Soon she would touch at the old colonial pier swarming with plantation negroes. To the rhythm of African melodies the cargo would come out of the hold—mahogany furniture, a new statue for the garden, cases of wine, casks of muscovado sugar, puncheons of rum, plantation machinery, sweetmeats and spices, and some bewildered Irish cows. Quite likely, picking their way daintily in the midst of the exciting scene, would come the lady of the manor and Mistress Evelyn to make anxious inquiry for boxes of London finery. And then—but, no! that vessel out on the James, without stopping at all, had sailed on past the old plantation front. Just a common fishing schooner of to-day bound for Richmond! We turned and closed behind us the ancient iron gate of Westover.
A BAD START AND A VIEW OF BERKELEY
On the next morning, we exercised one of the most enjoyable prerogatives of the houseboater, one that belongs to him as to but few other travellers—that of changing his mind and his destination. We sat down to breakfast with the intention of moving on up the James to Eppes Creek; we rose from the table with the determination to make a run up Powell’s Creek, which was a little above us on the other side of the river.
We always enjoyed these changes of mind. They added so much the more to our sense of freedom and independence. There were no bits of cardboard with the names of stations printed on them to predestine our way; no baggage checks to consign our belongings to fixed destinations. Even at the last moment a change of mind, a change of rudder, and a new way and a new destination would lie before us.
Now, our thoughts headed toward Powell’s Creek, because up that stream was another colonial church, called Merchants’ Hope Church; and the next day would be Sunday.
Necessarily, such houseboat voyagers as we, that the Sundays usually found up forgotten bits of tidewater, were a trifle irregular in the matter of church-going. Our houseboat would have had to have a church-boat for a consort to make it otherwise. Yet, as Sunday after Sunday Gadabout lay in her quiet creek harbours, the spirit of the day seemed to find her there without the call of church chimes.
Though it was morning when we changed our minds and determined to seek a high-backed pew in old Merchants’ Hope Church, it was evening by the time we got under way. And in this case, changing our minds did not work well. We should have come just as near getting to a church and should have saved ourselves trouble, if we had clung to our first intention and had spent that Saturday in moving on up the James.
As we crossed the river on the way to Powell’s Creek, a closer study of the sounding-marks on the chart showed a depth of but one half foot at several places on the flats at the mouth of the stream. Evidently, getting into that creek was bound to be a problem in fractions; and Gadabout was not good at fractions and the day was waning and the tide was setting out.