Janice Meredith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 538 pages of information about Janice Meredith.

“Then if we destroy the bridge Cornwallis cannot cross for the present?”

“No, your Excellency.  But if ’t is their policy to again try to outflank us, they’ll send troops from Staten Island by boat to South Amboy; and by a forced march through Monmouth they can seize Princeton and Trenton, while Cornwallis holds us here.”

“’T is evident, then, that we can make no stand except at the Delaware, should they seek to get in our rear.  Orders must be sent to secure all the boats in that river, and to—­”

A knock at the door interrupted him, and in reply to his “Come in,” an officer entered, and, saluting, said hurriedly:  “General Greene directs me to inform your Excellency that word has reached him that a brigade of the New Jersey militia have deserted and have seized and taken with them the larger part of the baggage train.  The commissary reports that the stores saved will barely feed the forces one day more.”

Washington stood silent for a moment.  “I will send a message back to General Greene by you presently.  In the meantime join my family, who are Supping, Major Williams.”  Then, when the officer had left the room, the commander sat down at the table and rested his head on his hand, as if weary.  “Such want of spirit and fortitude, such disaffection and treachery, show the game to be pretty well up,” he muttered to himself.

Brereton who had fallen back at the entrance of the aide, once more came to the table.  “Your Excellency,” he said, “we are but losing the fair-weather men, who are really no help, and what is left will be tried troops and true.”

“Left to starve!”

“This is a region of plenty.  But give me the word, and in one day I’ll have beef and corn enough to keep the army for a three months.”

“They refuse to sell for Continental money.”

“Then impress.”

“It must come to that, I fear.  Yet it will make the farmers enemies to the cause.”

“No more than they are now, I wot,” sneered the aide.  “And if you leave them their crops ’t will be but for them to sell to the British.  ’T is a war necessity.”

Washington rose, the moment’s discouragement already conquered and his face set determinedly.  “Give orders to Hazlett and Hand to despatch foraging parties at dawn, to seize all cattle, pigs, corn, wheat, or flour they may find, save enough for the necessities of the people, and to impress horses and wagons in which to transport them.  Then join us at supper.”

Brereton saluted, and turned, but as he did so Washington again spoke:—­

“I overheard what you were saying in the public room, Brereton,” he said.  “Some of my own aides are traducing me in secret, and making favour with other generals by praising them and criticising me, against the possibility that I may be superseded.  But I learned that I have one faithful man.”

“Ah, your Excellency,” impulsively cried the young officer, starting forward, “’t is a worthless life,—­which brought disgrace to mother, to father, and to self; but what it is, is yours.”

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Janice Meredith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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