But the rescue had diverted public attention from the Solitary into another channel, and the community had not a stock of indignation sufficient, like the Justice, to expend on Holden as well as on his rescuers. It appeared, even to the few who were originally in favor of his arrest, that he had suffered enough, satisfied as they were, as well from his behavior they had witnessed as from the report of the constable, that he had in no respect contributed to his freedom, but was rather compelled to accept it, and therefore attaching no blame to him for the escape. The resentment of the citizens was now transferred to the daring offenders, who, with a strong hand, had interposed between the sentence and the execution of the law, and this last offence, as being of so much greater magnitude than Holden’s, cast it quite into the shade. Who were they? Who would have the audacity, in the midst of a law-loving and law-abiding people, to trample on the laws and defy the State? The constable could give no information. He had not even seen a person. He had only heard a voice he never heard before. Ought not some persons to be arrested on suspicion? Who should they be? Who were obnoxious to suspicion? The friends of the Solitary were among the most respectable people in the place. Would it be safe to proceed against them? There would be some hazard in the experiment. They would be sure to defend themselves to the uttermost, and if successful as they probably would be, would make the movers in the matter rue their officiousness.
Of such a nature were the various questions discussed around the hearths, and in the bank and shops of the little town of Hillsdale. The excitement was a perfect god-send to stir the sluggish blood of winter. Above all it was attractive for the mystery that invested it. But we will leave the village gossips to beat the air with their idle speculations.
Chains nowhere patiently: and chains at home
Where I am free by birthright, not at all.
Bright and beautiful broke the morning after that night of storm. The weather had cleared up towards midnight, and when the rejoicing sun surveyed the scene, his golden glances fell on a wide expanse of pure, unsullied white. A slight breeze had arisen, which, gently agitating the bent and laden boughs of the evergreens, shook off the fleecy adornment that fell like blossoms from the trees. The air was soft and almost balmy, as is not unfrequently the case even in “the dead of winter” in our variable climate, lovelier and dearer for its very variableness, like a capricious beauty, whose smile is the more prized for the pout that precedes it. It was a day to seduce the old man into the sunshine in the stoop on the south side of the house, and to bring out the girls and young men, and swift trotting horses and pungs and jingling bells in gay confusion in the streets.