“Nay!” he denied, “many a favor we owe to Mr. Hennion, and now he has topped them all by signing deeds within the hour that gives to the girl both Greenwood and Boxely.”
Janice looked up at her father. “’T is like him,” she said, chokingly. “Oh, General Washington, will you not be merciful to him?”
“What is done must depend wholly on General Brereton’s report, Miss Janice,” answered Washington, gravely.
“Oh, not on him!” besought the girl. “He has reason to dislike Major Hennion, and he is capable of such bitter resentments.”
“Hush, child, have you no eyes?” cried Mrs. Washington, and Janice faced about to find Brereton standing behind her.
Not a feature of Jack’s face showed that he had heard her, as he saluted and began,—
“The manoeuvre was executed last night, your Excellency, and I have the honour to hand you my report.”
Washington took the document and began an instant reading of it, while the new arrival turned to give and receive a warm greeting with the hostess. “You’ll eat some breakfast, Jack,” she almost begged, with affectionate hospitality.
“Thank you, Lady Washington, I—I—some other morning,” answered the officer.
An awkward silence fell, yet which no one attempted to break, as the commander-in-chief slowly conned each page of the report. Once finished, he turned to the squire, and said, “I must ask, Mr. Meredith, that you go into the parlour, where later I will see you. I have certain questions to put to General Brereton.” Mr. Meredith gone, he asked,—
“What was the paper you recovered from this Bagby?”
“’T was a slip of tissue silk, which proves beyond doubt that he has been supplying the British with information, though unluckily there is nothing to show from whom in our army he received his information.”
“’T is unfortunate, for we have long known that a leak existed in our very councils. However, ’t is something gained to have broken the channel of communication, and to have brought one traitor to the gallows. You will deliver the prisoners into the hands of the provost-marshal, sir, and be at headquarters at two this afternoon, prepared to give your testimony and papers to the court I shall order.”
Brereton saluted, and made a movement of departure, but Washington spoke again,—
“In this report, sir, you speak of having taken Lieutenant Colonel Hennion a prisoner of war. Under the circumstances in which he was captured ’t is a strange definition to give to his footing.”
Jack’s bronzed face reddened slightly. “I so stated it, your Excellency, because I overheard the colonel tell his father that he had but stolen within our lines to do Mr. Meredith a service, and having myself read the letter that induced him to take the risk, I had every reason to believe that he spoke nothing but the truth. Yet I knew that no court-martial would take such a view, and so gave him that quality in my report, to save him from a fate he does not merit.”