The last day he took me north up a stream called the North Fork, which joined with his own river. I had left my musket behind, for this heavy travel made me crave to go light, and I had no use for it. But that day it seemed we were to go hunting.
He carried an old gun, and slew with it a deer in a marshy hollow—a pretty shot, for the animal was ill-placed. We broiled a steak for our midday meal, and presently clambered up a high woody ridge which looked down on a stream and a piece of green meadow.
Suddenly he stopped. “A buck,” he whispered. “See what you can do, you that were so ready with your pistol.” And he thrust his gun into my hand.
The beast was some thirty paces off in the dusk of the thicket. It nettled me to have to shoot with a strange weapon, and I thought too lightly of the mark. I fired, and the bullet whistled over its back. He laughed scornfully.
I handed it back to him. “It throws high, and you did not warn me. Load quick, and I’ll try again.”
I heard the deer crashing through the hill-side thicket, and guessed that presently it would come out in the meadow. I was right, and before the gun was in my hands again the beast was over the stream.
It was a long range and a difficult mark, but I had to take the risk, for I was on my trial. I allowed for the throw of the musket and the steepness of the hill, and pulled the trigger. The shot might have been better, for I had aimed for the shoulder, and hit the neck. The buck leaped into the air, ran three yards, and toppled over. By the grace of God, I had found the single chance in a hundred.
Frew looked at me with sincere respect. “That’s braw shooting,” he said. “I can’t say I ever saw its equal.”
That night in the smoky cabin he talked freely for once. “I never had a wife or bairn, and I lean on no man. I can fend for myself, and cook my dinner, and mend my coat when it’s wanting it. When Bacon died I saw what was coming to this land, and I came here to await it. I’ve had some sudden calls from the red gentry, but they havena got me yet, and they’ll no get me before my time. I’m in the Lord’s hands, and He has a job for Simon Frew. Go back to your money-bags, Mr. Garvald. Beat the English merchants, my lad, and take my blessing with you. But keep that gun of yours by your bedside, for the time is coming when a man’s hands will have to keep his head.”
I become an unpopular character.
I did not waste time in getting to work. I had already written to my uncle, telling him my plans, and presently I received his consent. I arranged that cargoes of such goods as I thought most suitable for Virginian sales should arrive at regular seasons independent of the tobacco harvest. Then I set about equipping a store. On the high land north of James Town, by the road to Middle Plantation, I