The moment’s cheer that the brief dialogue with Brereton brought Janice was added to by the reading of the two letters from her father to him, which reaffirmed and amplified the little the aide had told her, and ended that source of misery. And, as if his advent in fact marked the turn of the tide, the doctor announced the next day that Mrs. Meredith’s typhoid had passed its crisis, and only good nursing was now needed to insure a safe recovery. The girl’s prayers suddenly changed from ones of supplication to ones of thanksgiving; and she found herself breaking into song even when at her mother’s bedside, quite forgetful of the need for quiet. This she was especially prone to do while she helped the long hours of watching pass by knitting on a silken purse of the most complicated pattern.
The materials for this trifle were purchased on the afternoon following the march of the Continental army, and for some days the progress was very rapid. Public events then interfered and checked both song and purse. On September 11 the low boom of guns was heard, and that very evening word came that the Continental army had been defeated at Brandywine. The moment the news reached Philadelphia an exodus of the timid began, which swelled in volume as the probability of the capture of the city grew. The streets were filled with waggons carting away the possessions of the people; the Continental Congress, which had been urging Washington to fight at all hazard, took to its heels and fled to Lancaster; and all others who had made themselves prominent in the Whig cause deserted the city. Among those who thought it necessary to go was the lodging-house keeper; for, her husband being an officer of one of the row galleys in the river, she looked for nothing less than instant death at the hands of the British. With a plea to Janice, therefore, that she would care for the house and do what she could to save it from British plundering, the woman and her daughter departed. Her example was followed by the doctor, not from motives of fear, but from a purpose to join Washington’s army as a volunteer. This threw upon the girl’s shoulders the entire charge of her mother, and the cooking and providing as well; the latter by far the most difficult of all, for the farmers about Philadelphia were as much panic-stricken as the townspeople, and for a time suspended all attempts to bring their produce to market.
The two weeks of this chaos were succeeded by a third of unwonted calm, and then one morning as she opened the front door on her way to make her daily purchases, Janice’s ears were greeted with the sound of military music. Turning up Second Street, curiosity hastening her steps, she became part of the crowd of women and children running toward the market, and arrived there just in time to see Harcourt’s dragoons, followed by six battalions of grenadiers, march past to the tune of “God Save the King.” Following these came Lord Cornwallis, and then four batteries of heavy artillery; and the crowd cheered the conquerors as enthusiastically and joyfully as they had Washington’s ragged regiments so short a time before.