“What brings the parson hereaways in these times?” he asked.
“What parson?” I asked.
“The man they call Doctor Blair.”
“Great God!” I cried, “what about him?”
“He was in Stafford county when I left, hunting for schoolmasters. Ay, and he had a girl with him.”
I sat upright with a start. “Where is he now?” I asked.
“I saw him last at Middleton’s Ford. I think he was going down the river. I warned him this was no place for parsons and women, but he just laughed at me. It’s time he was back in the Tidewater.”
So long as they were homeward-bound I did not care; but it gave me a queer fluttering of the heart to think that Elspeth but yesterday should have been near this perilous Border. I soon fell asleep, for I was mighty tired, but I dreamed evilly. I seemed to see Doctor Blair hunted by Cherokees, with his coat-tails flying and his wig blown away, and what vexed me was that I could not find Elspeth anywhere in the landscape.
OUR ADVENTURE RECEIVES A RECRUIT.
At earliest light, with the dew heavy on the willows and the river line a coil of mist, Shalah woke me for the road. We breakfasted off fried bacon, some of which I saved for the journey, for the Indian was content with one meal a day. As we left the stockade I noted the row of Meebaw scalps hanging, grim and bloody, from the poles. The Borderers were up and stirring, for they looked to take the Indians in the river narrows before the morning was old.
No two Indian war parties ever take the same path, so it was Shalah’s plan to work back to the route we had just travelled, by which the Cherokees had come yesterday. This sounds simple enough, but the danger lay in the second party. By striking to right or left we might walk into it, and then good-bye to our hopes of the hills. But the whole thing was easier to me than the cruel toil of yesterday. There was need of stealth and woodcraft, but not of yon killing speed.
For the first hour we went up a northern fork of the Rappahannock, then crossed the water at a ford, and struck into a thick pine forest. I was feeling wonderfully rested, and found no discomfort in Shalah’s long strides. My mind was very busy on the defence of the Borders, and I kept wondering how long the Governor’s militia would take to reach the Rappahannock, and whether Lawrence could reinforce the northern posts in time to prevent mischief in Stafford county. I cast back to my memory of the tales of Indian war, and could not believe but that the white man, if warned and armed, would roll back the Cherokees. ’Twas not them I feared, but that other force now screened behind the mountains, who had for their leader some white madman with a fire in his head and Bible words on his lips. Were we of Virginia destined to fight with such fanatics as had distracted Scotland—fanatics naming the name of God, but leading in our case the armies of hell?