“Oh, Mrs. Jefferson, how can we ever thank you?”
“I do not deserve it, believe me, Janice, for I long postponed what I knew I ought to do, through regret at the thought of losing your visits.”
“That but deepens our thanks. If you—”
“I’ll not listen to them now,” replied the friend, “for who can say that they will come to aught? ’T will be time enough when it has really accomplished something.”
Distant as they were from the active operations of the war, the inmates of Colle were kept pretty well informed of its progress, for it was a constant theme of conversation, and the movements were closely followed on the military maps of the officers who frequented the house. From them Janice heard how Clinton, despairing of conquering the Northern colonies by force of arms, had resorted to bribery, but only to win the services of an officer he did not wish, and not the desired post of West Point; and with tears in her eyes she listened to the news that Andre, setting ambition above honour, had paid for the lapse with his life. Then, as the tide of war shifted, it was explained to her why the British general, keeping tight hold on New York as a base for operations, transferred a material part of his forces to the South, where, in succession, he captured Savannah and Charleston, and almost without resistance overran the States of Georgia and the two Carolinas.
“You see, Miss Meredith,” she was told, “the yeomanry of the Northern States are so well armed that we have found it impossible to hold the country against their militia; but in the Southern States, aside from the difference between the energetic Northerners and the more indolent Sonthrons, the long distances between the plantations, and the fact that the gentry don’t dare to trust their slaves with weapons, make them practically defenceless. The plan now seems to be, therefore, to wear the Northern colonies out by our fleet and by occasional descents upon the towns of the coast, while we meantime conquer the Southern States. Had it been adopted from the first, the strength would have been sapped out of the rebellion and it would have been ended two years ago; but the new strategy cannot fail, even at this late date, to bring them to their knees in time.”
An evidence of the truth of this surmise, and an abrupt ending to the peaceful life at Saratoga, came to the little settlement in the first week of the year 1781, when a post rider spurred into Charlottesville with a despatch to the County Lieutenant of Albemarle announcing that a British fleet had entered the Capes of the Chesapeake and seized the town of Portsmouth, and summoning the militia to embody, for Virginia was threatened with the fate which had already befallen her sister States to the southward.