“Are you sure of all these?” I asked.
“Sure as death,” he said. “I’m not saying that they’re all friends of yours, Mr. Garvald. Ye’ve trampled on a good wheen toes since you came to these parts. But they’re all men to ride the ford with, if that should come which we ken of.”
Some of the men on the list were poor settlers, and it was our business to equip them with horse and gun. That was to be my special duty—that and the establishing of means by which they could be summoned quickly. With the first Mercer could help me, for he had his hand on all the lines of the smuggling business, and there were a dozen ports on the coast where he could land arms. Horses were an easy matter, requiring only the doling out of money. But the summoning business was to be my particular care. I could go about the country in my ordinary way of trade without exciting suspicion, and my house was to be the rendezvous of every man on the list who wanted news or guidance.
“Can ye trust your men?” Mercer asked, and I replied that Faulkner was as staunch as cold steel, and that he had picked the others.
“Well, let’s see your accommodation,” and the old fellow hopped to his feet, and was out of doors before I could get the lantern.
Mercer on a matter of this sort was a different being from the decayed landlord of the water-side tavern. His spectacled eyes peered everywhere, and his shrewd sense judged instantly of a thing’s value. He approved of the tobacco-shed as a store for arms, for he could reach it from the river by a little-used road through the woods. It was easy so to arrange, the contents that a passing visitor could guess nothing, and no one ever penetrated to its recesses but Faulkner and myself. I summoned Faulkner to the conference, and told him his duties, which, he undertook with sober interest. He was a dry stick from Fife, who spoke seldom and wrought mightily.
Faulkner attended to Mercer’s consignments, and I took once more to the road. I had to arrange that arms from the coast or the river-sides could be sent inland, and for this purpose I had a regiment of pack horses that delivered my own stores as well. I had to visit all the men on the list whom I did not know, and a weary job it was. I repeated again my toil of the first year, and in the hot Virginian summer rode the length and breadth of the land. My own business prospered hugely, and I bought on credit such a stock of tobacco as made me write my uncle for a fourth ship at the harvest sailing. It seemed a strange thing, I remember, to be bargaining for stuff which might never be delivered, for by the autumn the dominion might be at death grips.