During the last hours of that dark vigil my mind had been torn with cares. If we escaped the perils of the night, I asked myself, what then? Here were the seven of us, pinned in a hill-fort, with no help within fifty miles, and one of the seven was a woman! I judged that the Indian force was large, and there was always the mighty army waiting farther south in that shelf of the hills. If they sought to take us, it must be a matter of a day or two at the most till they succeeded. If they only played with us—which is the cruel Indian way—we might resist a little, but starvation would beat us down. Where were we to get food, with the forests full of our subtle enemies? To sit still would mean to wait upon death, and the waiting would not be long.
There was the chance, to be sure, that the Indians would be drawn off in the advance towards the east. But here came in a worse anxiety. I had come to get news to warn the Tidewater. That news I had got. The mighty gathering which Shalah’s eyes and mine had beheld in that upland glen was the peril we had foreseen. What good were easy victories over raiding Cherokees when this deadly host waited on the leash? I had no doubt that the Cherokees were now broken. Stafford county would be full of Nicholson’s militia, and Lawrence’s strong hand lay on the line of the Borders. But what availed it? While Virginia was flattering herself that she had repelled the savages, and the Rappahannock men were notching their muskets with the tale of the dead, a wave was gathering to sweep down the Pamunkey or the James, and break on the walls of James Town. I did not think that Nicholson, forewarned and prepared, could stem the torrent; and if it caught him unawares the proud Tidewater would break like a rotten reed.
I had been sent to scout. Was I to be false to the word I had given, and let any risk to myself or others deter me from taking back the news? The Indian army tarried; why, I did not know—perhaps some mad whim of their soothsayers, perhaps the device of a wise general; but at any rate they tarried. If a war party could spend a night in baiting us and slaying our horses, there could be no very instant orders for the road. If this were so, a bold man might yet reach the Border line. At that moment it seemed to me a madman’s errand. Even if I slipped past the watchers in the woods and the glens, the land between would be strewn with fragments of the Cherokee host, and I had not the Indian craft. But it was very seriously borne in upon me that ’twas my duty to try. God might prosper a bold stroke, and in any case I should be true to my trust.