Then I remembered. Some months before I had been riding back the road from Green Springs, and in a dark, woody place had come across an Indian sore beset by three of the white scum which infested the river-side. What the quarrel was I know not, but I liked little the villainous look of the three, and I liked much the clean, lithe figure of their opponent. So I rode my horse among them, and laid on to them with the butt of my whip. They had their knives out, but I managed to disarm the one who attacked me, and my horse upset a second, while the Indian, who had no weapon but a stave, cracked the head of the last. I got nothing worse than a black eye, but the man I had rescued bled from some ugly cuts which I had much ado stanching. He shook hands with me gravely when I had done, and vanished into the thicket. He was a Seneca Indian, and I wondered what one of that house was doing in the Tidewater.
Mercer told me his name. “Shalah will take you to the man you ken. Do whatever he tells you, Mr. Garvald, for this is a job in which you’re nothing but a bairn.” We pushed off, the Indian taking the oars, and in five minutes James Town was lost in the haze.
On the Surrey shore we picked up a breeze, and with the ebbing tide made good speed down the estuary. Shalah the Indian had the tiller, and I sat luxuriously in the bows, smoking my cob pipe, and wondering what the next week held in store for me. The night before I had had qualms about the whole business, but the air of morning has a trick of firing my blood, and I believe I had forgotten the errand which was taking me to the Carolina shores. It was enough that I was going into a new land and new company. Last night I had thought with disfavour of Red Ringan the buccaneer; that morning I thought only of Ninian Campbell, with whom I had forgathered on a Glasgow landing.
My own thoughts kept me silent, and the Indian never opened his mouth. Like a statue he crouched by the tiller, with his sombre eyes looking to the sea. That night, when we had rounded Cape Henry in fine weather, we ran the sloop into a little bay below a headland, and made camp for the night beside a stream of cold water. Next morning it blew hard from the north, and in a driving rain we crept down the Carolina coast. One incident of the day I remember. I took in a reef or two, and adjusted the sheets, for this was a game I knew and loved. The Indian watched me closely, and made a sign to me to take the helm. He had guessed that I knew more than himself about the handling of a boat in wind, and since we were in an open sea, where his guidance was not needed, he preferred to trust the thing to me. I liked the trait in him, for I take it to be a mark of a wise man that he knows what he can do, and is not ashamed to admit what he cannot.