“A gal gave me this, general, ter take ter you, an’ she would hev it, though I told her she’d no business ter be botherin’ yer with sich plumb foolishness.”
The flowers were snatched rather than taken from his hand. “Where was she when she gave them to you?” demanded Brereton.
“I seen her go back inter the garding over ter Headquarters House, sir.”
The general, without a word of explanation or apology to his fellow officers, started away almost at a run. Halting suddenly after he had gone some fifty feet, he fumbled in his pocket, and pulling out three or four coins, he tossed back a gold piece to the man; then hastened away.
“Waal!” ejaculated the soldier, as he stooped and picked it up. “A hard dollar from a gal was bad enough, but I did n’t expect ter see the general go clean crazy like that. A louis, as I’m a livin’ sinner!
When Jack entered the hedge, one glance he took, and then strode to the garden seat. “I know you would not torture me with false hopes, yet I—I dare not believe the message I would give the world to read in these,” he said hoarsely.
The girl put her hand gently on his arm. “They say, Jack,” she replied, her eyes upturned to his, “whatever you would wish they might.”
On the words, her lover’s arms were about her.
“Then they say that I am forgiven and—”
“Oh, Jack,” cried Janice despairingly, “can you ever forgive me—“Can I ever atone—ever thank you for all—”
“Hush, my sweet. Put the past, as I will, out of mind for ever.”
“I will, I will—but, oh, Jack, I must tell you how I have suffered—how my heart nearly broke—so that you may know how happy I am!”
“Oh, sweetheart,” cried Brereton, clasping her tightly. “Do you mean—can the flowers truly say that you really love me?”
“They can, but never how much.”
“Then tell me yourself.”
“No words can.”
“Ah, sweetheart, try,” besought Brereton.
“Then stoop and let me whisper it,” said the girl, and obediently Jack bent his head. But what she had to tell was told by her lips upon his.
It was Billy Lee who finally interrupted them. “You’ll ‘scuse me, Gen’l an’ Missy Janice,” he called, apologetically, from the opening in the hedge, “but Lady Washington dun send me to ‘splain dat if she delay de dinner any mo’ dat Gen’l Brereton suttinly be late at de cote-martial.” And as a second couple made a hurried if reluctant exodus from paradise, he continued, “I dun tender youse my bestest felicitations, sah. Golly! Won’t Missis Sukey and dat Blueskin dun be pleased.”
“She will be when she and Peg are bought and safe back at Greenwood, Billy, as they soon will be,” predicted Brereton.
In the dining room stood the commander-in-chief and Mrs. Washington, and as Jack and Janice entered it through one of the windows, the latter caught the girl in her arms, and kissed her warmly.