As has been suggested, Walter Neal’s ambition was to erect a grist-mill a certain distance up the Pascataqua River, where was great need of one, since land in that portion of the province was being rapidly settled; and, although without capital, he believed it might be possible for him to accomplish his desires.
He was favourably known to the merchants of Portsmouth, and thanks to the efforts of his friend, Andrew McCleary, -ten years his senior, -several tradesmen had intimated that perhaps they might advance sufficient money to start the enterprise in a limited way.
Neal had inherited a small amount of property from his father; but, like many of the farmers in the New World, he was sadly hampered by the lack of ready money. During several weeks prior to this accidental meeting with Stephen Kidder, he had been forced to temporarily abandon his scheming in regard to the mill, that he might try to raise sufficient money with which to pay the annual tax, already more than burdensome, upon his small estate.
As Neal hastened after the two men who had given him the signal to follow them, the most engrossing thought in his mind was as to how the amount of four pounds and seven shillings in cash could be raised without a sacrifice of the cattle from the home farm.
Ephraim Foulsham had partially agreed to advance the sum if he could be secured by a chattel-mortgage, and when Neal overtook those in advance he was speculating upon the possibility of getting the amount that day, lest execution should be issued against him.
That which he heard, however, speedily drove all thoughts of a personal nature from his mind. “Master McCleary would be pleased to see you, and quickly,” one of the men said, in a low tone, when the three were where there was no other to overhear the conversation.
“Is it important I should go at once?”
“Yes; unless you would break the oath. you took last night.”
Neal waited to ask no more questions. Ten minutes later he was at Samuel Leavitt’s store, where he knew McCleary would be found at this time of the day.
Before Neal could speak, his friend walked quickly out of the building toward the shore of the harbour, giving the would-be mill-owner an expressive look, which plainly told that he was to follow.
Not until McCleary was at a point where no one could approach him without being seen did he halt, and then Neal was by his side.
“A messenger must be sent to Boston at once,” the elder man said, in a low tone. “It is not generally known that you have been admitted to our association, therefore you are the one to go.”
“When shall I start?”
“At once; there is no time to be lost. Will you ride my horse? "
“My Own will serve me better; suspicions might be aroused if I should be seen on yours.”