When we looked from Gadabout’s windows next morning, a dense fog had blotted out all of our creek country except that which was close in about us. But what was left was so beautiful as to more than make up for the loss. Nature, like most other women, looks particularly well through a filmy veil. We feared that the mist would soon clear away, but it did not and we sat down to breakfast with our houseboat floating in one of the smallest and fairest worlds that had ever harboured her. A beautiful white-walled world with some shadowy bits of land here and there, a piece of a misty stream that began and ended in the clouds, and everything most charmingly out of perspective and unreal. Some ghostly trees were near us, delicate veils of mist clinging about their trunks and floating up among the bare branches. Nearer yet, a blur of reeds marked the shore-line. From somewhere out along the river, probably from the lighthouse at Jordan’s Point, came the tolling of a fog-bell.
As we watched the scene, a faint glow filtered in through the whiteness, and made it all seem a fairy-land. Indeed, was it not? And were not the little swaying mist-wreaths that wavered in at our windows some dainty elves timidly come to give us greeting? All day the fog held, and the sad tolling of the bell went on. Now and then, the calls of the river craft would come to our ears.
Toward evening the fog thinned and let the moonlight in. Then we were quite sure that Gadabout had indeed come to Fairy-land. Now, if only there were a way leading from Fairy-land to Shirley! And it turned out that there was.
THE RIGHT WAY TO GO TO SHIRLEY
Everybody goes to Shirley the wrong way. We found that out by ourselves happening to go the right way.
When you are sailing up the James in your houseboat (You haven’t one? Well, a make-believe one will do just as well, and in some ways better), do not pass Eppes Creek, as everybody does, and go to the Shirley pier; but, instead, enter the creek and tie up at Leaning Tree Landing as we did.
[Illustration: The field road and the quarters.]
Then, instead of taking that trail up the hill that leads only into a cornfield, look for a path leading to the left through the woods. It is not much of a path; and unless you love Nature in even her capricious moods, when she now and then trips the foot of the unwary and mayhap even scratches, it is too bad after all that you came this way. To love of Nature should be added a certain measure of agility, so that you will be all right when you come to the fence. Fortunately, you can let down the upper rails—being careful to put them back again when you are safe on the other side.
Beyond the fence, a great pasture-field stretches away endlessly. But then everything is on a large scale at Shirley. Ampleness is the keynote; it pervades everything. Before you have half crossed the field, you will come upon a road that will lead you to a little eminence near the quarters.