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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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As it happened, the means for such a quest were at my disposal. I was part owner of a boat which had been built for hunting and fishing cruises on the shallow waters of the Great South Bay. It was a deliberate, but not inconvenient, craft, well named the Patience; and my turn for using it had come. Black Zekiel, the captain, crew, and cook, was the very man that I would have chosen for such an expedition. He combined the indolent good-humour of the negro with the taciturnity of the Indian, and knew every shoal and channel of the tortuous waters. He asked nothing better than to set out on a voyage without a port; sailing aimlessly eastward day after day, through the long chain of landlocked bays, with the sea plunging behind the sand-dunes on our right, and the shores of Long Island sleeping on our left; anchoring every evening in some little cove or estuary, where Zekiel could sit on the cabin roof, smoking his corn-cob pipe, and meditating on the vanity and comfort of life, while I pushed off through the mellow dusk to explore every creek and bend of the shore, in my light canoe.

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There was nothing to hasten our voyage. The three weeks' vacation was all but gone, when the Patience groped her way through a narrow, crooked channel in a wide salt-meadow, and entered the last of the series of bays. A few houses straggled down a point of land; the village of Quantock lay a little farther back. Beyond that was a belt of woods reaching to the water; and from these the south- country road emerged to cross the upper end of the bay on a low causeway with a narrow bridge of planks at the central point. Here was our Ultima Thule. Not even the Patience could thread the eye of this needle, or float through the shallow marsh-canal farther to the east.

We anchored just in front of the bridge, and as I pushed the canoe beneath it, after supper, I felt the indefinable sensation of having passed that way before. I knew beforehand what the little boat would drift into. The broad saffron light of evening fading over a still lagoon; two converging lines of pine trees running back into the sunset; a grassy point upon the right; and behind that a neglected garden, a tangled bower of honeysuckle, a straight path bordered with box, leading to a deserted house with a high, white- pillared porch--yes, it was Larmone.

In the morning I went up to the village to see if I could find trace of my artist's visit to the place. There was no difficulty in the search, for he had been there often. The people had plenty of recollections of him, but no real memory, for it seemed as if none of them had really known him.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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