“I’m bad hurt, squire,” he groaned; “but I made out to crawl from the barn.”
“Gadsbodikins!” exclaimed Mr. Meredith. “Why, Phil, I e’en forgot ye for the moment. Here ’s a pass, indeed. And none but women and a one-legged man to help ye, now ye re found.”
It took the whole household to carry Philemon indoors, and as it was impossible, in the squire’s legless and horseless condition, to send for aid, Mrs. Meredith became the surgeon. The wound proved to be a shoulder cut, serious only from the loss of blood it had entailed, and after it was washed and bandaged the patient was put to bed. Daylight had come by the time this had been accomplished, and the squire was a little cheered to find that the snow on the roofs of his farm buildings had prevented the sparks of the barn from igniting them.
[Illustration: “There’s no safety for thee!”]
Twenty-four hours elapsed before help came to the household, and then it was in the form of Harcourt’s dragoons. From Tarleton it was learned that the fugitives, on their arrival at Brunswick, asserted that Washington’s whole army had attacked them, and was in full advance upon the post,— news which had kept the whole force under arms for hours, and prevented any attempt to come to the assistance of the detachment. When the major learned that eighty picked troops had been killed or captured by a hundred raw militia, his language was more picturesque than quotable. There was nothing to be done, however; and after they had vowed retaliation for the subaltern, buried the dead, and the surgeon had looked at Phil’s wound and approved of Mrs. Meredith’s treatment, the squadron rode back to Brunswick.
This and other like experiences served to teach the English that it was not safe to send out foraging parties, and for a time active warfare practically ceased. The Continental forces, reduced at times to less than a thousand men, were not strong enough to attack the enemy’s posts, and the British, however much they might grumble over a fare of salt food, preferred it to fresher victuals when too highly seasoned with rifle bullets.
The Merediths were somewhat better provided, Sukey’s store-rooms proving to have many an unransacked cupboard, while the farmers in the vicinity, however bare they had apparently been stripped, were able, when money was offered, to supply poultry, eggs, milk, and many other comforts, which through lack of stock and labour Greenwood could no longer furnish.
His wound was therefore far from an ill to the lieutenant of horse, since it not merely relieved him from the stigma of the surrender, but saved him from the privation of the poor food and cramped quarters his fellow troopers were enduring at Brunswick. Nor did he count as the least advantage the tendance that Janice, half by volition and half by compulsion, gave him. When at last he was able to come downstairs, the days were none too long as he sat and watched her nimble fingers sew, or embroider, or work at some other of her tasks.