We slept the night at Aird’s store, and early the next morning found Ringan. A new Ringan indeed, as unlike the buccaneer I knew as he was unlike the Quaker. He was now the gentleman of Breadalbane, dressed for the part with all the care of an exquisite. He rode a noble roan, in his Spanish belt were stuck silver-hafted pistols, and a long sword swung at his side. When I presented Grey to him, he became at once the cavalier, as precise in his speech and polite in his deportment as any Whitehall courtier. They talked high and disposedly of genteel matters, and you would have thought that that red-haired pirate had lived his life among proud lords and high-heeled ladies. That is ever the way of the Highlander. He alters like a clear pool to every mood of the sky, so that the shallow observer might forget how deep the waters are.
Presently, when we had ridden into the chestnut forests of the Mattaponey, he began to forget his part. Grey, it appeared, was a student of campaigns, and he and Ringan were deep in a discussion of Conde’s battles, in which both showed surprising knowledge. But the glory of the weather and of the woodlands, new as they were to a seafarer, set his thoughts wandering, and he fell to tales of his past which consorted ill with his former decorum. There was a madcap zest in his speech, something so merry and wild, that Grey, who had fallen back into his Tidewater manners, became once more the careless boy. We stopped to eat in a glade by a slow stream, and from his saddle-bags Ringan brought out strange delicacies. There were sugared fruits from the Main, and orange sirop from Jamaica, and a kind of sweet punch made by the Hispaniola Indians. As we ate and drank he would gossip about the ways of the world; and though he never mentioned his own doings, there was such an air of mastery about him as made him seem the centre figure of his tales, I could see that Grey was mightily captivated, and all afternoon he plied him with questions, and laughed joyously at his answers. As we camped that night, while Grey was minding his horse Ringan spoke of him to me.
“I like the lad, Andrew. He has the makings of a very proper gentleman, and he has the sense to be young. What I complain of in you is that you’re desperate old. I wonder whiles if you ever were a laddie. For me, though I’m ten years the elder of the pair of you, I’ve no more years than your friend, and I’m a century younger than you. That’s the Highland way. There’s that in our blood that keeps our eyes young though we may be bent double. With us the heart is aye leaping till Death grips us. To my mind it’s a lovable character that I fain would cherish. If I couldn’t sing on a spring morning or say a hearty grace over a good dinner I’d be content to be put away in a graveyard.”
And that, I think, is the truth. But at the time I was feeling pretty youthful, too, though my dour face and hard voice were a bad clue to my sentiments.