As the sun sank behind the hills (or rather some time after, for we never could be nautically prompt), our flags were run down and the anchor-light was hoisted on the forward flagstaff.
The summer night closed in softly; the blue waters grew dark, and caught from the sky the rich lights that the setting sun had left behind. We could see figures sitting upon the white porticoes looking out over the miniature harbour. Somewhere were the music of a merry-go-round and the calls and laughter of children. In from the wider waters came more boats, their white sails folding down as they neared their haven. All the beautiful mystery of the deepening twilight touched water and masts, and shadowed the circling shore.
Then came the long hours of darkness when, with all aboard asleep, Gadabout lay quietly at anchor, the riding-light upon her flagstaff gently swaying throughout the night. Silently, with none to heed and none to know, was enacted again in the gloom the play that is as old as the first ship upon tideway. With bow turned up-stream, Gadabout sank slowly lower and lower, as even little Chuckatuck heard the voice of the far-away ocean calling its waters home. Then, crossing slowly over her anchor and turning to head the other way, Gadabout rose once more higher and higher, as the night wore on and as the great recurring swell rolled landward again the waters of the sea.
LAND, HO! OUR COUNTRY’S BIRTHPLACE
When we hoisted our anchor next day, it came up reluctantly; and we sailed away with faces often turned backward toward the little harbour of Chuckatuck, with its blue of wave and sky, its white of cloud and beach, its green of circling hills, and the picturesque life on its waters.
Out again in the James (still some four miles wide), we felt that Nature had almost overdone the matter of supplying us with a waterway for our voyage. We should willingly have dispensed with a mile or so on either side of our houseboat. There was a wind that kept steadily freshening, so that after rounding Day’s Point we noticed that the river was getting rather rough; and we soon found that Gadabout was equally observing. She rolled and pitched; but with both engines and the tide to help her along she made good enough headway.
And in navigating the broad stream what advantages we had over those early mariners upon the Sarah Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery!
Their passage up this river was upon unknown waters through an unknown land. We knew just where we were, and where we were going. They even fancied that they might be upon an arm of the ocean that would lead through the new-found world and open a direct route to the South Sea and to the Indies. Our maps showed us that even this wide waterway was but a river; and that while it flowed some four hundred miles from its source beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, yet we could ascend it only about one hundred miles, as we should then come upon a line of falls and rapids that would prevent farther navigation.