The bondsman glanced at the squire, and urged, “Come, Mr. Meredith, you ’d better do it. Think how anxious Mrs. Meredith and—will be, aside from you probably taking a death cold, or losing a hand or foot.”
At last the squire nodded his head, and without more ado Bagby stooped and unlocked the log. Mr. Meredith was so cramped that Charles had to almost lift him to his feet, and then give him a shoulder into the public room of the tavern, where he helped him into a chair before the fire. Then the servant called to the publican:—
“A jorum of sling for Mr. Meredith, and put an extra pepper in it.”
“That sounds pretty good,” said Bagby. “Just make that order for the crowd, and the squire’ll pay for it.”
While the favourite drink of the period was sizzling in the fire, Mr. Meredith recovered enough to pull out his purse and pay up the debatable levy. A moment later the steaming drink was poured into glasses, and Bagby said:—
“Now, squire, do the thing up handsome by drinking to the toast of liberty.”
“I’ll set you a better toast than that,” offered the bondsman.
“’T ain’t possible,” cried one of the crowd.
The servant raised his glass and with an ironical smile said:—
“Here ’s to liberty and fair play, gentlemen.”
“That ’s a toast we can all drink,” responded Bagby, “just as often as some one’ll pay for the liquor.”
The exposure of the squire brought on a sharp attack of the gout which confined him to the house for nigh a month. Incidentally it is to be noted that his temper during this period was not confined, and when Philemon appeared one morning he was met with a reception that drove him away without a chance to plead his cause. Mrs. Meredith and Janice were compelled to listen to many descriptions as to what punitive measures their particular lord of creation intended to set in motion against the villagers when he should attend the Assembly, or when King George had reduced the land to its old-time order.
One piece of good fortune the attack brought its victim was its putting him in bed on the particular day selected for the committee of the town meeting to inform the squire as to the instruction voted by that gathering for his conduct in the Assembly. In default of an interview, they merely left an attested copy of the resolution, and had to rest satisfied, without knowing in what way their representative received it. Mrs. Meredith, Janice, and Peg did not remain in any such doubt.
Another unfortunate upon whom the vials of his wrath were poured out was the parson, who came a-calling one afternoon. News that he was in the parlour was sufficient to bring Mr. Meredith downstairs prematurely, where he enacted a high scene, berating the caller, and finally ordering him from the house.
A relapse followed upon the exertion and outburst, but even gout had its limitations, and finally the patient was sufficiently convalescent for preparations to begin for the journey to Trenton and Burlington.