“Nay, my boy,” said Washington, coming to the bedside and laying his hand kindly on Jack’s shoulder; “there is naught to be done, and you are well out of it. Give the wound its chance to heal.”
Brereton gave a flounce. “Do, in the name of mercy, Billy, get me a glass of water,” he begged querulously. Then, after the black had departed, he asked: “What has Congress done?”
“They have voted Gates president of the Board of War, with almost plenary powers.”
“A fit reward for his holding back until too late the troops that would have put us, and not the British, in Philadelphia this winter. You won’t let their ill-treatment force you into a resignation, sir?”
“I have put my hand to the plough and shall ne’er turn back. If I leave the cause, it will be by their act and not mine.
“Congress may hamper and slight you, sir, but will not dare to supersede you, for very fear of their own constituents. The people trust you, if the politicians don’t.”
“Set your mind on more quieting things, Brereton,” advised Washington, taking the young fellow’s hand affectionately. “May you have a restful night.”
“One favour before you go, your Excellency,” exclaimed Jack, as the general turned. “I—Could n’t—Does McLane still get his spies into the city?”
“Could he—Wilt ask him—to—to make inquiry—if possible—of one—concerning Miss Janice Meredith, and let me know how she fares?”
The general pressed the aide’s hand, and was opening his lips, when a figure, covered by a negligee night-gown of green silk, appeared at the door.
“I’ve heard thee exciting John for the last half-hour, Mr. Washington,” she said upbraidingly. “I am amazed at thy thoughtlessness.”
“Nay, Patsy, I but stopped in to ask how he did and to bid him a good-night,” replied Washington, gently.
“A half-hour,” reiterated Mrs. Washington, sternly, “and now you still tarry.”
“Only because you block the doorway, my dear,” said the husband, equably. “If I delayed at all, ’t was because Brereton wished to set in train an inquiry concerning his sweetheart.”
“His what?” exclaimed the dame. “Let me pass in, Mr. Washington. John must tell me all about her this moment.”
“You said he should sleep, Patsy,” replied the general, smiling. “Come to our room, my dear, and I’ll tell you somewhat of her.”
But however much may have been told in the privacy of the connubial chamber, one fact was not stated: That far back in the bottom drawer of the bureau in which Janice kept her clothes lay a half-finished silk purse, to which not a stitch bad been added since the day that the muttering of the guns of Brandywine had sounded through the streets of Philadelphia.