“Thank you, my boy,” replied Washington, laying his hand affectionately on Brereton’s shoulder. “As you say, ’t is a time which winnows the chaff from the wheat. I thank God He has sent some wheat to me.” And there were tears in the general’s eyes as he spoke.
While the family of Greenwood were still at the breakfast-table on the following morning, they were startled by a shriek from the kitchen, and then by Peg and Sukey bursting into the room where they sat.
“Oh, marse,” gasped the cook, “de British!”
Both the squire and Janice sprang to the windows, to see a file of soldiers, accompanied by a mounted officer, drawn up at the rear of the house. As they took this in, the line broke into squads, one of which marched toward the stable, a second toward the barn, while the third disappeared round the corner of the house. With an exclamation the squire hurried to the kitchen and intrenched himself in the door just as the party reached it.
“Who are ye, and by what right do ye trespass on my property?” he demanded.
“Git out of the way, ole man,” ordered the sergeant. “We hev orders ter take a look at yer store-room and cellar, an’ we ha’n’t got no time to argify.”
“Ye’ll not get into my cellar, that I can tell—” began the squire; but his remark ended in a howl of pain, as the officer dropped the butt of his musket heavily on the squire’s toes. The agony was sufficient to make the owner of Greenwood collapse into a sitting position on the upper step and fall to nursing the injured member.
Janice, who had followed her father into the kitchen, sprang forward with a cry of sympathy and fright, just as the mounted officer, who had heard the squire’s yell, came trotting round the corner.
“No violence, sergeant!” he called sternly.
[Illustration: “Trenton is unguarded. Advance!”]
“Not a bit, sir,” replied the aggressor. “One of the boys happened ter drop his muskit on the old gentleman’s corns, an’ I was apologisin’ fer his carelessness.”
“You dreadful liar!” cried Janice, hotly, turning from her attempted comforting of the squire. “He did it on—oh!” She abruptly ended her speech as the mounted officer uncovered and bowed to her, and the “Oh!” was spoken as she recognised him. “Charles—Colonel Brereton!” the girl exclaimed.
“Charles!” exclaimed Mrs. Meredith, coming to the door. “Hoighty toighty, if it is n’t!”
“I am very sorry that we are compelled to impress food, Mrs. Meredith,” said the aide; “but as it is useless to resist I trust you will not make the necessity needlessly unpleasant.”
“Ye ’re a pack of ruffians and thieves!” cried the squire.
“Nay, Mr. Meredith,” answered the aide, quietly; “we pay for it.”
“In paper money that won’t be worth a penny in the pound, come a month.”