On the following day a coach drew up in front of the Continental Tavern, and with much dignity a negro in livery alighted from the seat beside the driver.
“You will deliber Lady Washington’s an’ my deferential complimen’s to Miss Janice Meredith; likewise dis letter from his Excellency,” he said grandly to the tavern-keeper.
“Waal, of all airs fer a nigger!” snorted mine host. “Duz his Excellency run yer jobs fer yer ter hum? Guess yer ain’t so fat, be yer, that yer keant carry that inter the settin’-room yerself.”
With a glance of outraged dignity that should have annihilated the publican, the man went across the hall, and after a knock, entered.
“Why, Billy!” exclaimed Janice, starting up from her chair, her arm outstretched.
The intense dignity melted away in a breath, and the darky chuckled and slapped himself with delight as he took the hand. “Der, now!” he cried, “I dun assure her Ladyship dat Missy would remember Billy. Here am a letter from his Excellency, Miss.”
Opening it, Janice read it out to her father:—
Headquarters, 14 June, 1782. Dear Miss Janice,—In writing this I but act as Mrs. Washington’s scribe, she having an invincible dislike to the use of a pen. She hopes and begs that you will favour us with the honour of your company for a time at Headquarters, and to this I would add my own persuasions were I not sure that hers will count above mine. However, let me say that it will be a personal gratification to me if you give us now the pleasure I have several times counted upon in the past. Thinking to make more certain of your granting this request, and that you may make the journey without discomfort, Mrs. Washington sends her coach.
I most sincerely regretted not seeing you at Yorktown, the more that Lord Cornwallis assured me when he dined with me on the evening after the surrender, that he would secure your presence at the banquet he tendered to the French and American officers; but I was still more grieved when told the reason for your refusal to grace the occasion by your presence. The sudden sickness of poor Mr. Custis, which compelled me to hasten away from York, and the affecting circumstance of his untimely death threw Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Bassett, who were both present, into such deep distress that I could not find it in my heart to leave Eltham, once the funeral rites were performed. The Marquis has since assured me that nothing was neglected which could be of comfort or service to your mother, and I trust that he speaks informedly. I have just learned of your loss, and hasten to tender you both Mrs. Washington’s and my own sympathy on this melancholy occasion.
Be assured that your company will truly gratify both
the partner of all my Domestic enjoyments, and that I am, my
dear young lady, with every sentiment of respect and esteem,
Yr most obedt hble servt