“Bless us all!” marvelled Eustace, when twenty minutes later he entered the kitchen, to learn what delayed the general’s lunch. “How came you by such a spread, when it ’s all any of us can do to get enough to keep life in us? Is ’t sorcery, man?”
“No, witchery,” laughed the aide. “If thy chief were but a woman, Eustace, I’d have Washington reinforced within a two days.”
His breakfast finished, the aide secured pen and paper, and wrote a formal order for Lee to march. This done, he sought the general, and, interrupting a consultation he was holding with General Sullivan, he delivered the paper into his hands.
“I ask General Sullivan to witness that I deliver you positive instructions to march your force, to effect a junction with General Washington.”
“I’ve already writ him a letter that will convince him I act for the best,” answered Lee, holding out the missive.
The aide took it without a word, saluted, and left the room. Going to the front door, where Joggles already awaited him, he put a Continental bill into the hands of the publican, bade adieu to Eustace, and rode away.
“’T is as bright a day as ’t was dark a night, old man,” he said to the horse, “but it never looked blacker for the cause, and I’ve had my long ride for nothing. Perhaps, though, there may be pay day coming. She knows that I’m to be at Van Meter’s barn to-night. What say you, Joggles? Think you will she be there?”
The sound of shots outside put a sudden termination to the supper in both the dining-room and kitchen of Greenwood, and served to bring inmates and candles to the front and back doors. Beyond the moment’s rush of a body of horsemen past the house, no light on the interruption was obtained, until some of the escort of Clowes were despatched to the stable to learn if all was well with their horses. There they found the wounded man stretched on the snow, and just within the doorway lay Janice in a swoon, with Clarion licking her face. Both were carried to the house, and while Mrs. Meredith and the sergeant endeavoured to save the officer by a rude tourniquet, the squire held Janice’s head over some feathers which Peg burned in a bed-warmer.
“Did they kill him?” was the first question the girl asked, when the combined stench and suffocation had revived consciousness.
“He ’s just expiring,” her father replied. “His arm was struck off above the elbow, and he bleeds like a stuck pig.”
Janice staggered up, though somewhat languidly. “May— “Did he ask to see me?”
“Not he,” she was told. “Come, lass, sit quiet for a bit till thy head is steady, and tell us what ’t was all about.”
Janice sank into the chair her father set beside the fire. “He was on some mission for his Excellency,” she gasped, “and stopped here to get a fresh horse—that was how I came to know it—and while we were talking we heard the dragoons coming, so he mounted, to escape. Then I heard a cry—oh! such a cry—and the pistols—and—and—that ’s all I remember.”