The 1880s were in some ways the golden decade of Thames literature.
1881: George Leslie wrote his beautifully illustrated "Our River";
1881: The Thames from Oxford to Richmond, (Boys' Own) Paul Blake [this page];
1883: The Thames from Oxford to its Source, (Boys' Own) Paul Blake;
1885: The Royal River;
1885: Dictionary of the Thames Charles Dickens(jun),(edited geographically);
1886: Down the Thames, Oxford to Windsor, Julia Isham Taylor;
1888: Boating by W.B.Woodgate;
1889: Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome edited as a log! ;
1890: William Morris's trips on the River, 1880 & 1890;
1891: Boating Life on the Upper Thames, Dr F. Campbell Moller;
1891: Stream of Pleasure, J & E Pennell.
Chapter 1: Oxford to Abingdon
"Trip Up the River!".
What magic words those are for reviving memories of pleasant days in the minds of all boating men; memories of early swims, steady morning pulls, afternoon laziness, and evening content.
Who can paint the delight of sailing against stream, or of pulling with it, of breakfast on the water or dinner on the bank?
No one can do it as it should be done; but in the following pages I am going to try and give you some idea of the sort of life which a boating party led, when some few summers ago they managed to arrange for that ever favourite trip — from Oxford to Richmond.
Those who have made the trip may find some of their recollections strengthened, whilst those who still have that pleasure in store may be able to gather hints that will be useful to them when their time comes.
We feel quite certain that if boys only knew how easily the thing could be, very many more of them would be familiar with the grand upper reaches of the Thames than is at present the case.
First, then, as to the crew.
Round about Marlow and Henley, which we need scarcely tell London boys may readily be reached by train from Waterloo, one of the best known boats was a long cedar and mahogany boat, double sculling, carrying one lug sail, broad for the sake of safety, but never known to have been passed by a similar craft.
This boat, the Swan, was the property of four friends named Figgis, Martin, Charlton, and Budd.
They lived in London, but during the summer used to run down every week for a day or two’s boating, and every season they managed to make an excursion of more or less magnitude.
On the present occasion nothing less than the journey from Oxford to London was contemplated, and in order that they might not have to hurry over it they had determined to devote a whole week to it — one of the very best and least expensive ways of spending a week’s holiday that we know of, and we have tried many ways in many lands since then, and so know perfectly well what we are writing about.
No morning could have been more promising than that on which the four friends met at Oxford on the memorable Monday.
They had journeyed up from London by an early train, and twelve o’clock found them on their way to Salter's boat-house, where the Swan had already been sent.
The crew had soon donned their
costume, desired for comfort in the first place
and elegance in the second.
A thin tight jersey for pulling in, with a heavy woollen "sweater" to go over it when resting; dark-blue knickerbockers and stockings, shoes, dark-blue "bargee" cap — the customary "straw" may be thought de rigeur, but the "bargee" is the more servicable — and a pilot coat completed the outfit of the crew.
Their ordinary clothes they left behind in a portmanteau to be forwarded to Richmond, where they intended to disembark.
"I feel twice the man in a jersey that I do in a shirt", said Figgis, the captain.
"It’s as well you don't look it as well as feel it, remarked Budd, the smallest member of the party,
"for you’re six feet high by about three feet through in a shirt, and the boat wouldn’t carry a man double your size.
As it is it's a swindle that I have to pull along so much dead weight as you carry about you."
"Insubordination meets with its due reward", said the captain, giving Budd a rap, which he was unable to retaliate, as his arms were fixed in the effort to get into a tight jersey.
"Now hurry up; I’ll go down to the boat".
"Hurry up", retorted Budd; "it’s all very
well to say that, but it’s not so easy to get in
a jersey that’s a few sizes smaller than my skin."
However, it was not long before Figgis and Charlton were on the thwarts, Budd and Martin being seated on the stern cushion.
"Are you ready?" asked Martin.
"Yes", said the scullers.
"Push her off, then", cried the coxswain to the boatman.
A gentle push sent the Swan into the stream; the captain, who was rowing stroke, bent forward, and in half a minute the voyage had fairly begun — they were pulling steadily in the direction of London.
New College Oxford
"Come, you fellows", cried the irrepressible Budd, "don’t you see half the place is watching you? Put more grace into your movement and keep time better; straight back, bow and do credit to the boat."
Charlton was about to retort, but Figgis told him not to speak to the man at the wheel.
Martin steered well down the middle of the river, remembering one of the axioms of boating
to keep in the centre of the stream when going down.
[The rule of the river is now keep right.]
On the Swan glided; past the well known Christchurch meadows, in front of which the barges of the colleges lie moored, past the bridges, across the backwater, until Iffley Mill was sighted.
"Follow the right bank", said Figgis, who
knew all the ins and outs of the river.
"Keep your eye on the lasher.
Budd made a feeble attempt to say something funny about keeping your lashes on your
eye, but before he had time to make a decent job of it the lock was reached.
By good luck it was full, some boats were just coming out, so without delay they found themselves in their first lock.
Locks are decidedly drawbacks to Thames boating.
It is true they afford convenient measuring-places, but not much else can be said for them.
When time is an object, one is certain to find the lock empty if going down stream, and valuable time is wasted.
Then there is no doubt that they are more dangerous than the open stream, and accidents are by no means so well guarded against as they should be.
The gates are frequently out of repair, and nothing is done in the way of mending them till an accident has shown it to be absolutely imperative..
Now that we have reached the first lock, it
may be well to give a few hints as to how to
pass through one.
In going down stream do not approach the gates closely (of course leaving room for boats inside to pass out), but in going up be careful not to go quite close till the gates are open, and be sure to keep your boat parallel with the banks, or the wash of the water will very probably send it broadside, which is awkward to see as well as sometimes risky.
When inside and the gates are shut, hold on to the sides with boat-hooks, stem and stern; when the lock is being emptied the position does not much matter, if it is being filled do not get near the top end, as the wash is sometimes sufficient to send the boat dancing across to the other side in a dangerous way.
Remember that it is very difficult to get out of a lock if you are tipped over in one, and although "larking" should never be indulged in anywhere, it is specifically out of place in a lock.
When the gates are open, claw the boat along with the boat-hooks until you are clear, and then be ready at once with the sculls, as there is often a cross stream from the weir which may send you into a bank unless you are prepared for it.
"Now that we have a regular vovage on", said Charlton, "we ought to have our ratings assigned properly."
"Figgis is captain, of course but what shall each of us be?"
I’m the midshipmite, and the bos’un tight
And the crew of the Nancy Bell
"I propose we make Budd cabin boy", said Martin.
"First get me a cabin", replied Budd.
"Now, gentlemen —"
At this moment the lower gates opened, and Budd’s attention was occupied with pushing the boat along with a boat-hook.
So soon, however, as they were out in the stream once more he resumed,
"I propose, gentlemen —"
"There’s a nautical smack about that phrase", interupted Charlton.
"I propose, you set of unmannered bargees", went on the unabashed Budd, "that my friend at the bow be unanimously elected to look after the provision department, and to do the necessary cooking.
"I don’t mind", replied Charlton, "but in that case I won’t have anything to do with financial matters.
I vote that Martin be banker."
"Very well", assented Martin, "that will relieve me of all anxiety about the boat.
’Tis true Budd isn’t good for much, but shall we make him responsible for the care of the Swan and its contents? "
"You couldn’t put it into better hands", said Budd.
"Now what is there that we can give that lazy couple of yards to do who is pulling stroke?"
"I'm captain", said Figgis.
"I'll have general supervision of everything, and see that none of you shirk your work.
"And a jolly easy berth you’ll have of it", retorted Budd.
"Never mind, we’ll take it out of you somehow or other.
Ah! here’s the bridge!"
For the last half-mile they had been pulling through a rather flat and uninteresting bit.
The stream however was wider than it was at Iffley.
They stopped under the arch to see Oxford, of whose spires and towers
there is a very pretty view from this point.
Then, bending to their oars, they pulled steadily on till they came to Rose Island, by the side of which they stopped.
"Easy all", cried the cox.
"Let’s rest here a bit and have a look round the boat. As head of the commissariat I have grave doubts about the provisioning of our vessel.
"I have graver doubts about provisioning myself", said the captain.
"I’ve had nothing since breakfast but a biscuit, and nature appeals for something more substantial."
"Then let us push on and have a regular meal", suggested Charlton.
"It's no distance to the next lock, and there are lots of splendid places to feed in about Nuneham Courtney."
"Yes, on you go", cried Budd; "now that dinner has been mentioned I feel as if I could create a famine."
A few minutes more and the mill was in sight.
"Keep to the right", said Figgis, "the weir is on the left."
"The gates are shut", said the cox.
"Now all together", said Budd.
And simultaneously the crew shouted in unison,
"Lock! Lock! Lo-ooock!" There he is", cried Martin; "we can get in now, I think. Forward all!"
Sandford Lock is one of the deepest on the river, the average fall being seven feet.
The lasher near it has a melancholy reputation for
causing the death of more bathers than almost
any other spot on the Thames.
Almost every year it demands its victim.
Those who boat in the Thames cannot be too careful; places which are safe enough at ordinary times become actually dangerous when the river is high.
Martin was an amateur artist of some ability, and it required not a little sacrifice on his part to pass Sandford Lock without making a sketch.
But the others would not hear of it, so he had to be content with hopes of better chances in future.
Those who have time to land will find the old church worth a visit.
There is a tablet over the porch stating who restored the place in 1652, ending,
"Thankes to thy charitie, religiose dame,
Wch found mee old, and made mee new againe.
There are some interesting old sculptures inside.
At the back of the churchyard is a farmhouse nearly three hundred years old.
The boat was soon lying underneath some overarching trees.
The captain sprang to land and made the painter fast to a bough, taking care to fix the stern in a similar manner, to prevent the boat swinging out into the stream.
Needless to say that so experienced an oarsman as Figgis was careful to let the prow point upstream.
The cook was soon ashore, shouting out commands to Martin and Budd to hand him the various articles required for the meal, most of which were contained in a large picnic-basket that stood in the stem.
"I should think that basket weighs nearly a hundredweight", said Budd, as he sank down exhausted with his exertions.
"It won’t weigh so much to put back, though.
"I wish you’d lay the cloth instead of talking", said the captain.
"You’re doing nothing.
"No more are you", retorted Budd, with some truth, for his superior officer was sitting on the grass.
"Yes, I am", said Figgis, "I’m trying to keep the smoke out of my eyes.
However, he did not set a bad example long.
In a short time he had the macintosh which covered the stern of the boat spread on the mound, and a tablecloth over it; the knives, forks, spoons, plates, etc. were spread on it, the bread extracted from the bread-bag, and the dozen other little matters which are only remembered after long experience, put in their proper places.
By this time the kettle was nearly boiling, and the tea would soon be ready, for this was to be a combination of tea and dinner.
"How are you getting on, cook?" asked Martin..
"If the water has got half as hot from the fire as I have, it must be pretty well boiling."
"I love the singing of the birds", put in Budd, "but just now I should prefer to hear the singing of the kettle.
Ah! it’s started at last.
Now hey for cold steak pie!"
The first meal was soon begun.
How they did enjoy it! The fresh air, the lovely scenery, were all forgotten for a while, although undoubtedly the surroundings and situation added to their enjoyment.
The first sign of the approaching conclusion of their tea was the resumption of conversation.
"I should like to have a ramble over this place", said Martin; "there ought to be some charming spots to sketch.
"We’ll land at the cottages if you like", said Figgis, "and go over.
Mr. Harcourt lets anyone go over the park, I believe."
"No", said Charlton, "only on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so we’re a day early.
Perhaps ’tis as well, for we have a lot to do here this afternoon, and then we ought to get to Abingdon early.
Martin acquiesced with a sigh. His disappointment was not great, however, for from where he sat he could see the cottages and bridge which form such a charming view, and these he soon had down in his sketch-book.
But although the crew of the Swan could not visit Nunehain, those who are able to do so will have a treat.
The house is historical in interest; it was built about 1715, and is crowded with interesting curiosities, literary and artistic.
Pope and Prior and many other celebrities were frequent visitors in former days, and in the library there are preserved many memorials of them.
Pictures by Rubens, Reynolds, Murillo, and others, adorn various rooms; and, when tired of indoors, the visitor may find new objects of interest in the extensive park and gardens, from which exquisite views of Oxford, Abingdon, and other places can be obtained.
"Time’s up", cried Figgis, after half an hour’s lazy enjoyment after eating.
"Now, Budd and Charlton, see if everything we shall want is here.
The cook produced a list from his pocket, and began calling it over, ticking each item as Martin found it.
I will give the principal items as a useful guide to any readers who may want to know what to pack in their provision-basket before starting: —
Bread, butter, salt, etc., sugar (lump), sugar (sifted), tea, cocoa (for breakfast), milk (preserved), potted meats, potted salmon, salad, limejuice, water, eggs, bacon, jam, sausages, wood, paper, matches.
"Everything's here", reported Charlton, "but cocoa, bacon, and paper for lighting the fire.
Budd, you had to get the cocoa, I know.
"Yes, I confess I am guilty; but the fact is I detest cocoa, so I thought if I didn’t bring any you would have to use tea.
"Did you!" said Figgis; "then you won’t have anything to drink to-morrow morning unless wo have cocoa, so you’d better see some is bought to-night.
Budd escaped immediate punishment by jumping into the boat.
One of his duties was to see that everything was packed neatly before they started, and also to make sure that nothing was left behind.
When he had performed these functions Figgis cast off.
Martin and Budd took the sculls, and once more they were in midstream on their way to Abingdon, where they meant to stay the night.
"This is a lovely reach",said Martin, as they passed that wooded bank which stretches along on the left.
"How jolly it must be to own Nuneham! " "Everybody can’t have it", said Figgis; "let’s be thankful some one has who lets other people enjoy it too".
"There’s the railway bridge! "
"And there’s Abingdon Church! "
"Do you remember coming up here last year after the flood?" asked Martin.
"What was that? I wasn’t here.
"Budd and I were towing up this path in the evening.
Budd was going first.
All at once he disappeared — the path was under water,
and a great hole was hidden by it.
Fortunately he kept hold of the rope, so I hauled him out pretty easily.
"They ought to keep the towpath in better repair", said Charlton.
"Who’re they?" asked the captain;
but Budd stopped him from continuing, knowing that when the captain once began expatiating on river rights and wrongs there was no peace for half an hour.
"There’s the lock!" cried Charlton. "Let’s hail in proper style."
Figgis was a musician of some ability, and all the members of the crew were very fond of music — in fact, it was their love of it which had originally brought them together.
Charlton, in addition to his skill as a cook, wrote tolerable verses, some of which Figgis had set to music, and many were the glees and madrigals which the crew had sung together as they sailed or drifted down the river.
Each of then: carried a small MS. music-book in his pocket, containing his part in a considerable selection of their favourites, so that at any time they could amuse themselves by that most delightful form of music — male voice part-songs.
Amongst Figgis’s compositions was a "lock hail", which it was the crew’s custom to sing when nearing a lock; although it is very simple it has a very good effect on the water..
The lustily-shouted hail was soon answered.
They pased through the rather deep lock, and a few strokes landed them at the Nag’s Head.
Here they disembarked.
Figgis and Charlton went to see about beds; Budd and Martin remained behind to see the boat properly unloaded.
By the time they had done what was necessary the others had returned, after a successful survey; so, bidding the boatman goodnight, with ordera to be ready at 7.30 next morning, they took up their handbags, and made for the Crown and Thistle.
It had been a subject of long debate whether they should camp out during this trip or not.
In many respects it is pleasanter; there is a freedom from restraint which is very enjoyable to those whose lives are chiefly spent between four walls, but on the whole the crew had decided to sleep indoors.
The chief reason for the decision was that camping-out involves carrying such a quantity of extra luggage, and, as it was, they had as much on boat as they cared to have.
The unsettled state of the weather compelled them to carry macintoshes and leggings; they had two heavy rugs to use in the evenings; then each had a small bag to contain spare jersey, socks, etc., with his brush and comb and other necessaries; add to the above the picnic- basket with its contents, the bread-bag, cooking apparatus, water-jug, spare pair of sculls, towing-mast and rope, mast and sail, and various other details, and it can be seen that it was a matter of importance to keep down the list of additions.
However, information regarding camping-out will be found farther on for those who contemplate it.
Sleep did not require much wooing — open air, rowing, and an evening ramble induce speedy slumbers.
The crew retired to rest, content with their first day the pleasure of which had not been marred by a single untoward event..
Chapter 2: A WEEK ON THE THAMES: Abingdon to Culham Lock
"All hands ready. Come, now, turn out; past seven o'clock!” were the first words of the captain next morning, as he jumped out of bed to afford a good example. Budd showed signs of continued sleepiness, but a sponge full of water - brought him to his senses.
Dressing in boating costume is only a matter of a few minutes, especially when a bathe is anticipated, so all but Martin were soon on their way to the boat; the latter, as banker, remained behind to pay the bill.
The principle of the financial part of the arrangement was this.
Each contributed £1 to a common fund; from this Martin purchased everything needed by the cook, etc., and paid all outgoings of every description that were not personal to either of the crew.
At the end of the day he made a statement of his balance, and when necessary demanded a fresh subscription.
Budd soon had the Swan loaded and ready to start, for the crew worked as hard as the boatman.
It was scarcely half past seven as they pushed off, and before they had pulled a mile sweaters and jerseys had disappeared,and into the water everyone went head first, leaving the boat against the bank.
Up till eight anyone may bathe anywhere, so they had no fear of being seen by some informer,
who would make no scruple of getting them into trouble.
"Lovely piece of water just here", said Charlton as he rose from a shallow dive.
"Not a weed anywhere about, and deep enough to cover Abingdon Church."
"After six feet all depths are the same to me." said Budd.
I'd bate a few yards just below me just now, for a little hot water to be turned on; its like being in a refrigerator.
A short swim upstream and back again, and they climbed onto the bank and rubbed each other down till they were warm as toast and ravenous for breakfast.
The foresight of the careful cook was at once apparent.
Before undressing he had lit the the fire, and the kettle was now beginning to boil.
The cocoa was there, Budd having made an excursion to get it on the previous evening; the sausages were placed in a frying pan, which took the place of the kettle, and breakfast began in ernest.
"How far are we going today?" asked Martin, with his mouth full of sausage,
"We ought to sleep at Pangbourne", replied Figgis.
"Then we will", said Budd; "this is a model crew, and what we ought to do we do".
"It's only a matter of 23 or 24 miles", remarked Figgis, "and we have the whole day to do it in; the river is pretty full, too, so we shall be helped by the stream."
"Hullo Budd! You've opened a fresh pot of jam; pass it over here".
"Figgis", said Budd, who had helped himself liberally, "I should strongly advise you to avoid this jam, it's simply - well, the least said of it the better".
Figgis, however, was up to Budd's tricks, and declined to let him sacrifice himself by eating a whole pot of full of bad preserve so Budd's little manœuvre to keep an excellent supply of strawberry jam for his own use was defeated.
The dying fire had been utilised to warm a further supply of water for cleaning the plates.
Until you have camped you would not believe how difficult it is to wash grease off in cold water.
'Washing up' is one of the disagreeable necessities of river life, and one that is constantly occuring.
One piece of advice: Never put anything away dirty; however tired you may be, clean up everything directly you have used it; to have to wash plates and clean knives just before a meal is a very unappetising process.
"Heigho!" sighed Charlton, the poet, "we've been on the water nearly a day, and never had an adventure of any sort; when are we going to begin?"
"Now, if you lean so much over the side to wash those spoons", answered Martin.
However, a small adventure was in store for them earlier than they anticipated.
Whilst breakfasting they had seen a steamer pass them going down, one of those monsters which manage in some mysterious manner, to get through the locks.
They had resumed rowing and entered the narrow cutting leading to Culham Lock, which is crossed by two wooden bridges.
It is necessary here to look out for the sharp turn to the left or you will go down the broad way, which leads where broad ways often do, to destruction.
But here you can tell if you are wrong or right by observing the towpath.
"When in doubt, follow the towpath" is a good general rule; you can recognise the places where it changes sides by the ferry boat.
Here, right in front of them they saw the steamer, evidently stuck.
"Why on earth doesn't she go on?" grumbled Martin; "I suppose she's stopping so as to make us lose the lock".
"She's stuck", cried Figgis, "don't you see she can't get under the bridge!"
That was the explanation.
The river was fuller than usual, and the funnel of the steamer was about three inches too high to go under the bridge; it was very little, but quite enough.
The boat was soon alongside.
"Can we do anything for you?" asked Figgis, for on the river it is the duty of every man to helpeverything in distress.
"If you can tell us how to get out of this I shall be jolly glad", returned the steersman.
"We've been here 'bove half an hour already and it seems likely we shall stick here till the water goes down again".
"Make a hole in the bottom of the river, and so let the water get lower", suggested Budd without a smile.
"File three inches off the top of the funnel", was the equaly useful suggestion of Charlton.
"Saw three inches off the bottom of the bridge" was the next proposal.
Chapter 3 A Week on the Thames: Culham Lock to Pangbourne
From what had been said the steersman comprehended that he was being chaffed, and seemed about to indulge in some personal remarks, when Figgis asked,
"Why don’t you get them to raise the sluices of both gates at the lock? That would lower the water in no time".
"Thank ye, sir, that’s the very dodge", cried the man.
"We’ll go on and tell the lock-keeper", said Figgis, and his promise was speedily performed.
The top gates were opened and the sluices of
the bottom ones raised, the water rushed
through like a weir, for it is a deep lock, and
sent the Swan along at a tremendous pace,
rocking it as if it had been on the sea.
The steamer was soon freed and passed the boat about half an hour afterwards, the steersman and crew giving the Swan a cheer as they went by, and giving them a considerable wash as well.
"There’s Wittenham Clump", said Martin; "we shall see that for about half a day, it crops up everywhere".
"It’s all very well for you to say there’s
so and so", grumbled Budd, who was sculling,
"but one doesn’t get much idea of the scenery
when one’s pulling, as one has no eyes at the
back of one’s head.
"I’ve what does nearly as well", said Figgis, who was stroke.
"I’ve a pain in my back".
"I can see through your pain", said Budd.
"I shouldn’t have thought I was so much out of condition", continued Figgis; "we’ll change at the next lock."
"Passengers for Pangbourne will change at the next lock", sang out Martin, in porter's style.
He didn’t object, as he knew that Day’s Lock was only two miles farther on, when they would change again.
There is not much of interest on the river in point of scenery from Culham until Clifton Hampden is reached.
The church and vicarage
of the latter village are charmingly situated, and
a little farther down there is an eyot with a
splendid chestnut-tree on it.
Martin was delighted, and wanted to stop, but as it would have taken longer than they could well spare for him to have made a sketch, he had once more to give way.
Although at the end of the trip he found few drawings of any importance in his book, its leaves were crowded with odds and ends of interest
Scarcely a lock was passed in which he
did not find something worth jotting down,
scarcely a meal was eaten at which he had not
drawn one of the crew in some new attitude for
successfully eating without a table.
Martin’s sketch-book, some of the contents of which appear in the course of these pages, is a constant source of amusement and pleasure to the crew of the Swan.
It was approaching midday when they found themselvea opposite to an inn, at which they felt bound to make a call.
This is the celebrated
Swan Inn on the Berks shore, a favourite resort
of Oxford men.
They put in and landed.
At this house and at the Roebuck (of which more by-and-by) the captain was a well-remembered guest, for there is a piano at each place, and when he once was within reach of a piano all around were made aware of the fact.
He played piece after piece, the crew sang glees, the worthy proprietor forsook his accustomed plaoe to come and listen, and in reply to Figgis’s request persuaded his daughters to show their skill, which was verycreditable.
Altogether they had a small concert until the striking of a clock told them that they had spent more than an hour of their time.
"It seems to me as if I hadn’t breakfasted since yesterday morning", said Budd, as they on more pushed off.
"Singing is a terrible thing for creating an appetite, Let’s have dinner soon."
"After the next lock", decided the captain.
"Don’t you think we can have a sail?" asked Charlton; "the wind is light but it is right abaft".
"We’ll try if you like", assented Figgis.
"We’ve no time to lose, so I'll scull on whilst you hoist the canvas.
This was the first time they had had a chance of enjoying the pleasures of a sail.
Martin continued to steer whilst Budd and Charlton were busy stepping the mast, seeing that the gear was all in good trim and every cleet and hook strong.
Whether Martin’s attention was occupied with watching them, or whether he did not recollect that part of the river, no one knows; but he steered to the left instead of to the right, and had gone some distance towards the weir when the loud shouts of an excited yokel warned them of their danger.
"Lower the sail!" cried Figgis; it had just been hoisted.
He gave a strong pull with his bow oar, whilst Martin steered hard to bring the boat round: a few good strokes brought them out of all dangerous proximity to the weir.
"I’m very sorry", said Martin, "but how can a fellow tell which is the right way to go here? The entrance to the lock is hidden; no one could imagine that that was the way."
"No", assented Figgis, "one has to learn the river; I ought to have warned you. However, we’ll be more careful in future."
The sail was again hoisted, although they were within a short distance of Benson Lock.
Before entering it it was of course lowered again,
no boat being allowed to have the sail up in a
lock; at least, such is the impression most
boating men have, although it is doubtful if
there is any law on the point.
There was a strong cross stream just below the lower gates, which rendered sculling advisable for a short distance, when once more they sailed, soon passing Howberry Park on the left bank, the seat of Mr.H.Watkins W. Wynn.
"This is something like! " said Charlton, as he lay at full length along the bottom of the boat.
"I vote we go straight on till the wind drops, and then have dinner."
"We must draw the line somewhere", replied the captain; "suppose we stop by Mongwell? In any wise we shall have done the best half of the day’s work then, and have lots of time.
"And there’s a lunatic asylum nice and handy for those idiots who want to go any further", added Budd.
On they sailed, steadily, with a gentle breeze right abaft, that kept the sail filled and necessitated no jibing, past Wallingford, until the lock was in sight.
"I suppose we must pull up here again",
growled Martin; "these locks are a nuisance."
"Perhaps it’s open", said Figgis, "it generally is; I don't know why they want a lock here at all, except to support a lock-keeper.
It was open, so without lowering the sail they glided gently through it; they had a pass for the season, and so escaped the attentions of tho lock-keeper, who with a small net at the end of a pole claims toll from every sort of craft.
However, I do not recommend any one to try to imitate the Swan in sailing through this or any lock, for a gust of wind might upset your calculations and boat at the same time, and it is as well never to run the slightest risk in a lock.
Leaving the church of Newnham Murren on the left, they passed Mongwell
House, the residence of Mr.Fraser, one of the
best-kept places on the river, and at the head of
the next reach dropped the sail, and were soon
busy making preparations for dinner.
"It’s a curious fact", said Martin, "that although it’s blowing a decent breeze now that we don’t want it, it will be sure to drop directly we start.
"Just as it is sure to rain when you go out without an umbrella", remarked Charlton, who was busily employed in cleaning lettuces to make a salad.
"We can’t hope for fine weather always; we’ve been very fortunate so far", said the captain.
"We must take it as it comes; we’ve only about ten miles more to do.
Conversation was now suspended for a time, the only remarks heard being short sentences, such as, "Pass the salt, please!", "Who’s got the mustard?", "I say, old boy, just lend me your knife for half-an-hour", and similar ejaculations.
When dinner was over the captain allowed half-an-hour for complete idleness, which he and Budd employed in chatting, Martin in sketching, and Charlton in doing nothing.
"Time’s up", cried Figgis at last, drawing out the great watch which they knew so well.
It was the captain’s boast that, although he had twice been overboard with this vast timekeeper, it had never stopped, and although its size was a cause of frequent jokes (Budd wanted to boil it down as a turnip for dinner), it was a useful part of the boat’s furniture.
As he gave the order they all jumped up and commenced their various duties, digging the knives and forks into the bank to clean them, scraping the plates with handfuls of mud, and performing other necessary but somewhat unpleasant jobs.
When the packing was accomplished they pushed off, and began a steady pull towards Cleeve Lock.
Before the lock is reached there is a fine stretch of water a good mile in length, over which the trial eights of the Oxford University are rowed.
Below the lock the scene is very charming, a series of weirs is passed, which afford very pretty vistas; in fact, this portion of the river is most beautiful, and increases in beauty after Goring Lock,
and one is tempted to envy the owners of "The Grotto" (the white house with trees behind it), and of "Basildon Park", farther down.
The remainder of the day was without incident.
They passed a considerable number of boats, so many in fact that Figgis thought it probable that beds would be at a premium at the hotel at Pangbourne.
On arriving there about six
o’clock they found this was the case; however,
they had been up the river too often for this to
cause them any dismay, for Figgis knew three
or four houses in each town where a bed could be
His second visit was successful; he succeeded in obtaining a large double-bedded room and a small one in a house on the outskirts of the village.
"It seems a pity to leave the river just as the evening is coming on, " said Martin.
"Let’s go for a gentle row up that reach again.
The proposal was jumped at; they lightened the boat of all luggage and pushed off, to retrace their course so far as their fancy should lead them.
It was a moonlight night, and the reflection on the water when the moon’s beams broke through the clouds was extremely beautiful.
Many boats passed them on their way to Pangbourne, and our crew saluted several with a glee, which sounded so sweet, and chimed in so charmingly with the surroundings, that the oars of the passing boat would cease whilst its occupants listened to the music coming mysteriously from a hidden source.
The crew had the compliment paid them of hearing loud cries of
"Thank you!" from one boat, followed by
"Encore " in the voice of a lady, made bold by knowing that she was invisible.
Needless to say they 'encored'.
It was much too charming an evening to think of returning.
A gentle breeze had sprung up, so that they were able to sail, and enjoy the highest pleasure the river can afford - a moonlight sail.
On the boat glided, past wood and meadow.
Occasionally a swan would swim proudly by, arching its neck as if indignant at having its rest disturbed.
Sometimes a sharp swish along the surface betokened that a moorhen was seeking the shelter of the rushes, and once they were enchanted to hear the liquid notes and exquisite trills of the nightingale, which chooses the most bewitching hour to pour forth its incomparable song.
They did not care to talk, the evening was too calm and silent, and they had penetrated to within a short distance of Goring before they awoke from their reverie.
"Look out!" suddenly cried the captain; "we shall be stranded in a moment.
Keep close to the right bank."
Too late! a grinding noise proved that they had approached too near the gravel bar, which extends down the middle of the river just below the lock.
The crew were thoroughly roused by this time, and with laughter and shouts set to work to push off.
This, however, was no easy job; they had grounded rather deeply, and a boat with four men in it weighs a good deal.
"Hold hard!" cried Figgis, "It’s not worth while to scrape all the varnish off her. I’ll get out.
In a few seconds his shoes and stockings were off and he stepped on to the gravel.
The boat, lightened of his weight, and assisted by a push from his powerful arm, slid back into deep water, leaving the captain standing alone.
"Perhaps you’ll have the goodness to pull back and take me on board", he cried.
"Wait a minute", cried Martin.
"I want to make a sketch of you first.
You’ve no idea how picturesque you look.
"But I’ve a good idea how cold I feel", retorted Figgis, "so hurry up".
"Don’t get excited", put in Budd, "It’s bad for your health".
Figgis replied by snatching up a handful of wet gravel, and pelting the aggravating speaker.
"Here, hold on!" sang out Charlton; "we capitulate.
Now pipe all hands to rescue Robinson Crusoe from his desert island.
He took a pair of sculls, and the captain was once more amongst his crew.
"We’d better turn now", said Martin.
"I’ve no fancy for going through that coffin-like lock at this time of night, and it looks as if the lock-keepers were gone to bed.
I'll pull home with you, Figgis."
All was made snug, and the Swan began its last journey for the day.
The scenery between Goring and Pangbourne, lovely as it is during the day, seemed to have additional attractions at night; the well-wooded parks of Basildon and Combe looking especially charming.
The reach just before Pangboume did not lack its usual complement of houseboats, in one of which an amateur concert was going on.
As the Swan passed they saw a night-capped head appear suddenly out of one of the boating houses, and an appealing voice cry,
"Now then, are you fellows over there going to keep on that caterwauling all night? I want to get to sleep."
But the enthusiastic singers were too occupied to hear him, and he drew back his head with feelings that were too deep for words.
Half-an-hour after there was only one of our friends awake, and he succumbed a few minutes later.
For inducing appetite and sleep the river is unsurpassed.
A WEEK ON THE THAMES Chapter 4: Pangbourne to Purley
Immediately Budd awoke next morning, he thought for a moment that he saw a ghost, but it was only Figgis who was standing at the window in his nightshirt, looking out disconsolately.
"What's the matter old man? Anything up?"
"No, but a good-deal coming down; it’s raining".
"Never mind; - its no use bothering about it; we can't stop it.
Turn out, you fellows."
Rain and such like trifles are not thought so much of in a boat as on shore.
I have spent day after day on the water in almost unintermittent rain, and our crew were too accustomed te wet to take much account of it.
Still it was annoying, as fine weather is undoubtedly pleaaanter.
However, no one even hinted that breakfast indoors would be preferable to outside, but with praise worthy alacrity they donned their macintoshes and set off.
"I vote we don’t bathe to-day", said Martin; "we've quite enough water without it, and we've a long day’s work, haven't we?"
"Yes", answered Figgis; "Budd wants to get down to Marlow to-night for some myaterious reason".
"I'll tell you why by-and-by", said Budd, in a half shy manner.
"Keep well to the left", said Figgis; "the lock is out of sight;
it’s the hardest to find on the river; one would think they had tried to hide it on purpose."
The rain continued to come down in a steady drizzle. The luggage had been carefully covered over, bow and stern, with macintoshes, so that nothing could come to harm.
The two in the stern covered themselves up to the eyes with a rug, whilst the scullers similar material thrown over their shoulders.
"Now, breakfast is the first consideration", said Charlton, "and the less consideration there is before I begin mine the better I shall be pleased.
What do you say to under those willows?"
"That's the place", cried Martin, "and I'll show you a dodge to keep us dry whilst you are boiling the kettle."
They pulled in close to the bank, and moored the boat.
A fire was lit after a little difficulty on a ledge, and meanwhile Martin, with the help of the captain and Budd, had hung the sail across two branches above their heads in such a manner that it completely protected them from the drops from the leaves.
Then, not satisfied with that Martin tied the corners of one of the rugs to the boathooks, and fixed it across to shelter them on the side from which the wind was blowing.
"There ", he remarked, in a satisfied tone, "I think we're snug enough now."
"I shall shed my macintosh", said Figgis, who had been pulling; " I'm hot enough for July."
"After all I don't know that rain is a misfortune", said Martin.
"Here is one, then", cried the cook; "the jampot has broken and has got mixed with the cocoa, and everything else apparently, sausages and all."
"Never mind", said Martin, "we shall have the various items of our breakfast in a lump instead of separately, that's all."
"Yes", put in Figgis, "but we can't eat our sausages uncooked, and fried jam would probably be a failure as an article of food especially if washed down with powdered cocoa.
Let's see what can be done."
A little patience and water secured the necessary separation, at the cost of making every-body's hands in a wretchedly sticky condition.
"Don't shake hands with me", said Martin, "or we shall never part again. I'm like a: magnet, the knives all stick to me."
"There's a basin and water handy", suggested Figgis, pointing to the river, "and no fear of using all in the jug."
"Provisions are running rather low", said the cook ; "we must lay in some more bread at Caversham."
"It's your look-out if we run short", answered Budd.
"We must do as all shipwrecked mariners do if we have nothing to eat, devour one of the crew.
I recommend Figgis for a start, for there's a good deal of him."
The captain handed Budd a hunch of bread-and-butter by way of making him employ his tongue in a more sensible manner, and Budd determined to start the subject afresh when he had finished his supply, in order to get Figgis to butter him a fresh slice.
Rain, rain ! Faster than ever it came on whilst they breakfasted, although they felt no inconvenience, sheltered under their improvised tent.
Sculling in such a pelting shower would be no joke.
"Next time I come I'll bring an umbrella", said Budd.
"Better bring a foot-warmer as well whilst you are about it", suggested Martin.
"Tell you what", added Charlton, "next time I want a holiday I shall go and sit in a shower-bath for a couple of hours, and by that means save my journey to Oxford."
"It's sure to break up soon", said Figgis ; "we'll wait here for half an hour."
"What shall we do?" asked Charlton.
"Shall I sing you a song?" inquired Budd.
"Not whilst memory holds her seat", retorted Figgis.
"Make yourselves useful, and give everything a double extra cleaning; some of those knives look as if they were getting rusty.
Hand over the basket, and let's give everything a thorough good turn out."
Orders were obeyed ; they rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
Everything in the boat was overhauled and put to rights.
The cook took the opportunity of taking stock and ascertaining what articles it would be necessary to procure, and at the end of about half an hour everything was repacked, clean and shipshape.
"'Tisn't raining so fast now", said Charlton.
"Let's start ; we can't stay here all day."
They all agreed.
The sail was taken down and the voyage recommenced.
Before long the rain ceased, and the sun made an attempt to show itself through the breaks in the clouds.
Inexpressibly beautiful the trees looked, all shining with drops of rain, which the rays of the sun turned into sparkling gems.
The crew broke into a cheer as at last the rain absolutely ceased, and they passed into Maple Durham lock in a bright sunshine.
Maple Durham is a painter's paradise, but the occupants of a boat must postpone looking at the scenery till they have passed the cross-stream just below the lock, or they will inevitably be swept into the right bank.
That difficulty surmounted, they can look their fill at the pretty islets which dot the river,
at the dashing weirs, the moss-covered old mill, and the picturesquely situated church-tower.
A few yards farther on, and they will see on the left one of the most beautiful old houses on tke Thames, Maple Durham House, the property of the Blounts, containing, it is said, several secret rooms and passages, used for hiding members of the King's party in the time of the common-wealth.
The scenery round this portion of the river is only excelled, if excelled at all, by one other part, the reach between Cookham and Boulter's lock.
"Look", cried Figgis, suddenly, "there's a kingfisher!"
As he spoke the beautiful bird, which had been sitting motionless on a bough just above the water, flashed along the surface like a meteor, close to the boat, the crew having a good view of his exquisite orange and blue plumage.
"Isn't it a beauty!"
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever", quoted Budd. "That's why I missed seeing it, I suppose."
"Heigho!" sighed Martin, as they once more began to move, after a long look at the scene;
"I should like to stay about here for a week, and paint every house and tree in the place."
"That's the worst of you artists", said Budd, "you always think you can improve on nature.
Now I should have thought the trees were of exactly the right colour, and here you are wanting to paint them. But I suppose I have no taste."
"I wonder", whispered Charlton to Martin, "if we can get Figgis past the Roebuck without his noticing it ; we really haven't much time to lose."
"He's sculling, so there is a chance. Talk about something when we are near it."
Charlton tried to, but naturally a subject failed, and so did his object; for as they neared the little landing-stage the captain said,
"Pull into the shore ; here's the Roebuck."
Chapter 5: A WEEK ON THE THAMES, Purley to Hurley
So, after all, they scarcely wished to dispute Figgis's desire to visit this celebrated little inn.
Tying up the boat, they jumped ashore, crossed the railway, which runs through a cutting in the wood, and mounted the innumerable steps till they reached the wicket-gate.
Figgis went straight to the well known piano, and struck up an original march, which soon brought out the landlord and his son, who recognised the music.
"Glad to see you again, sir", said the former. "We haven't heard much music since you went away."
"Let's make up for it now", cried Figgis; "we've only half an hour, so get out your instruments. Let's have one of Mozart's trios." Nothing loth, the landlord and his son produced a violin and violoncello, and for the next twenty minutia there was a performance of a masterpiece that would not have disgraced a concert-room. The rest of the crew listened attentively, although Budd contrived to dispose of a couple of glasses of milk between the movements.
"Ah, sir, I'm getting out of practice; don't play so well as I used I shad have to leave it to the youngsters soon. Now, sir, won't you play something, or will all of you gentlemen give us a glee; one of the old ones you used to sing up here?"
The crew were never loth to exhibit their powers before appreciative listeners, so they sang the following, composed by Figgis in some words imitating the old love ditties.
"Thank you, gentlemen: thank you. Very well sung."
"Now we must be going", said Figgis ; "but we'll have some milk and biscuits first; music is exhausting."
After refreshment, they scampered down the steps, amidst wishes from the landlord that they would soon be up again, which they heartily re-echoed.
"No more stopping", said Figgis, "straight on now till dinner-time."
"We must get some bread at Caversham", protested the cook; "we're quite out of it."
"Then I'11 give you ten minutes at Caversham bridge, and if you're not back you must catch us up at the lock."
"Keep to the right of that old post", he directed soon after. "There's a series of piles
from it to the other bank.
How they expect any one who doesn't know the river to guess he must keep this side some one may know, but I don't."
About three miles below the Roebuck is Caversham bridge, joining the village of Caversham to the town of Reading.
Figgis steered cleverly up to the landing stage, inserting the nose of the boat between a skiff and an eight, and bringing her
to rest without any of the backing-water and easing this way and that, which looks so inelegant and amateurish.
Before the Swan had stopped, Charlton had jumped out and was running up the steps, eager to get his provisions before the expiry of the allotted ten minutes.
In the meantime, Martin was negotiating with Cawston for some fresh butter and eggs, which previous experience had proved to be of excellent quality.
Before the transaction was over Charlton returned, his arms full of loaves, which were speedily put in the bread-bag.
He had no sooner jumped in than the painter was cast loose, and the final egg tossed from land by a child and cleverly caught by Budd, the money returned in a similar manner, and the Swan started at "x" miles an hour, with Figgis and Martin at the sculls.
"That's what a Yankee would call smart", said Budd. "A metropolitan underground couldn't do the trick cleaner."
"Another couple of voyages, and I shall make a crew of you", said Figgis, approvingly.
"Another couple of voyages and we shan't be content with you for a captain", retorted Budd.
"Lock! lock!" was shouted out in chorus soon after.
There were three or four boats waiting to go in, but I'm sorry to say the Swan was not content with her place at the tail, but managed somehow to be the first in.
"Rather different sort of lock this from some of them", said Budd; "that wooden old tub at Goring, for instance."
"Goring is infinitely more picturesque", said Martin. "I detest these spick-and-span brick affairs ; they take all the poetry out of the river."
"And don't put any more safety into it, after all", growled Figgis, as his boathook glided along the smooth brickwork without catching on anything.
"There's nothing here to get hold of."
"There are no end of chains", said Charlton. "And if you twist your hook in one of them you'll probably spend the best part of your holiday in trying to get it out.
No; give me an old wooden lock, with a crazy gate, rather than a superfine, extra polished brick one, with a sound entrance."
"Lock's open!" interrupted Martin, pushing along with his boat-hook.
"Be ready to take the sculls directly we're outside, there's always a tremendous stream."
The boat was carried on at a splendid pace for some yards, when the river assumed its ordinary pace.
More boats were to be seen on this part than at any other they had passed since Oxford.
Reading is a large town, one of the largest on the river, and the pull from Caversham to Sonning is a very favourite one with its inhabitants.
There is a beautiful wood on the right hand, along the edge of which the path runs overshadowed by the trees which are reflected in the water below.
Sonning is one of the prettiest locks on the river, and the lock-keeper does his best to make it still more so by planting beds of flowers around it.
Dinner was dispatched in less than the usual time in the millstream by Shiplake Lock.
If the lock is being filled and the mill is working, care should be taken to keep some distance from the gates, or there is a danger of being sucked into the millstream or of grinding the rudder against the stone pier of the mill.
Passing through the gates,
the Swan was soon opposite the well-known George and Dragon Inn at Wargrave, but resisting all temptations to stop they pulled on steadily, as the wind was not in the right quarter for sailing.
The woods of Park Place now come into view, and shortly after they paused for a minute in front of the arch built by General Conway from the ruins of Reading Abbey, and through which a charming vista of wood and lawn can be seen.
A few minutes more brought them to the long wooden bridge which leads to Marsh Lock, and it was here that Figgis reminded Budd of the promise he made to tell them why he was so anxious to get to Marlow that night.
"You see", said Budd, "the fact is I have observed that, in spite of your apparent cheerfulness, you are all at heart unhappy, and the cause is not far to seek."
"In that case the cause is nearer than the effect", remarked Charlton, "for I feel uncommonly jolly."
"It's only on the surface", persisted Budd. " Now you are all pining for something, aren't you?"
"I dare say we are, but I don't exactly know what, except a breeze", replied Figgis.
"Then I'll tell you", said Budd. "What is really lacking in an excursion like ours is the society of ladies.
I do my best to make up for the want, but I can see that I fail.
Now you all remember my cousins, the Hendersons, Maggie and Ethel, who came out for a picnic last year with us?"
"Remember them!" cried Martin; "of course we do; that was the jolliest time I ever had in my life."
"But I thought they lived at Hampstead?" put in Figgis.
"Yes", replied Budd; "but they're staying with some people I know very well who live near Marlow, so I thought that if we got there tonight we might arrange to take them out in the boat tomorrow for a few hours, if you don't object."
"Object!" exclaimed everybody, "we shall be delighted."
"So will they, I'm sure", said Budd, "so we shall be doing each other a mutual kindness."
"This is good news", said Martin; " but do they know of this trip of ours?"
"Oh no; we must call upon them when we get to Marlow."
"I say", said Figgis, ruefully, "I'm not very particular, but it strikes me we are scarcely in the costume for making calls."
"Oh, that doesn't matter", explained Budd; "I know the people they are staying with, and they will understand.
Here's the bathing shed, and there's Henley."
"Go through that bridge in style", said the captain.
"We are getting too lazy. Now, stroke, a longer reach; straighter back ; keep your elbows in, bow; don't feather too soon."
Charlton and Martin pulled themselves together, and did not even look up till they were well past the well-known bridge.
They had been putting all the strength they had into it in order to let the spectators see that theirs was not a scratch crew in a hired boat, so they were not sorry to bear Figgis's order,
"Easy all ; we'll sail down this reach!"
And a glorious reach it is, better known perhaps to Londoners than any other part of the Thames above the London stone, for it is over this course that the Henley Regatta races take place.
It is a mile and a quarter to the island at the bottom, although it does not look it, and it is no joke to make one in a good eight that are bent on doing the course from the island to the bridge in racing time.
However, when our crew sailed easily down, only a few miscellaneous boats were in sight, a very different state of things from that which would be seen a few weeks later, when every sort of craft that man has ever invented appears to be dragged from its repose to make part of the immense crowd on the water.
"We want a little more wind", said Figgis. "'Whistle a tune, Budd."
Budd whistled 'Over the hills and far away, as a reminder of where the wished-for wind probably was.
"This will never do", said Figgis ; shall be all day doing a mile."
"And why not?" asked Martin; " we've only seven miles to go; we can do that under two hours; then an hour for tea, and that's all. Don't let us get in too early."
"Don't forget we have to make that call." said Budd; "and the house is about two miles out of the town."
"We shall have lots of time", persisted Martin; "it's a nuisance to take the sail down directly its up, and the people on the bridge will think we don't know how to manage it."
This remark told on the dignity of the crew, and the sail remained up.
The wind shifted, necessitating constant jibing, which consumed still more time; the boom carried away Charlton's cap through his not stooping enough, and its recovery was a work of some difficulty, so that by the time they reached Regatta Island, which entirely intercepted the breeze, they had not spent much less than an hour since leaving Henley Bridge.
But, as Martin pointed out, it didn't matter; all they had to do was to put on a spurt after tea.
Henley is a town well worth stopping at.
It is very convenient for travellers by rail (from Paddington, by-the-bye, and not "Waterloo" — as the printers made it read in our first chapter) who wish to strike the river, as the station is near the water, which does not always happen.
At Taplow and Cookham, for instance, there is a considerable distance between them.
The view from the bridge is good, the famous reach lying full in sight, on one side bounded by meadows with wooded heights in the distance, on the other by various mansions with their grounds.
The island at the bottom of the reach, with its lofty trees and conspicuous summerhouse, forms a striking object.
The bridge itself unites the counties of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.
There are plenty of hotels, and many houses contain rooms let to visitors.
It was at Henley that Shenstone wrote the well-known lines,
Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think be still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.
Figgis, however, was getting a little uneasy, and saw that no time was lost in reaching the next lock, half a mile below Greenlands, the seat of the Right Hon. Wm. H. Smith.
Two miles below Hambledon is Medenham Abbey, one of the landmarks of boating-men, of which more by-and-by, and here they all felt they were close to Marlow, only two more locks to pass, and those only half a mile apart.
They did not land, as they intended to return as far as this next day, but pushed on steadily till within sight of Hurley Lock.
"I think we'd better stop here and have tea", said the cook; "it will be just the right time of the evening then for a quiet pull to Marlow."
"Very well, only we mustn't waste time."
Chapter 6: A WEEK ON THE THAMES. Hurley to Marlow
Many of us find that when anything is wanted in a hurry something, happens to cause delay.
No difficulty had been hitherto experienced in making the kettle boil, but now it became obstinate, and flatly refused to sing.
In vain they took turns to blow until they were black in the face from exertion and smoke — there was no result.
Remembering that a watched kettle never boils, they all turned their backs on it and commenced eating to prevent themselves from looking round.
"I can't swallow another mouthful without something to drink", said Figgis, after a pause.
"It must be boiling now."
But it was only singing, and some time yet had to elapse before they had their cocoa in their cups; they chose cocoa as being more quickly made than tea.
When they had it it was so hot that they seemed to consume an hour in watching it.
"It reminds me of childhood's happy hours", said Budd, "when nurse used to say, 'You mustn't touch'."
"I want a refrigerator."
"And I've got one", cried Charlton, waiking to the bank and letting his cup stand in the cool stream.
"Good idea", exclaimed Martin, and the others followed his example, which experience proved to be a good one.
Washing up was soon dispatched, but before they commenced packing, Figgis, who had been watching the lock, exclaimed, "What on earth's the matter at the lock?"
Evidently something was, for a small crowd of boats was blocking up the way to the gates, with no one in any of them.
"Let's go and see what's the matter", suggested Charlton.
"There's no hurry", answered Figgis; "we could do no good, and there are enough boats there already.
Whatever it is it will be a nuisance if it delays us; we're late already."
Every few minutes a boat on its way to Marlow would pass and join the throng of waiters.
The Swan took its place at the tail of the crowd, Charlton remaining in charge whilst the others landed to see what was the matter.
The matter was simply that one of the lower gates wouldn't shut.
The lock is an old wooden one, in not very superior repair, and something had gone wrong.
A lot of men were doing their best to close, the gate, but without avail, and there seemed no prospect of getting through.
"This is rather too good a joke", said Martin.
"Why don't they fasten a rope to the gate and help pull from the other side?"
"I've an idea", said Figgis, who ran over to the lock-keeper.
His proposal was to raise the sluices of the upper gates so as to have the force of the water in addition to the strength of the men; to make the chances still greater he also suggested the adoption of Martin's proposal of the rope.
The lock-keeper agreed, the rope was fastened, all the boats ordered to fall back, and the sluices were opened.
At the same time all the available men pushed and pulled, and to every one's delight the gate moved and then closed.
The Swan was not the last boat to enter and was the first to go out.
Figgis and Charlton took the sculls and rowed the next half mile at a tremendous pace, only distanced by a single sculler in a skiff.
Temple Lock was soon reached, but not so soon passed, as they had to wait whilst a crowd of boats came up; then feeling that their obstacle was over, they started for the final run to Marlow, but in spite of all their exertions the church clock pointed to half past eight as they landed.
"Now two of you go off to look for beds", commanded Figgis, "and meet us here again as soon as you can; take all the bags with you."
Charlton and Martin set off up the town, leaving the other two to carry everything into the boathouse.
This was accomplished long before the others gave a sign of returning; in fact they were so long that Figgis suggested to Budd that he had better set off alone to make his call, as it was too late for the whole set of them to think of going.
"I don't think it's worth while", said Budd. "I vote we all go, and I can leave you outside.
It's dismal work trotting about the country alone."
They waited a few minutes longer and then climbed up to the bridge.
At last the missing ones were seen running down High Street.
They were welcomed with loud reproaches.
"'Tisn't our fault", puffed out Charlton; "the place is crammed full, some fete or other is on to-morrow.
We tried all the hotels and inns, and all the houses we knew of, and I don't know where we should have gone if they hadn't taken pity on us at the Ship and promised to get us beds somewhere.
So we left our bags and. came back straight."
"Well, now, Budd, let's start."
Budd led the way over the bridge and straight along the road for about a mile, then turned down another road at right angles.
It was quite dusk now, and the sky was cloudy.
They walked steadily en some distance until Budd stopped where two roads met and appeared in some doubt as to which he should take.
"You don't mean to say you've forgotten the way?" exclaimed Figgis.
"No, I don't think so", replied Budd, "but I've never walked it before; they always used to drive me, and I'm afraid I didn't notice the road very carefully."
"Budd", said Figgis, solemnly, "if you mean to imply you've brought me out to-night and are unable to find the house we want, I won't be answerable for any consequences you may bring on yourself."
"I think this is the way", said Budd, meekly; " shall we try?"
There's nothing else to be done", said Martin; "there's no signboard, and if there were it's too dark to read it, and apparently the natives are fond of going to bed early, for we haven't met a soul."
"I don't want to meet a soul", said Charlton, "unless the body is attached to it; it's a ghostly night."
Down the road they went, until at length Budd gave a shout of joy.
"Is that the house?" asked Figgis.
"No, but I know my way now ; we must have come down the wrong road."
"And how far have we to go now?"
"Only about a mile."
"Only a mile!" growled Figgis; "a nice time of day this for a morning call."
However, they wouldn't turn back now, so on they plodded for 'about a mile', which meant nearly two.
Budd then stopped in front of a gate, behind which was a short carriage drive, leading to an old-fashioned house.
"Here we are", he said; "is it too late to go in?"
However, they approached; the only light downstairs suddenly disappeared.
At the same time a couple of shadows were thrown on the blind of one of the bedroom windows.
"We're just too late", whispered Martin to Charlton; "it's all up now."
"Happy thought!" exclaimed Charlton. "When they were pienicing with us last summer we sang 'the Breeze blows gently through the Sedge'
We remember they liked it very much, and made Figgis send them copies afterwards.
Let's sing it now, and they must recognise us, for no one else in the world knows it."
"Capital!" cried Budd; "a regular serenade."
All the above had been spoken in whispers, so that the sound of the glee was the first that was heard by any one in the house.
Before the first line was finished two heads appeared at the window, and the sash was speedily raised.
The crew concluded their serenade, and then Miss Maggie whispered down into the darkness,
"Is that you, Jack?" (Jack was Budd's Christian name.)
"It's I and some other fellows that you know; Figgis, and Martin, and Charlton."
"We must all apologise for coming at such an unearthly hour", said Figgis, on behalf of the crew, " but Budd suggested that you might possibly like a sail up the river to-morrow, so we came round."
"Oh, don't apologise", said Miss Ethel; "it was very charming to be serenaded in this romantic fashion.
But won't you come in? My uncle has only just gone upstairs."
"No, thank you; we couldn't think of disturbing him.
I'm afraid he'll be taking us for robbers if we stay here." "Well, good-night, Jack; good-night, everybody."
"So that little matter's arranged", said Figgis. "Budd, you're of some use in the world after all; you've some cousins."
"We must get some more provisions tomorrow morning", said Charlton.
"That's your department", said Figgis. "Now for home!"
CHAPTER 7. A Week on the Thames: Marlow back to Medenham, on to Quarry Woods, and back
Needless to say, the crew rose with the lark next morning, for they had plenty to do before the ladies joined them.
The luxury of an indoor breakfast was indulged in to save time, and then they separated on their various errands, Charlton and Martin to look after the provisions, Budd and the captain to see to the boat.
This was to be a field-day in the history of their journey, and preparations were made accordingly.
Not trusting to the boatman, the two friends thoroughly overhauled the boat and its contents, took out everything that was moveable, and then washed it down with copious bucketfuls of water, mopping away afterwards in fine style.
Every item in the picnic basket was inspected and polished, every cushion well brushed, until the Swan looked spick and span, fit to be occupied by ladies.
In a few minutes Martin and Charlton appeared, laden with a miscellaneous collection of every sort of eatable.
We shan't starve, evidently", said the captain, as he helped stow away the provisions in the stern.
"There'll be enough here to last us a couple of days."
"Look sharp, or we shall have the ladies here before we're ready", said Charlton.
"Here they come", cried Budd, as a basket-carriage crossed the suspension bridge.
"I'll go up and bring them down."
He ran off, and soon returned with his cousins, followed by a small native carrying a parcel and covered basket.
After the greetings were over, Ethel said,
"I hope you won't mind our contributing some fruit to the stock of provisions; they wouldn't let us come away without some."
"Mind!" cried Budd; "it's been on my mind all night that I forgot to tell you to bring some."
Budd was suppressed by the captain, who apologised for his insubordination, and then handed the ladies into the boat.
He and Martin pulled, Budd sat between his cousins in the stern, and Charlton took the solitary but luxurious bow seat.
The prow was turned up stream, and the Swan was soon making steady progress towards Temple Lock.
"What is the programme?" asked Maggie.
"We thought of pulling up to Medmenham", replied Figgis, "and then back to the Quarry Woods for lunch."
"We call it lunch", said Budd, "because you're here; it really is our dinner, but we are going to call everything by its society name today."
Bisham Church was reached in a few minutes, but they did not disembark, as both church and abbey were familiar to all.
In the church (which dates back to the Normans) there are several very fine tombs, chiefly of members of the Hobby or Hoby family, who founded the priory near at hand.
There is a long inscription on one of them giving the history of the family and quaintly ending,
Thus live they dead, and we lerne wel thereby
That ye and we and all the world must dye.
The abbey, or priory, is even more interesting.
It was made a priory so early as 1338; the hall, turret, and a few other parts of the original building still remain.
Amongst other celebrities interred here was Richard Neville, the king-maker.
Later on Princess (afterwards Queen) Elizabeth was a prisoner at Bisham, in the charge of Sir Thomas Hobby.
The old place has a most picturesque look, and is charmingly situated amongst some noble beech-trees.
It is now the seat of Mr. Vansittart.
The new brick house opposite is the residence of Mr. Hammond Chambers.
Passing the willows on the left the Swan soon reached Temple Lock,
and the crew were not sorry to be detained for a few minutes, in order to admire the stretch of foaming water on the left, with the picturesque mill.
Down the backwater on the other side of the lock stands a large white house, the seat of Colonel Williams, who restored part of Bisham Church in 1878.
The little village of Hurley is not far off, celebrated on account of Lady Place, the seat of the Lovelaces in the times of the Stuarts.
There is not much of the old place left now, but the vault still remains in which the consultations of the friends of the Prince of Orange were held, when matters had come to a crisis in the reign of James II.
The church was founded by Sir Geoffrey Mandeville in the reign of William the Conqueror.
"I should so like to steer a little while,' said Maggie; "won't you let me?"
"I have no personal objection", replied Budd, who held the lines.
"Fortunately I can swim, and time is no object."
"I know something about it", replied Maggie, "and I am not too old to learn. You must coach me."
" Very well", replied Budd, as he passed the lines to his cousin.
The first requisite for a good cox is the ability to abuse his crew."
"I am afraid I must do without that qualification."
"Then I must undertake that department.
What are you pulling to starboard for?"
"Which is starboard?" asked Maggie.
Budd looked unutterable things, but restrained himself.
"When you are looking towards the bow starboard is your right, port your left.
You're still pulling us into the middle of the river."
"There's more room there."
"And more stream. When you are going up stream hug the shore, and only cross when the river has a big bend, or to escape the wind.
Steady now, we shall be into the bank in a minute. Mind your starboard sculls!"
"I'm so sorry", said Maggie, as the captain and Martin half shipped, in order to avoid scraping through a bush.
"It doesn't matter in the least", said Figgis; "the stream took us in, I expect."
"That remark smacks of invention", replied Budd, who seemed to avail himself of all the privileges of a cousin.
"Gently now", he continued, as the prow showed a tendency to inspect the centre of the stream;
"keep her as straight as you can.
Never pull the lines a bit harder than necessary, because that stops the way of the boat.
That's better, much better."
"It is splendid, Miss Maggie",said Martin.
"You mustn't let Budd assume such a superior tone.
He ran us into a punt the other day."
"Don't oblige me to abuse you", said Budd; "it will be a painful duty if you persist in raking up forgotten episodes.
Now, Maggie, do you think you can take us up to the landing-stage at Medmenham, or shall I take the reins?"
"I'll try", replied Maggie.
"All right; remember you are responsible for the boat and its contents.
I'm going to shut any eyes, I can't bear the excitement."
Maggie, however, managed her task very fairly, Figgis keeping a careful look-out, and correcting any little eccentricity in the boat's course by a judicious stroke.
Budd was made to open his eyes by having a water-lily leaf placed on his face, which he feigned to imagine was the closing of the river over his head as he sank, and then all disembarked on the sward.
Medmenham Abbey is one of the landmarks of the river — or watermarks, if you prefer it.
It is practically a sort of hotel and tea-garden, and decidedly looks better at a distance than it does on a closer inspection.
But it is an interesting spot if only for its historical associations and beautiful situation.
The original monastery was founded Hugh de Bolebec in 1201, but was soon abandoned.
A second set of monks, however, settled down some years after.
These were of the most austere order of Cistercians,who neither eat meat nor fish, lay on straw beds, and otherwise endeavoured to subdue the flesh to the spirit.
But the monastery shared the fate of other religious houses, and was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII, becoming a manor-house instead.
Later on a very different set of men occupied it, although they, too, were known as the monks of Medmenham, of whom the leaders were Francis Dashwood and John Wilkes.
The house was made the scene of every sort of licence and wickedness, and the spirit which imbued the set was well expressed in the inscription, which still remains over the door,
'Fay que ce voudra' ('Do what you will).
Budd read the inscription carefully.
"I know what I should like to do", he said, "and that is go to the hotel next door and get some milk, I've become exhausted in my efforts to teach Maggie to steer."
An adjournment was made after they had seen what was to be seen of the remains of the old house and the modern ruins, which are, fortunately, being gradually covered with ivy and creepers.
The hotel is called the 'Ferry Boat', and is a very comfortable one, frequented by anglers, who find very good sport in the neighbouring reaches.
Probably many readers are fond of fishing, and may be glad of information on the subject, which those who like can skip.
Times have changed since the London 'prentices complained that they used to have too much salmon.
Much has been done in past years, however, to make the river worth fishing, chiefly by the Thames Angling Protection Society.
The general fishing season opens in June, and lasts till the 10th September, after which trout may not be taken till the 1st April.
The fence months for pike, jack, roach, data, chub, gudgeon, etc., are from 15th March to 15th June.
Trout must not be taken under 1lb., chub under 9 inches, perch or math, 8 inches.
There is good perch fishing near Maple Durham, Cookham, Medmenham, and Walton; roach can be taken in most parts of the river, especially about Halliford, whilst the gudgeon seems ubiquitous.
If any reader intends to follow angling as a sport, he will do well to join one of the numerous angling clubs, as not only will he then obtain every information as to preserves, etc., but will have advantages in the way of reduced railway fares that the independent angler cannot obtain.
(For books on angling, see Answers to Correspondents in No. 122.)
The morning was rapidly passing, and it was felt that it would be wise to begin the return.
Ethel elected to pull stroke, as she was an accomplished sculler, whilst Charlton was turned out of his seat and made to pull bow.
Figgis steered, taking care to keep to the left bank when the island was reached, as it is the short cut.
There is a beautiful reach just below this island; woods half cover the long chalk cliff on the left, a picturesque old summer-house standing in their midst.
On the right stretch wide fields, with Bisham Woods in the distance, whilst in front lies the wide weir known as Tumbling Bay, the roar of which can be heard a long way off.
It is necessary to keep well on the right bank, as the current naturally leads towards the fall.
"Have you ever slept at Medmenham Abbey?" asked Charlton, as they entered the lock.
"Never", replied Figgis. "Have you?"
"I've stayed the night there, but I can't say much about sleeping.
I went to bed in a queer little room, rather late, and began thinking what strange scenes must have taken place in that very chamber.
You know it is said that the monks used to rob travellers and make them come into the abbey and dance for the amusement of their captors.
Suddenly I heard a noise as if a man were dancing against his will, and shouts of laughter.
I thought I was dreaming, but I found I was awake.
Could it be the ghosts of the old monks? However, before I could decide the noise ceased.
I was just dropping off when I heard a sound of foot-steps near me.
Robbers,I thought, and in my room, by the sound!
I was treasurer for the crew I was in, and so felt nervous for the safety of my cash.
I crept out of bed and tried to find a match — of course, without success — but I found my purse and watch and put them under my pillow.
The steps still continued, but I could not find the man who was making them, so at last I got into bed again and finally fell asleep."
"And what was it, after all", asked Maggie.
"I found next morning that a couple of men had come in very late after having lost their way in a storm; the shuffling noise was one of them walking about in a pair of borrowed shoes many sizes too large for him.
The daylight explained the footsteps: the room fitted into another, so that the steps of these two men, seemed to be really in the room in which I was."
Before they reached Marlow the crew, at the request of the ladies, sang some of their glees.
"I'm afraid you were interrupted last night", said Miss Ethel;
"John told us this morning that there were robbers round the house."
"John has no soul for music", said Budd; and I'm afraid your big dog hasn't either.
'Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast', but I confess when we heard that brute begin barking we thought it was time we went home."
"Which we did without staying to open the gate", put in Charlton.
CHAPTER 8 A Week on the Thames: Marlow to Boulters Lock
Now came in sight the spire of Marlow Church, and the Suspension Bridge was soon passed.
We have not yet said much about Marlow, although it is not from lack of material, for it is one of the best situated places on the river, and abounds in interest.
It is a town of some little importance ; it returns a Member to Parliament, has an annual fair, a regatta, boasts of an amateur rowing club, a first rate angling association, and a literary and scientific institution, together with various other advantages.
It is a capital centre for the botanist, angler, or archaeologist, whilst in every direction there are walks abounding in beauty and interest.
Shelley lived at Marlow for some years, and wrote several of his most important poems there.
A celebrity of a very different sort lies buried in the churchyard — Richardson, the famous showman.
The history of the town reaches back to the times of the Saxons; the manor was given to Queen Matilda by the Conqueror, and later on belonged to Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick.
A bridge has existed from at least the fourteenth century, the present suspension bridge having been built in 1835, at a cost of £20,000.
The view from it by moonlight, looking towards the lock, is certainly of the most enchanting description, and even in the daytime the weir, mill, lock, and woods form a scene well worth admiration.
The steerer must be very careful in approaching the lock.
Keep towards the left until past the weir, and then to the right for the lock itself.
There is a strong current when the lock is passed; the high bank on the towing-path side shows the inroads of the water.
" Now for the most important event of the day!" cried Budd, as they moored underneath the overhanging trees of Quarry Wood.
"We must do everything in order to-day, and drop river etiquette for once."
"What is river etiquette?" asked Ethel.
"The exact opposite of what it is on land", replied to look after your own wants and ignore those of every one else is the main rule.
Now please, ladies, do sit still, and let us do all the work."
"But this is river etiquette", retorted Ethel.
"I want something to eat, and so I am doing what I can to get it for myself."
The macintoshes were spread on the ground and a cloth laid on them; seats were arranged around with the help of the cushions placed against trees, and by the time the tinned salmon was distributed and eaten, the cook announced that the next course — steak cooked on the frying pan — was ready.
"There seems to be a little hitch", said Martin.
"We have only eight plates, and there are but two clean ones left now.
Kindly look the other way, ladies, whilst I do the necessary cleaning."
Roughing it did not, however, detract from the enjoyment of the feast, they became used to having their plates abstracted after each course, and even enjoyed the salad none the less for seeing Martin washing it in the river.
"What a splendid swan!" exclaimed Maggie, as a most royal looking bird swam towards them, in a dignified way, but finally making a most undignified grab at a piece of crust.
"Here come a lot of them; what beauties!"
The two girls threw pieces of bread to them, whilst the crew amused themselves by trying to toss celery stalks between their wings, a proceeding which caused them to hiss furiously.
"Take care", cried Figgis, as Maggie held out a piece of bread in her hands; "mind it doesn't catch your finger."
"They are getting too familiar", said Martin, as one put his head over the gunwale of the boat and inspected its contents.
"Here's something that will keep them occupied some time", and he threw an empty peach can amongst them.
But the attraction was not enough, and they were soon crowding round again.
"This is too much", said Figgis; "inferiors, always presume on one's kindness."
He seized a boat hook, and by dint of much splashing made them retire tumultuously, "hissing like steam", as Budd put it.
"Who owns them all?" asked Maggie.
"The Crown has about five hundred", said Figgis, "the Dyers' Company sixty-five, and the Vintners' forty-five."
"But how can they tell which is whose? They all look exactly alike."
"There are marks on them which show to whom they belong.
The Crown swans have two diamonds cut on the upper mandible, and the rest are marked differently.
About July there are grand times on the river; they hunt up all the birds and mark them, the Crown taking those that have no mark.
Sometimes there are terrific struggles between the swan-uppers and the birds, for they are very strong, and the blow of a swan's wing is enough to break a man's arm."
"I've seen swans below Westminster Bridge", said Martin. "I wish they were there oftener; they are certainly beautiful birds."
Like some full-breasted swan,
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood.
With swarthy webs.
It was Charlton who quoted the lines, as he watched the birds sailing by.
"I suppose that's your latest bit of poetry", said Budd;" but if you're going to continue I'll adjourn and pack up, for we should now be moving."
"Don't let us move yet", pleaded Maggie ; "it's so charming here."
"We must be going back soon", said Ethel; "but we must have some singing first.
Won't you let us hear one of your glees?"
"With pleasure. Would you like a noisy one or a quiet one?"
"Oh, a quiet one. 'Twill be more in keeping with the surroundings if you will imagine my cousin is away."
Budd pretended to be offended, and refused to sing after such a speech, but was mollified by its unconditional withdrawal, so the crew pulled out their books and sang the piece of music which we have already given in a former number, written to some charming words, which Charlton had discovered in an old volume of verse.
A few more glees, one of which is given above, and it was felt that it was time a move was made.
They soon packed the boat.
Figgis and Martin pulled manfully up the stiff stream, and the ladies were deposited in safety at the lock, with mutual expressions of thanks from them for the enjoyment they had had and from the crew for the pleasure of their company.
Farewells were over at last, and the Swan turned her nose down stream.
Budd settled himself in the stern amongst the cushions, and remarked,
"Well, that's over!"
"We've stood a good deal from you, Budd", said Figgis, "in consideration of your having persuaded your cousins to come with us, but if you make any more remarks such as that last one I won't answer for the consequences."
"If you won't answer I don't mind saying it again", was Budd's only reply, as he brought the boat sharp round the corner opposite the beginning of Quarry Woods.
We're rather late", said Martin.
"What do you say to a steady pull to Cookham Lock?"
"I'm ready", said Figgis; "I've done no work to-day; I'm getting rusty."
The proposition suited the other two, who settled down for an enjoyable time.
Quarry Woods were soon left behind, and Spade Oak Ferry
and the conspicuous chimney of the mill at Bourne End became visible.
But there was a good pull before it was passed, and Hedsor, Lord Boston's seat, came into sight.
As they glided by the wide meadows on the left, Charlton told how he once saw the Bucks Volunteers camping out there, half under water from a tremendous storm.
Cookham Bridge is about half a mile farther down, and just below it the stream divides.
The second opening from the left is the one which leads to the lock cutting, the two on the right embrace Formosa Island, the largest island on the Upper Thames.
Mr. Sloane Stanley occupies the house on it.
There is a long cutting before the lock is reached, but after the gates are passed there are ample amends made for the comparatively tame scenery of the previous couple of miles.
Who can adequately describe the beauties of Clieveden[sic] Woods, with their mingled evergreens and trees, towering up from the water's edge in thick masses, the pretty cottages nestling amongst them, the walk along the edge of the river beneath the overarching boughs, the exquisitely kept gardens on the right, and the thousand other beauties that abound in the most lovely reach of the Thames?
Several islands are passed as the boat drifts along, either side of which can be taken, and the splendid house of the Duke of Westminster is soon visible, high up on the left bank amongst the trees, and commanding a most magnificent view.
The original house was built by the Duke of Buckingham, the favourite of Charles II.
Several have stood on the site previous to the erection of the present mansion in 1851.
No one is allowed to land on the Clieveden estate without permission, but this can be obtained by writing to the steward.
To reach the lock the right bank should be followed.
The very conspicuous notice of "Danger!" is sufficient to warn every one to avoid the weir.
It took our crew some time to pass as a couple of launches filled up the space, but when once through it did not take many minutes to shoot past the Ray Mead Hotel, the picturesque houses on the left, and the far from picturesque mill, chimneys, and gasometer.
The stream to the bridge is very swift, and in going up it is better as a rule to tow.
The crew soon pulled up, as they intended to pass the night at Maidenhead.
Tea had been enjoyed by Clieveden Woods, and now the shadows were beginning to fall.
Walking up to the Ray Mead Hotel they settled down there for the evening, and, sitting in the pretty garden in front of it when twilight had removed 'day's mutable distinctions', they confessed that if they had not so recently passed the upper part of Clieveden they would have voted the lower part the best on the river in spite of its mills.
"At any rate", said Budd, "it's good enough for me."
Chapter 9: A WEEK ON THE THAMES. Boulters Lock to Chertsey
AFTER a splendid bathe before breakfast at Boulter's Weir, the crew felt fit for a big meal.
"Only two days more", said the cook, "and we've more bacon than we can get through, so I'll do you an extra slice for a treat."
"Don't tempt me", said Martin; "I'm supposed to be in training for a small race next week."
"Are you? " asked Figgis; "if I'd known that I'd have made you pull more, and in better form.
No one can tell how he is pulling; he wants a coach to give him tips."
"All right! I'll pull the whole lot of you to Bray if you like, and you shall coach me."
Away they went, through Maidenhead Bridge, and Martin was just getting himself into shape, when Charlton cried,
"What's the matter now?" asked Martin.
"Here's the bridge. Hold her up or we shall pass it."
Martin backed water, and laid the Swan well up against one side of the enormous arch, then gave a shrill
"Ha!" and in a moment there was a shout of answering laughter, echoing backwards and forwards with wonderful rapidity.
They shouted short sentences, which were completely returned; sang chords, which rang on in new harmonies, and finished up with a yell of excruciating shrillness that made the neighbourhood like a Pandemonium.
"Now, no more nonsense!" cried Figgis; "straight on to Bray without a check."
What a delight it is to grasp a good pair of sculls, place one's feet against a firmly fixed but slightly plastic stretcher, take a long reach forward, and then pull.
There is a delicious sense of power which gratifies one's ambition; there is the sensation of doing work which fulfils one's sense of duty, and there is the knowledge that one is doing one's health good, which is pleasing to one's selfish instincts.
All these Martin felt, but his pleasure was not of long duration, for in a few moments the captain's voice was heard.
"Keep your head up; don't duck like a Chinese mandarin; back straight; swing from the hips.
Longer stroke, man: you're shirking; you're not keeping the buttons of your sculls against the rowlocks in the return."
"By the rules of the game, you are not allowed to reply", remarked Charlton to Martin, who was beginning to feel the strain of pulling a big boat, with four people and luggage, in racing style.
"Most men", remarked Figgis, "don't get all they can do out of themselves; they have an idea that if they can manage to make thirty-eight strokes in a minute it's all tight, but I'd sooner see thirty well pulled through than forty unfinished.
Look at that fellow", he continues pointing to a sculler working his way up stream,
"his sculls touch the water before he's at his full stretch, and he starts with a jerk that will take all the fight out of him in no time.
He doesn't keep his elbows together in the return; his blades have the water too soon, and travel at least six inches in the air before he begins the return, and he shoots his hands and body forward together at the same pace.
Did you ever see such a chap!"
"He'll be into the bank in a minute!" said Charlton.
And a good job too!" answered Figgis; "it's the only safe place for him.
He ought to go out in a barge, not an outrigger.
Pull more with your body, Martin, you're doing too much work with your arms.
Drop your hands directly the stroke is finished and shoot them well out instantly.
Make the first part of your stroke tell.
Your bow scull gets deeper than the other; sit straight.
Ah! here's Bray in sight; the fifteen poplars will keep us company now for a few miles."
Bray Church and Vicarage form a very pretty picture.
This is the Bray where the vicar celebrated in the old song lived — the worthy gentleman who changed his belief according to the prevalent one, but who was firm in his resolve to live and die Vicar of Bray — true to one party at least, and that was himself.
There are some interesting monuments in the church; one of the most curious is to William Goddard and his wife, who founded Jesus Hospital, which stands near the village.
The last two lines of the eptaph run as follows:—
My honesty was such that I
When death came fear'd not to die.
Both church and hospital are well worth a visit.
Bray Lock is one of the smallest, and is frequently left open.
Half a mile farther down Monkey Island is reached — a great place for excursionists from Windsor.
It is so called from a summer-house built by the third Duke of Marlborough, on the walls of which are painted monkeys in every position and occupation.
The house is now used as an inn, and the island is much frequented by campers-out.
"We won't stop here", said Figgis, "It would be a pity to lose so fine a stream, it swirls along like a mill race!"
"I want to stop at Surly", said Martin; "some friends of mine are camping there, and I want to see the sort of tent they have.
They tell me it's a great success."
"I wish they would invent a way for four to sleep in a boat without any blanket but the clouds", said Charlton; "this staying at hotels is the most expensive item in our expenditure, but carrying a tent is almost worse."
In about twenty minutes they were alongside the boat on board of which lived Martin's friends.
"Where's this wonderful tent?" he asked of their captain, Clayton.
"Put away, but we'll soon have it out for you. Pipe all hands, bo'sun."
The bosun piped the remaining member of the crew, and in less than five minutes the whole affair was complete.
"You see", said Clayton, " we were obliged to give up camping out on land.
We were more or loss fixed to our tent, it was considerable trouble to put it up and take it down, and if it rained there was trenching to be done.
Besides that, camping places are getting fewer every year."
"That's partly the camper's fault", remarked Martin; "some crews have injured the ground so much that the owners have forbidden any one to land."
"Yes, its partly the fault of some crews, but owners are getting more crabbed, I think, as well; they stick up notices on every eyot, whether they have the right to do so or not.
Any how, we resolved to pitch our tent over, so to speak, and sleep in our boat.
We follow mainly the plan of Mr. Taunt's boat, as he describes it, in his guide.
You see, here's the mast stepped, we fix the towing-mast in the rings at the back stern seat.
We keep boards cut to the proper size under the cushions of the seat, taking them out at night and fixing them across in front of the seat to the stroke thwart;
so there's a bedstead five and a half feet long by three and a half wide.
Put your rugs on that, and a soft bag for a bolster, and there you are as regards two fellows.
The third man lies along the bottom of the boat with his head beyond the stroke thwart; of course he has a pillow and rug as well.
Now for the tent: we stretch a cord from mast to mast, a large sheet of waterproof tenting is placed on it and made fast to the sides by buttons outside, we also fasten it down behind, right over the stern if necessary on account of bad weather, and there is a flap fastened at the bow end.
So there we are as snug as possible, with a dry boat under us instead of a damp field, and it can rain cats and dogs and we don't mind."
"That certainly looks jolly, but isn't there a good draught between the buttons?"
"Not so much as in an ordinary tent, and if you like you can stuff a coat along the edge and stop the crevices.
Then if it rains in the morning all we do is to open the flap at the bow end, pack away our bed, and have a quiet breakfast under our tent."
"Where did you buy it?"
"We didn't buy it, we made it; the whole thing cost a little over a pound.
That's rather cheaper than buying one ready made, isn't it?
And it weighs scarcely anything.
When it's worn out I've an idea for making our sail do instead to save weight still more, but that will need some contriving, and I'm afraid will be more troublesome."
"You must feel pretty independent; I think we must start one of these next season, eh, Figgis?"
"The only amendment I propose is that we start one this [season]."
Perhaps some of the readers of the Boy's OWN PAPER would, however, prefer the old-fashioned kind of tent.
In that case, if four persons are to sleep in it, it should not be less than seven feet by nine.
Ground sheetings to cover the entire space are indispensable, and a rug or carpet in addition is almost necessary.
Don't omit to take extra tent pegs, and test all your cords before starting.
If the structure of your tent admits of a hammock being slung, it will give accommodation for another man.
Remember that when it rains if your head or foot is pressed against the canvas, the wet will penetrate.
If possible, pitch your tent on a slight slope, so that the trenching in case of rain need only be round the upper sides.
But to return to our narrative. After the inspection was concluded they all adjourned to Surly Hall.
In the season Eton College eights pay frequent visits to this well-known inn, and on the 4th of June the meadow opposite is the scene of the annual feast to commemorate Founder's Day.
From Boveney Lock, half a mile lower down, Windsor Castle is sighted for the first time, and
for several miles it is kept in view.
The stream at the lock on the weir side is strong, and when the river is full the coxswain must be careful.
After the lock the river winds like a corkscrew, and it is best to keep well in the centre going down.
There is a sandbank at the bottom of Lower Hope reach, on which inexperienced excursionists not unfrequently come to temporary grief.
The view of the Castle becomes more impressive as Windsor is approached — the massive round tower, the high battlements, St. George's Chapel, and the remaining portions of the Castle, incongruous as they may seem when examined in detail, form a mass which looks indeed royal.
When the Queen is there a flag floats from the staff on the round tower.
To describe the building would take too much space, and we do not wish to emulate a guide-book, so it will be enough to remark that no one ought to miss seeing as much as is shown to visitors, and if possible, more.
Guides and passes can be obtained from Mr. Collier, stationer, Castle Hill, but it advisable to find out previously whether the apartments are open to the public, as the Castle is only shown when the royal family are away.
The arrangements for viewing the different portions are so complicated that it would take too long to detail them here, and the information can be readily obtained from the numerous guides which are within every one's reach.
The park is also well worth a visit; it abounds in deer, which look very pretty as they dart across the grass, or feed tranquilly in herds.
Windsor itself is an interesting town, but its importance is swallowed up in that of the Castle, which, physically and morally, seems to over-power it.
The Town Hall was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
There is a regatta every year in August; the course is from Clever Point to Goodman's Raft.
This takes place during the absence of the Eton boys, who have their own races.
It is well not to arrange to start from Windsor at any time when the school are likely to be at the landing-stages, as their boats swarm in inconvenient numbers.
The village of Eton is connected with Windsor by the bridge.
Its only claim to notice is the possession of the college, the leading school in some respects of the kingdom — Etonians would say of the world, as, perhaps, it is.
The building dates from 1523, but of course many additions have been made to it since then.
North of the college are the cricket-fields, in which Wellington said that the nation's battles were fought and won.
Since his time the boys have done more to qualify themselves for the service of their country, for they form the 2nd Battalion Bucks Volunteers, and worthily maintain the repute of their school at Wimbledon.
The Boat Club numbers about a hundred members, and has six times sent a winning crew to Henley to compete for the Ladies' Plate.
With splendid cricket-fields, and a magnificent river near them for boating and bathing, surely the Eton boy ought to be happy.
Let us hope he is.
But we must leave Windsor and Eton unexhausted and push on for the lock,
keeping well to the right to avoid the Cobbler, which, at certain times, is under water, and becomes a dangerous neighbour.
Romney Lock is soon passed, and then the fields of the college are seen stretching along on the left, whilst the Castle still stands as boldly as ever on the right.
The cutting was chosen as the place for dinner, and a very good one it is.
That dispatched they pushed on again without losing very much time, for they wanted to loiter at Magna Charta Island.
"Here comes one of those nuisances", cried Charlton, as a big steam-launch puffed recklessly towards them."
They ought to get out of our way, not we out of theirs."
But the monster came relentlessly on, and inspite of the rights of the case the Swan had to give way and pull to the bank.
The waves made by the retreating vessel tossed her up and down, and would have driven her on the bank had they not been very active; as it was they shipped several quarts of water.
"It's lucky for us we ride pretty high, or we should have been swamped to a certainty.
A skiff wouldn't have had a chance."
"There are rules enough about them", said Martin, "but as there's no one to enforce them they aren't of much good.
When a man gets swamped he cannot very well swim after the launch and get the owner's name.
Look there; there go a few cubic yards of bank that the wash has started."
Certainly to the oarsman and angler steams launches are unmitigated nuisances.
Some are managed carefully, and worked with some regard to the comfort and safety of others, but the general carelessness, not to say recklessness displayed by the majority of those in charge has brought the whole class into disrepute.
The only safe rule to follow is, avoid proximity to a launch, and never attempt remonstrance with any on board, whatever the provocation.
From Datchet to Runnymede there is most excellent fishing.
It was at Datchet that Sir John Falstaff made his unwilling entrance into the Thames, when pitched out of the buck-basket.
"Water swells a man", was the result of his experience.
On the occasion of reviews in Windsor Park pontoon bridges are made across the river at this point.
Colebrook Churchyard (a fishing-ground) has a curious legend attaching to it.
It is said that the celebrated highwayman, Claude Duval, used to have the bodies of the travellers who were slain in the encounters thrown into the water in sacks.
The tradition, possibly, has some truth in it, for a short time ago some ballast heavers found a complete skeleton whilst dragging.
A wide reach from Old Windsor Lock leads past the celebrated 'Bells of Ouseley' Tavern,
the scenery becoming more interesting as the still more celebrated Magna Charta Island is reached.
Budd began quoting reminiscences of 'Punch':
"Schoolmaster: 'Who signed Magna Carta?' (No answer.)
Question repeated, more sternly. Small Boy: 'Please, sir, I didn't, sir!'"
Martin started the theory that the reason King John signed it was that none of the barons could write; whereupon Budd must add that if the barons were right, the king was the writer.
At this point he was kicked out of the boat, and the others followed.
They visited the cottage in which stands the stone of which the charter is said to have been signed, but, like most other traditions, this one has been attacked, some holding that the village of Runnymede was the scene of the event.
"It is a pity our ancestors were not more careful", said Charlton; "it's a nuisance to waste sentiment over the wrong spot, and it makes one chary of spending it."
"What a jolly place they have over there!" said Martin, pointing to the heights of Cooper's Hill: the college men can't complain of their surroundings.
That's a capital boathouse of theirs."
"They have same good boats there too", said Figgis; "I went over the house last time I was up."
"I wonder if they know the date of the Magna Charta?" said Budd; "I never can remember whether it's 1066, 1215, or 1515.
I know something happened on those dates, but I've got the details in a jumble."
The Cooper's hill College was started for the education of engineers for the Indian service.
The students go through a course which lasts three years, paying £150 per annum, which covers all expenses with few exceptions.
The career open to sucessful students is a very good one and appointments are much sort after.
Leaving Magna Charta Island, the crew paddled leisurely down to Ankerwyke, and pulled up at the 'Picnic'.
The ruins of an old priory, in the grounds of which Henry VIII used to meet Anne Boleyn, still remain.
The cottage at the edge of the water is beautifully surrounded by trees and the scenery altogether about this part of the river is more charming than any that can be found for some distance down.
The neighbourhood is full of poetic associations.
From the summit of Cooper's Hill can be seen Horton, where Milton composed many of his earlier poems.
The hill itself has been celebrated in verse by Sir John Denham, in whose poem occur the oft quoted lines -
Tho' deep, yet clear; tho' gentle, yet not dull;
Strong, without rage ; without o'crflowing, full.
Gray wrote his Elegy in a Country Churchyard at Stoke Pogis, near Windsor.
"Dull times for the next few miles", said Martin.
"For all except those fishing fellows", added Charlton; "they seem to enjoy sitting out in a punt in the broiling sun even if they don't catch anything."
"But they do sometimes — look there!" cried Figgis, as an angler landed a fine roach, which glistened in the air as he struggled at the end of the line.
"How many have you caught to-day, sir?" he called out as they passed.
"Two dozen and a half", replied the fisherman.
"And yet Charlton calls fishing waste of time", said Budd. "I never waste time when I'm fishing, I take a book out and improve my mind, or think over all the good things I'm going to do next year, and long before I've finished the list I'm sure to have a bite from some deluded fish.
But the sport is lowering to one's moral tone; it can't do one any good to feel that one is trying hard to deceive a poor dumb animal.
You practically say to him, 'Here's a nice worm ; come and have a bite!'
The fish believes you, and accepts your invitation to dinner, and directly your guest comes you hook it!"
The crew laughed at Budd's way of putting it, but didn't attempt to refute his argument.
Passing through Bell Weir Lock and leaving the Angler's Rest Inn unvisited, they rowed on and soon came to the London Stone standing on the left bank, which formerly marked the boundary of the jurisdiction of the City of London.
The inscription on it runs, God preserve the City of London, 1280.
When the Staines bridge was being opened in 1833 by William IV, a tailor from Chertsey asked to shake hands with the king, as he had walked over on purpose to commemorate in that manner his hundredth birthday.
Needless to say he had his request granted.
The River Colne joins the Thames on the left a few hundred yards above the bridge.
Staines itself is not a very interesting town: its name is derived from the stones or stones that marked the old Roman ford.
Duncroft, within a few minutes' walk of the church. is a picturesque old house, said to have been once a royal residence.
Penton Hook Lock is about two miles from Staines, and must be carefully approached, as the weir stream is strong
Boats avoid the Hook by following the towpath, but anglers are very frequent visitors to it, as there is no traffic along it.
The little village of Laleham lies on the left bank; it is a model rural hamlet with old-fashioned cottages and ancient church.
An epitaph in the churchyard begins thus —
Pain was my portion, physic was my food,
Groans my devotion, drugs did me no good.
There is a well-known ferry at Laleham, and a little lower down is the seat of the Earl of Lucan, who owns a great deal of property in the neighbourhood.
Schoolboys ought to be interested in knowing that Dr. Arnold lived at Laleham before going to Rugby.
CHAPTER 10: A WEEK ON THE THAMES: Chertsey to Richmond
Charlton", said Budd, as they approached Chertsey, do shut up this time.
We have listened patiently whilst you have shown us how much you know about the places we've passed through to-day, and have trotted out a lot of your own wretched verse, and tried to make us believe it was by Milton, or Cowley, or Denham, or some other fellow who lived round here.
But do spare us Chertsey, although you did live here once."
Chariton impassively commenced to speak in a monotonous guide book sort of voice, "The town of Chertsey,or Erotæsei, was founded 'x' years ago.
Its early history is involved in obscurity owing to its having been frequently burnt.
It is celebrated as having been the birthplace of two noted men, the Venerable Bede, and his worthy successor, Charlton."
"The only thing venerable about you", interrupted Figgis, "is your original poetry."
Charlton disdained to reply, but continued, "The bells of the monastery were very celebrated, one still hangs in the church, and is rung every evening in winter for curfew."
"They must be hard up for amusement", said Martin.
"On a house in Guildford Street there is an inscription by Pope, 'Here the last numbers flowed from Cowley's tongue', and ..."
"Oh, shut up", came in chorus from the exasperated crew.
"Pitch him into the river", suggested Martin.
"Put him into a punt and take away the pole", said Figgis.
"Kill him!" was Budd's kind proposal; till on the whole Charlton saw that it would be as well if he desisted from his description.
The day's work was nearly over, for at Halliford the crew intended to spend their last night.
Along the wide winding stream they quietly pulled until the old lock came in sight,
and passing through it they crossed the junction of the River Wey with the Thames.
Sometimes the Wey is ascended by pleasure boats, but the trip has its drawbacks; amongst them is the fact that you have to work the locks yourself.
The village of Shepperton does not present many attractions, and the Ship Hotel at Halliford, a little farther on, is a more popular resort.
Opposite the latter are the woods of Oatlands Park and Walton, but as the evening had turned gloomy our crew did not feel inclined to make any excursions.
"Take care of those lilies", said Martin, as he handed out a bunch gathered during the day; "I'm going to take them home."
"They're all closing", said Figgis.
"They will open tomorrow when I put them in water.
I wish I had picked buds instead of flowers, these have opened too wide."
Those boating men who have a taste for botany can indulge it to their hearts' content on the river.
The different counties through which the Thames passes are rich in flowers, and the river bears many peculiar to itself.
To mention a few of the better-known plants, there are the meadow-sweet, loose-strife, yellow and purple iris, flowering rush, bitter cress, buckbean, and last, but not least, the splendid water-lily.
Perhaps the best part of the river for botanising is around Marlow; stream, field, and wood seem to vie in producing flowers.
"There's no boathouse here", said Figgis, "we must take everything out."
"So much the better; she wants a good wash tomorrow morning."
"Wait till a steam-launch passes if you want a good wash", said Budd, as he staggered in under the weight of all the cushions.
There was not much temptation to stir out after they had once gone indoors, so they amused themselves in various ways till ten o'clock, and then went to bed, intending to have a good night's rest before commencing their last day's voyage.
The crew turned out early next morning and had a grand bathe before breakfast.
Bathing is not permitted in the Thames after eight o'clock, except at recognised bathing-places.
But, early as they were, a good many anglers had already commenced their patient toil, and punts dotted the stream both up and down.
Whilst the tea was making they had a sharp run along the bank, finishing at racing pace, which so pumped little Budd that he could not even drink for a minute.
"We shall meet no end of boats to-day", said Figgis.
"Saturday at Hampton Court is likely to be crowded."
"Never mind, we shall pass there before the excursionists swarm much.
Don't lose time talking, but eat."
"You can eat as much as you like", said the cook; "provisions are plentiful, and it's our Itlast day."
"That's a fact Figgis has found out already",said Budd. " I always notice that ..."
"Budd", said Figgis, " let me remind you that in Walton Church there exists a scold's bit for stopping excessive talkers.
Don't oblige me to borrow it from the sexton."
Coway Stakes can be seen just before Walton Bridge is reached; they are said to have been planted by Caesar.
The house on the right below the bridge is Mount Felix, the residence of Mrs. Ingram.
There is a tumbling bay a little farther on which it is wise to keep clear of by following the right bank, if this is done the cutting leading to Sunbury Lock is right ahead.
"Ha! ha!" said Martin, "we're not at the mercy of lock-keepers any more. Out you go!"
They jumped out on to the planks and rapidly ran the boat on to the rollers, first unshipping the rudder.
In a few seconds the Swan had accomplished the descent, the rudder was shipped, the crew re-embarked, and the lock was passed in less time than it generally takes to enter one.
"I suppose they started rollers here", said " because they knew no one could stand another such experience as the Shepperton Lock.
I thought we should never get out of that last night."
"I had a good mind to offer to bail out for them", said Budd; "I believe I could have done it in less time."
The weirs at Sunbury and Molesey Locks must be carefully avoided.
It is good fun sometimes to approach a weir, or at very high water to shoot one, but it is a species of amusement that is best let alone.
If your boat has anything in it, it is simply folly to run any risks.
Had the Swan capsised it would have cost eight or nine pounds to have replaced the things that would have sunk, not to mention the possibility of an accident to any of the crew.
So my advice is, don't be tempted by others example into the risky sport of weir shooting even at flood time.
There is some pretty scenery near Sunbury, but not much to attract attention in the town, except the nuisance of finding the station is so far off when you want to catch a train.
The stream becomes swift after the lock; it is knownd as Sunbury Race.
On most summer afternoons a row of pleasure boats can be seen moored to the island about a mile farther down, for as we approach Hampton Court the inhabitants of London appear in greater numbers, preferring the crowded lower reaches to the more beautiful and almost equally accessible upper parts of the river.
But still no one can be blamed for liking the water about Hampton, for the scenery is pleasant and the banks are crowded with interesting objects.
Below the church at Hampton Ferry is Garrick's villa, where Johnson and Reynolds used to visit him after his retirement from the stage.
Tagg's Island (a good camping place) is half a mile farther on.
The salmon ladder at Moulsey Lock should not be missed, although the weir should.
The lock has a fall of six feet, but this is of no importance, as the rollers afford a speedy means of surmounting the obstacle.
The iron bridge of Hampton Court is now in sight, and just beyond this on the left runs the brick wall around the palace grounds.
Hampton Court Palace, like Windsor Castle, scarcely belongs to the river, it is a place for a separate excursion.
It would take too long to describe its pictures, vine, orangery, gardens, and park; suffice it to say that a day can be most enjoyably spent there, and none the less if a quiet pull to Richmond concludes the evening.
The stream continues pretty strong as it winds round the park to Thames Ditton, a pretty little village much frequented by fishermen.
But on most summer days, especially on Saturdays, the river is too crowded to give the angler much of that tranquillity which he so greatly desires.
Boats of all sorts and sizes swarm; the wonder is that more accidents do not occur, as it is easy to see that many of the crews have never been on the water before, and have no more idea of managing a boat than of steering a balloon.
Of this our friends had a practical exemplification as they approached Surbiton.
A boat crowded with excursionists was toiling painfully along against stream by the bank, but as the Swan neared it, to Martin's surprise (he was steering), the other boat was suddenly steered towards the middle of the river.
Martin saw there was no time to lose, and shouted to the cox to pull his right string.
He was afraid to use technical terms. The man obeyed, but with the unfortunate result that his boat turned almost broadside to the rapidly approaching Swan.
"Back water", cried Martin, steering as hard to the right as possible; but the way on was a little too great, and as the Swan passed it took off the rudder of the other boat.
Martin saw in a moment the cause of the accident: the cox had actually managed to get his lines crossed without knowing it, so that when he obeyed Martin's injunctions it had just the opposite effect to that which the latter anticipated.
"It's very fortunate it's no worse", said Figgis to the crew after trying to fix the rudder on again without success.
"You would only have had yourselves to thank if we had cut you in two.
Give a waterman a shilling and let him give you a lesson in boating before you come out next time."
The young fellows, who had been thoroughly frightened, took his advice very kindly, and pulled away to Hampton for repairs.
Our crew watched them see-sawing across the river as they pursued their rudderless course, and hoped they would arrive safe.
"They couldn't have done worse if you had been steering for them, Budd", said Figgis, as they started once more.
"Or any rudder-man", said Budd, determined to mark his last day by puns of more than usual atrocity.
A straight piece of water now leads to Kingston, a town of 17,000 inhabitants, with a mayor, cab-stands, fire-brigade, and every other mark of having outgrown the days when it was an insignificant village; insignificant in size, that is, for it was celebrated before the Conquest as the place where at least half a dozen kings were crowned, the coronation-stone being carefully preserved to the present day.
Visitors to the church can see some curious epitaphs.
One on Thomas Hayward, 1655, after reciting at some length the fact that man is but ashes, finishes:
More was intended, but a wind did rise,
And filled with ashes both my mouth and eyes.
Boating is warmly supported at Kingston: there are an amateur regatta, a rowing club, and a junior rowing club.
The rowing club pulled off the Wyford Challenge Cup at Henley from 1863-8.
"I say, Charlton", said Martin, as they passed under the railway bridge below Hampton Lock, "the way that fellow who wrote the epitaph finishes up when he gets stuck for an idea reminds me strongly of your poetry."
"Don't laugh at a poet's difficulties till you've tried to write yourself", said Charlton.
"But I have, and it isn't so difficult as you make out.
Whilst you men were dozing last night I was courting the muses.
Would you like to hear the result?"
"Yes, trot them out", said Budd.
"Anything to stop you from talking", said Figgis.
So Martin drew out a sheet of paper covered with corrections and erasures.
" What's the title? " asked Figgis.
"A Shipwreck on the River", answered Martin.
"I haven't quite got the beginning into shape, so we'll commence a little way on.
The captain held the tiller tight,
He took his pipe from his mouth,
he looked to the left, he looked to the right,
He looked to the north and south.
The captain's voice began to shake
As he gave the word of command,
'We're a yard or more
From the Surrey shore, We never shall reach the land.'
Then he piped his eye
And began to cry
As he shook us by the hand.
"What do you think of that for a specimen? Isn't it more exciting, more dramatic, more everything than all this nonsense about Phyllis and nightingales that Charlton grinds out?"
"That's not bad for a first attempt", said Figgis. "'Tis true your metre is all wrong, some lines have no rhyme, the ideas are idiotic, and the expression rather worse, but on the whole it is better than I expected you could make."
"I've a great mind to show you fellows a little sketch of mine", said Charlton; "if Martin's verses are so bad, my drawing can't be worse, and 'twill give him an opportunity for revenge.
Here it is!"
Martin carefully examined it. "Yes, those cows are lifelike. The setting sun is very well depicted. You should practise a little more, Charlton, and you'll do. What's the title of it?"
"The Eelbucks at Caversham by moonlight"
"Indeed? Then I withdraw my commendation."
The last lock is reached, but before this the crew have had their farewell dinner, at which Budd nearly made himself ill by trying to finish a tin of preserved peaches, so that none might be wasted.
The fall at Teddington is nearly nine feet, but there is a roller for pleasure boats. From here to Twickenham there is a line of villas along the left bank, some of them of historical interest.
About half way stands Strawberry Hill, the seat of Horace Walpole.
At Twickenham itself Pope lived and had his famous grotto and villa, destroyed by Lady Howe in 1807.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu lived at Twickenham, and Orleans House (the large square house on the left) was the residence of members of the Orleans family during the reign of the second Napoleon.
It is now a club.
Before this is reached, however, we have to pass Eel Pie Island, opposite which is Ham House, the seat of the Earl of Dysart, and now in the distance can be seen Richmond Hill with the too obtrusive Star and Garter crowning its summit.
A short half-mile brings us to Wheeler's boathouse close to the bridge, and here it is that the Swan's voyage was to end.
"The pleasantest things must come to an end somewhere", said Martin, "and we couldn't stop at a pleasanter place than Richmond."
"Unless we stop in the boat", suggested Budd.
"Shall we have a stroll through the park before taking the train?"
"No, I don't think I should be happy in sight of the river unless I were on it.
Let's change our garments for those of civilisation, and then get back to town."
"To think that this noble head of mine must again bear the torture of a chimney-pot hat", said Budd, " that this neck must agaiu accustom itself to a circle of hoop-iron. Ah me ! the days that have been!"
"The days that will be, you mean", said Figgis.
"Don't let us waste time sighing over the inevitable, but spend it in thinking what a jolly trip we'll have next year."
CHAPTER 11. A Week on the Thames. Advice:
Now that the Swan has ended her pleasant voyage, before I say farewell to my readers it may be useful to give a few general bits of information, which are better tabulated than introduced into the description of the journey.
First, as to Bathing.
Of course, no one should think of boating at all who can't swim; and almost equally of course no one should think of bathing unless he knows the spot where he is about to enter. All I can do is to mention a few good places, but some of these are dangerous in certain states of the water. The lock-keepers will generally give information on the subject, and their advice should be taken.
Abingdon Weir (club bathing-place), Moulsford Ferry (just above), Goring (200 yards above lock); Weir Pool, Pangbourne; Reading (bathing house near lock), Henley Bathing House, Marsh Lock Pool, Weir at Marlow, also below lock, Odney Weir, Boulter's Weir, Bray Weir; Timm's, near the Church at Staines ; bathing-place about two miles above Richmond; also at Boveney Weir (and at Athens also when Eton boys are away) and from Monkey Island.
It is difficult to give a list of places where camping out is allowed. I have mentioned several in the previous pages. There is a camping-out club called the Rovers which pitches tents at places where others are not permitted. A sixpence given to a lock-keeper often obtains information as to where camping is allowed, and application at a riverside farm frequently results in permission to land. But it is advisable not to set up your tent unless you are sure you are not trespassing; to have a cantankerous farmer make a descent just as everything is fixed is very unpleasant. Medmenham, Surly Hall, Cookham, and Hampton Court are spots where the white canvas is spread during most of the summer. Never camp on the tow-path.
Sailing I have not spoken much of; it is an art which must be learnt by experience. Don't learn it by experiment in a stiff breeze.
If you haven't a boat of your own you can hire one from Salter's at Oxford for the journey and leave it at Richmond or Teddington. For a pair-oared gig the hire is £2 10s. for a week, return carriage included; a large randan pleasure boat, £4. A tent is charged 12s. a week, ground sheet included. Full particulars can be obtained by writing to Mr. Salter at Oxford.
If you only have a couple of days available and don't wish to go so far as Oxford, the river can be reached easily from numerous stations on the Great Western. The stations at Goring, Marlow, Henley, and Windsor are tolerably near the river; those at Wallingford, Reading, Cookham, Maidenhead, and Sunbury are at some distance. The Great Western Railway runs cheap excursions to Taplow, Maidenhead and other places during the season; picnic and pleasure parties are conveyed at specially low rates. Boats and canoes. are also carried at fairly reasonable charges. Windsor, Hampton Court, Richmond, etc., are on the South-Western line ; Windsor and Reading, having two stations, are very convenient places to return from. There are excursion tickets on the London and South-Western line also.
For those who wish to see the river, but don't like to trust themselves in boats, the Thames and Isis Steamboat Co., Limited, run saloon steamers weekly between Kingston and Oxford, taking three days to go up and two to return. The boats can be joined at any lock. The fare for the whole journey (single) is 18s., return 30s. For times of starting, etc., write to the secretary at the offices of the Company, Abingdon, Berks.
The distances of the principal locks from Oxford are as follows:—
Abingdon, 7¼ miles; Day's, 15½; Wallingford, 21¼; Goring, 26¾; Mapledurham, 33 ; Caversham, 37¼; Sonning, 40 ; Hambleden 48¾; Marlow, 54¾; Cookham, 59; Boulter's, 61; Boveney 66½; Bell Weir, 74¾; Chertsey, 79½; Sunbury, 85 ; Teddington, 93. Oxford is 111½ and Teddington 18½ miles from London.
The position of the towns in reference to the locks can be found from the previous pages. The principal lock fees are as under: —
For pair-oared or randan row-boat, 3d.; four-oared, 6d. ; return journey, same day, free pass for the season for pair-oared boats, £2; four-oared, £2 10s. These can be obtained from the Sec. Thames Conservancy, 41, Trinity Square, Tower Hill, E.C.
Intending voyagers should not fail to provide themselves with Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames; it is an invaluable compendium of every sort of information. The great authority on distances, etc, is Taunt's Guide to the Thames, which is beautifully illustrated with small photographs, but its high price (15s.) puts it out of the reach of many. It is out of print at present, but a new edition is, I believe, soon coming out. Mr. and Mrs. Hall's "Book of the Thames" is a chatty and interesting volume, giving a great deal of information useful to the botanist and angler. Of the military maps, perhaps Ravenstein's coloured one is the best.
A few practical hints as to eating and drinking. A good breakfast is fried bacon and eggs. with cocoa or fried sausages. For dinner, if you want hot meats, the most easily prepared are chops and steaks (be sure your steak is cut rather thin if you have to cook it in a frying-pan). If you have a saucepan you can heat a tin of Australian meat, which is not to be despised when flavoured with sauce — at least some brands are not. If you can't get fresh water for boiling, a grain of permanganate of potash will precipitate the impurities of river water, but it is best to always keep the water jar filled. A stove which burns methylated spirits is to my mind much preferable to burning wood. I have sometimes, when time was an object, had breakfast on board — cocoa, bacon, and all complete — whilst the boat was sailing steadily against stream. A pleasant dinner drink for those who prefer a teetotal regimen (which is best for all youngsters, at any rate) is Adam's limes (not lime-juice), mixed with water. Much milk is not good. If you wish to be a popular member of the crew learn to mix a salad properly; it is an accomplishment that few have mastered.
To treat an important question last, what is the cost of such a trip as the one the Swan made? That depends on so many things that it is impossible to give more than an approximate answer. Some crews are willing to rough it in the matter of accommodation, some in the matter of food. But an average set of men ought to do the whole thing comfortably for £3 each for the week, exclusive of fares; and economy can reduce this sum still further. Many men know cottages in little villages where they can get a clean bed for ls. 6d. a night, and not be frowned upon when they start next morning for breakfast on the water. Those who camp in their boat and so save hotel expenses ought to do the journey for little more than half the above estimate. But even at the higher figure boating com-pares very favourably, in point of cheapness, with a Continental trip, even if the cost of the hire ef the boat has to be added. If on your first voyage you find the expense exceeds your expectations, do not at once jump to the conclusion that I have understated it; you will learn to do things more reasonably next time.
And now, boys, my office as your guide, philosopher, and friend is over. Before you read this I shall have made once more the trip of which I have been writing, and may you all enjoy it when your time comes as much as I hope to do.