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“IT'S an alligator's skin.'” at the river, that the writer prepared to “Look at the Chinese junk" start off on a canoe trip down the Thames. “That's made o' leather!” Such a trip is one of the best remedies posSuch and countless other remarks of sible for that state of morbid melancholy men, boys, bargees, and fishermen were | that often comes over one after the stuconstantly overheard as a veritable birch- dents have “gone down.” Before setting bark canoe was being paddled through out there was a little mending to be done, locks, alongside fields, meadows, and but this was very shortly accomplished by parks, past villages and farm-houses, on boiling some resin with soap to the conits way from Oxford to Hampton Court. sistency of molasses candy, and daubing But people would have gazed with still the mixture over the likely leaking spots. greater astonishment had they known | A friend took his seat in the bow, and tothat a year previous this singular craft | gether we started off, paddling with a had covered the trunk of some stately rapid stream at the rate of about four birch in the Acadian forest. It was an miles an hour. A most charming afterunusually good specimen of the canoe of noon favored the start. Earth, air, and the Micmac Indian, and on either side of sky blended in such lovely harmony the stern a representation of the moose about the fields and meadows of Oxford and of the fish of Nova Scotia was neatly that one could not but sigh to leave. scraped on the bark. Its weight was not Passing: Iffley, with its quaint Norman more than sixty pounds, so that, at the church just visible through the trees, and
numerous locks, if one did not care to
Sandford, where boating men love to rest their limbs over a tankard of “training beer,” or to saunter about the lock, mill, and weir, we soon began to catch a glimpse of the old town of Abingdon, that was to términate the first day's journey. One is not likely to forget the charm with which natural and artificial beauty are
linked together in this stretch of water between Sandford and Abingdon. No words could convey any adequate idea of the loveliness that gathers about the trees, the meadows, the cultivated fields and slopes, the old homesteads, the thatched roofs. One rests his paddle, and as he drifts lazily along with the stream, the distant sound of the Oxford bells blends mysteriously with the music of the lark singing from his invisible height, the notes of the cuckoo, and the cawing of the rooks. On this side and on that man and nature have lent each other a helping hand to produce picturesqueness and beauty. There is really an irresistible desire to land and stroll about the little retreat of Radley, on the right, that lies nestled amid elms, beeches, limes, and oaks, or to rest beneath the wooded slopes of Nuneham, that most beautiful of English parks. Wander as you will about this princely home of the Harcourts—where the trees bathe their branches in the hurrying stream; where the cattle graze, or horses run and frolic; where the sheep pant beneath a shady elm, or swans “row their state with oary feet” about the rustic bridge that spans a shaded stream, or where orchids, bluebells, buttercups, and daisies sprinkle their hues over sloping lawns—there is a fascination about everything that is sure to leave lasting associations. At Abingdon we put up at the “Crown and Thistle”—that favorite resting-place of the Oxford under-grad. In the evening my friend returned by rail to Oxford, and so left me to start off alone the following morning. The sky was overcast, and a slight ruffle on the water indicated a storm sooner or later in the day. Paddling past elms, beeches, and “water-wooing willows,” through luxuriant meadows, and alongside banks covered with the prettiest wild flowers, a couple of hours brought the church-crowned height of Clifton in view. The stream now battled with the rising wind, and stirred up a sea in which it was almost impossible to make headway. At a bend of the river where the above village is situated, the canoe, spite of all efforts, was suddenly swept toward the bank. This was a happy incentive to rest awhile. I accordingly landed, and lounged about on the green lawn, listening to an old inhabitant, whose chief topic of conversation was the excel
“by the rushy-fringed bank, Where grow the willow and the osier dank,” swans glided gracefully to and fro, and a time - worn punt was discharging its freight of barge horses and bargees. The bargee is an interesting specimen of humanity. Day after day he stands loungingly at the ponderous rudder, scanning with a cynical air everything and everybody that comes in his path. His existence is an almost complete isolation from his fellow-men, against whom there seems to be an old-standing grudge. He is ever ready to chaff, and scarcely any passerby escapes his vulgar sarcasm. He will sustain sallies of repartee until his voice is no longer audible; but it often happens that his spirit becomes subdued as the boys taunt him with, “Who ate puppy pies under Marlow Bridge ("* . The river now at times took a very winding course, and so the wind was alternately favorable and adverse. A sail, readily improvised out of an old umbrella, carried the canoe along with a fairylike movement over many a long reach, but it finally succumbed to the natural fate under such circumstances. As I approached that ancient town of Wallingford where Matilda the mother of Henry II. found refuge after her escape from Oxford Castle, and where the Fair Maid of Kent breathed her last, the bells and sun-dials were reminding one and all of the dinner hour. I stopped a short time for lunch, and then set out again with renewed energy. But the course continued to be exceedingly rough. Wind and wave had increased, and for a while there was every reason to despair of making any progress. My predicament aroused not only the alarm but even the ridicule of people from the banks. Some sportive youths followed for more than a mile along the meadows, and just then an idea suggested itself that proved as great fun for the boys as it was a relief to the canoeist. A long rope was brought from the neighboring village, and I soon found myself being towed along at a rapid rate by a dozen or more
* This expression had its origin in the story of the landlord of the inn at Medmenham, who, hearing that bargemen intended to plunder his larder, baked a pie of young puppies, which they took, and ate under Marlow Bridge, believing them to be rabbits.
little chaps, who fairly ran themselves out in their excitement over the sport. They made a succession of spurts over a distance of two miles, and then were dismissed with thanks and a gift of a penny each, with which they seemed particularly pleased. The locks formed an agreeable variety in the journey. The lock-keeper's house is charmingly picturesque and neat. Vines and flowers grow about his door, and a patch of ground adjoining marks off a garden where he spends most of his time and labor. The river here seems brought to a stand-still, for the ponderous gates of the lock oppose a lake-like surface of water. But one has only to listen for a moment, and the rushing noise, not far distant, tells him that the rapid-flowing stream has gone to feed a mill, or to struggle its way through the wooden rafters of the weir. The country now gained in loveliness. Wooded slopes lay on one side, and here and there a church spire embosomed in trees. Presently the secluded little villages of Streatley and Goring—the one on the right, the other on the left, and joined by a picturesque wooden bridge—became visible. It seems as if their charming site had been too much for the wind to withstand, for here everything was quiet.
As I paddled under the overhanging trees, and followed the graceful windings of the stream, the effect was quite enchanting. It was rather late in the afternoon, and this fact, together with the peculiar beauty of the spot, led me to put up at the Swan, that comfortable old inn of Streatley. The chalk downs sprinkled with yews and junipers, the picturesque church of Goring nestled among the trees, the magnificent panorama to be obtained from the background of hills, certainly make this spot one of the sweetest gems of Thames scenery. The next day was by no means pleasant; and, as a further inconvenience, the canoe refused to be made proof against leaking. Yet for all this one could not but enjoy the beauty of Pangborne and the surrounding country. Undulating plains, lofty hills interspersed with grand old trees that picturesquely surround here and there a village spire or farm-house, give a most captivating loveliness to the pastoral and cultivated lands around. As I skirted the shore, my eye now and then caught a glimpse of the purple and yellow loosestrife that decked the water's edge; water-lilies carpeted the surface of the quiet nooks, and water-rats played about their burrowed retreats in the bank. One soon passes a rustic inn where, tradition says, King Charles the First went from his prison-house at Caversham to ‘‘ amuse himself with bowls.” The circumstance is alluded to in the following lines, written on an old sign-board: “Stop, traveller, stop. In yonder peaceful glade, His favorite game the royal martyr play’d. Here, stripp'd of honors, children, freedom, rank, Drank from the bowl, and bowl'd for what he drank ; Sought in a cheerful glass his cares to drown, And changed his guinea cre he lost his crown.”
After a short paddle the canoe entered a delightful stretch of water that disclosed to view the lock and moss-roofed mill of Maple-durham lying amid a rich foliage of trees. The thickly wooded banks shut out the wind, and one drifts lazily down with the stream toward one of the most picturesque spots on the Thames—a very “painter's paradise,” as it has been called. The lock-keeper was deeply interested, and remarked : “It’s ray ther haird woork gettin'
along with sich a craft a day like this. You'll find it a wee bit better 'twixt this and Caversham.” His prophecy, however, was anything but true, for the wind blew across an unusually open country, and more than two hours were spent in going a distance of two miles. Toward evening the sky brightened, and as the sun shone through the parting clouds, the famous old bridge of Henley came in sight, and that splendid stretch of water where every summer the amateur regatta gathers a gay and enthusiastic meeting of aquatic votaries. One leaves Henley, and passing islets of osier beds, arrives at a bend in the river that discloses the captivating surroundings of Medmenham. The ruined abbey lies close by the river, nestled among trees, and its ivy-grown walls are the favorite resort of boating parties from the adjacent villages. The inscription, “Fay ce que voudras,” conspicuous above the door, recalls the licentiousness of a band of fashionables in the last century who made the cowl the cloak of the most infamous orgies. Between this point and Marlow the river takes a winding course through a beautifully rich valley. Lounging in the bottom of the canoe, I drifted lazily with the stream past that memorable old spot, Bisham, where the “mortal parts” of Richard Neville, the “King-Maker,” Edward Plan
tagenet, and others repose within the walls
of the ancient church, and alongside the banks where Shelley, sixty years ago, wrote his “Revolt of Islam.” I was just being lulled by the canoe's motion into a sleep, when a noisy steam-launch brought me to my senses, and I looked up to find myself passing under the graceful suspension-bridge of Marlow. There, on the right, was the famous old inn, “The Crown,” with which many an angler has happy associations. There the fisherman's punt—so characteristic a feature of life on the Thames—is always to be seen, secured by a pole at either end, and equipped with chairs, fishing-rods and lines, nets, a water-tank, a rake, bait consisting of gentles, worms, and a so-called ground-bait made up of clay and soaked bread-crumbs. In such a craft the angler, a true model of patience, sits for hours together, nor is he unfrequently rewarded with a fine catch of roach, chub, dace, gudgeon, pike, or barbel. It was late in the evening when I drew up my canoe on the landing-place at Cookham. The rain that had been falling for the past half-hour had made things so uncomfortable that the hospitality of the old inn, “Bel and Dragon,” seemed a genuine blessing. The good landlord gave me a change of clothes, and supplied every possible comfort. It would be difficult to find a place where one could spend a few weeks more happily than at Cookham, situated as it is in the most beautiful and richly cultivated of English landscapes, and possessing river attractions in which the Thames remains unsurpassed. One was naturally loath to leave so lovely a spot, yet before ten o'clock the following morning the canoe was being paddled in the direction of Windsor, some twelve miles distant. This part of the river comprises the most delightful scenery in England, and as one approaches Cliefden, nature and art blend in loveliest harmony. The river winds gracefully under hills thickly shrouded in trees from all quarters of the globe, and a beautiful mansion, dating its first foundation from James's favorite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, smiles over pretty lawns and cultivated slopes upon the “silver-winding stream” below. It is doubtful whether in beauty and grandeur combined Cliefden can be surpassed, or even equalled, anywhere in England. A few hours' sunshine about these charming grounds of the Duke of Westminster is sufficient to atone for whole days of previous rainy weather. The woods echo with the singing of birds: the sedge-warbler from her nest on the swaying rushes seems to be serenading a circle of graceful swans; the river flowing smoothly by “makes all things double” in its glassy surface; the angler sits in his punt moored under the bank, and casts a sullen look at the pleasure-boats that occasionally break in upon his quiet. The swans showed a special antipathy to the canoe. Poor creatures' No doubt I ventured too near the osier beds where they had their nests. They have certain territorial rights assigned them by different authorities, and they are ever on the alert to defend themselves against any intruder. Passers-by seem to take pleasure in exciting their irritable natures; but they have a kind friend in the fisherman, who watches over them, and receives a shilling for every cygnet that he successfully rears. As one leaves the beautiful surroundings of Cliefden, and passes under the bridge of Maidenhead, the imposing turrets of Windsor Castle are distinctly visible, crowning the summit of a distant hill. But it is an unexpectedly long time before that regal castle is reached, so winding is the stream, and so many interesting
spots intervene. One stops to admire Taplow Bridge, with arches of extraordinary span, to meditate a moment under the shadow of Bray church, concerning that wonderful vicar, commemorated still in English song, or to learn something of a quaint mansion, Down Place, prettily situated on the right bank of the river. Here lived that famous bookseller Jacob Tonson, and here one Christopher Catt served up “mutton pies” to a table of thirty-nine men of high social and intellectual rank, who formed the well-known “ Kit-Cat Club,” and whose portraits, as painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, were for a long time preserved in one of Tonson's rooms. The canoe sped swiftly on, and in a very short time, while the curfew bell was ringing out the hour from Caesar's Tower, I found myself beneath the massive pile of Windsor Castle on the right, and the charming buildings and play-ground of Eton College on the left. It would be out of place here to give a description of either of these very imposing structures. One can not help contrasting the present magnificence of the royal residence with that crude hunting lodge that sheltered William the Conqueror after his day's chase about the neighboring forests, or