“Damn them!” cried Brereton. “Will they never fight except under cover?” Louder he shouted: “Forward! Charge them, boys!” The order given, he rode toward the rangers. “Where’s your colonel?” he shouted.
“Dead,” cried one, “and there ’s no one to tell us what to do.”
“Do?” roared the aide. “Get out from behind that cover, and be damned to you. Show that Connecticut does n’t always skulk. Come on!”
A cheer broke out, and, without even stopping to form, the men went forward, driving the enemy into the woods for shelter, and then forcing them through it. The fire of the British slackened as they fell back, and when new Continental troops appeared on their right flank as well, the retreat became almost a rout.
“We’ll drive them the length of the island,” yelled Brereton, frantic with excitement, as the men went clambering up the rocks after the flying enemy.
“Colonel Brereton, his Excellency directs you to call in the regiments to their former position,” shouted Grayson, cantering up.
Brereton swore forcibly before he galloped among the men, and even after they, in obedience to his orders, had fallen back slowly and taken up their original position, he growled to the aide as they began the ascent, “I’m sick of this over-caution, Grayson! What in—”
“The general was right,” asserted Grayson. “Look there.” He pointed over the treetops that they had now risen above to where columns of Royal Highlanders and Hessian Yagers were hastening forward at double-quick. “You would have had a sharp skimper-scamper hadst been allowed to go another half-mile.”
“’T is too bad, though,” sighed the young officer, “that when the men will fight they have to be checked.”
“Be thankful you did your double-quick in the cool of the morning, and are done with it. Lord! it makes me sweat just to see the way they are hurrying those poor Yagers. ’T is evident we’ve given them a real scare.”
Upon reaching the top of the height Brereton rode forward to where Washington still stood. “I tried to have the’stole away’ sounded, your Excellency,” he said exultingly, “but those who knew it were so out of breath chasing them that there was not a man to wind it.”
Washington’s eyes lighted up as he smiled at the enthusiasm of the young fellow. “At least you may be sure that they had less wind than you, for they ran farther. They’ve had the best reply to their insult we could give them.”
“Thet there fox they wuz gwine tu hunt did a bit of huntin’ hisself,” chuckled Putnam.
“They are still falling back on their supports,” remarked Greene. “Evidently there is to be no more fighting to-day.”
“They’ve had their bellyful, I guess,” surmised Putnam.
“Then they ’re better off than I am,” groaned Brereton. “I could eat an ox.”
When the fact became obvious that the British had no intention of renewing their intended attack, a general move was made toward quarters, and as they rode Brereton pushed up beside Washington and talked with him for a moment.