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THE CRUISE OF THE “DOLPHIN.”_-11.
We were up before sunrise the next morning, in order to take advantage of the flood-tide, which waits for no man.
Our preparations for the cruise were made the previous evening. In the way of eatables and drinkables we had stored in the stern of the Dolphin a generous bag of biscuit, a piece of pork to fry the fish in, three gigantic apple pies, half-a-dozen lemons
and a keg of spring-water-the last-named article we slung over the side, to keep it cool, as soon as we got under way. The crockery, and the bricks for our camp stove we placed in the bows with the groceries, which included sugar, pepper, salt, and a bottle of pickles. Phil Adams contributed to the outfit a small tent of unbleached cotton cloth, under which we intended to take our nooning.
We unshipped the mast, threw in an extra oar, and were ready to embark. I do not believe that Christopher Columbus, when he started on his rather successful voyage of discovery, felt half the responsibility and importance that weighed upon me as I sat on the middle seat of the Dolphin with my oar resting in the rowlock. I wonder if Christopher Columbus quietly set out of the house without letting his estimable family know what he was up to ? How calm and lovely the river was! Not a ripple stirred on the glassy surface, broken only by the sharp cut water of our tiny
craft. The sun, as round and red as an August moon, was by this time peering above the water-line.
The town had drifted behind as we were entering among the group of islands.
Sometimes we could almost touch with our boat-hook the shelving banks on either side. As we neared the mouth of the harbour, a little breeze now and then wrinkled the blue water, shook the spangles from the foliage, and gently lifted the spiral mist-wreaths that still clung along-shore. The measured dip of our oars and the drowsy twitterings of the birds seemed to mingle with, rather than break, the enchanted silence that reigned about us.
The scent of the new clover comes back to me now, as I recall that delicious morning, when we floated away in a fairy boat down a river like a dream.
The sun was well up when the nose of the Dolphin nestled against the snow-white bosom of Sandpeep Island. This island, as I have said before, was the last of the cluster, one side of it being washed by the sea. We landed on the river side, the sloping sands and quiet water affording us a good place to moor the boat.
It took us an hour or two to transport our stores to the spot selected for the encampment. Having pitched our tent, using the five oars to support the canvas, we got out our lines, and went down the rocks seaward to fish. We were lucky enough to catch as nice a mess as ever you saw.
To skin the fish, build our fireplace, and cook the dinner, kept us busy the next two hours. The fresh air and the exercise had given us the appetites of wolves, and we were about famished by the time the savoury mixture was ready for our oyster-shell saucers.
I shall not insult, the rising generation on the seaboard by telling them how delectable is a dinner compounded and eaten in this Robinson Crusoe fashion. As for the boys who live inland, and know naught of
such marine feasts, my heart is full of pity for them. What wasted lives ! Not to know the delights of a clambake, not to love chowder, to be ignorant of lobscouse !
How happy we were, we four, sitting cross-legged in the crisp salt grass, with the invigorating sea-breeze blowing gratefully through our hair! What a joyous thing was life, and how far off seemed death-death, that lurks in all pleasant places, and was so near !
The wind had freshened by this, and we found it comfortable to put on the jackets which had been thrown aside in the heat of the day. We strolled along the beach and gathered large quantities of the fairywoven Iceland moss, which, at certain seasons, is washed to these shores; then we played at ducks and drakes, and then, the sun being sufficiently low, we began bathing.
Before our bath was ended a slight change had come over the sky and sea; fleecy-white clouds scudded here and there, and a muffled moan from the breakers caught our ears from time to time. While we were dressing, a few hurried drops of rain came lisping down, and we adjourned to the tent to await the passing of the squall.
“We're all right, anyhow," said Phil Adams. “It won't be much of a blow, and we'll be as snug as a bug in a rug, here in the tent, particularly if we have that lemonade which some of you fellows were going to make.”
By an oversight, the lemons had been left in the boat. Binny Wallace volunteered to go for them.
“ Put an extra stone on the painter, Binny,” said Adams, calling after him; “it would be awkward to have the Dolphin give us the slip and return to port minus her passengers."
“That it would," answered Binny, scrambling down the rocks.
Sandpeep Island is diamond-shaped--one point running out into the sea, and the other looking towards the town. Our tent was on the river side. Though the Dolphin was also on the same side, it lay out of sight by the beach at the farther extremity of the island.
1. Down on the shore, on the sunny shore !
Where the salt smell cheers the land; Where the tide moves bright under boundless light,
And the surge on the glittering strand;
Or run from the froth in play;
Are crossing the sapphire bay,
Holds proudly on her way;
Under the tent of the warm blue sky,
To sing their lullaby.