It made me solemn, but also most mightily angry. If the stars in their courses were going to fight against Andrew Garvald, they should find him ready. I went to the Governor, but he gave me no comfort. Indeed, he laughed at me, and bade me try the same weapon as my adversaries. I left him, very wrathful, and after a night’s sleep I began to see reason in his words. Clearly the law of Virginia or of England would give me no redress. I was an alien from the genteel world; why should I not get the benefit of my ungentility? If my rivals went for their weapons into dark places, I could surely do likewise. A line of Virgil came into my head, which seemed to me to contain very good counsel: “Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo”, which means that if you cannot get Heaven on your side, you had better try for the Devil.
But how was I to get into touch with the Devil? And then I remembered in a flash my meeting with the sea-captain on the Glasgow stairhead and his promise to help me, I had no notion who he was or how he could aid, but I had a vague memory of his power and briskness. He had looked like the kind of lad who might conduct me into the wild world of the Free Companions.
I sought Mercer’s tavern by the water-side, a melancholy place grown up with weeds, with a yard of dark trees at the back of it. Old Mercer was an elder in the little wooden Presbyterian kirk, which I had taken to attending since my quarrels with the gentry. He knew me and greeted me with his doleful smile, shaking his foolish old beard.
“What’s your errand this e’en, Mr. Garvald?” he said in broad Scots. “Will you drink a rummer o’ toddy, or try some fine auld usquebaugh I hae got frae my cousin in Buchan?”
I sat down on the settle outside the tavern door. “This is my errand. I want you to bring me to a man or bring that man to me. His name is Ninian Campbell.”
Mercer looked at me dully.
“There was a lad o’ that name was hanged at Inveraray i’ ’68 for stealin’ twae hens and a wether.”
“The man I mean is long and lean, and his head is as red as fire. He gave me your name, so you must know him.”
His eyes showed no recognition. He repeated the name to himself, mumbling it toothlessly. “It sticks i’ my memory,” he said, “but when and where I canna tell. Certes, there’s no man o’ the name in Virginia.”
I was beginning to think that my memory had played me false, when suddenly the whole scene in the Saltmarket leaped vividly to my brain. Then I remembered the something else I had been enjoined to say.
“Ninian Campbell,” I went on, “bade me ask for him here, and I was to tell you that the lymphads are on the loch and the horn of Diarmaid has sounded.”
In a twinkling his face changed from vacancy to shrewdness and from senility to purpose. He glanced uneasily round.
“For God’s sake, speak soft,” he whispered. “Come inside, man. We’ll steek the door, and then I’ll hear your business.”