When we returned to the steamer pier after our visit at Westover, we found quite a wind on the river and the houseboat fretfully bumping the pilings. We hastened aboard, ran down stream before a stiff wind, and skurried back into our harbour in Herring Creek, where Gadabout settled to her moorings as contented as a duck in the marshes.
AN OLD COURTYARD AND A SUN-DIAL
For some time that little anchorage was our watery home acre. We came to call it our sunrise harbour. The opening where creek and river met faced to the east; and it was well worth while, if the morning was not too chill, to have an eye on that opening when the sun came up. Breaking through the mist veil that hung over the James, he cast a golden pontoon across the river, and then came over in all his splendour. He made straight for the mouth of our little creek, flooding wood and marsh with misty glow, and fairly crowding his glory into the narrow channel.
One morning, quite in keeping with the splendid burst of dawn, a loud report rang out over the marshes like the sound of a sunrise gun. But it was no salute to the orb of day. Somebody was poaching. More shots followed; and ducks, quacking loudly, fluttered up out of the marshes. Later, when we were at breakfast, a long rowboat, containing a man and a pile of brush and doubtless some ducks with the fine flavour of the forbidden, came out from a break in the marshes and went hurriedly up the stream.
As we lay in our harbour, we found ourselves almost unconsciously listening for a sound that seemed to belong to those chill, gray days. At last, from somewhere high up in the air, it came ringing down to us—the stirring “honk, honk” of the wild goose. Though our eyes searched the heavens, we could see nothing of the living wedge of flight up there that was cleaving its way southward with the speed of the wind. But we felt the thrill of that wild, stirring cry and were satisfied.
Whether the geese brought it or not, bad weather came with them. Half a gale came driving the rain before it down the river. Gadabout lay with her bulkheads closed tight about her forward cockpit, and must have looked most dismal. But inside, dry and warm, she was a very cheery little craft. We listened quite contentedly to the uproar, looking out from our windows upon windswept marsh and scudding clouds and the fussy little wavelets of our harbour. It added to our sense of coziness to look through a stern window out upon the river where the waters piled and broke white, in their midst an anchored schooner with swaying masts, tipsy between wind and tide.
One day when the heavens had gone blue again, though tattered clouds were still racing across, we hoisted anchor for another visit to Westover. When Gadabout poked her head out of the creek, she saw a queer looking craft busy on the James. It was a government buoy-tender, an awkward side-wheeler with a derrick forward, and big red sticks and black ones lying on deck.