“Joggles,” he confided, “I fear, despite the praise the fair ones gave of my impersonation of ‘The Fashionable Lover,’ that I am not so good an actor as either Garrick or Barry. I forget, and I lose my temper. So, a bond-servant should cut his throat,” he continued, as he swung lightly into the saddle. “I fear ’t is the only way I can go undiscovered. Fool that I was to do it in a moment of passion. Five years of slavery!” Then he laughed. “But then I’d never have seen her! Egad, if she could be painted as she looked to-day by Reynolds or Gainsborough, ’twould set more than my blood glowing! There’s a prize, Joggles! Beauty, wealth, and freedom, all in one. She’d be worth a tilt, too, if for nothing but the sport of it. We’ll shave, make a dandy of ourselves, old man—” Then the servant paused—“and, like a fool, be recognised by some fellow like Clowes—what does he here?—but for my beard, and that he’d scarce expect to meet Charles—” Fownes checked himself, scowling. “Charles Nothing, a poor son of a gun of a bond-servant. Have done with such idiot schemes, man,” he admonished. “For what did you run, if ’t was not to bury yourself? And now you ’d risk all for a petticoat.” Taking from his pocket the razor, he threw it into the bushes that lined the road, saying as he did so, “Good-by, gentility.”
The departure of the bond-servant, leaving the sting of innuendo behind him, had turned all eyes toward the traveller, and Bagby but voiced the curiosity of the roomful when he inquired, “What did Fownes call you spy for?”
“Nay, man, he called me not that,” denied the stranger, “unless he meant to call himself a deserter as well. Landlord, a bowl of swizzle for the company! Gentlemen, I am Lincolnshire born and bred. My name is John Evatt, and I am travelling through the country to find a likely settling place for six solid farmers, of whom I am one. Whom did you say was yon rogue’s master?”
“Squire Meredith,” informed mine host, now occupied in combining the rum, spruce beer, and sugar at the large table.
“And what sort of man is he?” asked Evatt, bringing his glass from the small table and taking his seat among the rest.
“He ‘s as hot-tempered an’ high an’ mighty as King George hisself,” cried one of the drinkers. “But I guess his stinkin’ pride will come down a little afore the committee of Brunswick ’s through with him.”
“Let thy teeth keep better guard over thy red rag, Zerubbabel,” rebuked Joe Bagby, warningly. “We want no rattlepates to tell us—or others—what ’s needed or doing.”
“This Meredith ’s a man of property, eh?” asked Evatt.
“He ’s been so since he married Patty Byllynge,” replied the publican. “Afore then he war n’t nothin’ but a poor young lawyer over tew Trenton.”
“And who was Patty Byllynge?”
“You don’t know much ’bout West Jersey, or I guess you ’d have heard of her,” surmised Bagby. “’T is n’t every girl brings her husband a pot of money and nigh thirty thousand acres of land. Folks tell that before the squire got her, the men was about her like—” the speaker used a simile too coarse for repetition.