Both these qualities disappeared with marvellous suddenness once they were within the Greenwood gate. All along the Raritan the fields were dotted with tents and parks of artillery, and on Greenwood lawn stood a large marquee, from which floated the headquarters’ flag, while groups of officers and soldiers were scattered about in every direction. But all this panoply of war was forgotten by the girl, as Sukey, who was carrying some dish from the house to the tent, dropped it with a crash on the ground, and with a screech of delight rushed forward. Janice slid, rather than alighted, from her horse; and as if there were no such things as social distinctions, mistress and slave hugged each other, both rendered inarticulate by their sobs of joy. Further to prove that hearts have nothing to do with the colour of the skin, Billy Lee, who had been following in Sukey’s train with another dish, was so melted by the sight that he proceeded to deposit his burden of a large ham on the grass, and began a loud blubbering in sympathy. Their united outcries served to bring two more participants on the scene, for Peg and Clarion came running out of the house and with screams and yelps sought to express their joy.
While this spectacle was affording infinite amusement to the officers and sentinels, Brereton, after helping Mrs. Meredith alight, went in search of Washington and in a few moments returned with him.
“We have made free with your home, as you see, Mrs. Meredith,” apologised the commander-in-chief, as he shook her hand, “and I scarce know now whether to bid you welcome, or to ask leave for us to tarry till to-morrow. May we not effect a compromise by your dining and supping with me, and, in return, your favouring me and my family with a night’s lodging?”
“Thou couldst not fail of welcome for far longer, General Washington,” said Mrs. Meredith, warmly, “but thou art doubly so if Lady Washington is with thee.”
“Nay; I meant my military family,” explained the general. “Mrs. Washington retreated, ere the campaign opened, to Mount Vernon.” Then he turned to the daughter and shook her hand. “Ah, Miss Janice,” he said, “sorry reports we’ve had of thy goings on, and we greatly feared we had lost thee to the cause.”
“Ah, no. your Excellency,” protested the girl. “Though I did once pray that the British should capture Philadelphia, ’t was not because I wished you beaten, but solely because it would bring dadda to us, and—and many a prayer I’ve made for you.”
The general smiled. “’T will be glad news to some,” he said, with a sidelong look at Brereton, “that thy sympathies have always been with us. I presume thou hast simply been doing the British soldiery all the harm that thou couldst under guise of friendliness. I’ll warrant thou’st a greater tale of wounded officers than any of Morgan’s riflemen, sharpshooters though they be.”
“I would I could say I had been ever faithful, your Excellency, but I must own to fickleness.”