“I dun it, I tells youse, I dun it, and dat’s all I will tells youse.”
“Colonel Harcourt,” announced the girl, steadily, “Sukey did n’t do it. I took the knife from her and cut the prisoner loose before she knew what I had in mind.”
“Doan youse believe one word dat chile says,” protested Sukey.
“It is true,” urged Janice, as eager to assume the guilt as five minutes before she had been anxious to escape it; “and if you want proof, you will find the knife on my bed upstairs.”
“Oh, missy, missy!” cried Sukey, “wha’ fo’ youse tell dat? Now dey kill youse an’ not ole Sukey;” and the sobs of the slave redoubled as she threw herself on the floor in the intensity of her grief.
It took but few interrogations on the part of Harcourt to wring all the truth from the culprit, and ordering her to follow him to the parlour, he angrily denounced the girl to her parents. Much to her surprise, she found that this latest enormity called forth less of an outburst than her previous misconduct, her father being quite staggered by its daring and seriousness; while Mrs. Meredith, with a sudden display of maternal tenderness that Janice had not seen for years, took the girl in her arms, and tried to soothe and comfort her.
One more friend in need proved to be Clowes, who, when Harcourt declared that the girl should be carried to Princeton in the morning, along with Lee, that Lord Cornwallis might decide as to her punishment, sought to make the officer take less summary measures, but vainly, except to win the concession that if Hennion recaptured the prisoner he would take a less drastic course. The morrow brought a return of the pursuing party, empty-handed, and in a hasty consultation it was agreed that the squire should accompany Janice, leaving Mrs. Meredith under the protection of Philemon,—an arrangement by no means pleasing to the young lieutenant, and made the less palatable by the commissary’s announcement that he should retrace his own steps to Princeton in the hope of being of service to his friends. Philemon’s protests were ineffectual, however, to secure any amendment; and the sleigh, with Brereton’s mare and Joggles to pull it, received the three, and, together with Lee and the escort, set out for headquarters about noon.