But the ebb had only begun. The marsh was yet almost tide-full, and all its channels were water-lanes. Each little way was like every other, and one could well wander amiss down between those winding walls of sedges.
We paddled very slowly, often stopping to let the boat drift on the ebb tide. Why might we not find out the secret of the marshes if we went very softly through the heart of them?—that secret of which the slender reeds are always whispering; that mystery that keeps them always a-shiver. Is it something they have hidden from the searching tide? Is it known to the little marsh-hen that cunningly builds her nest at the foot of the sedges? Is it guessed by the restless finny folk that slip and search beneath the brown waters?
Holding our boat quiet in the ebbing bayou, we looked and listened. There were sounds of sibilant dripping in the dim sedges; of alewives jumping by the side of our boat; of a sudden rush of blackbird wings; and of the evening breeze as it freshened in the bending blades. We could see the many rivulets, wine-red now in the sunset light; and the graceful swaying of great grasses, pale green and silver and tan; and the red and golden sky above: ebbing rivulets, rippling reeds, drifting clouds, and sunset shades. And that was all. Nor had we guessed the secret of the marshes.
Yet, we should have been content still to look and to listen, down in the hidden tiny ways of the marshland, but for the fading light that warned us homeward. What would night be among the sedges with the wandering rivulets full of twinkling stars, with the soft calling of wakeful birds, and with the skurrying of little creatures in their shadowy forest of reeds?
Slowly we paddled on in the twilight; on through the little water-gate and out upon the Kittewan, where images of the bordering trees lay sharp and black on the strangely purple water. From down-stream where Gadabout waited, came such a fervent burst of song that we knew that the entire crew was urging its soul to be on guard—
“Te-en thou-san’ foes ah-rise.”
ACROSS RIVER TO FLEUR DE HUNDRED
The next day we determined to run around to the river front of Weyanoke. We were yet charmed with the idea of being back-door neighbours of the old plantation; but not at quite such long range. When the tide served, Gadabout dropped down the twisting Kittewan. Though she paused involuntarily in trying to round the island where the sweet gum flamed against the pines, and caught her propeller on a cypress stump as she sighted the dormer windows of the old house on the hill, yet she came in good time to the clear channel and, passing the tangled underwood that hid the forsaken tomb, she reached the mouth of the creek before the tide turned and started up the James on the last of the flood.
Weyanoke plantation is a peninsula lying in a sharp elbow of the river, so that it was a run of a few miles from the mouth of Kittewan Creek, on one side of the peninsula, around to the Weyanoke pier on the other side.