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AT HOME AND AT PLAY
HE Sylph had weighed anchor and was
standing out for the open, sped on her
way by a small gale that blew out of a bank of black cloud in the southeast. The sailors looked often and hard over the rail at the gathering gloom, the white-caps in the Sound, and the scudding drift overhead, prophesying trouble. A West Indian cyclone that had destroyed the crops in Jamaica and strewn our coast with wrecks had been lost for two days. It looked very much as if the Sylph, carrying the President from Oyster Bay to New York, had found it. And, indeed, before we reached the forts that guard the approach to the city, a furious hurricane churned the waters of the Sound and of the clouds into a maddening whirl in which it seemed as if so small a ship
could never live. A tug went down within hail; but only the sailors knew it. The passengers had been cleared from the deck, that the Sylph might be stripped of its awnings and every rag of canvas which might help throw it over if the worst happened. We went gladly enough, for the deck had ceased to be a comfortable or even a safe place,--all except the President, who had fallen out of the general conversation and into a corner by himself, with a book. A sailor confronted him with an open knife in his hand.
Mr. President,” he said, “orders are to cut away”; and without any more ado he slashed at the awning overhead, cutting its fastenings. The President woke up and retreated. Following him down into the cabin, I came upon Mrs. Roosevelt placidly winding yarn from the hands of the only other woman passenger. They were both as calm as though Government tugs were not chasing up the river as hard as they could go to the rescue of our boat, supposed to be in peril of shipwreck.
But at the moment I am thinking of, the hurricane was as yet only a smart blow. We were steaming out past Centre Island, under the rugged shore where Sagamore Hill lay hid
among the foliage. The President stood at the rail surveying the scenes he loves. Here he had played as a boy, and dreamed a boy's dreams; here he had grown to manhood; here his children were growing up around him, happy and healthy boys and girls. We passed a sandy bluff sloping sheer into the Sound from under its crown of trees.
“See,” he said, pointing to it. “Cooper's Bluff! Three generations of Roosevelts have raced down its slope. We did, only yesterday. Good run, that!”
And as the Sylph swept by I made out three lines .of track, hugging each other close,-a man's long, sturdy stride and the smaller feet of Archie and Kermit racing their father downhill. Half-way down they had slipped and slid, scooping up the sand in great furrows. I could almost hear their shouts and laughter ringing yet in the woods.
Sagamore Hill is the family sanctuary, whither they come back in June with one long sigh of relief that their holiday is in sight, in which they may have one another. No longer to themselves, it is true. The President is not permitted to be alone even in his own home.
But still they have days of seclusion, and nights,—that greatest night in the year, when the President goes camping with the boys. How much it all meant to him I never fully realized till last Election day, when I went with him home to vote. The sun shone so bright and warm, when he came out from among his old neighbors, who crowded around to shake hands, that a longing came over him for the old place, and we drove out to Sagamore Hill to catch a glimpse of it in its Indiansummer glory. Four dogs came bounding out with joyous barks and leaped upon him, and he caressed them and called them by name, each and every one, while they whined with delight,
“ Sailor-boy” happiest of the lot, a big, clumsy, but loyal fellow, “of several good breeds," said the President, whimsically. They followed him around as he went from tree to tree, and from shrub to shrub, visiting with each one, admiring the leaf of this and the bark of that, as if they were personal friends. And so they were; for he planted them all. Seeing him with them, I grasped the real meaning of the family motto, Qui plantavit curabit, that stands carved in the beam over the door looking north