“Will you—will you let me buy you a new hat?” said she, soberly, and hesitating much between words.
He thought a moment, biting his lip.
“I’d rather you wouldn’t, Polly,” said he, looking down at the faded hat. “I know it’s shabby, but, after all, I’m fond o’ the old thing. I love good clothes, but I can’t afford them now.”
Then he bade her good night and came away.
It was court week, and the grand jury was in session. There were many people in the streets of the shire town. They moved with a slow foot, some giving their animation to squints of curiosity and shouts of recognition, some to profanity and plug tobacco. Squire Day and Colonel Judson were to argue the famous maple-sugar case, and many causes of local celebrity were on the calendar.
There were men with the watchful eye of the hunter, ever looking for surprises. They moved with caution, for here, indeed, were sights and perils greater than those of the timber land. Here were houses, merchants, lawyers, horse-jockeys, whiskey, women. They knew the thickets and all the wild creatures that lived in them, but these things of the village were new and strange. They came out of the stores and, after expectorating, stood a moment with their hands in their pockets, took a long look to the right and a long look to the left and threw a glance into the sky, and then examined the immediate foreground. If satisfied, they began to move slowly one way or the other and, meeting hunters presently, would ask:—
“Here fer yer bounties?”
“Here fer my bounties,” another would say. Then they both took a long look around them.
“Wish’t I was back t’ the shanty.”
“So do I.”
“Too many houses an’ too many women folks.”
“An’ if ye wan’ t’ git a meal o’ vittles, it costs ye three mushrats.”
Night and morning the tavern offices were full of smart-looking men,—lawyers from every village in the county, who, having dropped the bitter scorn of the court room, now sat gossiping in a cloud of tobacco smoke, rent with thunder-peals of laughter and lightning flashes of wit. Teams of farmer folk filled the sheds and were tied to hitching-posts, up and down the main thoroughfare of the village. Every day rough-clad, brawny men led their little sons to the courthouse.
“Do ye see that man with the spectacles and the bald head?” they had been wont to whisper, when seated in the court room, “that air man twistin’ his hair,—that’s Silas Wright; an’ that tall man that jes’ sot down?—that’s John L. Russell. Now I want ye t’ listen, careful. Mebbe ye’ll be a lawyer, sometime, yerself, as big as any of ’em.”
The third day of that week—it was about the middle of the afternoon—a score of men, gossiping in the lower hall of the court building, were hushed suddenly. A young man came hurrying down the back stairs with a look of excitement.