Salute to Adventurers
23. The Horn Of Diarmaid Sounds
We reached the gap, and made slantwise across the farther hill. I did not dare to go
clown Clearwater Glen, and, besides, I was aiming for a point farther south than the
Rappahannock. In my wanderings with Shalah I had got a pretty good idea of the lie of
the mountains on their eastern side, and I had remarked a long ridge which flung itself
like a cape far into the lowlands. If we could leave the hills by this, I thought we might
strike the stream called the North Fork, which would bring us in time to the
neighbourhood of Frew's dwelling. The ridges were our only safe path, for they were
thickly overgrown with woods, and the Indian bands were less likely to choose them for
a route. The danger was in the glens, where the trees were sparser and the broad
stretches of meadow made better going for horses.
The movement of my legs made me pluck up heart. I was embarked at any rate in a
venture, and had got rid of my desperate indecision. The two of us held close together,
and chose the duskiest thickets, crawling belly-wise over the little clear patches and
avoiding the crown of the ridge like the plague. The weather helped us, for the skies
hung grey and low, with wisps of vapour curling among the trees. The glens were pits of
mist, and my only guide was my recollection of what I had seen, and the easterly course
of the streams.
By midday we had mounted to the crest of a long scarp which fell away in a narrow and
broken promontory towards the plains. So far we had seen nothing to give us pause,
and the only risk lay in some Indian finding and following our trail. We lay close in a
scrubby wood, and rested for a little, while we ate some food. Everything around us
dripped with moisture, and I could have wrung pints from my coat and breeches.
"Oh for the Dry Tortugas!" Ringan sighed. "What I would give for a hot sun and the
kindly winds o' the sea! I thought I pined for the hills, Andrew, but I would not give a
clean beach and a warm sou'-wester for all the mountains on earth."
Then again: "Yon's a fine lass," he would say.
I did not reply, for I had no heart to speak of what I had left behind.
"Cheer up, young one," he cried. "There was more lost at Flodden. A gentleman-
adventurer must live by the hour, and it's surprising how Fortune favours them that trust
her. There was a man I mind, in Breadalbane...." And here he would tell some tale of
how light came out of black darkness for the trusting heart.
"Man, Ringan," I said, "I see your kindly purpose. But tell me, did ever you hear of such
a tangle as ours being straightened out?