Salute to Adventurers
Part 2 out of 5
"Scot yourself," I laughed, for his face and speech betrayed him.
"I'll not deny that there's glimmerings of sense in you, Mr. Garvald.
But how do you, a lad with no backing, propose to beat a strong
monopoly buttressed by the whole stupidity and idleness of Virginia?
You'll be stripped of your last farthing, and you'll be lucky if it
ends there. Don't think I'm against you. I'm with you in your
principles, but the job is too big for you."
"We will see," said I. "But I can take it that, provided I keep within
the law, His Majesty's Governor will not stand in my way?"
"I can promise you that. I'll do more, for I'll drink success to your
enterprise." He filled me a great silver tankard of spiced sack, and I
emptied it to the toast of "Honest Men."
* * * * *
All the time at the back of my head were other thoughts than
merchandise. The picture which Frew had drawn of Virginia as a smiling
garden on the edge of a burning pit was stamped on my memory. I had
seen on my travels the Indians that dwelled in the Tidewater, remnants
of the old great clans of Doeg and Powhatan and Pamunkey. They were
civil enough fellows, following their own ways, and not molesting their
scanty white neighbours, for the country was wide enough for all. But
so far as I could learn, these clanlets of the Algonquin house were no
more comparable to the fighting tribes of the West than a Highland
caddie in an Edinburgh close is to a hill Macdonald with a claymore.
But the common Virginian would admit no peril, though now and then some
rough landward fellow would lay down his spade, spit moodily, and tell
me a grim tale. I had ever the notion to visit Frew and finish my
It was not till the tobacco ships had gone and the autumn had grown
late that I got the chance. The trees were flaming scarlet and saffron
as I rode west through the forests to his house on the South Fork
River. There, by a wood fire in the October dusk, he fed me on wild
turkey and barley bread, and listened silently to my tale.
He said nothing when I spoke of my schemes for getting the better of
the Englishman and winning Virginia to my side. Profits interested him
little, for he grew his patch of corn and pumpkins, and hunted the deer
for his own slender needs. Once he broke in on my rigmarole with a
piece of news that fluttered me.
"You mind the big man you were chasing that night you and me first
forgathered? Well, I've seen him."
"Where?" I cried, all else forgotten.
"Here, in this very place, six weeks syne. He stalked in about ten o'
the night, and lifted half my plenishing. When I got up in my bed to
face him he felled me. See, there's the mark of it," and he showed a
long scar on his forehead. "He went off with my best axe, a gill of
brandy, and a good coat. He was looking for my gun, too, but that was
in a hidy-hole. I got up next morning with a dizzy head, and followed
him nigh ten miles. I had a shot at him, but I missed, and his legs
were too long for me. Yon's the dangerous lad."
"Where did he go, think you?" I asked.
"To the hills. To the refuge of every ne'er-do-weel. Belike the Indians
have got his scalp, and I'm not regretting it."
I spent three days with Frew, and each day I had the notion that he was
putting me to the test. The first day he took me over the river into a
great tangle of meadow and woodland beyond which rose the hazy shapes
of the western mountains. The man was twenty years my elder, but my
youth was of no avail against his iron strength. Though I was hard and
spare from my travels in the summer heat, 'twas all I could do to keep
up with him, and only my pride kept me from crying halt. Often when he
stopped I could have wept with fatigue, and had no breath for a word,
but his taciturnity saved me from shame.
In a hollow among the woods we came to a place which sent him on his
knees, peering and sniffing like a wild-cat.
"What make you of that?" he asked.
I saw nothing but a bare patch in the grass, some broken twigs, and a
"It's an old camp," I said.
"Ay," said he. "Nothing more? Use your wits, man."
I used them, but they gave me no help.
"This is the way I read it, then," he said. "Three men camped here
before midday. They were Cherokees, of the Matabaw tribe, and one was a
maker of arrows. They were not hunting, and they were in a mighty
hurry. Just now they're maybe ten miles off, or maybe they're watching
us. This is no healthy country for you and me."
He took me homeward at a speed which well-nigh foundered me, and, when
I questioned him, he told me where he got his knowledge.
They were three men, for there were three different footmarks in the
ashes' edge, and they were Cherokees because they made their fire in
the Cherokee way, so that the smoke ran in a tunnel into the scrub.
They were Matabaws from the pattern of their moccasins. They were in a
hurry, for they did not wait to scatter the ashes and clear up the
place; and they were not hunting, for they cooked no flesh. One was an
arrow-maker, for he had been hardening arrow-points in the fire, and
left behind him the arrow-maker's thong.
"But how could you know how long back this had happened?" I asked.
"The sap was still wet in the twigs, so it could not have been much
above an hour since they left. Besides, the smoke had blown south, for
the grass smelt of it that side. Now the wind was more to the east when
we left, and, if you remember, it changed to the north about midday."
I said it was a marvel, and he grunted. "The marvel is what they've
been doing in the Tidewater, for from the Tidewater I'll swear they
Next day he led me eastward, away back in the direction of the manors.
This was an easier day, for he went slow, as if seeking for something.
He picked up some kind of a trail, which we followed through the long
afternoon. Then he found something, which he pocketed with a cry of
satisfaction. We were then on the edge of a ridge, whence we looked
south to the orchards of Henricus.
"That is my arrow-maker," he cried, showing me a round stone whorl.
"He's a careless lad, and he'll lose half his belongings ere he wins to
I was prepared for the wild Cherokees on our journey of yesterday, but
it amazed me that the savages should come scouting into the Tidewater
itself. He smiled grimly when I said this, and took from his pocket a
"That's a Cherokee badge," he said. "I found that a fortnight back on
the river-side an hour's ride out of James Town. And it wasna there
when I had passed the same place the day before. The Tidewater thinks
it has put the fear of God on the hill tribes, and here's a red
Cherokee snowking about its back doors."
The last day he took me north up a stream called the North Fork, which
joined with his own river. I had left my musket behind, for this heavy
travel made me crave to go light, and I had no use for it. But that day
it seemed we were to go hunting.
He carried an old gun, and slew with it a deer in a marshy hollow--a
pretty shot, for the animal was ill-placed. We broiled a steak for our
midday meal, and presently clambered up a high woody ridge which looked
down on a stream and a piece of green meadow.
Suddenly he stopped. "A buck," he whispered. "See what you can do, you
that were so ready with your pistol." And he thrust his gun into my
The beast was some thirty paces off in the dusk of the thicket. It
nettled me to have to shoot with a strange weapon, and I thought too
lightly of the mark. I fired, and the bullet whistled over its back. He
I handed it back to him. "It throws high, and you did not warn me. Load
quick, and I'll try again."
I heard the deer crashing through the hill-side thicket, and guessed
that presently it would come out in the meadow. I was right, and before
the gun was in my hands again the beast was over the stream.
It was a long range and a difficult mark, but I had to take the risk,
for I was on my trial. I allowed for the throw of the musket and the
steepness of the hill, and pulled the trigger. The shot might have been
better, for I had aimed for the shoulder, and hit the neck. The buck
leaped into the air, ran three yards, and toppled over. By the grace of
God, I had found the single chance in a hundred.
Frew looked at me with sincere respect. "That's braw shooting," he
said. "I can't say I ever saw its equal."
That night in the smoky cabin he talked freely for once. "I never had a
wife or bairn, and I lean on no man. I can fend for myself, and cook my
dinner, and mend my coat when it's wanting it. When Bacon died I saw
what was coming to this land, and I came here to await it. I've had
some sudden calls from the red gentry, but they havena got me yet, and
they'll no get me before my time. I'm in the Lord's hands, and He has a
job for Simon Frew. Go back to your money-bags, Mr. Garvald. Beat the
English merchants, my lad, and take my blessing with you. But keep that
gun of yours by your bedside, for the time is coming when a man's hands
will have to keep his head."
I BECOME AN UNPOPULAR CHARACTER.
I did not waste time in getting to work. I had already written to my
uncle, telling him my plans, and presently I received his consent. I
arranged that cargoes of such goods as I thought most suitable for
Virginian sales should arrive at regular seasons independent of the
tobacco harvest. Then I set about equipping a store. On the high land
north of James Town, by the road to Middle Plantation, I bought some
acres of cleared soil, and had built for me a modest dwelling. Beside
it stood a large brick building, one half fitted as a tobacco shed,
where the leaf could lie for months, if need be, without taking harm,
and the other arranged as a merchant's store with roomy cellars and
wide garrets. I relinquished the warehouse by the James Town quay, and
to my joy I was able to relinquish Mr. Lambie. That timid soul had been
on thorns ever since I mooted my new projects. He implored me to put
them from me; he drew such pictures of the power of the English
traders, you would have thought them the prince merchants of Venice; he
saw all his hard-won gentility gone at a blow, and himself an outcast
precluded for ever from great men's recognition. He could not bear it,
and though he was loyal to my uncle's firm in his own way, he sought a
change. One day he announced that he had been offered a post as steward
to a big planter at Henricus, and when I warmly bade him accept it, he
smiled wanly, and said he had done so a week agone. We parted very
civilly, and I chose as manager my servant, John Faulkner.
This is not a history of my trading ventures, or I would tell at length
the steps I took to found a new way of business. I went among the
planters, offering to buy tobacco from the coming harvest, and to pay
for it in bonds which could be exchanged for goods at my store. I also
offered to provide shipment in the autumn for tobacco and other wares,
and I fixed the charge for freight--a very moderate one--in advance. My
plan was to clear out my store before the return of the ships, and to
have thereby a large quantity of tobacco mortgaged to me. I hoped that
thus I would win the friendship and custom of the planters, since I
offered them a more convenient way of sale and higher profits. I hoped
by breaking down the English monopoly to induce a continual and
wholesome commerce in the land. For this purpose it was necessary to
get coin into the people's hands, so, using my uncle's credit, I had a
parcel of English money from the New York goldsmiths.
In a week I found myself the most-talked-of man in the dominion, and
soon I saw the troubles that credit brings. I had picked up a very
correct notion of the fortunes of most of the planters, and the men who
were most eager to sell to me were just those I could least trust. Some
fellow who was near bankrupt from dice and cock-fighting would offer me
five hundred hogsheads, when I knew that his ill-guided estate could
scarce produce half. I was not a merchant out of charity, and I had to
decline many offers, and so made many foes. Still, one way and another,
I was not long in clearing out my store, and I found myself with some
three times the amount of tobacco in prospect that I had sent home at
the last harvest.
That was very well, but there was the devil to pay besides. Every
wastrel I sent off empty-handed was my enemy; the agents of the
Englishmen looked sourly at me; and many a man who was swindled grossly
by the Bristol buyers saw me as a marauder instead of a benefactor. For
this I was prepared; but what staggered me was the way that some of the
better sort of the gentry came to regard me. It was not that they did
not give me their custom; that I did not expect, for gunpowder alone
would change the habits of a Virginian Tory. But my new business seemed
to them such a downcome that they passed me by with a cock of the chin.
Before they had treated me hospitably, and made me welcome at their
houses. I had hunted the fox with them--very little to my credit; and
shot wildfowl in their company with better success. I had dined with
them, and danced in their halls at Christmas. Then I had been a
gentleman; now I was a shopkeeper, a creature about the level of a
redemptioner. The thing was so childish that it made me angry. It was
right for one of them to sell his tobacco on his own wharf to a tarry
skipper who cheated him grossly, but wrong for me to sell kebbucks and
linsey-woolsey at an even bargain. I gave up the puzzle. Some folks'
notions of gentility are beyond my wits.
I had taken to going to the church in James Town, first at Mr. Lambie's
desire, and then because I liked the sermons. There on a Sunday you
would see the fashion of the neighbourhood, for the planters' ladies
rode in on pillions, and the planters themselves, in gold-embroidered
waistcoats and plush breeches and new-powdered wigs, leaned on the
tombstones, and exchanged snuffmulls and gossip. In the old ramshackle
graveyard you would see such a parade of satin bodices and tabby
petticoats and lace headgear as made it blossom like the rose. I went
to church one Sunday in my second summer, and, being late, went up the
aisle looking for a place. The men at the seat-ends would not stir to
accommodate me, and I had to find rest in the cock-loft. I thought
nothing of it, but the close of the service was to enlighten me. As I
went down the churchyard not a man or woman gave me greeting, and when
I spoke to any I was not answered. These were men with whom I had been
on the friendliest terms; women, too, who only a week before had
chaffered with me at the store. It was clear that the little society
had marooned me to an isle by myself. I was a leper, unfit for
gentlefolks' company, because, forsooth, I had sold goods, which every
one of them did also, and had tried to sell them fair.
The thing made me very bitter. I sat in my house during the hot noons
when no one stirred, and black anger filled my heart. I grew as peevish
as a slighted girl, and would no doubt have fretted myself into some
signal folly, had not an event occurred which braced my soul again.
This was the arrival of the English convoy.
When I heard that the ships were sighted, I made certain of trouble. I
had meantime added to my staff two other young men, who, like Faulkner,
lived with me at the store. Also I had got four stalwart negro slaves
who slept in a hut in my garden. 'Twas a strong enough force to repel a
drunken posse from the plantations, and I had a fancy that it would be
needed in the coming weeks.
Two days later, going down the street of James Town, I met one of the
English skippers, a redfaced, bottle-nosed old ruffian called
Bullivant. He was full of apple-jack, and strutted across the way to
"What's this I hear, Sawney?" he cried. "You're setting up as a
pedlar, and trying to cut in on our trade. Od twist me, but we'll put
an end to that, my bully-boy. D'you think the King, God bless him, made
the laws for a red-haired, flea-bitten Sawney to diddle true-born
Englishmen? What'll the King's Bench say to that, think ye?"
He was very abusive, but very uncertain on his legs. I said
good-humouredly that I welcomed process of law, and would defend my
action. He shook his head, and said something about law not being
everything, and England being a long road off. He had clearly some
great threat to be delivered of, but just then he sat down so heavily
that he had no breath for anything but curses.
But the drunkard had given me a notion. I hurried home and gave
instructions to my men to keep a special guard on the store. Then I set
off in a pinnace to find my three ships, which were now lading up and
down among the creeks.
That was the beginning of a fortnight's struggle, when every man's hand
was against me, and I enjoyed myself surprisingly. I was never at rest
by land or water. The ships were the least of the business, for the
dour Scots seamen were a match for all comers. I made them anchor at
twilight in mid-stream for safety's sake, for in that drouthy clime a
firebrand might play havoc with them. The worst that happened was that
one moonless night a band of rascals, rigged out as Indian braves, came
yelling down to the quay where some tobacco was waiting to be shipped,
and before my men were warned had tipped a couple of hogsheads into the
water. They got no further, for we fell upon them with marling-spikes
and hatchets, stripped them of their feathers, and sent them to cool
their heads in the muddy river. The ring-leader I haled to James Town,
and had the pleasure of seeing him grinning through a collar in the
Then I hied me back to my store, which was my worst anxiety, I was
followed by ill names as I went down the street, and one day in a
tavern, a young fool drew his shabble on me. But I would quarrel with
no man, for that was a luxury beyond a trader. There had been an attack
on my tobacco shed by some of the English seamen, and in the mellay one
of my blacks got an ugly wound from a cutlass. It was only a foretaste,
and I set my house in order.
One afternoon John Faulkner brought me word that mischief would be
afoot at the darkening. I put each man to his station, and I had the
sense to picket them a little distance from the house. The Englishmen
were clumsy conspirators. We watched them arrive, let them pass, and
followed silently on their heels. Their business was wreckage, and they
fixed a charge of powder by the tobacco shed, laid and lit a fuse, and
retired discreetly into the bushes to watch their handiwork.
Then we fell upon them, and the hindquarters of all bore witness to our
I caught the fellow who had laid the fuse, tied the whole thing round
his neck, clapped a pistol to his ear, and marched him before me into
the town. "If you are minded to bolt," I said, "remember you have a
charge of gunpowder lobbing below your chin. I have but to flash my
pistol into it, and they will be picking the bits of you off the high
I took the rascal, his knees knocking under him, straight to the
ordinary where the English merchants chiefly forgathered. A dozen of
them sat over a bowl of punch, when the door was opened and I kicked my
Guy Fawkes inside. I may have misjudged them, but I thought every eye
looked furtive as they saw my prisoner.
"Gentlemen," said I, "I restore you your property. This is a penitent
thief who desires to make a confession."
My pistol was at his temple, the powder was round his neck, and he must
have seen a certain resolution in my face. Anyhow, sweating and
quaking, he blurted out his story, and when he offered to halt I made
rings with the barrel on the flesh of his neck.
"It is a damned lie," cried one of them, a handsome, over-dressed
fellow who had been conspicuous for his public insolence towards me.
"Nay," said I, "our penitent's tale has the note of truth. One word to
you, gentlemen. I am hospitably inclined, and if any one of you will so
far honour me as to come himself instead of dispatching his servant,
his welcome will be the warmer. I bid you good-night and leave you this
fellow in proof of my goodwill. Keep him away from the candle, I pray
you, or you will all go to hell before your time."
That was the end of my worst troubles, and presently my lading was
finished and my store replenished. Then came the time for the return
sailing, and the last enterprise of my friends was to go off without my
three vessels. But I got an order from the Governor, delivered readily
but with much profanity, to the commander of the frigates to delay till
the convoy was complete. I breathed more freely as I saw the last hulls
grow small in the estuary. For now, as I reasoned it out, the planters
must begin to compare my prices with the Englishmen's, and must come to
see where their advantage lay.
But I had counted my chickens too soon, and was to be woefully
disappointed. At that time all the coast of America from New England to
the Main was infested by pirate vessels. Some sailed under English
letters of marque, and preyed only on the shipping of France, with whom
we were at war. Some who had formed themselves into a company called
the Brethren of the Coast robbed the Spanish treasure-ships and
merchantmen in the south waters, and rarely came north to our parts
save to careen or provision. They were mostly English and Welsh, with a
few Frenchmen, and though I had little to say for their doings, they
left British ships in the main unmolested, and were welcomed as a
godsend by our coast dwellers, since they smuggled goods to them which
would have been twice the cost if bought at the convoy markets. Lastly,
there were one or two horrid desperadoes who ravaged the seas like
tigers. Such an one was the man Cosh, and that Teach, surnamed
Blackbeard, of whom we hear too much to-day. But, on the whole, we of
Virginia suffered not at all from these gentlemen of fortune, and
piracy, though the common peril of the seas, entered but little into
the estimation of the merchants.
Judge, then, of my disgust when I got news a week later that one of my
ships, the Ayr brig, had straggled from the convoy, and been seized,
rifled, and burned to the water by pirates almost in sight of Cape
Charles. The loss was grievous, but what angered me was the mystery of
such a happening. I knew the brig was a slow sailer, but how in the
name of honesty could she be suffered in broad daylight to fall into
such a fate? I remembered the hostility of the Englishmen, and feared
she had had foul play. Just after Christmas-tide I expected two ships
to replenish the stock in my store. They arrived safe, but only by the
skin of their teeth, for both had been chased from their first entrance
into American waters, and only their big topsails and a favouring wind
brought them off. I examined the captains closely on the matter, and
they were positive that their assailant was not Cosh or any one of his
kidney, but a ship of the Brethren, who ordinarily were on the best of
terms with our merchantmen.
My suspicions now grew into a fever. I had long believed that there was
some connivance between the pirates of the coast and the English
traders, and small blame to them for it. 'Twas a sensible way to avoid
trouble, and I for one would rather pay a modest blackmail every month
or two than run the risk of losing a good ship and a twelve-month's
cargo. But when it came to using this connivance for private spite, the
thing was not to be endured.
In March my doubts became certainties. I had a parcel of gold coin
coming to me from New York in one of the coasting vessels--no great
sum, but more than I cared to lose. Presently I had news that the ship
was aground on a sandspit on Accomac, and had been plundered by a
pirate brigantine. I got a sloop and went down the river, and, sure
enough, I found the vessel newly refloated, and the captain, an old New
Hampshire fellow, in a great taking. Piracy there had been, but of a
queer kind, for not a farthing's worth had been touched except my
packet of gold. The skipper was honesty itself, and it was plain that
the pirate who had chased the ship aground and then come aboard to
plunder, had done it to do me hurt, and me alone.
All this made me feel pretty solemn. My uncle was a rich man, but no
firm could afford these repeated losses. I was the most unpopular
figure in Virginia, hated by many, despised by the genteel, whose only
friends were my own servants and a few poverty-stricken landward folk.
I had found out a good way of trade, but I had set a hornet's nest
buzzing about my ears, and was on the fair way to be extinguished. This
alliance between my rivals and the Free Companions was the last straw
to my burden. If the sea was to be shut to him, then a merchant might
as well put up his shutters.
It made me solemn, but also most mightily angry. If the stars in their
courses were going to fight against Andrew Garvald, they should find
him ready. I went to the Governor, but he gave me no comfort. Indeed,
he laughed at me, and bade me try the same weapon as my adversaries. I
left him, very wrathful, and after a night's sleep I began to see
reason in his words. Clearly the law of Virginia or of England would
give me no redress. I was an alien from the genteel world; why should I
not get the benefit of my ungentility? If my rivals went for their
weapons into dark places, I could surely do likewise. A line of Virgil
came into my head, which seemed to me to contain very good counsel:
"_Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo_", which means that if
you cannot get Heaven on your side, you had better try for the Devil.
But how was I to get into touch with the Devil? And then I remembered
in a flash my meeting with the sea-captain on the Glasgow stairhead and
his promise to help me, I had no notion who he was or how he could aid,
but I had a vague memory of his power and briskness. He had looked like
the kind of lad who might conduct me into the wild world of the Free
I sought Mercer's tavern by the water-side, a melancholy place grown up
with weeds, with a yard of dark trees at the back of it. Old Mercer was
an elder in the little wooden Presbyterian kirk, which I had taken to
attending since my quarrels with the gentry. He knew me and greeted me
with his doleful smile, shaking his foolish old beard.
"What's your errand this e'en, Mr. Garvald?" he said in broad Scots.
"Will you drink a rummer o' toddy, or try some fine auld usquebaugh I
hae got frae my cousin in Buchan?"
I sat down on the settle outside the tavern door. "This is my errand. I
want you to bring me to a man or bring that man to me. His name is
Mercer looked at me dully.
"There was a lad o' that name was hanged at Inveraray i' '68 for
stealin' twae hens and a wether."
"The man I mean is long and lean, and his head is as red as fire. He
gave me your name, so you must know him."
His eyes showed no recognition. He repeated the name to himself,
mumbling it toothlessly. "It sticks i' my memory," he said, "but when
and where I canna tell. Certes, there's no man o' the name in
I was beginning to think that my memory had played me false, when
suddenly the whole scene in the Saltmarket leaped vividly to my brain.
Then I remembered the something else I had been enjoined to say.
"Ninian Campbell," I went on, "bade me ask for him here, and I was to
tell you that the lymphads are on the loch and the horn of Diarmaid has
In a twinkling his face changed from vacancy to shrewdness and from
senility to purpose. He glanced uneasily round.
"For God's sake, speak soft," he whispered. "Come inside, man. We'll
steek the door, and then I'll hear your business."
Once at Edinburgh College I had read the Latin tale of Apuleius, and
the beginning stuck in my memory: "_Thraciam ex negotio petebam_"--"I
was starting off for Thrace on business." That was my case now. I was
about to plunge into a wild world for no more startling causes than
that I was a trader who wanted to save my pocket. It is to those who
seek only peace and a quiet life that adventures fall; the homely
merchant, jogging with his pack train, finds the enchanted forest and
the sleeping princess; and Saul, busily searching for his father's
asses, stumbles upon a kingdom.
"What seek ye with Ringan?" Mercer asked, when we had sat down inside
with locked doors.
"The man's name is Ninian Campbell," I said, somewhat puzzled.
"Well, it's the same thing. What did they teach you at Lesmahagow if ye
don't know that Ringan is the Scots for Ninian? Lord bless me, laddie,
don't tell me ye've never heard of Red Ringan?"
To be sure I had; I had heard of little else for a twelvemonth. In
every tavern in Virginia, when men talked of the Free Companions, it
was the name of Red Ringan that came first to their tongues. I had been
too occupied by my own affairs to listen just then to fireside tales,
but I could not help hearing of this man's exploits. He was a kind of
leader of the buccaneers, and by all accounts no miscreant like Cosh,
but a mirthful fellow, striking hard when need be, but at other times
merciful and jovial. Now I set little store by your pirate heroes. They
are for lads and silly girls and sots in an ale-house, and a merchant
can have no kindness for those who are the foes of his trade. So when I
heard that the man I sought was this notorious buccaneer I showed my
alarm by dropping my jaw.
Mercer laughed. "I'll not conceal from you that you take a certain risk
in going to Ringan. Ye need not tell me your business, but it should be
a grave one to take you down to the Carolina keys. There's time to draw
back, if ye want; but you've brought me the master word, and I'm bound
to set you on the road. Just one word to ye, Mr. Garvald. Keep a stout
face whatever you see, for Ringan has a weakness for a bold man. Be
here the morn at sunrise, and if ye're wise bring no weapon. I'll see
to the boat and the provisioning."
I was at the water-side next day at cock-crow, while the mist was still
low on the river. Mercer was busy putting food and a keg of water into
a light sloop, and a tall Indian was aboard redding out the sails. My
travels had given me some knowledge of the red tribes, and I spoke a
little of their language, but this man was of a type not often seen in
the Virginian lowlands. He was very tall, with a skin clear and
polished like bronze, and, unlike the ordinary savage, his breast was
unmarked, and his hair unadorned. He was naked to the waist, and below
wore long leather breeches, dyed red, and fringed with squirrels'
tails. In his wampum belt were stuck a brace of knives and a tomahawk.
It seemed he knew me, for as I approached he stood up to his full
height and put his hands on his forehead. "Brother," he said, and his
grave eyes looked steadily into mine.
Then I remembered. Some months before I had been riding back the road
from Green Springs, and in a dark, woody place had come across an
Indian sore beset by three of the white scum which infested the
river-side. What the quarrel was I know not, but I liked little the
villainous look of the three, and I liked much the clean, lithe figure
of their opponent. So I rode my horse among them, and laid on to them
with the butt of my whip. They had their knives out, but I managed to
disarm the one who attacked me, and my horse upset a second, while the
Indian, who had no weapon but a stave, cracked the head of the last. I
got nothing worse than a black eye, but the man I had rescued bled from
some ugly cuts which I had much ado stanching. He shook hands with me
gravely when I had done, and vanished into the thicket. He was a Seneca
Indian, and I wondered what one of that house was doing in the
Mercer told me his name. "Shalah will take you to the man you ken. Do
whatever he tells you, Mr. Garvald, for this is a job in which you're
nothing but a bairn." We pushed off, the Indian taking the oars, and in
five minutes James Town was lost in the haze.
On the Surrey shore we picked up a breeze, and with the ebbing tide
made good speed down the estuary. Shalah the Indian had the tiller, and
I sat luxuriously in the bows, smoking my cob pipe, and wondering what
the next week held in store for me. The night before I had had qualms
about the whole business, but the air of morning has a trick of firing
my blood, and I believe I had forgotten the errand which was taking me
to the Carolina shores. It was enough that I was going into a new land
and new company. Last night I had thought with disfavour of Red Ringan
the buccaneer; that morning I thought only of Ninian Campbell, with
whom I had forgathered on a Glasgow landing.
My own thoughts kept me silent, and the Indian never opened his mouth.
Like a statue he crouched by the tiller, with his sombre eyes looking
to the sea. That night, when we had rounded Cape Henry in fine weather,
we ran the sloop into a little bay below a headland, and made camp for
the night beside a stream of cold water. Next morning it blew hard from
the north, and in a driving rain we crept down the Carolina coast. One
incident of the day I remember. I took in a reef or two, and adjusted
the sheets, for this was a game I knew and loved. The Indian watched me
closely, and made a sign to me to take the helm. He had guessed that I
knew more than himself about the handling of a boat in wind, and since
we were in an open sea, where his guidance was not needed, he preferred
to trust the thing to me. I liked the trait in him, for I take it to be
a mark of a wise man that he knows what he can do, and is not ashamed
to admit what he cannot.
That evening we had a cold bed; but the storm blew out in the night,
and the next day the sun was as hot as summer, and the wind a point to
the east. Shalah once again was steersman, for we were inside some very
ugly reefs, which I took to be the beginning of the Carolina keys. On
shore forests straggled down to the sea, so that sometimes they almost
had their feet in the surf; but now and then would come an open, grassy
space running far inland. These were, the great savannahs where herds
of wild cattle and deer roamed, and where the Free Companions came to
fill their larders. It was a wilder land than the Tidewater, for only
once did we see a human dwelling. Far remote on the savannahs I could
pick out twirls of smoke rising into the blue weather, the signs of
Indian hunting fires. Shalah began now to look for landmarks, and to
take bearings of a sort. Among the maze of creeks and shallow bays
which opened on the land side it needed an Indian to pick out a track.
The sun had all but set when, with a grunt of satisfaction, he swung
round the tiller and headed shorewards. Before me in the twilight I saw
only a wooded bluff which, as we approached, divided itself into two.
Presently a channel appeared, a narrow thing about as broad as a
cable's length, into which the wind carried us. Here it was very dark,
the high sides with their gloomy trees showing at the top a thin line
of reddening sky. Shalah hugged the starboard shore, and as the screen
of the forest caught the wind it weakened and weakened till it died
away, and we moved only with the ingoing tide. I had never been in so
eery a place. It was full of the sharp smell of pine trees, and as I
sniffed the air I caught the savour of wood smoke. Men were somewhere
ahead of us in the gloom.
Shalah ran the sloop into a little creek so overgrown with vines that
we had to lie flat on the thwarts to enter. Then, putting his mouth to
my ear, he spoke for the first time since we had left James Town. "It
is hard to approach the Master, and my brother must follow me close as
the panther follows the deer. Where Shalah puts his foot let my brother
put his also. Come."
He stepped from the boat to the hill-side, and with incredible speed
and stillness began to ascend. His long, soft strides were made without
noise or effort, whether the ground were moss, or a tangle of vines, or
loose stones, or the trunks of fallen trees, I had prided myself on my
hill-craft, but beside the Indian I was a blundering child, I might
have made shift to travel as fast, but it was the silence of his
progress that staggered me, I plunged, and slipped, and sprawled, and
my heart was bursting before the ascent ceased, and we stole to the
left along the hill shoulder.
Presently came a gap in the trees, and I looked down in the last
greyness of dusk on a strange and beautiful sight. The channel led to a
landlocked pool, maybe a mile around, and this was as full of shipping
as a town's harbour. The water was but a pit of darkness, but I could
make out the masts rising into the half light, and I counted more than
twenty vessels in that port. No light was shown, and the whole place
was quiet as a grave.
We entered a wood of small hemlocks, and I felt rather than saw the
ground slope in front of us. About two hundred feet above the water the
glen of a little stream shaped itself into a flat cup, which was
invisible from below, and girdled on three sides by dark forest. Here
we walked more freely, till we came to the lip of the cup, and there,
not twenty paces below me, I saw a wonderful sight. The hollow was lit
with the glow of a dozen fires, round which men clustered. Some were
busy boucanning meat for ship's food, some were cooking supper, some
sprawled in idleness, and smoked or diced. The night had now grown very
black around us, and we were well protected, for the men in the glow
had their eyes dazed, and could not spy into the darkness. We came very
close above them, so that I could hear their talk. The smell of
roasting meat pricked my hunger, and I realized that the salt air had
given me a noble thirst. They were common seamen from the pirate
vessels, and, as far as I could judge, they had no officer among them.
I remarked their fierce, dark faces, and the long knives with which
they slashed and trimmed the flesh for their boucanning.
Shalah touched my hand, and I followed him into the wood. We climbed
again, and from the tinkle of the stream on my left I judged that we
were ascending to a higher shelf in the glen. The Indian moved very
carefully, as noiseless as the flight of an owl, and I marvelled at the
gift. In after days I was to become something of a woodsman, and track
as swiftly and silently as any man of my upbringing. But I never
mastered the Indian art by which the foot descending in the darkness on
something that will crackle checks before the noise is made. I could do
it by day, when I could see what was on the ground, but in the dark the
thing was beyond me. It is an instinct like a wild thing's, and
possible only to those who have gone all their days light-shod in the
Suddenly the slope and the trees ceased, and a new glare burst on our
eyes. This second shelf was smaller than the first, and as I blinked at
the light I saw that it held about a score of men. Torches made of pine
boughs dipped in tar blazed at the four corners of the assembly, and in
the middle on a boulder a man was sitting. He was speaking loudly, and
with passion, but I could not make him out. Once more Shalah put his
mouth to my ear, with a swift motion like a snake, and whispered, "The
We crawled flat on our bellies round the edge of the cup. The trees had
gone, and the only cover was the long grass and the low sumach bushes.
We moved a foot at a time, and once the Indian turned in his tracks and
crawled to the left almost into the open. My sense of smell, as sharp
almost as a dog's, told me that horses were picketed in the grass in
front of us. Our road took us within, hearing of the speaker, and
though I dared not raise my head, I could hear the soft Highland voice
of my friend. He seemed now to be speaking humorously, for a laugh came
from the hearers.
Once at the crossing of a little brook, I pulled a stone into the
water, and we instantly lay as still as death. But men preoccupied with
their own concerns do not keep anxious watch, and our precautions were
needless. Presently we had come to the far side of the shelf abreast of
the boulder on which he sat who seemed to be the chief figure. Now I
could raise my head, and what I saw made my eyes dazzle.
Red Ringan sat on a stone with a naked cutlass across his knees. In
front stood a man, the most evil-looking figure that I had ever beheld.
He was short but very sturdily built, and wore a fine laced coat not
made for him, which hung to his knees, and was stretched tight at the
armpits. He had a heavy pale face, without hair on it. His teeth had
gone, all but two buck-teeth which stuck out at each corner of his
mouth, giving him the look of a tusker. I could see his lips moving
uneasily in the glare of the pine boughs, and his eyes darted about the
company as if seeking countenance.
Ringan was speaking very gravely, with his eyes shining like sword
points. The others were every make and manner of fellow, from
well-shaped and well-clad gentlemen to loutish seamen in leather
jerkins. Some of the faces were stained dark with passion and crime,
some had the air of wild boys, and some the hard sobriety of traders.
But one and all were held by the dancing eyes of the man that spoke.
"What is the judgment," he was saying, "of the Free Companions? By the
old custom of the Western Seas I call upon you, gentlemen all, for your
Then I gathered that the evil-faced fellow had offended against some
one of their lawless laws, and was on his trial.
No one spoke for a moment, and then one grizzled seaman raised his
hand, "The dice must judge," he said. "He must throw for his life
against the six."
Another exclaimed against this. "Old wives' folly," he cried, with an
oath. "Let Cosh go his ways, and swear to amend them. The Brethren of
the Coast cannot be too nice in these little matters. We are not pursy
justices or mooning girls."
But he had no support. The verdict was for the dice, and a seaman
brought Ringan a little ivory box, which he held out to the prisoner.
The latter took it with shaking hand, as if he did not know how to use
"You will cast thrice," said Ringan. "Two even throws, and you are
The man fumbled a little and then cast. It fell a four.
A second time he threw, and the dice lay five.
In that wild place, in the black heart of night, the terror of the
thing fell on my soul. The savage faces, the deadly purpose in Ringan's
eyes, the fumbling miscreant before him, were all heavy with horror. I
had no doubt that Cosh was worthy of death, but this cold and merciless
treatment froze my reason. I watched with starting eyes the last throw,
and I could not hear Ringan declare it. But I saw by the look on Cosh's
face what it had been.
"It is your privilege to choose your manner of death and to name your
successor," I heard Ringan say.
But Cosh did not need the invitation. Now that his case was desperate,
the courage in him revived. He was fully armed, and in a second he had
drawn a knife and leaped for Ringan's throat.
Perhaps he expected it, perhaps he had learned the art of the wild
beast so that his body was answerable to his swiftest wish. I do not
know, but I saw Cosh's knife crash on the stone and splinter, while
Ringan stood by his side.
"You have answered my question," he said quietly. "Draw your cutlass,
man. You have maybe one chance in ten thousand for your life."
I shut my eyes as I heard the steel clash. Then very soon came silence.
I looked again, and saw Ringan wiping his blade on a bunch of grass,
and a body lying before him.
He was speaking--speaking, I suppose, about the successor to the dead
man, whom two negroes had promptly removed. Suddenly at my shoulder
Shalah gave the hoot of an owl, followed at a second's interval by a
second and a third. I suppose it was some signal agreed with Ringan,
but at the time I thought the man had gone mad.
I was not very sane myself. What I had seen had sent a cold grue
through me, for I had never before seen a man die violently, and the
circumstances of the place and hour made the thing a thousandfold more
awful. I had a black fright on me at that whole company of merciless
men, and especially at Ringan, whose word was law to them. Now the
worst effect of fear is that it obscures good judgment, and makes a man
in desperation do deeds of a foolhardiness from which at other times he
would shrink. All I remembered in that moment was that I had to reach
Ringan, and that Mercer had told me that the safest plan was to show a
bold front. I never remembered that I had also been bidden to follow
Shalah, nor did I reflect that a secret conclave of pirates was no
occasion to choose for my meeting. With a sudden impulse I forced
myself to my feet, and stalked, or rather shambled, into the light.
"Ninian," I cried, "Ninian Campbell! I'm here to claim your promise."
The whole company turned on me, and I was gripped by a dozen hands and
flung on the ground. Ringan came forward to look, but there was no
recognition in his eyes. Some one cried out, "A spy!" and there was a
fierce murmur of voices, which were meaningless to me, for fear had got
me again, and I had neither ears nor voice. Dimly it seemed that he
gave some order, and I was trussed up with ropes. Then I was conscious
of being carried out of the glare of torches into the cool darkness.
Presently I was laid in some kind of log-house, carpeted with fir
boughs, for the needles tickled my face.
Bit by bit my senses came back to me, and I caught hold of my vagrant
A big negro in seaman's clothes with a scarlet sash round his middle
was squatted on the floor watching me by the light of a ship's lantern.
He had a friendly, foolish face, and I remember yet how he rolled his
"I won't run away," I said, "so you might slacken these ropes and let
me breathe easy."
Apparently he was an accommodating gaoler, for he did as I wished.
"And give me a drink," I said, "for my tongue's like a stick."
He mixed me a pannikin of rum and water. Perhaps he hocussed it, or
maybe 'twas only the effect of spirits on a weary body; but three
minutes after I had drunk I was in a heavy sleep.
VARIOUS DOINGS IN THE SAVANNAH.
I awoke in broad daylight, and when my wits came back to me, I saw I
was in a tent of skins, with my limbs unbound, and a pitcher of water
beside me placed by some provident hand. Through the tent door I looked
over a wide space of green savannah. How I had got there I knew not;
but, as my memory repeated the events of the night, I knew I had
travelled far, for the sea showed miles away at a great distance
beneath me. On the water I saw a ship in full sail, diminished to a toy
size, careering northward with the wind.
Outside a man was seated whistling a cheerful tune. I got to my feet
and staggered out to clear my head in the air, and found the smiling
face of Ringan.
"Good-morning, Andrew," he cried, as I sat down beside him. "Have you
I rubbed my eyes and took long draughts of the morning breeze.
"Are you a warlock, Mr. Campbell, that you can spirit folk about the
country at your pleasure? I have slept sound, but my dreams have been
"Yes," he said; "what sort of dreams, maybe?"
"I dreamed I was in a wild place among wild men, and that I saw murder
done. The look of the man who did it was not unlike your own."
"You have dreamed true," he said gravely; "but you have the wrong word
for it. Others would call it justice."
"What sort of justice?" said I, "when you had no court or law but just
what you made yourself."
"Is it not a stiff Whiggamore?" he said, looking skywards. "Why, man,
all justice is what men make themselves. What hinders the Free
Companions from making as honest laws as any cackling Council in the
towns? Did you see the man Cosh? Have you heard anything of his doings,
and will you deny that the world was well quit of him? There's a
decency in all trades, and Cosh fair stank to heaven. But I'm glad the
thing ended as it did. I never get to like a cold execution. 'Twas
better for everybody that he should fly at my face and get six inches
of kindly steel in his throat. He had a gentleman's death, which was
more than his crimes warranted."
I was only half convinced. Here was I, a law-abiding merchant,
pitchforked suddenly into a world of lawlessness. I could not be
expected to adjust my views in the short space of a night.
"You gave me a rough handling," I said, "Where was the need of it?"
"And you showed very little sense in bursting in on us the way you did!
Could you not have bided quietly till Shalah gave the word? I had to be
harsh with you, or they would have suspected something and cut your
throat. Yon gentry are not to take liberties with. What made you do it,
"Just that I was black afraid. That made me more feared of being a
coward, so I forced myself to yon folly."
"A very honourable reason," he said.
"Are you the leader of those men?" I asked. "They looked a scurvy lot.
Do you call that a proper occupation for the best blood in
It was a silly speech, and I could have bitten my tongue out when I had
uttered it. But I was in a vile temper, for the dregs of the negro's
rum still hummed in my blood. His face grew dark, till he looked like
the man I had seen the night before.
"I allow no man to slight my race," he said in a harsh voice.
"It's the truth whether you like it or not. And you that claimed to be
a gentleman! What is it they say about the Highlands?" And I quoted a
ribald Glasgow proverb.
What moved me to this insolence I cannot say, I was in the wrong, and I
knew it, but I was too much of a child to let go my silly pride.
Ringan got up very quickly and walked three steps. The blackness had
gone from his face, and it was puzzled and melancholy.
"There's a precious lot of the bairn in you, Mr. Garvald," he said,
"and an ugly spice of the Whiggamore. I would have killed another man
for half your words, and I've got to make you pay for them somehow."
And he knit his brow and pondered.
"I'm ready," said I, with the best bravado I could muster, though
the truth is I was sick at heart. I had forced a quarrel like an
ill-mannered boy on the very man whose help I had come to seek. And I
saw, too, that I had gone just that bit too far for which no recantation
would win pardon.
"What sort of way are you ready?" he asked politely. "You would fight
me with your pistols, but you haven't got them, and this is no a matter
that will wait. I could spit you in a jiffy with my sword, but it
wouldna be fair. It strikes me that you and me are ill matched. We're
like a shark and a wolf that cannot meet to fight in the same element."
Then he ran his finger down the buttons of his coat, and his eyes were
smiling. "We'll try the old way that laddies use on the village green.
Man, Andrew, I'm going to skelp you, as your mother skelped you when
you were a breechless bairn," And he tossed his coat on the grass.
I could only follow suit, though I was black ashamed at the whole
business. I felt the disgrace of my conduct, and most bitterly the
disgrace of the penalty.
My arm was too short to make a fighter of me, and I could only strive
to close, that I might get the use of my weight and my great strength
of neck and shoulder. Ringan danced round me, tapping me lightly on
nose and cheek, but hard enough to make the blood flow, I defended
myself as best I could, while my temper rose rapidly and made me
forget my penitence. Time and again I looked for a chance to slip in,
but he was as wary as a fox, and was a yard off before I could get my
arm round him.
At last in extreme vexation, I lowered my head and rushed blindly for
his chest. Something like the sails of a windmill smote me on the jaw,
and I felt myself falling into a pit of great darkness where little
The next I knew I was sitting propped against the tent-pole with a cold
bandage round my forehead, and Ringan with a napkin bathing my face.
"Cheer up, man," he cried; "you've got off light, for there's no a
scratch on your lily-white cheek, and the blood-letting from the nose
will clear out the dregs of Moro's hocus."
I blinked a little, and tried to recall what had happened. All my
ill-humour had gone, and I was now in a hurry to set myself right with
my conscience. He heard my apology with an embarrassed face.
"Say no more, Andrew. I was as muckle to blame as you, and I've been
giving myself some ill names for that last trick. It was ower hard,
but, man, the temptation was sore."
He elbowed me to the open air.
"Now for the questions you've a right to ask. We of the Brethren have
not precisely a chief, as you call it, but there are not many of them
would gainsay my word. Why? you ask. Well, it's not for a modest man to
be sounding his own trumpet. Maybe it's because I'm a gentleman, and
there's that in good blood which awes the commonalty. Maybe it's
because I've no fish of my own to fry. I do not rob for greed, like
Calvert and Williams, or kill for lust, like the departed Cosh. To me
it's a game, which I play by honest rules. I never laid finger on a
bodle's worth of English stuff, and if now and then I ease the Dons of
a pickle silver or send a Frenchman or two to purgatory, what worse am
I doing than His Majesty's troops in Flanders, or your black frigates
that lie off Port Royal? If I've a clear conscience I can more easily
take order with those that are less single-minded. But maybe the chief
reason is that I've some little skill of arms, so that the lad that
questions me is apt to fare like Cosh."
There was a kind of boastful sincerity about the man which convinced
me. But his words put me in mind of my own business.
"I came seeking you to ask help. Your friends have been making too free
with my belongings. I would never complain if it were the common risk
of my trade, but I have a notion that there's some sort of design
behind it." Then I told him of my strife with the English merchants.
"What are your losses?" he asked.
"The Ayr brig was taken off Cape Charles, and burned to the water. God
help the poor souls in her, for I fear they perished."
He nodded. "I know. That was one of Cosh's exploits. He has paid by now
for that and other things."
"Two of my ships were chased through the Capes and far up the Tidewater
of the James not two months back," I went on.
He laughed. "I did that myself," he said.
Astonishment and wrath filled me, but I finished my tale.
"A week ago there was a ship ashore on Accomac. Pirates boarded her,
but they took nothing away save a sum of gold that was mine. Was that
your doing also, Mr. Campbell?"
"Yes," he said; "but the money's safe. I'll give you a line to Mercer,
and he'll pay it you."
"I'm much obliged to you, Mr. Campbell," I said, choking with anger.
"But who, in Heaven's name, asked you to manage my business? I thought
you were my friend, and I came to you as such, and here I find you the
chief among my enemies."
"Patience, Andrew," he said, "and I'll explain everything, for I grant
you it needs some explaining. First, you are right about the English
merchants. They and the Free Companions have long had an understanding,
and word was sent by them to play tricks on your ships. I was absent at
the time, and though the thing was dirty work, as any one could see,
some of the fools thought it a fair ploy, and Cosh was suffered to do
his will. When I got back I heard the story, and was black angry, so I
took the matter into my own keeping. I have ways and means of getting
the news of Virginia, and I know pretty well what you have been doing,
young one. There's spirit in you and some wise notions, but you want
help in the game. Besides, there's a bigger thing before you. So I took
steps to bring you here."
"You took a roundabout road," said I, by no means appeased.
"It had to be. D'you think I could come marching into James Town and
collogue with you in your counting-house? Now that you're here, you
have my sworn word that the Free Companions will never lay hand again
on your ventures. Will that content you?"
"It will," I said; "but you spoke of a bigger thing before me."
"Yes, and that's the price you are going to pay me for my goodwill.
It's what the lawyers call _consideratio_ for our bargain, and it's the
reason I brought you here. Tell me, Andrew, d'you ken a man Frew who
lives on the South Fork River?" "A North Ireland fellow, with a hatchet
face and a big scar? I saw him a year ago."
"It stuck in my mind that you had. And d'you mind the advice he gave
I remembered it very well, for it was Frew who had clinched my views on
the defencelessness of our West. "He spoke God's truth," I said, "but I
cannot get a Virginian to believe it."
"They'll believe in time," he said, "though maybe too late to save some
of their scalps. Come to this hillock, and I will show you something."
From the low swell of ground we looked west to some little hills, and
in the hollow of them a spire of smoke rose into the blue.
"I'm going to take you there, that you may hear and see something to
your profit. Quick, Moro," he cried to a servant. "Bring food, and have
the horses saddled."
We breakfasted on some very good beefsteaks, and started at a canter
for the hills. My headache had gone, and I was now in a contented frame
of mind; for I saw the purpose of my errand accomplished, and I had a
young man's eagerness to know what lay before me. As we rode Ringan
"You'll have heard tell of Bacon's rising in '76? Governor Berkeley had
ridden the dominion with too harsh a hand, and in the matter of its
defence against the Indians he was slack when he should have been
tight. The upshot was that Nathaniel Bacon took up the job himself, and
after giving the Indians their lesson, turned his mind to the
government of Virginia. He drove Berkeley into Accomac, and would have
turned the whole place tapsalteery if he had not suddenly died of a
bowel complaint. After that Berkeley and his tame planters got the
upper hand, and there were some pretty homings and hangings. There were
two men that were lieutenants to Bacon, and maybe put the notion into
his head. One was James Drummond, a cousin of my own mother's, and he
got the gallows for his trouble. The other was a man Richard Lawrence,
a fine scholar, and a grand hand at planning, though a little slow in a
fight. He kept the ordinary at James Town, and was the one that
collected the powder and kindled the fuse. Governor Berkeley had a long
score to settle with him, but he never got him, for when the thing was
past hope Mr. Richard rode west one snowy night to the hills, and
Virginia saw him no more. They think he starved in the wilderness, or
got into the hands of the wild Indians, and is long ago dead."
I knew all about Dick Lawrence, for I had heard the tale twenty times.
"But surely they're right," I said, "It's fifteen years since any man
had word of him."
"Well, you'll see him within an hour," said Ringan, "It's a queer
story, but it seems he fell in with a Monacan war party, and since he
and Bacon had been fighting their deadly foes, the Susquehannocks, they
treated him well, and brought him south into Carolina. You must know,
Andrew, that all this land hereaways, except for the little Algonquin
villages on the shore, is Sioux country, with as many tribes as there
are houses in Clan Campbell. But cheek by jowl is a long strip held by
the Tuscaroras, a murdering lot of devils, of whom you and I'll get
news sooner than we want. The Tuscaroras are bad enough in themselves,
but the worst part is that all the back country in the hills belongs to
their cousins the Cherokees, and God knows how far north their sway
holds. The Long House of the Iroquois controls everything west of the
coast land from Carolina away up through Virginia to New York and the
Canadas. That means that Virginia has on two sides the most powerful
tribes of savages in the world, and if ever the Iroquois found a
general and made a common attack things would go ill with the
Tidewater. I tell you that so that you can understand Lawrence's
doings. He hates the Iroquois like hell, and so he likes their enemies.
He has lived for fifteen years among the Sioux, whiles with the
Catawbas, whiles with the Manahoacs, but mostly with the Monacans. We
of the Free Companions see him pretty often, and bring him the news and
little comforts, like good tobacco and _eau de vie_, that he cannot get
among savages. And we carry messages between him and the Tidewater, for
he has many friends still alive there. There's no man ever had his
knowledge of Indians, and I'm taking you to him, for he has something
to tell you."
By this time we had come to a place where a fair-sized burn issued from
a shallow glen in the savannah. There was a peeled wand stuck in a
burnt tree above the water, and this Ringan took and broke very
carefully into two equal pieces, and put them back in the hole. From
this point onwards I had the feeling that the long grass and the clumps
of bushes held watchers. They made no noise, but I could have sworn to
the truth of my notion. Ringan, whose senses were keener than mine,
would stop every now and again and raise his hand as if in signal. At
one place we halted dead for five minutes, and at another he dismounted
and cut a tuft of sumach, which he laid over his saddle. Then at the
edge of a thicket he stopped again, and held up both hands above his
head. Instantly a tall Indian stepped from the cover, saluted, and
walked by our side. In five minutes more we rounded a creek of the burn
and were at the encampment.
'Twas the first time I had ever seen an Indian village. The tents, or
teepees, were of skins stretched over poles, and not of bark, like
those of the woodland tribes. At a great fire in the centre women were
grilling deer's flesh, while little brown children strove and
quarrelled for scraps, I saw few men, for the braves were out hunting
or keeping watch at the approaches. One young lad took the horses, and
led us to a teepee bigger than the others, outside of which stood a
finely-made savage, with heron's feathers in his hair, and a necklace
of polished shells. On his Iron face there was no flicker of welcome or
recognition, but he shook hands silently with the two of us, and struck
a blow on a dry gourd. Instantly three warriors appeared, and took
their place by his side. Then all of us sat down and a pipe was lit and
handed by the chief to Ringan. He took a puff and gave it to one of the
other Indians, who handed it to me. With that ceremony over, the tongue
of the chief seemed to be unloosed. "The Sachem comes," he said, and an
old man sat himself down beside us.
He was a strange figure to meet in an Indian camp. A long white beard
hung down to his middle, and his unshorn hair draped his shoulders like
a fleece. His clothing was of tanned skin, save that he had a belt of
Spanish leather, and on his feet he wore country shoes and not the
Indian moccasins. The eyes in his head were keen and youthful, and
though he could not have been less than sixty he carried himself with
the vigour of a man in his prime. Below his shaggy locks was a high,
broad forehead, such as some college professor might have borne who had
given all his days to the philosophies. He seemed to have been
disturbed in reading, for he carried in his hand a little book with a
finger marking his place. I caught a glimpse of the title, and saw that
it was Mr. Locke's new "Essay on the Human Understanding."
Ringan spoke to the chief in his own tongue, but the Sioux language was
beyond me. Mr. Lawrence joined in, and I saw the Indian's eyes kindle.
He shook his head, and seemed to deny something. Then he poured forth a
flood of talk, and when he had finished Ringan spoke to me.
"He says that the Tuscaroras are stirring. Word has come down from the
hills to be ready for a great ride between the Moon of Stags and the
Lawrence nodded. "That's an old Tuscarora habit; but somehow these
ridings never happen." He said something in Sioux to one of the
warriors, and got an emphatic answer, which he translated to me. "He
thinks that the Cherokees have had word from farther north. It looks
like a general stirring of the Long House."
"Is it the fighting in Canada?" I asked.
"God knows," he said, "but I don't think so. If that were the cause we
should have the Iroquois pushed down on the top of the Cherokees. But
my information is that the Cherokees are to move north themselves, and
then down to the Tidewater. It is not likely that the Five Nations have
any plan of conquering the lowlands. They're a hill people, and they
know the white man's mettle too well. My notion is that some devilry is
going on in the West, and I might guess that there's a white man in
it." He spoke to the chief, who spoke again to his companion, and
Lawrence listened with contracting brows, while Ringan whistled between
"They've got a queer story," said Lawrence at last. "They say that when
last they hunted on the Roanoke their young men brought a tale that a
tribe of Cherokees, who lived six days' journey into the hills, had
found a great Sachem who had the white man's magic, and that God was
moving him to drive out the palefaces and hold his hunting lodge in
their dwellings. That is not like an ordinary Indian lie. What do you
make of it, Mr. Campbell?"
Ringan looked grave, "It's possible enough. There's a heap of
renegades among the tribes, men that have made the Tidewater and even
the Free Companies too warm for them. There's no knowing the mischief a
strong-minded rascal might work. I mind a man at Norfolk, a Scots
redemptioner, who had the tongue of a devil and the strength of a wolf.
He broke out one night and got clear into the wilderness."
Lawrence turned to me briskly. "You see the case, sir. There's trouble
brewing in the hills, black trouble for Virginia, but we've some
months' breathing space. For Nat Bacon's sake, I'm loath to see the war
paint at James Town. The question is, are you willing to do your
"I'm willing enough," I said, "but what can I do? I'm not exactly a
popular character in the Tidewater. If you want me to hammer sense into
the planters, you could not get a worse man for the job. I have told
Governor Nicholson my fears, and he is of my opinion, but his hands are
tied by a penurious Council. If he cannot screw money for troops out of
the Virginians, it's not likely that I could do much."
Lawrence nodded his wise head. "All you say is true, but I want a
different kind of service from you. You may have noticed in your
travels, Mr. Garvald--for they tell me you are not often out of the
saddle--that up and down the land there's a good few folk that are not
very easy in their minds. Many of these are former troopers of Bacon,
some are new men who have eyes in their heads, some are old settlers
who have been soured by the folly of the Government. With such poor
means as I possess I keep in touch with these gentlemen, and in them we
have the rudiments of a frontier army. I don't say they are many; but
five hundred resolute fellows, well horsed and well armed, and led by
some man who knows the Indian ways, might be a stumbling-block in the
way of an Iroquois raid. But to perfect this force needs time, and,
above all, it needs a man on the spot; for Virginia is not a healthy
place for me, and these savannahs are a trifle distant, I want a man in
James Town who will receive word when I send it, and pass it onto those
who should hear it, I want a discreet man, whose trade takes him about
the country. Mr. Campbell tells me you are such an one. Will you accept
I was greatly flattered, but a little perplexed. "I'm a law-abiding
citizen," I said, "and I can have no hand in rebellions. I've no
ambition to play Bacon's part."
Lawrence smiled. "A proof of your discretion, sir. But believe me,
there is no thought of rebellion. We have no quarrel with the Council
and less with His Majesty's Governor. We but seek to set the house in
order against perils which we alone know fully, I approve of your
scruples, and I give you my word they shall not be violated."
"So be it," I said, "I will do what I can."
"God be praised," said Mr. Lawrence, "I have here certain secret papers
which Will give you the names of the men we can trust. Messages will
come to you, which I trust you to find the means of sending on. Mercer
has our confidence, and will arrange with you certain matters of arms.
He will also supply you with what money is needed. There are many in
the Tidewater who would look askance at this business, so it must be
done in desperate secrecy; but if there should be trouble I counsel you
to play a bold hand with the Governor. They tell me that you and he are
friendly, and, unless I mistake the man, he can see reason if he is
wisely handled. If the worst comes to the worst, you can take Nicholson
into your confidence."
"How long have we to prepare?" I asked.
"The summer months, according to my forecast. It may be shorter or
longer, but I will know better when I get nearer the hills."
"And what about the Carolina tribes?" I asked. "If we are to hold the
western marches of Virginia, we cannot risk being caught on the flank."
"That can be arranged," he said. "Our friends the Sioux are not
over-fond of the Long House. If the Tuscaroras ride, I do not think they
will ever reach the James."
The afternoon was now ending, and we were given a meal of corn-cakes
and roast deer's flesh. Then we took our leave, and Mr. Lawrence's last
word to me was to send him any English books of a serious cast which
came under my eye. This request he made with so much hesitation, but
with so hungry a desire in his face, that I was moved to pity this
ill-fated scholar, wandering in Indian lodges, and famished for lack of
the society of his kind.
Ringan took me by a new way which bore north of that we had ridden, and
though the dusk began soon to fall, he never faltered in his guiding.
Presently we left the savannah for the woods of the coast, and,
dropping down hill by a very meagre path, we came in three hours to a
creek of the sea. There by a little fire we found Shalah, and the sloop
riding at anchor below a thick covert of trees.
"Good-bye to you, Andrew," cried Ringan. "You'll be getting news of me
soon, and maybe see me in the flesh on the Tidewater. Remember the word
I told you in the Saltmarket, for I never mention names when I take the
I HEAR AN OLD SONG.
When we sailed at daybreak next morning I had the glow of satisfaction
with my own doings which is a safe precursor of misfortunes. I had
settled my business with the Free Companions, and need look for no more
trouble on that score. But what tickled my vanity was my talk with
Ringan and Lawrence at the Monacan lodge and the momentous trust they
had laid on me. With a young man's vanity, I saw myself the saviour of
Virginia, and hailed as such by the proud folk who now scorned me. My
only merits, as I was to learn in time, are a certain grasp of simple
truths that elude cleverer men, and a desperate obstinacy which is
reluctant to admit defeat. But it is the fashion of youth to glory in
what it lacks, and I flattered myself that I had a natural gift for
finesse and subtlety, and was a born deviser of wars. Again and again I
told myself how I and Lawrence's Virginians--grown under my hand to a
potent army--should roll back the invaders to the hills and beyond,
while the Sioux of the Carolinas guarded one flank and the streams of
the Potomac the other. In those days the star of the great Marlborough
had not risen; but John Churchill, the victor of Blenheim, did not
esteem himself a wiser strategist than the raw lad Andrew Garvald, now
sailing north in the long wash of the Atlantic seas.
The weather grew spiteful, and we were much buffeted about by the
contrary spring winds, so that it was late in the afternoon of the
third day that we turned Cape Henry and came into the Bay of
Chesapeake. Here a perfect hurricane fell upon us, and we sought refuge
in a creek on the shore of Norfolk county. The place was marshy, and it
was hard to find dry land for our night's lodging. Our provisions had
run low, and there seemed little enough for two hungry men who had all
day been striving with salt winds. So, knowing that this was a
neighbourhood studded with great manors, and remembering the
hospitality I had so often found, I left Shalah by the fire with such
food as remained, and set out with our lantern through the woods to
look for a human habitation.
I found one quicker than I had hoped. Almost at once I came on a track
which led me into a carriage-road and out of the thickets to a big
clearing. The daylight had not yet wholly gone, and it guided me to two
gate-posts, from which an avenue of chestnut trees led up to a great
house. There were lights glimmering in the windows, and when I reached
the yard and saw the size of the barns and outbuildings, I wished I had
happened on a place of less pretensions. But hunger made me bold, and I
tramped over the mown grass of the yard, which in the dusk I could see
to be set with flower-beds, till I stood before the door of as fine a
mansion as I had found in the dominion. From within came a sound of
speech and laughter, and I was in half a mind to turn back to my cold
quarters by the shore. I had no sooner struck the knocker than I wanted
to run away.
The door was opened instantly by a tall negro in a scarlet livery. He
asked no questions, but motioned me to enter as if I had been an
invited guest. I followed him, wondering dolefully what sort of figure
I must cut in my plain clothes soaked and stained by travel; for it was
clear that I had lighted on the mansion of some rich planter, who was
even now entertaining his friends. The servant led me through an outer
hall into a great room full of people. A few candles in tall
candlesticks burned down the length of a table, round which sat a score
of gentlemen. The scarlet negro went to the tablehead, and said
something to the master, who rose and came to meet me.
"I am storm-stayed," I said humbly, "and I left my boat on the shore
and came inland to look for a supper."
"You shall get it," he said heartily. "Sit down, and my servants will
bring you what you need."
"But I am not fit to intrude, sir. A weary traveller is no guest for
such a table."
"Tush, man," he cried, "when did a Virginian think the worse of a man
for his clothes? Sit down and say no more. You are heartily welcome."
He pushed me into a vacant chair at the bottom of the table, and gave
some orders to the negro. Now I knew where I was, for I had seen before
the noble figure of my host. This was Colonel Beverley, who in his
youth had ridden with Prince Rupert, and had come to Virginia long ago
in the Commonwealth time. He sat on the Council, and was the most
respected of all the magnates of the dominion, for he had restrained
the folly of successive Governors, and had ever teen ready to stand
forth alike on behalf of the liberties of the settlers and their duties
to the Crown. His name was highly esteemed at Whitehall, and more than
once he had occupied the Governor's place when His Majesty was slow in
filling it. His riches were large, but he was above all things a great
gentleman, who had grafted on an old proud stock the tolerance and
vigour of a new land.
The company had finished dining, for the table was covered with fruits
and comfits, and wine in silver goblets. There was sack and madeira,
and French claret, and white Rhenish, and ale and cider for those with
homelier palates. I saw dimly around me the faces of the guests, for
the few candles scarcely illumined the dusk of the great panelled hall
hung with dark portraits. One man gave me good-evening, but as I sat at
the extreme end of the table I was out of the circle of the company.
They talked and laughed, and it seemed to me that I could hear women's
voices at the other end. Meantime I was busy with my viands, and no man
ever punished a venison pie more heartily. As I ate and drank, I smiled
at the strangeness of my fortunes--to come thus straight from the wild
seas and the company of outlaws into a place of silver and damask and
satin coats and lace cravats and orderly wigs. The soft hum of
gentlefolks' speech was all around me, those smooth Virginian voices
compared with which my Scots tongue was as strident as a raven's. But
as I listened, I remembered Ringan and Lawrence, and, "Ah, my silken
friends," thought I, "little you know the judgment that is preparing.
Some day soon, unless God is kind, there will be blood on the lace and
the war-whoop in these pleasant chambers."
Then a voice said louder than the rest, "Dulcinea will sing to us. She
promised this morning in the garden."
At this there was a ripple of "Bravas," and presently I heard the
tuning of a lute. The low twanging went on for a little, and suddenly I
was seized with a presentiment. I set down my tankard, and waited with
my heart in my mouth.
Very clear and pure the voice rose, as fresh as the morning song of
birds. There was youth in it and joy and pride--joy of the fairness of
the earth, pride of beauty and race and strength, "_My dear and only
love_" it sang, as it had sung before; but then it had been a girl's
hope, and now it was a woman's certainty. At the first note, the past
came back to me like yesterday. I saw the moorland gables in the rain,
I heard the swirl of the tempest, I saw the elfin face in the hood
which had cheered the traveller on his way. In that dim light I could
not see the singer, but I needed no vision. The strangeness of the
thing clutched at my heart, for here was the voice which had never been
out of my ears singing again in a land far from the wet heather and the
driving mists of home.
As I sat dazed and dreaming, I knew that a great thing had befallen me.
For me, Andrew Garvald, the prosaic trader, coming out of the darkness
into this strange company, the foundations of the world had been upset.
All my cares and hopes, my gains and losses, seemed in that moment no
better than dust. Love had come to me like a hurricane. From now I had
but the one ambition, to hear that voice say to me and to mean it
truly, "My dear and only love." I knew it was folly and a madman's
dream, for I felt most deeply my common clay. What had I to offer for
the heart of that proud lady? A dingy and battered merchant might as
well enter a court of steel-clad heroes and contend for the love of a
queen. But I was not downcast. I do not think I even wanted to hope. It
was enough to know that so bright a thing was in the world, for at one
stroke my drab horizon seemed to have broadened into the infinite
The song ended in another chorus of "Bravas." "Bring twenty candles,
Pompey," my host called out, "and the great punch-bowl. We will pledge
my lady in the old Beverley brew."
Servants set on the table a massive silver dish, into which sundry
bottles of wine and spirits were poured. A mass of cut fruit and sugar
was added, and the whole was set alight, and leaped almost to the
ceiling in a blue flame. Colonel Beverley, with a long ladle, filled
the array of glasses on a salver, which the servants carried round to
the guests. Large branching candelabra had meantime been placed on the
table, and in a glow of light we stood to our feet and honoured the
As I stood up and looked to the table's end, I saw the dark, restless
eyes and the heavy blue jowl of Governor Nicholson. He saw me, for I
was alone at the bottom end, and when we were seated, he cried out to
"What news of trade, Mr. Garvald? You're an active packman, for they
tell me you're never off the road."
At the mention of my name every eye turned towards me, and I felt,
rather than saw, the disfavour of the looks. No doubt they resented a
storekeeper's intrusion into well-bred company, and some were there who
had publicly cursed me for a meddlesome upstart. But I was not looking
their way, but at the girl who sat on my host's right hand, and in
whose dark eyes I thought I saw a spark of recognition.
She was clad in white satin, and in her hair and bosom spring flowers
had been set. Her little hand played with the slim glass, and her eyes
had all the happy freedom of childhood. But now she was a grown woman,
with a woman's pride and knowledge of power. Her exquisite slimness
and grace, amid the glow of silks and silver, gave her the air of a
fairy-tale princess. There was a grave man in black sat next her, to
whom she bent to speak. Then she looked towards me again, and smiled
with that witching mockery which had pricked my temper in the Canongate
The Governor's voice recalled me from my dream.
"How goes the Indian menace, Mr. Garvald?" he cried. "You must know,"
and he turned to the company, "that our friend combines commerce with
high policy, and shares my apprehensions as to the safety of the
I could not tell whether he was mocking at me or not. I think he was,
for Francis Nicholson's moods were as mutable as the tides. In every
word of his there lurked some sour irony.
The company took the speech for satire, and many laughed. One young
gentleman, who wore a purple coat and a splendid brocaded vest, laughed
"A merchant's nerves are delicate things," he said, as he fingered his
cravat. "I would have said 'like a woman's,' had I not seen this very
day Miss Elspeth's horsemanship." And he bowed to her very neatly.
Now I was never fond of being quizzed, and in that company I could not
"We have a saying, sir," I said, "that the farmyard fowl does not fear
the eagle. The men who look grave just now are not those who live
snugly in coast manors, but the outland folk who have to keep their
doors with their own hands."
It was a rude speech, and my hard voice and common clothes made it
ruder. The gentleman fired in a second, and with blazing eyes asked me
if I intended an insult. I was about to say that he could take what
meaning he pleased, when an older man broke in with, "Tush, Charles,
let the fellow alone. You cannot quarrel with a shopman."
"I thank you, George, for a timely reminder," said my gentleman, and he
turned away his head with a motion of sovereign contempt.
"Come, come, sirs," Colonel Beverley cried, "remember the sacred law of
hospitality. You are all my guests, and you have a lady here, whose
bright eyes should be a balm for controversies."
The Governor had sat with his lips closed and his eyes roving the
table. He dearly loved a quarrel, and was minded to use me to bait
those whom he liked little.
"What is all this talk about gentility?" he said. "A man is as good as
his brains and his right arm, and no better. I am of the creed of the
Levellers, who would have a man stand stark before his Maker."
He could not have spoken words better calculated to set the company
against me. My host looked glum and disapproving, and all the silken
gentlemen murmured. The Virginian cavalier had as pretty a notion of
the worth of descent as any Highland land-louper. Indeed, to be honest,
I would have controverted the Governor myself, for I have ever held
that good blood is a mighty advantage to its possessor.
Suddenly the grave man who sat by Miss Elspeth's side spoke up. By this
time I had remembered that he was Doctor James Blair, the lately come
commissary of the diocese of London, who represented all that Virginia
had in the way of a bishop. He had a shrewd, kind face, like a Scots
dominie, and a mouth that shut as tight as the Governor's.
"Your tongue proclaims you my countryman, sir," he said. "Did I hear
right that your name was Garvald?"
"Of Auchencairn?" he asked, when I had assented.
"Of Auchencairn, or what is left of it," I said.
"Then, gentlemen," he said, addressing the company, "I can settle the
dispute on the facts, without questioning his Excellency's dogma. Mr.
Garvald is of as good blood as any in Scotland. And that," said he
firmly, "means that in the matter of birth he can hold up his head in
any company in any Christian land."
I do not think this speech made any man there look on me with greater
favour, but it enormously increased my own comfort. I have never felt
such a glow of gratitude as then filled my heart to the staid cleric.
That he was of near kin to Miss Elspeth made it tenfold sweeter. I
forgot my old clothes and my uncouth looks; I forgot, too, my
irritation with the brocaded gentleman. If her kin thought me worthy, I
cared not a bodle for the rest of mankind.
Presently we rose from table, and Colonel Beverley summoned us to the
Green Parlour, where Miss Elspeth was brewing a dish of chocolate, then
a newfangled luxury in the dominion. I would fain have made my escape,
for if my appearance was unfit for a dining-hall, it was an outrage in
a lady's withdrawing-room. But Doctor Blair came forward to me and
shook me warmly by the hand, and was full of gossip about Clydesdale,
from which apparently he had been absent these twenty years. "My niece
bade me bring you to her," he said. "She, poor child, is a happy exile,
but she has now and then an exile's longings. A Scots tongue is
pleasant in her ear."
So I perforce had to follow him into a fine room with an oaken floor,
whereon lay rich Smyrna rugs and the skins of wild beasts from the
wood. There was a prodigious number of soft couches of flowered damask,
and little tables inlaid with foreign woods and jeweller's work. 'Twas
well enough for your fine gentleman in his buckled shoes and silk
stockings to enter such a place, but for myself, in my coarse boots, I
seemed like a colt in a flower garden. The girl sat by a brazier of
charcoal, with the scarlet-coated negro at hand doing her commands. She
was so busy at the chocolate making that when her uncle said, "Elspeth,
I have brought you Mr. Garvald," she had no hand to give me. She looked
up and smiled, and went on with the business, while I stood awkwardly
by, the scorn of the assured gentlemen around me.
By and by she spoke: "You and I seem fated to meet in odd places. First
it was at Carnwath in the rain, and then at the Cauldstaneslap in a
motley company. Then I think it was in the Tolbooth, Mr. Garvald, when
you were very gruff to your deliverer. And now we are both exiles, and
once more you step in like a bogle out of the night. Will you taste my
She served me first, and I could see how little the favour was to the
liking of her little retinue of courtiers. My silken gentleman, whose
name was Grey, broke in on us abruptly.
"What is this story, sir, of Indian dangers? You are new to the
country, or you would know that it is the old cry of the landless and
the lawless. Every out-at-elbows republican makes it a stick to beat
"Are you a republican, Mr. Garvald?" she asked. "Now that I remember, I
have seen you in Whiggamore company."
"Why, no," I said. "I do not meddle with politics. I am a merchant, and
am well content with any Government that will protect my trade and my
A sudden perversity had taken me to show myself at my most prosaic and
unromantic. I think it was the contrast with the glamour of those fine
gentlemen. I had neither claim nor desire to be of their company, and
to her I could make no pretence.
He laughed scornfully. "Yours is a noble cause," he said. "But you may
sleep peacefully in your bed, sir. Be assured that there are a thousand
gentlemen of Virginia whose swords will leap from their scabbards at a
breath of peril, on behalf of their women and their homes. And these,"
he added, taking snuff from a gold box, "are perhaps as potent spurs to
action as the whims of a busybody or the gains of a house-keeping
I was determined not to be provoked, so I answered nothing. But Miss
Elspeth opened her eyes and smiled sweetly upon the speaker.
"La, Mr. Grey, I protest you are too severe. Busybody--well, it may be.
I have found Mr. Garvald very busy in other folks' affairs. But I do
assure you he is no house-keeper, I have seen him in desperate conflict
with savage men, and even with His Majesty's redcoats. If trouble ever
comes to Virginia, you will find him, I doubt not, a very bold
It was the, light, laughing tone I remembered well, but now it did not
vex me. Nothing that she could say or do could break the spell that
had fallen on my heart, "I pray it may be so," said Mr. Grey as he
By this time the Governor had come forward, and I saw that my presence
was no longer desired. I wanted to get back to Shalah and solitude. The
cold bed on the shore would be warmed for me by happy dreams. So I
found my host, and thanked him for my entertainment. He gave me
good-evening hastily, as if he were glad to be rid of me.
At the hall door some one tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned to
find my silken cavalier.
"It seems you are a gentleman, sir," he said, "so I desire a word with
you. Your manners at table deserved a whipping, but I will condescend
to forget them. But a second offence shall be duly punished." He spoke
in a high, lisping voice, which was the latest London importation.
I looked him square in the eyes. He was maybe an inch taller than me, a
handsome fellow, with a flushed, petulant face and an overweening pride
in his arched brows.
"By all means let us understand each other," I said. "I have no wish to
quarrel with you. Go your way and I will go mine, and there need be no
"That is precisely the point," said he. "I do not choose that your way
should take you again to the side of Miss Elspeth Blair. If it does, we
It was the height of flattery. At last I had found a fine gentleman who
did me the honour to regard me with jealous eyes. I laughed loudly with
He turned and strolled back to the company. Still laughing, I passed
from the house, lit my lantern, and plunged into the sombre woods.
GRAVITY OUT OF BED.
A week later I had a visit from old Mercer. He came to my house in the
evening just after the closing of the store. First of all, he paid out
to me the gold I had lost from my ship at Accomac, with all the gravity
in the world, as if it had been an ordinary merchant's bargain. Then he
produced some papers, and putting on big horn spectacles, proceeded to
instruct me in them. They were lists, fuller than those I had already
got, of men up and down the country whom Lawrence trusted. Some I had
met, many I knew of, but two or three gave me a start. There was a
planter in Henricus who had treated me like dirt, and some names from
Essex county that I did not expect. Especially there were several in
James Town itself--one a lawyer body I had thought the obedient serf of
the London merchants, one the schoolmaster, and another a drunken
skipper of a river boat. But what struck me most was the name of
"Are you sure of all these?" I asked.
"Sure as death," he said. "I'm not saying that they're all friends of
yours, Mr. Garvald. Ye've trampled on a good wheen toes since you came
to these parts. But they're all men to ride the ford with, if that
should come which we ken of."
Some of the men on the list were poor settlers, and it was our business
to equip them with horse and gun. That was to be my special duty--that
and the establishing of means by which they could be summoned quickly.
With the first Mercer could help me, for he had his hand on all the
lines of the smuggling business, and there were a dozen ports on the
coast where he could land arms. Horses were an easy matter, requiring
only the doling out of money. But the summoning business was to be my
particular care. I could go about the country in my ordinary way of
trade without exciting suspicion, and my house was to be the rendezvous
of every man on the list who wanted news or guidance.
"Can ye trust your men?" Mercer asked, and I replied that Faulkner was
as staunch as cold steel, and that he had picked the others.
"Well, let's see your accommodation," and the old fellow hopped to his
feet, and was out of doors before I could get the lantern.
Mercer on a matter of this sort was a different being from the decayed
landlord of the water-side tavern. His spectacled eyes peered
everywhere, and his shrewd sense judged instantly of a thing's value.
He approved of the tobacco-shed as a store for arms, for he could reach
it from the river by a little-used road through the woods. It was easy
so to arrange, the contents that a passing visitor could guess nothing,
and no one ever penetrated to its recesses but Faulkner and myself. I
summoned Faulkner to the conference, and told him his duties, which, he
undertook with sober interest. He was a dry stick from Fife, who spoke
seldom and wrought mightily.
Faulkner attended to Mercer's consignments, and I took once more to the
road. I had to arrange that arms from the coast or the river-sides
could be sent inland, and for this purpose I had a regiment of pack
horses that delivered my own stores as well. I had to visit all the men
on the list whom I did not know, and a weary job it was. I repeated
again my toil of the first year, and in the hot Virginian summer rode
the length and breadth of the land. My own business prospered hugely,
and I bought on credit such a stock of tobacco as made me write my
uncle for a fourth ship at the harvest sailing. It seemed a strange
thing, I remember, to be bargaining for stuff which might never be
delivered, for by the autumn the dominion might be at death grips.
In those weeks I discovered what kind of force Lawrence leaned on. He
who only knew James Town and the rich planters knew little of the true
Virginia. There were old men who had long memories of Indian fights,
and men in their prime who had risen with Bacon, and young men who had
their eyes turned to the unknown West. There were new-comers from
Scotland and North Ireland, and a stout band of French Protestants,
most of them gently born, who had sought freedom for their faith beyond
the sway of King Louis. You cannot picture a hardier or more spirited
race than the fellows I thus recruited. The forest settler who swung an
axe all day for his livelihood could have felled the ordinary fine
gentleman with one blow of his fist. And they could shoot too, with
their rusty matchlocks or clumsy snaphances. In some few the motive was
fear, for they had seen or heard of the tender mercies of the savages.
But in most, I think, it was a love of bold adventure, and especially
the craving to push the white man's province beyond the narrow borders
of the Tidewater. If you say that this was something more than defence,
I claim that the only way to protect a country is to make sure of its
environs. What hope is there of peace if your frontier is the rim of an
My hardest task was to establish some method of sending news to the
outland dwellers. For this purpose I had to consort with queer folk.
Shalah, who had become my second shadow, found here and there little
Indian camps, from which he chose young men as messengers. In one place
I would get a settler with a canoe, in another a woodman with a fast
horse; and in a third some lad who prided himself on his legs. The rare
country taverns were a help, for most of their owners were in the
secret. The Tidewater is a flat forest region, so we could not light
beacons as in a hilly land. But by the aid of Shalah's woodcraft I
concocted a set of marks on trees and dwellings which would speak a
language to any initiate traveller. The Indians, too, had their own
silent tongue, by which they could send messages over many leagues in a
short space. I never learned the trick of it, though I tried hard with
Shalah as interpreter; for that you must have been suckled in a wigwam.
When I got back to James Town, Faulkner would report on his visitors,
and he seems to have had many. Rough fellows would ride up at the
darkening, bringing a line from Mercer, or more often an agreed
password, and he had to satisfy their wants and remember their news. So
far I had had no word from Lawrence, though Mercer reported that Ringan
was still sending arms. That tobacco-shed of mine would have made a
brave explosion if some one had kindled it, and, indeed, the thing more
than once was near happening through a negro's foolishness. I spent all
my evenings, when at home, in making a map of the country. I had got a
rough chart from the Surveyor-General, and filled up such parts as I
knew, and over all I spread a network of lines which meant my ways of
sending news. For instance, to get to a man in Essex county, the word
would be passed by Middle Plantation to York Ferry. Thence in an
Indian's canoe it would be carried to Aird's store on the Mattaponey,
from which a woodman would take it across the swamps to a clump of
hemlocks. There he would make certain marks, and a long-legged lad from
the Rappahannock, riding by daily to school, would carry the tidings to
the man I wanted. And so forth over the habitable dominion. I
calculated that there were not more than a dozen of Lawrence's men who
within three days could not get the summons and within five be at the
One evening I was surprised by a visit from Colonel Beverley. He came
openly on a fine bay horse with two mounted negroes as attendants. I
had parted from him dryly, and had been surprised to find that he was
one of us; but when I had talked with him a little, it appeared that he
had had a big share in planning the whole business. We mentioned no
names, but I gathered that he knew Lawrence, and was at least aware of
Ringan. He warned me, I remember, to be on my guard against some of the
young bloods, who might visit me to make mischief. "It's not that they
know anything of our affairs," he said, "but that they have got a
prejudice against yourself, Mr. Garvald. They are foolish, hot-headed
lads, very puffed up by their pride of gentrice, and I do not like the
notion of their playing pranks in that tobacco-shed."
I asked him a question which had long puzzled me, why the natural
defence of a country should be kept so secret. "The Governor, at any
rate," I said, "would approve, and we are not asking the burgesses for
a single guinea."
"Yes, but the Governor would play a wild hand," was the answer. "He
would never permit the thing to go on quietly, but would want to ride
at the head of the men, and the whole fat would be in the fire. You
must know. Mr. Garvald, that politics run high in our Virginia. There
are scores of men who would see in our enterprise a second attempt like
Bacon's, and, though they might approve of our aims, would never hear
of one of Bacon's folk serving with us. I was never a Bacon's man, for
I was with Berkeley in Accomac and at the taking of James Town, but I
know the quality of the rough fellows that Bacon led, and I want them
all for this adventure. Besides, who can deny that there is more in our
plans than a defence against Indians? There are many who feel with me
that Virginia can never grow to the fullness of a nation so long as she
is cooped up in the Tidewater. New-comers arrive by every ship from
England, and press on into the wilderness. But there can be no conquest
of the wilderness till we have broken the Indian menace, and pushed our
frontier up to the hills--ay, and beyond them. But tell that to the
ordinary planter, and he will assign you to the devil. He fears these
new-comers, who are simple fellows that do not respect his grandeur. He
fears that some day they may control the assembly by their votes. He
wants the Tidewater to be his castle, with porters and guards to hound
away strangers. Man alive, if you had tried to put reason into some of
their heads, you would despair of human nature. Let them get a hint of
our preparations, and there will be petitions to Council and a howling
about treason, and in a week you will be in gaol, Mr. Garvald. So we
must move cannily, as you Scots say."
That conversation made me wary, and I got Faulkner to keep a special
guard on the place when I was absent. At the worst, he could summon
Mercer, who would bring a rough crew from the water-side to his aid.
Then once more I disappeared into the woods.
In these days a new Shalah revealed himself. I think he had been
watching me closely for the past months, and slowly I had won his
approval. He showed it by beginning to talk as he loped by my side in
our forest wanderings. The man was like no Indian I have ever seen. He
was a Senecan, and so should have been on the side of the Long House;
but it was plain that he was an outcast from his tribe, and, indeed,
from the whole Indian brotherhood. I could not fathom him, for he
seemed among savages to be held in deep respect, and yet here he was,
the ally of the white man against his race. His lean, supple figure,
his passionless face, and his high, masterful air had a singular
nobility in them. To me he was never the servant, scarcely even the
companion, for he seemed like a being from another world, who had a
knowledge of things hid from human ken. In woodcraft he was a master
beyond all thought of rivalry. Often, when time did not press, he would
lead me, clumsy as I was, so that I could almost touch the muzzle of a
crouching deer, or lay a hand on a yellow panther, before it slipped
like a live streak of light into the gloom. He was an eery fellow, too.
Once I found him on a high river bank at sunset watching the red glow
behind the blue shadowy forest.
"There is blood in the West," he said, pointing like a prophet with his
long arm, "There is blood in the hills which is flowing to the waters.
At the Moon of Stags it will flow, and by the Moon of Wildfowl it will
have stained the sea."
He had always the hills at the back of his head. Once, when we caught a
glimpse of them from a place far up the James River, he stood like a
statue gazing at the thin line which hung like a cloud in the west. I
am upland bred, and to me, too, the sight was a comfort as I stood
"The _Manitou_ in the hills is calling," he said abruptly. "I wait a
little, but not long. You too will follow, brother, to where the hawks
wheel and the streams fall in vapour. There we shall find death or
love, I know not which, but it will be a great finding. The gods have
written it on my heart."
Then he turned and strode away, and I did not dare to question him.
There was that about him which stirred my prosaic soul into a wild
poetry, till for the moment I saw with his eyes, and heard strange
voices in the trees.
Apart from these uncanny moods he was the most faithful helper in my
task. Without him I must have been a mere child. I could not read the
lore of the forest; I could not have found my way as he found it
through pathless places. From him, too, I learned that we were not to
make our preparations unwatched.
Once, as we were coming from the Rappahannock to the York, he darted
suddenly into the undergrowth below the chestnuts. My eye could see no
clue on the path, and, suspecting nothing, I waited on him to return.
Presently he came, and beckoned me to follow. Thirty yards into the
coppice we found a man lying dead, with a sharp stake holding him to
the ground, and a raw, red mass where had been once his head.
"That was your messenger, brother," he whispered, "the one who was to
carry word from the Mattaponey to the north. See, he has been dead for
He was one of the tame Algonquins who dwelt by Aird's store.
"Who did it?" I asked, with a very sick stomach.
"A Cherokee. Some cunning one, and he left a sign to guide us."
He showed me a fir-cone he had picked up from the path, with the sharp
end cut short and a thorn stuck in the middle.
The thing disquieted me horribly, for we had heard no word yet of any
movement from the West. And yet it seemed that our enemy's scouts had
come far down into the Tidewater, and knew enough to single out for
death a man we had enrolled for service. Shalah slipped off without a
word, and I was left to continue my journey alone. I will not pretend
that I liked the business. I saw an Indian in every patch of shadow,
and looked pretty often to my pistols before I reached the security of
Four days later Shalah appeared at James Town. "They were three," he
said simply. "They came from the hills a moon ago, and have been making
bad trouble on the Rappahannock. I found them at the place above the
beaver traps of the Ooniche. They return no more to their people."
After that we sent out warnings, and kept a close eye on the different
lodges of the Algonquins. But nothing happened till weeks later, when
the tragedy on the Rapidan fell on us like a thunderclap.
* * * * *
All this time I had been too busy to go near the town or the
horse-racings and holiday meetings where I might have seen Elspeth. But
I do not think she was ever many minutes out of my mind. Indeed, I was
almost afraid of a meeting, lest it should shatter the bright picture
which comforted my solitude. But one evening in June as I jogged home
from Middle Plantation through the groves of walnuts, I came suddenly
at the turn of the road on a party. Doctor James Blair, mounted on a
stout Flanders cob, held the middle of the path, and at his side rode
the girl, while two servants followed with travelling valises. I was
upon them before I could rein up, and the Doctor cried a hearty
good-day. So I took my place by Elspeth, and, with my heart beating
wildly, accompanied them through the leafy avenues and by the green
melon-beds in the clearings till we came out on the prospect of the
The Doctor had a kindness for me, and was eager to talk of his doings.
He was almost as great a moss-trooper as myself, and, with Elspeth for
company, had visited near every settlement in the dominion. Education
and Christian privileges were his care, and he deplored the backward
state of the land. I remember that even then he was full of his scheme
for a Virginian college to be established at Middle Plantation, and he
wrote weekly letters to his English friends soliciting countenance and
funds. Of the happy issue of these hopes, and the great college which
now stands at Williamsburg, there is no need to remind this generation.
Back to Full Books