CHAPTER 1 THE PROJECT
“I fear you are undertaking too much, Neal. When a fellow lacks two years of his majority—”
“You forget that I have been my own master more than a year. Father gave me my time before he died, and that in the presence of Governor Wentworth himself.”
“Why before him rather than ’Squire White?”
“I don’t know. My good friend Andrew McCleary attended to the business for me, and to-day I may make contracts as legally as two years hence.”
“Even with that advantage I do not see how it will be possible for you to build a grist-mill; or, if you should succeed in getting so far with the project, how you can procure the machinery. It is such an undertaking as Andrew McCleary himself would not venture.” " Yet he has promised me every assistance in his power.”
“And how much may that be? He has no friends at court who can—”
“Neither does he wish for one there, Stephen Kidder. He is a man who has the welfare of the colonists too much at heart to seek for friends near the throne.”
“It is there he will need them if he hopes to benefit New Hampshire.”
“Perhaps not. The time is coming when it behooves each of us to observe well the law regarding our arms.”
“You mean the statute which declares that’ every male from sixteen to sixty must have ready for use one musket and bayonet, a knapsack, cartridge-box, one pound of powder, twenty bullets and twelve flints?’ "
“There is none other that I know of.”
“Then I shall not be a law-breaker, for I am provided in due form. But what has that to do with your mill? I think you will find it difficult to buy the stamped paper necessary for the lawful making of your contracts unless you dispose of your outfit for war or hunting, which is the best to be found in Portsmouth.”
“That I shall never do, even if I fail in getting the mill. Do you know, Stephen, that I was admitted to the ranks of the Sons of Liberty last night?”
“The honours are being heaped high on the head of the would-be miller of the Pascataqua,” Kidder replied, with a laugh. " Do you expect the Sons of Liberty will do away with the necessity for stamped paper?”
“Who shall say? Much can—”
Walter Neal did not conclude the sentence, for at that instant two men passed, and a signal, so slight as not to be observed by his companion, was given by one of the new-comers, causing the young man to hasten away without so much as a word in explanation of his sudden departure, while Stephen Kidder stood gazing after him in blank amazement.
The two friends whose conversation was so suddenly interrupted were natives of the town of Portsmouth, in the Province of New Hampshire; and, had either had occasion to set down the date of this accidental meeting, it would have been written, October 26th, 1765.