It was noon before consciousness returned to the tired body, and only then because the clatter of horses’ feet outside waked the sleeper and startled him so that he sprang from the bed to the window. Relieved by the sight of Continental uniforms, Brereton stretched himself as if still weary, and felt certain muscles, to test their various degrees of soreness, muttering complaints as he did so. Throwing aside his jacket, waistcoat, and shirt, he took his sword and pried out the crust of ice on the water in the tin milk-pail which stood on the wash-stand. Swashing the ice-cold water over his face and shoulders, he groaned a curse or two as the chill sent a shiver through him. But as he rubbed himself into a glow, he became less discontented, and when resuming the flannel shirt, he laughed. “Thank a kind God that it ’s as cold to the British as ’t is to us, and there are more of them to suffer.” Another moment served to don his outer clothing and boots, and to fit on his wig and sword. His toilet made, he went downstairs, humming cheerily. He turned first to the kitchen door, drawn thither by the smell that greeted his nostrils.
“Canst give a bestarved man a big breakfast and quickly?” he asked the woman.
“Shure, Oi’ve all Oi can do now,” was the surly response, “wid the general an’ his staff; an’ his escort, an’ thim as is comin’ an’ goin’, an’—”
Brereton came forward. “Ye ’d niver let an Oirishman go hungry,” he appealed, putting a brogue on his tongue. “Arrah, me darlin’, no maid wid such lips but has a kind heart.” The officer boldly put his hand under the woman’s chin and made as if he would kiss her. Then, as she eluded the threatened blandishment, he continued, “Sure, and do ye call yeself a woman, that ye starve a man all ways to wanst?”
“Ah, go long wid yez freeness and yez blarney,” retorted the woman, giving him a shove, though smiling.
“An’, darlin’,” persisted the unabashed officer, “it’s owin’ me somethin’ ye do, for it was meself saved yez father’s life this very morning.”
“My father—shure, it ’s dead he’s been this—It ’s my husband yez must be afther spakin’ av.”
“He ’s too old to be that same,” flattered Brereton.
“’T is he, Oi make shure,” acknowledged the woman, as she nevertheless set her apron straight and smoothed her hair. “An’ how did yez save his loife?”
“Arrah, by not shooting him, as I was sore tempted to do.”
The landlady melted completely and laughed. “An’ what would yez loike for breakfast?” she asked.
Brereton looked at the provisions spread about. “Just give me four fried eggs wid bacon, an’ two av thim sausages, an corn bread, wid something hot to drink, an’ if that ’s buckwheat batter in the pan beyant, just cook a dozen cakes or so, for I’ve a long ride to take an’ they do be so staying. Also, if ye can make me up something—ay, cold sausages an’ hard-boiled eggs, if ye’ve nothing else, to take wid me; an’ then a kiss, to keep the heart warm inside av me, ’t is wan man ye’ll have given a glimpse av hivin.”