On the day following, which was Saturday, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, Perez Hamlin was at work in the yard behind the house, shoeing his horse in preparation for the start west the next week. Horse shoeing was an accomplishment he had acquired in the army, and he had no shillings to waste in hiring others to do anything he could do himself. As he let the last hoof out from between his knees, and stood up, he saw Israel Goodrich and Ezra Phelps coming across the yard toward him. Ezra wore his working suit, sprinkled with the meal dust of his gristmill, and Israel had on a long blue-woolen farmer's smock, reaching to his knees, and carried in his hand a hickory-handled whip with a long lash, indicating that he had come in his cart, which he had presumably left hitched to the rail fence in front of the house. After breaking ground by a few comments on the points of Perez' horse, Israel opened the subject of the visit, as follows:
"Ye see, Perez, I wuz over't Mill-Holler arter a grist o' buckwheat, an me 'n Ezry got ter talkin baout the way things wuz goin in the village. I s'pose ye've hearn o' the goins on."
"Very little, indeed," said Perez. "I have scarcely been out of the yard this week, I've been hard at work. But I've heard considerable racket nights."
"Wal," said Israel, "the long an short on't is the fellers be raisin the old Harry, an it's time somebody said whoa. I've been a talkin tew Abner baout it, an so's Ezry, but Abner ain't the same feller he wuz. He's tight mos' o' the time naow, an he says he don' keer a darn haow bad they treats the silk stockins. Turn abaout's fair play, he says, an he on'y larfed w'en I tole him some o' the mischief the fellers wuz up tew. An you said, Ezry, he talked jess so to yew."
"Sartin, he did," said Ezra. "Ye see," he continued to Perez, "me an Isr'el be men o' prop'ty, an we jined the folks agin' the courts caze we seen they wuz bein 'bused. Thar warn't no sense in makin folks pay debts w'en ther warn't no money in cirk'lashun to pay em. 'Twuz jess like makin them ere chil'ren of Isr'el make bricks 'thout no straw. I allers said, an I allers will say," and the glitter that came into Ezra's eye indicated that he felt the inspiring bound of his hobby beneath him, "ef govment makes folks pay ther debts, govment's baoun ter see they hez sunthin tew pay em with. I callate that's plain ez a pike-staff. An it's jess so with taxes. Ef govment--"
"Sartin, sartin," interrupted Israel, quietly choking him off, "but less stick tew what we wuz a sayin, Ezry. Things be a goin tew fur, ye see, Perez. We tuk part with the poor folks w'en they wuz bein 'bused, but I declar' for't 't looks though we'd hefter take part with the silk stockins pootty soon, at the rate things be agoin. It's a reg'lar see-saw. Fust the rich folks eend wuz up too fur, and naow et's t'other way."
"They be a burnin fences ev'ry night," said Ezra, "an they'll have the hull town afire one o' these days. I don' b'lieve in destroyin prop'ty. Thar ain't no sense in that. That air Paul Hubbard's wuss 'n Abner. Abner he jess larfs an don' keer, but Paul he's thet riled agin the silk stockins that he seems farly crazy. He's daown from the iron-works with his gang ev'ry night, eggin on the fellers tew burn fences, an stone houses, an he wuz akchilly tryin tew git the boys tew tar and feather Squire, t'uther night. They didn't quite dasst dew that, but thar ain't no tellin what they'll come tew yit."
"Ye see, Perez," said Israel, at last getting to the point, "we callate yew mout dew suthin to kinder stop em ef ye'd take a holt. Abner 'l hear ter ye, an all on em would. I don' see's nobody else in taown kin dew nothin. Ezry an me wuz a talkin baout ye overt' the mill, an Ezry says, 'Le's gwover ter see him.' I says, 'Git right inter my cart, an we'll go,' an so here we be."
"I can't very well mix in, you see," replied Perez, "for I'm going to leave town for good the first of the week."
"Whar be ye goin?"
"I'm going to take father and mother and Reuben over the York line, to New Lebanon, and then I'm going on to the Chenango purchase to clear a farm and settle with them."
"Sho! I wanter know," exclaimed Israel, scratching his head. "Wal, I swow," he added, thoughtfully, "I don't blame ye a mite, arter all. This ere state o' Massachusetts Bay, ain't no place fer a poor man, sence the war, an ye'll find lots o' Stockbridge folks outter Chenango. They's a lot moved out thar."
"Ef I war ten year younger I'd go long with ye," said Ezra, "darned ef I wouldn't. I callate thar muss be a right good chance fer a gristmill out thar."
"Wal, Ezry," said Israel, after a pause, "I don' see but wat we've hed our trouble fer nothin, an I declar I dunno wat's gonter be did. The silk stockins be a tryin tew fetch back the ole times, an the people be a raisin Cain, an wat's a gonter come on't Goramity on'y knows. Come 'long, Ezry," and the two old men went sorrowfully away.
It seems that Israel and Ezra were not the only persons in Stockbridge whose minds turned to Perez as the only available force which could restrain the mob, and end the reign of lawlessness in the village. Scarcely had those worthies departed when Dr. Partridge rode around into the back yard and approached the young man.
"I come to you," he said, without any preliminary beating about the bush, "as the recognized leader of the people in this insurrection, to demand of you, as an honest fellow, that you do something to stop the outrages of your gang."
"If I was their leader the other day, I am so no longer," replied Perez, coldly. "They are not my followers. It is none of my business what they do."
"Yes, it is," said Dr. Partridge, sharply. "You can't throw off the responsibility that way. But for you, the rebellion here in Stockbridge would never have gained headway. You can't drop the business now and wash your hands of it."
"I don't care to wash my hands of it," replied Perez, sternly. "I don't know what the men have done of late for I have stayed at home, but no doubt the men who suffer from their doings, deserve it all, and more too. Even if I were to stay in Stockbridge, I see no reason why I should interfere. The people have a right to avenge their wrongs. But I am going away the coming week. My only concern in the rebellion was the release of my brother, and now I propose to take him and my father and mother out of this accursed Commonwealth, and leave you whose oppression and cruelties have provoked the rebellion, to deal with it."
"Do you consider that an honorable course, Captain Hamlin?" The young man's face flushed, and he answered angrily:
"Shall I stay here to protect men who the moment they are able will throw my brother into jail and send me to the gallows? Have you, sir, the assurance to tell me that is my duty?"
The doctor for a moment found it difficult to reply to this, and Perez went on, with increasing bitterness:
"You have sown the wind, you are reaping the whirlwind. Why should I interfere? You have had no pity on the poor, why should they have pity on you? Instead of having the face to ask me to stay here and protect you, rather be thankful that I am willing to go and leave unavenged the wrongs which my father's family has suffered at your hands. Be careful how you hinder my going." The doctor, apparently inferring from the bitter tone of the young man, and the hard, steely gleam in his blue eyes, that perhaps there was something to be considered in his last words turned his horse's head, without a word, and went away like the two envoys who had preceded him.
The doctor was disappointed. Without knowing much of Perez, he had gained a strong impression from what little he had seen of him, that he was of a frank, impulsive temperament, sudden and fierce in quarrel, perhaps, but incapable of a brooding revengefulness, and most unlikely to cherish continued animosity toward enemies who were at his mercy. And as I would not have the reader do the young man injustice in his mind, I hasten to say that the doctor's view of his character was not far out of the way. The hard complacency with which he just now regarded the calamities of the gentlemen of the town, had its origin in the constant and bitter brooding of the week past over Desire's treatment of him. The sense of being looked down on by her, as a fine lady, and his respectful passion despised, had been teaching him the past few days a bitterness of caste jealousy, which had never before been known to his genial temper. He was trying to forget his love for her, in hatred for her class. He was getting to feel toward the silk stockings a little as Paul Hubbard did.
Probably one of this generation of New Englanders, who could have been placed in Stockbridge the day following, would have deemed it a very quiet Sabbath indeed. But what, by our lax modern standards seem very venial sins of Sabbath-breaking, if indeed any such sins be now recognized at all, to that generation were heinous and heaven-daring. The conduct of certain reckless individuals that Sabbath, did more to shock the public mind than perhaps anything that had hitherto occurred in the course of the revolt. For instance, divers young men were seen openly walking about the streets with their sweethearts during meeting-time, laughing and talking in a noisy manner, and evidently bent merely on pleasure. It was credibly reported that one man, without any attempt at concealment, rode down to Great Barrington to make a visit of recreation upon his friends. Several other persons, presumably for similar profane purposes, walked out to Lee and Lenox furnaces, to the prodigious scandal of the dwellers along those roads. As if this were not enough iniquity for one day, there were whispers that Abner Rathbun and Meshech Little had gone a fishing. This rumor was not, indeed, fully substantiated, but the mere fact that it found circulation and some to credit it, is in itself striking evidence of the agitated and abnormal condition of the public mind.
Toward sunset, the news reached Stockbridge of yet another rebel victory in the lower counties. The Monday preceding, 300 armed farmers had marched into the town of Concord, and prevented the sitting of the courts of Middlesex county. The weakness of the government was shown by the fact that, although ample warning of the intentions of the rebels had been given, no opposition to them was attempted. The governor had, indeed, at first ordered the militia to arms, but through apprehension of their unfaithfulness had subsequently countermanded the order. The fact that the rebellion had manifested such strength and boldness within a few hours' march of Boston, the capital of the state, was an important element in the elation which the tidings produced among the people. It showed that the western counties were not alone engaged in the insurrection, but that the people all over the state were making common cause against the courts and the party that upheld them.
The jubilation produced by this intelligence, combining with the usual reaction at sunset after the repression of the day, caused that evening a general pandemonium of tin-pans, bonfires, mischief of all sorts, and the usual concomitant of unlimited drunkenness. In the midst of the uproar, Mrs. Jahleel Woodbridge, Squire Edward's sister, died. The violence of the mob was such, however, that Edwards did not dare to avail himself of even this excuse for refusing to furnish liquor to the crowd.
The funeral took place Tuesday. It was the largest and most imposing that had taken place in the village for a long time. The prominence of both the families concerned, procured the attendance of all the gentry of Southern Berkshire. I employ an English phrase to describe a class for which, in our modern democratic New England, there is no counterpart. The Stoddards, Littles, and Wendells, of Pittsfield, were represented. Colonel Ashley was there from Sheffield, Justices Dwight and Whiting from Great Barrington, and Barker from Lanesborough, with many more. The carriages, some of them bearing coats of arms upon their panels, made a fine array, which, not less than the richly attired dames and gentlemen who descended from them, impressed a temporary awe upon even the most seditious and democratically inclined of the staring populace. The six pall-bearers, adorned with scarves, and mourning rings, were Chief Justice Dwight, Colonel Elijah Williams of West Stockbridge, the founder and owner of the iron-works there, Dr. Sergeant of Stockbridge, Captain Solomon Stoddard, commander of the Stockbridge militia, Oliver Wendell of Pittsfield, and Henry W. Dwight of Stockbridge, the county treasurer. There were not in Stockbridge alone enough families to have furnished six pall-bearers of satisfactory social rank. For while all men of liberal education or profession, or such as held prominent offices were recognized as gentlemen in sharp distinction from the common people, yet the generality of even these were looked far down upon by the county families of long pedigree and large estate. The Partridges, Dr. Sergeant, the Dwights, the Williamses, the Stoddards, and of course his brother-in-law Edwards, were the only men in Stockbridge whom Woodbridge regarded as belonging to his own caste. Even Theodore Sedgwick, despite his high public offices, he affected to consider entitled to social equality chiefly by virtue of his having married a Dwight.
After the funeral exercises, Squire Woodbridge managed to whisper a few words in the ear of a dozen or so of the gentlemen present, the tenor of which, to the great surprise of those addressed, was a request that they would call on him that evening after dark, taking care to come alone, and attract as little attention as possible. Each one supposed himself to have been alone invited, and on being met at the door by Squire Woodbridge and ushered into the study, was surprised to find the room full of gentlemen. Drs. Partridge and Sergeant and Squire Edwards were there, Captain Stoddard, Sheriff Seymour, Tax-collector Williams, Solomon Gleason, John Bacon, Esquire, General Pepoon and numerous other lawyers, County Treasurer Dwight, Deacon Nash, Ephraim Williams, Esquire, Sedgwick's law-partner, Captain Jones, the militia commissary of Stockbridge, at whose house the town stock of arms and ammunition was stored, and some other gentlemen.
When all had assembled, Woodbridge, having satisfied himself there were no spies lurking about the garden, and that the gathering of gentlemen had not attracted attention to the house, proceeded to close the blinds of the study windows and draw the curtains. He then drew a piece of printed paper from his pocket, opened it, and broached the matter in hand to the wondering company, as follows:
"The awful suggestions with which the recent visitation of God has invested my house for the time being, has enabled us to meet to-night without danger that our deliberations will be interrupted, either by the curiosity or the violence of the rabble. For this one night, the first for many weeks, they have left me in peace, and I deem it is no desecration of the beloved memory of my departed companion, that we should avail ourselves of so melancholy an opportunity to take counsel for the restoration of law and order in this sorely troubled community. I have this day received from his excellency, the governor, and the honorable council at Boston, a proclamation, directed to all justices, sheriffs, jurors, and citizens, authorizing and strictly commanding them to suppress, by force of arms, all riotous proceedings, and to apprehend the rioters. I have called you privately together, that we might arrange for concerted action to these ends." In a low voice, so that no chance listener from without might catch its tenor, the Squire then proceeded to read Governor Bowdoin's proclamation, closing with that time-honored and impressive formula, "God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Captain Stoddard was first to break the silence which followed the reading of the document.
"I, for one, am ready to fight the mob to-morrow, but how are we to go about it. There are ten men for the mob to one against it. What can we do?"
"How many men in your company could be depended on to fight the mob, if it came to blows?" asked Woodbridge.
"I'm afraid not over twenty or thirty. Three-quarters are for the mob."
"There are a dozen of us here, and I presume at least a score more gentlemen in town could be depended on," said Dr. Partridge.
"But that would give not over three score, and the mob could easily muster four times that," said Gleason.
"They have no leaders, though," said Bacon. "Such fellows are only dangerous when they have leaders. They could not stand before us, for methinks we are by this time become desperate men."
"You forget this Hamlin fellow will stop at nothing, and they will follow him," remarked Seymour.
"He is going to leave town this week, if he be not already gone," said Dr. Partridge.
"What?" exclaimed Woodbridge, almost with consternation.
"He is going away," repeated the doctor.
"Perhaps it would be expedient to wait till he has gone," was Gleason's prudent suggestion.
"And let the knave escape!" exclaimed Woodbridge, looking fiercely at the schoolmaster. "I would not have him get away for ten thousand pounds. I have a little reckoning to settle with him. If he is going to leave, we must not delay."
"My advices state that Squire Sedgwick will be home in a few days to attend to his cases at the October term of the Supreme Court at Barrington. His co-operation would no doubt strengthen our hands," suggested Ephraim Williams.
If the danger of Hamlin's escape had not been a sufficient motive in Woodbridge's mind for hastening matters, the possibility that his rival might return in time to share the credit of the undertaking would have been. But he merely said, coldly:
"The success of our measures will scarcely depend on the co-operation of one man more or less, and seeing that we have broached the business, as little time as possible should intervene ere its execution lest some whisper get abroad and warn the rabble, for it is clear that it is only by a surprise that we can be sure of beating them."
He then proceeded to lay before them a scheme of action which was at once so bold and so prudent that it obtained the immediate and admiring approval of all present. Just before dawn, at three o'clock in the morning of Thursday, the next day but one, that being the hour at which the village was most completely wrapped in repose, the conspirators were secretly to rendezvous at Captain Jones' house, and such as had not arms and ammunition of their own were there to be supplied from the town stock. Issuing thence and dividing into parties the arrest of Hamlin, Abner Rathbun, Peleg Bidwell, Israel Goodrich, Meshech Little, and other men regarded as leaders of the mob, was to be simultaneously effected. Strong guards were then to be posted so that when the village woke up it would be to find itself in military possession of the legal authorities. The next step would be immediately to bring the prisoners before Justice Woodbridge to be tried, the sentences to be summarily carried out at the whipping-post on the green, and the prisoners then remanded to custody to await the further action of the law before higher tribunals. It might be necessary to keep up the military occupation of the village for some time, but it was agreed among the gentlemen that the execution of the above program would be sufficient to break the spirit of the mob entirely. The excesses of the rabble during the past week had, it was believed, already done something to produce a reaction of feeling against them among their former sympathizers, and there would doubtless be plenty of recruits for the party of order as soon as it had shown itself the stronger. The intervening day, Wednesday, was to be devoted by those present to secretly warning such as were counted on to assist in the project. It was estimated that including all the able-bodied gentlemen in town as well as some of the people known to be disaffected to the mob, about seventy-five sure men could be secured for the work in hand.
Now Lu Nimham, the beautiful Indian girl whom Perez had noticed in meeting sitting beside Prudence Fennell, had another lover besides Abe Konkapot, no other in fact than Abe's own brother Jake. Abe had been to the war and Jake had not, and Lu, as might have been expected from a girl whose father and brother had fallen at White Plains in the Continental uniform, preferred the soldier lover to the other. But not so the widow Nimham, her mother, in whose eyes Jake's slightly better worldly prospects gave him the advantage. It so happened that soon after dusk, Wednesday evening, Abe, drawn by a tender inward stress betook himself to the lonely dell in the extreme west part of the village, now called Glendale, where the hut of the Nimham family stood. His discomfiture was great on finding Jake already comfortably installed in the kitchen and basking in Lu's society. He did not linger. The widow did not invite him to stop; in fact, not to put too fine a point upon it, she intimated that it would be just as well if he were to finish his call some other time. Lu indeed threw sundry tender commiserating glances in his direction, but her mother watched her like a cat, and mothers in those times were a good deal more in the way than they are nowadays.
How little do we know what is good for us! As he beat an ignominious retreat, pursued by the scornful laughter of his brother, Abe certainly had apparent reason to be down on his luck. Nevertheless the fact that he was cut out that particular evening proved to be one of the clearest streaks of luck that had ever occurred in his career, and a good many others besides he had equal reason ere morning dawned to be thankful for it. The matter fell out on this wise:
A couple of hours later, a little after nine in fact, the Hamlin household was about going to bed. Elnathan and Mrs. Hamlin had already retired to the small bedroom opening out of the kitchen. Reuben, George Fennell and Perez slept in the kitchen, and Prudence in the loft above. The two invalids were already abed, and the girl was just giving the last attentions for the night to her father before climbing to her pallet. Perez sat at the other end of the great room before the open chimney, gazing into the embers of the fire. The family was to start for New York the next morning, and as this last night in the old homestead was closing in the young man had enough sad matter to occupy his thoughts. Her loving cares completed, Prudence came and stood silently by his side. Taking note of her friendly presence, after awhile he put out his hand without looking up and took hers as it hung by her side. He had taken quite a liking to the sweet-tempered little lassie, and had felt particularly kindly towards her since her well-meaning, if rather inadequate effort to console him that Sunday behind the barn.
"You're a good little girl, Prudy," he said, "and I know you will take good care of your father. You can stay here if you want, you know, after we're gone. I don't think Solomon Gleason or the sheriff will trouble you. Or you can go to your father's old house. Obadiah says Gleason has left it. Obadiah will look after you and do any chores you may want about the house. He'll be very glad to. He thinks a good deal of you, Obadiah does. I s'pose he'll be wanting you to keep house for him when you get a little older," and he looked cheerily up at her. But evidently his little jest had struck her mind amiss. Her eyes were full of tears and the childish mouth quivered.
"Why what's the matter Prudy?" he asked in surprise.
"I wish you wouldn't talk so to me, now," she said, "as if I didn't care anything when you're all going away and have been so good to me and father. And I don't care about Obadiah either, and you needn't say so. He's just a great gumph."
At this point, the conversation was abruptly broken off by the noise of the latchstring being pulled. Both turned. Lu Nimham was standing in the doorway, her great black eyes shining in the dusk like those of a deer fascinated by the night-hunter's torch. Prudence, with a low exclamation of surprise, crossed the room to her, and Lu whispering something drew her out. Immediately, however, the white girl reappeared in the doorway, her rosy face pale, her eyes dilated, and beckoned to Perez, who in a good deal of wonderment at once obeyed the gesture. The two girls were standing by a corner of the house, out of earshot from the window of Elnathan's bedroom. Both looked very much excited, but the Indian girl was smiling as if the stimulus affected her nerves agreeably rather than otherwise. Abe Konkapot, looking rather sober, stood near by.
"Oh, what shall we do?" exclaimed Prudence in a terrified half-whisper. "She says the militia are coming to take you!"
"What is it all?" demanded Perez of the Indian girl, as he laid his hand soothingly on Prudence's shoulder.
"Jake Konkapot, he come see me tonight," said Lu, still smiling. "Jake no like Abe, cause Abe like me too. Jake he ask me if I like Abe any more after he git whip on back by constable man. I say no. Indian gal, no like marry man what been whip. Jake laugh and say I no marry Abe sure nuff, cause Abe git whip to-morrow. He no tell me what he mean till I say I give him kiss. Man all like kiss. Jake he says yes, an I give him kiss. Ugh! Arter that he say Squire an Deacon Edwards, and Deacon Nash, an Cap'n Stoddard an heap more, an Jake he go too, gonter git up arly, at tree o'clock to-morrer, with guns; make no noise go roun creepy, creepy, creepy." Here she expressed by pantomime the way a cat stealthily approaches its prey, culminating by a sudden clutch on Perez' arm that startled him, as she added explosively, "Catch you so, all abed, an Abe an Abner an heap more! Then when mornin come they whip all on yer to the whippin-post. When Jake go home I wait till mammy go sleep, slip out winder an go tell Abe so he no git whip. Then I tink come here tell Prudence, for I tink she no like you git whip."
Perez had listened with an intense interest that lost not a syllable. As the girl described the disgrace which his enemies had planned to inflict on him, if their plan succeeded, his cheek paled and his lips drew tense across his set teeth. As Prudence looked up at him there was a suppressed intensity of rage in his face which checked the ejaculations upon her lips. There was a silence of several seconds, and then he said in a low suppressed voice, hard and unnatural in tone:
"Young woman, I owe you more than if you had saved me from death." Lu smilingly nodded, evidently fully appreciating the point.
"Three o'clock, you said?" muttered Perez presently, half to himself, as the others still were silent.
"Tree 'clock, Jake say. Jake an all udder man meet to Cap'n Jones' tree 'clock to git um guns."
"It's nine now, six hours. Time enough," muttered Perez.
"Yes, there's time for you to get away," said Prudence eagerly. "You can get to York State by three o'clock, if you hurry. Oh, don't wait a minute. If they should catch you!"
He smiled grimly.
"Yes, there's time for me to get away, but there's no time for them, my sirs."
"Abe," he added, abruptly changing his tone, "you've heard what they're going to do? What are you going to do?"
"I tink me go woke up fellers. Heap time, run clean 'way 'fore tree 'clock," said the Indian. "Mlishy come tree 'clock, no find us. 'Fraid have to leave Abner. Abner heap drunk to-night. No can walk. Too big for carry. Heap sorry, but no can help it."
"But you don't want to leave home, Abe. You don't want to leave Lu here for Jake to get."
Abe shook his head gloomily.
"No use stay," he said. "If I get whip, Lu no marry me."
"Abe," said Perez, stepping up to the disconsolate Indian and clapping him sharply on the shoulder, "you were in the army. You're not afraid of fighting. We'll stay and beat these fine gentlemen at their own game. By three o'clock we'll have every one of them under guard, and, by the Lord God of Israel, by noon to-morrow, every man of them shall get ten lashes on his bare back with all Stockbridge looking on. We'll see who's whipped."
"Ha! you no run. You stay fight em. What heap more better as run. You, great brave, ha! ha!" cried Lu dancing in front of Perez and clapping her hands in noiseless ecstasy, while her splendid eyes rested on him with an admiration of which Abe might have been excusably jealous.
Her Mohegan blood was on fire at the prospect of a scrimmage, and her lover's response, if more laconic, was quite as satisfactory.
"Me no like to run. Me stay fight. Me do what you say."
"Wait here till I get my sword and pistols. We've plenty of time, but none to lose," and Perez went into the house, followed by Prudence. Mrs. Hamlin, with something hastily thrown over her nightdress, had come out of her bedroom.
"I heard voices. What is it, Perez?" she said.
"Abe has come to get me to go off on a coon hunt. He thinks he's treed several," replied Perez, strapping on his accoutrements. He had no notion of leaving his mother a prey to sleepless anxiety during his absence.
"You're not telling me the truth, Perez. Look at Prudence." The girl's face, pale as ashes and her eyes full of fear and excitement, had betrayed him, and so he had to tell her in a few words what he was going to do. The door stood open. On the threshold, as he was going out, he turned his head, and said in confident, ringing tones:
"You needn't be at all afraid. We shall certainly succeed."
No wonder the breath of the night had inspired him with such confidence. It was the night of all nights in the year which a man would choose if he were to stake his life and all on the issue of some daring stake, assured that then, if ever, he could depend to the uttermost on every atom of nerve and muscle in his body. The bare mountain peaks overhanging the village were tipped with silver by the moon, and under its light the dense forests that clothed their sides, wore the sheen of thick and glossy fur. The air was tingling with that electric stimulus which characterizes autumn evenings in New England about the time of the first frosts. A faint, sweet smell of aromatic smoke from burning pine woods somewhere off in the mountains, could barely be detected. The intense vitality of the atmosphere communicated itself to the nerves, stringing them like steel chords, and setting them vibrating with lust for action, reckless, daring emprise.
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