But that was no hour to think of love, I took every man apart and swore him, though there was little need, to stand by the girl at all costs.
To Grey I opened my inmost thoughts.
“You and I serve one mistress,” I said, “and now I confide her to your care. All that I would have done I am assured you will do. My heart is easier when I know that you are by her side. Once we were foes, and since then we have been friends, and now you are the dearest friend on earth, for I leave you with all I cherish.”
He flushed deeply and gave me his hand.
“Go in peace, sir,” he said. “If God wills that we perish, my last act will be to assure an easy passage to heaven for her we worship. If we meet again, we meet as honourable rivals, and may that day come soon.”
So with pistols in belt, and a supply of cartouches and some little food in our pockets, Ringan and I were enfolded in the silence of the woods.
THE HORN OF DIARMAID SOUNDS.
We reached the gap, and made slantwise across the farther hill. I did not dare to go clown Clearwater Glen, and, besides, I was aiming for a point farther south than the Rappahannock. In my wanderings with Shalah I had got a pretty good idea of the lie of the mountains on their eastern side, and I had remarked a long ridge which flung itself like a cape far into the lowlands. If we could leave the hills by this, I thought we might strike the stream called the North Fork, which would bring us in time to the neighbourhood of Frew’s dwelling. The ridges were our only safe path, for they were thickly overgrown with woods, and the Indian bands were less likely to choose them for a route. The danger was in the glens, where the trees were sparser and the broad stretches of meadow made better going for horses.
The movement of my legs made me pluck up heart. I was embarked at any rate in a venture, and had got rid of my desperate indecision. The two of us held close together, and chose the duskiest thickets, crawling belly-wise over the little clear patches and avoiding the crown of the ridge like the plague. The weather helped us, for the skies hung grey and low, with wisps of vapour curling among the trees. The glens were pits of mist, and my only guide was my recollection of what I had seen, and the easterly course of the streams.
By midday we had mounted to the crest of a long scarp which fell away in a narrow and broken promontory towards the plains. So far we had seen nothing to give us pause, and the only risk lay in some Indian finding and following our trail. We lay close in a scrubby wood, and rested for a little, while we ate some food. Everything around us dripped with moisture, and I could have wrung pints from my coat and breeches.
“Oh for the Dry Tortugas!” Ringan sighed. “What I would give for a hot sun and the kindly winds o’ the sea! I thought I pined for the hills, Andrew, but I would not give a clean beach and a warm sou’-wester for all the mountains on earth.”