The afternoon was now ending, and we were given a meal of corn-cakes and roast deer’s flesh. Then we took our leave, and Mr. Lawrence’s last word to me was to send him any English books of a serious cast which came under my eye. This request he made with so much hesitation, but with so hungry a desire in his face, that I was moved to pity this ill-fated scholar, wandering in Indian lodges, and famished for lack of the society of his kind.
Ringan took me by a new way which bore north of that we had ridden, and though the dusk began soon to fall, he never faltered in his guiding. Presently we left the savannah for the woods of the coast, and, dropping down hill by a very meagre path, we came in three hours to a creek of the sea. There by a little fire we found Shalah, and the sloop riding at anchor below a thick covert of trees.
“Good-bye to you, Andrew,” cried Ringan. “You’ll be getting news of me soon, and maybe see me in the flesh on the Tidewater. Remember the word I told you in the Saltmarket, for I never mention names when I take the road.”
I HEAR AN OLD SONG.
When we sailed at daybreak next morning I had the glow of satisfaction with my own doings which is a safe precursor of misfortunes. I had settled my business with the Free Companions, and need look for no more trouble on that score. But what tickled my vanity was my talk with Ringan and Lawrence at the Monacan lodge and the momentous trust they had laid on me. With a young man’s vanity, I saw myself the saviour of Virginia, and hailed as such by the proud folk who now scorned me. My only merits, as I was to learn in time, are a certain grasp of simple truths that elude cleverer men, and a desperate obstinacy which is reluctant to admit defeat. But it is the fashion of youth to glory in what it lacks, and I flattered myself that I had a natural gift for finesse and subtlety, and was a born deviser of wars. Again and again I told myself how I and Lawrence’s Virginians—grown under my hand to a potent army—should roll back the invaders to the hills and beyond, while the Sioux of the Carolinas guarded one flank and the streams of the Potomac the other. In those days the star of the great Marlborough had not risen; but John Churchill, the victor of Blenheim, did not esteem himself a wiser strategist than the raw lad Andrew Garvald, now sailing north in the long wash of the Atlantic seas.
The weather grew spiteful, and we were much buffeted about by the contrary spring winds, so that it was late in the afternoon of the third day that we turned Cape Henry and came into the Bay of Chesapeake. Here a perfect hurricane fell upon us, and we sought refuge in a creek on the shore of Norfolk county. The place was marshy, and it was hard to find dry land for our night’s lodging. Our provisions had run low, and there seemed little enough for two hungry men who had all day been striving with salt winds. So, knowing that this was a neighbourhood studded with great manors, and remembering the hospitality I had so often found, I left Shalah by the fire with such food as remained, and set out with our lantern through the woods to look for a human habitation.