“The gentlemen of Virginia,” he said loudly, “being resolved that the man Garvald is an offence to the dominion, have summoned the Free Companions to give him a lesson. If he will sign a bond to leave the country within a month, we are instructed to be merciful. If not, we have here tar and feathers and sundry other adornments, and to-morrow’s morn will behold a pretty sight. Choose, you Scots swine.” In the excess of his zeal, he smashed with the handle of his sword a clock I had but lately got from Glasgow.
Ringan signed to me to keep my temper. He pretended to be in a great taking.
“I am a man of peace,” he cried, “but I cannot endure to see my friend outraged. Prithee, good folk, go away. See, I will give thee a guinea each to leave us alone.”
This had the desired effect of angering them. “Curse your money,” one cried. “You damned traders think that you can buy a gentleman. Take that for your insult.” And he aimed a blow with the flat of his sword, which Ringan easily parried.
“I had thought thee a pirate,” said the mild Quaker, “but thee tells me thee is a gentleman.”
“Hold your peace, Square-Toes,” cried the leader, “and let’s get to business.”
“But if ye be gentlefolk,” pleaded Ringan, “ye will grant a fair field. I am no fighter, but I will stand by my friend.”
I, who had said nothing, now broke in. “It is a warm evening for sword-play, but if it is your humour, so be it.”
This seemed to them hugely comic. “La!” cried one. “Sawney with a sword!” And he plucked forth his own blade, and bent it on the floor.
Ringan smiled gently, “Thee must grant me the first favour,” he said, “for I am the challenger, if that be the right word of the carnally minded.” And standing up, he picked up the blade from beside him, and bowed to the leader from Gracedieu.
Nothing loath he engaged, and the others stood back expecting a high fiasco. They saw it. Ringan’s sword played like lightning round the wretched youth, it twitched the blade from his grasp, and forced him back with a very white face to the door. In less than a minute, it seemed, he was there, and as he yielded so did the door, and he disappeared into the night. He did not return, so I knew that Ringan must have spoke a word to Faulkner.
“Now for the next bloody-minded pirate,” cried Ringan, and the next with a very wry face stood up. One of the others would have joined in, but, crying, “For shame, a fair field,” I beat down his sword.
The next took about the same time to reach the door, and disappeared into the darkness, and the third about half as long. Of the remaining three, one sulkily declined to draw, and the other two were over drunk for anything. They sat on the floor and sang a loose song.
“It seems, friends,” said the Quaker, “that ye be more ready with words than with deeds. I pray thee”—this to the sober one—“take off these garments of sin. We be peaceful traders, and cannot abide the thought of pirates.”