“It’s Cherokee work. There’s nothing strange in it, except that such a deed should have been dared. But it means the beginning of our business. D’you think the Stafford folk will sleep in their beds after that? And that’s precisely what perplexes me. The Governor will be bound to send an expedition against the murderers, and they’ll not be easy found. But while the militia are routing about on the Rapidan, what hinders the big invasion to come down the James or the Chickahominy or the Pamunkey or the Mattaponey and find a defenceless Tidewater? As I see it, there’s deep guile in this business. A Cherokee murder is nothing out of the way, but these blackguards were not killing for mere pleasure. As I’ve said before, I would give my right hand to have better information. It’s this land business that fickles one. If it were a matter of islands and ocean bays, I would have long ago riddled out the heart of it.”
“We’re on the way to get news,” I said, and I told him of my wager that evening.
“Man, Andrew!” he cried, “it’s providential. There’s nothing to hinder you and me and a few others to ride clear into the hills, with the Tidewater thinking it no more than a play of daft young men. You must see Nicholson, and get him to hold his hand till we send him word. In two days Lawrence will be here, and we can post our lads on each of the rivers, for it’s likely any Indian raid will take one of the valleys. You must see that Governor of yours first thing in the morning, and get him to promise to wait on your news. Then he can get out his militia, and stir up the Tidewater. Will he do it, think you?”
I said I thought he would.
“And there’s one other thing. Would he agree to turning a blind eye to Lawrence, if he comes back? He’ll not trouble them in James Town, but he’s the only man alive to direct our own lads.”
I said I would try, but I was far from certain. It was hard to forecast the mind of Governor Francis.
“Well, Lawrence will come whether or no. You can sound the man, and if he’s dour let the matter be. Lawrence is now on the Roanoke, and his plan is to send out the word to-morrow and gather in the posts. He’ll come to Frew’s place on the South Fork River, which is about the middle of the frontier line. To-day is Monday, to-morrow the word will go out, by Friday the men will be ready, and Lawrence will be in Virginia. The sooner you’re off the better, Andrew. What do you say to Wednesday?”
“That day will suit me fine,” I said; “but what about my company?”
“The fewer the better. Who were you thinking of?”
“You for one,” I said, “and Shalah for a second.”
“I want two men from the Rappahannock—a hunter of the name of Donaldson and the Frenchman Bertrand.”
“That makes five. Would you like to even the number?”
“Yes,” I said. “There’s a gentleman of the Tidewater, Mr. Charles Grey, that I’ve bidden to the venture.”