This is a history of doings, not of thoughts, or I would have much to tell of what I saw during those months, when, lean as a bone, and brown as a hazelnut, I tracked the course of the great rivers. The roads were rough, where roads there were, but the land smiled under the sun, and the Virginians, high and low, kept open house for the chance traveller. One night I would eat pork and hominy with a rough fellow who was carving a farm out of the forest; and the next I would sit in a fine panelled hall and listen to gentlefolks’ speech, and dine off damask and silver. I could not tire of the green forests, or the marshes alive with wild fowl, or the noble orchards and gardens, or even the salty dunes of the Chesapeake shore. My one complaint was that the land was desperate flat to a hill-bred soul like mine. But one evening, away north in Stafford county, I cast my eyes to the west, and saw, blue and sharp against the sunset, a great line of mountains. It was all I sought. Somewhere in the west Virginia had her high lands, and one day, I promised myself, I would ride the road of the sun and find their secret.
In these months my thoughts were chiefly of trade, and I saw enough to prove the truth of what the man Frew had told me. This richest land on earth was held prisoner in the bonds of a foolish tyranny. The rich were less rich than their estates warranted, and the poor were ground down by bitter poverty. There was little corn in the land, tobacco being the sole means of payment, and this meant no trade in the common meaning of the word. The place was slowly bleeding to death, and I had a mind to try and stanch its wounds. The firm of Andrew Sempill was looked on jealously, in spite of all the bowings and protestations of Mr. Lambie. If we were to increase our trade, it must be at the Englishman’s expense, and that could only be done by offering the people a better way of business.
When the harvest came and the tobacco fleet arrived, I could see how the thing worked out. Our two ships, the Blackcock of Ayr and the Duncan Davidson of Glasgow, had some trouble getting their cargoes. We could only deal with the smaller planters, who were not thirled to the big merchants, and it took us three weary weeks up and down the river-side wharves to get our holds filled. There was a madness in the place for things from England, and unless a man could label his wares “London-made,” he could not hope to catch a buyer’s fancy. Why, I have seen a fellow at a fair at Henricus selling common Virginian mocking-birds as the “best English mocking-birds”. My uncle had sent out a quantity of Ayrshire cheeses, mutton hams, pickled salmon, Dunfermline linens, Paisley dimity, Alloa worsted, sweet ale from Tranent, Kilmarnock cowls, and a lot of fine feather-beds from the Clydeside. There was nothing common or trashy in the whole consignment; but the planters preferred some gewgaws from Cheapside or some worthless London furs which they could have