“Then the only man we can bring to heel is this bond-servant of thine.”
“Not even he. The scamp took French leave, and if ye want him ye must search your own army.
“Canst aid us to find him?”
“I know naught of him, or his doings, save that last June I received the price I paid for his bond, through Parson McClave, who perhaps can give ye word of him.”
The officer rose, saying: “Mr. Meredith, I shall report on your case to the general, so soon as he is free, and have small doubt that you will be acquitted of blame and released. I fear me you will find headquarters’ hospitality somewhat wanting in comfort, for we’re o’ercrowded, and you arrive in times of difficulty. But I’ll try to see that the ladies get a room, and, whatever comes, ’t will be better than the guard-house.” He went to the hall door and called, “Grayson!”
“Well?” shouted back some one.
“There are two ladies to be lodged here for the night. May I offer them our room?”
“Ay. And my compliments to them, and say they may have my company along with it, if they be youngish.”
“Tut, man,” answered Brereton, reprovingly. “None of your Virginian freeness, for they can hear you.” He turned and said: “You must be content with a deal feather-bed on the floor here, Mr. Meredith, but if the ladies will follow me I will see that they are bestowed in more comfortable quarters;” and he led the way upstairs, where, lighting a candle, he showed them to a small room, very much cluttered by military clothes and weapons, thrown about in every direction. “I apologise, ladies,” he remarked; “but for days it ’s been ride and fight, till when sleeping hours came ’t was bad enough to get one’s clothes off, let alone put them tidy.”
“And indeed, sir, there is no need of apology,” responded Mrs. Meredith, warmly, “save for us, for robbing you of the little comfort you possess.”
“’T is a pleasure amid all the strife we live in to be able to do a service,” replied the officer, gallantly, as he bowed low over Mrs. Meredith’s hand and then kissed it. He turned to the girl and did the same. “May you rest well,” he added, and left the room.
“Oh, mommy!” exclaimed Janice, “didst ever see a more distinguished or finer-shaped man? And his dress and manners are—”
“Janice Meredith! Wilt never give thy thoughts to something else than men?”
“Well, Brereton,” asked Tilghman as the aide joined his fellow-soldiers, “how did his Excellency take your boldness?”
“As punishment he sent me to examine Gibbs’ Venus.”
“Devil take your luck!” swore Gibbs. “I’ll be bound ye made it none too short. Gaze at the smug look on the dandy’s face.”
Brereton laughed gleefully as he stripped off his coat and rolled it up into a pillow. “I’ve just kissed mamma’s hand,” he remarked.
“I can’t say much for thy taste!”
“In order,” coolly went on Brereton, as he stretched himself flat on the floor, “that I might then kiss that of Venus— and over hers I did not hurry, lads. Therefore, gentlemen, my present taste is, despite Gibbs’ slur, most excellent, and I expect sweet dreams till his Excellency wants me. Silence in the ranks.”