Janice turned an eager face up to the general, as he swung himself into the saddle. “Oh, your Excellency,” she exclaimed below her breath, “dadda would think it very wicked of me, but I hope you’ll beat them!”
Washington’s face lighted up, and, leaning over, he once more kissed her hand. “Thank you for the wish, my child,” he said, and, giving Blueskin the spur, rode toward the river.
“If Philemon was only like his Excellency!” thought the girl.
There followed a weary hour of waiting, while first the carts, then the artillery, and finally the few hundred ill-clad, weary men filed off on the post-road. Before the rear-guard had begun its march, British regiments could be discerned across the river, and presently a battery came trotting down to the opposite shore, and a moment later the guns were in position to protect a crossing. This accomplished, a squadron of light dragoons rode into the water and struck boldly across, a number of boats setting out at the same moment, each laden with redcoats. While they were yet in mid-stream the Continental bugles sounded the retreat, and the last American regiment marched across the green and disappeared from view.
Owing to the fact that the coach had not been parked with the waggons, but had been brought to the tavern door, the baggage-train had moved off without it,—a circumstance, needless to say, which did not sadden the squire. It so happened that the vehicle had stopped immediately under the composite portrait sign-board of the inn; and no sooner was the last American regiment lost to view than the publican appeared, equipped with a paint-pot and brush, and, muttering an apology to the owner of the coach, now seated beside his wife and daughter on the box, he climbed upon the roof and, by a few crude strokes, altered the lettering from “Gen. George the Good into “King George the Good.” But he did not attempt to change the firm chin and the strong forehead the bondsman had added to the face.
Barely was the operation finished when the British light horse came wading out of the water and cantered up the river road to the green, the uniforms and helmets flashing brilliantly, the harness jingling, and the swords clanking merrily.
“There are troops worth talking about,” cried the squire, enthusiastically.
He spoke too quickly, for the moment the “dismount” sounded, twenty men were about the coach.
“Too good horses for a damned American!” shouted one, and a dozen hands were unharnessing them on the instant. “A load of prog, boys!” gleefully shouted a second, and both doors were flung open, and the soldiers were quickly crowding each other in their endeavours to get a share. “Egad!” announced another, “but I’ll have a tousel and a buss from yon lass on the box.” “Well said!” cried a fourth, and both sprang on the wheel, as a first step to the attainment of their wishes.