That night I spent making ready. I took no servant, and in my saddle-bags was stored the little I needed. Of powder and shot I had plenty, and my two pistols and my hunting musket. I gave Faulkner instructions, and wrote a letter to my uncle to be sent if I did not return. Next morning at daybreak we took the road.
THE FORD OF THE RAPIDAN.
’Twas the same high summer weather through which I had ridden a fortnight ago with a dull heart on my way to the duel. Now Grey rode by my side, and my spirits were as light as a bird’s. I had forgotten the grim part of the enterprise, the fate that might await me, the horrors we should certainly witness. I thought only of the joys of movement into new lands with tried companions. These last months I had borne a pretty heavy weight of cares. Now that was past. My dispositions completed, the thing was in the hands of God, and I was free to go my own road. Mocking-birds and thrushes cried in the thickets, squirrels flirted across the path, and now and then a shy deer fled before us. There come moments to every man when he is thankful to be alive, and every breath drawn is a delight; so at that hour I praised my Maker for His good earth, and for sparing me to rejoice in it.
Grey had met me with a certain shyness; but as the sun rose and the land grew bright he, too, lost his constraint, and fell into the same happy mood. Soon we were smiling at each other in the frankest comradeship, we two who but the other day had carried ourselves like game-cocks. He had forgotten his fine manners and his mincing London voice, and we spoke of the outland country of which he knew nothing, and of the hunting of game of which he knew much, exchanging our different knowledges, and willing to learn from each other. Long ere we had reached York Ferry I had found that there was much in common between the Scots trader and the Virginian cavalier, and the chief thing we shared was youth.
Mine, to be sure, was more in the heart, while Grey wore his open and fearless. He plucked the summer flowers and set them in his hat. He was full of catches and glees, so that he waked the echoes in the forest glades. Soon I, too, fell to singing in my tuneless voice, and I answered his “My lodging is on the cold ground” with some Scots ballad or a song of Davie Lindsay. I remember how sweetly he sang Colonel Lovelace’s ode to Lucasta, writ when going to the wars:—
“True, a new mistress
now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.”
“Yet this inconstancy
As thou too shalt adore:
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.”
I wondered if that were my case—if I rode out for honour, and not for the pure pleasure of the riding. And I marvelled more to see the two of us, both lovers of one lady and eager rivals, burying for the nonce our feuds, and with the same hope serving the same cause.