“Oh, Mr. Bagby,” pleaded Janice, “Mr. Drinker is sure that he will be convicted of treason. Can you not do something to stop it?”
“I am afraid he is right, miss. About his only chance will be for the Governor to pardon him.”
“But only yesterday he said he should not,” wailed Janice. “Can you not persuade him?”
“Guess ’t would be only be a waste of my time,” answered Joe. “He and I have disagreed over some appointments, and we are n’t much of friends in consequence. But aside from that, he’s a great trimmer for popularity, and the people just now are desperate set on having the Tories punished.”
“Don’t say that,” besought the girl. “Surely, if—if— if I promise to marry you, cannot you save him?”
“If ’t was a bridge to be built, or a contract for uniforms, or something of that sort, I’d have real influence in the Assembly; but I am afraid I can’t fix this matter. The Governor’s a consarned obstinate man most times, and I don’t believe he’ll listen to any one in this. What I can do, though, if you’ll just do what you offered, miss, will be to save your property from all risk of being taken from you.”
“Don’t speak of it to me,” cried Janice, wildly. “Do you think we could care for such a thing now?”
“Property ’s property,” said Joe, “and ’t is n’t a good thing to forget, no matter what happens. However, that can wait. Now, about my being your lawyer?”
“I will speak to my mother,” replied the girl, sadly, “and let you know her wishes.” And the words were so evidently a dismissal that Bagby took his departure.
Without pausing to mourn over the failure, Janice procured paper and pen, and set about a letter; but it was long in the writing, for again and again the pages were torn up. Finally, in desperation, she let her quill run on, regardless of form, grammar, erasures, or the blurs caused by her own tears, until three sheets had been filled with incoherent prayers and promises. “If only you can save him,” one read, “nothing you ask of me, even to disobeying him, even to running off with you, will I refuse. I will be your very slave.” If ever a proud girl humbled herself, Janice did so in this appeal.
The reading of the missive was begun the next day by an officer seated in the “public” of the City Tavern of Philadelphia, but after a very few lines he rose and carried it to his own room, and there completed it. Then folding it up, he thrust it into his pocket, once more descended the stairs, and inquired of the tavern-keeper: “’T was reported that General Lee came to town yesterday; dost know where he lodges?”
“I hearn he was at the Indian King.”
“Thanks,” responded the questioner, and then asked: “One thing more. Hast a stout riding-whip you can lend me for a few minutes?”
“Ay, Colonel Brereton. Take any that suits you from the rack.”
The implement secured, the officer set out down the street, with a look that boded ill for somebody.