“So ho!” said the traveller. “Byllynge, heigh? Now I begin to understand. A daughter—or granddaughter—of one of the patentees?”
“Just so. In the old man’s day they held the lands all along this side of the Raritan, nigh up to Baskinridge, but they sold a lot in the forties.”
“Then perhaps this is the place to bargain about a bit? The land looked rich and warm as I rode along this afternoon.”
“‘T ain’t no use tryin’ ter buy of the new squire,” remarked one man. “He won’t do nothin’ but lease. He don’t want no freemen ’bout here.”
“Yer might buy o’ Squire Hennion. He sells now an’ agin,” suggested the innkeeper.”
“Who’s he?” demanded Evatt.
“Another of the monopolisers who got a grant in the early days, before the land was good for anything,” explained Bagby. “His property is further down.”
“Ye ’d better bargain quick, if ye want any,” spoke up an oldster. “Looks like squar’s son was a-coortin’ squar’s daughter, an’ mayhaps her money’ll make old Squar Hennion less put tew it fer cash.”
“So Squire Meredith is n’t popular?”
“He’ll find out suthin’ next time he offers fer Assembly,” asserted one of the group.
“He ’s a member of Assembly, is he?” questioned Evatt. “Then he’s all right on—he belongs to the popular party?”
“Not he!” cried several.
“He was agin the Association, tried tew prevent our sendin’ deputies tew Congress, an’ boasts that tea ’s drunk at his table,” said the landlord.
“’T won’t be for long,” growled Bagby.
“Then how comes it that ye elect him Assemblyman?”
“’T is his tenants do it,” spoke up the lawyer. “They don’t have the pluck to vote against him for fear of their leaseholds. And so ’t is with the rest. The only way we can get our way is by conventions and committees. But get it we will, let the gentry try as they please.”
“Well, gentlemen,” said Evatt, “here ’s the swizzle. Glasses around, and I’ll give ye a toast ye can all drink: May your freedom never be lessened by either Parliament or Congress!”
Two hours of drinking and talking followed, and when the last of the tipplers had staggered through the door, and Evatt, assisted by the publican, had reeled rather than walked upstairs to his room, if he was not fully informed as to the locality of which the tavern was the centre, it was because his brain was too fuddled by the mixed drink, and not because tongues had been guarded.
Eighteenth-century heads made light of drinking bouts, and Evatt ate a hearty breakfast the next morning. Thus fortified, he called for his horse, and announced his intention of seeing Squire Meredith “about that damned impertinent varlet.”
Arrived at Greenwood, it was to find that the master of the house was away, having ridden to Bound Brook to see some of his more distant tenants; but in colonial times visitors were such infrequent occurrences that he was made welcome by the hostess, and urged to stay to dinner. “Mr. Meredith will be back ere nightfall,” she assured him, “and will deeply regret having missed thee if thou rides away.”