“Here, Excellency.” As we stood in the corridor, I could see a pudgy boy standing at a sideboard in the room to the right. In one hand he held a meat pasty; in the other, a pewter tankard. Juice from one or the other was dribbling down his cheeks. Crestfallen, I watched him wipe his mouth on his sleeve.
“Have you heard what this man says, Owens?”
“Aye, sir. And it be lies. I’ve been up and down the Brandywine—all the way north to the fork—and there’s nary a ford you’ve not covered with patrols.” He leveled a look at me that was brimming over with self-importance. ’Twas this barefaced conceit that gave me back my tongue.
“But the British crossed above the fork, at Jeffries’ Ford!” I exclaimed. “The squire saw them, and I know him to be true to the patriot cause. Redcoats in the thousands will be coming south down Birmingham Road, behind you to the east! Don’t let them flank your troops, sir. My brother, Will, is a Continental, and I couldn’t bear . . .”
I shall never know why—’twas probably a storm of nerves after all I’d been through and my fears for Will—but then and there I burst into tears. No man would have done so, but ’tis likely my sobs did more than any man’s vows (and surely more than Cheyney’s dismayed howls) to convince Washington of the truth.
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