, containing Reuben and Fennell and Prudence,
and followed by quite a concourse, turned up the lane to Elnathan
Hamlin's house and stopped before the door, Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin
came out looking terrified. Perez, fearing some disappointment, had
not told them plainly that he should bring Reuben home, and the report
of the jail-breaking, although it had reached Stockbridge, had not
penetrated to their rather isolated dwelling. So that it was with
chilling apprehensions, rather than hope, that they saw the cart,
driven slowly, as if it carried the dead, stop before their door, and
the crowd of people following it.

"Mother, I've brought Reub home," said Perez, and a gaunt, wild-looking
man was helped out of the cart, and tottered into Mrs. Hamlin's arms.

There was nothing but the faint, familiar smile, and the unaltered
eyes, to tell her that this was the stalwart son whom the sheriff led
away a year ago. Had she learned that he was dead, it would have
shocked her less than to receive him alive and thus. Elnathan and she
led him into the house between them. Ready hands lifted Fennell out of
the cart and bore him in, Prudence following. And then Perez went in
and shut the door, and the cart drove off, the people following.

Although the shock which Mrs. Hamlin had received was almost
overwhelming, she had known, after the first moment, how to conceal
it, and no sooner had the invalids been brought within doors and
comfortably placed, than she began without a moment's delay, to bestir
herself to prepare them food and drink, and make provision for their
comfort. Tears of anguish filled her eyes whenever she turned aside,
but they were wiped away, and her face was smiling and cheery when she
looked at Reuben. But being with Perez a moment in a place apart, she
broke down and cried bitterly.

"You have brought him home to die," she said.

But he reassured her.

"I have seen sick men," he said, "and I don't think Reub will die.
He'll pull through, now he has your care. I'm afraid poor George is
too far gone, but Reub will come out all right. Never fear mother."

"Far be it from me to limit the Holy One of Israel by my want of
faith," said Mrs. Hamlin. "If it be the Lord's will that Reuben live,
he will live, and if it be not His will, yet still will I praise His
name for His great goodness in that I am permitted to take care of
him, and do for him to the last. Who can say but the Most High will
show still greater mercy to his servant, and save my son alive?"

As soon as the sick men were a little revived from the exhaustion of
their journey, tubs of water were provided in the shed, and they
washed themselves all over, Elnathan and Perez assisting in the
repulsive task. Then, their filthy prison garments being thrown away,
they were dressed in old clothing of Elnathan's, and their hair and
matted beards were shorn off with scissors. Perez built a fire in the
huge open fireplace to ward off the slight chill of evening, and the
sick men were comfortably arranged before it upon the great settle.
The elderly woman and the deft handed maiden, moved softly about,
setting the tea table, and ministering to the needs of the invalids,
arranging now a covering, now moving a stool, or maybe merely resting
their cool and tender palms upon the fevered foreheads. Fennell had
fallen peacefully asleep, but Reuben's face wore a smile, and in his
eyes, as they languidly followed his mother's motions, to and fro,
there was a look of unutterable content.

"I declar for 't," piped old Elnathan, as he sat in the chimney corner
warming his fingers over the ruddy blaze, "I declar for 't, mother,
the boy looks like another man a' ready. They ain't nothin like hum
fer sick folks."

"I shan't want no doctor's stuff," said Reuben, feebly. "Seein mother
round 's med'cin nuff fer me, I guess."

And Perez, as he stood leaning against the chimney, and looking on the
scene, lit by the flickering firelight, said to himself, that never
surely, in all his fighting had he ever drawn his sword to such good
and holy purpose as that day.

Soon after nightfall the latchstring was pulled in a timid sort of
way, and Obadiah Weeks stood on the threshold, waiting sheepishly till
Mrs. Hamlin bade him enter. He came forward, toward the chimney,
taking off his hat and smoothing his hair with his hand.

"It looks kinder good tew see a fire," he remarked, presently
supplementing this by the observation that it was "kinder hot,
though," and grinning vaguely around at every one in the room, with
the exception of Prudence. He did not look at her, though he looked
all around her. He put his hands in his pockets and took them out,
rubbed one boot against the other, and examined a wart on one of his
thumbs, as if he now observed it for the first time, and was quite
absorbed in the discovery.

Then with a suddenness that somewhat startled Perez, who had been
observing him with some curiosity, he wheeled round so as to face
Prudence, and simultaneously sought in his pocket for something. Not
finding it at first, his face got very red. Finally, however, he drew
forth a little bundle and gave it to the girl, mumbling something
about "Sassafras, thort mebbe 'twould be good fer yer dad," and bolted
out of the room.

Nobody said anything after Obadiah's abrupt retirement, but when a few
moments later, Prudence looked shyly around, with cheeks a little
rosier than usual, she saw Perez regarding her with a slight smile of
amusement. A minute after she got up and went over to Mrs. Hamlin, and
laid the sassafras in her lap, saying:

"Don't you want this, Mrs. Hamlin? I'm sure I don't know what it's
good for," and went back to her seat and sat down again, with a slight
toss of the head.

Presently a medley of discordant sounds began to float up from the
village on the gentle southerly breeze. There was a weird, unearthly
groaning, as of a monster in pain, mingled with the beating of tin-pans.
Perez finally went to see what it was. At the end of the lane he met
Peleg Bidwell, and Peleg explained the matter.

"Ye see the boys hev all got back from Barrington, and they're pretty
gosh darned drunk, most on em, an so nothin would do but they must go
an rig up a hoss-fiddle an hunt up some pans, an go an serenade the
silk stockins. They wuz a givin it tew Squire Woodbridge, wen I come
by. I guess he won't git much sleep ter night," and with this
information Perez went home again.




CHAPTER TWELFTH

A FAIR SUPPLIANT


Dr. Partridge lived at this time on the hill north of the village, and
not very far from the parsonage, which made it convenient for him to
report promptly to Parson West, when any of his patients had reached
that point where spiritual must be substituted for medical ministrations.
It was about ten o'clock by the silver dialed clock in the living room
of the doctor's house, when Prudence Fennell knocked at the open kitchen
door.

"What do you want, child?" said Mrs. Partridge, who was in the kitchen
trying to instruct a negro girl how to use her broom of twigs so as to
distribute the silver sand upon the floor in the complex wavy figures,
which were the pride of the housewife of that day.

"Please, marm, father's sick, and Mis Hamlin thinks he ought to have
the doctor."

"Your father and Mrs. Hamlin? Who is your father, pray?"

"I'm Prudence Fennell, marm, and father's George Fennell. He's one of
them that were fetched from Barrington jail yesterday, and he's sick.
He's at Mis Hamlin's, please marm."

"Surely, by that he must be one of the debtors. The sheriff is more
like to come for them than the doctor. They will be back in jail in a
few days, no doubt," said Mrs. Partridge, sharply.

"No one will be so cruel. Father is so sick. If you could see him, you
would not say so. They shall not take him to jail again. If Mr.
Seymour comes after him, I'll tear his eyes out. I'll kill him."

"What a little tiger it is!" said Mrs. Partridge, regarding with
astonishment the child's blazing eyes and panting bosom, while peering
over her mistress's shoulders, the negro girl was turning up the
whites of her eyes at the display. "There, there, child, I meant
nothing. If he is sick, maybe they will leave him. I know naught of
such things. But this Perez Hamlin will be hung of a surety, and the
rest be put in the stocks and well whipt."

"He will not be hung. No one will dare to touch him," cried Prudence,
becoming excited again. "He is the best man in the world. He fetched
my father out of jail."

"Nay, but if you are so spunky to say 'no' to your betters, 'tis time
you went. I know not what we are in the way to, when a chit of a maid
shall set me right," said Mrs. Partridge, bristling up, and turning
disdainfully away.

But her indignation, at once forgotten in terror lest the doctor might
not come to her father, Prudence came after her and caught her sleeve,
and said with tones of entreaty, supported by eyes full of tears:

"Please, marm, don't mind what I said. Box my ears, marm, but please
let doctor come. Father coughs so bad."

"I will tell him, and he will do as he sees fit," said Mrs. Partridge,
stiffly, "and now run home, and do not put me out with your sauce
again."

An hour or two later, the doctor's chaise stopped at the Hamlins.
Doctors, as well as other people, were plainer-spoken in those days,
especially in dealing with the poor. Dr. Partridge was a kind-hearted
man, but it did not occur to him as it does to his successors of our
day, to mince matters with patients, and cheer them up with hopeful
generalities, reserving the bitter truths to whisper in the ears of
their friends outside the door. After a look and a few words, he said
to Fennell:

"I can do you no good."

"Shall I die?" asked the sick man, faintly.

"You may live a few weeks, but not longer. The disease has taken too
strong a hold."

Fennell looked around the room. Prudence was not present.

"Don't tell Prudy," he said.

As to Reuben, who was already looking much brighter than the preceding
night, the doctor said:

"He may get well," and left a little medicine.


 


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