“Come join Hand
in Hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold Hearts at fair Liberty’s Call;
No tyrannous Acts shall suppress your just Claim
Or stain with Dishonour America’s Name—
In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our Purses are ready—
Steady, Friends, Steady—
Not as Slaves, but as Freemen our Money we’ll give.”
“That ’s enough!” remarked the ringleader. “Now, Watson, let the squire sign that broadside. Take the pot off, boys, and dump the tea on the fire. Good-evening, squire, and sweet dreams to you; I hope ’t will be long before you make us walk eight miles again. Fall in, Invincibles. You’ve struck your first blow for freedom.”
For a moment the steady tramp of the departing men was all that broke the stillness of the night; but as they marched they fell into song, and there came drifting back to the trio standing silent about the porch the air of “Hearts of Oak,” and the words:—
“Then join Hand
in Hand, brave Americans all!
To be free is to live, to be Slaves is to fall;
Has the Land such a Dastard, as scorns not a Lord,
Who dreads not a Fetter much more than a Sword?
In Freedom we’re born, and, like Sons of the Brave,
We’ll never surrender,
But swear to defend her,
And scorn to survive, if unable to save.”
The squire’s mood in the next few days was anything but genial, and his family, his servants, his farm-hands, his tenants, and in fact all whom he encountered, received a share of his spleen.
His ill-nature was not a little increased by hearing indirectly, through his overseer, that it was the elder Hennion who had planned the surprise party; and in revenge Mr. Meredith set about the scheme, already hinted at, of buying assignments of the mortgages on Boxley. For this purpose he announced his intention of journeying to New York, and ordered Philemon to be his travelling companion that he might have the advantage of his knowledge of the holders of the elder Hennion’s bonds. The would-be son-in-law at first objected to being made a cat’s-paw, but the squire was obstinate, and after a night upon it, Phil acceded. No other difficulty was found in the attainment of Mr. Meredith’s purpose, the money-lenders in New York being only too glad, in the growing insecurity and general suspension of law, to turn their investments into cash. It was a task of some weeks to gather them all in, but it was one of the keenest enjoyment to the squire, who each evening, over his mulled wine in the King’s Arms Tavern, pictured and repictured the moment of triumph, when, with the growing bundle of mortgages completed, he should ride to Boxley and inform its occupant that he wished them paid.
“We’ll show the old fox that he’s got a ferret, not a goose, to deal with,” he said a dozen times to Phil,—a speech which always made the latter look very uneasy, as if his conscience were pricking.