Janice, pouring half her milk into an empty bowl that was on the table, and dividing her eggs, smiled archly as she said, “I fear, then, that my call is not a welcome one, since, helas! I am a woman.”
The baroness spilled the little girl from lap to floor as she sprang to her feet and clasped the caller in her arms. “You are une ange,” she cried,” and I geef you my lofe, not for now, but for ze all time for efer.”
The acquaintance thus begun ripened rapidly. In her gratitude for the kindness, Madame de Riedesel, who had a roomy calash and a light baggage waggon, insisted that Janice and Mrs. Meredith should quit the springless army van in the rear and travel henceforth with the advance in one or the other of her vehicles, giving them far greater ease and comfort. Sometimes the children were sent with the baggage, and the three ladies used the calash, but more often Janice and Madame de Riedesel rode in it, with a child on each lap, and one sandwiched in between them, and the squire took the empty seat beside Mrs. Meredith in the waggon.
A second generosity of the new friend was her quickly offering to share with them the large officer’s marquee that her husband’s rank had secured for her, with the comfortable beds that formed a part of her camp equipment; and as they had hitherto been cramped into a small field tent, with only blankets and dead leaves laid on the frozen ground to sleep upon, the invitation was a still greater boon. Close packing it was, but the weather was now so cold that what was lost in space was made up for in warmth.
It was early in January that they finally reached their destination, —an improvised village of log huts, some two miles from Charlottesville, named Saratoga, from the capitulation that had served to bring it into being; but so far as the Merediths were concerned, it meant a change rather than a lessening of the privation. The cabin to which they were assigned consisted of one windowless room, and was without a chimney. They were necessarily without furniture, their sole stock beyond their own clothing being a few blankets and cooking utensils, which they had brought with them. Nor were they able to purchase much that they needed at the neighbouring town, for their cash had been seriously depleted by what they had bought in Trenton, and by the expenses of the march, while what was left had shrunk in value in the two months’ march from fifty dollars to seventy-five dollars, paper, for one in gold.
Seeking to make the best of it, the three set to work diligently. From a neighbouring mill slabs were procured, which, being cut the right length and laid on logs, were made to do for beds, and others served to make an equally rough table. Sections of logs were utilised for chairs, and the squire built a crude fireplace a few feet from the doorway. At best, however, the discomfort was really very great. Even with the door closed, the cabin was cold almost beyond the point of endurance, and if it was not left open, the only light that came to them was through the chinks of the logs. Yet their suffering was far less than that of the troops, for many of the huts were unfinished when they arrived, and with three feet of snow on the ground, most of them were compelled to roof their own quarters and even in some cases entirely build them, as a first step to protection.