And Aunt Jane clung to me as of yore as I led her up the beach.
THE CAPTAIN’S LEGACY
When in my tender years I was taken to the matinee, usually the most thrilling feature of the spectacle to me was the scene depicted on the drop-curtain. I know not why only the decorators of drop-curtains are inspired to create landscapes of such strange enchantment, of a beauty which not alone beguiles the senses—I speak from the standpoint of the ten-year-old—but throws wide to fancy the gate of dreams. Directly I was seated—in the body—and had had my hat taken off and been told not to wriggle, I vaulted airily over the unconscious audience, over an orchestra engaged in tuning up, and was lost in the marvelous landscape of the drop-curtain. The adventures which I had there put to shame any which the raising of the curtain permitted to be seen upon the stage.
I had never hoped to recover in this prosaic world my long-lost paradise of the drop-curtain, but morning revealed it to me here on Leeward Island. Here was the feathery foliage, the gushing springs, the gorgeous flowers of that enchanted land. And here were the soft and intoxicating perfumes that I had imagined in my curtain landscape.
Leeward Island measures roughly four miles across from east to west by three from north to south. The core of the island is the peak, rising to a height of nearly three thousand feet. At its base on three sides lies a plateau, its edges gnawed away by the sea to the underlying rocky skeleton. On the southeastern quarter the peak drops by a series of great precipices straight into the sea.
Back from the cove stretches a little hollow, its floor rising gently to the level of the plateau. Innumerable clear springs which burst from the mountain converge to a limpid stream, which winds through the hollow to fall into the little bay. All the plateau and much of the peak are clothed with woods, a beautiful bright green against the sapphire of sea and sky. High above all other growth wave the feathery tops of the cocoa-palms, which flourish here luxuriantly. You saw them in their thousands, slender and swaying, tossing all together in the light sea-wind their crowns of nodding plumes.
The palms were nowhere more abundant than in the hollow by the cove where our camp was made, and their size and the regularity of their order spoke of cultivation. Guavas, oranges and lemons grew here, too, and many beautiful banana-palms. The rank forest growth had been so thoroughly cleared out that it had not yet returned, except stealthily in the shape of brilliant-flowered creepers which wound their sinuous way from tree to tree, like fair Delilahs striving to overcome arboreal Samsons by their wiles. They were rankest beside the stream, which ran at one edge of the hollow under the rise of the plateau.
At the side of the clearing toward the stream stood a hut, built of cocoa-palm logs. Its roof of palm-thatch had been scattered by storms. Nearer the stream on a bench were an old decaying wash-tub and a board. A broken frying-pan and a rusty axe-head lay in the grass.