What could I do after that but make him a present of the trivial facts about myself and my doings? There was a look of friendly humour about this dare-devil which captured my fancy. I saw in him the stuff of which adventurers are made, and though I was a sober merchant, I was also young. For days I had been dreaming of foreign parts and an Odyssey of strange fortunes, and here on a Glasgow stairhead I had found Ulysses himself.
“Is it not the pity,” he cried, “that such talents as yours should rust in a dark room in the Candleriggs? Believe me, Mr. Garvald, I have seen some pretty shots, but I have never seen your better.”
Then I told him that I was sailing within a month for Virginia, and he suddenly grew solemn.
“It looks like Providence,” he said, “that we two should come together. I, too, will soon be back in the Western Seas, and belike we’ll meet. I’m something of a rover, and I never bide long in the same place, but I whiles pay a visit to James Town, and they ken me well on the Eastern Shore and the Accomac beaches.”
He fell to giving me such advice as a traveller gives to a novice. It was strange hearing for an honest merchant, for much of it was concerned with divers ways of outwitting the law. By and by he was determined to convoy me to my lodgings, for he pointed out that I was unarmed; and I think, too, he had still hopes of another meeting with Long Colin, his cousin.
“I leave Glasgow the morrow’s morn,” he said, “and it’s no likely we’ll meet again in Scotland. Out in Virginia, no doubt, you’ll soon be a great man, and sit in Council, and hob-nob with the Governor. But a midge can help an elephant, and I would gladly help you, for you had the goodwill to help me. If ye need aid you will go to Mercer’s Tavern at James Town down on the water front, and you will ask news of Ninian Campbell. The man will say that he never heard tell of the name, and then you will speak these words to him. You will say ’The lymphads are on the loch, and the horn of Diarmaid has sounded.’ Keep them well in mind, for some way or other they will bring you and me together.”
Without another word he was off, and as I committed the gibberish to memory I could hear his song going up the Saltmarket:—
kissed the fiddler’s wife,
And he couldna preach for thinkin’ o’t.”
My first coming to Virginia.
There are few moments in life to compare with a traveller’s first sight of a new land which is destined to be for short or long his home. When, after a fair and speedy voyage, we passed Point Comfort, and had rid ourselves of the revenue men, and the tides bore us up the estuary of a noble river, I stood on deck and drank in the heady foreign scents with a boyish ecstasy. Presently we had opened the capital city, which seemed to me no more than a village set amid gardens, and Mr. Lambie had come aboard and greeted me. He conveyed me to the best ordinary in the town which stood over against the Court-house. Late in the afternoon, just before the dark fell, I walked out to drink my fill of the place.