Ringan turned his flask in his hands. “A good man, this old Studd,” he said. “I like his words, Salute to Adventurers. He was thinking of the folk that should come after him, which is the mark of a big mind, Andrew. Your common fellow would have writ some glorification of his own doings, but Studd was thinking of the thing he had done and not of himself. You say he’s dead these ten years. Maybe he’s looking down at us and nodding his old head well pleased. I would like fine to drink his health.”
We ran down the hill, and came to the encampment at the darkening. Ringan, who had retained the flask, presented it to Elspeth with a bow.
“There, mistress,” he says, “there’s the key of your new estate.”
THE STOCKADE AMONG THE PINES.
It took us a heavy day’s work to get the stockade finished. There were only the two axes in the party, besides Shalah’s tomahawk, and no one can know the labour of felling and trimming trees tin he has tried it. We found the horses useful for dragging trunks, and but for them should have made a poor job of it. Grey’s white hands were all cut and blistered, and, though I boasted of my hardiness, mine were little better. Ringan was the surprise, for you would not think that sailing a ship was a good apprenticeship to forestry. But he was as skilful as Bertrand and as strong as Donaldson, and he had a better idea of fortification than us all put together.
The palisade which ran round the camp was six feet high, made of logs lashed to upright stakes. There was a gate which could be barred heavily, and loopholes were made every yard or so for musket fire. On one side—that facing the uplift of the ridge—the walls rose to nine feet. Inside we made a division. In one half the horses were picketed at night, and the other was our dwelling.
For Elspeth we made a bower in one corner, which we thatched with pine branches; but the rest of us slept in the open round the fire. It was a rough place, but a strong one, for our water could not be cut off, and, as we had plenty of ball and powder, a few men could hold it against a host. To each was allotted his proper station, in case of attack, and we kept watch in succession like soldiers in war. Ringan, who had fought in many places up and down the world, was our general in these matters, and a rigid martinet we found him. Shalah was our scout, and we leaned on him for all woodland work; but inside the palisade Ringan’s word was law.
Our plan was to make this stockade the centre for exploring the hills and ascertaining the strength and purposes of the Indian army. We hoped, and so did Shalah, that our enemies would have no leisure to follow us to the high ridges; that what risk there was would be run by the men on their spying journeys; but that the stockade would be reasonably safe. It was my intention, as soon as I had sufficient news, to send word to Lawrence, and we thought that presently the Rappahannock forces would have driven the Cherokees southward, and the way would be open to get Elspeth back to the Tidewater.