Early one evening in the very last of August, 1786, only three years after the close of the Revolutionary war, a dozen or twenty men and boys, farmers and laborers, are gathered, according to custom, in the big barroom of Stockbridge tavern. The great open fireplace of course shows no cheery blaze of logs at this season, and the only light is the dim and yellow illumination diffused by two or three homemade tallow candles stuck about the bar, which runs along half of one side of the apartment. The dim glimmer of some pewter mugs standing on a shelf behind the bar is the only spot of reflected light in the room, whose time-stained, unpainted woodwork, dingy plastering, and low ceiling, thrown into shadows by the rude and massive crossbeams, seems capable of swallowing up without a sign ten times the illumination actually provided. The faces of four or five men, standing near the bar, or lounging on it, are quite plainly visible, and the forms of half a dozen more who are seated on a long settle placed against the opposite wall, are more dimly to be seen, while in the back part of the room, leaning against the posts or walls, or lounging in the open doorway, a dozen or more figures loom indistinctly out of the darkness.
The tavern, it must be remembered, as a convivial resort, is the social antipodes of the back room of Squire Edwards' "store." If you would consort with silk-stockinged, wigged, and silver shoe-buckled gentlemen, you must just step over there, for at the tavern are only to be found the hewers of wood and drawers of water, mechanics, farm-laborers, and farmers. Ezra Phelps and Israel Goodrich, the former the owner of the new gristmill at "Mill Hollow," a mile west of the village, the other a substantial farmer, with their corduroy coats and knee-breeches, blue woolen hose and steel shoe buckles, are the most socially considerable and respectably attired persons present.
Perhaps about half the men and boys are barefooted, according to the economical custom of a time when shoes in summer are regarded as luxuries not necessities. The costume of most is limited to shirt and trousers, the material for which their own hands or those of their women-folk have sheared, spun, woven and dyed. Some of the better dressed wear trousers of blue and white striped stuff, of the kind now-a-days exclusively used for bed-ticking. The leathern breeches which a few years before were universal are still worn by a few in spite of their discomfort in summer.
Behind the bar sits Widow Bingham, the landlady, a buxom, middle-aged woman, whose sharp black eyes have lost none of their snap, whether she is entertaining a customer with a little pleasant gossip, or exploring the murky recesses of the room about the door, where she well knows sundry old customers are lurking, made cowards of by consciousness of long unsettled scores upon her slate. And whenever she looks with special fixity into the darkness there is soon a scuttling of somebody out of doors.
She pays little or no attention to the conversation of the men around the bar. Being largely political, it might be expected to have the less interest for one of the domestic sex, and moreover it is the same old story she has been obliged to hear over and over every evening, with little variation, for a year or two past.
For in those days, throughout Massachusetts, at home, at the tavern, in the field, on the road, in the street, as they rose up, and as they sat down, men talked of nothing but the hard times, the limited markets, and low prices for farm produce, the extortions and multiplying numbers of the lawyers and sheriffs, the oppressions of creditors, the enormous, grinding taxes, the last sheriff's sale, and who would be sold out next, the last batch of debtors taken to jail, and who would go next, the utter dearth of money of any sort, the impossibility of getting work, the gloomy and hopeless prospect for the coming winter, and in general the wretched failure of the triumph and independence of the colonies to bring about the public and private prosperity so confidently expected.
The air of the room is thick with smoke, for most of the men are smoking clay or corncob pipes, but the smoke is scarcely recognizable as that of tobacco, so largely is that expensive weed mixed with dried sweet-fern and other herbs, for the sake of economy. Of the score or two persons present, only two, Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps, are actually drinking anything. Not certainly that they are the only ones disposed to drink, as the thirsty looks that follow the mugs to their lips, sufficiently testify, but because they alone have credit at the bar. Ezra furnishes Mrs. Bingham with meal from his mill, and drinks against the credit thus created, while Israel furnishes the landlady with potatoes on the same understanding. There being practically almost no money in circulation, most kinds of trade are dependent on such arrangements of barter. Meshech Little, the carpenter, who lies dead-drunk on the floor, his clothing covered with the sand, which it has gathered up while he was being unceremoniously rolled out of the way, is a victim of one of these arrangements, having just taken his pay in rum for a little job of tinkering about the tavern.
"Meshech hain't hed a steady job sence the new meetin-haouse wuz done las' year, an I s'pose the critter feels kinder diskerridged like," said Abner Rathbun, regarding the prostrate figure sympathetically. Abner has grown an inch and broadened proportionally, since Squire Woodbridge made him file leader of the minute men by virtue of his six feet three, and as he stands with his back to the bar, resting his elbows on it, the room would not be high enough for his head, but that he stands between the cross-beams.
"I s'pose Meshech's fam'ly 'll hev to go ontew the taown," observed Israel Goodrich. "They say ez the poorhouse be twicet ez full ez't orter be, naow."
"It'll hev more intew it fore 't hez less," said Abner grimly.
"Got no work, Abner? I hearn ye wuz up Lenox way a lookin fer suthin to dew," inquired Peleg Bidwell, a lank, loose-jointed farmer, who was leaning against a post in the middle of the room, just on the edge of the circle of candlelight.
"A feller ez goes arter work goes on a fool's errant," responded Abner, dejectedly. "There ain' no work nowhar, an a feller might jess ez well sit down to hum an wait till the sheriff comes arter him."
"The only work as pays now-a-days is pickin the bones o' the people. Why don't ye turn lawyer or depity sheriff, an take to that, Abner?" said Paul Hubbard, an undersized man with a dark face, and thin, sneering lips.
He had been a lieutenant in the Continental army, and used rather better language than the country folk ordinarily, which, as well as a cynical wit which agreed with the embittered popular temper, gave him considerable influence. Since the war he had been foreman of Colonel William's iron-works at West Stockbridge. There was great distress among the workmen on account of the stoppage of the works by reason of the hard times, but Hubbard, as well as most of the men, still remained in West Stockbridge, simply because there was no encouragement to go elsewhere.
"Wat I can't make aout is that the lawyers an sheriffs sh'd git so dern fat a pickin our bones, seein ez ther's sech a dern leatle meat ontew us," said Abner.
"There's as much meat on squirrels as bears if you have enough of em," replied Hubbard. "They pick clean, ye see, an take all we've got, an every little helps."
"Yas," said Abner, "they do pick darned clean, but that ain't the wust on't, fer they sends our bones tew rot in jail arter they've got all the meat orf."
"'Twas ony yesdy Iry Seymour sole out Zadkiel Poor, ez lives long side o' me, an tuk Zadkiel daown tew Barrington jail fer the res' what the sale didn't fetch," said Israel Goodrich. "Zadkiel he's been kinder ailin like fer a spell back, an his wife, she says ez haow he can't live a month daown tew the jail, an wen Iry tuk Zadkiel orf, she tuk on reel bad. I declare for't, it seemed kinder tough."
"I hearn ez they be tew new fellers a studyin law intew Squire Sedgwick's office," said Obadiah Weeks, a gawky youth of perhaps twenty, evidently anxious to buy a standing among the adult circle of talkers by contributing an item of information.
Abner groaned. "Great Crypus! More blood-suckers. Why, they be ten lawyers in Stockbridge taown a'ready, an they warn't but one wen I wuz a boy, an thar wuz more settlers 'n they be naow."
"Wal, I guess they'll git nuff to dew," said Ezra Phelps. "I hearn as haow they's seven hundred cases on the docket o' the Common Pleas, nex' week, mos' on em fer debt."
"I hearn as two hundred on em be from Stockbridge an the iron-works," added Israel. "I declare for't Zadkiel 'll hev plenty o' kumpny daown tew jail, by the time them suits be all tried."
"By gosh, what be we a comin tew?" groaned Abner. "It doos seem zif we all on us mout z'well move daown tew the jail to onc't, an hev done with 't. We're baown to come to 't fuss or las'."
Presently Peleg Bidwell said, "My sister Keziah's son, by her fuss husban's been daown tew Bosting, an I hearn say ez haow he says ez the folks daown East mos'ly all hez furniter from Lunnon, and the women wears them air Leghorn hats as cos ten shillin lawful, let alone prunelly shoes an satin stockins, an he says as there ain't a ship goes out o' Bosting harbor ez don' take more'n five thousan paound o' lawful money outer the kentry. I callate," pursued Peleg, "that's jess what's tew the bottom o' the trouble. It's all long o' the rich folks a sendin money out o' the kentry to git theirselves fine duds, an that's wy we don' git more'n tuppence a paound fer our mutton, an nex' ter nothin fer wheat, an don't have nothin to pay taxes with nor to settle with Squire Edwards, daown ter the store. That's the leak in the bar'l, an times won't git no better till that's plugged naow, I tell yew."
"If't comes to pluggin leaks ye kin look nigher hum nor Bosting," observed Abner. "I hearn ez Squire Woodbridge giv fifty pound lawful fer that sorter tune box ez he'z get fer his gal, an they doos say ez them cheers o' Squire Sedgwick's cos twenty pound lawful in the old kentry."
"What dew they call that air tune box?" inquired Israel Goodrich. "I've hearn tell but I kinder fergit. It's some Frenchified soundin name."
"It's a pianner," said Obadiah.
"I guess peeanner's nigher right," observed Peleg critically. "My gal hearn the Edwards gal call it peeanner."
"They ain't nuther of ye in a mile o' right. 'Tain't pianner, an 'tain't peeanner; it's pianny," said Abner, who on account of having once served a few weeks in connection with a detachment of the French auxiliaries, was conceded to be an authority on foreign pronunciation.
"I hain't got no idee on't, nohow," said Israel shaking his head. "I hearn it a goin ez I wuz a comin by the store. Souns like ez if it wuz a hailin ontew a lot o' milk pans. I never suspicioned ez I should live tew hear sech a n'ise."
"I guess Peleg's baout right," said Abner. "Thar won't be no show fer poor folks, 'nless they is a law agin' sendin money aouter the kentry."
"I callate that would be a shuttin of the barn door arter the hoss is stole," said Ezra Phelps, as he arrested a mug of flip on its way to his lips, to express his views. "There ain' no use o' beginnin to save arter all's spent. I callate guvment's got ter print a big stack o' new bills ef we're a goin to git holt o' no money."
"Ef it's paper bills as ye're a talkin baout," said Abner grimly, "I've got quite a slew on em tew hum, mebbe a peck or tew. I got em fer pay in the army. They're tew greasy tew kindle a fire with, an I dunno o' nothin else ez they're good for. Ye're welcome to em, Ezry. My little Bijah assed me fer some on em tew make a kite outer thuther day, an I says tew him, says I, 'Bijah, I don' callate they'll do nohow fer a kite, for I never hearn of a Continental bill a goin up, but ef yer want a sinker fer yer fish line they're jess the thing.'"
There was a sardonic snicker at Ezra's expense, but he returned to the charge quite undismayed.
"That ain't nuther here nor there," he said, turning toward Abner and emphasizing his words with the empty mug. "What I asses yew is, wan't them bills good fer suthin wen they wuz fuss printed?"
"They wuz wuth suthin fer a wile," assented Abner.
"Ezackly," said the other, "that's the nater o' bills. Allers they is good fer a wile and then they kinder begins to run daown, an they runs daown till they ain't wuth nuthin," and Ezra illustrated the process by raising the mug as high as his head and bringing it slowly down to his knees. "Paounds an shillins runs daown tew by gittin wored off till they's light weight. Every kine o' money runs daown, on'y it's the nater o' bills to run daown a leetle quicker nor other sorts. Naow I says, an I ain't the ony one ez says it, that all guvment's got to dew is tew keep a printin new bills ez fass ez the old ones gits run daown. Times wuz good long in the war. A feller could git baout what he assed fer his crops an he could git any wages he assed. Yer see guvment wuz a printin money fass. Jess's quick ez a bill run daown they up and printed another one, so they wuz allers plenty. Soon ez the war wuz over they stopped a printin bills and immejetly the hard times come. Hain't that so?"
"I dunno but yew be right," said Abner, thoughtfully, "I never thort on't ezzackly that way," and Isaiah Goodrich also expressed the opinion that there was "somethin into what Ezry says."
"What we wants," pursued Ezra, "what we wants, is a kine o' bills printed as shall lose vally by reglar rule, jess so much a month, no more no less, cordin ez its fixed by law an printed on tew the bills so'z everybody'll understan an no-body'll git cheated. I hearn that's the idee as the Hampshire folks went fer in the convenshun daown tew Hatfield this week. Ye see, ez I wuz a sayin, bills is baoun tew come daown anyhow ony if they comes daown regler, cordin tew law, everybody'll know what t'expect, and nobody won' lose nothin."
"Praps the convenshun what's a sittin up tew Lenox'll rekummen them bills," hopefully suggested a farmer who had been taking in Ezra's wisdom with open mouth.
"I don' s'pose that it'll make any odds how many bills are printed as far's we're concerned," said Hubbard, bitterly. "The lawyers'll make out to git em all pretty soon. Ye might's well try to fat a hog with a tape worm in him, as to make folks rich as long as there are any lawyers round."
"Yas, an jestices' fees, an sheriff fees is baout ez bad ez lawyer's," said Israel Goodrich, whose countenance was beginning to glow from the influence of his potations. "I tell you wesh'd be a dern sight better off 'f'all the courts wuz stopped. Most on ye is young fellers, 'cept you Elnathan Hamlin, thar. He'll tell ye, ez I tell ye, that this air caounty never seen sech good times, spite on'ts bein war times, ez long fur '74 to '80, arter we'd stopped the King's courts from sittin an afore we'd voted for the new constitution o' the state, ez we wuz durn fools fer doin of, ef I dew say it. In them six year thar warn't nary court sot nowhere in the caounty, from Boston Corner tew ole Fort Massachusetts, an o' course thar warn't no lawyers an no sheriffs ner no depity sheriffs nuther, tew make every debt twice as big with ther darnation fees. They warn't no sheriffs sales, nuther, a sellin of a feller outer house'n hum an winter comin on, an thar warn't no suein an no jailin of fellers fer debt. Folks wuz keerful who they trusted, ez they'd orter be allers, for ther warn't no klectin o' debts nohow, an ef that warn't allers jestice I reckin 'twas as nigh jestice as 'tis to klect bills swelled more'n double by lawyers' and sheriffs' and jestices' fees ez they doos naow. In them days ef any feller wuz put upon by another he'd jess got tew complain tew the slectmen or the committee, an they'd right him. I tell yew rich folks an poor folks lived together kinder neighborly in them times an 'cordin tew scripter. The rich folks warn't a grindin the face o' the poor, an the poor they wuzn't a hatin an a envyin o' the rich, nigh untew blood, ez they is naow, ef I dew say it. Yew rekullec them days, Elnathan, warn't it jess ez I say?"
"Them wuz good times, Israel. Ye ain't sayin nothin more'n wuz trew," said Elnathan in a feeble treble, from his seat on the settle.
"I tell you they wuz good," reiterated Israel, as he looked around upon the group with scintillating eyes, and proceeded to hand his mug over the bar to be refilled.
"I hearn ez haow the convenshun up tew Lenox is a go in tew 'bolish the lawyers an the courts," said a stalwart fellow of bovine countenance, named Laban Jones, one of the discharged iron-works men.
"The convenshun can't 'bolish nothin," said Peleg Bidwell, gloomily. "It can't do nothin but rekommen the Gineral Court way daown tew Bosting. Bosting is too fer orf fer this caounty, nor Hampshire nuther, tew git no considerashin. This eend o' the state ull never git its rights till the guvment's moved outer Bosting tew Worcester where't uster be in war times."
"That's so," said Ezra Phelps, "everybody knows as these tew counties be taxed higher nor the other eend o' the state."
"Hev yew paid up ye taxes fer las' year, Peleg?" inquired Abner.
"No, I hain't, nor fer year afore, nuther. Gosh, I can't. I could pay in pertaters, but I can't pay in money. Ther ain't no money. Klector Williams says as haow he'd hafter sell me out, an I s'pose he's goin ter. It's kinder tough, but I don' see zi kin dew nothin. I callate to be in the jail or poorhouse, afore spring."
"I dunno o' nobody roun here, as haz paid ther taxes fer las year, yit," said Israel. "I callate that more'n half the farms in the caounty 'll be sole fer taxes afore spring."
"I hearn as how Squire Woodbridge says taxes is ten times what they wuz afore the war, an its sartain that they ain't one shillin intew folks' pockets tew pay em with whar they wuz ten on em in them days. It seems dern curis, bein as we fit agin the redcoats jest tew git rid o' taxes," said Abner.
"Taxes is mosly fer payin interest ontew the money what govment borrowed tew kerry on the war. Naow, I says, an I ain't the on'y one in the caounty as says it, nuther, ez debts orter run daown same ez bills does, reglar, so much a month, till they ain't nuthin leff," said Ezra Phelps, setting down his mug with an emphatic thud. "S'poosn I borrers money of yew, Abner, an built a haouse, that haouse is boun tew run daown in vally, I callate, 'long from year tew year. An it seems kinder rees'nable that the debt sh'd run daown's fass as the haouse, so's wen the haouse gits wored aout, the debt 'll be, tew. Them things ez govment bought with the money it borrered, is wore aout, an it seems kinder rees'nable that the debts should be run daown tew. A leetle orter a been took orf the debt every year, instead o' payin interes ontew it."
"I guess like's not ye hev the rights on't, Ezry. I wuzn't a thinkin on't that air way, ezzactly. I wuz a thinkin that if govment paid one kine o' debts 't orter pay t'other kine. I fetched my knapsack full o' govment bills hum from the war. I callate them bills wuz all on em debts what the govment owed tew me fur a fightin. Ef govment ain't a goin tew pay me them bills, an 'tain't, 'it don' seem fair tew tax me so's it kin pay debts it owes tew other folks. Leastways seems's though them bills govment owes me orter be caounted agin the taxes instead o' bein good fer nothin. It don't seem ez if 'twas right, nohaow."
"Leastways," said Peleg, "if the Gineral Court hain't a goin ter print more bills 't orter pass a lor, seein thar ain't no money in the kentry, so 'z a feller's prop'ty could be tuk by a fair valiation fer what he owes, instead o' lettin the sheriff sell it fer nothin and sendin a feller tew jail fer the balince. Wen I giv Squire Edwards that air leetle morgidge on my farm, money wuz plenty, an I callated tew pay it up easy; an naow thar ain't no money, an I can't git none, if I died for't. It's jess zif I 'greed tew sell a load o' ice in January, an a thaw come an thar wan't no ice leff. Property's wuth's much 'z ever I callate, an't orter be good fer debts instead o' money, 'cordin to a far valiation."
"Mr. Goodrich, how did you go to work to stop the King's courts in '74? Did you hang the justices?" inquired Paul Hubbard, arousing from a fit of contemplation.
"Nary bit," replied Isaiah, "there warn't no need o' hangin nobody. 'Twas a fine mornin in May, I rekullec jess zif 'twas yes'day, wen the court was a goin tew open daown tew Barrington, an abaout a thousan men on us jess went daown an filled up the court haouse, an woudn' let the jedges in, an wen they see 'twan't no use, they jess give in quiet's lambs, an we made em sign their names tew a paper agreein not tew hold no more courts, an the job wuz done. Ye see the war wuzn't farly begun an none o' the King's courts in th' uther caounties wuz stopped, but we callated the court mout make trouble for some o' the Sons o' Liberty, in the caounty if we let it set."
"I callate 't ain't nothin very hard tew stop a court, 'cordin tew that," said Peleg Bidwell.
"No, 'tain't hard, not ef the people is gen'ally agin' the settin on it," said Isaiah.
"I s'pose ef a thousan men sh'd be daown tew Barrington nex' week Tewsday, they could stop the jestice fr'm openin the Common Pleas, jess same ez yew did," said Peleg, thoughtfully.
"Sartain," said Isaac, "sartain; leastways's long ez the militia warn't aout, but gosh, they ain't no sense o' talkin baout sech things! These hain't no sech times ez them wuz, an folks ain't what they wuz, nuther. They seems kinder slimpsy; hain't got no grit."
During this talk, Elnathan had risen and gone feebly out.
"Elnathan seems tew take it tew heart baout leavin the ole place. I hearn ez how Solomon Gleason's goin ter sell him aout pooty soon," Abner remarked.
"I guess t'ain't so much that as 'tis the bad news he's heerd baout Reub daown tew Barrington jail," said Obadiah Weeks.
"What's abaout Reub?" asked Abner.
"He's a goin intew a decline daown to the jail."
"I wanter know! Poor Reub!" said Abner, compassionately. "He fout side o' me tew Stillwater, an Perez was t'other side. Perez done me a good turn that day, ez I shan't furgit in a hurry. Gosh, he'd take it hard ef he hearn ez haow Reub wuz in jail! I never seed tew fellers set more store by another 'n he did by Reub."
"Wonder ef Perez ain't never a comin hum. He hain't been back sence the war. I hearn his folks had word a spell ago, ez he wuz a comin," said Peleg.
"Gosh!" exclaimed Abner, his rough features softening with a pensive cast, "I rekullec jess zif 'twar yes'dy, that rainy mornin wen we fellers set orf long with Squire Woodbridge fer Bennington. Thar wuz me, 'n Perez, an Reub, an Abe Konkapot, 'n lessee, yew went afore, didn't ye, Peleg?"
"Yas, I went with Cap'n Stoddard," replied that individual.
"Thar we wuz; all a stannin in line," pursued Abner, gazing right through the ceiling, as if he could see just the other side of it the scene which he so vividly recalled, "an Parson West a prayin, an the wimmin a whimperin, an we nigh ontew it; fer we wuz green, an the mothers' milk warn't aouter us. But I bet we tho't we wuz big pertaters, agoin to fight fer lib'ty. Wall, we licked the redcoats, and we got lib'ty, I s'pose; lib'ty ter starve, that is ef we don' happin to git sent tew jail fus," and Abner's voice fell, and his chin dropped on his breast, in a sudden reaction of dejection at the thought of the bitter disappointment of all the hopes which that day had made their hearts so strong, even in the hour of parting.
"I callate we wuz a dern sight better orf every way under the King, 'n we be naow. The Tories wuz right, arter all, I guess. We'd better a let well nuff l'one, an not to a jumped aouter the fryin-pan intew the fire," said Peleg, gloomily.
As he ended speaking, a medium sized man, with a pasty white, freckled complexion, bristly red hair, a retreating forehead and small, sharp eyes, came forward from the dark corner near the door. His thin lips writhed in a mocking smile, as he stood confronting Peleg and Abner, and looking first at one and then at the other:
"Ef I don' furgit," he said at length, "that's 'baout the way I talked wen the war wuz a goin on, an if I rekullec, ye, Peleg, an ye, Abner Rathbun and Meshech Little, thar on the floor, tuk arter me with yer guns and dorgs caze ye said I wuz a dum Tory. An ye hunted me on Stockbridge mounting like a woodchuck, an ye'd a hed my skelp fer sartin ef I hadn't been a durn sight smarter 'n ye ever wuz."
"Jabez," said Abner, "I hope ye don' hev no hard feelin's. Times be changed. Let by gones be by gones."
"Mos' folks ud say I hed some call to hev hard feelin's. Ye druv me ter hide in caves, an holes, fer the best part o' tew year. I dass'n come hum tew see my wife die, nor tew bury on her. Ye confiscated my house and tuk my crops fer yer derned army. Mos' folks ud sartingly say ez I hed call tew hev hard feelin's agin' ye. But gosh, I hain't, an wy hain't I? Gaze ye hev been yer own wust enemies; ye've hurt yerselves more ner ye hev me, though ye didn't go fer ter dew it. Pooty nigh all on ye, as fit agen the King, is beggars naow, or next door tew it. Everybudy hez a kick fer a soldier. Ye'll fine em mosly in the jails an the poorhaouses. Look at you fellers as wuz a huntin me. Ther's Meshech on the floor, a drunken, worthless cuss. Thar ye be, Abner, 'thout a shillin in the world, nor a foot o' lan', yer dad's farm gone fer taxes. An thar be ye, Peleg. Wal Peleg, they dew say, ez the neighbors sends ye in things."
Jabez looked from one to the other till he had sufficiently enjoyed their discomfiture and then he continued:
"I ain't much better orf'n ye be, but I hain't got nothin ontew my conscience. An wen I looks roun' an sees the oppresshin, and the poverty of the people, and how they have none tew help, an the jails so full, an the taxes, an the plague o' lawyers, an the voice o' cryin as is goin up from the land, an all the consekences o' the war, I tell ye, it's considabul satisfacshin to feel ez I kin wash my hans on't." And, with a glance of contemptuous triumph around the circle, Jabez turned on his heel and went out. The silence was first broken by Ezra Phelps, who said quietly:
"Wal, Jabez ain't fur from right. It's abaout so. Some says the King is callatin to try to git the colonies back agin fore long. Ef he doos I guess he'll make aout, fur I don't bleeve ez a kumpny o' men could be raised in all Berkshire, tew go an fight the redcoats agin, if they wuz to come to-morrer." And a general murmur of assent confirmed his words.
"Wal," said Abner, recovering speech, "live an larn. In them days wen I went a gunnin arter Jabez, I uster to think ez thar wuzn't no sech varmint ez a Tory, but I didn't know nothin bout lawyers, and sheriffs them times. I callate ye could cut five Tories aout o' one lawyer an make a dozen skunks aout o' what wuz leff over. I'm a goin hum."
This was the signal for a general break-up. Israel, who had fallen into a boozy slumber on the settle, was roused and sent home between his son and hired man, and presently the tavern was dark save for the soon extinguished glimmer of a candle at the upstairs window of Widow Bingham's apartment. Meshech was left to snore upon the barroom floor and grope his way outdoors as best he might, when he should return to his senses. For doors were not locked in Stockbridge in those days.
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