Isaac Worthington came to Coniston not once, but many times, before the snow
fell; and afterward, too, in Silas Wheelock's yellow sleigh through the great
drifts under the pines, the chestnut Morgan trotting to one side in the tracks.
On one of these excursions he fell in with that singular character of a bumpkin
who had interested him on his first visit, in coonskin cap and overcoat and
mittens. Jethro Bass was plodding in the same direction, and Isaac Worthington,
out of the goodness of his heart, invited him into the sleigh. He was scarcely
prepared for the bumpkin's curt refusal, but put it down to native boorishness,
and thought no more about it then.
What troubled Mr. Worthington infinitely more was the progress of his suit;
for it had become a snit, though progress is a wrong word to use in connection
with it. So far had he got,—not a great distance,—and then came to what he at
length discovered was a wall, and apparently impenetrable. He was not even
allowed to look over it. Cynthia was kind, engaging; even mirthful, at times,
save when he approached it; and he became convinced that a certain sorrow lay in
the forbidden ground. The nearest he had come to it was when he mentioned again,
by accident, that life of Napoleon.
That Cynthia would accept him, nobody doubted for an instant. It would be
madness not to. He was orthodox, so Deacon Ira had discovered, of good habits,
and there was the princely four hundred a year—almost a minister's salary!
Little people guessed that there was no love-making—only endless discussions of
books beside the great centre chimney, and discussions of Isaac Worthington's
It is a fact—for future consideration—that Isaac Worthington proposed to
Cynthia Ware, although neither Speedy Bates nor Deacon Ira Perkins heard him do
so. It had been very carefully prepared, that speech, and was a model of
proposals for the rising young men of all time. Mr. Worthington preferred to
offer himself for what he was going to be—not for what he was. He tendered to
Cynthia a note for a large amount, payable in some twenty years, with interest.
The astonishing thing to record is that in twenty years he could have more than
paid the note, although he could not have foreseen at that time the Worthington
Free Library and the Truro Railroad, and the stained-glass window in the church
and the great marble monument on the hill—to another woman. All of these things,
and more, Cynthia might have had if she had only accepted that promise to pay!
But she did not accept it. He was a trifle more robust than when he came to
Brampton in the summer, but perhaps she doubted his promise to pay.
It may have been guessed, although the language we have used has been
purposely delicate, that Cynthia was already in love with—somebody else. Shame
of shames and horror of horrors—with Jethro Bass! With Strength, in the crudest
form in which it is created, perhaps, but yet with Strength. The strength might
gradually and eventually be refined. Such was her hope, when she had any. It is
hard, looking back upon that virginal and cultured Cynthia, to be convinced that
she could have loved passionately, and such a man! But love she did, and
passionately, too, and hated herself for it, and prayed and struggled to cast
out what she believed, at times, to be a devil.
The ancient allegory of Cupid and the arrows has never been improved upon: of
Cupid, who should never in the world have been trusted with a weapon, who defies
all game laws, who shoots people in the bushes and innocent bystanders
generally, the weak and the helpless and the strong and self-confident! There is
no more reason in it than that. He shot Cynthia Ware, and what she suffered in
secret Coniston never guessed. What parallels in history shall I quote to bring
home the enormity of such a mesalliance? Orthodox Coniston would have gone into
sackcloth and ashes,—was soon to go into these, anyway.
I am not trying to keep the lovers apart for any mere purposes of
fiction,—this is a true chronicle, and they stayed apart most of that winter.
Jethro went about his daily tasks, which were now become manifold, and he wore
the locket on its little chain himself. He did not think that Cynthia loved
him—yet, but he had the effrontery to believe that she might, some day; and he
was content to wait. He saw that she avoided him, and he was too proud to go to
the parsonage and so incur ridicule and contempt.
Jethro was content to wait. That is a clew to his character throughout his
life. He would wait for his love, he would wait for his hate: he had waited ten
years before putting into practice the first step of a little scheme which he
had been gradually developing during that time, for which he had been amassing
money, and the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, by the way, had given him some
valuable ideas. Jethro, as well as Isaac D. Worthington, had ambitions, although
no one in Coniston had hitherto guessed them except Jock Hallowell—and Cynthia
Ware, after her curiosity had been aroused.
Even as Isaac D. Worthington did not dream of the Truro Railroad and of an
era in the haze of futurity, it did not occur to Jethro Bass that his ambitions
tended to the making of another era that was at hand. Makers of eras are too
busy thinking about themselves and like immediate matters to worry about
history. Jethro never heard the expression about "cracks in the Constitution,"
and would not have known what it meant,—he merely had the desire to get on top.
But with Established Church Coniston tight in the saddle (in the person of Moses
Hatch, Senior), how was he to do it?
As the winter wore on, and March town meeting approached, strange rumors of a
Democratic ticket began to drift into Jonah Winch's store,—a Democratic ticket
headed by Fletcher Bartlett, of all men, as chairman of the board. Moses laughed
when he first heard of it, for Fletcher was an easy-going farmer of the
Methodist persuasion who was always in debt, and the other members of the
ticket, so far as Moses could learn of it—were remarkable neither for orthodoxy
or solidity. The rumors persisted, and still Moses laughed, for the senior
selectman was a big man with flesh on him, who could laugh with dignity.
"Moses," said Deacon Lysander Richardson as they stood on the platform of the
store one sunny Saturday in February, "somebody's put Fletcher up to this. He
hain't got sense enough to act that independent all by himself."
"You be always croakin', Lysander," answered Moses.
Cynthia Ware, who had come to the store for buttons for Speedy Bates, who was
making a new coat for the minister, heard these remarks, and stood thoughtfully
staring at the blue coat-tails of the elders. A brass button was gone from
Deacon Lysander's, and she wanted to sew it on. Suddenly she looked up, and saw
Jock Hallowell standing beside her. Jock winked—and Cynthia blushed and hurried
homeward without a word. She remembered, vividly enough, what Jack had told her
the spring before, and several times during the week that followed she thought
of waylaying him and asking what he knew. But she could not summon the courage.
As a matter of fact, Jock knew nothing, but he had a theory. He was a strange
man, Jock, who whistled all day on roof and steeple and meddled with nobody's
business, as a rule. What had impelled him to talk to Cynthia in the way he had
must remain a mystery.
Meanwhile the disquieting rumors continued to come in. Jabez Miller, on the
north slope, had told Samuel Todd, who told Ephraim Williams, that he was going
to vote for Fletcher. Moses Hatch hitched up his team and went out to see Jabez,
spent an hour in general conversation, and then plumped the question, taking, as
he said, that means of finding out. Jabez hemmed and hawed, said his farm was
mortgaged; spoke at some length about the American citizen, however humble,
having a right to vote as he chose. A most unusual line for Jabez, and the whole
matter very mysterious and not a little ominous. Moses drove homeward that
sparkling day, shutting his eyes to the glare of the ice crystals on the pines,
and thinking profoundly. He made other excursions, enough to satisfy himself
that this disease, so new and unheard of (the right of the unfit to hold
office), actually existed. Where the germ began that caused it, Moses knew no
better than the deacon, since those who were suspected of leanings toward
Fletcher Bartlett were strangely secretive. The practical result of Moses'
profound thought was a meeting, in his own house, without respect to party,
Democrats and Whigs alike, opened by a prayer from the minister himself. The
meeting, after a futile session, broke up dismally. Sedition and conspiracy
existed; a chief offender and master mind there was, somewhere. But who was he?
Good Mr. Ware went home, troubled in spirit, shaking his head. He had a cold,
and was not so strong as he used to be, and should not have gone to the meeting
at all. At supper, Cynthia listened with her eyes on her plate while he told her
of the affair.
"Somebody's behind this, Cynthia," he said. "It's the most astonishing thing
in my experience that we cannot discover who has incited them. All the
unattached people in the town seem to have been organized." Mr. Ware was wont to
speak with moderation even at his own table. He said unattached—not ungodly.
Cynthia kept her eyes on her plate, but she felt as though her body were
afire. Little did the minister imagine, as he went off to write his sermon, that
his daughter might have given him the clew to the mystery. Yes, Cynthia guessed;
and she could not read that evening because of the tumult of her thoughts. What
was her duty in the matter? To tell her father her suspicions? They were only
suspicions, after all, and she could make no accusations. And Jethro! Although
she condemned him, there was something in the situation that appealed to a most
reprehensible sense of humor. Cynthia caught herself smiling once or twice, and
knew that it was wicked. She excused Jethro, and told herself that, with his
lack of training, he could know no better. Then an idea came to her, and the
very boldness of it made her grow hot again. She would appeal to him tell him
that that power he had over other men could be put to better and finer uses. She
would appeal to him, and he would abandon the matter. That the man loved her
with the whole of his rude strength she was sure, and that knowledge had been
the only salve to her shame.
So far we have only suspicions ourselves; and, strange to relate, if we go
around Coniston with Jethro behind his little red Morgan, we shall come back
with nothing but—suspicions. They will amount to convictions, yet we cannot
prove them. The reader very naturally demands some specific information—how did
Jethro do it? I confess that I can only indicate in a very general way: I can
prove nothing. Nobody ever could prove anything against Jethro Bass. Bring the
following evidence before any grand jury in the country, and see if they don't
throw it out of court.
Jethro in the course of his weekly round of strictly business visits
throughout the town, drives into Samuel Todd's farmyard, and hitches on the
sunny side of the red barns. The town of Coniston, it must be explained for the
benefit of those who do not understand the word "town" in the New England senses
was a tract of country about ten miles by ten, the most thickly settled portion
of which was the village of Coniston, consisting of twelve houses. Jethro drives
into the barnyard, and Samuel Todd comes out. He is a little man, and has a
habit of rubbing the sharp ridge of his nose.
"How be you, Jethro?" says Samuel. "Killed the brindle Thursday. Finest hide
you ever seed."
"G-goin' to town meetin' Tuesday—g-goin' to town meetin' Tuesday—Sam'l?" says
"I was callatin' to, Jethro."
"Callate to be."
"How much store do ye set by that hide?"
Samuel rubs his nose. Then he names a price that the hide might fetch, under
favorable circumstances, in Boston—Jethro does not wince.
"Who d'ye callate to vote for, Sam'l?"
Samuel rubs his nose.
"Heerd they was a-goin' to put up Fletcher and Amos Cuthbert, an' Sam Price
for Moderator." (What a convenient word is they when used politically!) "Hain't
made up my mind, clear," says Samuel.
"C-comin' by the tannery after town meetin'?" inquired Jethro, casually.
"Don't know but what I kin."
"F-fetch the hide—f-fetch the hide."
And Jethro drives off, with Samuel looking after him, rubbing his nose. "No
bill," says the jury—if you can get Samuel into court. But you can't. Even Moses
Hatch can get nothing out of Samuel, who then talks Jacksonian principles and
the nights of an American citizen.
Let us pursue this matter a little farther, and form a committee of
investigation. Where did Mr. Todd learn anything about Jacksonian principles?
From Mr. Samuel Price, whom they have spoken of for Moderator. And where did Mr.
Price learn of these principles? Any one in Coniston will tell you that Mr.
Price makes a specialty of orators and oratory; and will hold forth at the drop
of a hat in Jonah Winch's store or anywhere else. Who is Mr. Price? He is a
tall, sallow young man of eight and twenty, with a wedge-shaped face, a bachelor
and a Methodist, who farms in a small way on the southern slope, and saves his
money. He has become almost insupportable since they have named him for
Get Mr. Sam Price into court. Here is a man who assuredly knows who they are:
if we are, not much mistaken, he is their mouthpiece. Get, an eel into court.
There is only one man in town who can hold an eel, and he isn't on the jury. Mr.
Price will talk plentifully, in his nasal way; but he won't tell you anything.
Mr. Price has been nominated to fill Deacon Lysander Richardson's shoes in
the following manner: One day in the late autumn a man in a coonskin cap stops
beside Mr. Price's woodpile, where Mr. Price has been chopping wood, pausing
occasionally to stare off through the purple haze at the south shoulder of
"How be you, Jethro?" says Mr. Price, nasally.
"D-Democrats are talkin' some of namin' you Moderator next meetin'," says the
man in the coonskin cap.
"Want to know!" ejaculates Mr. Price, dropping the axe and straightening up
in amazement. For Mr. Price's ambition soared no higher, and he had made no
secret of it. "Wal! Whar'd you hear that, Jethro?"
"H-heerd it round—some. D-Democrat—hain't you—Democrat?"
"Always callate to be."
"Guess I be."
Silence for a while, that Mr. Price may feel the gavel in his hand, which he
"Know somewhat about Jacksonian principles, don't ye—know somewhat?"
"Callate to," says Mr. Price, proudly.
"T-talk 'em up, Sam—t-talk 'em up. C-canvass, Sam."
With these words of brotherly advice Mr. Bass went off down the road, and Mr.
Price chopped no more wood that night; but repeated to himself many times in his
nasal voice, "I want to know!" In the course of the next few weeks various
gentlemen mentioned to Mr. Price that he had been spoken of for Moderator, and
he became acquainted with the names of the other candidates on the same
mysterious ticket who were mentioned. Whereupon he girded up his loins and went
forth and preached the word of Jacksonian Democracy in all the farmhouses
roundabout, with such effect that Samuel Todd and others were able to talk with
some fluency about the rights of American citizens.
Question before the Committee, undisposed of: Who nominated Samuel Price for
Moderator? Samuel Price gives the evidence, tells the court he does not know,
and is duly cautioned and excused.
Let us call, next, Mr. Eben Williams, if we can. Moses Hatch, Senior, has
already interrogated him with all the authority of the law and the church, for
Mr. Williams is orthodox, though the deacons have to remind him of his duty once
in a while. Eben is timid, and replies to us, as to Moses, that he has heard of
the Democratic ticket, and callates that Fletcher Bartlett, who has always been
the leader of the Democratic party, has named the ticket. He did not mention
Jethro Bass to Deacon Hatch. Why should he? What has Jethro Bass got to do with
Eben lives on a southern spur, next to Amos Cuthbert, where you can look off
for forty miles across the billowy mountains of the west. From no spot in
Coniston town is the sunset so fine on distant Farewell Mountain, and Eben's
sheep feed on pastures where only mountain-bred sheep can cling and thrive.
Coniston, be it known, at this time is one of the famous wool towns of New
England: before the industry went West, with other industries. But Eben
Williams's sheep do not wholly belong to him they are mortgaged—and Eben's farm
Jethro Bass—Eben testifies to us—is in the habit of visiting him once a
month, perhaps, when he goes to Amos Cuthbert's. Just friendly calls. Is it not
a fact that Jethro Bass holds his mortgage? Yes, for eight hundred dollars. How
long has he held that mortgage? About a year and a half. Has the interest been
paid promptly? Well, the fact is that Eben hasn't paid any interest yet.
Now let us take the concrete incident. Before that hypocritical thaw early in
February, Jethro called upon Amos Cuthbert—not so surly then as he has since
become—and talked about buying his wool when it should be duly cut, and
permitted Amos to talk about the position of second selectman, for which some
person or persons unknown to the jury had nominated him. On his way down to the
Four Corners, Jethro had merely pulled up his sleigh before Eben Williams's
house, which stood behind a huge snow bank and practically on the road. Eben
appeared at the door, a little dishevelled in hair and beard, for he had been
"How be you, Jethro?" he said nervously. Jethro nodded.
"Weather looks a mite soft."
"About that interest," said Eben, plunging into the dread subject, "don't
know as I'm ready this month after all."
"G-goin' to town meetin', Eben?"
"Wahn't callatin' to," answered Eben.
"G-goin' to town meetin', Eben?"
Eben, puzzled and dismayed, ran his hand through his hair.
"Wahn't callatin' to—but I kin—I kin."
"I kin be," said Eben. Then he looked at Jethro and added in a startled
voice, "Don't know but what I be—Yes, I guess I be."
"H-heerd the ticket?"
Yes, Eben had heard the ticket. What man had not. Some one has been most
industrious, and most disinterested, in distributing that ticket.
"Hain't a mite of hurry about the interest right now—right now," said Jethro.
"M-may be along the third week in March—may be—c-can t tell."
And Jethro clucked to his horse, and drove away. Eben Williams went back into
his house and sat down with his head in his hands. In about two hours, when his
wife called him to fetch water, he set down the pail on the snow and stared
across the next ridge at the eastern horizon, whitening after the sunset.
The third week in March was the week after town meeting!
"M-may be—c-can't tell," repeated Eben to himself, unconsciously imitating
Jethro's stutter. "Godfrey, I'll hev to git that ticket straight from Amos."
Yes, we may have our suspicions. But how can we get a bill on this evidence?
There are some thirty other individuals in Coniston whose mortgages Jethro
holds, from a horse to a house and farm. It is not likely that they will tell
Beacon Hatch, or us; that they are going to town meeting and vote for that
fatherless ticket because Jethro Bass wishes them to do so. And Jethro has never
said that he wishes them to. If so, where are your witnesses? Have we not come
back to our starting-point, even as Moses Hatch drove around in a circle.. And
we have the advantage over Moses, for we suspect somebody, and he did not know
whom to suspect. Certainly not Jethro Bass, the man that lived under his nose
and never said anything—and had no right to. Jethro Bass had never taken any
active part in politics, though some folks had heard, in his rounds on business,
that he had discussed them, and had spread the news of the infamous ticket
without a parent. So much was spoken of at the meeting over which Priest Ware
prayed. It was even declared that, being a Democrat, Jethro might have
influenced some of those under obligations to him. Sam Price was at last fixed
upon as the malefactor, though people agreed that they had not given him credit
for so much sense, and Jacksonian principles became as much abhorred by the
orthodox as the spotted fever.
We can call a host of other witnesses if we like, among them cranky,
happy-go-lucky Fletcher Bartlett, who has led forlorn hopes in former years.
Court proceedings make tiresome reading, and if those who have been over ours
have not arrived at some notion of the simple and innocent method of the new Era
of politics note dawning—they never will. Nothing proved. But here is part of
the ticket which nobody started:—
SENIOR SELECTMAN, FLETCHER BARTLETT.
(Farm and buildings on Thousand Acre Hill mortgaged to Jethro
SECOND SELECTMAN, AMOS CUTHBERT.
(Farm and buildings on Town's End Ridge mortgaged to Jethro
THIRD SELECTMAN, CHESTER PERKINS.
(Sop of some kind to the Established Church party. Horse and
cow mortgaged to Jethro Bass, though his father, the tithing-man,
doesn't know it.)
MODERATOR, SAMUEL PRICE.
(Natural ambition—dove of oratory and Jacksonian principles.)
The notes are mine, not Moses's. Strange that they didn't occur to Moses.
What a wealthy man has our hero become at thirty-one! Jethro Bass was rich
beyond the dreams of avarice—for Coniston. Truth compels me to admit that the
sum total of all his mortgages did not amount to nine thousand "dollars"; but
that was a large sum of money for Coniston in those days, and even now. Nathan
Bass had been a saving man, and had left to his son one-half of this fortune. If
thrift and the ability to gain wealth be qualities for a hero, Jethro had
them—in those days.
The Sunday before March meeting, it blew bitter cold, and Priest Ware,
preaching in mittens, denounced sedition in general. Underneath him, on the
first landing of the high pulpit, the deacons sat with knitted brows, and the
key-note from Isaiah Prescott's pitch pipe sounded like mournful echo of the
mournful wind without.
Monday was ushered in with that sleet storm to which the almanacs still
refer, and another scarcely less important event occurred that day which we
shall have to pass by for the present; on Tuesday, the sleet still raging, came
the historic town meeting. Deacon Moses Hatch, his chores done and his breakfast
and prayers completed, fought his way with his head down through a white waste
to the meeting-house door, and unlocked it, and shivered as he made the fire. It
was certainly not good election weather, thought Moses, and others of the
orthodox persuasion, high in office, were of the same opinion as they stood with
parted coat tails before the stove. Whoever had stirred up and organized the
hordes, whoever was the author of that ticket of the discontented, had not
counted upon the sleet. Heaven-sent sleet, said Deacon Ira Perkins, and would
not speak to his son Chester, who sat down just then in one of the rear slips.
Chester had become an agitator, a Jacksonian Democrat, and an outcast, to be
prayed for but not spoken to.
We shall leave them their peace of mind for half an hour more, those stanch
old deacons and selectmen, who did their duty by their fellow-citizens as they
saw it and took no man's bidding. They could not see the trackless roads over
the hills, now becoming tracked, and the bent figures driving doggedly against
the storm, each impelled by a motive: each motive strengthened by a master mind
until it had become imperative. Some, like Eben Williams behind his rickety
horse, came through fear; others through ambition; others were actuated by both;
and still others were stung by the pain of the sleet to a still greater jealousy
and envy, and the remembrance of those who had been in power. I must not omit
the conscientious Jacksonians who were misguided enough to believe in such a
The sheds were not large enough to hold the teams that day. Jethro's barn and
tannery were full, and many other barns in the village. And now the peace of
mind of the orthodox is a thing of the past. Deacon Lysander Richardson, the
moderator, sits aghast in his high place as they come trooping in, men who have
not been to town meeting for ten years. Deacon Lysander, with his white band of
whiskers that goes around his neck like a sixteenth-century ruff under his chin,
will soon be a memory. Now enters one, if Deacon Lysander had known it symbolic
of the new Era. One who, though his large head is bent, towers over most of the
men who make way for him in the aisle, nodding but not speaking, and takes his
place in the chair under the platform on the right of the meeting-pause under
one of the high, three-part windows. That chair was always his in future years,
and there he sat afterward, silent, apparently taking no part. But not a man
dropped a ballot into the box whom Jethro Bass did not see and mark.
And now, when the meeting-house is crowded as it has never been before, when
Jonah Winch has arranged his dinner booth in the corner, Deacon Lysander raps
for order and the minister prays. They proceed, first, to elect a representative
to the General Court. The Jacksonians do not contest that seat,—this year,—and
Isaiah Prescott, fourteenth child of Timothy, the Stark hero, father of a young
Ephraim whom we shall hear from later, is elected. And now! Now for a sensation,
now for disorder and misrule!
"Gentlemen," says Deacon Lysander, "you will prepare your ballots for the
choice of the first Selectman."
The Whigs have theirs written out, Deacon Moses Hatch. But who has written
out these others that are being so assiduously passed around? Sam Price,
perhaps, for he is passing them most assiduously. And what name is written on
them? Fletcher Bartlett, of course; that was on the ticket. Somebody is tricked
again. That is not the name on the ticket. Look over Sara Price's shoulder and
you will see the name—Jethro Bass.
It bursts from the lips of Fletcher Bartlett himself—of Fletcher, inflammable
"Gentlemen, I withdraw as your candidate, and nominate a better and an abler
"Jethro Bass for Chairman of the Selectmen!"
The cry is taken up all over the meeting-house, and rises high above the hiss
of the sleet on the great windows. Somebody's got on the stove, to add to the
confusion and horror. The only man in the whole place who is not excited is
Jethro Bass himself, who sits in his chair regardless of those pressing around
him. Many years afterward he confessed to some one that he was surprised—and
this is true. Fletcher Bartlett had surprised and tricked him, but was forgiven.
Forty men are howling at the moderator, who is pounding on the table with a
blacksmith's blows. Squire Asa Northcutt, with his arms fanning like a windmill
from the edge of the platform, at length shouts down everybody else—down to a
hum. Some listen to him: hear the words "infamous outrage"—"if Jethro Bass is
elected Selectman, Coniston will never be able to hold up her head among her
sister towns for very shame." (Momentary blank, for somebody has got on the
stove again, a scuffle going on there.) "I see it all now," says the
Squire—(marvel of perspicacity!) "Jethro Bass has debased and debauched this
town—" (blank again, and the squire points a finger of rage and scorn at the
unmoved offender in the chair) "he has bought and intimidated men to do his
bidding. He has sinned against heaven, and against the spirit of that most
immortal of documents—" (Blank again. Most unfortunate blank, for this is
becoming oratory, but somebody from below has seized the squire by the leg.)
Squire Northcutt is too dignified and elderly a person to descend to rough and
tumble, but he did get his leg liberated and kicked Fletcher Bartlett in the
face. Oh, Coniston, that such scenes should take place in your town meeting! By
this time another is orating, Mr. Sam Price, Jackson Democrat. There was no
shorthand reporter in Coniston in those days, and it is just as well, perhaps,
that the accusations and recriminations should sink into oblivion.
At last, by mighty efforts of the peace loving in both parties, something
like order is restored, the ballots are in the box, and Deacon Lysander is
counting them: not like another moderator I have heard of, who spilled the votes
on the floor until his own man was elected. No. Had they registered his own
death sentence, the deacon would have counted them straight, and needed no town
clerk to verify his figures. But when he came to pronounce the vote, shame and
sorrow and mortification overcame him. Coniston, his native town, which he had
served and revered, was dishonored, and it was for him, Lysander Richardson, to
proclaim her disgrace. The deacon choked, and tears of bitterness stood in his
eyes, and there came a silence only broken by the surging of the sleet as he
rapped on the table.
"Seventy-five votes have been cast for Jethro Bass—sixty-three for Moses
Hatch. Necessary for a choice, seventy—and Jethro Bass is elected senior
The deacon sat down, and men say that a great sob shook him, while Jacksonian
Democracy went wild—not looking into future years to see what they were going
wild about. Jethro Bass Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, in the honored place
of Deacon Moses Hatch! Bourbon royalists never looked with greater abhorrence on
the Corsican adventurer and usurper of the throne than did the orthodox in
Coniston on this tanner, who had earned no right to aspire to any distinction,
and who by his wiles had acquired the highest office in the town government.
Fletcher Bartlett in, as a leader of the irresponsible opposition, would have
been calamity enough. But Jethro Bass!
This man whom they had despised was the master mind who had organized and
marshalled the loose vote, was the author of that ticket, who sat in his corner
unmoved alike by the congratulations of his friends and the maledictions of his
enemies; who rose to take his oath of office as unconcerned as though the house
were empty, albeit Deacon Lysander could scarcely get the words out. And then
Jethro sat down again in his chair—not to leave it for six and thirty years.
From this time forth that chair became a seat of power, and of dominion over a
Thus it was that Jock Hallowell's prophecy, so lightly uttered, came to pass.
How the remainder of that Jacksonian ticket was elected, down to the very
hog-reeves, and amid what turmoil of the Democracy and bitterness of spirit of
the orthodox, I need not recount. There is no moral to the story, alas—it was
one of those things which inscrutable heaven permitted to be done. After that
dark town-meeting day some of those stern old fathers became broken men, and it
is said in Coniston that this calamity to righteous government, and not the
storm, gave to Priest Ware his death-stroke.