Infomotions, Inc.An Inland Voyage / Stevenson, Robert Louis

Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis
Title: An Inland Voyage
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
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An Inland Voyage

by Robert Louis Stevenson

May, 1996  [Etext #534]

**The Project Gutenberg Etext of An Inland Voyage by Stevenson**
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An Inland Voyage by Robert Louis Stevenson
Scanned and proofed by David Price



To equip so small a book with a preface is, I am half afraid, to 
sin against proportion.  But a preface is more than an author can 
resist, for it is the reward of his labours.  When the foundation 
stone is laid, the architect appears with his plans, and struts for 
an hour before the public eye.  So with the writer in his preface:  
he may have never a word to say, but he must show himself for a 
moment in the portico, hat in hand, and with an urbane demeanour.

It is best, in such circumstances, to represent a delicate shade of 
manner between humility and superiority:  as if the book had been 
written by some one else, and you had merely run over it and 
inserted what was good.  But for my part I have not yet learned the 
trick to that perfection; I am not yet able to dissemble the warmth 
of my sentiments towards a reader; and if I meet him on the 
threshold, it is to invite him in with country cordiality.

To say truth, I had no sooner finished reading this little book in 
proof, than I was seized upon by a distressing apprehension.  It 
occurred to me that I might not only be the first to read these 
pages, but the last as well; that I might have pioneered this very 
smiling tract of country all in vain, and find not a soul to follow 
in my steps.  The more I thought, the more I disliked the notion; 
until the distaste grew into a sort of panic terror, and I rushed 
into this Preface, which is no more than an advertisement for 

What am I to say for my book?  Caleb and Joshua brought back from 
Palestine a formidable bunch of grapes; alas! my book produces 
naught so nourishing; and for the matter of that, we live in an age 
when people prefer a definition to any quantity of fruit.

I wonder, would a negative be found enticing? for, from the 
negative point of view, I flatter myself this volume has a certain 
stamp.  Although it runs to considerably upwards of two hundred 
pages, it contains not a single reference to the imbecility of 
God's universe, nor so much as a single hint that I could have made 
a better one myself. - I really do not know where my head can have 
been.  I seem to have forgotten all that makes it glorious to be 
man. - 'Tis an omission that renders the book philosophically 
unimportant; but I am in hopes the eccentricity may please in 
frivolous circles.

To the friend who accompanied me I owe many thanks already, indeed 
I wish I owed him nothing else; but at this moment I feel towards 
him an almost exaggerated tenderness.  He, at least, will become my 
reader: - if it were only to follow his own travels alongside of 



WE made a great stir in Antwerp Docks.  A stevedore and a lot of 
dock porters took up the two canoes, and ran with them for the 
slip.  A crowd of children followed cheering.  The CIGARETTE went 
off in a splash and a bubble of small breaking water.  Next moment 
the ARETHUSA was after her.  A steamer was coming down, men on the 
paddle-box shouted hoarse warnings, the stevedore and his porters 
were bawling from the quay.  But in a stroke or two the canoes were 
away out in the middle of the Scheldt, and all steamers, and 
stevedores, and other 'long-shore vanities were left behind.

The sun shone brightly; the tide was making - four jolly miles an 
hour; the wind blew steadily, with occasional squalls.  For my 
part, I had never been in a canoe under sail in my life; and my 
first experiment out in the middle of this big river was not made 
without some trepidation.  What would happen when the wind first 
caught my little canvas?  I suppose it was almost as trying a 
venture into the regions of the unknown as to publish a first book, 
or to marry.  But my doubts were not of long duration; and in five 
minutes you will not be surprised to learn that I had tied my 

I own I was a little struck by this circumstance myself; of course, 
in company with the rest of my fellow-men, I had always tied the 
sheet in a sailing-boat; but in so little and crank a concern as a 
canoe, and with these charging squalls, I was not prepared to find 
myself follow the same principle; and it inspired me with some 
contemptuous views of our regard for life.  It is certainly easier 
to smoke with the sheet fastened; but I had never before weighed a 
comfortable pipe of tobacco against an obvious risk, and gravely 
elected for the comfortable pipe.  It is a commonplace, that we 
cannot answer for ourselves before we have been tried.  But it is 
not so common a reflection, and surely more consoling, that we 
usually find ourselves a great deal braver and better than we 
thought.  I believe this is every one's experience:  but an 
apprehension that they may belie themselves in the future prevents 
mankind from trumpeting this cheerful sentiment abroad.  I wish 
sincerely, for it would have saved me much trouble, there had been 
some one to put me in a good heart about life when I was younger; 
to tell me how dangers are most portentous on a distant sight; and 
how the good in a man's spirit will not suffer itself to be 
overlaid, and rarely or never deserts him in the hour of need.  But 
we are all for tootling on the sentimental flute in literature; and 
not a man among us will go to the head of the march to sound the 
heady drums.

It was agreeable upon the river.  A barge or two went past laden 
with hay.  Reeds and willows bordered the stream; and cattle and 
grey venerable horses came and hung their mild heads over the 
embankment.  Here and there was a pleasant village among trees, 
with a noisy shipping-yard; here and there a villa in a lawn.  The 
wind served us well up the Scheldt and thereafter up the Rupel; and 
we were running pretty free when we began to sight the brickyards 
of Boom, lying for a long way on the right bank of the river.  The 
left bank was still green and pastoral, with alleys of trees along 
the embankment, and here and there a flight of steps to serve a 
ferry, where perhaps there sat a woman with her elbows on her 
knees, or an old gentleman with a staff and silver spectacles.  But 
Boom and its brickyards grew smokier and shabbier with every 
minute; until a great church with a clock, and a wooden bridge over 
the river, indicated the central quarters of the town.

Boom is not a nice place, and is only remarkable for one thing:  
that the majority of the inhabitants have a private opinion that 
they can speak English, which is not justified by fact.  This gave 
a kind of haziness to our intercourse.  As for the Hotel de la 
Navigation, I think it is the worst feature of the place.  It 
boasts of a sanded parlour, with a bar at one end, looking on the 
street; and another sanded parlour, darker and colder, with an 
empty bird-cage and a tricolour subscription box by way of sole 
adornment, where we made shift to dine in the company of three 
uncommunicative engineer apprentices and a silent bagman.  The 
food, as usual in Belgium, was of a nondescript occasional 
character; indeed I have never been able to detect anything in the 
nature of a meal among this pleasing people; they seem to peck and 
trifle with viands all day long in an amateur spirit:  tentatively 
French, truly German, and somehow falling between the two.

The empty bird-cage, swept and garnished, and with no trace of the 
old piping favourite, save where two wires had been pushed apart to 
hold its lump of sugar, carried with it a sort of graveyard cheer.  
The engineer apprentices would have nothing to say to us, nor 
indeed to the bagman; but talked low and sparingly to one another, 
or raked us in the gaslight with a gleam of spectacles.  For though 
handsome lads, they were all (in the Scots phrase) barnacled.

There was an English maid in the hotel, who had been long enough 
out of England to pick up all sorts of funny foreign idioms, and 
all sorts of curious foreign ways, which need not here be 
specified.  She spoke to us very fluently in her jargon, asked us 
information as to the manners of the present day in England, and 
obligingly corrected us when we attempted to answer.  But as we 
were dealing with a woman, perhaps our information was not so much 
thrown away as it appeared.  The sex likes to pick up knowledge and 
yet preserve its superiority.  It is good policy, and almost 
necessary in the circumstances.  If a man finds a woman admire him, 
were it only for his acquaintance with geography, he will begin at 
once to build upon the admiration.  It is only by unintermittent 
snubbing that the pretty ones can keep us in our place.  Men, as 
Miss Howe or Miss Harlowe would have said, 'are such ENCROACHERS.'  
For my part, I am body and soul with the women; and after a well-
married couple, there is nothing so beautiful in the world as the 
myth of the divine huntress.  It is no use for a man to take to the 
woods; we know him; St. Anthony tried the same thing long ago, and 
had a pitiful time of it by all accounts.  But there is this about 
some women, which overtops the best gymnosophist among men, that 
they suffice to themselves, and can walk in a high and cold zone 
without the countenance of any trousered being.  I declare, 
although the reverse of a professed ascetic, I am more obliged to 
women for this ideal than I should be to the majority of them, or 
indeed to any but one, for a spontaneous kiss.  There is nothing so 
encouraging as the spectacle of self-sufficiency.  And when I think 
of the slim and lovely maidens, running the woods all night to the 
note of Diana's horn; moving among the old oaks, as fancy-free as 
they; things of the forest and the starlight, not touched by the 
commotion of man's hot and turbid life - although there are plenty 
other ideals that I should prefer - I find my heart beat at the 
thought of this one.  'Tis to fail in life, but to fail with what a 
grace!  That is not lost which is not regretted.  And where - here 
slips out the male - where would be much of the glory of inspiring 
love, if there were no contempt to overcome?


NEXT morning, when we set forth on the Willebroek Canal, the rain 
began heavy and chill.  The water of the canal stood at about the 
drinking temperature of tea; and under this cold aspersion, the 
surface was covered with steam.  The exhilaration of departure, and 
the easy motion of the boats under each stroke of the paddles, 
supported us through this misfortune while it lasted; and when the 
cloud passed and the sun came out again, our spirits went up above 
the range of stay-at-home humours.  A good breeze rustled and 
shivered in the rows of trees that bordered the canal.  The leaves 
flickered in and out of the light in tumultuous masses.  It seemed 
sailing weather to eye and ear; but down between the banks, the 
wind reached us only in faint and desultory puffs.  There was 
hardly enough to steer by.  Progress was intermittent and 
unsatisfactory.  A jocular person, of marine antecedents, hailed us 
from the tow-path with a 'C'EST VITE, MAIS C'EST LONG.'

The canal was busy enough.  Every now and then we met or overtook a 
long string of boats, with great green tillers; high sterns with a 
window on either side of the rudder, and perhaps a jug or a flower-
pot in one of the windows; a dinghy following behind; a woman 
busied about the day's dinner, and a handful of children.  These 
barges were all tied one behind the other with tow ropes, to the 
number of twenty-five or thirty; and the line was headed and kept 
in motion by a steamer of strange construction.  It had neither 
paddle-wheel nor screw; but by some gear not rightly comprehensible 
to the unmechanical mind, it fetched up over its bow a small bright 
chain which lay along the bottom of the canal, and paying it out 
again over the stern, dragged itself forward, link by link, with 
its whole retinue of loaded skows.  Until one had found out the key 
to the enigma, there was something solemn and uncomfortable in the 
progress of one of these trains, as it moved gently along the water 
with nothing to mark its advance but an eddy alongside dying away 
into the wake.

Of all the creatures of commercial enterprise, a canal barge is by 
far the most delightful to consider.  It may spread its sails, and 
then you see it sailing high above the tree-tops and the windmill, 
sailing on the aqueduct, sailing through the green corn-lands:  the 
most picturesque of things amphibious.  Or the horse plods along at 
a foot-pace as if there were no such thing as business in the 
world; and the man dreaming at the tiller sees the same spire on 
the horizon all day long.  It is a mystery how things ever get to 
their destination at this rate; and to see the barges waiting their 
turn at a lock, affords a fine lesson of how easily the world may 
be taken.  There should be many contented spirits on board, for 
such a life is both to travel and to stay at home.

The chimney smokes for dinner as you go along; the banks of the 
canal slowly unroll their scenery to contemplative eyes; the barge 
floats by great forests and through great cities with their public 
buildings and their lamps at night; and for the bargee, in his 
floating home, 'travelling abed,' it is merely as if he were 
listening to another man's story or turning the leaves of a 
picture-book in which he had no concern.  He may take his afternoon 
walk in some foreign country on the banks of the canal, and then 
come home to dinner at his own fireside.

There is not enough exercise in such a life for any high measure of 
health; but a high measure of health is only necessary for 
unhealthy people.  The slug of a fellow, who is never ill nor well, 
has a quiet time of it in life, and dies all the easier.

I am sure I would rather be a bargee than occupy any position under 
heaven that required attendance at an office.  There are few 
callings, I should say, where a man gives up less of his liberty in 
return for regular meals.  The bargee is on shipboard - he is 
master in his own ship - he can land whenever he will - he can 
never be kept beating off a lee-shore a whole frosty night when the 
sheets are as hard as iron; and so far as I can make out, time 
stands as nearly still with him as is compatible with the return of 
bed-time or the dinner-hour.  It is not easy to see why a bargee 
should ever die.

Half-way between Willebroek and Villevorde, in a beautiful reach of 
canal like a squire's avenue, we went ashore to lunch.  There were 
two eggs, a junk of bread, and a bottle of wine on board the 
ARETHUSA; and two eggs and an Etna cooking apparatus on board the 
CIGARETTE.  The master of the latter boat smashed one of the eggs 
in the course of disembarkation; but observing pleasantly that it 
might still be cooked A LA PAPIER, he dropped it into the Etna, in 
its covering of Flemish newspaper.  We landed in a blink of fine 
weather; but we had not been two minutes ashore before the wind 
freshened into half a gale, and the rain began to patter on our 
shoulders.  We sat as close about the Etna as we could.  The 
spirits burned with great ostentation; the grass caught flame every 
minute or two, and had to be trodden out; and before long, there 
were several burnt fingers of the party.  But the solid quantity of 
cookery accomplished was out of proportion with so much display; 
and when we desisted, after two applications of the fire, the sound 
egg was little more than loo-warm; and as for A LA PAPIER, it was a 
cold and sordid FRICASSEE of printer's ink and broken egg-shell.  
We made shift to roast the other two, by putting them close to the 
burning spirits; and that with better success.  And then we 
uncorked the bottle of wine, and sat down in a ditch with our canoe 
aprons over our knees.  It rained smartly.  Discomfort, when it is 
honestly uncomfortable and makes no nauseous pretensions to the 
contrary, is a vastly humorous business; and people well steeped 
and stupefied in the open air are in a good vein for laughter.  
From this point of view, even egg A LA PAPIER offered by way of 
food may pass muster as a sort of accessory to the fun.  But this 
manner of jest, although it may be taken in good part, does not 
invite repetition; and from that time forward, the Etna voyaged 
like a gentleman in the locker of the CIGARETTE.

It is almost unnecessary to mention that when lunch was over and we 
got aboard again and made sail, the wind promptly died away.  The 
rest of the journey to Villevorde, we still spread our canvas to 
the unfavouring air; and with now and then a puff, and now and then 
a spell of paddling, drifted along from lock to lock, between the 
orderly trees.

It was a fine, green, fat landscape; or rather a mere green water-
lane, going on from village to village.  Things had a settled look, 
as in places long lived in.  Crop-headed children spat upon us from 
the bridges as we went below, with a true conservative feeling.  
But even more conservative were the fishermen, intent upon their 
floats, who let us go by without one glance.  They perched upon 
sterlings and buttresses and along the slope of the embankment, 
gently occupied.  They were indifferent, like pieces of dead 
nature.  They did not move any more than if they had been fishing 
in an old Dutch print.  The leaves fluttered, the water lapped, but 
they continued in one stay like so many churches established by 
law.  You might have trepanned every one of their innocent heads, 
and found no more than so much coiled fishing-line below their 
skulls.  I do not care for your stalwart fellows in india-rubber 
stockings breasting up mountain torrents with a salmon rod; but I 
do dearly love the class of man who plies his unfruitful art, for 
ever and a day, by still and depopulated waters.

At the last lock, just beyond Villevorde, there was a lock-mistress 
who spoke French comprehensibly, and told us we were still a couple 
of leagues from Brussels.  At the same place, the rain began again.  
It fell in straight, parallel lines; and the surface of the canal 
was thrown up into an infinity of little crystal fountains.  There 
were no beds to be had in the neighbourhood.  Nothing for it but to 
lay the sails aside and address ourselves to steady paddling in the 

Beautiful country houses, with clocks and long lines of shuttered 
windows, and fine old trees standing in groves and avenues, gave a 
rich and sombre aspect in the rain and the deepening dusk to the 
shores of the canal.  I seem to have seen something of the same 
effect in engravings:  opulent landscapes, deserted and overhung 
with the passage of storm.  And throughout we had the escort of a 
hooded cart, which trotted shabbily along the tow-path, and kept at 
an almost uniform distance in our wake.


THE rain took off near Laeken.  But the sun was already down; the 
air was chill; and we had scarcely a dry stitch between the pair of 
us.  Nay, now we found ourselves near the end of the Allee Verte, 
and on the very threshold of Brussels, we were confronted by a 
serious difficulty.  The shores were closely lined by canal boats 
waiting their turn at the lock.  Nowhere was there any convenient 
landing-place; nowhere so much as a stable-yard to leave the canoes 
in for the night.  We scrambled ashore and entered an ESTAMINET 
where some sorry fellows were drinking with the landlord.  The 
landlord was pretty round with us; he knew of no coach-house or 
stable-yard, nothing of the sort; and seeing we had come with no 
mind to drink, he did not conceal his impatience to be rid of us.  
One of the sorry fellows came to the rescue.  Somewhere in the 
corner of the basin there was a slip, he informed us, and something 
else besides, not very clearly defined by him, but hopefully 
construed by his hearers.

Sure enough there was the slip in the corner of the basin; and at 
the top of it two nice-looking lads in boating clothes.  The 
ARETHUSA addressed himself to these.  One of them said there would 
be no difficulty about a night's lodging for our boats; and the 
other, taking a cigarette from his lips, inquired if they were made 
by Searle and Son.  The name was quite an introduction.  Half-a-
dozen other young men came out of a boat-house bearing the 
superscription ROYAL SPORT NAUTIQUE, and joined in the talk.  They 
were all very polite, voluble, and enthusiastic; and their 
discourse was interlarded with English boating terms, and the names 
of English boat-builders and English clubs.  I do not know, to my 
shame, any spot in my native land where I should have been so 
warmly received by the same number of people.  We were English 
boating-men, and the Belgian boating-men fell upon our necks.  I 
wonder if French Huguenots were as cordially greeted by English 
Protestants when they came across the Channel out of great 
tribulation.  But after all, what religion knits people so closely 
as a common sport?

The canoes were carried into the boat-house; they were washed down 
for us by the Club servants, the sails were hung out to dry, and 
everything made as snug and tidy as a picture.  And in the 
meanwhile we were led upstairs by our new-found brethren, for so 
more than one of them stated the relationship, and made free of 
their lavatory.  This one lent us soap, that one a towel, a third 
and fourth helped us to undo our bags.  And all the time such 
questions, such assurances of respect and sympathy!  I declare I 
never knew what glory was before.

'Yes, yes, the ROYAL SPORT NAUTIQUE is the oldest club in Belgium.'

'We number two hundred.'

'We' - this is not a substantive speech, but an abstract of many 
speeches, the impression left upon my mind after a great deal of 
talk; and very youthful, pleasant, natural, and patriotic it seems 
to me to be - 'We have gained all races, except those where we were 
cheated by the French.'

'You must leave all your wet things to be dried.'

'O! ENTRE FRERES!  In any boat-house in England we should find the 
same.'  (I cordially hope they might.)


'We are all employed in commerce during the day; but in the 

These were the words.  They were all employed over the frivolous 
mercantile concerns of Belgium during the day; but in the evening 
they found some hours for the serious concerns of life.  I may have 
a wrong idea of wisdom, but I think that was a very wise remark.  
People connected with literature and philosophy are busy all their 
days in getting rid of second-hand notions and false standards.  It 
is their profession, in the sweat of their brows, by dogged 
thinking, to recover their old fresh view of life, and distinguish 
what they really and originally like, from what they have only 
learned to tolerate perforce.  And these Royal Nautical Sportsmen 
had the distinction still quite legible in their hearts.  They had 
still those clean perceptions of what is nice and nasty, what is 
interesting and what is dull, which envious old gentlemen refer to 
as illusions.  The nightmare illusion of middle age, the bear's hug 
of custom gradually squeezing the life out of a man's soul, had not 
yet begun for these happy-starred young Belgians.  They still knew 
that the interest they took in their business was a trifling affair 
compared to their spontaneous, long-suffering affection for 
nautical sports.  To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying 
Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have 
kept your soul alive.  Such a man may be generous; he may be honest 
in something more than the commercial sense; he may love his 
friends with an elective, personal sympathy, and not accept them as 
an adjunct of the station to which he has been called.  He may be a 
man, in short, acting on his own instincts, keeping in his own 
shape that God made him in; and not a mere crank in the social 
engine-house, welded on principles that he does not understand, and 
for purposes that he does not care for.

For will any one dare to tell me that business is more entertaining 
than fooling among boats?  He must have never seen a boat, or never 
seen an office, who says so.  And for certain the one is a great 
deal better for the health.  There should be nothing so much a 
man's business as his amusements.  Nothing but money-grubbing can 
be put forward to the contrary; no one but

Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From Heaven,

durst risk a word in answer.  It is but a lying cant that would 
represent the merchant and the banker as people disinterestedly 
toiling for mankind, and then most useful when they are most 
absorbed in their transactions; for the man is more important than 
his services.  And when my Royal Nautical Sportsman shall have so 
far fallen from his hopeful youth that he cannot pluck up an 
enthusiasm over anything but his ledger, I venture to doubt whether 
he will be near so nice a fellow, and whether he would welcome, 
with so good a grace, a couple of drenched Englishmen paddling into 
Brussels in the dusk.

When we had changed our wet clothes and drunk a glass of pale ale 
to the Club's prosperity, one of their number escorted us to an 
hotel.  He would not join us at our dinner, but he had no objection 
to a glass of wine.  Enthusiasm is very wearing; and I begin to 
understand why prophets were unpopular in Judaea, where they were 
best known.  For three stricken hours did this excellent young man 
sit beside us to dilate on boats and boat-races; and before he 
left, he was kind enough to order our bedroom candles.

We endeavoured now and again to change the subject; but the 
diversion did not last a moment:  the Royal Nautical Sportsman 
bridled, shied, answered the question, and then breasted once more 
into the swelling tide of his subject.  I call it his subject; but 
I think it was he who was subjected.  The ARETHUSA, who holds all 
racing as a creature of the devil, found himself in a pitiful 
dilemma.  He durst not own his ignorance for the honour of Old 
England, and spoke away about English clubs and English oarsmen 
whose fame had never before come to his ears.  Several times, and, 
once above all, on the question of sliding-seats, he was within an 
ace of exposure.  As for the CIGARETTE, who has rowed races in the 
heat of his blood, but now disowns these slips of his wanton youth, 
his case was still more desperate; for the Royal Nautical proposed 
that he should take an oar in one of their eights on the morrow, to 
compare the English with the Belgian stroke.  I could see my friend 
perspiring in his chair whenever that particular topic came up.  
And there was yet another proposal which had the same effect on 
both of us.  It appeared that the champion canoeist of Europe (as 
well as most other champions) was a Royal Nautical Sportsman.  And 
if we would only wait until the Sunday, this infernal paddler would 
be so condescending as to accompany us on our next stage.  Neither 
of us had the least desire to drive the coursers of the sun against 

When the young man was gone, we countermanded our candles, and 
ordered some brandy and water.  The great billows had gone over our 
head.  The Royal Nautical Sportsmen were as nice young fellows as a 
man would wish to see, but they were a trifle too young and a 
thought too nautical for us.  We began to see that we were old and 
cynical; we liked ease and the agreeable rambling of the human mind 
about this and the other subject; we did not want to disgrace our 
native land by messing an eight, or toiling pitifully in the wake 
of the champion canoeist.  In short, we had recourse to flight.  It 
seemed ungrateful, but we tried to make that good on a card loaded 
with sincere compliments.  And indeed it was no time for scruples; 
we seemed to feel the hot breath of the champion on our necks.


PARTLY from the terror we had of our good friends the Royal 
Nauticals, partly from the fact that there were no fewer than 
fifty-five locks between Brussels and Charleroi, we concluded that 
we should travel by train across the frontier, boats and all.  
Fifty-five locks in a day's journey was pretty well tantamount to 
trudging the whole distance on foot, with the canoes upon our 
shoulders, an object of astonishment to the trees on the canal 
side, and of honest derision to all right-thinking children.

To pass the frontier, even in a train, is a difficult matter for 
the ARETHUSA.  He is somehow or other a marked man for the official 
eye.  Wherever he journeys, there are the officers gathered 
together.  Treaties are solemnly signed, foreign ministers, 
ambassadors, and consuls sit throned in state from China to Peru, 
and the Union Jack flutters on all the winds of heaven.  Under 
these safeguards, portly clergymen, school-mistresses, gentlemen in 
grey tweed suits, and all the ruck and rabble of British touristry 
pour unhindered, MURRAY in hand, over the railways of the 
Continent, and yet the slim person of the ARETHUSA is taken in the 
meshes, while these great fish go on their way rejoicing.  If he 
travels without a passport, he is cast, without any figure about 
the matter, into noisome dungeons:  if his papers are in order, he 
is suffered to go his way indeed, but not until he has been 
humiliated by a general incredulity.  He is a born British subject, 
yet he has never succeeded in persuading a single official of his 
nationality.  He flatters himself he is indifferent honest; yet he 
is rarely taken for anything better than a spy, and there is no 
absurd and disreputable means of livelihood but has been attributed 
to him in some heat of official or popular distrust. . . .

For the life of me I cannot understand it.  I too have been knolled 
to church, and sat at good men's feasts; but I bear no mark of it.  
I am as strange as a Jack Indian to their official spectacles.  I 
might come from any part of the globe, it seems, except from where 
I do.  My ancestors have laboured in vain, and the glorious 
Constitution cannot protect me in my walks abroad.  It is a great 
thing, believe me, to present a good normal type of the nation you 
belong to.

Nobody else was asked for his papers on the way to Maubeuge; but I 
was; and although I clung to my rights, I had to choose at last 
between accepting the humiliation and being left behind by the 
train.  I was sorry to give way; but I wanted to get to Maubeuge.

Maubeuge is a fortified town, with a very good inn, the GRAND CERF.  
It seemed to be inhabited principally by soldiers and bagmen; at 
least, these were all that we saw, except the hotel servants.  We 
had to stay there some time, for the canoes were in no hurry to 
follow us, and at last stuck hopelessly in the custom-house until 
we went back to liberate them.  There was nothing to do, nothing to 
see.  We had good meals, which was a great matter; but that was 

The CIGARETTE was nearly taken up upon a charge of drawing the 
fortifications:  a feat of which he was hopelessly incapable.  And 
besides, as I suppose each belligerent nation has a plan of the 
other's fortified places already, these precautions are of the 
nature of shutting the stable door after the steed is away.  But I 
have no doubt they help to keep up a good spirit at home.  It is a 
great thing if you can persuade people that they are somehow or 
other partakers in a mystery.  It makes them feel bigger.  Even the 
Freemasons, who have been shown up to satiety, preserve a kind of 
pride; and not a grocer among them, however honest, harmless, and 
empty-headed he may feel himself to be at bottom, but comes home 
from one of their COENACULA with a portentous significance for 

It is an odd thing, how happily two people, if there are two, can 
live in a place where they have no acquaintance.  I think the 
spectacle of a whole life in which you have no part paralyses 
personal desire.  You are content to become a mere spectator.  The 
baker stands in his door; the colonel with his three medals goes by 
to the CAFE at night; the troops drum and trumpet and man the 
ramparts, as bold as so many lions.  It would task language to say 
how placidly you behold all this.  In a place where you have taken 
some root, you are provoked out of your indifference; you have a 
hand in the game; your friends are fighting with the army.  But in 
a strange town, not small enough to grow too soon familiar, nor so 
large as to have laid itself out for travellers, you stand so far 
apart from the business, that you positively forget it would be 
possible to go nearer; you have so little human interest around 
you, that you do not remember yourself to be a man.  Perhaps, in a 
very short time, you would be one no longer.  Gymnosophists go into 
a wood, with all nature seething around them, with romance on every 
side; it would be much more to the purpose if they took up their 
abode in a dull country town, where they should see just so much of 
humanity as to keep them from desiring more, and only the stale 
externals of man's life.  These externals are as dead to us as so 
many formalities, and speak a dead language in our eyes and ears.  
They have no more meaning than an oath or a salutation.  We are so 
much accustomed to see married couples going to church of a Sunday 
that we have clean forgotten what they represent; and novelists are 
driven to rehabilitate adultery, no less, when they wish to show us 
what a beautiful thing it is for a man and a woman to live for each 

One person in Maubeuge, however, showed me something more than his 
outside.  That was the driver of the hotel omnibus:  a mean enough 
looking little man, as well as I can remember; but with a spark of 
something human in his soul.  He had heard of our little journey, 
and came to me at once in envious sympathy.  How he longed to 
travel! he told me.  How he longed to be somewhere else, and see 
the round world before he went into the grave!  'Here I am,' said 
he.  'I drive to the station.  Well.  And then I drive back again 
to the hotel.  And so on every day and all the week round.  My God, 
is that life?'  I could not say I thought it was - for him.  He 
pressed me to tell him where I had been, and where I hoped to go; 
and as he listened, I declare the fellow sighed.  Might not this 
have been a brave African traveller, or gone to the Indies after 
Drake?  But it is an evil age for the gypsily inclined among men.  
He who can sit squarest on a three-legged stool, he it is who has 
the wealth and glory.

I wonder if my friend is still driving the omnibus for the Grand 
Cerf?  Not very likely, I believe; for I think he was on the eve of 
mutiny when we passed through, and perhaps our passage determined 
him for good.  Better a thousand times that he should be a tramp, 
and mend pots and pans by the wayside, and sleep under trees, and 
see the dawn and the sunset every day above a new horizon.  I think 
I hear you say that it is a respectable position to drive an 
omnibus?  Very well.  What right has he who likes it not, to keep 
those who would like it dearly out of this respectable position?  
Suppose a dish were not to my taste, and you told me that it was a 
favourite amongst the rest of the company, what should I conclude 
from that?  Not to finish the dish against my stomach, I suppose.

Respectability is a very good thing in its way, but it does not 
rise superior to all considerations.  I would not for a moment 
venture to hint that it was a matter of taste; but I think I will 
go as far as this:  that if a position is admittedly unkind, 
uncomfortable, unnecessary, and superfluously useless, although it 
were as respectable as the Church of England, the sooner a man is 
out of it, the better for himself, and all concerned.



ABOUT three in the afternoon the whole establishment of the GRAND 
CERF accompanied us to the water's edge.  The man of the omnibus 
was there with haggard eyes.  Poor cage-bird!  Do I not remember 
the time when I myself haunted the station, to watch train after 
train carry its complement of freemen into the night, and read the 
names of distant places on the time-bills with indescribable 

We were not clear of the fortifications before the rain began.  The 
wind was contrary, and blew in furious gusts; nor were the aspects 
of nature any more clement than the doings of the sky.  For we 
passed through a stretch of blighted country, sparsely covered with 
brush, but handsomely enough diversified with factory chimneys.  We 
landed in a soiled meadow among some pollards, and there smoked a 
pipe in a flaw of fair weather.  But the wind blew so hard, we 
could get little else to smoke.  There were no natural objects in 
the neighbourhood, but some sordid workshops.  A group of children 
headed by a tall girl stood and watched us from a little distance 
all the time we stayed.  I heartily wonder what they thought of us.

At Hautmont, the lock was almost impassable; the landing-place 
being steep and high, and the launch at a long distance.  Near a 
dozen grimy workmen lent us a hand.  They refused any reward; and, 
what is much better, refused it handsomely, without conveying any 
sense of insult.  'It is a way we have in our countryside,' said 
they.  And a very becoming way it is.  In Scotland, where also you 
will get services for nothing, the good people reject your money as 
if you had been trying to corrupt a voter.  When people take the 
trouble to do dignified acts, it is worth while to take a little 
more, and allow the dignity to be common to all concerned.  But in 
our brave Saxon countries, where we plod threescore years and ten 
in the mud, and the wind keeps singing in our ears from birth to 
burial, we do our good and bad with a high hand and almost 
offensively; and make even our alms a witness-bearing and an act of 
war against the wrong.

After Hautmont, the sun came forth again and the wind went down; 
and a little paddling took us beyond the ironworks and through a 
delectable land.  The river wound among low hills, so that 
sometimes the sun was at our backs, and sometimes it stood right 
ahead, and the river before us was one sheet of intolerable glory.  
On either hand, meadows and orchards bordered, with a margin of 
sedge and water flowers, upon the river.  The hedges were of great 
height, woven about the trunks of hedgerow elms; and the fields, as 
they were often very small, looked like a series of bowers along 
the stream.  There was never any prospect; sometimes a hill-top 
with its trees would look over the nearest hedgerow, just to make a 
middle distance for the sky; but that was all.  The heaven was bare 
of clouds.  The atmosphere, after the rain, was of enchanting 
purity.  The river doubled among the hillocks, a shining strip of 
mirror glass; and the dip of the paddles set the flowers shaking 
along the brink.

In the meadows wandered black and white cattle fantastically 
marked.  One beast, with a white head and the rest of the body 
glossy black, came to the edge to drink, and stood gravely 
twitching his ears at me as I went by, like some sort of 
preposterous clergyman in a play.  A moment after I heard a loud 
plunge, and, turning my head, saw the clergyman struggling to 
shore.  The bank had given way under his feet.

Besides the cattle, we saw no living things except a few birds and 
a great many fishermen.  These sat along the edges of the meadows, 
sometimes with one rod, sometimes with as many as half a score.  
They seemed stupefied with contentment; and when we induced them to 
exchange a few words with us about the weather, their voices 
sounded quiet and far away.  There was a strange diversity of 
opinion among them as to the kind of fish for which they set their 
lures; although they were all agreed in this, that the river was 
abundantly supplied.  Where it was plain that no two of them had 
ever caught the same kind of fish, we could not help suspecting 
that perhaps not any one of them had ever caught a fish at all.  I 
hope, since the afternoon was so lovely, that they were one and all 
rewarded; and that a silver booty went home in every basket for the 
pot.  Some of my friends would cry shame on me for this; but I 
prefer a man, were he only an angler, to the bravest pair of gills 
in all God's waters.  I do not affect fishes unless when cooked in 
sauce; whereas an angler is an important piece of river scenery, 
and hence deserves some recognition among canoeists.  He can always 
tell you where you are after a mild fashion; and his quiet presence 
serves to accentuate the solitude and stillness, and remind you of 
the glittering citizens below your boat.

The Sambre turned so industriously to and fro among his little 
hills, that it was past six before we drew near the lock at 
Quartes.  There were some children on the tow-path, with whom the 
CIGARETTE fell into a chaffing talk as they ran along beside us.  
It was in vain that I warned him.  In vain I told him, in English, 
that boys were the most dangerous creatures; and if once you began 
with them, it was safe to end in a shower of stones.  For my own 
part, whenever anything was addressed to me, I smiled gently and 
shook my head as though I were an inoffensive person inadequately 
acquainted with French.  For indeed I have had such experience at 
home, that I would sooner meet many wild animals than a troop of 
healthy urchins.

But I was doing injustice to these peaceable young Hainaulters.  
When the CIGARETTE went off to make inquiries, I got out upon the 
bank to smoke a pipe and superintend the boats, and became at once 
the centre of much amiable curiosity.  The children had been joined 
by this time by a young woman and a mild lad who had lost an arm; 
and this gave me more security.  When I let slip my first word or 
so in French, a little girl nodded her head with a comical grown-up 
air.  'Ah, you see,' she said, 'he understands well enough now; he 
was just making believe.'  And the little group laughed together 
very good-naturedly.

They were much impressed when they heard we came from England; and 
the little girl proffered the information that England was an 
island 'and a far way from here - BIEN LOIN D'ICI.'

'Ay, you may say that, a far way from here,' said the lad with one 

I was as nearly home-sick as ever I was in my life; they seemed to 
make it such an incalculable distance to the place where I first 
saw the day.  They admired the canoes very much.  And I observed 
one piece of delicacy in these children, which is worthy of record.  
They had been deafening us for the last hundred yards with 
petitions for a sail; ay, and they deafened us to the same tune 
next morning when we came to start; but then, when the canoes were 
lying empty, there was no word of any such petition.  Delicacy? or 
perhaps a bit of fear for the water in so crank a vessel?  I hate 
cynicism a great deal worse than I do the devil; unless perhaps the 
two were the same thing?  And yet 'tis a good tonic; the cold tub 
and bath-towel of the sentiments; and positively necessary to life 
in cases of advanced sensibility.

From the boats they turned to my costume.  They could not make 
enough of my red sash; and my knife filled them with awe.

'They make them like that in England,' said the boy with one arm.  
I was glad he did not know how badly we make them in England now-a-
days.  'They are for people who go away to sea,' he added, 'and to 
defend one's life against great fish.'

I felt I was becoming a more and more romantic figure to the little 
group at every word.  And so I suppose I was.  Even my pipe, 
although it was an ordinary French clay pretty well 'trousered,' as 
they call it, would have a rarity in their eyes, as a thing coming 
from so far away.  And if my feathers were not very fine in 
themselves, they were all from over seas.  One thing in my outfit, 
however, tickled them out of all politeness; and that was the 
bemired condition of my canvas shoes.  I suppose they were sure the 
mud at any rate was a home product.  The little girl (who was the 
genius of the party) displayed her own sabots in competition; and I 
wish you could have seen how gracefully and merrily she did it.

The young woman's milk-can, a great amphora of hammered brass, 
stood some way off upon the sward.  I was glad of an opportunity to 
divert public attention from myself, and return some of the 
compliments I had received.  So I admired it cordially both for 
form and colour, telling them, and very truly, that it was as 
beautiful as gold.  They were not surprised.  The things were 
plainly the boast of the countryside.  And the children expatiated 
on the costliness of these amphorae, which sell sometimes as high 
as thirty francs apiece; told me how they were carried on donkeys, 
one on either side of the saddle, a brave caparison in themselves; 
and how they were to be seen all over the district, and at the 
larger farms in great number and of great size.



THE CIGARETTE returned with good news.  There were beds to be had 
some ten minutes' walk from where we were, at a place called Pont.  
We stowed the canoes in a granary, and asked among the children for 
a guide.  The circle at once widened round us, and our offers of 
reward were received in dispiriting silence.  We were plainly a 
pair of Bluebeards to the children; they might speak to us in 
public places, and where they had the advantage of numbers; but it 
was another thing to venture off alone with two uncouth and 
legendary characters, who had dropped from the clouds upon their 
hamlet this quiet afternoon, sashed and be-knived, and with a 
flavour of great voyages.  The owner of the granary came to our 
assistance, singled out one little fellow and threatened him with 
corporalities; or I suspect we should have had to find the way for 
ourselves.  As it was, he was more frightened at the granary man 
than the strangers, having perhaps had some experience of the 
former.  But I fancy his little heart must have been going at a 
fine rate; for he kept trotting at a respectful distance in front, 
and looking back at us with scared eyes.  Not otherwise may the 
children of the young world have guided Jove or one of his Olympian 
compeers on an adventure.

A miry lane led us up from Quartes with its church and bickering 
windmill.  The hinds were trudging homewards from the fields.  A 
brisk little woman passed us by.  She was seated across a donkey 
between a pair of glittering milk-cans; and, as she went, she 
kicked jauntily with her heels upon the donkey's side, and 
scattered shrill remarks among the wayfarers.  It was notable that 
none of the tired men took the trouble to reply.  Our conductor 
soon led us out of the lane and across country.  The sun had gone 
down, but the west in front of us was one lake of level gold.  The 
path wandered a while in the open, and then passed under a trellis 
like a bower indefinitely prolonged.  On either hand were shadowy 
orchards; cottages lay low among the leaves, and sent their smoke 
to heaven; every here and there, in an opening, appeared the great 
gold face of the west.

I never saw the CIGARETTE in such an idyllic frame of mind.  He 
waxed positively lyrical in praise of country scenes.  I was little 
less exhilarated myself; the mild air of the evening, the shadows, 
the rich lights and the silence, made a symphonious accompaniment 
about our walk; and we both determined to avoid towns for the 
future and sleep in hamlets.

At last the path went between two houses, and turned the party out 
into a wide muddy high-road, bordered, as far as the eye could 
reach on either hand, by an unsightly village.  The houses stood 
well back, leaving a ribbon of waste land on either side of the 
road, where there were stacks of firewood, carts, barrows, rubbish-
heaps, and a little doubtful grass.  Away on the left, a gaunt 
tower stood in the middle of the street.  What it had been in past 
ages, I know not:  probably a hold in time of war; but now-a-days 
it bore an illegible dial-plate in its upper parts, and near the 
bottom an iron letter-box.

The inn to which we had been recommended at Quartes was full, or 
else the landlady did not like our looks.  I ought to say, that 
with our long, damp india-rubber bags, we presented rather a 
doubtful type of civilisation:  like rag-and-bone men, the 
CIGARETTE imagined.  'These gentlemen are pedlars? - CES MESSIEURS 
SONT DES MARCHANDS?' - asked the landlady.  And then, without 
waiting for an answer, which I suppose she thought superfluous in 
so plain a case, recommended us to a butcher who lived hard by the 
tower, and took in travellers to lodge.

Thither went we.  But the butcher was flitting, and all his beds 
were taken down.  Or else he didn't like our look.  As a parting 
shot, we had 'These gentlemen are pedlars?'

It began to grow dark in earnest.  We could no longer distinguish 
the faces of the people who passed us by with an inarticulate good-
evening.  And the householders of Pont seemed very economical with 
their oil; for we saw not a single window lighted in all that long 
village.  I believe it is the longest village in the world; but I 
daresay in our predicament every pace counted three times over.  We 
were much cast down when we came to the last auberge; and looking 
in at the dark door, asked timidly if we could sleep there for the 
night.  A female voice assented in no very friendly tones.  We 
clapped the bags down and found our way to chairs.

The place was in total darkness, save a red glow in the chinks and 
ventilators of the stove.  But now the landlady lit a lamp to see 
her new guests; I suppose the darkness was what saved us another 
expulsion; for I cannot say she looked gratified at our appearance.  
We were in a large bare apartment, adorned with two allegorical 
prints of Music and Painting, and a copy of the law against public 
drunkenness.  On one side, there was a bit of a bar, with some 
half-a-dozen bottles.  Two labourers sat waiting supper, in 
attitudes of extreme weariness; a plain-looking lass bustled about 
with a sleepy child of two; and the landlady began to derange the 
pots upon the stove, and set some beefsteak to grill.

'These gentlemen are pedlars?' she asked sharply.  And that was all 
the conversation forthcoming.  We began to think we might be 
pedlars after all.  I never knew a population with so narrow a 
range of conjecture as the innkeepers of Pont-sur-Sambre.  But 
manners and bearing have not a wider currency than bank-notes.  You 
have only to get far enough out of your beat, and all your 
accomplished airs will go for nothing.  These Hainaulters could see 
no difference between us and the average pedlar.  Indeed we had 
some grounds for reflection while the steak was getting ready, to 
see how perfectly they accepted us at their own valuation, and how 
our best politeness and best efforts at entertainment seemed to fit 
quite suitably with the character of packmen.  At least it seemed a 
good account of the profession in France, that even before such 
judges we could not beat them at our own weapons.

At last we were called to table.  The two hinds (and one of them 
looked sadly worn and white in the face, as though sick with over-
work and under-feeding) supped off a single plate of some sort of 
bread-berry, some potatoes in their jackets, a small cup of coffee 
sweetened with sugar-candy, and one tumbler of swipes.  The 
landlady, her son, and the lass aforesaid, took the same.  Our meal 
was quite a banquet by comparison.  We had some beefsteak, not so 
tender as it might have been, some of the potatoes, some cheese, an 
extra glass of the swipes, and white sugar in our coffee.

You see what it is to be a gentleman - I beg your pardon, what it 
is to be a pedlar.  It had not before occurred to me that a pedlar 
was a great man in a labourer's ale-house; but now that I had to 
enact the part for an evening, I found that so it was.  He has in 
his hedge quarters somewhat the same pre-eminency as the man who 
takes a private parlour in an hotel.  The more you look into it, 
the more infinite are the class distinctions among men; and 
possibly, by a happy dispensation, there is no one at all at the 
bottom of the scale; no one but can find some superiority over 
somebody else, to keep up his pride withal.

We were displeased enough with our fare.  Particularly the 
CIGARETTE, for I tried to make believe that I was amused with the 
adventure, tough beefsteak and all.  According to the Lucretian 
maxim, our steak should have been flavoured by the look of the 
other people's bread-berry.  But we did not find it so in practice.  
You may have a head-knowledge that other people live more poorly 
than yourself, but it is not agreeable - I was going to say, it is 
against the etiquette of the universe - to sit at the same table 
and pick your own superior diet from among their crusts.  I had not 
seen such a thing done since the greedy boy at school with his 
birthday cake.  It was odious enough to witness, I could remember; 
and I had never thought to play the part myself.  But there again 
you see what it is to be a pedlar.

There is no doubt that the poorer classes in our country are much 
more charitably disposed than their superiors in wealth.  And I 
fancy it must arise a great deal from the comparative indistinction 
of the easy and the not so easy in these ranks.  A workman or a 
pedlar cannot shutter himself off from his less comfortable 
neighbours.  If he treats himself to a luxury, he must do it in the 
face of a dozen who cannot.  And what should more directly lead to 
charitable thoughts? . . . Thus the poor man, camping out in life, 
sees it as it is, and knows that every mouthful he puts in his 
belly has been wrenched out of the fingers of the hungry.

But at a certain stage of prosperity, as in a balloon ascent, the 
fortunate person passes through a zone of clouds, and sublunary 
matters are thenceforward hidden from his view.  He sees nothing 
but the heavenly bodies, all in admirable order, and positively as 
good as new.  He finds himself surrounded in the most touching 
manner by the attentions of Providence, and compares himself 
involuntarily with the lilies and the skylarks.  He does not 
precisely sing, of course; but then he looks so unassuming in his 
open landau!  If all the world dined at one table, this philosophy 
would meet with some rude knocks.



LIKE the lackeys in Moliere's farce, when the true nobleman broke 
in on their high life below stairs, we were destined to be 
confronted with a real pedlar.  To make the lesson still more 
poignant for fallen gentlemen like us, he was a pedlar of 
infinitely more consideration than the sort of scurvy fellows we 
were taken for:  like a lion among mice, or a ship of war bearing 
down upon two cock-boats.  Indeed, he did not deserve the name of 
pedlar at all:  he was a travelling merchant.

I suppose it was about half-past eight when this worthy, Monsieur 
Hector Gilliard of Maubeuge, turned up at the ale-house door in a 
tilt cart drawn by a donkey, and cried cheerily on the inhabitants.  
He was a lean, nervous flibbertigibbet of a man, with something the 
look of an actor, and something the look of a horse-jockey.  He had 
evidently prospered without any of the favours of education; for he 
adhered with stern simplicity to the masculine gender, and in the 
course of the evening passed off some fancy futures in a very 
florid style of architecture.  With him came his wife, a comely 
young woman with her hair tied in a yellow kerchief, and their son, 
a little fellow of four, in a blouse and military KEPI.  It was 
notable that the child was many degrees better dressed than either 
of the parents.  We were informed he was already at a boarding-
school; but the holidays having just commenced, he was off to spend 
them with his parents on a cruise.  An enchanting holiday 
occupation, was it not? to travel all day with father and mother in 
the tilt cart full of countless treasures; the green country 
rattling by on either side, and the children in all the villages 
contemplating him with envy and wonder?  It is better fun, during 
the holidays, to be the son of a travelling merchant, than son and 
heir to the greatest cotton-spinner in creation.  And as for being 
a reigning prince - indeed I never saw one if it was not Master 

While M. Hector and the son of the house were putting up the 
donkey, and getting all the valuables under lock and key, the 
landlady warmed up the remains of our beefsteak, and fried the cold 
potatoes in slices, and Madame Gilliard set herself to waken the 
boy, who had come far that day, and was peevish and dazzled by the 
light.  He was no sooner awake than he began to prepare himself for 
supper by eating galette, unripe pears, and cold potatoes - with, 
so far as I could judge, positive benefit to his appetite.

The landlady, fired with motherly emulation, awoke her own little 
girl; and the two children were confronted.  Master Gilliard looked 
at her for a moment, very much as a dog looks at his own reflection 
in a mirror before he turns away.  He was at that time absorbed in 
the galette.  His mother seemed crestfallen that he should display 
so little inclination towards the other sex; and expressed her 
disappointment with some candour and a very proper reference to the 
influence of years.

Sure enough a time will come when he will pay more attention to the 
girls, and think a great deal less of his mother:  let us hope she 
will like it as well as she seemed to fancy.  But it is odd enough; 
the very women who profess most contempt for mankind as a sex, seem 
to find even its ugliest particulars rather lively and high-minded 
in their own sons.

The little girl looked longer and with more interest, probably 
because she was in her own house, while he was a traveller and 
accustomed to strange sights.  And besides there was no galette in 
the case with her.

All the time of supper, there was nothing spoken of but my young 
lord.  The two parents were both absurdly fond of their child.  
Monsieur kept insisting on his sagacity:  how he knew all the 
children at school by name; and when this utterly failed on trial, 
how he was cautious and exact to a strange degree, and if asked 
anything, he would sit and think - and think, and if he did not 
know it, 'my faith, he wouldn't tell you at all - FOI, IL NE VOUS 
LE DIRA PAS':  which is certainly a very high degree of caution.  
At intervals, M. Hector would appeal to his wife, with his mouth 
full of beefsteak, as to the little fellow's age at such or such a 
time when he had said or done something memorable; and I noticed 
that Madame usually pooh-poohed these inquiries.  She herself was 
not boastful in her vein; but she never had her fill of caressing 
the child; and she seemed to take a gentle pleasure in recalling 
all that was fortunate in his little existence.  No schoolboy could 
have talked more of the holidays which were just beginning and less 
of the black school-time which must inevitably follow after.  She 
showed, with a pride perhaps partly mercantile in origin, his 
pockets preposterously swollen with tops and whistles and string.  
When she called at a house in the way of business, it appeared he 
kept her company; and whenever a sale was made, received a sou out 
of the profit.  Indeed they spoiled him vastly, these two good 
people.  But they had an eye to his manners for all that, and 
reproved him for some little faults in breeding, which occurred 
from time to time during supper.

On the whole, I was not much hurt at being taken for a pedlar.  I 
might think that I ate with greater delicacy, or that my mistakes 
in French belonged to a different order; but it was plain that 
these distinctions would be thrown away upon the landlady and the 
two labourers.  In all essential things we and the Gilliards cut 
very much the same figure in the ale-house kitchen.  M. Hector was 
more at home, indeed, and took a higher tone with the world; but 
that was explicable on the ground of his driving a donkey-cart, 
while we poor bodies tramped afoot.  I daresay, the rest of the 
company thought us dying with envy, though in no ill sense, to be 
as far up in the profession as the new arrival.

And of one thing I am sure:  that every one thawed and became more 
humanised and conversible as soon as these innocent people appeared 
upon the scene.  I would not very readily trust the travelling 
merchant with any extravagant sum of money; but I am sure his heart 
was in the right place.  In this mixed world, if you can find one 
or two sensible places in a man - above all, if you should find a 
whole family living together on such pleasant terms - you may 
surely be satisfied, and take the rest for granted; or, what is a 
great deal better, boldly make up your mind that you can do 
perfectly well without the rest; and that ten thousand bad traits 
cannot make a single good one any the less good.

It was getting late.  M. Hector lit a stable lantern and went off 
to his cart for some arrangements; and my young gentleman proceeded 
to divest himself of the better part of his raiment, and play 
gymnastics on his mother's lap, and thence on to the floor, with 
accompaniment of laughter.

'Are you going to sleep alone?' asked the servant lass.

'There's little fear of that,' says Master Gilliard.

'You sleep alone at school,' objected his mother.  'Come, come, you 
must be a man.'

But he protested that school was a different matter from the 
holidays; that there were dormitories at school; and silenced the 
discussion with kisses:  his mother smiling, no one better pleased 
than she.

There certainly was, as he phrased it, very little fear that he 
should sleep alone; for there was but one bed for the trio.  We, on 
our part, had firmly protested against one man's accommodation for 
two; and we had a double-bedded pen in the loft of the house, 
furnished, beside the beds, with exactly three hat-pegs and one 
table.  There was not so much as a glass of water.  But the window 
would open, by good fortune.

Some time before I fell asleep the loft was full of the sound of 
mighty snoring:  the Gilliards, and the labourers, and the people 
of the inn, all at it, I suppose, with one consent.  The young moon 
outside shone very clearly over Pont-sur-Sambre, and down upon the 
ale-house where all we pedlars were abed.



IN the morning, when we came downstairs, the landlady pointed out 
to us two pails of water behind the street-door.  'VOILA DE L'EAU 
POUR VOUS DEBARBOUILLER,' says she.  And so there we made a shift 
to wash ourselves, while Madame Gilliard brushed the family boots 
on the outer doorstep, and M. Hector, whistling cheerily, arranged 
some small goods for the day's campaign in a portable chest of 
drawers, which formed a part of his baggage.  Meanwhile the child 
was letting off Waterloo crackers all over the floor.

I wonder, by-the-bye, what they call Waterloo crackers in France; 
perhaps Austerlitz crackers.  There is a great deal in the point of 
view.  Do you remember the Frenchman who, travelling by way of 
Southampton, was put down in Waterloo Station, and had to drive 
across Waterloo Bridge?  He had a mind to go home again, it seems.

Pont itself is on the river, but whereas it is ten minutes' walk 
from Quartes by dry land, it is six weary kilometres by water.  We 
left our bags at the inn, and walked to our canoes through the wet 
orchards unencumbered.  Some of the children were there to see us 
off, but we were no longer the mysterious beings of the night 
before.  A departure is much less romantic than an unexplained 
arrival in the golden evening.  Although we might be greatly taken 
at a ghost's first appearance, we should behold him vanish with 
comparative equanimity.

The good folk of the inn at Pont, when we called there for the 
bags, were overcome with marvelling.  At sight of these two dainty 
little boats, with a fluttering Union Jack on each, and all the 
varnish shining from the sponge, they began to perceive that they 
had entertained angels unawares.  The landlady stood upon the 
bridge, probably lamenting she had charged so little; the son ran 
to and fro, and called out the neighbours to enjoy the sight; and 
we paddled away from quite a crowd of wrapt observers.  These 
gentlemen pedlars, indeed!  Now you see their quality too late.

The whole day was showery, with occasional drenching plumps.  We 
were soaked to the skin, then partially dried in the sun, then 
soaked once more.  But there were some calm intervals, and one 
notably, when we were skirting the forest of Mormal, a sinister 
name to the ear, but a place most gratifying to sight and smell.  
It looked solemn along the river-side, drooping its boughs into the 
water, and piling them up aloft into a wall of leaves.  What is a 
forest but a city of nature's own, full of hardy and innocuous 
living things, where there is nothing dead and nothing made with 
the hands, but the citizens themselves are the houses and public 
monuments?  There is nothing so much alive, and yet so quiet, as a 
woodland; and a pair of people, swinging past in canoes, feel very 
small and bustling by comparison.

And surely of all smells in the world, the smell of many trees is 
the sweetest and most fortifying.  The sea has a rude, pistolling 
sort of odour, that takes you in the nostrils like snuff, and 
carries with it a fine sentiment of open water and tall ships; but 
the smell of a forest, which comes nearest to this in tonic 
quality, surpasses it by many degrees in the quality of softness.  
Again, the smell of the sea has little variety, but the smell of a 
forest is infinitely changeful; it varies with the hour of the day, 
not in strength merely, but in character; and the different sorts 
of trees, as you go from one zone of the wood to another, seem to 
live among different kinds of atmosphere.  Usually the resin of the 
fir predominates.  But some woods are more coquettish in their 
habits; and the breath of the forest of Mormal, as it came aboard 
upon us that showery afternoon, was perfumed with nothing less 
delicate than sweetbrier.

I wish our way had always lain among woods.  Trees are the most 
civil society.  An old oak that has been growing where he stands 
since before the Reformation, taller than many spires, more stately 
than the greater part of mountains, and yet a living thing, liable 
to sicknesses and death, like you and me:  is not that in itself a 
speaking lesson in history?  But acres on acres full of such 
patriarchs contiguously rooted, their green tops billowing in the 
wind, their stalwart younglings pushing up about their knees:  a 
whole forest, healthy and beautiful, giving colour to the light, 
giving perfume to the air:  what is this but the most imposing 
piece in nature's repertory?  Heine wished to lie like Merlin under 
the oaks of Broceliande.  I should not be satisfied with one tree; 
but if the wood grew together like a banyan grove, I would be 
buried under the tap-root of the whole; my parts should circulate 
from oak to oak; and my consciousness should be diffused abroad in 
all the forest, and give a common heart to that assembly of green 
spires, so that it also might rejoice in its own loveliness and 
dignity.  I think I feel a thousand squirrels leaping from bough to 
bough in my vast mausoleum; and the birds and the winds merrily 
coursing over its uneven, leafy surface.

Alas! the forest of Mormal is only a little bit of a wood, and it 
was but for a little way that we skirted by its boundaries.  And 
the rest of the time the rain kept coming in squirts and the wind 
in squalls, until one's heart grew weary of such fitful, scolding 
weather.  It was odd how the showers began when we had to carry the 
boats over a lock, and must expose our legs.  They always did.  
This is a sort of thing that readily begets a personal feeling 
against nature.  There seems no reason why the shower should not 
come five minutes before or five minutes after, unless you suppose 
an intention to affront you.  The CIGARETTE had a mackintosh which 
put him more or less above these contrarieties.  But I had to bear 
the brunt uncovered.  I began to remember that nature was a woman.  
My companion, in a rosier temper, listened with great satisfaction 
to my Jeremiads, and ironically concurred.  He instanced, as a 
cognate matter, the action of the tides, 'which,' said he, 'was 
altogether designed for the confusion of canoeists, except in so 
far as it was calculated to minister to a barren vanity on the part 
of the moon.'

At the last lock, some little way out of Landrecies, I refused to 
go any farther; and sat in a drift of rain by the side of the bank, 
to have a reviving pipe.  A vivacious old man, whom I take to have 
been the devil, drew near and questioned me about our journey.  In 
the fulness of my heart, I laid bare our plans before him.  He said 
it was the silliest enterprise that ever he heard of.  Why, did I 
not know, he asked me, that it was nothing but locks, locks, locks, 
the whole way? not to mention that, at this season of the year, we 
should find the Oise quite dry?  'Get into a train, my little young 
man,' said he, I and go you away home to your parents.'  I was so 
astounded at the man's malice, that I could only stare at him in 
silence.  A tree would never have spoken to me like this.  At last 
I got out with some words.  We had come from Antwerp already, I 
told him, which was a good long way; and we should do the rest in 
spite of him.  Yes, I said, if there were no other reason, I would 
do it now, just because he had dared to say we could not.  The 
pleasant old gentleman looked at me sneeringly, made an allusion to 
my canoe, and marched of, waggling his head.

I was still inwardly fuming, when up came a pair of young fellows, 
who imagined I was the CIGARETTE'S servant, on a comparison, I 
suppose, of my bare jersey with the other's mackintosh, and asked 
me many questions about my place and my master's character.  I said 
he was a good enough fellow, but had this absurd voyage on the 
head.  'O no, no,' said one, 'you must not say that; it is not 
absurd; it is very courageous of him.'  I believe these were a 
couple of angels sent to give me heart again.  It was truly 
fortifying to reproduce all the old man's insinuations, as if they 
were original to me in my character of a malcontent footman, and 
have them brushed away like so many flies by these admirable young 

When I recounted this affair to the CIGARETTE, 'They must have a 
curious idea of how English servants behave,' says he dryly, 'for 
you treated me like a brute beast at the lock.'

I was a good deal mortified; but my temper had suffered, it is a 


AT Landrecies the rain still fell and the wind still blew; but we 
found a double-bedded room with plenty of furniture, real water-
jugs with real water in them, and dinner:  a real dinner, not 
innocent of real wine.  After having been a pedlar for one night, 
and a butt for the elements during the whole of the next day, these 
comfortable circumstances fell on my heart like sunshine.  There 
was an English fruiterer at dinner, travelling with a Belgian 
fruiterer; in the evening at the CAFE, we watched our compatriot 
drop a good deal of money at corks; and I don't know why, but this 
pleased us.

It turned out we were to see more of Landrecies than we expected; 
for the weather next day was simply bedlamite.  It is not the place 
one would have chosen for a day's rest; for it consists almost 
entirely of fortifications.  Within the ramparts, a few blocks of 
houses, a long row of barracks, and a church, figure, with what 
countenance they may, as the town.  There seems to be no trade; and 
a shopkeeper from whom I bought a sixpenny flint-and-steel, was so 
much affected that he filled my pockets with spare flints into the 
bargain.  The only public buildings that had any interest for us 
were the hotel and the CAFE.  But we visited the church.  There 
lies Marshal Clarke.  But as neither of us had ever heard of that 
military hero, we bore the associations of the spot with fortitude.

In all garrison towns, guard-calls, and REVEILLES, and such like, 
make a fine romantic interlude in civic business.  Bugles, and 
drums, and fifes, are of themselves most excellent things in 
nature; and when they carry the mind to marching armies, and the 
picturesque vicissitudes of war, they stir up something proud in 
the heart.  But in a shadow of a town like Landrecies, with little 
else moving, these points of war made a proportionate commotion.  
Indeed, they were the only things to remember.  It was just the 
place to hear the round going by at night in the darkness, with the 
solid tramp of men marching, and the startling reverberations of 
the drum.  It reminded you, that even this place was a point in the 
great warfaring system of Europe, and might on some future day be 
ringed about with cannon smoke and thunder, and make itself a name 
among strong towns.

The drum, at any rate, from its martial voice and notable 
physiological effect, nay, even from its cumbrous and comical 
shape, stands alone among the instruments of noise.  And if it be 
true, as I have heard it said, that drums are covered with asses' 
skin, what a picturesque irony is there in that!  As if this long-
suffering animal's hide had not been sufficiently belaboured during 
life, now by Lyonnese costermongers, now by presumptuous Hebrew 
prophets, it must be stripped from his poor hinder quarters after 
death, stretched on a drum, and beaten night after night round the 
streets of every garrison town in Europe.  And up the heights of 
Alma and Spicheren, and wherever death has his red flag a-flying, 
and sounds his own potent tuck upon the cannons, there also must 
the drummer-boy, hurrying with white face over fallen comrades, 
batter and bemaul this slip of skin from the loins of peaceable 

Generally a man is never more uselessly employed than when he is at 
this trick of bastinadoing asses' hide.  We know what effect it has 
in life, and how your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating.  
But in this state of mummy and melancholy survival of itself, when 
the hollow skin reverberates to the drummer's wrist, and each dub-
a-dub goes direct to a man's heart, and puts madness there, and 
that disposition of the pulses which we, in our big way of talking, 
nickname Heroism:- is there not something in the nature of a 
revenge upon the donkey's persecutors?  Of old, he might say, you 
drubbed me up hill and down dale, and I must endure; but now that I 
am dead, those dull thwacks that were scarcely audible in country 
lanes, have become stirring music in front of the brigade; and for 
every blow that you lay on my old greatcoat, you will see a comrade 
stumble and fall.

Not long after the drums had passed the CAFE, the CIGARETTE and the 
ARETHUSA began to grow sleepy, and set out for the hotel, which was 
only a door or two away.  But although we had been somewhat 
indifferent to Landrecies, Landrecies had not been indifferent to 
us.  All day, we learned, people had been running out between the 
squalls to visit our two boats.  Hundreds of persons, so said 
report, although it fitted ill with our idea of the town - hundreds 
of persons had inspected them where they lay in a coal-shed.  We 
were becoming lions in Landrecies, who had been only pedlars the 
night before in Pont.

And now, when we left the CAFE, we were pursued and overtaken at 
the hotel door by no less a person than the JUGE DE PAIX:  a 
functionary, as far as I can make out, of the character of a Scots 
Sheriff-Substitute.  He gave us his card and invited us to sup with 
him on the spot, very neatly, very gracefully, as Frenchmen can do 
these things.  It was for the credit of Landrecies, said he; and 
although we knew very well how little credit we could do the place, 
we must have been churlish fellows to refuse an invitation so 
politely introduced.

The house of the Judge was close by; it was a well-appointed 
bachelor's establishment, with a curious collection of old brass 
warming-pans upon the walls.  Some of these were most elaborately 
carved.  It seemed a picturesque idea for a collector.  You could 
not help thinking how many night-caps had wagged over these 
warming-pans in past generations; what jests may have been made, 
and kisses taken, while they were in service; and how often they 
had been uselessly paraded in the bed of death.  If they could only 
speak, at what absurd, indecorous, and tragical scenes had they not 
been present!

The wine was excellent.  When we made the Judge our compliments 
upon a bottle, 'I do not give it you as my worst,' said he.  I 
wonder when Englishmen will learn these hospitable graces.  They 
are worth learning; they set off life, and make ordinary moments 

There were two other Landrecienses present.  One was the collector 
of something or other, I forget what; the other, we were told, was 
the principal notary of the place.  So it happened that we all five 
more or less followed the law.  At this rate, the talk was pretty 
certain to become technical.  The CIGARETTE expounded the Poor Laws 
very magisterially.  And a little later I found myself laying down 
the Scots Law of Illegitimacy, of which I am glad to say I know 
nothing.  The collector and the notary, who were both married men, 
accused the Judge, who was a bachelor, of having started the 
subject.  He deprecated the charge, with a conscious, pleased air, 
just like all the men I have ever seen, be they French or English.  
How strange that we should all, in our unguarded moments, rather 
like to be thought a bit of a rogue with the women!

As the evening went on, the wine grew more to my taste; the spirits 
proved better than the wine; the company was genial.  This was the 
highest water mark of popular favour on the whole cruise.  After 
all, being in a Judge's house, was there not something semi-
official in the tribute?  And so, remembering what a great country 
France is, we did full justice to our entertainment.  Landrecies 
had been a long while asleep before we returned to the hotel; and 
the sentries on the ramparts were already looking for daybreak.



NEXT day we made a late start in the rain.  The Judge politely 
escorted us to the end of the lock under an umbrella.  We had now 
brought ourselves to a pitch of humility in the matter of weather, 
not often attained except in the Scottish Highlands.  A rag of blue 
sky or a glimpse of sunshine set our hearts singing; and when the 
rain was not heavy, we counted the day almost fair.

Long lines of barges lay one after another along the canal; many of 
them looking mighty spruce and shipshape in their jerkin of 
Archangel tar picked out with white and green.  Some carried gay 
iron railings, and quite a parterre of flower-pots.  Children 
played on the decks, as heedless of the rain as if they had been 
brought up on Loch Carron side; men fished over the gunwale, some 
of them under umbrellas; women did their washing; and every barge 
boasted its mongrel cur by way of watch-dog.  Each one barked 
furiously at the canoes, running alongside until he had got to the 
end of his own ship, and so passing on the word to the dog aboard 
the next.  We must have seen something like a hundred of these 
embarkations in the course of that day's paddle, ranged one after 
another like the houses in a street; and from not one of them were 
we disappointed of this accompaniment.  It was like visiting a 
menagerie, the CIGARETTE remarked.

These little cities by the canal side had a very odd effect upon 
the mind.  They seemed, with their flower-pots and smoking 
chimneys, their washings and dinners, a rooted piece of nature in 
the scene; and yet if only the canal below were to open, one junk 
after another would hoist sail or harness horses and swim away into 
all parts of France; and the impromptu hamlet would separate, house 
by house, to the four winds.  The children who played together to-
day by the Sambre and Oise Canal, each at his own father's 
threshold, when and where might they next meet?

For some time past the subject of barges had occupied a great deal 
of our talk, and we had projected an old age on the canals of 
Europe.  It was to be the most leisurely of progresses, now on a 
swift river at the tail of a steam-boat, now waiting horses for 
days together on some inconsiderable junction.  We should be seen 
pottering on deck in all the dignity of years, our white beards 
falling into our laps.  We were ever to be busied among paint-pots; 
so that there should be no white fresher, and no green more emerald 
than ours, in all the navy of the canals.  There should be books in 
the cabin, and tobacco-jars, and some old Burgundy as red as a 
November sunset and as odorous as a violet in April.  There should 
be a flageolet, whence the CIGARETTE, with cunning touch, should 
draw melting music under the stars; or perhaps, laying that aside, 
upraise his voice - somewhat thinner than of yore, and with here 
and there a quaver, or call it a natural grace-note - in rich and 
solemn psalmody.

All this, simmering in my mind, set me wishing to go aboard one of 
these ideal houses of lounging.  I had plenty to choose from, as I 
coasted one after another, and the dogs bayed at me for a vagrant.  
At last I saw a nice old man and his wife looking at me with some 
interest, so I gave them good-day and pulled up alongside.  I began 
with a remark upon their dog, which had somewhat the look of a 
pointer; thence I slid into a compliment on Madame's flowers, and 
thence into a word in praise of their way of life.

If you ventured on such an experiment in England you would get a 
slap in the face at once.  The life would be shown to be a vile 
one, not without a side shot at your better fortune.  Now, what I 
like so much in France is the clear unflinching recognition by 
everybody of his own luck.  They all know on which side their bread 
is buttered, and take a pleasure in showing it to others, which is 
surely the better part of religion.  And they scorn to make a poor 
mouth over their poverty, which I take to be the better part of 
manliness.  I have heard a woman in quite a better position at 
home, with a good bit of money in hand, refer to her own child with 
a horrid whine as 'a poor man's child.'  I would not say such a 
thing to the Duke of Westminster.  And the French are full of this 
spirit of independence.  Perhaps it is the result of republican 
institutions, as they call them.  Much more likely it is because 
there are so few people really poor, that the whiners are not 
enough to keep each other in countenance.

The people on the barge were delighted to hear that I admired their 
state.  They understood perfectly well, they told me, how Monsieur 
envied them.  Without doubt Monsieur was rich; and in that case he 
might make a canal boat as pretty as a villa - JOLI COMME UN 
CHATEAU.  And with that they invited me on board their own water 
villa.  They apologised for their cabin; they had not been rich 
enough to make it as it ought to be.

'The fire should have been here, at this side.' explained the 
husband.  'Then one might have a writing-table in the middle - 
books - and' (comprehensively) 'all.  It would be quite coquettish 
- CA SERAIT TOUT-A-FAIT COQUET.'  And he looked about him as though 
the improvements were already made.  It was plainly not the first 
time that he had thus beautified his cabin in imagination; and when 
next he makes a bit, I should expect to see the writing-table in 
the middle.

Madame had three birds in a cage.  They were no great thing, she 
explained.  Fine birds were so dear.  They had sought to get a 
HOLLANDAIS last winter in Rouen (Rouen? thought I; and is this 
whole mansion, with its dogs and birds and smoking chimneys, so far 
a traveller as that? and as homely an object among the cliffs and 
orchards of the Seine as on the green plains of Sambre?) - they had 
sought to get a HOLLANDAIS last winter in Rouen; but these cost 
fifteen francs apiece - picture it - fifteen francs!

'POUR UN TOUT PETIT OISEAU - For quite a little bird,' added the 

As I continued to admire, the apologetics died away, and the good 
people began to brag of their barge, and their happy condition in 
life, as if they had been Emperor and Empress of the Indies.  It 
was, in the Scots phrase, a good hearing, and put me in good humour 
with the world.  If people knew what an inspiriting thing it is to 
hear a man boasting, so long as he boasts of what he really has, I 
believe they would do it more freely and with a better grace.

They began to ask about our voyage.  You should have seen how they 
sympathised.  They seemed half ready to give up their barge and 
follow us.  But these CANALETTI are only gypsies semi-domesticated.  
The semi-domestication came out in rather a pretty form.  Suddenly 
Madam's brow darkened.  'CEPENDANT,' she began, and then stopped; 
and then began again by asking me if I were single?

'Yes,' said I.

'And your friend who went by just now?'

He also was unmarried.

O then - all was well.  She could not have wives left alone at 
home; but since there were no wives in the question, we were doing 
the best we could.

'To see about one in the world,' said the husband, 'IL N'Y A QUE CA 
- there is nothing else worth while.  A man, look you, who sticks 
in his own village like a bear,' he went on, ' - very well, he sees 
nothing.  And then death is the end of all.  And he has seen 

Madame reminded her husband of an Englishman who had come up this 
canal in a steamer.

'Perhaps Mr. Moens in the YTENE,' I suggested.

'That's it,' assented the husband.  'He had his wife and family 
with him, and servants.  He came ashore at all the locks and asked 
the name of the villages, whether from boatmen or lock-keepers; and 
then he wrote, wrote them down.  Oh, he wrote enormously!  I 
suppose it was a wager.'

A wager was a common enough explanation for our own exploits, but 
it seemed an original reason for taking notes.


BEFORE nine next morning the two canoes were installed on a light 
country cart at Etreux:  and we were soon following them along the 
side of a pleasant valley full of hop-gardens and poplars.  
Agreeable villages lay here and there on the slope of the hill; 
notably, Tupigny, with the hop-poles hanging their garlands in the 
very street, and the houses clustered with grapes.  There was a 
faint enthusiasm on our passage; weavers put their heads to the 
windows; children cried out in ecstasy at sight of the two 
'boaties' - BARGUETTES:  and bloused pedestrians, who were 
acquainted with our charioteer, jested with him on the nature of 
his freight.

We had a shower or two, but light and flying.  The air was clean 
and sweet among all these green fields and green things growing.  
There was not a touch of autumn in the weather.  And when, at 
Vadencourt, we launched from a little lawn opposite a mill, the sun 
broke forth and set all the leaves shining in the valley of the 

The river was swollen with the long rains.  From Vadencourt all the 
way to Origny, it ran with ever-quickening speed, taking fresh 
heart at each mile, and racing as though it already smelt the sea.  
The water was yellow and turbulent, swung with an angry eddy among 
half-submerged willows, and made an angry clatter along stony 
shores.  The course kept turning and turning in a narrow and well-
timbered valley.  Now the river would approach the side, and run 
griding along the chalky base of the hill, and show us a few open 
colza-fields among the trees.  Now it would skirt the garden-walls 
of houses, where we might catch a glimpse through a doorway, and 
see a priest pacing in the chequered sunlight.  Again, the foliage 
closed so thickly in front, that there seemed to be no issue; only 
a thicket of willows, overtopped by elms and poplars, under which 
the river ran flush and fleet, and where a kingfisher flew past 
like a piece of the blue sky.  On these different manifestations 
the sun poured its clear and catholic looks.  The shadows lay as 
solid on the swift surface of the stream as on the stable meadows.  
The light sparkled golden in the dancing poplar leaves, and brought 
the hills into communion with our eyes.  And all the while the 
river never stopped running or took breath; and the reeds along the 
whole valley stood shivering from top to toe.

There should be some myth (but if there is, I know it not) founded 
on the shivering of the reeds.  There are not many things in nature 
more striking to man's eye.  It is such an eloquent pantomime of 
terror; and to see such a number of terrified creatures taking 
sanctuary in every nook along the shore, is enough to infect a 
silly human with alarm.  Perhaps they are only a-cold, and no 
wonder, standing waist-deep in the stream.  Or perhaps they have 
never got accustomed to the speed and fury of the river's flux, or 
the miracle of its continuous body.  Pan once played upon their 
forefathers; and so, by the hands of his river, he still plays upon 
these later generations down all the valley of the Oise; and plays 
the same air, both sweet and shrill, to tell us of the beauty and 
the terror of the world.

The canoe was like a leaf in the current.  It took it up and shook 
it, and carried it masterfully away, like a Centaur carrying off a 
nymph.  To keep some command on our direction required hard and 
diligent plying of the paddle.  The river was in such a hurry for 
the sea!  Every drop of water ran in a panic, like as many people 
in a frightened crowd.  But what crowd was ever so numerous, or so 
single-minded?  All the objects of sight went by at a dance 
measure; the eyesight raced with the racing river; the exigencies 
of every moment kept the pegs screwed so tight, that our being 
quivered like a well-tuned instrument; and the blood shook off its 
lethargy, and trotted through all the highways and byways of the 
veins and arteries, and in and out of the heart, as if circulation 
were but a holiday journey, and not the daily moil of three-score 
years and ten.  The reeds might nod their heads in warning, and 
with tremulous gestures tell how the river was as cruel as it was 
strong and cold, and how death lurked in the eddy underneath the 
willows.  But the reeds had to stand where they were; and those who 
stand still are always timid advisers.  As for us, we could have 
shouted aloud.  If this lively and beautiful river were, indeed, a 
thing of death's contrivance, the old ashen rogue had famously 
outwitted himself with us.  I was living three to the minute.  I 
was scoring points against him every stroke of my paddle, every 
turn of the stream.  I have rarely had better profit of my life.

For I think we may look upon our little private war with death 
somewhat in this light.  If a man knows he will sooner or later be 
robbed upon a journey, he will have a bottle of the best in every 
inn, and look upon all his extravagances as so much gained upon the 
thieves.  And above all, where instead of simply spending, he makes 
a profitable investment for some of his money, when it will be out 
of risk of loss.  So every bit of brisk living, and above all when 
it is healthful, is just so much gained upon the wholesale filcher, 
death.  We shall have the less in our pockets, the more in our 
stomach, when he cries stand and deliver.  A swift stream is a 
favourite artifice of his, and one that brings him in a comfortable 
thing per annum; but when he and I come to settle our accounts, I 
shall whistle in his face for these hours upon the upper Oise.

Towards afternoon we got fairly drunken with the sunshine and the 
exhilaration of the pace.  We could no longer contain ourselves and 
our content.  The canoes were too small for us; we must be out and 
stretch ourselves on shore.  And so in a green meadow we bestowed 
our limbs on the grass, and smoked deifying tobacco and proclaimed 
the world excellent.  It was the last good hour of the day, and I 
dwell upon it with extreme complacency.

On one side of the valley, high up on the chalky summit of the 
hill, a ploughman with his team appeared and disappeared at regular 
intervals.  At each revelation he stood still for a few seconds 
against the sky:  for all the world (as the CIGARETTE declared) 
like a toy Burns who should have just ploughed up the Mountain 
Daisy.  He was the only living thing within view, unless we are to 
count the river.

On the other side of the valley a group of red roofs and a belfry 
showed among the foliage.  Thence some inspired bell-ringer made 
the afternoon musical on a chime of bells.  There was something 
very sweet and taking in the air he played; and we thought we had 
never heard bells speak so intelligibly, or sing so melodiously, as 
these.  It must have been to some such measure that the spinners 
and the young maids sang, 'Come away, Death,' in the Shakespearian 
Illyria.  There is so often a threatening note, something blatant 
and metallic, in the voice of bells, that I believe we have fully 
more pain than pleasure from hearing them; but these, as they 
sounded abroad, now high, now low, now with a plaintive cadence 
that caught the ear like the burthen of a popular song, were always 
moderate and tunable, and seemed to fall in with the spirit of 
still, rustic places, like the noise of a waterfall or the babble 
of a rookery in spring.  I could have asked the bell-ringer for his 
blessing, good, sedate old man, who swung the rope so gently to the 
time of his meditations.  I could have blessed the priest or the 
heritors, or whoever may be concerned with such affairs in France, 
who had left these sweet old bells to gladden the afternoon, and 
not held meetings, and made collections, and had their names 
repeatedly printed in the local paper, to rig up a peal of brand-
new, brazen, Birmingham-hearted substitutes, who should bombard 
their sides to the provocation of a brand-new bell-ringer, and fill 
the echoes of the valley with terror and riot.

At last the bells ceased, and with their note the sun withdrew.  
The piece was at an end; shadow and silence possessed the valley of 
the Oise.  We took to the paddle with glad hearts, like people who 
have sat out a noble performance and returned to work.  The river 
was more dangerous here; it ran swifter, the eddies were more 
sudden and violent.  All the way down we had had our fill of 
difficulties.  Sometimes it was a weir which could be shot, 
sometimes one so shallow and full of stakes that we must withdraw 
the boats from the water and carry them round.  But the chief sort 
of obstacle was a consequence of the late high winds.  Every two or 
three hundred yards a tree had fallen across the river, and usually 
involved more than another in its fall.

Often there was free water at the end, and we could steer round the 
leafy promontory and hear the water sucking and bubbling among the 
twigs.  Often, again, when the tree reached from bank to bank, 
there was room, by lying close, to shoot through underneath, canoe 
and all.  Sometimes it was necessary to get out upon the trunk 
itself and pull the boats across; and sometimes, when the stream 
was too impetuous for this, there was nothing for it but to land 
and 'carry over.'  This made a fine series of accidents in the 
day's career, and kept us aware of ourselves.

Shortly after our re-embarkation, while I was leading by a long 
way, and still full of a noble, exulting spirit in honour of the 
sun, the swift pace, and the church bells, the river made one of 
its leonine pounces round a corner, and I was aware of another 
fallen tree within a stone-cast.  I had my backboard down in a 
trice, and aimed for a place where the trunk seemed high enough 
above the water, and the branches not too thick to let me slip 
below.  When a man has just vowed eternal brotherhood with the 
universe, he is not in a temper to take great determinations 
coolly, and this, which might have been a very important 
determination for me, had not been taken under a happy star.  The 
tree caught me about the chest, and while I was yet struggling to 
make less of myself and get through, the river took the matter out 
of my hands, and bereaved me of my boat.  The ARETHUSA swung round 
broadside on, leaned over, ejected so much of me as still remained 
on board, and thus disencumbered, whipped under the tree, righted, 
and went merrily away down stream.

I do not know how long it was before I scrambled on to the tree to 
which I was left clinging, but it was longer than I cared about.  
My thoughts were of a grave and almost sombre character, but I 
still clung to my paddle.  The stream ran away with my heels as 
fast as I could pull up my shoulders, and I seemed, by the weight, 
to have all the water of the Oise in my trousers-pockets.  You can 
never know, till you try it, what a dead pull a river makes against 
a man.  Death himself had me by the heels, for this was his last 
ambuscado, and he must now join personally in the fray.  And still 
I held to my paddle.  At last I dragged myself on to my stomach on 
the trunk, and lay there a breathless sop, with a mingled sense of 
humour and injustice.  A poor figure I must have presented to Burns 
upon the hill-top with his team.  But there was the paddle in my 
hand.  On my tomb, if ever I have one, I mean to get these words 
inscribed:  'He clung to his paddle.'

The CIGARETTE had gone past a while before; for, as I might have 
observed, if I had been a little less pleased with the universe at 
the moment, there was a clear way round the tree-top at the farther 
side.  He had offered his services to haul me out, but as I was 
then already on my elbows, I had declined, and sent him down stream 
after the truant ARETHUSA.  The stream was too rapid for a man to 
mount with one canoe, let alone two, upon his hands.  So I crawled 
along the trunk to shore, and proceeded down the meadows by the 
river-side.  I was so cold that my heart was sore.  I had now an 
idea of my own why the reeds so bitterly shivered.  I could have 
given any of them a lesson.  The CIGARETTE remarked facetiously 
that he thought I was 'taking exercise' as I drew near, until he 
made out for certain that I was only twittering with cold.  I had a 
rub down with a towel, and donned a dry suit from the india-rubber 
bag.  But I was not my own man again for the rest of the voyage.  I 
had a queasy sense that I wore my last dry clothes upon my body.  
The struggle had tired me; and perhaps, whether I knew it or not, I 
was a little dashed in spirit.  The devouring element in the 
universe had leaped out against me, in this green valley quickened 
by a running stream.  The bells were all very pretty in their way, 
but I had heard some of the hollow notes of Pan's music.  Would the 
wicked river drag me down by the heels, indeed? and look so 
beautiful all the time?  Nature's good-humour was only skin-deep 
after all.

There was still a long way to go by the winding course of the 
stream, and darkness had fallen, and a late bell was ringing in 
Origny Sainte-Benoite, when we arrived.



THE next day was Sunday, and the church bells had little rest; 
indeed, I do not think I remember anywhere else so great a choice 
of services as were here offered to the devout.  And while the 
bells made merry in the sunshine, all the world with his dog was 
out shooting among the beets and colza.

In the morning a hawker and his wife went down the street at a 
foot-pace, singing to a very slow, lamentable music 'O FRANCE, MES 
AMOURS.'  It brought everybody to the door; and when our landlady 
called in the man to buy the words, he had not a copy of them left.  
She was not the first nor the second who had been taken with the 
song.  There is something very pathetic in the love of the French 
people, since the war, for dismal patriotic music-making.  I have 
watched a forester from Alsace while some one was singing 'LES 
MALHEURS DE LA FRANCE,' at a baptismal party in the neighbourhood 
of Fontainebleau.  He arose from the table and took his son aside, 
close by where I was standing.  'Listen, listen,' he said, bearing 
on the boy's shoulder, 'and remember this, my son.'  A little after 
he went out into the garden suddenly, and I could hear him sobbing 
in the darkness.

The humiliation of their arms and the loss of Alsace and Lorraine 
made a sore pull on the endurance of this sensitive people; and 
their hearts are still hot, not so much against Germany as against 
the Empire.  In what other country will you find a patriotic ditty 
bring all the world into the street?  But affliction heightens 
love; and we shall never know we are Englishmen until we have lost 
India.  Independent America is still the cross of my existence; I 
cannot think of Farmer George without abhorrence; and I never feel 
more warmly to my own land than when I see the Stars and Stripes, 
and remember what our empire might have been.

The hawker's little book, which I purchased, was a curious mixture.  
Side by side with the flippant, rowdy nonsense of the Paris music-
halls, there were many pastoral pieces, not without a touch of 
poetry, I thought, and instinct with the brave independence of the 
poorer class in France.  There you might read how the wood-cutter 
gloried in his axe, and the gardener scorned to be ashamed of his 
spade.  It was not very well written, this poetry of labour, but 
the pluck of the sentiment redeemed what was weak or wordy in the 
expression.  The martial and the patriotic pieces, on the other 
hand, were tearful, womanish productions one and all.  The poet had 
passed under the Caudine Forks; he sang for an army visiting the 
tomb of its old renown, with arms reversed; and sang not of 
victory, but of death.  There was a number in the hawker's 
collection called 'Conscrits Francais,' which may rank among the 
most dissuasive war-lyrics on record.  It would not be possible to 
fight at all in such a spirit.  The bravest conscript would turn 
pale if such a ditty were struck up beside him on the morning of 
battle; and whole regiments would pile their arms to its tune.

If Fletcher of Saltoun is in the right about the influence of 
national songs, you would say France was come to a poor pass.  But 
the thing will work its own cure, and a sound-hearted and 
courageous people weary at length of snivelling over their 
disasters.  Already Paul Deroulede has written some manly military 
verses.  There is not much of the trumpet note in them, perhaps, to 
stir a man's heart in his bosom; they lack the lyrical elation, and 
move slowly; but they are written in a grave, honourable, stoical 
spirit, which should carry soldiers far in a good cause.  One feels 
as if one would like to trust Deroulede with something.  It will be 
happy if he can so far inoculate his fellow-countrymen that they 
may be trusted with their own future.  And in the meantime, here is 
an antidote to 'French Conscripts' and much other doleful 

We had left the boats over-night in the custody of one whom we 
shall call Carnival.  I did not properly catch his name, and 
perhaps that was not unfortunate for him, as I am not in a position 
to hand him down with honour to posterity.  To this person's 
premises we strolled in the course of the day, and found quite a 
little deputation inspecting the canoes.  There was a stout 
gentleman with a knowledge of the river, which he seemed eager to 
impart.  There was a very elegant young gentleman in a black coat, 
with a smattering of English, who led the talk at once to the 
Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.  And then there were three handsome 
girls from fifteen to twenty; and an old gentleman in a blouse, 
with no teeth to speak of, and a strong country accent.  Quite the 
pick of Origny, I should suppose.

The CIGARETTE had some mysteries to perform with his rigging in the 
coach-house; so I was left to do the parade single-handed.  I found 
myself very much of a hero whether I would or not.  The girls were 
full of little shudderings over the dangers of our journey.  And I 
thought it would be ungallant not to take my cue from the ladies.  
My mishap of yesterday, told in an off-hand way, produced a deep 
sensation.  It was Othello over again, with no less than three 
Desdemonas and a sprinkling of sympathetic senators in the 
background.  Never were the canoes more flattered, or flattered 
more adroitly.

'It is like a violin,' cried one of the girls in an ecstasy.

'I thank you for the word, mademoiselle,' said I.  'All the more 
since there are people who call out to me that it is like a 

'Oh! but it is really like a violin.  It is finished like a 
violin,' she went on.

'And polished like a violin,' added a senator.

'One has only to stretch the cords,' concluded another, 'and then 
tum-tumty-tum' - he imitated the result with spirit.

Was not this a graceful little ovation?  Where this people finds 
the secret of its pretty speeches, I cannot imagine; unless the 
secret should be no other than a sincere desire to please? But then 
no disgrace is attached in France to saying a thing neatly; whereas 
in England, to talk like a book is to give in one's resignation to 

The old gentleman in the blouse stole into the coach-house, and 
somewhat irrelevantly informed the CIGARETTE that he was the father 
of the three girls and four more:  quite an exploit for a 

'You are very fortunate,' answered the CIGARETTE politely.

And the old gentleman, having apparently gained his point, stole 
away again.

We all got very friendly together.  The girls proposed to start 
with us on the morrow, if you please!  And, jesting apart, every 
one was anxious to know the hour of our departure.  Now, when you 
are going to crawl into your canoe from a bad launch, a crowd, 
however friendly, is undesirable; and so we told them not before 
twelve, and mentally determined to be off by ten at latest.

Towards evening, we went abroad again to post some letters.  It was 
cool and pleasant; the long village was quite empty, except for one 
or two urchins who followed us as they might have followed a 
menagerie; the hills and the tree-tops looked in from all sides 
through the clear air; and the bells were chiming for yet another 

Suddenly we sighted the three girls standing, with a fourth sister, 
in front of a shop on the wide selvage of the roadway.  We had been 
very merry with them a little while ago, to be sure.  But what was 
the etiquette of Origny?  Had it been a country road, of course we 
should have spoken to them; but here, under the eyes of all the 
gossips, ought we to do even as much as bow?  I consulted the 

'Look,' said he.

I looked.  There were the four girls on the same spot; but now four 
backs were turned to us, very upright and conscious.  Corporal 
Modesty had given the word of command, and the well-disciplined 
picket had gone right-about-face like a single person.  They 
maintained this formation all the while we were in sight; but we 
heard them tittering among themselves, and the girl whom we had not 
met laughed with open mouth, and even looked over her shoulder at 
the enemy.  I wonder was it altogether modesty after all? or in 
part a sort of country provocation?

As we were returning to the inn, we beheld something floating in 
the ample field of golden evening sky, above the chalk cliffs and 
the trees that grow along their summit.  It was too high up, too 
large, and too steady for a kite; and as it was dark, it could not 
be a star.  For although a star were as black as ink and as rugged 
as a walnut, so amply does the sun bathe heaven with radiance, that 
it would sparkle like a point of light for us.  The village was 
dotted with people with their heads in air; and the children were 
in a bustle all along the street and far up the straight road that 
climbs the hill, where we could still see them running in loose 
knots.  It was a balloon, we learned, which had left Saint Quentin 
at half-past five that evening.  Mighty composedly the majority of 
the grown people took it.  But we were English, and were soon 
running up the hill with the best.  Being travellers ourselves in a 
small way, we would fain have seen these other travellers alight.

The spectacle was over by the time we gained the top of the hill.  
All the gold had withered out of the sky, and the balloon had 
disappeared.  Whither? I ask myself; caught up into the seventh 
heaven? or come safely to land somewhere in that blue uneven 
distance, into which the roadway dipped and melted before our eyes?  
Probably the aeronauts were already warming themselves at a farm 
chimney, for they say it is cold in these unhomely regions of the 
air.  The night fell swiftly.  Roadside trees and disappointed 
sightseers, returning through the meadows, stood out in black 
against a margin of low red sunset.  It was cheerfuller to face the 
other way, and so down the hill we went, with a full moon, the 
colour of a melon, swinging high above the wooded valley, and the 
white cliffs behind us faintly reddened by the fire of the chalk 

The lamps were lighted, and the salads were being made in Origny 
Sainte-Benoite by the river.



ALTHOUGH we came late for dinner, the company at table treated us 
to sparkling wine.  'That is how we are in France,' said one.  
'Those who sit down with us are our friends.' And the rest 

They were three altogether, and an odd trio to pass the Sunday 

Two of them were guests like ourselves, both men of the north.  One 
ruddy, and of a full habit of body, with copious black hair and 
beard, the intrepid hunter of France, who thought nothing so small, 
not even a lark or a minnow, but he might vindicate his prowess by 
its capture.  For such a great, healthy man, his hair flourishing 
like Samson's, his arteries running buckets of red blood, to boast 
of these infinitesimal exploits, produced a feeling of 
disproportion in the world, as when a steam-hammer is set to 
cracking nuts.  The other was a quiet, subdued person, blond and 
lymphatic and sad, with something the look of a Dane:  'TRISTES 
TETES DE DANOIS!' as Gaston Lafenestre used to say.

I must not let that name go by without a word for the best of all 
good fellows now gone down into the dust.  We shall never again see 
Gaston in his forest costume - he was Gaston with all the world, in 
affection, not in disrespect - nor hear him wake the echoes of 
Fontainebleau with the woodland horn.  Never again shall his kind 
smile put peace among all races of artistic men, and make the 
Englishman at home in France.  Never more shall the sheep, who were 
not more innocent at heart than he, sit all unconsciously for his 
industrious pencil.  He died too early, at the very moment when he 
was beginning to put forth fresh sprouts, and blossom into 
something worthy of himself; and yet none who knew him will think 
he lived in vain.  I never knew a man so little, for whom yet I had 
so much affection; and I find it a good test of others, how much 
they had learned to understand and value him.  His was indeed a 
good influence in life while he was still among us; he had a fresh 
laugh, it did you good to see him; and however sad he may have been 
at heart, he always bore a bold and cheerful countenance, and took 
fortune's worst as it were the showers of spring.  But now his 
mother sits alone by the side of Fontainebleau woods, where he 
gathered mushrooms in his hardy and penurious youth.

Many of his pictures found their way across the Channel:  besides 
those which were stolen, when a dastardly Yankee left him alone in 
London with two English pence, and perhaps twice as many words of 
English.  If any one who reads these lines should have a scene of 
sheep, in the manner of Jacques, with this fine creature's 
signature, let him tell himself that one of the kindest and bravest 
of men has lent a hand to decorate his lodging.  There may be 
better pictures in the National Gallery; but not a painter among 
the generations had a better heart.  Precious in the sight of the 
Lord of humanity, the Psalms tell us, is the death of his saints.  
It had need to be precious; for it is very costly, when by the 
stroke, a mother is left desolate, and the peace-maker, and PEACE-
LOOKER, of a whole society is laid in the ground with Caesar and 
the Twelve Apostles.

There is something lacking among the oaks of Fontainebleau; and 
when the dessert comes in at Barbizon, people look to the door for 
a figure that is gone.

The third of our companions at Origny was no less a person than the 
landlady's husband:  not properly the landlord, since he worked 
himself in a factory during the day, and came to his own house at 
evening as a guest:  a man worn to skin and bone by perpetual 
excitement, with baldish head, sharp features, and swift, shining 
eyes.  On Saturday, describing some paltry adventure at a duck-
hunt, he broke a plate into a score of fragments.  Whenever he made 
a remark, he would look all round the table with his chin raised, 
and a spark of green light in either eye, seeking approval.  His 
wife appeared now and again in the doorway of the room, where she 
was superintending dinner, with a 'Henri, you forget yourself,' or 
a 'Henri, you can surely talk without making such a noise.'  
Indeed, that was what the honest fellow could not do.  On the most 
trifling matter his eyes kindled, his fist visited the table, and 
his voice rolled abroad in changeful thunder.  I never saw such a 
petard of a man; I think the devil was in him.  He had two 
favourite expressions:  'it is logical,' or illogical, as the case 
might be:  and this other, thrown out with a certain bravado, as a 
man might unfurl a banner, at the beginning of many a long and 
sonorous story:  'I am a proletarian, you see.'  Indeed, we saw it 
very well.  God forbid that ever I should find him handling a gun 
in Paris streets!  That will not be a good moment for the general 

I thought his two phrases very much represented the good and evil 
of his class, and to some extent of his country.  It is a strong 
thing to say what one is, and not be ashamed of it; even although 
it be in doubtful taste to repeat the statement too often in one 
evening.  I should not admire it in a duke, of course; but as times 
go, the trait is honourable in a workman.  On the other hand, it is 
not at all a strong thing to put one's reliance upon logic; and our 
own logic particularly, for it is generally wrong.  We never know 
where we are to end, if once we begin following words or doctors.  
There is an upright stock in a man's own heart, that is trustier 
than any syllogism; and the eyes, and the sympathies and appetites, 
know a thing or two that have never yet been stated in controversy.  
Reasons are as plentiful as blackberries; and, like fisticuffs, 
they serve impartially with all sides.  Doctrines do not stand or 
fall by their proofs, and are only logical in so far as they are 
cleverly put.  An able controversialist no more than an able 
general demonstrates the justice of his cause.  But France is all 
gone wandering after one or two big words; it will take some time 
before they can be satisfied that they are no more than words, 
however big; and when once that is done, they will perhaps find 
logic less diverting.

The conversation opened with details of the day's shooting.  When 
all the sportsmen of a village shoot over the village territory PRO 
INDIVISO, it is plain that many questions of etiquette and priority 
must arise.

'Here now,' cried the landlord, brandishing a plate, 'here is a 
field of beet-root.  Well.  Here am I then.  I advance, do I not?  
EH BIEN! SACRISTI,' and the statement, waxing louder, rolls off 
into a reverberation of oaths, the speaker glaring about for 
sympathy, and everybody nodding his head to him in the name of 

The ruddy Northman told some tales of his own prowess in keeping 
order:  notably one of a Marquis.

'Marquis,' I said, 'if you take another step I fire upon you.  You 
have committed a dirtiness, Marquis.'

Whereupon, it appeared, the Marquis touched his cap and withdrew.

The landlord applauded noisily.  'It was well done,' he said.  'He 
did all that he could.  He admitted he was wrong.'  And then oath 
upon oath.  He was no marquis-lover either, but he had a sense of 
justice in him, this proletarian host of ours.

From the matter of hunting, the talk veered into a general 
comparison of Paris and the country.  The proletarian beat the 
table like a drum in praise of Paris.  'What is Paris?  Paris is 
the cream of France.  There are no Parisians:  it is you and I and 
everybody who are Parisians.  A man has eighty chances per cent. to 
get on in the world in Paris.'  And he drew a vivid sketch of the 
workman in a den no bigger than a dog-hutch, making articles that 
were to go all over the world.  'EH BIEN, QUOI, C'EST MAGNIFIQUE, 
CA!' cried he.

The sad Northman interfered in praise of a peasant's life; he 
thought Paris bad for men and women; 'CENTRALISATION,' said he -

But the landlord was at his throat in a moment.  It was all 
logical, he showed him; and all magnificent.  'What a spectacle!  
What a glance for an eye!'  And the dishes reeled upon the table 
under a cannonade of blows.

Seeking to make peace, I threw in a word in praise of the liberty 
of opinion in France.  I could hardly have shot more amiss.  There 
was an instant silence, and a great wagging of significant heads.  
They did not fancy the subject, it was plain; but they gave me to 
understand that the sad Northman was a martyr on account of his 
views.  'Ask him a bit,' said they.  'Just ask him.'

'Yes, sir,' said he in his quiet way, answering me, although I had 
not spoken, 'I am afraid there is less liberty of opinion in France 
than you may imagine.'  And with that he dropped his eyes, and 
seemed to consider the subject at an end.

Our curiosity was mightily excited at this.  How, or why, or when, 
was this lymphatic bagman martyred?  We concluded at once it was on 
some religious question, and brushed up our memories of the 
Inquisition, which were principally drawn from Poe's horrid story, 
and the sermon in TRISTRAM SHANDY, I believe.

On the morrow we had an opportunity of going further into the 
question; for when we rose very early to avoid a sympathising 
deputation at our departure, we found the hero up before us.  He 
was breaking his fast on white wine and raw onions, in order to 
keep up the character of martyr, I conclude.  We had a long 
conversation, and made out what we wanted in spite of his reserve.  
But here was a truly curious circumstance.  It seems possible for 
two Scotsmen and a Frenchman to discuss during a long half-hour, 
and each nationality have a different idea in view throughout.  It 
was not till the very end that we discovered his heresy had been 
political, or that he suspected our mistake.  The terms and spirit 
in which he spoke of his political beliefs were, in our eyes, 
suited to religious beliefs.  And VICE VERSA.

Nothing could be more characteristic of the two countries.  
Politics are the religion of France; as Nanty Ewart would have 
said, 'A d-d bad religion'; while we, at home, keep most of our 
bitterness for little differences about a hymn-book, or a Hebrew 
word which perhaps neither of the parties can translate.  And 
perhaps the misconception is typical of many others that may never 
be cleared up:  not only between people of different race, but 
between those of different sex.

As for our friend's martyrdom, he was a Communist, or perhaps only 
a Communard, which is a very different thing; and had lost one or 
more situations in consequence.  I think he had also been rejected 
in marriage; but perhaps he had a sentimental way of considering 
business which deceived me.  He was a mild, gentle creature, 
anyway; and I hope he has got a better situation, and married a 
more suitable wife since then.



CARNIVAL notoriously cheated us at first.  Finding us easy in our 
ways, he regretted having let us off so cheaply; and taking me 
aside, told me a cock-and-bull story with the moral of another five 
francs for the narrator.  The thing was palpably absurd; but I paid 
up, and at once dropped all friendliness of manner, and kept him in 
his place as an inferior with freezing British dignity.  He saw in 
a moment that he had gone too far, and killed a willing horse; his 
face fell; I am sure he would have refunded if he could only have 
thought of a decent pretext.  He wished me to drink with him, but I 
would none of his drinks.  He grew pathetically tender in his 
professions; but I walked beside him in silence or answered him in 
stately courtesies; and when we got to the landing-place, passed 
the word in English slang to the CIGARETTE.

In spite of the false scent we had thrown out the day before, there 
must have been fifty people about the bridge.  We were as pleasant 
as we could be with all but Carnival.  We said good-bye, shaking 
hands with the old gentleman who knew the river and the young 
gentleman who had a smattering of English; but never a word for 
Carnival.  Poor Carnival! here was a humiliation.  He who had been 
so much identified with the canoes, who had given orders in our 
name, who had shown off the boats and even the boatmen like a 
private exhibition of his own, to be now so publicly shamed by the 
lions of his caravan!  I never saw anybody look more crestfallen 
than he.  He hung in the background, coming timidly forward ever 
and again as he thought he saw some symptom of a relenting humour, 
and falling hurriedly back when he encountered a cold stare.  Let 
us hope it will be a lesson to him.

I would not have mentioned Carnival's peccadillo had not the thing 
been so uncommon in France.  This, for instance, was the only case 
of dishonesty or even sharp practice in our whole voyage.  We talk 
very much about our honesty in England.  It is a good rule to be on 
your guard wherever you hear great professions about a very little 
piece of virtue.  If the English could only hear how they are 
spoken of abroad, they might confine themselves for a while to 
remedying the fact; and perhaps even when that was done, give us 
fewer of their airs.

The young ladies, the graces of Origny, were not present at our 
start, but when we got round to the second bridge, behold, it was 
black with sight-seers!  We were loudly cheered, and for a good way 
below, young lads and lasses ran along the bank still cheering.  
What with current and paddling, we were flashing along like 
swallows.  It was no joke to keep up with us upon the woody shore.  
But the girls picked up their skirts, as if they were sure they had 
good ankles, and followed until their breath was out.  The last to 
weary were the three graces and a couple of companions; and just as 
they too had had enough, the foremost of the three leaped upon a 
tree-stump and kissed her hand to the canoeists.  Not Diana 
herself, although this was more of a Venus after all, could have 
done a graceful thing more gracefully.  'Come back again!' she 
cried; and all the others echoed her; and the hills about Origny 
repeated the words, 'Come back.'  But the river had us round an 
angle in a twinkling, and we were alone with the green trees and 
running water.

Come back?  There is no coming back, young ladies, on the impetuous 
stream of life.

'The merchant bows unto the seaman's star,
The ploughman from the sun his season takes.'

And we must all set our pocket-watches by the clock of fate.  There 
is a headlong, forthright tide, that bears away man with his 
fancies like a straw, and runs fast in time and space.  It is full 
of curves like this, your winding river of the Oise; and lingers 
and returns in pleasant pastorals; and yet, rightly thought upon, 
never returns at all.  For though it should revisit the same acre 
of meadow in the same hour, it will have made an ample sweep 
between-whiles; many little streams will have fallen in; many 
exhalations risen towards the sun; and even although it were the 
same acre, it will no more be the same river of Oise.  And thus, O 
graces of Origny, although the wandering fortune of my life should 
carry me back again to where you await death's whistle by the 
river, that will not be the old I who walks the street; and those 
wives and mothers, say, will those be you?

There was never any mistake about the Oise, as a matter of fact.  
In these upper reaches it was still in a prodigious hurry for the 
sea.  It ran so fast and merrily, through all the windings of its 
channel, that I strained my thumb, fighting with the rapids, and 
had to paddle all the rest of the way with one hand turned up.  
Sometimes it had to serve mills; and being still a little river, 
ran very dry and shallow in the meanwhile.  We had to put our legs 
out of the boat, and shove ourselves off the sand of the bottom 
with our feet.  And still it went on its way singing among the 
poplars, and making a green valley in the world.  After a good 
woman, and a good book, and tobacco, there is nothing so agreeable 
on earth as a river.  I forgave it its attempt on my life; which 
was after all one part owing to the unruly winds of heaven that had 
blown down the tree, one part to my own mismanagement, and only a 
third part to the river itself, and that not out of malice, but 
from its great preoccupation over its business of getting to the 
sea.  A difficult business, too; for the detours it had to make are 
not to be counted.  The geographers seem to have given up the 
attempt; for I found no map represent the infinite contortion of 
its course.  A fact will say more than any of them.  After we had 
been some hours, three if I mistake not, flitting by the trees at 
this smooth, break-neck gallop, when we came upon a hamlet and 
asked where we were, we had got no farther than four kilometres 
(say two miles and a half) from Origny.  If it were not for the 
honour of the thing (in the Scots saying), we might almost as well 
have been standing still.

We lunched on a meadow inside a parallelogram of poplars.  The 
leaves danced and prattled in the wind all round about us.  The 
river hurried on meanwhile, and seemed to chide at our delay.  
Little we cared.  The river knew where it was going; not so we:  
the less our hurry, where we found good quarters and a pleasant 
theatre for a pipe.  At that hour, stockbrokers were shouting in 
Paris Bourse for two or three per cent.; but we minded them as 
little as the sliding stream, and sacrificed a hecatomb of minutes 
to the gods of tobacco and digestion.  Hurry is the resource of the 
faithless.  Where a man can trust his own heart, and those of his 
friends, to-morrow is as good as to-day.  And if he die in the 
meanwhile, why then, there he dies, and the question is solved.

We had to take to the canal in the course of the afternoon; 
because, where it crossed the river, there was, not a bridge, but a 
siphon.  If it had not been for an excited fellow on the bank, we 
should have paddled right into the siphon, and thenceforward not 
paddled any more.  We met a man, a gentleman, on the tow-path, who 
was much interested in our cruise.  And I was witness to a strange 
seizure of lying suffered by the CIGARETTE:  who, because his knife 
came from Norway, narrated all sorts of adventures in that country, 
where he has never been.  He was quite feverish at the end, and 
pleaded demoniacal possession.

Moy (pronounce Moy) was a pleasant little village, gathered round a 
chateau in a moat.  The air was perfumed with hemp from 
neighbouring fields.  At the Golden Sheep we found excellent 
entertainment.  German shells from the siege of La Fere, Nurnberg 
figures, gold-fish in a bowl, and all manner of knick-knacks, 
embellished the public room.  The landlady was a stout, plain, 
short-sighted, motherly body, with something not far short of a 
genius for cookery.  She had a guess of her excellence herself.  
After every dish was sent in, she would come and look on at the 
dinner for a while, with puckered, blinking eyes.  'C'EST BON, 
N'EST-CE PAS?' she would say; and when she had received a proper 
answer, she disappeared into the kitchen.  That common French dish, 
partridge and cabbages, became a new thing in my eyes at the Golden 
Sheep; and many subsequent dinners have bitterly disappointed me in 
consequence.  Sweet was our rest in the Golden Sheep at Moy.


WE lingered in Moy a good part of the day, for we were fond of 
being philosophical, and scorned long journeys and early starts on 
principle.  The place, moreover, invited to repose.  People in 
elaborate shooting costumes sallied from the chateau with guns and 
game-bags; and this was a pleasure in itself, to remain behind 
while these elegant pleasure-seekers took the first of the morning.  
In this way, all the world may be an aristocrat, and play the duke 
among marquises, and the reigning monarch among dukes, if he will 
only outvie them in tranquillity.  An imperturbable demeanour comes 
from perfect patience.  Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or 
frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private 
pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

We made a very short day of it to La Fere; but the dusk was 
falling, and a small rain had begun before we stowed the boats.  La 
Fere is a fortified town in a plain, and has two belts of rampart.  
Between the first and the second extends a region of waste land and 
cultivated patches.  Here and there along the wayside were posters 
forbidding trespass in the name of military engineering.  At last, 
a second gateway admitted us to the town itself.  Lighted windows 
looked gladsome, whiffs of comfortable cookery came abroad upon the 
air.  The town was full of the military reserve, out for the French 
Autumn Manoeuvres, and the reservists walked speedily and wore 
their formidable great-coats.  It was a fine night to be within 
doors over dinner, and hear the rain upon the windows.

The CIGARETTE and I could not sufficiently congratulate each other 
on the prospect, for we had been told there was a capital inn at La 
Fere.  Such a dinner as we were going to eat! such beds as we were 
to sleep in! - and all the while the rain raining on houseless folk 
over all the poplared countryside!  It made our mouths water.  The 
inn bore the name of some woodland animal, stag, or hart, or hind, 
I forget which.  But I shall never forget how spacious and how 
eminently habitable it looked as we drew near.  The carriage entry 
was lighted up, not by intention, but from the mere superfluity of 
fire and candle in the house.  A rattle of many dishes came to our 
ears; we sighted a great field of table-cloth; the kitchen glowed 
like a forge and smelt like a garden of things to eat.

Into this, the inmost shrine and physiological heart of a hostelry, 
with all its furnaces in action, and all its dressers charged with 
viands, you are now to suppose us making our triumphal entry, a 
pair of damp rag-and-bone men, each with a limp india-rubber bag 
upon his arm.  I do not believe I have a sound view of that 
kitchen; I saw it through a sort of glory:  but it seemed to me 
crowded with the snowy caps of cookmen, who all turned round from 
their saucepans and looked at us with surprise.  There was no doubt 
about the landlady, however:  there she was, heading her army, a 
flushed, angry woman, full of affairs.  Her I asked politely - too 
politely, thinks the CIGARETTE - if we could have beds:  she 
surveying us coldly from head to foot.

'You will find beds in the suburb,' she remarked.  'We are too busy 
for the like of you.'

If we could make an entrance, change our clothes, and order a 
bottle of wine, I felt sure we could put things right; so said I:  
'If we cannot sleep, we may at least dine,' - and was for 
depositing my bag.

What a terrible convulsion of nature was that which followed in the 
landlady's face!  She made a run at us, and stamped her foot.

'Out with you - out of the door!' she screeched.  'SORTEZ! SORTEZ! 

I do not know how it happened, but next moment we were out in the 
rain and darkness, and I was cursing before the carriage entry like 
a disappointed mendicant.  Where were the boating men of Belgium? 
where the Judge and his good wines? and where the graces of Origny?  
Black, black was the night after the firelit kitchen; but what was 
that to the blackness in our heart?  This was not the first time 
that I have been refused a lodging.  Often and often have I planned 
what I should do if such a misadventure happened to me again.  And 
nothing is easier to plan.  But to put in execution, with the heart 
boiling at the indignity?  Try it; try it only once; and tell me 
what you did.

It is all very fine to talk about tramps and morality.  Six hours 
of police surveillance (such as I have had), or one brutal 
rejection from an inn-door, change your views upon the subject like 
a course of lectures.  As long as you keep in the upper regions, 
with all the world bowing to you as you go, social arrangements 
have a very handsome air; but once get under the wheels, and you 
wish society were at the devil.  I will give most respectable men a 
fortnight of such a life, and then I will offer them twopence for 
what remains of their morality.

For my part, when I was turned out of the Stag, or the Hind, or 
whatever it was, I would have set the temple of Diana on fire, if 
it had been handy.  There was no crime complete enough to express 
my disapproval of human institutions.  As for the CIGARETTE, I 
never knew a man so altered.  'We have been taken for pedlars 
again,' said he.  'Good God, what it must be to be a pedlar in 
reality!'  He particularised a complaint for every joint in the 
landlady's body.  Timon was a philanthropist alongside of him.  And 
then, when he was at the top of his maledictory bent, he would 
suddenly break away and begin whimperingly to commiserate the poor.  
'I hope to God,' he said, - and I trust the prayer was answered, - 
'that I shall never be uncivil to a pedlar.'  Was this the 
imperturbable CIGARETTE?  This, this was he.  O change beyond 
report, thought, or belief!

Meantime the heaven wept upon our heads; and the windows grew 
brighter as the night increased in darkness.  We trudged in and out 
of La Fere streets; we saw shops, and private houses where people 
were copiously dining; we saw stables where carters' nags had 
plenty of fodder and clean straw; we saw no end of reservists, who 
were very sorry for themselves this wet night, I doubt not, and 
yearned for their country homes; but had they not each man his 
place in La Fere barracks?  And we, what had we?

There seemed to be no other inn in the whole town.  People gave us 
directions, which we followed as best we could, generally with the 
effect of bringing us out again upon the scene of our disgrace.  We 
were very sad people indeed by the time we had gone all over La 
Fere; and the CIGARETTE had already made up his mind to lie under a 
poplar and sup off a loaf of bread.  But right at the other end, 
the house next the town-gate was full of light and bustle.  'BAZIN, 
There were we received.

The room was full of noisy reservists drinking and smoking; and we 
were very glad indeed when the drums and bugles began to go about 
the streets, and one and all had to snatch shakoes and be off for 
the barracks.

Bazin was a tall man, running to fat:  soft-spoken, with a 
delicate, gentle face.  We asked him to share our wine; but he 
excused himself, having pledged reservists all day long.  This was 
a very different type of the workman-innkeeper from the bawling 
disputatious fellow at Origny.  He also loved Paris, where he had 
worked as a decorative painter in his youth.  There were such 
opportunities for self-instruction there, he said.  And if any one 
has read Zola's description of the workman's marriage-party 
visiting the Louvre, they would do well to have heard Bazin by way 
of antidote.  He had delighted in the museums in his youth.  'One 
sees there little miracles of work,' he said; 'that is what makes a 
good workman; it kindles a spark.'  We asked him how he managed in 
La Fere.  'I am married,' he said, 'and I have my pretty children.  
But frankly, it is no life at all.  From morning to night I pledge 
a pack of good enough fellows who know nothing.'

It faired as the night went on, and the moon came out of the 
clouds.  We sat in front of the door, talking softly with Bazin.  
At the guard-house opposite, the guard was being for ever turned 
out, as trains of field artillery kept clanking in out of the 
night, or patrols of horsemen trotted by in their cloaks.  Madame 
Bazin came out after a while; she was tired with her day's work, I 
suppose; and she nestled up to her husband and laid her head upon 
his breast.  He had his arm about her, and kept gently patting her 
on the shoulder.  I think Bazin was right, and he was really 
married.  Of how few people can the same be said!

Little did the Bazins know how much they served us.  We were 
charged for candles, for food and drink, and for the beds we slept 
in.  But there was nothing in the bill for the husband's pleasant 
talk; nor for the pretty spectacle of their married life.  And 
there was yet another item unchanged.  For these people's 
politeness really set us up again in our own esteem.  We had a 
thirst for consideration; the sense of insult was still hot in our 
spirits; and civil usage seemed to restore us to our position in 
the world.

How little we pay our way in life!  Although we have our purses 
continually in our hand, the better part of service goes still 
unrewarded.  But I like to fancy that a grateful spirit gives as 
good as it gets.  Perhaps the Bazins knew how much I liked them? 
perhaps they also were healed of some slights by the thanks that I 
gave them in my manner?



BELOW La Fere the river runs through a piece of open pastoral 
country; green, opulent, loved by breeders; called the Golden 
Valley.  In wide sweeps, and with a swift and equable gallop, the 
ceaseless stream of water visits and makes green the fields.  Kine, 
and horses, and little humorous donkeys, browse together in the 
meadows, and come down in troops to the river-side to drink.  They 
make a strange feature in the landscape; above all when they are 
startled, and you see them galloping to and fro with their 
incongruous forms and faces.  It gives a feeling as of great, 
unfenced pampas, and the herds of wandering nations.  There were 
hills in the distance upon either hand; and on one side, the river 
sometimes bordered on the wooded spurs of Coucy and St. Gobain.

The artillery were practising at La Fere; and soon the cannon of 
heaven joined in that loud play.  Two continents of cloud met and 
exchanged salvos overhead; while all round the horizon we could see 
sunshine and clear air upon the hills.  What with the guns and the 
thunder, the herds were all frightened in the Golden Valley.  We 
could see them tossing their heads, and running to and fro in 
timorous indecision; and when they had made up their minds, and the 
donkey followed the horse, and the cow was after the donkey, we 
could hear their hooves thundering abroad over the meadows.  It had 
a martial sound, like cavalry charges.  And altogether, as far as 
the ears are concerned, we had a very rousing battle-piece 
performed for our amusement.

At last the guns and the thunder dropped off; the sun shone on the 
wet meadows; the air was scented with the breath of rejoicing trees 
and grass; and the river kept unweariedly carrying us on at its 
best pace.  There was a manufacturing district about Chauny; and 
after that the banks grew so high that they hid the adjacent 
country, and we could see nothing but clay sides, and one willow 
after another.  Only, here and there, we passed by a village or a 
ferry, and some wondering child upon the bank would stare after us 
until we turned the corner.  I daresay we continued to paddle in 
that child's dreams for many a night after.

Sun and shower alternated like day and night, making the hours 
longer by their variety.  When the showers were heavy, I could feel 
each drop striking through my jersey to my warm skin; and the 
accumulation of small shocks put me nearly beside myself.  I 
decided I should buy a mackintosh at Noyon.  It is nothing to get 
wet; but the misery of these individual pricks of cold all over my 
body at the same instant of time made me flail the water with my 
paddle like a madman.  The CIGARETTE was greatly amused by these 
ebullitions.  It gave him something else to look at besides clay 
banks and willows.

All the time, the river stole away like a thief in straight places, 
or swung round corners with an eddy; the willows nodded, and were 
undermined all day long; the clay banks tumbled in; the Oise, which 
had been so many centuries making the Golden Valley, seemed to have 
changed its fancy, and be bent upon undoing its performance.  What 
a number of things a river does, by simply following Gravity in the 
innocence of its heart!


NOYON stands about a mile from the river, in a little plain 
surrounded by wooded hills, and entirely covers an eminence with 
its tile roofs, surmounted by a long, straight-backed cathedral 
with two stiff towers.  As we got into the town, the tile roofs 
seemed to tumble uphill one upon another, in the oddest disorder; 
but for all their scrambling, they did not attain above the knees 
of the cathedral, which stood, upright and solemn, over all.  As 
the streets drew near to this presiding genius, through the market-
place under the Hotel de Ville, they grew emptier and more 
composed.  Blank walls and shuttered windows were turned to the 
great edifice, and grass grew on the white causeway.  'Put off thy 
shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is 
holy ground.'  The Hotel du Nord, nevertheless, lights its secular 
tapers within a stone-cast of the church; and we had the superb 
east-end before our eyes all morning from the window of our 
bedroom.  I have seldom looked on the east-end of a church with 
more complete sympathy.  As it flanges out in three wide terraces 
and settles down broadly on the earth, it looks like the poop of 
some great old battle-ship.  Hollow-backed buttresses carry vases, 
which figure for the stern lanterns.  There is a roll in the 
ground, and the towers just appear above the pitch of the roof, as 
though the good ship were bowing lazily over an Atlantic swell.  At 
any moment it might be a hundred feet away from you, climbing the 
next billow.  At any moment a window might open, and some old 
admiral thrust forth a cocked hat, and proceed to take an 
observation.  The old admirals sail the sea no longer; the old 
ships of battle are all broken up, and live only in pictures; but 
this, that was a church before ever they were thought upon, is 
still a church, and makes as brave an appearance by the Oise.  The 
cathedral and the river are probably the two oldest things for 
miles around; and certainly they have both a grand old age.

The Sacristan took us to the top of one of the towers, and showed 
us the five bells hanging in their loft.  From above, the town was 
a tesselated pavement of roofs and gardens; the old line of rampart 
was plainly traceable; and the Sacristan pointed out to us, far 
across the plain, in a bit of gleaming sky between two clouds, the 
towers of Chateau Coucy.

I find I never weary of great churches.  It is my favourite kind of 
mountain scenery.  Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it 
made a cathedral:  a thing as single and specious as a statue to 
the first glance, and yet, on examination, as lively and 
interesting as a forest in detail.  The height of spires cannot be 
taken by trigonometry; they measure absurdly short, but how tall 
they are to the admiring eye!  And where we have so many elegant 
proportions, growing one out of the other, and all together into 
one, it seems as if proportion transcended itself, and became 
something different and more imposing.  I could never fathom how a 
man dares to lift up his voice to preach in a cathedral.  What is 
he to say that will not be an anti-climax?  For though I have heard 
a considerable variety of sermons, I never yet heard one that was 
so expressive as a cathedral.  'Tis the best preacher itself, and 
preaches day and night; not only telling you of man's art and 
aspirations in the past, but convicting your own soul of ardent 
sympathies; or rather, like all good preachers, it sets you 
preaching to yourself; - and every man is his own doctor of 
divinity in the last resort.

As I sat outside of the hotel in the course of the afternoon, the 
sweet groaning thunder of the organ floated out of the church like 
a summons.  I was not averse, liking the theatre so well, to sit 
out an act or two of the play, but I could never rightly make out 
the nature of the service I beheld.  Four or five priests and as 
many choristers were singing MISERERE before the high altar when I 
went in.  There was no congregation but a few old women on chairs 
and old men kneeling on the pavement.  After a while a long train 
of young girls, walking two and two, each with a lighted taper in 
her hand, and all dressed in black with a white veil, came from 
behind the altar, and began to descend the nave; the four first 
carrying a Virgin and child upon a table.  The priests and 
choristers arose from their knees and followed after, singing 'Ave 
Mary' as they went.  In this order they made the circuit of the 
cathedral, passing twice before me where I leaned against a pillar.  
The priest who seemed of most consequence was a strange, down-
looking old man.  He kept mumbling prayers with his lips; but as he 
looked upon me darkling, it did not seem as if prayer were 
uppermost in his heart.  Two others, who bore the burthen of the 
chaunt, were stout, brutal, military-looking men of forty, with 
bold, over-fed eyes; they sang with some lustiness, and trolled 
forth 'Ave Mary' like a garrison catch.  The little girls were 
timid and grave.  As they footed slowly up the aisle, each one took 
a moment's glance at the Englishman; and the big nun who played 
marshal fairly stared him out of countenance.  As for the 
choristers, from first to last they misbehaved as only boys can 
misbehave; and cruelly marred the performance with their antics.

I understood a great deal of the spirit of what went on.  Indeed it 
would be difficult not to understand the MISERERE, which I take to 
be the composition of an atheist.  If it ever be a good thing to 
take such despondency to heart, the MISERERE is the right music, 
and a cathedral a fit scene.  So far I am at one with the 
Catholics:- an odd name for them, after all?  But why, in God's 
name, these holiday choristers? why these priests who steal 
wandering looks about the congregation while they feign to be at 
prayer? why this fat nun, who rudely arranges her procession and 
shakes delinquent virgins by the elbow? why this spitting, and 
snuffing, and forgetting of keys, and the thousand and one little 
misadventures that disturb a frame of mind laboriously edified with 
chaunts and organings?  In any play-house reverend fathers may see 
what can be done with a little art, and how, to move high 
sentiments, it is necessary to drill the supernumeraries and have 
every stool in its proper place.

One other circumstance distressed me.  I could bear a MISERERE 
myself, having had a good deal of open-air exercise of late; but I 
wished the old people somewhere else.  It was neither the right 
sort of music nor the right sort of divinity for men and women who 
have come through most accidents by this time, and probably have an 
opinion of their own upon the tragic element in life.  A person up 
in years can generally do his own MISERERE for himself; although I 
notice that such an one often prefers JUBILATE DEO for his ordinary 
singing.  On the whole, the most religious exercise for the aged is 
probably to recall their own experience; so many friends dead, so 
many hopes disappointed, so many slips and stumbles, and withal so 
many bright days and smiling providences; there is surely the 
matter of a very eloquent sermon in all this.

On the whole, I was greatly solemnised.  In the little pictorial 
map of our whole Inland Voyage, which my fancy still preserves, and 
sometimes unrolls for the amusement of odd moments, Noyon cathedral 
figures on a most preposterous scale, and must be nearly as large 
as a department.  I can still see the faces of the priests as if 
they were at my elbow, and hear AVE MARIA, ORA PRO NOBIS, sounding 
through the church.  All Noyon is blotted out for me by these 
superior memories; and I do not care to say more about the place.  
It was but a stack of brown roofs at the best, where I believe 
people live very reputably in a quiet way; but the shadow of the 
church falls upon it when the sun is low, and the five bells are 
heard in all quarters, telling that the organ has begun.  If ever I 
join the Church of Rome, I shall stipulate to be Bishop of Noyon on 
the Oise.



THE most patient people grow weary at last with being continually 
wetted with rain; except of course in the Scottish Highlands, where 
there are not enough fine intervals to point the difference.  That 
was like to be our case, the day we left Noyon.  I remember nothing 
of the voyage; it was nothing but clay banks and willows, and rain; 
incessant, pitiless, beating rain; until we stopped to lunch at a 
little inn at Pimprez, where the canal ran very near the river.  We 
were so sadly drenched that the landlady lit a few sticks in the 
chimney for our comfort; there we sat in a steam of vapour, 
lamenting our concerns.  The husband donned a game-bag and strode 
out to shoot; the wife sat in a far corner watching us.  I think we 
were worth looking at.  We grumbled over the misfortune of La Fere; 
we forecast other La Feres in the future; - although things went 
better with the CIGARETTE for spokesman; he had more aplomb 
altogether than I; and a dull, positive way of approaching a 
landlady that carried off the india-rubber bags.  Talking of La 
Fere put us talking of the reservists.

'Reservery,' said he, 'seems a pretty mean way to spend ones autumn 

'About as mean,' returned I dejectedly, 'as canoeing.'

'These gentlemen travel for their pleasure?' asked the landlady, 
with unconscious irony.

It was too much.  The scales fell from our eyes.  Another wet day, 
it was determined, and we put the boats into the train.

The weather took the hint.  That was our last wetting.  The 
afternoon faired up:  grand clouds still voyaged in the sky, but 
now singly, and with a depth of blue around their path; and a 
sunset in the daintiest rose and gold inaugurated a thick night of 
stars and a month of unbroken weather.  At the same time, the river 
began to give us a better outlook into the country.  The banks were 
not so high, the willows disappeared from along the margin, and 
pleasant hills stood all along its course and marked their profile 
on the sky.

In a little while the canal, coming to its last lock, began to 
discharge its water-houses on the Oise; so that we had no lack of 
company to fear.  Here were all our old friends; the DEO GRATIAS of 
Conde and the FOUR SONS OF AYMON journeyed cheerily down stream 
along with us; we exchanged waterside pleasantries with the 
steersman perched among the lumber, or the driver hoarse with 
bawling to his horses; and the children came and looked over the 
side as we paddled by.  We had never known all this while how much 
we missed them; but it gave us a fillip to see the smoke from their 

A little below this junction we made another meeting of yet more 
account.  For there we were joined by the Aisne, already a far-
travelled river and fresh out of Champagne.  Here ended the 
adolescence of the Oise; this was his marriage day; thenceforward 
he had a stately, brimming march, conscious of his own dignity and 
sundry dams.  He became a tranquil feature in the scene.  The trees 
and towns saw themselves in him, as in a mirror.  He carried the 
canoes lightly on his broad breast; there was no need to work hard 
against an eddy:  but idleness became the order of the day, and 
mere straightforward dipping of the paddle, now on this side, now 
on that, without intelligence or effort.  Truly we were coming into 
halcyon weather upon all accounts, and were floated towards the sea 
like gentlemen.

We made Compiegne as the sun was going down:  a fine profile of a 
town above the river.  Over the bridge, a regiment was parading to 
the drum.  People loitered on the quay, some fishing, some looking 
idly at the stream.  And as the two boats shot in along the water, 
we could see them pointing them out and speaking one to another.  
We landed at a floating lavatory, where the washer-women were still 
beating the clothes.


WE put up at a big, bustling hotel in Compiegne, where nobody 
observed our presence.

Reservery and general MILITARISMUS (as the Germans call it) were 
rampant.  A camp of conical white tents without the town looked 
like a leaf out of a picture Bible; sword-belts decorated the walls 
of the CAFES; and the streets kept sounding all day long with 
military music.  It was not possible to be an Englishman and avoid 
a feeling of elation; for the men who followed the drums were 
small, and walked shabbily.  Each man inclined at his own angle, 
and jolted to his own convenience, as he went.  There was nothing 
of the superb gait with which a regiment of tall Highlanders moves 
behind its music, solemn and inevitable, like a natural phenomenon.  
Who that has seen it can forget the drum-major pacing in front, the 
drummers' tiger-skins, the pipers' swinging plaids, the strange 
elastic rhythm of the whole regiment footing it in time - and the 
bang of the drum, when the brasses cease, and the shrill pipes take 
up the martial story in their place?

A girl, at school in France, began to describe one of our regiments 
on parade to her French schoolmates; and as she went on, she told 
me, the recollection grew so vivid, she became so proud to be the 
countrywoman of such soldiers, and so sorry to be in another 
country, that her voice failed her and she burst into tears.  I 
have never forgotten that girl; and I think she very nearly 
deserves a statue.  To call her a young lady, with all its niminy 
associations, would be to offer her an insult.  She may rest 
assured of one thing:  although she never should marry a heroic 
general, never see any great or immediate result of her life, she 
will not have lived in vain for her native land.

But though French soldiers show to ill advantage on parade, on the 
march they are gay, alert, and willing like a troop of fox-hunters.  
I remember once seeing a company pass through the forest of 
Fontainebleau, on the Chailly road, between the Bas Breau and the 
Reine Blanche.  One fellow walked a little before the rest, and 
sang a loud, audacious marching song.  The rest bestirred their 
feet, and even swung their muskets in time.  A young officer on 
horseback had hard ado to keep his countenance at the words.  You 
never saw anything so cheerful and spontaneous as their gait; 
schoolboys do not look more eagerly at hare and hounds; and you 
would have thought it impossible to tire such willing marchers.

My great delight in Compiegne was the town-hall.  I doted upon the 
town-hall.  It is a monument of Gothic insecurity, all turreted, 
and gargoyled, and slashed, and bedizened with half a score of 
architectural fancies.  Some of the niches are gilt and painted; 
and in a great square panel in the centre, in black relief on a 
gilt ground, Louis XII. rides upon a pacing horse, with hand on hip 
and head thrown back.  There is royal arrogance in every line of 
him; the stirruped foot projects insolently from the frame; the eye 
is hard and proud; the very horse seems to be treading with 
gratification over prostrate serfs, and to have the breath of the 
trumpet in his nostrils.  So rides for ever, on the front of the 
town-hall, the good king Louis XII., the father of his people.

Over the king's head, in the tall centre turret, appears the dial 
of a clock; and high above that, three little mechanical figures, 
each one with a hammer in his hand, whose business it is to chime 
out the hours and halves and quarters for the burgesses of 
Compiegne.  The centre figure has a gilt breast-plate; the two 
others wear gilt trunk-hose; and they all three have elegant, 
flapping hats like cavaliers.  As the quarter approaches, they turn 
their heads and look knowingly one to the other; and then, KLING go 
the three hammers on three little bells below.  The hour follows, 
deep and sonorous, from the interior of the tower; and the gilded 
gentlemen rest from their labours with contentment.

I had a great deal of healthy pleasure from their manoeuvres, and 
took good care to miss as few performances as possible; and I found 
that even the CIGARETTE, while he pretended to despise my 
enthusiasm, was more or less a devotee himself.  There is something 
highly absurd in the exposition of such toys to the outrages of 
winter on a housetop.  They would be more in keeping in a glass 
case before a Nurnberg clock.  Above all, at night, when the 
children are abed, and even grown people are snoring under quilts, 
does it not seem impertinent to leave these ginger-bread figures 
winking and tinkling to the stars and the rolling moon?  The 
gargoyles may fitly enough twist their ape-like heads; fitly enough 
may the potentate bestride his charger, like a centurion in an old 
German print of the VIA DOLOROSA; but the toys should be put away 
in a box among some cotton, until the sun rises, and the children 
are abroad again to be amused.

In Compiegne post-office a great packet of letters awaited us; and 
the authorities were, for this occasion only, so polite as to hand 
them over upon application.

In some ways, our journey may be said to end with this letter-bag 
at Compiegne.  The spell was broken.  We had partly come home from 
that moment.

No one should have any correspondence on a journey; it is bad 
enough to have to write; but the receipt of letters is the death of 
all holiday feeling.

'Out of my country and myself I go.'  I wish to take a dive among 
new conditions for a while, as into another element.  I have 
nothing to do with my friends or my affections for the time; when I 
came away, I left my heart at home in a desk, or sent it forward 
with my portmanteau to await me at my destination.  After my 
journey is over, I shall not fail to read your admirable letters 
with the attention they deserve.  But I have paid all this money, 
look you, and paddled all these strokes, for no other purpose than 
to be abroad; and yet you keep me at home with your perpetual 
communications.  You tug the string, and I feel that I am a 
tethered bird.  You pursue me all over Europe with the little 
vexations that I came away to avoid.  There is no discharge in the 
war of life, I am well aware; but shall there not be so much as a 
week's furlough?

We were up by six, the day we were to leave.  They had taken so 
little note of us that I hardly thought they would have 
condescended on a bill.  But they did, with some smart particulars 
too; and we paid in a civilised manner to an uninterested clerk, 
and went out of that hotel, with the india-rubber bags, unremarked.  
No one cared to know about us.  It is not possible to rise before a 
village; but Compiegne was so grown a town, that it took its ease 
in the morning; and we were up and away while it was still in 
dressing-gown and slippers.  The streets were left to people 
washing door-steps; nobody was in full dress but the cavaliers upon 
the town-hall; they were all washed with dew, spruce in their 
gilding, and full of intelligence and a sense of professional 
responsibility.  KLING went they on the bells for the half-past six 
as we went by.  I took it kind of them to make me this parting 
compliment; they never were in better form, not even at noon upon a 

There was no one to see us off but the early washerwomen - early 
and late - who were already beating the linen in their floating 
lavatory on the river.  They were very merry and matutinal in their 
ways; plunged their arms boldly in, and seemed not to feel the 
shock.  It would be dispiriting to me, this early beginning and 
first cold dabble of a most dispiriting day's work.  But I believe 
they would have been as unwilling to change days with us as we 
could be to change with them.  They crowded to the door to watch us 
paddle away into the thin sunny mists upon the river; and shouted 
heartily after us till we were through the bridge.


THERE is a sense in which those mists never rose from off our 
journey; and from that time forth they lie very densely in my note-
book.  As long as the Oise was a small rural river, it took us near 
by people's doors, and we could hold a conversation with natives in 
the riparian fields.  But now that it had grown so wide, the life 
along shore passed us by at a distance.  It was the same difference 
as between a great public highway and a country by-path that 
wanders in and out of cottage gardens.  We now lay in towns, where 
nobody troubled us with questions; we had floated into civilised 
life, where people pass without salutation.  In sparsely inhabited 
places, we make all we can of each encounter; but when it comes to 
a city, we keep to ourselves, and never speak unless we have 
trodden on a man's toes.  In these waters we were no longer strange 
birds, and nobody supposed we had travelled farther than from the 
last town.  I remember, when we came into L'Isle Adam, for 
instance, how we met dozens of pleasure-boats outing it for the 
afternoon, and there was nothing to distinguish the true voyager 
from the amateur, except, perhaps, the filthy condition of my sail.  
The company in one boat actually thought they recognised me for a 
neighbour.  Was there ever anything more wounding?  All the romance 
had come down to that.  Now, on the upper Oise, where nothing 
sailed as a general thing but fish, a pair of canoeists could not 
be thus vulgarly explained away; we were strange and picturesque 
intruders; and out of people's wonder sprang a sort of light and 
passing intimacy all along our route.  There is nothing but tit-
for-tat in this world, though sometimes it be a little difficult to 
trace:  for the scores are older than we ourselves, and there has 
never yet been a settling-day since things were.  You get 
entertainment pretty much in proportion as you give.  As long as we 
were a sort of odd wanderers, to be stared at and followed like a 
quack doctor or a caravan, we had no want of amusement in return; 
but as soon as we sank into commonplace ourselves, all whom we met 
were similarly disenchanted.  And here is one reason of a dozen, 
why the world is dull to dull persons.

In our earlier adventures there was generally something to do, and 
that quickened us.  Even the showers of rain had a revivifying 
effect, and shook up the brain from torpor.  But now, when the 
river no longer ran in a proper sense, only glided seaward with an 
even, outright, but imperceptible speed, and when the sky smiled 
upon us day after day without variety, we began to slip into that 
golden doze of the mind which follows upon much exercise in the 
open air.  I have stupefied myself in this way more than once; 
indeed, I dearly love the feeling; but I never had it to the same 
degree as when paddling down the Oise.  It was the apotheosis of 

We ceased reading entirely.  Sometimes when I found a new paper, I 
took a particular pleasure in reading a single number of the 
current novel; but I never could bear more than three instalments; 
and even the second was a disappointment.  As soon as the tale 
became in any way perspicuous, it lost all merit in my eyes; only a 
single scene, or, as is the way with these FEUILLETONS, half a 
scene, without antecedent or consequence, like a piece of a dream, 
had the knack of fixing my interest.  The less I saw of the novel, 
the better I liked it:  a pregnant reflection.  But for the most 
part, as I said, we neither of us read anything in the world, and 
employed the very little while we were awake between bed and dinner 
in poring upon maps.  I have always been fond of maps, and can 
voyage in an atlas with the greatest enjoyment.  The names of 
places are singularly inviting; the contour of coasts and rivers is 
enthralling to the eye; and to hit, in a map, upon some place you 
have heard of before, makes history a new possession.  But we 
thumbed our charts, on these evenings, with the blankest unconcern.  
We cared not a fraction for this place or that.  We stared at the 
sheet as children listen to their rattle; and read the names of 
towns or villages to forget them again at once.  We had no romance 
in the matter; there was nobody so fancy-free.  If you had taken 
the maps away while we were studying them most intently, it is a 
fair bet whether we might not have continued to study the table 
with the same delight.

About one thing we were mightily taken up, and that was eating.  I 
think I made a god of my belly.  I remember dwelling in imagination 
upon this or that dish till my mouth watered; and long before we 
got in for the night my appetite was a clamant, instant annoyance.  
Sometimes we paddled alongside for a while and whetted each other 
with gastronomical fancies as we went.  Cake and sherry, a homely 
rejection, but not within reach upon the Oise, trotted through my 
head for many a mile; and once, as we were approaching Verberie, 
the CIGARETTE brought my heart into my mouth by the suggestion of 
oyster-patties and Sauterne.

I suppose none of us recognise the great part that is played in 
life by eating and drinking.  The appetite is so imperious that we 
can stomach the least interesting viands, and pass off a dinner-
hour thankfully enough on bread and water; just as there are men 
who must read something, if it were only BRADSHAW'S GUIDE.  But 
there is a romance about the matter after all.  Probably the table 
has more devotees than love; and I am sure that food is much more 
generally entertaining than scenery.  Do you give in, as Walt 
Whitman would say, that you are any the less immortal for that?  
The true materialism is to be ashamed of what we are.  To detect 
the flavour of an olive is no less a piece of human perfection than 
to find beauty in the colours of the sunset.

Canoeing was easy work.  To dip the paddle at the proper 
inclination, now right, now left; to keep the head down stream; to 
empty the little pool that gathered in the lap of the apron; to 
screw up the eyes against the glittering sparkles of sun upon the 
water; or now and again to pass below the whistling tow-rope of the 
DEO GRATIAS of Conde, or the FOUR SONS OF AYMON - there was not 
much art in that; certain silly muscles managed it between sleep 
and waking; and meanwhile the brain had a whole holiday, and went 
to sleep.  We took in, at a glance, the larger features of the 
scene; and beheld, with half an eye, bloused fishers and dabbling 
washerwomen on the bank.  Now and again we might be half-wakened by 
some church spire, by a leaping fish, or by a trail of river grass 
that clung about the paddle and had to be plucked off and thrown 
away.  But these luminous intervals were only partially luminous.  
A little more of us was called into action, but never the whole.  
The central bureau of nerves, what in some moods we call Ourselves, 
enjoyed its holiday without disturbance, like a Government Office.  
The great wheels of intelligence turned idly in the head, like fly-
wheels, grinding no grist.  I have gone on for half an hour at a 
time, counting my strokes and forgetting the hundreds.  I flatter 
myself the beasts that perish could not underbid that, as a low 
form of consciousness.  And what a pleasure it was!  What a hearty, 
tolerant temper did it bring about!  There is nothing captious 
about a man who has attained to this, the one possible apotheosis 
in life, the Apotheosis of Stupidity; and he begins to feel 
dignified and longaevous like a tree.

There was one odd piece of practical metaphysics which accompanied 
what I may call the depth, if I must not call it the intensity, of 
my abstraction.  What philosophers call ME and NOT-ME, EGO and NON 
EGO, preoccupied me whether I would or no.  There was less ME and 
more NOT-ME than I was accustomed to expect.  I looked on upon 
somebody else, who managed the paddling; I was aware of somebody 
else's feet against the stretcher; my own body seemed to have no 
more intimate relation to me than the canoe, or the river, or the 
river banks.  Nor this alone:  something inside my mind, a part of 
my brain, a province of my proper being, had thrown off allegiance 
and set up for itself, or perhaps for the somebody else who did the 
paddling.  I had dwindled into quite a little thing in a corner of 
myself.  I was isolated in my own skull.  Thoughts presented 
themselves unbidden; they were not my thoughts, they were plainly 
some one else's; and I considered them like a part of the 
landscape.  I take it, in short, that I was about as near Nirvana 
as would be convenient in practical life; and if this be so, I make 
the Buddhists my sincere compliments; 'tis an agreeable state, not 
very consistent with mental brilliancy, not exactly profitable in a 
money point of view, but very calm, golden, and incurious, and one 
that sets a man superior to alarms.  It may be best figured by 
supposing yourself to get dead drunk, and yet keep sober to enjoy 
it.  I have a notion that open-air labourers must spend a large 
portion of their days in this ecstatic stupor, which explains their 
high composure and endurance.  A pity to go to the expense of 
laudanum, when here is a better paradise for nothing!

This frame of mind was the great exploit of our voyage, take it all 
in all.  It was the farthest piece of travel accomplished.  Indeed, 
it lies so far from beaten paths of language, that I despair of 
getting the reader into sympathy with the smiling, complacent 
idiocy of my condition; when ideas came and went like motes in a 
sunbeam; when trees and church spires along the bank surged up, 
from time to time into my notice, like solid objects through a 
rolling cloudland; when the rhythmical swish of boat and paddle in 
the water became a cradle-song to lull my thoughts asleep; when a 
piece of mud on the deck was sometimes an intolerable eyesore, and 
sometimes quite a companion for me, and the object of pleased 
consideration; - and all the time, with the river running and the 
shores changing upon either hand, I kept counting my strokes and 
forgetting the hundreds, the happiest animal in France.


WE made our first stage below Compiegne to Pont Sainte Maxence.  I 
was abroad a little after six the next morning.  The air was 
biting, and smelt of frost.  In an open place a score of women 
wrangled together over the day's market; and the noise of their 
negotiation sounded thin and querulous like that of sparrows on a 
winter's morning.  The rare passengers blew into their hands, and 
shuffled in their wooden shoes to set the blood agog.  The streets 
were full of icy shadow, although the chimneys were smoking 
overhead in golden sunshine.  If you wake early enough at this 
season of the year, you may get up in December to break your fast 
in June.

I found my way to the church; for there is always something to see 
about a church, whether living worshippers or dead men's tombs; you 
find there the deadliest earnest, and the hollowest deceit; and 
even where it is not a piece of history, it will be certain to leak 
out some contemporary gossip.  It was scarcely so cold in the 
church as it was without, but it looked colder.  The white nave was 
positively arctic to the eye; and the tawdriness of a continental 
altar looked more forlorn than usual in the solitude and the bleak 
air.  Two priests sat in the chancel, reading and waiting 
penitents; and out in the nave, one very old woman was engaged in 
her devotions.  It was a wonder how she was able to pass her beads 
when healthy young people were breathing in their palms and 
slapping their chest; but though this concerned me, I was yet more 
dispirited by the nature of her exercises.  She went from chair to 
chair, from altar to altar, circumnavigating the church.  To each 
shrine she dedicated an equal number of beads and an equal length 
of time.  Like a prudent capitalist with a somewhat cynical view of 
the commercial prospect, she desired to place her supplications in 
a great variety of heavenly securities.  She would risk nothing on 
the credit of any single intercessor.  Out of the whole company of 
saints and angels, not one but was to suppose himself her champion 
elect against the Great Assize!  I could only think of it as a 
dull, transparent jugglery, based upon unconscious unbelief.

She was as dead an old woman as ever I saw; no more than bone and 
parchment, curiously put together.  Her eyes, with which she 
interrogated mine, were vacant of sense.  It depends on what you 
call seeing, whether you might not call her blind.  Perhaps she had 
known love:  perhaps borne children, suckled them and given them 
pet names.  But now that was all gone by, and had left her neither 
happier nor wiser; and the best she could do with her mornings was 
to come up here into the cold church and juggle for a slice of 
heaven.  It was not without a gulp that I escaped into the streets 
and the keen morning air.  Morning? why, how tired of it she would 
be before night! and if she did not sleep, how then?  It is 
fortunate that not many of us are brought up publicly to justify 
our lives at the bar of threescore years and ten; fortunate that 
such a number are knocked opportunely on the head in what they call 
the flower of their years, and go away to suffer for their follies 
in private somewhere else.  Otherwise, between sick children and 
discontented old folk, we might be put out of all conceit of life.

I had need of all my cerebral hygiene during that day's paddle:  
the old devotee stuck in my throat sorely.  But I was soon in the 
seventh heaven of stupidity; and knew nothing but that somebody was 
paddling a canoe, while I was counting his strokes and forgetting 
the hundreds.  I used sometimes to be afraid I should remember the 
hundreds; which would have made a toil of a pleasure; but the 
terror was chimerical, they went out of my mind by enchantment, and 
I knew no more than the man in the moon about my only occupation.

At Creil, where we stopped to lunch, we left the canoes in another 
floating lavatory, which, as it was high noon, was packed with 
washerwomen, red-handed and loud-voiced; and they and their broad 
jokes are about all I remember of the place.  I could look up my 
history-books, if you were very anxious, and tell you a date or 
two; for it figured rather largely in the English wars.  But I 
prefer to mention a girls' boarding-school, which had an interest 
for us because it was a girls' boarding-school, and because we 
imagined we had rather an interest for it.  At least - there were 
the girls about the garden; and here were we on the river; and 
there was more than one handkerchief waved as we went by.  It 
caused quite a stir in my heart; and yet how we should have wearied 
and despised each other, these girls and I, if we had been 
introduced at a croquet-party!  But this is a fashion I love:  to 
kiss the hand or wave a handkerchief to people I shall never see 
again, to play with possibility, and knock in a peg for fancy to 
hang upon.  It gives the traveller a jog, reminds him that he is 
not a traveller everywhere, and that his journey is no more than a 
siesta by the way on the real march of life.

The church at Creil was a nondescript place in the inside, splashed 
with gaudy lights from the windows, and picked out with medallions 
of the Dolorous Way.  But there was one oddity, in the way of an EX 
VOTO, which pleased me hugely:  a faithful model of a canal boat, 
swung from the vault, with a written aspiration that God should 
conduct the SAINT NICOLAS of Creil to a good haven.  The thing was 
neatly executed, and would have made the delight of a party of boys 
on the water-side.  But what tickled me was the gravity of the 
peril to be conjured.  You might hang up the model of a sea-going 
ship, and welcome:  one that is to plough a furrow round the world, 
and visit the tropic or the frosty poles, runs dangers that are 
well worth a candle and a mass.  But the SAINT NICOLAS of Creil, 
which was to be tugged for some ten years by patient draught-
horses, in a weedy canal, with the poplars chattering overhead, and 
the skipper whistling at the tiller; which was to do all its 
errands in green inland places, and never get out of sight of a 
village belfry in all its cruising; why, you would have thought if 
anything could be done without the intervention of Providence, it 
would be that!  But perhaps the skipper was a humorist:  or perhaps 
a prophet, reminding people of the seriousness of life by this 
preposterous token.

At Creil, as at Noyon, Saint Joseph seemed a favourite saint on the 
score of punctuality.  Day and hour can be specified; and grateful 
people do not fail to specify them on a votive tablet, when prayers 
have been punctually and neatly answered.  Whenever time is a 
consideration, Saint Joseph is the proper intermediary.  I took a 
sort of pleasure in observing the vogue he had in France, for the 
good man plays a very small part in my religion at home.  Yet I 
could not help fearing that, where the Saint is so much commanded 
for exactitude, he will be expected to be very grateful for his 

This is foolishness to us Protestants; and not of great importance 
anyway.  Whether people's gratitude for the good gifts that come to 
them be wisely conceived or dutifully expressed, is a secondary 
matter, after all, so long as they feel gratitude.  The true 
ignorance is when a man does not know that he has received a good 
gift, or begins to imagine that he has got it for himself.  The 
self-made man is the funniest windbag after all!  There is a marked 
difference between decreeing light in chaos, and lighting the gas 
in a metropolitan back-parlour with a box of patent matches; and do 
what we will, there is always something made to our hand, if it 
were only our fingers.

But there was something worse than foolishness placarded in Creil 
Church.  The Association of the Living Rosary (of which I had never 
previously heard) is responsible for that.  This Association was 
founded, according to the printed advertisement, by a brief of Pope 
Gregory Sixteenth, on the 17th of January 1832:  according to a 
coloured bas-relief, it seems to have been founded, sometime other, 
by the Virgin giving one rosary to Saint Dominic, and the Infant 
Saviour giving another to Saint Catharine of Siena.  Pope Gregory 
is not so imposing, but he is nearer hand.  I could not distinctly 
make out whether the Association was entirely devotional, or had an 
eye to good works; at least it is highly organised:  the names of 
fourteen matrons and misses were filled in for each week of the 
month as associates, with one other, generally a married woman, at 
the top for ZELATRICE:  the leader of the band.  Indulgences, 
plenary and partial, follow on the performance of the duties of the 
Association.  'The partial indulgences are attached to the 
recitation of the rosary.'  On 'the recitation of the required 
DIZAINE,' a partial indulgence promptly follows.  When people serve 
the kingdom of heaven with a pass-book in their hands, I should 
always be afraid lest they should carry the same commercial spirit 
into their dealings with their fellow-men, which would make a sad 
and sordid business of this life.

There is one more article, however, of happier import.  'All these 
indulgences,' it appeared, 'are applicable to souls in purgatory.'  
For God's sake, ye ladies of Creil, apply them all to the souls in 
purgatory without delay!  Burns would take no hire for his last 
songs, preferring to serve his country out of unmixed love.  
Suppose you were to imitate the exciseman, mesdames, and even if 
the souls in purgatory were not greatly bettered, some souls in 
Creil upon the Oise would find themselves none the worse either 
here or hereafter.

I cannot help wondering, as I transcribe these notes, whether a 
Protestant born and bred is in a fit state to understand these 
signs, and do them what justice they deserve; and I cannot help 
answering that he is not.  They cannot look so merely ugly and mean 
to the faithful as they do to me.  I see that as clearly as a 
proposition in Euclid.  For these believers are neither weak nor 
wicked.  They can put up their tablet commanding Saint Joseph for 
his despatch, as if he were still a village carpenter; they can 
'recite the required DIZAINE,' and metaphorically pocket the 
indulgence, as if they had done a job for Heaven; and then they can 
go out and look down unabashed upon this wonderful river flowing 
by, and up without confusion at the pin-point stars, which are 
themselves great worlds full of flowing rivers greater than the 
Oise.  I see it as plainly, I say, as a proposition in Euclid, that 
my Protestant mind has missed the point, and that there goes with 
these deformities some higher and more religious spirit than I 

I wonder if other people would make the same allowances for me!  
Like the ladies of Creil, having recited my rosary of toleration, I 
look for my indulgence on the spot.


WE made Precy about sundown.  The plain is rich with tufts of 
poplar.  In a wide, luminous curve, the Oise lay under the 
hillside.  A faint mist began to rise and confound the different 
distances together.  There was not a sound audible but that of the 
sheep-bells in some meadows by the river, and the creaking of a 
cart down the long road that descends the hill.  The villas in 
their gardens, the shops along the street, all seemed to have been 
deserted the day before; and I felt inclined to walk discreetly as 
one feels in a silent forest.  All of a sudden, we came round a 
corner, and there, in a little green round the church, was a bevy 
of girls in Parisian costumes playing croquet.  Their laughter, and 
the hollow sound of ball and mallet, made a cheery stir in the 
neighbourhood; and the look of these slim figures, all corseted and 
ribboned, produced an answerable disturbance in our hearts.  We 
were within sniff of Paris, it seemed.  And here were females of 
our own species playing croquet, just as if Precy had been a place 
in real life, instead of a stage in the fairyland of travel.  For, 
to be frank, the peasant woman is scarcely to be counted as a woman 
at all, and after having passed by such a succession of people in 
petticoats digging and hoeing and making dinner, this company of 
coquettes under arms made quite a surprising feature in the 
landscape, and convinced us at once of being fallible males.

The inn at Precy is the worst inn in France.  Not even in Scotland 
have I found worse fare.  It was kept by a brother and sister, 
neither of whom was out of their teens.  The sister, so to speak, 
prepared a meal for us; and the brother, who had been tippling, 
came in and brought with him a tipsy butcher, to entertain us as we 
ate.  We found pieces of loo-warm pork among the salad, and pieces 
of unknown yielding substance in the RAGOUT.  The butcher 
entertained us with pictures of Parisian life, with which he 
professed himself well acquainted; the brother sitting the while on 
the edge of the billiard-table, toppling precariously, and sucking 
the stump of a cigar.  In the midst of these diversions, bang went 
a drum past the house, and a hoarse voice began issuing a 
proclamation.  It was a man with marionnettes announcing a 
performance for that evening.

He had set up his caravan and lighted his candles on another part 
of the girls' croquet-green, under one of those open sheds which 
are so common in France to shelter markets; and he and his wife, by 
the time we strolled up there, were trying to keep order with the 

It was the most absurd contention.  The show-people had set out a 
certain number of benches; and all who sat upon them were to pay a 
couple of SOUS for the accommodation.  They were always quite full 
- a bumper house - as long as nothing was going forward; but let 
the show-woman appear with an eye to a collection, and at the first 
rattle of her tambourine the audience slipped off the seats, and 
stood round on the outside with their hands in their pockets.  It 
certainly would have tried an angel's temper.  The showman roared 
from the proscenium; he had been all over France, and nowhere, 
nowhere, 'not even on the borders of Germany,' had he met with such 
misconduct.  Such thieves and rogues and rascals, as he called 
them!  And every now and again, the wife issued on another round, 
and added her shrill quota to the tirade.  I remarked here, as 
elsewhere, how far more copious is the female mind in the material 
of insult.  The audience laughed in high good-humour over the man's 
declamations; but they bridled and cried aloud under the woman's 
pungent sallies.  She picked out the sore points.  She had the 
honour of the village at her mercy.  Voices answered her angrily 
out of the crowd, and received a smarting retort for their trouble.  
A couple of old ladies beside me, who had duly paid for their 
seats, waxed very red and indignant, and discoursed to each other 
audibly about the impudence of these mountebanks; but as soon as 
the show-woman caught a whisper of this, she was down upon them 
with a swoop:  if mesdames could persuade their neighbours to act 
with common honesty, the mountebanks, she assured them, would be 
polite enough:  mesdames had probably had their bowl of soup, and 
perhaps a glass of wine that evening; the mountebanks also had a 
taste for soup, and did not choose to have their little earnings 
stolen from them before their eyes.  Once, things came as far as a 
brief personal encounter between the show-man and some lads, in 
which the former went down as readily as one of his own 
marionnettes to a peal of jeering laughter.

I was a good deal astonished at this scene, because I am pretty 
well acquainted with the ways of French strollers, more or less 
artistic; and have always found them singularly pleasing.  Any 
stroller must be dear to the right-thinking heart; if it were only 
as a living protest against offices and the mercantile spirit, and 
as something to remind us that life is not by necessity the kind of 
thing we generally make it.  Even a German band, if you see it 
leaving town in the early morning for a campaign in country places, 
among trees and meadows, has a romantic flavour for the 
imagination.  There is nobody, under thirty, so dead but his heart 
will stir a little at sight of a gypsies' camp.  'We are not 
cotton-spinners all'; or, at least, not all through.  There is some 
life in humanity yet:  and youth will now and again find a brave 
word to say in dispraise of riches, and throw up a situation to go 
strolling with a knapsack.

An Englishman has always special facilities for intercourse with 
French gymnasts; for England is the natural home of gymnasts.  This 
or that fellow, in his tights and spangles, is sure to know a word 
or two of English, to have drunk English AFF-'N-AFF, and perhaps 
performed in an English music-hall.  He is a countryman of mine by 
profession.  He leaps, like the Belgian boating men, to the notion 
that I must be an athlete myself.

But the gymnast is not my favourite; he has little or no tincture 
of the artist in his composition; his soul is small and pedestrian, 
for the most part, since his profession makes no call upon it, and 
does not accustom him to high ideas.  But if a man is only so much 
of an actor that he can stumble through a farce, he is made free of 
a new order of thoughts.  He has something else to think about 
beside the money-box.  He has a pride of his own, and, what is of 
far more importance, he has an aim before him that he can never 
quite attain.  He has gone upon a pilgrimage that will last him his 
life long, because there is no end to it short of perfection.  He 
will better upon himself a little day by day; or even if he has 
given up the attempt, he will always remember that once upon a time 
he had conceived this high ideal, that once upon a time he had 
fallen in love with a star.  ''Tis better to have loved and lost.'  
Although the moon should have nothing to say to Endymion, although 
he should settle down with Audrey and feed pigs, do you not think 
he would move with a better grace, and cherish higher thoughts to 
the end?  The louts he meets at church never had a fancy above 
Audrey's snood; but there is a reminiscence in Endymion's heart 
that, like a spice, keeps it fresh and haughty.

To be even one of the outskirters of art, leaves a fine stamp on a 
man's countenance.  I remember once dining with a party in the inn 
at Chateau Landon.  Most of them were unmistakable bagmen; others 
well-to-do peasantry; but there was one young fellow in a blouse, 
whose face stood out from among the rest surprisingly.  It looked 
more finished; more of the spirit looked out through it; it had a 
living, expressive air, and you could see that his eyes took things 
in.  My companion and I wondered greatly who and what he could be.  
It was fair-time in Chateau Landon, and when we went along to the 
booths, we had our question answered; for there was our friend 
busily fiddling for the peasants to caper to.  He was a wandering 

A troop of strollers once came to the inn where I was staying, in 
the department of Seine et Marne.  There was a father and mother; 
two daughters, brazen, blowsy hussies, who sang and acted, without 
an idea of how to set about either; and a dark young man, like a 
tutor, a recalcitrant house-painter, who sang and acted not amiss.  
The mother was the genius of the party, so far as genius can be 
spoken of with regard to such a pack of incompetent humbugs; and 
her husband could not find words to express his admiration for her 
comic countryman.  'You should see my old woman,' said he, and 
nodded his beery countenance.  One night they performed in the 
stable-yard, with flaring lamps - a wretched exhibition, coldly 
looked upon by a village audience.  Next night, as soon as the 
lamps were lighted, there came a plump of rain, and they had to 
sweep away their baggage as fast as possible, and make off to the 
barn where they harboured, cold, wet, and supperless.  In the 
morning, a dear friend of mine, who has as warm a heart for 
strollers as I have myself, made a little collection, and sent it 
by my hands to comfort them for their disappointment.  I gave it to 
the father; he thanked me cordially, and we drank a cup together in 
the kitchen, talking of roads, and audiences, and hard times.

When I was going, up got my old stroller, and off with his hat.  'I 
am afraid,' said he, 'that Monsieur will think me altogether a 
beggar; but I have another demand to make upon him.'  I began to 
hate him on the spot.  'We play again to-night,' he went on.  'Of 
course, I shall refuse to accept any more money from Monsieur and 
his friends, who have been already so liberal.  But our programme 
of to-night is something truly creditable; and I cling to the idea 
that Monsieur will honour us with his presence.'  And then, with a 
shrug and a smile:  'Monsieur understands - the vanity of an 
artist!'  Save the mark!  The vanity of an artist!  That is the 
kind of thing that reconciles me to life:  a ragged, tippling, 
incompetent old rogue, with the manners of a gentleman, and the 
vanity of an artist, to keep up his self-respect!

But the man after my own heart is M. de Vauversin.  It is nearly 
two years since I saw him first, and indeed I hope I may see him 
often again.  Here is his first programme, as I found it on the 
breakfast-table, and have kept it ever since as a relic of bright 





They made a stage at one end of the SALLE-A-MANGER.  And what a 
sight it was to see M. de Vauversin, with a cigarette in his mouth, 
twanging a guitar, and following Mademoiselle Ferrario's eyes with 
the obedient, kindly look of a dog!  The entertainment wound up 
with a tombola, or auction of lottery tickets:  an admirable 
amusement, with all the excitement of gambling, and no hope of gain 
to make you ashamed of your eagerness; for there, all is loss; you 
make haste to be out of pocket; it is a competition who shall lose 
most money for the benefit of M. de Vauversin and Mademoiselle 

M. de Vauversin is a small man, with a great head of black hair, a 
vivacious and engaging air, and a smile that would be delightful if 
he had better teeth.  He was once an actor in the Chatelet; but he 
contracted a nervous affection from the heat and glare of the 
footlights, which unfitted him for the stage.  At this crisis 
Mademoiselle Ferrario, otherwise Mademoiselle Rita of the Alcazar, 
agreed to share his wandering fortunes.  'I could never forget the 
generosity of that lady,' said he.  He wears trousers so tight that 
it has long been a problem to all who knew him how he manages to 
get in and out of them.  He sketches a little in water-colours; he 
writes verses; he is the most patient of fishermen, and spent long 
days at the bottom of the inn-garden fruitlessly dabbling a line in 
the clear river.

You should hear him recounting his experiences over a bottle of 
wine; such a pleasant vein of talk as he has, with a ready smile at 
his own mishaps, and every now and then a sudden gravity, like a 
man who should hear the surf roar while he was telling the perils 
of the deep.  For it was no longer ago than last night, perhaps, 
that the receipts only amounted to a franc and a half, to cover 
three francs of railway fare and two of board and lodging.  The 
Maire, a man worth a million of money, sat in the front seat, 
repeatedly applauding Mlle. Ferrario, and yet gave no more than 
three SOUS the whole evening.  Local authorities look with such an 
evil eye upon the strolling artist.  Alas! I know it well, who have 
been myself taken for one, and pitilessly incarcerated on the 
strength of the misapprehension.  Once, M. de Vauversin visited a 
commissary of police for permission to sing.  The commissary, who 
was smoking at his ease, politely doffed his hat upon the singer's 
entrance.  'Mr. Commissary,' he began, 'I am an artist.'  And on 
went the commissary's hat again.  No courtesy for the companions of 
Apollo!  'They are as degraded as that,' said M. de Vauversin with 
a sweep of his cigarette.

But what pleased me most was one outbreak of his, when we had been 
talking all the evening of the rubs, indignities, and pinchings of 
his wandering life.  Some one said, it would be better to have a 
million of money down, and Mlle. Ferrario admitted that she would 
prefer that mightily.  'EH BIEN, MOI NON; - not I,' cried De 
Vauversin, striking the table with his hand.  'If any one is a 
failure in the world, is it not I?  I had an art, in which I have 
done things well - as well as some - better perhaps than others; 
and now it is closed against me.  I must go about the country 
gathering coppers and singing nonsense.  Do you think I regret my 
life?  Do you think I would rather be a fat burgess, like a calf?  
Not I!  I have had moments when I have been applauded on the 
boards:  I think nothing of that; but I have known in my own mind 
sometimes, when I had not a clap from the whole house, that I had 
found a true intonation, or an exact and speaking gesture; and 
then, messieurs, I have known what pleasure was, what it was to do 
a thing well, what it was to be an artist.  And to know what art 
is, is to have an interest for ever, such as no burgess can find in 
his petty concerns.  TENEZ, MESSIEURS, JE VAIS VOUS LE DIRE - it is 
like a religion.'

Such, making some allowance for the tricks of memory and the 
inaccuracies of translation, was the profession of faith of M. de 
Vauversin.  I have given him his own name, lest any other wanderer 
should come across him, with his guitar and cigarette, and 
Mademoiselle Ferrario; for should not all the world delight to 
honour this unfortunate and loyal follower of the Muses?  May 
Apollo send him rimes hitherto undreamed of; may the river be no 
longer scanty of her silver fishes to his lure; may the cold not 
pinch him on long winter rides, nor the village jack-in-office 
affront him with unseemly manners; and may he never miss 
Mademoiselle Ferrario from his side, to follow with his dutiful 
eyes and accompany on the guitar!

The marionnettes made a very dismal entertainment.  They performed 
a piece, called PYRAMUS AND THISBE, in five mortal acts, and all 
written in Alexandrines fully as long as the performers.  One 
marionnette was the king; another the wicked counsellor; a third, 
credited with exceptional beauty, represented Thisbe; and then 
there were guards, and obdurate fathers, and walking gentlemen.  
Nothing particular took place during the two or three acts that I 
sat out; but you will he pleased to learn that the unities were 
properly respected, and the whole piece, with one exception, moved 
in harmony with classical rules.  That exception was the comic 
countryman, a lean marionnette in wooden shoes, who spoke in prose 
and in a broad PATOIS much appreciated by the audience.  He took 
unconstitutional liberties with the person of his sovereign; kicked 
his fellow-marionnettes in the mouth with his wooden shoes, and 
whenever none of the versifying suitors were about, made love to 
Thisbe on his own account in comic prose.

This fellow's evolutions, and the little prologue, in which the 
showman made a humorous eulogium of his troop, praising their 
indifference to applause and hisses, and their single devotion to 
their art, were the only circumstances in the whole affair that you 
could fancy would so much as raise a smile.  But the villagers of 
Precy seemed delighted.  Indeed, so long as a thing is an 
exhibition, and you pay to see it, it is nearly certain to amuse.  
If we were charged so much a head for sunsets, or if God sent round 
a drum before the hawthorns came in flower, what a work should we 
not make about their beauty!  But these things, like good 
companions, stupid people early cease to observe:  and the Abstract 
Bagman tittups past in his spring gig, and is positively not aware 
of the flowers along the lane, or the scenery of the weather 


OF the next two days' sail little remains in my mind, and nothing 
whatever in my note-book.  The river streamed on steadily through 
pleasant river-side landscapes.  Washerwomen in blue dresses, 
fishers in blue blouses, diversified the green banks; and the 
relation of the two colours was like that of the flower and the 
leaf in the forget-me-not.  A symphony in forget-me-not; I think 
Theophile Gautier might thus have characterised that two days' 
panorama.  The sky was blue and cloudless; and the sliding surface 
of the river held up, in smooth places, a mirror to the heaven and 
the shores.  The washerwomen hailed us laughingly; and the noise of 
trees and water made an accompaniment to our dozing thoughts, as we 
fleeted down the stream.

The great volume, the indefatigable purpose of the river, held the 
mind in chain.  It seemed now so sure of its end, so strong and 
easy in its gait, like a grown man full of determination.  The surf 
was roaring for it on the sands of Havre.

For my own part, slipping along this moving thoroughfare in my 
fiddle-case of a canoe, I also was beginning to grow aweary for my 
ocean.  To the civilised man, there must come, sooner or later, a 
desire for civilisation.  I was weary of dipping the paddle; I was 
weary of living on the skirts of life; I wished to be in the thick 
of it once more; I wished to get to work; I wished to meet people 
who understood my own speech, and could meet with me on equal 
terms, as a man, and no longer as a curiosity.

And so a letter at Pontoise decided us, and we drew up our keels 
for the last time out of that river of Oise that had faithfully 
piloted them, through rain and sunshine, for so long.  For so many 
miles had this fleet and footless beast of burthen charioted our 
fortunes, that we turned our back upon it with a sense of 
separation.  We had made a long detour out of the world, but now we 
were back in the familiar places, where life itself makes all the 
running, and we are carried to meet adventure without a stroke of 
the paddle.  Now we were to return, like the voyager in the play, 
and see what rearrangements fortune had perfected the while in our 
surroundings; what surprises stood ready made for us at home; and 
whither and how far the world had voyaged in our absence.  You may 
paddle all day long; but it is when you come back at nightfall, and 
look in at the familiar room, that you find Love or Death awaiting 
you beside the stove; and the most beautiful adventures are not 
those we go to seek.

End of the Project Gutenberg eText An Inland Voyage


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