And once more the toasting and merry-making was resumed.
With not a little foresight the three ladies had availed themselves of the lull to escape from the festival to their own room, where, not content with locks and bolts, nothing would do Miss Drinker, as the sounds below swelled in volume and laxity, but the heavy bureau should be moved against the door as an additional barrier.
“Our peril is dire,” she admonished the girls; “and if to-morrow’s sun finds me escaped unharmed I shall thank Heaven indeed.” Then she proceeded to lecture Janice. “Be assured thee must have given the lewd creatures some encouragement, or they would never have dared a familiarity. Not a one of them showed me the slightest disrespect!”
“Oh, Jan,” whispered Tibbie, once they were in bed and snuggled close together, “if thee hadst been kissed!”
“What then?” questioned the maiden.
“It would be so horrible to be kissed by a man!” declared the friend.
“Wilt promise to never, never tell?” asked Janice, with bated breath.
“Cross my heart,” vowed Tabitha.
is n’t as terrible as you ’d think,
At the same hour that the Hessians were parading through the village streets a horseman was speeding along the river road on the opposite side of the Delaware. As he came opposite the town, the blare of the hautboys sounded faintly across the water, and he checked his horse to listen for a moment, and then spurred on.
“Ay, prick up your ears,” he muttered to his steed. “Your friends are holding high carnival, and I wonder not that you long to be with them, ’stead of carrying vain messages in a lost cause. But for this damned floe of ice you ’d have had your wish this very night.”
A hundred rods brought the rider within sight of the cross-road at Yardley’s Ferry, just as a second horseman issued from it. The first hastily unbuckled and threw back his holster flap, even while he pressed his horse to come up with the new arrival; while the latter, hearing the sound of hoofs, halted and twisted about in his saddle.
“Well met, Brereton,” he called when the space between had lessened. “I am seeking his Excellency, who, I was told at Newtown, was to be found at Mackonkey’s Ferry. Canst give me a guidance?”
“You could find your way, Wilkinson, by following the track of Mercer’s brigade. For the last three miles I could have kept the route, even if I knew not the road, by the bloody footprints. Look at the stains on the snow.”
“Poor fellows!” responded Wilkinson, feelingly.
“Seven miles they’ve marched to-day, with scarce a sound boot to a company, and now they’ll be marched back with not so much as a sight of the enemy.”
“You think the attack impossible?”
“Impossible!” ejaculated Brereton. “Look at the rush of ice, man. ’T would be absolute madness to attempt a crossing. The plan was for Cadwallader’s brigade to attack Burlington at the same time we made our attempt, but I bring word from there that the river is impassable and the plan abandoned. His Excellency cannot fight both the British and such weather.”