“Why, Phil, this is a sad plight to find ye in,” said the squire, regretfully, as he held out his hand, forgetful that the prisoner’s cords prevented his taking it.
“’T is worse than you think, squire,” answered Philemon, calmly; “I came but to see my father about your wish, but, caught as I was, they will never believe it, and will doubtless hang me as a spy the moment a court-martial has sat.”
“Nay, lad, ’t is not possible they—”
“’T is what we should do in the same circumstances, so ’t is not for me to complain. ’T was not this, however, of which I desired to speak. My father was killed this morning, and his death makes it possible for me to end your difficulties. We had word in New York that the governor had pardoned you; is’t so?”
“Then ’t is all right, if we but act quick enough to complete it, ere I am sent to the gallows. Find a justice of the peace without delay, and let him draw deeds from me to— to Janice, of both Greenwood and Boxely, and bring them to me to sign
“Surely, Phil, ’t is—” protestingly began the squire.
“Waste not a moment,” importuned Philemon. “If ’t is delayed till I am convicted, the state may claim that they were in escheat, but for these few hours I have a good title, and if ever they seek to invalidate the deeds, set up the mortgages on Boxely that you hold, as the consideration.”
“In God’s name, squire, don’t lose the opportunity by delay! ’T is best, whatever comes; for even if by the most marvellous luck I can convince the court that I am no spy, and so go free, the moment the legislature meets, they will vote a bill of forfeiture against me; so ’t is the one means to save the property, whatever comes.”
“Ye have the sense of it, lad,” acceded Mr. Meredith, “and I’ll do as ye tell me, this instant. But I’ll do all that’s possible to save ye as well, and if ye but go free, ye shall be not a penny the worse off, that I swear to ye.”
“And if not, ’t is what I would do with the lands, were I dying a natural death, squire.”
“Don’t lose hope, lad,” said the squire, his hand on Phil’s shoulder. “Once the parson has drawn the deeds, I’ll see Washington himself; and we’ll save ye yet.” Then he hurried away towards the parsonage.
During this dialogue other occurrences had been taking place, which very much interested yet mystified the crowd of spectators. When the conference between the general and major had ended, Brereton walked to the doctor’s house and entered it. The major meantime went over to the constable, and in response to something he said, the town official took out his keys, and unlocked the stocks, a proceeding which set both soldiers and townsfolk whispering curiously.
“Free the prisoner Bagby’s hands and feet, Corporal Cox, and set him in,” commanded the major.
“What in the ’nation is comin’!” marvelled one of the observers. “Of all rum ways o’ treatin’ a suspect, this ’ere is the rummiest.”