Finally they were told to be ready the following morning; and at daybreak the three, with a guard, were packed into a hay cart, the larger part of the townsfolk collecting to view their departure. Nor did Mr. Bagby, who had made a number of calls upon them in the interval, fail to appear for a good-by.
“Just you remember, miss,” he urged, “that my arguments and General Washington’s was what saved your dad, and that I can still do a lot to save your property. Don’t forget either that I’m going to go on rising. Only think it over well, and you’ll see which side your bread is buttered on, for, if you are mighty good-looking, you ’re no fool.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bagby, for everything you have done or tried to do,” replied the girl; and the squire, who had heard the whole speech, said nothing, though the effort to remain silent was clearly a severe one.
“Whither do we go first?” asked Mrs. Meredith of the driver, after the ferry-boat had left the Jersey shore and the spectators both behind.
“Our orders is to take you to Reading, an’ hand you over to the officer in charge of the Convention snogers, pervided the last detachment hev n’t left theer; if they hev, we are to lick up till we overtake them.”
“What regiment is that?” questioned Janice.
“Guess ye ’re a bit green on what ‘s goin’ on,” chuckled one of the guard. “Them ’s poppy-cock, hifalutin, by-the-grace-of-God an’ King Georgie, come-in-an’-surrender-afore-we-extirpate-yer, Johnny Burgoyne’s army, as did a little capitulatin’ themselves. We’ve kep’ ’em about Boston till we’ve got tired of teamin’ pork an’ wheat to ’em, an’ now we’re takin’ ’em to where the pigs an’ wheat grows, to save us money, an’ to show ’em the size of the country they calkerlated to overrun. I guess they’ll write hum that that job ’s a good one to sub-let, after they’ve hoofed it from Cambridge to Charlottesville.”
The departure had been well timed, for when they drove into Reading, about five, long lines of men, garbed in green or red uniforms, were answering the roll-call as a preliminary to having quarters for the night assigned to them in the court-house, churches, and school. After much search, the officer in command was found, and the prisoner turned over to him, to his evident displeasure.
“Heavens!” he complained, “is it not bad enough to move two thousand troops, a third of whom no man can understand the gibberish of, to say nothing of General de Riedesel’s wife and children, but I must have other women to look out for? I wish that Governor Livingston would pardon less and hang more!”
Unpromising as this beginning was, it proved a case of growl and not of bite, for the colonel speedily secured a night’s lodging for them in a private house, and the next morning made a place for the two women beside the driver of one of the carts of the baggage train, the squire being ordered to march on foot with the column.