“Forgive me, Miss Janice, for doubting you, and for my freedom just now. I did—for the moment I thought you like other women. I wanted to think you came to me, even though it cheapened you. And being desperate, I—”
“Why?” questioned the girl.
“I have failed in my mission, thanks to Lee’s folly and selfishness. Would to God the troopers who lie in wait for me would go after him! A quick raid would do it, for he lies eight miles from his army, and with no guard worth a thought. There ’d be a fine prize, if the British did but know it.”
“Thanks for the suggestion,” spoke up a deep voice, and at the first word blankets were tossed off two lanterns, followed by a rush of men. For a moment there was a wild hurly-burly, and then Brereton’s voice cried, “I yield!”
As the confusion ended as suddenly as it had begun, he added scornfully:—
The prisoner’s arms were hurriedly tied and he was mounted behind one of the troopers. Janice, meanwhile, who had been seized by Philemon and drawn to one side out of the struggle, besought permission of her special captor to speak to Brereton, her fright over the surprise and her dread of what was to come both forgotten in the horror and misery the last words of the aide caused her. The jealousy of the lover, united to the strictness of the soldier, made Philemon heedless of her prayers and tears, and finally, when the cavalcade was ready to start, she was forced to mount her namesake, and, with such seat as she could keep in the man’s saddle, ride between Colonel Harcourt and Hennion.
No better fortune awaited her at Greenwood, the captive being taken to the kitchen, while the culprit was escorted to the parlour, to stand, shivering, frightened, and tearful, as her father and mother berated her for most of the sins of the Decalogue.
Fortunately for the maid, other hearts were not so sternly disapproving; and Lord Clowes, after waiting till the girl’s distress was finding expression in breathless sobs, in order that she might be the more properly grateful, at last interfered.
“Come, come, squire,” he interjected, crossing to the bowed form, and taking one of Janice’s hands consolingly, “the lass has been giddy, but ’t is an ill wind, truly, for through it we have one fine bird secured yonder, to say nothing of an even bigger prize in prospect. Cry a truce, therefore, and let the child go to bed.”
“Ay, go to thy room, miss,” commanded Mrs. Meredith, who had in truth exhausted her vocabulary, if not her wrath. “A pretty hour ’t is for thee to be out of bed, indeed!”
Janice, conscious at the moment of but one partisan, turned to the baron. “Oh, please,” she besought, “may n’t I say just one word to Colonel Brereton—just to tell him that I didn’t—”
“Hast not shamed us enough for one night with thy stolen interviews?” ejaculated her mother. “To thy room this instant