“I have n’t done no bribing, and it was n’t me as the information was lodged against,” retorted Joe, rancourously.
“You can’t mean as General Brereton ’s winking at the trade, when scarce a boat ’s got out of the river since his brigade camped there,” demanded one of the loungers, indicating with his thumb Brunswick Green, whitened by rows of tents.
“I mean as Brereton could lay hands any time he pleased on one traitor, and why he has n’t done so is what I want to know. What ’s more, I’d like to know, why Washington does n’t take any notice of the charges that I’ve been told was preferred against Brereton nigh six months ago for this very matter. I tell you, fellows, that money ’s being used, and that some of those who hold themselves highest, is taking it.”
“Don’t seem like his Excellency ‘ud do anythin’ ez sneaky ez that,” observed the publican, glancing upwards with pride at his signboard, now restored to its former position. “Folks says he’s a ’nation fine man.”
I’m just sick of all this getting on the knees to a man,” grumbled Joseph, “just because he went and captivated Cornwallis. Washington is n’t a bit better than some of us right here and it won’t be long before you’ll find it out.”
“How do you make that, Joe?”
“Is n’t he trying to bully Congress into paying the army, just as if he was king, as I suppose he hopes to be some day. You wait till he gets his way, and I guess the tax collectors will make the people sing a different tune about him. If I’m elected to the Assembly this spring, I calculate to make some ears buzz and tingle a bit, once the legislature meets. I’ll teach some of these swaggering military chaps—who were n’t nothing but bond-servants once yet who some of you fellows is fools enough now to talk of sending to Congress— that this is a nation of freemen, and that now that the British is licked, we don’t have no more use for them, and—”
“Waal, I declare, if thet don’t favour Squire Meredith, an’ his darter,” interjected a farmer, suddenly, pointing with his pipe to where an army waggon was approaching on the Princeton post-road.
“Swan, ef yer ain’t right,” cried Hennion. “I did hope we wuz quit of them fer good an’ all.”
“Wonder what the gal ’s in black fer?” observed a lounger.
“My nigger cook Sukey,” said the landlord, “told me that Gin’ral Brereton told her the ole lady wuz mortal sick o’ the small-pox an’ that when he went aboard the pest-ship, she wuz so weak it did n’t seem like she could be moved, but he an’ the doctor got her safe ashore, an’ when he last hearn, ‘bout the first o’ the year, she wuz gainin’.”
The publican rose and went forward as the van stopped in front of his door. “Glad tew see yer, squire,” he said, “an’ yer, too, Miss Janice. Seems most like ole times. Hope nuthin ’s wrong with Miss Meredith?”
The squire slowly and heavily got down from the box seat. “We have her body in the waggon,” he said wearily and sadly.