The squire made a motion of dissent. “The Whig rascals have swept my barn and storehouses so clean that I’ll have to buy for my own needs, and—”
“Then buy what ye can hereabout before we begin seizing, and see to it that ye buy a good surplus which ye can sell to us at a handsome advance. Our good king is a good pay-master, and I’ll show ye what it is to have a friend in the commissariat.” With this Clowes put spurs to his horse, confident that he had more than offset any prejudice against him that might still exist in Mr. Meredith’s mind. None the less, that individual stood for some moments on the porch with knitted brows, gazing after the departing horseman and when he finally turned to go into the house he gave a shake to his head that seemed to express dissatisfaction.
Although Mr. Meredith did not act upon the commissary’s suggestion in securing a supply of provisions, there was quickly no lack of food or forage at Greenwood. From the moment that Brunswick was occupied by the British, every one of Mr. Meredith’s tenants, who for varying periods had refused to pay rent, adopted a different course and wholly or in part settled up the arrears owing. Most of them first endeavoured to liquidate the claim in the Continental currency, now depreciated through the desperation of the American cause to a point that made it scarcely worth the paper on which its pseudo-value was stamped. The squire, however, with many a jeer and flout at each would-be payer for his folly in having taken the money, and his still greater foolishness in expecting to pay rent on leaseholds with it, declined to accept it. His refusal of each tender, which indeed had been expected, was usually followed by a second offer of payment in the form of fodder or provisions, or “in kind,” as the leases then expressed it; and the moment the rumour went through the community that the British were forcibly seizing provisions, every farmer hastened to save his entire surplus by paying it to his landlord.
Nothing better proved the hopeless outlook of the American cause than the conduct of Esquire Hennion, for that worthy rode to Greenwood, and after a vain attempt, like that of the tenants, to pay in the worthless paper money the arrears of interest on his mortgages, with a like refusal by Mr. Meredith, he completely broke down, and with snivels and wails besought his “dear ole friend” to be lenient and forbearing. “I made a mistake, squire,” he pleaded; “but I allus liked yer, an’ Phil he likes yer, an’ naow yer’re too ginerous ter push things too far, I knows.”
“Huh!” grunted the creditor. “I said I’d make ye cry small, ye old trimmer. So it ’s no longer to your interest to pay principal, or your principle to pay interest, eh? No, I won’t push ye too far! I’ll only turn ye out of Boxely and let ye be farmed on the town as a pauper. If I had the dealing with ye, ye’d be in the provost prison at York awaiting trial as a traitor. And my generosity would run to just six feet of rope.”